Tarjei Vesaas has written the best Norwegian novel ever, The Birds -- it is absolutely wonderful, the prose is so simple and so subtle, and the story is so moving that it would have been counted amongst the great classics from the last century if it had been written in one of the major languages.
(I think it counts, regardless ... and good to see Archipelago recently reissue it in the US; it has long been UK available from Peter Owen; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
But you really can't go wrong with Vesaas -- try The Ice Palace , too !)
Knausgaard also found Thomas Bernhard's My Prizes laugh-out-loud funny -- and as to who he would want to write his life story, he suggests Krasznahorkai (!) -- or Lydia Davis.
The Booker now has a stranglehold on how people think of, read, and value books in Britain.
It has no serious critics.
Many, certainly -- and the publishing industry, of course (but that's just business) -- but I still come across many people thinking of, reading, and valuing books by rather different criteria
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Emma Reyes' The Book of Emma Reyes -- subtitled, in its UK edition, A Memoir in Correspondence.
This recent -- the Spanish original came out in 2012 -- posthumous discovery has been making the international rounds, and its discovery, the book itself, and Reyes' interesting life (beyond what she covers in this childhood memoir) certainly make for a good story.
Hey, even The New York Times couldn't resist covering it a few days ago .....
They've announced the 20-title-strong longlist for the German Book Prize, selected from 200 entries (which, regrettably and outrageously, are not revealed) -- 174 submitted novels, and 26 called-in titles.
Quite a few of these authors have had work translated into English; Ingo Schulze's Peter Holtz is apparently an early favorite.
The shortlist will be announced 12 September, the winner on 9 October (at the Frankfurt Book Fair).
I was a bit leery of this -- his Me Against the World didn't work very well for me, and the title of this one doesn't help -- but I can see why it was such a big success in Japan.
Still heavy on the introspective philosophizing, the narrative foundation here is just much better than in Me Against the World; it's the most satisfying novel I've read in quite some time.
A few extraordinary translations from Indian languages to English -- where we are recognising the translation, not the work itself.
In these books the translator rather than the author's name are mentioned front up.
The English-language focus -- and the: "Only one book per author"-limitation (surely an odd one, when you're making a best-book list) -- are pretty ... limiting, but there are certainly many works of interest on the list (and a few that are under review at the complete review).
Georges Simenon always -- well, for the past 40 or so years -- seemed to be well-served by (Swiss-based) German-language publisher Diogenes; they published over two hundred of his titles, from the Maigrets to the romans durs to things like the Mémoires intimes (in a complete translation, not like the abomination that is the US/UK edition, Intimate Memoirs); see also the bibliography at Quai des Orfèvres.
But, as already noted in a tweet from December, Diogenes lost the German-language rights last August, and have simply been emptying stock for the past year: the official site now doesn't list a single of their Simenon titles in print or available.
Boersenblatt.de has now taken note; apparently Simenon-heir John, and estate representatives Peters Frasers + Dunlop ditched Diogenes -- leaving Simenon's work in a German-language limbo.
(It is my understanding that New York Review Books, publishers of a fine little Simenon-collection, has also been de-righted.)
I thought Diogenes did a fine job, and I find it hard to imagine any publisher would do markedly better, but of course literary heirs are free to screw with estates and success however they please.
Still, there's screwing and there's screwing, and I note that a search on Amazon.de suggests the works of Georges Simenon are entirely out of print in German.
Let that sink in for a moment: the works of one of the best selling and most popular authors ever (Wikipedia has him ranked sixth all-time) are currently completely out of print in one of the languages in which he has been the most successful .....
WTF ? indeed.
No doubt, Simenon jr. and PFD have someone lined up, or eventually will, or hope to, who will let them squeeze more money out of the backlist (because, as noted, Simenon is popular in German(y)).
But he's apparently been out of print for a year now, and if there's been a big (or any) announcement of a/the new German-language publisher I've missed it .....
Sure, Diogenes churned out enough of these over the decades that readers can hunt down old copies of more or less everything.
But this is an ugly page out of the Wylie school of literary (mis)representation, in which the interests of readers come dead last (or rather, aren't considered at all): better to hold out -- no matter how long -- for the (potentially) 'better' deal than actually ensure the books are available to interested readers.
Simenon is a more or less unkillable brand -- but I still think they're doing him (and, more importantly: his work) a disservice.
And they're certainly showing how little they care about actual readers.
(Updated - 17 August): As now reported by Philipp Haibach in Die Welt, Simenon's new German-language publisher will be Kampa Verlag.
Who ? you ask -- noticing also that I don't link to a publisher's website ... well, that's because they don't have one yet.
Kampa is a start-up that isn't publishing anything yet -- they hope to start next year.
The pedigree is impressive -- founder Daniel Kampa was publisher at bona fide publisher Hoffmann & Campe -- and with Simenon as a foundation they should do just fine.
They've announced the winners of this year's James Tait Black Prizes: The Lesser Bohemians, by Eimear McBride -- out in paperback in the US today; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- , took the fiction prize, and The Vanishing Man, by Laura Cumming, took the biography prize.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lee Child's first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor.
Lee Child, you say ?
Well, John Lanchester admitted to being a fan in The New Yorker, and while on his European tour last year César Aira (How I became a Nun, etc.) repeatedly mentioned in interviews that he was gobbling up Child-books on the way -- and he even mentioned him in his opening speech (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) at the literature festival berlin last year:
And when I like something too much, as has recently happened with Lee Child, I have to ask myself seriously: is it really as good as it seems to me ?
Elsewhere, Aira has said: "Lee Child is a genius."
So, yeah, I was curious.
(After reading this, I'm not entirely convinced.
Borderline -- I might try one more, just to see (Persuader, probably -- Lanchester says it's the best of the lot).)
They've announced the longlist for this year's DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, 13 novels selected from "more than 60 eligible entries" (regrettably unrevealed).
Several of the books are US/UK available -- and some have even gotten decent attention abroad (Aravind Adiga's Selection Day and Karan Mahajan's The Association of Small Bombs, for example).
Only two are translations -- The Poison of Love, by K.R.Meera, and Pyre, by Perumal Murugan.
The shortlist will be announced on 27 September, the winner on 18 November.
Is it that our language not 'translation ready' ?
Or is it that our literature revolves around a 'Malayali space' not palatable to others ?
(Only five translated-from-the-Malayalam titles are under review at the complete review -- but, as with books translated from most Indian languages, the issue for me is mainly being able to get my hands on any.)
Milan Kundera famously not only moved from Czechoslovakia (as it was still then) to France, but also from writing in Czech to writing in French (e.g. The Festival of Insignificance), and at Eurozine Samuel Abrahám now recounts getting Kundera in Slovak, almost, as Kundera's linguistic shift has had the consequence that:
Kundera wrote in French an additional three books of essays and his last four novels.
As he explained to me, he alone can translate his own text into Czech, for he cannot imagine someone else doing it.
He added with some regret that translation costs him plenty of energy, and time is getting short ... so his books were translated from French into many languages, but not into his native Czech.
So the chances of seeing (reading) him in Slovak .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Max Frisch's long-sealed (for twenty years after his death, per his instructions) From the Berlin Journal, now also out in English, from Seagull Books.
They've announced that the 2017 Rheingau Literatur Preis will be awarded (on 24 September) to popular German author Ingo Schulze.
This is one of these gimmicky prizes that tries to stand out with a little twist to the actual prize -- here both in the amount (€11,111) and the bonus (111 bottles of premium Rheingau riesling).
(Hey, it works -- that's why you're reading about this here, now .....)
Still, as far as gimmicks go, a couple of cases of decent white wine isn't the worst.
Schulze is quite well-represented in English -- translated by Arno Schmidt-translator John E. Woods, no less -- and though none of his books are under review at the complete review at this time, he did of course rate a mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction.
Get your copy of, for example, his novel New Lives at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
(Gratuitous observation: it's nice of the Châteaux Hotel Burg Schwarzenstein to throw in some of the prize-money and host the bash, but, damn, that is not a happy mix of architectures classical and new.
I realize it's hard to build around Middle Ages stone, but .....)
The complete review -- the site, the review stuff -- has been around since 1999, but this Literary Saloon weblog was a relatively late addition, the first post only coming 11 August 2002.
Still, that's fifteen years ago today, for those of you keeping track of these anniversaries (and, hey, on the internet fifteen years is several lifetimes -- just look at all the book-blogs that have come and gone in the meantime .....).
I'm not really sure how (or why ?) I manage to keep going, but somehow I do, apparently without stop (I don't know the last time I even just skipped a day, but it has been a couple of years).
Even in these very slow (literary-news-wise) summer months.
For those of you still reading along -- many thanks for the continued interest and support !
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yuri Herrera's Kingdom Cons, just out from And Other Stories.
This is the third of Herrera's short novels to be translated into English, all part of a loose trilogy, but it's actually his first -- and started out as his MFA thesis at the University of Texas at El Paso in 2003.
A neat project at the Culture Trip, where they offer a Global Anthology, a world-spanning sampler-anthology of literature from ... everywhere.
Or at least 220 nations, territories, and assorted not-quite-state locales.
(Even so, there are places and (significant) languages that get short shrift -- notably regional Indian literature.)
Still, an impressive collection, and obviously a great variety.
The new Duden -- the standard German dictionary -- is out, with 5000 new words (quite an increase, given that the total wordcount is only 145,000); at Deutsche Welle they have a decent overview, German language officially gets 5,000 new words.
'Emoji' is now a ... (German) word, for example.
But almost disappointing to hear that:
(T)he Germanized spellings of some words -- "Majonäse," "Ketschup" and "Anschovis" -- have been done away with.
American books contained dramatically more swear words in the late 2000s than they did in the early 1950s.
Readers of books in the late 2000s were 28 times more likely than those in the early 1950s to come across one of the "seven words you can never say on television."
I especially appreciate the helpful graphing:
There's some discussion -- but obviously also a lot of room for follow-up studies ...; I look forward to seeing them.
The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) has announced the shortlists for the 2017 National Translation Awards, in poetry and fiction.
Only one of the titles is under review at the complete review -- Zama by Antonio Di Benedetto, in Esther Allen's translation.
The winners will be announced at the ALTA conference in early October.
The Association of American Publishers released their 2016 numbers a few days ago, and at Publishers Weekly Jim Milliot sums things up in his report.
Revenue was down 5.1 per cent -- but unit sales were up by 1.2 per cent.
Disappointingly (worryingly ?):
Books with religious and inspirational themes from religious presses and trade publishers were among the best-selling books.
E-book sales continue to slump, down 16.9% (revenue) and 14.7% (unit sales) compared to 2015 -- though presumably that comes with caveats regarding the counting of Kindle-editions and whatnot (it's apparently harder to keep track of e-sales, in all the e-formats, than it is print books).
While: "publishers saw increased revenue from trade book sales at physical retail stores":
Most of the books purchased in 2016 were bought from an online retailer; about 814 million units were sold into online channels in 2016.
About 672 million books were sold to physical bookstores.
No money writing in Indian languages, say poets they report at the Times of India -- surely about as unsurprising a claim as one could make.
(You could leave out the: 'in Indian languages' and already gets nods of universal agreement; include them and, well, come on ...)
As Suryasnata Tripathy notes:
"There is no money in regional language writing.
One of the major hurdles as a regional poet and upcoming writer is to convince the publishing house.
Publishers are not so keen on taking risk in regional poetry, unless the poet is well known," said the 26-year-old poet, who is currently pursuing his PhD in microelectronics at IIT-Hyderabad.
(A PhD in microelectronics definitely sounds like a good career back-up plan.)
To preserve the feel of the Japanese original, Zielińska-Elliott has to race against another “deadline” – the publication date of the English translation.
Her editor, who does not speak Japanese, would judge her work’s quality based on the published English translation, Zielińska-Elliott explained.
This phenomenon, called “the hegemony of English,” is a frustration for many European translators of Murakami.
“English versions are often heavily edited. And generally, they tend to domesticate, so all the foreignness is taken out,” Zielińska-Elliott said.
“My editor would compare my version to the English and say: ‘This is not in the original.’
And I’d say: ‘Yeah, it was cut from your ‘original,’ but it is in the ‘original original.’”
Makes you wonder how different US/UK appreciation of Murakami is .....
(I continue to be amazed by the extent (and acceptance-with-a-shrug ...) of editorial interference -- generally in the form of radical and extensive cuts -- in the English translations of Murakami's work.
Yes, he's had the commercial success that one can argue these are 'successful'.
And yet .....)
Zielińska-Elliott has also translated Mishima's Temple of the Golden Pavilion and Yoshimoto Banana's Kitchen into Polish.
The possibly-Trump-endangered American National Endowment for the Humanities has announced its most recent batch of grants -- "$39.3 Million for 245 Humanities Projects Nationwide".
Twenty-eight of the grants were in the 'Public Scholar Program' -- supporting: "well-researched books in the humanities aimed at a broad public audience" -- and The Washington Post conveniently collects them here.
Twenty-two grants, totaling US$$5.87 million, were for 'Scholarly Editions and Translations'; no convenient listing at the official page yet, but you can find them (arduously) in the (geographically (!) arranged) complete list (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of this year's grants.
They include the: "Preparation of a print and digital edition and translation of the Way of the Poet-King, a seminal literary treatise from 9th-century India written in the regional language Kannada", and: "The Ancient Graffiti Project: An Open-Access Critical Edition of First Century Pompeian Wall Inscriptions".
They've announced the nine jurors for the 2018 Neustadt International Prize, a biennial author prize.
The jurors play an even more significant role here than with most literary prizes, as they individually pre-select the finalists: each juror gets to pick one favored author (who will all be announced 5 September).
Then they all get together and vote for the winner, who will be announced 9 November.
In the official press release they somewhat misleadingly note:
First given in 1970 to Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti, the Neustadt since has included Nobel Prize in Literature recipients Gabriel García Márquez, Czesław Miłosz, Octavio Paz, and Bob Dylan, as well as many well-known novelists, poets, and playwrights.
García Márquez, Miłosz, and Paz all actually won the Neustadt; Dylan did not -- he was only a finalist (in 2012), and it speaks well for the prize that when he was nominated (sillily, by Andrea De Carlo) the rest of the jurors decided on someone -- anyone ! -- else (Rohinton Mistry).
Unlike the misguided Swedish Academy, who will never live down their awful misstep .....
They've announced this year's winners of the New Zealand Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement (worth a tidy NZ$60,000), with Witi Ihimaera taking the fiction prize
(Yes, Ihimaera is best known as the author of the book-that-was-made-into-the-film The Whale Rider (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) but I would have included him in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction even without that ...; see also the New Zealand Book Council page on the author.)
the cost of book-making will go up by 10%-28% (excluding the overheads) and this will have to be paid directly by the publisher unless it is passed on to the reader, because there is no provision to claim Input Tax Credits (ITC) -- taxes paid by suppliers -- like in the erstwhile Value Added Tax (VAT).
The Etisalat Prize for Literature is a leading African literary prize -- but one of the difficulties with corporate sponsorship is that corporate stability is often ... unstable.
Etisalat Nigeria has been wobbling of late, and -- for now -- the result has been a re-branding/structuring: they now call themselves '9mobile'.
For now, as Ozolua Uhakheme reports in The NationEtisalat Prize for Literature must live -- and it does, albeit re-branded as the 9mobile Prize for Literature; still, the official press release suggests everything is set for the 2018 prize.
We'll see how that goes .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the first Rocco Schiavone Mystery by Antonio Manzini, Black Run.
(I've had this lying around for a while but picked it up now because I saw that the follow-up, A Cold Death (published in the US as Adam's Rib, because ... publishers ... ?) is one of the six finalists for this year's CWA International Dagger and, as I've mentioned, three of the other finalists are under review at the complete review, so I was curious.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Arthur Schnitzler's Late Fame, a novella he wrote in the 1890s but that was first published only a few years ago.
Pushkin Press brought out the English translation in the UK two years ago, and now New York Review Books have a US edition out.
Leo Carey's 2002 review/profile of Schnitzler in The New Yorker, The Dream Master, is a good introduction to the author.
Peace Prize of the German Book Trade-winning author Liao Yiwu's Die Wiedergeburt der Ameisen -- apparently only available in German, for now -- is among the titles longlisted for the 2017 Jan Michalski Prize (see also the S.Fischer publicity page) -- and in the Tages-Anzeiger Bernhard Ott has a (German) Q & A with the author (and close friend of recently deceased Liu Xiaobo).
Asked about returning to China (he lives in German exile) Liao says that if he returns someday, he hopes it is to an "independent nation of Sichuan" (Szechuan); given Chinese attitudes about, say, Tibetan or Uyghur secession (both certainly realistic and eventually likely, if not in the near future, but unthinkable/unspeakable in the PRC), or the status of Taiwan (completely independent in everything but (mainland) Chinese name), the very idea of an independent Sichuan must make them apoplectic.
Kenyan author Meja Mwangi's Christmas Without Tusker came out in English a few years ago (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), but barely registered in the US or UK (as an 'Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,830,206' suggests ...) -- yet a translation has now appeared in German (see the Peter Hammer publicity page) and it's now even been reviewed, by Almut Seiler-Dietrich, in nothing less than the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
Mwangi is a very popular author -- the best-known Kenyan author beside Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Seiler-Dietrich suggests -- and he certainly rated a mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction -- but is apparently too 'popular' to make any inroads in the US/UK, his books not conforming to the expected view of what an 'African' author should be writing .....