Translation Prizes – The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

I always try to post updates on the more interesting literary awards – all the Man (International, Booker & Asian) Literary Prizes, the Nobel Prize for Literature, etc.  But, as wonderful as those longlists tend to be, they seldom inspire the absolute, all-consuming, bank account-deflating, oh-my-god-where-am-I-going-to-put-more-books-I-don’t-care book lust as the lists I’m here to talk about today:  The Best Translated Book Award and The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

Obviously, these are the books I enjoy reading – translations, international authors, and authors whose work you tend not to find on the B&N feature table.  The one downside has been that, as a rule, I’ve been painfully ignorant of the books, authors and translators that have been nominated in past years.  This year is different.  I can actually intelligently give my opinion on some of these novels and authors!

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP) is a UK based prize, but even when the books aren’t available in paper format in the U.S. I’ve been able to find them digitally.  It tends, in my opinion, to contain titles that are popular with general readers vs. the Best Translated Book Award which is, also in my opinion, heavily weighed towards the more esoteric books released that year by independant & small presses.   I’ve only read two (and bought five) of the books on the 2012 IFFP longlist, so where I could find them I’ve linked to other bloggers’ reviews.

  • Gerbrand Bakker: The Detour (David Colmer; Dutch), and published by Harvill Secker – review from ANZ Lit Lovers blog
  • Chris Barnard: Bundu (Michiel Heyns; Afrikaans), Alma Books
  • Laurent Binet: HHhH (Sam Taylor; French), Harvill Secker – review from BookSexy Review
  • Dasa Drndic: Trieste (Ellen Elias-Bursac; Croatian), MacLehose Press – review from Winstonsdad’s Blog
  • Pawel Huelle: Cold Sea Stories (Antonia Lloyd-Jones; Polish), Comma Press – review from Tony’s Reading List Blog
  • Pia Juul: The Murder of Halland (Martin Aitken; Danish), Peirene Press – review from Winstonsdad’s Blog
  • Ismail Kadare: The Fall of the Stone City (John Hodgson; Albanian), Canongate
  • Khaled Khalifa: In Praise of Hatred (Leri Price; Arabic), Doubleday – review from Arabic Literature Blog
  • Karl Ove Knausgaard: A Death in the Family (Don Bartlett; Norwegian), Harvill Secker – review by The Mookse and the Gripes Blog
  • Laszlo Krasznahorkai: Satantango (George Szirtes; Hungarian), Tuskar Rock/New Directions in the U.S. – review by Three Percent Blog
  • Alain Mabanckou: Black Bazaar (Sarah Ardizzone; French), Serpent’s Tail – review by Africa is a Country blog
  • Diego Marani: The Last of the Vostyachs (Judith Landry; Italian), Dedalus
  • Andrés Neuman, Traveller of the Century (Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia; Spanish), Pushkin Press – review by Charles Lambert Blog
  • Orhan Pamuk: Silent House (Robert Finn; Turkish), Faber /Knopf in the U.S. – review by The Literary Outpost Blog
  • Juan Gabriel Vásquez: The Sound of Things Falling (Anne McLean; Spanish), Bloomsbury
  • Enrique Vila-Matas: Dublinesque (Rosalind Harvey & Anne McLean; Spanish), Harvill Secker – review by Asylum Blog

Of the two I’ve read: Laurent Binet’s HHhH is the more controversial book.  Readers and critics either love it or absolutely hate it.  I loved it and personally felt that James Wood’s negative review in the New Yorker – which, let’s face it, shaped a lot of readers opinions going in – spent more time on Wood’s problems with the author than it did on critiquing the actual book. It will probably make the shortlist, but I doubt it will win.

This is Alain Mabanckou’s second time being nominated – and I’m just finishing up Black Bazaar.  I really enjoy Mabanckou’s books (and love saying his name out loud):  they’re funny and smart.  Because he’s been shortlisted once before I’m fairly certain he’ll make the shortlist again.   Still, Black Bazaar is still a dark horse to win – if only because it’s lighthearted in comparison with past winners.

Of the books I haven’t read, Ismail Kadare is a favorite author.  Unfortunately, The Fall of the Stone City is not available digitally in the states.  And Bundu by Chris Barnard is definitely a book I’d be interested in.  The plot involves drought refugees at a Mozambique aid station who hatch a desperate plan.  I’m hoping to read it before the final winner is announced.

Have you read or reviewed any of the longlisted books?  Share you thoughts and predictions in the comments!

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6 thoughts on “Translation Prizes – The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

  1. Hi Tara, I’m most interested in the Kadare too, an author that the western world discovered through the Man International – that one has indeed turned out to be a terrific prize for we readers! Anyway, I have it on order but it hasn’t arrived yet. (I have three other novels by Kadare on my TBR too, so a fourth is rather a self-indulgence, but I’ve really liked all his other ones, so I expect to like that one too).


    1. I am soooo jealous! Can’t wait to see your review. In the meantime, I read somewhere that The Fall of the Stone City begins where Chronicles in Stone ends. I’m consoling myself with the idea that I’ll read them in order.


  2. My choices would be Satantango or Traveller of the Century of the ones read, with a mention for The last of the Vostyachs, whose writer was a finalist last year. have read Bundu (Ok) and The Murder of Halland (Good) and just started Trieste which is of interest.


    1. parrish lantern –

      A lot of readers seem to feel strongly about Satantango. Definitely one I need to check out before the final winner is announced.

      I’ll look for your review on Trieste!


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