Shadow IFFP 2012 – Round-Up Number One

It’s #translationthurs on Twitter again, and what better way to celebrate than by kicking off a series of IFFP 2012 posts?  None, that’s what 😉  And, to make things even better, I have been asked to be a late addition to the Shadow IFFP Panel – I feel extremely honoured 🙂

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am planning to make my way through nine or ten selections from the longlist for this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize before the shortlist is announced, so I thought I might get the ball rolling by rounding up the opinions of the ones I’ve already read and commented on.  No full reviews here – I’ve already examined the books in more (and, in one case, exhaustive!) detail elsewhere.  For full reviews, please click on the hyper-link on the book titles.  Shall we?

*****
What’s it all about?
Haruki Murakami is one of the heavy hitters on the longlist, and his book, 1Q84, is not exactly light either.  A story of a man and a woman, whose love must overcome such obstacles as parallel worlds, sinister cults and weird little people, Murakami’s novel brings together ideas from all of his life’s work and attempts to blend them into one cohesive story.
Do you think it deserves to make the shortlist?
Possibly not.  I have a much more positive view of the book than many out there, but I still don’t think Murakami quite nailed the landing with this one.  There are too many unresolved issues and passages of tedium to make this a success.  I would also say that not having Book Three here actually hurts its chances as I thought it was the best of the three – although not everyone agrees…
Will it make the shortlist?

Again, no.  The reviews of 1Q84 have been fairly negative, and I would be very surprised if it were to make it any further in what is a very competitive contest.  The fact that it wasn’t included in the seven-book longlist for the Man Asian Literature Prize is another indicator that it isn’t going down well with the people who make these decisions.

*****
Next World Novella by Matthias Politycki (translated by Anthea Bell)

What’s it all about?
An ageing academic wakes up one morning to find his beloved wife slouched over scattered pieces of paper – dead.  As he attempts to come to terms with the shock, and before grief has even had the chance to set in, he notices the writing she was doing before she died – and starts reading.  The pages he sees contain a very different view of his relationship with his wife, one which destroys the image he has been carrying around in his mind for decades…

Do you think it deserves to make the shortlist?

Absolutely.  This was one of my favourite books of last year, and it is yet another of Peirene Press’ little gems.  It’s a cleverly-constructed cat-and-mouse game, carefully deconstructing the protagonist’s life and laying bare the true state of his relationship with his darling wife.  One cautionary note though – I did read the original German, not the translation 🙂

Will it make the shortlist?
Possibly not.  There are a few big names on the longlist, and the cynic in me thinks that familiarity breeds shortlisting.  Politycki is not well known in English-speaking circles, so that may count against him.  Having said that, of course, translator Anthea Bell is extremely well known and respected – hopefully that will be a positive point!
*****
What’s it all about?
An elderly country woman goes missing on a trip to the Korean capital of Seoul.  As her family members frantically try to find her, a few of them relate their memories of her, only realising now how much she meant to them.
Do you think it deserves to make the shortlist?
Nonononononono.  No.  This book is definitely one which polarises opinions, and I’m on the side which believes that it is a pile of melodramatic rubbish.  Badly written, badly translated, sentimental clap-trap which may well turn out to be my least favourite book of the year.

Will it make the shortlist?

Probably – life’s cruel like that.  There are a lot of people who liked this book, so there’s a fair chance that some of them will be among the judges.  Now if there’s a judge there who shares my view, that will make for a very interesting discussion indeed 😉

*****
Three down, many to go – watch this space…

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8 thoughts on “Shadow IFFP 2012 – Round-Up Number One

  1. Great post. I'm looking forward to reading the Peirene book. I think these short, sharp fictions (see also: The Wandering Falcon; Rebirth; Jamilia) can teach the likes of Marukami an awful lot…

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  2. Lisa – The battle lines have been drawn… ;)Mark – I wish 'Rebirth' and 'The Wandering Falcon' had made it onto this list ahead of 'PLAM' 🙂 With the Murakami though, you're starting to sound like the bloke who wrote that article about the BTBA/IFFP longlists ;)And having just got the Eco (only about 430 pages), I think he just doesn't like reading long books!

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  3. Your summing up of Please Look After Mother has me laughing out loud. I'm on the fence about it. It didn't appeal to me – too sentimental – but I can see why others would like it – same reason really.I wholehearted agree though about next World Novella. Great story telling and the translation reads smoothly – none of the halting, stumbling, 'OMG that's the wrong word' feel that bad translation gives.

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  4. Although a Murakami fan I don't think 1q84 should be here, i'd be surprised if it made the cut, which is a shame because as a fan I'd have loved to have it on there, but of the 2 others I've read From the mouth of a whale & New Finnish Grammar both beat it hands down.

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  5. Maryom – I really, really hope that 'Please Look After Mother' doesn't make the shortlist – but I have the feeling that this is the book people have latched onto this year :(As for 'Next World Novella', it's good to hear that the translation is as good as the original :)Gary – Yep, I'd probably put '1Q84' down as fourth of the five I've read so far, very soon to be fifth of six.No prizes for guessing who's down the bottom 😉

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