KFC’s Third Contest: Pick the IMPAC winner

The 2009 winner of the IMPAC Award will be announced June 11 — so a contest seems in order. First prize will be a $75 credit at the online bookseller of your choice who will let me give you a gift award. The shortlist, with links to recent reviews here and elsewhere, is:

DiazThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz. Review at themookseandgripes and the asylum.

EchenozRavel, by Jean Echenoz. Review here.

HamidThe Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid. Review at Pechorin's Journal.

HollandThe Archivist’s Story, by Travis Holland. Review here.

JacobsenThe Burnt-Out Town of Miracles, by Roy Jacobsen. Review here

Leavitt2The Indian Clerk, by David Leavitt. Review here.

Sinha2Animal’s People, by Indra Sinha. Review at the asylum.

ThomasMan Gone Down, by Michael Thomas. Review from New York Times.

So with references to all those reviews, there is no reason to not take a guess at least — previous contests here have been won by people doing exactly that and this prize has proven more unpredictable than most.

With only eight finalists, I am anticipating the need for a tie-breaker. For the first time, I will not be entering the contest myself since I will be a subjective judge in the tiebreaker. If you are tied for the win, I will be looking for a three-sentence description (all sentences 40 words or less) of a novel published in English, originally or in translation, that you feel I should read. By all means, include this in your original entry but you don’t have to — any winning ties will be given 72 hours to submit their tie-breaking three sentences.

Deadline for entries is 12 a.m. GMT on June 11. Good luck and please enter.

32 Responses to “KFC’s Third Contest: Pick the IMPAC winner”

  1. Anna van Gelderen Says:

    I am going to be unimaginative and pick the only book I have read from the list: The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

  2. Carole Says:

    Hi Kevin
    I am going to go for ‘The Archivist’s Story’. I am still turning this one over in my mind since reading it just over a month ago and I suspect I will be thinking about it for some while to come. As for a description of a book I think you should read – will have to think about that, will get back to you.

  3. Marte Says:

    I hope Animal’s people will win.

  4. adevotedreader Says:

    I haven’t read the entire list, but will take a punt and pick something I have read and enjoyed (if that’s the word!): Animal’s People by Indra Sinha.

    Not expecting to win, but as the opportunity to recommend a novel is too good to pass up…

    Read The Broken Shore by Peter Temple. A startlingly good crime novel that nails its Australian milieu. Temple shows the way things are and avoids sentimentality and stereotype as well as Richard Price.

  5. Trevor Says:

    I’m going to go with Ravel, Kevin. It’s one of the few I haven’t read that I want to read. Should it win, I’ll recommend a good book!

  6. bob Says:

    I’m going for Animal’s People here. Gut feeling

  7. Mrs. Berrett Says:

    I’m leaning toward The Archivist’s Story.

  8. Stewart Says:

    I have the sickly feeling that Oscar Wao will scoop it.

  9. Isabel Says:

    I select Wao, even though I was able to read only 20 pages.

    However, most of the book club members loved it, so I am going to try again.

  10. Sheila o'Brien Says:

    Mrs KFC weighing in here:
    I am picking “the Reluctant Fundamentailst” on the theory that while there are many good books from which to choose, judges cant seem to resist a contemporary political work, especcially one that is such a good read.
    If I win, I will recuse myself from consideration for the prize on the grounds of nepotism.

  11. Max Cairnduff Says:

    My vote goes to Ravel.

    I’d like Animal’s People to win, it’s a marvellous book, but I don’t think it shall.

    Reluctant Fundamentalist may take it for Sheila’s reasons, which make a lot of sense, Wao because it’s fashionable, but in the interests of competition my vote goes to Ravel which sounds beautifully written and comes from an accomplished writer who could be better known than he is outside his home country.

  12. Kerry Says:

    I am going to follow the developing, if unspoken, tradition of this thread to pick the only entry I have read so far: The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao. I also enjoyed it immensely, so there’s that. I also think it is unique enough, multi-cultural enough, and political enough to hit all the “intangibles” buttons that may be relevant to the IMPAC.

    Because I cannot resist your invitation to proselytize, I am going to give you now my pick (EMBERS by Sandor Marai) and my three (well, the book deserves to speak for itself in one) sentences:

    EMBERS speaks on multiple levels simultaneously while exploring friendship, aging, Hungarian society, and the human condition. Consisting largely of a monologue by The General, a man time has passed by, the book uniquely straddles the tradition of Camus’ THE FALL and, I think, your interest in colonial/native, privileged/underprivileged individuals through its idea- and character-driven driven narrative: “At the very end, one’s answers to the questions the world has posed with such relentlessness are to be found in the facts of one’s life.”

  13. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Thanks for your recommendation, Kerry — it would be unfair to be too enthusiastic, but I will say you have introduced me to a book and author that I don’t know. Which was the reason for this particular tiebreaker. Thanks.

  14. lizzysiddal Says:

    Every single one of these books has passed me by – so I’m going to plump for Animal’s People because I don’t know anyone who has read it not to rave about it. I’m assuming the judges will be the same.

    I’ll come up with my tiebreaker if needed.

  15. Colette Jones Says:

    I have read Oscar Wao, The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Animal’s People. I liked all of them, and much of the others on the list look good too.

    I am going to plump for Animal’s People. It was the shadow Booker jury’s favourite in 2007 and Indra Sinha actually wrote on the Booker forum that year, so he’s a bit special, eh?

    As for a translated book:

    I would like to suggest Crabwalk by Gunther Grass. I think this was one of the first translated works I read and it is the book which made me realise I wanted to read more books in translation. I thought the prose had a richness which would not have existed had it been written in English in the first place.

    (In fact, that’s what I said on World Literature Forum
    Lizzy likes it too).

  16. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Thanks both for the entry and the tiebreaker recommendatin (which of course I can’t comment on yet). I was hoping that tiebreakers would introduce visitors here to some books that might interest them and I think you have done just that.

  17. dovegreyreader Says:

    I’m hoping the deadline is June 11th not Jan 11th Kevin.:-)
    Having disgraced myself by voting for books I hadn’t read for your last prize I’m going to stick with two I have read (and if you want gender-balance to your review links they are on my blog somewhere)
    So between The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Animal’s People, I’m going to vote for Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People because he sounds like a lovely man too…sorry is that shallow?
    I’ll think of my tie-breaker in the lucky event that I’m called upon for it.

  18. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Thanks for spotting my stupid error — I’ve made the correction. And thanks for the entry.

  19. Colette Jones Says:

    Well, if Animal’s People wins, there are going to be a lot of translated work suggestions to choose from!

    dgr, Indra Sinha is a lovely man and it is not the least bit shallow to appreciate that along with his excellent book.

  20. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Colette: The tiebreaker submission does not HAVE to be a translated work, although it can be. If you want to reconsider your submission, you are certainly welcome (although I will say that I have already ordered Crabwalk from the Book Depository — I’ve been looking for another Grass and this one is not available in Canada). So, thanks already.

  21. Colette Jones Says:

    How funny, I must have been reading quickly and missed the “or”

    “…originally or in translation…

    I hope you like Crabwalk!

  22. Trevor Says:

    Okay, Kevin, my tiebreaker. Cao Naiquian’s There’s Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at Night. It’s like a Chinese Winesburg, Ohio, written by a writer who is primarily a police officer and who wrote the vignettes through the years, finally to have them published in Taiwan 2005 and in the mainland in 2007. Columbia University Press brings it to us. I’ll be reviewing it soon on my blog, but after June 11, so you heard about it first (from me, anyway) here!

  23. William Rycroft Says:

    Oh, blimey, just made it in time. The reason for my tardiness is not deliberation over the possible winner as I haven’t read any of them. Yet. But I did want to think about the tie-breaker. And I’m convinced I’ve picked a cracker.

    The book you must read is The Door by Magda Szabo, one of Hungary’s most eminent writers but criminally under-translated. The Door concerns the relationship between a writer and her domestic helper, Emerence, who is a character from literature who remains more real to me today than just about any other. The book manages to be both personal and political as well as a useful corrective to us well-meaning liberal types. Character driven but with an eye on the larger picture it is writing from someone at the height of their powers.

    I rest my case

  24. William Rycroft Says:

    Oops, forgot to pick my winner:

    Ravel (you know why Kevin)

    • KevinfromCanada Says:

      I certainly do and would have presumed Ravel was your entry even without this message. I can’t cheer since I am the tiebreaking judge, but you have to be the sentimental favorite.

  25. John Self Says:

    Oh crikey, The Door eh? Looks like I’d better give that one another go, after failing to finish it last time…

    • KevinfromCanada Says:

      John: I know you are trying not to acquire any more new books, so if you enter and win, you will be allowed to “gift” your winning to prize to anyone you wish. Would love to see an entry. And is your comment about The Door a not-so-subtle attempt to influence me on the tiebreaker?

  26. William Rycroft Says:

    Yeah, nice try John. Who’d have thought the comments page of a respectable blog could be sullied by intellectual mind games and sabotage (or should that be Szabotage!)

  27. John Self Says:

    As Kevin suggests, I don’t want to win myself, I’m just running an Anyone-But-William ticket!

    I haven’t really thought about this but my general feeling with the IMPAC is that they tend to favour what I consider to be ‘difficult’ books, such as My Name is Red and Wide Open. (At least those are the two which come to mind when I think of the prize … there is also The Master of course, which I consider to be a masterpiece.)

    On that basis I don’t know what to predict as I don’t think any of this year’s shortlist is a ‘difficult’ book, from what I know of them. I’d like Ravel to win but I think the judges might (wrongly) think it too slighy. Also Animal’s People which is a terrific book. I think too that they will avoid Oscar Wao because of its Pulitzer success.

    I’ll predict Man Gone Down just because nobody else has.

  28. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Entries are now closed. I haven’t been able to detemine exactly when the announcement of the IMPAC winner will be made but will be monitoring and post the results as quickly as possible. Good luck to all.

    And since I couldn’t enter myself, my heart is cheering for Ravel, my head predicts Animal’s People will be the winner.

  29. Carole Says:

    Hi Kevin

    Announcement 7pm Irish time…Carole

  30. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Thanks, Carole — I would have been trolling all morning my time without your information. Kevin

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