In the case of English translation of Korean literature, there has been a heated debate on who is the better qualified translator between an American or British translator and a Korean translator.
Some people insist that American or British translators are much better than Korean translators because the latter are prone to make mistakes in grammar, syntax and wording, not to mention inadvertently using unstylish sentences and awkward expressions.
Others strike back, insisting that Korean translators are better because British and American translators almost always make quite a few mistakes in their translation since they are often unable to comprehend Korean words or phrases and their cultural implications correctly.
What to do ?
In my experience, both arguments are right.
Thus collaboration or cotranslation by two nationals can be a good solution.
I'm also not sure pinning hopes on a first wave of: "suspense and mystery" titles to pave the way for 'real' literature is the wisest course of action -- much less the advice that:
Indeed, we should produce literary works that would have strong international appeal. Once the door is open, more serious literature can follow
Once you start trying to 'produce' a specific kind of literary work -- especially one for a foreign audience (i.e. one that by definition authors are likely to be less familiar with) ... well, that's unlikely to work out well.
The winners of the (Kenyan) Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature -- actually several prizes -- have been announced, with Dust (by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor) winning the adult English category (a book that's actually available in US and UK editions; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and Pendo la Karaha (by John Habwe) winning the adult Kiswahili category (see the not very useful Moran publicity page).
See also the Daily Nation report, Owuor wins literature prize at book awards.
Meanwhile, at Qantara.de Bettina David writes about a part of the Indonesian literary market we're unfortunately not likely to see much of, in Frankfurt or elsewhere: 'Sastra Islami' -- Islamic popular literature -- in "God's gift to Indonesia".
Interesting, for example, that:
Unlike the rather elitist Western-influenced literary scene, Sastra Islami is ruled by an ethos of shared idealism, community and mutual motivation -- which fits with the Indonesian love of collective fellowship and personal contact.
And also that:
The "most inspiring" book in this new wave of Indonesian literature has of course been Andrea Hirata's The Rainbow Troops
And shocking to hear that the German edition of the next volumes (apparently a two-for-one abridgement) takes considerable liberties, as:
Its view of the West also seems naive.
In Hirata's The Dreame, Arai receives an EU grant for a research project at the Sorbonne in which he tries to refute the theory of evolution with Harun Yahya's bizarre "theories" -- though cut from the German translation, many of his Indonesian readers like to believe in them.
Surely these are exactly the parts that shouldn't be cut -- we want to see these things: "his Indonesian readers like to believe in".
(Never mind that many Americans seem to be pretty receptive to Harun Yahya-type interpretations of evolution in the first place .....)
And I remain disappointed that Habiburrahman El Shirazy's Ayat-Ayat Cinta (which I first mentioned quite a while back, when first looking at this phenomenon) apparently still isn't available in English.
'Blurbs' remain a fascinating part of the odd business that is publishing, and at NPR Colin Dwyer offers an enjoyable overview, in Forget The Book, Have You Read This Irresistible Story On Blurbs ?
(I tend not to be much moved by blurbs -- though I have found misleading ones (which are often fairly easy to identify/spot, often smelling of desperation ...) a good indicator of lack of quality in a book.)
So they're apparently publishing a Hogarth Shakespeare-series -- "Shakespeare’s plays reimagined by some of today’s bestselling and most celebrated writers".
Sort of like Canongate's Myths-series (which seems to have sadly petered out; see also the volumes under review at the complete review).
In The Telegraph Alex Clark has a Q & A with Jeanette Winterson and Howard Jacobson on retelling Shakespeare's plays -- since they're among the first tackling the exercise.
I'm not so sure about these -- but have to admit some curiosity about the promised Jo Nesbø-Macbeth.
Get your copy of Winterson's The Gap of Time -- the first of these volumes to appear -- at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.u.
Via I'm pointed to a Việt Nam News piece on Scholars debate role of French language in Viet Nam -- an interesting look at the colonial legacy.
Interesting to see them consider the consequences of changed circumstances:
"It makes sense that young students have decided to focus on English due to globalisation," he said. "But I'm now wondering which is better: the former generation that had no choice but to study French literature, or the modern generation that is free to choose any language, rendering their minds like a ‘hotpot'," he said.
Pascale Casanova's The World Republic of Letters impressed me greatly, and I was very pleased to see and now read a copy of her Kafka, Angry Poet (see the Seagull publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) -- but I found myself stymied in trying to write up a review -- and have, for now, given up.
I found her take on Kafka informative and interesting, but find it hard to try to write anything about it without falling in the Kafka-rabbit-hole (which, as you may have noticed, I've by and large managed to avoid; I got Kafka in and out of my system long before I started the site, and I have little patience for the mythologized (if not outright deified) depictions of him that are the order of the day (though Casanova, to her credit, does well to avoid a lot of that)).
When I get my hands on the third Stach volume (the early years), maybe I'll get to some in-depth Kafka coverage, but for now I can't help but keep a little distance.
I am disappointed, however, how little critical attention this volume has gotten (which is why I mention this): it really is very good -- interesting, informative and accessible.
Baffling that it hasn't been more widely reviewed.
The US$100,000 NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates through (four) genres, and this year it was the turn of children's literature.
They got 109 entries, but, as Evelyn Osagie reports in The Nation, No winner for 2015 NLNG’s Literature prize.
As the judge's report [sorry, Facebook link; there isn't an up-to-date official site with this information ...] explains:
This year, 109 entries were received.
Eighty-nine (89) entries did not meet the preliminary criteria for assessment.
This number represents 81.6% of the total number of entries received for 2015. The percentage by any standard is worrying; especially as there is a paucity of literature for children
This isn't the first time no prize has been awarded -- 2004 (prose) and 2009 (poetry) also came up empty.
NLNG is determined to promote excellence by investing the prize money, which would have been won, back into the process for a creative writing workshop for Nigerian writers of children’s literature.
At Qantara.de Birgit Lattenkamp has a Q & A with Indonesian author Sigit Susanto (as Indonesia-as-guest-of-honour-time at the Frankfurt Book Fair approaches, in a couple of weeks).
He is a bit concerned that Indonesia isn't fully prepared for Frankfurt, and suggests:
Maybe Indonesia will be guest of honour again in 2025, and can be better prepared to present itself then.
Sony Labou Tansi, from what is now the Congo (DRC), died in 1995 but a couple of years ago I hoped the English translation of his Life and a Half would make for a bit of a revival, at least in the English-speaking world.
(Several of his works have been translated -- see also reviews of The Antipeople, Parentheses of Blood, and The seven solitudes of Lorsa Lopez.)
That doesn't seem to have worked out (yet ?) -- but things are looking up in France: his collection Encre, sueur, salive et sang (see the Seuil publicity page) has been longlisted for this year's prix Renaudot (in the non-fiction category) -- and more impressively still, a massive (1260-page !) collected edition of his Poèmes has just come out; see the CNRS publicity page , or get your copy at Amazon.fr.
I suppose the best we can eventually hope for in English is a slim selected-edition -- but I sure hope someone goes for the whole thing.
No doubt that he's one of the most important African authors of the second half of the twentieth century, and it's great to see he's still such a presence, at least in the French literary scene.
I knew the Soviet life well, to the extent that I was fed up with it, so I was reading more and more Western literature.
But gradually, moving to the West, I was more and more carried away by my own literature: Soviet literature, historic literature.
The further I moved towards the West, the more I liked the old literature of my own country; and when I say my own country that includes Russian literature as well.
He also argues that there's a: "hegemony of World Literatures -- by which I mean, the two or three literatures that run the world. English, French, and maybe partly Spanish literature", and that:
I know writers who are extremely powerful that we as human kind should be proud of.
But nobody knows them because they belong to small nations: Georgians, Armenians, Tajiks, and so forth.
Ion Druţze the Moldavian writer.
Otar Chiladze from Georgia. Meša Selimović the Bosniak writer. They are world-class writers.
I'm pleased to note that two of the three are under review at the complete review (and that they are indeed world-class): Otar Chiladze (Avelum) and Meša Selimović (Death and the Dervish and The Fortress).
(Ion Druţă is a more difficult proposition -- that Moldavian Autumn-collection is not easy to find (try to get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).)
They've announced the longlist for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award --:
the world's longest established and most valuable literary sports-writing prize.
As well as a £27,000 cash prize, the winning author will receive a free £2,500 William Hill bet, a leather-bound copy of their book, and a day at the races.
The shortlist will be announced on 27 October, the winner on 26 November.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Boileau-Narcejac's classic She Who Was No More -- on which the Diabolique-films were based -- just re-issued by Pushkin in their new Pushkin Vertigo imprint.
I've often complained both about publishers changing titles from one edition to the next, as well as US and UK publishers choosing different titles for the same book, and this novel offers examples of both: it's been published under this title, as The Fiends, and was originally published:
The exhibit Arno Schmidt: Eine Ausstellung in 100 Stationen ('an exhibit in 100 stations') opened at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin yesterday (it runs through 10 January), and it sounds pretty awesome -- see early (German) coverage at Deutschlandradio and the Berliner Morgenpost.
Among the events held in conjunction with the exhibit, Mein erster Schmidt on 8 October will have Dietmar Dath, Reinhard Jirgl, Kathrin Röggla, Ingo Schulze, and Uwe Timm -- quite the line-up -- talk about their first encounters with Arno Schmidt's work.
The €10,000 Constantijn Huygens-prijs is the leading Dutch 'lifetime achievement' author-award, with a solid record (and a few notable misses ...); winners include Cheese-author Willem Elsschot (1951), Louis Paul Boon (1966), Harry Mulisch (1977), The Sorrow of Belgium-author Hugo Claus (1979), Hella S. Haasse (1981), Cees Nooteboom (1992), Tirza-author Arnon Grunberg (2009), and Tonio-author Adri van der Heijden (2011)..
They've now announced that this year's prize goes to Adriaan van Dis
Several of his works have been translated into English; see, for example, the New Press publicity page for My Father’s War; see also the Dutch Foundation for Literature author page.
At Fiction Writers Review Steven Wingate has a Q & A with Georgi Gospodinov, mainly about his recent The Physics of Sorrow.
And if you're in New York today you can catch Gospodinov in English and Bulgarian conversation with Eric Becker and Milena Deleva at the Consulate General of the Republic of Bulgaria at 19:00 !
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jean Raspail's infamous collapse-of-Western-civilization novel, The Camp of the Saints.
I've rarely been so uncomfortable about posting a review, but given how often it has been referenced recently -- now again especially (but hardly only) with the wave of refugees from, in particular, Syria into Europe -- and how often it is brought up in discussions of Michel Houellebecq's just-out-in-the-UK and coming-soon-to-the-US Submission I figured coverage of it serves at least some informational value.
But, holy shit, this is an unpleasant piece of work, with no redeeming features ... and in some ways particularly hard to review; to say Raspail is misguided doesn't come close to how off the rails he is.
The opening of the Kirkusreview from four decades ago gives some sense of the struggle to put this thing in any sort of perspective:
The publishers are presenting The Camp of the Saints as a major event, and it probably is, in much the same sense that Mein Kampf was a major event.
It takes important and chilling facts that very few people are willing to face, and digs into them like a hyena into carrion.
Sadly, there are those who hold it up as an exemplary work and warning -- and it's that, and not Raspail's scenario, that can make you despair of mankind and the future.
As longtime readers know, I have my ... doubts about 'literary' agents but, no question, some of them have been enormously influential, and leading Spanish agent Carmen Balcells -- who handled Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Carlos Fuentes, among many others -- was certainly among them; see, for example, Rachel Donadio's piece in The New York Times, Carmen Balcells, Agent to Latin America's Literary Lions, Dies at 85.
They've announced the longlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction -- or, well, they're announcing it today and haven't announced it at the official site as I write this (but maybe will have -- here ? -- by the time you read this ...) but they let the media know and the longlist has been widely released, so .....
Anyway, see, for example Sarah Shaffi's report that: Samuel Johnson Prize 2015 longlist has 'something for everyone' at The Bookseller.
And, predictably: none of these tiles are under review at the complete review.
Suhrkamp is re-issuing the great Arno Schmidt's translation of Edward Bulwer-Lytton's What Will He Do with It ? ('Was wird er damit machen ?') !
Check out their publicity page, which includes the absolute best tag-line I've come across in ages:
[The book with which Arno Schmidt recuperated from Bottom's Dream.]
The joke being that translating a 1400-page work might be an appropriate restorative exercise for an author who just completed the monumental (and even wordier) Zettel's Traum.
All joking aside: how cool is it that an author would turn to translating obscure (but very wordy -- i.e. time-consuming) nineteenth-century fiction to recuperate from his fiction-writing adventures ?
(Okay, yeah, also: how depressing, that he was doing this for the money -- that translation was a more dependable cash cow than fiction-writing .....)
Pre-order your copy at Amazon.de (hey, I'm tempted to, by the promise of the never-before-published Schmidtian marginalia !).
As longtime reader know, I'm not only a huge Schmidt fan, but also a Bulwer-Lytton-devotee (I've read pretty much everything he's written -- and that's a lot (over ten thousand pages)) -- but pretty much all of it before I started the site, so the only Bulwer-related titles under review are biographical ones, e.g. Leslie Mitchell's Bulwer Lytton.
Amazon lists many editions of What Will He Do with It ? but they're pretty much all self-published public-domain editions (i.e. of questionable production-value).
Rather than holding your breath until Penguin Classics finally get around to him I'd suggest you build up your collection like I did: as one of the bestselling authors of the nineteenth century there are a lot of old volumes floating around pretty cheaply in the used books market, and you should have no trouble finding this one (probably in multiple volumes -- it's long, even by his standards).
And for those desperate souls willing to read an electronic version, check out, for example, the Internet Archive edition
Meanwhile, if you're only up for a shorter introduction to Arno Schmidt -- or Edward Bulwer-Lytton, for that matter; he gets a lot of coverage here too -- why haven't you checked out my Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy ?
Everyone needs a copy ! -- and if not a personal copy, why haven't you nudged your university or public library to get a copy for wider perusal ?
(The library at Duke seems to be the only one so far .....)
(Get your copy at Amazon.com, or on Kindle, or at Amazon.co.uk (etc.), or see the Goodreads page, etc. etc.)