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Knausgaard and Murakami on longlist for 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

German translations dominate global line-up including writers from Colombia, Equatorial Guinea, Korea, China

Karl Ove Knausgaard: among 15 authors on the longlist for the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Photograph: Colin McConnell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Haruki Murakami and Karl Ove Knausgaard are among 15 authors on the longlist for the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Both authors have been longlisted twice before. They face fierce competition from other award-winning international names including Italian Marcello Fois and Belgian author Erwin Mortier.

Now in its 25th year, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is managed by reading charity Booktrust and sets out to honour contemporary fiction in translation. The £10,000 prize money is divided equally between author and translator, recognising the importance of the translator in their ability to bridge the gap between languages and cultures.

This year’s longlist includes no less than five authors writing in German, including Austrian Daniel Kehlmann (F) who has also been shortlisted before – and two debut authors, Stefanie de Velasco (Tiger Milk) and Timur Vermes (Look Who’s Back), both German bestsellers.

East Asia also features strongly. Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, which sold over one million copies in Japan in its first month, sits alongside avant-garde Chinese novelist Can Xue, whose The Last Lover was a 2014 Independent Book of the Year, and Jung-myung Lee, the second Korean to be longlisted in the history of the Prize.

Boyd Tonkin, judge, and columnist and senior writer at The Independent, said: “With its spread of well-known global names and fresh talent, this outstanding longlist will introduce readers to old favourites and new discoveries. All arrive in first-rate translations that give a platform for this precious but sometimes under-valued art. I’m delighted that fiction from east Asia has such a strong presence. And the remarkable crop of German contenders shows that, in the 25th anniversary year of the Berlin Wall’s fall, UK publishers paid well-deserved attention to the country’s robust and vibrant literary scene.”

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize often highlights the work of dissident writers – as with 2014’s winner, exiled Iraqi writer Hassan Blasim. This year’s longlist includes BBC World Service writer in residence Hamid Ismailov who was forced to flee Uzbekistan in 1992 and whose novella The Dead Lake is set on the Kazakh steppes near the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site. He is joined on the longlist by Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel with By Night the Mountain Burns, who in 2011 went on hunger strike to protest against the corruption of Equatorial Guinea’s regime. Freedom of expression also appears as a theme: The Investigation is a story about censors who burned the poetry of a prisoner, and By Night the Mountain Burns has already been recognised with an English PEN award.

Five of the writers are published in English for the first time: Colombian Tomas Gonzalez (In the Beginning Was the Sea), German authors Stefanie de Velasco and Timur Vermes, Korean Jung-myung Lee (The Investigation), and Swedish debut novelist and August Prize-winner Tomas Bannerhed (The Ravens). The Ravens and The End of Days have also been endorsed as part of the English PEN writers in translation programme, celebrating its 10th birthday this year.

The longlisted translators are already a celebrated group, with Sligo-born Frank Wynne appearing once again. His translation of Frédéric Beigbeder’s Windows on the World, a novel set in the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York during the 9/11 attacks, won the 2005 prize. He has translated many authors including Michel Houellebecq, Boualem Sansal, Frédéric Beigbeder and the late Ivoirian novelist Ahmadou Kourouma. He jointly won the International Impac Dublin Literary Award with Houellebecq for Atomised, his translation of Les Particules élémentaires. He has also won the 2008 Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize for translation from the French and the 2012 Premio Valle Inclán for Spanish Translation. His book, I Was Vermeer, a biography of Han van Meegeren was published by Bloomsbury in 2006.

The longlist:

The Ravens by Tomas Bannerhed translated from the Swedish by Sarah Death (The Clerkenwell Press)

The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky (Portobello Books)

Bloodlines by Marcello Fois translated from the Italian by Silvester Mazzarella (MacLehose Press)

In the Beginning Was the Sea by Tomás González translated from the Spanish by Frank Wynne (Pushkin Press)

The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov translated from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield (Peirene Press)

F by Daniel Kehlmann, translated from the German by Carol Brown Janeway (Quercus)

Boyhood Island by Karl Ove Knausgaard translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Harvill Secker)

By Night the Mountain Burns by Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel translated from the Spanish by Jethro Soutar (And Other Stories)

The Investigation by Jung-Myung Lee translated from the Korean by Chi-Young Kim (Mantle)

While the Gods Were Sleeping by Erwin Mortier translated from the Dutch by Paul Vincent (Pushkin Press)

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel (Harvill Secker)

The Giraffe’s Neck by Judith Schalansky translated from the German by Shaun Whiteside (Bloomsbury)

Tiger Milk by Stefanie de Velasco translated from the German by Tim Mohr (Head of Zeus)

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch (MacLehose Press)

The Last Lover by Can Xue translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen (Margellos World Republic of Letters)

Claire Shanahan, Booktrust’s Head of Arts and non-voting chair of the judges, says: “We are delighted to present the very best of the latest fiction from around the world; over its 25-year history, the IFFP has established itself as a hallmark of quality. This list highlights voices unheard in English before, beside writers of cult-status Knausgaard and Murakami who have an army of devoted and passionate fans. In this wide tapestry of culture and knowledge, there is something for every reader in order to gain a deeper understanding of who they are and the place they have in the world - or simply be entertained.”

Quercus is the publisher most represented on the list with three books including two from the MacLehose Press imprint. There are two from Penguin Random House (Harvill Secker) and one each from Yale University Press (Margellos World Republic of Letters), Bloomsbury and Pan Macmillan (Mantle). Independent publishers are represented by Pushkin Press (two titles), and one title each from Granta (Portobello Books), Head Of Zeus, Profile books (The Clerkenwell Press), Peirene Press and And Other Stories.

This year’s 15-strong longlist, was chosen by a panel of five judges from 111 titles from 28 source languages. The judges are:

Cristina Fuentes La Roche is the Director of Hay Festival Americas, replacing Rosie Goldsmith who has sadly had to withdraw for personal reasons

Antonia Lloyd-Jones is a full-time translator of Polish literature

Richard Mansell is Senior Lecturer in Translation at the University of Exeter

Helen Oyeyemi is the author of five novels, including White is for Witching, Mr Fox and Boy, Snow, Bird.

Boyd Tonkin is a senior writer and columnist for The Independent, and has been a longstanding judge of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize since 2000.

Translator Antonia Lloyd Jones said: “These books have brought me discoveries and delight. Reading them has taken me to places on earth I knew nothing about, introduced me to unforgettable personalities, and moved me by the power of their ability to present the human condition, as well as by the beauty of their writing. I hope other readers will find as much inspiration, novelty, emotion, and pure entertainment in the longlisted novels as I did, and that they’ll share my feeling that many of the stories and characters in them are going to stay with me for ever.”

The 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize was won by Iraqi writer Hassan Blasim and translator Jonathan Wright for The Iraqi Christ, published by Comma Press. Previous winners of the Prize include Orhan Pamuk and translator Victoria Holbrook in 1990 for The White Castle; WG Sebald and translator Anthea Bell in 2002 for Austerlitz; and Per Petterson and translator Anne Born in 2006 for Out Stealing Horses.

The shortlist will be announced on April 9th and the winner on May 27th.