The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize has been won by the Arab writer Hassan Blasim for his second short-story collection The Iraqi Christ, and by translator Jonathan Wright. The book was published by independent Comma Press.
Blasim, described as ‘perhaps the best writer of Arabic fiction alive’ (Guardian), also won an English PEN translation award for The Iraqi Christ. He originally made films in his native Iraq. In 2000 he fled and settled in Finland.
Jonathan Wright, translator of The Iraqi Christ, studied Arabic at Oxford University and has spent 18 of the past 32 years in the Arab world, mostly as a journalist with the international newsagency Reuters. In 2014 he was co-winner of the Saif Ghobash–Banipal Prize for Arabic Translation for Azazeel by Youssef Ziedan.
This year the judges also wanted to give a special mention to The Mussel Feast, the debut novel by German writer Birgit Vanderbeke translated by Jamie Bulloch and published by the independent Peirene Press.
The £10,000 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is awarded annually to the best work of contemporary fiction in translation. Uniquely, the prize acknowledges both the writer and the translator equally – each receives £5000 – recognising the importance of the translator in their ability to bridge the gap between languages and cultures. The Prize is funded by Arts Council England, managed by Booktrust and supported by The Independent and Champagne Taittinger.
Blasim and Wright will be appearing in conversation with Boyd Tonkin, judge and Senior Writer and Columnist at The Independent at an event at the Hay Festival at 9.00 am on Saturday 24 May.