IFFP 2014 Round Up – Reviews 5, 6 & 7

After looking at a couple of books by female writers in my first round-up post (and two works by a pair of men last time out), it’s time to finish my series of Independent Foreign Fiction Prize round-up posts for the 2014 longlist.  As I mentioned a while back, I’ve already polished off seven of the fifteen selections – which leaves us today with three more to evaluate 🙂

*****
Brief Loves that Live Forever by Andreï Makine – MacLehose Press
(translated by Geoffrey Strachan)
What’s it all about?
A stroll with an old acquaintance is the catalyst for a series of memories, in which a man looks back at pivotal moments from his life, brief hours of love snatched from the drabness of everyday life.  In a clever, moving book, Makine sets the demise of the Soviet Union against a story of the redeeming power of love and friendship.

Does it deserve to make the shortlist?
I’d love it if it did 🙂  It’s a beautiful little book, one I had sitting around for ages before finally diving in.  A pleasure to read, Brief Loves that Live Forever will leave its mark on most readers, and while it hasn’t really got the publicity it deserves thus far, a shortlisting would broaden its appeal.

Will it make the shortlist?
Definitely a good chance.  A nice, short work, with excellent writing, from a well-known writer and an experienced translator, this one has all the hallmarks of a top six book.

*****
The Sorrow of Angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson – MacLehose Press
(translated by Philip Roughton)

What’s it all about?
The boy, the mysterious central figure in Heaven and Hell, has found his place in the isolated village he has been drawn to.  However, his time of comfort is short lived as he is persuaded to go on a trek through the mountains to help deliver the post.  In the company of the burly Jens, the boy sets off into the ice and snow, trusting to the winds for a safe return from a treacherous journey…

Does it deserve to make the shortlist?
Oh, yes.  This was one of my books of the year for 2013, and it’s my early frontrunner for the whole thing.  It’s such a beautiful book, elegantly crafted, but with a dry, laconic sense of humour in parts too.  Icelandic literature is fast becoming one of my favourite guilty pleasures, and JKS is right up there with the best in contemporary world literature 🙂

Will it make the shortlist?
Strangely enough, I’m not sure.  Not everyone seems to share my love for this book (the fools), and several people believe it’s simply too slow, with very little actually happening.  It only takes one or two jurors to share that opinion for them to decide to look elsewhere for books to fill the shortlist…

*****
The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim – Comma Press
(translated by Jonathan Wright)
What’s it all about?
A collection of short stories, mostly set in post-war Iraq, The Iraqi Christ looks at the experiences of people in a war-torn country.  However, Blasim also ventures further afield in his tales of refugees, taking us as far as Scandinavia in one of his stories.  Don’t expect brutal realism though – the writer’s magical touch turns the stories into fables which often have a sense of the unreal about them…

Does it deserve to make the shortlist?
I don’t think this one will make the cut.  I love Comma Press, and I enjoyed this collection, but this is a high-quality field, making it doubtful that Blasim’s book will finish in the top six.  A good book, worthy of the longlist, but unlikely to make it further.

Will it make the shortlist?
Probably not.  As Tonkin famously remarked, publishing short stories in translation is ‘double suicide’, and this will be one step too far.  However, if the judges are looking for a geographical spread, they might be tempted to opt for a book from the Middle East…

*****
That’s it then – all seven of my previous reads wrapped up and rated.  Now it’s time to move on to the next part of the process, which means that I’ve got some reading to do.  Expect some more IFFP reviews very soon 🙂

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6 thoughts on “IFFP 2014 Round Up – Reviews 5, 6 & 7

  1. Finally caught up on your IFFP comments – I love the format. Glad you liked Makine – it was one of the few I'd already read. I'm now trying to make my way through as many of the rest as I can!

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  2. 1streading – Thanks – the real reviews will start next Thursday 🙂 I really think that a lot of the seven I've read will appear on the shortlist (there's a reason that these are the ones I've already tried!).

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  3. I haven't read any of these yet but am looking forward to them, especially the Makine and Stefansson. It's such a diverse and exciting longlist this year – it appears to offer something for everyone.

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