A Week in Books: Foreign Fiction Award Finalists

By Boyd Tonkin
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On 19 April, the winner of this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize will be announced. With prize money of £10,000 (divided equally between author and translator), the award represents the most lucrative and wide-ranging honour for translated literature in Britain

On 19 April, the winner of this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize will be announced. With prize money of £10,000 (divided equally between author and translator), the award represents the most lucrative and wide-ranging honour for translated literature in Britain. Generously supported by Arts Council England and Champagne Taittinger, it covers the first UK editions of works by living writers. Last year, the prize went to the Swedish maestro Per Olov Enquist's incandescent novel of passion and revolution in the rotten state of Denmark: The Visit of the Royal Physician.

The four judges of the 2003 crop (translator Siân Williams, writer Marina Warner, poet George Szirtes and the author of this column) will decide on a shortlist in mid-March. However, we have already whittled down a field of 70-plus submissions into a mind-stretchingly diverse long-list of 16. It seemed like pointless secrecy to keep this roster to ourselves. So below is our line-up of 16 finalists.

The books that remain span languages from Arabic to Norwegian to Japanese; and settings from Reformation Flanders ( Q) and the Arctic ice ( The Discovery of Slowness) to Civil War-era Catalonia ( Soldiers of Salamis) and the Buenos Aires underworld ( Money to Burn). As for our authors, they include a Saudi dissident (Turki Al-Hamad); a Parisian medieval historian (Fred Vargas); a young Chinese emigré (Shan Sa), and the quartet of Italian cultural guerrillas who call themselves "Luther Blissett" after the Watford and AC Milan striker.

Our subjects stretch from the genocide in Rwanda ( A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali) to literary intrigue in Oxford ( Dark Back of Time) and the Japanese invasion of 1930s China (inspiration for both The Girl Who Played Go and Nanjing 1937). In form and mood, our pair of Norwegian candidates stand at opposite ends of the spectrum: this long-list runs from sprawling family sagas ( The Half Brother) to exquisite miniatures ( In the Wake). Next month, no doubt reluctantly, we shall compress the 16 into six.

Welcome to Paradise by Mahi Binebine ( trans by Lulu Norman; Granta, £6.99)

Q by Luther Blissett ( trans by Shaun Whiteside; Heinemann, £14.99)

Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas ( trans by Anne McLean; Bloomsbury, £14.99)

The Half Brother by Lars Saabye Christensen ( trans by Kenneth Steven; Arcadia & Vintage, £12.99 & £7.99)

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche ( trans by Patricia Claxton; Canongate, £14.99)

Adama by Turki Al-Hamad ( trans by Robin Bray; Saqi, £9.99)

Dark Back of Time by Javier Marias ( trans by Esther Allen; Harvill, £15.99)

Lizard Tails by Juan Marsé ( trans by Nick Caistor; Harvill, £10.99)

The Discovery of Slowness by Sten Nadolny ( trans by Ralph Freedman; Canongate, £10.99)

In the Wake by Per Petterson ( trans by Anne Born; Harvill, £12.99)

Money to Burn by Ricardo Piglia ( trans by Amanda Hopkinson; Granta, £12)

Mrs Sartoris by Elke Schmitter ( trans by Carol Brown Janeway; Faber & Faber, £10.99)

The Girl who Played Go by Shan Sa ( trans by Adriana Hunter; Chatto & Windus, £12.99)

Have Mercy on Us All by Fred Vargas ( trans by David Bellos; Harvill, £14.99)

Nanjing 1937 by Ye Zhaoyan ( trans by Michael Berry; Faber & Faber, £10.99)

One Man's Justice by Akira Yoshimura ( trans by Mark Ealey; Canongate, £7.99)

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