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The 2018 Shortlist for the New ERBD Literature Prize for Translated Fiction

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The new EBRD Literature Prize, launched in partnership with the British Council and the London Book Fair, announced its first inaugural shortlist, with books translated from Russian, Croatian, Albanian, Turkish and Arabic.

The prize is to promote literature from emerging economies where the bank invests, from Morocco to Mongolia, Estonia or Egypt and must be published in translation by a UK publisher. 

Rosie Goldsmith, Chair of the Judges, has been helping set up the prize since July 2017. For the team of judges, it was important for her to choose not only people who were well-read and well-travelled, but who also "work in these countries and have knowledge and insight into international writing and cultures." She added: “Already I can predict this prize is here to stay. It’s different and it’s important. Our entries came from Armenia to Albania, the Baltics to the Balkans and beyond. This prize has broadened my mind and also my definition of the novel. We’ve read a Turkish feminist road novel, a love story from Beirut, a memoir from Morocco, a black comedy from Albania and a rollicking Russian satire – just a few of our entries, from established writers to those who deserve to be: the standard of storytelling and of translation is excellent and our winners will blow you away.”

The prize is worth €20,000, to be divided equally between author and translator. The winners will be announced April 10, 2018 at the same time as the London Book Fair kicks off. Following, is a reading list of the shortlisted titles:


Istanbul, Istanbul

Istanbul is a city of a million cells, and every cell is an Istanbul unto itself. After a military coup, four prisoners - the doctor, Demirtay the student, Kamo the barber and Uncle Kuheylan - sit below the ancient streets of Istanbul awaiting their turn at the hands of their wardens. Between violent interrogations, the condemned share parables and riddles about their beloved city to pass the time. From their retelling of stories, both real and imagined, emerges a picture of a city that is many things to many different people. Their fears and laughter show us that there is as much hope and suffering in the city above as there is in the cells below. Istanbul, Istanbul is a poignant and uplifting novel about the power of human imagination in the face of adversity. Translated from Turkish by Ümit Hussein.

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The red haired woman

"Many years have now gone by, and jealousy compels me to keep her name a secret, even from my readers. But I must provide a full and truthful account of what happened." It is mid-1980s Istanbul and Master Mahmut and his apprentice use ancient methods to dig wells - they are desperate to find water in a barren land. This is the tale of their struggle, but it is also a deeper investigation - through mesmerising stories and images - into Pamuk's prevailing themes: fathers and sons, the state and individual freedom, reading and seeing. It is also a richly literary work: The Red-Haired Woman borrows from the tradition of the French conte philosophique and asks probing questions of ethics and of the role of art in our lives. It is both a short, realist text investigating a murder which took place thirty years ago near Istanbul - and a fictional inquiry into the literary foundations of civilizations, comparing two fundamental myths of the West and the East respectively: Sophocles's Oedipus Rex (a story of patricide) and Ferdowsi's tale of Rostam and Sohrab (a story of filicide). Translated from Turkish by Ekin Oklap. 

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Maryam

Set during the Lebanese Civil War, Alawiya Sobh’s novel offers a rare depiction of women's experiences amid this sprawling, region-defining conflict. The details of everyday life mix with female voices from across classes, sects, and generations to create an indelible picture of a climate where violence and war are the overt outbreak of a simmering tension that underlies the life in the region. Translated from Arabic by Nirvana Tanoukhi.

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The Traitor's Niche

At the heart of the Ottoman Empire, in the main square of Constantinople, a niche is carved into ancient stone. Here, the sultan displays the severed heads of his adversaries. Tundj Hata, the imperial courier, is charged with transporting heads to the capital - a task he relishes and performs with fervour. But as he travels through obscure and impoverished territories, he makes money from illicit side-shows, offering villagers the spectacle of death. The head of the rebellious Albanian governor would fetch a very high price. A surreal tale of rebellion and tyranny from the master of European literature. Translated from Albanian by John Hodgson.

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All The World's A Stage

Eliza Altairsky-Lointaine is the toast of Moscow society, a beautiful actress in an infamous theatre troupe. Her love life is as colourful as the parts she plays. She is the estranged wife of a descendant of Genghis Khan. And her ex-husband has threatened to kill anyone who courts her.He appears to be making good on his promise. Fandorin is contacted by concerned friend - the widowed wife of Chekhov - who asks him to investigate an alarming incident involving Eliza. But when he watches Eliza on stage for the first time, he falls desperately in love . . . Can he solve the case - and win over Eliza - without attracting the attentions of the murderer he is trying to find? Translated from Russian by Andrew Bromfield. 

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Belladonna

An excoriating work of fiction that references the twentieth century's darkest hours. Andreas Ban is a writer and a psychologist, an intellectual proper, but his world has been falling apart for years. When he retires with a miserable pension and finds out that he is ill, he gains a new perspective on the debris of his life and the lives of his friends. In defying illness and old age, Andreas Ban is cynical and powerful, and in his unravelling of his own past and the lives of others, he uncompromisingly lays bare a gamut of taboos. Belladonna addresses some of the twentieth century's worst human atrocities in a powerful fusion of fiction and reality. Translated from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth.

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