The Public Lending Right is the neat system in the UK whereby authors are remunerated (up to a point) each time their books are checked out of a library, and they've now released their most recent statistics as to UK library borrowing.
In The Guardian PLR chair Tom Holland has a useful overview of Library lending figures: which books were most popular in 2014/15 ? -- including the list of the 100 most borrowed titles.
Despite being (completely) fiction-dominated, none of the top 100 are under review at the complete review; indeed, few other books by any of the authors to crack the top 100 are.
Because this was a book written for entertainment and pleasure I did not want it cluttered with footnotes.
I reckoned that as long as readers were being carried along by the story, they did not want to be distracted by an annotator plucking at their sleeves, and explaining the countless Buddhist, Daoist and other references.
Those who do want the scholarly paraphernalia can always turn to Anthony C. Yu's version.
(As you know, I can never get enough scholarly paraphernalia, so, yeah, I do lean towards the Yu-translation.)
I was very much looking forward to this, and it has a lot of elements/aspects that appeal to me, but I found it fell surprisingly flat.
Wray seems to have taken his time writing it (his last novel came out in 2009) and I wonder if he just spent too much time on it -- not so much in polishing it (though the writing certainly feels very worked-over) but in playing with it, resulting in (among very much else) things like that piece ascribed to Joan Didion.
(I am still desperately hoping that's some kind of inside joke between Wray and Didion, but I'm thinking ... probably not so much.
(Among those he mentions in the Acknowledgements are Ursula LeGuin and Murakami Haruki -- but not Didion.))
The biggest of the German book prizes -- the German Book Prize -- is announced in the fall, at the Frankfurt Book Fair, but the spring Leipzig Book Fair (17 to 20 March) also has big book prize -- which is, in fact, a trio of prizes, as they honor not just a best work of fiction (like the German Book Fair) -- well, 'Belletristik' -- but also prize a work of non-fiction, and a translation.
They've now announced the three sets of five finalists, selected from 401 submissions.
Among the Belletristik finalists: Guntram Vesper's 1000-pager, Frohburg
Also interesting from a foreign perspective: the translations in the running.
The five titles are from five different languages -- the English one a Richard Ford, the French an Emmanuel Carrère.
The one title I have, and which I will be reviewing, is the most impressive Tutori by Bora Ćosić, which has got to be the betting favorite (see also the dedicated website publisher Schöffling & Co. set up, or their foreign rights page).
So what does a "world-famous Georgian writer" think are the Top 5 Must-Reads of Georgian Literature ?
Dato Turashvili lists his at Georgia Today -- and goes way back.
Unfortunately, too, practically none of this is available/accessible in English.
And what about Turashvili ?
Well, it so happens that Mosaic Press is about to bring out his Flight from the U.S.S.R.; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
(The book's 'Amazon Best Sellers Rank' of 16,598,047 (as I write this) suggests the title hasn't quite caught on yet ... but then the release date is only a couple of weeks from now.)
Meanwhile, see also the Index of Georgian literature under review at complete review -- not very much yet, but I am always looking/hoping for more .....
They've announced that this year's European Prize for Literature goes to Estonian author Jaan Kaplinski.
It's the eleventh time they've awarded the prize -- Jon Fosse won last time -- but they're still working on really establishing themselves.
But, they assure us:
The award is based on criteria of quality and of exemplarity, which are as demanding as those for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Quite a bit of Kaplinski's work has been translated into English -- including the novel The Same River; see the Peter Owen publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Urdu-writing great Intizar Hussain has passed away; see, for example, Martin Chilton's obituary in The Telegraph.
It was good to see him get shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize (in its former incarnation) in 2013.
Two of his books are under review at the complete review: Basti and A Chronicle of the Peacocks.
They've announced the shortlists for the 2016 PEN Literary Awards.
Nothing under review at the complete review outside the fiction-translation prize -- though I do have a couple of these, and should get to some.
The fiction-translation finalists are:
The Blizzard by Vladimir Sorokin, translated by Jamey Gambrell
The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector, translated by Katrina Dodson
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, translated by Oliver Ready
Hollow Heart by Viola Di Grado, translated by Antony Shugaar
There's still a while until the Best Translated Book Award longlist is announced, but I'm curious how much overlap there will be: leaving aside the BTBA-ineligible (as a re-translation) Dostoyevsky, the Lispector seems a gimme, and I expect the Gospodinov is more or less guaranteed a longlist-place -- but I would never have figured these other two titles to rate so highly.
The PEN winners will be announced 1 March.
Leading Slovenian poet Aleš Debeljak has passed away -- without much English-language notice, despite being fairly extensively translated into English; see, for example, The Slovenia Times' report, Eminent Slovenian author Aleš Debeljak dies.
The most recent of his titles to appear in English was Smugglers, out from BOA Editions last year; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
(And, hey, it was even reviewed in Publishers Weekly -- "Debeljak’s engaging, accessible, eye-opening poems turn cultural dislocation into its own strange pleasure.", they said.)
Meanwhile, the IfZ has received 35 to 40 requests for translation rights.
The institute isn't disinclined, the director confirmed, adding, however, that no contracts have yet been signed for translations of Hitler, Mein Kampf.
Well, better the scholarly/critical edition than just the plain old text by itself (which is, after all, -- being out of copyright -- now up for grabs for anyone who can be bothered to translate it).
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday reiterated her call for extensive and quality translation of classical and popular books of Bengali literature into other languages to reach out to world readers.
Bonus points for not setting any Nobel-winning goals (with 1913 winner Rabindranath Tagore they can sort of lay claim to a previous winner -- but the temptation to say that after a hundred years they're due again must have been hard to resist ...).
The February issue of Words without Borders is now out, with a theme of: 'International Graphic Novels: Volume X', plus a bonus-section of 'The Reverberations of History: Contemporary Austrian Literature', curated by Tess Lewis.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Michal Viewegh's 1992 Czech classic, Bliss Was it in Bohemia, finally out in English, from Jantar (whose books I've recently (and repeatedly) mentioned being very excited about).
Literary estates can be so much fun, wielding their power in ... well, who knows whose interest, but surprisingly often neither in that of the now-dead creator nor his/her audience.
Here another example of some odd muscle-flexing, as for example David Ng reports in The Los Angeles Times: The Wooster Group runs into problems with Harold Pinter production, as the theatre group's new production of Nobel laureate Harold Pinter's The Room faces some odd restrictions:
Samuel French instructed the New York-based Wooster Group that all promotion and reviews of the production would be forbidden.
The Wooster Group subsequently appealed this decision, and Samuel French later lifted the restriction on promoting the production, but told the theater company that the blackout on reviews will remain in place.
I am intrigued by the idea of reviews being forbidden -- surely something entirely out of the control of the theater group (and not achievable by other means either).
I'm curious to see how this plays out.
Much as I dislike the term (and prefer the real thing), I can see the appeal of 'blooks' -- objects that look like books but aren't -- and Jennifer Schuessler's well-illustrated piece in The New York Times on an exhibit of them at the Grolier Club (through 12 March), 'Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren't' Explores the World of Fake Books certainly makes me more curious.
I look forward to checking out the exhibit.
The Victorian Premier's Literary Awards are yet another (local-)government-supported Australian literary prize and they've announced this year's category-prize-winners (fiction, non, poetry, drama, and YA) -- each of whom get A$25,000 -- and the 'grand prize' (officially: the Victorian Prize for Literature) winner, which this year went to the dramatist, Mary Anne Butler's Broken taking the (A$100,000) prize.
See, for example, the Browns Mart Theatre publicity page, or for more about all the awards, Jason Steger's report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The biennial Singapore Literature Prize awards prizes in three genres (fiction, non, and poetry) in each of Singapore's four official languages (English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil), and it's great to see the growth of interest (at least as measured by submissions), first when the number of categories was tripled between 2012 (57 entries) and 2014 (182 entries), but even now, as the Straits Times reports: Record 235 submissions for the Singapore Literature Prize 2016:
The number of entries in English came tops again: 95, the same as 2014.
Works in Chinese this time around saw a significant bump, from 30 to 56, and works in Tamil were up from 32 to 54.
There were 30 Malay-language entires submitted, up from 25 in 2014.
The shortlist will be announced in May, and the winners on 14 July.
Ah, the validation of a Nobel Prize in Literature !
As I've often noted, (South) Korea is among the countries that most often fall back on the why-haven't-we-won-one-yet lament, and at The New Yorker's Page-Turner weblog Mythili G. Rao considers: Can a Big Government Push Bring the Nobel Prize in Literature to South Korea ?
The Literature Translation Institute of Korea has done admirable work in pushing Korean literature abroad (albeit with too strong an emphasis on translation-into-English (one of the harder markets to crack, as we know too well) rather than other languages, and with a ... not exactly first-rate web presence with their list - Books from Korea periodical (click on current issue to ... not find the current issue, something I've complained about for ages and which no one has bothered to notice/fix)).
Interesting also to hear of the idea of the "opening of an L.T.I. Korea Publishing House in the U.S." -- Rao suggesting:
In theory, opening a U.S.-based L.T.I.-run publishing house would help remove one of biggest hurdles for the agency: getting exposure for its translations.
There are actually many foreign publishing houses that publish national literature in English translation (the Soviet and Chinese governments were the large-scale pioneers in the area, decades ago, but a lot of countries have followed suit), and while it's possible basing such a publishing house in the US would help slightly with exposure, I can't imagine it would really accomplish much.
As Rao notes about Dalkey's wonderful (and very generously supported) Library of Korean Literature:
Yet the books' release has largely been ignored in the U.S.
In the three years since the series launched, with seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars in support from L.T.I. Korea, The New Yorker and Harper's have been the only major publications to attempt to review any of the twenty volumes released so far.
That is disappointing, to say the least -- especially since there is some major fiction among these volumes (in the most recent batch: Yi Mun-yol's Son of Man -- a book deserving a great deal of critical- and reader-attention (none of which it seems to have gotten to date)).
(Quite a few of the Dalkey -- and other -- Korean titles are under review at the complete review; among weblogs, Tony's Reading List also has covered a wide variety of Korean titles in translation.)
Amusing also to hear that:
[W]inning a Nobel Prize could actually have a downside for the country's literary culture.
"I'm afraid, if Ko Un wins the Nobel, that the Korean government, the L.T.I., will just declare victory and shut down," Charles Montgomery said.
Charles La Shure expressed a similar sentiment.
"It will happen at some point: Korea will win the Nobel Prize in Literature," he said.
"I hope it doesn't happen too soon."
(And of course we can all dream that the Nobel goes to a ... North Korean author, which would throw everyone into a wonderful tizzy.)
(Updated - 30 January): See now also at the TLS-weblog Toby Lichtig on A glittering Korea.
In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung Ilma Rakusa reviews Garaczi László's latest to be translated into German, the 2006 MetaXa, now out from Droschl -- and, yeah, she kind of likes it ("ein Glanzstück").
So where are the English translations of his stuff ?
I thought Hungarians were hot -- or is he too far out, even compared to Krasznahorkai, Nádas, etc. ?
See, for example, the Publishing Hungary Author's Page.
I do hope he's on at least some publishers' radar .....
They've announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the winner of this year's Whitbread Costa Book of the Year -- and it is The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge.
The winner of this prize is selected from the category-winners, and it's the first time in a while that the kids-category winner has come out on top.
The book isn't out in the US yet (it's due in May) -- pre-order at Amazon.com -- but see the Macmillan Children's Books publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.
The Premio Internacional de Novela Rómulo Gallegos is one of the most illustrious Spanish-language novel prizes, with a list of winners to rival pretty much any other book prize; it also comes with good money attached (though there's some confusion about the denomination -- most sources have given US$100,000, but some say euros, some say bolívares; as it turns out the latter -- abbreviated: BS -- might be the most appropriate).
As I mentioned last June, the 2015 prize went to Pablo Montoya, and he got to pick up the prize in August.
Pick up the prize, and give a speech -- everything except pick up the cash.
Hey, at least the check didn't bounce -- but apparently the cash-strapped Venezuelan government didn't even cut him one, and they still haven't paid up; see, for example, the EFE report at Fox New Latino, Venezuela apologizes for delay in paying winner of literary prize.
Montoya -- still hoping for the moeny, apparently -- generously says it's no big deal:
"What the Romulo Gallegos Prize represents is so much more important than the economic amount.
It's an award that puts you in the literary arena," said Montoya, adding that he is "aware of the situation" of economic crisis besetting Venezuela.
All true -- and yet: poor show.
I hope they're adding interest to the amount, whenever they finally get around to paying him.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Rafael Chirbes' On the Edge, just out from New Directions (with a UK edition from Harvill Secker due out in a couple of months).
As I mentioned ... years ago, this was pretty convincingly the Spanish book of the year, 2013, and calling it Chirbes' magnum opus (in a pretty impressive and solid opus, by the way) is surely right.
I actually went through a Chirbes-phase a while back, reviewing (cursorily) three of his novels back in ... 2000, but I didn't entirely take to him, and this is the first I've read of his since then (helped by the fact that nothing of his has been translated into English in some two decades ...).
I still have similar issues with him, but this is an undeniably impressive work -- though, yeah, it is a bit hard to really like.
Still: worth it, ultimately.
At Qantara.de Marcia Lynx Qualey (of the invaluable Arabic Literature (in English)) reviews Ibrahim al-Koni's National Translation Award (in William Hutchins' translation) prize-winning New Waw, Saharan Oasis (see also the University of Texas Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
I actually haven't seen this one yet -- somehow I haven't got my hands on a copy, and the New York Public Library doesn't even have a circulating copy ... -- but I've long been touting al-Koni as a Nobel contender, and it's good to see that his profile is rising, especially with his recent Man Booker International Prize (in its previous incarnation/format, sigh) longlisting.
As Qualey notes:
This is the fourth of al-Koni's novels that Hutchins has translated.
The prolific US-based translator says that he's generally "wary of 'global' novels that seem to have been written expressly to appeal to Westerners."
The New Waw: Saharan Oasis is decidedly not that.
It follows neither conventional characterisations nor timelines and seems to expand in multiple directions as it follows the group.
Among the interesting mentions here, too:
Currently, Hutchins says, he is at work on another novel by al-Koni.
"I have to date translated 450 of the 700 pages of 'Al-Majus', which I am translating as 'The Fetishists' for various reasons.
He [al-Koni] says it is his masterpiece and I agree."
That's surely المجوس -- and that's great news.
But I am curious whatever happened to American University in Cairo Press' The Animists -- Elliott Colla's translation of this same novel, which made it to an Amazon (etc.) listing -- complete with cover picture and everything -- but then never seems to have seen the light of day.
(Still, I have to believe The Fetishists is the more attention-grabbing title-variation .....)
At Words without Borders they've put out their Call for Nominations: The 2016 Ottaway Award -- that's the 'Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature', recognizing: "individuals who have taken extraordinary steps to advance literature in translation into English" (previously recognized: Drenka Willen, Carol Brown Janeway, and Sara Bershtel).
You have until 15 February to get your nominations in (via online form) -- and it's nice to see that nowadays there are so many folks doing so much that there are actually any number of worthies to nominate.
I mentioned Czech Republic-based Jantar Publishing a couple of weeks ago, and they've now kindly sent me a couple of their books, and while I should be getting to these sooner rather than later, hot damn, they deserve a mention just at first sight.
If you've gotten your hands on some Twisted Spoon Press titles you've probably admired not just the content but the physical books as well; well, apparently it's something in the local water (or at least the local printing presses), because Jantar's volumes are just lovely physical objects as well.
(And for someone like me -- basically solely concerned with content -- to be impressed by the look and the feel of a book is already saying something.)
As I noted last time, it's great to see -- finally ! -- some more Michal Viewegh in English.
But there are also those two volumes by Daniela Hodrová -- the 2012 Franz Kafka Prize-winning author, a prize that Jelinek and Pinter won the same year they picked up their Nobels, and that has also gone to the likes of Handke, Amost Oz, and Yan Lianke -- and it's great to finally get a closer look at her work.
And there's GraveLarks, by Jan Křesadlo -- a book originally published in Czech by Josef Škvorecký's '68 Publishers in 1984.
I can't wait to dig in -- and while I'll let you know what I think, title by title, you might want to get started already, too .....
I was impressed by Maylis de Kerangal's Birth of a Bridge, and ever since have been looking forward to her more recent, also multiple-prize-winning novel, Réparer les vivants.
It's due out in English shortly, and I'll be covering it soon -- the Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition, Sam Taylor's translation, The Heart; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com.
It's also coming out in the UK -- there from MacLehose Press.
But there it is coming out as Mend the Living, in a translation by Jessica Moore; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.
(In a few months Talonbooks is following up with the Canadian edition, in this translation and with this title.)
Having different translations and/or different titles on the two sides of the Atlantic is not unheard of, but it is unusual; Yasmina Reza's Happy are the Happy is the last bigger title I can recall with different US/UK translators (though at least both had the same title)
This is the rare book that might get enough attention that it can readily support separate translations -- Kerangal is the real deal, and this has the stuff to be her break-out(-in-English) novel -- but I do have to wonder why publishers make it hard on themselves -- and on readers.
MacLehose's excited announcements surely will just draw blank stares from US readers, and while those who take a closer look at the reviews should fairly quickly realize the same book is being talked about (the premise is a very straightforward one), I still wonder how many readers will make the leap.
You'd figure -- well, I would ... -- that given the difficulties fiction-in-translation has in getting an(y) audience publishers might want to pool efforts, especially in this Internet age, when information is so readily available beyond national borders.
But apparently that go-it-alone attitude wins out more often than not.
(I have no idea how Kerangal's foreign rights are handled or who her representative is, but this is on them too: it would obviously be in Kerangal's interests, long- and short-term, for her books-in-English to be presented as a ... united front.
That's something whoever handled the English-language rights should have seen to.)
Brussolo is an immensely popular -- and prolific -- French author, the kind of writer where, when they post a list of his top novels they can easily go 40 deep, but this 1992 novel is apparently the first of his to make it into English.
Presumably one reason for that is that he's hard to peg down -- the variety of his work is dizzying.
That he's got some qualities is undeniable, and this is a very good book.
I'm surprised it hasn't gotten more attention -- not even pre-publication Publishers Weekly or (full) Kirkus Reviews reviews -- but it's strong enough that word-of-mouth and internet attention should help it find its appreciative readership.
(Yes, it is kind of science fiction -- but hardly just.)
Really -- give it a try.
In January 2011, days after the first uprising in Tunisia and the protests in Tahrir Square, the Guardian invited leading writers from across the Arab world to reflect on the revolutionary fervour sweeping the region.
Then, they expressed great optimism for the future.
Here, they revisit their responses and ask, is there still room for hope ?
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Fantastical Tale of Life Under Putin, Oleg Kashin's novel Fardwor, Russia !, just out from Restless Books, in a translation by Deep Vellum-man Will Evans.
It is seriously threatened by rapid rate of urbanisation, large-scale migration, industrialisation and environmental change.
Globalisation and rapid socio-economic change exert complex pressures on our rich cultural heritage.
(Because none of that is an issue elsewhere, right ?)
And so he's left to wonder:
Where are the Achebes' of today ?
Seemingly, the generation has declined to carry on the legacy of African literature.
What he's mourning and worrying about is a specific kind of literature -- traditional literature and stories, as the damn young'uns disappoint by ... looking ahead ("We no longer tell stories to our children and instead stuff them with laptops, ipads and smartphones. Unlike the curiosity we had to hear more of our past, the generation's attention is fully immersed into the devices").
Fair enough (well, not really, not argued like this, but you know ...), but as with any article that lumps together all of Africa, or all of its literatures, all of this is way too overbroad.
And if we're going to generalize -- well, 'African literature', in its many varied manifestations and many languages (even if not enough of these make it into (especially English) translation ...) isn't doing all that badly at all.
Certainly not as badly as the picture he paints.
Taiwan Today reports that MOE honors Taiwan indigenous literary awards winners, as: "The winners of Taiwan Aboriginal Literary Awards" were honored a few days ago -- 36 recipients from a "a 99-strong field in the categories of essay, novella, poetry and translation".
In the Financial Times Caroline Daniel has Lunch with the FT: Julian Barnes (which comes with a very odd cartoon portrait of the author).
The mix of food-commentary ("not delicious in a conventional way"), sartorial observations ("dressed elegantly in a brown mackintosh, Margaret Howell dark checked suit with a blue shirt" -- and, boy, do I hope someone got slipped a fiver for that mention), and many odds and ends revealed in the conversation makes for an odd but interesting piece.
Barnes' new novel is the Shostakovich-story, The Noise of Time -- only out in the US in May (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com), but (almost) out in the UK; see the Jonathan Cape publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.