‘Shadowing’ the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

So, you would have seen my post earlier today announcing this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist? If you did then you might also have caught the hint I gave at the end of that post about having a special announcement to make? Well, this is that special announcement:

It gives me great pleasure in announcing that I’m going to be standing as one of the ‘shadow judges’ for this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

So, what exactly is a shadow judge? Well, it’s nowhere near as prestigious as it sounds I guess, but it’s still hugely exciting, for me at least. Flushed with success at having ‘shadowed’ this year’s Man Asian Literary Prize (a brainchild of Lisa from ANZ LitLovers), Stu of Winstonsdad asked a select few if they would consider doing the same for this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize i.e. ‘shadowing’ the judges by reading the same longlist titles as them, and making decisions on which books should be considered the most worthy of progression to the shortlist etc.

As a huge fan of the IFFP (I’m sure everyone knows this by now :)) I jumped at the chance of joining this ‘shadow jury’. I tend to work my through the IFFP shortlist every year anyway (or at least I have for the past two years), so this is a fairly minor extra step for me to take, but it’s one that I relish the thought of, if only to rise to a bigger challenge, while working with a group of like-minded individuals.

Before I introduce you to the rest of the ‘shadow jury’ however, let me make one thing clear. I, like the rest of my colleagues, stand as a ‘shadow judge’ for this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize not with any arrogance or authority, or with any intention of stepping on the toes of those who are blessed with doing the job for real. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the IFFP judges, and I step up as a ‘shadow judge’ merely in tribute to their excellence, and to the glory of the Prize as a whole. The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is one of the literary awards that I consider to be closest to my heart, and my intention is to simply increase excitement and awareness of the Prize, while continuing with my eternal quest of bringing translated fiction to a wider audience.

So who else is joining me on the ‘shadow jury’ for this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize? Here’s the team:

As I have no control over this ‘shadow judging’ I have no idea how this is going to play out. All I know right now from my point of view, is that I’m going to focus on working my way through as many of the longlisted titles as I can – posting reviews as I go – up until the point that the shortlist is announced (Thursday 12 April), and beyond if there are titles that make the shortlist that I’ve still to read. I know my esteemed ‘shadow colleagues’ are doing the same (posting reviews on their own websites obviously), so between us we should be able to cover everything, coming together at the end to pass on an informed opinion on which titles we think are worthy of shortlist selection, and the ultimate top prize.

It all sounds dead pretentious I know, but I’m sure it’s not going to be anything like that. At the very least this ‘shadow judging’ gives me the opportunity to focus my IFFP reading, while offering something a little more wide-ranging and interesting to my dear readers. My hope is that it will also encourage wider discussion, not only of this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize but of translated fiction in general.

Whatever happens, these next four weeks are going to be one hell of a joyride for all of us. I hope you’re able to stick around and enjoy it.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. Stujallen (Twitter: stujallen)

    I m looking forward to seeing what people make of each book and the judges choices I m fairly happy with list knew most books on it and the couple that I may wanted have been made up by couple new to me all the best stu

  2. Very nice comments, Rob. I am already finding it a much more eclectic longlist than it may have at first appeared, and have discovered a couple of super things already. I hope – in the nicest possible way – that we find plenty to argue about!

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      Really? That’s reassuring. Yes, lively debate is what is definitely needed.

  3. Hi Rob, greetings from sunny Australia:
    Alas, I must correct your assertion that the concept of a Shadow Jury is mine…not at all. Kevin from Canada pioneered it many years ago with the Shadow Giller both in its pre-blog manifestation, (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Litblog#Examples) and for some years now on his blog (see kevinfromcanada.wordpress.com and scroll down the RHS menu.
    Kevin, in fact, has been my guide and mentor in setting it up and in providing all kinds of wise advice as well.
    Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      Greetings Lisa. My apologies. I can only go on what I’ve been told by others, so thank you for putting the record straight.

  4. As a newbie to this concept, my aim is to spread my love of literature & translated fiction, by shouting about the stuff I love & am hoping to pick up tips along the way.