Boyd Tonkin: The Independent prize tunes in to a planet of stories

The week in books

For the record, I – unlike all of Britain's corporate bookies – haven't the foggiest idea who might win the Nobel Prize in Literature next Thursday. In fact, thanks to the rigmarole that prevents the Swedish Academy in Stockholm from even fixing the date much in advance, we don't even know for sure that 10 October will mark the life-changing red-letter day for… Joyce Carol Oates? Ngugi wa Thiong'o? Haruki Murakami? Peter Nadas? Jon Fosse (Norwegian playwright-novelist, and a fresh hot tip right now)?

At this time of year, the gambling giants bombard the media with wackily assured predictions about the chances of global authors. The bookies have obviously barely heard of many of these candidates, and often can't even spell their names. Somehow I imagine whey-faced Dickensian youths wrenched from the races at Newmarket – or the prospects of X-Factor finalists – when they draw the shortest, literary straw. "Strike a light, would you Adam-and-Eve it? I've only got to set the odds for the Nobel Prize in bleedin' Litch-era-chewer."

Yet I'm rather grateful to the betting houses for their scattergun attention to the Nobel. At least they try to manufacture a suspenseful event from an utterly opaque procedure that makes the Vatican's conclave of cardinals look like the viewers' votes on Strictly. Unlike the cardinals, however, some Academicians do apparently slip out to place an inside wager on emerging favourites. Odds on last year's Laureate, Mo Yan from China, shortened drastically in the final 48 hours. Those naughty, naughty Swedes.

Thankfully, I can bring you definite news of a far more transparent, and almost comparably broad, award. Last month, I had to suppress a smirk when the Man Booker crew claimed that opening up their prize to Americans - and other non-Commonwealth writers in English – would render it truly "international". Piffle, in any language.

Britain does, however, boast one long-standing literary contest that embraces fiction from all over the globe. That is our own Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, supported with stalwart conviction by Arts Council England, and with its £10,000 reward split equally between the original author and his or her translator. We now have a varied and gifted team of judges in post for the next award, due in May 2014. Once again, we will consider translated works by living authors first published in the UK during the preceding year.

I will be joined on the panel by prolific and prize-winning translator Shaun Whiteside, whose 50 translations range from Freud and Nietzsche to Amélie Nothomb and Bernhard Schlink; by novelist Nadifa Mohamed, one of this year's "Best of Young British" Granta list and author of the just-published The Orchard of Lost Souls; by Natalie Haynes, Independent columnist, broadcaster and classicist, whose own first novel appears in 2014; and by Alev Adil, writer, artist and teacher, now artist in residence and head of the creative writing MA at the University of Greenwich.

Together they will focus a dazzlingly wide spectrum of creative, critical and – not least – linguistic expertise on our task. In addition to the resolute backing of Arts Council England, this award also owes a heavy debt of gratitude to the staff of Booktrust, who manage its administration with such flair.

This May, the Independent prize went to Dutch writer Gerbrand Bakker, and his terrific translator David Colmer, for The Detour: his uncanny and mesmeric novel of a woman who goes AWOL from her own life in the wilds of rural Wales. Next time, I can't promise any of the high jinks and low intrigue that often attend the Nobel. I do know beyond all doubt that the long-list, the shortlist and of course the winner will take you on an exhilarating global gallop in the company of some of the finest writers at work in the world today. On that you may, confidently, bet.

The sense of a new beginning: Duffy returns

Fans of sleazy, witty London noir, rejoice. Next spring, Orion will reissue the four 1980s novels by Dan Kavanagh that feature his swinging, sardonic investigator, Duffy. From Duffy in 1980 to Going to the Dogs in 1987, the ever-elusive Kavanagh nailed the seedy underside of the decade in gloriously disreputable style. Little has been heard of him since. Orion confirms that Mr Kavanagh remains "unreachable for comment". And so, presumably, does his alleged associate, a certain Mr Julian Barnes.

Bridget, Renée – and Aleksandar

Can the hype kill the book? In most cases, yes; with Bridget Jones, probably not. Already inescapable across the media, the third outing for Helen Fielding's heroine doesn't even go on sale until next week. So I will allow myself a Bridget anecdote. Long ago, I attended Picador's launch for The Question of Bruno by the Bosnian-born, Chicago-based hotshot Aleksandar Hemon.

Neither I nor any other supposedly canny sleuth there much noticed the polite work-experience lady diligently wielding the canapés. Yes, that – as we found out later – was Renée Zellweger, going deep undercover for three weeks in the Picador press office as preparation for her role as Bridget in the film. Since then, I have always associated Ms Jones (and Ms Fielding) with the great Balkan storyteller. Will they ever share a festival platform? The droll Hemon would be up for it, I'm sure.

Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower