The new issue of Transcript -- the "european internet review of books and writing" --
is now available online, with the focus on 'Children's Literature'.
Also of interest, however, 'Mladen Jandrlic, founder and director of Zurich-based literary agency books & rights, argues the case for increased cooperation between small publishers across national borders'
in More countries, better books (a piece that originally appeared in German in Buchmarkt in September 2007).
Taipei's latest International Book Exhibition ended yesterday, but not before a number of politically sensitive questions arose during the fair's last forum, which focused on the current and future standing of Taiwan literature in the international community.
Author Li Ang noted that: "Taiwan's literature -- and culture in general -- is far too rare and inaccessible in the world", and:
"It's so rare to run into Taiwan literature in places such as Europe and the United States," said Li, who was praised at the event as Taiwan's most broadly distributed author, with translations of her works in English, French and German, among many other languages.
It certainly does have something of an identity and visibility problem, but we're not sure Liao Bing-hui's proposed remedy will work as he hopes:
Pointing to a series of novels, short stories and poems translated into English by an American scholar and his Taiwanese wife over the last decade, Liao argued the way for Taiwan to avoid the trend of slipping into cultural obscurity on the world stage is to attract upcoming academics and students to foster a genuine interest in Taiwan culture, so they will devote the time needed to properly translate works into their native languages.
Mikhail Bulgakov's satanic novel The Master and Margarita, an inspiration for the Rolling Stones tune 'Sympathy for the Devil,' is being turned into a movie, two decades after Roman Polanski attempted to bring it to the big screen.
Well, someone has optioned it, anyway ... but since that would be Stone Village Pictures, the folk who recently gave us the film-adaptation of another literary classic, Love in the Time of Cholera,
there is, to say the least, reason to be concerned about their intentions.
See also shorter overviews and agency reports at the BBC, AFP, and Reuters.
The French papers are, of course, awash in coverage, but see also, for example, Pied de nez de Robbe-Grillet à l'immortalité by Pierre Assouline at his weblog, la République des livres, and Isabelle Rüf's obituary at Le Temps.
Some good early German coverage as well: see, for example, obituaries by:
The only one of his titles we have under review is Repetition, but he did write some interesting things.
And we imagine he won't be displeased going out on Un roman sentimental (see our previous mention)
Meanwhile, while he had his issues with the Académie française, his fauteuil 32 is now also vacant -- and given the Académie's difficulties (or is it: reluctance ?) in filling vacant seats -- see our previous mention -- the situation there is slowly becoming precarious -- only 33 of the 40 seats are currently filled.
(Updated - 20 February): see also The Guardian's obituary (mainly) by Douglas Johnson -- of note because of the macabre (but surprisingly not all that unusual) circumstances of the subject of the obituary having outlived the writer of the obituary .....
Following up on his Words without Borders piece on the business of translation, Lawrence Venuti answers some questions and gets into more specifics at their weblog; see also Chad Post's thoughts at Three Percent.
Among the interesting observations:
Yet anglophone readers can’t do this much with foreign literatures because of the dearth of translations (and the relatively small number that remain in print or accessible).
One result is fear of foreign writing, fear of not knowing enough about the culture where a foreign work was written in order to be able to appreciate it.
This is also partly a fear of translation, I suspect, a fear that translation contaminates, deceives, doesn’t give you the source text—it never did ! -- a misconception about translation that also needs to be addressed somehow.
But a reader who has read a few works translated from a foreign literature, past and present, will feel better equipped to brave some newcomer.
This is undoubtedly what’s happening with the foreign crime fiction, which is selling in unprecedented numbers for translations.
At least four of Finland’s top authors have decided to part company with the country’s largest publishers WSOY, when two of the company’s directors leave in the spring.
The authors are Kari Hotakainen (see our reviews of Buster Keaton and Sydänkohtauksia), Hannu Raittila (see our review of Canal Grande), Pirkko Saisio, and Leena Lander.
(Given how few of their books have been translated into English, maybe they'll fare better in at least this regard with a more nimble independent .....)
De papieren man points us to the CPNB Top-100 (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- "de honderd best verkochte boeken van Nederland in 2007" (yes, the 100 bestselling titles in the Netherlands in 2007 -- complete with numbers, and also broken down by a couple of different categories).
Always interesting to see what is popular elsewhere -- and we love those actual sales figures.
Poindexter has what today would be called a maverick approach to publishing.
He befriends his authors, often by flying them out to San Francisco so they can meet the staff and thus begin a true working relationship.
He is committed to fostering the entire career of an author rather than trying to coax out best sellers and then abandoning the writers who fail to produce them.
Above all, his ambition is to publish literature and contribute something meaningful to the culture in which he lives.
Penguin (India) has brought out the first new Kamala Markandaya (1924-2004) novel since 1982, Bombay Tiger (see their publicity page; it does not appear to be available at the Amazons yet).
As Gillian Wright writes in her review in India Today:
She then spent years working on Bombay Tiger, but could not find a publisher either in Britain, where she lived, or in the US.
Editors found the book too long, and the present version was discovered by her daughter among her papers after her death.
Behind closed doors, Cambodia’s bookworms are hard at work.
There may be few people reading on the street, but analysts say reading is on the rise as the once-popular Khmer pastime re-emerges from a turbulent era that rendered books an unnecessary part of life.
Good to see some enthusiasm:
"People aren’t aware of how good Khmer literature is and it is only a matter of time before it is rediscovered," said Poav.
Not in translation yet, however -- where about the best you can do is try to get your hands on Manoa's In the Shadow of Angkor issue (Summer, 2004).
But even domestically things aren't easy:
Writers, publishers and printers are confronted by an industry still in its early stages of development and, without the presence of official publishing houses, responsibility falls on authors to produce their own books.
"One in three writers handle the whole process of publishing and marketing their works themselves by photocopying and selling their copies to friends at market stalls," Jarvis wrote.
Fortunately the Internet also is of some help -- check out, for example, Khmer Voice.
For a quick historic overview see also Judy Ledgerwoord on Cambodian Literature (noting that: "Between 1950 and 1975, nearly 1,000 novels were published; in the early 70's they appeared at a rate of about 50 books per year")
In a move that seems to be gaining momentum, some bookstores dealing in new titles have started selling secondhand books.
Although the practice had been considered taboo because it could hurt sales of new titles, last month four major chain-bookstore operators from Nagano Prefecture and elsewhere formed a joint company that buys and sells used books.
Behind this change is a sense of crisis shared by bookstores, which see their market shrinking despite a growing number of new publications.
They fear the industry may not hold on if it relies solely on new titles.
In The Telegraph Sudeshna Banerjee reports on who all (and how all) are selling books in India, in Mall print -- and finds that:
The biggest battle to the big-book-at-the-mall is perhaps being given by pavement shacks like the one near the Ultadanga crossing.
Illuminated by light from a Sony World showroom and sandwiched between handkerchiefs and statuettes, Sunil Kar sells Michel Foucault and Manik Bandyopadhyay, imported science journals and humble little magazines.
With a publication date still quite a ways away there hasn't been much build-up yet for the English-language edition of Jonathan Littell's Les Bienveillantes ('The Kindly Ones') -- indeed, barely a word has slipped out about in the US or UK.
But with it just out in paperback in France (with quite a few small revisions) and set, with much fanfare, to come out in Germany, the French continue to keep tabs on things, and Alain Beuve-Méry and Thomas Wieder offer an overview in Le Monde, in L'Allemagne s'interroge sur Les Bienveillantes.
There they also describe how they picked the translator-into-English, with five or six (we're a bit concerned about that uncertainty ...) anonymously submitting samples of the same extracts and Littell having some say in the final choice -- which turned out to be ... Charlotte Mandell.
HarperCollins' Terry Karten notes that Mandell has translated several of Littell's favoured authors -- Blanchot, Flaubert, Genet and Proust
-- and given her body of work she certainly sounds like a good choice; see also her home page (where we hope she'll start posting some information about this particular undertaking too).
And we certainly hope that HarperCollins treat her better than Random House did when they published her very unacknowledged translation of Bernard-Henri Lévy's American Vertigo; see our mention of that particular outrage.
In The Guardian Nicholas Wroe profiles bestselling French author Fred Vargas in Grave concerns.
Some amusing family background -- it must have been an interesting environment to grow up in:
Their father was a prominent surrealist who wrote studies of André Breton and other leading figures in the movement, but he made his living working for an insurance company.
"He never talked about his job," she recalls.
"Apart from saying 'I am going to the box.'"
Vargas says her father was a brilliant but intimidating presence who seemed to know about everything except science.
He forbade television, and from the "thousands" of books in the house he would "authorise" what the children could read -- mostly myths, folk tales and 17th-century baroque poetry.
"Can you imagine it ?
Having books that were 'authorised' !
And many of them were too old for children, although I did love the myths.
And our house was also full of primitive arts and masks and this surrealist fascination with death and decay.
Thank God my mother was a chemist who helped us keep our heads on our shoulders, because a surrealist atmosphere is really not so good for children."
After the success of The Yacoubian Building the English translation of Alaa al-Aswany's follow-up, Chicago, is much-anticipated -- and remains so until at least the fall, when the HarperCollins edition is due out (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com)
as the American University in Cairo Press edition (see their publicity page) is listed: 'For sale only in the Middle East'.
Fortunately that hasn't stopped some publications from reviewing it -- though what does it say when the Financial Times gets to it ahead of almost all those publications with literary pretensions .....
But John R. Bradley has reviewed it there -- and we can readily believe:
Chicago was first published in weekly instalments in the opposition newspaper Al-Dustour, so the chapters often end with rather contrived cliff-hangers.
New characters, especially in the first half of the novel, are introduced at almost too-rapid intervals, and too many of them are not fully brought to life.
Instead, they are merely used to represent an idea or dilemma, which can then be clashed with another.
The sex scenes, viewed as faintly scandalous back in Egypt, will also strike western readers as timid to the point of being faintly embarrassing.
Nevertheless, Chicago is worth reading as a rare opportunity to consider the contemporary Egyptian condition.
In a cruel tease Open Letter preview their fall list at Three Percent -- click on the pdf link there for the good-looking catalogue with excerpts and other information.
It looks damn impressive -- indeed, from the titles we're familiar with (Dubravka Ugresic's Nobody's Home and Jan Kjærstad Erobreren (i.e. The Conqueror)), it is damn impressive.
But the clear stand-out title -- at least in the most-anticipated-by-us category -- is the long overdue translation of Ričardas Gavelis' Vilnius Poker
Why have so few of your books been translated into Arabic ?
The Arabic translation matters to me more than any other.
It's the one I feel involved in most.
Unfortunately, there is a wall of resistance with the Arab countries.
Many Arab publishers won't touch anything coming from Israel, whether it comes from the hawks or the doves.
The world's most famous Israeli-born actress is joining the ranks of Hollywood stars getting behind the camera, but with a major difference: she'll be doing it in Hebrew.
Natalie Portman reveals in the March issue of W magazine that she'll make her directorial debut with A Tale of Love and Darkness, bringing to the big screen Amos Oz's memoir about growing up in 1940s and Fifties Jerusalem.
Portman told the fashion magazine that she plans to preserve the language of the memoir by directing the film in Hebrew.
Interesting that the film's backer are willing to do it in Hebrew.
We do rather enjoy watching Ms. Portman in front of the camera, and we're curious to see what she does behind it.
But we are keeping our fingers crossed that she didn't learn anything from George Lucas, whose inability to deal with human actors made even her unwatchable in three 'Star Wars'-films.
In Le Figaro Françoise Dargent wonders: Un roman retrouvé de Marguerite Duras ?
Could the 1941 Heures Chaudes be by Duras ?
The fact that its author is 'M. Donnadieu' -- and that Duras' real name is Marguerite Donnadieu -- suggests there might be something to it.
At Nextbook Gideon Lewis-Kraus takes 'A fresh look at the laughingstock of psychoanalysis' in Master of the Orgasm -- and the conclusion is certainly worth considering:
Reich’s story can thus be read as kind of allegory about psychoanalytic thought itself.
Reich took up the least appealing parts of Freud and pursued them to their most absurd ends.
Our inclination to ridicule Reich every few years becomes a way of conducting proxy skirmishes in the perpetual debate about Freud’s legacy and relevance.
When we exaggerate the discontinuity in Reich’s life, casting him in dual mythical roles as Freud’s most promising student and Freud’s most berserk deserter, we seem to be staking out our own ambivalence to Freud’s discomfiting ideas.
We incarnate in one person what seems most preposterous about psychoanalysis, and then we place that person at once as close to and as far away from Freud as we can.
Meanwhile, given Reich's enduring popularity (or at least the continued interest in him) we remain baffled that no one has yet published a translation of Harry Mulisch's great riff on Reich, Het seksuele bolwerk.
A month after Ron Rosenbaum stirred up this debate again at Slate (see also our mention) The Times tackles the question of whether or not Vladimir Nabokov-son Dmitri should torch what there is of The Original of Laura.
They have a leader on The Burning Question (coming down on the side of saving the manuscript), and then Stefanie Marsh's in-depth look at Vladimir Nabokov, his masterpiece and the burning question.
Also fun: they have two prominent authors weigh in pro and contra: John Banville says Save it, while Tom Stoppard says Burn it.
Like Stoppard we don't get Banville's line of reasoning when he says:
That Nabokov, before he died, did not destroy what he had written of his final novel is surely an indication that he wanted it to live
Surely Nabokov had no intention of dying, but rather hoped to continue working on the novel until he had completed it .....
What would happen if authors started destroying their incomplete (and not-ready-for-an-audience) works-in-progress everytime they suspected they might be about to keel over
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Peter Pišt'anek's Rivers of Babylon.
This is one of those nice but typically peculiar foreign-fiction (semi-)success stories, a 1991 Slovakian novel brought out by the university-affiliated Garnett Press last year.
Helped by some praise from William Boyd it seems to have already made a good first impression, and should get some more coverage now that it's made it onto the longlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
They've announced that the 2008 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature has been awarded to The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family's Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World by Lucette Lagnado.
At $100,000 this prize easily dwarfs all the 'big' American single-book prizes .....
It did get good reviews -- with even the Kakutani calling it "stunning" as: "Writing in crystalline yet melodious prose, Ms. Lagnado gives us an indelible gallery of family portraits" (review reluctantly linked to here); see the Ecco publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com.
The Sami Rohr Prize alternates between rewarding a fiction title and a non.
This was a non year, and we're looking much more forward to next year's fiction competition.
The Commonwealth Writers' Prize regional shortlists will be announced today (though it might take a while for the news to leak out ...).
Like the Man Booker it's limited to the Commonwealth -- and like the Man Booker it's limited to work written in English -- but at least by pitting the regional winners against each other it guarantees a bit more of an international feel to it.
Still, don't expect too many surprises or new names.
(Updated): Here's the official press release, and at least with this many titles in the running -- best book and best first book -- there will be a fair amount to talk about.
Still, somewhat disappointing that Australia has a clean sweep of all 12 "South East Asia and South Pacific" nominations, and Canada goes 11 for 12 in the "Canada and Caribbean" category
Some to-do in India over the Hindi translation of the Kannada classic Samskara by U.R.Ananthamurthy (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; we've been meaning to get to it for quite a while ...) as, as for example Udayavani report, there's been a Call for withdrawal of 'Samskara':
A demand for the withdrawal of Jnanpith winner U R Ananthamurthy's book Samskara from the Hindi syllabus is a matter of heated debate among academic circles in the districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Kodagu.
The 60-member Mangalore University Hindi Teachers’ Association has taken up the issue with the university saying that explicit details of the relationship of the central character, Praneshachar, with prostitute, Chandri, are too difficult to teach in the classroom.
It has pointed out in its letter that teachers of coeducation classes have found it difficult to teach it. Women lecturers are embarrassed, it said.
Secretary of the association Vishnu Bhat said that the novel is good but it cannot be taught in classrooms.
The University's Board of Studies for Hindi, in its special meeting at Mangalagangotri on Monday, unanimously recommended to the university not to withdraw the book till the end of the fourth semester this year, according to sources in the Board of Studies.
The book has been prescribed for fourth semester undergraduate students.
It decided that the university should take a final decision on the book after the fourth semester and in 2009.
In A good partnership in The Hindu Mita Kapur profiles Yatra Books-publisher Namita Gokhale.
We like the idea behind it -- "Cross cultural journeys through literature in translation" -- and thinks it's great that a publisher is trying to present boks in translation in India in languages other than English:
Yatra Books is into translations because they are convinced that, despite being completely cosmopolitan in their outlook, some Indian readers are more comfortable reading in their mother tongue be it Hindi, Malayalam, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi or Assamese.
It recognises the need to seriously address the needs of this growing population of young, urban, elite readers who are adventurous and globally sensitised.
In the last two years, they have published more than 100 titles in Hindi, Urdu and Marathi.
They aim to work on translating Indian literature into French, German and Spanish.
Some national foreign literature promotion sites already do this kind of thing, but it's good to see the Icelandic Review Online also start up a review section for literature, where:
Web editor Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir will provide you with a new book review every month about a recently published Icelandic novel likely to be released internationally.
Twelve Icelandic novels a year that are likely to be translated ... ?
We wish !
But the first one they chose certainly will be, and Arnaldur Indriðason-fans here get a preview of his latest, as they review
his not-yet-translated Harðskafi -- and call it: "Indridason’s best book since the publication of Silence of the Grave" (and note that it: "sold more copies than any other book in Iceland last year").
As widely reported, mega-bestselling author Paulo Coelho makes it easy for readers to get access to pirated copies of his work online; see, for example, the Newsweek report Free Speech by Andreas Tzortzis:
Coelho's online activities also include a somewhat nefarious one: he likes to promote pirated copies of his own books.
At the recent Digital, Life, Design Conference in Munich, Coelho told a gathering of tech company CEOs, artists and designers that since 2005 he's been directing his readers to an online site where they can download his books, in languages from German to Japanese, for free.
"I always thought that when, at the beginning of your career, you strive to be read, you can't change your mind later and become greedy about it," he said.
Tell that to his publisher, HarperCollins. When reached by Newsweek, a HarperCollins spokeswoman, Patricia Rose, said the publisher knew nothing about Coelho's online activities.
Although the copyright for the translations belongs to the various publishing houses he works with, Coelho owns all of the digital rights to his work, except for his contract for English editions with HarperCollins. Since his surprise at the conference on Jan. 20, Coelho has yet to hear from the publisher. "So far no reaction," Coelho says.
What happens next may be up to the publishers.
Amusingly enough -- and suggesting that that spokeswoman wasn't in the loop (or they're very, very secretive at HC) -- Motoko Rich now reports in The New York Times that 'HarperCollins Will Post Free Books on the Web' (reluctantly linked to at that registration requiring site here) -- and guess who they're starting off with ...:
In an attempt to increase book sales, HarperCollins Publishers will begin offering free electronic editions of some of its books on its Web site, including a novel by Paulo Coelho and a cookbook by the Food Network star Robert Irvine.