In Die Zeit they don't have their critics select the top books of the year, but they offer a list of Die besten Bücher zum Verschenken ('the best books to give as gifts' -- which of course isn't quite the same as 'the best books' ...).
Normally, I wouldn't bother with an article/link such as this, but two things did strike me as noteworthy.
First, among their categories are books that are: 'Leicht zu lesen' ('easy to read' -- e.g. John Williams' Augustus) and 'Für fortgeschrittene Leser' ('for advanced readers' -- Marcel Proust's letters, for example, or titles by Cees Nooteboom and Chico Buarque).
And then there are the suggestions: 'Auch für junge Leser' ('also for young readers'): this is where Sarah Bakewell's At the Existentialist Café (!) gets categorized, for example -- and, even better, a 400-page Andreas Gryphius-reader (see the S.Fischer publicity page).
True, the Baroque poet and dramatist is a great read for youngsters -- I ate him up in those Reclam pocket-sized paperbacks back in the day -- but this is like recommending the Jacobeans for contemporary US/UK teens (an obvious fit, and yet ...).
(Not much Gryphius seems available in English -- though he got a Harper'smention a few years ago -- but his work (much of it colored by the Thirty Years War) feels particularly ... apt today.
"Wir sind doch nunmehr ganz, ja mehr denn ganz verheeret !" as he had it in 'Tränen des Vaterlandes' ('Tears of the Fatherland'): "So, now we are destroyed; utterly; more than utterly !", as one translation has it .....)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Czesław Miłosz's only posthumously published (attempt-at-a-)science fiction novel, The Mountains of Parnassus, coming soon in Yale University Press' Margellos World Republic of Letters series.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Geetanjali Shree's The Empty Space, one of a number of previously-(only-)available-in-India translations that Seagull Books is now admirably bringing to a broader audience.
At El País' Babelia they now have Los 10 mejores libros de 2016 (sorry, this outrageously only appears to be available as a near-intolerable 'slideshow') -- as well as Del 11 al 20 (not a slideshow ! look how easy that is ! and how much more pleasant (well, they could kill the covers, too, but I guess that's really asking for too much)).
It's a pretty translation-heavy top 20 -- and the top place goes to one from the English, A Manual for Cleaning Women, by Lucia Berlin; see the Picador publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Certainly an interesting mix of authors and books, but a lot of dead folks (Berlin, Lezama Lima, Rimbaud (!), Schrobsdorff) or about dead folks (Stach on Kafka) in the top ten.
And then a very US-heavy (five of ten) 11-20.
So only of limited help in pointing to what's coming (or might be, anyway) from the Spanish-language market.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Maxime Raymond Bock's Baloney, just out in English from Coach House Books.
Atavisms -- which he published under the Maxime-less name: 'Raymond Bock' -- came out from Dalkey Archive Press last year, but my story-collection-aversion prevented me from covering it; obviously, I should give it a second look.
See also the Dalkey Archive Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The Goethe-Wörterbuch -- 'Goethe dictionary' (though surely, in fact, what would be called a 'concordance') -- is an awesome project, given that: "Goethe commanded the biggest ever documented individual lexicon of 93,000 words", and at DeutscheWelle Gero Schliess writes about this undertaking, in God, Goethe and the mammoth task of compiling his vocabulary.
They're even almost done, apparently .....
Well, everything being relative .....:
It took more than 20 years just to list and evaluate these 93,000 words.
But now, an end is in sight.
In terms of lexical evaluation, the present team consisting of 17 academics has reached the letters S and T.
It is hoped that the project will be completed in 2025.
Originally, the researchers had the year 2040 in mind.
Great to see it available online, too -- even if, at this time, only through the letter 'M'.
Nepali literature isn't something you hear a lot about, whether from Nepal or from India (where Nepali is one of the 22 'official' languages) but in The Kathmandu Post Mahendra P. Lama offers: 'Descriptions of some works competing for the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award', in Nepali literature in India.
I'd love to see round-ups like this of contenders in the many other Indian languages, too -- and maybe a few of these books eventually in translation .....
The Life of an Unknown Man-author Andreï Makine has claimed his seat -- fauteuil 5, last held by Assia Djebar -- in the Académie française -- and, as some of the reports have it, Russian author slams France while receiving its highest literary honour.
(Apparently they only consider him French (enough) when he says nicer things about his adopted homeland -- and language .....)
The article is really only worth checking out for the picture of him wearing the ridiculous club jacket -- and fortunately you can actually read his entire discours -- sort of his acceptance-lecture -- at the official site.
Dominique Fernandez's réponse, too.
In Die Zeit Tobias Gohlis has Die besten Krimis des Jahres 2016 -- what they consider the top ten mystery/thrillers that appeared in German in the last year.
Quite a few translated-from-the-English titles -- including the top choice, Garry Disher's Bitter Wash Road; see also the Soho publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Many agencies only think about money.
But we only look at the quality of the writing.
We train people in the agency to forget about money.
It's not of interest whether we think a book will sell thousands of copies.
Pay attention to the quality of the work. If the writing is unusual, appealing, and drives you a little crazy, then that's someone that we want to represent.
(There's no doubt that the Wylie Agency client list is first-rate (jaw-droppingly so, in fact) -- but let's be serious, 'quality of the work' is not their sole selection-criterion.
How else to explain King Abdullah II, Al Gore, the Gates Foundation, and ... the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc. ?)
While Wylie admirably seems to take the long perspective with many of his authors, I don't know that his ... patience in holding out for the best deal really serves readers (or even many of the authors/estates) well: there are quite a few on that client list whose works are not nearly as readily available as I would like.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mario Benedetti's 1960 classic in a new translation by Harry Morales, The Truce: The Diary of Martín Santomé.
Penguin Modern Classics brought this out last year -- in the UK -- but Green Integer publisher Douglas Messerli reported a couple of years back that:
In 1996 translator Harry Morales sent me a new version (which he revised again in 1998), restoring what he described were missing passages in the Graham translation, and retranslating the entire text.
I read this new version with great pleasure, and offered to publish the book on Sun & Moon Press.
We offered a $1,000 advance to Benedetti through his agent at the time
But it took until (almost) now until it was finally published .....
They've announced the winners of the Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature, with Kilio cha Mwanamke by Idrissa Haji Abdalla winning the fiction prize (which also means it is set to be published by East African Educational Publishers).
This prize was founded: "to promote writing in African languages and encourage translation from, between and into African languages", and though limited to Kiswahili entries is certainly a welcome presence, given that most African book prizes are limited to one of a few (mainly European) languages.
It deserves more press coverage too ... and it would be great if in the future prize-winning texts might also get translated into and published in English .....
As if all the end-of-season French book prizes weren't enough, a few years ago they added 'le Prix des Prix' -- the prize of prizes, pitting the winners of the eight big fall book prizes (Goncourt, Renaudot, Médicis, Femina, Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française, Décembre, Interallié, and Flore) against each other -- and they've announced that this year (Médicis-winner) Laëtitia ou la fin des hommes, by Ivan Jablonka, is the best of the best.
This is the sixth time they've awarded this prize -- and, interestingly, it has never gone to the winner of what is considered the biggest of them all, the Goncourt.
At his Stevereads weblog heavy reader Steve Donoghue has lots of year-end best lists -- and, admirably, some worst-of, too -- and among the early ones he's posted is his Best Books of 2016: Translations !
A nice mix -- including several I still have to get to.
So far, four of the titles are under review at the complete review:
World Literature Today has now posted their annual list of 75 Notable Translations for 2016, and it's a nice -- if, to my mind, somewhat random-feeling -- sampling of what's been published in translation this year.
(Needless to say, many of these titles have been reviewed at the complete review -- though there are quite a few I haven't even seen yet, too.)
It does, however, miss what is surely one of -- if not the -- most notable translations of the year: John E. Woods' of Arno Schmidt's Bottom's Dream, a book I would have thought would be very hard to overlook but is being overlooked left and right, going without any 'best of the year' or even, like here, mere 'notable' mentions to date, as best I can tell.
The would-be alternative Man Booker Prize, the Folio Prize, "awarded to the best new work of literature published in the English language in a given year, regardless of form" as selected from a pool recommended by The Folio Prize Academy, gave out prizes in 2014 and 2015 (though they don't make it easy to find any mention of the 2014 prize (or much of the 2015 one) on the site) and then went on ... a hiatus.
Now it's back, with new sponsorship (Rathbone Investment Management Ltd) and less prize money (£20,000, half what they used to offer); see the official press release.
The next prize-winner will be announced 24 May 2017.
They still celebrate the great Naguib Mahfouz's birthday by announcing the winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature each year on (or at least almost on ...) 11 December, and though the news hasn't hit the official site, last I checked, Arabic Literature (in English) is, of course, on top of it: The Tales of Yusuf Tadrus ('حكايات يوسف تادرس') by Adel Esmat (عادل عصمت) is this year's winner -- and so we'll eventually get to see the English translation out from AUC Press (one of the perks/rewards for winning the prize).
Apparently none of his earlier works have been translated yet.
I've mentioned the bizarre Android Sōseki-project several times already, and with the 100th anniversary of the author's death on 9 November this version of the dead man has gone live; see the creepy video here.
While this was definitely the most sensational (not in a good way ...) anniversary-related stunt, at least Sōseki has also gotten attention elsewhere, with a couple of media mentions of interest.
See, for example:
As I noted yesterday, this year's literature Nobel laureate -- yes, really, Bob Dylan -- was a no show in Stockholm for the usual pre-ceremony events, like the 'Nobel lecture', and he was a no show yesterday at the actual big awards ceremonies too.
Still, he sent over a statement for the banquet speech, delivered on his behalf by the US ambassador to Sweden, Azita Raji (yes, Dylan had a government official stand in for him; so much for taking a position against the man).
(Note that this is not the 'Nobel lecture', which the Swedish Academy still expects from him (yeah, good luck with that).)
He did have Raji say -- though still without bothering to offer any semblance of an explanation --:
I'm sorry I can't be with you in person, but please know that I am most definitely with you in spirit and honored to be receiving such a prestigious prize.
And he's proud to be in the company of 'giants of literature' such as: "Kipling, Shaw, Thomas Mann, Pearl Buck, Albert Camus, Hemingway" (as apparently he doesn't read much reasonably contemporary fiction ...).
And while he phrases it so carefully, with explanation and everything, it's hard not to read more into his observation:
The fact that the Nobel committee is so small is not lost on me.
Meanwhile, Swedish Academy member Horace Engdahl gave the 'Award Ceremony Speech', introducing the (absent) laureate -- and trying desperately to make the best of a by now ridiculous situation, claiming:
Recognising that revolution by awarding Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize was a decision that seemed daring only beforehand and already seems obvious.
'Daring' is certainly not a word I would have used in connection with this particular peculiar choice -- but that might be an issue of translation: perhaps he means 'daring' as in that it's 'daring' to attempt suicide -- and it certainly hasn't become obvious, and won't (unless the Swedish Academy follows up with similarly silly choices in years to come).
Meanwhile, Patti Smith tried to sing 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall' at the awards ceremony on Dylan's behalf (because, as noted, he couldn't be bothered); Amanda Petrusich reports at The New Yorker that A Transcendent Patti Smith Accepts Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize (which isn't quite right in a number of ways) -- and you can see the performance here.
In keeping with how things have gone with the awarding of the prize to Dylan, she flubbed her lines, which seems entirely appropriate to me; transcendent ? no.
Finally, they also revealed what Dylan's 'Nobel Diploma' looks like:
At the PEN Atlas Tasja Dorkofikis has a Q&A: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.
(He has, of course, been a much talked-about (especially hereabouts) Nobel candidate in recent years ... but no, the Swedish Academy though Dylan was a ... more appropriate choice.
Not that it should be a deciding factor, but, hey, I think Ngũgĩ might actually have shown up.)
It's being taped, so you'll be able to catch it on TV (and the Internet) next year, but if you want to see it live, on Tuesday 13 December, starting at 19:00, Gerald Matt will be in conversation first with Jeffrey Deitch and then with me at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York (after his double-bill with Michael Kimmelman and Shirin Neshat tomorrow).
(Note, however, that my conversation with him will likely be in German.)