Bohumil Hrabal (Vita Nuova, etc.) is among the most revered modern Czech authors, and there have been quite a few fictional tribute-works to the master, such as Esterházy Péter's The Book of Hrabal and Paweł Huelle's Mercedes-Benz -- and now there's also an opera ! by Miloš Orson Štědroň: Don Hrabal, playing at the Prague National Theatre; see their information page or, for example, the Prague TV report
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Bora Ćosić's grand 1978 novel Tutori.
This is certainly among the great Yugoslavian novels -- up there with Meša Selimović's Death and the Dervish and Ivo Andrić's The Bridge on the Drina -- but I wonder whether it will ever make it into English; it's massive, and quite a translating challenge (though I imagine any translator would have a blast with it -- it's the financing of the work that's the issue).
Ćosić isn't entirely known in English -- and My Family's Role in the World Revolution is definitely worth your while; see the Northwestern University Press publicity page (yes, it appeared in their wonderful Writings from an Unbound Europe-series), or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- but he's woefully under-translated/appreciated; post-Kiš (and Ćosić is actually older ...), he's surely the grand old man of modern Serbian fiction, and has likely been regularly Nobel-nominated for quite a while.
Quite a few of his works would be worth translating (and cheaper/easier to do ...), so I hope someone has a look/try.
They've announced the six finalists for the prix Anaïs Nin -- the prize with its eyes towards the winning title getting translated into English (it's specifically: "orienté vers le monde anglo-saxon", sigh); see, for example, the Livres Hebdoreport.
I'm a bit surprised Régis Jauffret's Microfictions 2018 -- which seems to me a hard sell in the US/UK -- is still in the running; I'm not surprised Catherine Cusset's Vie de David Hockney is.
The winning title will be announced 12 February.
The federal Swiss literary prizes have been announced, with Italian-writing Anna Felder winning the 'Grand Prix Literature' -- the Gran Premio svizzero di letteratura 2018 (though you can read that announcement in all four of the official national languages; link here to the Italian one, since that's what she writes in ...); see also, for example, the swissinfo report, Author of 'musical and poetic' novels wins award.
Other prizes announced include a 'prix spécial de traduction 2018', which went to translator Yla von Dach (bonus points for that great name ?), while seven other authors were honored for specific works.
Neither Felder nor any of the others seems to have made any mark in English yet .....
So, are the machines taking over ?
Will they come to dominate even literary translation ?
Antonio Toral and Andy Way considered What Level of Quality can Neural Machine Translation Attain on Literary Text ? (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) (see also the abstract) -- using English-to-Catalan (!) for their study.
One clear conclusion -- or confirmation --: neural machine translation beats, and continues to beat, phrase-based statistical machine translation handily, and is presumably where the future is (see also, for example, this recent Empirical evaluation of NMT and PBSMT quality for large-scale translation production (warning ! dreaded pdf format !), which found: "In all cases, the human reviewers, all native speakers of the evaluated language pairs, ranked the quality of the NMT engines higher than that of PBSMT").
Human translation is still ahead -- by a wide margin -- but it's getting more interesting.
A long way from truly interesting -- but recall that it wasn't that long ago that it was widely considered unthinkable that AI programs could beat a human at Go .....
They've announced the winners of the latest round of the Naoki and Akutagawa Prizes -- the two best-known Japanese literary prizes.
See, for example, the report in The Japan Times, Chisako Wakatake and Yuka Ishii win Akutagawa literary award; Yoshinobu Kadoi bags Naoki Prize.
The Akutagawa -- 'for up-and-coming authors' -- was split between Ishii's 百年泥 and Wakatake's おらおらでひとりいぐも (see also the Kawade publicity page).
Amusingly both authors are, for up-and-comers, of a rather advanced age .....
The Naoki -- 'for popular fiction' -- went to Kadoi's 銀河鉄道の父, a Miyazawa Kenji-novel; see also the Kodansha publicity page.
At boersenblatt.net they report that the number of book-buyers in Germany has declined alarmingly, in Der Buchmarkt verliert vor allem jüngere Käufer.
Between 2012 and 2016 the percentage of Germans who purchased books sunk drastically, from 54.5 per cent to 45.6 per cent -- and between 2015 and 2016 the 6.6 million new book-buyers were more than outweighed by 8.9 million lost book-buyers (including 800,000 who had previously purchased five or more books annually and now were buying ... none ...).
Revenues remained relatively stable -- thanks to higher prices, and more purchases from the remaining book-buyers --, but the trend is more than troubling, especially since it seems to be concentrated among younger consumers (i.e the future ...).
Le Figaro's popular annual feature of the bestselling French authors (all their books, not just the latest) in France in the past year is now out for 2017, Les dix romanciers français qui ont vendu le plus de livres en 2017.
Guillaume Musso tops the list yet again -- by a mile, with a total of 1,540,900 copies sold (way down on last year's 1.8 million, however) -- with Raphaëlle Giordano, the one other author to top a million copies shifted, the runner-up.
Of course, they barely register in the Anglosphere: Musso has been translated, Giordano doesn't seem to have been, and, other than maybe Fred Vargas, none of the top ten really have attracted much English-language ... appreciation.
(Yes, there's Marc Levy ... there's always Marc Levy .....)
Still, this is a very different list than that of the bestselling fiction -- individual titles -- where the big prize winners had impressive showings.
But if backlists are included -- as here -- then it's the old familiar authors that churn the stuff out that dominate.
But, hey, Virginie Despentes lurked in the eleventh spot .....
Whatever 'literary' might mean ...: the original The Booksellerarticle is paywalled so the full explanation is inaccessible; Alison Flood's overview in The Guardian, Female writers dominated 2017's literary bestsellers, figures show suggests they: "limited ourselves to those who have been major award winners and/or shortlistees" -- which seems rather ... unclear (major award winners and/or shortlistees when ? where ?).
Still: actual numbers ! Copies sold and cash taken in ! Yes ! Let's see more of that !
Though I have to admit those volume numbers are ... disheartening.
They've announced the longlist (and the judges, and the dates, for this year's International Prize for Arabic Fiction -- 16 novels, chosen from 124 entries, from 14 countries.
If you click on the covers at the bottom of the announcement you can find more (English) information about each of the titles.
The shortlist: "will be announced in February" (hmm ... so much for announcing the dates ...), and the winner will be announced 24 April.
Hey, it's Arno Schmidt's birthday !
He would have been 104 today.
Back in 2014 -- the centenary -- I was so disappointed by the lack of interest in all (or any ...) things Schmidt that I put out my little Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy (you got your copy, right ? if not, it's still and always available at, say, Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk ...).
Despite the epochal publication of John E. Woods's translation of Bottom's Dream in the meantime ... well, he's still not getting the recognition he deserves.
(Such is, apparently, that author, and book's, and translator's sad fate: Bottom's Dream is the translation-into-English of the millennium, to date, yet, for example, the Best Translated Book Award didn't even rate it among the top twenty-five of the year, sigh .....)
Read him !
The six-title shortlist for the inaugural Society of Authors' Translators Association First Translation Prize has been announced.
This prize was admirably founded by Daniel Hahn with his share of the International Dublin Literary Award prize-money he recently was awarded; "The aim of the prize is to recognise new talent in the translation profession".
There were "over twenty books" submitted, and both five out of the six translators, and five out of the six authors were women; the only title under review at the complete review is Elisabeth Jaquette's translation of Basma Abdel Aziz's The Queue.
The winning translation will be announced 1 March.
They've announced the winners of the 34th annual Deutscher Krimi Preis -- the German Mysteries Prize --, with an Oliver Bottini winning in the national category -- just as his Zen and the Art of Murder (awarded third place in the 2005 awards) comes out in English from MacLehose Press; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
In the international category John le Carré's A Legacy of Spies beat out Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer, with Jérôme Leroy's Le bloc rounding out the top three.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hanne Ørstavik's 1997 novel, Love, coming out in English next month from Archipelago.
Peirene Press have brought out another work by her, The Blue Room (see their publicity page), which I unfortunately haven't seen yet; certainly another impressive contemporary Norwegian talent, and I'm sure we'll be seeing more by her.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Iain Pears' The Raphael Affair, the first in his Art History Mystery-series.
This is a bit of a 'filler'-review, but having reviewed two others in the series it seemed to make sense to post a review of the first, which introduces the central characters.
That said, Pears always makes for at least entertaining reading -- and I'm sure I'll get to more of his books.
It's actually already been up for a while, and I have been an avid user, but now the official announcement is also out, as Jim Milliot reports at Publishers Weekly that Translation Database Now Hosted by 'PW', as the venerable Three Percent Translation Database-collection -- while still available there (the data only, however, in downloadable Excel spreadsheet form) -- is now available in a more user-friendly (and easily updated) form at Publishers Weekly, here.
As you can see, you can limit/specify search parameters, making this version much handier to check most things (specific genres/countries/languages, etc.).
I'm finding it incredibly useful; I imagine many of you will as well.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alexei Remizov's Sisters of the Cross, recently out from Columbia University Press in their Russian Library-series.
Remizov is one of those Russian writers who slipped into relative obscurity in exile -- born in 1877, he lived until 1957.
For a while, he did pretty well internationally: for example, in 1924 his The Clock was published by Alfred A. Knopf (US) and Chatto and Windus (UK).
This 1910 novel hasn't previously been translated, however, and it's a nice little re(dis)covered work.
"There are certain parts of the work that are weak from the standpoint of a novel," he said.
"That made me want to provide as much support as I could, so I earnestly added new elements to the work.
I tried to provide a smoother progression to those parts that did not flow smoothly."
Translating Chandler has obviously been a useful exercise for Murakami and his own fiction -- but it's interesting to see him tackling an author whose work has already been repeatedly translated.
They've announced that this year's prix du Livre Inter étranger -- one of the leading French book prizes for a foreign work of fiction -- goes to the French translation of Paul Auster's 4 3 2 1.
Surely not a major upset -- Auster is huge in France -- though it was disappointing that all the finalist competition it faced was also translated-from-the-English.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ahmed Naji's Using Life, recently out from the University of Texas Press.
This book has gained some notoriety because its author was, ridiculously, charged with, basically, obscenity -- see, for example, the PEN America Ahmed Naji page, and Lucy Popescu's overview in the Literary Review.
An extended (Friday, 5:00 to 22:00) localized power outage, and an internet-disconnect extending beyond that makes for the first day in many, many years that there's a day with: no new post(s) at the Literary Saloon (this delayed one doesn't count).
Apologies, but the (non-) utilities prevented me; blame US infrastructural collapse (on such an unseasonably balmy day -- some 30 degrees Fahrenheit above the seasonal norm hereabouts --, no less !) -- so of course the man in charge: el Presidente and his inept administration.
(It takes a lot to keep me from posting, but somehow Trump enabled it.
(Yes, yes, American infrastructural collapse is a long-festering, on-going problem -- but might as well lay the blame on the (after all, always credit-taking ...) one(s) currently (ostensibly) in charge.))
Pushkin Press -- and then New York Review Books -- came out with Len Rix's translation of Antal Szerb's Journey by Moonlight a couple of years ago -- but Alma Books came out with a new translation just last year, by Peter Czipott; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
(There was an earlier translation, by Peter Hargitai, too, but that attracted nowhere near the attention or readership Rix's did.)
At hlo Mark Baczoni talks with Czipott and another Szerb-translator, Peter Sherwood, in A Double Interview on Translating Antal Szerb.
Some interesting background, and always good to see Szerb get mre attention.
They've announced the winners of the 2017 (American) National Jewish Book Awards.
'Jewish Book of the Year' went to Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel, by Francine Klagsbrun; get your copy Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
The 'Fiction' award went to David Grossman's Man Booker International Prize-winning A Horse Walks Into a Bar; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
(There are lots of other categories, too.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Adrián Bravi's Dust, recently out from Dalkey Archive Press.
Though he was born and grew up in Argentina, Bravi lives in Italy and writes in Italian.
They've announced the 30 finalists (selected from more than 160 entries) for the Deutscher Buchtrailer Award -- and you can watch them there, at the official site.
Always interesting to see how folks try to promote/market books (though, text-centered as I am, I still don't quite get this cross-platform approach ...).
The winners will be announced on the 25th or 26th.
They've announced the thirteen-title longlist for the prix Anaïs Nin; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.
I love the description they give of this prize -- that it's for: "une œuvre susceptible d'être traduite en anglais".
On the other hand, I'm not that enthusiastic about it being so obviously aimed at what-would-work-in-English (though it would be kind of cool if they had this for all sorts of other languages as well ...).
Of, course, this being the French, they have some peculiar ideas about what might work in the US/UK market: as much fun as a new volume of Régis Jauffret's Microfictions might be (and they surely mean Microfictions 2018 here; see also the Gallimard publicity page), a thousand pages of this stuff is going to be a hard translation sell.
(The two Jauffrets available in English -- Lacrimosa and Severe -- are under review at the complete review (because ... of course they are), but I suspect they did not do particularly well, sales-wise, which probably doesn't help.)
On the other hand -- the first winner of this prize, in 2015, was Virginie Despentes' Vernon Subutex, 1, so who knows ?
(The ringer in the lot would appear to be Catherine Cusset's novel Vie de David Hockney (see the Gallimard publicity page) -- though with Play Boy, Sexe, Géographie d’un adultère, La journée de la vierge, etc. also in the running, a lot of the titles certainly seem to hold the promise of what many English-speaking readers perhaps still expect/hope for from French fiction .....)
There have been quite a few articles that have focused on Deborah Smith's translations of Han Kang's work, specifically The Vegetarian, and now Jiayang Fan offers an overview of the debate(s) in The New Yorker, in Han Kang and the Complexity of Translation.
I'm glad to see these issues and questions being discussed -- a fascinating part of the whole translation-debate.
The finalists for the French foreign fiction prize, the Prix du Livre étranger have been announced; see also the Livres Hebdo report.
Most noteworthy/remarkable ?
All five finalists are translations from the English .....
The winning title will be announced 11 January.
At npr Nurith Aizenman summarizes an article that appeared last year in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 'Learning-Related Values in Young Children's Storybooks: An Investigation in the United States, China, and Mexico' [abstract], in What's The Difference Between Children's Books In China And The U.S. ?
I'd rather see the actual article, of course, but still an interesting look at some of the differences.
"Cheung says this emphasis on happiness comes up a lot in the books from the U.S." .....
The most popular author-(last-)name indices were: m (by far -- ridiculously far); b; s; a; and c.
I received 395 review copies, down a stunning 17.7% from the 480 received in 2016, and the fewest since 2007.
While review copy arrivals were likely somewhat inflated during the years I was a judge for the Best Translated Book Award (I haven't been for the past few years), the fall-off is still remarkable, and I'm not quite sure how to explain it.
I probably do request fewer major-publisher titles than in previous years -- it's often simpler just to get them at the library -- and presumably I get fewer unsolicited books than in the past.
The leading providers of review copies remain unchanged, with Dalkey Archive Press, New Directions, Harvard University Press, and Oxford University Press each supplying about thirty titles -- almost a third of the total between them.
(Declines at these leaders also play a role: there were 16 fewer Dalkey titles than in 2016, for example.)
As of 31 December 2017 I had reviewed 82 (40.39%) of the titles acquired this way (i.e. not including library or bought books, etc.); considerably higher than the historic average and the average in recent years (at the end of 2016: 23.13%; at the end of 2015: 23.09%).
(Obviously, previously received books also continue to get reviewed; so, for example, there are now an additional 25 books-received-in-2016 under review, and 28.33% of review copies received in 2016 and 27.20%/2015 have now been reviewed.)
Books originally written in 35 languages (down from 39 in 2016) were reviewed.
While there were actually more French titles reviewed in 2017 than 2016, English was back on top; meanwhile, Japanese coverage continued to expand markedly.
The top ten languages were:
1. English 40 (19.70% of all books) (2016: 24/11.71%)
2. French 39 (2016: 36)
3. Japanese 26 (18)
4. Spanish 20 (27)
5. German 9 (12)
6. Italian 8
7. Russian 7
8. Serbian/Croatian 5
9. Norwegian 4
-. Portuguese 4
Books by authors from 51 countries were reviewed (2016: 52), the top eleven being:
1. France 27.5 (2016: 30)
2. Japan 26
3. US 20.5
4. UK 16
5. Italy 10
-. Spain 10
7. Russia 8
8. India 6
9. Romania 5
10. Belgium 4
-. Norway 4
Fiction was, as always, dominant: 159 of the reviews were of novels, along with reviews of two novellas and eight story-collections.
After six biographies being reviewed in 2016, none were in 2017 -- though there were (again) two autobiographies.
Four poetry collections, as well as four graphic novel/cartoon collections were reviewed.
Recent publications again dominated -- 97 reviews were of works originally published (in the language they were written in, not the English translation) between 2011 and 2017 -- with 2015 (22) the most popular year.
(2017: 20 -- but 2016 only 11.)
The 1980s were a popular pre-2000 decade in 2016 (12 titles), but oddly unpopular in 2017:
Fifteen titles written between 1900 and 1945 were reviewed, as were three each from the 19th and 18th centuries -- and only two earlier works.
The ratio of male-to-female authors was a still miserable 20.20%; still, appreciably higher than the 16.83% in 2016.
It was a good year for superior books, with six titles being graded 'A' (2016: 2)
(Interesting to note that four were by (under-)reviewed women, and that three of these were older/re-issued titles.)
Meanwhile, the lowest grade was a 'C-', given once (to Alberto Moravia's Time of Desecration).
I've been meaning to/considering posting some sort of best/most significant books overview, but looking over all the books I've reviewed what really strikes me is how few regrets there are here: there's barely a book here that I'm sorry I devoted my time to.
Yes, my reading and reviewing time could often have been better spent, but practically everything gave me something (even that terrible Moravia).
(I did abandon more books than in previous years, and left more read books unreviewed, which probably helped -- a lot -- too.)
I will -- finally ! -- be getting around to debating what I think is deserving of the Best Translated Book Award, so there will be some 'best of 2017' discussion -- at last count (I think) I've reviewed 104 of the titles eligible for this year's prize -- and I'll leave it at/for that.
Books reviewed ranged in length from 30 to 1653 pages.
Twelve titles were over 500 pages long, and, continuing the trend of more short books-in-translation, eighteen (!) were less than 100 pages long (compared to eleven in 2016); seven of these were actually under 50 pages long.
(Plays and poetry collections tend towards the very short, but the same number of poetry collections (4) as in 2016 were reviewed, and only two dramas were; like everything else at the site, the shortness-trend is fiction-driven.)
Among the most astonishing statistics of recent years has been the average length of all books reviewed, which has remained what seems like almost impossibly constant for three years now:
2017: 249.54 pages per book
The length of the average review again increased slightly, to 961.02 words (2016: 948.06 words), and the reviews posted in 2017 totaled 195,088 words (2016: 194,353).
The longest review was 3268 words long, and three more were over 2000 words long; ten were under 500 words (2016: 9).
Disappointingly, site traffic as a whole continued to decline, down 4.26% compared to 2016.
There were visitors from 226 countries and territories in 2017 (2016: 222).
Among the few areas from which there was no traffic were North Korea and Western Sahara, as well as St. Helena and Montserrat (from which there had been visitors in 2016); countries from which there were visitors in 2017 for which there had been none in 2016 include: Tonga, Guinea-Bissau, Isle of Man, Norfolk Island, Nauru, and São Tomé & Príncipe
The countries from which the most traffic came were:
United States (37.12%)
United Kingdom (8.74%)
India handily overtook the UK as the second-largest audience. while the Philippines slipped ahead of Australia for fifth place.
Nigeria supplanted Kenya as the only African country in the top ten, while France won back its place in the top ten.
Regionally, it was particularly interesting to see that Africa, with over 8% of total traffic, was so much more active than all of South and Latin America: toss in the Caribbean too, and that area's share of total traffic was still less than 2%.
(Indeed, take out the top three (English-speaking) African countries -- Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa -- and the rest of the continent still provided far more traffic than all of the Americas minus US/Canada.)
Nigeria showed the biggest increase in traffic -- and Lagos vaulted to third among cities from which the most traffic came, behind New York (back at number one) and London; Bengaluru easily beat out Los Angeles for fourth place.
Visitors to the site still overwhelmingly reach it via search-queries -- and Google search queries at that (Bing and DuckDuckGo are barely a trickle compared to the Google flood) -- while outside site-referrals barely rate a mention (which I find kind of depressing, since the main thing I do at the site is link to outside sites, and I kind of hope that that sends traffic to them, but judging from how it works the other way around .... maybe it doesn't).
The sites sending the most traffic to the complete review in 2017 were:
I don't really know what to make of the numbers, but there they are.
Amazon-commission and other income has also slipped at the site, which is rather annoying, though there has been a welcome increase in direct support (much appreciated !) -- and of course more is always welcome, e.g via Patreon ...
... or PayPal:
Summing up: well, as usual, it never seems to me that I read or review enough -- though, honestly, around 200 titles per year is probably a pretty good number, and quite possibly about as much as you -- and I -- can handle, right ?
Still, I'd always like to cover more (in number, variety, etc. etc.) .....
But for the most part you can just expect more of the same (in about the same quantity, if I can help it), for better and worse.
I love seeing site- and reading-data (see above ...), and here are a few other sites that have posted some.
(I know I've missed/forgotten many, but it's a sampling .....
Also: I limit myself to site- rather than personal names -- it's just simpler .....)
Among those offering some numbers/demographics (often along with best of the year overviews, etc.):