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April 2004

Independent Minded

Saturated with prizes of every description, America has no major award for foreign literature. Our most prominent literary awards--the Pulitzer, the National Book Award--disqualify non-U.S. citizens. So we are lucky to have Britain's Independent newspaper's annual foreign fiction prize to highlight the best foreign works translated into English each year. Literary editor of the Independent and prize judge Boyd Tonkin sets the stage by writing of the translation scene in the homeland of English and giving us capsule descriptions of the books on the shortlist. For a taste of the nominated titles, check out our selection from Mrs. Sartoris by Elke Schmitter. And see new, unpublished work by finalists Fred Vargas, Juan Marsé, the Italian quartet formerly known as Luther Blissett now signing themselves Wu Ming, Ricardo Piglia, and Lars Saabye Christensen. For those readers who hate all literary prizes, we apologize, commiserate, and recommend last month's naughty Italian satire, "How to Administer a Literary Prize."

from Mrs. Sartoris
By Elke Schmitter
After the afternoon in N., something changed. I became cold-blooded and more demanding at the same time; Michael was surprised at me and sometimes didn’t know what to do. He hadn’t realized,…
Translated from German by Carol Brown Janeway
from Outside Inside
By Fred Vargas
In the Mercantour National Park in the French Alps, feral wolves, recently reintroduced after centuries of extinction, have begun attacking sheep in their pens-not for food, it seems, but for sport. It’s…
Translated from French by David Bellos
On the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize
"It's a scandal." My companion, a distinguished translator of British literature into Greek, sighed and shook his head as we walked one night last summer through the tangle of streets that…
from Bewitched by Shanghai
By Juan Marsé
Bewitched by Shanghai is narrated by an adolescent, Danny, who lives in postwar Barcelona with his widowed mother. Between school and starting working as an apprentice in a jeweler’s workshop, she…
Translated from Spanish by Nick Caistor
The Jar
By Luigi Pirandello
It had been a good year for olives, too, that year. The farm trees, loaded with buds the year before, had all produced ripe fruit, despite the fog that had threatened their blossoms.Zirafa, who had a…
Translated from Italian by Maria Enrico