They're celebrating Friedrich Dürrenmatt's centenary this year -- and now the Swissmint has gotten in on the action, issuing a commemorative CHF20 coin; see, for example, their official press release.
A nice idea, but they're only minting 15,000 units and it's obviously meant for collectors rather than circulation.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of The Loeb Classical Library and Its Progeny: Proceedings of the First James Loeb Biennial Conference, Munich and Murnau 18-20 May 2017, edited by Jeffrey Henderson and Richard Thomas.
As longtime readers know, I'm a fan of bilingual editions, and the Loeb Classical Library, and its progeny, are obviously of great interest, so I was very pleased to see this.
There's a good amount of good background information here about the series, as well as quite a few interesting pieces on translating classical literature.
A bonus: though it is an 'academic'-type volume, it's actually quite reasonably priced -- barely more than a Loeb volume.
They've announced the longlist for this year's Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize, awarded: "for the best published literary work in the English language written by an author aged 39 or under".
Nine of the twelve longlisted titles are novels; there are also two poetry collections and one story collection.
The shortlist will be announced 25 March, and the winner on 13 May.
(And no, I haven't seen any of these .....)
They've announced the latest round of the big Japanese literary prizes, the Akutagawa and the Naoki -- and, as The Mainichi reports, Two women win Japan's Akutagawa, Naoki literary awards.
The Akutagawa went to 推し、燃ゆ, by Usami Rin (宇佐見りん); see also the Kawade publicity page.
Usami is only twenty-one but looks to be a fast-rising star: her first novel, the 2019 かか, already won a major prize last year.
Meanwhile, the Naoki went to 心淋し川, a six-story collection by Saijo Naka (西條奈加); see also the Shueisha publicity page.
(Quite a few previous Akutagawa winners are under review at the complete review.)
PEN America has announced its 2021 grant winners, which include ten PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants and one PEN Grant for the English Translation of Italian Literature.
Quite a few promising-sounding works here, including I, Caustic by Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine -- a: "multigenre avant-garde work, which alternates between poetry, drama, fiction, memoir, manifesto, and reportage" --, a novel by Bulgarian author Iana Boukova, and 24 Hours with Gaspar by Sabda Armandio -- "A wicked blend of noir, science fiction, and satire".
I look forward to seeing some of these when they are published (as they hopefully will be).
They've announced the twenty-title strong longlist for this year's Rathbones Folio Prize, where: "The sole criterion for judgment [is] excellence: to identify works of literature in which the subjects being explored achieve their most perfect and thrilling expression"
There are works of fiction, non, and poetry in the running; I have seen none of these (though, as a UK-based prize, there are a number of titles here that are not (yet, readily) US available).
The shortlist will be announced 10 February, and the winner on 24 March.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sergei Lebedev's Untraceable, almost out (in the US), from New Vessel Press; a UK edition, from Head of Zeus, will be out in the fall.
It has a ripped-from-the-headlines premise, with the poisoning of former citizens abroad by Russian agents at the heart of the novel .....
I recently reached 4700 books under review at the complete review, so it's time for another overview of the past 100 reviewed titles (4601 through 4700).
- The last 100 reviews were posted over 181 days -- just a bit quicker than the previous 100 (183 days) -- and totaled 161,356 words (last 100: 143,466 words), as reviews were, on average, the longest they've ever been over a 100-review span.
The longest review was *only* 3674 words long (in the previous hundred one was 5490 words ...), but nineteen were over 2000 words long (compared to twelve in the previous hundred).
Reviewed books had a total of 24,778 pages, down quite a bit from the previous 26,810; the pages-per-day rate of 136.90 was also 10 down from the previous hundred's 146.50.
The longest reviewed book was only 651 pages long, but only two were shorter than 100 pages.
- Reviewed books were originally written in 27 different languages (including English); English again led the way by a considerable margin, with 27 titles, followed by French (15) and then Spanish (7).
One new language was added -- Syriac -- bringing the total number of languages covered to 82.
(See also the updated full breakdown of all the languages books under review were originally written in.)
- As always, I reviewed many more male-written books, with 81 of the reviewed books written by men and only 19 by women.
Still, that raised the historic sexist average of written-by-women titles under review ever so slightly, to 16.53 per cent.
- No books were rated 'A', but eleven did rate 'A-'; the lowest-rated title was a 'C+'.
- As always, fiction -- and especially novels -- dominated, with 78 titles that were novels reviewed.
In The Korea Times Park Ji-won reports on the latest instance where an Award-winning novel comes under fire for plagiarism.
As in Japan, literary prizes play a major role in the making of new authors in South Korea, giving them an outsize importance.
With the stakes so high, there have repeatedly been plagiarism scandals -- so now also with this case, where the author apparently won no less than five literary prizes in the past two years -- three of which have already announced retractions of those prizes.
The whole set-up is obviously problematic:
"The literary community is very small and conservative.
And no one really knows how assessing literary awards are conducted.
Also, systematically, it is very hard to complain about the awards because literary aspirants, in particular, are in a weak position as they are regarded as authors only after winning an award," an insider at a publication company said.
Livres Hebdo offer some of the numbers as to the bestselling titles in France in 2020, in Dicker, Musso, Le Tellier et Lignac dominent les meilleures ventes de livres en 2020.
Fiction dominated the top 50, with 37 titles, and most of the titles were originaly written in French -- 42 out of the top 50.
Guillaume Musso placed three titles in the top 50 (two in the top five), for sales of over 1,000,000, but the single bestselling title was Joël Dicker's L'énigme de la chambre 622, selling 493,919 copies; no doubt we'll eventually see this in English, but it might still be a while.
Barack Obama's memoir made the top ten -- but only in tenth place, selling 262,212 copies.
At ActuaLitté they look at the sales of last year's big-prize winners -- led by Hervé Le Tellier's prix Goncourt-winning L'Anomalie, which shifted 439,405 copies.
They usefully also provide the numbers for the 2019 prize winners -- as well as updated totals, how many copies these books have now sold through 2020.
For example, the 2019 Goncourt-winner, Tous les hommes n’habitent pas le monde de la même façon, by Jean-Paul Dubois, sold 366,310 copies in 2019 -- considerably fewer than the Le Tellier this year -- but its total sales are now up to 482,141 copies.
At ActuaLitté they also have Les 10 meilleures ventes de romans en 2020 -- the top ten bestselling novels; the numbers are slightly different from those at Livres Hebdo -- the Le Tellier is ahead of the Musso here, for example -- but the list is usefully limited to novels.
They are coming out, in one volume as well as three separate ones, from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the US, after being published to considerable critical acclaim in the UK over the past two years.
(There, the one-volume collection is titled: Childhood, Youth, Dependency .....)
It looks like these will be Ditlevsen's break-out works in English -- but she's not entirely unknown.
For one, these translations of Childhood and Youth were previously published together as Early Spring, way back in 1985 (yes, to rather little notice ...).
And, while Dependency is now available in English for the first time, the Times Literary Supplement saw it and her as important enough to review the Danish original when it came out in 1971.
(In the international lockstep that so much of publishing has become, the Germans (like also the Dutch) have picked up on her too, and are also publishing the trilogy -- though I remember the red edition suhrkamp volume of Sucht from way back in the early 1980s; they've retitled it as Abhängigkeit ('Dependency', too) for the new edition, however.)
They announced the finalist for the 2020 Icelandic Book Prize last month, and now at The Reykjavík Grapevine Valur Grettisson has a preview of the prizes, which will be announced in a couple of weeks, Reading Too Much Into The Icelandic Book Prize Nominees 2021.
(It does seem that these are the 2020 prizes, however.)
The finalists, in three categories (fiction, non, and children's literature), were selected from 280 submissions.
One of the fiction finalists, Ólafur Jóhann Ólafsson's Snerting -- see the Forlagið publicity page -- actually came out in English translation a couple of years ago already, as One Station Away; see the Ecco publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Another finalist is by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir -- who won the 2016 Icelandic Book Prize for Hotel Silence.
It's interesting to hear that while her The Greenhouse was nominated for the Nordic Council Book Prize in 2009, it wasn't nominated for this prize that year:
Her sales in Iceland were actually quite low compared to her acclaim abroad, which perhaps explains her absence from the list, but the snub was still a scandal.
The Académie Française has announced the winner of this year's €30,000 Grand Prix de la Francophonie, and it is Lebanese author Alexandre Najjar; see also the Livres Hebdo report.
Several of his works have been translated into English; see the author page at Saqi Books.
An interesting look at the most successful books (and publishers) in the US market last year, as Liz Hartman goes about Breaking Down the Bestselling Books of 2020 at Publishers Weekly.
Despite the dominance of the so-called 'Big Five' in American publishing, independents had a good showing, at least in this area.
Greek-French author -- yes, he wrote works both in French and Greek -- Vassilis Alexakis has passed away; see, for example, Tasos Kokkinidis' report in Greek Reporter, Greek Writer and Journalist Vassilis Alexakis Dies at 77; obviously, there's also a lot coverage in the French media.
Alexakis is woefully under-translated into English, but a bit of his work is available -- his novel Foreign Words for example; see the Autumn Hill publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've announced the winner of this year's Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, and it is Kay Heikkinen's translation of Velvet by Huzama Habayeb.
See also the Hoopoe publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The prize will be awarded 11 February, along with the other Society of Authors Translation Prizes.
What great, great news: "In January 2021, Dædalus became an Open Access journal".
They're still working on digitizing the back catalog, but eventually all this great material will be freely accessible.
Some of it already is -- like the new Winter 2021 issue, 'On the Novel', edited by Michael Wood.
Lots of things that look worth a closer read, including: Simon D. Goldhill arguing for Finding the Time for Ancient Novels, Robyn Creswell on Poets in Prose: Genre & History in the Arabic Novel, and Two Theories by Franco Moretti.
A good-looking issue (on a topic of obvious interest ...), but that whole archive will be something to return to again and again .....
At Publishers Weekly John Maher has the numbers -- the top twenty-five bestselling titles in the US in 2020, along with the number of copies sold (as reported by NPD BookScan).
Barack Obama's A Promised Land was the only title to shift over 2,000,000 copies, and six more titles shifted over a million each.
None of the top twenty-five are under review at the complete review.
I read the first few installments of his twelve-volume memoirs -- it was a pretty fascinating life -- many, many years ago but never saw it through; predictably, the one Mehta title under review at the complete review is his novel, Delinquent Chacha.
One of the fun traditions at the start of every year is that the Swedish Academy opens the archives regarding the deliberations about the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature from fifty years earlier; this is where we learn who had been nominated for the prize (and by whom), and who the choice came down to (as well as some of the reasons the eventual winner came out top).
This year we are due to learn about the 1970 prize, which went to Alexandr Solzhenitsyn -- but, as you will have noticed, we haven't heard anything yet .....
Usually, the archive is opened in the first days of January.
This year, however, -- presumably in no small part because of the COVID-problem (closing the Nobel Library, among much else) -- they've announced they're postponing the big reveal, until (at least) the first of February; that is, for now, the provisional date for the opening; tune back in then .....
Originally published -- in the Philippines, where it won the National Book Award -- in 2009, this is the first time it has been published outside the Philippines, in a revised edition, just out from Soho Press.
Also: I really, really have to get around to reviewing José Rizal's Noli Me Tangere.
(His El Filibusterismo has long been under review at the site, but I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy of the Penguin Classics edition (Harold Augenbraum's new -- well, 2006 -- translation) -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
In 2020 I received 231 (physical) review copies -- a stunning decline (-47.14%) from the 437 received in 2019; it is the fewest review copies received since 2004 and obviously had a significant effect on what was reviewed at the site, with a much greater than usual focus on older titles (both personal and older review copies).
Naturally, the unusual conditions this year played a major role in this: publishers found it difficult -- and in many cases impossible -- to ship physical copies for much of the year.
Many titles were also delayed; I suspect that particularly with these (many) more than usual review-copy requests fell through the cracks.
The postal service slow-down at the end of the year certainly also contributed, with the trickle of incoming review copies coming to an almost complete stop.
I greatly appreciate -- and am impressed by -- the efforts publicists did make under these difficult circumstances.
Nevertheless, the much smaller number of review titles to work with strongly shaped what was reviewed at the site in 2020.
The percentage of review copies that get reviewed at the complete review is surprisingly constant: as of 31 December 2020 I had reviewed 57 of the print review copies I had received in 2020 -- 24.68% of the total; in 2019 the year-end percentage, despite being from a much-larger pool, was 23.34%.
(Naturally, too, as time goes by, more of the books received in 2020 will be reviewed -- there hasn't been much time to get to those December titles, for example.
So also, for example, at year's end 2019 I had reviewed 102 titles received in 2019, while in 2020 I reviewed another 33 titles received in 2019.)
(I did receive and certainly had access to, more e-review copies in 2020, but I've found those nearly impossible to work with; the fact that they are often time-limited is just one factor making them very difficult to use for review purposes.
Ten of this year's reviews were based on e-versions -- up considerably from the 6 in 2019, but fewer than in 2018 (12) or 2017 (13) -- but, honestly, one is too many, and while in some cases there simply are no alternatives I will continue to avoid reviewing off e-copies when- and wherever possible; it's simply too unpleasant.)
Some publishers obviously had it harder than others in 2020 -- notably Dalkey Archive Press, where business certainly could not proceed as usual, readily explaining why I only got three review copies in 2020, compared to 13 in 2019 -- but the change versus 2019 varied greatly from publisher to publisher.
Only one that provided three or more review-copies in 2020 actually provided more in 2020 than 2019 -- a remarkable achievement by Archipelago Books (10 books in 2020, one more than in 2019).
The top three providers of review-copies in 2020 were the same as in 2019, albeit in different order; the top ten providers of review copies in 2020 were:
1. New York Review Books 21 (2019: 30)
2. Other Press 17 (25)
3. Harvard University Press 15 (40)
4. Archipelago Books 10 (9)
5. Farrar, Straus and Giroux 10 (12)
6. Columbia University Press 8 (14)
-. World Editions 8 (14)
8. New Directions 6 (14)
-. Glagoslav 6 (8)
10. Wakefield Press 5 (8)
Meanwhile, there were quite a few publishers who have generally provided more print review-copies but did not (no doubt mostly for very good reasons) in 2020: Oxford University Press provided 16 in 2019 but only 1 in 2020; Penguin Classics two (both Simenons; 2019: 19, also mainly Simenons); Yale University Press 3 (2019: 14); Vintage 1 (2019: 9); Europa Editions 1 (2019: 8).
I did not receive any Seagull titles.
(And I've still never seen a HarperVia title (except one ill-fated attempt to peruse a library e-copy), or any from Charco.)
This isn't meant to be critical -- circumstances alone are pretty much good enough an explanation for me -- but I do point it out because it gives you some sense of what titles I did not have access to, and how that shaped review-coverage at the site.
Obviously, the titles of some of these publishers would be of great interest -- but without them at hand ... well, maybe I'll come across copies years from now and get to them then .....
(Obviously, another problem in 2020 has been the limitations on personal acquisition.
This has particularly affected library-browsing -- often a source of more popular current titles from bigger houses (as you may have noted, I get very, very few review copies from the major commercial houses).
I did purchase quite a few books, via online sources, but these tend to be used books, and older titles at that -- again explaining some of the peculiar skew of what got reviewed in 2020.)
I will add that, regardless of circumstances, I remain surprised by how hard it is for me to get review copies (yes, this isn't a new issue).
I realize the site is a blip on the World Wide Web -- but as far as especially fiction in translation goes, it's maybe not entirely insignificant .....
(I note with some amusement that the Alexa rankings for the site at the beginning of this year put it in the top 100,000 worldwide -- and while I think that is (beyond) unlikely, as a comparative measure it seems a reasonably useful tool, and the complete review would seem to fare pretty well re. comparable sites, including some quite well-known print publications .....)
Powell was a master of literary psychology, of inwardness, of thought.
Her novels depict introspection at a level of insight and imagination comparable to that of Dostoyevsky or Henry James; like them, she can go on for pages of unbroken text in detailing those states of mind and their labyrinthine intricacies.
Brody also reminds of Powell's depressing literary career -- meeting some critical but hardly any financial success.
I have a pile of Powells I've been meaning to get to -- the two volumes of the Library of America edition -- and this certainly makes me more curious about them.
NPD BookScan report that Last year was the bestselling year for U.S. print books in the last decade, with unit sales up: "8.2 percent, year over year, to reach 751 million units"; they also list the top ten bestsellers of the year, led by Barack Obama's A Promised Land, followed by Midnight Sun, by Stephenie Meyer.
I am not sure what to make of the fact that Juvenile Fiction outsells Adult Fiction by such a large margin.
I missed this when it appeared a couple of weeks ago, but at Radio Prague International they continued their 'The Czech Books You Must Read'-series with Tom McEnchroe's profile of Michal Viewegh - Master of satire in modern Czech literature -- who, with: "more than 30 books and 1.5 million copies sold under his belt [...] is quite possibly the Czech Republic's most popular contemporary author"
His Bliss Was it in Bohemia -- described as his: "breakthrough novel" -- is under review at the complete review, as is the not yet translated Případ nevěrné Kláry.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Feng Jicai's The Three-Inch Golden Lotus, published in 1994 as part of the University of Hawaii Press' excellent but, alas, apparently now long inactive Fiction from Modern China series.
They've announced the longlist for this year's Canada Reads -- the 20th edition --, with information about all fifteen titles.
The panelists who champion the individual books will be revealed 14 January, with the debates about the books to be held 8 to 11 March.