Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century continues to be one of this year's unlikely publishing success-stories -- a university press-publication, a work in translation (indeed, I wonder how many have sold more copies this year), and, well, on some level, a pretty scholarly-dry tome (though it is, in fact, a pretty good read).
In The Guardian they ask now four "star economists and finance experts" (and no literary experts, oddly enough) Why is Thomas Piketty's 700-page book a bestseller ?
(I've been impressed by the book, but the surfeit of reactions and reviews has kept me from posting review-coverage for now; meanwhile, see the Harvard University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
In The Observer Robert McCrum profiles Emmanuel Carrère: the most important French writer you've never heard of.
[Aside: that sort of claim should really be reserved for the truly obscure, not someone who has been widely translated into English (six of his books are under review at the complete review ...); along with 'Lost in Translation' it's probably the single worst and most over/ab-used article headline in (pseudo-)literary journalism.]
The occasion -- rather prematurely, as readers have to wait another month in both the US and UK -- is the publication of the English translation of Carrère's "non-fiction novel", Limonov (see the Farrar, Straus and Giroux publicity page [aside: that's a hell of a URL], or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; I have a copy and should be getting to it in the coming weeks).
It's based on the life of the: "wrecked, transgressive figure of Eduard Limonov" (who you might also remember from Arslan Khasavov's Sense) -- whom McCrum also devotes considerable space to.
Disappointingly, McCrum doesn't discuss Carrère's new book, Le Royaume -- 640 pages about the early days of Christianity, and a book that has gotten much attention but failed to make even just the longlists for the biggest French literary prizes this fall, the Goncourt and the Renaudot (see the P.O.L. publicity page)
As noted, six of Carrère's titles are under review at the complete review; The Adversary still strikes me as his best.
In the Independent on Sunday Christopher Folwer [sic ?] continues their admirable long-running series on overlooked literature with installment nr. 242 -- considering (some of) what still remains Untranslated (into English).
I am, of course, always thrilled when folks point to the enormous amount of great and interesting literature that has not yet been translated into English; recall PEN's wonderful PEN recommends-page (which they seem to have ditched recently, sigh ...) or Scott Esposito's Translate this Book ! selection at the Quarterly Conversation (and note that some titles from both these lists now are available in English, which is wonderful).
However, I'd be more impressed if, for example, Folwer didn't spend a paragraph explaining:
A friend from the Netherlands once told me: "If you want to understand who we are as a nation, you must read Character, written in 1938 by Ferdinand Bordewijk."
The Dutch classic concerns a bailiff who tyrannically rules over the slums of Rotterdam, and the ambitious son who becomes a lawyer in order to destroy him.
A keystone of 20th-century literature in its own country, it's impossible to find in an English translation.
A film version won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1998, but the book is still unavailable.
I understand that folks may currently be boycotting Amazon.com and hence don't do a simple book search there, but come on, you don't need a fact-checker to know (or at least figure out) that Peter Owen published E.M.Prince's translation of this in 1966, and that Ivan R. Dee reprinted it in 1999; my copy ($7.50 at Strand, purchased August, 2007), pulled from my bookshelf and beside my laptop on my desk as I write this, belies the fact that: "it's impossible to find in an English translation"; see the Ivan R. Dee publicity page, or get your own copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
And, yes, the Bordewijk may be a Dutch keystone -- but it's a widely-circulated-in-English one, and given how much else really isn't available in English (just from the Dutch: a pile of Gerard Reve, for one; J.J. Voskuil's epic Het Bureau for another; pretty much anything by local favorite A.F.Th. van der Heijden for a lot more ...), well ... not the greatest example.
Well, at least Folwer has some other nice catches, right ?
By contrast, Angel Ganivet's masterpiece about the Latin temperament, Idearium Español, remains untranslated.
Where is the translation of that Ángel Ganivet masterpiece ?!??
Oh ... wait.
Right there: Eyre & Spottiswoode published J.R. Carey's translation in 1946, as Spain: an interpretation.
With an introduction by R.M.Nadal.
So, yeah, worst researched (and fact-checked) 'literary' article of the week -- as the only two supposedly untranslated titles he explicitly mentions turn out to have been translated.
I hope they get their money back, because that is some beyond-belief shoddy work.
(And people complain about 'book-bloggers' .....)
And a real disservice and wasted opportunity, because there's so much that really hasn't been made available in English yet.
(I was going to note that, while Folwer accurately notes that: "The mass of Holocaust literature, novels in Yiddish, Norwegian, German, Baltic, and Eastern European languages remains untranslated", that this is perhaps not the greatest untranslated issue/oversight to be concerned about -- valuable though it no doubt is, there seems to be a reasonable amount of Holocaust literature available in English -- and maybe a peek beyond the merely European (everything Folwer talks about is European ...) is warranted.
But, as the above examples show, this article is is no way to be taken seriously, so why bother arguing points like that .....
They should just pull it and kill it and put us out of our misery.
And maybe try commissioning authors who have a vague idea of what they're writing about.)
At Guernica Philip Zimmerman has a Q & A with Daniel Kehlmann: Forging the Artist.
Kehlmann's novel F recently came out in English (to surprisingly little notice so far), but in this interview he also reveals -- shockingly, to me -- that he messed with the ending of Me and Kaminski in the English translation:
I wrote an ending with a lot less pathos for the English version.
I didn't really rewrite it, but I cut it down to a few paragraphs, much more minimalistic, sort of a Raymond Carver thing.
Apparently, you see:
German can take a lot more pathos than English can.
Aw, come on, Danny, give the Amis a proper dose of pathos and see what happens .....
They've announced the shortlist for this year's Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books -- looks like interesting stuff (and I hope to get around to reviewing the Philip Ball).
The winner will be announced 10 November.
They've announced the longlists for the prix Médicis -- interesting because they also have a foreign-fiction category.
Among the titles to make the best foreign book longlist were the ubiquitous Evie Wyld's, Vladimir Lorchenkov's The Good Life Elsewhere, and Mohsin Hamid's How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.
Among the authors placing books on the French longlist are Antoine Volodine and Christine Montalbetti.
(I will also take this opportunity to note yet again how horrific the French-prize sites (or closest approximations thereto) are.
For years one could at least rely on the invaluable Prix-littéraires.net for all necessary French literary prize information, so it didn't matter what the official and quasi-official sites looked like, but since that site is no longer being updated the situation has gotten near-hopeless.
Get your acts together, folks !)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Solomonica de Winter's Over the Rainbow.
De Winter was born in 1997, which makes her the currently youngest author with a title under review at the complete review (and, I suspect, the youngest ever).
But what's most noteworthy about this book is that, although written in English, it has not yet been published in English (and doesn't have a US/UK publisher yet, to the best of my knowledge); instead the review relies on the German translation, Die Geschichte von Blue.
(A Dutch translation is also forthcoming, as Achter de regenboog.)
This makes for a peculiar addition to the index of foreign-language books under review that are not yet available in English .....
(This isn't entirely unheard of -- for various reason books sometimes aren't/can't (immediately) be published in the language they were written in -- including some written in English.
So, for example, Gabriel Josipovici's Only Joking infamously found a German publisher in 2005, but only appeared in English in 2010; Moses Isegawa's first novels were published in Dutch before they came out in English (Snakepit, for example, appearing in Dutch in 1999 and then only in the English it was written in in 2004).)
Die Geschichte von Blue was published by (Swiss) German publisher Diogenes -- who happen to be the publishers of Solomonica's dad, Leon's, books (11 titles) and Solomonica's mom, Jessica Durlacher's, books (5 titles) -- possibly making them more ... receptive to publishing Moonie's (as she's apparently nicknamed ...) debut.
As longtime readers know, I have repeatedly expressed surprise that Leon de Winter never caught on in the US -- a couple of his titles have been translated into English (notably the very good Hoffman's Hunger), but, despite spending a great deal of time in the US (where his daughter also went to school -- hence, presumably, her choice of writing in English), he just never figured the place/market out (a stint as a fellow at the Hudson Institute probably didn't help in that regard, either).
Jessica Durlacher also seems to have made no inroads whatsoever in the US/UK; it'll be interesting to see if the daughter can (eventually) break the family curse.
Seven of Leon's books are under review at the complete review, the Leon-Solominca combo is hardly the first time I've read books both by parent and child -- though it may be the first where I've reviewed books by both.
But now I'm really eager to read some of Durlacher's work: I don't think I've ever read books by three so closely related family members (siblings, yes, but not relatives of two different generations).
Romain Gary is one of the big-name authors celebrating the centenary of their birth in 2014 (others include: Tove Jansson, Julio Cortázar, and Arno Schmidt) and among the more impressive efforts celebrating that can now be found at the Institut français de Lituanie (!), where they have a pretty impressive web-documentaire on the Hocus Bogus-author.
Yes, it's all in French, but if you can manage that it's well-worth your while.
I think it's pretty neat that the city of Vienna has a (biennial) H.C.Artmann-Preis -- a decent €10,000, and a namesake who isn't exactly one one would expect hidebound bureaucrats and politicians to appreciate.
Near-impossible to translate, Atlas Press have given it a go with The Quest for Dr. U -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- but his original Viennese-dialect(ic) wordplay is, in fact, a challenge even for German-German readers.
They've announced this year's winner of the prize, and it's Elfriede Czurda -- one of whose books, Almost 1 Book / Almost 1 Life, has been translated by Rosmarie Waldrop (if anyone could, then she); see the Burning Deck publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
(I have a copy; it looks good, and I hope to review it at some point.)
The (American) National Book Awards have been announcing longlists all week -- one category revealed each day -- but the fiction list, due to be unveiled only today was 'leaked' yesterday, so they're now already all up.
[The National Book Foundation foolishly tried to 'embargo' the fiction list, revealing it to some journalists and expecting them not to jump the gun; someone goofed, a popular website missed or misread the memo and posted the information (for a while), and once the cat was out of the bag The New York Times considered it fair game and they and everyone piled on.
To their credit, the NBF handled the situation very well, jumping right on board and reacting philosophically to the leak.]
As usual, I haven't read, much less reviewed any of the titles in any of the categories -- though at least I actually have a copy of ... one of them (Lila, by Marilynne Robinson).
Meanwhile, the Americans can at least lord over the whiny Man Booker judges that they consider a much larger pool of books: while this year's Man Booker longlist was selected from a mere 154 books, the National Book Foundation reports that there were 417 books (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) submitted for the fiction prize, and 494 books (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) submitted for the non-fiction prize.
Disappointingly, however, the National Book Awards, like the Man Booker, don't reveal the titles that were submitted and considered in each category.
They've announced the winner of this year's Frankfurt Book Fair's film prize for Best International Literary Adaptation, which goes to Anton Corbijn for his John Le Carré adaptation, A Most Wanted Man; he gets to pick up the prize on 10 October.
I happened to see this recently, and ... meh, it was okay.
But I don't know what the literary-adaptation-competition was.
And I haven't read the book; maybe it's a particularly successful adaptation .....
The Stavanger International Festival of Literature and Freedom of Speech -- Kapittel -- started yesterday and runs through Sunday.
Some pretty decent authors lined up -- and definitely not your usual literary festival, as this year's theme is ... oil.
Hence also panels such as: "Gas and Satire" (hey, it's with Andrei Kurkov, so well worth attending just for that).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Julie Schumacher's Dear Committee Members.
I'm a sucker for epistolary novels, and for campus novels, so this was certainly something I was looking forward to; of course, that sets the bar higher, too, and unfortunately this fell a bit short (and reinforced my anti-MFA-writing prejudices (as any and every creative-writing-program-associated piece of writing seems to manage to do ...)).
They've announced the longlist for this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize, one of the leading Canadian fiction prizes ("The first word in fiction", so their tagline ...) which has impressively upped the ante by doubling its prize money, with C$100,000 going to winner (and C$10,000 to each finalist).
The longlist was selected from 161 entries -- which are, alas, not revealed (bad form, guys)..
The shortlist will be announced 6 October.
Oddly, while I have no problems with pseudonymous authors -- indeed I'd be (almost) perfectly fine with books being published entirely anonymously or namelessly ('almost' only because the lack of corresponding names would complicate categorization -- shelving, indices, etc.) -- but I'm slightly less comfortable with anonymous/pseudonymous translation.
Part of that is probably in reaction to the fact that often translators still tend to get ignored anyway -- i.e. aren't named, even if they'd like to get and take credit for their work --, which seems patently unfair, but part of it is also that, if you're going to mess with an author's work (and that's what translators do, after all, for better and worse) you should own up to it.
Sure 'Brooke''s excuse/explanation seems reasonable enough; still .....
(But, no, you aren't going to get any guesses out of me; if s/he chose to be 'D.E. Brooke' in public, that's their choice, and I won't pull back any curtains.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ch'oe In-ho's Another Man's City, one in the latest batch of titles Dalkey Archive Press is releasing in its Library of Korean Literature-series.
Marian Schwartz was recently awarded one of the 2014 Read Russia Prizes, for her translation of Leonid Yuzefovich's "postmodern whodunit" Harlequin's Costume, and at Russia Beyond the Headlines Phoebe Taplin profiles her.
Among the interesting bits:
"Having translated about 70 books over the last 35-plus years, fewer than five of them, probably, have been at my initiative," she told the Moscow audience for the Read Russia Award Presentations.
"I found, appreciated, and translated Harlequin's Costume on spec, convinced that it would find a publisher eventually."
In the end, the book was finished only with help from a grant, and it was several years before Glagoslav published it in 2013.
I haven't seen this one yet; it'll be interesting to see whether the trilogy now gets picked up by a larger publisher and takes off (maybe not, to judge by the post-award Amazon-sales-ranks -- still in the 1,000,000 vicinity at both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk ...).
See the Glagoslav publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Frankétienne's Ready to Burst, finally translated into English, by Kaiama L. Glover, and published by Archipelago Books.
Though not much of his work has been made readily available in English, he remains quite well known -- see, for example, The New York Times' profile from a couple of years ago (which unconscionably puts a possessive apostrophe into his mouth where none belongs: "He admires James Joyce, and it shows. "Finnegan's Wake was like a crazy book, just like I write crazy books," he said.").
He's also coming to New York to launch Ready to Burst, and will be at this weekend's Brooklyn Book Festival -- on a panel that includes high-wire man Philippe Petit and Geek Sublime-author Vikram Chandra.
After the apparent success of Shin Kyung-sook's Please Look After Mom abroad the Koreans are apparently busy, as Kwon Mee-yoo reports in The Korea Times, Looking for next Shin Kyung-sook.
Kim Ae-ran is one hopeful -- though her success has been in other languages, not English -- while: "earlier Korean writers, such as Yi Mun-yol [Our Twisted Hero, etc.] and Hwang Sok-yong [The Guest]" are (regrettably) being written off as producing less: "universal themes in lively style" .....
The LTI said that in addition to Kim, Park Min-kyu and Kim Young-ha were also drawing attention from translators interested in Korean literature.
Dalkey Archive Press' Library of Korean Literature is leading the Korean-charge into English, and among their upcoming offerings is Park's Pavane For a Dead Princess (see their publicity page), which I should be getting to soon.
Kim Young-ha has done quite well in English -- I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, etc. -- though I'm not entirely reassured by the claim that: "More than 40 of her works have been translated and published overseas" (as Kim is a dude).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nino Haratischwili's Juja.
This 2010 novel was her debut -- and it was longlisted for the German Book Prize; she's been getting a lot of attention for her Das achte Leben (Für Brilka), her just-released 1200+ pager that (somewhat controversially) missed this year's German Book Prize longlist cut.
(I have a copy and warmed myself up for it with Juja.)
Interesting sidenote: Georgia-born Haratischwili writes in German under this name -- but literary agent Rachel Gratzfeld lists her (in English) transliterated as Nino Kharatishvili (note, however, the URL-spelling ...).
In The Guardian Steven Poole profiles Haruki Murakami: 'I'm an outcast of the Japanese literary world. Critics, writers, many of them don't like me'.
(I sort of get that pretty much every author likes to portray/sell him/herself as an 'outsider' who doesn't fit in the 'establishment', but surely Murakami is about as 'outcast' (in Japan or anywhere) as poor misunderstood Jonathan Franzen is in the US -- i.e. not in the remotest possible way (except in the eyes and hurt feelings of the ultra-, super-sensitive author's own beyond-deluded mind).
Get a grip, Haruki -- for foreign purposes, you are the "Japanese literary world" (which no doubt rubs some of your compatriots the wrong way), and as to being: "Always the duckling, never the swan" ... come on.)
Great to hear that he's a fan of:
Norwegian novelist Dag Solstad, whom he is currently translating into Japanese from English ("He's a kind of surrealistic writer, very strange novels. I think that's serious literature").
A bit disappointing that the Japanese will only get the great Solstad's work second-hand (as opposed to translated directly from the Norwegian) -- but the Murakami-imprimatur will likely get him a larger audience than he otherwise would find.
The book in question is apparently Solstad's Professor Andersen's Night.
They had some issues with the judges this year at the Singapore Literature Prize -- several withdrawing over the controversy surrounding the National Library Board withdrawing and pulping three children's books from their collection -- but they've now announced the shortlists for the 2014 prize.
Admirably, they have multiple language categories -- English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil.
You'd figure they might have more pressing concerns in the Maldives -- the 1000+ island nation of barely 350,000 is infamously the lowest-lying in the world, and likely to go under as sea levels rise ... soon -- but, no: as Ahmed Naish reports in Minivan News: New regulations mandate government approval before publishing literature, as they've gone for Iranian-style control of what gets published, as:
New regulations enacted yesterday will subject the publication of prose and poetry in the Maldives to government approval.
On the one hand, it's good to hear that there's a vibrant enough publishing industry locally to necessitate such a law (though I couldn't find any data on how much is actually published annually).
Still, never good to hear 'explanations' such as:
The stated purpose of the 'Regulations on approving literature published in the Maldives' (Dhivehi) is "that literature published or made public in the Maldives fit Maldivian laws and regulations as well as societal norms".
The rules are aimed at "reducing adverse effects on society that could be caused by published literature."
I'm curious what those adverse effects are -- why no examples ?
So approval must be sought from the National Bureau of Classification -- scroll down for some examples of 'latest approved books' (and note a disconnect between the depicted book-covers and the descriptions of the approved books if you click on them).
Ah, the irresistible lure of the list -- and novels in translation since 1900 ?
It's Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn who offer up their personal (and ranked) 100 Best Novels, in Translation, Since 1900 at CounterPunch.
A couple of odd limitations here: they: "limited each writer to one entry" (apparently because: "otherwise, novels by Georges Simenon and Roberto Bolaño might have dominated the list") -- and they each had: "unlimited preemptory challenges to be invoked against writers we hated. Thus no: Gunter Grass or Michel Houellebecq."
There are a few slips -- misattributed languages, misspelled names ('Steig Larsson') -- and it's an odd mix of greatest-hits and very personal choices; still, one could do (much) worse.
I've read a whole lot of these (I didn't count, but probably haven't missed more than a dozen or so) -- though most of them (classics, by and large) long before I started the site, so the number under review at the complete review is considerably smaller.
Those would be:
They've announced the 25-title strong longlist for the AKO Literatuurprijs, one of the leading Dutch literary prizes.
Among the books in the running: ones by authors with (other) titles under review at the complete review: Maarten Asscher (2 titles, including Julia en het balkon), Arnon Grunberg (11 titles, including Tirza), and Peter Terrin (The Guard).
At NRC Boeken they have short quotes from their (Dutch) coverage of each longlisted title, in Wat schreef NRC over de genomineerden ?
And the only title I see coming that will be available in English soon is the Maarten Asscher, from new publisher Four Winds Press, Apples & Oranges; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jules Verne's The Meteor Hunt, the University of Nebraska Press 2006 edition that restored the text to Verne's original (more or less), as opposed to the widely circulated Michel Verne-edited/manhandled version.
In The Moscow Times Kit Rees reports on an art installation at the Gogol House Museum, in Gogol Lives Again in New Wing of House.
The exhibit is called #АВТОРЖЖЕТ and looks pretty neat; certainly a welcome effort to push audiences to engage with an author in additional ways.
(Yes, my preferred method of engagement is to actually read the author's work, but if you're going to go visit an author's home or museum you're probably expecting something more than just the words.)
The day after they announced the six-title shortlist for this year's Man Booker Prize for Fiction they announced the six-title shortlist for this year's imitation-Man Booker German Book Prize.
At DeutscheWelle Silke Bartlick offers brief descriptions of the six titles, in German Book Prize announces short list, and "English translations of excerpts from the six titles on the shortlist, along with English-language dossiers for each title" will apparently be made available at New Books in German, "Starting at the end of September".
The winner will be announced 6 October.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Arno Camenisch's The Alp -- the first in a trilogy, published by Dalkey Archive Press.
This was originally written in German and Romansh (Rhaeto-Romanic) -- which is a bit hard to convey in translation.
Still, a pretty neat literary take on a particular slice of contemporary Swiss life.