The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014 shortlist has been announced
Japanese women writers make the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize shortlist for the first time in its 24 -year history.
The two women, Hiromi Kawakami and the 'Japanese Angela Carter' Yoko Ogawa, vie with exiled Iraqi short story writer Hassan Blasim, bestselling Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard, French author Hubert Mingarelli and German writer Birgit Vanderbeke.
Birgit Vanderbeke joins the aforementioned writers with her debut novel The Mussel Feast; this modern German classic first appeared in 1990 but is now published in English for the first time.
By including two collections of linked short stories (Yoko Ogawa's Revenge and Hassan Blasim's second collection The Iraqi Christ) the shortlist suggests the resurgence of interest in short fiction could be a global phenomenon. And aside from Knausgaard's blockbuster A Man in Love, all of the books on the shortlist are slim volumes under 180 pages, demonstrating the appeal of concise prose.
The full shortlist of 6 titles is below:
- The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim and translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright
- A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard and translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Harvill Secker)
- A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli and translated from the French by Sam Taylor
- The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke and translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch (Peirene Press)
- Revenge by Yoko Ogawa and translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder
- Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami and translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell (Portobello Books)
The Prize aims to showcase the world's top writing translated from any language and many of the shortlisted books have already made waves in the authors' home countries. It is estimated that one in ten Norwegians is a Knausgaard reader; Mingarelli won the Prix de Médicis; Vanderbeke won the most prestigious German language literature award, The Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in 1990; Kawakami was shortlisted for the Man Asian Booker; and Ogawa has won every major Japanese literary award. Blasim, exiled from his native Iraq, developed an underground following among his fellow Arabic speakers who mainly read his writing online, while receiving critical acclaim overseas after his previous IFFP long listing in 2010.
Judge Alev Adil, Artist in Residence, Principal Lecturer and Programme Leader for MA Creative Writing at the University of Greenwich, said:
'Fiction in translation provides us with fresh perspectives on universal concerns. This list offers readers very different novels on love and the need for human connection with Mingarelli's A Meal in Winter, an elegant meditation on the holocaust, Vanderbeke's The Mussel Feast, a taut portrayal of a family tyrannized by their father and Kawakami's Strange Weather in Tokyo, a haunting romance between two lonely losers in the big city. This is a short list of intriguing contrasts, works that push the conventional boundaries of the novel with short stories as intricately interwoven as Shibari knots from Ogawa in Revenge and digressive quotidian detail from Knausgaard in A Man in Love. Fiction in translation offers us the most intimate and powerful medium for making sense of politics, of trauma and the aftermath of war. Blasim's The Iraqi Christ is an unforgettably surreal and powerful insight into contemporary Iraq, and shows us so much more than we could ever understand from televised news.'