Tuesday, 8 April 2014

IFFP 2014 - Two Shortlists

Well, the judges began about a month back by announcing fifteen candidates for the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and the field has now been cut to just six.  While nine books will retreat, licking their wounds, the remaining half-dozen will live to fight another day, all hoping to be crowned top dog in May :) 

Just who are those top six?  Well, it's actually a top ten - you see, the Shadow Panel, as always, sees things a little differently ;)

This year, there are only two books overlapping (The Mussel Feast and A Man in Love), and while there's nothing on the official list which offends me (unlike the previous two years), I'd still have to say that the Shadow list is far stronger.  Lovers of beautiful prose will be dismayed at the exclusion of The Sorrow of Angels, The Infatuations and Brief Loves that Live Forever from the official list, and several people had The Corpse Washer down as a dark horse for the entire thing.  Still, Stu, David, Jacqui, Bellezza, Tony and myself all have the chance to give them their moment in the sun, as they're still in with a shout of the Shadow Prize :)

As for the real thing, a few points to note.  Firstly,three of the shortlisted works are by women, and while I can't help but feel that this is a deliberate choice, given the discussions about the lack of submissions by female writers in recent years, they're all great books and worthy of the attention.

Secondly, two of them are short-story collections, and that's a big surprise (I know a certain blogger who will be very happy to hear of their inclusion!).  Short stories don't always fare well in these competitions, so well done to both Ogawa and Blasim.

Finally, I'm very happy for two of my favourite small presses, Comma Press and Peirene Press, for managing to get a book onto the shortlist.  Peirene have had four successive longlistings, but this is their first shortlisting - well done!  Oh, and can I just say I told you so... ;)

That's all for the shortlists then - now we look ahead to the unveiling of this year's grand champion, the Yokozuna of the translated fiction world.  The official prize will be announced on the 22nd of May, and I'm sure the slightly more prestigious Shadow Prize will be awarded a day or two before.  Stick around, though - there's a lot more to read and discuss before all that happens :)

9 comments:

  1. I completely concur: the Shadow Jury's short list is by far the stronger one, perhaps one day I'll get over the shock and disappointment of finding out that The Sorrow of Angels was excluded. Still, as you say, we can sing the praises of the truly outstanding literature from each IOC our blogs and thereby get the word out. A pleasure, as always, Tony to read with you. Also, I loved making new friends (Jacqui), and hope to carry on not only tol the winner is named in May, but also unto 2015.

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    1. Bellezza - It's been interesting looking at various reactions today. As expected, many have focused on the three female writers on the real shortlist; sadly, not many have really shared our disappointment about some of the quality omissions...

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  2. Two excellent lists and love the commentary and notes of sadness, the gems are often in the longlist I always say! Looking forward to more gems of literary wisdom from you all.

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    1. Claire - Thanks - a lot more to come before May the 22nd :)

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  3. I wonder when we'll get past the idea that the inclusion of women in shortlists can be attributed to some reason other than merit. I'm simply excited that two works from Japan are included, not for any political reason but simply for the interest. I think having two slightly diverging lists is more exciting and healthy since it provokes a lot of discussion and interaction. Two perfectly aligned lists probably mean a predictable, mixed set of longlisted books in the first place.



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    1. Rise - No time soon. It's hard to go past that suspicion here, simply because of the comments made last year and some of the quality books which have been excluded. The IFFP is political, whatever they may say, and there are definite agendas at play. I agree that discussion is healthy, but I do regret decisions like omitting 'The Story of a New Name' from the longlist and 'The Sorrow of Angels' from the shortlist.

      As for including books like 'Butterflies in November' and 'Exposure' on the longlist...

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  4. That's a great summary, Tony. The only point I'd add would be to highlight the quality across virtually all the books on this year's longlist. The field felt pretty tight this year with several very good books in the mix. There are only two (possibly three) books I'd have been unhappy to see on the shortlist.

    I completely agree about the beautiful prose in the Stefansson, Marias and Makine. My one regret was not having the time to read 'Heaven and Hell' before embarking on 'Sorrows', but I'll be rectifying that error in the next few weeks!

    It's been a pleasure to read along with you and other members of the shadow group. Looking forward to continuing to share thoughts over the forthcoming weeks.

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    1. Jacqui - Yes, very important to remember that the job's not over yet ;)

      Not sure about two or three books - I'd say there were definitely ten strong books, with several others below that. Definitely two or three weak ones though...

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    2. Ah, I haven't read 'Exposure', so I'll bump it up to four then!

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