The Czech Magnesia Litera awards have been handed out, and as Jan Richter reports at Radio Praha, Guide to wartime Prague wins top literary award, as the non-fiction category winner, the unusual Průvodce protektorátní Prahou by Jiří Padevět also took book of the year honors.
The fiction category winner was Skutečná událost, by Of Kids & Parents-author Emil Hakl; see also the (Czech) Argo publicity page.
The translation category winner was Robert Svoboda's translation of Esterházy Péter's Celestial Harmonies (get your copy of the English translation at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
The Gyldendalprisen, a Norwegian award for significant writing in any genre, has been awarded to Øyvind Rimbereid; see, for example, the report, Poet wins prestigious literature prize.
The previous two winners were Karl Ove Knausgård and Per Petterson, and other winners include Dag Solstad (1996), Jon Fosse (1999), and Tomas Espedal (2009), so it certainly has a good track record.
The 400,000 kroner prize -- US$67,428 at the current exchange rate -- isn't bad either.
"In the UK, we are generally not as adventurous and open to other literary styles as other European countries.
Crime fiction in translation is popular, as is straightforward storytelling, but not so much literary experiments.
"This means that UK publishers are often quite cautious in what they choose to translate, selecting titles that don't stray too far from the taste of UK readers and familiar literary styles.
They might focus on genres such as crime, or big family sagas, to be sure that there is an audience," she said.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Marek Hłasko's Killing the Second Dog, a re-issue from New Vessel Press (they're following up later this year with All Backs were Turned -- Cane Hill Press first brought these translations out some two decades ago).
Amusing Killing the Second Dog trivia: in 1995 the New York Daily Newsreported:
Fresh from his Outbreak box office success, Dustin Hoffman has bought the rights to Killing the Second Dog, Marek Hlasko's novel about a gigolo in Israel who preys on rich American women
Too bad that never made it to the screen -- it definitely has screen potential, and some prime acting roles.
They've announced the ten-title-strong shortlist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award -- selected from 152 titles nominated by libraries from around the world.
Several titles are under review at the complete review:
The most interesting of these titles is the Bakker -- published as Ten White Geese in the US: the winner of the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, it didn't even make the 25-title strong Best Translated Book Award longlist in 2014 -- and his The Twin (shortlisted for the 2010 Best Translated Book Award) won the 2010 IMPAC award.
The winner of the €100,000 prize will be announced 12 June.
They've announced the shortlists for the (Australian) NSW Premier's Literary Awards.
Among the categories: there's a: 'Community Relations Commission Award for a Multicultural NSW'.
The winners will be announced 19 May.
They've been looking for the Africa39, 'a Hay Festival and Rainbow Book Club Project':
which aims to select and celebrate 39 of the best African south of the Sahara writers under the age of 40
[Aside: if you're excluding writers from north of the Sahara, why not call yourself the 'Africa south of the Sahara 39' ?
My complaining about the Man Asian Literary Prize calling itself 'Asian' -- when, for its first years, it excluded writers from nations west of Pakistan (i.e. an enormous part of Asia) -- seems to have paid off (writers from most Asian countries are now eligible), so I'll register the same complaint here: you can't (and shouldn't) call/consider yourself continental if you aren't.
(I note also that the the writers who suffer most from this exclusion are those writing in Arabic -- as is also still the case with the remaining Asian nations excluded from the Man Asian Literary Prize -- what's that about ?)]
Anyway, they've now come up with the 39 authors -- though I can't even find a simple list of all of them, or any sort of press release -- the official site has a ridiculous alphabetical index, the official weblog is ... not very helpful, the official Twitter feed a joke [Updated: okay, this Twitter feed -- now the official one -- looks a bit more promising].
Come on, this is a worthy endeavor -- these authors deserve better !
(Updated - 10 April): See now also Margaret Busby in The Guardian on Africa39: how we chose the writers for Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014 (where you can also find all the authors listed one one simple list -- hurrah !).
Incredibly, she doesn't even mention that entries were limited to south-of-the-Sahara-Africans (since those north of the Sahara apparently don't count as 'African' (or as 'writers' ?)).
She does point out the admirable fact that -- other than completely skipping over anything written in Arabic -- they've managed a linguistically nicely diverse group: "Twenty countries are represented by work created in a variety of African and European languages -- Kiswahili, Igbo and Lingala as well as English, French, Spanish and Portuguese".
I'm already won over by an article that reveals that the chief rabbi (of both Prague and the Czech Republic), Karol Sidon, admits:
I couldn’t read anything but what is considered lowbrow sci fi literature which I really love
But how great to hear that he went on to write his own (and publish it under a pseudonym) -- and that, as Jan Velinger reports at Radio Praha, Prague rabbi pens literary hit of season, as the first volume of his planned tetralogy, Altschulova metoda (see the (Czech) Torst publicity page), has become a big hit
Sounds pretty wild -- I'd love to hear more about this.
The Knausgaard also has a chance to double up, with the shortlist for the Best Translated Book Award (for which I am a judge) due to be announced 15 April (the other IFFP longlisted title still in the running for the BTBA shortlist is The Infatuations by Javier Marías, which did not make the IFFP final six).
The winner will be announced 22 May.
In The Hindu 'Lakshmi Krupa speaks to publishers in the city to understand what works and what doesn't when it comes to Tamil books', in Tamil in the time of Kindle.
(I'm rather disappointed and embarrassed that there are still no translations from the Tamil under review at the complete review -- but the books are relatively hard to come by (not a good sign).)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Amélie Nothomb's Tuer le père.
(Her book-a-year output gets translated as a matter of course into most European languages, but not English; so too this one is available in German, Italian, Spanish, etc., but not English.)
And in even more exciting Nothomb news: this year the Best Translated Book Award will be announced on 28 April, in the US -- and in Paris, at Shakespeare and Company, with Nothomb announcing the fiction winner !
In the Bangkok Post they report on: 'How bloggers and netizens are being tapped by traditional publishers dedicated to the noble goal of passing on the reading bug -- while making a few baht in the process', in Word-wise web.
The first example they cite is:
Last week a video clip went viral.
It features a mock interview with a Westerner who recounts his first experience of being cursed at by Thai people.
Deftly using comical expletives and po-faced humour, the clip clocked up one million hits within 24 hours.
At the end of the five-minute video, called BKK 1st Time, the clip reveals itself to be an advertisement for a new book, a lighthearted piece of non-fiction written by a Thai student.
The gist of the matter is that this publication, entitled New York 1st Time, is to be launched at the 42nd National Book Fair
Last I checked, the video had 2,333,389 views, which seems pretty good for a ... book trailer; compare that to, say, the trailer for B.J.Novak's One More Thing (233,010 views), or the trailer for Gary Shteyngart's Little Failure (with James Franco), with all of ... 37,997 views.
See also publisher Salmon Books' site -- and note how many of the covers also have the title in English.
There are now more than 3300 reviews at the complete review, so it's time for a statistical look at the last 100 (well, reviews 3201 through 3300):
- the 100 reviews were posted in 187 days (previous hundred: 184 days), and totaled 89,132 words (previous hundred: 89,651).
(Wow -- a steady and consistent pace !)
- reviews were of books originally written in 22 different languages -- the best-represented languages being French (20) followed by English (19) and German (13).
One new language was added (Thai), bringing the total number of languages represented at the complete review to 63.
See also the language list for a full breakdown of all languages
- reviewed books were by authors from 36 countries, led by France (16), the US (10), Germany (8), and Japan (7).
- 89 of the 100 reviewed titles were novels (plus two story-collections) -- fiction continues to dominate completely
- more titles from the 1930s were reviewed (6) than the 1970s (3) and 1980s (2) combined; six titles were written before 1900 (all 19th century titles)
- no book received a grade of A or A+, but 13 were graded A-; one book was graded F
- shamefully (and almost absurdly) only 13 of the reviewed titles were written by women, lowering the percentage of female-authored titles at the site from 15.14 per cent to 15.08 per cent; see also the full breakdown here.
Here's an interesting idea for a peripheral literature/literary language: a prize for the local book published in the past year which: "is estimated to have the 'best export potential'".
That's what they have in Finland, with the Tulenkantaja-palkinto (which, with a payout of €5,000, is worth more than most foreign rights deals ...); see also the Books from Finland report, Potentially translatable.
Personally, I'd rather see finalists Leena Krohn or Asko Sahlberg in English (or some other language I can read) than the 'graphic novel' that won, but still -- sounds like a good idea.
The Hindu prize for fiction has issued its annual call for entries -- though note: "Only works of literary merit will be considered".
Of more concern to me, the disappointing news that, once again:
Only original works in English will be eligible. Works in Indian languages or translations are not eligible.
(Because, you know, it's an Indian literary prize, and all these annoying local languages are ... well, apparently just annoying and better disregarded.)
Years ago I voice my disappointment about this same limitation, and was assured:
We will be branching into more categories covering translations, regional languages and others in subsequent editions of the award.
God, I am a gullible, stupid arsehole, aren't I ?
I actually thought they meant it.
What a terrible message it sends to those in India writing in languages other than English.
(It leaves the Crossword Book Award, and its 'Translation Award', as the major Indian literary prize willing to consider works that weren't originally written in English.)
Looking ahead to the upcoming African Literature Association 2014 Conference (9 to 13 April), Dan Ojwang and Michael Titlestad have an interesting piece in the Mail & Guardian, African writing blurs into 'world' literature.
[Aside: by 'African' the authors, and the ALA, apparently mean only sub-Saharan African -- a quick check of the (impressive) 70-page conference programme (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) finds not a single mention of Arabic-language writing, and the only Maghrebi author I could find mention of is Mohammad Mrabet.
Among the disturbing findings by Ojwang and Titlestad:
As local literary institutions and publics are eroded -- and given the prudential nature of local initiatives -- the primary site of African literary production has shifted to Euro-America.
These authors' works are generally mediated for African readers by reviewers and academics abroad, and most have acquired their status through winning international awards.
Still, as the authors suggest, there's a lot that can be done, and it'll be interesting to see what constructive efforts emerge from the ALA conference.
The first reviews -- a batch of forty-five -- were posted at the complete review fifteen years ago today, on 5 April 1999.
Which is pretty much all I have to say -- I don't really know how to mark these (non-)occasions.
Perhaps the only thing to note/mention is that it strikes me more each passing year what a fragile and inconstant thing this Internet is, and if anything might impress about the site it would be its stability.
After yet another day spent (like pretty much every day ...) updating links to outside reviews and information -- i.e. fixing broken links, trying to find moved pages, and cursing pretty much every webmaster of every newspaper/magazine/review/and, worst of all, publisher site -- (what is wrong with you people ? what is wrong with all of you ? do you not want people to have ready access to information ? not just this week but like for a reasonable length of time ?) -- the losing battle once again gets to me.
I know the complete review looks ridiculously antiquated -- but when I see what happens when sites update their look and (ha) functionality ... no thanks.
But it's a problem, and a pain, because a big part of what I do at the complete review is link to outside sources of information and it's more than annoying (to me and, I'm sure, to you, when you click on yet another dead link) when very little of that proves to be very durable.
Ah, well, my exercise in futility will continue a while longer, but I have to admit that my enthusiasm does wane when I come across yet another pointless site re-jigging that does little more than render many (or all) links to the old version obsolete .....
(The Guardian had to change its URL from guardian.co.uk to theguardian.com ?
That was worth it ?
(And that was a relatively smooth transition -- far better than most.))
(It would help if Google did not continue to degrade before my eyes, from second- to third-rate search engine, with no viable (for my purposes) alternatives in sight ...... )
Still -- thanks, as always, for your continued interest and patronage; always appreciated.
At Eurozine they have an English version of a long piece by Karl Ove Knausgård, Out to where storytelling does not reach, on writing, editing, and publishing -- well worthwhile.
(Reviews of volumes one and two of Knausgaard's My Struggle are available at the complete review.)
They've selected the three category-winners for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, which now compete for the big prize, to be announced 26 April.
The fiction winner is As Flies to Whatless Boys by Robert Antoni; see the Akashic publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
As, for example, reported by Richard Lea in The Guardian, Ted Hughes estate withdraws biographer's access, as they've decided Jonathan Bate can't quote from the copyrighted estate-papers; as a consequence, Faber will not be publishing the planned book (but Bate will be publishing a revised version with HarperCollins).
See also Bate's explanation, How the actions of the Ted Hughes estate will change my biography.
(I'm kind of surprised Bate didn't have a formal contract with the estate, covering rights and obligations (and termination); "symbolic anointing" is all well and good, but hardly something you want to trust several working years to .....)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Andrés Neuman's Talking to Ourselves, published by Pushkin Press in the UK and due out shortly from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the US.
Neuman is a fine writer, but my enthusiasm for his work is nowhere near the popular consensus -- he's seems to be widely seen as one of South America's new greats.
I was decidedly underwhelmed by the near-universally acclaimed Traveler of the Century -- and I take some comfort in the fact that there still doesn't seem to be a German translation: for anyone who has read a lot of nineteenth century German fiction, it just doesn't impress that much.
Print publication the Literary Review also has some pieces from their April issue available online, with too little fiction coverage but at least including Seamus Deane on Samuel Beckett's Echo's Bones; see also the Faber publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk (or pre-order at Amazon.com).
They've announced that there are 167 novels in the running for this year's German Book Prize, the biggest German book- (as opposed to author-)prize; in unaccountable Man Booker fashion, however, they don't reveal what the books are (why not ? why not ? why not some transparency ?).
The 167 titles come from 101 publishers (68 German, 17 Austrian, 16 Swiss -- recall that, Man Booker-like too, publishers are limited in the number of titles they can submit (two per) (why ? why ? why ?)).
The twenty-title-strong longlist will be announced 13 August.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Dale Jamieson explaining Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed - and What It Means for Our Future, in Reason in a Dark Time, just out from Oxford University Press.
They've announced the winners of the well-endowed (each category-winner receives the equivalent of ca. US$200,000) Sheikh Zayed Book Awards, and the literature (i.e. fiction) prize went to بعد القهوة ('After Coffee') by Abdel Rasheed Mahmoudi; see also Lindsay Carroll's report, Egyptian author wins Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Literature in The National.
In the Irish Times they have a Q & A with Birgit Vanderbeke, whose The Mussel Feast has been longlisted for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (see also the Peirene Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
And I'm jealous:
What is the most beautiful book you own ?
Evening Edged in Gold (German Special Edition) by Arno Schmidt
Now browse through our regular local bookstores; you will find contemporary local books and translated bestsellers.
However, classics are few, especially in Indonesian literature.
Indonesian literary canon is not entirely available to us -- implying we are not literate and cultured enough.
Aren't we supposed to be living in the postmodern age in which we constantly refer to the works of the past ?
The sad truth is that we are not that literate yet, and it is a good idea to focus on a modernizing project to make buying, reading and enjoying literature our habit.
And Rizano suggests:
Our classics simply need to be available to the reading public; and in this visual age, they'll need proper packaging to become "objects of desire".
A bit of promotion backed by intellectuals will definitely get the ball rolling.
The book industry should be on the front-line in battling philistinism; we critics, academic and reviewers will do all the talking.
Well, any nudge in the direction can't hurt (and it certainly would be good to see) .....