The winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is shortly to be announced in London, so it’s time for the Shadow IFFP Jury to announce its choice of winner.
The following is the press release from Stu, from Winston’s Dad the Chair of this year’s Shadow IFFP.
We all undertook the journey of judging the 2012 shadow IFFP eight weeks ago. This journey first took us to Asia, 1980’s Tokyo (or is it?), a mother’s disappearance in Seoul and a chilling look at the AIDS crisis in rural China. Then we read two Hebrew novels: the first set in the present, introducing us to an old man and a village; the other in World War Two, showing us a young Jewish man on the run, hiding in a most unexpected place.
Next, it was off to Germany, and two books dealing with death. In the first, a husband is shocked at discovering his wife’s view of him after her death; in the other a women called Alice has friends and lovers alike die around her. At this point, we relaxed for a while in Hungary, soaking in a little of the country’s rich history – and its hidden sexual underground – until deciding to head north to make the acquaintance of an eccentric Icelandic autodidact with an interest in sea creatures and the occult.
We then journeyed further into Scandinavia, meeting a professor stuck in a mid-life crisis, who is witness to a murder, and a roguish leader of a Jewish community in a Second-World-War ghetto, before two Italian novels introduced us to a villain of the top order in 19th-century Europe, and a shipwrecked man with a forgotten heritage. Skipping forward to 1980s Paris, we learned about a group of friends facing the AIDS crisis head on, while a trip back in time courtesy of a Basque writer took us to Colonial Africa and a man heading into an army camp gone rogue.
This journey hasn’t been the easiest for us as judges, as most of the books dealt with death and the darker side of human life. However, they show the wealth of literary talent around the world and the wonderful work modern translators carry out. We as judges have discovered a lot about each other, digesting and discussing the books and slowly trimming our list down to our winner… and it is with great pleasure that we announce that winner:
From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón
Translated by Victoria Cribb
Published in the UK by Telegram Books
We all liked – and some of us loved – this book; nobody really had a bad word to say about it. All of us felt entranced by the writing and by Sjón’s voice. Through Jonas’ eyes, the writer captured 17th-century Iceland so well, and this was helped by Victoria Cribb’s translation which, through its usage of archaic vocabulary and grammatical forms, gave it the feel of a book that had just been unearthed, not written. From the Mouth of the Whale is a worthy first winner of the Shadow Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
To see reviews of all the books, see the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Combined Reviews.
Thanks for inviting me to participate, Stu!