Who would mess with Flaubert's Madame Bovary ?
An author looking for attention, of course -- but at least Philippe Doumenc's Contre-enquête sur la mort d'Emma Bovary -- a polar which posits that Emma was murdered -- has a creative premise.
Get your copy at Amazon.fr,
and see (French) reviews in:
Time performs a useful service with a side-by-side comparison of the two recent Hillary Rodham Clinton biographies, Her Way by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. and A Woman in Charge by Carl Bernstein.
(It's still more than we want to know about either book .....)
Meanwhile, Christopher Hitchens
reviews them in the Sunday Times.
The Swiss are concerned about the lifting of fixed book-pricing, and so at the NZZ they look at the Swedish model, where prices were cut loose way back in 1970, in Buchhändler mŁssen Geschäftsleute sein.
All sorts of state subsidies (especially to get books into smaller regional bookshops) would seem to skew things quite a bit, but overall the picture doesn't look disastrous.
At least total sales are doing well -- though the big jump there came a few years back when the VAT on books was drastically cut.
The Swedish Publishersí Association also provides a lot of data in the useful Book Market Statistics 2005 (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
They offer all sorts of tables, including totals in terms of revenue and units sold -- fascinating stuff.
The average print-run of a new title was 7,800 copies, while the average number of copies sold was 5,000
And total sales volume was 40 million copies -- not bad per capita, but still .....
(Total fiction sales were 15,846,000.)
And as far as original titles (not reprints, which about double the total), there were:
Poetry and Drama: 41
Swedish Fiction: 269
Other Fiction in translation 339
Hard to imagine, but in Sweden it is still possible to read every single work of new Swedish fiction published in a single year, i.e. keep up with absolutely everything going on !
How many people do that (there must be some) -- and how does that affect the local literary culture ?
At Tehelka Lakshmi Indrasimhan interviewed Peter Gordon, administrator of the Man Asian Literary Prize, in The Babel Question.
Good to see that she also asked about -- and wasn't satisfied with the answer -- one of our major complaints: that, for something called an 'Asian Literary Prize', an awful lot of Asia doesn't qualify .....
Writers have the darnedest problems: in the Telegraph Edward Docx offers yet another examination of their terrible struggles with writing ... the dedications to their books, in To whom it may concern .
But at least he offers some fun examples.
They've announced the winner of the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize 2007 -- and it goes to Michael Hofmann for his translation of Durs Grünbein's Ashes for Breakfast.
We're pleased to see the attention for Grünbein and his poetry, but it probably wouldn't have been our pick; as we note in our review, we had some issues with, specifically, the translation.
We're curious how much the judges relied on comparing Hofmann's work to the originals (recall that, while the US edition (admirably) came with the original German text facing the English, the UK edition from Faber (which the judges presumably relied upon) shockingly didn't.)
Lamentably (but unsurprisingly) no newspaper etc. coverage yet --
but look for judge Robert McCrum to have a piece on it in The Observer this weekend .....
In honour of Reading the World (which we should be devoting some space to ... eventually as well), Emerging Writers Network offers a variety of coverage -- notably now an E-Panel of 4 literary translators -- Howard Curtis, Katherine Silver, Paul Olchvary, and Richard Jeffrey Newman -- moderated by Dan Wickett.
More praise for translator Michael Hofmann, as Lee Rourke uses his Kafka-translations as an example in a piece at The Guardian-weblog considering What goes into a great translation ?
(And yet again we disagree with Hofmann's approach: "cockroach" ?
No, no, no .....)
The very prestigious Georg-Büchner-Preis -- the biggest German author-award -- will go to ... Martin Mosebach this year, in what has to be considered a major surprise.
The only title of his available in English appears to be The Heresy of Formlessness
(get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), which appears to be fairly representative (if, at least, not entirely typical) .....
No real English-language coverage yet, but see, for example, Brillanz, die aus der Fülle kommt at the FAZ (though note that Mosebach also frequently writes for the FAZ).
ESPN isn't broadcasting the games, and there doesn't appear to be any real English-language coverage -- indeed there's been very little coverage outside of Sweden, where they're holding the European Word Cup (in Malmö, 7-9 June).
National teams of writers playing football (soccer) -- with some pretty decent names among them.
Sounds like fun; we'll try to keep you posted.
Ukrainian book publishers have been eyeing Poland as a gateway to the European book market, as Polish readers and book publishers show a growing interest in Ukraineís national literature and writers.
When Poland is your gateway you know you've still got a long way to go -- after all: how many Polish books make it into English every year ?
Still, we try to do our part, and have books by several of the mentioned and successful authors.
Russian-writing Andrey Kurkov is, of course, something of an exception -- the one real break-out popular writer, but one who writes in Russian (see, for example, our review of his Death and the Penguin), but Yuri Andrukhovych has had a couple of books translated into English as well (see, for example, our review of Perverzion).
According to experts, the future of modern Ukrainian literature lies with the keyboard flourishes of the nationís rising literary stars, such as Irena Karpa, a popular youth fiction author, and Lviv-born Lyubko Deresh, considered among the brightest of Ukraineís younger generation writers.
We have two Deresh-titles under review (see, for example, our review of Культ), but we're not so sure how they'll take to him in English.
Krasovitskiy said the problem with the Ukrainian book publishing marketís growth is the absence of popular fiction for the masses, since it is impossible to make a profit on "high" literature.
According to Krasovitskiy, popular literature, which normally occupies about 90 percent of the market in Ukraine, comes largely from Russia.
"The book market in Ukraine is an inverted pyramid.
Instead of being at the top, the so-called high literature forms the base.
It is a vicious circle.
The authors do not write mass products because publishers donít invest in and publish them.
As a result there is nothing to publish, which is not going to change in the nearest future," he said.
From our vantage point the status quo doesn't look so bad, so we're not rooting for too much change yet .....
The winners of the two Orange Broadbands (the OB Prize for Fiction and the OB Award for New Writers) have been announced; the winning titles were:Half of a Yellow Sun (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) and The Lizard Cage (Karen Connelly).
For early media coverage, see, for example: Testament to youth as war epic wins Orange prize by John Ezard in The Guardian and Nigerian author wins top literary prize by Nigel Reynolds in the Daily Telegraph.
We like how Ezard tosses around the big numbers: Adichie's book is a "230,000-word domestic epic" that has sold "187,000 copies since the paperback".
And we do expect to get around to reviewing the Adichie one of these days.
Lots of fuss in Poland about Education Secretary Roman Giertych's recently proposed school reading lists -- so much so that he's now backed off some and said that it was nothing more than a proposal.
Why the fuss ?
Well, his 'proposal' axed Goethe, Kafka, Dostoevsky, Gombrowicz, and the like -- and sees room for the works of literary lights like John Paul II.
The list is available -- in Polish, and in the dreaded pdf format -- here (and is well worth a look if only for the fun of trying to figure out some of the names: Wiliam Szekspir, Karol Dickens, etc. (someone has to explain to us why some names get Polonised (?) and others don't)).
(Note that the list isn't exactly catastrophic: there's lots of good stuff here, though they've obviously gone completely overboard with the Catholic focus.)
Not much English-language coverage so far, but Gerhard Gnauck has a fun overview in Die Welt, Wer braucht noch Goethe oder Kafka ?, where he notes that the heirs of Nobel laureate Sienkiewicz asked that his works be removed from the new list, feeling that he was in better company among those who had been struck from the curriculum .....
Some English-language coverage can be found at the beatroot (Education Minister Giertychís new school reading list)
or a Pravda-reprint (Polish student to read religious, patriotic books), and see now also the backtracking story at the news, School reading list changes proposals, not decisions.
The future of Meanjin, Australia's most famous literary magazine, is imperilled.
The board of the magazine has ratified a decision to have the magazine taken over by Melbourne University Publishing, and there is every indication that it may well end up as merely an online publication with no public presence to speak of.
We mentioned Leonie Swann's Glennkill when it came out in Germany almost two years ago, and after a UK edition last summer it's now set to come out in the US (as, as in the UK, Three Bags Full -- god knows why they had to change the title).
DeutscheWelle report on it, and we're curious to see how the American media take to it.
It didn't seem to get much British coverage, but in The Guardian Ian Sansom did judge:
Three Bags Full is ponderous, slow, involved and pedestrian, but it is also genuinely odd and affecting, and without a doubt the best sheep detective novel you're going to read this year.
It presumably won't have a Nemirovsky-like impact, but this is a pretty interesting literary discovery: Jean Améry is certainly among the most notable German-writing witnesses to the crimes of the Nazi regime, and now Klett-Cotta has come out with a novel he wrote in about 1935, Die Schiffbrüchigen (see their publicity page or get your copy at Amazon.de).
He still called himself 'Hans Mayer' back then ('Jean' is the French version of 'Hans', 'Amery' just a re-ordering of the letters of his last name), and it was never published -- but, though a work by a very young writer, is apparently of some literary interest (and already warns of some of what was to come).
There's been extensive review-coverage in German -- now also in the NZZ (Franz Haas' review)
, or see, for example, the review at literaturkritik.de.
For more on Améry, see, for example, Jean Améry: A Biographical Introduction by D.G.Myers.
New York looks at how different businesses make money (or don't), and Arianne Cohen offers an example from publishing: Random House.
A potentially interesting exercise, there's just way too little here for much of this to be meaningful -- or rather: what there is is incomplete.
Fiction makes up 55 per cent of the revenue ?
But what percentage of titles are fiction ... ?
"Two thirds of Random Houseís income comes from paperbacks".
But what percentage of Random House's books are paperbacks ?
No surprise, however, that: "itís the 33,000-book backlist that supplies 80 percent of its profit."
And interesting, of course, to hear that:
Best Ways to Make Money:
"The most-profitable books are highly successful authors early in their career with a contract that doesnít reflect their success," says Olson.
We certainly don't pretend to understand the publishing 'business', but surely this is an over-simplification.
Isn't the idea that all writers get paid a certain royalty -- say, 15 per cent -- and that the more you selll, the more everyone makes ?
What messes things up is, of course, that publishers pay often ridiculous advances to authors -- in contracts that reflect their supposed success ? -- which are never earned back.
Collections of classics were popular from the 1950s through the 1970s.
Many literary publishing houses brought out their own limited editions, but the trend ended with those published by Kawade Shobo Shinsha and Shueisha Inc. in 1989.
Shigeo Wakamori, president of Kawade, commented: "Young writers who won literary awards (sponsored by us) lament that they can't read masterpieces from the past.
Nowadays, it's hard to get hold of copies."
By 'classics' they do also mean some pretty recent stuff, but it still sounds good -- and there are quite a few bits of interest in the piece, including:
In 2003, Haruki Murakami sparked the interest in new takes on old tales by translating J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, rendering its English title in katakana rather than translating it into kanji.
(Kanji are the Chinese-characters that dominate most Japanese writing; katakana one of the two phonetic/alphabet-like alternative ways of writing out words.)
Despite all the attention Murakami gets in the US, one hears almost nothing about his translation-work (beyond lists of the authors he's had a go at ...); we'd love to hear more.
And it's also always good to hear some hard sales numbers:
The three volumes of Dostoevski's The Brothers Karamazov have sold 78,000 copies.
So they're handing out the Orange Broadbands tomorrow (see the shortlists), and so there are the obligatory prep-articles such as the Reuters-piece by Paul Majendie reporting that Adichie hot favourite for Orange prize.
Meanwhile, in The Telegraph Naomi Alderman reports on being a judge -- offering 'insights' such as:
And thereís nothing that tests oneís passion for books like having to read more than 60 of them on a tight deadline.
For four months, the books on the longlist went everywhere with me.
We're looking forward to one day reading one of these pieces by some literary-prize judge who doesn't moan about having to read so many books .....
I spent Friday moving house, a wearying exercise that prevented me from attending the BookExpo America fun that day (and the parties that night); fortunately there are reports all over from the many other literary webloggers in attendance (and on panels, etc., etc.).
I did the rounds as best I could -- on very sore feet -- on Saturday.
It's an odd exercise, but it was good to meet-and-greet a handful of publishers and publicists -- but I imagine there was a lot more action on the floor on Friday.
Meanwhile, the move has slowed things down at the complete review (among other problems: no DSL connexion yet, so we're relying on wireless where we can find it -- which is only very rarely in my new domicile ...).
It'll be a few more days before everything is back on track, with regular updates at the weblog and the usual average of four or five new reviews a week.
But there are also a few changes in store hereabouts, so there's more (I hope) for you to look forward to .....
Thanks for your patience !
Apparently more than just an audio version, there's now a twelve-CD, 630-minute (German) radio play of Peter Weiss' monumental The Aesthetics of Resistance.
It sounds ... unlikely, but got a very good write-up in the NZZ.
See also the literaturkritik.de review, or get your copy from Amazon.de.