At the Literary Hub Michele Filgate conducted 'An Informal Survey of Contemporary Writers', asking them to name The Most Important Books of the Last Twenty Years.
A solid panel of writers who responded -- but interesting to see that, as she notes: "there wasn't a lot of overlap in their respective choices", with only 14 titles -- of a total of 128 named -- chosen by more than one person, with three books topping the charts with three mentions apiece.
'Important' is, of course, more or less as subjective as 'best' -- but presumably did lead to the particularly wide gulf in answers: both Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk and Global Crisis, by Geoffrey Parker were named, for example, and they are surely 'important' in very, very different ways.
Interesting to see that some pretty big titles -- including, for example, anything by Jonathan Franzen (who was one of the participants) -- were passed over.
Not surprisingly, the list is very English-written heavy.
In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung Hartmut Fähndrich offers an overview of Arabic literature in today's German book market, and laments that the general attitude seems to be: Arabisches ? Kein Interesse. ('Arabic ? No interest.')
Apparently German interest -- at least as far as publishers goes -- has completely died out: as far as he can tell, there wasn't a single new Arabic literary work published in German translation in the entire 2016 fall season.
All there is are some refugee-stories and a few translated-from-the-French novels from the Maghreb .....
Translation into English seems to be doing much better in this regard -- even if much of that is driven by local publishers: the American University in Cairo Press (and their Hoopoe imprint) and HBKU Press, for example.
The really big and most useful 2017-preview posts -- Scott Esposito's 'Interesting New Books'-listings at his Conversational Reading-weblog and the annual 'Great Book Preview'-feature at The Millions -- aren't up yet, but there are already a variety of lists and best-of selections to whet your appetite.
French Culture offers a comprehensive look at French Books in the US - the 2017 edition, with a pdf spreadsheet listing all the books, in all the categories that are coming (though some have been here before, since the list includes paperback re-issues, etc.).
Only 118 titles are fiction, while 178 are non. Lots of comics ('BD') too.
In The New York Review of Books J.M.Coetzee reviews Antonio Di Benedetto's Zama -- in a review titled: A Great Writer We Should Know.
Quite the endorsement -- so maybe check it out, if you haven't already.
Académie française 'immortel' Michel Déon has passed away.
He was a longtime Irish resident, so it's not surprising the Irish Times has a good early English-language obituary, as Lara Marlowe reports that French writer Michel Déon dies in Galway, aged 97.
Among the interesting titbits here:
Déon's tribute to Ireland, Horseman, Pass By !, has just been published by Lilliput Press.
The writer briefly emerged from a coma before Christmas in time to see a copy, which had been brought to his bedside; he put on his glasses, looked at the book and smiled, his widow Chantal recounted.
After co-authoring Salvador Dali’s memoirs, Déon was commissioned by Coco Chanel to write her biography.
He spent much of 1952-1953 with the great high fashion designer, then complied with her wish to destroy the sole copy of the manuscript.
In a bizarre coïncidence, I was literally in the process of writing my review of his The Great and the Good (just about out from Gallic Books) when I heard the news of his passing.
At the Literary Hub they offer a list of '21 Titles That Deserved More Love in 2016': The Year's Best Overlooked Books, According to Booksellers.
I strongly disagree with one of these selections -- David Foenkinos' Charlotte is a terrible book that was deservedly and understandably ignored -- but several others under review at the complete review could have done with more attention:
Richard Adams, best-known for the very popular novel, Watership Down, has passed away; see, for example the obituaries in The Guardian and The New York Times -- where they report about Watership Down:
It eventually became Penguin's all-time best seller, a staple of high school English classes and one of the best-selling books of the century, with an estimated 50 million copies in print in 18 languages worldwide.
None of his books are under review at the complete review, but I too enjoyed Watership Down back in the day; see the Scribner publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Mahmoud Dowlatabadi's 2013 Jan Michalski Prize-winning novel, The Colonel, is an impressive and important work of contemporary Iranian literature.
Appropriately, it's been translated into several languages (even English ...) -- and now, as the Tehran Times reports, Georgian version of The Colonel unveiled in Tbilisi; see also the დიოგენე publicity page.
What is noteworthy about this -- and the Tehran Times report -- is that even though this novel first came out (in German translation) in 2009:
Dowlatabadi has not yet received Iranian cultural officials' permit to publish the Persian version in his homeland.
So while they report on the foreign publications, they still can't read it in the original Persian.
In the Global Times Zhang Yuchen discusses what they consider The major trends in Chinese literature for 2016
Among the trends: the increasing popularity of Chinese online fiction abroad (though I wish they had better numbers about this).
I'm less impressed by the idea that there's now the First Maltese Western in literature (reviewed here by Mario Azzopardi in the Times of Malta) than by the fact that author Alfred Sant was prime minister of Malta (1996-8), and is now an MEP; always interesting to see prominent politicians who also try their hand at serious fiction.
See also the Malta Independent review, The search for the Maltese cowboy: Alfred Sant's new collection of short stories -- which comes with exactly the sort of photograph that should accompany illustrated book reviews .....
None of Sant's books appear to be available in English yet.
At NPR Juan Vidal suggests Get A Global Perspective With 5 Of The Year's Best Books In Translation -- certainly a nice idea (though five seems kind of a paltry number ...).
As far as the 'global' perspective goes, this list maybe falls a bit short too: three (!) of the books are Latin American, all translations from the Spanish (admittedly, a lot of great stuff from the region is being published in translation nowadays -- still, maybe this has more to do wit this being Vidal's comfort zone ?).
Beyond that, the other two recommendations are translations from the French and German, the two other languages from which the most fiction is translated into English .....
Okay, at least there's a bit of global stretching here: Tawada Yoko was born in Japan and also writes in Japanese, while French-writing Ben Jelloun is from Morocco.
In the Herald Syed Nomanul Haq looks at The lost verse: Why is Iqbal going out of fashion ?
He doesn't seem to have really caught on in translation in the US/UK; the collection Tulip in the Desert seems about the best there is that's readily available -- and that's from McGill-Queen's University Press; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Of course, the volume I'd really like to see is Shikwa and Jawab-i-Shikwa (Complaint and Answer): Iqbal's Dialogue with Allah; see the Oxford India publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- or check out the online version, with a translation, at Frances W. Pritchett's always useful site.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Winter's Tale by Gerard Reve, his 1947 classic, The Evenings, which is now finally available in an English translation, by Sam Garrett, from Pushkin Press (well, in the UK, where it came out last month; you'll have to wait a month or so to get your hands on it in the US -- a shame, since it is a seasonal work that takes place in the last days of December ...).
I would have to believe that this is an early front-runner for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize [updated: I completely forgot: as Tony Malone reminds me, dead authors need (and can) not apply] as well as the 2018 Best Translated Book Award (since it only appears in the US in 2017, it will only be eligible for the 2018 prize); I'd be very surprised if it isn't (at least) longlisted for both.
(This is also one of the reasons I don't make best-of-the-year lists before the year is over: it's always possible that you might come across one of the year's best -- like this -- in the very last days of the year ....)
In this time of best-of list there's not nearly enough discussion of what disappointed and what failed, but fortunately among the many year-end lists Steve Donoghue makes he also covers Worst Books of 2016 - Fiction !
The runner-up is actually under review at the complete review (nothing else is) -- Moonstone, by Sjón: -- and it was certainly far from bottom of the barrel as far as my 2016 reading went (perhaps/presumably also because I didn't take/consider it as 'gay fiction' ?)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Natsuki Shizuko's Murder at Mt. Fuji, from a previous (a few decades before before Miyabe, Kirino, et al.) wave of female Japanese mystery writing to make it reasonably successfully in(to) translation (though this one appears to now be long out of print).
Natsuki passed away earlier this year -- not quite enough for a revival, apparently.
But, hey, the book is seasonal -- set around the New Year's holidays.
The January-February 2017 issue of World Literature Today is now up, with much of the material freely available online.
There's quite a bit related to Dubravka Ugrešić's Neustadt Prize-win -- some of which has already been available elsewhere -- but of most interest, as always, is the extensive WLT Book Reviews section -- check out all those reviews.
Among the more interesting annual books of the year lists is that at Times Higher Education, as their Books of the year 2016 has: 'Scholars and senior sector figures reveal their favourite titles -- read for work, for pleasure or both -- published this year'.