The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Journey through Alternative Economic Systems by Giacomo Corneo, Is Capitalism Obsolete ? recently out from Harvard University Press.
Interesting to see that, despite its topicality, the book has received essentially no US/UK review attention -- as Matthew Reisz also notes in bringing it up in this recent piece in Times Higher Education, where he considers: "How should we choose which titles to review when recurrent themes arise, and how ought we to feel when strong feelings are used to 'sell' academic content ?" where he notes about this title (contrasting it with Yanis Varoufakis' Talking to My Daughter About the Economy):
To give the survey a bit of drama, it is presented in the form of a father's extended answer to a daughter who is keen to replace today's economic system with something better.
But this is in essence just a literary device and the book does not yet seem to have been widely reviewed.
The Jan Michalski Prize for Literature is among the more interesting international book prizes, not limiting itself to books written/published in any specific language (though for all intents and purposes availability in at least English, French, or German seems a requirement ...) and considering fiction and non side by side; last year it went to The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov.
They've now announced this year's prize winner -- and it's Une histoire mondiale du communisme, Thierry Wolton's three-volume (three long volumes: the total page count is 3456 pages !) history of communism; see, for example, the Grasset publicity page for volume one.
The third volume just came out in French; I wouldn't hold my breath for an unabridged English translation ......
The New York Times Book Review has published its annual 100 Notable Books selection (limited to books reviewed in their pages -- "since Dec. 4, 2016, when we published our previous Notables list").
I continue to be not be reading/reviewing the 'right' books, I guess: only two of the 100 are under review at the complete review:
These are also two of the (only) four titles in translation that make the list -- declines from last year (6) and 2015 (14) .....
(There are a handful of other titles I might still get to, but ...yeah .....)
The limited-to-what-we-reviewed cut-off really impacts the quality of the The New York Times Book Review list, since they don't review ... a lot.
Including several of what I thought were stand-out 2017 titles -- say, The Evenings (Gerard Reve), Radiant Terminus (Antoine Volodine), and Such Small Hands (Andrés Barba)
So, while this might be a list of 'notables', don't forget to look beyond as well .....
In the Forward Mikael Gomez Guthart tells the fun story of Lin Shu, in: This Chinese Translator Changed The History Of Literature. You've Probably Never Heard Of Him.
His significance -- bringing much Western literature to Chinese audiences -- is undeniable; his technique ... questionable.
Yes, he was a translator who: "did not speak nor read any language other than his own" -- so you can imagine how that worked out.
Well, pretty well, in some ways -- he was very successful, and presumably good at what he did -- though Guthart is very generous in phrasing it:
Lin Shu was blessed with an unusual skill in that he could read any language through the eyes of another person.
With the help of 19 successive assistants, he translated, or more accurately, rewrote close to 200 classics of western literature
I love the title of Michael Gibbs Hill's recent study of him and this phenomenon (and how have I not seen this ?): Lin Shu, Inc.; see also the Oxford University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The Three Percent Translation Databases are certainly the most useful overviews of what's published in translation (for the first time, in fiction and poetry, in the US) ever year, but it's good to see language-specific lists like the Book Department of the French Embassy's French Books In The Us (their capitalizations, not mine ...) listings -- and at Paper Republic they now have the list of Translations from Chinese in 2017.
Kind of depressing, however, to find a mere fourteen works of fiction (about half of which are classical works ...).
The Vermont College of Fine Arts has announced the launch of a low-residency international master of fine arts program: "with a focus on transnational literature in English and world literature in translation", their International MFA in Creative Writing & Literary Translation program.
While I have my doubts about most MFA programs, I like the international orientation -- four residencies: "three international and one at the VCFA campus in Montpelier" -- and think that literary translation-concentration is a wise one to add to the usual fiction and non.
With Mark Polizzotti and Jason Grunebaum on the faculty, it looks like it has some possibilities.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jon Fosse's Boathouse.
This is major early fiction from the better-known-as-a-playwright -- and possibly sometime Nobel-contender -- Fosse, just out in English from Dalkey Archive Press.
Here's hoping it gets the coverage it deserves .....
(Here's me not holding my breath .....)
In the Myanmar Times Zon Pann Pwint reports on U Myo Thant and U Thaw Kaung's just-published Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth Century Myanmar Writers, covering 137 authors; see also the publisher (Myanmar Book Centre) publicity page.
(A sadly limited number of Burmese titles are under review at the complete review; I'd love to cover more -- and to see this volume .....)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Bolivian (but living in the US ...) author Rodrigo Hasbún's widely-hailed Affections, which came out in the UK last year (from Pushkin Press) and has now also arrived in the US (from Simon & Schuster).
(Much as I enjoy adding to the site-index of Real People in Works of Fiction, there are days -- like today -- when I'd be happy never to see another work of fiction that relied on any .....
Fiction, folks, fiction; try that; stop getting caught up in (or thinking you can 'capture') real-life characters; try: through and through fiction ..... )
They've announced another 'guest of honour' at the Frankfurt Book Fair: in 2021 Spain takes center stage, for the first time in 30 years (though Catalan literature slipped in there in the meantime ...).
Before the Spanish take their turn, the scheduled guests of honour are:
The Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair -- the spring German best book prize, sort of the younger/smaller sibling of the German Book Prize -- will only announce its longlists on 8 February, but they've now finished the submission period, and report that they have 403 titles to consider, in the three categories in which they award prizes.
Disappointingly (and inexplicably) they don't actually name/list the titles ...; indeed, they don't even offer a breakdown by prize-category.
The prize is noteworthy for not only honoring a best work of fiction (like the German Book Prize) but for also honoring non-fiction, as well as best translation .
They've announced that the 2017 Premio Cervantes -- the leading Spanish-language author-award (paying out €125,000) will go to Sergio Ramírez (though he has to wait until April for the big ceremony ...).
(The prize traditionally alternates between Spanish and Latin American authors; it was a LatAm year.)
As longtime readers know, I've long considered Ramírez underappreciated in the English-speaking world (and have suggested that, if they were in the mood to entertain giving the Nobel to a more obviously political author -- and who, after all, can predict their strange moods ? -- the Swedish Academy might have him in the running for that prize; he surely has been nominated for it -- probably often -- over the years); four of his titles are under review at the complete review:
It seems doubtful the prize-win will do much to raise his US/UK profile -- despite his interesting backstory (which includes a five-year stint as vice-president of Nicaragua); it hasn't done much (at least not that I've noticed) for the last three winners -- Eduardo Mendoza (No Word From Gurb, etc.), Fernando del Paso (Palinuro of Mexico, etc.), and Juan Goytisolo.
They've announced the 2018 (American) National Endowment for the Arts fellowships for creative writing (prose) (36 x US$25,000) and for literary translation (22 x $12,500/25,000).
The list (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of the creative writing recipients only offers their names (and headshots ...), but the list (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of translation recipients includes descriptions of their projects -- a nice variety that includes a couple of Indian-language translations -- novels by Intizar Husain and U.R.Ananthamurthy, for example --, an Angélica Gorodischer novel, and a novel by an author: "Known as the cult author of Bolivian supernatural gothic literature" (Giovanna Rivero).
Great to see the translation- and writing-support -- especially given the current administration's antipathy towards the NEA and its mission.
They've announced that H(a)ppy, by Nicola Barker, has won this year's Goldsmiths Prize -- a £10,000 prize that: "is committed to rewarding British and Irish fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form".
See also the William Heinemann publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
The Warwick Prize for Women in Translation is a new prize for: "the best eligible work of fiction, poetry or literary non-fiction, or work of fiction for children or young adults that has been written by a woman, translated into English by a female or male translator, and published by a UK or Irish publisher", and they've announced (though not yet at the official site, as I write this ...) that Memoirs of a Polar Bear, by Yoko Tawada, and translated by Susan Bernofsky, has won the inaugural prize.
Hey, a book I've reviewed !
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ogawa Yoko's ことり -- the seventh Ogawa under review at the complete review (and the third not (yet) available in English ...).
The French and Germans are much better at keeping up with her output, but at least another Ogawa is due in English next year -- not this one, but The Memory Police; see the Curtis Brown information page -- and you can even pre-order the (UK) edition at Amazon.co.uk.
At Deutsche Welle Kürsat Akyol reports that Books come under suspicion in post-coup Turkey, as: 'since Turkey's attempted 2016 coup, a growing number of books have been outlawed and confiscated, with some even being considered evidence for certain crimes'.
They've announced that the 2018 prix du Quai des Orfèvres will go to Tension extrême, by Sylvain Forge; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report
The news here, however, isn't who won, but rather that that iconic address -- Quai des Orfèvres, police headquarters for Maigret and everyone else -- is no longer the Parisian HQ.
Maybe they need to rename the prize '36 rue du Bastion' -- the location of the new headquarters.
Not quite the same, is it ?
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Andrée A. Michaud's prize-winning novel, Boundary: The Last Summer, now out in English from No Exit (in the UK) and Biblioasis (Canada/US).
The Swiss Book Prize -- which is, in fact, only the German-language Swiss Book Prize -- has been awarded to Kraft, by Jonas Lüscher (which was also longlisted for this year's German Book Prize); see also the New Books in German review (and information), and the C.H.Beck information page.
Despite (but also in part because of ...) the Silicon Valley locale connection, this looks to me like the likeliest to land in the US/UK of the three German-language national book award winners.
Haus did bring out Lüscher's Barbarian Spring not too long ago; despite some decent attention (very favorable reviews in The New York Times Book Review and Wall Street Journal !) it does not seem to have made much of an impression; see also the US distributor's publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Obviously, there was a ... shortfall in the marketing of this title: the New York Public Library has a non-circulating copy of the German original, seven (!) circulating copies of the French translation (really ! what the hell is that about ?) -- and not a single copy of the English version; FWIW, I didn't get a copy either.
If you think French literary prize juries are more discerning than American ones, then maybe you want them to decide what's best in American fiction, too; if so the just-announced Grand prix de littérature américaine is for you -- and, hey, that's certainly a more impressive prize-title than 'Pulitzer' or 'National Book Award', isn't it ?
Anyway, this year's prize goes to Everybody's Fool, by Richard Russo; see the Livres Hebdo report, as well as the Vintage publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
It took a while -- and two publishers, C.H.Beck bowing out after giving it a try with the first volume, before Verbrecher Verlag picked it up and published the full seven-volume series -- but J.J.Voskuil's Het bureau, all ca. 5500 pages worth, first published in Dutch between 1996 and 2000, is now available in German translation; see, for example, the publicity pages for volume one at G.A. van Oorschot and Verbrecher Verlag, as well as now this (German) Q & A with Verbrecher Verlag-publisher Jörg Sundermeier at BuchMarkt about the undertaking.
This office-novel is something of a modern cult novel/epic in the Netherlands -- but poses obvious translation issues (mainly its bulk, and the cost of translating that, but also the question of whether this kind of thing might have any appeal abroad; five volumes in, the taz reviewer argued it won't fly in a Germany where the middle class looks towards escapist fiction, not writing that realistically mirrors daily life -- and thinks Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener is the most obvious book to compare it to (though Melville's novella doesn't go on for over 5000 pages...)).
For some English-language discussion, see a review of volumes one through four at Heloise Merlin's Weblog, as well as G.F.H. Raat 'On the Work of J.J.Voskuil', in From Writer at his Own Expense to Public Phenomenon, from The Low Countries (1999) -- which also makes me think that I'd love to see his much earlier debut, Bij nader inzien, too .....
See also the Dutch Foundation for Literature's J.J.Voskuil-information page.
(I have the first two volumes of Het Bureau, the first in German, the second in Dutch, but I haven't really plunged in yet; I'm tempted -- but it is quite a commitment.
And presumably also more of one than any US/UK publisher would be willing to undertake .....)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Svetislav Basara's In Search of the Grail: The Cyclist Conspiracy, Part Two.
The first part, The Cyclist Conspiracy, came out from Open Letter a few years ago, but it's Dalkey Archive Press that have brought out this 1990 novel; good also to see that they're continuing to bring out more of this prolific author's work: the story-collection Fata Morgana two years ago (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and, next year, the promising-looking Mongolian Travel Guide (see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
Jin Yong enjoys massive popularity among the Chinese readers.
However, the Western world has barely heard of his name, partly because of the limited power of translations to accurately transform emotion and essence of traditional Chinese culture and literature into English.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tom Gauld's new comics-collection, Baking With Kafka.
(Yes, they're mainly 'literary' (or publishing industry/writer-related) comic strips.)
German publisher Reclam's 'Universal-Bibliothek' is one of the great classic-literature series (which also includes some modern texts), published (for the most part) in the ubiquitous small yellow volumes (though there are also other colors, and designs, including: red for foreign language texts -- they do that too (e.g. Amélie Nothomb's Antéchrista) -- and orange for the bilingual editions, and a lot of my ancient ones are still the old pre-yellow off-white) and in the perfect true pocket-size -- and they're now celebrating their 150th anniversary; see Sabine Peschel's Reclam Publishers' yellow little books: 150 years of world literature at Deutsche Welle.
I have literally hundreds of these -- heavy on classical drama, most of my Goethe and Kant, pre-classical German literature (a dozen Andreas Gryphius alone, surely), and a lot of bilingual Greek/ and Latin/German texts (they're even handier than the Loeb editions).
(I also treasure my East German volumes -- larger-sized, white-covered, not quite the same thing -- which introduced me to quite a lot of not otherwise readily accessible international literature.)
Good to see they remain popular:
These days, there are some 3,500 titles available in the Universal-Bibliothek, with total sales of 0.6 billion copies.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Geoff Nicholson's new novel, The Miranda.
This is the nineteenth Nicholson-title under review at the complete review: only Naguib Mahfouz and Amélie Nothomb have more titles under review; he definitely seems underappreciated to me.
(He does go through a lot of publishers -- this one is out from Unnamed Press.)
(Given the un-state-of-the-art look and handling of this site, I'm also always heartened to find that his official author page is a Tripod site; I'm always amazed that there still are Tripod sites .....)
The major international author prize awarded in the US, the biennial Neustadt International Prize for Literature, has announced that the 2018 prize will got to Edwidge Danticat; among the finalists she beat out were: Emmanuel Carrère, Amitav Ghosh, Mohsin Hamid, and Ludmila Ulitskaya.
None of Danticat's works are under review at the complete review; her most recent work is The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story; see the Graywolf Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The ECI Literatuurprijs -- formerly the AKO Literatuurprijs (yes, this sponsor/name-changing nonsense afflicts not just UK literary prizes) -- is one of the leading Dutch literary prizes, and they've announced that Flemish author Koen Peeters' De mensengenezer has won this year's prize; see also the De Bezige Bij foreign rights page, as well as the Flanders Literature information page.
The trickle (and soon to be flood) of newspaper-filler books-of-the-year pieces has begun, and The Spectator at least tries to make things a bit more interesting by asking some of their regular reviewers to name: 'the best and most overrated books of 2017', in Books of the year.
Alas, few take them up on it, with barely any suggesting what might be overrated (though Jenny Colgan at least finds Gabriel Tallent's My Absolute Darling; "too mulched down to a paste for my liking").
They've announced that Tom Stoppard has won this year's David Cohen Prize, a biennial £40,000 author award that has previously gone to, among others, Nobel laureates V.S.Naipaul (1993), Harold Pinter (1995), and Doris Lessing (2001).
The French-prize-flood continues, now also with the prix Femina which, aside from a local fiction award (won by La Serpe, by Philippe Jaenada -- beating out Bakhita, by Véronique Olmi by six votes to four, just as Vuillard beat her out by the same margin for the Goncourt on Monday ...), also has a foreign category -- won by John Edgar Wideman, for his Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File; see the Simon & Schuster publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The Wideman narrowly beat out -- five votes to four -- Paolo Cognetti's The Eight Mountains, due out in English next spring; see the Atria publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
(Updated - 10 November): They've now also announced the three-category prix Médicis -- see the Livres Hebdo report -- and here the Paolo Cognetti did win the best foreign fiction prize.
They've announced the winners of the South African Literary Awards -- admirably awarded in a number of languages.
So, for example, the 'First-time Published Author Award' went to a work in Sepedi, Tšhutšhumakgala, by Moses Shimo Seletisha.
English PEN has announced the latest round of PEN Translates awards -- which seem more like grants to me, but, hey, 'awards' looks better on the covers, I guess.
An impressive variety -- books from fifteen countries and fourteen languages -- including: "the first novel from Mauritania to be translated into English" (Mbarek Ould Beyrouk's The Desert and the Drum, forthcoming from Dedalus).
Among the other titles: Lina Wolff's Augustpriset-winningThe Polyglot Lovers; see also the Bonnier rights page.
Chinese firm Tencent has just spun off China Literature Ltd., in the biggest local IPO of the year: it's a big story in the financial press, but otherwise seems to have been widely ignored, as the 'publishing industry' likes to see/sell itself as above such crass things as ... money ?
Maybe time to pay attention ?
At Bloomberg Adam Minter goes so far as to claim China Reinvents Literature (Profitably), and, the day after, Lulu Yilun Chen reports China Literature Soars in Hong Kong Debut After Tencent Spinoff -- "The stock rose as high as HK$99.60, 81 percent above the HK$55 price in the IPO, before trading at HK$97.30 as of 9:42 a.m"
Chen describes China Literature Ltd. as: "offering a similar business model to Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle Store" -- but that's not really right.
Indeed, everyone seems to be missing the point here -- not least Bastei Lübbe, who seem to have tried/wanted to build try something closer to it with their (horrifically-named) oolipo-platform, which appears to have been a beyond-dud, as yesterday's conveniently timed write-down reports suggest; see, e.g. the Reuters summary, or a longer (German) report at Boersenblatt: launched just in March, this has been such a disaster that they've completely pulled the money-plug (and are reduced to saying they hope to use the technology they developed ... 'elsewhere' ...).
Two sides of the future-of-publishing coin (or one of those coins, anyway), with very, very different outcomes/looks.
There's a lot more to this (and these two examples, in particular) -- why is there so little reporting on this outside the financial press ?
My little Arno Schmidt : a centennial colloquy became available on Amazon (which, in this day and age, means: was published) exactly three years ago.
It's sold 123 copies -- two in the last month --, which seems like a decent number for a very casually self-published book, though I had hoped for slightly more Bottom's Dream-coat-tails ... except that this great work/epochal translation itself got so little coverage.
A couple of overview-pieces, but I don't think there's been a traditional-media review anywhere yet -- come on folks (and, yes, if you're desperate(/ambitious ?) I'm open to commissions ...).
(Meanwhile, it looks like the 2500-copy initial print-run of Bottom's Dream is run: Amazon.com prices are already double list -- looks like it was a good investment if you got your hands on a copy .....
Better yet: a literary treat you can enjoy for years (because that's how long it will take you to get through it ...) ....)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pascal Garnier's Low Heights.
This is the tenth Garnier Gallic Books have published -- bless them -- and now the tenth I have reviewed.
And he does not disappoint (the bleakness of his world-view tempered by the humor (and inventiveness)).
Good stuff !