Posted by: Lisa Hill | February 8, 2018

A new translation prize, and a new shadow jury!

Update 12/4/18 The winner of the prize is Istanbul, Istanbul.  See my review here and the judges’ comments here.


If you subscribe to Stu’s blog at Winston’s Dad you will know that there is a New EBRD prize set up by the European bank of Reconstruction and Development.  It’s for fiction translated to English from the 40 countries that the EBRD works with.  This is a great boost for translated fiction, and so Stu (a.k.a. The Ambassador for Translated Fiction) and I have formed a small Shadow Jury to bring you our reviews of the shortlisted titles and (of course) our opinion about which one the winner should be.

As you can see from the EBRD website,  the chair, Rosie Goldsmith, has high hopes for the prize:

Already I can predict this prize is here to stay. It’s different and it’s important. Our entries came from Armenia to Albania, the Baltics to the Balkans and beyond. This prize has broadened my mind and also my definition of the novel. We’ve read a Turkish feminist road novel, a love story from Beirut, a memoir from Morocco, a black comedy from Albania and a rollicking Russian satire – just a few of our entries, from established writers to those who deserve to be: the standard of storytelling and of translation is excellent and our winners will blow you away.”

Stu has reviewed three of the shortlisted books already, and I’ve read one with more on my TBR.

Here are the six shortlisted titles.  Links on the titles are to Stu’s reviews, and I’ll add mine as we go along.

  • All the World’s a Stage by Boris Akunin (translated by Andrew Bromfield from Russian, Weidenfeld & Nicolson), see my review
  • Belladonna by Daša Drndic (translated by Celia Hawkesworth from Croatian, Maclehose/ Quercus), see my review
  • The Traitor’s Niche by Ismail Kadare (translated by John Hodgson from Albanian, Penguin), see my review 
  • The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk (translated by Ekin Oklap from Turkey, Faber & Faber), Update 12/2/18, see my review
  • Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez (translated by Ümit Hussein from Turkish, Telegram Books), see my review and 
  • Maryam: Keeper of Stories by Alawiya Sobh (translated by Nirvana Tanoukhi from Arabic, Seagull Books) on my TBR.

I’m currently reading the Pamuk because I started listening to an abridged version on BBC4 from the Reading Europe Programme and I decided I wanted to read the real thing.

More soon!

PS (from the EBRD website, underlining mine:

The first prize of €20,000 will be equally divided between the winning author and translator. Two runners-up and their translators will receive a prize of €1,000 each. The three finalist books will be announced in early March 2018.

The winner will be announced in London at an award ceremony at the EBRD’s headquarters at One Exchange Square, London, on 10 April 2018, to coincide with the London Book Fair.


  1. Five of these are completely new to me (which is partly what makes these prizes so interesting). Have fun with it!


  2. I do like the sound of this new prize and the ethos behind it. It’s brave of you and Stu to form a shadow jury since I know what a committment those tend to be. But thank you in advance for doing what we will all benefit from ….


    • Thanks, Karen… it doesn’t seem to be too onerous because there’s only six on the shortlist, and there’s no Knaussgard!


      • that’s more manageable than most shadow jury commitments. I would struggle personally to read that quickly but you do far better than I do


        • I’m struggling a bit with All the World’s a Stage. It’s a murder mystery and I haven’t really become interested in it so far…


          • Thats not really your kind of thing generally is it


            • No, you’re right, it’s not. I like them when there’s something else going on, as in Malla Nunn’s Emmanuel Cooper novels, which are as much about apartheid South Africa as they are about solving a mystery, but most of the time, they just bore me.
              I think it’s because you have to read them differently. With a detective novel you have to keep an eye out for the clues, and try to bring them together to solve the mystery. That’s the point of reading crime fiction. Whereas with a real novel, it’s not about clues, it’s about ideas, or a theme. I expect to learn a different way of looking at the world in some way, rather than just piece together the bits of a jigsaw puzzle.


              • I’ve enjoyed crime fiction in the past but am realising that I don’t retain any of the info – it goes in one eye and out of the other as it were without touching the brain cells in between. Wheras other books I can think about long after I finished reading….I’ll probably still read a few crime fiction novels now and again but maybe they will be on audio instead


  3. Interesting. I know someone from the ERBD who said they were disappointed there are so many big names on the list. Hope you have fun reading them though… be interesting to see which one you like best.


    • There’s a continuous tension over the purpose of any prize: do we reward excellence which tends to come from established authors at the top of their game, or do we use the prize as an encouragement award, providing an income for an emerging writer to develop their craft? My view is that I don’t think there’s enough acknowledgement of fine writing and that emerging writers should be encouraged with grants, not by winning major prizes with books that aren’t in the same league…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. […] So this explains why a crime novel is shortlisted for the new EBRD Literature Prize for Translation! […]


  5. Winner announced last night – ‘Istanbul Istanbul’ by Burhan Sönmez and translated by Ümit Hussein
    More at the link


    • Thanks, Tony, I didn’t get anything in my Twitter feed about this, so very grateful to you!

      Liked by 1 person

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