They've announced the troisième sélection -- the final shortlist -- for the prix Goncourt, and now only four titles remain in the running for the most prestigious French book prize.
Although all four authors left standing have had books translated into English in recent years, none has really broken through internationally yet.
(Recall that previous winners are not eligible for the Goncourt, ensuring that someone new gets the prize every year (except when Romain Gary has his fun with the literary establishment ...).)
The winner will be announced 6 November -- the first in a week of French literary prize announcements.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the first in Philip Pullman's planned trilogy, The Book of Dust, the just-published La Belle Sauvage.
This is a companion-trilogy to his famous His Dark Materials-trilogy, with this volume a prequel, set when central character Lyra is still just a babe in arms.
Apparently: "We're currently in the middle of CanLit's annual awards season", and in The Globe and Mail Mark Medley examines the proliferation of (Canadian) literary prizes, in Everyone's a winner.
He goes so far as to admit:
In a decade spent covering Canada's literary scene, I've sometimes felt as if I've devoted more time to writing about prizes than writing about the books themselves.
Of course, it's a phenomenon that's hardly limited to Canada -- and/but much of the discussion in the article suggests many of the reasons it's a popular phenomenon all over.
(See also, for example, Michael Caines amusingly noting the "running joke" at the TLS of the 'All Must Have Prizes Prize'.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Louis Guilloux's 1935 classic, Blood Dark, just out in a new translation, from New York Review Books.
This was actually almost immediately translated -- a widely-reviewed American edition came out in 1936 -- but this First World War book was then more or less forgotten, in English, after the Second World War; it is certainly a worthwhile rediscovery.
They've announced the winners of 2017 CWA Daggers -- the British Crime Writers Association's crime writing prizes.
The Dry, by Jane Harper, won for 'best crime novel of the year'; see the Flatiron publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The CWA International Dagger, for best 'crime fiction translated into English and published in the UK', went to The Dying Detective, by Leif GW Persson (as fully half the finalists are under review at the complete review).
They've announced the five-title shortlist for The Hindu Prize, one of the leading (sadly-only-)English fiction prizes in India -- selected from "close to a 100 entries" (disappointingly: not revealed) and then: "a long list of 45 books".
The new Arundhati Roy made the cut, but that and Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan are the only ones of the five that have a US publisher -- though the others are also more or less available at Amazon etc. (not necessarily readily or cheaply).
In The Washington Post James McAuley explains that Philip Roth is France's newest literary superstar. Why ?
'Superstar' seems an exaggeration -- and it's hardly all of a sudden -- but the current occasion is pretty impressive (in rarefied/ridiculous literary terms), as Roth has been enshrined in the great 'La Pléiade'-series (think Library of America, but fancier, more expensive, and ... French).
Okay, so so far it's only un ouvrage, n° 625 in the 'Bibliothèque de la Pléiade,' a five-pack with some of the golden oldies (Portnoy !), but still .....
Several American authors have made it into the series, but Roth is the first living one, and by far the most contemporary -- it is a big deal.
Kazakh TV is reporting that Kazakh Literature Gaining Popularity on World Stage, and while you may not have noticed, and no one else is reporting this ... hey, it's a nice bit of optimism, and maybe, maybe .....
As a matter of fact, just this week I got my first review-copy of a Kazakh work, as Glagoslav have recently brought out The Shining Light, by Galymkair Mutanov -- see their publicity page.
But even they only collect translations from the Russian translations of the Kazakh originals .....
There's definitely still some work to be done in this area.
(Not just Kazakhstan, for that matter: all of Central Asia .....)
At The Wire Ranbir Sidhu worries/complains that The Literary Oligarchy Is Killing Writing.
While I think this is somewhat of an oversimplification (okay, way over the top -- though I almost like the idea of there being an actual 'literary oligarchy' we could be trying to topple ...), there's still quite a lot of interest here.
And a definite boo-hiss to Bharati Mukherjee advising "Write what you know" -- the world's least interesting sort of writing (yes, yes, it's more complicated than that, but ...).
Still, try not to roll your eyes too much on finding that there are still folks writing pretend-wide-eyed stuff like:
For years, I sustained myself on the idea of a literary meritocracy, that good writing, and writers, rise to the top.
Surely familiarity with literary history, from every era, -- and the world all around -- should have disabused him of such absolutely ridiculous notions.
Meanwhile, note also that personal writing of an 'other' experience can be similarly fraught: see the Scroll.in piece in which Perumal Murugan reports: "It wasn't easy to persuade contributors, some of whom who feared retribution"
The Académie française has announced that Mécaniques du chaos, by Daniel Rondeau, has won this year's Grand prix du roman, narrowly beating out (13 votes to 12) Tiens ferme ta couronne, by Yannick Haenel.
The Rondeau didn't even make the original nine-title-strong longlist, but (mysteriously ?) burst onto the four-title shortlist .....
See also the Grasset publicity page for the book, or get your copy at Amazon.fr.
(While the Goncourt is the biggest of the French book prizes,this one has a pretty good track record -- and a lot of the winning titles are translated into English; surprisingly I have more of these under review than Goncourt-winners.)
Awarded by the unfortunately-acronymed 'Scam' (Société civile des auteurs multimédia), they've announced that this year's prix Marguerite Youcenar goes to Annie Ernaux; she is the third laureate, after Pierre Michon (2015) and Hélène Cixous (2016).
The November/December issue of World Literature Today, with a focus on 'Belief in an Age of Intolerance', is now available -- with all the articles apparently available online (but only a limited number accessible in one session, unless you sign up/in).
Loads of good material as usual -- including, most usefully, lots of reviews.
Karen Emmerich's Literary Translation and the Making of Originals recently came out from Bloomsbury Academic -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- and while it doesn't seem to have attracted much review-attention yet, is definitely something that should be of interest to anyone dealing with or interested in translation.
I had hoped to review it, but for the time being find myself too engaged with the text and arguments; there's a lot here to consider and respond to, and I'm going to need more time and distance to do that.
Emmerich usefully shows and emphasizes that texts are rarely absolute/fixed and definitive -- not just in translation, but also in the original.
Shifting the focus away from preoccupations with notions of some sort of 'authenticity' can, indeed, allow a much broader reading of works .....
A lot of food for thought here.
(But, yes, I'm still digesting.)
An interesting piece by Renátó Fehér at hlo, the first in a series looking: 'at the Hungarian literature being published in translation in the surrounding countries', in Visegrad Overview.
It's just depressing to see how few of these titles are likely to make it into English .....
With France the 'guest of honour' at the Frankfurt Book Fair recently there were several pieces abut the current state of the industry in France, including Porter Anderson's Q & A with representatives of the 'Alliance of French Literary Agents', As France is Fêted at Frankfurt, French Literary Agents Take Stock.
Lots of generalizations and little data/numbers to back up the statements (which doesn't mean they're not accurate -- but is frustrating) -- but lots of interesting/disappointing claims, beginning with: "Sales have even dropped for big-name authors, whether French or foreign", and:
Translated fiction, especially upmarket and/or literary fiction which used to perform well, is experiencing a decline.
While foreign upmarket to literary fiction is having a hard time at the moment, commercial French fiction -- feel-good and/or women's fiction, in particular -- seems to be doing well.
Some interesting points, too, about everything from contracts to the (growing but fortunately still small) role of 'literary' agents in France, as French publishers thankfully remain resistant to these intermediaries insinuating themselves into the business.
(And it's amusing to see that even now: "many authors don't realize what we do".)
See also Giulia Trentacosti's shorter Q & A with Dana Burlac of Editions Denoël -- complaining also that:
I feel like the first semester of 2017 was quite disastrous, to be honest.
Low sales, low enthusiasm, it was slightly depressing.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Georgian author Beka Adamashvili's novel, ბესტსელერი ('Bestseller').
With Georgia the 'guest of honour' at the next Frankfurt Book Fair we can expect to see a few more translations from the Georgian into English in the coming year or two -- but the Germans will probably out-do US/UK publishers (as also in this case).
A few Georgian titles are under review at the complete review, but I do hope to be able to get to more.
While the situation regarding translations from Indian languages into English has improved, some of the smaller languages are still woefully under-represented -- including Assamese.
So it's good to see there's a volume of The Collected Works of Homen Borgohain now out; see the Amaryllis publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
At The Wire Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty now has a Q & A with the author, 'I Draw All My Characters From the Real World': How Homen Borgohain Documents Assamese Life.
Sadly, however, he notes that it's a tough and possibly losing battle for the tribal languages of Assam, other than Bodo:
I feel that it will be not be possible to sustain the lives of these languages by administering oxygen artificially.
These languages are hurtling to their extinction at a fast pace as the number of people who use these languages is diminishing rapidly
In The New York Times today Damien Cave looks at Australia's Amazon Book Battle, as Amazon tries to enter the famously and protectively insular market.
Good to see the local independents seem to be doing well:
Big box stores are rare and independent bookstores are strong: Their sales accounted for around 26 percent of Australia's book business in 2015, according to Nielsen, up from 20 percent in the late 2000s, more than double the share for independents in the United States.
Ever since the trailer for the movie came out, my review of Jo Nesbø's The Snowman has been among the most popular on the site.
The apparently eagerly anticipated movie has now come out -- and the critical consensus seems to be ... it's terrible.
Indeed, the review-headlines sum up the responses quite nicely:
In The Nation (Thailand) they report, in A look at Japanese literature, that there will be a talk on 'The Journey of Thai-translated Japanese novels - growth from the past, next step for the future' in Bangkok tomorrow -- offering also a short overview in the article.
Always interesting to hear about the movement of literature into other -- and especially non-European -- languages, so I hope there will be a fuller report afterwards.