We’re delighted to announce that Daša Drndić’s Trieste has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Readers’ Prize, ahead of the main prize ceremony tonight.
The prize marks the conclusion of a brilliantly conceived project to engage readers and reading groups with translated fiction, organised by English PEN, the Reading Agency and the British Centre for Literary Translation. Reading groups across the UK, many of which were almost entirely unfamiliar with translated fiction, were invited to shadow the IFFP shortlist, and more than 300 people took part.
More than 100 of these readers were then able to gather at the Free Word Centre in London on Saturday, for a day of events and talks. Many of the authors and translators of the shortlisted titles were in attendance, as were IFFP judges Elif Shafak and Frank Wynne, who talked about the world of translated literature, the judging process and interviewed the writers and translators about their work.
Feedback from the attendees was very positive, with many reading group members saying they had not read very many books in translation, and that this scheme had “opened a whole new world”. Their eventual vote proclaimed Trieste the winner of the inaugural readers’ prize. Both Daša and her translator Ellen Elias-Bursać were in attendance to claim their champagne, which was promptly cracked open, Grand Prix style.
The full shortlist for both the Readers’ Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is as follows:
Bundu by Chris Barnard, translated from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns (Alma Books)
The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker, translated from the Dutch by David Colmer (Harvill Secker)
Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas, translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey and Anne McLean (Harvill Secker)
The Fall of the Stone City by Ismail Kadare, translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson (Canongate)
Traveller of the Century by Andrés Neuman, translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia (Pushkin Press)
Trieste by Daša Drndić, translated from the Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursać (MacLehose Press)
Catalan author Francesc Serés will be taking part in an event at the Hay Festival on Monday 27 May. He joins fellow Catalan writer Jordi Punti in conversation with Colm Tóbín.
Serés is an acclaimed novelist and renowned wit, but his first book in English translation is actually a collection of stories by five Russian writers that he has effectively rescued from obscurity. It will be published in July, but festival-goers may find that a few early-bird copies have been made available. Here is the blurb:
Drift through outer space with a doomed cosmonaut whose engine is kaput; return to an irradiated village with an elderly couple who want to go home; ask yourself, did Elvis really play a concert in Red Square?
Twenty-one impish and irrepressible stories by five neglected or forgotten Russian writers. Fresh-faced vignettes from modern St Petersburg; hair-raising tales of state insanity, snatched from the Soviet archives; dark fables from the days of serfdom, when the land was untamed and life was brutish and short.
Each mines a discrete facet of Russian life, history or culture, and taken as a whole they sketch a historical arc from the nineteenth century to the age of the budget airline, offering the reader a unique combination of daring, wit, dash and charm.
Tickets are still available, priced at £5. See the festival website for details.
Just as Chelsea were winning the Europa League, and the Eurovision Song Contest had reached a pause between its two semi-finals (yes, there are two!), the written word had its own moment in the spotlight at a very well attended European Literature Night at the British Library.
Hosted by the excellent Rosie Goldsmith, the evening saw eight writers from across Europe discuss their work, before extracts were read by either the authors themselves or their translators. MacLehose Press was represented by Norbert Gstrein, who principally discussed his most recent work, Winters in the South.
In a wide-ranging interview, Norbert discussed the advantages of observing his native Austria from “one thousand kilometres away”, and also the curious experience of having only a small portion of his work available in English – a common occurrence amongst the assembled authors. He also commended his translators (Anthea Bell and Julian Evans), remarking that he found the English edition to be “a new book”. Julian then read from the opening to Winters in the South, describing it as “symphonic”.
The rest of the evening saw a varied programme, with the texts under discussion varying from a German literary novel centred on a mussel feast to a cultural exploration of twentieth-century Europe through the prism of the Lipizzaner horses. It was notable that several authors resisted being defined by their nationality or politics (when asked if he was Catalan or Spanish, Jordi Punto drew the biggest applause of the night by replying “I’m Jordi”), placing the emphasis on the outstanding quality of the books, rather than simply the fact that they were “translated fiction”.
All the authors were eloquent in their English, and Rosie Goldsmith orchestrated conversations that ranged from the hilarious to the sobering: many of the novels reflected to some extent on the horrors of fascism and communism, yet did so with a wonderful sense of absurdist humour. Jáchym Topol’s satire of holocaust tourism and Miha Mazzini’s romantic chronicle of a limping communist postman were particular highlights. The evening was then rounded off with a drinks reception provided by the Spanish embassy.
It’s been an exciting week for our parent company Quercus over in New York where a gathering of authors, editors, industry figures and friends met at the Italian Consulate in New York last Thursday to celebrate the launch of Quercus and its imprints in North America.
Along with Quercus co-founders Mark Smith and Wayne Davies, Jon Riley, editor-in-chief of the Quercus imprint, Christopher MacLehose, Publisher of the MacLehose Press, and Jo Fletcher, Publisher of Jo Fletcher Books were all in attendance.
Read more over on the Quercus USA blog.
English PEN have just announced the full list of recipients for their PEN Promotes and PEN Translates programmes and La Carroza de Bolívar by Colombian author Evelio Rosero is on the list for the latter.
La Carroza de Bolívar (The Bolívar Carriage or the slightly daft-sounding Bolívar’s Carnival Float) is Evelio Rosero’s most recent novel, and perhaps his most controversial. It concerns a contented gynaecologist, with two houses and an attractive wife, who decides to use the the regional carnival as a opportunity to mock the nation’s founder: Simon de Bolívar, El Libertador. But his actions are not taken kindly by his fellow citizens, who will not stand for any questioning of the founding myths. The local governor, the military and even a recently formed guerrilla unit mobilise to oppose him, and before long the doctor finds that his protest has placed him in mortal danger.
Evelio Rosero has good reason to be sceptical about the myth of El Libertador. He grew up in the city of Pasto in south Colombia, where, in December 1822, following a loyalist uprising, forces under Bolívar’s overall control looted the city for three days. Even today, almost two hundred years later, that “Black Christmas” is still remembered and mourned.
In La Carroza de Bolívar Rosero examines Bolívar’s generally spotless reputation and asks whether Colombia’s long history of violence can be attributed in part to the form of democracy he installed after the wars of independence. With all sides in the ongoing current civil conflict claiming to be his spiritual descendants, it is clear that his legacy divides the nation as much as it unites it.
Evelio Rosero was the winner of the 2009 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for The Armies, a novel that was widely applauded for it’s brave portrayal of the full horrors of the civil war. In Good Offices, a much earlier novel, but only published in English in 2011, he exposed through satirical fantasia the iniquities of the the Catholic Church. With La Carroza de Bolívar, he has confirmed his reputation as a fearless sifter of truth from myth and dogma.