The Independent Foreign Fiction Award: By the sacred river: Japan's leading novelist joins the shortlist for Independent prize

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The winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Award for June / July is Deep River by Shusaku Endo (Peter Owen, pounds 14.99) translated from the Japanese by Van C Gessel. Deep River, which describes religious experiences in India, is the first book on the shortlist for the pounds 10,000 annual award, which will be announced next May. The judges were: Gilbert Adair, Blake Morrison, Jill Neville and Natasha Walter.

'Over many long years, Isobe had often been perplexed and confused by his work and by the interplay of human relations, but the situation in which he had now been placed was in a completely separate realm from that string of daily setbacks. Within three or four months, the wife sleeping before his eyes would most surely be dead. It was an eventuality that a man like Isobe had never considered. his heart felt heavy. He had no faith in any religion, but if there were any gods or buddhas to be contacted, he wanted to cry out to them: 'Why are you bringing this misery upon her? My wife's just an ordinary woman of goodness and gentleness. Please save her. I beg you.'

At the nurses' station Tanaka, the head nurse whose face was familiar to Isobe, was writing something on a chart. She glanced up and nodded towards him, her eyes brimming with compassion.

When he returned to his home in Ogikubo, his wife's mother, who lived nearby, was just putting his dinner into the refrigerator. He reported on his wife's condition, but he left the doctor's diagnosis nebulous. He lost courage when he reflected on the shock his mother-in-law would receive if he told her the truth.

'Dad'll be home early today, so I'd better get back.' 'Thanks for everything.' 'With her in the hospital, this house suddenly seems very large.' 'That's because she's so cheerful by nature.' Inwardly, he repeated his appeal to the gods. She's plain, but she's a good woman. Please, you must save her.'

(Photograph omitted)