The Duncan Lawrie International Dagger 2006
First winners: Fred Vargas and Siân Reynolds
The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas, translated by Siân Reynolds, has won the inaugural Duncan Lawrie International Dagger.
The book, published in the UK by Harvill, was originally published in France as Debout les Morts. As well as the dagger, Fred Vargas wins £5,000 and Siân Reynolds £1,000.
Our picture shows Peter Ostacchini, Deputy Managing Director, Duncan Lawrie Bank, presenting Fred Vargas with her award at the CWA Duncan Lawrie Dagger Awards for crime writing, held at the Waldorf Hilton in London on June 29th, 2006.
Sophia Siméonidis, a Greek opera singer, wakes up one morning to discover that a tree has appeared overnight in the garden of her Paris house. Intrigued and unnerved, she turns to her neighbours: Vandoosler, an ex-cop fired from the police for having helped a murderer to escape, and three impecunious historians, Mathias, Marc and Lucien – the three evangelists. They agree – both because they need the money and out of sheer curiosity – to dig around the tree and see if something has been buried there. They find nothing but soil.
A few weeks later, Sophia disappears and nobody worries too much until her body is found burned to ashes in a car. Who killed the opera singer? Her husband, her ex-lover, her best friend? Or could it be her lovely niece recently moved to the capital? They all seem to have a motive.
Vandoosler and the three evangelists set out to find the truth.
Announcing the new award in 2005, Crime author and CWA Chair, Carla Banks said:
“This is a very exciting year for the CWA. We have announced the Duncan Lawrie Dagger, a prize for the best crime fiction written in English and the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger for crime fiction written in a foreign language but translated and published here. Previously, both types of work were competing for one prize, then called the Gold Dagger, which was for £3,000. Now, the prizes are jointly worth £26,000.”
Books in translation present a particular problem. Are we rewarding the original writer or the translator? The problems of catching idiom and 'voice' in one language and reproducing this in another are formidable. The role of the translator is more creative than that of simply transcribing from one language into another which is why the CWA is particularly pleased that, for the first time, translators are to be recognised in this way.
“We have been looking for a sponsor for some time. We approached Duncan Lawrie Private Bank, who are our sponsor for the Duncan Lawrie Dagger and they kindly agreed to help us reward crime fiction in translation.
The judges remarked that despite the relatively restricted number of entries for this inauguaral dagger their quality was consistently high. They drew up a shortlist of six, from which The Three Evangelists emerged as winner. The judges commented that it was “...A splendid example of French originality, with terrific narrative drive and a very good mystery, too.”
This year's Duncan Lawrie International Dagger judges:
Adrian Muller (non-voting Chair) is a freelance journalist and events organiser specialising in crime fiction.
Peter Guttridge is a crime writer and the crime fiction reviewer for The Observer
Ruth Morse has written about post-colonial crime fiction, and is a reviewer for The Times Literary Supplement.
Susanna Yager is the crime fiction reviewer for The Sunday Telegraph.
Fred Vargas is the pseudonym of Frédérique Audouin-Rouzeau, who was born in 1957 in Paris (Fred is not unusual in France as an abbreviation of this feminine name). She is a historian and archaeologist by profession, and is now a bestselling novelist. Her novel Seeking Whom He May Devour (L'homme à l'envers, translated by David Bellos, and featuring her recurring character Chief Inspector Adamsberg) was short-listed in 2005 for the last Gold Dagger award. Her books have been translated into thirty-two languages.
Siân Reynolds is Professor (emerita) of French at the University of Stirling. She has translated history, social science, and fiction.
The other shortlisted books, in alphabetical order by author, were as follows:
Andrea Camilleri: Excursion to Tindari (Picador) translated by Stephen Sartarelli
Yasmina Khadra: Autumn of the Phantoms (Toby Crime) translated by Aubrey Botsford
Dominique Manotti: Dead Horsemeat (Arcadia Books) translated by Amanda Hopkinson and Ros Schwartz
Håkan Nesser: Borkmann's Point (Macmillan) translated by Laurie Thompson
Rafael Reig: Blood on the Saddle (Serpent's Tail) translated by Paul Hammond