At Paper Republic Nicky Harman tallies the 2019 Book Translations from Chinese into English -- coming up with only 27, way down from last year.
Shockingly, too, only three of those twenty-seven are by women authors.
A useful overview -- though disappointingly, aside from The Handsome Monk I've only seen a single one of these titles (the Jia Pingwa).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Comic Play from Seventeenth-Century China by Li Yu, A Couple of Soles, just out from Columbia University Press.
I only knew Li Yu from his novel, The Carnal Prayer Mat, but he was a leading playwright of his time; surprisingly, this is apparently the first of his ten surviving stageworks to be translated into English.
I've been meaning/hoping to cover more plays, especially classical ones, but one of the problems with covering them is that they're often printed in collections and I prefer to review them individually; this one at least has the advantage of being a one-volume, one-play edition.
Still, I do hope to pick and choose from the many impressive collections I've accumulated and review more plays .....
They've announced the longlists for the 2020 PEN America Literary Awards.
Lots of categories here, including the PEN Translation Prize ("for a book-length translation of prose") and the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation.
Two of the ten longlisted titles for the PEN Translation Prize are under review at the complete review:
At Dusk, by Hwang Sok-yong; translated by Sora Kim-Russell
I have several more of these, and do hope to get to some of them.
And interesting to see that an AmazonCrossing title is in the running (The Dead Wander in the Desert, by Rollan Seisenbayev).
There is also one of the titles longlisted for the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation under review:
Another foreign best-of-the-year list: in Spain, the year-end El País-list is the big one, but before we get that Vanity Fair (Spain) offer what they consider Los 42 mejores libros del año.
A lot in (Spanish) translation -- including many from English -- but at least that means many are also available in English .....
At the Center for the Art of Translation blog Chad Felix has Indie Booksellers Share Their Favorite Translations of the Decade -- twenty-three works of literature in translation.
Lots of great titles here -- and several that are obvious choices, including Anniversaries and Zibaldone, but John E. Woods' translation of Arno Schmidt's Bottom's Dream only gets an incidental mention ("which I'd venture to say is more admired than read") ?
Slightly disappointing too: only one title not translated from a European language (and French and Spanish ... very well represented).
I haven't seen any discussion of the extent to which this year's Nobel Prize in Literature announcements have had an effect on sales of books by laureates Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke, but at Deutsche Welle Sabine Peschel offers a look at How the Nobel Prize affects book sales, mainly in the German-speaking world.
Interesting, for example, that:
The publisher mentions the case of Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz, who was unexpectedly named the winner in 1988: "Nobody knew him, or even how to spell his name right.
We had sold 300 copies in three years — and then 30,000 in three minutes."
(In German they write his name: 'Nagib Machfus' .....)
As to this year's prizes: Handke has always been a big seller in German, but: "In the seven weeks following the announcement of the Nobel Prize, Suhrkamp sold 150,000 copies of Handke's books, according to press spokesperson Tanja Postpischil".
As to Tokarczuk:
Her 1,200-page opus magnum, The Books of Jacob, was published in German 10 days before she was awarded a Nobel Prize.
Before the announcement, Kampa had sold about 1,200 copies.
After that, the 3,000 copies of the available print run were sold out in no time.
No doubt, they've sold quite a few more copies since.
Instead of a 'best of 2019'-list, the Colombian publication Arcadia had a jury of 91 people select a hundred titles by Spanish women authors from the past century -- Cien años, cien libros de escritoras en español (with Portuguese-writing Clarice Lispector sneaking her way onto the list).
The official site presents the titles in rather annoying slideshow fashion, so see, for example, the whole list more conveniently at infobae.
At the Universität Duisburg-Essen they have a research project, Literaturpreise im deutschsprachigen Raum seit 1990: Funktionen und Wirkungen -- a project that: "intends a comprehensive analysis of the phenomenon of literary prizes in the German speaking cultural area since 1990 examining its functions for and effects on the literary field, cultural policies, and the publishing world".
At Börsenblatt they have a Q & A two of those involved in the project, Sarah Maaß and Dennis Borghardt, in Mehr Literaturpreise, mehr Wettbewerb, mehr Publikumsbeteiligung.
Some interesting titbits, including that there are currently some 950 literary prizes in Germany (though not all are awarded annually -- in 2018 only 579 were).
At World Literature Today they have their 75 Notable Translations of 2019.
As usual, this is a fairly useful overview of much that has appeared in translation in the US over the past year -- but, as they acknowledge, it is: "admittedly incomplete"; notable omissions include the Marquis de Sade's Aline and Valcour, certainly one of this year's more interesting translations.
Oh, here is a volume I would love to get my hands on: a massive (over 1100 page) Georges Perec collection, of interviews and various stray texts, Entretiens, conférences, textes rares, inédits, just out from Éditions Joseph K; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.fr.
They have an excerpt at BibliObs.
The two Nobel Prize in Literature laureates honored this year -- 2018 winner Olga Tokarczuk and 2019 winner Peter Handke -- were among Nobel Prize winners who delivered their Nobel lectures yesterday (another batch does so today).
You can watch and read both online now
Olga Tokarczuk: 'The Tender Narrator' - video / text
They are very different kinds of lectures, and no doubt the Tokarczuk is the more memorable (and accessible) one.
The fuss around Handke has not died down -- though everyone was all decorum at the lecture --, in no small part because Handke really does not know how (or, apparently, want) to help (or. more specifically, explain) himself, witness the Friday press conference (see, for example, the report in The Guardian) -- but his lecture reflects his art, and his focus on (his personal) experience and art, which has an unworldly feel in this hyper-politicized day and age (and in contrast to, for example, Tokarczuk).
We seem to expect activism and position-taking at near every turn from our contemporary authors; as Handke's unfortunate and very limited (in every respect) forays out of his comfort zone and into that area suggest, maybe that's not always desirable.
The idea that fiction is a female domain is taken for granted by most people involved in books.
According to Nielsen Book Research, women outbuy men in all categories of novel except fantasy, science fiction and horror.
And even more surprised that: "surveys show they account for 80% of sales in the UK, US and Canadian fiction markets".
As someone who values fiction (and specifically the novel) above all else, I'm baffled by anyone, male or female, who doesn't recognize the value and pleasure of fiction -- but given the disparity in what I read/cover -- less than 20 per cent of the reviewed titles at the complete review are by women --, regardless of other factors (notably availability: the focus here is on fiction in translation, and until recently male author were much, much more likely to be available in translation), gender obviously does play a role in the kind of literature I engage with -- and one that I should probably examine more closely.
I do like Jonathan Coe's observation:
“Female readers in the signing queue will sometimes tell you directly how much a book has moved them, whereas male readers will say how much they share my enthusiasm for obscure bands like Hatfield and the North,” he says.
“But I think, essentially, they are saying the same thing: it’s just that men sometimes need these proxies, these intermediaries – football, music, etc – as a way of voicing their emotions.”
They've announced the shortlists for the Crossword Book Awards, one of the leading Indian literary prizes -- four jury shortlists (English fiction, English non-fiction, Children's writing, and Indian language translation), as well as six 'popular' shortlists.
All the English fiction shortlisted titles are authored by women; the translation shortlist includes the twin novels by Perumal Murugan as well as a pair of 'anti-novels' by Subimal Misra.
The winners will be announced 14 January.
The prix Marguerite Yourcenar is a relatively new French author prize awarded by Scam (the Société civile des auteurs multimedia) -- now for the fifth time -- and they've now announced that this year's prize goes to Pascal Quignard.
(The previous two winners were Jean Echenoz (2018) and Annie Ernaux (2017).)
It's Nobel ceremony time, and they're getting busy in Stockholm.
Early today (13:00 CET) the two Nobel laureates, Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke, will be participating in a sure to be well-attended press conference, so that should be fun .....
(Will there be cake ?
It's Handke's birthday -- he turns 77 today.)
Tokarczuk and Handke will be delivering their Nobel lectures tomorrow -- and you can catch them (and all the Nobel lectures) online.
Finally, the medals will be handed over 10 December at the official ceremony, with the fancy banquet to follow.
They've announced the twelve-title longlist for next year's RBC Taylor Prize, awarded to: "enhance public appreciation for the genre known as literary non-fiction" -- the last time they'll be awarding the prize.
The shortlist will be announced 8 January, and the winner 2 March.
As widely reported, Milan Kundera's Czech citizenship renewed -- as Ruth Fraňková's report at Radio Praha International has it; see also the official Czech embassy in France announcement.
Yes, the Czechoslovak (as it was still then) government stripped Kundera of his citizenship in 1979, and they've now gotten around to restoring it -- rather taking their time about it .....
Long established in France, Kundera also took to writing in French, and considers the French versions the definitive ones of his novels; several are under review at the complete review
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of All That is Evident is Suspect: Readings from the Oulipo 1963-2018, edited by Ian Monk and Daniel Levin Becker.
I finally got my hands on a (library) copy of this; next, I hope to eventually get to see a copy of The Penguin Book of Oulipo, edited by Philip Terry (see the Penguin Classics publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.co.uk) -- I can never get enough of Oulipo titles .....
In the Harvard Data Science Review Gregory Crane writes about Beyond Translation: Language Hacking and Philology, pointing to a path: "between linguistic mastery and reliance upon translation".
It also points to a variety of interesting internet resources -- well worth a look.
The attempts to get their act together do not seem to be proceeding particularly well: the Swedish Academy has announced that two external (i.e. not Academy) members of the Nobel committee -- Gun-Britt Sundström and Kristoffer Leandoer -- have had enough and have quit.
See also, for example, the Reuters report by Johan Ahlander, Two members leave Nobel literature committee, criticizing Swedish Academy.
Leandoer is quoted as having written in Svenska Dagbladet:
The Academy and I have a different perspective on time, one year is far too long in my life and far too short in life of the Academy
Meanwhile, they haven't exactly impressed anyone with their handling of the awarding of this year's prize to Peter Handke.
Handke's Nobel Lecture is scheduled for 7 December, at 17:30 CET; you'll be able to watch it here.
That should be interesting.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yuz Aleshkovsky's Nikolai Nikolaevich and Camouflage, two short novels, recently out from Columbia University Press in their Russian Library-series.
They've announced the shortlists for the seven 2019 Society of Authors' Translation Prizes -- six language-specific prizes (for translations from the German, French, Spanish, Arabic, Dutch, and Hebrew), as well as the TA First Translation Prize.
I'm disappointed to see how few of these books I've seen -- but a few are under review at the complete review:
- Schlegel-Tieck Prize: Damion Searls' translation of Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries and Simon Pare's translation of Christoph Ransmayr's The Flying Mountain
- Scott Moncrieff Prize: Tina Kover's translation of Négar Djavadi's Disoriental
- TA First Translation Prize: Charlotte Whittle (translator) and Bella Bosworth (editor) for Norah Lange's People in the Room
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pierre Louÿs' The Woman and the Puppet, recently re-issued by Dedalus.
This story has been adapted for the big screen several times -- most notably as The Devil is a Woman, directed by Josef von Sternberg, starring Marlene Dietrich (and with John Dos Passos getting a screenwriting credit), and then as That Obscure Object of Desire, directed by Luis Buñuel.
In The Caravan Nishant Kauntia profiles "India's most prestigious Hindi literary magazine", Hans -- founded in 1930 by Premchand, with Gandhi on its editorial board, and then revived after a thirty year hiatus in 1986 -- in The Intruders.
In El País they asked 84 experts to select Los 21 mejores libros del siglo XXI, not restricted by genre.
Certainly a lot one could argue about, but some decent choices.
And revealing about Spanish literary preferences.
Quite a few of the titles are under review at the complete review:
In Metropolis Eric Margolis looks at: 'The ongoing battle to translate Japan's leading literary women', in Mind the Gap, as a gender parity in Japanese hasn't translated into gender parity as far as translations into English go.
While literary coverage at this time of year is wall-to-wall best-of-the-year-lists in the US/UK media, there are far fewer of these elsewhere (and the ones that do appear tend to appear ... closer to the actual end of the year) -- but Le Point joins in the fun with their 30 meilleurs livres de l'année.
Not many of these are under review at the complete review -- just Middle England by Jonathan Coe and Serotonin by Michel Houellebecq.
Clive James -- critic, poet, broadcaster -- has passed away; see, for example, the obituary by Jim Waterson and Sian Cain in The Guardian.
Only one James title is under review at the complete review, his Cultural Amnesia.
The David Cohen Prize for Literature is a leading biennial English-language author prize that: "recognises a living writer from the UK or the Republic of Ireland for a lifetime's achievement in literature", and they've announced that this year's prize goes to Edna O'Brien; no word yet at the official site, last I checked, but see, for example, Heloise Wood's report at The Bookseller
They've announced the shortlists for the Whitbread Costa Book Awards, twenty books nominated in five categories, selected from 701 entries.
The only shortlisted title under review at the complete review is Middle England by Jonathan Coe.
The category winners will be announced 6 January; the Costa Book of the Year will be announced 28 January.
They've announced the winners of this year's Augustpriset, the leading Swedish literary prize.
Marit Kapla's Osebol won in the 'skönlitteratur'-category -- though this 800-page work, based on interviews with the 40 adult inhabitants of Osebol, sounds like a Svetlana Alexievich-like documentary work, rather than fiction.
See also the Teg Publishing publicity page.
Via I'm pointed to Irfan Aslam's piece in Dawn, The Damned Books, on the consequences of the Pakistani authorities having stopped all trade -- including of books -- with India -- a considerable problem, since a significant percentage of books sold in Pakistan are imported from India, as: "India has become a hub of the publishing industry in the last couple of decades and serves the whole region, not only Pakistan".
Among the problems:
The bigger issue is that many publishers in the UK and US have given distribution rights to distributors in India and the publishers would forward the order back to India.
Such books can’t be acquired even from the UK or the US then.
A couple of days ago The New York Times Book Review announced their 10 Best Books of 2019; usually they first announce their list of '100 notable books' and then select the top ten from that, but not this year ... but they have now gotten around to their 100 Notable Books of 2019.
Last year they had nine works of translation on the list; this year ... all of three, best I can tell.
And only two of the 100 titles are under review at the complete review: Ogawa Yoko's The Memory Police and Neal Stephenson's Fall; or, Dodge in Hell.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the Marquis de Sade's Aline and Valcouror, the Philosophical Novel.
This is the first full translation of the novel -- a few pages were translated in Selected Writings of de Sade by Leonard Saint-Yves (1953), but now the entire 800-page work is available, in a three-volume edition from Contra Mundum Press.
There is a general reawakening in the United States to the past, present and future realities of First Peoples' lives and readers want to know more," she says. "Mainstream publishers are more open to Indigenous stories of late ... [and] US readers have always been interested in Australia.
I haven't really noticed this yet, but it would certainly be great to see.