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IFFP 2015: Erpenbeck and González

EndofDaysJenny Erpenbeck, The End of Days (2012)
Translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky (2014)

I’ve come across several novels on this year’s IFFP longlist which examine the twentieth century through the lives of ‘ordinary’ individuals, but this may be the sharpest one yet. The protagonist of The End of Days is born in the Austrian Empire at the start of the century; each of the novel’s five ‘books’ imagines that she died at a different point in her life; the short ‘intermezzo’ sections between them run through all the small differences – walking down this street instead of that; a window left open to let the air in – that could have kept her alive.

The first thing to say is that Susan Bernofsky’s translation is very potent indeed. When I read the first page, in which the protagonist is buried as a baby, it was so powerful that I almost had to put the book down (something that rarely happens to me): as handfuls of earth are thrown into the child’s grave, each is described as covering the girl or woman who might have been. The rest of this first section is full of tiny but resonant details, like the toy whose bells make the same jingling noise they did the day before, although so very much has changed. The protagonist’s death at such a young age is presented as a hole in reality for her family, beside which all else becomes insignificant.

The structure Erpenbeck has used enables effects like this. In The End of Days, ‘history’ in the broad sense doesn’t change; it is the individual’s interaction with history that changes. In each iteration of the protagonist’s life, her death means something different: in one section, she joins the Communist Party and moves to the Soviet Union, but dies labouring in the gulag; in another, she escapes internment and dies thirty years later, a celebrated writer and Party member; in the last, she lives to be ninety, and is one resident among many in an old people’s home. Erpenbeck’s novel intertwines the personal with the grand sweep of history to great effect, underlining the importance of both. I would certainly expect to see The End of Days on the IFFP shortlist; for me, it’s potentially a winner.

ItBWtS

Tomás González, In the Beginning Was the Sea (1983)
Translated from the Spanish by Frank Wynne (2014)

One of the interesting things about the IFFP (or, if you prefer, something that points to just how much literature from other languages remains untranslated into English) is that we’ll see the odd book which was originally written much earlier than the translation. Such is the case with In the Beginning Was the Sea, the first novel by Colombian writer González, and his first to appear in English, some thirty years on. I actually read this last year, but didn’t review it at the time, because I didn’t particularly care for it. Looking back, I think I was thrown by what the publicity material said about the book’s inspiration (which, for that reason, I won’t reveal here).

This is the story of Elena and J., a couple of intellectuals who leave behind city life to begin a new life by the sea. But money problems mean that they are going to have to earn a living from their land, and it’s not going to be plain sailing. There are hints (and increasingly clearer indications) that all is not going to end well; the novel becomes a chronicle of ill fortune, with a claustrophobic air of dread created by Frank Wynne’s translation. We know that something is coming, but not precisely what – and, for all the foreshadowing, González doesn’t make it feel too staged. I appreciated In the Beginning Was the Sea more the second time around, though I don’t anticipate that it would necessarily make my shortlist.

Read my other posts on the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize here.

Books of the 2010s: Fifty Memories, nos. 10-6

Now we come to the top 10 books in my list of memorable reading moments. I wanted to say a bit more with these, so I’ve split the ten in half. The top 5 will be up next Sunday, but for now, please enjoy numbers 10 through to 6. These are all books I have never forgotten, and doubt I ever will.

You can also catch up on previous instalments of this project here: 50-41, 40-31, 30-21, 20-11.

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A Simple Story – Leila Guerriero

After a look back, it’s time for my first ‘new’ post for this year’s Spanish and Portuguese Literature Month. Leila Guerriero’s A Simple Story is a piece of journalism from Argentina. Every year in the town of Laborde, young working-class men compete to be crowned champion of the malambo, a physically-demanding traditional dance. Custom dictates that the winner must never perform the malambo again – but the prestige he’ll gain is unparalleled.

Guerriero says in the book that she set out to write about the malambo competition in general, but that changed when she saw Rodolfo González Alcántara dance:

He became the countryside, the dry earth, the taut pampas horizon, he was the smell of horses, the sound of the sky in summer, and the hum of solitude – fury, illness, and war. He became the opposite of peace. He was the slashing knife, the cannibal, and a decree. At the end he stamped his foot with terrific force and stood, covered in stars, resplendent, staring through the peeling layers of night air. And, with a sidelong smile – like that of a prince, a vagabond, or a demon – he touched the brim of his hat, And was gone.
(translation by Thomas Bunstead)

A Simple Story then follows Rodolfo as he trains for the 2012 Laborde festival. Though the two books are quite different, I was reminded of Katie Kitamura’s The Longshot, which captures a similar sense of physicality and all-consuming determination.

If you’d like to see Rodolfo dancing the malambo, here’s a clip.

Book details

A Simple Story (2013) by Leila Guerriero, tr. Thomas Bunstead (2015), Pushkin Press, 160 pages, paperback.

Author Index A-H

ABCDEFGH

A

Abdel Aziz, Basma

The Queue (2013 tr. 2016)

Ābele, Inga

High Tide (2008 tr. 2013)

Abercrombie, Joe

The Heroes (2011)

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi

Ofodile‘ (2013)

Alharthi, Jokha

Celestial Bodies (2010 tr. 2018)

Allan, Nina

The Dollmaker (2019)
Flying in the Face of God‘ (2010)
The Race (2014)
The Silver Wind (collection, 2011)
The Silver Wind‘ (story, 2011)

Anthologies

The Oxford Library of Classic English Short Stories, Vol. I: 1900-1956 (1989)
Thought X: Fictions and Hypotheticals (2018)
Zero Hours on the Boulevard: Tales of Independence and Belonging (2019)

Atwood, Margaret

Oryx and Crake (2003)
The Year of the Flood (2009)

Atxaga, Bernardo

Nevada Days (2013 tr. 2017)

Ávila Laurel, Juan Tomás

By Night the Mountain Burns (2008 tr. 2014)

Azzopardi, Trezza

The Tip of My Tongue (2013)

B

Babatunde, Rotimi

Bombay’s Republic‘ (2012)

Bacigalupi, Paolo

Pump Six and Other Stories (2008)

Bakker, Roelof

Still (ed. anthology, 2012)

Ballantyne, Tony

Dream London (2013)

Bang, Herman

The Four Devils (1890 tr. 1927)

Banks, Iain

Transition (2009)
The Wasp Factory (1984)

Barba, Andrés

Such Small Hands (2008 tr. 2017)

Barbal, Maria

Stone in a Landslide (1985 tr. 2010)

Barker, Susan

The Incarnations (2014)

Barnes, Adrian

Nod (2012)

Barnes, Julian

The Sense of an Ending (2011)

Barry, Kevin

Atlantic City
Dark Lies the Island (2012)

Basil, Priya

The Obscure Logic of the Heart (2010)

Bassett Davies, Paul

Dead Writers in Rehab (2017)

Bauer, Belinda

Blacklands (2010)

Baxter, Greg

The Apartment (2012)

Beaumont, Matt

e Squared (2009)

Beckett, Chris

The Holy Machine (2004)
The Turing Test (2008)

Bender, Aimee

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (2010)

Benedictus, Leo

The Afterparty (2011)

Berry, Jedediah

The Manual of Detection (2009)

Berry, Wendell

Stand By Me (2019)

Beukes, Lauren

Zoo City (2010)

Binet, Laurent

HHhH (2009 tr. 2012)

Biss, Eula

On Immunity (2014)

Black, Robin

If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This (2010)

Blackman, Andrew

A Virtual Love (2013)

Blais, François

Document 1 (2016 tr. 2018)

Blasim, Hassan

The Madman of Freedom Square (2009)

Bolaño, Roberto

The Skating Rink (1993 tr. 2009)

Borges, Jorge Luis

The Garden of Forking Paths‘ (1941 tr. 1958)
Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote‘ (1939 tr. 1962)

Bourazopoulou, Ioanna

What Lot’s Wife Saw (2007 tr. 2013)

Bower, Gavin James

Dazed & Aroused (2009)
Made in Britain (2011)

Bracher, Beatriz

I Didn’t Talk (2004 tr. 2018)

Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology

Volume 3 (2010)
Volume 5 (2012)

Broderick, Damien

Not the Only Planet (ed. anthology, 1998)

Bronsky, Alina

The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine (2010 tr. 2011)
Just Call Me Superhero (2013 tr. 2014)

Brontë, Anne

Agnes Grey (1847)

Brooke, Keith

The Accord (2009)

Brussolo, Serge

The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome (1992 tr. 2016)

Buchan, John

The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)

Buchanan, Rowan Hisayo

Harmless Like You (2016)

Bugler, Suzanne

This Perfect World (2010)

Bullough, Tom

Addlands (2016)

Buwalda, Peter

Bonita Avenue (2010 tr. 2014)

Bykau, Vasil

Alpine Ballad (1964 tr. 2016)

Byrne, Trevor

Ghosts and Lightning (2009)

C

Campbell, Neil

Zero Hours (2018)

Carter, Angela

The Merchant of Shadows‘ (1989)

Cartwright, Anthony

The Cut (2017)

Catton, Eleanor

The Luminaries (2013)
The Rehearsal (2008)

Cercas, Javier

The Blind Spot (2016 tr. 2018)

Černiauskaitė, Laura Sintija

Breathing into Marble (2006 tr. 2016)

Chiara, Piero

The Disappearance of Signora Giulia (1970 tr. 2015)

Clare, Horatio

The Prince’s Pen (2011)

Claudel, Philippe

Brodeck’s Report (2007 tr. 2009)

Colanzi, Liliana

Our Dead World (2016 tr. 2017)

Connell, Rebecca

Told in Silence (2010)

Cornwell, Hugh

Window on the World (2011)

Crouch, Julia

The Long Fall (2014)

Crumey, Andrew

Mr Mee (2000) and Mobius Dick (2004)

Crystal, David and Hilary

Wordsmiths & Warriors (2013)

Cubas, Cristina Fernández

Nona’s Room (2015 tr. 2017)

D

Dafydd, Fflur

The White Trail (2011)

Darby, Katy

The Unpierced Heart (2012)

Darbyshire, Bobbie

Love, Revenge & Buttered Scones (2010)

Darling, Tom

Summer (2012)

Dasgupta, Rana

Solo (2009)

Davies, Deborah Kay

Reasons She Goes to the Woods (2014)

De Kat, Otto

News from Berlin (2012 tr. 2014)

De Kerangal, Maylis

Mend the Living (2014 tr. 2016)

De Vasconcelos, José Mauro

My Sweet Orange Tree (1968 tr. 2018)

Delius, Friedrich Christian

Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman (2006 tr. 2010)

Devlin, Malcolm

You Will Grow into Them (2017)

DeWitt, Helen

Lightning Rods (2011)

Di Grado, Viola

70% Acrylic 30% Wool (2011 tr. 2012)

Dinsdale, Robert

Gingerbread (2014)

Dones, Elvira

Sworn Virgin (2007 tr. 2014)

Donoghue, Emma

Astray (2012)
Room (2010)

Doshi, Tishani

Fountainville (2013)

Dueñas, Maria

A Vineyard in Andalusia (2015 tr. 2017)

Dunthorne, Joe

Submarine (2008)

E

Echeverría, Esteban

The Slaughteryard (1871 tr. 2010)

Edric, Robert

Salvage (2010)

Egan, Jennifer

Black Box‘ (2012)
A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010)

Eliseev, Igor

One-Two (2016)

Enard, Mathias

Compass (2015 tr. 2017)
Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants (2010 tr. 2018)
Zone (2008 tr. 2010)

Enquist, Per Olov

The Wandering Pine (2008 tr. 2015)

Enrigue, Alvaro

Sudden Death (2013 tr. 2016)

Ernaux, Annie

The Years (2008 tr. 2017)

Erpenbeck, Jenny

The End of Days (2012 tr. 2014)

Evers, Stuart

Ten Stories About Smoking (2011)

F

Fernández Mallo, Agustín

Nocilla Dream (2006 tr. 2016)
Nocilla Experience (2008 tr. 2016)
Nocilla Lab (2009 tr. 2018)

Ferrante, Elena

The Story of a New Name (2012 tr. 2013)

Ferrell, Sean

Numb (2010)

Ferris, Joshua

The Unnamed (2010)

Fletcher, Tom

The Leaping (2010)
The Safe Children‘ (2009)

Foenkinos, David

The Mystery of Henri Pick (2016 tr. 2020)

Fois, Marcello

Bloodlines (2009 tr. 2014)

Fountain, Ben

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2012)

Fowler, Christopher

Bryant & May on the Loose (2009)
Full Dark House (2003)

Fritz, Marianne

The Weight of Things (1978 tr. 2015)

Fuks, Julián

Resistance (2015 tr. 2018)

G

Gaiman, Neil

Stories (ed. anthology, 2010)

Galloway, Janice

Blood (1991)
Jellyfish (2015)

Ganieva, Alisa

The Mountain and the Wall (2012 tr. 2015)

García, Margarita Robayo

Fish Soup (2012-6 tr. 2018)

Garfield, Simon

To the Letter (2013)

Garréta. Anne

Sphinx (1986 tr. 2015)

Geen, Emma

The Many Selves of Katherine North (2016)

Gerhardt, Maria

Transfer Window (2017 tr. 2019)

Gibb, Lorna

A Ghost’s Story (2015)

Ginzburg, Natalia

Voices in the Evening (1961 tr. 1963)

Glaister, Lesley

Blasted Things (2020)
Little Egypt (2014)

Glattauer, Daniel

Love Virtually (2006 tr. 2011)

Goudreault, David

Mama’s Boy (2015 tr. 2018)

Gower, Jon

Too Cold for Snow (2012)

Grant, John

The City in These Pages (2008)
Earthdoom! (1987/2003, with David Langford)
The Lonely Hunter (2012)

Grant, Linda

We Had It So Good (2011)

Granta

Issue 117: Horror (2011)
Issue 123: Best of Young British Novelists 4 (2013)

Green, Henry

Loving (1945)

Greenland, Colin

Take Back Plenty (1990)

Greg, Wioletta

Swallowing Mercury (2014 tr. 2017)

Grémillon, Hélène

The Confidant (2010 tr. 2012)

Griffiths, Niall

The Dreams of Max & Ronnie (2010)

Grimwood, Ken

Replay (1986)

Grossman, David

A Horse Walks into a Bar (2014 tr. 2016)

Guðmundur Andri Thorsson

And the Wind Sees All (2011 tr. 2018)

Guerriero, Leila

A Simple Story (2013 tr. 2015)

Guo, Xiaolu

UFO in Her Eyes (2009)

H

Hall, Catherine

The Proof of Love (2011)

Hall, Sarah

The Carhullan Army (2007)

Hamid, Mohsin

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013)

Han Kang

Human Acts (2014 tr. 2016)
The Vegetarian (2007 tr. 2015)
The White Book (2016 tr. 2017)

Hardinge, Frances

Twilight Robbery (2011)

Harkaway, Nick

Angelmaker (2012)
The Gone-Away World (2008)

Harrison, M. John

The Ice Monkey (1983)
Isobel Avens Returns to Stepney in the Spring‘ (1993)
Viriconium (1971-85)

Hawken, Sam

Tequila Sunset (2012)

Healey, Emma

Elizabeth Is Missing (2014)

Hendrix, Hanneke

The Dyslexic Hearts Club (2014 tr. 2016)

Henríquez, Cristina

The Book of Unknown Americans (2014)

Herrera, Yuri

Signs Preceding the End of the World (2009 tr. 2015)
A Silent Fury (2018 tr. 2020)
The Transmigration of Bodies (2013 tr. 2016)

Hermann, Ignát

Childless (tr. 1925)

Hershman, Tania

The White Road and Other Stories (2008)

Hildyard, Daisy

Hunters in the Snow (2013)

Hines, Barry

A Kestrel for a Knave (1968)

Hitchman, Beatrice

Petite Mort (2013)

Holmes, Annie

breach (2016,with Olumide Popoola)

Hope, Anna

Wake (2014)

Huch, Ricarda

The Last Summer (1910 tr. 2017)

Hudson, Kerry

Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma (2012)

Hutchinson, Dave

Europe in Autumn (2014)

From the Archives: Spanish Lit

Today, for Spanish Lit Month, a look back through my archives. This is a list of all my reviews of books translated from the languages of Spain, in reverse order of posting. It’s not a huge number (in the early years of this blog, I didn’t read many translations), but I wanted to link to everything in one place. So – positive or negative, short or long – it’s all here. Just to clarify a few things: all books are translated from Spanish unless otherwise indicated; some links go to external websites; and anything labelled ‘note’ is a few lineswithin a longer round-up post.

My favourite books read in 2015

It’s been a year of ups and downs, really: I relaunched the blog with a new focus and name, and later with its own domain; and I feel I’ve got closer to what I wanted to achieve. However, especially in the latter part of this year, I haven’t had as much time as I expected for reading and blogging, so some of my plans are being put back into 2016 instead. I would like to dig more deeply into why I respond to certain books in the way I do (I also have plans for a series of posts going back to books I read in my pre-blogging days, to trace where the reader I am now came from). I’d still like to focus in more on the kinds of books that speak to me most, and explore older works… Well, more on that later.

For now, here are my twelve favourites from all the books I read in 2015. I’m especially struck that I have my most globally diverse list to date: authors from ten different countries; books originally written in six different languages; and, for the first time, translations predominate. More than that, though, I look over this list and think: yes, these books – in all their different ways – are what I like to read. That’s what this is all about.

Enough preamble: on to the books. The countdown is a bit of fun, but the books are all well worth your time.

MJuly12. Miranda July, The First Bad Man (2015)

I started off thinking I knew what sort of novel this was going to be: offbeat tone, middle-aged, middle-class American protagonist… I have the measure of this, I thought. Well, I was wrong. There is a good deal of eccentricity and artifice in July’s tale of a fortysomething woman whose careful household routine is disrupted by the arrival of her employers’ twenty-year-old daughter. But it is shown to be a front and a defence mechanism – and when July breaks through her characters’ façades, her novel cuts sharply.

[My review] – [Foyles affiliate link]

11. Ivan Vladislavić, The Folly (1993)

A story of how easy, and dangerous, it can be to fall for someone else’s dream. The husband of a suburban couple is captivated by a stranger who moves on to the neighbouring plot and announces that he’s going to build a new house. Soon the husband is doing all the hard work for the newcomer while the ‘house’ remains little more than an idea – but what a powerful idea. Vladislavić’s first novel is equally delicious and disturbing, reminding one of the darker shadows that lie behind its playful tone.

[My review] – [Foyles affiliate link]

10. Sunny Singh, Hotel Arcadia (2015)

A novel about the distance between image and reality, set in the heightened environment of a hotel under attack from terrorists. Singh maintains a tight focus on two characters – a war photographer who roams the corridors, and the hotel employee who uses CCTV to help her evade capture – and never leaves the building, except in flashback. But that very stylised approach helps give Hotel Arcadia its power, as reality becomes concentrated, and a few days can hold a lifetime.

[My review] – [Foyles affiliate link]

9. Dan Rhodes, When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow (2014)

Hands down, the funniest book I have read in a very long time. You can sum it up in a single line – Richard Dawkins forced to stay in a village at the vicar’s house – but you can’t capture its essence without reading. The mixture of broad, cartoonish humour and sharp satire (aimed in several directions) lulls you into a false sense of security… Then comes the moment – as in all of Rhodes’ fiction that I’ve read – where you see behind the curtain, and that is really why I love this novel so much.

[My review] – [Foyles affiliate link]

Repila

8. Iván Repila, The Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse (2013)
Translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes (2015)

A small, hallucinatory jewel of a book in which two boys are trapped at the bottom of a well and trying to get out. This novel plays out in my mind’s eye as a scratchy animated film, each chapter-scene limned in a slightly different colour. Repila constantly changes the imaginative space of the well through his style and imagery; and, as with The Folly above, there’s a grim reality apparent beneath the surface of metaphor.

[My review] – [Foyles affiliate link]

7. Hiromi Kawakami, Manazuru (2006)
Translated from the Japanese by Michael Emmerich (2010)

If you’d told me last year that I would have a Kawakami novel on my favourites list this year, I may well not have believed you. I had read The Briefcase/Strange Weather in Tokyo twice and scarcely felt close to unlocking it. But Manazuru is a different kind of book, one I took to straight away: a combination of hazily blurred realities and pin-sharp emotional detail, as a woman retreats to a seaside town in search of something – possibly her missing husband, possibly herself. A third read of The Briefcase/Strange Weather is clearly in order…

[My review] – [Publisher link]

6. Jenny Erpenbeck, The End of Days (2012)
Translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky (2014)

A worthy winner of what turned out to be the final Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. The first page may be the single most potent scene that I’ve read all year. In each of the five main sections, Erpenbeck’s protagonist dies at a different point in time, which changes the meaning of her life and death, and the way she interacts with history. The End of Days sets an individual life against the sweep of the twentieth century, to quite marvellous effect.

[My review] – [Foyles affiliate link]

5, Paulette Jonguitud, Mildew (2010)
Translated from the Spanish by the author (2015)

The protagonist of this short novel finds mildew growing over her body, and Jonguitud’s writing creeps through the reader in the same way. The narrator merges together fallible memory, physical space, and possibly faulty perception, to the point that there’s no meaningful boundary between the real and the imaginary to begin.  We are invited into this seamless imaginative space, and can only hold on as the narrator tries to keep control of her own story.

[My review] – [Foyles affiliate link]

Enquist4. Per Olov Enquist, The Wandering Pine (2008)
Translated from the Swedish by Deborah Bragan-Turner (2015)

Of all the books on this list, Enquist’s was the one that caught me most unawares, in that I wasn’t prepared for how deeply it would affect me. The Wandering Pine is based on its author’s life, combining closeness to its subject with a distance and mystery that comes from the oblique fictional framing. It’s a novel that explores what explores what it is to engage with the world through writing, not to mention one of the most powerful depictions of childhood that I have read.

[My review] – [Foyles affiliate link]

3. Lucy Wood, Weathering (2015)

Three years after the wonderful Diving Belles, Wood goes from strength to strength. In someone else’s hands, this could have been a run-of-the-mill tale of a woman returning to her rural childhood home. In Wood’s work, all lines between metaphor, place and action are erased; here, she situates her characters in a raw, unknowable landscape that haunts them as they haunt it. This author is carving out a path all her own, and I am excited to see where she will go.

[My review] – [Foyles affiliate link]

2. Yuri Herrera, Signs Preceding the End of the World (2009)
Translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman (2015)

A woman travels from Mexico to the US with a message for her brother, in this tale where borders of all kinds are crossed or dissolved: borders of geography, language, culture. There’s a fuzzy, mutable quality to both the language and the space of this novel, where a journey to another country reads like a metaphorical (or literal!) descent into the underworld. I’m still astonished at how much ground Herrera covers in so small a space.

[My review] – [Foyles affiliate link]

Vegetarianpb

 

1. Han Kang, The Vegetarian (2007)
Translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith (2015)

This was the very first book I read in 2015, and nothing since has ever quite supplanted it. Three novellas, linked by the character of a woman who decides to give up eating meat, eventually refusing all food, for reasons we are never fully allowed to comprehend. We only view the main character through the eyes of those around her, as Han explores the ramifications of someone stepping outside social norms, and asks who really makes the self. The Vegetarian is an extraordinary experience.

[My review] – [Foyles affiliate link]

And if you want more favourites, here are my previous lists: 20142013; 201220112010; and 2009.

 

 

A reading acrostic

Just for fun, here’s something I saw on Annabel’s blog the other day: make an acrostic of your name from the titles of books that you’ve read this year. To make it more of a challenge, I decided to use my first name and surname.  I managed it… just about. I had to use two books that I’d read but not reviewed as well as read, and even the original-language title of a book that I read in English. But that’s all part of the fun!

D is for Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas (tr. Rosalind Harvey and Anne McLean)

A is for Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth

V is for (The) Vegetarian by Han Kang (tr. Deborah Smith)

I is for Into the Trees by Robert Williams

D is for Diving Belles by Lucy Wood

H is for Hotel Arcadia by Sunny Singh

E is for (The) End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck (tr. Susan Bernofsky)

B is for (The) Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse by Iván Repila (tr. Sophie Hughes)

B is for (The) Beginning of the End by Ian Parkinson

L is for (The) Last Lover by Can Xue (tr. Annelise Finegan)

E is for (The) Ecliptic by Benjamin Wood

T is for To Mervas by Elisabeth Rynell (tr. Victoria Häggblom)

H is for (At) Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison

W is for White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen (tr. Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah)

A is for Atlas: the Archaeology of an Imaginary City by Dung Kai-cheung (tr. Dung Kai-cheung, Anders Hansson and Bonnie S. McDougall)

I is for In the Beginning Was the Sea by Tomás González (tr. Frank Wynne)

T is for Take It Cool by Jonathan Pinnock

E is for Ett Annat Liv (The Wandering Pine) by Per Olov Enquist (tr. Deborah Bragan-Turner)

 

 

 

 

 

 

IFFP 2015: and the winner is…

The winner of the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize was announced at a ceremony in London last night. I was there, along with Julianne from the shadow panel, and you can expect a write-up from us in the next issue of Shiny New Books. For now, though the result…

The judges gave a special commendation to In the Beginning Was the Sea by Tomás González (translated by Frank Wynne), but the actual prize went to a rather familiar book:

EndofDays

The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the German by Susan Beronofsky

Yes, for the first time, the same book has won both the shadow and the official IFFP. And it’s a well deserved winner!

That’s my IFFP blogging done for this year. A final thanks to my fellow shadow jurors, and I look forward to doing it all again next year.

Read my other posts on the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize here.

IFFP 2015: the shadow winner

The shadow journey is over. Eleven bloggers (the biggest IFFP shadow panel yet) based on four continents read sixteen books. Between us, we posted more than a hundred reviews. We scored the books to produce our own shortlist. Now, after a week of email discussions and two rounds of voting, we have our shadow winner. It is…

EndofDays

The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the German by Susan Beronofsky

It’s an excellent book, my personal favourite from this year’s IFFP, and I recommend it to you wholeheartedly.

We want to give a special mention here to our runner-up, Mathias Enard’s Zone (translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell). We called Zone in at the outset because several of us who’d read it felt strongly that it deserved to be in the mix – and it rose to second place in our overall considerations. If you want to see how good contemporary fiction in translation can be, these two novels will show you.

But we’re not finished with the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize quite yet. The official winner will be announced tonight, and The End of Days is in contention. Will it win ‘the double’? I hope so.

Read my other posts on the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize here.

IFFP 2015: The official shortlist

After the shadow selection, we now have the official IFFP shortlist:

I think this is an interesting list, I can’t quite choose between this selection and ours, because my favourite titles cross both lists. But my favourite title on the longlist – The End of Days – is common to both. I’ll be very pleased if it takes the prize; I think it stands a good chance, too.

I’d also, though, have my eye on By Night the Mountain Burns as a wildcard contender. In any event, it’s wonderful to see the publisher And Other Stories make the IFFP shortlist (long overdue, if you ask me). But congratulations to all, and I look forward to the announcement of the winner on 27 May. Of course, we’ll be revealing our shadow winner shortly before then.

Read my other posts on the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize here.

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