Via I learn that the Library and Information Association of South Africa has selected the Top 20 South African Books, 1994-2014 (from 253 titles nominated by librarians).
An interesting variety, certainly -- but only two titles are under review at the complete review: Disgrace by J.M.Coetzee and 13 ure by Deon Meyer.
The Leipzig Book Fair starts tomorrow, and runs through the 16th; they'll also announce the winners of the Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse, the big German spring book prize (the German Book Prize is the big(ger) fall prize).
They let readers vote for their favorite in the fiction category (Am Ende schmeissen wir mit Gold by Fabian Hischmann easily won) -- and I'm kind of disappointed that they used the word 'voting' for this process; there is a perfectly good German word for that .....
Meanwhile, today Pankaj Mishra -- who has been on some kind of prize-roll (he just won the big-money Windham Campbell Prize) -- gets the Leipziger Buchpreis zur Europäischen Verständigung ('Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding') -- but in Die Welt Necla Kelek denounces the choice, arguing Mishra is 'anti-European' (and not much one for understanding ...).
It'll be interesting to see what he says in his acceptance speech.
(Also always good to see: that even a small weekly like the Falter offers a jam-packed book review section in the Leipzig-week issue.)
Chad Post had a preview-post with some of the statistics on Sunday, noting that:
the books are published by twenty-three different publishers, an absolutely amazing spread
books originally written in sixteen different languages are represented
More statistics and observations:
the two Nobel laureates with eligible titles -- Mo Yan and Elfirede Jelinek -- both made the cut
two authors with the first name: 'Stig' made the cut
two translations by Damion Searls made the cut
only two books that made the recently-announced Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist also made the BTBA cut: The Infatuations and A Man in Love/My Struggle: Book Two (because of different eligibility criteria (most notably US/UK publication -- but also, for example, the IFFP requires authors to be living (and seven of the BTBA nominees are deceased ...) only a limited number of titles are eligible for both prizes)
Among the surprise omissions from the BTBA longlist the most notable is surely last year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize winner, Gerbrand Bakker's The Detour/Ten White Geese.
Presumably also a surprise: 2012-BTBA-winner Wiesław Myśliwski's new novel, A Treatise on Shelling Beans (an Archipelago title -- one of only two publishers to place two titles on this year's longlist) also fell short.
Other books you might have expected include: Amos Oz's Between Friends, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself, at least one of Dalkey Archive Press' Korean titles (No One Writes Back by Jang Eun-jin, for example), and Ogawa Yoko's Revenge.
If I had to identify the biggest oversight, I'd say -- no question: Where Tigers Are at Home by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès, a book that just can't seem to get the respect, attention, and readers it deserves.
I am one of the judges for the BTBA; I have already at least dipped into every one of these books save Textile (which I did not get a copy of in time; I do have one now).
In selecting the longlist, each of the judges votes for their top ten, the top vote-getters are the sixteen title-foundation of the longlist, and then each judge gets to throw in another title of their own choosing.
Just like last year, only six of my top ten made the top-sixteen; with my additional personal choice seven of my top ten are on the longlist.
The £40,000 Folio Prize, a new literary prize that: "aims to recognise and celebrate the best English-language fiction from around the world, published in the UK during a given year", has been awarded for the first time, and they've announced that it goes to Tenth of December, a collection of stories (by George Saunders).
It's not under review at the complete review, but see, for example the Bloomsbury publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Until the 1960s and 1970s, readers not only waited for the arrival of the new issues of literary periodicals such as 'Nuqoosh', 'Seep', 'Funoon' and 'Auraaq' but any literary writings that deserved attention were discussed in teahouses and continued to reverberate through literary circles.
I still remember that as a schoolboy when I would pass by the Regal bus stop in Karachi's Sadder area, I would notice the banners displayed by roadside booksellers, announcing the arrival of a new issue of a literary magazine or a new novel by Ibn-i-Safi.
But they continue to be published -- despite the fact that, in most cases:
publishing a literary magazine is not a viable commercial venture and it is a sheer delight or pride of the editor that keeps the magazine going.
Issue 35 of the Quarterly Conversation is now up -- so that should keep you busy for the rest of the week.
First off, there's a 'Lydia Davis Symposium' -- eight pieces on the Man Booker International Prize-winning author (and translator), including Dan Gunn's interview with the master herself.
Other authors getting attention: Giraffe- (and now also Submergence-)author J.M.Ledgard, W.G.Sebald, Josef Winkler, Ann Quin, and Christa Wolf, and there are also reviews and more.
Penguin Classics announced last fall that they were publishing all 75 of Georges Simenon's Inspector Maigret-novels in new translations.
I finally got my hands on the first two of these, and these are the most recent additions to the complete review:
The London Review of Books is certainly among the more interesting literary periodicals appearing in print in English -- certainly always worth a look (I have been an occasional subscriber, though I am not currently one) -- but Elizabeth Day's rather fawning profile in The Observer seems to be reaching in asking Is the LRB one of the best magazines in the world ?
For all the impressive writing they've published, it's still hard to overlook one of the basic bottom lines; Day decorously notes: "For all its success, the London Review of Books struggles to make money", which is a rather strong bit of English understatement: as she then admits: "in January 2010, the magazine was estimated to be £27m in debt" (to the trust which generously supports it -- though if it: "never has to worry about paying back its loans" I would/imagine hope the tax authorities have something to say about what sounds like a bit too dodgy a tax dodge).
LRB publisher Nicholas Spice is also quoted:
"It loses a lot of money," he continues cheerfully.
The most important thing is that it has always had very generous support from its shareholders.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with such vanity-publishing: any number of fine publications -- especially those with a focus on the arts -- are generously subsidized and supported (though admittedly few have anywhere near this cushy an arrangement) and admirably, in the case of the LRB, that benefits their writers (paid: "at a base-rate of 30p a word (rising by a considerable margin if the article is longer than average")) and, to some extent, subscribers (cheap subscription rates).
Still, given this very uneven playing field, one wonders how the unsubsidized The New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement manage what the LRB can't .....
This weekend's The New York Times Book Review-Q & A features Teju Cole: By the Book.
Among the questions he's asked is: "What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet ?" to which he responds:
I have not read most of the big 19th-century novels that people consider "essential," nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter.
But this does not embarrass me.
He's right not to be embarrassed by that of course -- life is, indeed, too short, and time is easily filled with any number of worthwhile things; not having read book X or Y is hardly shameful.
On the other hand, it does throw into a different light an earlier statement he makes, claiming that:
"the novel" is overrated, and the writers I find most interesting find ways to escape it
Since he goes on to admit he's actually not engaged with what are considered the exemplary novels of the 19th and 20th century, surely his dismissal comes far too rashly .....
Maybe it's a good idea to read what are considered the 'essential' novels, to see what all the fuss is about, and only then make a grand pronouncement as to whether or not the form as a whole is over-rated .....
(As someone who considers 'the novel' -- in all its many forms -- the be-all and end-all of literature, art, human thought, and human experience, I am, of course, biased.
But even I am careful about dismissing any specific (other) form as over-rated.)
And at least he does give a shout-out to what is a very fine novel indeed (though, yes, one for which he wrote the Introduction): Ivan Vladislavić's Double Negative.
They've announced this year's recipients of the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes -- who each receive: "an unrestricted grant of $150,000 to support their writing".
They are: Nadeem Aslam, Kia Corthron, Jim Crace, Aminatta Forna, Sam Holcroft, Noëlle Janaczewska, Pankaj Mishra, and John Vaillant.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Kawabata Yasunari's early classic, Snow Country.
My copy is an ancient Berkley Medallion mass-market paperback -- anything to avoid the trade-paperback size, and to be able to carry the book around in my pocket -- but I must say I was disappointed to find in my copy -- the eighth printing ! -- the misprint:
"It makes me very said," she murmured to herself.
It makes me very said, too, when such an important sentence is left with the misspelling intact across so many printings and years (it's a 1972 printing, of a version first published in 1960).
The e-mail I got on Wednesday said that the information was "embargoed until Saturday 8 March" -- without asking me beforehand whether or not I agreed to those terms; as it turns out, even one of the prize's judges and sponsors couldn't be bothered to hold out, as Boyd Tonkin already offers his overview in The Independent, Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014: Our long-list reveals a fictional eco-system of staggering diversity.
[Good luck enforcing that embargo next year, if they again send the information out early to bloggers, literary editors, etc.; all credibility has gone by the wayside.]
The fifteen-title strong longlist was selected from 126 entries translated from 30 different languages.
(By comparison: the Best Translated Book Award -- whose longlist will be announced next Tuesday -- considered about three times as many titles (indeed, entrants from just the top three countries -- France (54), Germany (40), and Italy (27) -- come close to the IFFP total ...), written in thirty-nine languages.)
The IFFP longlisted titles are:
Aside from the five under review at the complete review (linked), only the Julia Franck and the Ma Jian were also eligible for the Best Translated Book Award (differing US/UK publication dates ...), and the overlap in longlists will be a very, very small one.
It's certainly a solid and nicely varied list -- no more than two titles in any language, but two in both Icelandic and Arabic, as well as some Far Eastern representation (including the attention-deserving Revenge).
Still, I have to say from my biased position as Best Translated Book Award judge -- and noting that the two prizes and longlists aren't entirely comparable (for one, the BTBA longlists a ridiculous (awesome !) twenty-five titles -- the BTBA longlist looks to be shaping up considerably more heavy-weight and more impressive (adding that I think this is probably the strongest longlist (and pool from which we selected) in my time as BTBA judge; as noted, the IFFP longlist is drawn from a somewhat different pool of books).
The IFFP shortlist -- the final six -- is "due to be announced at the London Book Fair on 8 April" (so look for Tonkin to leak it a few days before that ...).
See also commentary on the longlist at The Mookse and the Gripes.
The Orange Prize for Fiction -- this week, or year, apparently going by 'BWPFF', or the 'Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction' (sorry, but it'll take a while to convince me that that will take; I'll hang on to the old name for now) -- has announced its 2014 longlist -- twenty books selected from 158 submissions.
Only one of these is under review at the complete review -- the only of these titles that's even made it to my desk: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (though there are certainly a couple more that I'd love to get my hands on, including the Catton and the McBride).
The winner will be announced 4 June (though there will be a shortlist-announcement before then -- not that I've been able to figure out when that might be expected).
It always seems like a bit of a silly exercise, asking authors what books "they wish they'd written" (The Da Vinci Code, I always assume -- funding any- and every-thing they'd care to write after that ...), but when The Telegraph asks The Folio Prize finalists -- i.e. Anne Carson and Jane Gardam, among others -- that question it seems at least worth a look.
The only one of the named works under review at the complete review is Gardam's mention, Le Grand Meaulnes.
They've announced the finalists for the 27th Annual Translation Prizes of the French-American Foundation and the Florence Gould Foundation, awarded: "for superior English translations of French works published in 2013" (in the US).
The winner of the $10,000 prize will be announced 22 May.
'Tis the season for longlist-announcements for translation prizes -- the 15 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize finalists will be announced on Saturday (though for some reason they've already let me know -- sorry, I'm not spilling the beans (though I do note that I suspect none of the five FAF Translation Prize finalists were submitted for the IFFP ...)), and the Best Translated Book Award (for which I am a judge) will be announcing its 25-book-strong longlist on 11 March.
All five FAF Translation Prize fiction finalists were eligible for the BTBA, and four of them are under review at the complete review:
Obviously, I've been rooting for the vastly under-appreciated Where Tigers Are at Home from day one and am very pleased to see it getting this attention (though that goes for several of the other titles here too) -- but whether it and/or any of the other four finalists made the BTBA list ... well, you'll just have to wait until next Tuesday to see.
They've announced the finalists for the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, with the winner to be announced 2 April.
None of these titles are under review at the complete review; indeed, I haven't seen a one of them.
(I really should start looking into more local (i.e. US) fiction, shouldn't I ?)
I've mentioned the outrageous events around Wendy Doniger's The Hindus, most recently here, and in The New York Times she now has an opinion piece, Banned in Bangalore.
Good to hear that:
If Mr. Batra's intention was to keep people from reading the book, it certainly backfired: In India, not a single copy was destroyed (the publisher had only a few copies in stock, and those in bookstores quickly sold out), and e-books circulate freely. You cannot ban a book in the age of the Internet. Its sales rank on Amazon has been in single-digit heaven.
It's good to hear she is in high spirits, but I worry that she puts entirely too positive a spin on all of this: surely she understands that Mr. Batra's intention was not (primarily) to keep people from reading the book, but rather using that as a vehicle for his own agenda -- which seems to be carrying the day.
And while she finds the: "dormant liberal conscience of India was awakened" by what happened ... well, sure, it's early in the day, but that hasn't really seemed to make much of a difference yet.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Julia Deck's Viviane -- in the running for quite a few prizes when it came out in France in 2012, and now coming out in English from The New Press.
There's the prix Goncourt -- the biggest of the French literary prizes -- and then there are a whole lot of secondary Goncourt-prizes -- le Goncourt des Lycéens; le choix de l'Orient; le choix serbe; etc. -- but runner-up in importance is surely the first-novel-Goncourt, the 'Goncourt du premier roman'.
Previous winners include Laurent Binet's HHhH and Françoise Dorner's The Woman in the Row Behind, as well as first novels by authors such as Jean-Christophe Rufin and Shan Sa -- and they've now announced this year's winner, Arden, by Frédéric Verger, which was actually a finalist for last year's big prize, the prix Goncourt itself.
See, for example, Françoise Dargent's report in Le Figaro, Frédéric Verger, Goncourt du premier roman.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Vladimir Lorchenkov's novel from Moldova, The Good Life Elsewhere, just out from New Vessel Press (who continue to impress with their selection of titles).
But what is also uniquely apparent is that the diaspora novel is becoming the dominant genre of contemporary Zimbabwean writing.
Those writers who are giving a global face to Zimbabwean literature are ensconced outside, far from the madding crowds of Harare or Bulawayo, not witness to the buzz, the gossip, the scandals.
Perhaps it doesn't mean anything.
Or perhaps it does -- and while I wouldn't worry too much about who is: "giving a global face to Zimbabwean literature", surely the question of why domestic writing (and publishing, and the literary scene in general) are not the vanguard is worth considering more closely.
A lot of my students just can't tell a story.
They can write sentences but they don't know how to make a story go from there all the way through to the end without people dying of boredom in between.
It's a difficult thing to do and it's a great skill to have.
Can you teach that ?
I don't think you can.
Nice to see him being so forthright -- but I imagine few will be dissuaded.
Sergei Dovlatov -- the Soviet writer who emigrated to the US in 1979 and died, aged just forty-eight, in 1990 -- has been getting more attention recently, with several of his books recently being published and re-published,
including Pushkin Hills, published last year in the UK and coming soon from Counterpoint in the US (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and a re-issue of The Invisible Book forthcoming from Overlook (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk)
In The Moscow Times Grace Cuddihy now reports that Dovlatov Revival Hits the Streets of New York City.
They've announced the shortlist for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award (amazingly managing not to mention the titles of the shortlisted stories in the official announcement ... see them at the main Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award page, or click on the names of the shortlisted authors for brief Q & As and additional information).
They've also bundled the six shortlisted stories into: "a specially produced ebook, SixShorts 2014", though it appears to only be available in the 'Kindle' format (get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
They've announced the shortlist for the Rossica Translation Prize for translations from the Russian -- and on the same page they also list the longlisted titles, a great resource for those interested in recently translated-from-the Russian literature.
None of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review, but quite a few of the longlisted ones are; see the Index of Russian literature under review.
This year's 'Guest of Honour' at the Frankfurt Book Fair will be Finland, in 2015 it will be Indonesia, and while 2016 and 2017 are apparently still up for grabs, they announced a few days ago that Guest of Honour 2018: contract signed with Georgia.
They may well need that extra time to prepare -- it's a pretty small country and market -- but they've already been doing an impressive job of increasing the visibility of Georgian literature abroad and with, for example, Dalkey Archive Press' Georgian Literature Series, the number of Georgian titles available in English has increased to ... well, at least a trickle.
Several Georgian books are under review at the complete review (including the three written-in-Georgian Dalkey titles):
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tahsin Yücel's Skyscraper, a novel set in Istanbul, in 2073.
I bought my copy of this book (used, at the Strand) -- and it came with a printout of the e-mail from those who had originally requested it as a review copy from publisher Talisman House: The New York Review of Books.
Must have made the publisher's day to get that review copy request (their books don't seem to be ... widely reviewed) -- though I regret to be the bearer of bad news and note that less than a month later the NYRB had ... deaccessioned it (and cashed in on the deal, no less, though I can't imagine they got more than a dollar for it).
I realize that a review at the complete review is a pretty sorry substitute, but at least some good came of the copy being in circulation (though it's the Strand bookstore that profited most, financially speaking, from the circuituous route the book took) .....
Thursday evening Sara Bershtel received the Friedrich Ulfers Prize (awarded to someone: "who has championed the advancement of German-language literature in the United States").
Christoph Hein (Willenbrock, etc.) was to have given the laudatio, but was indisposed, and so Philip Boehm read his translation of Hein's prepared speech -- and Publishing Perspectives now prints it.
Rebecca Mead's My Life in Middlemarch (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) has certainly gotten a lot of attention -- but if it gets them talking about (and possibly reading ...) Middlemarch one can't really complain.
Now The Guardian has Martin Amis, AS Byatt, Kathyrn Hughes, and John Mullan 'reflect on how Middlemarch has changed for them as they have got older', in What Middlemarch means to me.
It's not under review at the complete review (and probably won't be), but see the publicity pages from Harvard University Press and Allen Lane (yes, this is yet another title published by a university press in the US and a 'commercial' publisher in the UK ...), or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
The decline in reading culture in Ghana society is alarming so the ultimate goal of Ghana Literary prize is aimed at promoting creative writing and reading culture in the Ghanaian society which is very low at the current decade.
They may be expecting a bit much -- "The prize will curb mental laziness" -- but at least they're ambitious.
The Festival Neue Literatur -- "New Writing from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and the U.S." -- runs today through Sunday in New York, and should be fairly interesting; watch curator Tess Lewis' video welcome and overview here.
Only one of the participating author's books is under review at the complete review -- Abbas Khider's The Village Indian.
The March/April issue of World Literature Today is now available, with much of the material available online.
Among the areas of focus: 2013 Puterbaugh Fellow Maaza Mengiste and 'Cross-Cultural Humor'.
Most important, all the reviews are available, in the World Literature in Review section.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Luis Chitarroni's Diary of an Unfinished Novel, The No Variations, published by Dalkey Archive Press (and a nicely typical 'Dalkey'-title -- though I wonder how much confusion the nearly simultaneous publication of A.G.Porta's The No World Concerto caused ...).