Kundera's "book was not published in the Czech Republic until 2006"
"We might expect the presence of "the unbearable lightness of" to boom with the publication of the translated novel (1984) and the popularity of the movie (1988) and to wane as years pass.
The opposite, however, is the case: through 2000, the frequency of "the unbearable lightness of" is rising."
The piece is from: The Man Between: The Life and Legacy of Michael Heim, Translator forthcoming from Open Letter Books; pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
In The Korean Times Yun Suh-young reports on Lost in translation: New book explores mistranslation in Korean literature.
I'd love to see more studies on mistranslation !
Though, of course, it's really just a matter of perspective, isn't it ?
All translation is mistranslation, and it's just a matter of whether your focus is on the miss or the translation, so to speak.
Still, interesting that, for example:
In Korea, writer Ahn Jung-hyo, was one of the first movers in translating his Korean work into English on his own.
The English works of Ahn are significantly different from the Korean version because in writing the Korean novel into English, he freely translated, added and re-wrote some parts into the foreign language.
(Not really the kind of thing I want to hear, I have to say.)
Publisher Bungei Shunju has already raised the first shipment of the book to 300,000 copies from 200,000 due to heavier-than-expected advance orders for the first compilation since 2005, local media said.
You figure they'd have this figured out by now; I assume they just low-ball what they say the initial print run is so that they can report the 'heavier-than-expected' demand .....
(Of course, since this the publishing industry it's distinctly possible that they have nothing figured out .....)
In Daily Sabah Kaya Genç considers Turkish Masterpieces Unread by the World -- both some available in translation and some that have yet to make it into English.
Maureen Freely weighs in with some suggestions:
So which Turkish authors would she like to see in English ?
The first name that came to her mind was Sevgi Soysal. Freely had translated Soysal's Yıldırım Bölge Kadınlar Koğuşu in her twenties but said it had been impossible to place Turkish writing in English publishing houses in those days.
"The book of hers I really love is Şafak," Freely wrote.
"And I also wish that somebody could bring the best of Murathan Mungan into English."
This week's Small Talk-column in the Financial Times has a Q & A with Peter Buwalda, whose Bonita Avenue is just out from Pushkin Press; see their publicity page and the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
I'm won over by this response:
Which book changed your life ?
The Darkroom of Damocles by Willem Frederik Hermans, one of the great 20th-century Dutch writers.
It's a novel about resistance in the second world war but also about personal failure.
I read the book when I was 18.
I stopped studying physics immediately and started studying literature.
The big news here is Malmqvist claiming of Border Town-author Shen Congwen that:
If he hadn't passed away, he would have got the Nobel Prize in 1988
Stop the presses ?!??
Was the 1988 laureate -- Naguib Mahfouz -- really second choice ?
Well, not so fast -- Shen passed away in May of 1988; he may well have been one of the (usually five) finalists by then, but they don't settle on a winner until the fall, so there's no way of telling whether he would have prevailed over Mahfouz.
Still, interesting to hear he was so close.
Also of interest: Malmqvist's complaints:
Unfortunately, he says, there are as many poor translators as there are good writers in China.
"What makes me angry, really angry," he cries, eyes blazing, "is when an excellent piece of Chinese literature is badly translated.
It's better not to translate it than have it badly translated.
That is an unforgivable offence to any author. It should be stopped.
"Often translations are done by incompetent translators who happen to know English, or German, or French.
But a lot of them have no interest and no competence in literature.
That is a great pity."
David Hawkes' rendition of Cao Xueqin's epic novel The Story of the Stone, which he regards as a rare gem of translated Chinese literature.
At Eurozine they reprint a piece by Jonathan Bousfield from New Eastern Europe, Growing up in Kundera's Central Europe, in which he discusses how Milan Kundera's concept of Central Europe (and his writing) influenced three writers from the area -- from Czechoslovakia (Tomáš Zmeškal, "of mixed Czech and Congolese descent"), Yugoslavia (Miljenko Jergović, several of whose works have been translated into English), and the Soviet Union/Ukraine (The Moscoviad-author Yuri Andrukhovych) -- three countries that no longer have the same contours as they did when these authors were growing up, or even after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The closing date for entries for this year's Nigeria Prize for Literature was 31 March, and they've now announced (though not yet at the official site ...) that there were 124 entries; see, for example, the This Dayreport.
The prize rotates through four genres, and this year it's drama; the winner will receive US $100,000.
To "encourage literary criticism" there's also a literary criticism prize, "open to literary critics from all over the world" (as long as the criticism is of Nigerian literature).
Here the prize-sum is given in the local currency -- presumably since 1,000,000 naira sounds more impressive than its US dollar equivalent (less than $6200).
As a judge for the fiction category for the Best Translated Book Awards (and, let's face it, someone whose reading is entirely dominated by fiction (as I noted recently, 91 of the past 100 titles reviewed at the complete review were of works of fiction)) I focus almost exclusively on that half of the BTBA (see also yesterday's mention) -- but, of course, there's also a poetry half to the BTBA, and the finalists for that were also announced yesterday.
I've only even seen one of these -- but that one is under review at the complete review: The Unknown University by Roberto Bolaño.
Karl Ove Knausgaard and his multi-volume My Struggle epic (see reviews of volumes one and two, with more to follow) is getting a nice lot of attention.
In the US the series is coming out in hardcover from Archipelago Books, with Farrar, Straus and Giroux then publishing each volume in paperback.
Archipelago prints their copies in a more or less uniform look, boxy books with a cover design like this:
The FSG paperbacks were originally designed (and the first one published) as:
Universally reviled and ridiculed -- and presumably not selling as well as hoped for -- FSG appears to have had a change of heart -- and cover-designer.
The first three volumes now look like this:
Looks a bit more promising .....
(But if you got a copy of the original FSG-volume one paperback, hold onto it -- collector's edition !)
The 2014:1 Issue of the Swedish Book Review is now available online, including a whole bunch of reviews -- including of the most recent book by The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared-author Jonas Jonasson, Analfabeten som kunde räkna (which, disappointingly, will apparently be titled The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden in English); Kevin Halliwell finds him mining: "once more the material of his earlier work to produce another entertaining, Fieldingesque romp"
(I think I might pass.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Amanda Michalopoulou's Why I Killed My Best Friend, just out from Open Letter.
(Oddly, of the last four books I've reviewed, three have some form of 'kill' in their title (even more oddly, the one book that doesn't is the only real mystery/thriller among them ...); I'm not quite sure what to read into that.)
The Swedish Academy (the folks that decide who gets the Nobel Prize, among others) announced a month ago that Lars Gustafsson would be getting their Nordic Prize, and the ceremony was held on Wednesday, Gustafsson picking up his 350,000 kronor prize (a bit more than $53,000 at the current exchange rate).
Previous winners include Purge-author Sofi Oksanen (last year) and Per Olov Enquist (2010).
At his weblog Swedish Academy permanent secretary Peter Englund writes about the event, while in Svenska Dagbladet Per Wästberg has a nice tribute, Hos Lars Gustafsson är gåtan svaret.
New Directions brought out a pile of Gustafsson's works but seem to have lost interest -- a shame.
He deserves more and continued attention.
Evan Hughes recently published a profile of My Struggle (etc.) author Karl Ove Knausgaard in The New Republic and now follows that up with a wide-eyed report on how wonderful the literary situation in Norway is, The Norwegian Government Keeps Book Publishers Alive.
It's always fun to read Americans writing about state support in other nations for ... well, almost everything (even outrageous things like ... health care !), but especially the arts.
The Norwegian situation is a bit unusual -- they have even more money to play with than most countries (and, unlike most of the other oil-rich nations, are more convincingly democratic, and less corrupt ...), but a lot of this sort of support, direct and indirect, is common elsewhere too.
And some things surely are less than ideal -- such as: "The leading bookstore chains in Norway are owned by the major publishing companies".
In The New Republic the great Cynthia Ozick writes on the first two volumes of Reiner Stach's Kafka-biography (the third volume, covering his early years, is apparently nearing completion), in How Kafka Actually Lived -- well worth a read.
While I agree with much that she says -- and admire the way she puts it -- I'm not not fully on board with all her raging against the term 'Kafkaesque'.
As she notes, "it has by now escaped the body of work it is meant to evoke" -- and that's exactly how I see it: it seems perfectly fine (if admittedly a bit confusing) to me if treated as such: I find 'Kafkaesque' a useful shorthand in describing some writing and situations, but when I do I never mean anything to do with Kafka; so, also, Kafka's own writing doesn't seem in the least 'Kafkaesque' to me and I would never call it that.
For the Stach-volumes (which I have, and hope to get to):
In The Guardian Natalie Hanman profiles Kamila Shamsie.
Of particular interest:
She is scathing about what she sees as a lack of rage in the fiction coming out of the world's superpower, a country with such a tangled involvement -- both past and present -- in the region she comes from.
"I am deeply critical of American writers for their total failure to engage with the American empire.
It's a completely shocking failure, not of any individual writer ... but it's the strangest thing to look around and say, 'Where is the American writer writing about America in Afghanistan, America in Pakistan ?'.
At a deep level, there is a lack of reckoning."
At Russia Beyond the Headlines Phoebe Taplin considers what she terms Future legends of Russian literature at the London Book Fair.
A lot of names bandied about, and among the most interesting is Eugene Vodolazkin -- see also the Banke, Goumen & Smirnova information page, as well as Lizok's Bookshelf's review of his Лавр (apparently coming to English soon).
Given that even what should have been a very impressive one-two punch by Mikhail Shishkin of Maidehair and The Light and the Dark barely seems to have even registered in the US/UK I think contemporary Russian fiction still has quite the uphill climb -- and I don't know that any of the authors mentioned here will help make much of a dent either.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pascal Garnier's How's the Pain ?.
Gallic Books brought this out in the UK in 2012, and now it's finally also coming to the US -- and let's hope the flood of Garnier titles continues, because these are damn fine books.
Also a nice touch: translator Emily Boyce is described as the: "in-house translator for Gallic Books".
Every publisher should have an in-house translator !
(Of course, less nice, still: the translation copyright is in Gallic Books' name, not Boyce's .....)
They've announced the 2014 (US and Canadian) Guggenheim fellows -- 178 of them (from almost 3000 applicants).
As always, lots of writers -- and a few translators, notably Susan Bernofsky for two Robert Walser works.
Korean writing has been increasingly visible in English in recent years (with lots of help from the LTI Korea), with more titles being published in translation -- especially in Dalkey Archive Press' Library of Korean Literature -- and just now there's been a Korea Market Focus at the just-concluded London Book Fair.
Of course, pretty much all of this is South Korean literature (and the part that's not tends to be pre-divided Korean ...), i.e. there's not much heard or word from North Korea.
Insights of any sort remain rare -- see, for example, Sonia Ryang's Reading North Korea -- but it's good to see at least some discussion of the subject around the LBF events.
At Publishing Perspectives Olivia Snaije reports on Yi Mun-Yol on Allegory and Naked North Korean Writing, as Yi (see my reviews of Our Twisted Hero and The Poet, among others) addressed the subject:
He said there was almost zero literary output coming from North Korea, and that in the case of the few non-fiction books that make their way to South Korea, "even though the language is the same, we can't identify with them.
The forms and mechanisms are completely unfamiliar.
We feel like we're reading South Korean books from 50 years ago."
(North Korean non-fiction sounds particularly uninteresting, but surely there's some fiction that trickles out, no ?)
Apparently speaking about North Korean exiles now writing in the South:
While he finds North Korean authors' stories very interesting, unfortunately South Koreans don't appear to be responsive to what they have to say, remarked Yi Mun-yol.
Meanwhile, at PEN Atlas Shirley Lee reports on North Korean love poetry (and wouldn't it be great to see an anthology of that stuff ?).
At Qantara.de Arian Fariborz has a Q & A with Mansoura Ez-Eldin about the literary situation in Egypt these past few years.
Ez-Eldin's story, Gothic Night, is available online.
I have a copy of Maryam's Maze and will try to get a review up soon; meanwhile, see the American University in Cairo Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The Czech Magnesia Litera awards have been handed out, and as Jan Richter reports at Radio Praha, Guide to wartime Prague wins top literary award, as the non-fiction category winner, the unusual Průvodce protektorátní Prahou by Jiří Padevět also took book of the year honors.
The fiction category winner was Skutečná událost, by Of Kids & Parents-author Emil Hakl; see also the (Czech) Argo publicity page.
The translation category winner was Robert Svoboda's translation of Esterházy Péter's Celestial Harmonies (get your copy of the English translation at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
The Gyldendalprisen, a Norwegian award for significant writing in any genre, has been awarded to Øyvind Rimbereid; see, for example, the report, Poet wins prestigious literature prize.
The previous two winners were Karl Ove Knausgård and Per Petterson, and other winners include Dag Solstad (1996), Jon Fosse (1999), and Tomas Espedal (2009), so it certainly has a good track record.
The 400,000 kroner prize -- US$67,428 at the current exchange rate -- isn't bad either.
"In the UK, we are generally not as adventurous and open to other literary styles as other European countries.
Crime fiction in translation is popular, as is straightforward storytelling, but not so much literary experiments.
"This means that UK publishers are often quite cautious in what they choose to translate, selecting titles that don't stray too far from the taste of UK readers and familiar literary styles.
They might focus on genres such as crime, or big family sagas, to be sure that there is an audience," she said.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Marek Hłasko's Killing the Second Dog, a re-issue from New Vessel Press (they're following up later this year with All Backs were Turned -- Cane Hill Press first brought these translations out some two decades ago).
Amusing Killing the Second Dog trivia: in 1995 the New York Daily Newsreported:
Fresh from his Outbreak box office success, Dustin Hoffman has bought the rights to Killing the Second Dog, Marek Hlasko's novel about a gigolo in Israel who preys on rich American women
Too bad that never made it to the screen -- it definitely has screen potential, and some prime acting roles.
They've announced the ten-title-strong shortlist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award -- selected from 152 titles nominated by libraries from around the world.
Several titles are under review at the complete review:
The most interesting of these titles is the Bakker -- published as Ten White Geese in the US: the winner of the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, it didn't even make the 25-title strong Best Translated Book Award longlist in 2014 -- and his The Twin (shortlisted for the 2010 Best Translated Book Award) won the 2010 IMPAC award.
The winner of the €100,000 prize will be announced 12 June.
They've announced the shortlists for the (Australian) NSW Premier's Literary Awards.
Among the categories: there's a: 'Community Relations Commission Award for a Multicultural NSW'.
The winners will be announced 19 May.
They've been looking for the Africa39, 'a Hay Festival and Rainbow Book Club Project':
which aims to select and celebrate 39 of the best African south of the Sahara writers under the age of 40
[Aside: if you're excluding writers from north of the Sahara, why not call yourself the 'Africa south of the Sahara 39' ?
My complaining about the Man Asian Literary Prize calling itself 'Asian' -- when, for its first years, it excluded writers from nations west of Pakistan (i.e. an enormous part of Asia) -- seems to have paid off (writers from most Asian countries are now eligible), so I'll register the same complaint here: you can't (and shouldn't) call/consider yourself continental if you aren't.
(I note also that the the writers who suffer most from this exclusion are those writing in Arabic -- as is also still the case with the remaining Asian nations excluded from the Man Asian Literary Prize -- what's that about ?)]
Anyway, they've now come up with the 39 authors -- though I can't even find a simple list of all of them, or any sort of press release -- the official site has a ridiculous alphabetical index, the official weblog is ... not very helpful, the official Twitter feed a joke [Updated: okay, this Twitter feed -- now the official one -- looks a bit more promising].
Come on, this is a worthy endeavor -- these authors deserve better !
(Updated - 10 April): See now also Margaret Busby in The Guardian on Africa39: how we chose the writers for Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014 (where you can also find all the authors listed one one simple list -- hurrah !).
Incredibly, she doesn't even mention that entries were limited to south-of-the-Sahara-Africans (since those north of the Sahara apparently don't count as 'African' (or as 'writers' ?)).
She does point out the admirable fact that -- other than completely skipping over anything written in Arabic -- they've managed a linguistically nicely diverse group: "Twenty countries are represented by work created in a variety of African and European languages -- Kiswahili, Igbo and Lingala as well as English, French, Spanish and Portuguese".
I'm already won over by an article that reveals that the chief rabbi (of both Prague and the Czech Republic), Karol Sidon, admits:
I couldn't read anything but what is considered lowbrow sci fi literature which I really love
But how great to hear that he went on to write his own (and publish it under a pseudonym) -- and that, as Jan Velinger reports at Radio Praha, Prague rabbi pens literary hit of season, as the first volume of his planned tetralogy, Altschulova metoda (see the (Czech) Torst publicity page), has become a big hit
Sounds pretty wild -- I'd love to hear more about this.
The Knausgaard also has a chance to double up, with the shortlist for the Best Translated Book Award (for which I am a judge) due to be announced 15 April (the other IFFP longlisted title still in the running for the BTBA shortlist is The Infatuations by Javier Marías, which did not make the IFFP final six).
The winner will be announced 22 May.
In The Hindu 'Lakshmi Krupa speaks to publishers in the city to understand what works and what doesn't when it comes to Tamil books', in Tamil in the time of Kindle.
(I'm rather disappointed and embarrassed that there are still no translations from the Tamil under review at the complete review -- but the books are relatively hard to come by (not a good sign).)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Amélie Nothomb's Tuer le père.
(Her book-a-year output gets translated as a matter of course into most European languages, but not English; so too this one is available in German, Italian, Spanish, etc., but not English.)
And in even more exciting Nothomb news: this year the Best Translated Book Award will be announced on 28 April, in the US -- and in Paris, at Shakespeare and Company, with Nothomb announcing the fiction winner !
In the Bangkok Post they report on: 'How bloggers and netizens are being tapped by traditional publishers dedicated to the noble goal of passing on the reading bug -- while making a few baht in the process', in Word-wise web.
The first example they cite is:
Last week a video clip went viral.
It features a mock interview with a Westerner who recounts his first experience of being cursed at by Thai people.
Deftly using comical expletives and po-faced humour, the clip clocked up one million hits within 24 hours.
At the end of the five-minute video, called BKK 1st Time, the clip reveals itself to be an advertisement for a new book, a lighthearted piece of non-fiction written by a Thai student.
The gist of the matter is that this publication, entitled New York 1st Time, is to be launched at the 42nd National Book Fair
Last I checked, the video had 2,333,389 views, which seems pretty good for a ... book trailer; compare that to, say, the trailer for B.J.Novak's One More Thing (233,010 views), or the trailer for Gary Shteyngart's Little Failure (with James Franco), with all of ... 37,997 views.
See also publisher Salmon Books' site -- and note how many of the covers also have the title in English.
There are now more than 3300 reviews at the complete review, so it's time for a statistical look at the last 100 (well, reviews 3201 through 3300):
- the 100 reviews were posted in 187 days (previous hundred: 184 days), and totaled 89,132 words (previous hundred: 89,651).
(Wow -- a steady and consistent pace !)
- reviews were of books originally written in 22 different languages -- the best-represented languages being French (20) followed by English (19) and German (13).
One new language was added (Thai), bringing the total number of languages represented at the complete review to 63.
See also the language list for a full breakdown of all languages
- reviewed books were by authors from 36 countries, led by France (16), the US (10), Germany (8), and Japan (7).
- 89 of the 100 reviewed titles were novels (plus two story-collections) -- fiction continues to dominate completely
- more titles from the 1930s were reviewed (6) than the 1970s (3) and 1980s (2) combined; six titles were written before 1900 (all 19th century titles)
- no book received a grade of A or A+, but 13 were graded A-; one book was graded F
- shamefully (and almost absurdly) only 13 of the reviewed titles were written by women, lowering the percentage of female-authored titles at the site from 15.14 per cent to 15.08 per cent; see also the full breakdown here.