The New York Times Book Review has Juan Gabriel Vásquez (The Informers, etc.) answer this week's 'By the Book' Q & A.
Like so many prominent foreign-language-writing authors, he has also translated works into his mother tongue -- and one of the questions they ask him is: "Has translating changed your approach to reading fiction in translation ?"
I realize the column is about reading, but of course the really interesting question is how it's affected his writing.
(As longtime readers know, I'm a big proponent of writers at least dabbling in translation -- as far too few US/UK authors of fiction do ...).)
Some interesting answers, though -- worth a look.
As reported everywhere, they've now announced the thirteen-title-strong longlist for this year's Man Booker Prize.
They were selected from 156 submissions -- though, alas, the Man Booker folk don't reveal which titles were actually in the running.
(Publishers are limited as to how many titles they can submit, a complex formula determining how many each is allowed to submit, so it is likely prominent and promising titles were never even considered for the prize -- but they won't tell us which ones.
People should find this more disturbing than they seem to (most of you don't seem to mind at all).)
The Telegraph has the main points covered in various articles: American dominance of Man Booker Prize longlist 'confirms worst fears' and Men and women take equal share in the Man Booker Prize longlist pretty much sum things up.
Prominent authors whose books missed the cut (but, after all, may not have even been submitted ....) include those by Kazuo Ishiguro, Jonathan Franzen, Salman Rushdie, and Pat Barker.
Unsurprisingly, none of the longlisted titles are under review at the complete review -- sorry.
Via I'm pointed to Russell Williams' The Série Noire and Social Intervention at the Los Angeles Review of Books, a nice introduction/overview of Gallimard's 'grande collection de romans policiers', their Série Noire.
And, of course, it would be great to see more of the French works they publish in English translation.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Muḥammad al-Muwayliḥī's turn of the (last) century What ʻĪsā Ibn Hishām told us, just out in a two-volume edition in Roger Allen's translation from the Library of Arabic Literature.
Yes, yes, I know; you already have your copy, why would you even need my review .....
In Flight of the Seagull in The Caravan Anjum Hasan looks at: 'How an Indian publisher brought Europe home', profiling Seagull Books, the Naveen Kishore-led, India-based publisher that is one of the leading publishers of literature-in-translation (especially French and German) in English.
(A lot of other publishers have great lists, but as far as number-of-(important-)titles go, it's really Dalkey Archive Press and Seagull way at the head of the pack.)
A fascinating story -- and a wonderful success story.
Lots of Seagull titles are under review at the complete review -- I wouldn't even know where to start -- and I hope you too are familiar with much of what they've published.
The infrastructure of the Indonesian publishing industry isn't yet fully developed. A potential market is there but the industry is still in a poor condition.
She also notes:
But regardless of that, we still see gems of literature and popular writings that have both market success and good intellectual reception such as the works of Ayu Utami, Seno Gumira Ajidarma or Eka Kurniawan.
As I've mentioned previously, this fall is seeing a double-dose of Eka Kurniawan in English, as two of his novels are being published in translation: Man Tiger, coming from Verso (see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy from Amazon.com), and Beauty is a Wound from New Directions (pre-order your copy from Amazon.com).
Publishers Weekly has the early reviews -- here and here -- and they're both starred; fully on board the Kurniawan-bandwagon, they also have a Writers to Watch: Fall 2015 profile of him.
At Scroll.in Ulka Anjaria finds: 'Choosing what to read is playing a crucial role in the uneasy conflict between the mother-tongue and English', in Reading Chetan Bhagat in Dhaka: the anxiety of English literature.
(Chetan Bhagat is of course the immensely popular (writing-in-English-)Indian author -- whose success hasn't quite ... translated to the US/UK (several of his titles are under review at the complete review; see, for example, One night @ the call center, which was actually published in US/UK editions as well).)
An interesting (beginning of a) discussion -- as is also the notion, re. Bhagat, that:
Without explicitly saying so, his works shift attention from the traumas of South Asiaís past to the shared anxieties of its future.
The shift in attention may be welcome, but I'm not sure his works are best suited for leading the way .....
Eight years after Amazon released the first Kindle, surviving independent bookstores are now selling e-books -- and finding that no one really wants the ones they're offering.
Of course, part of the convenience of buying e-books is that you don't actually have to go to a bookstore to do it.
But, as someone who will only suffer an e-book in extremis, I'm probably not the right person to speculate about e-book purchasing patterns.
In the Hindustan Times Aneesha Bedi looks at the phenomenon of 'young Indian authors whose writing is vibrant, personal and clicks instantly', in Literature in a hurry.
A nice touch at the end is having two established, older authors comment on the phenomenon -- the section introduced: 'What Seniors Say' ....
In The Hindu Mini Krishnan writes on literature in and from India -- especially in local languages --, in More than one life.
Well, the selfie of us with our Indian-language writers shows that the rest of the globe is fairly safe from us: our writers have not penetrated any other culture's consciousness deeply.
A major part of the problem seems (to me) that they haven't penetrated the markets yet -- paving the way for consciousness-entering.
I'm always on the lookout for translated-from-the-Indian-languages fiction here in the US, but there's essentially none to be found.
As she notes:
Both serious studies and hastily cobbled articles based on interviews with writers and publishers over the last two years reveal that outside India, very little of our huge literary output -- contemporary or otherwise -- is being read anywhere in the world.
We are a literary supercontinent but as dark as Krishna and as difficult to reach.
Again: a major part of the problem is that it's simply not (readily) available.
I'd read it if I could get my hands on it; I rarely can.
Which really shouldn't be quite this difficult, in this day and age.
(In just the past few days I have gotten review copies of a Malay novel from Singapore (e-version) and four paperbacks translated from the Galician (these from a publisher based in Sofia, Bulgaria, of all places -- check out Small Stations).
But she suggests that even within India -- where availability is less of a problem -- there hasn't been nearly enough engagement with literatures from other local languages/regions.
Murakami Haruki's early novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 are being published in new translations (by Ted Goossen) in the US/UK -- in one volume titled, sigh, Wind/Pinball -- at the beginning of August; see the publicity pages from Alfred A. Knopf and Harvill Secker, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Early reviews are already out -- Arifa Akbar's in The Independent and Matthew Adams' in The National (both notable also for being dismissive of Alfred Birnbaum's earlier translations, which were hardly anywhere near as obscure as they suggest; I can remember stumbling over them at New York bookstores frequently in the late 1980s and 1990s).
What I hadn't realized is that the Wind/Pinball phenomenon is apparently a global one: the novels aren't just being resurrected for English-reading audiences: this summer and fall also sees editions in, at least, German (see the DuMont publicity page for Wenn der Wind singt / Pinball 1973), Spanish (pre-order your copy of Tusquets' Escucha la canción del viento y Pinball 1973 at Amazon.es), and Catalan (see the Editorial Empúries publicity page for Escolta la cançó del vent i Pinball, 1973).
Why the concerted push to bring these to (all these) markets now ?
Surely not a cash-flow issue for Murakami.
But maybe a setting the (literary) record straight/on the table for posterity (and Nobel-angling) purposes ?
At BooksLive they have an overview of The Local Books to Look Forward to in 2015 (July-December), suggesting some of the more interesting publications forthcoming in South Africa in the coming months.
Some of this will make it to the US/UK sooner rather than later (the Deon Meyer, hurrah -- pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), some not quite so soon (the Zakes Mda ?).
Anyway, always interesting to see what is of local interest/prominence.
(And nice to see a re-issue of Thomas Mofolo's classic Chaka.)
I haven't seen Mani Rao's Kalidasa for the 21st Century Reader (see the Aleph Book Company publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), but Vijay Nambisan's review in The Caravan is now (finally) fully freely accessible online, in which he considers: 'Revisiting Kalidasa in the modern age'.
(With several reviews at the complete review of both Sakuntala (four, including this one) and the Meghaduta (three, including this one), both of which are also translated anew in the Rao volume, I'm always curious about new takes on this Sanskrit master.)
The New York Times Book Review's 'By the Book'-column continues to be ... uneven, but this week's respondent is William T. Vollmann, and though I've never really taken to his work he offers up a pretty interesting set of answers.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Simon Critchley's novella Memory Theatre -- which came out last year from Fitzcarraldo Editions in the UK, and is due out in the US (as Memory Theater ...) from Other Press in November (quite a while after the French translation was published, I can't help but note ...).
With the French 'rentrée littéraire' about to be unleashed -- 589 titles published over the course of just a couple of weeks -- any guidance is helpful; the prix du Roman Fnac offers a just-announced longlist of thirty top titles (see them, for example, at BibliObs; for some reason the Fnac site doesn't have a convenient overview) and, given their track record -- mixed,
but local favorite Where Tigers are at Home won in 2008, and widely acclaimed (if locally less appreciated) Purge (2010) as well as Vie Française (2004) have also taken the prize -- looks worth at least a closer look..
The presence of Marisha Pessl's Night Film would seem to be a big red flag, but new works by Claro (Crash-test; see the Actes Sud publicity page), Mathias Enard, and -- maybe -- Laurent Binet, among others, are certainly intriguing.
This week's German author prize is ... the Kranichsteiner Literaturpreis, the €20,000 prize that's gone to Rainald Goetz (this year's just-announced (see my mention) Georg-Büchner-Preis winner), in 1983, Wolfgang Hilbig (1987), Nobel laureate Herta Müller (1991), and Sibylle Lewitscharoff (2006).
No word yet at the official site, last I checked, but they've announced that Esther Kinsky will get to pick up this year's prize on 6 November; see, for example, the report at boersenblatt.
Her Summer Report is available in English (from Seagull Books, of course); get your copy at Amazon.com or (ridiculously cheaply, at this moment) at Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the final volume in Jeff Lindsay's serial-killer series, the just published Dexter is Dead.
Okay, not exactly my proudest reviewing accomplishment, but at some point my tidy, completist side kicks in -- hence you can find coverage of all eight Dexter-books at the site.
You probably don't need me to tell you, but, as widely reported, E.L.Doctorow has passed away; see, for example, Bruce Weber's obituary in The New York Times.
None of his work is under review at the complete review; among the best-known is, of course, Ragtime; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
At Radio Bulgaria Desislava Ivanova briefly writes Of Bulgarians and books.
We are treated to not-quite-up-to-date 'statistics':
In figures from the National Statistical Institute, in 2011 fifty-one percent of Bulgarians did not read even a single book and only 19% of the population read more than 10 books.
Newer writers have made half an impression:
As to contemporary Bulgarian writers, more than half of respondents say they love to read books by them as well.
27% however claim present-day Bulgarian writers fail to offer worthy reads, and others believe reading their books is a fad.
The polled mentioned the names of Georgi Gospodinov, Donka Petrunova and Ivan Trenev.
There is no big demand for contemporary Bulgarian writers for adults. One notable exception is Stefan Tsanev from the older generation whose books are quite successful on the market.
As to children though, they most often prefer Bulgarian authors.
Adolescents read mostly fantasy and historical novels.
Among children's writers, one of the most popular is Yulka.
(Nothing by either Tsanev (Стефан Цанев) or Yulka (Юлка; actually Julia Spiridonova) seems to be available in English, but see, for example, some (Bulgarian) samples by Yulka at LiterNet.)
"Writing is kind of considered to be somewhat secondary to art at this point, maybe largely because things have become so visual with new media," she said, adding that the visual arts were also far easier to sponsor:
"It's sexier." Yamada said that when offers of funding did come in, they were often tied in ways that were unacceptable.
"Cambodia has been heavily influenced by Sanskrit," she said.
"And unlike Thai, they haven't separated their words.
When we started out, a whole page would have no paragraph breaks, no stops, no phrases."
Today, Yamada said, that's changing -- work is presented in a more legible form, and language is less repetitious.
Ah, well .....
But, yes, one hopes that they get over this 'development literature'-phase soon .....
Rather shamefacedly I note the awarding of the Premio Strega ... a full two weeks after they announced the winner.
(It's summer, news travels slowly ? But seriously, where's the English-language coverage of this, the best-known of the Italian literary prizes.)
No doubt you would have heard if finalist Elena Ferrante had won with The Story of the Lost Child -- forthcoming from Europa editions; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- but in the second and final round of voting it came a rather distant third, with 59 of the 368 votes cast.
The winner was: La ferocia by Nicola Lagioia; see the Einaudi publicity page.
(His Bringing It All Back Home is apparently available in English -- electronically; get you Kindle copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
They also award a Premio Strega Europeo -- a best foreign book prize -- and German-Ukrainian author Katja Petrowskaja's Maybe Esther (the 2013 Ingeborg-Bachmann-Prize-winning title, forthcoming from Fourth Estate in English; see the Suhrkamp foreign rights page) beat out hot favorite Rafael Chirbes (and Alain Mabanckou, among others).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi's 1990 novel Mirages of the Mind; Random House India brought this translation out last year, and now New Directions has brought it stateside.
Good (though unusual -- really, it's not what you're used to reading) fun -- and lots of great observations and sentences.
I think my favorite is still the pithy:
There is no real harm in swimming against a river's current. I mean, none for the river.