In the early 1990s, 33% of 10th graders said they read newspapers almost every day; by 2016, only 2% did.
In the late 1970s, 60% of 12th graders said they read a book or magazine almost every day; by 2016, only 16% did.
Twelfth graders reported reading two fewer books a year on average in 2016 compared with the late 1970s, and the number who said they did not read any books for pleasure nearly tripled, reaching one out of three by 2016.
Whatever Harry Potter-effect there was for a while when those books first came out -- and the graphs suggest there was one -- seems over and done with, and (book+) reading looks like it's increasingly on the way out.
(Note, however: so is watching TV .....)
But, hey, social media use, gaming, and general internet use are all up.
They've announced the winners of this year's Hugo Awards, a leading American science fiction prize, with The Stone Sky, by N.K.Jemisin, taking the Best Novel award -- impressively, the third year in a row she's taken the prize; see also her acceptance speech.
The Hugos also have prizes in categories such as 'Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form' -- basically, best screenplay -- and 'Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form' -- best TV script -- which is fun, and I also like how they provide a detailed breakdown (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of the voting for each award (I'd love it if all prizes did something like this !).
They've announced the winners of this year's James Tait Black Prizes -- "the UK's longest-running literary awards", which honor a work of fiction and a work of biography.
I haven't seen either of these, but they both sound interesting: the fiction prize went to Attrib. and other stories, by Eley Williams (see the Influx Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk),
while the biography prize went to Ma'am Darling (just out in the US as 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret), by Craig Brown (see the 4th Estate publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
Sad to hear that Russian author Vladimir Sharov has passed away; no English language notices yet, but see, for example, the note at the Институт перевода.
Two of his titles have been translated into English, both published by Dedalus -- and they're both under review at the complete review: Before and During and The Rehearsals.
As we all remember, the Swedish Academy imploded earlier this year, leading also to their decision to postpone the awarding of the 2018 Nobel Prize to 2019 -- and the Nobel Foundation has been none too pleased about the mess they've gotten themselves into and their so far unimpressive efforts to set their house in order.
So now the Nobel Foundation apparently has *suggested* the Academy create an independent new, interim committee -- composed of new (i.e. untainted) members -- to handle the Academy's Nobel-duties until the Academy addresses all its problems.
(Remember: as the Foundation has reminded the Academy previously, they're the ones who write the big Nobel Prize check .....)
The Academy apparently is not thrilled by the idea, apparently claiming they've got all that Nobel-deciding stuff completely under control ....
The Dagens Nyheter report breaking this is paywalled, but see the (Swedish) SVT report, as well as the Xinhua report, Nobel Foundation wants temporary committee to oversee literature award.
At boersenblatt they have a list (you probably have to click 'Lyrik' ...) of the 25 bestselling volumes of poetry in Germany for the first half (actually through 29 July, so just short of seven full months) of the year -- and, as the accompanying article notes, it is dominated by the classics (or at least dead poets).
A 1936 Erich Kästner collection tops the list (the publisher noting it consistently sells 7500-10,000 copies a year), but it's Mascha Kaléko who dominates the list with six (!) titles.
Collections by Rilke and Ringelnatz, both also long dead, take spots three and four, while Jan Wagner, with a collection in tenth place (!) is the first living author to appear on the list.
Eugen Roth, Pablo Neruda, Hilde Domin -- and Homer ! -- are all dead authors who also make the list -- though a few other living ones do too.
Clearly, contemporary poetry is not hitting the spot in contemporary Germany .....
As far as Kaléko goes, note that Fomite Press has recently brought out some of her work in translations; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Meanwhile, since we're on the topic: twentieth century German poetry was very good indeed -- and, as longtime readers know, I'd argue the peak was the trio of Rilke, Celan, and the underrated-as-poet Brecht.
Which I mention because Liveright is admirably bringing out: "the most extensive English translation of Brecht's poetry to date" this December (which still gives them time to design a new cover ?), David Constantine and Tom Kuhn's translations of The Collected Poems of Bertolt Brecht; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- surely one the most significant poetry-in-translation events of the year.
I accumulated a fair number of the old Calder titles over the years, as he published an eclectic, impressive selection of authors.
Alma took over the imprint, and they've been re-issuing some of the titles in a new look.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the final volume in Karl Ove Knausgaard's grand epic, My Struggle: Book Six -- or, more succinctly, The End (so the UK edition).
At 1152 pages this is one of the longer titles under review at the complete review -- the longest reviewed this year, in fact, though it is not even the longest major translation appearing this year (Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries has several hundred pages on it).
It is also the longest review I've posted in ages -- and that's just for this volume; while books one and two are under review I still have to get to three through five -- and the series-as-a-whole probably also deserves a separate review .....
Is it worthwhile ?
I'd say yes.
But, yes, it is a lot -- and, yes, it's a bit (okay, a lot) self-indulgent.
They've announced the twenty-title strong longlist for this year's German Book Prize, selected from 199 titles (165 submitted, with an additional 34 called in by the judges).
Quite a few of the longlisted authors have had titles translated into English, including Maxim Biller, Arno Geiger, and Gert Loschütz, and it's nice to see Adolf Muschg's latest make it.
In his overview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Andreas Platthaus suggests that among the arguably overlooked titles were the big works by Michael Lentz (over 1000 pages ...) and Steffen Mensching (820pp), as well as Robert Seethaler's Das Feld.
The shortlist will be announced 11 September, and the winner on 8 October.
They've announced the finalists for this year's Dayton Literary Peace Prize -- an award honoring books that treat: "the theme of peace on a variety of levels, such as between individuals, among families and communities, or between nations, religions, or ethnic groups" -- six titles each in the fiction and non categories.
The fiction list, in particular, looks strong -- though none of these titles are under review at the complete review.
The winners will be announced 18 September, and honored on 28 October.
Rozmowy Mistrza Polikarpa ze Śmiercią -- 'Master Polikarp's Dialogue with Death' -- is apparently: "widely recognised as the first masterpiece of Polish literature", but until now:
only 498 verses of the original dialogue were known from a fifteenth-century manuscript.
The ending of the piece had to be (partially) reconstructed from a translation into a Ruthenian, a forerunner of today's Russian, Ukrainian and Belarussian languages.
But now someone found: "a complete Polish text of 918 verses", and a critical edition will be published soon; see Aleksander Nowacki's report at The First News, Full text of Polish literature's oldest masterpiece found, as well as the (Polish) Życie Uniwersyteckie press release.
For the fragmentary text -- i.e. all that was previously available -- in its fragmentary (Polish) entirety, see here (my favorite part being the concluding: "(Końca brak)").
Iceland is widely hailed as a nation of readers and a wonderful literary environment in all respects -- great publishing scene, etc. etc. -- but apparently the situation is not quite as rosy as we've been led to believe: as the Morgunblaðið/iceland monitor report has it, local Book sales continue to drop.
Down another five per cent last year, and:
Book sales have plummeted in recent years, dropping by 11 percent in 2016 alone, and by 36 percent from 2008 till 2017.
The title-totals apparently haven't changed that much, nor has book pricing.
No, it seems people are just not as into reading any longer.
Check out for yourself what they consider the most interesting titles of the past few years, as the excellent Icelandic Literature Center site has 'Books from Iceland'-catalogues for the past couple of years that you can browse.
They've announced the longlist for this year's FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year -- fifteen titles, selected from some 500 (unnamed) entries, in the running for the £30,000 prize, with only one (Adam Tooze's Crashed) under review at the complete review.
I kind of like that they also list five books which were: "near-misses for the longlist" -- or is it cruel to name those ?
(I would love to see publishers of these add a sticker announcing 'Just missed making the FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year longlist' on the covers .....)
Uwe Johnson's great novel Anniversaries has long been under review at the complete review, but that 2007 review was based on the original German; until now, English-language readers only had access to a radically abridged translation -- but in October New York Review Books is bringing out a complete translation, by Damion Searls, one of the biggest publishing events of the year, and not just of fiction in translation.
In Publishers Weekly John Maher now reports on some of the prep-work for the unleashing of this tome (or set of tomes, in a nice boxed edition), in how With Anniversaries, NYRB Brings Behemoth of a German Novel Into English
Among the observations:
The big trick was marketing such a monster of a tome -- and, in the U.S., an obscure one at that -- to booksellers.
That's where NYRB's reputation in the business came in handy.
"At some level, booksellers who know and like NYRB Classics and are already interested in what we do will hear when we say, 'This is, literally, the biggest book we've ever done,'?" said NYRB publicity manager Nick During.
And yet, he added, "We wanted to give people time to get going."
You've pre-ordered your copy, right ?
(At your local bookseller -- or at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
You know you need that nice boxed set on your bookshelves .....
And it is a damned good book, well worth your time.
They've announced the winners of the latest set of Lu Xun Literature Awards [鲁迅文学奖], which covers work published 2014-2017, in seven categories.
There were thirty-four winners; Mei Jia has an overview in China Daily, Lu Xun Literature Prize names 2014-17 winners, while you can find all the winning titles and authors (in Chinese) here.
Among the winners in the novella-category is a work by Alai, who has had several novels translated into English.
Four works won the translation awards, including translations of Eduardo Galeano's Genesis: Memory of Fire, a novel by Christophe Ono-dit-Biot, and the complete poetry of Horace -- but the one I'm really curious about is the translation of: "Italian Renaissance poet Ludouico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso in the style of traditional Chinese opera" !
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Amélie Nothomb's Strike Your Heart, just about out in English from Europa Editions (and only a year after it appeared in French -- though US/UK publishers haven't otherwise been keeping up with her book-a-year rate; the last of her books to appear in translation came out three years ago).
Appropriate, too: today is Nothomb's birthday -- her fifty-first !
(Updated - 14 August): More accurately, it was the day she claims for her birthday: she's always given it as 13 August 1967, and that she was born in Kobe, Japan; the more prosaic reality is that she was apparently actually born 9 July 1966, in Etterbeek, Belgium.
But I had already read practically all of his work before I started the site, which is why there aren't more under review.
His most famous work remains A House for Mr. Biswas -- get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- while among the reviewed titles I think Magic Seeds, in particular, is underrated.
And don't forget Paul Theroux's wonderful Sir Vidia's Shadow.
One doesn't see much Buddhadeva Bose in the US, but Archipelago did bring out his My Kind of Girl a few years ago, and Oxford University Press now has a collection of 'English Writings of Buddhadeva Bose', An Acre of Green Grass (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) -- and Granta has an excerpt, with an introduction by Amit Chaudhuri, To Remember is to Live Again, describing a visit Bose took to ... Henry Miller at Big Sur.
Not exactly a meeting of authors I would have expected, but fun to learn about.
The complete review is already in its twentieth year, but this Literary Saloon weblog was a later addition, only added in the summer of 2002 -- 11 August, to be exact.
The lit-blog scene has changed dramatically over these years, from a relatively small community to a much more far-flung one.
There seem to be more 'book blogs' -- often review-focused -- than ever, with more niches covered, along with a few juggernaut multi-purpose literary sites that also provide a variety of literary news and coverage, but there still also seems a place for a (part of a site) like this, with its peculiar foci (and, in particular, its international outlook).
While the site's/my Twitter presence has become a substitute-outlet for some of the smaller bits of news and observation that in the earlier days would have found a place here, the format still has its uses; it'll be interesting to see how/if it holds up (and I can hold it up ...) for another sixteen years (or six ...).
The weblog also continues to have a surprisingly dedicated audience -- I appreciate the continued interest, and am pleased you continue to find what you find here of some interest/use/entertainment.
And, of course:
If you want to support the site,
consider becoming a patron:
So, in Malta they're trying really hard to make the works of Dun Karm Psaila (1871-1961; author of the Maltese national anthem, and with his own room at the Mdina Metropolitan Cathedral Museum) accessible to readers in other languages -- a matter of such significance to them that:
The pledge to have Psaila translated in five different languages was made in the Labour Party's electoral manifesto.
The biggest challenge for the National Book Council with regards to translations is that excluding the English language, there are "very few qualified translators who can translate from Maltese to other languages," [council chairman Mark] Camilleri said.
Indeed, they realize that:
If we fail to find people who can translate from Maltese to other languages, we will have to unfortunately resort to translating from the English bridge translation, however, this is an option which I am trying to avoid
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Adam Tooze on How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World, Crashed -- a rare non-translated work, of non-fiction no less, under review, and a book that's actually already (it's just out) getting a whole lot of review-attention.
At Qantara.de Elias Khoury salutes Al Aswany's courage, as he: 'pays tribute to Alaa Al Aswany's new novel as the only comprehensive literary chronicle of the January 2011 Egyptian revolution'.
The The Yacoubian Building-author's new novel is جمهورية كأن ('The So-called Republic'), which has been out in Arabic for a couple of months -- see also the Dar Al Adab publicity page --, but is not (yet) available in English.
"Al-Aswany's success is a positive reflection on our narrative literature", Khoury finds.
The Edinburgh International Book Festival runs 11 through 27 August and expects over 900 authors to appear -- but some of them apparently are having a harder time than others getting there, thanks to British Home Office issues, as, as for example Sian Cain reports in The Guardian, Home Office refuses visas for authors invited to Edinburgh book festival.
No names, alas, and it's unclear whether any or how many authors would actually be prevented from appearing at the festival, but it's still disturbing.
Still, admirable of the Home Office to provide a means of festivals avoiding much of this hassle by getting themselves designated a permit free festival -- which, for some reason (?) the EIBF has not applied for ("Barley said that while the festival could apply to be added to the permit-free list, he hoped other festivals across the UK would come together to campaign for a new system" -- fair enough, but why not work the system that's in place currently while trying to change it ?).
They've announced that the €10,000 Hermann Kesten Award, presented by PEN Germany "for outstanding efforts in support of persecuted writers according to the principles of the Charter of PEN International", will go (on 15 November) to Gioconda Belli this year.
Several of her works have been translated into English; check out, for example, The Scroll of Seduction (even Entertainment Weeklyreviewed this, back in the day ("While the setup is a smidge hokey, once the alternating narratives are established the novel gallops along")) -- see the Harper Collins publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Given that the whole trilogy fits in and is published in one thin (147 page) volume in the English translation, even I would normally have just posted the one review -- but the three novellas were published separately, over quite a span (2007, 2012, and 2014), both in the original Norwegian as well as in other Scandinavian languages, and the French also published all three volumes separately, so there are actually a lot of reviews specific to each volume, so it seemed sensible and worthwhile to also offer separate review pages for each (as well as one for the whole thing ...).
Dalkey Archive Press brought this out in late 2016, and I'm pretty shocked and disappointed at how little coverage it has gotten in the US/UK (essentially none).
Fosse has been touted as a Nobel front-runner for a couple of years now, and he is one of the most widely performed living playwrights in the world (yeah, not in the US -- but come on, they're up to volume six of his plays in the Oberon Modern Playwrights series ...), and he's a truly significant author -- also (though this is obviously one of the problems with popularizing his work) because his work is so distinctive: there isn't much fiction like this being written nowadays.
Dalkey have done an incredible job bringing out quite a bit of his major work in recent years -- though that too may be part of the problem, too much available at once ...?
But maybe/hopefully it is just a question of a critical mass of his work being available and circulating before he finally really takes off in English .....
With Fitzcarraldo Editions now also jumping on board -- they published Scenes from a Childhood in the UK in May and it's coming to the US in November (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and they're committed to his larger-scale in-the-works Septology (see the Books from Norway information page), which could be his break-out work (?) -- maybe he'll actually catch on.
(Then again, Scenes from a Childhood hasn't exactly been showered with press coverage in the UK so far either .....)
He's certainly an author that should be more widely read and better known -- and from the sounds of it, given the (re-)use of names and places familiar from Trilogy in Septology, you probably want to check this one out before plunging into that one.
The Science Fiction Club Deutschland has announced this year's winners of the German Science Fiction Prize -- to be awarded 22 September -- and the award for best German science fiction novel will go to Marc-Uwe Kling's QualityLand.
This books has its own website, and there's also some English-language information about both author and book at his agent's site -- where the most interesting thing is where foreign rights to this have been sold to so far (though that 335,000 copies sold so far is also impressive).
No English language edition on the horizon yet (though the site notes, in bold type: "Complete English translation available") -- but publishers in Japan, Kuwait (!), and Turkey have it forthcoming; hardly the three languages I would have expected to be first up, translation-wise.
A fascinating piece -- with lots of great pictures -- at Scroll.in, as Tisha Mondal and Judy Luis-Watson report on Why the US government maintained records on Rabindranath Tagore -- and what they say (originally published at the National Archives' weblog).
Among the pictures: a 'Draft of President Kennedy's letter for the centenary celebration of Tagore's birth', and a: 'Memo concerning the need for the United States to position itself prominently in Tagore's centenary celebration'.
Those were the days .....
A decent but confusing variety of Tagore works are readily available in the US/UK -- a nice collected edition, or at least more uniform editions would be welcome/helpful.
Still, there are even a few Penguin Classics volumes -- get, for example, the Selected Short Stories at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The only Tagore under review at the complete review is Farewell my Friend, though I do hope to get to more.
These two 1950 books weren't his first published works, but the only earlier ones -- Mich wundert, daß ich so fröhlich bin and Das geheime Brot have been a bit more lasting; these two seem never to have been reprinted and are barely known.
Volumes in the Bären-Bücher novel-series (19 and 21), Worldcat doesn't even list any American library having a copy in their holdings (though an Australian library does have one of them ...); they're among the obscurest/rarest books I've reviewed at the site .....
Yet Simmel is one of the best selling German-writing authors of all times.
His books sold tens of millions, and topped the bestseller lists for months on end; I can recall in 1970s Austria it seemed every household had books of his lying around.
He was also reasonably well translated into English in the 1960s and 70s, though he never seemed to really break through (though several were reviewed in, for example, The New York Times Book Review).
The US editions are now all long out of print, but there are still a lot of copies floating around (get, for example, Double Agent - Triple Cross at Amazon.com).
He's no must-read great author, but he wrote a lot of very entertaining books -- higher caliber pop fiction, including some solid treatment of more serious themes, usually very capably dressed up as thrillers --, and I've read practically everything of his -- which is why I also have now gotten to these two hard to find apprentice works, and I'm not sorry I did.
(But, yes, you're not missing too much with these two.)
Nice to see some coverage of how Hindi writer Nirmal Verma's stories from the 1960s give us people in love with loneliness, in Oindrila Mukherjee's piece continuing a Scroll.in 'series on all-but-forgotten books with a journey through Verma's The World Elsewhere and Other Stories'.
This came out in a Readers International edition -- and even got a review in The New York Times Book Review (though Carolyn See had issues with the: "inept translations from several different persons, caught in the swinging doors of several national idioms, so that finally the language balks" ...) -- but Verma is definitely one of those significant authors that have slipped a bit through the cracks.
The triennial Ricarda Huch Prize has a decent winners list -- including Nobel laureates Herta Müller, way back in 1987, and Orhan Pamuk the year before he got the Nobel -- and they've now announced that this year's prize will go (on 3 October) to Ferdinand von Schirach.
Two of his books are under review at the complete review: The Collini Case and The Girl Who Wasn't There.