And the (Shadow) Winner is…

IMG_2040Less than twelve hours after this post goes live, the panel for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize will be announcing this year’s winner over in London.  Of course, as is the case every year, our Shadow Panel has beaten them to the punch – once the official winner is named, you’ll be able to compare the two…

So, who joins Sjón, Enrique Vila-Matas and Jón Kalman Stefánsson in our Shadow Hall of Fame?  Which book have we voted best in class this year?

The winner of the 2015 Shadow Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is:


Jenny Erpenbeck’s The End of Days
(Portobello Books, translated by Susan Bernofsky)

Congratulations to all involved!  This is a book which was in the mix from the very start of proceedings, and it was always likely to feature in the final conversation.  A wonderfully inventive story telling the possible lives (and deaths) of a woman born at the beginning of the twentieth century, Erpenbeck’s novel is a deserving winner, making her our first female Shadow Laureate too 🙂

Speaking of conversations, we in the Shadow Panel have had a fair few over the past couple of weeks.  With six books still in contention, we were emailing back and forth across the planet in a last-ditch attempt to alter opinions and sway doubters.  Once we’d all had our say (repeatedly), it was time to make the decision, with two rounds of voting required to come up with a winner.  Never let it be said that this shadowing lark is easy 😉

Having praised the winner, we’d also like to announce (for the first time) our honourable mention, a book that was there every step of the way but eventually just fell short of glory.



Mathias Énard’s Zone
(Fitzcarraldo Editions, translated by Charlotte Mandell)

Most of you will have heard me shouting about the injustice of Zone’s omission from the longlist, and with the rest of the jury rating the book very highly indeed, our decision to include it as a wild card this year has been thoroughly vindicated.  Here’s hoping that we’ve helped to provide a wonderful book with some of the publicity it lost from the surprising decision to omit it from the main longlist 🙂

And that’s it for another year 😦

Many thanks go to Chairman Stu, as always, along with the rest of our panel.  Tony, David and Bellezza came along for a second literary voyage around the world this year while Chelsea, Emma, Joe, Grant, Clare and Julianne had the pleasure for the very first time.  I’m not sure how many of us will be back next year, but it’s been a pleasure to discuss the books with such a great group of people – even when the books themselves weren’t all that great 😉

Thanks also to everyone who has followed us on our journey through the various posts and Twitter discussions – I hope you’ve received some vicarious pleasure from our ramblings.  The IFFP will be back next year with another selection of works in translation.  And do you know what?  I’ll probably be back too – see you then 🙂

16 thoughts on “And the (Shadow) Winner is…

  1. This one seemed to get a lot of praise, so will be interested to see what the “real” judges pick.


  2. I think you’ve made the right choice. My personal favourite was the Murakami, but I think the Erpenbeck will win the prize and deserves to do so. Thank you for all your wonderful coverage of the IFFP!


    1. Jackie – Glad we were able to entertain people over the course of our journey 🙂 The Murakami is a good read, but I don’t think it’s a winner (which is not to say that it isn’t the book I’ll be rereading the most out of all of these!).


  3. All hail Chairman Stu!

    Sorry, somehow that title just makes me picture Stu as our totalitarian leader.

    Out of interest, was this a first pick for several people or was it a popular second pick after the first picks all got knocked out? People often wonder with Booker winners, but here we can ask so I thought I would.


    1. Max – Yes, it’s a striking image 😉

      While I don’t want to give away all the secrets and magic(!), I think it’s OK to say that at all three stages of voting (longlist > shortlist, first round of shortlist, final two-book run-off), the Erpenbeck was in the lead, even if it was never a foregone conclusion that it’d win.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good choice and yes it was an odd omission from the BTBA. I would personally have given the nod to Zone as a more exceptional book but End of Days is certainly a worthy (shadow) winner. Many thanks to you and the team for all your work.


    1. Paul – It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of ‘Zone’, but I’m happy with the book we’ve chosen as a group 🙂


  5. Can’t wait to read it! Well done and thanks for all the excellent reviews, look forward to seeing who the official pick is, all good publicity for readers!

    Must read that Erpenbeck gathering dust on the shelf, or should I go straight into this one perhaps?


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