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Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2009

The longlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2009 has been announced.

The sixteen titles are:

  • My Father’s Wives, José Eduardo Agualusa, translated by Daniel Hahn from the Portuguese (Arcadia Books)
  • The Director, Alexander Ahndoril, translated by Sarah Death from the Swedish (Portobello Books)
  • Voice Over, Céline Curiol, translated by Sam Richard from the French (Faber)
  • The White King, György Dragomán, translated by Paul Olchvary from the Hungarian (Doubleday)
  • Night Work, Thomas Glavinic translated by John Brownjohn from the German (Canongate)
  • Beijing Coma, Ma Jian, translated by Flora Drew from the Chinese (Chatto & Windus)
  • The Siege, Ismail Kadare, translated by David Bellos from the French of Jusuf Vrioni (Canongate)
  • Homesick, Eshkol Nevo, translated by Sondra Silverston from the Hebrew (Chatto & Windus)
  • The Diving Pool, Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder from the Japanese (Harvill Secker)
  • The Armies, Evelio Rosero, translated by Anne McLean from the Spanish (Maclehose Press)
  • The Blue Fox, Sjón, translated by Victoria Cribb from the Icelandic (Telegram)
  • Novel 11, Book 18, Dag Solstad, translated by Sverre Lyngstad from the Norwegian (Harvill Secker)
  • How The Soldier Repairs The Gramophone, Saša Stanišić, translated by Anthea Bell from the German, (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
  • A Blessed Child, Linn Ullmann, translated by Sarah Death from the Norwegian (Picador)
  • The Informers, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, translated by Anne McLean from the Spanish (Bloomsbury)
  • Friendly Fire, A.B. Yehoshua, translated by Stuart Schoffman from the Hebrew (Halban)

The judges for this year’s prize are:

The shortlist will be announced at the end of March.

Personally, I quite like this longlist. There’s a number of books tucked in there that I’ve been wanting to read for a while, notably Sjón’s The Blue Fox and Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s The Informers. There are others that I’ve had on my shelves for a while – Céline Curiol’s Voice Over, which I’ve started twice to find myself never in the mood for, and György Dragomán’s The White King, a book I’ve twice heard him read from, but never got round to actually starting myself. (Dragomán, incidentally, is responsible for translating Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting into Hungarian.)

There are two that I’ve read – Yoko Ogawa’s The Diving Pool and Evelio Rosero’s The Armies (linked to above). The first I enjoyed to a degree, notable mention going to the title novella, but I wasn’t too impressed by the latter.  Another, How The Soldier Repairs The Gramophone, by an author I’ve also twice heard readings from (both times fun and interesting), failed to interest me enough to read on to the end, although I wouldn’t rule out a second chance.

The best thing about such a list is that new writers are introduced. I’ve been aware of Alexander Ahndoril,  Linn Ullmann, and Thomas Glavinic but have never been compelled to rush into their work.  Eshkol Nevo, with Homesick, is a new name to me, and one I look forward to investigating.

I would make mention of the books that I thought may make the list but didn’t, but then most of the ones that I had in mind I hadn’t read anyway. I must confess a certain surprise at not seeing Muriel Barberry’s The Elegance Of The Hedgehog, translated by Alison Anderson from the French (Gallic Books) and to the absence of any Dalkey Archive titles, given that their Omega Minor by Paul Verhaeghen scooped the prize last year.

As usual, though, it’s beg-borrow-steal time, in order to sample the lot.

February 25, 2009

19 responses to Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2009

  1. John Self said:

    Bollocks! I read The Blue Fox earlier this month but in the end couldn’t think of anything to say about it – even though I liked it very much – so decided not to write a review. Wish I had now.

    I have Dag Solstad’s Novel 11, Book 18 which I’ve been keen to read for a while, so that bumps it up the list. And I’m trying to get hold of copies of The Informers and A Blessed Child so I can have a look at those too.

    The Elegance of the Hedgehog is maybe not so surprising an omission. Scott Pack and others liked it, but others such as Jonathan at Underthought, didn’t.

    However like you, I was most surprised by the lack of Dalkey Archive titles. I’m never clear though on which of their titles are published in the UK and which are US-only. That might have something to do with it.

  2. Stewart said:

    The Informers is one that I pick up regularly in stores and put back. I’ve been putting it off for a bit now as the paperback is due out in a couple of months. But, you know, these lists play havoc with priorities and this longlisting has only made me more eager to read it.

    I’ve just scoured the library database of all libraries under the local council to see which of the books are available through them. One! Stupid insular councils!

  3. Mark Thwaite said:

    Hiya,

    We read about 4 or 5 Dalkey titles (so, yes, a number were eligible), and we all just thought that, well, these 16 were better than any of them!

    I liked Philippe Toussaint’s Camera well enough, but not nearly as much as I thought I would, and I was the only one who was fond of it (as I recall) — so, out it went!

    mark

  4. Stewart said:

    Hi Mark, not that I’ve read the Dalkey titles. I’ve had shots at Tsepeneag, Toussaint, and Dragomoschenko and found myself struggling to get into them. I suppose at the time you had to read Gert Jonke’s Homage To Czerny, although his death on Jan 4th may have hampered his eligibility.

    Regarding Toussaint, I read Monsieur twice last year, each time being ambivalent about it. Camera seemed like more of the same, although a piece in a previous issue of the Quarterly Conversation got up the itch to try again.

  5. Mark Thwaite said:

    I think Jonke’s Homage To Czerny was elgible — certainly, we read it (review on ReadySteadyBook here: http://tinyurl.com/7nz9rk ). Again, however, it just wasn’t quite as strong as I’d hoped it would be (however, in my own personal top 16 I think Jonke may very well have squeezed on ;-))

  6. LizzySiddal said:

    There are 5 I wish to read – the two German titles, both in my TBR (no surprise that), The Informers + The White King (both available at my libary) and The Blue Fox (now on its way to me). For once, this is not a very expensive list, so I may take a look at the Norwegian titles too!

  7. jem said:

    Thanks for sharing this – I’ll browse through these titles and see if there are any I fancy. I’m read ‘Out Stealing Horses’ at the moment which won a few years back. I don’t read a great deal of foreign ficion, but I’ve upped my intake in the last few years and am starting to enjoy it more. I think I have to approach it with different expectations, the same way I approach foreign films differently to UK or US films. But I think ultimately good foreign fiction can be very satisfying and at time far more satisfying than much of the stuff I read in English.

  8. Jonathan said:

    Regarding, Elegance of the Hedgehog, I’m sure part of the problem is that it’s a pretty irritating book that polarizes readers, but I think it’s also that it’s already a smash-hit that’s sold something like a million copies in France. I suppose part of the point of this prize is to reward under-rewarded novels.

    Certainly this shortlist has informed me about a lot of interesting novels I would not otherwise have come across.

  9. John Self said:

    I see that Sarah Death has twice the chance of anyone else of being the winning translator, having rendered both Linn Ullmann (Norwegian) and Alexander Ahndoril (Swedish) into English.

    Thanks for the insight into the judging process, Mark. I look forward to seeing the shortlist.

  10. Stewart said:

    As does Anne McLean, who translated both The Armies and The Informers.

    Also of note is that Ma Jian’s translator, Flora Drew, is his partner.

    I’ve edited the list, too, to make mention that David Bellos was translating from the French of Jusuf Vrioni, rather than direct from the Albanian.

  11. John Self said:

    As does Anne McLean

    D’oh! I scanned the names, but clearly not carefully enough.

    Just finished reading Fred Wander’s The Seventh Well (tr. Michael Hofmann) and thought it a blinder. A shame the author died a few years ago or it would surely have been a strong contender. Though I wonder if it would have qualified, as the prize must go to a “contemporary work of literary fiction in translation” and Wander’s book was published in Germany in 1971, though not published in English until last year. (The book is published as fiction, though it is apparently a memoir in all but name; but that’s a separate point.)

    Also, that stipulation “literary fiction” is odd. How do they define that?

  12. Stewart said:

    Though I wonder if it would have qualified, as the prize must go to a “contemporary work of literary fiction in translation” and Wander’s book was published in Germany in 1971, though not published in English until last year.

    I’ve just checked the copyright year on Kadare’s The Siege and it precedes your Wander by a year, being published in 1970. I suppose as long as the author is still alive and the translation was published for the first time in the UK last year then it’s game.

  13. Stewart said:

    Another little snippet of information about the two Sarah Death translations. One (The Director) is about Ingmar Bergman, while the other (A Blessed Child) is by Linn Ullmann, daughter of Bergman.

  14. John Self said:

    …And I am currently reading one of them while you are currently reading the other. A perfect circle!

  15. Pingback: Linn Ullmann: A Blessed Child « Asylum

  16. Pingback: Dag Solstad: Novel 11, Book 18 « Asylum

  17. Stewart said:

    The prize has been won by Evelio Rosero’s The Armies.

  18. Anne Brooke said:

    I must admit (shock! horror!) to being one of those rare people who thought The Blue Fox was simply an exercise in dullness. Might have made a nice prose poem though, if it had been much much shorter …

    ==:O

    Anne B

  19. I liked Philippe Toussaint’s Camera well enough, but not nearly as much as I thought I would, and I was the only one who was fond of it (as I recall) — so, out it went!

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19 responses to Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2009

  1. John Self said:

    Bollocks! I read The Blue Fox earlier this month but in the end couldn’t think of anything to say about it – even though I liked it very much – so decided not to write a review. Wish I had now.

    I have Dag Solstad’s Novel 11, Book 18 which I’ve been keen to read for a while, so that bumps it up the list. And I’m trying to get hold of copies of The Informers and A Blessed Child so I can have a look at those too.

    The Elegance of the Hedgehog is maybe not so surprising an omission. Scott Pack and others liked it, but others such as Jonathan at Underthought, didn’t.

    However like you, I was most surprised by the lack of Dalkey Archive titles. I’m never clear though on which of their titles are published in the UK and which are US-only. That might have something to do with it.

  2. Stewart said:

    The Informers is one that I pick up regularly in stores and put back. I’ve been putting it off for a bit now as the paperback is due out in a couple of months. But, you know, these lists play havoc with priorities and this longlisting has only made me more eager to read it.

    I’ve just scoured the library database of all libraries under the local council to see which of the books are available through them. One! Stupid insular councils!

  3. Mark Thwaite said:

    Hiya,

    We read about 4 or 5 Dalkey titles (so, yes, a number were eligible), and we all just thought that, well, these 16 were better than any of them!

    I liked Philippe Toussaint’s Camera well enough, but not nearly as much as I thought I would, and I was the only one who was fond of it (as I recall) — so, out it went!

    mark

  4. Stewart said:

    Hi Mark, not that I’ve read the Dalkey titles. I’ve had shots at Tsepeneag, Toussaint, and Dragomoschenko and found myself struggling to get into them. I suppose at the time you had to read Gert Jonke’s Homage To Czerny, although his death on Jan 4th may have hampered his eligibility.

    Regarding Toussaint, I read Monsieur twice last year, each time being ambivalent about it. Camera seemed like more of the same, although a piece in a previous issue of the Quarterly Conversation got up the itch to try again.

  5. Mark Thwaite said:

    I think Jonke’s Homage To Czerny was elgible — certainly, we read it (review on ReadySteadyBook here: http://tinyurl.com/7nz9rk ). Again, however, it just wasn’t quite as strong as I’d hoped it would be (however, in my own personal top 16 I think Jonke may very well have squeezed on ;-))

  6. LizzySiddal said:

    There are 5 I wish to read – the two German titles, both in my TBR (no surprise that), The Informers + The White King (both available at my libary) and The Blue Fox (now on its way to me). For once, this is not a very expensive list, so I may take a look at the Norwegian titles too!

  7. jem said:

    Thanks for sharing this – I’ll browse through these titles and see if there are any I fancy. I’m read ‘Out Stealing Horses’ at the moment which won a few years back. I don’t read a great deal of foreign ficion, but I’ve upped my intake in the last few years and am starting to enjoy it more. I think I have to approach it with different expectations, the same way I approach foreign films differently to UK or US films. But I think ultimately good foreign fiction can be very satisfying and at time far more satisfying than much of the stuff I read in English.

  8. Jonathan said:

    Regarding, Elegance of the Hedgehog, I’m sure part of the problem is that it’s a pretty irritating book that polarizes readers, but I think it’s also that it’s already a smash-hit that’s sold something like a million copies in France. I suppose part of the point of this prize is to reward under-rewarded novels.

    Certainly this shortlist has informed me about a lot of interesting novels I would not otherwise have come across.

  9. John Self said:

    I see that Sarah Death has twice the chance of anyone else of being the winning translator, having rendered both Linn Ullmann (Norwegian) and Alexander Ahndoril (Swedish) into English.

    Thanks for the insight into the judging process, Mark. I look forward to seeing the shortlist.

  10. Stewart said:

    As does Anne McLean, who translated both The Armies and The Informers.

    Also of note is that Ma Jian’s translator, Flora Drew, is his partner.

    I’ve edited the list, too, to make mention that David Bellos was translating from the French of Jusuf Vrioni, rather than direct from the Albanian.

  11. John Self said:

    As does Anne McLean

    D’oh! I scanned the names, but clearly not carefully enough.

    Just finished reading Fred Wander’s The Seventh Well (tr. Michael Hofmann) and thought it a blinder. A shame the author died a few years ago or it would surely have been a strong contender. Though I wonder if it would have qualified, as the prize must go to a “contemporary work of literary fiction in translation” and Wander’s book was published in Germany in 1971, though not published in English until last year. (The book is published as fiction, though it is apparently a memoir in all but name; but that’s a separate point.)

    Also, that stipulation “literary fiction” is odd. How do they define that?

  12. Stewart said:

    Though I wonder if it would have qualified, as the prize must go to a “contemporary work of literary fiction in translation” and Wander’s book was published in Germany in 1971, though not published in English until last year.

    I’ve just checked the copyright year on Kadare’s The Siege and it precedes your Wander by a year, being published in 1970. I suppose as long as the author is still alive and the translation was published for the first time in the UK last year then it’s game.

  13. Stewart said:

    Another little snippet of information about the two Sarah Death translations. One (The Director) is about Ingmar Bergman, while the other (A Blessed Child) is by Linn Ullmann, daughter of Bergman.

  14. John Self said:

    …And I am currently reading one of them while you are currently reading the other. A perfect circle!

  15. Pingback: Linn Ullmann: A Blessed Child « Asylum

  16. Pingback: Dag Solstad: Novel 11, Book 18 « Asylum

  17. Stewart said:

    The prize has been won by Evelio Rosero’s The Armies.

  18. Anne Brooke said:

    I must admit (shock! horror!) to being one of those rare people who thought The Blue Fox was simply an exercise in dullness. Might have made a nice prose poem though, if it had been much much shorter …

    ==:O

    Anne B

  19. I liked Philippe Toussaint’s Camera well enough, but not nearly as much as I thought I would, and I was the only one who was fond of it (as I recall) — so, out it went!

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