Since returning to East Asia in 2014 I have not been able to make a smooth transition from the China of Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin -- a period I now realise was fairly liberal in terms of media freedom -- to the increasingly authoritarian environment under Xi Jinping.
As a translator who needs unimpeded access to the internet, I simply cannot do my work [in China].
At the Times Literary Supplement site Roland Kelts writes about Japanese questions of the soul, looking at what he calls the 'A.M.'-- "After Murakami" -- generation of Japanese writers.
The sex and race-driven identity politics currently animating and, to my mind, diminishing the literature and cultural products of the West are either muted or non-existent in Japan, where postmodern aesthetics are the outer skin of a modernist backbone.
Japanese stories focus on the individual adrift in seas of excessive convenience and information, obsessed with personal not political identities, and questions of the soul.
Many of the authors he mentions are under review at the complete review.
And having also heard Slow Boat (etc.)-author Furukawa Hideo read from his own work, I can confirm that it is, indeed, an ... unusual experience.
(Meanwhile, see also the recently reviewed The Rise and Fall of Modern Japanese Literature, by John Whittier Treat -- with a much broader (and hence less focused on the current -- though Furukawa and some of these others do get a mention) ambit.)
In the Rochester Review Kathleen McGarvey profiles University of Rochester-based publisher of literature in translation Open Letter, in A small giant in world literature.
10 years, 100 titles, and (by now considerably more than) 100,000 books is pretty good -- and the graphic at the end of the article, with all 100 book covers, is actually pretty useful as a quick overview.
The Seoul International Book Fair opened yesterday and runs through Sunday.
The Guest of Honour this year is the Czech Republic -- "Historically it is the first time, when Czech literature is presented to Korea in more complex manner".
See also Kwak Yeon-soo's report on the International Translation and Publication Symposium ("held on the sidelines of the 2018 Seoul International Book Fair") in The Korea Times, Translated literary works gaining influence.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Gunnhild Øyehaug's novel, Wait, Blink: A Perfect Picture of Inner Life, just out in English from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
(A film based on this was released in 2015; it was apparently the 10th most successful (domestic) film in Norway that year -- though with only 22,442 tickets sold.
So somehow I don't think the movie-tie-in angle will be very helpful with selling US/UK readers on the English translation .....)
The 2017 VIDA Count -- which: "looked at 15 major print publications over the course of 2017, analyzing how many women and gender minorities are represented", as well as considering the 'Larger Literary Landscape ' -- is now out, the results impressively presented, in words/numbers and graphics.
(The complete review remains woefully far behind the curve in these areas -- see the terrible statistics --, explained in part by the focus of the site (books in translation still tend to be male-authored more often than not, though fortunately that trend is changing) but obviously also the issue/problem is a more deep-rooted one.
But then it is only one of many areas in which I feel I am not doing enough (yes, there many, many categories of authors/languages/eras that are even less representatively represented.)
In 2016 Thomas Mann's onetime California residence, at 1550 San Remo Drive, was bought by the German state, to prevent it from being destroyed and redeveloped; they've now made it: "home to a residency program which offers intellectuals and visionaries an opportunity to engage in an exchange about the most important questions of our time", the Thomas Mann House; the opening/inaugural was last night, with the German president in attendance; see, for example, the Deutsche Welle report, German president to attend opening of Thomas Mann House in LA.
(American excitement/coverage of the lead-up to this has been ... quiet.)
Deutsche Welle also has a Q & A with one of the first fellows who will get to enjoy the facilities, Heinrich Detering, who notes that Thomas Mann was disappointed by America's populism.
They've announced the shortlist for this year's (Australian) Miles Franklin Literary Award.
It includes books by two former winners -- Michelle de Kretser and Kim Scott -- as well as Border Districts by Gerald Murnane.
The winner will be announced 26 August.
I've mentioned the Penguin India four-pack of The Complete Short Stories by Premchand previously (and continue to long for my own copy ...); Kalyanee Rajan's recent write-up at The Wire, Give Us This Day Our Daily Premchand ! is good reason to make note of it again -- especially since, while not officially US/UK published, it is almost reasonably available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, and definitely looks worth getting.
(Those page counts -- 750 pp at Amazon.com, and a mere 120 pp at Amazon.co.uk are, however, most definitely not right ....)
See also the Penguin India publicity page.
They've announced the winner of this year's Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, and it isThe Gallows Pole, by Benjamin Myers
This was published by relatively small independent Bluemoose Books; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
This is a fascinating, irritating, and quite clever study of Japan going considerably beyond just the literary -- the second impressive Japan-study, along with R.Taggart Murphy's Japan and the Shackles of the Past, that I've read in the past few years.
It comes with a (The Fall of Language in the Age of English-author) Mizumura Minae blurb (that begins by calling it: "Erudite but saucy" ...) but promises to be... hackle-raising among at least some Japan-specialists; I'm looking forward to seeing the reactions to this.
Amusingly, there's some interesting information about one of the stories Treat devotes much of one chapter to, Higuchi Ichiyō's 'Child's Play', in yesterday's The Japan Times, where Kris Kosaka writes about the 1981 Robert Lyons Danly translation of Higuchi's work, In the Shade of Spring Leaves.
Kosaka suggests that:
A new translation of "Child’s Play" into modern Japanese by acclaimed writer Mieko Kawakami demands an English translation,
Ms Ice Sandwich-author Kawakami is one of the much-touted new guard of Japanese writers who seem to be on the verge of an English-language breakthrough, and it's great to see she's done something like this; it does indeed sound like it would be worthwhile to get an English version of it.
(See also the Kawade Shobo Shinsha publicity page.)
Dutch author Cees Nooteboom remains best-known in the English-speaking world as a prose writer, but he is also a well-known poet: see, for example, The Captain of the Butterflies , or Roman Bucheli's (German) review of a new collection of his poetry, or the Seagull Books collections Light Everywhere (publicity page) and Monk's Eye (publicity page).
As the Dutch Foundation for Literature now report, he's also now been awarded the the Premio Internazionale Elena Violani-Landi
I think of Hebrew as a “depth language,” as opposed to English, which is a “breadth language.”
What I mean is that although the Hebrew vocabulary is substantially smaller than that of English, there are many Hebrew words that carry multiple layers of meaning and allusions (historical, cultural, biblical and so forth).
So, while I can often find several English words that have almost the exact same meaning as a particular Hebrew word, it is usually next to impossible to find one that conveys all of that Hebrew word’s associative weight.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tanja Maljartschuk's A Biography of a Chance Miracle, a recent Ukrainian novel just out in English from Cadmus Press.
Interestingly, Maljartschuk -- who has lived in Vienna since 2011 -- will be competing in the upcoming German-language read-aloud Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis.
She's not the first author who has published more in another language to compete: American John Wray did last year, for example.
They've announced the winner of this year's International DUBLIN Literary Award -- "the world's largest prize for a single novel published in English", paying out €100,000 -- and it is Solar Bones, by Mike McCormack.
This had already picked up the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize (which is: "is awarded to a book that is deemed genuinely novel and which embodies the spirit of invention that characterises the genre at its best"); I haven't seen it yet, but see for example the publicity pages from Tramp Press, Canongate, and Soho Press, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've announced that this year's PEN Pinter Prize will go -- on 9 October -- to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
As they explain:
The Prize is awarded annually to a writer from Britain, the Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel speech, casts an ‘unflinching, unswerving’ gaze upon the world, and shows a ‘fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’.
The winner also gets to choose an international recipient whom they share the prize with -- "someone who has been persecuted for speaking out about their beliefs".
They've announced the winners of the German Internationaler Literaturpreis - Haus der Kulturen der Welt, awarded for the best translation of a work of contemporary literature into German -- and paying an impressive €20,000 to the winning author, and €15,000 to the translator.
This year's winner was the German translation, by Alida Bremer, of Ivana Sajko's novel, Ljubavni roman (Liebesroman; 'Love Novel'); see also the publicity pages from Meandar Media and Voland & Quist.
This hasn't been translated into English yet; it'll be interesting to see if this helps it find a US/UK publisher.
See also Stuart Braun's DeutscheWelle report, Croation [sic] author Ivana Sajko wins International Literature Award.
The award ceremony will be 28 June.
They've announced the winners of this year's Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the prestigious prize that is awarded on the final day of the Frankfurt Book Fair (14 October this year), and they are the husband and wife team of Aleida und Jan Assmann.
Many books by both are available in English -- though none are under review at the complete review.
L'Amas ardent, by Yamen Manai (see the elyzad publicity page), has picked up quite a few literary prizes over the past year -- and now adds another to the list, winning the Prix Lorientales.
I'd be surprised if this didn't appear in translation sooner or later -- it sounds like a pretty easy sell -- though one doesn't see much Tunisian fiction in translation .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Zhou Haohui's Death Notice, a huge bestseller in China just out in the US from Doubleday.
This is the first in a trilogy -- and, interestingly, Steven Lee Myers' profile in The New York Times reports that while Doubleday has options on the next two instalments, it: "has not yet committed to them".
Apparently, they want to test the market with this one first.
Also ... interesting:
For commercial rather than political reasons, Mr. Zhou's literary agent here also made changes in the English-language version of the book, translated by Zac Haluza.
The action now takes place in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, not Yangzhou or nearby Nanjing, the cities Mr. Zhou said he had in the back of his mind when crafting the story.
The assumption was that Chengdu, which is best known for pandas and spicy food, would be recognizable to foreign readers and give the drama a more visceral feel, Rob Bloom, Mr. Zhou's editor at Doubleday, said in an email.
I had no idea that Chengdu was/is so much better known (or at least that there's a perception that it is).
The bookstore profiled by Damini Kulkarni in Scroll.in, Pune's Sophia Book Store: The bookshop with heart that could (so it did) become successful, is basically a used bookstore, stocked mainly with books in foreign languages -- sold (and bought) by visiting foreign tourists --, but the article offers quite a bit of interest about bookselling in contemporary India.
The reliance on a foreign clientele ("very few customers buy Hindi books") and used books prove to be a good formula -- especially as:
Several other bookstores operating in the area were forced to close after the advent of online retailers like Amazon and Flipkart
The Dutch Foundation for Literature reports on the recently announced Schwob grants for translations of modern classics of world literature into Dutch.
Always interesting to see what is being (and hasn't been, until now ...) translated into foreign languages, and this is a good list of some fine work, most of which has been translated into English -- or, in the case of Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries, is about to be published.
Other titles include Tove Jansson's Fair Play and Inoue Yasushi's Bullfight.
No surprise to anyone who has read John Nathan's Sōseki-biography -- or, indeed, anyone who knows anything about Sōseki --, but as Tomoyo Fukumiya reports in The Asahi Shimbun, Soseki in London felt lonely and sad, postcard to friend shows.
The postcards were apparently long missing, and now they're on display, through 24 June, at the Fukui Children's Museum.
Maybe not worth the trip just for the three postcards, but still .....
They celebrated Oxford Translation Day 2018 the past two days, with a full and interesting program (including 'A Day in the Life of Ann Goldstein', and readings from and discussion of Ellen Wiles' Saffron Shadows and Salvaged Scripts), culminating in the announcement of this year's Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize -- which is awarded: "for book-length literary translations into English from any living European language".
The winning title was Lisa Dillman's translation of Andrés Barba's Such Small Hands.
This one surprisingly did not make either the Man Booker International Prize or Best Translated Book Award longlists, but finally gets deserved recognition; it was one of the best books I reviewed last year.
They've announced the winners of this year's Griffin Poetry Prize, with Debths, by Susan Howe, taking the international category.
I have a pile of Howes -- including this one -- I've long, long been meaning to cover here; I've long admired her work.
See also the New Directions publicity page for the book, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
At BBC Radio 3 you can listen to a lengthy programme where: 'Arundhati Roy, Meena Kandasamy and Preti Taneja share thoughts about translation', in The rise of translation and the death of foreign language learning.
(I don't have the patience to listen to anything like this (or like most anything else) on the computer, so I can't vouch for it, but the subject matter is interesting, and they devote a good amount of time to it, so it sounds promising.)
Via I'm made aware of the death of Hong Kong author Liu Yichang; no English-language reports yet, last I checked, but the Chinese media has many (Chinese) reports.
He is probably best-known outside China as the author whose stories are the basis for Wong Kar-wai's 2000 film In the Mood for Love (see, e.g. the IMDb page); Francis Ford Coppola published one of the stories behind it in his Zoetrope.
The Cockroach seems the only vaguely available-in-English Liu title; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
At another level, Nepal's many languages have to struggle even harder.
Maithili, the second most popular language in Nepal, is spoken by 11% of the people and is known to be one of the oldest Indo-European languages.
The 14th century Maithili poet Vidyapati influenced later writers in many languages, but Maithili enjoys a far less exalted status today.
"Maithili continues to produce quality literature, but nobody gets to read it, sometimes not even Maithili readers," noted Janakpur based writer Rajendra Bimal.
"Nobody wants to invest in Maithili literature because the market is so small.
As readers know, among the recent publications I'm most excited about is the double-dose of Dag Solstad novels that just came out, T Singer and Armand V, and at The White Review they now have a Q & A (by Sam Riviere) with the Norwegian master,
Disappointingly, he doesn't answer all the questions:
If on the other hand you ask me who the most overrated Norwegian author is, I have a burning desire to tell you who it is.
But I wisely keep my mouth shut.
And I particularly like this concept:
The novel consists of an enumeration of all these titles, from the thousands of books in my library, and 'I' in the middle of it all.
Daša Drndić has passed away; see, for example, Alison Flood's report in The Guardian.
She was just beginning to really make her mark in the US/UK -- but at least there are still translations to look forward to (such as EEG, forthcoming -- at least in the UK -- in the fall).
The only Drndić title under review at the complete review is the very fine Belladonna.
They've announced the winner of this year's $100,000 Jewish Book Council Sami Rohr Prize, and it is If All the Seas Were Ink, by Ilana Kurshan.
(The prize alternates between honoring fiction and non; this was a non year.)
See also the St. Martin's Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Among the literary prizes the Académie Goncourt gives out is the Goncourt de la Biographie Edmonde Charles-Roux, for best biography (usually a literary biography), and they've announced this year's winner: Salinger intime (yes, as in J.D.Salinger), by Denis Demonpion; see also the Robert Laffont publicity page.
Demonpion has also written a Houellebecq-biography; no word yet (as far as I can tell) if/when this (or that) will be available in English.
The Royal Society of Literature has elected 31 new fellows -- "double its usual intake".
Quite a mix -- and they include the recently deceased Philip Kerr (who apparently accepted his Fellowship of the RSL in early 2018).
They've announced this year's winner of the Wolfson History Prize, and it is Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation, by Peter Marshall; see also the Yale University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of José Pablo Feinmann's Heidegger's Shadow.
This came out from Texas Tech University Press two years ago, in their 'The Americas'-series -- but seems to have sunk pretty much entirely unnoticed in the US; I didn't see a copy until recently, either, though I've been looking for it since I heard about it.
I'm surprised: okay, Heidegger limits the audience somewhat -- but surely Heidegger and his Nazism remains a very hot topic.
But not even the media (or the blogs) engaged with it (whereas there was quite a bit of Spanish-language and Italian coverage for the book).
(Disappointing also: 'The Americas'-series seems to have petered out -- this is the most recent volume, and it's not that recent ....)
In The Arab Weekly Khaled Bayoumi has a Q & A with Hussein Mahmoud Hamouda, who has translated both from Italian to Arabic as well as Arabic to Italian.
Good to see it pointed out that: "Translation, however, is an excellent medium for dialogue" -- and good to hear that interest in Arabic literature in Italy has grown greatly (after, amazingly: "only five literary works had been translated to Italian" before Naguib Mahfouz's Nobel win).
I was surprised to learn that (most of) Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time was, until recently, unavailable in German translation.
At Lady Molly’s (volume four) was translated in 1961, and then the first three volumes were published in Heinz Feldmann's translations in the mid-1980s -- but he only recently got to do the rest (and revise his earlier translations), with Elfenbein-Verlag bringing them out since 2015; indeed, they're not finished yet, with the twelfth and final volume only due out this fall.
(By comparison: the French seem to have finished up their translations more than two decades ago -- not too speedily, considering when the originals were published, but still.)
Maybe Powell was seen as too quintessentially English ?
(I would have thought that that would be just one more selling point in translation, but with publishers ... who knows ?)
Even now, he seems to have been a somewhat hard sell, the commitment apparently too much for any of the larger houses to take it on; Elfenbein has an impressive list, but it's a pretty small outfit).
In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung Jan Wilm offers a nice (German) introduction/overview.
See, of course, also the convenient four-volume University of Chicago Press edition -- which I've long been meaning to tackle .....
Judith Rosen reports at Publishers Weekly that IPS Starts Translation Campaign.
That's Ingram Publisher Services, which is: "introducing a seven-month-long promotion to encourage booksellers to sell more books in translation" -- 'Be Worldly. Read Lit in Translation'.
This sort of nudge from a major industry player certainly can't hurt -- good to see them give it a try, and one hopes it will meet with some interest and success.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Edogawa Rampo's The Early Cases of Akechi Kogorō, out from Kurodahan Press a couple of years ago; it's one of several Edogawa collections they've published.
(And, yes, 'Edogawa Rampo' is a pseudonym -- meant, of course, to suggest/echo 'Edgar Allan Poe'; he is one of the pioneers of Japanese mystery fiction.)
(That's the first review posted in over a week -- sorry about that: packing and moving threw me a bit out of my usual routine.
Not the longest or first such hiatus, but it's been about a decade since reviews have been so spaced out.
The pace should be back to normal relatively soon, I hope -- once/if I can unpack my TBR pile(s).)
In The Africa Report Alex Macbeth profiles Eduardo Quive, president of the Movimento Literário Kuphaluxa.
Fairly interesting -- but I won't link to the Revista Literatas web presence (at blogspot) because of the spammy-viral pop-up that it unleashed when I had a look; I didn't bother opening the Kuphaluxa site, expecting more of the same ...).
The Tehran Times headline -- Leader asks literati to break new ground on justice and resistance -- sounds promising, but Ayatollah Khamenei also emphasized "and the promotion of morals" .....
Clearly, rather than new ground as far as justice and resistance go what he's looking for is a retread of the (very) old, narrow conceptions of justice and (the specifically contemporary Iranian idea of) 'resistance'.
He said that the enemies of the Islamic Revolution are trying to lead the Persian poetry toward the superficial understanding, carelessness, surrender and indifference.
Ayatollah Khamenei also praised the modesty of the Persian poetry and strongly advised that modesty be kept in the literary currents of the country.
On the one hand, it's pleasing to see some interest in and engagement with contemporary writing from a country's (or, in this case, also the Islamic Revolution's) leader -- and recall that Khamenei has a decent-sounding familiarity with literature -- but when a government wants to direct writing in a certain (limited) direction -- justice and resistance being very narrowly defined terms, as he means them here --, that's disappointing.
They've announced the winners of this year's Best Translated Book Awards (though not yet at the official site, last I checked; given the hometown win, it's understandable that celebration and partying takes precedence for a few hours ...).
The fiction prize went to The Invented Part, by Rodrigo Fresán, in Will Vanderhyden's translation, published by Open Letter (who also brought out last year's winning title); see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
(I have to admit that, while this sounds like it would be right up my alley, I have not managed to get into it; I've tried a couple of times, and will try again, but so far it hasn't grabbed me.)
The poetry winner is Before Lyricism, by Eleni Vakalo, in Karen Emmerich's translation, published by Ugly Duckling Presse; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The German Litprom focuses on writing from Africa, Asia, the Arab world, and Latin America, and they regularly publish a 'best'-list, of the best new titles from those areas translated into German; they've just now published their Summer 2018 list, which includes Waguih Ghali's Beer in the Snooker Club, as well as books by Guadalupe Nettel, Samanta Schweblin, and Marcelo Figueras, with five of the seven titles translations from the Spanish.