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26 July 2016 - Tuesday

Read Russia Translation Prize longlists | Tim LaHaye (1926-2016)

       Read Russia Translation Prize longlists

       They've announced the longlists for the Read Russia Translation Prize -- "28 translators from 18 countries have been provisionally nominated" -- and at Russia Beyond The Headlines Alexandra Guzeva has the run-down.
       These are for translations into any language, and it's noteworthy that translations-into-English do not dominate -- two of nine in 'Classic literature of the 19th century'; zero of eight in 'Literature of the 20th century (pre-1990)' (not a popular era for translation-into-English ?); two of six for 'Contemporary literature (post-1990)'; and one of five for 'Poetry'.
       The two US/UK 'Contemporary literature (post-1990)' titles/translations are under review at the complete review:        The shortlist is to be announced in 'mid-August'.

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

       Tim LaHaye (1926-2016)

       This is one of those well-he-sold-so-many-books-how-can-you-not-mention-him mentions ... but, yeah, Tim LaHaye didn't even rate a don't-bother mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction .....
       Anyway, he's dead; see, for example, The Washington Post's obituary.
       No surprise: none of his books are under review at the complete review -- but I did get to Michael Standaert's Skipping Towards Armageddon, and would certainly point you to that before you bother with any of LeHaye's stuff .....

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25 July 2016 - Monday

Fiction in translation | Somali reading | Zimbabwe International Book Fair

       Fiction in translation

       In The Observer Rachel Cooke considers The subtle art of translating foreign fiction.
       The review of Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse at the complete review is of the old Irene Ash one -- the one Cooke holds in much fonder memory .....
       With six translators (many of whose translations are also under review at the complete review) also commenting, well worth a read.

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       Somali reading

       At Quartz Abdi Latif Dahir reports that Somalia's nascent love affair with books is blossoming as safety returns to the country, as it's great to see literary enthusiasm thrive even in these conditions. Okay, there are still some geo-political issues -- but with each of the three different regions of Somalia getting it's own book fair ... that's pretty neat.
       The Hargeysa International Book Fair -- running through the 28th; you still have time to catch it -- also gets some VOA coverage, as Harun Maruf reports that Somaliland Book Festival Aims to Promote Culture, Preserve Language.

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       Zimbabwe International Book Fair

       The Zimbabwe International Book Fair was once a big deal; in recent years ... not so much. But they still hold it, and this year's fair apparently is ... this week.
       In The Herald Stanley Mushava has a look at ZIBF: What's new in 2016 ? He notes that ZIBF is: "something of a niche symposium at the moment" -- but given current local conditions the fair should be a good place to find and acquire local books.

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24 July 2016 - Sunday

Laâbi translations | Mr. Turtle review

       Laâbi translations

       Just a few days ago I mentioned getting the ARC of the forthcoming volume of Abdellatif Laâbi poetry, In Praise of Defeat, in Donald Nicholson-Smith's translation -- see also the Archipelago publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or
       Nicholson-Smith isn't the only one who has been at it, as André Naffis-Sahely's selected translations, Beyond the Barbed Wire, are just out -- see the Carcanet publicity page, or get your copy at or -- and at Guernica they have a Q & A with him.
       Among Naffis-Sahely's responses re. Laâbi:
These days, I'm mostly surprised by the fact he's still alive; given that people have been trying to silence him for almost fifty years, he really shouldn't be.
       As to more general points, I' not sure I agree:
I don't like poems that invent memories, I have enough of my own. I can't quite see the point of poems like "Wittgenstein Goes for a Walk with A Hawk in Sherwood Forest." I know they're trying to be clever, but they're not. Poetry either pulses with real life or it's just an aborted simulacra.
       I have to admit, I don't really need my poetry to 'pulse with real life', and I often find invented memories preferable to poets' own .....

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       Mr. Turtle review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kitano Yusaku's Mr. Turtle, just out in English from Kurodahan Press.

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23 July 2016 - Saturday

German book prices | Atlas of an Anxious Man review

       German book prices

       At Boersenblatt they commissioned a study of German book prices since 2010 -- and learned that the average book now costs € 12.92 -- up ... € .78 over the past six years. Not too surprising in these not very inflationary times
       Kids' books have seen the smallest increase -- and they remain the cheapest of all the measured market segments.

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       Atlas of an Anxious Man review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Christoph Ransmayr's Atlas of an Anxious Man, which came out in English from Seagull Books a couple of months ago.
       The French translation of this picked up a few literary prizes, but it hasn't gotten much US/UK review attention (yet ?). Not the usual sort of travel writing, but definitely deserving of some attention.
       Despite several of his works having been translated over the years, Ransmayr seems to have had trouble maintaining any sort of US/UK-audience awareness of him and his work ..... (He rated at least a brief mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction.)

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22 July 2016 - Friday

Slovak literature in translation | Donald Nicholson-Smith Q & A

       Slovak literature in translation

       Only part of this piece from The Slovak Spectator is freely accessible (seriously ? this is a model that works for them ?) but enough to get the gist, and some good quotes, as they note that: Slovak books in the US market struggle.
       Indeed, the first line sums things up pretty well:
English translations of Slovak books sometimes appear in the US market but interest in them is lacking.
       And they do admit that:
Regarding the US market, the whole promotion and distribution of books, which were issued in the US, depends on the publisher -- it is hard to influence it from Bratislava
       Yes ..... I guess there's only so much the Literárne informačné centrum can do, despite all that the site offers -- including conveniently also arranging authors according to their Anniversaries and Jubilees .....
       So 'struggle' is surely putting it mildly .....

       (There are only four translated-from-the-Slovak titles under review at the complete review: Peter Pišt'anek's trilogy, beginning with Rivers of Babylon, and Daniela Kapitáňová's Samko Tále's Cemetery Book (all of them published by UK-based Garnett Press ...)).

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       Donald Nicholson-Smith Q & A

       At the Culturethèque Blog Anne-Sophie Miller asks Donald Nicholson-Smith about Translating Manchette into English -- meaning, of course, Jean-Patrick Manchette, three of whose novels Nicholson-Smith has translated; see, for example, The Mad and the Bad.
       (And speaking of Manchette's Journal 1966-1974 (see, for example, the Folio publicity page), as Nicholson-Smith does, -- anyone have plans to translate that ...?)

       Interestingly, among Nicholson-Smith's most recent translations is something completely different: I just got the ARC of a nice fat bilingual volume of Abdellatif Laâbi poetry, In Praise of Defeat, that looks mighty promising ..... (See also the Archipelago publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or

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

21 July 2016 - Thursday

Hong Kong Book Fair | Sergei Minaev

       Hong Kong Book Fair

       The Hong Kong Book Fair runs through the 26th.
       The focus/highlights vary, depending on the perspective: Banned books on sale here: Hong Kong book fair will openly sell politically sensitive tomes the South China Morning Post reports; 27th Hong Kong Book Fair opens, featuring Chinese martial arts literature Xinhua emphasizes .....
       And I remind you of last year's headline: Mountain of books thrown away after Hong Kong Book Fair .....

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       Sergei Minaev

       At CounterPunch Andre Vltchek writes about some Tough Russian Anti-Capitalist Literature -- specifically the writing of Sergei Minaev.
       As he notes:
While Limonov and Minaev sell millions of copies of their books at home, their work is virtually unknown in the West. I found no English translations when searching on, and elsewhere.
       This isn't entirely accurate -- while Minaev does indeed appear to not be available, Limonov has had his moments in the US sun/press, with several translated titles -- remember It's Me, Eddie ? Memoir of a Russian Punk ? His Butler's Story ? yeah, okay, maybe not, but in the day ..... Besides, Limonov has gotten renewed attention through Emmanuel Carrère's unfortunate ... Limonov.
       And amusing/bizarrely, Minaev has even come to The New York Times' attention: see their 2007 Excerpts from an Interview with Sergei Minaev .....

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20 July 2016 - Wednesday

Japanese literary prizes | Elias Khoury on writing
Authors in Court review

       Japanese literary prizes

       It's Akutagawa and Naoki Prize time in Japan again (yes, every six months ...), and they've announced that コンビニ人間 ('Convenience store people'), by Murata Sayaka has taken the (¥1 million) Akutagawa, and that 海の見える理髪店 ('A barber shop with a view of the sea') by Ogiwara Hiroshi gets the Naoki.
       In The Japan Times report Daisuke Kikuchi appears to be playing the big-unknown surprise card a bit too heavy-handedly, at least in the headline -- Convenience store worker who moonlights as novelist wins prestigious Akutagawa Prize. Murata may be an (occasional) convenience store worker, but for someone who 'moonlights as novelist' she's already racked up an impressive number of literary prizes over more than a decade -- indeed you can read her (well, if you subscribe ....) in Granta, and even if none of her books have been translated into English she already rates a J'Lit author page.

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

       Elias Khoury on writing has a piece by Elias Khoury on The nightmare of reality.
       He writes:
I do not believe that writing is an act of despair. On the contrary, it lies beyond despair, when a portal opens onto the darkness that is mixed with shades of light. In this darkness the ink lights up our souls and takes us to a place where we are both witness and agent, where witnessing broadens the horizons of the human situation -- defending man's right to live and dream, to rip the veil off taboos and to resist military and religious tyranny.
       Well, we're definitely living in portal-needing times .....

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       Authors in Court review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Scenes from the Theater of Copyright by Mark Rose, Authors in Court, recently published by Harvard University Press.
       Sure, subject-matter that's of particular interest to me -- but this is a nice little find, beyond that, and certainly a book that's deserving of more attention than it's received to date.

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19 July 2016 - Tuesday

Singapore Literature Prize | Translation in ... Germany
The Queue roundtable

       Singapore Literature Prize

       They've announced the winners of this year's Singapore Literature Prize -- which is actually many prizes, since they admirably award them in three genres (fiction, non, and poetry), and each of those in four languages (English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil).
       The winners were selected from 235 entries across the twelve genre/language possibilities (alas, no exact breakdown on offer, as far as I can tell).
       The English Fiction-award went to ... a graphic novel, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew -- see the Pantheon publicity page, or get your copy at or
       The Straits Times coverage reports that: "it has sold about 9,000 copies in Singapore"; the prize-win will presumably improve those numbers.

       Interesting, too, to see that an English translation was also among the English Fiction finalists -- the translation of Mohamed Latiff Mohamed's The Widower (which you may recall Tyler Cowen hailed as the great Singaporean novel last year) ..... This would seem to defeat the awards-in-original-languages set-up -- but what do I know ?

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

       Translation in ... Germany

       A fascinating German Association of Literary Translators' survey (covering 664 translation contracts) is summarized (in English) by Florian Faes at Slator; see also the original German (warning ! dreaded pdf format !)
       It's mostly about rates, but lots of other odds and ends are covered -- most interestingly that 70 per cent of translators reported being female, and a mere 19 per cent male (the remainder weren't identified -- but even if they were all male, that still means more than two-thirds of the translations were by women).
       (The takeaway, by the way: despite longterm efforts to establish reasonable remuneration, translators are still getting screwed.)

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       The Queue roundtable

       The New Inquiry has 'A Roundtable on Basma Abdel Aziz's The Queue', with Elisabeth Jaquette (who translated it), Marcia Lynx Qualey (of Arabic Literature (in English) fame), and Aaron Bady -- "Let Loose Your Tongue".

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

18 July 2016 - Monday

Independent publishers in the US | The Invoice review

       Independent publishers in the US

       In The Atlantic Nathan Scott McMamara writes that American Literature Needs Indie Presses.
       I'm not really convinced by his 'grandiosity'-concerns -- okay, lots of books are too expensive, but (page-)length hasn't ever seemed to be to be one of the major problems of the American publishing industry ... -- but, sure, it's great that there are some -- more and more ? -- nimble independents taking up the big-house slack (and, boy, is there a lot of slack ...).
       Of course, I'm more interested in international fiction, rather than 'American Literature' -- and it's here the independents really seem to have established themselves and, in many respects, are now leading the way, as the majors limit themselves to far too much that is safe.

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       The Invoice review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jonas Karlsson's The Invoice, just out in the US (the UK edition came out a couple of months ago).

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17 July 2016 - Sunday

Strand bookstore profile and quiz | Moonstone review

       Strand bookstore profile and quiz

       In The New York Times Annie Correal has a fun story about working at New York's (many-miles-of-books-)store, Strand, warning: Want to Work in 18 Miles of Books ? First, the Quiz -- and they also let you Test Your Book Smarts with the sample quiz, where you get to match titles with authors (not quite that challenging, I would have to say ...).

       (I was at Strand just a few days ago -- in very fine company indeed.)

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       Moonstone review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sjón's Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was -- already out in the UK, and due shortly in the US.

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16 July 2016 - Saturday

New issue of Asymptote

       New issue of Asymptote

       The summer issue of Asymptote is up, and makes for a good weekend's (or week's -- there's a lot here) worth of reading: a great variety of stuff, so just work your way through.

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

15 July 2016 - Friday

Esterházy Péter (1950-2016) | Nigeria Prize for Literature longlist
The Mandibles review

       Esterházy Péter (1950-2016)

       Leading Hungarian author Esterházy Péter -- one of the post-war greats -- has passed away; not much in-depth English reaction yet beyond the AP report, but it would be shocking if we didn't see considerably more extensive coverage.
       A decent amount of his work has been translated into English, but not nearly enough (Esti, please !). The Publishing Hungary author page is a bit out of date, missing the last few (still very productive) years, but gives you a basic overview.
       Only three of his titles are under review at the complete review:        Not the biggest or most obvious ones, so look beyond these too -- even to Celestial Harmonies (get your copy at or

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       Nigeria Prize for Literature longlist

       The NLNG-sponsored US$100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates through four genres, year for year, and this year they're back to focusing on prose -- and they've now announced the eleven longlisted titles for the 2016 prize -- which includes Night Dancer by 2012-winner Chika Unigwe.
       The list certainly makes for a good sampler of recent Nigerian fiction.
       (And I do like how they report on what to expect next in The Nation: "A shortlist of three is expected in September and a winner, if any, will be announced by the Advisory Board in October". 'If any' ? Sounds like they have their doubts about the longlist .....)

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       The Mandibles review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lionel Shriver's new novel, The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047.
       Certainly one of those fun-to-discuss novels -- with a lot of material that can be argued about.

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

14 July 2016 - Thursday

Helen DeWitt profile | Prix du Roman Fnac longlist
Bulgarian MFA ?

       Helen DeWitt profile

       In this week's New York Christian Lorentzen profiles Helen DeWitt, in Publishing Can Break Your Heart -- a variously disturbing and fascinating piece.
       Her The Last Samurai was recently reissued by New Directions; see their publicity page, and get your copy at or; I read it way back when but really should get back to it again (and post review-coverage ...).

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       Prix du Roman Fnac longlist

       French retailer Fnac has announced the 30-title strong longlist for its Prix du Roman Fnac (yeah, the official site is still dealing with 2015, last I checked ...); see, for example, the overview/list at Livres Hebdo -- a useful list of many of the most interesting books due out around the end of August, for the rentrée littéraire, with many familiar names.
       Not many translated from the English -- a Stewart O'Nan, and ... Richard Adams' Watership Down ? Apparently so; the publishers are a bit coy about this -- it looks like a simple repackaging of the old translation -- but they're selling it as a book: "qui a été publié 4 fois en France mais qui n’a jamais réellement été reconnu et lu à sa juste valeur". Fifth time is the charm ?

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       Bulgarian MFA ?

       The creative-writing-programme plague continues to spread, now also to Bulgaria, where Radio Bulgaria reports on the Valeri Petrov Creative Writing Academy -- home to the flying people.
       Okay, the 'flying people' is a nice touch. Beyond that, the 'Творческа академия "Валери Петров"' is your typical creative writing programme (with some recognizable names on the faculty), presumably for better and worse (you know which way my expectations tilt ...); see also more (Bulgarian) details here.

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13 July 2016 - Wednesday

Premio Strega | Glagoslav Q & A | More reviews of my CR Guide

       Premio Strega

       They've announced that this year's Premio Strega -- the major Italian literary prize -- goes to La scuola cattolica, by Edoardo Albinati, which got 143 of the 395 votes cast (the next highest total was 92, for L'uomo del futuro, by Eraldo Affinati); see also, for example, the Rizzoli publicity page.
       Albinati is not entirely unknown in English: Hesperus brought out his Coming Back; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or

       They also awarded the Premio Strega Europeo -- for best European work translated into Italian (seriously ? restricted to European fiction ? what the hell ?), and they've announced that it goes to Annie Ernaux, for the Italian translation of her Les Années (which does not appear to be available in English yet ...).
       It beat out novels by Mircea Cărtărescu and Ralf Rothmann, among others.

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       Glagoslav Q & A

       Publisher Glagoslav publishes an impressive variety of contemporary literature from Russia and the former Soviet Union, and at Russia Beyond the Headlines Alexandra Guzeva has a Q & A with managing director Maxim Hodak and editor Ksenia Papazova.
       Good to hear that Gnedich -- which I just reviewed -- is among their most successful titles.

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       More reviews of my CR Guide

       It's great to see more online reviews of my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction such as now at:        Much appreciated !

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12 July 2016 - Tuesday

(Not-quite-)Centro Federico García Lorca
Massimo Carlotto recommends

       (Not-quite-)Centro Federico García Lorca

       Literary estates are always good for fun contentious stories, and the Fundación Federico García Lorca does not disappoint, as nicely explained in Doreen Carvajal's piece in The New York Times, Honoring García Lorca’s Genius: A Bout Over a $22 Million Archive, as the impressive-looking (and expensive) center meant to house the archives, the Centro Federico García Lorca, still doesn't .....

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       Massimo Carlotto recommends

       Via I'm pointed to For All the Gold in the World-author Massimo Carlotto recommending 'the best Italian Crime Fiction' at Five Books.
       Admittedly, I would be slightly more ... convinced if they weren't all published by Edizioni e/o (the Italian/original Europa Editions, as it were) -- who happen to be his publishers ..... Still, certainly of some interest.

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11 July 2016 - Monday

'Read African Books' | Gnedich review

       'Read African Books'

       'Read African Books' is not just good advice but also the name of a new site established by, and complementing, the invaluable African Books Collective.
       Looks like a promising idea, and hopefully it can help generate more interest in what's available from the continent (because a lot is, and too few readers realize that ...).

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       Gnedich review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Maria Rybakova's novel in verse, Gnedich, recently published by Glagoslav in an English translation by Elena Dimov.
       I'm a sucker for novels in verse -- and this is a good one; not much English-language notice yet (despite author Rybakova's longtime US residency ...), but the original Russian version was reviewed in the TLS a couple of years ago .....

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10 July 2016 - Sunday

Translations from the ... French | Summer reading suggestions
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules review

       Translations from the ... French

       At French Culture they have their now annual round-up of 'French Books in the US: The 2016 Edition', in summary-overview and (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) full detail.
       Counting all French translations into English published in the US, this is the best overview of translations from a foreign language going -- and that from the one from which there are the translations, "418 titles inventoried so far". While Three Percent's invaluable Translation Database offers the broadest overview of what's been newly published in translation in fiction and poetry, the French count everything on their list -- including 62 'graphic novels'. (There are also a lot of 'graphic biographies' -- and not necessarily of Francophone celebrities: Agatha Christie, Henry Thoreau, Glenn Gould, Elvis, and John Lennon are among those getting this treatment.)
       As far as fiction -- i.e. what really matters -- goes, they count 145 titles, of which 89 are 'contemporary' (first published in France 2000-2016).
       In any case, a useful reference list !

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       Summer reading suggestions

       In The Guardian they have 'leading writers reveal which books they will be taking to the beach', in one of the better summer reading suggestion lists, The best books for summer 2016.

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       The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg's The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules.
       The English translation of this came out in the UK -- and Canada -- in 2014, but it's taken until now for a US edition of this 'international bestseller' to come out. And note also the differences between the Canadian and US covers .....

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9 July 2016 - Saturday

Books are back ... in Japan ? | Getting ready for the rentrée littéraire

       Books are back ... in Japan ?

       Kyodo News report that Books outsell mags at major Japan distributor for 1st time in 32 yrs -- in no small part due to the success of Matayoshi Naoki's Akutagawa Prize-winner, 火花 (see also the J'Lit information page) -- as predicted back when the prize was announced; see, for example, The Japan Times' piece, Comedian Matayoshi's literary win offers hope for sagging publishing industry.
       Of course, a different reading of the numbers doesn't so much find resurgent success for books, but the collapse of the magazine market: "Magazine sales dropped a sizable 9.9 percent" might be seen as burying the lede in this particular story ....

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       Getting ready for the rentrée littéraire

       The French now also allow for a mini-rentrée in the winter, at the beginning of the year, but the real flood of books comes late August, with the traditional 'rentrée littéraire', when publishers bring out all their biggest fiction titles -- and Livres Hebdo gets the coverage-ball rolling with an overview of the numbers. (The not freely accessible current issue also digs a lot deeper, into the actual titles, but coverage will be picking up all over (in the French press) in the coming weeks.)
       So this year 560 titles are due to come out -- down from 589 last year. The cut is entirely domestic: French titles are down to 363, from 393 last year, while translation-numbers have basically remained unchanged, with this year's 197 one more than last year.

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8 July 2016 - Friday

2017 Man Booker International Prize judges
Europese Literatuurprijs | Tim Parks Q & A
For All the Gold in the World review

       2017 Man Booker International Prize judges

       They've announced the judges for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize-successor Man Booker International Prize, 2017, and it looks like a decent mix: the director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival (Nick Barley) is chair, and joining him are translator Daniel Hahn, Elif Shafak, Chika Unigwe, and poet Helen Mort.
       Since the prize covers translations: 'published in the UK between 1 May 2016 and 30 April 2017' there's still a long way to go before they an really get down to judging -- a lot of the (future) entries presumably aren't even available in any form yet.

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       Europese Literatuurprijs

       They've announced that this year's Europese Literatuurprijs -- a Dutch prize for the best novel originally written in a European language published in Dutch translation -- goes to the translation of Terre rare, by Sandro Veronesi -- the follow-up to his Quiet Chaos.
       See also the Bompiani publicity page; it seems likely this will eventually make it's way into English, too -- but it may be a bit.

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       Tim Parks Q & A

       At the Los Angeles Review of Books Jonathan J. Clarke has a Q & A with translator and novelist Tim Parks.
       Lots of interesting observations -- including the differing receptions of his own work:
The reception does vary country by country. In Germany and Holland, I'm seen first and foremost as a serious novelist, and that's where the fiction is most appreciated, whereas in the United Kingdom or the United States and Italy I'm probably better known for my nonfiction writing about Italy. I think there may be an extent to which, after the long years reading mainly European fiction, my writing itself has taken on a feel that puts it outside the Anglo-Saxon mainstream.
       Ah, yes, that Anglo-Saxon mainstream .....

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

       For All the Gold in the World review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Massimo Carlotto's For All the Gold in the World, just about out from Europa Editions.

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

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