From Buenos Aires to Barcelona; from Budapest to Beijing: the 16 books longlisted for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize cover an extraordinary range of territory, in culture, style and genre as much as simple geography. Over the past few months, I and my fellow judges (the writers Julian Evans and Michèle Roberts, the editor and translator Margaret Obank, and Kate Griffin, international literature officer of Arts Council England) have read, thought and argued long and hard in order to reduce the 80-odd titles submitted to the list detailed below. In early March, we will publish our final shortlist of six candidates for the £10,000 award, which is divided equally between author and translator, and enjoys the magnificent support of Arts Council England and Champagne Taittinger.
In the meantime, I would urge you to explore at least some of our formidably eclectic pack of front-runners. Our longlist offers, I believe, something for everyone: from a blockbuster literary thriller in Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind to a landmark investigation of Turkey today in Orhan Pamuk's Snow; from the Brazilian pop idol-turned-novelist Chico Buarque getting seduced by Old Europe in Budapest to the French enfant terrible Frédéric Beigbeder imagining the terror and pity of September 11 in the Twin Towers in Windows on the World.
Other books would have made the list if the judges had been convinced that their translations did full justice to the original texts: they include Sylvie Germain's The Song of False Lovers and Fred Vargas's Seeking Whom He May Devour. As for the range of languages represented at this stage, it's heartening - if quite unplanned - that the western European heavyweights have found challengers from further afield. So we have two Turkish novels, two sets of Russian short stories, a Serbian Holocaust fable, a Saudi coming-of-age novel, and a tale of young China torn between rural warmth and urban cool. Only one language - Portuguese - can muster three contenders, and even so they roam across three continents: the Nobel laureate José Saramago from Portugal itself; Chico Buarque from Rio de Janeiro; and Mia Couto from Mozambique. Whoever said that English counted as the only global tongue?
In alphabetical order, the long-list consists of: David Albahari's Götz and Meyer (translated from the Serbian by Ellen Elias-Bursac; Harvill); Merete Morken Andersen's Oceans of Time (Norwegian, Barbara J Haveland; Maia Press); Frédéric Beigbeder's Windows on the World (French, Frank Wynne; Fourth Estate); Chico Buarque's Budapest (Portuguese, Alison Entrekin; Bloomsbury); Mia Couto's The Last Flight of the Flamingo (Portuguese, David Brookshaw; Serpent's Tail); Edgardo Cozarinsky's The Bride from Odessa (Spanish, Nick Caistor; Harvill); Irina Denezhkina's Give Me: Songs for lovers (Russian, Andrew Bromfield; Chatto & Windus); Victor Erofeyev's Life with an Idiot (Russian, Andrew Reynolds; Penguin); Xiaolu Guo's Village of Stone (Chinese, Cindy Carter; Chatto & Windus); Turki al-Hamad's Shumaisi (Arabic, Paul Starkey; Saqi); Torgny Lindgren's Hash (Swedish, Tom Geddes; Duckworth); Orhan Pamuk's Snow (Turkish, Maureen Freely; Faber & Faber); Enrico Remmert's The Ballad of the Low Lifes (Italian, Aubrey Botsford; Toby Press); José Saramago's The Double (Portuguese, Margaret Jull Costa; Harvill); Elif Shafak's The Flea Palace (Turkish, Muge Gocek; Marion Boyars), and Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind (Spanish, Lucia Graves; Weidenfeld & Nicolson).
The shortlist will be published here on 4 March, and the prize - won last year by Javier Cercas's Soldiers of Salamis - awarded in April.