The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 1996

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, now the Booker International, has been an important part of my reading life since I first tackled the long list in 2005. The Prize itself began in 1990 and the first winner was Orhan Pamuk’s The White Castle, translated by Victoria Holbrook. Between 1996 and 2000, however, the award was in abeyance, and it has always struck me that revisiting these years and creating a potential long list, in the manner of the Lost Man Booker Prize for 1970, would be a fascinating exercise.

I have attempted to stay true to the rules of the Prize, for example, by not admitting authors who weren’t alive at the time. However, for reasons of simplicity, I have had to ignore the fact that prizes often regard the year as beginning on some arbitrary month and simply admit anything published in 1996. I’ve also bent (okay broken) the rule that allows only British publishers to enter. This was simply to increase (slightly) the number of women writers. To this end I have included two books published only in the US – and even then two thirds of the list is male. There is also a lack of geographical diversity, with only three books originating from outside Europe. Again, I suspect this reflects publishing at the time, but I am still open to suggestions. I’ve also limited the long list to twelve rather than the normal sixteen or more (for reasons of personal sanity).

The long list is as follows:


In the Hold by Vladimir Arsenijevic, translated from the Serbian by Celia Hawkesworth (Harvill Press)

Your Name Shall Be Tanga by Calixthe Beyala, translated from the French by Marjolijn de Jager (Heinemann African Writers Series)

The Pyramid by Ismail Kadare, translated by David Bellos from the French version of Albanian by Jusuf Vrioni (Harvill Press)

Slowness by Milan Kundera, translated from the French by Linda Asher (Faber and Faber)



Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa, translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman (Faber and Faber)

The Gardens of Light by Amin Maalouf, translated from the French by Dorothy S Blair (Quartet Books)

Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me by Javier Marias, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (Harvill Press)

The Trap by Ana Maria Matute, translated from the Spanish by Maria Jose de la Camara and Robert Nugent (Latin American Literary Review Press)


Hypnotism Made Easy by Marie Nimier, translated from the French by Sophie Hawkes (Angela Royal Publishing)

Nevermore by Marie Redonnet, translated from the French by Jordan Stump (University of Nebraska Press)#

The History of the Siege of Lisbon by Jose Saramago, translated from the Portuguese by Giovanni Pontiero (Harvill Press)

The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald, translated from the German by Michele Hulse (Harvill Press)

My aim is read and review every book over the next three months and announce a winner in September. Feel free to join in – perhaps you already have a favourite here – or to suggest anything you think should have been included.


8 Responses to “The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 1996”

  1. fulcherkim Says:

    Sebald, Marias and Saramago – that’s a rather impressive trio to say the least (and perhaps my favourite Marias book so I’d give that the nod).

    On the other hand that’s a list of great white European male (and in two cases now dead) authors – so it’s great to see you’ve cast the net wider.

    In terms of others to suggest I’m a bit struggling to find a list/source anywhere of books published in 1996 – how did you manage or just hunting through books/your memory?

    These people were going to try to develop a similar list to the US threepercent one but I am not sure they were ever able to do so

    • fulcherkim Says:

      “On the other hand that’s a list of great white European male (and in two cases now dead) authors” – that being a criticism of my pick of those 3 not your list, to be clear!

    • 1streading Says:

      To be fair, my methodology doesn’t have to stand up to much examination! There was an element of guesswork – looking at authors who were published around that time. I also use the search by year of publication filter on Amazon – though this then had to be checked. I got a couple by asking on Twitter as well. Typically, in a real prize list, as you know, the big name authors wouldn’t all be there.

  2. kaggsysbookishramblings Says:

    What an interesting list Grant. I am ashamed to say I’ve probably only read the Sebald, which is a bit feeble. Good luck – I shall be watching with interest and cheering you on!

  3. JacquiWine Says:

    What a fantastic project, Grant! I actually have a copy of the Marias in my TBR, so maybe I’ll join you on that one (depending how the rest of my summer reading pans out).

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