Karl Ove Knausgaard, Javier Marías, Andreï Makine longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

Record number of entries from 30 languages


Karl Ove Knausgaard, the author about whom Zadie Smith wrote, “I need the next volume like crack”, is on the longlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014 for A Man in Love, the second volume of his blockbuster My Struggle. This is his second time on the longlist, and he goes head to head with contemporary greats such as Spanish writer Javier Marías, frequently tipped for the Nobel Prize, for his crime novel, The Infatuations, and Prix Goncourt winner Andreï Makine, author of The Brief Lives that Live Forever.

This year’s 15-strong longlist was chosen by a panel of five judges from a record number of entries and languages – 126 titles from 30 source languages.

Boyd Tonkin, senior writer and columnist at The Independent and one of this year’s judges commented: “Every year this unique prize delivers to our doorsteps an outstandingly rich harvest of the world’s finest fiction. This year, a record number of submissions has resulted in a longlist as diverse and powerful as any in its history. From Iceland to China, Israel to Iraq, Spain to Japan, the contenders – served by a selection of the most gifted translators at work today – represent a huge variety of nations and cultures, all bound together in the border-free republic of talent and imagination.”

The list features a number of pairs: two female Japanese writers; two German writers, both tackling the shadow of East Germany; and two Iraqi authors, Hassan Blasim and Sinan Antoon, offering very different pictures of post-Saddam Iraq. There’s also an Icelandic duo: Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir and Jón Kalman Stefánsson, an astonishing achievement for a nation of 320,000 people.

Four newcomers are translated into English for the first time: Andrej Longo whose short story collection Ten uncovers the darker side of southern Italy, and Man Asian prize shortlistee Hiromi Kawakami for her unconventional romance, Strange Weather in Tokyo. English-language readers can also discover Hubert Mingarelli for the first time (A Meal In Winter) and Birgit Vanderbeke, whose debut novel The Mussel Feast was first published in 1990 and is viewed a modern German classic.

Readers of Sayed Kashua, a Palestinian Israeli writing in Hebrew, whose title Exposure is on the longlist, might be intrigued to know that he is also the author of Israel’s best-known sitcom, Arab Labour.

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize celebrates the work of authors and translators equally. Translator Anthea Bell, who won in 2002 for her translation of Austerlitz by W G Sebald, is longlisted for her translation of Julia Franck’s Back To Back. Franck herself made the shortlist in 2010. Margaret Jull Costa, Javier Marías’ translator, has also been shortlisted before. Sometimes, of course, authors translate their own work, and in 2008 Paul Verhaeghen won with his self-translated Omega Minor: this year, Sinan Antoon, who was shortlisted for the International Prize of Arabic Fiction 2013, (the “Arabic Booker”) has translated his own work into English. Ma Jian’s work is translated by his wife, Flora Drew, representing an unusually special bond between author and translator – this is the second time they appear on the shortlist.

This year’s books tackle some challenging themes including war, corruption and totalitarian regimes. Some of the writers have faced oppression in their own lives: Ma Jian’s work has been banned in his own country and he also cannot now return; Andreï Makine, a Siberian Afghan War veteran fled to France from Soviet Russia; while for years anyone who wished to read Hassan Blasim in Arabic could only do so online. Their lives and work are a stark reminder of the power of fiction, still seen by many of the world’s governments as dangerously subversive.

Penguin Random House is the publisher most represented on the list with seven books, with four from Harvill Secker, two from Chatto & Windus and one from Hamish Hamilton. Five independent publishers have made the list including Comma Press, MacLehose Press, Portobello Books, Pushkin Press and Peirene Press. The final publisher securing a place is Yale University Press.

British writer, broadcaster and former stand-up comedian Natalie Haynes, one of the judges, said: “This is a very strong list, reflecting both the enormous diversity of nationalities, themes and subjects which we received. It shows that there has never been more of an appetite for translated fiction in the UK, and from every corner of every populated continent. It ranges from the intellectual to the emotional via the political, and no-one could come away from reading these books without having a greater understanding of a complex world. In the face of so much bland globalisation, it’s both a relief and a delight to see world fiction remains as quirky and individual as ever.”

The £10,000 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is awarded annually to the best work of contemporary fiction in translation. The 2014 Prize celebrates an exceptional work of fiction by a living author which has been translated into English from any other language and published in the United Kingdom in 2013. Uniquely, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize acknowledges both the writer and the translator equally – each receives £5,000 – recognising the importance of the translator in their ability to bridge the gap between languages and cultures. The Prize is funded by Arts Council England, supported by The Independent and Champagne Taittinger, and managed by Booktrust.

Previous winners of the Prize include Milan Kundera in 1991 for Immortality translated by Peter Kussi; WG Sebald and translator, Anthea Bell, in 2002 for Austerlitz; and Per Petterson and translator, Anne Born, in 2006 for Out Stealing Horses. The 2013 winner was The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker translated from the Dutch by David Colmer (Harvill Secker).

The shortlist will be announced on April 8th and the winning author and translator will be announced and awarded their £10,000 prize at a ceremony in central London at the Royal Institute of British Architects on May 22nd.

The full longlist of 15 titles is:

A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard and translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Harvill Secker)

A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli and translated from the French by Sam Taylor (Portobello Books)

Back to Back by Julia Franck and translated from the German by Anthea Bell

(Harvill Secker)

Brief Loves that Live Forever by Andreï Makine and translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan (MacLehose Press)

Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir and translated from the Icelandic by Brian FitzGibbon (Pushkin Press)

The Corpse Washer by Sinan Antoon and translated from the Arabic by the author (Yale University Press)

The Dark Road by Ma Jian and translated from the Chinese by Flora Drew (Chatto & Windus)

Exposure by Sayed Kashua and translated from the Hebrew by Mitch Ginsberg (Chatto & Windus)

The Infatuations by Javier Marías and translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (Hamish Hamilton)

The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim and translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright (Comma Press)

The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke and translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch (Peirene Press)

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa and translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder

(Harvill Secker)

The Sorrow of Angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson and translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton (MacLehose Press)

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami and translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell (Portobello Books)

Ten by Andrej Longo and translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis (Harvill Secker)