The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is one of the most interesting literary prizes but is also, unfortunately, one of the more overlooked. It probably hasn’t helped that the announcement of both the longlist and shortlist has coincided with the announcement of the longlist and shortlist of the higher profile Women’s Prize for Fiction. The jury had a record number of entries to read before choosing this year’s shortlist which was revealed yesterday:
The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim (translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright)
A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard (translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett)
A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli (translated from the French by Sam Taylor)
The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke (translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch)
Revenge by Yoko Ogawa (translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder)
Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami (translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell)
I am particularly intrigued by Yoko Ogawa’s short story collection as well as ‘Strange Weather in Tokyo’ by Hiromi Kawakami has been described as an unconventional love story and widely compared to the work of Haruki Murakami. I have already read ‘A Man in Love’ which is the second book in a six volume cycle of autobiographical novels by Karl Ove Knausgaard who was longlisted last year for ‘A Death in the Family‘. ‘The Iraqi Christ’ by Hassan Blasim is a collection of short stories while ‘A Meal in Winter’ by Hubert Mingarelli is a short novel set in Poland during the Second World War. Birgit Vanderbeke wrote ‘The Mussel Feast’ in 1989 just before the Berlin Wall came down but it has only recently been translated into English.
The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is awarded to a work of fiction by a living author translated into English and published in the United Kingdom last year. It is unique because the prize money of £10,000 is shared between both the author and the translator of the winning novel. The Prize is therefore as much about the art of translation as it is about the literary merit of the shorlisted works themselves. Translation allows fiction from all over the world to reach a wider audience and I think it’s brilliant that the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize recognises and celebrates the work of translators alongside the authors. My bookshelves and my blog would certainly look very different if I was unable to read any translated fiction.
The winners will be announced on 22nd May. What are your favourite works of foreign fiction?