Shadow IFFP JURY 2015

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This year Tony and I have brought together the biggest shadow jury . But a truly global  jury for a prize for world fiction . We have bloggers from the US , UK , France ,India and Australia .I feel we will really get the IFFP noticed around the world .

Chairman Stu blogger at winstonsdad , champion of translated fiction and starter of this shadow IFFp prize bringing the world of fiction to the readers so far 500 books from a 100 countries .Also twitter fan at @stujallen started hashtag #translationthurs to promote translated fiction . By day a support worker working with people with learning disabilties for the last twenty years .

Tony Malone is an Englishman based in Melbourne who teaches English as a second language to prospective university students .He is interested in foreign languages and literature , focusing in particular on German , Japanese and Korean . He blogs about literary fiction in translation at Tony’s reading list and can be found on twitter  at @tony_malone  .

 

Joe Schreiber was born in the US, but has lived most of his life in or near Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He would really welcome a change should his adult children ever leave the nest. Presently on leave from a career in human services, he is finding more time for reading and writing. He has had a long standing interest in international literature, both in English and in translation, primarily from Europe and Africa. He blogs at https://roughghosts.wordpress.com/ and is learning to use Twitter at@roughghosts

 

Messy Tony backs up for his second IFFP Shadow Jury and having a long history of charitable work with other cultures he’s recently been a convert to learning about the many varied cultures through the literary eye. Blogger for Messenger’s Booker, Tony has been known to decline romantic dinner dates for a thick book and a blanket. Being an occasional Central Australian desert dweller, a good book helps with the isolation (maybe there’s a book in that???) tweets at @messy_tony

Emma Cazabonne is French and has been living in the US for 15 years. After university studies focusing on foreign languages, she has been an English-French translator for about 25 years. She is currently translating into French novels by Tanya Anne Crossby. She is also an online French tutor and the owner and sole operator of the virtual book tour company France Book Tours. She blogs at Words And Peace. She is especially interested in books in French as well as translated from the French and the Japanese. She can be found on Twitter @wordsandpeace

Chelsea McGill is an American living in Kolkata, India who recently got married and finished a Master’s degree from the University of Chicago. She is interested in the anthropological and psychological aspects of international literature. She blogs at The Globally Curious and tweets from @chelsea_mcgill4.

Julianne Pachico was born in Cambridge, grew up in Colombia and now lives in Norwich, where she is completing her PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of East Anglia. She is working on a linked collection of short stories and blogs at never-stop-reading.com. Twitter: @juliannepachico

Clare started blogging at A Little Blog of Books three years ago. When she’s not doing her day job in London, she blogs mostly about contemporary literary fiction and particularly enjoys reading books by French and Japanese authors. Twitter: @littleblogbooks

Bellezza lives in the United States where she has been a teacher for 28 years. Her passion for translated literature has grown enormously since she began hosting the Japanese Literature Challenge eight years ago. This is the second year she has participated on the Shadow Jury for the IFFP. Her blog is Dolce Bellezza, and her Twitter handle is @bellezzamjs

David Hebblethwaite was born in the north of England and now lives in the south with a lot of books. He’s trying to read more from around the world, and to work out exactly how and why his reading tastes have changed recently. He blogs his thoughts at David’s Book World, and tweets as @David_Heb.

 Grant Rintoul teaches English in Scotland, where, amid towering piles of marking and bringing up two children, he somehow still manages to find the time to read. He blogs at https://1streading.wordpress.com/ attempting to keep his English language reviews proportionate to those from the rest of the world. You can follow him on Twitter@grantrintoul where, among all the literary links, he will occasionally irritate you with obscure references to Scottish politics.

 

Who’s going to win the Independent foreign fiction prize 2014

Well the shadow Jury announced their winner yesterday it was Sorrow of Angels ,one that missed the real shortlist .So as you read this I’m on a train heading to the Bg smoke as I was grateful to be invited to the 2014 award night for the Independent foreign fiction prize 2014 .Tony did his round-up and thought on the shortlist and whom he thought would win .So I decide to be rather fun and go for an if this book was a footballer post for fun  and whom I’d think will win .So here are the books from the shortlist .

The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blassim

download (1)

A collection of short stories , brutal at times and surreal at others .

My review  

If the book was a player it be Younis Mahmoud ,I struggled to find a Iraqi that had played in the Uk there is one that had been at Spurs but hadn’t played for them ,so I cast my net further afield and found Younis Mahmoud one the most capped Iraqi ,players watching a couple of you tube clips ,rather like the book Younis remind me of a classic old fashion centre forward rather like Hassan prose remind me of classic short story writers .

A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard

A man in Love

The second in the six book stgory of Karl Ove life seems him coping with early adulthood and becoming a father .

My review 

If this book was a player ,well one struck me straight away and that was the baby face assassin Ole Gunnar  Solskjær .As a united fan ,he is a player rather like Karl Ove made an impact straight away when he usually came of the bench like when we won the champions league .A folk hero character ,rather like Karl Ove that has his own mythology around him .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsNLo_a65sY

Strange weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawkami

the briefcase

A may to december story of a former Pupil and her former teacher fall in love in a sort of shared loneliness  ,I ve chosen the US cover as this was the book I read

My review 

Now if this book was a player ,I’ve picked Shinji Kagawa ,the player who United brought from Dortmund ,he has yet to fit fully into the team but has shown flashes of brilliance at times and what is to come and that is like this book flashes of great thing to come from the writer .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vb4XN4R6YCE

A meal in winter by Hubert Mingarelli

a-meal-in-winter

Two soldiers , a Jewish man and a Pole stuck in a room sort of microcosm of the war share an evening as the snow traps them .

My review  

Well I initially thought of King Eric but actually settled for Laurent Blanc , he had a cameo at united and rather like this book we hoped to have seen more of him like we hope to see more of Mingarelli .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MslBpe0CcSY

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

revenge by Yoko Ogawa

A collection of dark interlink through motifs stories from a master of the short story form .

My review 

Hidetoshi Nakata is the player I imagine for this book a clever midfield that broke out of Asian football and played in Italy for a number of seasons .Like the book Nakata was a player you just loved to watch playing for his silky skills like Ogawa writing is one I love reading .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-6kuuV19Hs

The Mussel feast by Brigit Vanderbeke

the mussel feast

A family have cook a favourite meal of the absent father a book set just as the wall is falling in Berlin .

My review 

Well when I thought of this rather mad post ,this is the first player I thought of Matthias Sammer as one of the first East germans to player for the unified german team Sammer was amazing he was a commanding defender and sweeper that controlled games ,but had to retire early due to injury and maybe like this book as I’ve said what differenece would it have made coming out at the time ,what did we miss from Sammer due to that injury .

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbd2yehoD1g

SO for me its between Mussl feast or A man in love to win ,I can not seperate those two and another is in with a chance which you may guess .Who do you fancy winning this year ?

 

The winner of the Shadow IFFP 2014

In 2014, for the third year in a row, Chairman Stu gathered together a group of brave bloggers to tackle the task of shadowing the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. It’s not a task for the faint of heart – in addition to having to second-guess the strange decisions of the ‘real’ panel, the foolhardy volunteers undertook a voyage around the literary world, all in a matter of months…

On our journey around the globe, we started off by eavesdropping on some private conversations in Madrid, before narrowly avoiding trouble with the locals in Naples. A quick flight northwards, and we were in Iceland, traipsing over the snowy mountains and driving around the iconic ring road – with a child in tow. Then it was time to head south to Sweden and Norway, where we had a few drinks (and a lot of soul searching) with a man who tended to talk about himself a lot.

Next, it was off to Germany, where we almost had mussels for dinner, before spending some time with an unusual family on the other side of the wall. After another brief bite to eat in Poland, we headed eastwards to reminisce with some old friends in Russia – unfortunately, the weather wasn’t getting any better.

We finally left the snow and ice behind, only to be welcomed in Baghdad by guns and bombs. Nevertheless, we stayed there long enough to learn a little about the customs involved in washing the dead, and by the time we got to Jerusalem, we were starting to have a bit of an identity crisis…

Still, we pressed on, taking a watery route through China to avoid the keen eye of the family planning officials, finally making it across the sea to Japan. Having arrived in Tokyo just in time to witness a series of bizarre ‘accidents’, we rounded off the trip by going for a drink (or twelve) at a local bar with a strangely well-matched couple – and then it was time to come home 🙂

Of course, there was a method to all this madness, as our journey helped us to eliminate all the pretenders and identify this year’s cream of the crop. And the end result? This year’s winner of the Shadow Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is:

SOrrow of angels

The Sorrow of Angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson
(translated by Philip Roughton, published by MacLehose Press)

This was a very popular (and almost unanimous) winner, a novel which stood out amongst a great collection of books. We all loved the beautiful, poetic prose, and the developing relationship between the two main characters – the taciturn giant, Jens, and the curious, talkative boy – was excellently written. Well done to all involved with the book – writer, translator, publisher and everyone else 🙂

Some final thoughts to leave you with…

– Our six judges read a total of 83 books (an average of almost fourteen per person), and ten of the books were read and reviewed by all six of us.
– This was our third year of shadowing the prize and the third time in a row that we’ve chosen a different winner to the ‘experts’.
– After the 2012 Shadow Winner (Sjón’s From the Mouth of the Whale), that makes it two wins out of three for Iceland – Til hamingju!
– There is something new about this year’s verdict – it’s the first time we’ve chosen a winner which didn’t even make the ‘real’ shortlist…

Stu, Tony, Jacqui, David, Bellezza and Tony would like to thank everyone out there for all their interest and support over the past few months – rest assured we’re keen to do it all over again next year 🙂

A few thoughts from me ,I have loved hosting this year as everyone has made a real effort to read all the books and 83 reviews out there is a great acheivement and wonderful way to promote the IFFP to a wider readership .

The sorrow of angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

SOrrow of angels

The sorrow of angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Icelandic fiction

Original title – Harmur englanna

Translator – Philip Roughton

Source – review copy

I might have speculated on my chances of going to Heaven; but candidly I did not care. I could not have wept if I had tried. I had no wish to review the evils of my past. But the past did seem to have been a bit wasted. The road to Hell may be paved with good intentions: the road to Heaven is paved with lost opportunities.

Apsley Cherry Garrard from his book the worst journey in the world .via goodreads

Well yesterday I covered part one of this trilogy Heaven and Hell  ,so far Jón Kalman Stefánsson has written nine novels and in 2005 won the Icelandic Literature prize .Like the first in this trilogy I read this on more than one occasion the prose are very rich and need to be savoured on more than one occasion I feel .

It’s snowing .The snowflakes fill the vault of the sky and pile up on the world .The wind is gentle and drifts hold their shape ,The surface of the sea is calm and ceaselessly swallows the snow .

Weather but a little calmer than in other parts of the book .

Well I think that quote sums this book up well ,the book follows a journey taken by the still unnamed boy who was one of the main characters in the first book and Jens a postman as they seek to deliver a package for a doctor in the hinterland of Iceland .Now the boy an orphan whom in the first book lost his good friend seems a much more rounded character in this book one who because of his past has fallen in love with books .The journey sees the two battle each other and the elements around them and maybe grow to know each other from this shared journey .As they move from farm to farm to get the item delivered .

The coffee brews .

Oh, the aroma of this black drink !

Why do we have to remember it so well ;it’s been so very long , since we could drink coffee , many decades ,yet still the tast and pleasure haunts us .Our bodies were devoured to the last morsel long ago .

As a coffee lover Stefanssson often mentions coffee .

Snow ,snow ,snow ,cold ,wind this is maybe the book summed up in five words what we have here like the first book is a book is about man and his surrounds ,how we can conquer most things but the elements still even now (although this book is set a hundred years ago ) we struggle in the worst conditions to get by .Again the book is told in a collective voice ,an echo of a past gone but kept alive in these pages .The journey they are  undertaking is maybe an eternal one that man has been taken since the beginning of time  , the one that isn’t about getting there but about taking the journey .Philip Roughton has caught what I call the cold feel of the book ,I assume there is more in Icelandic about cold and cold weather but he has still managed to make you feel a real chill down your spine ,this would be a great book to read on a hot summers day as it will cool you down .This is another from this years IFFP it is on our shadow shortlist .

Have you read either of the books by this writer ?

 

Jacqui review the infatuations by Javier Marias

the infatuations

The Infatuations by Javier Marías
Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa

When someone tells us something, it always seems like a fiction, because we don’t know the story at first hand and can’t be sure it happened, however much we are assured that the story is a true one, not an invention, but real. At any rate, it forms part of the hazy universe of narratives, with their blind spots and contradictions and obscurities and mistakes, all surrounded and encircled by shadows or darkness, however hard they strive to be exhaustive and diaphanous, because they are incapable of achieving either of those qualities. (pg. 310)

When something happens in life, how do we ever know if someone is telling us the truth, that their version of events is accurate? Or do we just have to accept the impossibility of ever knowing anything (or anyone) for sure? These questions are central to The Infatuations, the latest book by Javier Marías.

The novel is narrated by María Dolz, a woman in her late thirties, who works for a publisher based in Madrid. Every day, María has breakfast at the same café where she sees a married couple who also take breakfast together on a daily basis. María can see how much this handsome man and woman enjoy each another’s company, as they talk, laugh and joke ‘as if they had only just met or met for the very first time’. María never speaks to her ‘Perfect Couple’ (as she thinks of them) but simply seeing them together and imagining their lives lifts her mood at the start of each day.

One day, the couple (Miguel and Luisa) are absent from the café; at first María assumes they have gone away on holiday and, deprived her morning fillip, she feels a little bereft at their absence. Later, she learns from a colleague that Miguel has been stabbed repeatedly and murdered by a homeless man in what appears to be a tragic case of mistaken identity. In fact, María had already seen the newspaper report of the murder (coupled with a photograph of a man lying in a pool of blood) without realizing that the victim was the husband from her Perfect Couple.

A few months later, María sees Luisa at the café again, accompanied this time by her two young children. After a while, the children depart for school leaving Luisa alone and María decides to offer the widow her condolences. She soon learns that Miguel and Luisa had also noticed her at the café; indeed they even had their own name for her, the ‘Prudent Young Woman’. Luisa is keen to talk, so she invites María to come to her home that evening where María meets the intriguing Javier Díaz-Varela, one of Miguel’s closest friends. Although María doesn’t see Luisa again for some time, she bumps into Javier purely by chance during a visit to the museum and the two become lovers. As María continues to see Javier, she learns a little more about his relationship with Luisa and uncovers other information which causes her to question Javier’s true motivations and desires…and these discoveries cast a different light on events and circumstances surrounding Miguel’s death.

What Marías does brilliantly in The Infatuations is to use the events surrounding Miguel’s murder to weave an elegant meditation addressing fundamental ideas about truth, chance, justice, love and mortality. There’s a philosophical, meandering, almost hypnotic quality to Marías’s writing. His extended sentences seem to capture a person’s thought process by giving us their initial perceptions or ideas, often followed by qualifications or even an alternative theory. And he softens the boundaries between thoughts and speech, too; once immersed in the middle of an extended passage, it isn’t always easy to tell whether you are listening to a character’s inner reflections or observing their conversation with another. This technique might sound a little confusing, but it isn’t at all; Marías pulls it off with tremendous skill and style, and Margaret Jull Costa’s translation is simply wonderful.

During this meditation, Marías offers us reflections on a number of existential themes. For example, how we cling to the dead, feeling ‘an initial temptation to join them, or at least to carry their weight and not let them go’; how the dead should never come back, however much we would like them to; how an unexpected or a particularly dramatic death can dominate our memories of that person, almost stealing part of their existence from them:

You could say that those who die such a death die more deeply, more completely, or perhaps they die twice over, in reality and in the memory of others, because their memory is forever lost in the glare of that stupid culminating event, is soured and distorted and also perhaps poisoned. (pg. 75)

Marías is particularly insightful when it comes to grief and how the death of a loved one affects those who remain. In this passage, María Dolz observes Luisa’s daughter, Carolina, with her mother in the café. It’s almost as though mother and daughter have swapped roles as Carolina tries to look after Luisa:

She kept one eye on her mother all the time, watching her every gesture and expression, and if she noticed that her mother was becoming too abstracted and sunk in her own thoughts, she would immediately speak to her, make some remark or ask a question or perhaps tell her something, as if to prevent her mother from becoming entirely lost, as if it made her sad to see her mother plunging back into memory. (pg. 41)

And the following passage on grief reflects some of my own experiences following the sudden death of my mother (many years ago now). There’s no finer example of why The Infatuations resonates so deeply with me:

And so, sooner or later, the grieving person is left alone when she has still not finished grieving or when she’s no longer allowed to talk about what remains her only world, because other people find that world of grief unbearable, repellent. She understands that for them sadness has a social expiry date, that no one is capable of contemplating another’s sorrow, that such a spectacle is tolerable only for a brief period, for as long as the shock and pain last and there is still some role for those who are there watching, who then feel necessary, salvatory, useful. But on discovering that nothing changes and that the affected person neither progresses nor emerges from her grief, they feel humiliated and superfluous, they find it almost offensive and stand aside: ‘Aren’t I enough for you? Why can’t you climb out of that pit with me by your side? Why are you still grieving when time has passed and I’ve been here all the while to console and distract you? If you can’t climb out, then sink or disappear’. And the grieving person does just that, she retreats, removes herself, hides. (pg. 64-65)

I loved The Infatuations (its Spanish title is ‘el enamoramiento’ – the state of falling or being in love, or perhaps infatuation). It’s intelligent, thought-provoking and superbly written; one to savour and revisit in the future. I don’t want to say very much more about the novel’s plot or Miguel’s death, but Marías sustains an air of mystery and ambiguity through to the finish leaving María Dolz to contemplate: ‘the truth is never clear, it’s always a tangled mess.’ (pg 326)

The Infatuations is published in the UK by Penguin Books. Page numbers refer to the paperback edition. Source: personal copy.

My review is here 

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