After the shadow jury’s shortlist comes the actual one:

  • The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim (tr. Jonathan Wright)
  • Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami (tr. Allison Markin Powell)
  • A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard (tr. Don Bartlett)
  • A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli (tr. Sam Taylor)
  • Revenge by Yoko Ogawa (tr. Stephen Snyder)
  • The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke (tr. Jamie Bulloch)

I find this fascinating: any juried shortlist is of course the product of a consensus, but it’s rare that we get to see the consensuses of two different groups of people about the same set of books side by side. What’s so striking to me is that both shortlists have a strong aesthetic coherence, yet are so very different.

Generally, the shadow shortlist leans towards big, authoritative voices; think of Marías’ dense, essayistic style; or Stefánsson’s storm-lashed prose. In contrast, the overriding aesthetic of the official shortlist is quieter (one might say subtler): Ogawa’s menacing sideways view of reality, for example, or Mingarelli’s starkness. (It’s interesting, too, to consider how the two books in common, Knausgaard and Vanderbeke, change when viewed through the different lenses of each list.) We end up with two equally valid, but nicely idiosyncractic, takes on the IFFP longlist.

(If you’re wondering, my own personal shortlist would be somewhere between the two: Kawakami, Makine, Marias, Ogawa, Stefansson, and Vanderbeke. What can I say, I like both aesthetics.)

So, what should win? For me, the three best books on the official shortlist are those by women, and it would come down to Ogawa or Vanderbeke; I think both of those stand a good chance of actually winning. We’ll find out whether I’m right when the IFFP announcement is made on 22 May.

This post is part of a series on the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.