Boyd Tonkin: From Syria to Colombia, and Albanian to Afrikaans, enjoy a global feast

The Week in Books

As you will see from the menu below, the long-list for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize serves up another global feast from many of the finest writers - and most skilful translators - at work today. To reach this stage proved, as always, a big ask in anybody's language.

I and my fellow-judges - translator, and former co-winner, Frank Wynne; novelist and columnist Elif Shafak; novelist and critic Gabriel Josipovici; translator, editor and UEA professor Jean Boase-Beier - all had to say adieu rather than au revoir to books we had come to cherish.

Next month, an even loftier peak will loom as we choose the shortlist for the £10,000 award (announced in May). Divided 50/50 between author and translator, the prize continues to flourish thanks to precious support from Arts Council England, Booktrust and Champagne Taittinger.

Every year, the balance of the books that reach this antepenultimate round shifts. This time, central and eastern Europe shines: Pawel Huelle's wryly delightful Polish stories; Ismail Kadare's commanding Albanian history-cum-fable; Laszlo Krasznahorkai's black-comic dystopia from rural Hungary; Dasa Drndic's tragic family drama in north-eastern Italy, and the camps further east, under German rule.

We also showcase two different faces of Africa: the no-man's-land between South Africa and Mozambique depicted in Chris Barnard's ideas-rich adventure; and the remembered Congo that haunts the jesting barflies in Alain Mabanckou's Paris. A trio of major contenders from past years re-appear: Turkey's Orhan Pamuk, Italy's Diego Marani, and Colombia's Juan Gabriel Vásquez. We visit the Assads' tyrannous Syria, (Khaled Khalifa), investigate a Danish killing (Pia Juul), and learn dark Norwegian family secrets (Karl Ove Knausgaard).

Our long-listed authors also travel far and wide. Andrés Neuman, Argentinian-born, creates a Romantic-era town in Germany; Dutch Gerbrand Bakker despatches a heroine to rural Wales; in France, Laurent Binet re-imagines Nazi Prague; Enrique Vila-Matas sends a Barcelona publisher to literary Dublin. The Republic of Letters has no border controls. So join this mind-expanding tour - and bon voyage.

The 'Independent' Foreign Fiction Prize long-list:

Gerbrand Bakker: The Detour (translated by David Colmer from the Dutch), and published by Harvill Secker

Chris Barnard: Bundu (Michiel Heyns; Afrikaans), Alma Books

Laurent Binet: HHhH (Sam Taylor; French), Harvill Secker

Dasa Drndic: Trieste (Ellen Elias-Bursac; Croatian), MacLehose Press

Pawel Huelle: Cold Sea Stories (Antonia Lloyd-Jones; Polish), Comma Press

Pia Juul: The Murder of Halland (Martin Aitken; Danish), Peirene Press

Ismail Kadare: The Fall of the Stone City (John Hodgson; Albanian), Canongate

Khaled Khalifa: In Praise of Hatred (Leri Price; Arabic), Doubleday

Karl Ove Knausgaard: A Death in the Family (Don Bartlett; Norwegian), Harvill Secker

Laszlo Krasznahorkai: Satantango (George Szirtes; Hungarian), Tuskar Rock

Alain Mabanckou: Black Bazaar (Sarah Ardizzone; French), Serpent's Tail

Diego Marani: The Last of the Vostyachs (Judith Landry; Italian), Dedalus

Andrés Neuman, Traveller of the Century (Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia; Spanish), Pushkin Press

Orhan Pamuk: Silent House (Robert Finn; Turkish), Faber

Juan Gabriel Vásquez: The Sound of Things Falling (Anne McLean; Spanish), Bloomsbury

Enrique Vila-Matas: Dublinesque (Rosalind Harvey & Anne McLean; Spanish), Harvill Secker

Elif Shafak, Frank Wynne and Boyd Tonkin will discuss the long-list at the 'Independent' Bath Literature Festival today

The journey time from Istanbul? Three decades

Better late than never. Orhan Pamuk's second novel, Silent House, appears on the longlist for the Independent prize. It was published in Turkish in 1983 – but in English only in 2012. Given our tendency to tardiness in translation, this 29-year wait for Pamuk hardly rates as a freak delay. But, since the award only honours living authors, publishers may be pushing their luck. When Chowringhee by veteran Bengali novelist Sankar made the shortlist, its English edition had seen the light of day a mere 47 years after the original.

Twosomes tango in translation

Does it take two to tango in translation? This year, a couple of our long-listed titles achieve their English incarnation thanks to a collaborating pair of translators, in both cases working from Spanish. The Argentinian-born wunderkind Andrés Neuman owes his English voice to the duo of Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia, while Dublinesque by Spanish literary spellbinder Enrique Vila-Matas reaches us thanks to Rosalind Harvey and Anne McLean (the latter a former co-winner of this prize).

Of course, such doubleacts are nothing new among the classics of translation. As a half-comprehending teenager, I devoured the old Penguin Kafkas. They used the 1930s English versions by Orcadian poet Edwin Muir and his wife Willa. Although often criticised, even supplanted, since, it was the the Muirs who – seamlessly and unforgettably - first made “my” Kafka speak.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
    'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

    Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

    Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
    Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

    Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

    New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

    Rebranding Christmas

    More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up
    A Greek island - yours for the price of a London flat

    A sun-kissed island - yours for the price of a London flat

    Cash-strapped Greeks are selling off their slices of paradise
    Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

    Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

    New system means that evergreen songs could top the festive charts
    Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence

    Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys

    He is a musician of wondrous oddity. He is on a perpetual quest to seek the lost tribes of the Welsh diaspora. Just don't ask Gruff Rhys if he's a national treasure...