You may remember a few days ago that I posted the shortlist for this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and remarked that the greatest source of the excitement for me was discovering that all but one of the titles on the shortlist was the product of a smaller ‘indy’ publisher. Well, it seems that the excitement penetrated to a deeper level within me than I though it had, because after writing that post I began to develop a strong desire to do something bigger with this year’s Foreign Fiction Prize shortlist other than simply report on it. What I began to turn over in my mind was the idea of reading all of the shortlisted titles before the overall winner is announced on Thursday 13th May, and for once offer an informed opinion on which of the ‘succulent six’ was worthy of winning.
At first such a notion was a pipe-dream. How could I possibly fit in all of this extra reading, let alone get a hold of all of the shortlisted books at such short notice, with such limited book funds? Well, I firstly came to the conclusion that with a bit of clever and careful planning I could indeed fit the reading in. But that still left the problem with sourcing the books. Enter one well-appointed local library (for a change), the generous nature of one kind publicist (she offered, I didn’t ask ) and a donation from Mrs. Rob (I asked, she didn’t offer ), and voila I found a solution; getting my hands on the shortlisted books was no longer a problem. The pipe-dream was beginning to look more like a vision of possibility, but I still wanted to think on things for a little longer.
So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past day or two – ‘thinking on things’. And now, on this wonderfully sunny Sunday afternoon, I’ve reached the conclusion that I am indeed going to set myself off on this bookish adventure, and read through all of the titles on this year’s Foreign Fiction Prize shortlist before the award ceremony on the 13th May.
Thankfully, as I said previously, I’ve already read one of the titles in the shortlist – Broken Glass by Alain Mabanckou (Serpent’s Tail) – so this only leaves me with five titles to get through in a little over three weeks, which I think is achievable but still difficult. How so? Well, only two of the books on the shortlist are less than 300 pages in length (Brodeck’s Report – 288 pages; Fists – 190 pages), with another two books – The Blind Side of the Heart and Chowingree, weighing in at a hefty 432 pages and 416 pages respectively. The biggest ‘stumbling block’ of all however, is Rafik Schami’s The Dark Side of Love, which is a real epic at 900 pages…gulp!
So this is all shaping up to be one of my most challenging reading projects to date, but I’m not discouraged. This is a reading project that I want to put all of my energies behind, and I have good reason for doing so. Following my recent announcement that I’m steering RobAroundBooks almost exclusively towards translated fiction, I want to start convincing my fellow readers, friends and visitors that I’m totally committed to following through on my ambitions. And I think an elaborate translation-flavoured gesture such as this will surely help me to do that. Besides, isn’t the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize one of the world’s premier literary prizes for translated fiction? What kind of translation-orientated blogger would I be if I didn’t put all of my weight behind it?
So the ‘challenge’ is well and truly on – or it will be just as soon as the first of the books arrives at RobAround Manor , and I’ll be tackling the blogging side of my read through of the Foreign Fiction Prize shortlisters in exactly the same way that I do for all of the books I’m involved with. Each of the shortlisted novels will be introduced in a forethoughts post before I begin reading it, and I will close my reading each time, with my final afterthoughts (review) post. In between, everything that I have to say will be covered in my reading journal. If all goes according to plan – which I’m sure it will – I’ll put up a special post on Wednesday 12th May (the eve of the award ceremony), offering my prediction on which of the six shortlisters is likely to win. I will of course, also serve a follow-up post after the winner is announced on the 13th May.
A wonderful bookish journey lies ahead then dear reader, and I hope you will accompany me through to the end. I was even hoping that you may even pick up one or two of the shortlisted titles yourself, and offer your own thoughts and feelings (either here, or via your own bookish portal). In fact I know that some of you like me have already read one or two of these novels already, in which case I’d love to hear your thoughts.