Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Christopher Al-Aswad Prize Shortlist

It's shortlist season - I hope you can stomach another one or two. This time it's slightly different though.

The Christopher Al-Aswad Prize is apparently "awarded annually for outstanding contribution to breaking down barriers in literature and between literature and other arts." It comes from eight cuts, a virtual literary gallery that exists to break down borders and has this fascinating manifesto. I've just discovered it, to be honest, and I still haven't quite got my head round it - in a good way.

Anyway, check out the shortlist to find out about six inspiring projects - including my friends at And Other Stories, who are doing all sorts of exciting things with international literature in the UK.

There's also an eight cuts gallery prize for "the best piece of literature in the past year. That can mean whatever we want it to mean. That’s the point." And one of the pieces of literature on that shortlist is Peirene Press, who published the F C Delius book I reviewed the other day along with other gorgeous short books in translation.

Both titles will be awarded on 1 October.


Dan Holloway said...

Katy, thank you for this. Are you involved with And Other Stories? It was my great pleasure to come across them when they held a reading at The Allbion Beatnik Bookstore with Carlos Gamerro. Stefan's quiet passion, mixed with the incredible vision of what he's doing blew me away. He is part of what seems to be an exciting development in UK publishing, bringing more and more amazing texts in translation to the public. I LOVE that "partners" can have a say in what books are translated - that particularly attracted me to them as my favourite author, Banana Yoshimoto has not had (and is unlikely to have) her most recent works translated.

Chris Al-Aswad, for background, was the selfless visionary behind - an amazing site bringing together thousands of artsists and writers across the globe. When I set up eight cuts gallery as a place to break down barriers between literature and other art forms (continuing waht we do with literature/art & music at Year Zero Writers, only in a more curated way), I wanted to have 3 aspects to what we did - a virtual gallery (that would tie in with real life events); an alternative press; and a two-part prize that eschewed the usual bariers of genre, format, and medium. It was always in my mind that Chris would be the first recipient of one of the prizes. Then, tragically, he died this July. I approached his family who graciously let me award the prize in his name. In keeping with the spirit of what he stood for, the actual "prize", in addition to help form us, consists of a series of small contributions of practical help fromanyone working in the arts - so, we have people offering guest blog posts to highlight the recipient's work; Jane Friedman of Writers' Digest has offered to do a feature interview with them; Sessha Batto has offered her graphic design skills, Sarah Snell-Pym has offered web hosting and so on.

Most of the material at eight cuts gallery itself falls into the urban fiction category, but we have recommendations every day, and our primary purpose is simple - to introduce people to work they would otherwise likely not get to see. Whcih is why we LOVE what Peirene and And Other Stories are doing. I also hope that their successes will lead to UK publishers taking more risks on debut novellas - for too long the argument that there's no market for sort fiction has been used.

kjd said...

Dan, I wish I could be more involved in And Other Stories, but I'm in Germany and they're in the UK. So I've attended one of their meetings and we talk about German books every so often. I've known Stefan for a while though, and also Jamie Lee Searle who works with him. Both fine translators, by the way.

The award sounds like a great idea - I love the fact that the "prize" is contributed in kind by the rest of the world.

And yes, I can sign up to every word of your last paragraph. Here's to breaking down boundaries of language, genre and prejudice.