It's been a busy ten days or so as far as international author prizes go, with two Nobels announced (see my overview) and then the Neustadt International Prize for Literature (see my previous mention), not to mention various book prizes (Booker, Planeta, German) -- so much so that I missed two more high-profile author prizes:
- they've announced that Salman Rushdie will receive this year's WELT-Literaturpreis.
Small consolation for not picking up the Booker -- for which his book was actually a finalist --, much less one of the Nobels (hey, they gave it to Dylan, so anything is possible, he surely reminds himself every year), and only paying out €12,000, it does at least have a decent list of previous winners -- including Virginie Despentes last year, Zadie Smith in 2017, and ...uh ... Murakami Haruki in 2014, and Jonathan Franzen the year before ....
He gets to pick it up on 10 November.
At the A.V. Club Kevin Cortez reports, in We're clearly out of good stories, so here's some science fiction books written by artificial intelligence, on publisher of AI-generated books Booksby.ai.
They are certainly all-in with the concept: not only are the books AI-generated, so are the book descriptions, covers, reviews posted on the site -- and even the images of the reviewers.
The prices seem computer-generated, too.
The descriptions suggest there's still quite a lot of 'I' missing in this AI, but it is an amusing idea.
And, probably, the future -- though not the near future, I suspect.
They announced the winners of the major English- and German-language novel prizes on Tuesday, paying out £50,000 (divided by two, this year) and €25,000 respectively -- but the really big money comes with the leading Spanish-language novel prize, the Premio Planeta, which pays out a staggering €601,000 (and even pays out more than the Booker and German Book Prize combined -- €150,250 -- to the runner up), and they've now announced that this year's prize goes to Terra Alta by Javier Cercas; you can already pre-order your copy from Amazon.es.
There were 564 submissions for the prize, with 306 from Spain and 15 from the US (and 7 from ... Canada); there were as many submissions from Bolivia as there were from China (one each).
Quite a few Cercas titles are under review at the complete review:
They've announced the three finalists for this year's Cundill History Prize, the US-dollar denominated (75,000) Canada-based international prize for history writing.
The winner will be announced 14 November.
Time for the next big literary award: they've announced the winner of the 2020 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the biennial author award given: " in recognition of outstanding achievement in poetry, fiction, or drama", and it is Ismail Kadare.
Several Kadare titles are under review at the complete review:
Of books there may be enough -- but a hell of a lot more are being published: as Jim Milliot reports in Publishers Weekly, Number of Self-Published Titles Jumped 40% in 2018.
That's a ... sizable increase.
Of course, there's no way of knowing what these titles exactly amount to -- but still.
(It's also interesting to see how completely Amazon is dominating this area, with its CreateSpace division publishing more than 35 times as many titles as the runner-up, Lulu.)
Meanwhile, however, Milliot also reports at Publishers Weekly that: Bookstore Sales Fell 10.3% in August, so that's not good .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alain Mabanckou's 2002 novel, The Negro Grandsons of Vercingetorix -- just out in English from Indiana University Press.
The translation is by Bill Johnston -- better-known for his translations from the Polish, but, yes, he also does French.
The Frankfurt Book Fair opens today and runs through the 20th.
Norway is the 'Guest of Honour'; see also the official site they've set up in conjunction with that.
Lots of coverage in the German press, of course, as this has led to a ton of Norwegian writing being published in German; among the most interesting pieces is a lengthy interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung with Morgenbladet literary critic Bernhard Ellefsen about the Norwegian literary scene, „Wirklichkeitsliteratur ist ein idiotischer Begriff“.
Newly minted Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk was conveniently on a German book tour, so they got her to the big show -- see, for example, Andrew Albanese's report Frankfurt Book Fair 2019: Nobel Winner Olga Tokarczuk Speaks of Unity.
(No one seems to have gone out of their way to get Peter Handke into town .....)
At Deutsche Welle they have a(n annoying) slideshow of 8 literary stars at the Frankfurt Book Fair -- but of course there are a lot more authors (especially Norwegian authors) and there's a lot more going on there, including lots of 'dealmaking' (sigh).
They've announced the finalists for the prix du Premier roman, a French literary prize that honors both a best first French novel as well as a best foreign one; see the Livres Hebdo report.
There are seven French finalists left, and three in the translated fiction category -- all of which, rather disappointingly, are translations from the English (well, two are from l'américain).
The winners will be announced 6 November.
According to the official rules, they're only supposed to honor one title, but: "On being told that it was definitively against the rules, the judges held a further discussion and chose to flout them" -- and named co-winners of this year's Booker Prize for Fiction: they've announced that The Testaments (by Margaret Atwood) and Girl, Woman, Other (by Bernardine Evaristo) both won.
I haven't read anything by either of these authors in quite a while; the only review of any title by either author under review at the complete review is Atwood's The Penelopiad.
For The Testaments: get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Big-time American literary critic Harold Bloom has passed away; see, for example, the obituaries in The New York Times, the Forward, and The Guardian.
I'm afraid I mostly steered clear of his work, but he was certainly an important figure in American letters.
Last week the big author-prize -- the Nobel -- was announced; today they'll announce the winners of the leading German-language novel prize, the German Book Prize, and the leading English-language novel prize, the Booker Prize.
In Metropolis Eric Margolis wonders at some length What's Up With Bad Sex in Murakami ? -- as in Haruki (fellow (if unrelated) Murakami Ryu, who also gets a mention here, is also known for his (rather different) sex scenes; see, for example, Piercing).
There's also considerable focus on translation here -- including the observation that:
“Murakami is born in translation,” Snyder said.
“He is constantly translating his own works back and forth and his works seek out translations in various ways.”
Snyder is referring to a variety of translatable features in Murakami’s work, from Murakami’s self-stated preference for English, to the overt influences of American authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Raymond Carver, to the many familiar Western cultural touchstones in his work, like jazz and classical music.
I'm not sure about this, however:
“To do a translation properly and enter a sex scene, you have to become aroused,” [Ted] Goossen said.
“Some translators might feel that you should stay detached, but I believe that you really have to participate in the scene in order to make it work in English.”
Just in case it wasn't clear, Murakami-translator Goossen also notes that Murakami is: "not an amoral flesh-peddler".
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of newly minted Nobel laureate Peter Handke's 2007/2008 monologue Till Day You Do Part or A Question of Light.
The English-language edition is a trilingual (!) one from Seagull Books that also includes the original French draft and the finished German version.
It's sort of a response to yet another Nobel laureate's work, Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape.
In total, according to PRH UK, global sales of the new translations reached a landmark one million copies.
Through Nielsen BookScan, Simenon sold 433,157 books for £3.13m.
The first in the Maigret collection, Pietr the Latvian, released in November 2013, shifted a respectable 19,041 copies.
Five of these are under review at the complete review, and I have about twenty more -- and do expect to slowly get to them.
But, of course, I'm particularly interested in Simenon's impressive other work -- and so it's good to hear:
"Simenon was famously prolific so there is plenty more for us to delve into," said Greywoode.
"We would like to really establish this series now we've reached the end to ensure it has a long life.
But, yes, then we will be publishing more of the novels Simenon wrote outside of the series of which there are around 200.
We'll be looking to curate a selection of those to bring to readers hungry for more !"
As someone who is, indeed, very hungry, I hope they don't limit themselves to a mere "selection".
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Inui Rokuro's Automatic Eve, recently out from Haikasoru -- though unfortunately apparently their last title, for now, as they've gone on a hiatus of as yet undetermined length.
I am not saying that we should not read Peter Handke’s literary work.
My objection is not a version of the age-old question of whether we should listen to Richard Wagner.
Go ahead and listen to Wagner. Go ahead and read Handke. My point is this: It is one thing to read him, it is quite another to bestow upon him a prize that delivers a great amount of legitimacy to his entire body of work, not just the novels and plays that are most impeccable and nonpolitical.
At issue is the support Handke has expressed and shown to, most notably, Slobodan Milošević and Serbian war crimes during the Yugoslavian conflicts.
Even those otherwise sympathetic to the author and his work are generally baffled by his position and actions in this sphere; these are: "wohl nicht wirklich erklärbar" ('probably not really explicable'), Paul Jandl flails, for example.
(While he has been very active in -- and generally lauded for -- supporting Slovene language- and political-rights in his native Carinthia, Handke's nostalgia for the Yugoslavian confederation seems to trump even these; Slovenia broke off from Yugoslavia early and rather easily, but Handke was not supportive of this.)
Handke made his first mark as a provocateur, way back in the 1960s, but this is something rather different, and one can see how people are disturbed by it.
It also shows how the Nobel is seen as a validation that goes beyond the purely literary, for better and worse.
Hence, for example, the disappointment (even from me ...) that the Academy did not select an author from outside the so familiar European-North American literary world.
From a purely literary perspective, the selection of Handke is hard to criticize.
Indeed, I would argue that he is a considerably stronger winner -- again, in purely literary terms -- than Tokarczuk.
She is good -- good enough to be a worthy laureate -- but Handke belongs in the literary pantheon; his output is surely among the strongest among all laureates of recent decades.
(Overlooked in US/UK coverage is also the sheer range of his work: like Jelinek (and fellow Austrian Thomas Bernhard), he is also one of Europe's leading dramatists of the past half century.)
I'm not sure how much my opinion/tolerance of Handke is colored by the fact that I pretty much grew up with his work, and read much of it before these Yugoslavian issues reared their very ugly heads (and before I started this site, which is why so few of his books are under review here).
The Yugoslavian fiasco came as sort of an afterthought to an already enormous body of work -- unforgiveable, perhaps, but also very late in the day.
I am a bit bewildered by the widespread sweeping condemnation -- the throwing out of the literary baby with the bathwater, as it were.
True, even I can't bring myself to read his Yugoslvian apologias -- but most of his work is far removed from that, much of it in what surely can be considered an entirely different sphere.
(Recently I got the latest Mishima Yukio translation, Life for Sale -- already out in the UK, but only coming to the US next April --, and I certainly won't be able to resist it, just like I couldn't recent translations The Frolic of the Beasts and Star -- but surely Mishima's ultra-militant nationalism (put into action, no less) is an altogether different order of noxious; if you draw the line at Handke, then Mishima surely must be way, way over it.)
One wonders to what extent the Academy selecting Handke was an intentional affront -- a way of proving their independence, public opinion be damned (many people long believed Handke could not possibly be considered for the prize).
On the one hand, it's admirable that they appear not to have cared -- and, with Handke, they did choose a literarily worthy winner -- but their arguably tin ear probably doesn't help enhance (or restore) their reputation, at least in the US/UK.
But maybe we should try to see it as just about the writing ?
Tokarczuk generously (and unsurprisingly) was enthusiastic about her fellow laureate (as was Jelinek -- a full-fledged Communist for a time ! -- who has long said Handke deserved the prize before her) .....
The Nobel ceremony -- on 10 December -- should be ... interesting.
As should Handke and Tokarczuk's Nobel lectures, delivered a few days earlier.
Obviously, I love this series -- and quite a few NYRB Classics titles are under review at the complete review.
And the one book at the site that has sold the most -- by far -- via the Amazon-link on the review page is the great volume, The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton; it's the only title that has sold hundreds of copies.
(A few other titles have sold over a 100 copies over the years, and I shifted a couple of dozen copies of Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries over the last year, but nothing has proven anywhere near as popular as the Burton.)