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80-year-old Israeli author wins Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

  • Date: 15 May 2012
  • Area: National

Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012. Appelfeld and Jeffrey M Green, who translated the novel from the Hebrew into English, were each presented with £5,000 at a ceremony last night at the Royal Institute of British Architects, London.

Blooms of Darkness was one of six books shortlisted for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize which is awarded annually to the best work of contemporary fiction in translation.

Funded by Arts Council England and administered by Booktrust, the prize uniquely acknowledges both the writer and the translator equally, recognising the importance of the translator in their ability to bridge the gap between languages and cultures.

The novel is loosely based on Appelfeld's own experiences of the Holocaust as a boy, where he escaped from a prison camp and found work as an apprentice to a prostitute in the Romanian woods. Blooms of Darkness 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 forcefully sent to concentration camps.

At 80, Aharon is the oldest author to win the prestigious Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, following on from the youngest ever winner, Santiago Roncagliolo, who at 36 won the prize last year. 

Antonia Byatt, Director of Literature at Arts Council England, commented:

'This year's shortlist was as strong as ever and choosing just one to take the prize must have been an unenviable and difficult task. It was also a shortlist that demonstrated the health and vibrancy of independent publishers who are discovering international titles and producing translated editions of the highest quality.

'There could, of course, only be one winner and our congratulations go to Aharon Appelfeld and Jeffrey M Green for Blooms of Darkness. It is an incredible achievement, complex, rich and hard hitting but also hugely readable. Green has made the journey from one language to another utterly seamless.'

For more information about the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize visit the Booktrust website.