Books in Translation Other Prizes

The 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Shortlist

The shortlist for the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize was announced this morning. I was lucky enough to receive the list a few days ago and was pleased to discover that I’d already read the majority of the books. A Meal in Winter was the only novel I hadn’t tried so I decided to pick up a copy from the library and read it over the weekend – an easy task since it was so short! Unfortunately I can’t comment on the short story collections, but hopefully my summaries will give you a good idea about the other books.

Strange Weather in Tokyo Translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Five words from the blurb: romance, old, teacher, friendship, solace

A beautifully written story about the friendship that develops between a young woman and one of her former high school teachers.


The Mussel Feast Translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch

The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke

Five words from the blurb: German, family, issues, revolutions, understand

Gripping novella which shows how life in a repressed state mirrors that of a family living under the power of a tyrannical father. It’s amazing how much complexity is crammed into such a small book!


A Meal in WinterTranslated from the French by Sam Taylor

A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli

Five words from the blurb: soldiers, capture, Jewish, prisoner, choice

Simple, atmospheric story about German soldiers who have been asked to track down Jews for execution. I can’t fault the writing, but I’ve heard a similar stories many times before.


A Man In Love: My Struggle Book 2 (My Struggle 2) Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett 

A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Five words from the blurb: father, life, holidays, neighbours, children

This book was much lighter than A Death in the Family, the first in the series. I found it lacking depth and became bored by its ordinariness. I’m afraid I abandoned it, but others love its honesty.



Revenge Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Five words from the blurb: woman, bakery, disconnected, chaos, cruelty

I enjoyed The Housekeeper and The Professor by Yoko Ogawa, but I’m afraid my dislike for short stories means I haven’t tried this one. I you enjoy the short form then I’m sure you’ll find a lot to appreciate in this one.


The Iraqi Christ Translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright

The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim

Five words from the blurb: surreal, absurdities, Iraq, human, war

This collection of stories has been described as ‘Arabic Gothic’. It sounds so different from anything else I’ve read that I’m tempted to try it, despite the short story format!

Who should win the IFFP?

Obviously I can’t comment on the quality of the short story collections, but I think The Mussel Feast will be hard to beat. For such a short book it combines a staggering amount of information. It has everything from emotion and tension, through to complex ideas about power and communism. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for it!

Who do you think should win?

For other opinions on these books read the reviews of the Shadow IFFP Jury, a group of bloggers who’ve read the entire IFFP longlist:

Dolce Bellezza  (twitter @bellezzamjs)
Follow the Thread (twitter @David_Heb)
Tony’s Reading List (twitter @tony_malone)
Winstonsdad’s Blog (twitter @stuallen)
Messengers Booker (twitter @messy_tony)
and the blog free Jacqui Wine ( twitter @jacquiWine)

7 replies on “The 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Shortlist”

Oh, Jackie – short stories aren’t that bad 😉

‘Revenge’ is definitely worth trying (and it’s just as much of a novel as a collection, anyway).

Tony, I’m still not sure about Revenge, but because I’ve loved her previous books (and you think it is worth a try) I’ll get hold of a copy and give it a try at some point. Fingers crossed I enjoy it as much as you did.

I do like reading short stories, but not usually in one sitting, however I read Revenge in one sitting because it was so compelling, seriously jackie, this collection is like reading a novel and in fact minor characters in one story turn up as major characters in the next, that little connection doth a novel make!

I was just amazed at the authors ability to pen so many stories on the same theme, absolutely fascinating collection!

Interesting that you abandoned Knausgaard, I have avoided them so far because I intrinsically don’t like the idea of that kind of bare all honesty which takes no account of the impact it may have on those whose lives it exposes. However, I have added the 3rd book to my TBR and since it focuses on childhood, it seems like an appropriate start point, will see how I go, at least then I can attempt an informed opinion.

I thought The Mussel Feast was excellent and its great to see it being acknowledged having finally made it into an English translation.

Thanks for the post!

Claire, What a persuasive argument! OK. I’ll ensure I give Revenge a try!

I loved Knausguard V1 so I still intend to try V3. I just hope it has more similarities with V1 than V2! I’ll be interested to see what you think of your first Knausguard – I hope you enjoy it!

Glad you’re a fan of The Mussel Feast too. Let’s hope this shortlisting means it is experienced by more people 🙂

Jackie, thanks for the pointing out the long list/short list of the IFFP (some of the best reading I’ll do for the year, I’m certain of it) as well as the shout out to the Shadow Jury. As I just mentioned in my latest post, it’s a bit of a conundrum (to me anyway) how much the official short list differs from the Shadow Jury’s. Yet, I am quite content with our list, and even feel it superior to the official one. (gasp!)

Bellezza, It is interesting to compare the two shortlists. I think I prefer the shadow one, but I’d actually like a combination of the two. I’d especially like to see ‘The Sorrow of Angels’ in place of ‘A Meal in Winter’. Thank you for taking part in the shadow jury!

The only one I’ve read is The Mussel Feast, which isn’t available in the US so I had to order it internationally. It was totally worth it – I loved it and am likely to read it again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *