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The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2008 – Longlist

It must be a revolving door of opinions at the offices of Arts Council England, as they are either pulling funding from the subsidisation of translation or, in fact, promoting it, as per their literature policy. For today, they have announced the longlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2008, in association with Champagne Taittinger.

The longlist comprises of seventeen books, whittled down from over ninety, all looking to scoop the £10,000 prize, divided equally between author and translator. Previous winners have included Orhan Pamuk, Milan Kundera, and José Saramago.

The longlisted titles are:

  • The Yacoubian Building, Alaa al Aswany (Humphrey Davies, Arabic, Fourth Estate)
  • Book of Words, Jenny Erpenbeck (Susan Bernofsky, German, Portobello Books)
  • The Moon Opera, Bi Feiyu (Howard Goldblatt, Chinese, Telegram Books)
  • Castorp, Pawel Huelle (Antonia Lloyd Jones, Polish, Serpent’s Tail)
  • Agamemnon’s Daughter, Ismail Kadare (David Bellos, French, Canongate)
  • Let It Be Morning, Sayed Kashua (Miriam Shlesinger, Hebrew, Atlantic Books)
  • Measuring The World, Daniel Kehlmann (Carol Brown Janeway, German, Quercus)
  • Gregorius, Bengt Ohlsson (Silvester Mazzarella, Swedish, Portobello Books)
  • Shutterspeed, Erwin Mortier (Ina Rilke, Dutch, Harvill Secker)
  • The Past, Alan Pauls (Nick Caistor, Spanish, Harvill Secker)
  • Rivers Of Babylon, Peter Pist’anek (Peter Petro, Slovak, Garnett Press)
  • Delirium, Laura Restrepo (Natasha Wimmer, Spanish, Harvill Secker)
  • The Model, Lars Saabye Christensen (Don Barlett, Norwegian, Arcadia Books)
  • Bahia Blues, Yasmina Traboulsi (Polly McLean, French, Arcadia Books)
  • The Way Of The Women, Marlene van Niekerk (Michiel do Heyns, Afrikaans, Little, Brown)
  • Omega Minor, Paul Verhaeghen (Paul Verhaeghen, Dutch, Dalkey Archive Press)
  • Montano, Enrique Vilas-Matas (Jonathan Dunne, Spanish, Harvill Secker)

The bracketed information includes translator, original language, and publisher respectively.

Here’s the blurb:

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize celebrates an exceptional work of fiction by a living author which has been translated into English from any other language and published in the United Kingdom in the last year. This year’s longlist reflects the international scope of the prize and includes writers working in Hebrew, Afrikaans, Chinese and Arabic. Among the longlisted authors is Ismail Kadare, the inaugural Man Booker International Prize winner.

The judges for this year’s award are:

  • Boyd Tonkin, literary editor of The Independent;
  • Abdulrazak Gurnah, writer and teacher;
  • Florence Noiville, literary editor of Le Monde; and
  • Kate Griffin, Arts Council England literature officer.

Antonia Byatt of the Arts Council England had this to say on the longlist:

“This year’s long list is a fantastic demonstration of the rich range and quality of fiction in translation being published in Britain today. It’s wonderful to see so many languages represented from all round the world: a feast for readers and quite a challenge for the judges in making a decision!”

Boyd Tonkin discusses the list at the Independent, mentioning that the titles will be reduced to a shortlist of six by the end of February, with the eventual winner being announced in May.

Aside from the slight amusement of Paul Verhaeghen being in with a chance to take the whole pot for himself, it’s an interesting list as I’m only aware of a handful of the titles, and have read none of them. It’s also interesting to see Arcadia having two titles there, given the recent withdrawal of a quarter of their Arts Council funding.

But regardless of who wins, the joy is in having new names brought to your attention and there are many new ones here. I’ll be hoping to review as many of these titles as I can get my hands on in the run up to the shortlist, just so I can nod my head vigorously in agreement with the decision or invoke a pox on the judges otherwise.

EDIT: Reviews will be linked to as and when they appear on booklit.

January 25, 2008

12 responses to The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2008 – Longlist

  1. jem said:

    I’d like to try more foreign fiction. Its something I’m a little wary of, although I don’t really know why. Perhaps I fear that not knowing much about that country or culture will limit my appreciation of the story. Unless I challenge myself I usually stick to the English speaking countries, although I dabble fair heavily in Japan too.

    I’m reading a French translation at the moment (‘Grey Souls’ – Claudel) and am loving it. So, perhaps here is where I should start to broaden my horizons. Hopefully your forthcoming reviews of these titles will help me.

  2. Stewart said:

    Sometimes, jem, I think the same about not knowing a country’s background and/or culture. This has hampered by enjoyment, for example, of Iceland’s Halldor Laxness. And I’m sure that Russian satire would most likely go over my head for the most part.

    But then, not all foreign fiction is like that. The Ice Palace brings it down to the human level, just as many books do. I don’t pretend to know all about British culture or American culture, despite being steeped in it, and it doesn’t affect my reading of English prose. With literature, no matter what you read, some of it is bound to go over your head. I just enjoy what I can.

    As for the prize itself, I’ve now got a few of the titles:

    • The Moon Opera, Bi Fieyu
    • The Yacoubian Building, Alaa Al Aswany
    • Measuring The World, Daniel Kehlmann
    • Let It Be Morning, Sayed Kashua

    Sadly, Omega Minor by Paul Verhaeghen and The Way Of The Women by Marlene van Niekerk are both over 600 pages. And the process to get Rivers Of Babylon by Peter Pist’anek seems to be a hassle, having to print off an order form and send it off in the post with credit card details. (Nobody uses cheques any more, do they?)

  3. Donald Rayfield said:

    Dear Stewart,

    Sorry you find getting hold of Rivers of Babylon a hassle. It’s stocked by 4 independent bookshops in London (John Sandoe, Daunts, London Review, Crockatt & Powall). Blackwells and Waterstones will take orders for it(but their managers seem to be forbidden to stock anything not by mainstream publishers). If you send your name and address to Garnett Press, Dpt of Russian, Queen Mary College, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, or e-mail d.rayfield@qmul.ac.uk, you can get a copy by return of post, and pay in any way you like, including cheque to Queen Mary University of London, and we’ll even trust you to pay on receipt of book and invoice. And it’s only 259 pages.

  4. Stewart said:

    Donald,

    My whinging was very spur of the moment. Once I found out that I could get the novel via Amazon Marketplace (from yourself, no less) I put my order in. It arrived earlier this week. (And London is no good, as I’m in Glasgow – now you know where that order went 😉 ) – I thank you.

    Regards,
    Stewart

  5. Stewart said:

    This is interesting. Two of the titles (Castorp and Gregorius) appear to be inspired by other novels: Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain and Hjalmar Söderberg’s Doctor Glas, respectively. Looks like I’m going to have to read these books, too, if I’m to get anything out of them.

  6. Pingback: booklit » Blog Archive » The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2008 - Shortlist

  7. Pingback: booklit » Blog Archive » Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2008 - Winner

  8. Flower said:

    Hi Stewart,
    I have been searching your site for reviews on 2 Norweigan writers but came up with nothing!

    Now I see that there is one of them on this list; Lars Saabye Christensen. His novel “The Model” which I can highly recommend by the way.

    And here I was thinking, if anyone of my foreign friends who must have read Per Petterson, then it must be Stewart, but no?

    Per Petterson is said to be every book critics favourite and has received several rewards, so I thought you at least have came across his name?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/24/books/review/McGuane.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

  9. John Self said:

    I’ve read Petterson’s (Independent Foreign Fiction Prize-winning, as it happens) novel Out Stealing Horses, Flower, and reviewed it on my blog. Unfortunately I didn’t much enjoy it, though I wonder if that might have changed as I’ve read more Norwegian fiction since then. Certainly he seems to have struck a chord with the lesser spotted British reading public, as two more of his novels have now been published here, In the Wake and To Siberia.

  10. Trevor said:

    I also read and didn’t like Out Stealing Horses. Loved it for a while, but by midway the long long sentences stopped saying much to me.

  11. Flower said:

    Its interesting to read what people outside of Scandinavia thinks of our writers.
    Wonder if its the authors style or if its, how do I put it in English, the somewhat Scandinavian melchony, existenstialism and eye for drama in the most down to earth things, people either enjoy or simply dont like?

    The Scandianavians themselves dont see this style or touch as being depressing, dark, slow and heavy. I could easily come up with far more dead end situations than reflecting on life in the outback of Norway´s mountains and countryside. 🙂

  12. Stewart said:

    The shortlist has now been announced.

Leave a Reply

12 responses to The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2008 – Longlist

  1. jem said:

    I’d like to try more foreign fiction. Its something I’m a little wary of, although I don’t really know why. Perhaps I fear that not knowing much about that country or culture will limit my appreciation of the story. Unless I challenge myself I usually stick to the English speaking countries, although I dabble fair heavily in Japan too.

    I’m reading a French translation at the moment (‘Grey Souls’ – Claudel) and am loving it. So, perhaps here is where I should start to broaden my horizons. Hopefully your forthcoming reviews of these titles will help me.

  2. Stewart said:

    Sometimes, jem, I think the same about not knowing a country’s background and/or culture. This has hampered by enjoyment, for example, of Iceland’s Halldor Laxness. And I’m sure that Russian satire would most likely go over my head for the most part.

    But then, not all foreign fiction is like that. The Ice Palace brings it down to the human level, just as many books do. I don’t pretend to know all about British culture or American culture, despite being steeped in it, and it doesn’t affect my reading of English prose. With literature, no matter what you read, some of it is bound to go over your head. I just enjoy what I can.

    As for the prize itself, I’ve now got a few of the titles:

    • The Moon Opera, Bi Fieyu
    • The Yacoubian Building, Alaa Al Aswany
    • Measuring The World, Daniel Kehlmann
    • Let It Be Morning, Sayed Kashua

    Sadly, Omega Minor by Paul Verhaeghen and The Way Of The Women by Marlene van Niekerk are both over 600 pages. And the process to get Rivers Of Babylon by Peter Pist’anek seems to be a hassle, having to print off an order form and send it off in the post with credit card details. (Nobody uses cheques any more, do they?)

  3. Donald Rayfield said:

    Dear Stewart,

    Sorry you find getting hold of Rivers of Babylon a hassle. It’s stocked by 4 independent bookshops in London (John Sandoe, Daunts, London Review, Crockatt & Powall). Blackwells and Waterstones will take orders for it(but their managers seem to be forbidden to stock anything not by mainstream publishers). If you send your name and address to Garnett Press, Dpt of Russian, Queen Mary College, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, or e-mail d.rayfield@qmul.ac.uk, you can get a copy by return of post, and pay in any way you like, including cheque to Queen Mary University of London, and we’ll even trust you to pay on receipt of book and invoice. And it’s only 259 pages.

  4. Stewart said:

    Donald,

    My whinging was very spur of the moment. Once I found out that I could get the novel via Amazon Marketplace (from yourself, no less) I put my order in. It arrived earlier this week. (And London is no good, as I’m in Glasgow – now you know where that order went 😉 ) – I thank you.

    Regards,
    Stewart

  5. Stewart said:

    This is interesting. Two of the titles (Castorp and Gregorius) appear to be inspired by other novels: Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain and Hjalmar Söderberg’s Doctor Glas, respectively. Looks like I’m going to have to read these books, too, if I’m to get anything out of them.

  6. Pingback: booklit » Blog Archive » The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2008 - Shortlist

  7. Pingback: booklit » Blog Archive » Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2008 - Winner

  8. Flower said:

    Hi Stewart,
    I have been searching your site for reviews on 2 Norweigan writers but came up with nothing!

    Now I see that there is one of them on this list; Lars Saabye Christensen. His novel “The Model” which I can highly recommend by the way.

    And here I was thinking, if anyone of my foreign friends who must have read Per Petterson, then it must be Stewart, but no?

    Per Petterson is said to be every book critics favourite and has received several rewards, so I thought you at least have came across his name?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/24/books/review/McGuane.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

  9. John Self said:

    I’ve read Petterson’s (Independent Foreign Fiction Prize-winning, as it happens) novel Out Stealing Horses, Flower, and reviewed it on my blog. Unfortunately I didn’t much enjoy it, though I wonder if that might have changed as I’ve read more Norwegian fiction since then. Certainly he seems to have struck a chord with the lesser spotted British reading public, as two more of his novels have now been published here, In the Wake and To Siberia.

  10. Trevor said:

    I also read and didn’t like Out Stealing Horses. Loved it for a while, but by midway the long long sentences stopped saying much to me.

  11. Flower said:

    Its interesting to read what people outside of Scandinavia thinks of our writers.
    Wonder if its the authors style or if its, how do I put it in English, the somewhat Scandinavian melchony, existenstialism and eye for drama in the most down to earth things, people either enjoy or simply dont like?

    The Scandianavians themselves dont see this style or touch as being depressing, dark, slow and heavy. I could easily come up with far more dead end situations than reflecting on life in the outback of Norway´s mountains and countryside. 🙂

  12. Stewart said:

    The shortlist has now been announced.

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