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21 May 2018 - Monday

Jane Eyre in ... China | Convenience Store Woman review

       Jane Eyre in ... China

       In the South China Morning Post Victoria Burrows explains Why China loves Jane Eyre, whether as a feminist manifesto, a history of colonialism or just a simple children's bedtime story.
       Yes, apparently Jane Eyre -- 简·爱 -- is big in China -- really big.

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



       Convenience Store Woman review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Murata Sayaka's Akutagawa Prize-winning bestseller, Convenience Store Woman, due out in English shortly from Grove Press (US) and Portobello Books (UK).

       Interesting title-variations among the translations -- the French simply went with the abbreviated Japanese word for convenience store from the original, Konbini; the Germans, without the convenience of convenience stores, with the reasonably fitting Die Ladenhüterin (essentially: 'the shopkeeper' (f)) -- but I have to say, I'm not entirely sure about the feel of the Italian: La ragazza del convenience store .....

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



20 May 2018 - Sunday

The Dagger longlists | European up-and-comers ? | Sōseki review

       The Dagger longlists

       The Crime Writers' Association has announced its longlists in various categories, including the CWA International Dagger.
       Last year's winner was Leif GW Persson's The Dying Detective; of this year's finalists, only Pierre Lemaitre's Three Days and a Life, in Frank Wynne's translation, is under review at the complete review (though Three Seconds by Roslund and Hellström is too -- a precursor to their longlisted-title, Three Minutes ...).

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



       European up-and-comers ?

       In The Guardian they suggest The next Elena Ferrante ? The best European fiction coming your way.
       Quite a few of the titles 'coming your way' will only do so in 2019, while several of these authors are quite well established in English -- notably Juli Zeh, with half a dozen books out in English translation. But the selection includes Daša Drndić's Belladonna, so there's that.

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



       Sōseki review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of John Nathan's new biography of Modern Japan's Greatest Novelist, Natsume Sōseki, just out from Columbia University Press.

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



19 May 2018 - Saturday

Translating ... Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Sophie Kerr Prize | Orwell Prize shortlist

       Translating ... Pramoedya Ananta Toer

       In the Jakarta Globe Diella Yasmine profiles Max Lane on How Not to Get Lost in Translating Pramoedya Ananta Toer.
       Pramoedya remains the best-known Indonesian author -- and certainly deserving of a large international audience. (I read the Buru-quartet before starting this site, which is why it isn't under review here; it was, of course, recommended in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction.)
       Disappointing to hear:
Though Pram's books have now been translated into 42 languages, they still remain largely unread at home. According to Lane, this is because Indonesia is the only country in the world that does not teach its own literature in the classrooms.
       A shame -- Pramoedya's, and much other local writing, is something that they should take pride in and foster.

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



       Sophie Kerr Prize

       The winner of the ridiculously well endowed undergraduate writing prize -- worth US$63,711 this year --, the Sophie Kerr Prize, has been announced at Washington College, and it is Caroline Harvey.

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



       Orwell Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Orwell Prize, awarded: "for the work which comes closest to George Orwell's ambition 'to make political writing into an art'".
       Among those still in the running is Ali Smith's Winter -- the rare novel in a prize dominated by non-fiction.
       The winner will be announced 25 June.

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



18 May 2018 - Friday

PEN Transmissions | Sophie Kerr Prize finalists

       PEN Transmissions

       English PEN has a new "online zine", PEN Transmissions (presumably the successor to the PEN Atlas ?); it looks promising.

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



       Sophie Kerr Prize finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the Sophie Kerr Prize, the ridiculously well-endowed (Washington College) undergraduate writing prize that pays out more than the Pulitzer, National Book Award, and National Book Critics Circle award combined -- worth US$63,711 this year (the amount varies slightly from year to year).
       All five finalists this year are women and English majors.
       The winner will be announced tonight; it will be live-streamed here at 19:30.

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



17 May 2018 - Thursday

New Zealand Book Awards | Tbilisi International Festival of Literature
The Girl Who Wasn't There review

       New Zealand Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's New Zealand Book Awards; The New Animals by Pip Adam won the fiction prize; see the Victoria University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Tbilisi International Festival of Literature

       The fourth Tbilisi International Festival of Literature is on through the 19th -- good preparation for Georgia being guest of honour at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair.
       See also Lika Chigaldze's piece in Georgia Today, Tbilisi Int'l Festival of Literature Held for 4th Time.

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



       The Girl Who Wasn't There review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ferdinand von Schirach's The Girl Who Wasn't There.

       A lot that's interesting/weird about this publication -- including the fact that, despite the decent success of his previous book The Collini Case and the generally very good UK reviews for this one, The Girl Who Wasn't There apparently didn't find a US publisher (the copy I picked up at the New York Public Library is the UK Abacus edition, which seems to have gotten a bit of distribution in the US, but it didn't get US-reviewed, for example).
       Interesting also that the UK publishers opted for The Girl Who Wasn't There as the title -- not entirely inappropriate, but very, very different from the German original (which pretty much all the other foreign publishers opted for as well), Tabu.
       And, finally, also interesting the very different reception of the book in the UK v. Germany by the literary critics, suggesting the book was approached/reviewed very differently by reviewers: the UK print reviews were generally very positive, while most of the German ones were devastatingly bad. I think coming to the book with different expectations (influenced also by the title(s) ?) played a huge role, with British critics much more receptive to this as a variation on the traditional creative crime novel, while the Germans expected much deeper thought and meaning. (Anthea Bell's translation might have helped as well: the German critics hated Schirach's writing, while Bell's Englishing mostly reads very well.)
       (Critical v. popular reception is of course a different story: the German-book-buying public doesn't seem to have as much of a problem with the book -- he remains a very popular author -- while English-language reader commentary and reviews is generally considerably less enthusiastic than the broadsheet reviews were.)

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



16 May 2018 - Wednesday

Best Translated Book Award shortlists
Bulgarian National Literature Award | Tom Wolfe (1930-2018)

       Best Translated Book Award shortlists

       They've announced the finalists for the Best Translated Book Awards, and they're down to the top ten fiction titles:
  • August, by Romina Paula, tr. Jennifer Croft

  • Compass, by Mathias Énard, tr. Charlotte Mandell

  • I Am the Brother of XX, by Fleur Jaeggy, tr. Gini Alhadeff

  • The Invented Part, by Rodrigo Fresán, tr. Will Vanderhyden

  • My Heart Hemmed In, by Marie NDiaye, tr.Jordan Stump

  • Old Rendering Plant, by Wolfgang Hilbig, tr. Isabel Fargo Cole

  • Remains of Life, by Wu He, tr. Michael Berry

  • Return to the Dark Valley, by Santiago Gamboa, tr.Howard Curtis

  • Suzanne, by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, tr.Rhonda Mullins

  • Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller, by Guðbergur Bergsson, tr. Lytton Smith
       Some surprises here (including no Radiant Terminus -- my favorite among the titles that made the longlist), and quite a few titles that I have to check out; Suzanne was the one title I had really buried in my pile, but I've dug it up now for another look .....
       The winners will be announced 31 May.

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



       Bulgarian National Literature Award

       They've announced that Хавра, by Zachary Karabashliev (whose 18% Gray Open Letter has published in English; see their publicity page) has won this year's National Literature Award for Bulgarian Novel of the Year; see also the Ciela publicity page, and the BNR report, Writer Zachary Karabashliev: The only war worth fighting anymore is the war on ignorance.

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



       Tom Wolfe (1930-2018)

       As widely noted, American writer Tom Wolfe has passed away !
       See, for example, Deirdre Carmody and William Grimes' The New York Times obituary !
       Only two of his titles are under review at the complete review -- Hooking Up and A Man in Full -- and I never really took to his writing (much less the silly outfit ...); still, at his best he was certainly readable, and I have to acknowledge that while The Bonfire of the Vanities can't really be called a good novel, it does capture New York/Wall Street in the 1980s very well and will remain a turn-to work for the foreseeable future.

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



15 May 2018 - Tuesday

50 best New Zealand books | Rabih Alameddine on 'world literature'
The Order of the Day review | 'An Evening of World Literature'

       50 best New Zealand books

       Via I'm pointed to The Spinoff Review of Books' The 50 best New Zealand books of the past 50 years: The official listicle.
       Only two titles under review at the complete review are on the list -- Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (26) and The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton (48) -- though I have read quite a few more (though this list drives home how little New Zealand fiction I've kept up with over the past two decades).
       Surprising/disappointing, too, that, despite having quite a few C.K.Stead titles under review, the two that made the list -- Smith's Dream (19) and All Visitors Ashore (36) -- are ones that I haven't ever even seen (and don't seem to have been US-available in ages).

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



       Rabih Alameddine on 'world literature'

       In the June Harper's Rabih Alameddine writes on world literature, in Comforting Myths.
       Lots worth discussing here, and hopefully it will get some attention.
       Among his points:
What I'm saying is that there is more other, scarier other, translated other, untranslatable other, the utterly strange other, the other who can't stand you. Those of us allowed to speak are the tip of the iceberg. We are the cute other.
       Some of that 'other' -- or at least some of what approaches that 'other' -- does get translated, and I review what I can (never enough ...) -- but I'm always astonished (and disappointed, and disheartened) how little interest there is from readers in most of this stuff.
       Still, it's good for readers to be reminded that:
All of us on that world-literature list are basically safe, domesticated, just exotic enough to make our readers feel that they are liberal, not parochial or biased. That is, we are purveyors of comforting myths for a small segment of the dominant culture that would like to see itself as open-minded.

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



       The Order of the Day review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the latest prix Goncourt-winner, Éric Vuillard's The Order of the Day -- coming (albeit only in September ...) in English from Other Press.

       An interesting, and horrifyingly timely not-quite-work-of-fiction.

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



       An Evening of World Literature

       I'm looking forward to appearing at An Evening of World Literature at my old K-(i.e. 'Jr.A')-to-12 alma mater, the United Nations International School in New York tomorrow at 18:00.
       Should be fun; come if you can !

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



14 May 2018 - Monday

Daisy Rockwell Q & A | How to Rule the World review

       Daisy Rockwell Q & A

       At Scroll.in Trisha Gupta has a Q & A with translator Daisy Rockwell (of Upendranath Ashk's Falling Walls, among other works), Meet the American who translates some of India's finest Hindi writers into English.
       Well worth a read -- including the depressing observation:
English is the power language and the link language, so much so that readers and publishers often show little interest in works translated from other languages. In fact, I have never published a book-length translation in the United States because there is simply no interest.
       Come on folks -- why no interest ? There is so much deserving stuff out there .....

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



       How to Rule the World review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tibor Fischer's new novel, How to Rule the World.

       (This is the thirteenth 'How to"-title(d book) under review at the complete review; like most of the others, it can't quite live up to that title .....)

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



13 May 2018 - Sunday

Sunday Times Literary Awards shortlists | Mexican literature (not) in Iran
U.R. Ananthamurthy's Suragi

       Sunday Times Literary Awards shortlists

       They've announced the (South African) Sunday Times Literary Awards shortlists.
       Among the five finalists for the Barry Ronge fiction prize is one translated title -- The Camp Whore, by Francois Smith (translated by Dominique Botha) --; SJ Naudé is perhaps the best-known-abroad of the shortlisted authors.
       Among the longlisted authors whose books didn't make the cut were Achmat Dangor and Ingrid Winterbach.
       The winners will be announced 23 June.

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



       Mexican literature (not) in Iran

       IBNA reports that Mexican literature unknown in Iran due to translator scarcity.
       Unsurprisingly, this is a two-way (non-)street:
Elsewhere in his remarks, Salazar said that unfortunately the Persian books published in Mexico are very few and there is a slight literary interaction between the two countries of Iran and Mexico.
       But at least there's some awareness of the situation.

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



       U.R. Ananthamurthy's Suragi

       Bharathipura and Samskara-author U.R.Ananthamurthy's autobiography, Suragi, is now available in English, and at Scroll.in Souradeep Roy reports that Like all good autobiographies, UR Ananthamurthy's 'Suragi' is delicious literary gossip.
       I do hope to get my hands on this sometime ... meanwhile, see the Oxford University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



12 May 2018 - Saturday

Gérard Genette (1930-2018) | Peter Mayer (1936-2018)
French-American Foundation Translation Prizes | European Literature Night

       Gérard Genette (1930-2018)

       Leading French literary theorist Gérard Genette has passed away; see, for example, the (French) report in Le Point.
       I have to admit never quite making it through ... his work (despite that well-worn copy of Palimpsests ...); but Paratexts certainly sounds worth a go; see the Cambridge University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Peter Mayer (1936-2018)

       The Overlook Press-publisher Peter Mayer has passed away; see, for example, Neil Genzlinger's obituary in The New York Times, Peter Mayer, Publisher of the Incendiary 'Satanic Verses,' Dies at 82.
       (Good call, by the way: as cringe-worthy as recent Rushdie novels have been, he did write several truly great works, and the fall-out surrounding The Satanic Verses has unfortunately overshadowed its incontestable literary worth.)

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



       French-American Foundation Translation Prizes

       They awarded the French-American Foundation Translation Prizes yesterday, at the Century Association, at a nice ceremony (I was fortunate enough to be in attendance) that included Marc Levy in fine form in a Q&A (with some choice anecdotes about the manhandling of his into-English-debut, the book that was made into the film, Just Like Heaven -- and the interesting observations that his publishers (suspiciously) try their best to thwart any and all communication with his translators ...).
       They award prizes for best translation from the French in both fiction and non categories, and this year both prizes were shared:
  • Fiction:
    • Melville, by Jean Giono, translated by Paul Eprile
    • The Principle, by Jérôme Ferrari, translated by Howard Curtis
  • Non-fiction:
    • The Years, by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison L. Strayer
    • Bark, by Georges-Didi Huberman, translated by Samuel E. Martin
       (Melville is a wild, fun one, but of course The Years is the stand-out here.)

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



       European Literature Night

       They're holding European Literature Night at the Czech Center in New York city tonight, and if you're in the neighborhood, it's worth checking out.
       First off, the Czech Center itself is pretty impressive -- but it's also a packed, fun program.

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



11 May 2018 - Friday

Translating from the ... Nepali | Familiar Things review

       Translating from the ... Nepali

       At Himal Southasian they have a Q & A with Prawin Adhikari about The art of translating Indra Bahadur Rai.
       Prawin Adhikari translated the collection of stories Long Night of Storm -- see the Speaking Tiger publicity page --, while Manjushree Thapa recently translated Rai's novel, There's a Carnival Today (a(n e-)copy of which I have, and hope to get to, sooner rather than later ...).
       Among Adhikari's observations:
Southasia is at a strange phase of literary translation -- as more and more middle-class children grow up with a weakening grasp of their mother tongues and with greater ease with English, they are having to read literature from their native cultures in English translations.
       And, yes, let's hear it for:
I hope more writers translate.

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       Familiar Things review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hwang Sok-yong's Familiar Things.
       This Scribe title came out in the UK and Australia last year, and it's great to see some of their books (like this one ...) are now also going to be distributed in the US.

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



10 May 2018 - Thursday

Georgia-in-Frankfurt preview | (Socialist) Realism

       Georgia-in-Frankfurt preview

       Georgia is the 'guest of honour' at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, and on Monday they introduced their programme including with an elaborate Georgia - Made by Characters-press kit (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       Among the observations:
Since 2010, about 200 Georgian books have been translated and published in foreign countries with the aid of the Ministry of Culture and Sport of Georgia and Georgian National Book Center, among them 65 were published in German speaking countries. A further 60 new German translations are planned as part of Georgia's appearance as Guest of Honour.
       Meanwhile. the Three Percent database so far lists zero (0) translations from the Georgian appearing in 2018 and 2019 -- though of course there's still time to change that ... -- and a mere ten for the entire decade before that -- mostly made up of titles from the Dalkey Archive Press Georgian Literature Series. (There's also Comma Press' recent anthology, The Book of Tbilisi, which I haven't seen but sounds like a good intro-volume; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
       There are a few Georgian titles under review at the complete review -- but not nearly as many as I'd like; I hope to see more in the run-up to/fall-out from Frankfurt .....

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



       (Socialist) Realism

       An interesting piece at e-flux by Robert Bird, Articulations of (Socialist) Realism: Lukács, Platonov, Shklovsky, as he notes:
     Two puzzles dominate recent discussions of Soviet literature and Marxist aesthetics in the 1930s. The first is how the official Soviet system tolerated and even at times celebrated such an idiosyncratic writer as Andrei Platonov, who in the last twenty-five years has emerged as the central literary artist of the time. The second puzzle is how socialist realism, a literature wholly focused on the future, came to model itself on nineteenth-century realism, with the result that the bulk of socialist realist novels (and works in other literary genres and artistic mediums) read like tedious exercises in nostalgia, while artists who really anticipate the future, like Platonov, became marginalized.
       I'm fascinated by early Soviet literature -- though admittedly more the 1920s than 30s (and I'm not quite as Platonov-enthusiastic as most ...) -- and quite a few Shklovsky titles are also under review at the complete review; see, e.g. Third Factory .

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



9 May 2018 - Wednesday

Folio Prize | Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize
'Venuti and After' conference

       Folio Prize

       They've announced that this year's Rathbones Folio Prize has been awarded to Ghosts of The Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry; see the MCD publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize

       They've announced that Isabel Fargo Cole has won this year's Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize for her translation of Wolfgang Hilbig's Old Rendering Plant; see also the Two Lines Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

       Recall that Cole's (written in German !) novel, Die grüne Grenze was a finalist for this year's Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse; see also the Edition Nautilus publicity page.

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



       'Venuti and After' conference

       On Friday the British Centre for Literary Translation is hosting an all-day conference, Venuti and After.
       Both Lawrence Venuti's The Translator's Invisibility and Kate Briggs' This Little Art are high on my to-cover pile (ah, non-fiction ... always tougher to digest/work on ...), and both will be there; sounds like it'll be pretty interesting -- head on over, if you have the chance.

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



8 May 2018 - Tuesday

Libris Literatuur Prijs | African literature in ... China
The Secret History of my Sojourn in Russia review

       Libris Literatuur Prijs

       They've announced that this year the €50,000 Libris Literatuur Prijs -- the leading Dutch novel prize -- goes to Wees onzichtbaar, by Murat Isik; see also the Ambo|Anthos publicity page.

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



       African literature in ... China

       At Sixth Tone Bruce Humes wonders Can Literary Imports Change Chinese Perceptions of Africa ?
       Humes reports on "three waves of African literary imports" in China -- and also points to the useful African Writing in Chinese Translation database -- '50 African Authors, 120 Translated Works' -- at his weblog.
       Obviously, China still has a lot of catching up to do in this area .....

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



       The Secret History of my Sojourn in Russia review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jaroslav Hašek's The Secret History of my Sojourn in Russia, recently out from Glagoslav.

       Hašek is, of course, best known for his The Good Soldier Švejk -- perhaps the best-known and loved of all Czech novels -- but who knew he spent more than six years (of his short life) in Russia ?

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



7 May 2018 - Monday

Translator memorialized | Bosphorus Review of Books profile
Bride and Groom review

       Translator memorialized

       OK, maybe it's more about that title he translated than his career-as-translator per se, but what translator wouldn't kill for the headline Translator's former residence now a Communist Manifesto exhibition center ?
       And Chen Wangdao does get his due, too: check out that picture of: "A life-size wax statue of Chen Wangdao sitting at his desk on the second floor" -- pen in hand !
       See also fun (?) anecdotal art like: "A large picture on the wall tells the story of how Chen was so engrossed in his work he mistook ink for sugar when eating zongzi."
       And it's actually a pretty neat-looking house, too.

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



       Bosphorus Review of Books profile

       The Bosphorus Review of Books is now up to issue number nine, and in Daily Sabah Matt Hanson profiles A strait of tomes: In conversation with the Bosphorus Review of Books.

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



       Bride and Groom review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alisa Ganieva's Bride and Groom -- a novel set in Dagestan, recently out in English from Deep Vellum.

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



6 May 2018 - Sunday

(Other) Goncourt prizes | Magazine editing

       (Other) Goncourt prizes

       The prix Goncourt, awarded in the fall, is the leading French book prize, but the Académie Goncourt hands out quite a few others, and they've just announced the winners of this year's Goncourt du premier roman (the first novel prize) and the Goncourt de la nouvelle.
       The Goncourt du premier roman went to Grand frère, by Mahir Guven; see the Philippe Rey publicity page.
       The Goncourt de la nouvelle went to Régis Jauffret's second 1000-page collection of microfictions, Microfictions 2018; see the Gallimard publicity page.
       The two Jauffret titles that have been translated into English are under review at the complete review -- Lacrimosa and Severe -- and I have to admit I am kind of curious about the Microfictions-volumes. They do seem rather unlikely to get translated into English, however, given their size.

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



       Magazine editing

       At Eurozine they've launched 'a series on the history of cultural journals'; the first piece is Matthew Philpotts' 'Seven theses on editorial plurality', What makes a great magazine editor ?

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



5 May 2018 - Saturday

Nobel postponement reactions | Canon making
Publishing in ... Australia

       Nobel postponement reactions

       As I mentioned yesterday, the Swedish Academy announced that they will not name the winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature in October, but rather hope/plan to do so in October, 2019 -- when they also hope/plan to announce the 2019 winner. As they note, this is not entirely unprecedented -- though the last time it happened was in 1949 ... --, and the priority right now is on getting their house back in order. Currently, it most definitely is not in order, with too few members playing along (i.e. still active in the Academy) to do anything.
       (Aside: one really has to wonder who the hell drafted the Academy charter, which apparently sees to a Hotel California-type situation (once you're in, you're in (and stuck) for life, even if you want nothing more to do with the institution -- 'You can check out any time you like / But you can never leave') as well as demanding that twelve of the eighteen members vote to elect any new members. What if a plague wiped out half the Academy ? There wouldn't be enough to vote to fill the vacant seats .....)
       The Nobel Foundation -- who must be pissed as hell about what's happening here -- have also issued an official statement, The Nobel Foundation supports the Swedish Academy's decision to postpone the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature -- noting also that:
We also assume that all members of the Academy realise that both its extensive reform efforts and its future organisational structure must be characterised by greater openness towards the outside world
       But surely part of the problem is that the one of the few reasons the Nobel is such a big deal is because the selection process works the way it does (or doesn't, as certain laureate-choices suggest ...), the Swedish Academy allowed to go about its 'business' in this nutty, secretive archaic-institutional way -- with an absolute lack of transparency (and surely loads of personality-conflicts behind the scenes).
       Sure, I'd love it if they always published the list of nominated authors -- not fifty years after the fact, as is now the case, but immediately -- and then their long- and short-lists -- but obviously most of the fun here is that this is a) about so insanely much money (we're talking about 'literature' after all, and there ain't money like this to be found in 'literature' anywhere else), and b) all in the hands of this ridiculous committee of Swedes who get to play dress-up and who, individually, may be, in their fields, (more or less) respected authorities but as a body are ... well, hard to take all too seriously (and always have been).

       Anyway, of course there have been lots of pieces about this decision/move -- and riffs on the prize in general ... --, including:        I suppose because all of the attention -- and (justifiably) bad press -- the Swedish Academy has gotten, it was inevitable that this year's prize would be considered 'tainted', if they had gone through with it, but I have to admit that I don't completely get it. The Academy is obviously a toxic mess, with some horrible issues that they have, so far, dealt with very poorly -- but would that really affect their decision-making regarding this year's laureate ? They've often made dubious, questionable decisions (don't get me started on the most recent disaster, from just two years ago ...) -- but surely this has always been a dysfunctional -- if generally more civil, and certainly putting on a better public face -- body. Yes, the current situation is extreme -- and functionally problematic, given that so many members are not actively participating in Academy-business any longer -- but is also a rare instance where the laundry and issues are very public; I suspect that over the years the behind-the-closed-doors infighting has been similarly heated.
       Yes, the Academy has a lot of work to do -- but surely, as far as the Nobel Prize itself goes, this doesn't compare to the 1974 disaster, which called the whole Prize and procedure into question. (That's the year they named two of their own co-laureates .....)
       I look forward to the PR-spin they'll be offering -- and to how they handle the whole twice-as-much-fun/potential for disaster awarding-two-prizes next year.

       (As an illustration of how peculiar this institution is, consider the 1949 prize, not awarded that year because they: "decided that none of the year's nominations met the criteria as outlined in the will of Alfred Nobel"
       How bad were the nominations ? Well, the Academy apparently changed its mind -- quickly: of the 35 authors named in the 43 nominations, nine (!) went on to get the Nobel -- and while some were arguably early in their careers (e.g. a pre-Zhivago Pasternak), they included the 1951, 1952, and 1953 winners (Lagerkvist, Mauriac, and Churchill). (The rest: Steinbeck, Agnon, Camus, Sholokhov, Halldór Laxness.) But neither the delayed 1949 laureate (Faulkner) nor the 1950 one (Bertrand Russell !) were nominated in 1949, so presumably the Academy was holding out for those two .....)

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



       Canon making

       The always fun canon-debate !
       In The Washington Post Viet Thanh Nguyen suggests 'Books by immigrants, foreigners and minorities don't diminish the 'classic' curriculum. They enhance it', in Canon Fodder
       The opening lines are a devastating indictment of the American higher education system:
In 1992, as a first-year PhD student at Berkeley, I told the English department chairman, a famous Americanist, that I wanted to write a dissertation on Vietnamese and Vietnamese American literature. "You can't do that," he said, fretting over my ambition to teach in a university English department. "You won't get a job."
       My main issue with the canon-debate is that it's a narrowing-down, as if literature can be captured and checked off with the consumption of a handful of 'canonical' texts. Instead, I'd (always) suggest: read more, and read more widely.

       On a more localized level, see also Ronan Doherty, Philip O’Leary, and Brian Ó Conchubhair on What are the best books in Irish ? Weaponising the Irish-language canon in the Irish Times.

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



       Publishing in ... Australia

       An interesting piece by Emmett Stinson at The Conversation on The remarkable, prize-winning rise of our small publishers in Australia.
       (A similar phenomenon is seen in US and UK translation prizes, dominated by small and independent presses. Does not reflect well on the big(gest) publishing conglomerates .....)

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



4 May 2018 - Friday

No Nobel Prize in Literature this year
J.S.Mill marginalia | Allmen and the Dragonflies review

       No Nobel Prize in Literature this year

       So, given all the turmoil at the Swedish Academy they've made it official: The Swedish Academy postpones the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature.
       The prize isn't cancelled -- they'll double up (they hope ...) next year, awarding both the 2018 and 2019 prizes then --, and, as they note, this isn't the first time the prize has been postponed.
       Probably the right decision, giving them time to regroup -- but it's still going to take some work for them to get their institutional mess in order. And it's disappointing for all of us who enjoy the annual spectacle (well, with that recent, drawn-out exception ...).
       Any bets yet on how they're going to play the two-prizes-next-year awards ? Similar authors ? Radically different authors ? (I know, I know: way too early to speculate; we'll have to see what the Academy actually looks like (i.e. who is still in it) to guess.)

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



       J.S.Mill marginalia

       This is what the internet does best: sites such as Mill Marginalia Online, offering, yes, "a digital edition of all marks and annotations in the books of the John Stuart Mill Collection, held at Oxford University's Somerville College".
       In The Guardian Richard Adams writes about the project, in JS Mill scribbles reveal he was far from a chilly Victorian intellectual.
       The only Mill title under review at the complete review is On Liberty, but/and he is certainly among the authors who have had a tremendous impact on me.

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



       Allmen and the Dragonflies review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Martin Suter's Allmen and the Dragonflies, just (about) out from New Vessel Press -- and a great little light read. Here's hoping they follow up with the whole series.

       Meanwhile, his The Last Weynfeldt, which New Vessel Press brought out in the US a couple of years ago, just came out in the UK in a No Exit Press edition.

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



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