For just the second time, a book translated from the Arabic has been shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP). Hassan Blasim’s second short-story collection, The Iraqi Christ, has made the award’s shortlist along with five other works:
The shortlist will have its official announcement today at the London Book Fair. In addition to Blasim’s short-story collection, published by Comma Press, it features two books translated from the Japanese and one each translated from the French, German, and Norwegian.
Judge Alev Adil, in a prepared statement on the shortlisted works, disappointingly nods not toward Blasim’s stylistic innovations, but instead to how translated literature “offers us the most intimate and powerful medium for making sense of politics, of trauma and the aftermath of war. Blasim’s The Iraqi Christ is an unforgettably surreal and powerful insight into contemporary Iraq, and shows us so much more than we could ever understand from televised news.”
The IFFP — which annually chooses a “best” work translated from any other language into English — is notable for rewarding the translator as well as the author, and thus translator Jonathan Wright is shortlisted alongside Blasim. Wright was also co-longlisted with Blasim for the Iraqi author’s debut short-story collection, Madman in Freedom Square, in 2010.
Four years ago, it was a surprise and a disappointment that neither Madman nor Elias Khoury’s Yalo made the shortlist, and were edged out of a somewhat more conventional list.
A number of Arabic novels have been longlisted for the prize, including Khoury’s Yalo, translated by Davies (longlisted in 2010), Khaled Khalifa’s In Praise of Hatred, translated by Leri Price (longlisted in 2013) and Bahaa Taher’s Sunset Oasis, translated by Humphrey Davies (longlisted in 2010). Hanan al-Shaykh’s Only in London also made the shortlist in 2002.
It faces stiff competition:
A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard and translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Harvill Secker)
A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli and translated from the French by Sam Taylor (Portobello Books)
The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke and translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch (Peirene Press)
Revenge by Yoko Ogawa and translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (Harvill Secker)
Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami and translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell (Portobello Books)
The winning author and translator will be announced and awarded their £10,000 Prize at a ceremony in central London on May 22, 2014.