Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015

Latest update 'The End of Days has won this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize'

Jenny Erpenbeck's The End of Days has won this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. 


The novel is the first German book to win the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, which is managed by Book Trust, since 2002.

 

Erpenbeck was previously longlisted in 2001 for her novellas The Old Child and The Book of Words and shortlisted in 2011 for Visitation.


The End of Days is a story of the twentieth-century traced through the various possible lives of one woman. Moving from a small Galician town at the turn of the century, through pre-war Vienna and Stalin's Moscow to present-day Berlin. Judge Antonia Lloyd Jones described the tale as ’a work of genius‘.


Judge Boyd Tonkin said of the winner:

This is a novel to enjoy, to cherish, and to revisit many times. Into its brief span Jenny Erpenbeck packs a century of upheaval, always rooted in the chances and choices of one woman’s life. It is both written and translated with an almost uncanny beauty, which grows not out of historical abstractions but from the shocks and hopes of everyday life, and from our common quest for peace, home and love. Re-reading this jewel of a book, I came to feel as if both WG Sebald and Virginia Woolf would recognise a kindred spirit here.


Antonia Byatt, Director, Literature, Arts Council England, says:


The End of Days is a truly remarkable novel, taking the reader on an imaginative journey across countries and continents, tracing the major historical events of twentieth-century Europe through the life (or should that be lives?) of one woman, born at the edge of the Austro-Hungarian empire as the century begins. With an invigorating structure and a varied prose style – sometimes crisp, in other parts more allusive and sinuous – this book explores ideas of time, memory and family, and reveals that what we might term 'fate' or 'chance' can pivot on the smallest of circumstances yet have an enormous effect on the course of a life, or even bring it to an abrupt end.

Jenny Erpenbeck is a worthy winner of this year’s Prize and her lucid prose is matched by Susan Bernofsky’s wonderful translation, which manages to capture the subtlest turns in thought and language. Many congratulations to them both and to the publisher, Portobello Books. Arts Council England is very happy to support the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, particularly so in this 25th anniversary year, and thanks the Prize for bringing such a rich array of translated fiction to the attention of UK readers.

Erpenbeck and translator, Susan Bernofsky were presented with their shared £10,000 Prize at an award ceremony supported by Champagne Taittinger at the Royal Institute of British Architects.


This year the judges also wanted to give a special mention to In the Beginning Was the Sea, the debut novel by Colombian writer Tomás González, translated by Frank Wynne. Based on a true story, the book gives a dramatic and searingly ironic account of the disastrous encounter of the imagined life with reality. Helen Oyeyemi described the book as ‘quietly profound, finely wrought and containing a wave-like motion within its prose’.

 

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015 honours the best work of fiction by a living author that has been translated into English from any other language and published in the United Kingdom in 2014.

 

Stay up-to-date with the Prize on Twitter@Booktrust and #IFFP.

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015

Shortlist

  • By Night the Mountain Burns

    Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel 

    Translated by Jethro Soutar

    And Other Stories
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

    Translated by

    Harvill Secker
  • F

    Daniel Kehlmann

    Translated by Carol Brown Janeway

    Quercus
  • The End of Days

    Jenny Erpenbeck

    Translated by Susan Bernofsky

    Portobello Books
  • In the Beginning Was the Sea

    Tomás González

    Translated by Frank Wynne

    Pushkin Press
  • While the Gods Were Sleeping

    Erwin Mortier

    Translated by Paul Vincent

    Pushkin Press

Longlist

  • Bloodlines

    Marcello Fois

    Translated by Silvester Mazzarella

    MacLehose Press/Quercus
  • Boyhood Island

    Karl Ove Knausgaard

    Translated by Don Bartlett 

    Harvill Secker
  • By Night the Mountain Burns

    Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel 

    Translated by Jethro Soutar

    And Other Stories
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

    Translated by

    Harvill Secker
  • F

    Daniel Kehlmann

    Translated by Carol Brown Janeway

    Quercus
  • In the Beginning Was the Sea

    Tomás González

    Translated by Frank Wynne

    Pushkin Press
  • Look Who's Back

    Timur Vermes

    Translated by Jamie Bulloch

    MacLehose Press/Quercus
  • The Dead Lake

    Hamid Ismailov

    Translated by Andrew Bromfield

    Peirene Press
  • The End of Days

    Jenny Erpenbeck

    Translated by Susan Bernofsky

    Portobello Books
  • The Giraffe's Neck

    Judith Schalansky

    Translated by Shaun Whiteside

    Bloomsbury
  • The Investigation

    J.M. Lee

    Translated by Chi-Young Kim

    Mantle, Pan Macmillan
  • The Last Lover

    Can Xue

    Translated by Annelise Finegan

    Yale University Press
  • The Ravens

    Tomas Bannerhed

    Translated by Sarah Death

    Clerkenwell Press
  • Tiger Milk

    Stefanie De Velasco

    Translated by Tim Mohr

    Head of Zeus
  • While the Gods Were Sleeping

    Erwin Mortier

    Translated by Paul Vincent

    Pushkin Press

What the judges say...

 

Judge Antonia Lloyd-Jones on Bloodlines:

'This beautiful novel depicts a Sardinian family over two generations, struggling with adversity brought not just by history but by life and fate. The flawless translation retains a lyrical tone that takes us into a world apart, reflecting the isolation and intensity of living on an island. Despite all, the human spirit wins out in this brave and timeless saga.’

 

Judge Cristina Fuentes La Roche on Boyhood Island:

'Boyhood Island is the third book, in this sequence of autobiographical novels that makes an exquisitely intimate and compelling read. Karl Ove Knausgard brings successfully alive those feelings of deep trauma, secrets and embarrassments that only inhabits in childhood. We follow his young self, growing up in south of Norway in the seventies, torn between a deep fear of his tyrannical father and a desperate desire to fit in.’


Judge Helen Oyeyemi on By Night the Mountain Burns:

'I can't say for sure whether my grandfather was or wasn't mad. I saw him through a child's eyes and through such eyes it's impossible to tell...' here a delightfully candid, deceptively sober narrative voice weaves brief histories of a collective existence shaped by living on the shores of a sea that does not (or will not?) provide sufficient sustenance.’


Judge Antonia Lloyd-Jones on Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage:

'A young man becomes emotionally blocked when his four closest friends suddenly reject him for no apparent reason. Years later, the woman he loves urges him to lay his ghosts to rest and, breaking with conformity, he journeys into his past. Using the motifs of music – and subway station design – this romantic, profound and intimate story courageously explores human relationships.’


Judge Boyd Tonkin on F:

'Sons of a troubled and absconding father, three brothers try to make sense of themselves against an inheritance of lies. Fleet-footed, witty, ingenious but moving too, Kehlmann's smartly designed intrigue sets fraud and fakery against the quest for truth in art, in faith and in love. Entertaining and thought-provoking, this novel dashingly marries head, heart and - not least - humour.’

 

 Judge Cristina Fuentes La Roche on In the Beginning Was the Sea:

‘Tomás González superb prose takes us into an exhilarating story about the return to nature and the violent consequences of this decision. Elena and J., the well-off bohemian protagonists, leave city life behind as they decide to move to a remote ‘finca’ in the Caribbean cost. Their relationship disintegrates slowly under the pressure of the extreme weather, powerful nature, and their escalating debts, leading to a tragic outcome.’


Judge Richard Mansell on Look Who’s Back:

‘What would Hitler make of modern Germany, and what would it make of him? When he wakes up in 2011, in full uniform and doused in petrol, he is horrified and compelled to act, but he is taken as an impersonator who cannot break with character. Laughs abound in this excellently crafted satire turns a horrific figure into an object of comedy.’


Judge Cristina Fuentes La Roche on The Dead Lake:

‘This is a beautiful and sad story, with a feel of a fairy tale, of the life and fate of a family in rural Soviet- Kazakhstan affected by human-inflicted disaster. The life events are told to a stranger on a train, by the gifted protagonist, who never grew into the size of a man, due to the effects of atomic weapons that were tested in the area destroying both nature and dreams.’


Judge Boyd Tonkin on The End of Days:

‘Via a series of turning-points where tragedy looms for her heroine, Erpenbeck tells the story of Europe's 20th century through one woman's life. From Galicia in the 1900s through Vienna, Moscow and east Germany, this ultimate survivor plays chance against fate in a mosaic of scenes that blend beautifully lyrical prose with a sweeping overview of the continent's catastrophic history.’


Judge Helen Oyeyemi on The Giraffe's Neck:

‘Well, it's not so much that the schoolteacher protagonist of this icily scintillating novel hates her pupils...it's more that she perceives them and the past, present and probable future of the region they all live in through a zoological lens. This combined with her limited knowledge of herself generate the kind of unease that keeps you turning pages.’


Judge Antonia Lloyd Jones on The Investigation:

‘In a wartime Japanese prison, a young guard investigates the murder of a brutal colleague, only to discover humanity and beauty within a place of horror and cruelty where all hope seems lost. Here we have a mystery, a historical novel, poetry, and a debate about the liberating power of music and literature, masterfully combined into an unforgettable human tragedy.’


Judge Helen Oyeyemi on The Last Lover:

‘Here's a sparky, evocative and deliciously strange book in which the 'full wheel' of the moon rises in its own sweet time and the order of events have their own collapsible logic that allows a particularly determined family to physically pursue each other through the pages that make up their home library. And that's just one plot strand!’

 

Judge Richard Mansell on The Ravens:

‘In this exquisitely told and acutely sensitive tale of loss, Klas desperately wants to avoid his inevitable future – taking over the farm at Raven Fen that has killed his grandfather and is killing his mentally-ill father. Meanwhile he has his own problems: other boys, a girl, and an evil eye above his bed, finding solace in birds, plants and the land itself.

 

Judge Richard Mansell on Tiger Milk:

‘This tale of adolescence and change excels in conveying the voices of its two protagonists, Nini and Jameelah. Although they plan to be together forever, things do not always turn out as planned, and they roam the underbelly of Berlin to practise at being adults, armed with their cocktail ‘tigermilk’ and ideas of how they’re supposed to behave.’


Judge Boyd Tonkin on While the Gods Were Sleeping:

‘A First World War story told from the Flemish point of view, Mortier's exquistely written novel also explores the mysteries of time and memory. From old age, its heroine looks back in vivid wonderment on a girlhood in cosy but stratified Belgium prior to August 1914. Front-line horror and romance, depicted with hallucinatory intensity, lead into reflections on love, ageing and change.’

Judges

  • Boyd Tonkin

    Senior Writer and Columnist

About the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015

The annual Prize honours the best 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 previous year. Uniquely, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize gives the winning author and translator equal status - each receives £5,000 - recognising the importance of the translator in their ability to bridge the gap between languages and culture.


First awarded in 1990 to Orhan Pamuk and translator Victoria Holbrook for The White Castle, the Prize ran until 1995. It was then revived in 2001 with the support of Arts Council England and is now managed by Book Trust. The £10,000 Prize money and associated costs are supported using public funding by Arts Council England. The Prize is also supported by The Independent and Champagne Taittinger.

 

Previous Winners 

 

  • 2014 The Iraqi Christ written by Hassan Blasim, translated from Arabic by Jonathan Wright (Comma Press)
  • 2013 The Detour written by Gerbrand Bakker, translated from Dutch by David Colmer (Harvill Secker)
  • 2012 Blooms of Darkness written by Aharon Appelfeld, translated from Hebrew by Jeffrey M Green (Alma Books)
  • 2011 Red April written by Santiago Roncagliolo, translated from Spanish by Edith Grossman (Atlantic Books)
  • 2010 Brodeck's Report written by Philippe Claudel,  translated from French by John Cullen (MacLehose Press)
  • 2009 The Armies written by Evelio Rosero, translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean (MacLehose Press)
  • 2008 Omega Minor written by Paul Verhaeghen, translated from Dutch by the author (Dalkey Archive Press)
  • 2007 The Book of Chameleons written by José Eduardo Agualusa, translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahan (Simon & Schuster)
  • 2006 Out Stealing Horses written by Per Petterson, translated from the Norwegian by Anne Born (Harvill Secker)
  • 2005 Windows on the World written by Frédéric Beigbeder, translated from the French by Frank Wynne (HarperCollins)
  • 2004 Soldiers of Salamina written by Javier Cercas, translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean (Bloomsbury)
  • 2003 The Visit of the Royal Physician written by Per Olov Enquist, from the Swedish by Tiina Nunnally (Harvill Press)
  • 2002 Austerlitz written by W G Sebald, translated from the German by Anthea Bell (Penguin). Prize won by Sebald (posthumously).
  • 2001 The Alphonse Courrier Affair by Marta Morazzoni, translated from Italian by Emma Rose (Vintage)
  • 1996-2001 Prize in abeyance
  • 1995 The Film Explainer written by Gert Hofmann,  translated from German by Michael Hofmann (Secker)
  • 1994 The Sorrow of War written by Bao Ninh, translated from Vietnamese by Phanh Thanh Hao (Harvill Press)
  • 1993 The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis written by José Saramago, translated from Portuguese by Giovanni Pontiero (Harvill Press)
  • 1992 The Death Of Napoleon written by Simon Leys, translated from French by Patricia Clancy (Quartet Books)
  • 1991 Immortality written by Milan Kundera, translated from Czech by Peter Kussi (Faber & Faber)
  • 1990 The White Castle written by Orhan Pamuk, translated from Turkish by Victoria Holbrook (Carcanet)


The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015 invited publishers to submit entries from 8 August to 16 September 2014. For reference please view the Terms & Conditions.

 

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015 Terms and Conditions

 

If you have any queries please email iffp@booktrust.org.uk or call Claire Shanahan on 0207 801 8845