Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012

Latest update 'IFFP joins forces with annual Man Booker International Prize'
The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is evolving to encourage more publishing and reading of quality fiction in translation. It will join forces with the Booker Prize Foundation to become the annual Man Booker International Prize, and it will be managed by Four Colman Getty. 
 
Diana Gerald, Book Trust's chief executive comments:

We are delighted by the additional investment in literature in translation that this announcement heralds. Joining forces with the Man Booker International Prize will take the prize to the next level, helping to raise the profile of translated literature and reflecting the impact of the IFFP. This is good news for writers, translators and readers.

As an acknowledgement of the importance of translation, the £50,000 prize money will be divided equally between the author and the translator. Each shortlisted author and translator will receive £1,000. This brings the total prize fund to £60,000 per year, compared to the previous £37,500 for the Man Booker International Prize and £10,000 for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
 
The terms and conditions of entry for the new Man Booker International Prize are grounded in those of the IFFP, bringing the best of the IFFP to the new venture. Boyd Tonkin, senior writer on The Independent, who has been on the judging panel for and a champion of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize since 2000, will chair the judges of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize.
  • Winner

    Blooms of Darkness

    Aharon Appelfeld

    Translated by Jeffrey M Green

    Alma Books

    The ghetto in which the Jews have been confined is being liquidated by the Nazis, and 11-year-old Hugo is brought by his mother to the local brothel, where one of the prostitutes has agreed to hide him. Mariana is a bitterly unhappy woman who hates what she has done to her life, and night after night Hugo sits in her closet and listens uncomprehendingly as she rages at the Nazi soldiers who come and go. When she's not mired in self-loathing, Mariana is fiercely protective of the bewildered, painfully polite young boy. And Hugo becomes protective of Mariana, too, trying to make her laugh when she is depressed, soothing her physical and mental agony with cold compresses. As the memories of his family and friends grow dim, Hugo falls in love with Mariana. And as her life spirals downwards, Mariana reaches out for consolation to the adoring boy who is on the cusp of manhood.

Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld and translated by Jeffrey M Green won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012.

Read an exclusive interview with Aharon Appelfeld

 

On a rare visit to London, Appelfeld commented:

Blooms of Darkness is a work of fiction that includes my personal experience during the Second World War. I wanted to explore the darkest places of human behaviour and to show that even there, generosity and love can survive; that humanity and love can overcome cruelty and brutality. It is a joy to win the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize alongside Jeffrey M Green - he is a highly professional translator and I love his work.

Blooms of Darkness translator Jeffrey M Green commented:

Translators are humble people by nature, so it is astonishing and gratifying for translators to be honoured by the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Clearly, if Blooms of Darkness had not been excellent, even an excellent translation would not have won this Prize, but a bad translation would certainly have destroyed the excellence of the original. It has been a privilege to be Aharon's voice in English.

The novel is loosely based on Appelfeld's own experiences of the Holocaust as a boy, where he escaped from a prison camp. Blooms of Darkness is told from the perspective of 11-year-old Hugo who is taken in by Mariana, a prostitute, to keep him safe as the Second World War rages around them in the ghetto and Jewish people are forcefully sent to concentration camps.

Born in 1932 in what is now Western Ukraine, Appelfeld was deported to a labour camp at Transnistria when he was seven years old. He managed to escape, and was picked up by the Red Army in 1944, eventually making his way to Italy and finally reaching Palestine in 1946, aged 14. These formative years have been the focus of his writing for more than 40 years, during which he has produced over 40 books which have been translated into 25 languages.

While Appelfeld grew up speaking German he could not bring himself to write in it citing it as 'the language of the murderers'. Instead, he chooses to write in his 'mother language' of Hebrew which he learned to speak aged 14 and which he praises for its succinctness and biblical imagery.

At 80, Aharon is the oldest author to win the prestigious Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, following on from the youngest ever winner, Santiago Roncagliolo, who at 36 won the Prize last year.


Jeffrey on translating the book:

I have been translating Appelfeld for a long time, so the problem is always finding the right tone.  In this book a major problem has to do with the different levels of time in the story and how to treat them with the rigid tense system of English, as opposed to the fluid tense system of Hebrew.

Aharon on his favourite book in translation:

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann is my favourite book of all time in translation. It is something very universal, very particular from one side and very universal from the other side, and it tries to surround human life and human beings from all sides - physical and metaphysical.

About the shortlist

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 6 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.

More about the books

Alice by Judith Hermann, translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo (Clerkenwell Press)

Intimations of mortality draw Alice away from Berlin, to Tuscany and elsewhere. Her losses seem tangential and rooted in the past at first, but death eventually hits closer to home, with a bereavement which eclipses all previous ones.

What the judges said:

These five linked stories all unfold in the shadow of death. Yet, with their pin-sharp precision and lyrical tenderness, they make you feel thrillingly alive. Exquisitely written, gracefully translated, Judith Hermann's everyday elegies might have proved depressing - in clumsier hands. They are just the opposite. All the more precious for their transience, these glimpses of love, beauty and happiness brim with the small joys of life.

 

Biographies:

Judith Hermann was born in Berlin in 1970. She is the author of The Summer House, Later and Nothing but Ghosts, and has received a number of literary awards including the Kleist Prize, the Bremer Förderpreis, Hugo Ball Förderpreis, Kleistpreis and Hölderlin-Preis.

 

Margot Bettauer Dembo has translated all three of Judith Hermann's novels, as well as books by Robert Gernhardt, Joachim Fest, Ödön von Horvath, Feridun Zaimoglu and Hermann Kant. She was awarded the Goethe-Institut/Berlin Translator's Prize in 1994 and the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize in 2003. She has also been the translator for two feature documentary films, The Restless Conscience, which was nominated for an Academy Award, and The Burning Wall.

 

Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld, translated by Jeffrey M Green (Alma Books)

Hugo is eleven, and his vivid dream life sustains his connection to his estranged family, as he finds himself caught up in the horror of a Ukrainan city seized by the Nazis. Bliss and terror intermingle as Marianna, a prostitute, befriends and shelters the child in the unlikely haven of a brothel.

What the judges said:

Jeffrey M Green's incantatory translation from the Hebrew does ample justice to a novel that meditates on the imagination, memory and language itself. As the relationship between Hugo and Marianna evolves, this deceptively simple narrative does something extraordinary, carrying the reader to a liminal territory in which deep sensuality exists alongside unfathomable brutality.

 

Biographies:

Aharon Appelfeld was born in Czernovitz, Bukovina (now in Western Ukraine) in 1932. He was deported to a labour camp at Transnistria, but soon escaped and spent three years in the forests, before being picked up by the Red Army in 1944. He served in field kitchens in Ukraine, and then made his way to Italy, reaching Palestine in 1946. He has written about the Holocaust for more than 40 years and has produced over 40 books, which have been translated into 25 languages. These include The Iron Tracks (winner of the National Jewish Book Award) and his memoir, The Story of a Life (winner of the Prix Médicis Étranger). He has also won the Giovanni Bocaccio Literary Prize, the Nelly Sachs Prize, the Israel Prize, the Bialik Prize, and the MLA Commonwealth Award and been honoured as a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He is Professor Emeritus of Hebrew literature at Ben-Gurion University at Beersheva. He is married and has three children.

 

Jeffrey M. Green was born in New York City. He attended Princeton for his first degree, and went on to Harvard Graduate School, where he took his doctorate in Comparative Literature in 1973. He moved to Israel shortly afterwards and taught at the Hebrew University and a high school. He then worked at the Jewish Agency, before becoming a freelance translator in 1979. He has translated other prominent Hebrew writers such as Mendele, Gnessin, Hazaz, Agnon, Amalia Kahana-Carmon and Dan Tsalka. He has also published two books in Hebrew and a book on translation with the University of Georgia Press. He is married and has four children.


Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke, translated by Cindy Carter (Constable & Robinson)

The 'spreading fever' of AIDS envelopes Henan province as a pernicious trade in blood in China in the 1990s has catastrophic consequences. Peasant farmers are cajoled into abandoning agriculture for a tragically dangerous enterprise.

What the judges said:

A brave, dark and poetic account of modern Chinese malaise. Through his description of the many lives touched by an AIDS epidemic sweeping a village, Yan Lianke proves himself not only as a writer of  political vision, but also one with a unique narrative voice. Yan Lianke's true story based prose combines an oral storytelling tradition with daring experiment - something rare in contemporary Chinese literature.

 

Biographies:

Yan Lianke was born in 1958 in Henan province, where the blood-contamination scandal that Dream of Ding Village recounts happened. He is one of China's most established literary writers and his novels and story collections have won many of China's most prestigious literary prizes. He is also China's most controversial writer: his novel Serve the People! was banned for satirising the Cultural Revolution and became an underground internet sensation. In China Dream of Ding Village was stopped in its tracks with a 'no distribution, no sales and no promotion' order.

 

Cindy Carter is a Beijing-based translator of Chinese novels, film, essays and poetry. She studied Japanese at the University of California and lived in Osaka in Japan for three years before moving to China as a language student in 1996. Since beginning her translation career in 1999, she has translated over 40 independent Chinese films and documentaries, dozens of scripts, along with various works of fiction. Her translation of Xiaolu Guo's novel Village of Stone (2004) was shortlisted for the Dublin IMPAC Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

 

From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón, translated by Victoria Cribb (Telegram)

Jonas is in exile on a desolate island during the tumultuous seventeenth century from his homeland. Iceland is dominated by the conflict of superstition and science in this pre-Enlightenment allegory.

What the judges said: 

This memorable, magical book tells the story of an Icelandic sage banished to exile on Gullbjörn's Island in 1635. Caught in the grip of superstition, Iceland's establishment has decided that the self-taught healer Jonas the Learned is a practitioner of the black arts and sent him away to a 'bird-fouled rock'. Sitting there with nothing more than a sandpiper for company, Jonas is then drawn into an epic adventure, by turns surprising and surreal. Sjón's remarkable tale imagines a delirious 17th century Iceland swithering between mysticism and a new scientific rationalism and it is rendered brilliantly into English in Victoria Cribb's exuberant translation.

 

Biographies:

Sjón was born in Reykjavik in1962. He is a poet, novelist and playwright and has received numerous literary awards, including the Nordic Council's Literature Prize for The Blue Fox, which was also longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2009. He was nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a Brit Award for the music from the film Dancer in the Dark, which he collaborated on with Bjork. From the Mouth of the Whale is his second novel to be published by Telegram and his work has been translated into 22 languages.

 

Victoria Cribb has an MA in Icelandic and Scandinavian Studies from University College London and a BPhil in Icelandic from the University of Iceland. She has lived and worked in Iceland for a number of years as a publisher, journalist and translator from Icelandic to English.

 

New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani, translated by Judith Landry (Dedalus)

A German medic treats a soldier found wounded on the Trieste quay in 1943. Without memory or name; his identity is traced through a handkerchief monogram. United with his presumed native Finland, Sampo struggles to recover himself, and a past lost in the chaos of war.

What the judges said:

New Finnish Grammar takes the form of a sequence of journal entries, with occasional interruptions from an editor. The journal is written by a Finnish sailor, Sampo Karjalainen. The editorial comments come from a doctor, Petri Friari who treated Sampo after his badly beaten body was found on the streets of Trieste. Sampo can remember nothing and has lost  the powers of speech. Friari brings him back to life and to the Finnish language he believes Sampo has lost. This is the start of a journey that takes him back to the what he believes to be his home, the war-torn city of Helsinki. This subtle and moving novel shows how much of what we take to be ourselves depends upon the language that we speak and the identity it gives us. It also shows how suddenly that self can be taken away.

 

Biographies:

Diego Marani was born in Ferrara in 1959. He graduated from the University of Trieste with a degree in Simultaneous Interpretation and Translation in French and English and has worked as a translator and policy officer for the European Commission. He is currently in charge of international cooperation, training and support to universities for the Directorate General for Interpretation at the European Commission. New Finnish Grammar has received the Grinzane-Cavour Prize, and Marani has also been awarded the Campiello Prize, the Stresa Prize and the Bruno Cavallini Prize. He has published many other novels, along with various collections of essays and short stories, including Las Adventuras des Inspector Cabillot, which takes a humorous view of the EU through the eyes of a fictional detective. He invented the mock language Europanto, in which he has written columns in different European newspapers. He is married with two children.

 

Judith Landry studied French and Italian at Somerville College, Oxford. She established her translation career in London during the 1960s and specializes in fiction, art and architecture. She has worked on books on architecture by Leonardo Benevolo and others, and various works on fiction including The House by the Medlar Tree by Giovanni Verga, A Bag of Marbles, by Joseph Joffo and Playing for Time by Fania Fenelon, which was made into a film starring Vanessa Redgrave. She has also translated several books on Venice, film scripts for the British Film Institute and articles for FMR, an Italian art magazine. She has taught Italian at Courtauld Institute of Art and continues to teach part-time.

 

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco, translated by Richard Dixon (Harvill Secker)

Nineteenth century Europe is awash with conspiracy theories - from Turin to Prague. The Dreyfus Affair, the notorious forgery of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the Jesuit plots, can all these be the work of one fiendishly clever, architect of destruction?

What the judges said:

The Prague Cemetery is a great mystery novel about paranoia, prejudice and forgery. What emerges out of the novel's richly informed historical imagination is a salutary insight: anti-semitism was part of the common currency of nineteenth century intellectual and popular culture. Out of it came one of the most sinister and influential modern fictions, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. With terse wit and engaging erudition, Eco shows us that the Holocaust was a catastrophe that was a long time in the making. Entertaining and disturbing in equal measure, The Prague Cemetery is Eco's best novel since The Name of the Rose.

 

Biographies:

Umberto Eco was born in 1932 in Alessandria in Italy. He has written works of fiction, literary criticism and philosophy. His first novel, The Name of the Rose, was a major international bestseller. His other works include Foucault's Pendulum, The Island of the Day Before, Baudolino, and The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana; he has also produced numerous collections of essays.  Eco is currently President of the Scuola Superiore di Studi Umanistici at the University of Bologna and has written a multitude of academic texts, children's books and essays.

 

Richard Dixon worked as a criminal barrister in London for ten years, before changing career in 1996 to work as a translator. He has contributed to the travel section of The Independent and written guidebooks on Italy. He has had a play broadcast by the BBC and is a member of the Society of Authors and of the Associazione Italiana Traduttori e Interpreti. His translation of Inventing the Enemy, Umberto Eco's recent collection of essays, is due to be published in the UK in September 2012. He is currently translating Roberto Calasso's latest book L'ardore. He runs a guesthouse with his partner in Italy's Le Marche region.

 

Download an exclusive Independent Foreign Fiction Prize poster

Shortlist

  • Blooms of Darkness

    Aharon Appelfeld

    Translated by Jeffrey M Green

    Alma Books
  • The Prague Cemetery

    Umberto Eco

    Translated by Richard Dixon

    Harvill Secker
  • Alice

    Judith Hermann

    Translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo

    Clerkenwell Press
  • Dream of Ding Village

    Yan Lianke

    Translated by Cindy Carter

    Constable & Robinson
  • New Finnish Grammar

    Diego Marani

    Translated by Judith Landry

    Dedalus
  • From the Mouth of the Whale

    Sjón

    Translated by Victoria Cribb

    Telegram

Longlist

  • Blooms of Darkness

    Aharon Appelfeld

    Translated by Jeffrey M Green

    Alma Books
  • Seven Houses in France

    Bernardo Atxaga

    Translated by Margaret Jull Costa

    Harvill Secker
  • The Prague Cemetery

    Umberto Eco

    Translated by Richard Dixon

    Harvill Secker
  • Hate: a Romance

    Tristan Garcia
    Translator: Marion Duvert and Lorin Stein

    Faber
  • Alice

    Judith Hermann

    Translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo

    Clerkenwell Press
  • Dream of Ding Village

    Yan Lianke

    Translated by Cindy Carter

    Constable & Robinson
  • New Finnish Grammar

    Diego Marani

    Translated by Judith Landry

    Dedalus
  • 1Q84

    Haruki Murakami

    Books 1 and 2 translated by Jay Rubin

    Harvill Secker
  • Parallel Stories

    Peter Nadas

    Translated by Imre Goldstein

    Jonathan Cape
  • Scenes from Village Life

    Amos Oz

    Translated by Nicholas de Lange

    Chatto & Windus
  • Next World Novella

    Matthias Politycki

    Translated by Anthea Bell

    Peirene Press
  • The Emperor of Lies

    Steve Sem-Sandberg

    Translated by Sarah Death

    Faber
  • Please Look After Mother

    Kyung Sook-Shin

    Translated by Chi-Young Kim

    Weidenfeld & Nicholson
  • From the Mouth of the Whale

    Sjón

    Translated by Victoria Cribb

    Telegram
  • Professor Andersen's Night

    Dag Solstad

    Translated by Scott Langeland

    Harvill Secker

Dream of Ding Village, a novel banned by the Chinese Government has made the longlist forthe Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012. Yan Lianke's novel, which tells the story of a blood-selling scandal in contemporary China, was given a "three nos" order - no distribution, no sales and no promotion - in 2005. The translation into English by Cindy Carter is joined on the 15 strong longlist by The Prague Cemetery, Umberto Eco's sixth novel, as well as the million-selling Please Look After Mother by Korean author Kyung-sook Shin, and the first volume of Murakami's 1Q84.


The longlist features Dag Solstad, one of Norway's leading contemporary authors, who has previously been shortlisted for this Prize for Shyness and Dignity (in 2007) and Novel 11, Book 18 (in 2009). Independent publishers make a strong showing this year with seven different houses represented on the list. Random House imprints take six of the 15 slots on the longlist for the Prize, which features books translated from 12 different languages including Japanese, Hebrew and Icelandic.

 

Nick Barley, judge of the 2012 Prize and Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival commented:

From 98 entries we have selected a longlist of 15 novels that reflect the fast-growing appetite for high quality fiction from around the world. From Judith Hermann's succinct book of linked stories to the 1100-page tome by Peter Nadas, this year's list couldn't be more diverse - both in sheer scale and in subject matter. And while it has been a strong year for the established literary imprints, I was delighted that several titles from smaller independent publishers also shone out. Among these 15 titles there's a treasure trove of unforgettable treats for readers.

Judges

The Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival Nick Barley, and Xiaolu Guo, who wrote the Orange shortlisted A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, have joined the panel of judges for the £10,000 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012.

 

The judges for this year's Prize are:

  • Freelance critic, feature writer and broadcaster Hephzibah Anderson
  • Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival
  • Jon Cook, Professor of Literature and Director of the Centre for Creative and Performing Arts at the University of East Anglia, and Chair of Arts Council England, East
  • Novelist, short story writer and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo
  • Boyd Tonkin, Literary Editor of the Independent

Nick Barley commented:

I'm very excited and honoured to have been invited to judge the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize this year. I am proud of the Edinburgh International Book Festival's history of welcoming writers from around the world but I am also aware that there are countless authors working in other languages who have not yet been given the attention they deserve in the UK. I look forward to relishing the courageous work of so many adventurous publishers and I'll be delighted to play my part in helping them bring unique stories from other languages to a wider English-speaking audience.

  • Boyd Tonkin

    Senior Writer and Columnist

About the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012

The annual Prize honoured the best work of fiction by a living author, which was translated into English from any other language and published in the United Kingdom in the previous year. Uniquely, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize gave the winning author and translator equal status - each received £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 IFFP ran until 1995. It was then revived in 2001 with the support of Arts Council England and has been managed by Book Trust for the last five years. The 2015 winner was The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsy and published by Portobello Books.