IFFP 2014 Round Up – Reviews 3 & 4

Last time, I looked back at the first two of my previous Independent Foreign Fiction Prize reads for this year, and today we’ll be looking at another pair of contenders.  In fact, the two books discussed today are novels which featured in most conversations prior to the longlist announcement.  The question is whether they can make it to the next stage…

A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard – Harvill Secker
(translated by Don Bartlett)
What’s it all about?
Well, him, obviously.

This is the second part of Knausgaard’s strangely gripping six-part descent into self observation, this time focusing on the start of his relationship with his second wife, Linda.  Knausi analyses his life in such detail that the reader feels they are right there with him, whether he is taking the children to daycare, having a drink with a friend or, erm, going to the toilet.

I’m joking.  Possibly.

Does it deserve to make the shortlist?
I’m tempted to say yes to this one.  Despite all the comparisons, there isn’t much Proustian about the Norwegian writer’s work, but it is compelling, and this second instalment of his work is, in my eyes, a lot more consistent than A Death in the Family.  People seem to like Knausgaard’s books despite themselves, so this latest set of descriptions of mundane activities could well be set to enliven(?) the shortlist.

Will it make the shortlist?
Probably.  Knausgaard’s work just has that feel about it, as if it needs to be celebrated and showered with prizes and accolades, and I’m confident that he’ll move a step further towards that this year.  However, I will raise one small potential obstacle.  For a thirty-something frustrated scribbler like yours truly, the writer’s rants about the lot of the modern man ring very true.  I just wonder whether the women on the panel will be as sympathetic to Knausi’s chauvinistic whinging…

The Infatuations by Javier Marías – Hamish Hamilton
(translated by Margaret Jull Costa)

What’s it all about? 
María has a nodding acquaintance with a couple in a café, and after the husband’s death, she visits the grieving widow and meets a family friend.  A relationship soon develops; however, it’s not one that’s got the feel of happily ever after – especially when María starts to sense that the unfortunate death may not have been quite so unfortunate after all…

Does it deserve to make the shortlist?
I enjoyed The Infatuations immensely, but I’m not convinced that it’ll end up in my top six.  It didn’t quite match up to my first Marías (A Heart so White), and there was one part in particular where the story dragged a little too much.  Still, it’s a wonderful story with beautiful, elegant writing, a credit to both Marías and Jull Costa.

I’m sitting on the fence a little here.

Will it make the shortlist?
Yes.  Top-class writer, top-class translator – just what the shortlist needs.  Cynical, moi?

That’s the second part of my wrap-up done and dusted then – stay tuned for the third of my reviews when I’ll discuss the final three books of my magnificent seven 🙂


6 thoughts on “IFFP 2014 Round Up – Reviews 3 & 4

  1. It does sound like A Heart So White is the way to go to discover Javier Marias' writing, so I will start with that. Great summary, look forward to seeing if your predictions prove right!


  2. I'm diving into Knausgaard with Book Three, have resisted it thus far, despite it being something many relate to, I'm not sure I want to bust the myth, a bit why I also don't want to read Rachel Cusk's Aftermath. Fear that these types of narratives don't do much to foster love and tolerance between the sexes.


  3. I really like these round ups, Tony – great format.

    Well, I'm in the middle of 'A Man in Love' at the moment and I'm finding it utterly compelling and rather addictive! More thoughts to follow once I've finished it.

    I read 'The Infatuations' last year and I'm eager to revisit it especially if it makes the shortlist (which I very much hope it will). There's something about Marias's long meandering style, coupled with Margaret Jull Costa's wonderful translation, that really drew me into this book. He seems to delve deeply into some of life's big themes – love, truth, mortality, grief – and what he has to say about grief resonates with me, reflecting some of my own experiences of coping with the death of close family members. I agree 'A Heart So White' is the better book, nevertheless 'The Infatuations' is a very strong contender for this year's IFFP and I'd be surprised if it doesn't make the shortlist.


  4. Jacqui – Thanks, but it does have the disadvantage of makng me look stupid later 😉

    I'm sure 'The Infatuations' will come close to the shortlist (and the translation will definitely play a role in that). To be honest, I think that much of the shortlist will come from the books I've already read…


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