Friday, 29 February 2008

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

No surprises here then, at least not for German readers. The shortlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is out, accompanied by a rousing article by Boyd Tonkin, who I think has done more for translated literature in the British public eye than almost anyone else. The prize celebrates writing in translation and the people behind it, with the 10,000 pounds prize money shared between the authors and translators. And of course stickers on the books.

Tonkin writes:

Yes, the British book trade should translate more; yes, translators deserve a better deal; and yes, fiction from outside the Anglosphere can meet too much of the sort of prejudice that would outrage young Castorp {a character in another shortlisted book- kjd}. Still, a little celebration might be in order too. The dedicated translators and publishers (often from independent firms) who bring the best of the world's fiction to these shores have helped contribute to another golden age of cross-cultural interchange.

And guess what, Daniel Kehlmann's Measuring the World is on the shortlist. Now I have to say right away that I haven't read it. Unlike everyone else in the German-speaking world, it would seem. It just didn't really appeal to me I'm afraid. But I did attend a seminar at the VdÜ summer get-together, in which we looked at Carol Brown Janeway's translation. Strangely enough, the German natives liked it and the English-speakers didn't. I felt it was rather dull, replacing Kehlmann's colourful verbs with things like "put" and "do". But there you go. The prize isn't about comparing the original and the translation, and the book seems to have enough merits of its own to leap this slight hurdle nonetheless. I wish Kehlmann and Janeway luck.

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