The IFFP winner and the shadow Desmond Elliott shortlist

Iraqi ChristWe announced our shadow ‘winner‘ on Wednesday, and last night the actual 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize was awarded to The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim, translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright and published by Comma Press. Blasim is an interesting writer whose short stories combine the fantastical and macabre with the realities of life in post-war Iraq; I didn’t get chance to review The Iraqi Christ myself, but I have previously reviewed his first collection, The Madman of Freedom Square, which I liked very much.

The IFFP judges also gave a special mention to Birgit Vanderbeke’s The Mussel Feast, translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch and published by Peirene Press; it was very nice to see such recognition for a fine book. Indeed, the result all round was a huge — and well-deserved — vote of confidence for small presses and short fiction in translation. Finally, on a more personal note, it was really gratifying to hear Moira Sinclair from Arts Council England mention the shadow jury in her opening speech; the whole IFFP shadowing process has been immensely enjoyable and rewarding anyway, but that nod was a reminder that we have left a mark (83 reviews of the longlisted books between us, if nothing else).

I’m struck that both book blogging and literary translation are acts of sharing – sharing books we love, and thoughts about them. After the IFFP yesterday, I only want to explore translated fiction further, and share it more. Thanks to everyone involved in the IFFP, and especially to my fellow shadow-jurors. I’m looking forward to next year already!


But there’s the Desmond Elliott Prize before then, and we now have our shadow shortlist:

  • The Letter Bearer by Robert Allison (Granta)
  • The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer (HarperCollins)
  • A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (Galley Beggar Press)

It’s a really strong list (my personal shortlist would replace The Letter Bearer with Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart, but Allison’s book is very close behind); I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the actual shortlist turned out to be very similar. We’ll find out when the Desmond Elliott judges announce their shortlist on Monday; we’ll then declare the shadow ‘winner’ on Wednesday 2 July, the day before the award ceremony.


  1. It sounds like a motivating event being around so many like minded supporters of international fiction David, what a wonderful opportunity. I hope you add more translations to your list.

  2. David H

    1st June 2014 at 9:19 pm

    You’re right Claire, it was a really inspiring atmosphere. I’m certainly going to keep up with reading more translations.

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