Dutch tale of isolation and infidelity wins the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2013

Dutch tale of isolation and infidelity wins the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2013
30 May 2013

IMPAC Dublin Literary Award winner Gerbrand Bakker wins the £10,000 prize with latest novel The Detour.

Dutch tale The Detour has been announced as the winner of the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, at an awards ceremony sponsored by Tattinger in London, tonight, 20th May 2013. Themes of infidelity, exile and isolation won over the judges of this year’s Prize to give the author his second major prize win. His previous novel The Twin won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Translator David Colmer will share the prize money with Bakker, in this unique award that recognises writer and translator equally.

The Detour follows Emilie, a translation professor and Emily Dickinson scholar, who retreats from her life in the Netherlands to an isolated farm house in Wales following an affair with a student. A young man hiking past the farmhouse with his dog stays for a night but ends up remaining longer, helping the woman to make repairs to the farmhouse and easing her self-imposed loneliness. But back in Amsterdam her husband forms a bond with a detective who agrees to help him find his wife. Something is deeply wrong at the farmhouse – and what will happen when the husband and detective finally track Emilie down?

Judge and literary editor of the Independent, Boyd Tonkin said of the winner:
'Swift-moving and apparently straightforward, but with mysterious hidden depths, The Detour is a novel that grips its reader tight and never lets go. Gerbrand Bakker’s tale of a Dutchwoman who goes missing from her own troubled life and seeks refuge in rural Wales combines mesmeric storytelling with an uncanny sense of place, and an atmosphere of brooding, irresistible menace. In David Colmer’s pitch-perfect and immersive translation, this book will both linger in your imagination and, quite possibly, haunt your dreams as well.'

Also given a special mention as a very close contender for this year’s Prize was Traveller of the Century by Andrés Neuman, translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia. The book has at its heart a secret affair between two translators, who between bed and the dictionary build their own fragile language. An epic novel of philosophy, history and love, this is the fourth novel by Andrés Neuman who was named as one of Granta’s Best Young Spanish Language Novelists in 2010.

Bakker fought off strong competition from a prestigious shortlist including Man Booker International Prize Winner Ismail Kadare from Albania. Also shortlisted were Croatian author Daša Drndić, Chris Barnard from South Africa and Enrique Vila-Matas from Spain. Vila-Matas’ novel Dublinesque was translated together by Rosalind Harvey and Anne McLean, who has previously won the IFFP twice and had a second title longlisted for the Prize this year, The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez.


Previous winners of the Prize include Milan Kundera in 1991 for Immortality translated by Peter Kussi; W G Sebald and translator, Anthea Bell, in 2002 for Austerlitz; and Per Petterson and translator, Anne Born, in 2006 for Out Stealing Horses. The 2012 winner was Blooms of Darkness by the Israeli author Aharon Appelfeld, translated from the Hebrew by Jeffrey M Green.

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 2012. 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 Prize ran previously between 1990 and 1995 and was revived with the support of Arts Council England in 2001. The £10,000 Prize money and associated costs are funded by Arts Council England who manage the Prize in partnership with Book Trust. The Prize is also supported by the Independent and Champagne Taittinger.


This year, Book Trust, who manages the Prize, piloted a Readers’ Project, with 300 Readers shadowing the six shortlisted titles. The readers gathered together at the Free Word Centre in Farringdon on 18 May for a mini-festival, featuring a talk from author Elif Shafak, a translation duel, a Google Hangout with the shortlisted authors and translators, and a vote on their favourite title, crowned the Independent Foreign Fiction Readers’ Prize (IFFRP) winner. The Readers’ Project is funded by the Free Word Strategic Commissioning Fund and the NALD Futures Fund (administered by Writers’ Centre Norwich). English PEN, the Reading Agency and the British Centre for Literary Translation are partnering on the project with Book Trust. A bespoke piece of research will provide a detailed study of the barriers to readers’ engagement with world literature and make recommendations for the trade to overcome them. The research will be promoted nationally and internationally in the second half of 2013.

The judges for this year’s Prize were:

  • Jean Boase-Beier, Professor of Literature and Translation at the University of East Anglia
  • Novelist and former Lecturer in English at the University of Sussex, Gabriel Josipovici
  • Elif Shafak, an award-winning novelist and the most widely read woman writer in Turkey
  • Literary translator, Frank Wynne
  • Boyd Tonkin, Literary Editor of the Independent

Find out more about the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize



21 May 2013

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