Yes, I too enjoyed/experienced/endured BookExpo America.
With highlights like this year's Best Translated Book Award announcement it was certainly worth the visit.
Also hard to ... miss: the vast Chinese presence (they were the 'Global Market Forum' star attraction) -- taking up lots of floor-space at the Javits Center, though rather/very limited in what was on offer, literarily speaking (the few big-name authors seemed o get lost (or hidden) in the shuffle -- though Xi Jinping was ... spotlighted (see, for example)).
I enjoyed a few panels: one on Publicizing International Literature featuring Soho Press associate publisher Juliet Grames and translator Allison Markin Powell -- whose translation of Nakamura Fuminori's The Gun was one of the few ARCs I was very pleased to pick up (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) -- and a Q & A with Norman Manea (Norman Manea !).
I managed to limit myself to a handful (armful) of ARCs -- highlights including Simon Critchley's Memory Theater (coming out in a US edition from Other Press), Estonian fiction from Grove Press (Andrus Kivirähk's The Man Who Spoke Snakish; see their publicity page), and William Boyd's forthcoming Sweet Caress.
And two books from the always forlorn-if-fancy Saudi stand (one blurbed by (Al-)Tayeb Saleh (but published by the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education ...)).
BEA is always a good place to bump into many of the local (and more far-flung) publishing professionals; still, I have to admit that I'm kind of glad I have an excuse (it's in Chicago, not my backyard ...) not to attend next year.
One more translation prize to close out the week: they announced that Oliver Ready's translation of Before and During, by Vladimir Sharov, has won this year's Read Russia Prize (and what a relief it is that a contemporary work and new translation and not one of those Tolstoy or Dostoevsky re-translations won -- not that they aren't estimable, too ...).
This will be Best Translated Book Award-eligible for next year's prize, and it'll be interesting to see if it makes the cut.
I do have a copy, and should be getting to it; meanhwile, see the Dedalus publicity page or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
(Updated - 2 June): See now also the report at Russia Beyond the Headlines.
"Literature as it's known in the West isn't taught at schools.
Children do learn when Jane Austen lived, but they don't usually read any of her books," says publisher John McGlynn, whose Lontar Foundation translates Indonesian works into English.
I'm not really sure what to say about someone like Goenawan Mohamad, chairman of the national committee for Indonesia is guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair (!), spouting stuff like:
We Indonesians are more sociable and love a good dose of noise.
Aside from that, of course, we don't have long winters for sitting inside to read War and Peace for example.
No, not okay.
Most of what comes onto the Indonesian market is straightforward bestsellers translated out of English.
That's what earns the publishers money, says John McGlynn.
"The books with the largest print runs -- if we can call them that -- are popular novels and those with a religious leaning: a woman finds first God and then a husband," he says with a critical note.
"More and more books are being published, but many of them are terribly written."
Stil, I see some promise in that 'more and more' .....
(Meanwhile, it's good to see guest of honour-status helping spotlight what there is coming out of Indonesia (beyond even Pramoedya Ananta Toer !) -- New Directions and Verso are each bringing out an Eka Kurniawan novel this fall, for example, and longtime readers have repeatedly heard me extol Lontar's 'Modern Library of Indonesia' (and for all the Southeast Asian literature under review at the complete review, see this index).)
I'm a big fan of national literary organizations' various efforts to try to spread the word about local literature for foreign markets -- and Books from Finland has long been among the most impressive such efforts.
How long ?
Books from Finland, which presents Finnish literature in English, has appeared since 1967.
Until 2008 the journal appeared four times a year in a paper version, and subsequently as a web publication.
Over the decades Books from Finland has featured thousands of Finnish books, different literary genres and contemporary writers as well as classics.
Its significance as a showcase for our literature has been important.
Indeed -- and I've often mentioned and linked to stories there.
Most recently, just ... the day before yesterday.
Alas, now comes word that: "The Finnish Literature Society is to cease publication of the online journal Books from Finland with effect 1 July 2015", as: Books from Finland to take archive form.
As they note:
The reasons for ceasing publication of Books from Finland are also economic.
Government aid to the Finnish literature information centre FILI, which has functioned as the journal's home, has been cut by ten per cent.
And, yes, FILI remains, and remains a useful resource -- but I'm shocked and disturbed to hear:
The need for the presentation of our literature has changed.
Among the ways in which FILI continues to develop its remit is to focus communications on international professionals in the book field, on publishers and on agents.
Dear god !
What an awful idea !
It's the readers you want to reach -- and something Books from Finland could do so well.
'Professionals' are, in every case, a highly suspect class -- and that goes many times over for this odd field that is publishing; leave them out of it when and where you can.
(Be cautious in your trust of amateurs -- or semi-pros, like me -- too, of course, but the 'professionals' ... no, no, no .....)
They announced the winners of this year's Best Translated Book Awards, and they were:
Fiction:The Last Lover, by Can Xue, in Annelise Finegan Wasmoen's translation, published by Yale University Press in their Margellos World Republic of Letters-series; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Almost at the same time the (American) Best Translated Book Award was announced, they announced the winner of the big UK translated-fiction prize, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, which went to The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, in Susan Bernofsky's translation (one of the bigger omission-surprises on the BTBA-longlist (for which it was also eligible)); see the publicity pages at New Directions and Portobello, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
See also Nick Clark's coverage in The Independent.
They've announced the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Winners, and winning projects include: "the first novel from Madagascar ever to be translated into English" and Mongolian poetry, as well as works by already well-known writers including Horacio Castellanos Moya and Olga Tokarczuk.
Too many of these are still listed as: 'Available for publication', but hopefully most or all of them will get picked up so that we can actually enjoy them in print down the road; certainly, this honor should help bring the projects to the attention of more publishers.
In The Myanmar Times Nandar Aung reports on A bridge between Myanmar and international literature translation.
Writer Ma Thida is quoted, finding: "it very upsetting that fewer and fewer Myanmar books are translated into English" -- troubling, since almost nothing has made it to the US over the past few decades anyway .....
The occasion for the article is a five-day translation workshop, covering both Burmese to English and English to Burmese translation, Link the Wor(l)ds, that started yesterday.
In The Astana Times Daniel Massow writes: Kazakh Literature Needs English Translations, Says Kazakhstan PEN Club President, reporting on a recent Kazakh Literature Evening Reception at the embassy in Washington DC.
I don't want to suggest we haven't all been waiting for that US edition of A Lonely Yurt, but, regrettably, it's not entirely surprising that: "English-language publishers do not typically come looking for" Kazakh literature.
Of course, a bit more local publishing activity and freedom, fostering new generations of Kazakh writers might do more for the overall situation -- and might eventually help attract more foreign notice, too.
PEN wants to use the hegemonic role English plays in international communication to make the culture and ideas of Kazakh writers available to readers throughout the world.
Nice to see there's also the we're-so-special-defense/explanation:
Moreover, Gabdullin admits, the translation itself is a great challenge: the natural rhythmic elegance and the unique expressiveness of the Kazakh language, the distinctive ethnic 'flavour' as well as the historical context pose significant difficulty for a translator.
But I would certainly love to see some (any !) translated-from-the-Kazakh work.
The foundations of my possible aesthetics -- like those of all aesthetics -- lie of course somewhere quite different from aesthetics itself.
They lie in human consciousnesses and language, with all the associated indefiniteness.
It is my belief that we do not live in reality, but in metareality.
The first virtual world, the simulated Pretend-land is inherent in us.
A helpful introduction to her always interesting work.
In the Irish Times Martin Doyle has a Q & A with Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel, whose By Night the Mountain Burns (see the And Other Stories publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) is Independent Foreign Fiction Prize-shortlisted
I like that he doesn't go for the 'Which writers, living or dead, would you invite to your dream dinner party ?' question -- answering: "Having their books is enough."
And nice to see him mention Francisco de Quevedo's El Buscón (twice).
Also in the Irish Times Martin Doyle has a Q & A with Jenny Erpenbeck, whose The End of Days (see the publicity pages at New Directions and Portobello, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) is also Independent Foreign Fiction Prize-shortlisted.
A perhaps unexpected but nice choice:
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Joshua Cohen's Book of Numbers -- one of the bigger summer books, with Cohen, after publishing with Twisted Spoon, Dalkey Archive Press, and Graywolf (among others) now coming out Random House-mainstream.
The modern Finnish classics suddenly appear to be hot: Dedalus are working on a new translation of Aleksis Kivi's Seven Brothers, and Penguin Classics have just brought out (in the UK) a new translation of Väinö Linna's Unknown Soldiers in Liesl Yamaguchi's translation.
Linna's classic novel was previously translated in 1957, as The Unknown Soldier, by Alex Matson -- a notorious translation-disaster, perpetrated by the English-language publishers.
As Pekka Tarkka writes in his overview of the novel at Books from Finland:
The German and English translations were total losses.
Initially, The Unknown Soldier was Englished by Alex Matson, known as an excellent interpreter of the works of Aino Kallas and the Nobelist F.E. Sillanpää.
Collins of London and Putnam of New York, however, did not find his translation satisfactory: they decided to have it revised by an editor, unidentified to this day, who then proceeded to falsify and rewrite -- one can say, forge -- the text in an outrageous manner.
In his Translation and the Problem of Sway Douglas Robinson relates that:
Matson was so angry at the American publisher for radically abridging and otherwise revising his translation that he refused to allow his name to appear as the book's translator, and never translated literature again.
So now there's this new translation -- see the Penguin publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk -- and the opinions seem to be all over the place:
It's: "A Finnish War and Peace -- without the interesting bits" suggests Max Liu in The Independent. And: "A Finnish classic this may be but, as in war, you're better off with the Russians." Ouch.
"The prose is short, direct, and to the point, and Yamaguchi renders it into an English so good it hurts to read" warns (rather dubiously -- it takes a lot for prose to cause actual physical pain) Daniel Goulden at the Asymptote blog.
"In places it feels as if Linna set out to depict a war of attrition that would simultaneously grind down his reader. And yet those who last the arduous course will find much to admire in Linna's unsparing prose and gritty realism. Not a comforting novel by many means, but a profound and enriching one." finds Malcolm Forbes in the Sunday Herald
I knew to avoid the previous translation-edition, but my interest has been piqued.
They've announced the Read Russia Prize shortlist, 'Celebrating the best translations of Russian literature' (into English).
The two new Anna Karenina translations (by Rosamund Bartlett and by Marian Schwartz) both make the cut, as does Oliver Ready's (re)translation of Crime and Punishment.
Among newer (or at least previously untranslated) works is Vladimir Sharov's Before and During (also by Ready; I have a copy and should get to it at some point) and Sergei Dovlatov's Pushkin Hills (a Best Translated Book Award finalist -- find out if it takes that prize on Wednesday !).
See also Lisa Hayden Espenschade's comments at her Lizok's Bookshelf weblog.
The winner will be announced 29 May, at The Grolier Club in New York.
The Heimrad-Bäcker-Preis is pretty small-time -- though actually the €8,000 in prize-money isn't bad (right there at Pulitzer/National Book Award level) -- apparently without its own website (nor one for the Interessengemeinschaft Heimrad Bäcker that awards the prize), but I think it's neat that the author and his wife used the apparently tidy sum he got for selling his archives to fund this prize (and a Förderpreis to go with it), to be awarded to an author writing in the spirit of Bäcker's edition neue texte, and so it seems well worth a mention that Monika Rincks will pick up this year's prize; see the (German) report at Salzburg24.
Dalkey Archive Press admirably brought out Bäcker's fascinating transcript a few years ago.
PEN American Center has issued a report on 'Foreign Authors and the Challenge of Chinese Censorship': Censorship and Conscience (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
An interesting overview, with examples -- and author-reactions such as Paul Auster's:
The publisher, Shanghai 99 Readers, cut several pages describing Liu and his situation.
In several other places, mentions of the dissident's name were replaced by "L." References to China were replaced by "Country C." Auster told PEN that he never signed off on the changes and feels his book was "mutilated."
"Some limbs have been chopped off," Auster said.
(The Chinese situation is, on the one hand extreme, but on the other also predictable -- really, writers should be aware that this might happen, especially regarding China-sensitive material.
And I can't help but note that mutilation-in-translation is a near-universal practice (worse in some markets than others) -- albeit generally not due to government pressure, but rather largely publisher-initiated, as they want to 'fix' books for domestic consumption (in translation-into-English that often (but not only) means: abbreviate, as in cutting out chunks of the original); while authors are more often (though certainly not always) at least made aware of the changes that are made they generally have little choice in the matter -- and, in the case of translation-into-English, the prize (translation into English !) may seem big enough that they'll acquiesce to any gutting of their book the publisher deems fit.
Disappointingly, consumers (readers) are largely left in the dark as to how a text has been (mal)treated in translation -- publishers rarely making mention of what they've done.
My hope/wish with translation to and from any and all languages is always: fidelity to the original -- which, at the very least, should mean: no cuts, no substantive changes.
Foreign-commercial/aesthetic judgments ('US readers won't get that; it has to be cut/changed') seem, at least in the end-effect, as reprehensible as politically motivated ones.)
With Milan Kundera's most recent work of fiction, The Festival of Insignificance, due out in English shortly -- see the Faber publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- Jonathan Coe considers How important is Milan Kundera today ? in The Guardian.
Interesting that he doesn't bring up Kundera's language-switch -- from Czech to French (this, like his other recent novels was written in French; the popular stuff was written in Czech).
I haven't seen this one, but he still seems a significant author -- and, of course, still has acolytes (Adam Thirlwell et al.).
In the 1990s three works by Christoph Ransmayr came out in English -- all in John E. Woods' translation, which already says something -- but Grove Press notoriously overpaid for The Last World (it actually still sputters on in print just fine for a literary title, but it never came anywhere close to the advance-justifying blockbuster-sales-level) and even if that wasn't the last of the three, that seemed to signal a close to death-knell for the author in English.
He shared the Aristeion Prize with Salman Rushdie in 1996 (the year before the prize went to future Nobel laureate Herta Müller; the year after, to Antonio Tabucchi, for his Sostiene Pereira ...), but, despite solid reviews, little more was heard from him in English.
It shouldn't surprise that now, with a new title finally due out -- Atlas of an Anxious Man -- it's Seagull Books that is trying to bring him back to US/UK-attention; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- taking the kind of risks/challenges that none of the big US/UK houses seem to be willing to any longer (when it comes to literature in translation).
Meanwhile, it's just out in French -- and in L'Express Jérôme Dupuis says: let's face it, "Christoph Ransmayr est un très grand écrivain".
AUC Press have been awarding a Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature since 1996, and it has a good track record (with the winning titles translated into English).
Now, apparently, as Ahram Online reports, Egypt might launch Naguib Mafhouz literary prize -- "an international literary prize named after Egyptian novelist and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz".
With the ministry of culture doing the considering one has to wonder what kind of prize this might turn out to be -- state authorities rarely excel in the cultural-awards department (though there are exceptions -- see the Austrian State Prize for European Literature, for example).
And the culture minister was consulting with Gamal El-Ghitany about this, so maybe they can come up with a decent concept.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kamel Daoud's The Meursault Investigation, due out soon from Other Press (in the US) and Oneworld Publications (UK).
This variation-on-Camus (The Stranger/The Outsider (with a dash of The Fall, for good measure)) is surely one of the most-anticipated translations of the year -- and it will undoubtedly sell like hotcakes (and quickly become a college-course-staple).
Racking up literary prizes left and right -- most recently: the prix Goncourt du Premier Roman -- this is bound to get a great deal of attention in the English-language press as well (beyond what's already out there, like Adam Shatz's recent profile in The New York Times Magazine).
At DeutscheWelle Kate Müser reports that: 'Germany's creatives are concerned that TTIP will knock culture off its pedestal of protection', in Chlorine concerts and butter books? TTIP tests Germany's cultural values, with protests scheduled for today, World Day for Cultural Diversity.
TTIP (or T-TIP, as the Americans apparently prefer) is of course the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that the EU and the US are (trying to) negotiate -- and the Germans are concerned that it might also mean an end to fixed book-prices in Germany (booksellers are not allowed to discount books there, making for a level bookselling-field):
Since it currently does not apply to foreign publishers, it is feared that the TTIP would eliminate the practice if giant online booksellers and publishers like Amazon and Google lobby strongly enough.
Helpfully, Müser notes:
The problem is, no one really knows what will happen.
Two French international-book prizes will be handed out on Sunday at the Étonnants Voyageurs festival, the (French-language) prix Littérature-monde, which goes to Simone Schwartz-Bart's L'ancêtre en solitude, and the prix Littérature-monde étranger, which goes to Philipp Meyer's The Son.