They've announced the winner of the 2020 Epigram Books Fiction Prize, a leading Singaporean literary prize for an unpublished manuscript -- and it is How the Man in Green Saved Pahang, and Possibly the World, by Joshua Kam; it and the three other finalists will be published by Epigram in the second half of the year.
Author of the Jack Reacher-series Lee Child has announced that he's getting too old for this and is handing off the series to his brother (fifteen years his junior).
The transition will apparently be gradual, with the next in the series, The Sentinel, attributed to Lee Child (in large print) and Andrew Child (in much smaller print ...).
See also the reports at the BBC and The Guardian.
Several Jack Reacher novels are under review at the complete review:
After listing the bestselling French authors of 2019 (see my previous mention) and the bestselling books in France of the past decade (see my previous mention), they've now come out with the list of top-selling titles of 2019 in France.
The Livres Hebdo report is mostly paywalled, but most of the information is also available, for example, here.
With 1,573,000 copies sold, an Astérix-volume was, by far the top seller; two (!) Guillaume Musso titles followed at number two and three, The Reunion selling 565,237 copies and La vie secrète des écrivains selling 391,000 copies.
In fourth place: Michel Houellebecq's Serotonin, with 384,709 copies sold -- just ahead of the prix Goncourt-winner by Jean-Paul Dubois, Tous les hommes n'habitent pas le monde de la même façon (367,652 copies).
Only seven titles sold more than 300,000 copies -- compared to 12 in 2017 and 10 in 2018 .....
Le Figaro has its annual look at Notre palmarès des romanciers français qui vendent le plus -- the French authors who sold the most books (fiction) in France last year.
Their article is paywalled, but helpfully you can find the information elsewhere -- see, for example, the RTBF report.
Guillaume Musso easily topped the list again, selling 1.4 million books in France; one of his books appeared in the US last year, too -- The Reunion -- which I suspect did not sell quite (or anywhere near ...) as impressively as the original did in France .....
The top ten were:
Guillaume Musso (1.4 million books sold)
Michel Bussi (946,008)
Virginie Grimaldi (755,819)
Marc Levy (744,544)
Aurélie Valognes (683,338)
Raphaëlle Giordano (631,609)
Agnès Martin-Lugand (592,279)
Franck Thilliez (585,072)
Michel Houellebecq (basically all on the back of Serotonin)
Valérie Perrin (503,867)
The numbers were lower across the board than 2018's, when the top five all sold more than 800,000 books.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yashpal's 1945 Hindi classic, Divya.
Translator Anand notes re. this translation -- finally published in 2006 by Sahitya Akademi --:
Although the final draft was ready by 1988, the manuscript languished with literary agents in North America for several years, including one in Hollywood who, in the wake of the success of various television min-seres on the Orient in the eighties, took an option on Divya with a view to marketing it in the media as a similar US production.
It also survived suggestions by two publishers to rewrite Divya's story in a less literary language so as to make it more accessible to the average reader, until the present publisher rescued it from further inattention.
The surreal world of publishing books in translation in the US ... whereby it should be noted that this title still hasn't come out in a US edition (i.e. isn't readily available in the US (or, for that matter, UK) market).
But then, according the Translation Database at Publishers Weekly, not a single translation of a work of fiction from Hindi was published in the US in all of 2019.
(Indeed, the entire period covered by the Translation Database unearths all of six translations of works of fiction from Hindi for the entire period it covers -- 2008 through 2020 .....)
Of course, what I'd really like to see now is his This Is Not That Dawn, which got a lot of attention (in India) when the English translation came out; see the Penguin India publicity page.
But it's surprisingly hard to come about in the US .....
At hlo they collect "the twelve most important books from 2019" in Hungary, in Best Books of 2019 -- all in Hungarian, but some familiar names (Krasznahorkai !) and some really good sounding books; hopefully some will be available in English soon.
At Eurozine they reprint Maciej Urbanowski's Osteuropa article, an extensive look at: "Rightwing literature in Poland after 1989", Conservative revolution
Disturbing if fascinating; I wonder whether we'll see any of these in translation.
The (American) National Endowment for the Arts has announced its latest batch of grants -- 1,187 grants, for $27.3 million, including 53 'Literary Arts' grants worth $1,150,000; see also the full list (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of grants.
They've announced the 2020 winners of the federal Swiss literary prizes, including the two career/author prizes, with Sibylle Berg winning the Grand Prix suisse de littérature and translator(-from-the-German-(and-Russian-)to-French) Marion Graf winning the 'special translation prize'; seven books also received prizes.
Berg has had quite a past year, also winning the (limited to German-language books) Swiss Book Prize for GRM (see the Kiepenheuer & Witsch foreign rights page; I really should get my hands on this one), while her play, Hass-Triptychon -- Wege aus der Krisewon the Nestroy Prize (see also the Rowohlt publicity page).
Graf has translated Robert Walser, Markus Werner, Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, Anna Akhmatova, and Boris Pasternak, among others.
Berg and Graf will each get CHF 40,000, while each of the book-winners get 25,000; they all pick up their prizes at the official ceremony, on 13 February.
The 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Samuel Beckett.
Fifty years after the fact they open the archives regarding deliberations, and so they've now opened those for 1969; usually this gets some press coverage, but it's been very quiet this year.
Kaj Schueler had quick coverage in Svenska Dagbladet -- but his report is behind a paywall; at least one can glean that it was ultimately apparently between Beckett and André Malraux.
At least the list of nominees (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) is now available.
There were 103 names nominated, including 28 first-time nominees (marked with an "x"); among them were future laureates Elias Canetti and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, as well as Edward Albee, Louis Guilloux, Tawfiq al-Hakim, Inoue Yasushi, Arthur Miller, Robert Pinget, Anthony Powell, Raymond Queneau, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Nathalie Sarraute.
Quite a few future laureates were also nominated -- as were worthy authors that never won, including Jorge Luis Borges, Nabokov, and Tarjei Vesaas.
The (American) National Book Critics Circle has announced the finalists for its awards in their six categories: autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, non, and poetry.
I have read (sigh: seen) none of these.
The winners will be announced 12 March.
I recently reached 4500 books under review at the complete review, so it's time for another overview of the past 100 reviewed titles (4401 through 4500) -- somewhat confusingly coming almost right after the more comprehensive year in numbers overview covering all of 2019 (and twice as many reviews).
- The last 100 reviews were posted over 188 days -- slightly longer than the previous 100 (162 days), and totaling 131,184 (last 100: 138,605 words).
The longest review was 4519 words, and eight reviews were over 2000 words long.
Reviewed books had a total of 25,743 pages, slightly above the previous 25,858, making for a pages-per-day rate of 137.54 (down from the previous 156.8).
- Reviewed books were originally written in 30 different languages (including English); English led the way, with 22 titles, followed closely by French (21), and then Japanese (9), German (8), and Spanish (7).
Two new language was added -- Faroese and Latvian -- bringing the total number of languages covered to an impressive 80.
More impressively, there are now 37 languages from which at least ten books have been reviewed (one-offs are something, but by the time ten titles are reviewed, that begins to amount to meaningful coverage, I think).
(See also the updated full breakdown of all the languages books under review were originally written in.)
- Reviewed books were by authors from around 42 countries (previous 100: 36) -- 'around' because it's not always clear what 'country' a particular place (from a particular era) should be counted as --, France leading the way with 17, followed by Japan and the UK (9 each).
- Male-written books were, yet again, overwhelmingly dominant, with 82 of the reviewed books written by men (just better than the historic sexist average of written-by-women titles under review of now ... 16.22 per cent).
- One book was rated A -- Welcome to America, by Linda Boström Knausgård, and 8 were rated A-; B was the most common grade (52), while one title got a B-.
- Fiction dominated, as it always does, with 83 titles that were novels/novellas/stories.
The best efforts to find a successor to the hugely successful African Writers Series have so far failed to bear fruit while the indigenisation of the book trade has seen the neglect of the African writer of fiction, with local publishers preferring the financial safety of educational publishing.
Quite a few AWS titles are under review at the complete review; note, however, that books from a lot of present-day African publishers are readily available through the invaluable African Books Collective.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hermann Burger's Lokalbericht -- his first novel, from 1970, but only published posthumously, in 2016.
The whole book is also available, in exemplary form, online.
Only a smattering of Burger is available in English -- e.g. -- but his Brenner is forthcoming from Archipelago Books in Adrian Nathan West's translation; for now, see the Nagel & Kimche publicity page.
They've announced the shortlists for this year's The Hindu Prize, a leading Indian literary prize; among the fiction finalists is Upamanyu Chatterjee's collection of stories, The Assassination of Indira Gandhi; see also the Speaking Tiger publicity page.
The winners will be announced in April.
The five finalists for this year's RBC Taylor Prize, the Canadian prize whose mandate is: "to enhance public appreciation for the genre known as literary non-fiction", have been announced.
The winner will be announced on 2 March; it is the final time the prize will be awarded.
The Romain Rolland Book Prize is awarded by the French Institute of India for the best translation from the French into an Indian language, and they've now announced this year's finalists; see the ... Instagram post.
The finalists are three Astérix-volumes translated into Hindi, the Bengali traslation of Leïla Slimani's Chanson Douce, the Tamil translation of Hubert Haddad's Corps désirable, and a Malayalam translation of a Simone de Beauvoir.
The winner will be announced at the at Zee Jaipur Literature Festival on 23 January.
Most of the winners of the Society of Authors' Translation Prizes will only be announced at the ceremony 12 February, but they have now announced the winner of this year's Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation and it is Leri Price for her translation of Death is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa; see also the Farrar, Straus and Giroux publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Neither, however, includes the second volume of Peter Weiss' The Aesthetics of Resistance, coming from Duke University Presss (fifteen years after the first volume was published in translation; there's still one more to go) -- surely one of the highlights of the year.
Latvian Literature export platform “Latvian Literature” spent 138 829 euros in 2019 translating and publishing 29 works of Latvian literature abroad
The 29 works were translated into 25 different languages.
I only finally got around to reviewing a work translated from the Latvian last year -- an Albert Bels novel -- and I'm very much looking forward to another Bels title, his Insomnia, forthcoming from Parthian Books.
They've announced the judges for the 2020 Booker Prize: Margaret Busby (chair), Lee Child, Sameer Rahim, Lemn Sissay, and Emily Wilson.
I wonder if Child will get them to confirm whether or not his publishers ever submitted any of his novels for the prize (though I think we all know the answer to that one ...).
(Outrageously, like many literary prizes, they don't reveal the titles that are actually considered for the prize.)
The longlist will be announced in July; the shortlist in September; and the winner 27 October.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Célia Houdart's 2011 novel, Quarry, now (just about) out in English from Dalkey Archive Press.
An impressive command here -- definitely an author I'd like to see more from.
(I hadn't seen any of her work previously; will definitely be keeping an eye out now; Villa Crimée (see the P.O.L. publicity page), for example, definitely sounds of interest.)
The Whitbread Costa Book Awards have announced the winners in the prize's five categories -- first novel, novel, biography, poetry and children's book --; these five titles are now in the running for the final Costa Book Award, to be announced 28 January.
One of the category winners -- best novel -- is under review at the complete review: Jonathan Coe's Middle England.
Vernon Subutex-author Virginie Despentes has resigned from the prix Goncourt-deciding Académie Goncourt -- though not for any scandalous reason: her official statement (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) explains that she needs/wants more time to write, and that she's relocating to Barcelona, which makes regular attendance in Paris more of an imposition.
For a while it was e-books that were the fastest growing sector in publishing, but now its audiobooks that are hot, and at the BBC site Clare Thorp reports on Audiobooks: The rise and rise of the books you don't read.
Impressive, what's now on offer -- including how fancy some of the productions have become -- but I'm afraid they fall on deaf ears as far as my reading-habits go; I remain devoted to text, plain and simple.
(Similarly, I still have never managed to listen to an online podcast; I'm no great video fan either.)
The Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S. has an impressive overview of French Books in the U.S. - The 2020 Edition, covering all genres, complete with a full list (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of all the titles.
Among the interesting notes, too:
In 2020, 117 fiction books, a majority of which were released in France over the last 3 years, will be published in the United States.
In contrast, in 2019 and 2018, over half of the translated publications dated back 5 and 10 years, respectively.
And it's (somewhat) surprising that only:
32% of the fiction books to be published in 2020 were written by women, a similar proportion to last year.
Beyond 117 fiction books, they report that 140 non-fiction books are scheduled, and 112 graphic novels.
The German magazine Comics has released their Comic-Bestenliste - 2019, with 30 critics voting on the top 20 comics published in Germany in 2019.
The top-ranked comic that originally appeared in English -- a Posy Simmonds -- only clocks in at sixth; overall it's an impressively international selection.
The erotic index was the most popular in 2018, but it plunged to fourth in 2019; surprisingly, the index to Indian literature fell all the way out of the top 10.
I received 437 review copies in 2019, a considerable (and very welcome) increase from the 384 received the previous year and the most since 2016.
The leading providers of review copies were mostly the usual suspects, with a particularly strong showing from university presses; Harvard University Press was propelled to the top spot in large measure by their various excellent bilingual classical series, beating out last year's leader New York Review Books, even though I received considerably more NYR titles in 2019 than 2018 (30, versus 23).
Big-five imprints contributed a fairly small number of titles -- though it was good to finally receive at least a decent selection of Pengun Classics (even if a considerable percentage were Simenons ...); World Editions was also a basically new source.
The top ten providers of review copies in 2019 were:
1. Harvard University Press (40)
2. New York Review Books (30)
3. Other Press (25)
4. Penguin Classics (19)
5. Oxford University Press (16)
6. Columbia University Press (14)
-. New Directions (14)
-. World Editions (14)
-. Yale University Press (14)
10. Dalkey Archive Press (13)
As of 31 December 2019 I had reviewed 102 of the titles acquired this way (i.e. not including library or bought books, etc.) --: 23.34% of all review copies received over the course of the year, and accounting for 48.80% of all titles reviewed.
(Amazingly, this is almost the exact number of 2018 review-copies reviewed by year's end in 2018, when it was 101.)
(Obviously, a considerable number of titles are only reviewed the year (or years ...) after they've been received/acquired -- I've already reviewed three more 2019 review-copies in 2020, for example, while 25 review-copies received in 2018 were reviewed in 2019.)
Books originally written in 45 languages (up slightly from 44 in 2018) were reviewed.
It's particularly nice to see that a significant number of languages weren't simply one-offs: more than one book in each of 21 languages was reviewed -- though there was also a particularly good showing for titles in English this year.
The top ten languages were:
1. English 46 (22.01% of all books) (2018: 35)
2. French 39 (2018: 37)
3. German 20.5 (17)
4. Japanese 18 (22)
5. Spanish 12 (13)
6. Dutch 7
7. Korean 5
-. Russian 5
9. Norwegian 4
10. Italian 3.5
Counting countries is a bit less useful, since they change (and occasionally disappear) over the decades and centuries, but books by authors from more or less 59 countries (or rather: 59 more or less countries) were reviewed (2018: 54), the top ten being:
1. France 30 (2018: 28)
2. UK 22 (13)
3. Japan 18 (22)
4. US 13
5. Germany 12
6. India 9
7. Austria 8
8. Belgium 7
9. Italy 5
-. Netherlands 5
Fiction was, as always, dominant: 163 of the reviews were of novels, along with reviews of three novellas and eight story-collections.
Eighteen works were of general non-fiction, along with six poetry collections and (disappointingly only) two dramas.
Recent publications again dominated, with 18 works originally published (in the language they were written in, not the English translation) in 2019, the scecond highest total for any year, behind 2017 (19).
Yet again, the 1980s were a (relatively) unpopular decade, while there was a big jump in titles from the 1960s (from 10 to 20):
Seven titles from the nineteenth century were reviewed, as well as seven from earlier than that -- slight increases in both categories.
The ratio of male-to-female authors was not good, but it was several points above the terrible historical average, with 22.01% of titles by women (46).
No title was graded 'A+' in 2019, but two were graded 'A':
As in 2018, the lowest grade was a 'C', and again it was only awarded to one title, Johanna Sinisalo's Renaten tarina.
Books reviewed ranged in length from 70 to 1582 pages (2018: 33/1152).
Only ten titles were over 500 pages long (2018: 16), and only nine were less than 100 pages long (2018: 15); while five were under 50 pages long in 2018, none were in 2019.
The total number of pages reviewed was down slightly, to 54,185 (compared to 56,101 in 2018), but the average reviewed book came in slightly longer, at 259.26 pages. the median -- 228 -- was also up from 2018 (220).
The length of the average review again increased significantly, to 1352 words (2018: 1167.76 words), and the reviews posted in 2019 totaled 282,561 words, almost 30,000 more than in 2018 (253,405).
The longest review was 6501 words long, two more were over 4000 words, and seventeen more over 2000; only one was under 500 words.
The median review was 1213 words long, up from 1063 in 2018.
Disappointingly, site traffic as a whole continued to decline: the number of visitors was down 10.00% compared to 2018, while page-views were down 6.73%.
At least there was a significant increase in traffic from a variety of countries, notably in eastern Asia -- traffic from China was up 56.75% (pushing it to 13th place, up from 24th in 2018) and from Japan it was up 24.98% (pushing it to 16th place, up from 22nd in 2018).
There were visitors from 221 countries and territories in 2019 (2018: 220).
The countries from which the most traffic came were:
United States (34.49%; 2018: 33.17%;)
United Kingdom (7.55%)
The top ten nations remained unchanged, with only the Netherlands and South Africa switching positions.
Visitors to the site still overwhelmingly reach it via search-queries -- and Google search queries at that (Bing, DuckDuckGo, and anything else are barely a trickle compared to the Google flood) -- while outside site-referrals continue to depressingly barely rate a mention.
Only two titles shifted double-digit amounts of copies purchased by users via the Amazon.com links on the review-pages -- The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor by Cameron McCabe and Waves by Eduard von Keyserling.
As usual, I am disappointed by the many books I didn't get to, and that I didn't cover an even greater variety of titles (language, genre, period), but overall I think it was a pretty decent selection.
And there's always next (this) year .....
Livres Hebdo/GFK have determined the top twenty bestselling titles in France over the past decade; the article reporting on this is (largely) paywalled, but you can actually find and click through all twenty titles in the 'Livres cités (20)'-column on the left side of the piece .....
The top seller was Stéphane Hessel's Time for Outrage !, followed by quite a few Asterix-comics (four of the next five titles).
Impressively, Elena Ferrante (just) beat out E.L.James (though with four titles in the top 20, her series as a whole did better) -- and Camus' The Stranger came in a strong eleventh.
Two other titles are under review at the complete review: The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker (17th) and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (18th).
No actual sales numbers, however .....