As the official page announces: the "John Llewellyn Rhys Prize is currently on hold".
Apparently Booktrust (who run this and several other prizes) have found that, given their "new funding settlement with the Department for Education" they couldn't afford to hold it this year.
They haven't killed it off (yet ?), but it is 'on hold'.
This is among the more interesting UK literary prizes -- awarded to an author 35 or under -- and it has a good track record.
As one-time winner Margaret Drabble points out in arguing We can't afford to lose the John Llewellyn Rhys prize in The Guardian:
There has been a remarkable roll call of winners.
Novelists, short story writers, dramatists, biographers and poets are all eligible, and the diverse list includes both the Naipaul brothers (VS and his brother Shiva, who also died young), Angela Carter, Julian Mitchell, AN Wilson (twice), Andrew Motion, Jeanette Winterson, David Hare, Ray Monk and Jonathan Coe.
Not bad at all.
While the winner only receives £5,000, it is a prestigious career-booster; of course, the costs of running it are considerably more than the relatively small prize-money might suggest.
One hopes that the funds to get things going again can be found somewhere.
See also John Llewellyn Rhys prize 'suspended' by Alison Flood in The Guardian.
Book Brunch has learned that the launch of an American Man Booker is believed now to be under serious discussion between executives at the Man Group and the Trustees of Man Booker Prize.
Given that the big three American literary prizes award trivial sums to the winner -- the American National Book Award's hands out $11,000 to the winner, a Pulitzer is worth $10,000, National Book Critics Circle winners get no cash at all -- a well-financed prize with the proper street-credentials could do well.
I'm stunned that the British Man Booker, with its ridiculous submissions policy -- limiting entries (with some small exceptions) to two per publisher/imprint, and not revealing what books were submitted (i.e. are in the running) -- manages to be taken so seriously, but they're very good at fostering their brand, so it might be possible to carry that over.
In any case, I hope this news leads to heated debate and speculation.
As the official press release has it, University of York acquires Ayckbourn Archive for the nation; more significantly it will apparently be made fairly readily available to the public, as the "University aims to reach a wider audience through a suite of online educational tools and resources based on the archive".
Ayckbourn is quoted:
Sir Alan said: "The archive is really about the writing process.
The old method was my wife, Heather, at an old typewriter with me dictating from my handwritten notes.
I always like to go to bed with a tidy script and, in the old days, I would trawl back through several pages of typing and blot things out with tippex or cover my scripts with arrows.
"I realised that what I was learning from others and from experience was valuable and I wanted to chronicle it.
I hope the Archive is an extension of this.
I think the Archive will be a fertile ground for ideas and inspire people to write."
I'm a great admirer of Ayckbourn, and quite few of his plays are under review at the complete review; see, for example, Henceforward ....
"We don't bring out too many books," she notes.
The company is known for its translations, largely from Urdu and more recently from Arabic, and, says Ritu, "The quality of translations is very important. That takes a long time."
So there are now over 2700 books under review at the complete review, and so I tallied up some of the numbers for the past 100 reviews (number 2601 through 2700).
- As always, fiction dominated: with 80 novels and 4 story-collections under review not much else was covered.
- As usual, the selection was fairly international, with authors from 33 countries (led by France (14), Japan and the UK (8), the US (7), and Sweden (6)).
- Books were originally written in English and 22 other languages, the most popular being:
See now also the updated language list, tracking the languages all books under review were originally written in.
Oh, yeah ... one more thing.
Unfortunately, the author ratio -- male to female -- remains as terrible as always.
84.5 books were written by men, 15.5 by women.
(Okay, that improves the site average from 14.69 to 14.72 per cent, but that's hardly very impressive; see the updated Author-sex breakdown of books under review.)
The Greek Athens Prize for Literature, awarded for best Greek novel, and best translation, has been announced, and Theodoros Grigoriadis -- a judge for the translated prize, and shortlisted for the best Greek novel award -- has the run-down.
Shahriar Mandanipour's Λογοκρίνοντας μια ιρανική ερωτική ιστορία (Censoring an Iranian Love Story) took the translated prize (in a very English-heavy field); Sofia Nikolaidou's
Απόψε δεν έχουμε φίλους won for best Greek novel.
The Hans Christian Andersen Litteraturpris
-- the 'Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award', not to be confused with the children's-book award, the Hans Christian Andersen Awards (though more seeds of confusion were sown by the award being given to J.K.Rowling last time 'round ... -- really: worst choice for name of new literary award ever) -- has been awarded to Isabel Allende (though, last I checked: no word at the official site ...); see, for example, the report at Monster & Critics.
In the Irish Times Darragh McManus asks: Tiny books -- the next big thing ? focusing on Hodder's new 'flipback'-line (see their press release) in particular.
As a great fan of the small-size book format (the standard Japanese paperbacks, the German Reclam Universal-Bibliothek line, etc.)
-- shirt pocket-size is my ideal, jacket pocket-size will do, and the trade paperback format remains the greatest abomination I am confronted with daily -- I certainly approve.
Though the squarish format bothers me a bit .....
These are two more beautiful little volumes from the American University in Cairo Press, and this being the Mahfouz centennial year it would be great to see his work get the attention it deserves.
Whether that will happen .....
Well, before I put these two reviews up there were already reviews of twenty (!) Mahfouz titles up at complete review, as well what I think is a fairly useful (as starting point) author page.
On Monday, only seven of these pages were accessed by anyone (with no one even bothering to look at the author page); the total number of page-views: thirty-seven (for comparison sake: a significant number of individual reviews at the site rack up more page-views by themselves, day in and day out).
There are a number of reasons for the poor showing -- including the fact that the new Google algorithm absolutely hates the Naguib Mahfouz-page (you have to be very creative with your search-query to stumble across that, which is why no one does) -- but a major one also appears to be a simple lack of interest in Mahfouz, despite this being the centennial year.
I hope things pick up: he really does deserve better, and more attention, even for these relatively minor works
Mikhail Shishkin was recently named the winner of the German International Literature Award -- awarded for "prose translated into German for the first time" -- for Venushaar, the German translation of his novel Венерин Волос.
(Chad Post reported on this two weeks ago, since Open Letter will be publishing Marian Schwartz's English translation, Maidenhair, next fall.)
Now signandsight offer an English translation of a Q & A by Der Freitag with Shishkin and his German translator, Head versus hand.
The Guardian has Kamila Shamsie on the perils and delights of translation.
She mentions a variety of translation issues and questions of the sort most people might not think of -- someone else died in the Italian version of her book ? Miguel Syjuco on the varying responses to his Ilustrado, etc. -- using the recent Premio Gregor von Rezzori get-together as a starting point for her interesting discussion.
The Premio is actually two: one for "for the best work of foreign fiction translated into Italian" (awarded to The Lazarus Project, by Aleksandar Hemon), and a jury prize, "for the best Italian translation of a work of foreign fiction".
Bizarrely, the latter was awarded to three different translations of Il grande Gatsby .....
Looking into all this has also led me to La Nota del Traduttore, "una rivista online sulla traduzione letteraria appositamente ideata per dare visibilità ai traduttori e alla traduzione letteraria", which is certainly something to bookmark.
They've announced the longlist for what used to be the Royal Society Prize for Science Books and is now the more commercial Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books; great that they have a sponsor, too bad they had to muck up the name of the prize.
I haven't read any of the books on the longlist -- but I have read books by two of the judges.
Yes, Richard Holmes is one; embarrassingly (or not ?) the other isn't Monica Ali, but rather Robert Llewellyn (and the book was ... The Man in the Rubber Mask (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) -- yes, my Red Dwarf enthusiasm led me to read not only the Grant Naylor books but this one, too).
At her love german books Katy Derbyshire offers a translation of the 'Wolfenbüttel Manifesto', 10 Theses on Blogging for Translators (German original here (the link she provides doesn't work)).
I encourage most everyone to blog, and there are certainly a lot of good arguments (many presented here) as to why translators should take advantage of this medium -- go for it !
Above all, the already hefty cash prize has just been doubled to $100,000 dollars, making future winners very rich indeed.
According to the NLNG, "The increase is to reestablish a creative, innovative environment in Nigeria and use them to rekindle interest in education and learning."
That's a lot of naira
(roughly 15,585,000, at the current exchange rates); whether this is the best way to get the prize to be taken seriously remains open.
The big payday presumably can't hurt, but spreading the money might be more useful.
In The Observer Tim Adams has a Q & A with Salman Rushdie.
Among the answers of interest: he talks about his memoirs (and their length ...):
I remember you writing once that "life teaches us who we are".
Writing your memoir, have you been surprised at what you discovered about yourself ?
In years like those you discover all your weaknesses as well as your strengths.
And writing it, you have to be most brutally honest about yourself.
It will be 600 pages, so I guess there was plenty to discover...
Not a big fan of the memoir, I'm actually curious about this one; Rushdie seems to me to have shot his fiction-wad quite a while back (peaking with Shame, though both Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses also hold up well), but since he won't be able to get quite as fanciful in autobiography, there's a chance this might be readable.
Though I must say I'm not particularly interested in the fatwa-years (that's been beaten rather to death) but rather his years in advertising (working alongside Fay Weldon ...) and the Grimus-years .....
It's only out of a misguided sense of obligation that I link to this misconceived article on How foreign writers make it to US bookshelves (by Marjorie Kehe, in the Christian Science Monitor), since that's a topic of interest to many of my readers (and to me, too).
But in mixing literature in translation (and the 'three percent'-number) and foreign literature written in English it becomes a rather confusing hash, which doesn't make any real or convincing point (which, admittedly, would have been a tall order, given the minimal word-count).
Typical are the near non-sensical quotes, such as:
Mr. Wisner notes that Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina won the Caine Prize in 2002, founded the influential literary magazine Kwani?, and teaches at Bard College in the US.
Yet he is still best known (if known at all) to American readers as the author of How to Write about Africa
Well, what on earth should they know him for ?
Winning an African short-story prize nearly a decade ago ?
Running a magazine that, admirable though it is, has a ... limited American readership ?
Being a teacher ?
'American readers' couldn't even buy a book by the guy if they wanted to -- he hasn't published any.
(All this will change, especially Wainaina's profile, once his memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place comes out (shortly in the US; in a few months, in the UK; see the Graywolf Press publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk); for now, however, he's a bad example).
(More interesting examples would be fellow Bard teachers such as Emmanuel Dongala (several of whose books have been published in English translation; see, for example, Little Boys Come from the Stars) or even someone like Norman Manea.
(By the way: Bard has an awesome literary faculty: Tahar ben Jelloun, Nuruddin Farah, and a whole load of American writers .....))
At n+1 Elizabeth Gumport writes Against Reviews (meaning book reviews), which is a very odd piece of work.
Her complaint about the prevalent chronological focus -- how periodicals focus on the newest publications -- is a point of some interest, but she takes it rather too far in claiming:
The primary concern is not the quality of the book but the fact of the book, and especially the date it became fact.
And, sure, it's a nice idea that:
There must be a less arbitrary, more sensible way to encounter books, an organizational scheme better suited to identifying and highlighting excellence; one which doesn't foreground mediocrities simply because they are the newest mediocrities.
Gumport also grandly pronounces:
It is time to stop writing -- and reading -- reviews.
The old faiths have passed away; the new age requires a new form.
All well and good (or not) -- but she offers no alternatives, no less arbitrary and more sensible ways, no new forms.
Which rather deflates her whole argument (if one can call it that), and makes the whole exercise appear pointless -- like a piece 'Against Blue' or 'Against Soup'.
(I hesitate to pick too much at the other arguments, since she speaks in generalities that don't apply to me: obviously, I read many reviews, probably more than most, and it hasn't been my personal or site-related experience that the only people who read reviews are: "usually just the book's author, if she Googles herself, plus any pals, parents, exes, etc.".
And, as regards the review-focus on only the latest books, that too is more complicated hereabouts: of the past forty-odd titles reviewed at the complete review a single one was first published anywhere in 2011, and just one other in 2010; on the other hand many did admittedly first appear in English translation, or in a US edition, in 2010 or 2011.
Still, as far as giving "our own experience its due", etc.: I don't know about her, but while I've read an average of some 250 books a year for a couple of decades now I still don't feel that even just my literary experience is anywhere near adequate enough to navigate what's still left out there for me to tackle without book reviews (among much else) to help get me to the titles my remaining time might best be spent with.)
(Updated - 26 June): See now also more in-depth critiques from Edward Champion at his Reluctant Habits, and Tom Lutz at the Los Angeles Review of Books.
According to a new Cornell study that we previewed last week, the reviewers in many cases acknowledge that in order to maintain their high rankings and continue to receive free products (one of the perks of being a top reviewer), they have to make surprisingly calculated decisions about what to review and what to say about those products.
The report can be found (and downloaded) here (and does make for fun reading) -- though Owen's sensational title is not one of the things addressed by the study: shoppers surely have their doubts and suspicions about Amazon reviews in any case, and understand that there are a variety of reasons why reviewers make: "calculated decisions about what to review and what to say about those products".
Still, it's always fun for these particular ones to be pointed out.
In Life after 'Nemesis' in the Financial Times Jan Dalley profiles Philip Roth, who will (not) be picking up the Man Booker International Prize on Tuesday (he will be "celebrated" on Tuesday, but only in in absentia, as he apparently can't be bothered to show up).
Among the choice exchanges:
"I've stopped reading fiction.
I don't read it at all.
I read other things: history, biography.
I don't have the same interest in fiction that I once did."
How so ?
"I don't know. I wised up ... "
And with those three words he gave me a long look from those fierce eyes and then a significant glance at my notebook, as if to say: that's what I want you to write down.
(I always find it odd when writers say they don't read any -- or very little -- fiction, but it seems to be fairly common.)
(Several Roth titles are under review at the complete review, including Nemesis.)
With 17 (out of a possible 24) votes, Amin Maalouf has been elected to the Académie française, filling Claude Lévi-Strauss' old fauteuil (nr. 29); see now also his official page at the Académie.
Currently, three vacancies remain at the Académie.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of 1917 Nobel laureate Henrik Pontoppidan's Lucky Per.
Amazingly, this is apparently really the first English translation of Lykke-Per, one of his major works, and one that is certainly as good as many of the other European novels of that era that were translated as a matter of course.
Unfortunately, the insane high list price (this is no Penguin Classics or Everyman edition ...) will certainly keep most readers from taking a chance on it; I hope at least libraries stock up on it, so that it can reach a somewhat wider readership.
The Miles Franklin Literary Award has gotten a new, dedicated site -- and they've announced the winner of this year's prize, That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott.
(It's not available in the US or UK yet, as far as I can tell.)
The film version of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas looks to be set to go into production -- and a big budget production at that.
Still, with Germans taking the lead in producing it -- and Halle Berry and Tom Hanks apparently getting big roles -- doubts have to remain; the potential for this to be a big-time bomb looks pretty good.
Lots of press coverage; see, for example, Helen Pidd's report in The Guardian, Cloud Atlas to be filmed in Berlin as city eyes starring role in movies.
The July/August issue of World Literature Today is now available, with quite a bit available online.
(They've really improved their online- presentation of material -- though of course I'd love to see more of the reviews available !)
The 'cover feature' is: 'The Many Voices of Italian Literature', but there are also several web-exclusives:
They've announced the winners (and honorably mentioned titles) for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards, with Michal Ajvaz's The Golden Age a runner-up to Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud's
A Life on Paper for the long-form prize, and two Finnish works getting short-form attention (The Quantum Thief-author Hannu Rajaniemi showing his versatility by winning both as writer and translator ...).
Culture.pl announce the Found in Translation 2011 Winners, a prize that "honours those who demonstrate exceptional quality in translating major collections of Polish poetry and prose into English of the past year", with Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak winning for their contributions to the 2010 Polish-English edition of Wisława Szymborska's collection of poems, Here.
(Get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
It's The Telegraph's turn to have 'Writers, critics and politicians, from Téa Obreht to George Osborne, share what they're reading this summer', in Summer Reading.
Jeffrey Archer, too.
And I'm not surprised not to find any overlap with any of my reading plans.
The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of Aravind Adiga's Last Man in Tower.
Only a review-overview, because I haven't seen a copy yet -- just out in the UK, it's only coming to the US in September -- a month after it comes out in German translation .....
(I know publishers can explain these things, but I find it completely baffling .....)