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INDEPENDENT FOREIGN FICTION PRIZE 2014

A minor earthquake took place in the UK this week. No, it wasn’t the results of the European Elections (although the earth certainly has moved there) but the amazing news that in May 2014 the bestseller list in the UK was topped by 3 foreign titles – yes, 3 TRANSLATED novels!

Remember, we have the notorious reputation in this country for reading only about 3% of everything in translation, so having Jo Nesbo the Norwegian writer with his thriller ‘The Son’, Swiss superstar Joel Dicker with ‘The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair’ and German Timur Vermess satire about Hitler ‘ Look Who’s Back’ as the top 3 titles was earth-shattering.
This news was delivered by the great champion of foreign writing in this country, the Independent newspaper journalist Boyd Tonkin, to a packed crowd of publishers, writers, translators and media at the annual awards ceremony for the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Boyd Tonkin is the supremo at the top of the IFFP tree and the chair of the judges. The IFFP has been running for 24 years and is today the UK’s most important prize for literature in translation.
For Boyd Tonkin the fact that today foreign titles sit so comfortably on our UK bestseller lists is major progress. Norwegian blockbuster writer Karl Ove Knausgaard, Germans Birgit Vanderbeke and Julia Franck, Dutch Gerbrand Bakker and Italian Diego Marani have also been recent bestsellers – I’ve interviewed them all myself and am a great fan – but my point here is that these 5 great writers have also all featured on the IFFP shortlists. If you check out the IFFP website you will be blown away by the importance of this award in selecting winners. http://www.booktrust.org.uk/prizes/
Knausgaard
and Vanderbeke were actually 2 of the 6 authors shortlisted this year (out of 126). Also on the shortlist were 2 Japanese writers and 1 French but the winner, with ‘The Iraqi Christ’ was Hassan Blasim –the first ever Arabic winner, translated by Jonathan Wright. Uniquely, the IFFP recognizes author and translator equally and they share the prize money.
‘The Iraqi Christ’ is a collection of 14 linked short stories set in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. Boyd Tonkin described Blasim as the judges’ unanimous choice: ‘Think Irvine Welsh in post-war and post-Saddam Baghdad, with the shades of Kafka and Burroughs also stalking these sad streets….. surreal in style and savage in detail, but always planted in heart-breaking reality…..(And the) translations convey all their outrage, their sorrow, their ribald merriment and blistering imaginative vitality.’
So, maybe we’re due for a second mini earthquake on our tiny island – maybe our first-ever Iraqi novel on the UK bestseller list!

Rosie Goldsmith

Rosie Goldsmith ist eine britische Multi-Media Journalistin. Sie ist im Bereich der Kunst und Internationalen Angelegenheiten spezialisiert und hat auf der ganzen Welt an führenden Sendungen von BBC Radio gearbeitet. Außerdem spricht sie mehrere Sprachen, präsentiert und sitzt diversen öffentlichen Veranstaltungen vor und ist Vorstandsmitglied bei ELit Literaturhaus Europa.

Rosie Goldsmith is a British multi-media journalist with specialist knowledge of arts and international affairs. She has worked across the world on some of BBC Radio’s flagship programmes, speaks several languages and chairs and presents public events. She is member of the ELit Literaturehouse Europe's board.

Rosie Goldsmith ist eine britische Multi-Media Journalistin. Sie ist im Bereich der Kunst und Internationalen Angelegenheiten spezialisiert und hat auf der ganzen Welt an führenden Sendungen von BBC Radio gearbeitet. Außerdem spricht sie mehrere Sprachen, präsentiert und sitzt diversen öffentlichen Veranstaltungen vor und ist Vorstandsmitglied bei ELit Literaturhaus Europa.

Rosie Goldsmith is a British multi-media journalist with specialist knowledge of arts and international affairs. She has worked across the world on some of BBC Radio’s flagship programmes, speaks several languages and chairs and presents public events. She is member of the ELit Literaturehouse Europe's board.

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