Popular Finnish author Arto Paasilinna has passed away; see, for example, the France24 report.
He never really seems to have caught on in the English-speaking markets, but he was huge in translation elsewhere, across Europe, with most of his many books appearing in many languages.
Several of his books are under review at the complete review:
The biggest literary prize announced yesterday -- at least in cash terms ?
Not that Man Booker thing -- no, it was the Premio Planeta, awarded to Yo, Julia, by historical novelist Santiago Posteguillo; see, for example, the El mundoreport.
How much does he get ?
A tidy €601,000.
None of his work appears to be available in English, but you have to figure some will eventually -- this sort of historical fiction is pretty popular, and he seems to be a big hit in Spain.
They've announced that Milkman, by Anna Burns, has won this year's Man Booker Prize (with a fraction of the Premio Planeta payout, at £50,000).
It's not yet out in the US but will be shortly; see the Faber publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Zulu Epic by Mazisi Kunene, Emperor Shaka the Great.
It is of fairly epic proportions -- over 400 pages long -- and in verse !
First published in the great African Writers Series in 1979, it was published in this English translation (by the author) long before the Zulu original came out; last year the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press re-issued it -- and, admirably, finally brought out the original, uNodumehlezi KaMenzi; see their publicity page.
Also interesting to compare this to the (translated from the Sesotho) Chaka, by Thomas Mofolo
Today is the day Damion Searls' translation of Uwe Johnson's classic Anniversaries comes out, in a lovely boxed set from New York Review Books -- so if you haven't pre-ordered it ... well, what are you waiting for ?
Head to the local store or order it online -- just get your copy of the biggest (page- and significance-wise) translation of the year.
Yes, there was an earlier translation -- but given this new one, the less said the better about that horribly abridged one .....
There's been a bit of coverage to prepare you (though so far review coverage has been ... lagging): at the Literary Hub they've been excerpting the book, day by day, the past week, while at The Paris Review's Daily weblog translator Searls is scheduled to introduce the book and author with three essays; see the first, On Uwe Johnson: Poet of Both Germanies.
There's also an event tonight at the Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, with translator Searls in conversation with NYRB Classics editor Edwin Frank.
Really, this is a book well worth going out of your way for (and making the time for -- yes, it's long).
Two more translations of novels by Dag Solstad came out in English this spring -- T Singer and Armand V. -- and already at the start of the year, on 2 January, I was ready to call it:
the one reviewing certainty of this year is that James Wood will review this duo -- T Singer and Armand V. -- in The New Yorker.
Pretty much guaranteed.
(And I imagine they will be very positive reviews; deservedly so -- they're great books.)
It took him quite a bit longer than I had expected, but he finally did get around to it, and Marginal Men Take Center Stage in the Novels of Dag Solstad appears in this week's issue of The New Yorker.
The books -- and Solstad generally -- haven't gotten the attention they deserve -- but it's not too late .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of a Boolean Comedrama by Oulipians Jacques Jouet and Olivier Salon, Two-Step, just out as a chapbook from Toad Press -- and also translated in tandem, by Emma Ramadan and Chris Clarke.
I don't want poetry books to be bestsellers.
For, if you sell more, that means you are resonating with the mainstream.
Poetry is the voice from the outside.
Its survival depends on resisting the mainstream.
I'm all for pushing boundaries with form and content, but I'm not sure about Ben Denzer's American Cheese, 20 Slices.
At Saveur University of Michigan librarian Jamie Lausch Vander Broek writes about spending US$200 on a copy (of the limited edition of ten), in You Can Check Out an Actual Cheese Book at this Michigan Library.
The headline exaggerates a bit -- the library listing says it is for: 'Building use only' (and by appointment, at that) -- but the essence is apparently true: it's described as: "Twenty individually wrapped slices of Kraft American cheese bound together".
What's truly scary:
We won't be storing the cheese book in the fridge; according to our head of conservation, American singles are basically shelf stable.
(People consume this stuff ?
There are only ten copies -- no ISBN, no Amazon listing ... -- but don't tell the kids about it, they'll want to make their own .....
(But you're not feeding this stuff to them anyway, are you ?)
After the Soviet collapse, Iva Pekárková was briefly pretty hot in English, with several works translated in the 1990s and 2000, but it's been pretty quiet (in English) since then.
At Radio Praha she resurfaces, in a Q & A with Brian Kenety.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of (controversial) 1974 Nobel laureate Harry Martinson's Aniara: A Review of Man in Time and Space -- a rare work of science fiction in verse.
This has not only been made into an opera, but there's a new movie-version just out; not sure this will make it to your local cineplex, but see the trailer.
In many countries there have long been complaints about English-language popular fiction taking over the local book market -- and leaving less room for domestic authors -- but in South Korea they apparently are more concerned about fiction from closer to home.
Apparently, as Kang Hyun-kyung reports in The Korea Times in Highbrow vs. lowbrow literature:
Goh Gwang-ryul, a novelist, said the "unproductive highbrow vs. lowbrow literature debate" in Korean literary circles can partly explain how Japanese fiction has been pushing Korean writers out of business.
He said Japanese writers are able to meet the changing tastes of Korean readers as they produce readable books, whereas Koreans fail to do so because of the hypocrisy of literary critics.
Local literary critics see middlebrow fiction as something derogatory and lower-class literature, Goh said.
"Their arrogance and downplaying of middlebrow books is related to the sluggish book sales of Korean fiction.
They exert enormous influence on publishers.
They make or break publication of certain books."
Hey, literary critics actually having an influence on the book market !
They've announced that Maryse Condé will receive the New Academy Prize in Literature, the one-time would-be Nobel Prize in Literature stand-in.
Good for her -- a deserving winner --, getting the attention and cash.
The only title of hers under review at the complete review is her memoir, What is Africa to Me ? but her fiction is certainly worth checking out too.
Deutsche Welle has made up what they call: 'the ultimate list of German-language books [published since 1900] translated into English'; see Reading Matter ? 100 German Must-Reads ! with links to more information about all the titles, or a pdf of the 100 German Must-Reads; see also their explanation, 100 German must-reads: The story behind the project.
The limitations -- post-1900 titles, translated into English, and one book per author -- make for a ... somewhat limited list (though it does get a lot of the big titles); it also skews recent and popular.
Quite a few of the titles are under review at the complete review:
Maybe they would have already announced it last Thursday, but today probably would have been the day they revealed the winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature -- but since the prize-deciding Swedish Academy imploded earlier this year we've known for a while that there would be no announcement this October.
The plan is now to announce both the 2018 and 2019 winners next year -- although the way things are going, who knows whether or not they'll be able to pull that off; even if they do, it will hardly make for twice the fun.
The one-off fill-in 'The New Academy Prize in Literature' will announce its winner tomorrow, but it's a pretty sorry substitute -- and, with the low stakes (not much prestige to be had here, unlike the tradition-steeped Nobel) and the three finalists known (the fourth, Murakami Haruki, having pulled out), there's none of the frenzied guessing (and betting) action that accompanies the last days and hours before the the Nobel announcement.
(Of course, at least this prize won't surprise with a selection like ... Bob Dylan, either, so at least there's that.)
I kind of miss the Nobel nonsense -- and Nobel-announcement day is always the day which brings by far the most traffic to the complete review -- but I'm glad to be able to devote the time I'd otherwise have spent on it reading and writing instead.
(And it's not like there aren't enough other prizes to keep track of at this time of year .....)
They've announced the sixteen-title longlist for this year's DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, selected from 88 submissions; it includes four titles in translation (from Assamese, Kannada, Tamil, and Hindi).
I've only seen two of these, with many of the titles (and all the translations) not (yet) out in the US/UK.
The shortlist will be announced 14 November.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano's Paris Nocturne.
This one has been out from Yale University Press in their Margellos World Republic of Letters series for a couple of years now, but the next -- Sleep of Memory -- is due out next week; I should be getting to that one soon, too.
Exactly 82,636 titles were released in 2017. A decade ago, that figure was around 95,000. A steep decline.
Also interesting -- and a reflection of just how ridiculous the US/UK market-for-translation is:
Are there strong sales of German books to be found in the big, wide English-speaking world ?
Not at all. As far as the licensing business is concerned, the English-speaking countries are not even in the top 10.
China has claimed the top spot for years.
In 2017, for the first time, Turkey is in second place.
Spain, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Russia and the Netherlands follow.
They've announced the five-title shortlist for the Austrian book prize.
Among those making it through who have previous titles translated into English are Milena Michiko Flašar and Josef Winkler; among those falling short: Arno Geiger.
The winner will be announced 5 November.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Karen Duve's The Prepper Room.
This got quite a few devastating reviews in Germany, while the UK edition -- it's been out for a couple of months there -- seems to have gone largely unremarked upon (not even the cover ...).
Dedalus is bringing it out in the US next February, and I'm curious whether it will attract any attention.
Set in 2031 and covering a lot of hot-button (in the US) issues, it seems like a good fit .....
They've announced the fifteen-title longlist for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation.
Only one of these titles is under review at the complete review: Belladonna by Daša Drndić; disappointingly many of these are not (yet, in some cases) readily US-available.
Czech author Jiří Hájíček was awarded this year's Czech National Literature Prize -- but, as Brian Kenety reports at Radio Praha, Writer Jiří Hájíček Rejects National Literature Prize -- apparently: "because some jury members had quit after the parliamentary elections and so the award cannot be considered apolitical".
This prize has a solid list of previous winners -- Jáchym Topol won last year, and previous winners include Patrik Ouředník (2014), Daniela Hodrová (2011), and Ludvík Vaculík (2008).
Hájíček's Rustic Baroque is available in English -- get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- and see information about the author at Czech Lit.
They've announced that this year's WELT-Literaturpreis will go to Virginie Despentes; she gets to pick up the €12,000 on 17 December.
This international author prize has a decent if somewhat mixed list of winners that includes early on good call future Nobel laureate Kertész Imre (2000), Amos Oz (2004), Yasmina Reza (2005), Philip Roth (2009), Murakami Haruki (2014), and Karl Ove Knausgaard (2015); they seem to have skipped the award last year.
Despentes has been attracting more attention in the US/UK too, as more of her books become available in translation -- even if Vernon Subutex still isn't out in the US yet ... (two volumes are in the UK).
The most recent translation to appear is Pretty Things -- one of her early books.
Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart's classic How to Read Donald Duck is being re-issued -- in what is apparently the first ever US edition (though some UK copies did make it into the country, back when, and weren't impossible to find; I got one in high school, and was thoroughly impressed at the time) -- and in The Guardian Dorfman explains How we roasted Donald Duck, Disney's agent of imperialism.
See also the OR Books publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com.
This has always seemed to me to be a fairly fundamental/essential contemporary text, one of those I'd never think of not having in my library (yes, along with many, many hundreds of other volumes, but still ...).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Marc Behm's Afraid to Death, recently re-issued by Arcadia Books.
Although Behm wrote this in English it was first published in French translation, as Trouille, in 1991 and only appeared in the original English in 2000.
Which is still more than can be said of a lot of his work -- available in French (translation) but not in the original English.
They've announced this year's 25 MacArthur Fellows, "Awarding unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction" -- the famous 'genius'-grants that come with US$625,000, no-strings-attached.
The usual variety of artists, activists, scientists, and others, including several writers, such as Kelly Link (who is also a co-founder of Small Beer Press) and John Keene.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Manzoor Ahtesham's The Tale of the Missing Man, recently out from Northwestern University Press.
The Translation Database currently lists 589 translations -- fiction and non, poetry, and children's -- being published for the first time in the US in 2018 -- and shockingly and embarrassingly, this is the sole title translated from the Hindi that appears there.
(Of the 724 translated titles published in 2017 there was also only one lone translation from the Hindi -- so at least the percentage has improved ?)
Sure, more are translated and available in India, so if you really try hard you can find a couple more, but it's amazing that nothing else from such a major language -- both in terms of reading population and literary significance -- is being published in the US.
And, mind you, this is a 1995 novel -- certainly worth seeing, but a long way from current.
The piles of just the recent stuff we should be seeing .....
Of course, South and South East Asia continues to be miserably under-represented in US/UK translation across the board -- to the extent that the Translation Database (covering 2008 to 2019 !) doesn't even bother listing national languages from Thai to Malaysian, Sinhalese, Nepali, Lao, or Cambodian -- because apparently there isn't a single title in these languages that qualifies for inclusion (in over a decade !); Burmese makes the cut with ... one title for the whole span.
(Tilted Axis' expansion to US distribution will help slip in some, fortunately -- Prabda Yoon ! -- but that's still just a drop in the bucket.)
Of course, the previous title I reviewed was from a language which also didn't see a single title translated into English and published in the US for the first time in 2018 .....
They've announced the finalists for the Canadian Governor General's Literary Awards -- seventy titles in all, five books in each of seven categories in both English and French, including translation (French into English, and English into French).
The fourteen winning titles will be announced 30 October, and the awards ceremony will be on 28 November.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Aka Mortschiladse's Obolé -- just out in German translation, but not yet in English; Levan Berdzenishvili recently included this among his Top Five Georgian Novels -- indeed, it is his favorite.
Dalkey Archive Press did bring out his Journey to Karabakh a couple of years ago, but, despite Georgia being the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair which starts next week, translations of other Georgian works into English have been ... lagging: the Translation Database lists zero new translations from the Georgian being published in the US in 2018 .....
The Germans are doing much better, and I have a few more new translations which I hope to get to; meanwhile, see also this Q & A (it's in English, after the short intro) with someone from the Santa Esperanza Bookshop about the Georgian book market, as well as the official guest of honour site, Georgia Made by Characters.
The big annual Georgian literary award is the Saba Literary Award -- with Obolé picking up the 2012 best novel prize -- and this year they'll be announcing the winners at the Frankfurt Book Fair, on 12 October; among those in the running for this year's best novel prize is Lasha Bugadze, whose earlier The Literature Express is available in English (unsurprisingly, also from Dalkey Archive Press).
In the Forward Aviya Kushner discusses Why Transliteration Matters -- an always fascinating topic.
Kushner focuses on words for which there is no English equivalent, or where there's some other reason to use the foreign word in transliterated form -- but, as she notes, it also comes into play with regards, for example, to author-names, as I have often noted re. Russian, Arabic, and other examples.
(Among my favorite examples: it comes up in other languages too: 'Shakespeare' is 'Szekspir' in Polish.)
The prix Goncourt has announced its second selection -- the shorter longlist of eight titles, with the announcement of a shortlist (30 October) and winner (8 November) still to come; see, for example the Livres Hebdoreport.
(As the report notes: just one female author left in the running -- not very impressive.)
Walter Laqueur, who wrote extensively on terrorism, among other subjects, has passed away, see, for example, the obituaries in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
None of his many books are under review at the complete review, but I read several over the years and found them interesting and useful.
They've announced that Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain, by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, has won this year's Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize.
See also the publicity pages from Doubleday or PublicAffairs, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Latvian Literature helpfully has a list of the 10 saddest Latvian books.
None seem to be available in English yet -- but don't worry, apparently you too can soon be saddened, as: "Several books in the list are soon to be available in the UK and other English speaking countries in translation".
In the Myanmar Times Zon Pann Pwint finds Southeast Asian Novels Lost Without Translation.
Not much is translated from the Burmese, but locally they also find relatively little is translated into Burmese from other Southeast Asian countries; translation from the English still completely dominates the market.
American Theatre has its lists of the eleven Most-Produced Plays of the 2018-19 Season and the twenty Top 20 Most-Produced Playwrights of the 2018-19 season (excluding A Christmas Carol and plays by Shakespeare (of which there are apparently 96 productions this season)).
A Doll's House, Part 2, by Lucas Hnath, easily led the way -- and also propelled Hnath to most-produced playwright.
I was surprised not see more old, 'classic' playwrights among the most-produced - with August Wilson coming in as 10th most produced, and Tennessee Williams only 17th (and Sam Shepard at 20th).
The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of the two plays by Ferdinand Bruckner (Theodor Tagger) in the collection Two Plays of Weimar Germany just out from Northwestern University Press: