Shadow iffp winner 2013

We started off in March with sixteen titles, the cream of the fiction in translation published in the UK last year. After a hard month of reading, thinking, discussion and cursing, the list was cut down to six by the offical panel – which is where we parted ways.

Having chosen four of the same titles as the official panel, the Shadow Panel (Tony, Lisa, Mark, Gary and myself) opted for two others to complete the full half-dozen, and then set about deciding which was to take out the prize…

Our road took us on a long journey through many times and lands. We spent a bizarre time in an ever-shifting, nineteenth-century German town, working on translations and kissing the local girls. We moved onto a dark exploration of Communist-era Hungary (and an even darker examination of human souls…). We went for walks around the rainy city of Barcelona, and then flew off to Dublin for a Bloomsday jaunt. We witnessed an extraordinary dinner party in Albania – and its consequences ten years on. We followed a boy from the Siberian wilds on his trip to Helsinki and watched as he encountered civilisation in all its forms. We fled to Wales (seeking some solitude) and shared a woman’s house – but not her secrets…

Then we came back to earth with a bump. There were discussions, disagreements, grudging acceptance, and then a decision…

Our choice for the winner of the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is:


Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas

(translated by Rosalind Harvey and Anne McLean)

My review of Dublinesque

Congratulations to the writer and translators – Dublinesque is a great book, and it would be a worthy winner of the real prize. So, can it do the double? We’ll find out very soon…

My Independent foreign fiction Prize shortlist 2013 Winstons choice

Well after the longlist was announced I quickly got two of the books I ve not read from my local Library ,then brought another and finally after my birthday I had enough too afford a Kindle and a voucher to get some books and got the Last two books from the longlist which early Monday morning I finished In praise of hatred .We from the shadow jury are busy giving our views on the list and compiling a shortlist .But as shortlist is announced tomorrow I decide to pick my personnel six books and then later in the week will share our shadow Jury shortlist .

Winstons shortlist

Satantango by Laszlo Kraznahoraki

SatantangoSatanTango was one of my favourite books from the last year ,I felt his prose are like wading through Treacle sticky , very tasty and tough going ,but should all books be easy ?

Traveller of the century By Andres Neuman

traveller of the centurySet in an imagined town in medieval Germany ,Andres Neuman showed why he is so lauded in Spain and Latin america .

A death in the family by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Death in the Family, AMaybe this is hyped or maybe not but I found the way he made the everyday and family life sparkle as never before ,grim at times but hey life isn’t a bed of roses .

Trieste by Dasa Drndic

trieste dasa drndicWell I felt this ahd HhHH are similar both quite stylistic books Iread both last year ,but it was this one that I still think over and am still touched by more than HhHH .

Dublinesque by Enrique Villa -Matas

DublinesqueA Joyce fan by Vila-Matas is writes a homage to his hero and the city he was from Dublin .Riba is also in the publishing buisness what is not to love .

In praise of hatred By Khaled Khalifa

In praise of HatredWell I’ve yet to review but this openss Syria up although set in the past one can see the horrors people have had to endure .So much it was banned there .

So there we go ,I ve read all the books thought over ,digested and absorb and this is Winstonsdad’s view of this year longlist and my Favourites I must admit this years jugdes did a stunning job choosing this years longlist ,I Know there isn’t a bad book on the list having read them all .




The last of the Vostyachs by Diego Marani


The last of the Vostyachs by Diego Marani

Italian fiction

Original title – L’ultimo dei Vostiach

Translator – Judith Landry

Source – Personnel copy on Kindle

Well I was surprised when Diego Marani name appeared for a second year in a row on the Independent Foreign fiction prize longlist .As last years book was very near to winning in my opinion ,so although I hadn’t read this one , I had it on my Radar to read at some point .So to Diego Marani , he still works for the European Commisson in the department dealing with translation .,he also writes a number of pieces for the culture section of the Italian Paper Il Sole 24 Ore.

Since that day Ivan had not uttered a word .He had carried on washing stones in the pool of icy water ,had split rocks with his pick axe ,had pushed the wheelbarrow along the steep ,slippery path ,had gone about all his work with lowered eyes ,had endured all manner of humiliation ,eating without looking to see what they poured into his mess tin ,getting up at dawn and going to bed at sunset with out a word .

Ivan in his Camp days .

So as before with his earlier book “” new Finnish grammar” this book is set around Finland and in particular its language . The action is actually all in Finland unlike New Finnish grammar .We meet a Linguist who is on a field trip trying to research trying to find the missing link in the development of the Finnish language (a language that only has connections to Hungarian and Estonian) .When out of nowhere appears a man Ivan this man was in the forced labour camps of the soviet era and hasn’t spoken for a number of years living in the back and beyond of Finland since his release for twenty years ,when he does speak its strange to Olga as he is the last member of the Voystach speakers an old language that links finnish to a number of other theories she has had ,this language links and is the missing link Olga has been looking for .So she packs this wild man Ivan has spent years in the wilderness to Helsinki ,what follows is a battle as She presents her results to a Meeting of Congress of Finno Ugric ,a Note professor tries to sideline her findings ,meanwhile Ivan isn’t really suited to the city and soon finds himself in trouble in the big city .Plus a number of creatures escape from the zoo and dead bodies appear .

Ivan woke up in a sweat .He sat up in his bunk not knowing where he was ,and gazed around him in bewilderment at the dimly light cabin .He was hungry and thirsty .He felt around ,on the shelves ,in the drawers of the bedside locker among the covers .He pulled on a handle found himself faced by a row of bottles ; there were also bars of chocolates.

Ivan struggles with city life .

So Like New Finnish Grammar and again the Finnish Language ,I can see the attraction to him I remember Michael Palin talking to Finnish people on a bus about their language in his series pole to pole and since then have been intrigued , as it is such a unique language and difficult to master with little connection to other European languages .I think this is the point that gave Marani a starting Kernel for this story” what if there is a language X out there ?” to fill in the gap in the history of Finnish ,rather like the constant clues for the stages of Human Evolution .This books differs from the last by him ,as it has a wit mainly due to the human condition, Ivan being a man out of water in the city ,the linguist trying to out do one another .The book has a thriller feel about it but a clever version of this genre with twists and turns the struggle between Olga and the professor and the man caught up in this the pawn Ivan .Also a lot of history of the region is involved mainly Russian rule and influence over the country and area ,We see this in the fact Ivan hates Russian being spoken .

Have you read this book ?

Bundu by Chris Barnard


Bundu by Chris Barnard

South African (Afikanns ) literature

Original title – Boendoe

Translator Michiel Heyns

Source – review copy sent for iffp review

Well I must admit of all the books on this years Independent foreign fiction longlist ,this one came out of right field for me ,I was unaware of Chris Barnard and must admit haven’t read many Afrikaans novels from south africa .So this one has been for me a journey of discovery ,first to the writer .Chris Barnard ,studied art at the university of Pretoria in the fifties ,he then became involved with the Afrikaans writing group Die Sestigers a group of Afrikaans writers including Andre Brink (whom I have read ) ,Breyten Breytenbach (whom I have archipelago books collection by him they published a couple of years ago on my tbr pile ) and a few others .Any way they sought to voice their opions against apartheid from the Afrikaans point of view .Chris Barnard is also a well-known film and Tv producer in his home country ,his second novel Mahala is consider a south African classic ,he has written 18 books this was his last novel to be published in 1999 .

The Baboon troop had originally not really been part of my research .simply because quite a bit of my research had previously been done on every aspect of their feeding habits .But Eugene Marais’s more or less scientific writings on his observations of Baboons in the Waterberg had fascinated me ever since childhood ,even though initially it had been a romantic enchantment rather than scientific interest .

Brand tell how he got there

Well Bundu ,is set in Mozambique ,near the border with South africa in a remote part of the country ,in a small struggling Clinic ,we met them among them is pious nuns ,a drunken pilot ,the clinic volunteers and Brand `de le ray who is studying the local Baboons .During the course of the novel we see this group of people struggle as the rain have failed to come and we see how man is the same as the world around him when this happens we all need water and substance to survive ,along side this runs a love story involving Brand and someone from the clinic , as the tragic figures in this remote place are caught and waiting for much-needed help, are struggling to get by .Will Help get there ,how much have we in common with nature ? what is the aftermath of the war that happened between South africa and Mozambique .

Sister Roma and Sister Erdman were both out of sorts ,and I spent the rest of the day helping Julia and Vukile in the clinic .There was a child with what seemed to be a broken arm and I tried to devise a splint .I sterilized syringes and carried a wet mattress out into the sun and helped make beds and fed weak patients .I tried to steer clear of the smaller ward with the seriously ill patients .

The situations starts getting worse for the clinic all hands to the pumps .

Now this is a book that if it hadn’t been for the IFFP longlist I wouldn’t have picked up ,although vaguely aware of the Die Sestigers via Brink and Breytenbach .Barnard is different to brink but what shines through his prose is a love of the land and also how closely man is connected to the land we live on and the creatures around us .Strange I was reading this as I listen to Simon Savidge and Gav reads pod cast the other day about Literary fiction and Plot driven books ,well I must say this is one of the most plot driven books I have read in a long while ,also fast paced writing you can almost feel a speeding drum beat as you read drawing you ever near to the end of the book

Have you a favourite South African writer ?

Have you read many books translated from Afrikaans ?

The fall of the stone city by Ismail Kadare

the fall of the stone city

The Fall of the Stone city by Ismail Kadare

Albanian fiction

Original title – Darka e gabuar

Translator – John Hodgson

Source Library

Well when this was named on the longlist for this years Independent foreign fiction prize longlist I was please ,not being a big fan of reading completely the works of writers ,I was pleased to have a chance to revisit Ismail Kadare ,this is the fourth book by Him I will have read ,I have also under review the pyramid .The big difference between that book and this one is the fact this one has been translated directly from Albanian not French like a number of the earlier novels were as secondary translations .Ismail Kadare is probably the best known Albanian writer (there are others dalkey archive have published one I know off ),his books have opened the lid on Albanian life for more than fifty years .He was born in Gjirokastër which happens to be the setting for this novel .

And what happened was this :on the afternoon that preceded the dinner ,after the tanks and armoured vehicles had rumbled and rattled their way into town ,there stepped out from one of the military cars onto the city square Colonel Fritz Von Schwabe ,commander of the German division and bearer of the Iron cross his legs still stiff ,he stood surveying the scene and announced “Gjirokastër I have a friend here .”

The colonel arrives and remembers his friend the doctor

This book starts in the second world war and just as the Germany army is heading in Albanians direction as they look to grab land and recourse .They arrive in Gjirokastër. A troop of soldiers is sent to the town they are led by a Colonel Von Schwabe .This Nazis officer is happy to be coming to Gjirokastër as he has a very old friend that lives in the town ,the town doctor ,with whom he studied when younger .So he is invited to the Doctor Gurmante for dinner .The next day we see the troops move out of the town the doctor is called a hero by the people in the town ,are these two events connected ? what will happen after the war to the doctor when the communist take over the country .The facts are clear the Germans were bad ,but then the authoritarian regime that followed the war was also very brutal .This book shows war and the aftermath in one place ,on one man and what repercussions happen due to friendship he had with a german officer .We see one man go from Hero to villain over the course of this book .

As evening fell ,another man was listening carefully to the tumult from the upper floor .The unhinged Remzi Kadare ,the former owner of the house ,huddled in army blankets added his own expletives to the bedlam above .”you tart ! You whore !” he shouted ,addressing the house that had been his own house before he lost it at poker .

Is this a member of Ismail Kadare’s family ?is kadare a popular name in Albania .

Well this one shocked me I have found in the past Kadare uses a lot of imagery like in the pyramid where the building of a pyramid in egypt echoes events in communist Albania .But, no this felt a much more personnel book from Kadare than pother by him I have read ,I think because it is set in his home town of Gjirokastër ,there is a character with the same surname as him in the book makes me think this is Kadare want to talk about his childhood ,he seven when the Germans invade his home town .In some ways the way the story is worked is like a child remembering what happen ,there is truth and there is lies ,the germans came but didn’t leave as in the book .Was there a doctor ? well to me it doesn’t matter at the heart of this book is a discourse on extreme regimes and their effect on the public whether right-wing or lef wing it is the way they treat the people who is remembered .I felt Kadare’s writing follows better in this book sure that is due the nature of it being a direct translation .But part of me thing that fact this is published after the Albanian regime has fallen Kadare is free to speak about past events than before .

Have you read Kadare ?

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