The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist was announced this morning, and is pretty spectacular. As you’ll find out on Tuesday, four of the books on the IFFP longlist are also on the BTBA longlist. (Which may seem small, but a number of these—The Detour, The Sound of Things Falling—have yet to be published/distributed in America, and thus aren’t yet BTBA eligible.)
Anyway, here’s a chunk of Boyd Tonkin’s great write-up on this year’s list:
Every year, the balance of the books that reach this antepenultimate round shifts. This time, central and eastern Europe shines: Pawel Huelle’s wryly delightful Polish stories; Ismail Kadare’s commanding Albanian history-cum-fable; Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s black-comic dystopia from rural Hungary; Dasa Drndic’s tragic family drama in north-eastern Italy, and the camps further east, under German rule.
We also showcase two different faces of Africa: the no-man’s-land between South Africa and Mozambique depicted in Chris Barnard’s ideas-rich adventure; and the remembered Congo that haunts the jesting barflies in Alain Mabanckou’s Paris. A trio of major contenders from past years re-appear: Turkey’s Orhan Pamuk, Italy’s Diego Marani, and Colombia’s Juan Gabriel Vásquez. We visit the Assads’ tyrannous Syria, (Khaled Khalifa), investigate a Danish killing (Pia Juul), and learn dark Norwegian family secrets (Karl Ove Knausgaard).
Our long-listed authors also travel far and wide. Andrés Neuman, Argentinian-born, creates a Romantic-era town in Germany; Dutch Gerbrand Bakker despatches a heroine to rural Wales; in France, Laurent Binet re-imagines Nazi Prague; Enrique Vila-Matas sends a Barcelona publisher to literary Dublin. The Republic of Letters has no border controls. So join this mind-expanding tour – and bon voyage.
This year’s judging panel is as impressive as ever. Joining Boyd in this nearly impossible task is Frank Wynne, Elif Shafak, Gabriel Josipovici, and Jean Boase-Beier. Good luck—it’s going to be tough to pick a winner from this list.
To get on with it, here’s the complete 15-title longlist:
Gerbrand Bakker: The Detour (translated by David Colmer from the Dutch), and published by Harvill Secker
Chris Barnard: Bundu (Michiel Heyns; Afrikaans), Alma Books
Laurent Binet: HHhH (Sam Taylor; French), Harvill Secker
Dasa Drndic: Trieste (Ellen Elias-Bursac; Croatian), MacLehose Press
Pawel Huelle: Cold Sea Stories (Antonia Lloyd-Jones; Polish), Comma Press
Pia Juul: The Murder of Halland (Martin Aitken; Danish), Peirene Press
Ismail Kadare: The Fall of the Stone City (John Hodgson; Albanian), Canongate
Khaled Khalifa: In Praise of Hatred (Leri Price; Arabic), Doubleday
Karl Ove Knausgaard: A Death in the Family (Don Bartlett; Norwegian), Harvill Secker
Laszlo Krasznahorkai: Satantango (George Szirtes; Hungarian), Tuskar Rock
Alain Mabanckou: Black Bazaar (Sarah Ardizzone; French), Serpent’s Tail
Diego Marani: The Last of the Vostyachs (Judith Landry; Italian), Dedalus
Andrés Neuman: Traveller of the Century (Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia; Spanish), Pushkin Press
Orhan Pamuk: Silent House (Robert Finn; Turkish), Faber
Juan Gabriel Vásquez: The Sound of Things Falling (Anne McLean; Spanish), Bloomsbury
Enrique Vila-Matas: Dublinesque (Rosalind Harvey & Anne McLean; Spanish), Harvill Secker
Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .
There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .
In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .
I would like to pose the argument that it is rare for one to ever come across a truly passive protagonist in a novel. The protagonist (perhaps) of Three Light-Years, Claudio Viberti, is just that—a shy internist who lives in. . .
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .