Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Shortlist Announced

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Shortlist Announced
12 April 2012

Themes of loss and persecution pervade global shortlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012. Umberto Eco's latest masterpiece, a novel banned in China charting the devastating human cost of the blood trade, and a Holocaust survivor's haunting tale all in the running to win the £10,000 Prize


Translated fiction by two Italian authors, one German, one Israeli, one Icelandic and one Chinese have made it on to this year's shortlist. The diverse shortlisted books, five of which are published by independent publishing houses, explore the human and cultural impact of loss and persecution in different countries across the ages.


Through the well-travelled shortlist, the reader is transported to Berlin to observe one woman's account of the sharpness of life in the face of death; then to a brothel in the former Ukraine where a Jewish boy is being hidden from the Nazis by a prostitute; from here to a community in China reeling from an AIDS epidemic resulting from an economically motivated blood-contamination scandal; onto Iceland where a sage has been exiled to a 'bird-fouled rock' by a superstitious community amidst the battle between learning and pagan lore. Trieste in Italy is next, where a soldier starts his journey of rediscovery of language and identity, leading him to his Finnish homeland.  The final stop is nineteenth-century Paris where conspiracy theories run riot, fuelled by an undercurrent of anti-Semitism.


The six contenders shortlisted for the 2012 Prize are:

  • Alice by Judith Hermann, translated from the German by Margot Bettauer Dembo (The Clerkenwell Press)
  • Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld, translated from the Hebrew by Jeffrey M. Green (Alma Books)
  • Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke, translated from the Chinese by Cindy Carter (Corsair)
  • From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón, translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb (Telegram Books)
  • New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani, translated from the Italian by Judith Landry (Dedalus)
  • The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco, translated from the Italian by Richard Dixon (Harvill Secker)


The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is awarded annually to the best work of contemporary fiction in translation. The 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 2011. Uniquely, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize acknowledges both the writer and the translator equally, recognising the importance of the translator in their ability to bridge the gap between languages and cultures. The winning author and translator will be awarded £5,000 each and a limited edition magnum of Champagne Taittinger.


Hephzibah Anderson, freelance critic, feature writer, broadcaster and judge of the 2012 Prize commented:

'The judging process so far has been an epic and exhilarating road trip - a journey crossing centuries and genres as well as continents. But as our shortlist of six titles shows, foreign fiction broadens the mind in a way that foreign travel can never match. Together, these authors and translators will enrich your world, taking you into the hearts and souls of people whose stories would otherwise be unimaginable. At the same time, they reinforce our shared humanity: while life's flavours, scents and textures are pungently local, its largest - and smallest - moments often prove universal.

Head to our Independent Foreign Fiction Prize page for more information on the shortlisted books


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