They've announced that French-writing Algerian author Boualem Sansal will receive this year's Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels ('Peace Prize of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association') -- the biggest German international (mainly) literary prize (mainly because it occasionally goes to someone who isn't primarily a writer -- most recently to Anselm Kiefer in 2008); he gets to pick up the prize at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 16 October.
The only title by Sansal currently available in English is The German Mujahid (published in the UK as An Unfinished Business).
Two weeks ago I complained, yet again about (the lack of) Translation coverage at The New York Times Book Review; I didn't follow it up with another post last week, despite the fact that last week's fat issue offered just more of the same -- i.e. managed, as best I could tell, to completely ignore any- and everything in translation yet again.
(It was the 'Summer Reading' issue, which has slightly different requirements and aims from the usual issue, so I'm almost willing to give them a pass on it .....)
The 12 June issue isn't available online yet as I write this (it should be later this afternoon, when you'll be able to find it here), but the cover-review is.
Admirably, it is a lengthy review -- by Lydia Davis, no less -- of a book in translation; predictably -- oh so horribly predictably ! -- it is also a review of a book that has been previously translated, and that is by a dead author (as was also the last review of a translated book the NYTBR ran, and as are a ridiculously disproportionate number of the (very few) works in translation covered in the pages of the NYTBR).
(The book is Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations, in a translation by John Ashbery; see the W.W.Norton publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
Of course, the rest of the issue might be packed with reviews of works translated for the first time, by authors who are alive and well -- but I'm not holding my breath.
[Updated - 11 June And a good thing: the issue is, indeed, not polluted by reviews of any other works in translation, not even by any dead folk; Tanenhaus and cohorts stay true to form, through and through.]
Regardless, the preference for the tried (and tried again) and true (and dead) as far as works in translation go is undeniable -- and, to me, baffling.
This editorial policy strikes me as some bizarre literary joke -- though I have to admit: I don't get it.
Helpfully, The New York Times 'ArtsBeat'-weblog offers a post on Summer at the Book Review: What We're Reading, where the NYTBR-staff list what they hope to tackle this summer.
Not particularly revealing (beyond the disturbing fact that few of them seem to be planning to do much reading ...), but it does offer a bit of insight into the bizarre translated-books selection process at work in those offices.
A surprising number of editors seem to be setting off for France -- but they also have limited ambitions regarding French (or other foreign) books.
Still, a few titles written in foreign languages are on the reading lists: Sartre's Nausea, Abe Kobo's Woman in the Dunes, Madame Bovary, Plautus' Menaechmi, Ovid's Metamorphoses, and Homer's Iliad.
Anyone see a very familiar pattern emerging ?
Okay, not all of these have been re-translated (though quite a few have), but they're all by dead people !
Indeed, as best I can tell, the only book written in a foreign language by a living author named by any of the staff is Juan Dicent's Summertime -- which, however, (despite the English title) hasn't been translated yet .....
And as to head man Sam Tanenhaus ... well, you can guess how hopeless that is: he admits: "One of the many gaping holes in my so-called knowledge is political theory" but apparently remains oblivious to that most gaping of his holes, the abyss (for him) that is contemporary books in translation .....
They've announced that The Tiger's Wife (by Téa Obreht) has been awarded the Orange Prize for fiction (which "celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women's writing from throughout the world" (a bit presumptuously, since they do demand entered works be written in English, which kind of crimps that whole 'throughout the world'-idea)).
Like the rest of the finalists, The Tiger's Wife is not under review at the complete review at this time; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
"To some extent, publishers are sheep," says Summerhayes.
"I honestly think they don't know what they want until somebody else wants it too.
Don't get me wrong, I know many creative and brilliant publishers who discover great new things all the time, but it is nevertheless always very helpful if something comes to them already endorsed, either by a prize such as this, or else a quote from someone like Martin Amis telling them how great it is.
Anything, really, to convince them of its worth before they have even read a word."
('To some extent ' ... ?
She's way too polite .....)
Amazon.com, the American online bookseller, reported that as of April 1 of this year it had sold 105 digital books for every 100 paper ones in its US store.
In Germany, on the other hand, there is perhaps one e-book sold for every 100 paper versions.
As they note, a major reason is obviously that both e-readers and e-book-availability has been slow in coming in Germany -- with the e-reader-juggernaut Kindle only recently introduced, and still relatively few German titles available on it.
But I think they're deluding themselves if they spout nonsense such as:
Germans have a different relationship to the book, according to book analyst Müller, than those in some other countries.
In the land of renowned and beloved writers like Goethe and Schiller, not to mention the father of the printing revolution, Johannes Gutenberg, words on paper still have strong cultural currency.
"If you go to a bookstore on a Saturday, it will be full of people who want to browse, to touch and leaf through books, hold them in their hand," she said.
"And we have a strong tradition of giving books as gifts.
People aren't going to go to a party and bring a memory stick with them."
A bit of competitive pricing and watch how quickly that 'cultural currency' will be debased .....
The whole thing is either comic, tragic, or just plain silly, depending on your point of view, since technically I am a Spanish writer whose works are translated into Spanish.
Of particular interest: his feelings about the Spanish translations of the work he wrote in French:
The Spanish translation of Literature or Life is very good.
But I know I would not have written it like that in Spanish.
I proofread them, I make sure there are no heinous mistakes or mistranslations, but I can't correct for style, and the translations are not in my style.
I do not write in Spanish the way I do in French. I would use other words. So it's always painful to look at translations.
Among the works available in English, perhaps of greatest interest are:
They've announced that To the End of the Land, by David Grossman, has won this year's Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize -- beating out the Man Booker-winning The Finkler Question (by Howard Jacobson), Whitbread Costa Biography Award-winning
The Hare with Amber Eyes (by Edmund de Waal), and Visitation (by Jenny Erpenbeck), among others.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jussi Adler-Olsen's Mercy -- out in the UK now, and forthcoming in the US (as The Keeper of Lost Causes ...) later this summer.
This is the first in his very successful 'Department Q'-series, and thank god the English-language publishers are actually bringing out this series in sequence, and from the beginning (which they almost never do ...).
It's also one of the best books in this current Nordic crime-tidal-wave that I've read -- and is a very promising beginning to the series.
They've launched Read This Next -- "Powered by Three Percent" -- where:
Every week, Read This Next previews a forthcoming work of literature, offering interested readers an opportunity to check out great new books before they're available anywhere else.
Sounds like it has potential.
See also Chad Post's post at Three Percent, explaining the undertaking:
So, each Monday we'll post a lengthy preview of a book that's due out in 2-4 weeks.
You'll be able to read the preview online, or print it out, or download a version for your phone/Kindle/ereader.
We'll also post an interview with the author/translator and a full length review so that readers have a few ways to enter into the featured title.
The main goal is to highlight some of the best works coming out
In Turkey, we have not yet reached a level that is statistically significant
Mehmet Inhan, the general manager of the online bookstore idefix.com, which introduced e-book sales in the Turkish market a year ago, said in an interview with the Anatolia news agency on Monday that the e-book market in Turkey was still in the very early phases of its development, with only 1,500 books released in electronic format a year.
Issue 24 -- the Summer 2011 issue -- of The Quarterly Conversation is now available online, with lots of David Foster Wallace-related coverage, as well as other interesting pieces, including an interview by Jeffrey Errington with Eliot Weinberger.
And Other Stories looks like a promising new publishing venture -- certainly an interesting selection of titles to start things off with.
And, if you subscribe by tomorrow you'll "be thanked in print in the books themselves" (though a subscription sounds worthwhile even without the gimmick).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ludmila Ulitskaya's Daniel Stein, Interpreter, now out in English.
This is the first popular fiction book I can recall that is printed market-ready for both the US and UK, with two different UPC barcodes on the back cover.
And while I frequently complain about transliteration issues regarding Arabic, Chinese, and Korean names, Ulitskaya is a nice case-study too, the name on her books in different languages including:
Russian: Людмила Евгеньевна Улицкая
English: Ludmila Ulitskaya
French: Ludmila Oulitskaïa
German: Ljudmila Ulitzkaja
Sorry, but in this day and age you've got to do better than that -- I'm amazed that that's not the first thing her agent insisted on: uniform transliteration in the Latin/Roman alphabet (and, yes, the charm of Oulitskaïa would have been hard to resist -- but: no Umlauts !).
The June issue of the Literary Review at The Hindu is now available online.
Aside from the obligatory David Davidar profile C. Sarat Chandran writes on Remembering an icon, as its the "centenary of one of the most revered and adulated of all Malayalam poets", Changampuzha -- who "set the benchmark for Malayalam poetry's future growth".
At the Sofia News Agency site they have a lengthy piece On the Dissemination of Bulgarian Literature in Italy -- which is actually fairly interesting and informative, if you're interested in that sort of stuff.
(There aren't too many Bulgarian-literature surveys out there, in any form, so one takes what one can get.)
They've announced that Blanco nocturno, by Ricardo Piglia, has taken the prestigious Premio Internacional de Novela Rómulo Gallegos.
This prize has a good track record -- helping put Roberto Bolaño on the literary map by honoring his novel, The Savage Detectives, but also awarding it to no less than Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, Javier Marías, Enrique Vila-Matas, and Fernando del Paso (for
Palinuro of Mexico).
Piglia -- a longtime US resident, who teaches at Princeton (see his faculty page) -- ha fared reasonably well in getting his books into English translation, though you'll still have to wait for Blanco nocturno; meanwhile, see the Anagrama publicity page, or get the Spanish version from Amazon.com.
Blanco nocturno was one of 194 entries, and among the other finalists were novels by Diamela Eltit and Manuel Rivas.
Not much English-language coverage; for Spanish-language reports see, for example, those in El mundo or El País.
They've announced that New Zealand named Guest of Honour of the Frankfurt Book Fair 2012 -- not quite as tiny a country as this year's guest of honour, Iceland, but yet another samll, out-of-the-way island state -- the almost antipodean choice (okay, not really -- Reykjavík is at a latitude of ca. 64° N, Wellington a mere 41° S).
As far as English-writing nations, its authors are certainly less well known (and widely published ...) than they should be in the US and UK, and if it gets C.K.Stead more readers (see, for example, his The Secret History of Modernism) I'm all for it.
Still, I'm less than reassured by the fact that the job posting for Project Director - New Zealand Frankfurt Book Fair Project 2012 is still up -- and open, until 6 June (so throw in your hat if you'd like -- I'm almost tempted to ...).
I note that the Icelanders have set the bar high (especially for a small country) -- and take this opportunity to again point you to their official guest-hosting site, Fabulous Iceland, which remains the best and most useful guest-host site I've seen for any book fair to date.
The winners of the prestigious
Griffin Poetry Prize have been announced, and Heavenly Questions by Gjertrud Schnackenberg took the international category prize (with the Canadian prize going to Ossuaries, by Dionne Brand).
Rania Khallaf investigates 'How well can a revolution survive the language barrier ?' in Lost and found in translation in Al-Ahram Weekly, reporting on a recent symposium "aimed at discovering yet more dimensions to the 25 January Revolution and examining the challenges it poses to translation techniques".
In the new (23 June) issue of The New York Review of Books Adam Thirlwell reviews Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky's Memories of the Future, in The Master of the Crossed Out.
This title actually came out -- from NYRB Classics -- in 2009, but certainly deserves even delayed (or continued) attention; as long-time readers know, I'm a huge Krzhizhanovsky fan, and reviewed both Seven Stories and Memories of the Future back when they first came out (and have been touting him ever since).
Indeed, among the most exciting news I've heard in recent weeks is that NYRB Classics is bringing out another Krzhizhanovsky-volume, The Letter Killers Club -- though we'll have to wait until December for it .....
(I barely know how I'll manage ....; meanwhile, see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy (I would, if I were you !) at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
Oddly, Thirlwell doesn't mention this forthcoming work -- even as he complains that: "His corpus in English therefore now comprises twelve stories" (i.e. a sliver of the total).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Roberto Bolaño's Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles and Speeches, 1998-2003, just out in English in a beautiful edition from New Directions.
Among the many pleasures of the collection is how eager he makes one to read many of the books and authors he mentions (and, in fact, quite a few are under review at the complete review).
At his Conversational Reading Scott Esposito offers The Between Parentheses Reading List -- a great idea whose only fault is that it is far, far too short; at a mere nineteen titles/authors it barely scratches the surface -- and, as a commenter notes, omits one of the titles Bolaño gushes about most: Juan Rodolfo Wilcock's The Temple of Iconoclasts (and I admit to puffing my chest a bit at the fact that I reviewed that title back in 2000 ...).
Indeed, the Wilcock-gushing is so effusive I wonder if Mercury House will be tempted to re-jacket a new printing of their (currently hard to find) edition, with a few choice Bolaño blurbs.
The Temple of Iconoclasts is one of the best books of the twentieth century
If you want to have a good time, if you want to cure what ails you, buy it, steal it, borrow it, but most importantly, read it.
(And I can only suggest, in this and most regards: listen to Roberto !
And read Between Parentheses, too !)
Despite the best efforts of the Man Booker 'International' Prize to establish itself as the next-in-line in importance after the Nobel as far as international author prizes go it still has a way to go before catching up with the other biennial contender, the Neustadt Prize for International Literature.
(After this year's fiasco -- see, for example, this mention -- they have even more ground to make up .....)
Around since 1970, the Neustadt has produced an eclectic set of winners (see past laureates), but overall is pretty solid.
They also have an interesting way of selecting their winner, inviting a set of authors to act as jurors, each of whom nominates another author for the prize.
They've now announced the jurors for the 2012 Neustadt Prize for International Literature -- and their nominees.
The dangers of the approach they take are immediately apparent -- Andrea De Carlo nominated Bob Dylan ... -- but with nine authors (well, eight and Zimmerman ...) the chances that they'll settle on an interesting winner (i.e. not Dylan) are decent.
So the Prince of Asturias Award for Letters always seemed a bit too Spanish-focused for me, but the list of laureates -- which includes Nobel laureates such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Camilo José Cela, Günter Grass, and Doris Lessing, as well as local favorites such as Augusto Monterroso (see his Complete Works and Other Stories !) and Miguel Delibes, as well as Amos Oz, Ismail Kadare, and so on -- suggests a prize that can be taken fairly seriously.
Maybe no longer -- or maybe Andrea De Carlo is onto something with his nomination of Bob Dylan for the Neustadt Prize for International Literature (see above).
Yes, they've announced that this year it's Leonard Cohen, Prince of Asturias Award for Letters winner.
And, yes, they actually write that he is: "Considered one of the most influential authors of our time".
Hey, I enjoy the lyrics and tunes as much as the next person, and I haven't forgotten Beautiful Losers (or, if you really insist, The Favorite Game, though for god's sake, he wrote them more than forty years ago ...), but come on .....
In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday about his career, Naipaul, who has been described as the "greatest living writer of English prose", was asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match.
He replied: "I don't think so."
My favorite quote:
He added: "My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh.
I don't mean this in any unkind way."
Gotta love that patronizing touch !
(The publisher is, of course, Diana Athill.)
I'm a great admirer of Naipaul's writing (see, for example, the review of Magic Seeds), but he's one of those (many, many) writers who it really probably would be a lot better to never hear from (a list that is, of course, -- despite Naipaul's best efforts -- still headed by Martin Amis).
"As the circulation of soap operas in the international arena has increased, learning Turkish language and culture have become very important in the Arab and Balkan countries.
This is what we call 'soft power,' within the context of the culture industry," she said.
German-writing Dutch author Hans Keilson, whose work has recently enjoyed something of a renaissance, has passed away; practically no English-language coverage as I write this, but see, for example, the (Dutch) NRC Handelsbladnotice.
The only one of his works under review at the complete review is Comedy in a Minor Key.
(Updated - 2 June): See now also the obituary by Emma Brown in The Washington Post.
The German SWR-Bestenliste, where thirty critics vote for their favorite new titles, for June is now out -- and two Robert Louis Stevenson titles make the list.
(The early summer selections seem pretty feeble, however: the point totals these books got are extraordinarily low: an average of a single point per critic (they can award up to fifteen) would have been enough to vault a book to seventh place .....)