Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014 – Official Shortlist

Yesterday we, the Shadow IFFP Jury announced our six books that we believed were the best from the fifteen longlisted entries. Today it is the turn of the judges to announce their six. This is a difficult post as I’m loathe to begrudge any fine translated works, and as a Shadow Jury we did agree tha this was one of the strongest long lists for a number of years. However I do have a few issues with their selections.
Onto their shortlist first though:
A Man in Love (My Struggle Part 2) by Karl Ove Knausgaard – Book two of Karl Ove’s six book series sees him moving from Norway to Sweden and his falling in love and having children. The outpourings of the soul, to his partner, friends, and family are all on the pages to see, raw and exposed.
A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli – A very simple tale of three men (our narrator, Bauer and Emmerich) who avoid the roster-ed killings in a “German Nazi concentration camp in German-occupied Poland” and take to the road to find “one of them”. 
Revenge by Yoko Ogawa – Review coming later this week
Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami – A book I reviewed under the title “the briefcase”. “the briefcase” is a moving sparse and deeply emotional tale of loneliness, emptiness and love but in a style that that is removed and scant enough to elicit a sadness that lingers long after the final page has been read.
The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim – Could you possibly imagine Gabriel Garcia Marquez being in Iraq? The magic realism spun into stories containing assassination attempts, decrepit hospitals, insurgents kidnapped and other Iraqi atrocities.
The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke – Review coming later this week
As you can see the Shadow Jury and the judges only agreed upon two works, Karl Ove Knausgaard and Birgit Vanderbeke.
Personally (and this opinion in no way reflects the other shadow jury members) I feel as though the final six has been diminished by the exclusion of Andrei Makine’s “Brief Loves That Live Forever” and Jon Kalman Stefansson’s “The Sorrow of Angels”. Both deep contemplative works that address the core of humanity.
Last year I felt that Kawakami’s work was not strong enough to win the Man Asia prize and even though it is simple and deals with emotional emptiness in my mind it is too “shallow” compared to other works on the long list.
Similar story for Mingarelli’s “A Meal In Winter”, at not more than 100 pages it is a very simple tale, and it does have a great moral grounding, again the breadth of the humility and depth of angst is too short to be included in a shortlist.
The Iraqi Christ is a magical collection of fourteen short stories, some more robust and enjoyable than others. The fact that it is an uneven collection makes it a non contender in my opinion. The other work from Iraq “The Corpse Washer” deals with similar occupation and human issues but in a simpler narrative style and through the eyes of a Shi’ite corpse washer, not your usual protagonist.
Not one of the shortlist is a poor work and it is a varied list, although two Japanese writers is odd, but besides Karl Ove Knausgaard’s work it is a list that is primarily focused on the “short”, quick instant gratification reads.
Personally I think it is a diminished list given some great works have been omitted.
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One thought on “Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014 – Official Shortlist

  1. I completely agree that this is a diminished list. The exclusion of The Sorrows of Angels is heartbreaking to me, and I also would have liked to see The Infatuations and Brief Loves That Live a Forever. Even Ten should not have been excluded. I now think their agenda is more political than anything else.

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