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19 April 2018 - Thursday

Q & As: Jhumpa Lahiri - Iljaz Spahiu - Amos Oz
RSL Ondaatje Prize shortlist | Moon Brow review

       Q & A: Jhumpa Lahiri

       At The Paris Review's weblog Dan Piepenbring has a Q & A with Jhumpa Lahiri on Her Work as a Translator, as she talks yet again about her Domenico Starnone-translations, Trick and Ties (and see, of course, also her own: In Other Words).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Q & A: Iljaz Spahiu

       Via I'm pointed to this fascinating (Chinese and English) Q & A with Iljaz Spahiu, a translator from the Chinese -- into Albanian.
       He's apparently responsible for the: "first Chinese contemporary novel translated into Albanian" (Mo Yan's Frog) -- which I find a bit surprising, given (relative) Albanian-Chinese closeness over the (especially Hoxha-Mao) years .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Q & A: Amos Oz

       At DeutscheWelle Sarah Judith Hofmann has a Q & A with Israeli writer Amos Oz: Trump did one thing that every other country should also do -- a headline and suggestion that is ... rather disingenuous: Oz's (debatable, but defensible) suggestion is that every country move their embassies to Israel to Jerusalem (as the Trump administration has announced it will) but:
simultaneously there should be an embassy of all countries in the world in East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine
       The Trump administration move of course made no allowances for any embassy-to-Palestine -- certainly not in Jerusalem -- and so is far from Oz's two-track suggestion; instead it's led to a rather different, one-side-gets-their-cake-and-eats-it-too-and-forget-the-other situation.
       If, as Oz appears to be, you're going to argue for the two-state/two-capitals-in-Jerusalem solution -- and you don't have to, of course, there are (bad and worse) alternatives -- then you have to denounce the ... asymmetrical Trump administration decision as one not just detrimental to but actually undermining those ends.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       RSL Ondaatje Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's RSL Ondaatje Prize, the: "award of £10,000 for a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place", which is a nice idea for a prize.
       The winner will be announced on 14 May.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Moon Brow review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Shahriar Mandanipour's Moon Brow -- the second of his written-in-Persian novels that's appearing English translation before it appears in the original.

       Knopf published his Censoring an Iranian Love Story, while this one is coming out from Restless Books -- and while Restless is an admirable and impressive publisher of interesting international fiction, it's still a bit of a surprise that, after the success of the first one, this didn't go to a bigger/more commercial outlet.
       (Censoring an Iranian Love Story is also the only title I can recall getting this husband-and-wife review treatment at such prominent publications, with Claire Messud reviewing [$] it at The New York Review of Books and husband James Wood reviewing it in The New Yorker.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



18 April 2018 - Wednesday

Walter Scott Prize shortlist | Schnitzler's Late Fame

       Walter Scott Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.
       None of these are under review at the complete review, but some do sound intriguing.
       The winning title will be announced 16 June.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Schnitzler's Late Fame

       Arthur Schnitzler's (way) posthumous Late Fame came out in the UK in 2015 (from Pushkin Press) and last year in the US (from New York Review Books), but it's nice to see some (enthusiastic) late-in-the-day coverage, here at The New Yorker, where James Guida writes on A Brilliant 1895 Novel on the Emptiness of Literary Fame .....
       Bonus points for starting off with Dubravka Ugrešić.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



17 April 2018 - Tuesday

Pulitzer Prizes | Wolfson History Prize shortlist | New The Riveter

       Pulitzer Prizes

       They've announced the 2018 Pulitzer Prizes.

       Andrew Sean Greer's Less won in the Fiction category -- beating out finalists The Idiot (by Elif Batuman) and In the Distance by Hernan Diaz; see also the Lee Boudreaux Books publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

       Other 'Letters and Drama'-category awards went to:
  • Biography: Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser
  • Drama: Cost of Living by Martyna Majok
  • General Non-fiction: Locking Up Our Own by James Forman Jr.
  • History: The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea by Jack E. Davis
  • Poetry: Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 by Frank Bidart
       The criticism award went to visual arts critic Jerry Saltz; book critic Carlos Lozada was a finalist.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Wolfson History Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for the 2018 Wolfson History Prize -- a £40,000 prize that calls itself: "Britain's foremost history prize, promoting standards of excellence in scholarly history for a general audience".

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       New The Riveter

       Issue four of The Riveter -- the Baltics edition -- is now available online. Yes, only in the dreaded pdf format, but there's 100-plus pages of Baltic material ... reviews ! extracts ! overviews !
       Worth downloading and leisurely perusal on your e-reader (that's my plan).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



16 April 2018 - Monday

PEN World Voices Festival | Paperbacks from Hell review

       PEN World Voices Festival

       The PEN World Voices Festival starts today in Ney York City, and runs through the 22nd.
       An impressive line-up --= extending way beyond the literary, with celebrities including Sean Penn, and 2016 US presidential runner-up Hillary Rodham Clinton giving this year's Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture (maybe not so literary, but that should be fun).
       Literary highlights include The Trick of Translation, with Domenico Starnone appearing with his translator (of Trick and Ties), Jhumpa Lahiri, and one-on-ones with (Heretics-author) Leonardo Padura and (Decolonising the Mind-author) Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.
       Absolute highlight ? Surely: Being Dag Solstad (yes, the author of, among others, T Singer and Shyness and Dignity) -- with Lydia Davis (and John Freeman, for good measure). (The one event I'm certain to attend; still trying to figure out which of the rest I can/should take in.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Paperbacks from Hell review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Grady Hendrix's look at The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction, Paperbacks from Hell.
       It's certainly ... colorful.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



15 April 2018 - Sunday

Israeli fiction abroad | Literary prizes in ... India
The Sea Lies Ahead review

       Israeli fiction abroad

       That some works and authors from one country flourish in specific other countries while other domestically successful titles flop abroad is a widespread phenomenon, but perhaps particularly noticeable coming from a 'smaller' language, and Gili Izikovich's look in Haaretz at Why Israeli Novels Flourish in Some Countries and Flop in Others [premium content ? apologies (and curses) if story not freely, fully accessible ...] is an interesting overview.
       "There are no rules and there is no consistency", Ziv Lewis, the foreign rights and acquisitions manager at the publisher Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir, finds.
       And, for example, -- who would have guessed ? -- David Shahar: "is the Israeli author who had the greatest success in France", and:
"David Shahar was described in France as the successor to Marcel Proust," says Prof. Menachem Perry, adding that Shahar wasn't the only luminary. "Aharon Appelfeld is more esteemed abroad than he is in Israel, and A.B. Yehoshua is described in Italy as one of the world's greatest writers."
       Meanwhile: "Particularly tough markets are the United States and Britain" --:
And Israeli literature, which in the past did enjoy a bit of a vogue with the American reader, is no longer fashionable today ... and in general the smiling politeness there hides a tough reality in which you feel you have only one chance to prove yourself in the book market, and if not, you'll be declared persona non grata and you won't get any more contracts from serious publishing houses
       Politics, of course, plays a role, too, and this is also addressed here. As is money -- or rather the difficulty of making much, even with sales abroad: Eshkol Nevo notes:
My two most successful books abroad are World Cup Wishes and Three Floors Up, which is also relatively successful in the United States and was an editors’ choice in The New York Times. But this doesn't account for a large part of my earnings, and sometimes this prompts melancholy thoughts.
       Some of the reasoning appears a bit dubious, however, such as the idea that:
The sales figures and the reception of Hebrew literature in Scandinavia have always been negligible because in those countries they read in English a lot, and that's also why there's no significant tradition of extensive translations from world literature the way there is in Germany, France and Italy

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Literary prizes in ... India

       In the Hindustan Times Dhrubo Jyoti reports on how Two new Indian literary prizes promise different agendas in what is also a good overview of the Indian literary prize scene in general. (The two headlined prizes are the JCB Prize for Literature and New India Foundation Prize (for a work of non-fiction); works in translation are eligible for both these prizes.)
       Among the interesting observations:
Prizes such as the Bankim Purashkar in Bengali or the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in Malayalam are both coveted, talked about and popularly discussed. "Engagement of the readers with the writers. I see that more direct in Indian languages. Indian language writers are more accessible," argues [Ghachar Ghochar-author Vivek] Shanbag. Maybe the way ahead is more inward.
       Meanwhile, in the Financial Express Smitha Verma considers the same questions -- or rather, more pointedly: Why do we need an Indian literary prize ? focusing on the JCB Prize.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       The Sea Lies Ahead review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Intizar Husain's The Sea Lies Ahead.

       Intizar Husain was a finalist for the 2013 Man Booker International Prize (back when it was still an author-prize (rather than just book-prize, as it is now)); even so, this work has not been published in the US or UK (though HarperCollins India, in their Perennial imprint, seems to be doing quite well with this translation ...). It doesn't neatly fit US/UK expectations of 'Indian' literature (in translation or not) -- and admittedly would probably have a hard time finding a larger audience -- but it's a shame it remains only distantly (via India) available, because it's exactly this kind of 'foreign' fiction that we should be exposed to more of.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



14 April 2018 - Saturday

Premio Formentor de las Letras | Writing in English, abroad

       Premio Formentor de las Letras

       They've announced the winner of this year's (recently revived) Premio Formentor de las Letras, and the €50,000 author prize goes to Nostalgia-author Mircea Cărtărescu; see, for example, the Romania-Insider report (though sadly they are incorrect in claiming that: "The full, three-part [Blinding] trilogy can be read in English"; so far, only the first volume is available in English ....).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Writing in English, abroad

       In the Jakarta Globe Dhania Sarahtika wonders Is Indonesian literature written in English still Indonesian literature ? -- a debate that crops up (with other languages) more frequently now, especially given the outsized role of English in the international publishing market.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



13 April 2018 - Friday

Sergio Pitol (1933-2018) | Man Booker International Prize shortlist
Stella Prize | Nobel Prize-deciding Swedish Academy implodes

       Sergio Pitol (1933-2018)

       Leading Spanish-language and Cervantes Prize-winning author Sergio Pitol has passed away; see. for example the AP report, here at The Washington Post, Renowned Mexican writer Sergio Pitol dies at 85.
       Pitol has only recently begun to be available in English translation -- thanks largely to Deep Vellum; see their Pitol page -- and his The Magician of Vienna was, as just announced on Tuesday, longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award. I have these titles, and expect to get to them -- definitely my kind of stuff.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Man Booker International Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Man Booker International Prize, and the six titles left in the running are:
  • Flights, by Olga Tokarczuk; tr. Jennifer Croft
  • Frankenstein in Baghdad, by Ahmed Saadawi; tr. Jonathan Wright
  • Like a Fading Shadow, by Antonio Muñoz Molina; tr. Camilo A. Ramirez
  • Vernon Subutex 1, by Virginie Despentes; tr. Frank Wynne
  • The White Book, by Han Kang; tr. Deborah Smith
  • The World Goes On, by Krasznahorkai László; tr. John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet, and George Szirtes
       Several of these are not yet US-available -- Flights, is being published late this summer, and Vernon Subutex 1 and The White Book are apparently even farther off.
       The winning title will be announced 22 May.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Stella Prize

       They've announced that Tracker, by Alexis Wright, has won this year's Stella Prize, an Australian prize for which works of both fiction and non by female Australian authors are eligible.
       Though some of Wright's work has been published abroad, this doesn't appear to be US/UK available yet; hopefully the prize win will help change that; meanwhile, see the Giramondo publicity page.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Nobel Prize-deciding Swedish Academy implodes

       I mentioned the turmoil at the Nobel-deciding Swedish Academy last week, but things have gotten considerably worse now, with the Academy basically imploding yesterday.
       On Wednesday they got rapped on the knuckles by the Nobel Foundation ("We can see that the trust in the Swedish Academy has been seriously damaged"), and when the Academy convened on Thursday permanent secretary Sara Danius (was ?) resigned from that position, and withdrew (to the extent possible) from the Academy, and Katarina Frostenson also withdrew; this leaves the eighteen-member strong Academy without a quorum, as seven members-for-life are no longer playing along, basically paralyzing the body.
       Christina Anderson offers a good overview of the current state of affairs in The New York Times, in In Nobel Scandal, a Man Is Accused of Sexual Misconduct. A Woman Takes the Fall. Among the choice quotes:
"There has always been the consensus that this has been a competent group and that they have judgment, and that the literary judgment is solid," Mr. Wiman added. "With this scandal you cannot possibly say that this group of people has any kind of solid judgment."
       (I would suggest that some -- including surely some in the Academy itself -- had doubted the judgment of the group since the selection of Bob Dylan as Nobel laureate (especially considering how that played out -- i.e. how they were played and strung along by him; no doubt the perception of "Ms. Danius as a weak leader" got lots of traction there already, for leading them into that unending mess).)
       The Swedish Academy awarded their second most important prize, the Nordic Prize, to Agneta Pleijel on Wednesday, so they were still sort of able to get down to business earlier this spring (the announcement of the prize came mid-March), but it's hard to imagine they're up to the bigger Nobel challenge at this point and stage (the last few weeks, when they should be deciding the five or so finalists before the Academy goes on their long summer vacation).
       They are in complete crisis-mode now, and it seems to be a distinct possibility this year that there won't be a Nobel Prize in Literature: unless they really get their house in order any selection at this point (well, at the October-point, when they announce) would be widely considered tainted. (Of course, after the Dylan selection .....)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



12 April 2018 - Thursday

Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize shortlist
New Swedish Book Review | Cult X review

       Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize shortlist

       They've announced the three-title shortlist for the 2018 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize, "awarded each spring to honor an outstanding literary translation from German into English published in the USA the previous year" (that's entered, that is -- which is surely why Bottom's Dream didn't walk away with this prize last year ...).
       Admirably, this prize lists all the submitted titles -- 26 titles this year -- giving a good sense of the major works translated from the German published in English last year (fiction and non, and poetry too). The Wolfgang Hilbig also made it onto the announced-yesterday Best Translated Book Award longlist (see my previous mention), while the other two finalists were not listed as fiction (and hence BTBA ineligible); Arno Geirger's The Old King in His Exile is the one finalist under review at the complete review.
       (The two other German BTBA longlisted titles -- Johannes Urzidil's The Last Bell and Daniel Kehlmann's You Should Have Left -- are not among the submitted (i.e. considered) titles for this, and while there might be some eligibility issues here ... yeah, that just looks like someone really dropped the ball. Come on, publishers -- you always submit to these things.)

       (Updated - 13 April): Translator David Burnett confirms that in the case of the Urzidil it was indeed an eligibilty issue -- the Wolff folk do limit the prize to US and Canadian publishers, and despite Pushkin Press being distributed in the US (hence BTBA eligible) that's not good enough for them. (Not an excuse for Pantheon (the Kehlmann), Dalkey (Arno Schmidt, and many other works the past two years ...), and others .....)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       New Swedish Book Review

       Issue 2018:1 of the Swedish Book Review is now up.
       No Swedish Academy/Nobel-implosion gossip but the always useful book reviews, so worth a look.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Cult X review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nakamura Fuminori's Cult X, forthcoming from Soho Press.

       This is one of those books that is particularly hard to review. On the one hand it is 'bad', in several ways -- some of the writing/translation is cringe-worthy, and the treatment of women and sex is ... problematic, to put it mildly. But there's enough to it that I found it definitely worthwhile. So it's kind of hard to recommend -- but also a book you shouldn't miss out on. Or at least some readers shouldn't miss out on.

       Aside from the content, it's worth noting that this is a great-looking book: Soho have produced a beautiful physical object, and while the cut-out X on the cover takes a bit of getting used to (it's a long book, so -- if you're actually trying to read it (admittedly, hardly a given) -- you're holding this for a long time, and most readers probably aren't used to a front cover with a hole in it ...), yeah, damn, it looks good. (And unlike a paperback with a cut-out cover, which is just plain irritating, there's not nearly as much chance of causing damage to the book by putting your hand through it.)
       Honestly, this is the ultimate display copy, whether on booksellers' tables, or guys-trying-to-impress-the-girl's coffee tables: near irresistible.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



11 April 2018 - Wednesday

BTBA longlists | EBRD Literature Prize | Read Russia Prize

       BTBA longlists

       They've announced the Best Translated Book Award longlists in fiction and poetry, and the twenty-five longlisted fiction titles are:
  • Affections, by Rodrigo Hasbún, tr. Sophie Hughes

  • August, by Romina Paula, tr. Jennifer Croft

  • Bergeners, by Tomas Espedal, tr.James Anderson

  • Beyond the Rice Fields, by Naivo, tr. Allison M. Charette

  • Chasing the King of Hearts, by Hanna Krall, tr.Philip Boehm

  • Compass, by Mathias Énard, tr. Charlotte Mandell

  • Ebola 76, by Amir Tag Elsir, tr. Charis Bredin

  • Fever Dream, by Samanta Schweblin, tr. Megan McDowell

  • For Isabel, by Antonio Tabucchi, tr. Elizabeth Harris

  • Ghachar Ghochar, by Vivek Shanbhag, tr. Srinath Perur

  • I Am the Brother of XX, by Fleur Jaeggy, tr. Gini Alhadeff

  • The Iliac Crest, by Cristina Rivera Garza, tr.Sarah Booker

  • Incest, by Christine Angot, tr.Tess Lewis

  • The Invented Part, by Rodrigo Fresán, tr. Will Vanderhyden

  • The Last Bell, by Johannes Urzidil, tr. David Burnett

  • The Magician of Vienna, by Sergio Pitol, tr. George Henson

  • My Heart Hemmed In, by Marie NDiaye, tr.Jordan Stump

  • Old Rendering Plant, by Wolfgang Hilbig, tr. Isabel Fargo Cole

  • Radiant Terminus, by Antoine Volodine, tr. Jeffery Zuckerman

  • Remains of Life, by Wu He, tr. Michael Berry

  • Return to the Dark Valley, by Santiago Gamboa, tr.Howard Curtis

  • Savage Theories, by Pola Oloixarac, tr. Roy Kesey

  • Suzanne, by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, tr.Rhonda Mullins

  • Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller, by Guðbergur Bergsson, tr. Lytton Smith

  • You Should Have Left, by Daniel Kehlmann, tr.Ross Benjamin
       As you can see, my favored titles did not fare well: only a miserable two out of ten made it into the top 25 -- poor even for my standards.

       There are ten titles longlisted under review at the complete review and, surprisingly, several more that I have read but did not take to, including Fever Dream and Savage Theories (which sounds like I'd love it, and which I expect to have another go at). There are also considerably more titles than last year which I haven't seen at all.

       Noteworthy:
  • No titles from:
    • Dalkey Archive Press -- for the third year running, as best I can tell (despite 29 eligible entries this year, according to the Translation Database at Publishers Weekly)
    • New York Review Books (7 eligible titles; 3 longlisted lat year)
    • Farrar Straus & Giroux (9 eligible titles -- and lots of big names/titles (including Laurent Binet, Chico Buarque, Emmanuel Carrère, Édouard Louis, Antonio Muñoz Molina, Leonardo Padura, and Ralf Rothmann)); also apparently the third year in a row they've come up empty
    • Yale University Press (6 eligible titles, including two Modianos)
    • AmazonCrossing -- not that surprising, maybe, but with 55 (!) eligible titles by far the most in the field
  • Only one (officially-a-)university press title made the cut -- though it is noteworthy that two university-affiliated presses (Feminist Press and Open Letter) placed six titles on the longlist
  • Feminist Press was an amazing three-for-three, as all three of their eligible titles made the longlist; three Open Letter books also made the longlist, but that's only a third of their eligible titles
  • Argentina and France both placed four titles on the longlist
  • Six titles from the French made the fiction longlist (but not one made the poetry longlist), while there were eight from the Spanish
  • Three non-European languages are represented: Arabic, Chinese, and Kannada (one title each) -- but there are no titles from the Japanese (25 eligible), Korean (11), or Russian (12)
       Dalkey is, of course, the biggest (non?)surprise -- two of my ten favored titles were from Dalkey (by Senges and Kazufumi), and several more were surely contenders (foremost: Jon Fosse's Boathouse; the first volume in Luis Goytisolo's tetralogy). Jurors have noted on Twitter that the publisher was not forthcoming with copies, but that's of course an issue with many books every year, and I trust that they at least tried to give them a fair shake; still, it's remarkable how the BTBA has moved away from embracing Dalkeyesque titles: Dalkey placed four titles on the longlist on at least three previous occasions, and have now missed the longlist completely for three years in a row, suggesting a more fundamental shift in what BTBA judges are looking for/at. [Bottom's Dream, last year's unconscionable omission, was also a Dalkey title, but that's a book, and an oversight, that's a category all its own; it wasn't your usual ... anything, and there are (lame) arguments why the judges wouldn't/couldn't deal with that.]
       Conversely, the Feminist Press success is something never seen before. They certainly publish fine books -- and are a welcome corrective to the still too widespread trend of favoring male over female authors (Dalkey ...) -- but this longlist success rate is ... amazing. My experience is that the jury-panel weighs balance (gender, language, publishers, etc.) at least somewhat in deciding on the titles, and so they must have really been convinced by these to vote through the entire slate. (Annoyingly, I have always had a hard time getting my hands on their books, and I actually haven't seen any of these.)
       Lots of prominent authors and titles didn't make the longlist, including the Nobel laureates (Pamuk, Modiano), prize darlings (Jenny Erpenbeck falling short yet again -- what's the deal there ? Krasznahorkai (who should be back next year); Han Kang; Peter Stamm; Szabó Magda (whose eligible Katalin Street recently won the PEN Translation Prize)), as well as classics such as The Evenings. Daša Drndić's Belladonna is arguably the 'best' book to fall short. And Jhumpa Lahiri's translation didn't impress sufficiently either.

       There are a couple of head-scratchers on the longlist for me, too many I still haven't seen, and a (very) few stand-outs. Not what I expected, certainly -- but then that's half the fun, that it rarely is. I look forward to checking out a few of the titles I'm still unfamiliar with

       The shortlists will be announced 15 May, and the winners on 31 May.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       EBRD Literature Prize

       They've announced that Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez, in Ümit Hussein's translation, has won the inaugural EBRD Literature Prize (limited to literature from countries in which the EBRD is active); see also the OR Books publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       (This was eligible for last year's Best Translated Book Award, but was not longlisted.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Read Russia Prize

       They've announced that the 2018 Read Russia Prize, for the best translation of Russian literature into English, goes to Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi, translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler, Anne Marie Jackson, and Irina Steinberg; see also the publicity pages from New York Review Books and Pushkin Press, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
       (As a non-fiction title, this was BTBA-ineligible.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



10 April 2018 - Tuesday

Magnesia Litera | London Book Fair

       Magnesia Litera

       They've announced the winners of the Magnesia Litera, the major Czech literary prize(s), with Opuštěná společnost, by Erik Tabery taking book of the year; see, for example, the Paseka publicity page, and the Radio Praha report by Ruth Fraňková, Non-fiction Examination of Czech Society's Ills Lands Literary Prize.
       The best translation into Czech went to one of Máirtín Ó Cadhain's Cré na Cille -- beating out a translation of Jonathan Franzen's Purity, among others.
       Since 2018 was also the centenary of the establishment of Czech independence, they also voted on the 'book of the century': the experts selected The Good Soldier Švejk, by Jaroslav Hašek (ahead of I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal), while the popular vote went to ... Saturnin.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       London Book Fair

       The London Book Fair runs from today through the 12th, with a 'market focus' on the Baltic Countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) -- and a great line-up from these.
       See, for example, the Latvian preview .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



9 April 2018 - Monday

Library of Arabic Literature Q & A
Translator Q & As: Mary Ann Newman - N. Kalyan Raman - Le Duc Man
Disoriental review

       Library of Arabic Literature Q & A

       In Al-Ahram Weekly David Tresilian has a Q & A with Library of Arabic Literature-executive editors Philip Kennedy, James Montgomery, Shawkat Toorawa, and Chip Rossetti, who: "explained some of thinking behind the series to the Weekly, as well as future plans", in Arabic translation comes of age.
       A long-time -- from the very beginning ! -- fan of the series, I only have five of the series titles under review at the complete review -- but a big pile of to-get-to titles. It really is a great series, and it's great to hear more about it.

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       Translator Q & A: Mary Ann Newman

       In The Oberlin Review Sophie Drukman-Feldstein has a Q & A with Mary Ann Newman, Translator. Among her translations from the Catalan under review at the complete review are Josep Maria de Sagarra's Private Life and Quim Monzó's Gasoline
       Among her observations:
Spanish has that very beautiful romance rhythm, but that can be limiting when one is translating. Catalan is interesting because it has more edges. It has a lot of monosyllables, it has words that end in consonants -- it's very, very beautiful, but it has a somewhat more staccato sound.
       And heads up, folks, for all those who think the golden age is come and who might be getting complacent:
Having said that, translation is entering into a period of crisis. It's had about 10 years of looking like translation was becoming a part of the American publishing scene, because there was money from foreign institutions, there were grants for translations, there were a lot of small independent publishers arising who were devoting their work to translation. And it seemed like there was a little ecosystem that was functioning, but it turned out that the profit margin for publishers, for these small publishers, is so small that a lot of them may not survive.
       My sense is also of an looming downturn -- do what you can to prevent it (like reading (and buying) works in translation !).

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       Translator Q & A: N. Kalyan Raman

       In the Sunday Guardian Bhumika Popli has a Q & A with translator (from the Tamil) N. Kalyan Raman, 'A translation can only be as good as the translator'.

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       Translator Q & A: Le Duc Man

       At VietNamNet they have a Q & A with translator from-the-Russian-into-Vietnamese Le Duc Man, who won the Viet Nam Writers Association Award for best translation in 2017, Translation is a "soft" weapon
       He points to four distinct phases of translation into Vietnamese, dominated first by from-the-Chinese, then French (1905 through the early 1960s), Russian (1961-1990), and English (the last quarter of a century.

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       Disoriental review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Négar Djavadi's wonderfully-titled Disoriental, out shortly from Europa Editions.

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8 April 2018 - Sunday

BTBA longlist speculation | Bestseller study

       BTBA longlist speculation

       The longlist for the 2018 Best Translated Book Award in fiction will be announced on Tuesday, 10 April. (Apparently the judges have already finalized the list.) [The (shorter) poetry longlist will also be announced then, but I'm focusing solely on the fiction list here.]

       Just a reminder how this works (assuming nothing has changed since I last heard/checked): the nine fiction judges each choose and rank their top ten titles, and the sixteen most popular/highly ranked (when everything is added up) make the longlist; each judge then gets one free selection of any title they like, to round out the longlist of/at twenty-five books.

       Unlike last year -- an outlier, where there was one title that obviously towered over everything else (indeed, over everything that had ever been eligible and considered for the Best Translated Book Award), namely John E. Woods' translation of Arno Schmidt's Bottom's Dream -- this year's field looks much more even, with a lot of books one could make a case for. Which makes predicting hard. (Of course, even when there's an obviously superior work eligible, predicting can be hard: last year's BTBA jurors declined to longlist Bottom's Dream .....)
       A lot depends on the judges, so any real attempt at prediction would try to suss out their leanings and likings (some of which can be gleaned from their BTBA posts at Three Percent, Twitter comments, and the like), but even so, the large number of judges generally means that a lot of personal favorites don't rise to the top; from my own judging days I note that getting half of my ten initial choices onto the longlist was about all I could expect.
       Given my terrible track record in predicting, it seems futile trying to put together a full 25-title-list. It's a fun game -- but without even Chad Post's occasionally-provided helpful clues (like last year), I don't have the energy to play the guessing game. So I'll stick to the slightly easier game of: what would I choose ?
       I've only reviewed about 110 of the eligible titles, and looked at far fewer additional ones than I would have if I were actually judging, so there are quite a few -- including some apparent favorites -- that I'm probably missing. Still, a top ten -- listed in alphabetical, not rank, order -- I would have submitted were I judging might have consisted of:        Titles marked by an asterisk are the ones I would be stunned if they were not on the longlist ..... (So figure on two of them not making it .....)
       And actually, in a bit of strategic voting, I would have left off Compass, figuring it was a sure-bet to get enough other judges' votes to let me substitute a perhaps otherwise less likely work -- maybe Ghachar Ghochar, by Vivek Shanbhag, Boathouse by Jon Fosse, or Jean Giono's Melville.
       This isn't necessarily a true best-list -- as always, considerations of balance are also a factor the judges take into account: language, gender, etc. (and so, for example, I hope they have a better male-female balance than I managed (sheesh ...) -- and more linguistic variety, too, come to think of it .....)

       Among the things I'm wondering about the longlist:
  • Will any AmazonCrossing titles be on it ? (The most eligible titles -- by far -- of any publisher, but only a few vaguely realistic contenders. Still: titles by Andrei Gelasimov, Amir Gutfreund, Jia Pingwa, and Igor Štiks certainly deserved a closer look, so maybe .... ? (I've only seen the Jia Pingwa, and wouldn't have longlisted it .....))

  • Dalkey Archive Press titles ? The Senges looks like the strongest possibility; Luis Goytisolo's Recounting has the drawback of being (only-)the-first-in-a-tetralogy. There's a Jáchym Topol .....

  • Seagull Books ? Great batch of eligible titles, but any true standouts ?

  • Any genre -- specifically crime or science fiction -- titles ? It seems to be a weaker-than-usual year in this regard -- though I hope they had a proper look at what is one of the better Pascal Garniers .....

  • How will the big names/Nobel laureates -- Murakami, Pamuk, Modiano -- fare ? (Not well, I believe) [Jelinek's Charges is listed n the Translation Database as a work of fiction (i.e. eligible in this category); whether it is or not, I don't see it getting longlisted; Children of the Dead -- when/if it ever appears -- will be harder to ignore.)

  • How will the prize darlings -- Krasznahorkai (not this year, I think), Erpenbeck, Han Kang (more likely, surely) -- fare ?

  • How will Jhumpa Lahiri-as-translator play ? (I.e. will Elena Ferrante's husband's novel be longlisted, or does this thing just come with too much baggage ?)

  • How will the previously Man Booker International Prize long-/short-listed/winners do -- specifically last year's winner, Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman ?
       Among other titles that I could see making the longlist are:        There's been disappointingly little online discussion and debate, but at least there's a bit at The Mookse and the Gripes' Goodreads 2018 BTBA Speculation-thread. And you still have a few days to debate ! before you can start ripping into the longlist itself .....

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       Bestseller study

       In EPJ Data Science Burcu Yucesoy, Xindi Wang, Junming Huang, and Albert-László Barabási write about Success in books: a big data approach to bestsellers, with some unsurprising conclusions -- "there are seasonal patterns to book sales" -- but also some more interesting observations, including: "there is a universal pattern to book sales".
       Reliance on The New York Times Bestseller List seems somewhat problematic (since, with its various limitations, it doesn't truly capture or reflect actual total books sales), but presumably it's good enough .....
       Well worth a look.

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7 April 2018 - Saturday

Swedish Academy turmoil | Prix Le Point du polar européen
Albertine Prize finalists Q & As

       Swedish Academy turmoil

       The Nobel Prize in Literature-deciding Swedish Academy has had a rough couple of years -- most of which they brought on themselves, culminating in the catastrophic/ridiculous decision to award Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize (and the ensuing chaos -- leading to absurdities such as this (I can't believe they sold out -- but of course they did ...)) -- and it hasn't been a stranger to members getting upset: several walked away from Academy activity in response to the Academy's (lack of) response to the Salman Rushdie fatwa, and Knut Ahnlund was famously so disgusted with the selection of Elfriede Jelinek that he also tried to quit (but you can't quit the Academy: once you're in, you're stuck for life).
       The latest scandal is an ongoing one that has not been resolved to the satisfaction of at least three Academicians, as Peter Englund -- longtime permanent secretary, in charge of the whole Nobel to-do, before handing over the job to Sara Danius in 2015 --, Klas Östergren, and Kjell Espmark -- one-sixth of the Academy -- have now all said they are stepping back from any Academy activity; see, for example, the Reuters report, here at The New York Times, Sexual Misconduct Claim Spurs Nobel Members to Step Aside in Protest and The Washington Post report, 3 judges quit Nobel literature prize committee.
       Disappointingly there is no official mention or statement at either the official site or Sara Danius' weblog, Ur Akademiens liv .....
       Coming just a month or so before the Nobel committee narrows down the list of Nobel candidates (to five or so finalists) before the Academy's summer vacation, one wonders how this will impact the decision-making; certainly the institutional turmoil doesn't bode well for thoughtful deliberation .... But then they chose Dylan when things were calmer a couple of years ago, so maybe this is the jolt they need to get their (literary) house in order again.
       Stay tuned for the next exciting chapters in what is proving to be quite the soap opera.

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       Prix Le Point du polar européen

       The prix Le Point du polar européen -- a French best European crime/thriller prize -- has gone to Malin Persson Giolito's Quicksand (while Dirk Kurbjuweit's Fear was another of the finalists); see, for example, the Le Point report.

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       Albertine Prize finalists Q & As

       At the Literary Hub they have Q & As with the authors of the five Albertine Prize finalist-titles (which include Mathias Énard's Compass and Anne Garréta's Not One Day) -- good fun.
       (Readers (and non-readers, and bots) can vote for their favorite (book, or author, or translator, or whatever) until 1 May; the awards ceremony will be 6 June.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



6 April 2018 - Friday

Guggenheim Fellowships | German Book Prize entries
The Devils' Dance review

       Guggenheim Fellowships

       They've announced the 173 Guggenheim Fellowships awarded for 2018, which includes seven for fiction, including to authors Rachel Cusk and China Miéville.
       Only one fellowship was awarded for translation -- to Zama-translator Esther Allen, so she can complete translations of two more Antonio Di Benedetto novels. (Fun fact: Di Benedetto was himself a Guggenheim Fellow in 1973 !)
       And, of course, there are also other literary projects of interest, such as Stratis Papaioannou's History of Byzantine Literature (330 CE-1453 CE).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       German Book Prize entries

       The entries are in for this year's German Book Prize, and they've announced that there are 165 novels in the running. God forbid they'd tell us something useful, like what the hell those books are -- but, alas, like the Man Booker prizes, that's kept hush-hush, for no plausible or possible good reason .....
       The judges have a fair amount of time to wade through this pile, with the longlist only to be announced 14 August, with the shortlist announcement due 11 September, and the winner to be announced 8 October.

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       The Devils' Dance review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hamid Ismailov's The Devils' Dance, the first of his novels to be translated from the Uzbek (he also writes in Russian, and several of his Russian works have been translated previously).
       Tilted Axis Press is bringing this out -- and it's great to see some more Central Asian literature being made available in English. It's translated by Donald Rayfield (except for the poetry, with which John Farndon helped out) -- best-known for his translations from the Georgian.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



5 April 2018 - Thursday

International DUBLIN Literary Award shortlist | Best present-day UK/Irish authors ?
Alma Mahler review | Nineteen years of the Complete Review

       International DUBLIN Literary Award shortlist

       They've announced the ten-title-strong shortlist for this year's International DUBLIN Literary Award, with six titles in translation and where, as John Boyne reports in his Irish Times overview, Women outnumber men for first time on Dublin Literary Award shortlist.
       Only two of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review:        The winner will be announced 13 June.

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       Best present-day UK/Irish authors ?

       In the Times Literary Supplement Alex Clark writes about The best British and Irish novelists today, reporting that:
(A) group of 200 or so critics, academics and writers of fiction were asked to supply a list of the ten British and Irish novelists whom they considered to be producing the best writing "at the moment"; the ones whose recent books have been among their most impressive, and whose future work is the most eagerly anticipated.
       The top three were Ali Smith, Hilary Mantel, and Zadie Smith; Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro is the top male, at number four -- but the old guard such as Martin Amis and Julian Barnes doesn't rate at all, at least not in the top twenty or so .....

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       Alma Mahler review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sasho Dimoski's very slim novel, Alma Mahler, just out from Dalkey Archive Press.

       A rare translation from the Macedonian .....
       (How rare ? Well, even though Dalkey Archive Press has a Macedonian Literature Series ... well, this appears to be the extent of it.)

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       Nineteen years of the Complete Review

       It was 5 April 1999 that the first reviews were posted at the complete review; now it's nineteen years later, and we're up tp 4125 .....
       Time flies, but not everything changes; the formula of the site seems to have held up well -- links ! quotes ! (and my reviews ...) -- though, sure, the look of the site could use a little sprucing up.
       I'm glad to see folks still seem to find it of some use and interest; I hope you continue to do so.

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