Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Shortlist Announced

The shortlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize was announced on April 9th.  Finalists Independent Foreign Fiction Prize logoinclude:

  • By Night the Mountain Burns by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel, translated from the Spanish by Jethro Soutar
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky
  • F by Daniel Kehlmann, translated from the German by Carol Brown Janeway
  • In the Beginning Was the Sea by Tomas Gonzalez, translated from the Spanish by Frank Wynne
  • While the Gods Were Sleeping by Erwin Mortier translated from the Dutch by Paul Vincent

Established in 1990 by the British newspaper The Independent, the award is dedicated to honoring contemporary fiction in translation in the United Kingdom.  After being presented for five years, the award languished until being picked up in 2001 with the assistance of Arts Council England. In 2011 the administration of the prize was handed over to Booktrust, while still retaining the “Independent” tag in the name.

The award, which is determined by a judging panel of both authors and literary professionals, is presented to both the writer and the translator, and considers short stories as well as lengthier works of fiction as long as they have been published in the English language in the past year, and their author is still living at the time of translation.  In a charming touch, the winners not only receive a cash prize, but also a magnum of champagne from drinks sponsor Taittinger.

The Independent – the newspaper which inaugurated the award – had this to say about the works on the 2015 shortlist:

“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage”, the latest book from the acclaimed Japanese author Murakami – whose other works include “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” and “1Q84” – will probably be the title on the shortlist most familiar to British readers.

Erwin Mortier, the eminent Dutch-language Belgian author, has also been shortlisted for his book “While the Gods Were Sleeping”.

They will be up against two authors whose work has been translated into English for the first time. “By Night the Mountain Burns” – by the dissident writer Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel – is only the second novel from Equatorial Guinea ever to be translated into English. The writer, a nurse by profession, has long protested against the country’s dictatorial regime, and after a hunger strike in 2011 he sought exile in Spain. His asylum request was denied and after two years he moved back to Equatorial Guinea. Last year the Los Angeles Review of Books called him the Spanish-speaking country’s “most important living writer”.

The other writer whose work had never previously been translated into English is Tomás González from Colombia, who has been shortlisted for his novel In the “Beginning Was the Sea.” The book was published by a nightclub where the author worked as a barman in 1983. He has been called “the best-kept secret of Colombian literature”.

Having secured five names on the longlist, Germany is still well represented on the whittled-down shortlist, with two nominations. The first is “The End of Days” by Jenny Erpenbeck, who was born in East Germany. She, as well as Murakami, has been shortlisted for the prize in previous years.

The bestselling German author Daniel Kehlmann also made the shortlist for his comic novel “F”, which tells the story of three sons of a troubled father. He has been described as a “literary superstar” in the German-speaking world. His book “Measuring the World” sold three million copies in Germany alone.

The winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize will be announced on May 27 in a ceremony in London.

Congratulations to all the nominees!

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