In Flight of the Seagull in The Caravan Anjum Hasan looks at: 'How an Indian publisher brought Europe home', profiling Seagull Books, the Naveen Kishore-led, India-based publisher that is one of the leading publishers of literature-in-translation (especially French and German) in English.
(A lot of other publishers have great lists, but as far as number-of-(important-)titles go, it's really Dalkey Archive Press and Seagull way at the head of the pack.)
A fascinating story -- and a wonderful success story.
Lots of Seagull titles are under review at the complete review -- I wouldn't even know where to start -- and I hope you too are familiar with much of what they've published.
The infrastructure of the Indonesian publishing industry isn't yet fully developed. A potential market is there but the industry is still in a poor condition.
She also notes:
But regardless of that, we still see gems of literature and popular writings that have both market success and good intellectual reception such as the works of Ayu Utami, Seno Gumira Ajidarma or Eka Kurniawan.
As I've mentioned previously, this fall is seeing a double-dose of Eka Kurniawan in English, as two of his novels are being published in translation: Man Tiger, coming from Verso (see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy from Amazon.com), and Beauty is a Wound from New Directions (pre-order your copy from Amazon.com).
Publishers Weekly has the early reviews -- here and here -- and they're both starred; fully on board the Kurniawan-bandwagon, they also have a Writers to Watch: Fall 2015 profile of him.
At Scroll.in Ulka Anjaria finds: 'Choosing what to read is playing a crucial role in the uneasy conflict between the mother-tongue and English', in Reading Chetan Bhagat in Dhaka: the anxiety of English literature.
(Chetan Bhagat is of course the immensely popular (writing-in-English-)Indian author -- whose success hasn't quite ... translated to the US/UK (several of his titles are under review at the complete review; see, for example, One night @ the call center, which was actually published in US/UK editions as well).)
An interesting (beginning of a) discussion -- as is also the notion, re. Bhagat, that:
Without explicitly saying so, his works shift attention from the traumas of South Asiaís past to the shared anxieties of its future.
The shift in attention may be welcome, but I'm not sure his works are best suited for leading the way .....
Eight years after Amazon released the first Kindle, surviving independent bookstores are now selling e-books -- and finding that no one really wants the ones they're offering.
Of course, part of the convenience of buying e-books is that you don't actually have to go to a bookstore to do it.
But, as someone who will only suffer an e-book in extremis, I'm probably not the right person to speculate about e-book purchasing patterns.
In the Hindustan Times Aneesha Bedi looks at the phenomenon of 'young Indian authors whose writing is vibrant, personal and clicks instantly', in Literature in a hurry.
A nice touch at the end is having two established, older authors comment on the phenomenon -- the section introduced: 'What Seniors Say' ....
In The Hindu Mini Krishnan writes on literature in and from India -- especially in local languages --, in More than one life.
Well, the selfie of us with our Indian-language writers shows that the rest of the globe is fairly safe from us: our writers have not penetrated any other culture's consciousness deeply.
A major part of the problem seems (to me) that they haven't penetrated the markets yet -- paving the way for consciousness-entering.
I'm always on the lookout for translated-from-the-Indian-languages fiction here in the US, but there's essentially none to be found.
As she notes:
Both serious studies and hastily cobbled articles based on interviews with writers and publishers over the last two years reveal that outside India, very little of our huge literary output -- contemporary or otherwise -- is being read anywhere in the world.
We are a literary supercontinent but as dark as Krishna and as difficult to reach.
Again: a major part of the problem is that it's simply not (readily) available.
I'd read it if I could get my hands on it; I rarely can.
Which really shouldn't be quite this difficult, in this day and age.
(In just the past few days I have gotten review copies of a Malay novel from Singapore (e-version) and four paperbacks translated from the Galician (these from a publisher based in Sofia, Bulgaria, of all places -- check out Small Stations).
But she suggests that even within India -- where availability is less of a problem -- there hasn't been nearly enough engagement with literatures from other local languages/regions.
Murakami Haruki's early novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 are being published in new translations (by Ted Goossen) in the US/UK -- in one volume titled, sigh, Wind/Pinball -- at the beginning of August; see the publicity pages from Alfred A. Knopf and Harvill Secker, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Early reviews are already out -- Arifa Akbar's in The Independent and Matthew Adams' in The National (both notable also for being dismissive of Alfred Birnbaum's earlier translations, which were hardly anywhere near as obscure as they suggest; I can remember stumbling over them at New York bookstores frequently in the late 1980s and 1990s).
What I hadn't realized is that the Wind/Pinball phenomenon is apparently a global one: the novels aren't just being resurrected for English-reading audiences: this summer and fall also sees editions in, at least, German (see the DuMont publicity page for Wenn der Wind singt / Pinball 1973), Spanish (pre-order your copy of Tusquets' Escucha la canción del viento y Pinball 1973 at Amazon.es), and Catalan (see the Editorial Empúries publicity page for Escolta la cançó del vent i Pinball, 1973).
Why the concerted push to bring these to (all these) markets now ?
Surely not a cash-flow issue for Murakami.
But maybe a setting the (literary) record straight/on the table for posterity (and Nobel-angling) purposes ?
At BooksLive they have an overview of The Local Books to Look Forward to in 2015 (July-December), suggesting some of the more interesting publications forthcoming in South Africa in the coming months.
Some of this will make it to the US/UK sooner rather than later (the Deon Meyer, hurrah -- pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), some not quite so soon (the Zakes Mda ?).
Anyway, always interesting to see what is of local interest/prominence.
(And nice to see a re-issue of Thomas Mofolo's classic Chaka.)
I haven't seen Mani Rao's Kalidasa for the 21st Century Reader (see the Aleph Book Company publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), but Vijay Nambisan's review in The Caravan is now (finally) fully freely accessible online, in which he considers: 'Revisiting Kalidasa in the modern age'.
(With several reviews at the complete review of both Sakuntala (four, including this one) and the Meghaduta (three, including this one), both of which are also translated anew in the Rao volume, I'm always curious about new takes on this Sanskrit master.)
The New York Times Book Review's 'By the Book'-column continues to be ... uneven, but this week's respondent is William T. Vollmann, and though I've never really taken to his work he offers up a pretty interesting set of answers.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Simon Critchley's novella Memory Theatre -- which came out last year from Fitzcarraldo Editions in the UK, and is due out in the US (as Memory Theater ...) from Other Press in November (quite a while after the French translation was published, I can't help but note ...).
With the French 'rentrée littéraire' about to be unleashed -- 589 titles published over the course of just a couple of weeks -- any guidance is helpful; the prix du Roman Fnac offers a just-announced longlist of thirty top titles (see them, for example, at BibliObs; for some reason the Fnac site doesn't have a convenient overview) and, given their track record -- mixed,
but local favorite Where Tigers are at Home won in 2008, and widely acclaimed (if locally less appreciated) Purge (2010) as well as Vie Française (2004) have also taken the prize -- looks worth at least a closer look..
The presence of Marisha Pessl's Night Film would seem to be a big red flag, but new works by Claro (Crash-test; see the Actes Sud publicity page), Mathias Enard, and -- maybe -- Laurent Binet, among others, are certainly intriguing.
This week's German author prize is ... the Kranichsteiner Literaturpreis, the €20,000 prize that's gone to Rainald Goetz (this year's just-announced (see my mention) Georg-Büchner-Preis winner), in 1983, Wolfgang Hilbig (1987), Nobel laureate Herta Müller (1991), and Sibylle Lewitscharoff (2006).
No word yet at the official site, last I checked, but they've announced that Esther Kinsky will get to pick up this year's prize on 6 November; see, for example, the report at boersenblatt.
Her Summer Report is available in English (from Seagull Books, of course); get your copy at Amazon.com or (ridiculously cheaply, at this moment) at Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the final volume in Jeff Lindsay's serial-killer series, the just published Dexter is Dead.
Okay, not exactly my proudest reviewing accomplishment, but at some point my tidy, completist side kicks in -- hence you can find coverage of all eight Dexter-books at the site.
You probably don't need me to tell you, but, as widely reported, E.L.Doctorow has passed away; see, for example, Bruce Weber's obituary in The New York Times.
None of his work is under review at the complete review; among the best-known is, of course, Ragtime; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
At Radio Bulgaria Desislava Ivanova briefly writes Of Bulgarians and books.
We are treated to not-quite-up-to-date 'statistics':
In figures from the National Statistical Institute, in 2011 fifty-one percent of Bulgarians did not read even a single book and only 19% of the population read more than 10 books.
Newer writers have made half an impression:
As to contemporary Bulgarian writers, more than half of respondents say they love to read books by them as well.
27% however claim present-day Bulgarian writers fail to offer worthy reads, and others believe reading their books is a fad.
The polled mentioned the names of Georgi Gospodinov, Donka Petrunova and Ivan Trenev.
There is no big demand for contemporary Bulgarian writers for adults. One notable exception is Stefan Tsanev from the older generation whose books are quite successful on the market.
As to children though, they most often prefer Bulgarian authors.
Adolescents read mostly fantasy and historical novels.
Among children's writers, one of the most popular is Yulka.
(Nothing by either Tsanev (Стефан Цанев) or Yulka (Юлка; actually Julia Spiridonova) seems to be available in English, but see, for example, some (Bulgarian) samples by Yulka at LiterNet.)
"Writing is kind of considered to be somewhat secondary to art at this point, maybe largely because things have become so visual with new media," she said, adding that the visual arts were also far easier to sponsor:
"It's sexier." Yamada said that when offers of funding did come in, they were often tied in ways that were unacceptable.
"Cambodia has been heavily influenced by Sanskrit," she said.
"And unlike Thai, they haven't separated their words.
When we started out, a whole page would have no paragraph breaks, no stops, no phrases."
Today, Yamada said, that's changing -- work is presented in a more legible form, and language is less repetitious.
Ah, well .....
But, yes, one hopes that they get over this 'development literature'-phase soon .....
Rather shamefacedly I note the awarding of the Premio Strega ... a full two weeks after they announced the winner.
(It's summer, news travels slowly ? But seriously, where's the English-language coverage of this, the best-known of the Italian literary prizes.)
No doubt you would have heard if finalist Elena Ferrante had won with The Story of the Lost Child -- forthcoming from Europa editions; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- but in the second and final round of voting it came a rather distant third, with 59 of the 368 votes cast.
The winner was: La ferocia by Nicola Lagioia; see the Einaudi publicity page.
(His Bringing It All Back Home is apparently available in English -- electronically; get you Kindle copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
They also award a Premio Strega Europeo -- a best foreign book prize -- and German-Ukrainian author Katja Petrowskaja's Maybe Esther (the 2013 Ingeborg-Bachmann-Prize-winning title, forthcoming from Fourth Estate in English; see the Suhrkamp foreign rights page) beat out hot favorite Rafael Chirbes (and Alain Mabanckou, among others).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi's 1990 novel Mirages of the Mind; Random House India brought this translation out last year, and now New Directions has brought it stateside.
Good (though unusual -- really, it's not what you're used to reading) fun -- and lots of great observations and sentences.
I think my favorite is still the pithy:
There is no real harm in swimming against a river's current. I mean, none for the river.
In The Telegraph Jake Kerridge profiles Maj Sjöwall, in The couple who invented Nordic Noir (the other half being long-dead Per Wahlöö, with whom she co-authored the classic Martin Beck-series (Roseanna, The Man who went up in Smoke, etc.)).
Nice to see her/them get the attention -- though surely they always get their due, as no one can doubt they weren't: "the begetters of what we now know as Nordic Noir"
So they just handed out a bunch of literary prizes at the Semana Negra 2015, and the Premio Dashiell Hammett went to Yo fui Johnny Thunders by Carlos Zanón; see, for example, Carlos Zanón gana el premio Dashiell Hammett 2015 in El País.
I have to admit that I thought it was kind of sad that a prize for the best Spanish-language crime novel (well, 'novela negra') was named after a non-Spanish-writing author.
It has an impressive track-record, with winning titles by Paco Ignacio Taibo II (again and again), Leonardo Padura, Jorge Franco, Ricardo Piglia -- even Sergio Ramírez's Divine Punishment (just recently out in English translation) -- but still .....
Looking at what the body behind the prize is -- the Asociación Internacional de Escritores Policiacos/International Association of Crime Writers -- both clears up and muddies the question further: founded in 1986 in Havana, the founding authors consisting of: "Paco Ignacio Taibo II of Mexico, Julian Semionov of the then U.S.S.R., Jiri Prochazka (Czechoslovakia), Rafael Ramírez Heredia (Mexico), Daniel Chavarría (Uruguay), Alberto Molina and Rodolfo Perez (Cuba)", this looks very much to have been set up as a counter-weight to 'Western' mystery-writers organizations -- and so you can see why they'd go with Hammett (if they had to go with an English-writing author).
Yet its (few) international branches look pretty local-mainstream, and among them is the North American one -- which hands out its own Hammett Prize (also with a reasonably solid list of winners (though Alice Hoffman beating out Walter Mosley and Donald E. Westlake in 1992 is ... striking)).
(The German branch -- Das Syndikat -- sensibly went local-language: theirs is the Friedrich Glauser Preis.)
A bit confusing and murky ... but maybe appropriate for a noirish organization/prizes.
So there's something called The Novella Award -- "a writing competition that celebrates new fiction in the novella form" -- and they've now announced their shortlist, with the winner to be announced 7 October.
As the report by Katy Guest in the Independent on Sunday observes, it does at least answer that burning literary question of what the hell is a novella (or at least how long should it be) -- which they then manage to get wrong in the headline (Novella Award organisers have defined a novel as being a piece of fiction between 20,000 and 40,000 words).
Yes, apparently it's 'the Richard Ford solution'/definition:
"When a writer approaches the 20,000-word mark," Ford wrote in The Granta Book of the American Long Story, "he knows he's edging out of the country of the short story; likewise when he passes the 40,000-word mark, he's edging into the country of the novel."
They've announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the five finalists for the prix Littéraire de La Mamounia, one of the leading hotel-sponsored literary prizes, a MAD 200,000 prize for French-Moroccan literature -- and whose seven-person judging panel includes Alain Mabanckou and ... Douglas Kennedy this year.
The winner will be announced 19 September.
A flurry of Patrick Modiano-translations (and updated translations ...) are due out in the US/UK in the coming months, with Pedigree due out soon, and the three-pack of The Occupation Trilogy -- a first-time translation his debut, plus revised translations of two early works that were published in English some forty years ago -- also soon available (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
Hence we can also expect lots of Modiano-coverage -- but I hope we can soon move beyond the Patrick Modiano: the Nobel Prize-winner nobody had read-sort (so Duncan White in The Telegraph).
I know a lot of this is tempting -- but Modiano was neither that obscure nor that undertranslated, even in English (and especially not elsewhere, even outside France).
(Meanwhile, for an amusing Modiano cameo in someone else's novel -- which I'm afraid plays very differently, post-Nobel --, check out Antoine Laurain's The Red Notebook.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Deji Bryce Olukotun's Nigerians in Space.
It's taken me a while to get around to this; I've been curious/interested -- Nigerians in space ! -- but also leery.
But what a pleasant surprise -- and, overall, what a surprise, because it turns out to be nothing like what I expected.
(Among the nice surprises: lots of abalone -- which, aside from making my mouth water (and breaking my heart a bit), is actually also really well done/utilized (no baloney -- abalone !).)
What really impresses is that this is an 'African' novel that isn't -- like practically everything else brought out by US/UK presses (well, excluding some South African stuff, as well as everything from the whole north African stretch) -- self-consciously and overly-emphatically 'African'.
It's comparable to something like Okey Ndibe's Foreign Gods, Inc. -- but Olukotun hits it on the nose, while Ndibe (pressured by his editor ?) tries way, way too hard.
This was brought out by Unnamed Press -- and good for them -- but it's incomprehensible that this wasn't brought out by a major publisher; it's bigger- (if not mass-)audience appealing, and it's damn good.
(The one reason one wishes a major had published it: maybe it would have gotten the attention it deserves -- because it deserves a hell of a lot more than it got.)
In the Irish Times Martin Doyle considers Reviewing Irish books: the good, the bad and the ugly truth -- and asks a a variety of local reviewers and critic for their opinions on the matter.
Since practically everyone know everyone the small market/literary field exacerbates the usual problems -- and it's interesting to hear what the reviewers think about this.
Meanwhile, in the US (well, on the Internet -- indeed billed as '' Online Only') at n + 1 Nell Zink (a hot new thing on the literary scene -- and often sold/advertised as Discovered by Franzen) (p)reviewd Jonathan Franzen's new upcoming novel, Purity, offering Early thoughts on Purity by Jonathan Franzen.
Except that after a couple of hours they pulled that content, 'explaining', as you can now read there:
Update: this page is temporarily unavailable. Bowing to publishing convention, we are going to hold this pre-review until closer to the book's release date.
I have no idea what this 'publishing convention' is, or why they're bowing to it: reviews of Purity have been up at Publishers Weekly (posted 18 May) and Kirkus Reviews (posted 6 May) for months; the title is fair game, and I'm disappointed I haven't seen more coverage elsewhere yet.
Jezebel suggests: "In all likelihood, Zink's post was taken down because of an embargo" -- but given the PW and Kirkus coverage, it was broken long ago , if it ever existed .....
I know publishers like to (think they can) manage, if not control how coverage of their books plays out, but I wish they wouldn't try so hard.
(Apparently the Kakutani's early review last week of some widely anticipated (in some circles) title that was 'embargoed' rankled, too; see, for example, coverage here.)
(Given that the focus at the complete review is on fiction in translation, books I cover tend to have been reviewed elsewhere (like in their original language ...) earlier anyway.
And the really big titles -- like Houellebecq's Submission -- have often been widely reviewed even in English long before their US/UK publication dates .....
(No Publishers Weekly review for that one yet, however.))
The reason I chose Syria's Ministry of Culture was because it was a government organization and had a budget allocated for translating and publishing world literature. The private publishers, however, were not interested.
Also interesting (if less surprising):
As far as publications are concerned, yes, there are publications everywhere, even in the poorest Arab countries, such as Yemen, Mauritania and Sudan. Publication is not the problem. Distribution is.
The American Literary Translators Association has announced the longlist for the 2015 National Translation Award in prose.
It's like a 'best of the translation prizes'-longlist: among the finalists are:
Annelise F. Wasmoen's translation of The Last Lover by Can Xue, which won this year's Best Translated Book Award
Susan Bernofsky's translation of The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, which won this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize
Donald Nicholson-Smith's translation of The Mad and the Bad, which won this year's French-American Foundation/Florence Gould Foundation Translation Prize
Nice also to see the Open Letter recognition -- four of the twelve finalists ! -- and interesting that only one (classic) re-translation made the cut (one of last year's Anna Karenina translations).
Other finalists under review at the complete review are:
The starting gun for the Best Translated Book Awards 2016 (for best previously untranslated work of fiction and of poetry published/distributed in the US in 2015) has now pretty much officially sounded: at Three Percent they introduce the fiction judges -- and reveal the significant dates: the longlist will be announced 29 March, the shortlist on 26 April, and the winner on 11 May.
I've been a judge for the past few years, but not this year -- there's a whole new slate, with a nice variety of backgrounds, including some notable translators (who have had previously long/shortlisted titles in the running).
I strongly encourage publishers to submit their eligible titles !
I previewed the 2016 BTBA right after this year's award, and I haven't really seen anything that convinces me to reassess my initial projections (though I'm sure I eventually will -- there are still a lot of titles I haven't seen yet (and, yes, publishers, even though I am not a judge this year, you're welcome (and encouraged !) to send me all eligible titles too !)).
(I have, however, read Sharov's Before & During in the meantime (along with a couple of others I mentioned), and can confirm that this is definitely a worthy contender.)
The one big advantage about not being a judge this year is that I can be much more obnoxiously publicly partisan, so look forward to that !
(And here's hoping The Mookse and the Gripes Forum's BTBA 2016: Speculation discussion gets (and continues) going properly, too.)
The Royal African Society's annual literature festival, Africa Writes was held 3 to 5 July, and at openDemocracy Ché Ramsden has a lengthy report on it, In celebration of African literature: Africa Writes 2015.
Local success stories like that of Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi Kintu are certainly encouraging (though one hopes/wishes the title were readily available beyond the continent as well ...).
Zimbabwean author Chenjerai Hove has passed away (in Norway, having long lived in exile); see, for example, the BBC report, as well as Lovemore Ranga Mataire's report, Literary fraternity mourns Hove, in The Herald.
An important author, whose work seems no longer to be adequately in print; but get your copy of Bones, for example, at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Prolific German author (and sometime parliamentarian, post-unification) Gerhard Zwerenz has passed away; no English-language reports yet, as far as I've seen, but see, for example, Arno Widmann's obituary in the Frankfurter Rundschau.
Only two of his works appear to have been translated into English, the last -- Little Peter in War and Peace, probably his most popular and biggest success (hey, The New York Review of Books reviewed it (Neal Ascherson)) -- in 1970.
Still, in The New York Times Book Review in 1966 Charles Poore said of the stories in the collection Remembrance Day that they were: "as murkily wild as underground movies, as stylishly brutal as the theater of the absurd".
And he did get a The New York Timkesmention again when he -- and others, like Stefan Heym, won seats in parliament in 1994
I've noted this phenomenon a couple of times here, and now at the Asymptote blog Poupeh Missaghi writes about how Iran's very free copyright regime -- there's very little intellectual property protection -- leads, in conjunction with other factors, to multiple translations of the same work, in 31 Animal Farms: Literary Translation and Copyright in Iran
Last month I mentioned the debate in Israel about what constitutes 'Israeli' literature, as a leading national Hebrew literary prize, the Sapir Prize, changed its rules to limit eligible authors to those resident in Israel.
The Economist's Prospero shows just how silly it is to try to straightjacket Israeli/Hebrew literature, in All Change.
All for the good, I would think -- but fascinating also to see the extent of it.
A couple of weeks ago I wondered whether we might be looking at a Christoph Ransmayr revival, with Atlas of an Anxious Man set to come out at the end of this year from (who else ?) Seagull Books; see their publicity page or the S.Fischer foreign rights page (foreign rights sold in eight markets ! including ... Abu Dhabi !), or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Well, it's now won the Prix Jean Monnet de Littérature Européenne -- no news at the official site yet, last I checked (hey, they're only actually handing out the prize 21 November so no rush, right ?), but see, for example, the Sud Ouestreport -- and given the longlist (it beat out the hot new Rafael Chirbes, which you'll be hearing a lot more about, as well as Gonçalo M. Tavares' A Man: Klaus Klump), that's pretty impressive.
It's not exactly clear what this prize is for, but both titles in French and French translation are eligible, and while the previous winners' list is ... eclectic, I find that I've read about half of these; titles under review at the complete review range from Angel Wagenstein's Farewell, Shanghai to modern classics including Harry Mulisch's The Discovery of Heaven to Antonio Tabucchi's Pereira Declares.
William Boyd's Any Human Heart has won, too.
In The Myanmar Times Chit Su reports that Classic novel to be published uncensored (in Burma), as Nu Nu Yi's Smile as they Bow will finally appear uncut, two decades after its first publication.
Apparently, back then: "The censorship board didn't like the word 'gay' at all".
(And while this is certainly good news, it would be great to see more (anything !) come out of Burma.
It doesn't have to be 'classic' -- just some contemporary fiction .....)