They've announced the finalists for the (American) National Book Critics Circle Awards in the six categories they honor (fiction, general non-fiction, auto- and biography, criticism, and poetry), as well as the special-category winners.
Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric managed the very impressive feat of being a finalist in two categories -- poetry and criticism.
See the Graywolf publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
One work in translation slipped in -- Thomas Piketty's very deserving Capital in the Twenty-First Century -- but the only title under review at the complete review is Vikram Chandra's Geek Sublime (yet another Graywolf title !), which, for some reason, is a 'criticism'-finalist.
BBC Culture apparently polled "several dozen book critics" in trying to determine "the greatest novels of the opening years of this tumultuous century"; alas the critics, notable though they might be in the English-speaking world, prove shockingly monoglot in their reading and opinions: not a one of what they rank as The 21st Century's 12 greatest novels was written in a foreign language -- which seems a rather unlikely conclusion to reach.
Apparently a few titles in translation (god forbid they'd even consider anything not yet translated into the be-all language that is English ...) did crack the top twenty: W.G.Sebald's Austerlitz at number 14, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante at 15, 2666 by Roberto Bolaño at 19 -- but on the whole this is a disappointingly provincial list.
Nevertheless, several of the top dozen are under review at the complete review:
They've announced that the 2014 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation goes to ... Sinan Antoon, for his translation of his own work, The Corpse Washer.
Admirably, they list all seventeen entries for the prize (scroll down) -- as every literary prize should !
For readers in the US, the gold standard is Three Percent's 2015 Translation Database (warning ! dreaded xls format !), listing some 166 works of fiction and poetry in translation being published for the first time in the US this year (to be updated as the year progresses -- the final total should be somewhere around three times that), but for a more manageable, annotated UK list PEN Atlas offers Publishers' translation highlights 2015, where UK publishers introduce some of their finest coming offerings -- a lot to look forward to.
(Updated - 20 January): Also of some possible interest/use: Typographical Era's 2015 Visual Guide to Translated Fiction, which offers the book covers of 2015 titles in translation (and links to Amazon).
(As an entirely text/content-focussed person I find this approach distracting more than anything else, but I can see how it might be considered like bookstore-browsing.
And it does look neat.)
It's nice to see authors finally catch on abroad -- especially authors who haven't just been 'lost in translation' but rather write in English, but for whatever reason are overlooked in the US/UK markets.
South African author Ivan Vladislavić has finally been getting some US/UK attention, with the publication there of works such as Double Negative and now, with the announcement (via) that his 1993 debut (!) The Folly has finally been sold in the US and UK, to first-rate publishers Archipelago Books and And Other Stories -- well, what more validation could one ask for ?
The great German author, Arno Schmidt, was born 18 January 1914.
His centenary was well-celebrated in Germany, but to my chagrin English-language coverage was ... minimal.
What to do ?
Write a monograph, of course, introducing US/UK readers -- those that haven't got (as I'm sure a not insignificant percentage of Literary Saloon readers in fact do) the four-volume collected fiction edition from Dalkey Archive Press ... -- to the author and his work: Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy, a Literary Saloon-dialogue (in best (or at least imitative) Schmidtian-fashion).
So if you didn't celebrate the centenary in proper style (i.e. full Schmidt immersion) then consider doing it up right this year.
My little book is a great way for you to dip your toe into the admittedly sometimes forbidding-sounding author, a small first step as your perhaps prepare for the forthcoming publication of the English translation of his heavyweight magnum opus.
Available in a variety of formats: paperback at all the Amazons internationally (US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc.), and from your local bookseller (probably not in stock, but they should be able to order it for you) or other online retailers;
it's also available on Kindle (get your copy at US, UK, or other Amazon); as well as ePub.
Of course, while Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy is (I hope and believe) a good introduction to the man and his work, the real goal and ambition should be to read his work -- so if you're ready for that step: take the plunge !
(If you haven't made any reading-resolutions for the year, tackling the work of Arno Schmidt would seem to be a worthy one -- and the amount and variety available in English would have you pretty well-covered.)
There are no longer any potential writers or new readers because people are now more interested in television and using their mobile phones or the internet
On the other hand, maybe the situation isn't entirely hopeless:
"The readership of the genre may have come down, but it still remains hugely popular.
Fans buy ten books by Pathak at a time, while also pre-booking them," Minakshi Thakur, senior commissioning editor, Harper Collins, told us.
As Victor Garcia reports in L'Express, Soumission, de Houellebecq, vendu à 155 000 exemplaires en cinq jours -- Michel Houellebecq's controversial novel has sold an astonishing 155,000 copies in its first five days on sale, with the total print run now being upped to 250,000 (and, no doubt, soon to be increased again)
The French edition seems to be doing phenomenally well on Amazon in the US and UK too: an 'Amazon Best Sellers Rank' of 9,734 at Amazon.com, last I checked, despite a hefty price tage of US$44.96 (reduced from a rather questionable 'list price' of $49.95 -- quite the exchange rate rip-off, given that the French price is €21)), and a decent showing at Amazon.co.uk as well.
While German and Italian translations are due out within the week, the US/UK publishers are presumably kicking themselves for not having proceeded with a bit more urgency.
It will still presumably do well in translation -- presumably better than the recent Houellebecqs -- but not like it would have sold now.
At Scroll.in Mini Krishnan, editor of 'a programme of literary translations for Oxford University Press (India)', explains Why I publish translations of Indian literature -- suggesting that at least the situation has improved some over the past three or so decades.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lima Barreto's century-old novel, The Sad End of Policarpo Quaresma, a recent Penguin Classics translation soon to be available in the US as well.
Penguin Classics have been doing quite a few Brazilian classics recently; certainly good to see.
Pancol had dropped out of the top ten last year (see my discussion), but came roaring back in 2014.
Also impressive: Patrick Modiano's Nobel win helped propel him to 6th place -- and his 707,000 total sold copies would have been good enough to put him third on the 2013 list.
Meanwhile, Amélie Nothomb's ten-year run in the top ten came to an end last year and she still hasn't recovered, despite yet another bestselling new title -- that backlist just isn't being bought as widely any longer.
As to Musso, he isn't entirely unknown in English -- and his most recent novel is titled Central Park (yes, after the New York one).
Several of his books have been translated -- see, for example, the Gallic Books publicity page for his The Girl on Paper, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk -- but he certainly hasn't come anywhere near to equaling his French popularity in the UK, much less the US.
Translator (of Zola's The Kill, for example) Arthur Goldhammer has been attracting some notice because he's the one who translated Thomas Piketty's Capital, and in The New Republic Jeet Heer argues that, in fact, he's 'America's finest bridge to French culture', in Found in Translation.
Generally, I welcome author-announcements that they're stopping writing -- if you have nothing more to say, don't force it (as far too many authors who have had success with one book do).
Reports such as B.Kolappan's in The Hindu, that Tamil author Perumal Murugan gives up writing, are something entirely different, however, and one can only hope that it is only a (temporary) cry made out of desperation at what has become an untenable position.
"Perumal Murugan, the writer is dead" he has apparently posted on his 'Facebook'-page and has even gone so far as to have:
urged his publishers [...] not to sell his novels, short stories, poetries and other creative works.
What led to this ?
Belated outrage over his novel மாதொருபாகன் -- published in English as One Part Woman; see the Penguin Books India publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
A couple of weeks ago some folks started to take offence -- years after the book was first published -- and, as The Hindu reported two weeks ago, BJP, RSS seek ban on Tamil novel, arrest of author.
Apparently they were upset that the book describes "traditional free, consensual sex rituals" that are part of temple tradition, and:
In their petition, the BJP, RSS and other Hindu outfits said that in many pages the author had denigrated Lord Shiva and the women devotees who visited the temple during the car festival.
The cited the narratives in pages, 87, 116, 117, 118, 129 and 172 of the book were in bad taste. They demanded the arrest of both the author and the publisher.
It's so silly that one almost has to laugh -- except they're dead serious, managing first to hound the author out of town and now to this.
Particularly troubling: the BJP isn't just some extremist 'Tea Party' fringe: they're the ruling party in India.
Many have spoken up in support of the author -- see A.R.Venkatachalapathy's In defence of the chronicler of Kongu -- and his is surely a voice (or rather: pen) that India should celebrate and encourage -- see N Kalyan Raman on the Kongunadu novels of Perumal Murugan, in Boats against the Current.
As is, this is a terrible turn of events.
It would be great to see some sensible political leadership -- voicing support for the author and his books.
But populist fanaticism seems the more popular option, so things look pretty grim.
At Paper Republic Bruce Humes raises a question that I've often wondered about -- how: Jia Pingwa: Popularity in China Contrasts with Low Profile in Translation.
Back in my Nobel-preview in 2010 (the year Mario Vargas Llosa won) I suggested there were three possible Chinese contenders (none of whom figured on the betting sheets at the time) -- and I maintained Jia would be: "the likeliest of the Chinese choices":.
(My other two candidates ?
Wang Meng and 2012 laureate Mo Yan (who: "would appear to be the strongest Chinese candidate").
Not bad speculation, I have to say.)
Of course, I've been on the Jia bandwagon for a while -- imagining back in 2008 of yet another of his prize-winning books: "maybe this will make it into English sometime (relatively) soon".
Yeah, not yet.
It really is odd -- though some of the commenters to Humes' short piece suggest some reasons.
They've announced the shortlist for the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate literary prize ("charged with translating Jewishness to a general audience").
I've actually read two of these -- the Michel Laub and the Dror Burstein -- but didn't review either; between these and titles ranging from a Gary Shteyngart to Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz it's a ... rather odd mix.
I wasn't able to attend this, but it's great that The Believer's 'logger' now has a transcript up of a 'Conversation about Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth', moderated by Joshua Cohen and with a panel of Richard Panchyk, George Prochnik, Tess Lewis, and Sophie Pinkham, Multiple Identities
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Takano Kazuaki's Genocide of One.
Sometime Murakami-translator Philip Gabriel did the Englishing here, for whatever that's worth.
(As it turns out: not too much.
Not really literary material he was working with here.)
Also of interest: the US publisher went with the jacket- and publicity-copy teaser:
During a briefing in Washington D.C., the President is informed of a threat to national security: a three-year-old boy named Akili, who is already the smartest being on the planet.
I almost put the library copy back on the shelf right then and there, but my Best Translated Book Award conscience -- we'll consider everything ! -- kicked in.
Still, I don't think that was the way to go -- and it's interesting to note that the UK publisher copy went for something much more succinct and vague:
One bright morning in Washington D.C., the US President learns of a terrifying new threat to national security.
If you read the Literary Saloon then surely you're also a fan of online-publication Asymptote, with its most impressive international literature coverage.
This Saturday, the 17th, they're having a fourth anniversary event in New York City, Why Retranslate the Classics ? at the Auditorium at 66 West 12th Street, Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Hall, featuring translators Susan Bernofsky, Edith Grossman, and Damion Searls.
Among their re-translations are Kafka's The Metamorphosis (Bernofsky), Don Quixote (Grossman), and -- the easiest one to justify -- Searls' forthcoming translation of Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries.
That should be a great discussion.
They've announced the 2015 International Prize for Arabic Fiction longlist, 16 novels by novelists from nine countries, a record five of whom are women, selected from 180 entries from fifteen different countries.
The shortlist will be announced 13 February (which is also the day they reveal the names of the judges -- kept secret for now).
See also the Arabic Literature (in English) coverage from M.Lynx Qualey, In a Shift, Five Women Authors on 2015 International Prize for Arabic Fiction Longlist.
The prize has also adjusted the time limits on publication dates for books originally published outside the UK.
Under the new rules, books must have been originally published outside the UK no more than two years before the UK publication date in order to be eligible.
Presumably the reasoning behind this is that they want 'current' books, not re-discoveries that happened never to have been published in the UK -- a small number of titles every year (but presumably pretty decent ones).
And they now define "publisher" more closely (as only "publishers" can submit books), including that a "publisher" is now also:
defined as producing at least two literary fiction novels by different writers in the year
Regrettably, there still appears to be no interest whatsoever in lifting the outrageous veil of secrecy around what books are actually submitted and considered for the prize.
At Three Percent Chad Post has the exciting news that The Translation Databases Have Been Updated -- this ever-useful resource now more accurate and complete !
Nice increases in counted titles the past three years, too -- fiction improving from 387 (2012) to 448 (2013) to 494 (2014).
Even if that means we have to consider 10 per cent more titles for the Best Translated Book Award this year (see also below) -- the more, the merrier.
(Okay, not necessarily merrier, but certainly more exciting, more varied, more intriguing.)
It's my turn this week to post at Three Percent on the ongoing Best Translated Book Award-deliberations (coming down to the wire -- the longlist announcement will be 2 March), and I take a look at some of the already-(other-)prize-winning titles we're considering.
The American National Book Critics Circle (of which I am a member) will announce the finalists for this year's NBCC Awards on 20 January, and while the board selects the finalists, all NBCC members are invited to submit up to five books in each category -- autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry -- and: "if 20% of the voting membership names a title it is automatically added to the shortlist".
So I encourage all NBCC members to vote (you should have received a ballot by e-mail) -- and also to share (on Twitter, via blogs, etc.), before the 15 January voting deadline, the selections they'd like to see on the shortlist, to help inspire/persuade/remind other voters of titles to vote for.
I tried to drum up some interest on Twitter last year with the hashtag #NBCC20pct but that didn't go anywhere -- maybe this year ?
I've mentioned the Ghana Writers Awards previously -- looking forward to it, but also finding it to be ... in the works, rather than in practice.
A "perennial awards scheme", indeed .....
Still, I keep my fingers crossed they'll get things properly running soon enough.
Meanwhile, press coverage continues to appear -- as now also Ralph Dinko's We Must Patronize Ghanaian Books at Spy Ghana.
I'm not too sure about the call for local hero-worship, but otherwise the enthusiasm -- "Writers can now publish short stories at the comfort of their bedroom" -- is good to see.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Franck Thilliez's Bred to Kill, just out in English.
This thriller was translated by Mark Polizzotti -- and I'm very pleased to see Viking touting the publication as:
**New from Mark Polizzotti, translator of 2014 Nobel Prize-winning author Patrick Modiano**
I mentioned the opening of the 1964 Nobel Prize archives (fifty years is how long they wait before making them accessible) last week, with some of the basics revealed in the first press-reports.
Now, finally, the Nobel Prize site has updated their wonderful archive to include 1964 and so the full list of Nobel Prize in Literature nominations - 1964 is finally freely available.
76 candidates were named in 98 nominations, including 19 first-timers.
Among the nominees were: (future winners in italics with [year of win]; number of nominations in 1964, if multiple, in (parentheses)):
Miguel Ángel Asturias 
Samuel Beckett  (2)
Jorge Luis Borges
André Breton (2)
Martin Buber (2)
Heinrich Böll 
Camilo José Cela 
Paul Celan (2)
Heimito von Doderer
Friedrich Dürrenmatt (3)
Jean Giono (2)
Taha Hussein (2)
Eyvind Johnson 
Kawabata Yasunari 
Harry Martinson 
W. Somerset Maugham
Henry de Montherlant
Pablo Neruda 
Katherine Anne Porter
Nelly Sachs 
Mikhail Sholokhov  (2)
Thornton Wilder (2)
1964 laureate Jean-Paul Sartre was named in two nominations -- one of them the Swedish PEN Club; he had been named in a total of fourteen nominations in previous years.
Interesting odds and ends:
Future laureate (and, as Swedish Academy member, insider) Harry Martinson was the big Japan-supporter, the man who nominated three of the four Japanese authors -- the three novelists, Kawabata, Mishima, and Tanizaki
Both Martinson and his co-laureate to-be Eyvind Johnson were both nominators and nominees in 1964
Patrick White would go on to be the first Australian Nobel laureate, but before he was ever even nominated poet Judith Wright was -- getting two nominations in 1964.
Amélie Nothomb's great-grandfather Pierre Nothomb was a nominator in 1964 -- nominating ... Jacques Pirenne.
(Not one of the all-time great nominations .....)
Persian author Hossein Ghods-Nakhai is well-known for his writing, but probably better known as Iranaian ambassador to the US and later the Vatican, and Minister of Foreign Affairs; he was also nominated in 1964
Pity, perhaps, Tarjei Vesaas -- who would have been a worthy winner, too (consider The Ice Palace): this was his twenty-fifth nomination !
With ten future winners (including the next five) among the nominees, and including authors who would never win the prize such as Borges and Nabokov, this was certainly a loaded field.
And I still say Sartre was a good choice (including the way things turned out).