Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 14, 2012

Announcing the 2012 Shadow Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

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.


I want to thank all my fellow Judges for making this a successful first year for the Shadow IFFP. [That’s Rob, Simon, GaryMark, fellow Aussie  Tony, and me].

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

From the Mouth of the WhaleWe 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!

Fishpond: From the Mouth of the Whale


  1. This as you know was my favourite, So I’m a happy Bunny just hope the official jury agree with our decision.


    • Well, that would be nice for the author, because while the honour and glory of a Shadow Prize is significant LOL, real money would probably please him too…


  2. We—–ll I was thinking of asking Stu, that if we did this next year we could offer a prize, I think I could manage a couple a quid (£2) if we all did the same I’m sure it would add kudos to our future decisions :@)


    • PS, have added your combined list to my announcement post.


      • Thanks re the list: I myself found it handy to have them all in one place, and I like it when other bloggers do this too.
        Re a prize: nooo, I think not. It’s not in the spirit of a Shadow competition, which is ethereal, misty (or foggy when it’s in London), and ephemeral. Perhaps a virtual certificate could be created, but that’s about it IMO.


  3. we meet his translator she has done five of his books Lisa so more to look forward to she was lovely and was pleased top have won the shadow prize she knew we choose it as telegram had told her ,all the best stu


    • That’s wonderful, Stu. And hopefully for her the Shadow Prize won’t just be a ‘small compensation’ for not winning the real prize, between us we have given From the Mouth of the Whale a huge boost in publicity and that will hopefully translate into sales around the world. (Gosh, when I think how many books I’ve bought from recommendations on your blog, another one arrived from the Book Depository just this week!)


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