If China's film market is a flame burning bright, the country's online literature is increasingly its fuel.
As I've (often, sigh) noted, the Chinese online-publishing industry (and it sure looks like an industry -- "Over 140 million Chinese were regularly reading online literature on their computers and smartphones as of December") is a greatly under-studied and -reported-on phenomenon.
Maybe now more will take notice, if indeed:
Online novels have amassed hundreds of millions of readers, and now they are being tapped for their potential to reach an even broader audience once adapted into films.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Frédéric Dard's 1961 novel, Bird in a Cage.
This is only due out -- from Pushkin Press, in their Vertigo imprint -- in June (in the UK) and September (US), but a Frédéric Dard sighting in English ? in a translation by David Bellos ? no way you can hold me back.
In my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction (just out -- but you already have your copy, right ? if not ... get it at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, etc.), I noted that Dard (especially in his San-Antonio incarnation): "never stood much of a chance in English translation", as they've tried some odds and ends over the decades but nothing ever really took -- but Pushkin Press is having a go with several of his works, and with translators like Bellos (David freaking Bellos ! who is always up for a translation-challenge) maybe he stands a chance after all.
As a reminder of where translation-into English stands, however, note that this (and quite a few other) Dard titles appeared in ... Iran (yes, that Iran) before they have in English: see e.g. ‘The Elevator’ of Frédéric Dard in Iran (or the more extensive Persian report -- and, yes, that's this title), as well as “Novels of the Night” in Persian Translation (with nice cover-images) at the International Crime Fiction Research Group.
In The Jakarta Post Stevie Emilia has a Q & A with Eka Kurniawan (who recently made a splash in English translation, with Beauty is a Wound and Man Tiger).
Among Kurniawan's answers: re. his favorite author he singles out:
If I have to mention only one, it's Knut Hamsun ( the Norwegian author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature ).
His works convinced me to become a writer.
And as far as 'social media' (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram) go, he says: "Don't like any of them."
At Paper Republic Bruce Humes points out that Chinese media are reporting that Chinese publisher/media firm ThinKingDom (新经典文化) has apparently invested in (i.e. bought a chunk of) leading French publisher of east Asian literature ("des livres de l'Extrême-Orient", as they put it) in translation Editions Philippe Picquier; see also the (Chinese) reports at The Paper and, a bit more extensively, sina (and note the deafening silence in the European press -- I couldn't find anything in the French papers ...).
As Humes notes, it's unclear just how much of a stake they've staked themselves, but this is an interesting move, with Philippe Picquier a relatively small boutique independent -- but a leading conduit for east Asian literature into European languages and with a first rate list (and, presumably, contacts).
Worth keeping an eye on.
At the Columbia University Press blog series editor Christine Dunbar offers An Overview of the Inaugural Russian Library Titles (three of them to get things going).
I've mentioned this project before -- in particular as the first instance, a collaboration with Overlook Press, apparently died a(n exceptionally) quiet death.
But it looks like they're actually going through with this -- with publicity pages for the first titles (e.g. Sokolov's Between Dog and Wolf) already up (though note that the 'Series: Russian Library' link doesn't lead anywhere yet ...).
Looks good and promising; can't wait to see these (and future) titles.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of (prix Goncourt-winning author) Marie NDiaye's Ladivine, just out in English.
This is an exceptionally good piece of writing -- that is also exceptionally difficult to like/enjoy.
NDiaye's presentation of family-/personal relationships makes Thomas Bernhard look like a softy .....
(And where Bernhard goes all bitter his depictions at least have a comic edge; NDiaye is rarely bitter but heartlessly earnest -- which is, far, far worse.)
This title/translation was longlisted for this year's Man Booker International Prize, but fell short of the shortlist; I'm very curious how it will do at next year's Best Translated Book Award: on the face of it it is (in its very good translation) an obvious finalist -- and yet .....
At Music & Literature they print Thomas Bumstead's translation of Enrique Vila-Matas' talk when he received the premio Juan Rulfo at the book fair in Guadalajara on 28 November of last year, The Future (original) -- well worth a read.
(Many Vila-Matas titles are under review at the complete review -- with the recent Because She Never Asked a particular favorite (which I don't think has gotten its due, critically or otherwise).)
This is one of two titles -- along with the latest Elena Ferrante -- that is a finalist for both the Best Translated Book Award and the Man Booker International Prize this year, so it's hard not to consider it one of the biggest titles-in-translation of 2015.
In The Nation Evelyn Osagie reports that 173 authors in race for NLNG $100k literary prize (meaning, presumably, 173 books, since it's a book prize (though possibly some authors might have entered more than one title ...)).
The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates through four different genres (poetry, drama, kids' stuff, and prose fiction) -- and they're finally back to the one that counts, which Chika Unigwe won in 2013 -- as she: "beat 213 authors to the prize".
(Interesting that there were considerably more entries (entrants) last time around.)
Last year was the kid-lit turn, but they didn't find anything was deserving of the prize.
While this prize will pay out in US dollars (if they award it ...), there's also a literary criticism prize ("open to literary critics from all over the world") which only pays out in local currency -- and while NGN 1,000,000 might sound good, well, it's only about US$5000.
Even more depressingly, Osagie reports that they got all of ... two entries for the prize.
They've announced that Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba [مصائر: كونشرتو الهولوكوست والنكبة] by Rabai al-Madhoun has won this year's International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
The US$50,000 award is one of the leading Arabic literature prizes, and does the best job of publicizing winning works abroad, with most of them appearing in translation in a variety of languages.
The winning author is not unknown in English, as Telegram published his (IPAF shortlisted) The Lady from Tel Aviv a few years ago; see their publicity page, and get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've announced the finalists for the 2016 Hugo Awards -- and there's even one of the novel finalists under review at the complete review, Seveneves by Neal Stephenson.
Apparently, there are issues regarding the voting process and campaigns by groups -- of 'Sad Puppies' and 'Rabid Puppies' -- but it's all rather beyond me; see, for example, David Barnett on Hugo awards shortlist dominated by rightwing campaign in The Guardian.
The Austrian State Prize for European Literature only honors European authors, but as that list of previous winners shows, they have a pretty damn good track record.
They've now announced the 2016 winner -- albeit only in a ridiculous summary-press release unworthy of the prize -- and it's Polish author Andrzej Stasiuk, who has been reasonably well translated into English.
Two of his books are under review at the complete review: Fado and Nine.
They've announced the winner of this year's Wellcome Book Prize (for a book with a: "central theme that engages with some aspect of medicine, health or illness"), and the £30,000 prize goes to It's All in Your Head (by Suzanne O'Sullivan).
The US edition is only due out in 2017 (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com), but it's out in paperback in the UK; get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.
At the Asymptote blog Frances Riddle has a Q & A with New Directions-publisher Barbara Epler, in Publisher Profile: New Directions
Lots of interesting observations and comments -- and among the most exciting is the mention that New Directions will be publishing (along with books by many other wonderful authors) some more by much-admired-hereabouts Shyness and Dignity-author Dag Solstad.
The PEN World Voices Festival officially starts today in New York City, with a lot of promising-sounding events scheduled.
A big Mexican focus, but also a lot beyond that -- well worth checking out if you're in the neighborhood.
At Scroll.in they report that: 'An app that aims to transform reading is a huge bet to attract smartphone warriors to books', in Books 2.0: Juggernaut's bold new social reading and publishing venture goes live on mobiles, as juggernaut launches in India.
E-publishing has been a complete dud in India, so it will be interesting to see whether "original books tailored for mobile and for India" will fly.
It would seem to have some potential -- especially at that pricing -- but it will be interesting to see whether it's actually a viable reading/business model.
At YouGov they offer Shakespeare 400 years on: every play ranked by popularity, as they surveyed 1661 adults and asked: "Which, if any, of the following Shakespeare plays have you ever read or seen ?"
Romeo and Juliet easily tops the list, the only play which more than half the respondents had seen/read; Hamlet is a somewhat surprising distant (31 per cent) fourth -- and I was very surprised that King Lear didn't even break the top ten.
(See also the full(er) survey breakdown (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
Among the observations there: Scottish respondents were less likely than the national average to have seen/read Macbeth -- and far behind Londoners; the only play male respondents were more likely to have seen/read than female ones was ... King John (3 per cent to 2), while several plays were far more likely to have been seen/read by women (notably Romeo and Juliet (62:40) and As You Like it (21:10)); and a far-above average (5 per cent) of Londoners answered 'Don't know' (9 per cent).)
Vinutha Mallya's lengthy piece on 'The possibilities and pitfalls before India's publishing industry' in The Caravan, Numbers and Letters, is now freely accessible online -- a good overview of the current state of affairs and some of the (logistical and other) issues the industry has to deal with.
Fifty years ago today the German group of everyone-who-was-anyone authors, the 'Gruppe 47', ventured to Princeton for an infamous get-together (that also pretty much killed the group-as-group (though its more-or-less demise was already very much in that late-60s air), and really put Peter Handke on the map).
They have a page on it at the Princeton University site -- and, more impressively, they have the audio recordings from (almost) all the readings.
The German feuilletons are full of anniversary coverage, though the impression stateside seems to have been less ... lasting.
But maybe someone will publish a translation of Jörg Magenau's new Princeton 66: Die abenteuerliche Reise der Gruppe 47 (see the Klett-Cotta publicity page) .....
At the Literary Hub Ilan Stavans and William P. Childers discuss What Borges Learned From Cervantes: On Language, and the Thin Line Between Fiction and Reality.
They discuss 'Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote' at some length -- with Stavans suggesting it's:
arguably his most influential story and -- I don't believe I'm over-inflating it ! -- perhaps the most important one of the entire 20th century
As long-time readers know, I'm not a huge fan of short stories, but I've always admired and enjoyed Borges' (see also my review of his Collected Fictions) and, along with Hugo von Hofmannsthal's 'Chandos-letter' ('Ein Brief'), 'Pierre Menard' is probably the only short story I would count as among the most influential(-on-me) literary works I've read (top twenty-five, certainly; maybe even top ten, depending on the day).
They've announced that The Dinner-author Herman Koch wil be writing next year's 'Boekenweekgeschenk' -- the widely, freely distributed work written by a Dutch author that is the centerpiece of the big annual Boekenweek.
Pretty much everyone who is anyone in Dutch writing gets a go at this -- and quite a few of the resulting titles are even under review at the complete review: Hugo Claus' The Swordfish (1989), Cees Nooteboom's The Following Story (1991), A.F.Th. van der Heijden's Weerborstels (1992), and Harry Mulisch's Het theater, de brief en de waarheid (2000).
This is the first one in the series I've covered (I only recently got my first batch, of the four most recent releases), and I'm very impressed by the look (and content) of these volumes.
Bilingual editions -- covering a wide range of languages, not just Sanskrit -- they're definitely yet another original-text-plus-translation classics-series that is well worth collecting (following on the Loeb Classical Library and the Library of Arabic Literature).
It's disappointing, however, to see how politicized this series has (bizarrely) become there where it should be most celebrated -- in India: see, for (a horrible) example, the 'customer reviews' for this title at Amazon.in.
The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Italy, Europa Editions)
The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney (Mexico, Coffee House Press)
War, So Much War by Mercè Rodoreda, translated from the Catalan by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent (Spain, Open Letter)
About half what I expected, half I certainly did not -- and a pretty far cry from what I would have chosen: looking back to my picks -- the top ten and top twenty-five that would have been my choices had I been a judge this year -- my favorites went zero-for-ten (top ten picks) and 4-for-25 overall .....
Still, lots of good books here -- and some nice variety.
And there's still the possibility for a Man Booker International Prize-BTBA double this year, with both the Ferrante and Agualusa now finalists for both prizes.
Being so obviously out of tune with the judges' tastes I won't hazard a guess as to who might take the prize -- though I suspect Lispector and Ferrante must be the front-runners.
The winner will be announced on 4 May.
The International Book Festival Budapest begins tomorrow, running through the 24th.
Slovakia is the 'guest of honour'-country, and while they've enticed few US or UK authors, there will be a very full slate of Hungarian authors present.
The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of A Memoir by Alain Mabanckou, The Lights of Pointe-Noire.
I still can't work myself up to writing about memoirs at the moment, but figured it was worth posting the review-overview for the links to other reviews -- in particular because, after being widely and well covered in the UK it was recently published in the US, to very little notice.
I'm baffled why it hasn't attracted more US attention yet.
After all, Mabanckou is well know here, too -- and he has been a resident for ages, teaching at UCLA.
As widely reported, they've announced this year's Pulitzer Prizes -- and the fiction prize went toThe Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen -- conveniently just out in paperback.
It beat out finalists Get in Trouble by Kelly Link and Maud's Line by Margaret Verble (though unfortunately we do not know what other titles the judges were allowed to consider, since they don't reveal these ...), as selected by judges Art Winslow, Edward P. Jones, and Leah Price.
See the Grove publicity page , or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
I actually have this, so there's a chance I might get to it (someday ...); my track record with the Pulitzers isn't great -- though I did get to the two most recent I reviewed before they picked up the prize: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2014) and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (2003).
They've apparently announced that Sylvie Germain has won this year's Prix mondial Cino Del Duca, which she gets to pick up -- along with the €200,000 (!) prize money -- 8 June.
Not that they've managed to mention this at the official site, last I checked -- but Livres Hebdo has the scoop.
(Recent winners include Patrick Modiano (2010), Milan Kundera (2009), and Mario Vargas Llosa (2008) -- and Alejo Carpentier got it back in 1975 -- so: pretty decent track record.)
I have to admit that I've never really gotten Germain -- and the only one of her titles under review at the complete review is The Weeping Woman on the Streets of Prague --, but Dedalus are all in with her and one hopes they'll reap some benefits from this.
It's already been available via Amazon for a few weeks now, but this is the originally announced official publication date for my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction, and so it should now be more or less readily available at you local bookstore, so you have even less of an excuse for not having gotten your hands on a copy yet .....
The Goodreads reactions (and those elsewhere) have been very kind, and it's gratifying to see that readers seem to appreciate what I've done -- I hope you will too.
(Get your copy at Amazon.com, if not your local bookstore; at Amazon.co.uk it appears to be 'currently unavailable' -- and is apparently only officially dropping there in mid-May ...).
In London the SLOVO Russian Literature Festival runs through the 24th, with quite a few well-known authors (including Boris Akunin and Mikhail Shishkin) still to appear.
Interesting to see/note that they see fit (and/or think it important) to mention -- quite prominently -- that: "SLOVO is not supported by the Russian government".
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mathias Storch's Singnagtugaq: A Greenlander's Dream -- apparently the first Greenlandic novel (first published in 1914), and now available in English, from, of course, the International Polar Institute Press (the seventh in their 'Adventures in New Lands'-series).
Dead languages aside, Romansh probably (just) edges out Greenlandic as the language with the fewest speakers any books under review at the complete review were written in -- but it's close.
I do hope to find some more modern translated-from-the-Greenlandic fiction.
(Maybe this year's Nordic Council Literature Prize-nominated Zombiet Nunaat, by Sørine Steenholdt -- see the milik publicity page --, if it gets translated .....)
(It's also not the last of the Scandinavian languages I want to get to -- there's still Sami, Faroese .....)
As I have often noted, it's remarkable how little literature from India not written in English makes its away abroad.
The ILA ('Indian Literature in Translation') project sounded like a great venture to address this -- but Manik Sharma can now only wonder (at Scroll.in) Why did India's ambitious global translations project, die prematurely ?
Questionable punctuation, and spelling ("India's literary cannon"), aside, it's an interesting -- and depressing -- overview of a project with a lot of good people behind it.
Obviously it didn't help that: "it appears that not a rupee was released by the Ministry of Culture, under which the project was to have run".
Embarrassingly, "Almost all the committee members have been unaware of the status of the project since 2013, and most believe it has been shut down" -- even as it is listed among the 'three Projects running successfully under Sahitya Akademi' -- and they have a whole nice page devoted to the ... scheme.
Issue 2016:1 of the Swedish Book Review is now available, with much of the content freely accessibly online -- including the most interesting part, the reviews: among authors with previously-translated-into-English works under review are Jonas Karlsson, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Aris Fioretos, and P.C.Jersild.
Via I'm pointed to Thi Ri Han reporting on the Tough Times for Translators in Burma at Frontier Myanmar, as: "the golden age of revered translators has long passed".
(I have to say I'm rather suspicious of any claims of any 'golden age of translators', anywhere .....)
Apparently the censorship-hangover still has lingering after-effects -- including that: "a budding young generation of translators has emerged in recent years, but many remain weak in the quality and quantity of their work".
And interesting to hear that:
"It's been very bad, almost half of this book was censored, so it was not published," he said, pointing to his translation of Norwegian Wood by acclaimed Japanese writer Haruki Murakami.
"Indiscriminate censoring has made translators reluctant to do their job"
(Of course, recall that much of Murakami's work is pared down in English translation, too -- for 'editorial' reasons, as if that were any better .....)
A reader points out to me that they've announced this years's Aegon Művészeti Díj -- a leading Hungarian literary prize -- and Oravecz Imre's volume of poetry, Távozó fa, took the prize.
As the list of winners (and shortlisted titles) suggests, this prize has a pretty decent track record, and offers a good overview of some of the best literature currently being published in Hungary.
(2006 winner Captivity is the only winning title under review at the complete review, but quite a few other titles by other shortlisted authors are also under review.)