What do you think are the factors hampering Nupe literature ?
First, the government's total negligence at all levels, little efforts from traditional institutions, gross negligence by the department of Nigerian languages of our higher institutions to explore other languages other than Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo; not teaching the language in the core language centres in Niger, Kogi, Kwara, and Abuja.
In The Herald Beaven Tapureta argues that We need literary awards in Zimbabwe.
Of course, the whole writing/publishing infra- and all other structures could use some help in Zimbabwe, but more literary awards, of the sort he proposes, probably wouldn't hurt.
"The University of Amsterdam will present a major retrospective exhibition" on Tirza-author Arnon Grunberg 31 October through 1 February, as described here.
It apparently has the (sad, German) title: "Ich will doch nur, dass ihr mich liebt".....
Impressive that they can mount a retrospective for such a young author.
But there's certainly enough material to deal with: it's hard to believe that he's only been publishing for twenty years (he's accumulated a huge body of work).
He's also featured in the current issue of De Boekenwereld -- none of the contents freely accessible online, but that cover certainly seems to be in keeping with the theme .....
They've now announced the final cut, leaving just four titles in the running for the biggest of the French book prizes, the prix Goncourt.
One of the favorites -- Eric Reinhardt's L’Amour et les forêts -- fell by the wayside, but hot tip Meursault, contre-enquête by Kamel Daoud continues its impressive prizes-run.
I was pleased to see a Lydie Salvayre-title in the final four -- and surprised the David Foenkinos made the cut: BibliObs may assure that: "L’auteur de «la Délicatesse» a quitté son domaine de prédilection, le roman «feel good»", but surely the judges should have seen through this: "roman taillé pour les honneurs" (complete with Auschwitz setting, sigh).
[A reminder that, despite being a book prize (in contrast to author-prizes such as the Nobel), the Goncourt is a one-and-done prize: authors who have won it can't win it again (unless you're Romain Gary ...), which is why you tend to see lots of new names every year.]
The winner will be announced next Wednesday, 5 November.
Harry ! the Harry Mulisch Festival runs tomorrow through 2 November, and the great Dutch master is always celebrating.
An ... interesting program: I'm not so sure about those book signings, but they've got Arnon Grunberg in conversation about Mulisch's Criminal Case 40/61, for example.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jean Dutourd's 1963 novel, The Horrors of Love.
The University of Chicago Press have one Dutourd title in print -- A Dog's Head -- but otherwise the author has fallen far out of favor.
Regularly translated into English until the mid-1970s -- and regularly reviewed in publications such as Time -- he was one of a whole bunch of French authors that the US/UK lost touch with about forty years ago (and since he lived until 2011, and kept publishing until near the time of his death at ninety-one, that's a whole lot of his work that US/UK audiences have missed).
This is one of his wilder (and bigger -- over two hundred thousand words) efforts, but it holds up well fifty years on.
Of course, I do have a particular soft spot for fiction-in-dialogue.
Pellerin told the Canal+ presenter, who had asked her to identify her favourite Modiano book:
"I've no problem in confessing that I've not had any time to read for the past two years.
I read a lot of notes, a lot of legislative texts, news, AFP stories, but I read very little."
I'd be slightly more forgiving (though admittedly just slightly ...) if she had at least been better-prepped by her staff so she could at least name a Modiano book, even if she hasn't read it.
(What kind of notes is she reading if not basic background stuff like this for these situations ?)
But for a minister of culture not to read any fiction, or indeed any books .....
"(N)otes, a lot of legislative texts, news, AFP stories" -- that's pretty feeble.
(Of course, in the US there isn't even anything close to a cabinet-level position for the arts -- no Secretary of Culture -- and the very idea of one probably strikes a considerable percentage of the electorate as an absurdity .....)
I was very impressed by Mizumura Minae's A True Novel last year, and via I'm now pointed to a post by Avery Fischer Udagawa at the SCBWI Japan Translation Group weblog, where translator Juliet Winters Carpenter offers One Passage, Seven Translations - Minae Mizumura from a translation workshop.
Always fascinating to see different renderings of the same passage.
On the same site, check out Anna Zielinska-Elliott and Lynne E. Riggs's Q & A with Juliet Winters Carpenter, True Collaboration on A True Novel.
Just a couple of weeks ago Peter Handke picked up the International Ibsen Award, the biggest international dramatist award, and while he was again overlooked for the Nobel, they've now announced that he will be getting this year's (albeit only handed-over on 1 February 2015 ...) Else-Lasker-Schüler-Dramatikerpreis, one of the biggest German-language dramatist prizes; Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek won this one in 2003.
Apparently Penguin Books India has recently re-issued four Raja Rao titles -- Kanthapura, The Serpent and the Rope, The Cat and Shakespeare, and a volume of Collected Stories (though I can't find any listings of these books at their official site ...); see, for example, S.B.Easwaran in Outlook on The Soul in its Village or Rajni George in Open on The Return of Raja Rao.
English-writing -- and longtime US resident -- Rao did publish many of his works in the US, but most everything is out of print (the exception: Kanthapura, which New Directions faithfully upholds; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com).
Disappointingly, these Penguin Classics are apparently geographically limited, too -- though they do seem to be available, reasonably priced, in the UK; get, for example, The Serpent and the Rope at Amazon.co.uk.
I've always been a fan, though the only title under review at the complete review is the distinctly second-tier Comrade Kirillov; I read all the others long before starting the site, with just The Chessmaster and His Moves still to properly get to.
In The New York Times Book Review in 1964 Santha Rama Rau already suggested: "Raja Rao is perhaps the most brilliant -- and certainly the most interesting -- writer of modern India" (though admittedly Americans were hardly paying attention to anything from India at the time).
Pratapaditya Pal's review of The Serpent and the Rope in The Los Angeles Times (August, 1986 ...) warns it is: "a highly cerebral novel that will be enjoyed primarily by intellectual readers" and that: "the dialogues are often much too erudite and, sometimes, even contrived", but I have to admit it was right up my alley.
Definitely an old master who still deserves a place in the contemporary library.
I missed this, many months ago when it first appeared, but it's definitely worth pointing to: at nippon.com Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit writes on Orchestrating Translations: The Case of Murakami Haruki, with a focus on the German and English translations.
Among the interesting bits:
After this first success in German, and with more English and other translations in preparation, the author seems to have pursued a stricter streamlining policy through his American agent since the early 1990s.
He refused to grant translation rights for a selection of his short stories into German on the grounds that translation rights for an English edition of the stories were still under negotiation, and that he preferred to make the selection by himself.
(His American agent is (and presumably was) ICM's Amanda "Binky" Urban.)
This opinion was not limited to Murakami's international presence; it rubbed off on all other literary productions of Japanese origin, so that a Japanese agent in the 1990s, during the high tide for Japanese literature in central Europe, was reluctant to even negotiate translation rights for a German version as long as no English language publisher showed interest in the book in question.
Dear god, no wonder they've fared so relatively poorly -- English would certainly seem to be positioned to serve well as the 'lead' language to be translated into, but as we've seen over the years and decades, American and British publishers (especially the big houses) tend to be followers rather than leaders.
Big mistake by the Japanese (and they seem to have been paying for it, too, as contemporary Japanese literature continues to punch far below its weight on the international literary stage).
Also interesting to learn that:
It is worth noting that the overall rate of direct versus indirect translation via English and a few other languages into German has in fact remained fairly stable since 1868 through the present, amounting to 88% versus 12%. Indirect translations today mostly apply to manga and to popular literature, including crime and mystery novels.
Amazing, first of all, that it has remained relatively stable over that period (if true ... I'd love to see hard numbers ...); amazing, too, that second-hand translation remains so popular.
(It hasn't been killed off completely in English either;' the case of Ismail Kadare is a special one (many of his works are translated from the French translations; see David Bellos on The Englishing of Ismail Kadare), but the occasional other example still crops up (far too) regularly.)
(Updated - 28 October): And in case you want to read Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit's piece in French, Pierre Assouline picked this up at his La république des livres-weblog and now provides a translation there.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko does not believe that the Belarusian literature has plunged into the twilight.
So that's settled .....
Or maybe not: for all his optimism, Lukashenko still wondered aloud:
Why does the contemporary Belarusian literature fall short of the highest standards set by our great writers ?
They do have that nice Books from Belarus site -- now with drawings of the authors -- with a pdf booklet of the most recent offerings.
The Zen novel Just Don't Tell My Mom ! (by Adam Hłobus) anyone ?
Alena Brava's autobiographical Heaven is Already Overcrowded ?
I'm not so sure about some of these, but would certainly like to see more Belarusian literature available in translation; the only local writers under review at the complete review are Victor Martinovich (Paranoia) and Svetlana Alexievich (Voices from Chernobyl).
Imraan Coovadia's new novel, Tales of the Metric System, is just out in South Africa (see the Random House Struik publicity page or the Pontas Agency information page), and in the Mail & Guardian Bongani Kona profiles him, in Impressive feat of imagination.
Seagull Books did bring out his Green-Eyed Thieves a couple of years ago, so that's available in the US and UK (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), and his debut, The Wedding, was published in the US, ages ago, but I'm surprised he hasn't made greater inroads in the US/UK yet.
Acclaimed in South Africa, his books don't even need to be translated .....
The only Coovadia title under review at the complete review is The Institute for Taxi Poetry.
They've apparently announced the shortlist for the 2014 William Hill Sports Book of the Year (though not yet at the official site, last I checked); see, for example, Graham Sharpe on the William Hill Sports Book of the Year: 25 years of runners and riders at The Guardian's Book Blog.
Needless to say, I haven't read (or even seen) any of the seven finalists.
Sports-books are definitely under-represented at the complete review .....
At Russia Beyond the Headlines Alena Tveritina reports that: 'In Soviet children's literature, retellings and altered versions of foreign classics captivated society far more than translations -- so much so that some classic characters were completely russified', in How Dr. Dolittle became Dr. Aybolit.
So, for example, Alexander Tolstoy took on Pinocchio -- but:
At first I just wanted to write Collodi's content in Russian, but then I abandoned that idea because it was too boring and bland
(For what it's worth, his version was phenomenally successful, even for that captive market.)
In the Indianpolis Star Will Higgins has a Q & A with Jonathan Franzen.
J-Franz reveal his favorite TV shows, how many bird species he's seen (2,600 worldwide), and the fact that both he and David Foster Wallace have/had a one-handed backhand (increasingly rare at the pro level).
Books in Iran generally aren't officially censored -- publishers are just denied the permission needed to actually publish them.
All books need to get official permission, and while permission is sometimes denied outright, usually the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance just makes authors and publishers wait, and wait. and wait.
How long ?
Well, as IBNA reports: Iranian author's 'The Smoke' was released after eight years, as Hossein Sanapour's novel finally got the green light after eight years.
Mention that: "It was waiting for the issuance of a publication permission in the previous government for some years" suggest perhaps change is in the air -- but things still seem to be moving slowly.
The November-December issue of World Literature Today, with a focus on 'After the Wall Fell: Dispatches from Central Europe 1989-2014', is now available, a decent chunk of it accessible online -- as is the entire World Literature in Review-reviews section.
They've announced the shortlists for the French prix Femina -- notable because it has three categories: fiction (French), foreign fiction, and non-fiction.
There doesn't seem to be an official site, so see, for example, Prix Femina 2014: Le jury dévoile ses finalistes at 20 minutes.
Three of the five foreign-fiction finalists are translations of books written int English.
I'm a bit late in reporting this -- he passed away on the 12th -- but Ali A. Mazrui has died; see, for example, Douglas Martin's obituary in The New York Times or Horace G. Campbell on The Humanism of Ali Mazrui at counterpunch.
The only Mazrui book under review at the complete review is, predictably enough, his only work of fiction, the woefully under-appreciated (look for mention of it in the obits ...) The Trial of Christopher Okigbo.
Flawed though it is, I would argue it's still a very significant/important novel, a major work of the 1970s.
(And, yes, I am pretty proud that I already got to this in the much earlier days of the site, reviewing it back in 2001.)
I mentioned Chinese president Xi Jinping's recent address on cultural production in China and, regrettably, it already seems to be having some effect.
In the South China Morning Post Nectar Gan reports that the Ministry of Culture thinks it's now a good idea for Art and literature awards to evaluate 'social benefit' of works, as Zhu Di, head of the art department of the ministry:
said Xi's comments on arts and literature -- that works should place social benefits first, should not bow to commercial demands and should be evaluated by the public -- will become "important principals for the ministry's award evaluation system reform in the future".
Oh, great .....
The central propaganda department of the Communist Party is taking the lead in reforming guidelines, Zhu said.
But I have to admit I'm curious how this will work out, since China has a vibrant -- and huge -- writing scene that isn't going to pay any attention to this kind of nonsense.
At 91, French author Claude Ollier has passed away; he published his last book ... last year: Cinq contes fantastiques (see the P.O.L. publicity page).
Surprisingly little notice of his death so far, even in the French press -- but see, for example, Sabine Audrerie's Mort de l'écrivain Claude Ollier.
Several of his works have been translated; most of these were published by -- of course -- Dalkey Archive Press.
(And, yes, Ollier's work fits the Dalkey-profile to a T.)
Only one of his works is under review at the complete review: Wert and the Life Without End.
See also Cecile Lindsay's 1988 A Conversation with Claude Ollier from the Review of Contemporary Fiction.
So far there have been few articles about the sales-effect of the announcement that Patrick Modiano is this year's Nobel laureate -- in part, in the US/UK, no doubt because almost none of his works are actually available or in print (a situation that will be changing in the coming weeks).
Unsurprisingly, he got a nice boost in France -- though not enough of one for his new novel to top last week's (through 12 October) bestseller list (you can see how Le suicide français would be hard to top, regardless of international honors ...).
[Updated: See also the Datalib list covering the past seven days of literary-title (i.e. excluding the likes of Le suicide français) sales, which has Modiano's new work at number one and several more in the top fifteen.]
Ahn Sung-mi reports, in The Korea Herald, that Nobel prize boosts Modiano's book sales in South Korea, as, for example:
Online book retailer Interpark said Missing Person recorded 300 books in sales over a four-day period since the announcement.
"This is a drastic change from 2010 when the book was first published and total of 120 books were sold that year," said Jeong Ji-yeon from Interpark.
"Prior to the award announcement, less than 10 copies of his books were sold on average in a month at bookstores," said a representative of Munhakdonge, publisher of seven books of the author.
Munhakdongne printed 13,000 Modiano books upon the Nobel Prize announcement, and plans to print 10,000 more copies as the demand is increasing.
More surprisingly and impressively, the Tehran Times reports that Patrick Modiano's books soar to Tehran bestsellers list, with six Modinao titles among the top-five at various Tehran booksellers.
Okay, so in South Korea there are apparently seven Modiano titles available, in Iran -- Iran ! -- there are six, in the US/UK ... less.
Yes, the situation is changing/improving: Yale University Press' three-in-one collection, Suspended Sentences (see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), substantially increases what's available (from those two Godine titles, with one more reprint to follow soon), and the University of California Press has quickly resuscitated Dora Bruder -- a re-issue is due out next month (see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com; no Amazon.co.uk listing at this time).
(The University of Nebraska Press seems also to be working on resuscitating Out of the Dark -- see their publicity page, or back-order at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
Still, overall: a sad state of English-speaking affairs -- and surely yet another counter-example to all the supposed translation-enthusiasm that everyone is so excited about: the down-to-earth reality looks like this: a lot uglier, with even the Iranians managing to do a better job in at least some (and possibly many ?) cases.
UK publishers released 2,875 new titles per million inhabitants, more than 1,000 titles ahead of the nearest nation, Taiwan.
In absolute figures, 2013 saw the UK publish 184,000 new titles and re-editions, the highest figure in Europe, with only the US and China publishing more, with 304,912 and 444,000 titles respectively.
I do note that Iceland is not included in the reckoning; the most recent statistics I could find, covering 2012, report 1349 published titles; with an Icelandic population at the end of 2012 of 321,857, that makes for 4,191 new titles per million inhabitants .....
Nevertheless, the UK totals are impressive.
Those from Georgia, too -- what the hell is that about ?
On the other hand: South Africa only published 68 titles per million inhabitants ?
(Okay, those are 2010 figures; not necessarily directly comparable -- but it's still shocking.)
They've announced the ten-title strong longlist for the 2015 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.
A couple of real heavyweights on the list: books by Jhumpa Lahiri, Khaled Hosseini, and Kamila Shamsie.
Shamsur Rahman Faruqi's The Mirror of Beauty is apparently the only work in translation that made the cut (not that you could tell it's a translation from the Penguin India publicity page ...).
The University of Vienna has put up an online Datenbank literarischer Bildzitate, a database of some 1,500 references to works of art in modern German literature, searchable by author, artwork, artist, and text.
(See the search page, which makes it reasonably obvious what's on offer.)
I'm not sure how comprehensive this is (yet) -- Bernhard referenced specific works of art in only one of his novels ? -- but it's still fairly interesting and even somewhat useful.
The obligatory 'judging the Man Booker Prize'-piece comes from Sarah Churchwell at The Guardian's book blog, where she writes about The joys of judging the Man Booker prize.
(I enjoy these, but I'd love it if one year they did get the judge who just hated the experience to spill all the ugly beans about the process.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Emmanuel Carrère pseudo(?)-biographical 2011 prix Renaudot-winning Limonov -- rather desperately subtitled in the US edition: The Outrageous Adventures of the Radical Soviet Poet Who Became a Bum in New York, a Sensation in France, and a Political Antihero in Russia.
As longtime readers know, I'm not a big fan of biography in any form, and I note with some amusement that my review barely even mentions any of these supposedly 'Outrageous Adventures' Limonov had -- I found and consider them completely uninteresting (and Limonov -- despite some obvious talents -- a vacuous poseur: I can't imagine a less interesting person or subject matter, all noise and affectation).
I didn't even notice until after I finished writing the review, but it didn't even occur to me -- though of course it should have: presumably a not insignificant percentage of readers are curious about the book because they want to know about Limonov.
But, yeah, I really shouldn't be reviewing biographies -- even if this can also be considered something else entirely (and is much more interesting when considered as such).
(This is also the second recent prix Renaudot-winner that I've reviewed in less than two months -- Our Lady of the Nile is the other.)
addressed another forum on literature and arts, again calling for artworks to "embody socialist core values in a lively and vivid way", to "uphold Chinese spirit" and "rally Chinese strength".
Apparently the concern is that:
Although China has already had a Nobel Prize winner in Literature and a number of Chinese films have won international awards, there are plenty of vulgar, repetitive and fast-food art works.
They lack insight and artistic values and do not meet the needs of the people.
Always good to see when the state (or any other pseudo-authority) decides what exactly meets the "needs of the people" .....
But maybe here is finally an explanation why Chinese literature (which seems to be thriving in China ...) hasn't done particularly well abroad yet ?
The current weakness of Chinese literature and art may derive from the pervasion of consumerism and money worship.
These trends prevent artists from reaching deep into society to find the most vivid materials -- the method that Xi called for in the meeting.
Down with such pervasion ! (?)
Though I have to admit Xi's speech did give me the giggles -- the thought that he could take himself seriously (much less believe any 'artist' might) .....
Princeton University has announced that Nobel laureate Toni Morrison's papers will join their library-collection -- about 180 linear feet worth (and counting, presumably).
No word, alas, how much they shelled out for the collection.
Recall that a 1993 Christmas Day fire at one of Morrison's houses fortunately apparently did not badly damage what was at hand there at the time.
Already then, then Schomburg Center chief Howard Dodson said: "The whole world wants her papers".
(He also said:
he and Ms. Morrison, friends for about seven years, have discussed the possibility that some of her papers would be left to the Schomburg Center, which she has long supported, but no formal agreement has been reached.
Sore loser ?
Annoyed by the annual distraction ?
Whatever the case, Peter Handke thinks it's time to abolish the damn thing -- the Nobel Prize in Literature: that's what he said Thursday, Die Pressereports.
He argues: it brings a brief bit of attention, 'six [!] pages in the newspaper', but that's about it.
(Americans meanwhile shake their heads even more -- what newspaper would have six pages of laureate coverage ?)
It can't all be sour grapes: he thinks this year's selection an excellent one -- and you can take his word for it: he's translated two of Modiano's books into German, Une jeunesse (see the Suhrkamp publicity page) and La Petite Bijou.
(A pretty decent stamp of approval, to have been translated by Handke -- and a reminder, yet again, how few prominent English-writing authors also translate, while a world-class author like Handke thinks it's important enough to occupy himself with ....)
I wonder whether he'll take up a petition among his prominent-author-buddies.
And whether the Swedish Academy will hold this against him .....
(Updated - 19 October): Okay, so it's not probably not just sour grapes that he didn't get it: see the Nouvel Observateur profile of 7 May, "Donner le Nobel à des écrivains est une farce grotesque", in which he already says it's a farce to give authors such a prize -- and proposes sending it off with one final award ... to Adonis (in a not very nice two-birds-with-one-stone-suggestion).
Eurozine reprints Vladimir Yermakov's look at Sergei Dovlatov, dissident sans idea, considering the dichotomy that 'All but invisible in his home country, Sergei Dovlatov became something of a mythical figure among the Russian diaspora of New York'.
Dovlatov's Pushkin Hills was recently published, complete with James Wood Afterword (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), but I'm afraid I don't see, for example, -- as Wood does -- that it: "is funny on every page", etc.
But, hey, they named a street after him .....
They've announced the finalists for the (American) National Book Awards.
As usual: I haven't reviewed or read any of these (though at least I have a copy of the Marilynne Robinson, and am intrigued by the Rabih Alameddine).
Donna Leon, an American writer based at the other end of Italy from Naples, in Venice, has seen her Commissario Brunetti detective novels published around the world -- but she refuses to let them be published in Italian for fear it will spoil her relative invisibility.
Surely they'd sell pretty well there, too, so she's a writer who is actually leaving a decent pot of cash on the table; quite remarkable.
(As to Elena Ferrante's identity: who cares ?
As with practically all fiction my advice is: ignore the author, read the books.)