The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014

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?


Filed under Books

8 responses to “The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014

  1. Really rooting for Mussel Feast here ….it is a fantastic book . The writing is spare but deep !


  2. I’ve never heard of this prize but it has some good looking entries! I think it is great that the prize money is split between the author and translator because if the translation is clunky it can ruin a good read.


  3. Their short and long lists look like a good place to browse for book ideas. I haven’t heard of very many of these novels.


  4. I’ve not long finished reading The Detour written by Gerbrand Bakker & translated by David Colmer which won the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. I hadn’t heard of the award before, but it’s definitely opened my eyes to books I possibly wouldn’t have discovered. I’ll certainly be checking out some of the books on this year’s shortlist.


  5. tks for the post. Never heard of this award, nor have read any of the authors. I will mark these down as books to read, especially because I like short stories.


  6. I enjoy translated foreign fiction, but we don’t have much available in our book-stores. I’ve picked up a few books on-line by reading book-reviews, mostly on The Millions. Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a big favourite of mine. P.S.: I’ve also never heard of this award.


  7. Good to know about this prize. I spent long hours as a schoolgirl perfecting my translation of Camus’s Les Justes. I dread to think what it was like.


  8. I haven’t heard of these authors before, but I have Haruki Murakami on my to-be-read list, so if I like his work, I will definitely look into Hiromi Kawakami, especially if he writes unconventional love stories – I love those! And I’ll have to look into the rest of these. I think it’s fascinating how a book can be translated from one language to another, because it’s not all about just the basic meaning of the words – so much of the importance of a story comes from the connotations and word choices, which is so difficult to translate well.


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