The shadow Independent foreign fictionprize shortlist 2012

Well the four weeks since the longlist was announced and us of the shadow jury have read and digest all the books on the longlist between us .I read the remaining nine books from the longlist I d not read before and have reviewed eight of them .So after we all scored the books partly for story and partly for translation for this first round we came up with the shadow shortlist which was chosen from seven books one missing out by a fraction of a point .Next round we will be discussing and not scoring the boos so here is our shortlist –

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist this year has once again shown us just how powerful and emotive translated fiction can be. The overall tone of this year’s Prize has been a dark and sombre one, with many of titles taking us back to reflect on the horrors of the past. As such the reading experience has been wholly affecting, and it has proven to be no easy task in reducing the longlist down to a final selection of six.
Encapsulated in our final ‘shadow’ shortlist selection is what we feel to be the cream of the crop of this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. These are the six titles which not only fully demonstrate the range and scope of this year’s Prize, but they also stand as a glowing example of what can be achieved when writer and translator form the perfect bond.

Parallel Stories by Peter Nadas translator Imre Goldstein .

Sex and violence behind in cold war era central Europe

Scenes From Village life by Amos Oz translator Nicholas De Lange

A Israeli village from the point of view of an old man

The Prague cemetery by Umberto Eco translator Richard Dixon

A master of evil pulls the stings in 19th century europe

From the mouth of the whale by Sjon translator Victoria Cribb

Birds whales and one chap in 17th century Iceland

Next world Novella by Mattihas Politycki translator Anthea Bell

Married is it what we think ,she dies he finds out

Seven Houses in france by Bernardo Atxaga translator Magaret Jull Costa

Heart of the Congo it is really dark .

So that is our fab six we will be choice our winner from this and also choosing a winner from the proper booktrust IFFP shortlist out tomorrow .Lets compare our lists then .

thanks to my fellow judges so far –







From the mouth of the Whale by Sjon

From the mouth of the whale by Sjon

Icelandic fiction

Translator Victoria Cribb

Sjon is an icelandic writer his full name is Sigurjon Birgir Sigurosson ,he started as a poet in the late 1970’s ,during 80’s he work closely with the icelandic band Sugarcubes in their early days and is himself involved in the local music scene  and has worked with Bjork since she left the sugarcubes on a number of projects .He has written seven novels this was his latest novel ,I first notice him a couple of years ago when some fellow bloggers reviewed his novel The blue fox .At moment these are his only two books to be translated in to english lets hope more get done .

Jonas drew diagrams from worm showing how the fish lay in the sea ,wielding its tusk like a lance ,and a comparison of these with the royal specimen convinced worm that it was a Narwhal skull with a tusk and nothing more .And so that day in the museum wormianum the Unicorn’s fate was sealed :a year after his meeting with Jonas Palmason .Ole Worm published a epoch-making article on the similarity between Narwhal tusks and Unicorn horns .

Jonas helps Ole Worm

So His latest book to be translated into english is From the mouth of the whale it is set in 1635 ,maybe just before the age of enlightenment but this is part of this books story the change from myths and legends to real science is facing the world and maybe via this simple guy .At the centre of the novel is the life of Jonas Palmason ,Jonas is a daydreams ,a bit of vagrant and has had really bad luck.He seen at the start  eating weird  things like ravens head .Nature is a recurring theme in this book from the title to Jonas only friend a purple sandpiper .He spends time with Ole worm a scientist of sorts He does this while in exile .I feel what we see is the progression of Jonas He starts of as a man stuck in tradition of magic and myths of Iceland ,he learnt via dead creatures how bodies worked and became a sort of healer using nature  ,then in the middle section we see him connecting with science ,like a description of a unicorn horn that isn’t but a narwhal horn having seen one years ago in a museum  I remember reading there was a roaring trade in deceiving people it  was a real unicorn horn,he shows how Ole worm worked out it would need to be a surreal horse of gigantic size that could wear such a horn on its head . Then  in the end examing the world anew seeing  all the wonderful creatures .We also see the woes of some Basque whalers that have arrived to whale the icelandic waters .


This book is strange gem wonderfully dynamic poetic prose ,a wonderfully  quirky lead character and a cast of odd people and creatures ,a feel like it could have been written 300 years ago but also with a lightness of humour at times .I could picture this tale being told by a beard chap by fire light as we all gather round there are certain passages in this book you just want speak out loud to feel the word on your lips .As I read I was reminded one programmes I loved as a kid was Noggin the nog the peter Firmin animated series ,in that we saw account dragons , talking birds and ships .as it was based on Nordic sagas this book had the same feel  as from the mouth did .Victoria Cribb has worked wonder on the translation which has kept a certain poetic tone and also not lost what is the sagaic feel of the book (in my opinion not reading icelandic but one feels it must have )

April 2012


%d bloggers like this: