Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012: Appelfeld said, 'Blooms of Darkness is a work of fiction that includes my personal experience during the Second World War. I wanted to explore the darkest places of human behaviour and to show that even there, generosity and love can survive; that humanity and love can overcome cruelty and brutality.'
Blooms of Darkness is loosely based on Appelfeld's own experiences of the Holocaust as a boy, where he escaped from a prison camp. The novel is told from the perspective of 11-year-old Hugo who is taken in by Mariana, a prostitute, to keep him safe as the Second World War rages around them in the ghetto and Jewish people are sent to concentration camps.
The six shortlisted titles for the 2012 Prize were:
•Alice by Judith Hermann, translated from the German by Margot Bettauer Dembo (The Clerkenwell Press)
•Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld, translated from the Hebrew by Jeffrey M Green (Alma Books)
•Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke, translated from the Chinese by Cindy Carter (Corsair)
•From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón, translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb (Telegram Books)
•New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani, translated from the Italian by Judith Landry (Dedalus)
•The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco, translated from the Italian by Richard Dixon (Harvill Secker)
The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is awarded annually to the best work of contemporary fiction in translation. The prize celebrates an exceptional work of fiction by a living author which has been translated into English from any other language and published in the United Kingdom in 2011.
It is interesting to see how different the two translation prize shortlists are: Diego Marani's New Finnish Grammar is the only book to appear on both lists. I haven't read it yet but customers who have say it is excellent. I have just read How I Lost the War and Down the Rabbit Hole, both from the Oxford-Weidenfeld shortlist - quite different but very haunting and beautifully translated.