News of the world: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

Boyd Tonkin surveys the globe-spanning long-list for the latest Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

The long-list for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize has never looked richer, or broader. Last week I and my fellow-judges - the writers David Constantine, Jennie Erdal and Ali Smith, and Kate Griffin from Arts Council England - met to select the 20 titles detailed below from a total entry of 86 submitted books. Our pick from a year's harvest of newly-translated works of fiction stretches in language from Turkish to Gikuyu to Norwegian; in setting, from the mountain villages of Tibet to a mysterious Greek island to the crumbling mansions of Havana; and in authorship, from a young French sensation to a Dutch-exiled Iranian refugee to a Portuguese Nobel literature laureate. In early March, we convene again to climb an even steeper mountain, and choose a shortlist of six for the £10,000 prize, which is divided equally between author and translator. The award, once again made possible by the superb support of Arts Council England and Champagne Taittinger, will be announced at the start of May.

This score of tales adds up a magnificent double showcase. One side displays the protean art of fiction, as practised from Berlin (by Jenny Erpenbeck) to Buenos Aries (by Edgardo Cozarinsky). Power and its abuses come under cool, satirical scrutiny from Angola (José Eduardo Agualusa) to Albania (Ismail Kadare). Family stories bring joy and sorrow, comedy and tragedy, from Austria (Eva Menasse) to Iran (Kader Abdolah). Mysteries from the past demand solutions from the present in Cuba (Leonardo Padura) or Italy (Niccolò Ammaniti). Individuals face life-defining moments of crisis and discovery in Norway (Linn Ullmann) or Afghanistan (Atiq Rahimi). And this world in flux takes shape via fictional forms as vastly varied as the street-smart Parisian rap of Faïza Guène or the epic, and self-translated, African fable of Ngugi wa Thiong'o. With this list, an entire planet of fiction swings into view.

As for the other side of the showcase, it celebrates the precious art of the translators who convey these treasures. These are, without exception, powerful books carried into English on powerful shoulders. Uniquely among awards for international literature, the Independent prize gives equal honour both to the original author and his or her partner on the journey between languages. And translation in Britain needs every champion it can find.

The slow national calamity that is the collapse of language-learning in our schools unfolds under indifferent official eyes. Where, in the future, will we find successors to such virtuosi as Anthea Bell, David Bellos, Barbara Haveland and Margaret Jull Costa - all represented here? Yet UK (and US) literary culture can still enjoy the artistry of translators much better and bolder than its myopia deserves. Our long-list invites readers to taste their formidable skills, as well as those of the writers that they serve.

If this judging process uncovered an unusual wealth of talent in translation, one other event marked it out as a special year. This prize aims to reward fiction by writers alive at the time of the translation's publication. Without that provision, we might see the latest rendering of (say) War and Peace or Don Quixote triumph every time. Yet, on this occasion, the judges had to grapple with as compelling a case for a one-off change of rules as such a contest will ever meet. The hard case, as this great book's host of British fans will guess, involved Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française, beautifully translated by Sandra Smith and published to justified acclaim by Chatto & Windus last spring. Némirovsky died in Auschwitz after her deportation in 1942, but her stupendous novel of the fall of France and its aftermath lay undiscovered in a trunk for almost 60 years.

Suite Française, this masterwork reclaimed from the dead, came to haunt all our deliberations. We wish to honour it with a special commendation, but with far more warmth than such a chilly prize-day form of words suggests. But we decided in the end that the novel ought to stand, as its original language would put it, hors concours: above the battle, outside the competition and in a class of its own.

The Prix Renaudot in France tweaked its criteria so that Suite Française could win. We chose instead to remember and celebrate this extraordinary novel at every stage on the route towards this year's prize. So, if you haven't yet done so, read it: the Vintage paperback edition is imminent. And then treat yourself to some of these remarkable stories from a world just as full of mayhem and movement as when a Russian-born French novelist sat under a tree in Burgundy and captured forever the plight of the refugees who streamed out of embattled Paris in the lovely early summer of 1940.

INDEPENDENT FOREIGN FICTION PRIZE LONG-LIST

Kader Abdolah, My Father's Notebook (translated by Susan Massotty from Dutch; Canongate)

José Eduardo Agualusa, The Book of Chameleons (Daniel Hahn; Portuguese; Arcadia)

Niccolò Ammaniti, Steal You Away (Jonathan Hunt; Italian; Canongate)

Javier Cercas, The Speed of Light (Anne McLean; Spanish; Bloomsbury)

Edgardo Cozarinsky, The Moldavian Pimp (Nick Caistor; Spanish; Harvill Secker)

Per Olov Enquist, The Story of Blanche and Marie (Tiina Nunnally; Swedish; Harvill Secker)

Jenny Erpenbeck, The Old Child (Susan Bernofsky; German; Portobello)

Faïza Guène, Just Like Tomorrow (Sarah Adams; French; Chatto & Windus)

Vangelis Hatziyannidis, Four Walls (Anne-Marie Stanton-Ife; Greek; Marion Boyars)

Ismail Kadare, The Successor (David Bellos; French; Canongate)

Ma Jian, Stick out your Tongue (Flora Drew; Chinese; Chatto & Windus)

Javier Marías, Your Face Tomorrow 2: Dance and Dream (Margaret Jull Costa; Spanish; Chatto & Windus)

Eva Menasse, Vienna (Anthea Bell; German; Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Wizard of the Crow (the author; Gikuyu; Harvill Secker)

Leonardo Padura, Havana Black (Peter Bush; Spanish; Bitter Lemon)

Atiq Rahimi, A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear (Sarah Maguire & Yama Yari; Dari; Chatto & Windus)

José Saramago, Seeing (Margaret Jull Costa; Portuguese; Harvill Secker)

Elif Shafak, The Gaze (Brendan Freely; Turkish; Marion Boyars)

Dag Solstad, Shyness and Dignity (Sverre Lyngstad; Norwegian; Harvill Secker)

Linn Ullmann, Grace (Barbara Haveland; Norwegian; Picador)

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
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.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine