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16 September 2014 - Tuesday

New issue of the Quarterly Conversation | Marian Schwartz profile
Ready to Burst review

       New issue of the Quarterly Conversation

       Issue 37 - Fall 2014 of the Quarterly Conversation is now available, with the usual variety of interesting literature under discussion -- well worth setting aside some time for.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Marian Schwartz profile

       Marian Schwartz was recently awarded one of the 2014 Read Russia Prizes, for her translation of Leonid Yuzefovich's "postmodern whodunit" Harlequin's Costume, and at Russia Beyond the Headlines Phoebe Taplin profiles her.
       Among the interesting bits:
"Having translated about 70 books over the last 35-plus years, fewer than five of them, probably, have been at my initiative," she told the Moscow audience for the Read Russia Award Presentations. "I found, appreciated, and translated Harlequin's Costume on spec, convinced that it would find a publisher eventually."

In the end, the book was finished only with help from a grant, and it was several years before Glagoslav published it in 2013.
       I haven't seen this one yet; it'll be interesting to see whether the trilogy now gets picked up by a larger publisher and takes off (maybe not, to judge by the post-award Amazon-sales-ranks -- still in the 1,000,000 vicinity at both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk ...). See the Glagoslav publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Ready to Burst review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Frankétienne's Ready to Burst, finally translated into English, by Kaiama L. Glover, and published by Archipelago Books.

       Though not much of his work has been made readily available in English, he remains quite well known -- see, for example, The New York Times' profile from a couple of years ago (which unconscionably puts a possessive apostrophe into his mouth where none belongs: "He admires James Joyce, and it shows. "Finnegan's Wake was like a crazy book, just like I write crazy books," he said."). He's also coming to New York to launch Ready to Burst, and will be at this weekend's Brooklyn Book Festival -- on a panel that includes high-wire man Philippe Petit and Geek Sublime-author Vikram Chandra.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



15 September 2014 - Monday

Korean literature abroad | Juja review

       Korean literature abroad

       After the apparent success of Shin Kyung-sook's Please Look After Mom abroad the Koreans are apparently busy, as Kwon Mee-yoo reports in The Korea Times, Looking for next Shin Kyung-sook.
       Kim Ae-ran is one hopeful -- though her success has been in other languages, not English -- while: "earlier Korean writers, such as Yi Mun-yol [Our Twisted Hero, etc.] and Hwang Sok-yong [The Guest]" are (regrettably) being written off as producing less: "universal themes in lively style" .....
       And:
The LTI said that in addition to Kim, Park Min-kyu and Kim Young-ha were also drawing attention from translators interested in Korean literature.
       Dalkey Archive Press' Library of Korean Literature is leading the Korean-charge into English, and among their upcoming offerings is Park's Pavane For a Dead Princess (see their publicity page), which I should be getting to soon.
       Kim Young-ha has done quite well in English -- I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, etc. -- though I'm not entirely reassured by the claim that: "More than 40 of her works have been translated and published overseas" (as Kim is a dude).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Juja review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nino Haratischwili's Juja.
       This 2010 novel was her debut -- and it was longlisted for the German Book Prize; she's been getting a lot of attention for her Das achte Leben (Für Brilka), her just-released 1200+ pager that (somewhat controversially) missed this year's German Book Prize longlist cut. (I have a copy and warmed myself up for it with Juja.)
       Interesting sidenote: Georgia-born Haratischwili writes in German under this name -- but literary agent Rachel Gratzfeld lists her (in English) transliterated as Nino Kharatishvili (note, however, the URL-spelling ...).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



14 September 2014 - Sunday

Murakami Haruki profile | International Congress of Translators
Per Olov Enquists Pris | Singapore Literature Prize shortlists

       Murakami Haruki profile

       In The Guardian Steven Poole profiles Haruki Murakami: 'I'm an outcast of the Japanese literary world. Critics, writers, many of them don't like me'. (I sort of get that pretty much every author likes to portray/sell him/herself as an 'outsider' who doesn't fit in the 'establishment', but surely Murakami is about as 'outcast' (in Japan or anywhere) as poor misunderstood Jonathan Franzen is in the US -- i.e. not in the remotest possible way (except in the eyes and hurt feelings of the ultra-, super-sensitive author's own beyond-deluded mind). Get a grip, Haruki -- for foreign purposes, you are the "Japanese literary world" (which no doubt rubs some of your compatriots the wrong way), and as to being: "Always the duckling, never the swan" ... come on.)
       Great to hear that he's a fan of:
Norwegian novelist Dag Solstad, whom he is currently translating into Japanese from English ("He's a kind of surrealistic writer, very strange novels. I think that's serious literature").
       A bit disappointing that the Japanese will only get the great Solstad's work second-hand (as opposed to translated directly from the Norwegian) -- but the Murakami-imprimatur will likely get him a larger audience than he otherwise would find. The book in question is apparently Solstad's Professor Andersen's Night.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       International Congress of Translators

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines they report on the III. Международный конгресс переводчиков художественной литературы -- the recently held Third International Congress of Translators -- in A labor of love or a science ? Experts gather in Moscow to discuss translation

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Per Olov Enquists Pris

       Since 2005 (Juli Zeh) they've awarded the Per Olov Enquists Pris annually at the Göteborg Book Fair, and this year Dorthe Nors tilldelas årets PO Enquist-pris, as the Karate Chop-author will get the prize.
       A solid list of previous winners -- but nothing close to the master, Per Olov Enquist, himself.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Singapore Literature Prize shortlists

       They had some issues with the judges this year at the Singapore Literature Prize -- several withdrawing over the controversy surrounding the National Library Board withdrawing and pulping three children's books from their collection -- but they've now announced the shortlists for the 2014 prize. Admirably, they have multiple language categories -- English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



13 September 2014 - Saturday

Approving books in ... the Maldives
'100 Best Novels, in Translation, Since 1900' ?
AKO Literatuurprijs longlist | The Meteor Hunt review

       Approving books in ... the Maldives

       You'd figure they might have more pressing concerns in the Maldives -- the 1000+ island nation of barely 350,000 is infamously the lowest-lying in the world, and likely to go under as sea levels rise ... soon -- but, no: as Ahmed Naish reports in Minivan News: New regulations mandate government approval before publishing literature, as they've gone for Iranian-style control of what gets published, as:
New regulations enacted yesterday will subject the publication of prose and poetry in the Maldives to government approval.
       On the one hand, it's good to hear that there's a vibrant enough publishing industry locally to necessitate such a law (though I couldn't find any data on how much is actually published annually). Still, never good to hear 'explanations' such as:
The stated purpose of the 'Regulations on approving literature published in the Maldives' (Dhivehi) is "that literature published or made public in the Maldives fit Maldivian laws and regulations as well as societal norms".

The rules are aimed at "reducing adverse effects on society that could be caused by published literature."
       I'm curious what those adverse effects are -- why no examples ?
       So approval must be sought from the National Bureau of Classification -- scroll down for some examples of 'latest approved books' (and note a disconnect between the depicted book-covers and the descriptions of the approved books if you click on them).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       '100 Best Novels, in Translation, Since 1900' ?

       Ah, the irresistible lure of the list -- and novels in translation since 1900 ? Sounds promising.
       It's Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn who offer up their personal (and ranked) 100 Best Novels, in Translation, Since 1900 at CounterPunch. A couple of odd limitations here: they: "limited each writer to one entry" (apparently because: "otherwise, novels by Georges Simenon and Roberto Bolaño might have dominated the list") -- and they each had: "unlimited preemptory challenges to be invoked against writers we hated. Thus no: Gunter Grass or Michel Houellebecq."
       There are a few slips -- misattributed languages, misspelled names ('Steig Larsson') -- and it's an odd mix of greatest-hits and very personal choices; still, one could do (much) worse.
       I've read a whole lot of these (I didn't count, but probably haven't missed more than a dozen or so) -- though most of them (classics, by and large) long before I started the site, so the number under review at the complete review is considerably smaller. Those would be:        I still have a lot more books to read before I'd venture to list my top-100; several of these would likely make it -- and several would definitely not.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       AKO Literatuurprijs longlist

       They've announced the 25-title strong longlist for the AKO Literatuurprijs, one of the leading Dutch literary prizes.
       Among the books in the running: ones by authors with (other) titles under review at the complete review: Maarten Asscher (2 titles, including Julia en het balkon), Arnon Grunberg (11 titles, including Tirza), and Peter Terrin (The Guard).
       At NRC Boeken they have short quotes from their (Dutch) coverage of each longlisted title, in Wat schreef NRC over de genomineerden ?
       And the only title I see coming that will be available in English soon is the Maarten Asscher, from new publisher Four Winds Press, Apples & Oranges; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       The Meteor Hunt review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jules Verne's The Meteor Hunt, the University of Nebraska Press 2006 edition that restored the text to Verne's original (more or less), as opposed to the widely circulated Michel Verne-edited/manhandled version.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



12 September 2014 - Friday

Gogol exhibit | Translating The Poetic Edda (again)

       Gogol exhibit

       In The Moscow Times Kit Rees reports on an art installation at the Gogol House Museum, in Gogol Lives Again in New Wing of House.
       The exhibit is called #АВТОРЖЖЕТ and looks pretty neat; certainly a welcome effort to push audiences to engage with an author in additional ways. (Yes, my preferred method of engagement is to actually read the author's work, but if you're going to go visit an author's home or museum you're probably expecting something more than just the words.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Translating The Poetic Edda (again)

       At the OUPblog Carolyne Larrington writes about "Young girl, I declare you are not like most men": retranslating The Poetic Edda, as she got a chance to revisit her translation, first published in 1996, for a second edition -- now out; see the Oxford University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       Borges would, no doubt, have been intrigued.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



11 September 2014 - Thursday

German Book Prize shortlist | Jill Schoolman Q & A
New issue of The Manila Review | The Alp review

       German Book Prize shortlist

       The day after they announced the six-title shortlist for this year's Man Booker Prize for Fiction they announced the six-title shortlist for this year's imitation-Man Booker German Book Prize.
       At DeutscheWelle Silke Bartlick offers brief descriptions of the six titles, in German Book Prize announces short list, and "English translations of excerpts from the six titles on the shortlist, along with English-language dossiers for each title" will apparently be made available at New Books in German, "Starting at the end of September".
       The winner will be announced 6 October.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Jill Schoolman Q & A

       At Bomb Bibi Deitz has a Q & A with Archipelago Books' Jill Schoolman
       Among the reveals: alternate names considered for the publisher: Ship of Fools and Terra Incognita.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       New issue of The Manila Review

       Issue 5 of The Manila Review is now available online.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       The Alp review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Arno Camenisch's The Alp -- the first in a trilogy, published by Dalkey Archive Press.
       This was originally written in German and Romansh (Rhaeto-Romanic) -- which is a bit hard to convey in translation. Still, a pretty neat literary take on a particular slice of contemporary Swiss life.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



10 September 2014 - Wednesday

Boom ? Bust ? Literature in translation ! | Man Booker shortlist

       Boom ? Bust ? Literature in translation !

       A few weeks ago Dalya Alberge wrote in The Observer how, supposedly, British readers lost in translations as foreign literature sales boom -- a piece I found ... a bit problematic; at MobyLives Sal Robinson also wondered about the treatment of the subject, in Do books in translation sell ? A chestnut considered. Now comes Hephzibah Anderson at BBC Culture, wondering Why won't English speakers read books in translation ?
       Unfortunately, this article too focuses on the fairly arbitrary/pointless/random pseudo-statistic that always seems to haunt this discussion (and drives me nuts): that three, or two, or some fairly small per cent of published-in-English fiction is fiction-in-translation. (For some discussion of this issue, see my taking issue with Literature Across Frontiers' (woeful) last attempt to determine a percentage .....) And so we also get stuff like:
Professor Edwin Gentzler, director of the Translation Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, sees ample reason for optimism regarding the health of translation in English-speaking countries, despite those damning stats.

English-language publishers bring out so many books between them that three per cent is a hefty number -- far heftier than Slovenia's 70%, he says. Moreover, the statistics often overlook small independent presses like Dalkey Archive and Open Letter, as well as specialists like Mage, an American press that publishes translations exclusively from Persian.
       First off: seriously ? You want to compare translation into Slovenian -- "the first language of about 1.85 million people" as Wikipedia (probably reasonably) suggests -- with translation into English ? Seriously ?
       Okay, I'll humor you. Let's go there. In 2013 the official numbers have a mere 5,084 books published in Slovenia (US: 304,912 traditionally published titles) -- of which 1571 were translations -- 30.9%. The more interesting sub-set of numbers: 1,189 works of literature were published, of which 606 were translations: 50.97%. (I have no idea where Anderson and Gentzler got the 70% number from -- but pulling numbers/percentages out of thin is air is par for the course for discussions of this subject matter .....).
       Here's where it gets embarrassing: the Three Percent translation database (warning ! dreaded ... xls format !), of new translations published/distributed in 2013 in the US currently lists 524 literary works in translation (novels, stories, anthologies, and poetry). Meanwhile, taking out the translated dramas (not on the Translation Database -- but only amounting to four anyway), 602 literary works in translation were published in Slovenian in 2013.
       Okay, the US total would be slightly higher if re-translations were included (they're excluded from the Translation Database, but are included in the Slovenian numbers); new ("re-editions") of all published titles in Slovenia made up just under 15% of all publications; if that total holds true across literary translation too (and presumably it's somewhere close to that), Slovenian production would be almost exactly the same as US production.
       "English-language publishers bring out so many books [...] a hefty number -- far heftier than Slovenia's 70%" ? you say. I say: you don't know what you're talking about. Combine US and UK (and Irish and Indian and whatnot) totals (i.e. English-language publishers worldwide), yes, it's surely considerably (well, at least a bit ...) bigger -- but it looks like Slovenia, a country with a population the same as ... Houston, publishes about the same total number of titles of literature in translation as the US does.
       So, before you go spouting numbers (and choose to rely on (nonsense -- like 'three percent' (and, apparently 70%, which would have Slovenia publishing far more translations than the US)) statistics), maybe take a closer look at the available figures .....

       Beyond that, to get back to the Gentzler-quote above -- if you still want to bother -- nobody ever, ever forgets Dalkey when compiling these statistics, since year in and year out (for quite some time now) Dalkey is one of the leading publishers of literature in translation in the US. Like far and away leaders -- 9.56% in 2013, and 8% (!) of the fiction totals on this year's (admittedly still incomplete) translation database at Three Percent, which currently lists 384 published/distributed-for-the-first-time-in-the-US translations, the leading publishers being (with the number of titles in translation they're publishing):
  • 1. Dalkey Archive 31
  • 2. Europa Editions 18
  • -. Gallic Books 18
  • 4. AmazonCrossing 17
  • 5. Seagull Books 16
  • 6. Other Press 15
  • 7. Atria 9
  • 8. American University at Cairo 8
  • -. Farrar, Straus & Giroux 8
  • -. Melville House 8
  • -. Minotaur 8
  • -. Open Letter 8
       (I note also that three of the top twelve are not even US-based (Gallic, Seagull, AUC Press).)
       As to Mage -- much as I appreciate what they and many similar niche publishers are doing, they're not padding the statistics: their literary output is limited, to say the least (something every couple of years recently).
       And, yes, there's wonderful stuff being done by magazines, websites, independent publishers, etc. etc. -- but, I fear, much is still at the fringes.

       Enough for today (my head hurts from bashing it against the wall so often in frustration and annoyance ...) -- that's enough to chew on for now, isn't it? But I wish the level of argument were at a higher/more substantive level (like using/citing actual data -- published numbers, sales totals, etc.). Why always so anecdotal ? (whereby I include 'three percent' and the like as anecdotal, since no one ever seems to manage to offer supporting evidence for that claim). Why always so wrong ?

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Man Booker shortlist

       They've announced the six-title shortlist for this year's Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
       This is the first year that they waived the citizenship requirement (previously: Commonwealth plus Zimbabwe and Republic of Ireland), but they managed to avoid getting completely swamped (as they feared might happen) by US writers -- though two did make the cut. Meanwhile, half of the books -- The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee, J by Howard Jacobson, and How to be Both by Ali Smith (which, coincidentally (?) are the three I'd want to read) have not yet been published stateside.
       For some UK coverage, see:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



9 September 2014 - Tuesday

Future Library | Ananthamurthy as translator
The Leavenworth Case review

       Future Library

       This has gotten a lot of press already, but this Future Library is a project with some decent potential.
       As they describe the concept:
A thousand trees have been planted in Nordmarka, a forest just outside Oslo, which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed in one hundred years time. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished, until 2114. Tending the forest and ensuring its preservation for the 100-year duration of the artwork finds a conceptual counterpoint in the invitation extended to each writer: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future.
       It's Katie Paterson's idea/project, and with Margaret Atwood the first to contribute a volume ... well, that's helped garner lots and lots of media attention; the most thorough overview so far appears to be Alison Flood's Margaret Atwood's new work will remain unseen for a century in The Guardian.
       It's a creative spin on the usual time-capsule idea -- with the possible drawback that, over a century, things can go wrong. Very wrong. (Personally, I think the forest is the weak spot -- though financing, even in (currently) ultra-wealth Norway had got to be a concern.)
       Fascinating from an author-perspective, however: how do you write for an audience that will only read your book x years from now ? (I fear the temptation will be not so much towards guessing-the-future but rather retreating to the pseudo-safety of the old-familiar -- Norse or Biblical myth, or stuff like that.)
       Atwood is, of course, a nice name to start with; I hope they can continue to get a similar caliber of writer, year in and year out (but preferably not all English-writing and 'Western' ...).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Ananthamurthy as translator

       As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago (and as no major US/UK media outlet appears yet to have realized ...), leading Indian author U.R.Ananthamurthy has passed away; among the many interesting pieces about him in the Indian press, Bageshree S. now writes in The Hindu on The writer as translator, as Ananthamurty translated works by:
W.B. Yeats, Bertolt Brecht, Rainer Maria Rilke, Edwin Muir or the teachings of Lao Tzu to Kannada.
       As I frequently note, I think translation is a great exercise for writers; I'm not surprised Ananthamurthy took this, too, seriously.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       The Leavenworth Case review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Anna Katharine Green's 1878 The Leavenworth Case.
       Hey, it's been published in a Penguin Classics edition .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



8 September 2014 - Monday

Pushkin Prize: declined | Translation prizes, open for submission

       Pushkin Prize: declined

       As, for example, The Moscow Times reports, Blaming Putin's Behavior, Dutch Literary Translator Refuses Pushkin Medal as Hans Boland (the name misspelled in this article) has declined the prestigious Медаль Пушкина, specifically because of the "threat to freedom and peace on our planet," that Vladimir Putin represents -- the man who would have pinned the medal on him at the November ceremony.
       It'll be interesting to see whether other cultural or academic figures take similar stands in the coming months. The translators honored with the Read Russia prizes didn't when they got them last week -- see, for example, the report Прочитали Россию in Российская газета (since there's nothing at the official site yet, last I checked ...). (Lizok's Bookshelf has the winners in English in a comment in her post -- and will presumably follow up with a longer report/discussion in the days to come.)

       (Updated - 12 September): See now also The Moscow Times report by Nataliya Bokareva, Ukraine Crisis Intrudes Into Translators Congress.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Translation prizes, open for submission

       A reminder, especially to publishers, about submitting titles for two of the major fiction-translation prizes in the UK and US:

       - In the UK you only have (only !) until 16 September to submit titles for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015 -- so if you haven't yet, do so now.
       Eligibility requirements of note:
  • Published in the UK during the calendar year 2014
  • First UK publication of the work in question
  • "E-books are eligible, but must be submitted in print form (10 copies)"
  • The author must be living (the translator, however, is free to be dead)

       - In the US you still have lots of time to submit titles for the Best Translated Book Award (officially until 31 December ...) but, as one of the judges, I can tell you it is appreciated if we get the books sooner, rather than later (and so thanks especially to those publishers who have already sent in their titles -- much appreciated !). Details as to where to send submissions can be found, for example, here
       Eligibility requirements of note (and note that some of these differ from the IFFP's criteria):
  • Published or distributed in the US during the calendar year 2014
  • First US publication of the work in question (meaning also: absolutely no new translations of previously translated works)
  • E-book submissions are fine
  • Author, translator, anybody and everybody associated with the book can be deceased
       (Note also that while the IFFP will only consider submitted titles, the BTBA tries its hardest to consider all eligible titles, even those publishers don't bother/want to submit -- but obviously it doesn't hurt a book's chances if a publisher ensures the judges get copies .....)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



7 September 2014 - Sunday

Wetlands - the movie | A Little Lumpen Novelita review

       Wetlands - the movie

       So they've finally released the film version of Charlotte Roche's ... remarkable novel, Wetlands, in the US (on this, the post-Labor Day and as a result apparently perennially lowest box-office weekend of the year). (Oddly/interestingly, it hasn't been released in the UK, and I can't find any suggestion that they're anywhere close to doing so.)
       Early coverage didn't so much set the tone -- that was a given, I think -- but already made clear what folks might be getting themselves into: Germany's Latest Export Is Fifty Shades of Gross warned Rebecca Schuman at Slate; The Most WTF, NSFW Movie At This Year's Sundance Film Festival suggested Adam B. Vary at BuzzFeed .....
       Many of the reviews had similar headlines:        Other reviews can be found in:        Reactions seem much like they were for the book -- ewww, gross, but yeah, there's something winning to it. Carla Juri's performance, which apparently impressed greatly, clearly helped.
       {Personally, I think I'll pass. Graphic material in written form I can more or less handle; visually -- and blown up all out of proportion on a movie screen -- maybe not so much.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       A Little Lumpen Novelita review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Roberto Bolaño's A Little Lumpen Novelita, now available in English from New Directions.
       Yet another Bolaño ? Yes -- but it's not a posthumous one dug out of some drawer: it was published in 2002, when Bolaño was still alive. Why it took so long for it to appear in English is unclear, but at least it now has (or is about to) -- in a truly lovely-looking volume, by the way.
       Left until now, and padded to just over a hundred pages you might suspect it's minor stuff; you'd be wrong. Yes, it's a thin volume, physically, but it's a mature and substantial work, and well worthwhile for an audience far beyond just Bolaño-completists. The best work of fiction of his to appear in English since 2666, even, I'd say.

       (Bizarre sidenote -- and I'd avoid this until after reading the book, if I were you: there's a film version, Il Futuro (2013), directed by Alicia Scherson -- and featuring ... Rutger Hauer as Maciste. But if you must, you can get the DVD at Amazon.com)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



6 September 2014 - Saturday

Anna Karenina redux | Albertine, coming soon
South Asian literature in translation (not) in the US

       Anna Karenina redux

       A few years ago it was Don Quixote, more recently Madame Bovary; now Rosamund Bartlett asks -- apropos of her own new translation, forthcoming from Oxford University Press -- "Do we need another translation of Anna Karenina ?" in The Guardian, in Anna Karenina -- the devil in the details.
       Sure, the Pevear/Volokhonsky-(re-)translation is ... over a decade old (and she notes a more: "recent 2008 version", by Kyril Zinovieff and Jenny Hughes), so maybe it's time for a new one -- but what Bartlett fails to mention is that, (in the US) barely a week apart from her version, Yale University Press' The Margellos World Republic of Letters-series is bringing out Marian Schwartz's (re-)translation ..... (I'd also have a little more respect for Bartlett's if her own publisher weren't hedging their bets by continuing to offer the "acclaimed Louise and Alymer Maude translation" as an Oxford World's Classics ... (see their publicity page).)
       Obviously, Anna Karenina will sell more copies in English than probably somewhere north of 95% of all newly-translated titles published in the US or UK this year (that figure is a complete guess, but I feel pretty confident that it's a ballpark figure that would hold up), so you can understand publishers betting on this, just like they bet on other classics. Nevertheless .....
       For the Rosamund Bartlett translation: see the Oxford University Press publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       For the Marian Schwartz translation: see the Yale University Press publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Albertine, coming soon

       The Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York will be opening Albertine -- "a reading room and bookshop" -- 27 September; see also Albertine Books in French and English Will Open Its Doors on September 27.
       I can't imagine this as a functioning (i.e. breaking even) commercial enterprise, but -- living nearby -- am very pleased the French government is willing to blow so much money on something like this.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       South Asian literature in translation (not) in the US

       Mahmud Rahman has been exploring 'Why are so few South Asian translations published in the U.S.?' at the Asymptote weblog in some depth now -- see part iv -- but I now conclude that he and those he been speaking with (including me) are deluding themselves. The situation is near-hopeless, and certainly far worse than imagined
       Two weeks ago, on 22 August, U.R.Ananthamurthy passed away -- without question, one of the leading Indian writers of his time. But Ananthamurthy wrote in Kannada, and even though quite a few of his works were translated into English, and (nominally) available/distributed in the US/UK -- Oxford University Press published international editions of both Bharathipura and Samskara -- and even though he was a finalist for the 2013 Man Booker International Prize ... no one seems to have even noticed in the US/UK.
       None of the major (or, from what can I see, minor) publications -- The New York Times, The Guardian, etc. etc. -- have even so much mentioned his passing. (The 'major' UK mention seems to be Tim Parks' brief notice at the Man Booker site (i.e. something somewhere no one will ever stumble across it).) Whatever his stature in India (kinda towering ...), even that's not good enough to warrant timely coverage of his passing in the US/UK.
       It suggests Salman Rushdie knew exactly what he was doing when he put together his infamous The Vintage Book Of Indian Writing 1947-1997 -- infamous for restricting itself almost entirely to English-writing authors.
       US/UK audiences seem not at all ready for -- or the least bit interested in -- non-English writing from the sub-continent (or, indeed, much of the rest of that continent ...).
       Sigh.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



5 September 2014 - Friday

French prize-longlists | Even more Murakami !
Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalists
Janus Pannonius költészeti nagydíj
The Front Seat Passenger review

       French prize-longlists

       Literary-prize season heats up in France now, too, as the two biggest prizes announced their longlists this week: the prix Renaudot on Tuesday, the prix Goncourt yesterday.
       The Renaudot doesn't even seem to have any sort of official (or unofficial) web-presence, so see, for example, the longlist at BibliObs. (And note that the jurors include Nobel laureate J.-M. G. Le Clézio, Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, and Frédéric Beigbeder.)
       The Goncourt has a pretty sad website, but at least they do keep it up-to-date, and you can find the official longlist there.
       The big shock (apparently) is that neither prize-jury seemed to care much for Emmanuel Carrère's Le Royaume (much as I like his work I can't say I'm surprised -- this sounds like a tough sell; see the P.O.L. publicity page).
       Titles that doubled up -- made both longlists -- are:
  • L'Amour et les forêts by Eric Reinhardt
  • Charlotte by David Foenkinos
  • Constellation by Adrien Bosc
  • La Femme qui dit non by Gilles Martin-Chauffier
  • Meursault, contre-enquête by Kamel Daoud (now this sounds interesting; see the Actes Sud publicity page)
  • Pas pleurer by Lydie Salvayre (yes !)
  • Le Roi disait que j’étais le diable by Clara Dupont-Monod
       That's quite a few .....
       Also good to see: Amélie Nothomb's Pétronille made the first Renaudot cut.
       And remember that the Goncourt actually is a four-step prize: longest-list (announced yesterday), longlist (7 October), shortlist (October 28), winner (5 November).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Even more Murakami !

       Just a few days ago I mentioned that a new Murakami Haruki -- The Strange Library -- will be published later this year. Now comes word that, as Dianna Dilworth reports at GalleyCat, Haruki Murakami's First Two Novels Are Coming in New English Translation.
       As agent Curtis Brown confirms, a one-volume edition of Murakami's early novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973 -- long hard to find in Alfred Birnbaum's Kodansha-published translations -- will be published in new translations by Ted Goosen by Knopf (US) and Harvill Secker (UK) in the fall of 2015.
       No word why the Birnbaum translations aren't considered up to snuff any longer .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalists

       They've announced the 2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalists, in fiction and non.
       "The Prize celebrates the power of literature to promote peace, social justice, and global understanding"; the only one of these I've read is In the Night of Time by Antonio Muñoz Molina.
       See also the official press release (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       The winners (and runners-up) will be announced 24 September; they'll get their prizes (and cash -- $10,000 for the winners, $1,000 for the runners-up) at the gala ceremony on 9 November.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Janus Pannonius költészeti nagydíj

       PEN Hungary's Janus Pannonius költészeti nagydíj -- their big international poetry prize -- was awarded this year to both Adonis and Yves Bonnefoy (doubling down for credibility after the Lawrence Ferlinghetti debacle of two years ago ?); see the hlo report, report (since the PEN Hungary site isn't quite up to date ...).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       The Front Seat Passenger review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pascal Garnier's The Front Seat Passenger -- the fourth Garnier title Gallic Books has brought out in the US this year, with one more to come ..... (They're two ahead in the UK.)
       I've noted before that he's the author-discovery of the year for me, and this one more than the reaffirms my opinion -- damn good stuff. Nice to see Marilyn Stasio take a quick look (scroll down for review) at two of these in The New York Times Book Review a couple of weeks ago, but these should really be getting the essay-treatment some place like The New York Review of Books or Bookforum.

       A note also regarding the translation of the title of this one: The Front Seat Passenger may sound considerably more harmless than La place du mort, but, as suggested in my review, I think it works very well, and is the better option than the perhaps stronger English-approximation, 'Riding shotgun' (which would evoke rather the wrong idea); unfortunately, there's no equivalent English idiom for the 'death seat' next to a driver.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



4 September 2014 - Thursday

Nobel Prize odds speculation | Three Light-Years review

       Nobel Prize odds speculation

       Five weeks and counting, that seems the best bet as to when they'll announce this year's Nobel Prize in Literature; "The date will be set later" is the official stand (and will be until the week of the announcement), but with the rest of the Nobels to be announced starting 6 October, and the Thursday of that week conveniently left announcement-free (the literature prize is always announced on a Thursday in October), it's likely the Swedish Academy (the folks who decide who gets this thing) will be shooting for 9 October
       So: time to start speculating !
       First off, let's start with where we are in the process: Peter Englund (the Swedish Academy's Nobel point-man) revealed that they started out (in February) considering 210 authors for the prize this year. By April, the Academy's Nobel Committee had presumably whittled this down to the usual 20 or so names, and then before the lengthy summer break they had further cut this down to a list of five or so candidates, from which the winner will be chosen.
       The academicians were presumably busily reading the works of the (give or take) five finalists over the summer. But the actual deciding-on-a-winner hasn't happened yet: they've presumably started informal discussions, but they'll probably only manage to reach the final big decision towards the end of September. (If the announcement isn't scheduled for 9 October and delayed until the 16th (or 23rd ...) it likely means deliberations did not go well and, taking so much longer, that it was difficult for them to settle on a laureate.)
       So at this point we can -- sort of -- speculate about the identity of the finalists, but do little more than guess at who they'll settle on to actually get the prize.
       While the academicians do try to keep their reading secret, that can prove hard to do, and occasionally there are ... educated guesses as to who they've been reading up on over the summer. This is -- sometimes, possibly -- reflected in the changing odds of the betting shops who have a book on the Nobel. And so, for example, in The Guardian, Alison Flood reports that Ngugi wa Thiong'o tipped for 2014 Nobel prize in literature, based on the betting at Ladbrokes.
       Never mind that Ladbrokes actually have Murakami Haruki as the 5/1 favorite ..... But Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o's odds have improved: Ladbrokes have had a book open since just after last year's Nobel Prize announcement, and he started out at 33/1 and he is now down to 10/1 -- a significant leap. On the other hand, Philip Roth has moved from 50/1 to 16/1 ..... [I would also be slightly more reassured that any of this is to be taken in any way seriously if Ladbrokes managed to spell Ngũgĩ's name correctly: I can understand skipping the diacritical marks, but even then, it's not -- as they have it -- "Ngugi wa Thiog'o".]
       Is this in any way meaningful ? Since the changing odds are based on a: "run of bets originating in Sweden" it's worth paying a bit of attention. Ngũgĩ is an obvious Nobel-favorite, and there have been suggestions (many of them mine ...) he's been in the mix over the past couple of years; Roth is a more complicated case, but it seems distinctly possible that they decided to throw him into the final mix for one last hurrah (though with most of the bets on him apparently originating in the UK -- i.e. less likely to be well-/insider-informed -- his improved odds probably shouldn't be taken quite as seriously as Ngũgĩ's).
       People correctly note that it's a bit absurd to take these betting odds very seriously, but I suggest again they offer pretty damn good guidance. Yes, it's very unlikely that the betting favorite (at least until the last hours and minutes before the prize is announced, when leakage is more/most likely) takes the prize -- but for quite a while now the winner has always been one of the early favorites: Alice Munro was fifth-favorite when betting opened on last year's prize (at 12/1); Mo Yan was a 12/1 second-favorite already in late-August in 2012; Tomas Tranströmer was one of the favorites for all of 2011; etc. So it is a decent -- arguably even good -- bet that the winner this year comes from the currently favoured quintet of Murakami, Assia Djebar, Ngũgĩ, last year's hot bet (and likely finalist), Svetlana Alexievich (Aleksijevitj in the Swedish tranlsiteration), and ... Joyce Carol Oates. Okay, maybe not Oates (two English-writing North American woman in succession ? can't see it).
       The most significant caveat and note: the Ladbrokes list this year is disappointingly limited -- 29 names to bet on (and one of those is the ridiculous Bob Dylan ...), a big let-down from the usual 100+ names on offer. They'll probably add some, but this does reduce the value of the list as a whole
       The only other book I can find online is Paddy Power's -- with similar names/odds (but compare if you're going to wager !) including Murakami as betting favorite, and with Ngũgĩ (correctly spelled !) at 4/1. They have 28 choices -- but that includes J.K.Rowling, so .....

       I'll have more speculation in the coming weeks -- and I'll be following the odds, and their shifts, closely. Note also that there is on-going discussion/speculation at the World Literature Forum (the only messageboard where there seems to be much action, at this time). [Updated - 5 September: discussion has now also started up at the Fictional Woods.]

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Three Light-Years review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Andrea Canobbio's recent novel, Three Light-Years.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



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