They've announced that Andrei Volos has won the 2013 'Russian Booker' (Русский Букер -- yes, despite no Booker cash, they inexplicably still retain the name ...) for his Возвращение в Панджруд; see also, for example, the elkost literary agency information page (yup, this one has gotten a lot of award-consideration -- enough to whet any US/UK publisher interest ?).
See also the report at Lizok's Bookshelf.
He gets a decent prize-sum of about $45,000 -- but it's fellow finalist Маргарита Хемлин who cashes in with half that sum but also a translation-into-English deal, for Дознаватель.
The latest winner of the biennial €14,500 Franz Nabl-Preis -- the Literaturpreis der Stadt Graz ('literary prize of the city of Graz' -- Austria's second biggest city, and my hometown), an author (as opposed to book) prize (the Austrians, like the Germans, prefer doing the author- rather than book-honors) -- has been announced, and it is Slovenian-writing (a first !) Florjan Lipuš.
How serious to take the prize ?
Well, they gave it to two Nobel laureates, pre-Stockholm -- Elias Canetti (1975) and Herta Müller (1997) -- and other prize winners include ... oh, just: Peter Handke, Christa Wolf, Martin Walser -- and, in more recent years, quite a few authors also available in translation (Terézia Mora, Josef Winkler, Urs Widmer, etc.).
Good timing, too, because while you probably haven't gotten to Lipuš yet (at least in English) ... why, look here, Dalkey Archive Press have conveniently just come out with a translation (forty years after the fact and initial publication, but hey ...) of his The Errors of Young Tjaž -- a novel Peter Handke himself translated into German (which is a pretty decent seal of approval for a text).
See their publicity page, or get your copy -- go on ! -- at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lorenzo Silva's The Faint-hearted Bolshevik, a 1997 Premio Nadal finalist that is now finally available in English, co-translated by Nick Caistor, and published by Hispabooks.
Hispa who ?
Hispabooks, yet another model for fiction-in-translation-publishing.
Spain-based, they're taking advantage of the new technologies -- my copy is basically a print-on-demand-one, spit out and delivered by Lightning Source (as a surprising number of the books I receive nowadays are), but looking every bit as good as any other trade paperback -- and introducing an impressive selection of Spanish titles to English-reading audiences.
It's amazing that this is the first Silva to make it into English -- after all, this guy has a decent track record, culminating in his taking the 2012 Premio Planeta -- a book prize whose €601,000 pay-out puts all English-language book prizes to shame.
In Japan they apparently operate on a slightly different calendar in calculating annual bestsellers, the most popular tallies now reporting the bestselling books of 2013 (which are, in fact, the bestselling books of 19 November 2012 to 17 November 2013 ...) ... and, as Ida Torres reports at JDP, Haruki Murakami's new novel tops Japan's 2013 best-sellers list, with 色彩を持たない多崎つくると、彼の巡礼の年 shifting some 985,000 copies, and putting it ahead of 医者に殺されない４７の心得, which sold around 814,000 copies (but note that the Tohan bestseller lists (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- which actually list the books, but without sales-totals -- reverses the order, putting the Murakami second ...).
The Murakami is due out in English in 2014; I suspect it won't sell quite as many copies, even in the US/UK combined .....
Starting next year, he is to make more pitches to overseas publishers, including Random House, Harper & Row and Simon & Schuster, to publish English translations of Korean literature.
"Once published by these publishers, it becomes relatively easier to get reviews from the major media outlets (in the U.S.) and more likely for the books to receive attention," Kim said.
(I'm not sure who is advising him or where he gets his information, but 'Harper & Row' hasn't been the name of the publisher for nearly a quarter of a century, since the News Corp takeover of 1990 .....)
Interesting, too, to hear that:
Up until this year, LTI Korea has been sending fully translated texts to foreign publishers instead of short summaries.
"We realized that takes too much time, energy and money," he said.
"So we decided to just translate highlights from each novel and provide a brief summary.
We think it'll be much more efficient and more appealing to overseas editors."
(Of course, it's sad that American editors have to rely on served-up-to-them English translations to get any insight into the titles (i.e. that essentially none of them can read any of these languages).)
Kim also wants to see Korea's prominent authors have well-known translators who work exclusively with them and their works. Many celebrated Asian writers, including Haruki Murakami, Mo Yan and late Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata, each worked or are working with a single translator for English editions of their works, Kim said.
"Most of Kawabata's works were translated by Seidensticker," said Kim.
"For Haruki Murakami, there is Jay Rubin of Harvard University.
For Mo Yan, there is Howard Goldblatt. We need more excellent translators (working exclusively) for Korean writers and their works."
Of course, that's an oversimplification -- and in Murakami's case flat-out not true, as Alfred Birnbaum and Philip Gabriel have certainly translated their fair share.
(And having recently read Kawabata's The Sound of the Mountain in Seidensticker's translation, I can only say that those have gotten very creaky.)
Still, it's good to see someone who is obviously very pro-active and trying out a lot of things -- indeed, there are a hell of a lot of countries that I wish were similarly active.
They've announced that The City of Devi, by Manil Suri, has won the 2013 Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award.
I'm just relieved I haven't reviewed it yet, as I've dealt with too many of the recent winners (last years' -- Infrared, by Nancy Huston -- and 2009 winner The Kindly Ones, by Jonathan Littell).
But if you want to get a taste of Suri's prose, get your copy of The City of Devi at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
(The dismal sales-ranks at the Amazons suggest the prize does not have a great positive influence on sales.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ken MacLeod's The Restoration Game -- a nice little surprise I picked up at the library; certainly an author that has piqued my interest.
At BookBrunch Text Publishing publisher (and The Ern Malley Affair-author) Michael Heyward discusses: 'how an editorially led Australian independent is going international', in Good, old-fashioned Text.
An interesting look at an unusual publishing/writing-market -- as also: "Even 20 years ago, an Australian book was an exotic item on the international rights market" -- and it's impressive how they've established themselves very nicely, with a roster of authors any international publisher would be pleased to have.
And their Text Classics line -- "milestones in the Australian experience" -- is also a great idea -- as is international distribution, which means you can actually find some of these in your US/UK bookshops.
(They were also kind enough to send me some of these, so reviews will be up of a few of these titles soon (beginning, of course, with Patrick White's Happy Valley).)
In The Phnom Penh Post Emily Wight profiles president of the Cambodia Librarians and Documentalists Association Hok Sothik in Bookish champion hopes to boost Cambodia's lost culture of reading, as they held the third Cambodia Book Fair over the weekend.
It's apparently difficult to drum up interest, as what literary culture there was obviously suffered greatly under the Khmer Rouge ("Books were used to make cigarettes. Teachers, authors and books were all destroyed, as was so much of an entire generation") and even now: "people aren't very interested in books".
Among the projects working to change that is the Nou Hach Literary Journal, profiled in another piece in The Phnom Penh Post, by Cecelia Marshall, who reports that: Cambodian literary journal sees revival.
Poet -- and Oxford Professor of Poetry -- Geoffrey Hill will give his first lecture of the 2013-14 academic year, 'Poetry and "The Democracy of the Dead"'. today at 17:30
Several of his lectures from previous years are available here for you to listen to (though alas two seem to have been lost to 'technical problems') -- well, well worthwhile.
Some nice winter treats to get you started with in December, as issues of a variety of online periodicals are now available with a load of great reading -- notably:
Words without Borders' December issue features the Oulipo -- with a bonus section on: "New Writing from Sudan".
Start of with Many Subtle Channels-author Daniel Levin Becker's introduction, and work your way through !
The Winter 2014 issue of the Quarterly Conversation is packed with good stuff (though I think Steve Donoghue is way too kind regarding Pierre Michon's Rimbaud the Son ("Readers who surrender to the strange whorls and swirls of this book will be lifted out of themselves and thrilled and sometimes richly, lastingly disoriented" -- yeah, okay ...))
At VietNamNet Bridge they report that there seems to be a pretty widespread local consensus that in Viet Nam Quality literature in dramatic slump.
(Of course, Dương Thu Hương was, for example, one of the nominees for the 2014 Neustadt International Prize for Literature -- but maybe her work isn't quite what they have in mind, either .....)
In The Caravan, N. Kalyan Raman writes about 'The Kongunadu novels of Perumal Murugan', the Tamil author, in Boats against the Current, offering an interesting introduction into Tamil fiction historically, and then Perumal Murugan's work in particular.
Several of his works have been translated into English; get your copy of, for example, Seasons of the Palm from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
As Helen Croney writes at the Scottish Book Trust weblog, The Favourite Scottish Novel is Revealed as they took a poll: "to find the favourite Scottish novel of the last 50 years".
Over 8,800 votes were cast, and Trainspotting, by Irvine Welsh, beat out Lanark by Alasdair Gray, 833 votes to 750.
(A more distant third, the somewhat surprising choice of ... Black and Blue, by Ian Rankin (well, choices were limited to one book per author, so presumably this one was taken as representative ...).)
Can't really argue with either Trainspotting or Lanark (both of which I read before I started this site, which is why they're not under review here).
Get your copy of Trainspotting at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
I think publishers take translation much more seriously than they did 20 or 30 years ago.
A great many translations are well produced and with attractive covers.
At least some publishers publicise their translation list well, and make certain that they are reviewed.
But it is a fact of life, I think, that there will never be a wide readership for many -- or indeed most -- translations outside specialised university courses.
But at least there is a readership there.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jang Eun-jin's No One Writes Back.
This is another in Dalkey Archive Press' new Library of Korean Literature-series -- and an interesting piece of work.
It is, in many respects, an atypical Dalkey publication -- though since they gotten into this national literature series-business big time their offerings (in these areas) have become a bit more unpredictable: Ayşe Kulin, anyone ? (see their publicity page) an author whose other American publisher is ... AmazonCrossing ?
Dalkey have had books that I thought could do well as mass-market/airport-store titles -- Paul Verhaeghen's Omega Minor, for one.
But this is something different, a bona fide crowd-pleaser that practically begs to be a book club selection.
I'm surprised -- stunned -- no commercial publisher landed this one, which I think might be have been a better Korean title to try to break into the American market than the 2011 lead title, Shin Kyung-sook's Please Look After Mom.
The drawback of how it comes to market now is that that Dalkey imprint can be both a blessing and a curse -- and I'm not sure it'll find its natural audience here (especially in that look-alike-covered series -- which I think is great but might put off some readers).
So, for example, as I write this, a few weeks after it came out, the Amazon.com page shows -- aside from a disappointing sales rank of 590,794 -- only six additional items under 'Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought'.....
The first three are also titles from this series, followed by Sonallah Ibrahim's That Smell and Notes from Prison (New Directions), Amsterdam Stories by Nescio (NYRB), and another Dalkey title, Edouard Levé's Autoportrait.
Good stuff -- very good ! -- but also pretty serious stuff, from smaller publishers, and nothing near as popular fare as this has the potential to be.
And people buying No One Writes Back should be the ones who also bought the more prominently marketed Korean titles -- say Kim Young-ha's I Have the Right to Destroy Myself -- as well as, of course, Please Look After Mom (the number two most-also-bought title (after another of his own) for I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, for example.
Here's also a case-study regarding the power of (some) reviews: No One Writes Back has been shamefully under-covered (though admittedly that flooding-the-market-with-ten-volumes-at-once schedule is a challenge for reviewers), but it got a glowing review from Nicholas Lezard in The Guardian just over a week ago -- and look here, the UK Amazon page sports both a much healthier sales-rank (an impressive 7,194 as I write this) and the 'Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought' list is much more diverse (and not at all Korean-centric -- surprisingly, it doesn't include any other Korean titles at this time).
(It also got a far less glowing review (scroll down) at Totally Dublin, but for now The Guardian review seems to have carried the day -- or at least influenced more book-buyers.)
Presumably, the titles in this series won't get all that much individual attention, reviewers at best lumping several (or all ?) together in omnibus reviews.
It's too bad: as The Guardian recognized, this one certainly deserves to be looked at all on its own -- as do the others.
In The New York Times Jennifer Schuessler reports on prolific (and Tirza-) author Arnon Grunberg's The Quantified Writer-project, in Wired: Putting a Writer and Readers to a Test: 'Arnon Grunberg Is Writing While Connected to Electrodes'.
It's an ... interesting undertaking -- and I'm sure we'll see a lot more of this sort of the thing in the future.
I'll have a bit more faith in any results when there aren't asides such as: "a technician from a Dutch software company carefully poured water over some of the electrodes to improve their conductivity" ("it can get a bit drippy", Grunberg notes).
Personally, the most interesting/astonishing fact I gleaned from the piece was that Grunberg apparently writes in his (admittedly almost spacious, by New York city apartment standards) ... kitchen, as suggested by the accompanying photograph:
Sure, in New York one makes use of every inch of living-space one can afford, but setting up computers (and bookshelves) in a kitchen seems pretty desperate -- or a sure sign that not much cooking (especially involving frying) is done there.
(Or has he only temporarily re-located his work-space because, you know, "it can get a bit drippy" ... ?)
Typographical Era is running a best-translation-of-the-year competition, where visitors vote for the winner -- from a now-finalized shortlist, which was also determined by popular vote.
An interesting eight titles are now left in the running -- with Frisch & Co. the only publisher to place two titles in the finals --, and you have until 19 December to vote.
Only three of the titles are under review at the complete review -- Tirza (by Arnon Grunberg), The President's Hat (by Antoine Laurain), and The Devil's Workshop (by Jachym Topol), but I have dipped into all eight -- and they're all also eligible for the Best Translated Book Award, for which I am a judge; it will be interesting to see how much overlap there is (several of these -- you can guess which -- seem very likely to make the BTBA longlist).
Sixty-two votes registered as I write this -- add your voice !
I assume that the data about the demographics of visitors to this site is not of quite as much interest to most readers as it is to me; still, maybe it is of interest to note that the American share of my audience reaches its nadir on Thanksgiving Thursday.
For the year, to date, 40.37% of site-visitors come from the US; on 4 July that dipped to 28.19% -- the previous low for the year, which has now been topped by Thanksgiving day, where a mere 24.86% of visitors were from the US.
On the other hand, the site did manage the elusive double of getting visitors from both Sudan and South Sudan on Thursday.
(I'm still waiting on anyone from North Korea to drop in, however.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Belarusian author Victor Martinovich's (written-in-Russian) novel, Paranoia.
Very reminiscent of the good old bad old days of the Soviet Union, the book was banned in Belarus shortly after publication -- but things are a bit different in the bizarro-world that is Lukashenko's fiefdom, and it is good to see that this hasn't stopped another of Martinovich's novels from being featured in Books from Belarus; he's a hot (export-)commodity, after all.
They've announced the shortlist for the 2014 Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize -- though apparently not yet at the official Jewish Quarterly site, last I checked .....
But Booktrade has the press release, and among the titles in the running are books by Edith Pearlman and Ben Marcus.
The winner will be announced 26 February 2014.
A couple of months ago they aired Tom Stoppard's Pink Floyd/Darkside of the Moon tribute/inspired radio-play, Darkside, on BBC2 radio.
(I actually got to hear it, and it's an interesting if odd philosophical-games-filled work.)
They've now released a fancy CD + bound insert + 'bonus disc' ("with text translations in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese, Mandarin and Russian") set; see the official site, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
(Looks like a pretty neat Christmas gift idea .....)
And in The New York Times a few days ago Larry Rohter had a Q & A with Stoppard about the project, An Author Dives Into Pink Floyd.
At Books from Finland Teemu Manninen consider Decisions, decisions: the fate of virtual literature, noting that after the initial excitement -- "When the internet was young, I too believed that it would usher in a new age of world literature, a truly global literary culture" -- the over-abundance of information available online has proven near-paralyzing:
when there are so many opinions to be had and so many new writings to get excited about, it's not just decision fatigue which sets in, but a kind of valuation fatigue: how do I know what to concentrate on ?
How do I know what's good anymore ?
And, more importan[t]ly, how do I know that what's online is actually representative of literary culture on the whole ?
Because of decision and valuation fatigue, only the most prohibitively schematic and the most violently caricaturish gets through to us -- and when that happens, we are likely to stop reflecting and start reacting, exposing ourselves and our readers to meaningless rhetorical debate rather than offering them the carefully considered, distilled ideas that used to be called print-worthy.
Seems an over-simplification to me -- but what do I know, exposing you to all that: "meaningless rhetorical debate" like I constantly am .....
The New York Times Book Review has announced its 100 Notable Books of 2013
A couple of things are notable about the list itself -- including the fact that all of three titles are works in translation (oh dear, folks are going to take that as confirmation of the infamous 'three per cent' pseudo-statistic ...).
This has the making of a disturbing trend -- the 2012 list had four, the 2011 list had five (plus David Bellos' Is That a Fish in Your Ear ?): things are definitely moving in the wrong direction.
The three titles in translation are:
The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
The fact that they picked The Dinner over Arnon Grunberg's considerably superior Tirza (they reviewed both books) pretty much says it all, for me.
Or actually, what says it all is that they list a hundred books and don't include the fabulous FSG doorstop, Zibaldone (see the Farrar, Straus & Giroux publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk)
Look, I can get them ignoring a book like Leg over Leg -- as big a deal as that is, it's going to take a while for word to spread and that one to sink into wider consciousness.
But the publication of Zibaldone, that's about as notable a publishing event as we've had this year.
Meanwhile, other than two of the translations, the only other 'notable' book I've read, and reviewed at the complete review, seems to be Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch .....
So, yeah, I appear to be rather out of the reading-mainstream -- at least as far as defined by The New York Times Book Review .....
Okay -- I can live that .....
A bit more fun: the Times Literary Supplement collects lots of writers' picks in their 'Books of the Year' issue, and a selection is now available online.
In case you missed it: the Man Booker Prize 2014 opened for submissions last Monday, 18 November.
They have a fancy Rules & Entry Form booklet -- online only in the dreaded pdf format -- with all the information and forms.
As you'll recall, they've changed the eligibility requirements -- anything written in English and published in the UK goes ! -- as well as the number of books publishers can enter.
Publishers are now limited to one entry each -- except that publishers get bonus submission slots (up to a total of four), depending on how many titles they had longlisted over the past five years.
(Previously longlisted authors also get byes, and the judges must call in an additional eight to twelve titles (but can only choose titles suggested by publishers (each of whom can suggest up to five ...)).
I remind you again that this is an awful way to select a pool of books to judge (way too much decision-making power rests with the publishers) -- and that the Man Booker folk know that, which is why they keep secret the pool of titles that wind up in the running for the prize, an outrageous lack of transparency (which I can't believe more folk don't complain about ...).
What I'd like to point out, though, is that while they've instituted this new bonus-submission-possibility, for publishers who have had titles longlisted in the past five years, they were too damn lazy to draw up a list to let everyone know exactly what that translated into (although they do list all the longlisted titles, with their publishers).
I did the math when they first announced it -- no guarantees that that's right, but it should be pretty close (though note that several articles published around that time came to very different results -- maths, even of the simple adding-up variety, is apparently not something many in the literary fields feel comfortable with ...).
I thinks it's the height of chutzpah for the Man Booker folk not to simply list, publisher by publisher, who gets how many bonus-submission-slots.
Surely, that's the least they could do.
(Of course, as noted, they won't reveal what titles are submitted either -- which I would have thought was also the least they could -- or should, if they wanted any credibility -- do, so .....)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ferdinand von Schirach's legal thriller, The Collini Case.
Interesting to see how a grand-son of a notorious Nazi (yes, Baldur was his grandpa) tries to work some familial Vergangenheitsbewältigung into a novel -- as well as his legal expertise (he is a prominent German attorney).
They've announced the various category-shortlists for the Whitbread Costa Book Awards -- though, bafflingly, at the official site, only in the dreaded pdf format.
[Posting anything in pdf format at your site -- except massive documents that you think it isn't worth anyone's while to re-format because you're pretty sure no one is going to read that shit anyway -- is a giant 'fuck you' to your readers, and I can't believe that a reasonably well-endowed prize like this one couldn't be bothered to put up a more readily accessible 'normal' web page; no doubt they'll get around to it fairly soon, but still .....]
Meanwhile, the news is in the (UK) dailies, so see, for example, Mark Brown's Costa book awards 2013: late author on all-female fiction shortlist in The Guardian; scroll down for the finalists in all the various categories.
Regrettably, I haven't seen a one of these -- though I've leafed through Atkinson's Life after Life at the library a couple of times, considering whether or not to take it out.
They've announced (and, hey ! not even just in pdf format ...) the winners of the 2013 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards.
Nice that they could get all that sponsorship, I guess, but there's way too much to a lot of these category-names ('The Books Are My Bag Best Irish-published Book of the Year' ? 'The International Education Services Ltd Popular Fiction Book of the Year' ?).
But, hey, they got John Banville -- recipient of something called: 'The Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award' -- to play along, so what the hell .....
(And, no, none of these titles are under review at the complete review -- and I'm afraid none are likely ever to be, not even Downturn Abbey .....)
Words without Borders are, impressively, celebrating their ten-year-anniversary of introducing readers to authors and works from an incredible variety of languages and cultures -- and they've now also put together a big, fat e-anthology, Words without Borders: The Best of the First Ten Years -- see more here, or get your Kindle copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
See also the Q & A on the anthology at their Dispatches weblog.
There's no point in managing Barnes & Noble for long-term growth at this point.
But it's not as if nobody is going to ship at a brick and mortar book store next quarter.
It's just that there's no future here.
And as a summing-up you have to appreciate the brutal honesty of:
Ideas that are lame and awful in the context of a company like Apple, make perfect sense in the context of a company where innovation and growth are clearly impossible.
Look, I support spreading the word about international literature -- and hence literature in translation -- as much as the next guy, and I realize that it's worth trying all sorts of things to help folks see the light in order to get them ... excited about it, but .....
In The Independent Simon Usborne reports in Translation slam: A war of words on the recently-held Free Word/BCLT 'competitive translation duel' Translation Slam.
Okay, I'm an old fogey who really doesn't appreciate 'slams' in any context, who is obviously in a foul mood (see above posts -- and just imagine what I'd be writing if The Independent had posted the article in the dreaded pdf format ...), but surely the accompanying picture is proof enough that this is maybe not the ideal way to go about, making a hard sell harder still insofar as suggesting anything about translation could possibly be 'cool'.
No matter how you try to spin it:
In the article, too: "[Daniel] Hahn concedes" that translation is: "a gloriously nerdy pursuit" -- which already seems to me to concede far too much.
(The 'slam' idea is, on a fundamental level, pretty intriguing ... still, I have my doubts .....)
As longtime readers know, I have long lamented how little fiction in translation is available from Central Asia -- along with parts of Southeast Asia (Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia), probably the most overlooked-in-English part of the literary world.
How great to see now Dalkey Archive Press launching their Georgian Literature Serie -- a four title-start that greatly expands what's available from Georgia (or, indeed, anywhere in Central Asia).
Garnett Press have admirably brought out some Otar Chiladze (and I have, and will be getting to, A Man Was Going Down the Road), but that's been close to it as far as the sparse pickings have gone, and these Dalkey volumes are a welcome sight indeed.
[Updated (27 November): As a reader points out, strictly speaking Georgia isn't general counted as 'Central Asian'; instead, along with Armenia and Azerbaijan (and a couple of the still-Russian regions -- Chechnya !) it should be considered part of the Caucasus.
I use 'Central Asia' as a (not entirely accurate) shorthand for all these -- and since, for example, UEFA is willing to consider definitely-Central-Asian Kazakhstan 'European' I figure that's not too unreasonable.
My point is that literature from all these former Soviet states, from the eastern shores of the Black Sea to the border of Mongolia, are under-represented in English.]
Among them is also Lasha Bugadze's (dubiously) International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award longlisted The Literature Express -- see the Dalkey publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- but really the whole batch looks worthwhile.
(I got advance copies in the mail yesterday, and should have reviews up as their publication dates approach.)
It's been up a while, but only now, via Korean Literature: in translation, have I come across Benoit Berthelier's From Pyongyang to Mars: Sci-fi, Genre, and Literary Value in North Korea at Sino NK.
North Korean literature is, of course, one of the other last great unexplored-in-English frontiers (despite Dalkey Archive Press doing their Korean part, too -- alas, their new Library of Korean Literature appears to be entirely southern), and genre fiction is even more marginalized, so it's great to hear a bit about what's going on there.
Would that we could read some of this stuff -- after all: "With action-filled narratives and a broader range of subjects and characters than regular fiction, sci-fi stories make up a particularly interesting and entertaining strand within the DPRK's literature."
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yoko Tawada's Portrait of a Tongue: An Experimental Translation by Chantal Wright.
This is just out from the University of Ottawa Press, who have quietly been publishing some impressive translation-related work recently -- including a new translation of Christa Wolf's classic They Divided the Sky -- which, incidentally, gets a mention in the Tawada piece -- (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
The Tawada, or rather how Wright handles it, is also of considerable interest -- Tawada's work is endlessly fascinating for translators and those interested in language, and Wright's approach is a welcome different sort of presentation, experimentation of a sort that I'd welcome a lot more of.
So how adventurous are US/UK publishers ?
Who will take a stab at Fiston Mwanza Mujila's Tram 83 ?
Because seriously -- someone has to.
The Congolese author's Le Fleuve dans le Ventre recently came out in French/German bilingual edition (from Edition Thanhäuser) and got a very nice review in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung; see also a French review at africultures, and Tram 83 certainly sounds intriguing.
Maybe a bit of a translation challenge, but there should be a few translators with the chops and background to handle it.
At Deutsche Welle Gero Schliess reports on Ilija Trojanow's recent (successful) visit to the US, where he took part in the New Literature from Europe festival; carrying over from his recent German activities, Ilija Trojanow crusades against surveillance -- the author noting that: "Our house was bugged when I was a baby in Bulgaria", as apparently all the authorities have long been keeping an eye on the guy.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Philippe Djian's Consequences.
This just came out as a paperback original from Simon & Schuster, who seem to be trying to revive the Betty Blue-author's English-language fortunes -- having started (regrettably) with Unforgivable a couple of years back (not a great choice -- but, hey, at least it wasn't the multi-volume epic, Doggy bag ...).
Consequences comes with an orange sticker on the cover claiming: "France's #1 Bestselling Author" -- presumably meaning they claim Djian is -- but I don't know what definition of 'bestselling' they could possibly be using: he wasn't even one of the top ten bestselling French novelists in France in 2012, or 2011, etc.
Interestingly, his European reputation is of being a very 'American' author; meanwhile, Kirkus Reviews called this book: "Bold, elliptical, fashionably inconclusive and very French" .....
To judge from the (lack of) review coverage and Amazon.com sales rank, it also isn't doing particularly well (yet ?).