At Radio Praha David Vaughan has a Q & A with publisher Michael Tate: bringing us the best of Central European writing, as Tate runs the wonderful Jantar Publishing, who specialize in: "high quality English translations of literature written in the languages of Central and East Europe".
They just launched Burying the Season by Antonín Bajaja, which is also discussed at some length here.
(I have a copy and should be getting to it soon; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk)
Tate says they've published eight books to date, and several are under review at the complete review: Daniela Hodrová's A Kingdom of Souls, Jan Křesadlo's GraveLarks, and Michal Viewegh's Bliss Was it in Bohemia.
I haven't been disappointed yet.
And apparently next year they're coming out with ten new titles -- I can't wait for that flood.
The Harry Ransom Center has acquired books from Gabriel García Márquez's library, including ones "that are inscribed, signed and sometimes annotated" -- and some of the inscribed ones can be viewed online (click on the covers to see the dedications).
Neat to see doodles by Orhan Pamuk and Carlos Fuentes !
One they unfortunately don't picture is described in the press release:
One of the oldest presentation books is an inscribed first edition of Augusto Monterroso's Obras Completas (y otros cuentos) (Complete works (and other stories)).
García Márquez once said of one of Monterroso's works, "This book should be read with your hands in the air: Its danger is based on its sly wisdom and the deadly beauty of its lack of seriousness."
I've long been a huge Monterroso-fan, and remain very disappointed that so little of his work is available in English -- though that volume is certainly a stand-out.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kenneth Goldsmith's Wasting Time on the Internet (just in case you need some help with that -- though there's actually quite a bit more to the book).
End-of-year best book lists aren't nearly as popular or widespread abroad (and also tend to appear appropriately closer to the actual end of the year ...) but Lire puts out a top twenty in various categories, and they've now announced their 20 meilleurs livres de 2016 -- usefully complete with runners-up this year.
An Elena Ferrante takes their 'book of the year' prize, a Serge Joncour is their top French book, and Richard Flanagan's 2014 Man Booker-winner is their top foreign fiction title (with the runners-up also (originally) English-language books -- as notably (disturbingly ? ) many of the titles-in-translation that won categories, or were finalists, are translations from the English).
All the American Nobel laureates were invited to the White House where they met the president, before they head off to pick up their medals and cash, and, yes, as press secretary Josh Earnest briefed the press, literature prize winner Bob Dylan was -- do you need three guesses ? -- a no-show:
Q: Did Bob Dylan give a reason for why he can't be here this afternoon?
MR. EARNEST: He didn't.
I know that he has indicated publicly that he's honored to have received the Nobel Prize, but I know that he's also indicated that he does not intend to travel to Norway to participate in the ceremonies in which he'd be awarded the prize.
Again, based on what I've seen in published reports, I think the Norwegians are hopeful that he'll choose another time over the course of the coming year to travel to Norway and give a speech and accept his prize.
But that will be up to him.
There have been previous occasions -- at least one previous occasion where Mr. Dylan has had an opportunity to visit the White House, and the President enjoyed meeting him there.
But he'll not be here today.
So maybe the Swedish Academy shouldn't feel too bad -- Dylan snubbed the American president as well, without explanations or excuses.
Of course, he'd also 'been there, done that', so it's not quite the same .....
(Since Obama is on his way out, Dylan presumably didn't think it was worth his while (to show up, or even just to say he couldn't come); maybe if Trump were already in office he would have rushed over ?)
And Earnest's earnest explanations also suggest that the Swedish Academy's utter humiliation didn't really register -- the guy thinks it's all the Norwegian's fault, and is under some poorly-informed delusion that the Nobel ceremonies take place in Norway (as he kept repeating, over and over) when, of course it is -- save the Peace Prize stuff -- an entirely Swedish affair.
(Seriously, who prepares the briefings for this guy ?)
A generally more interesting variation on the usual best-books-of-the-year-lists is the more personal approach: The Millions have their huge A Year in Reading: 2016 (which is, however, presented horribly annoyingly piecemeal ...), for example.
Among other publications that do this is Open Letters Monthly -- see parts one and two of their 'Our Year in Reading 2016'.
And, of course, I'm particularly pleased to find my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction among Sam Sacks' selections.
As a reference to writers rarely discussed in the United States, Orthofer's guide is invaluable, and just as importantly, it capably defends the "genre" of world literature, which has been subject to easy disparagement from people who know too little of it.
Orthofer's Guide, which one can hardly believe was written by a single individual, traces almost every nation's literature since 1945, with a particular emphasis on the past two decades.
And suggests it is:
(T)he most complete resource for readers of a transnational bent, interested in further expanding their horizons.
And he also notes, among other things that:
Especially impressive are the chapters on Chinese and Iranian fiction, and adventurous readers will make good on the inclusion of sub-genres
I recently mentioned that this might be a useful book for you to make your Christmas-giving selections -- or indeed that it makes a decent gift, too .....
See also the Columbia University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The Premio Cervantes is the leading Spanish-language author prize, and they've now announced that Eduardo Mendoza has won this year's prize (which he gets to pick up next April); see also, for example, the DeutscheWelle report.
Three Mendoza titles are under review at the complete review:
The Crossword Book Awards are among the biggest Indian literary prizes, awarded in a variety of categories, with both a juried selection (four categories, including translation) and a set of 'popular' awards (six categories, including ... "Business and Management" and "Health and Fitness" (but no translation, since that couldn't possibly be popular ...)).
There's lots of coverage of this award (and who attended, etc.) -- but few run-downs of who actually won any of the prizes, including at the official site, which, last I checked, still only listed the finalists.
But here, at The Hans India, you can find all the winners listed (scroll down) -- and Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh won the fiction prize, and The Sun That Rose From the Earth by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, in his own translation, took the translation prize; see the Penguin India publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The Literary Review has announced the winner of this year's 'Bad Sex in Fiction Award' -- and it's Erri De Luca's The Day Before Happiness.
Yes, it's long been under review at the complete review !
And I'm pleased to note that I even made specific mention of part of the offending passage cited by the Literary Review -- though since I read the Michael Moore-US translation it reads slightly differently than the new Jill Foulston-UK edition.
Moore, for example, had it:
My sex was a block of wood glued to her womb.
Meanwhile Foulston has it as:
My prick was a plank stuck to her stomach.
Either way, I think it's fair to say: not good.
Meanwhile, the official announcement notes that De Luca has pulled what is surely now being called 'a Dylan' in the literary prize-giving world:
De Luca was unable to attend the ceremony and unavailable for comment.
They've announced the winners of the August Prize, the major Swedish literary prize, with the fiction prize (well, the svenska skönlitterära bok-prize, but you know ...) going to De polyglotta älskarna, by Lina Wolff; see also the Bonnier Rights (English) information page.
Wolff's Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs was published earlier this year by And Other Stories; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; appealing though it sounds, I have to admit I didn't take to it.
At the TLS Giang Nguyen-Thu looks at Popular tastes in Vietnam -- including literary ones.
Among her observations, of some twenty years ago:
Nguyen Huy Thiep, whose writing provides a poignant account of daily struggles, was the most widely read author in Vietnam.
And yet outside the country, Thiep was eclipsed by Bao Ninh and Duong Thu Huong, whose work better pandered to the image of Vietnam in the Western imagination -- a land of warfare and socialist dictatorship.
By 2010, literature laden with politics no longer dominated the front shelves of Hanoian bookstores.
Instead, we saw a colourful mixture of globally popular titles, such as the Twilight saga, Harry Potter and books by Marc Levi.
Surely, that's Replay (etc.) author Marc Levy.
I'd love to see this kind of piece about more corners ofthe world.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ch'ae Man-Sik's 1930s novel, Turbid Rivers, one from the latest batch -- just out -- of Dalkey Archive Press' Library of Korean Literature titles (and probably one of the most reader-friendly -- even if it definitely edges close to (pure) melodrama).
Note that, despite the claims (and cover-images) at both the publisher's site and Amazon.com, the finished copy went with the plural in the title (Turbid Rivers), not, as it would otherwise appear, the singular.
We've already reached the height of books-of-the-year-lists season -- put together prematurely, presumably in the hopes and expectation that these are what readers might find useful in making their seasonal gift-giving plans.
I'm afraid I can/t/won't oblige with my own best-of-the-year list yet -- there's still more than a month of reading left, and I figure I have at least twenty reviews left in/ahead of me, along with a handful more books I'll read (and dozens to at least leaf through and consider).
Still, I'd like to be helpful -- and, in fact, don't think my own best-of list is really an ideal gift-giving-guide; I suspect readers find my reviews and raves and dismissals more useful for their own reading-purposes than in selecting appropriate gifts.
So here a few thoughts and suggestions:
First off, a bit of self-promotion: many of you are already familiar with it, but if not: my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction (see also the Columbia University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) is something you might want to look into.
While I do think this would, of course, make a great Christmas gift, you might actually want to get one now for your personal use, since it might help you find just the right book for you to give to the harder-to-please enthusiastic readers among your friends and family.
(Wide-ranging reader Tyler Cowen recently posted his always-interesting selection of Best fiction of 2016 at Marginal Revolution and kindly also includes the CR Guide there -- noting: "If you could own only ten works on literature, this should be one of them".)
Beyond that: I tend to think that Christmas (etc.) book-gifts should be not-quite-ordinary -- not necessarily, as noted, the best-of-the-year (everyone's already heard about -- and considered getting -- that latest National Book Award (or whatever) winner), but slightly unusual or off-beat, something that the person you're giving it to might not have thought of getting themselves.
So, in a variety of categories, some suggestions:
- This year's over-the-top literary must-have surely is Arno Schmidt's enormous Bottom's Dream , in the great (and many-prize-winning) John E. Woods' career-culminating translation: if you want to go big, you surely can hardly go bigger; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Yes, this definitely isn't a gift for everyone, and very few readers are likely to make it all the way through -- it's an incredible undertaking -- but those who can appreciate it will really appreciate it.
This oversize volume might not be something readers dare splurge on on their own, and it's impressive enough as book and object to make a welcome library or desktop adornment even for those who can't find the time or energy to actually read it.
(I am a bit disappointed that this hasn't gotten more press coverage yet -- there's no doubt that this is one of the 'books of the year', by any measure.)
(Self-servingly I suggest also you bundle it with the much slighter read, my little Arno Schmidt-monograph, which serves as a useful introduction to the author; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
- I'm not big on biographies, or indeed most non-fiction, but there are a couple of stand-out volumes that aren't fiction that even I can see as good gifts:
19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei by Eliot Weinberger is the ideal stocking-stuffer for any reader you know who is interested in translation.
It really does fit in a stocking (really !), but also offers as much insight into translation as books many times its size.
And the just-released re-issue comes with more ways !
Thomas Bernhard: 3 Days is a film book, with just the stills from the film, and Bernhard's words (and some background), and it's a beautful thing -- a must have for any Bernhard fan (and that's everyone you know, right ? because surely you wouldn't associate with anyone who isn't a fan, right ?).
- What do you get the mystery fan ?
How about some older classics finally available in translation -- like Pushkin Press' series of Frédéric Dard books (Bird in a Cage; Crush; The Wicked Go To Hell).
Bonus: Bird in a Cage is a Christmas-time tale.
(Oh, yeah ... but kind of bleak dark ... so maybe ... not ?)
And if your mystery reading friends and family haven't discovered Pascal Garnier yet, well, Gallic Books keeps bringing them out and they shouldn't be missed; among this year's publications: Too Close to the Edge and The Eskimo Solution.
- Science fiction ?
Again, I reach back to what's new in translation -- and The Doomed City by brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky is certainly a not-to-be-missed major work.
Meanwhile, Restless Books continue bringing out Cuban science fiction in translation, and they haven't disappointed yet either: The Year 200 by Agustín de Rojas is a nice fat volume for winter reading.
- I'm going to avoid any traditional-fiction suggestions -- lots of good stuff, but also taste/interest-dependent, so it's hard to make general suggestions.
One exception I'll make: I think Alejandro Zambra's creative Multiple Choice will work for a lot of people.
- In the more serious/classic category: I've been kind of disappointed by how little coverage and attention the very much under-appreciated Murty Classical Library of India has been, and that's something you might want to introduce folks to: Bharavi's Arjuna and the Hunter seems an ideal volume to start with.
A pretty short list, but a decent idea: in The Guardian a variety of authors suggest The non-western books that every student should read.
Again, this barely scratches the surface -- but, hey, at least they're scratching .....
And several of the titles are under review at the complete review:
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jhumpa Lahiri's The Clothing of Books.
This was a literary festival keynote address -- given and written in Italian.
And this translation is by her husband.
The French prix Roger-Caillois now has four categories: one for a Latin American author, one for a French author, one for an essayist, and -- newly added this year -- one for a translator.
It has a solid list of laureates -- especially in the Latin American category, where winners include Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, César Aira, and, rather late in the day, Roberto Bolaño (he got the prize in 2009 -- six years after his death ...).
As is too common with French literary prizes, there is no handy awards-site; indeed, the best overview is, embarrassingly, the authority of last, desperate resort, the Wikipedia page ......
They've now announced this year's winners, and Livres Hebdo has the run-down, as Spilt Milk-author Chico Buarque took the Latin American prize, and A Modest Proposal-author Régis Debray took the French prize.
A fascinating review of Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt's Hex in The Oxonian Review reveals something I hadn't heard/noticed before:
Nancy Forest-Flier's 2016 English version of Hex is not a mere translation.
Olde Heuvelt decided to seize an opportunity not many writers are in a position to do: he rewrote the book for the translation, creating a novel with a different setting and ending, a 'second edition' that is usually only produced by textbook writers.
This version was then translated to English in consultation with Olde Heuvelt, who has a degree in American literature. Whereas the revision of the storyline is largely beneficial, the Dutch reader would be surprised to discover that Olde Heuvelt has uprooted the story from its Dutch setting and planted it in a village in New York State instead. Only the witch remains Dutch.
US/UK readers might be ... surprised too: I only briefly leafed through a library copy of the (US edition of the) book and remained unaware of any revisions on this scale (and there's no indication of these on the copyright page either) -- though admirably the author does discuss doing this at his US publisher's weblog.
(Still, I'd really like to see this announced and discussed much more prominently in/around the book itself, so that it's clear to potential purchasers and readers what has happened here.)
Even if it's all a change for the better, it does raise some interesting issues -- including for, for example, the Best Translated Book Award judging of the book (it's eligible for next year's prize): how much does the transformation of the book weigh on judging it ?
Murakami Haruki recently picked up the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award (previous winners: Paulo Coelho, J.K.Rowling, Isabel Allende, and Salman Rushdie, so, yeah ...), and in The Asahi Shimbun Kan Kashiwazaki reports on some of the events at and surrounding that, in Murakami: As a translator, I believe in 'power of translation' -- though not without ridiculously (and inaccurately) noting: "Murakami rarely makes public appearances or talks about his work", as if this was something special and exceptional (it's not).
Murakami's acceptance speech in Copenhagen Odense [as a reader correctly points out to me, and I should have noticed ...] is available -- in Danish; presumably they'll eventually get around to posting the English translation too, though they certainly don't seem to be in much of a rush.
The man credited with inaugurating this mythological revival is Ashok Banker, once better known as a literary novelist but who turned to mythological stories in 2003 with an eight-volume Ramayana series
(Also: 'literary novelist' may be a bit of an exaggeration (hey, I read Ten Dead Admen when it came out ...).)
Obviously, there's a lot of great material here -- and it's not like authors haven't turned to it before.
I would, however, love to see some more creative and experimental approaches.
In the Times Literary Supplement many, many contributors name their Books of the Year 2016, an always interesting feature that, this year, is available in full online (previously, there was only a sampler freely accessible online).
Only six of the titles -- four fiction, and two non -- are translations, a big decrease from last year's bumper crop of fourteen.
And, revealing just how much the NYTBR and I fundamentally diverge: I've only reviewed one out of the hundred titles (in 2015 it had been six; in 2014, five) -- Han Kang's The Vegetarian (though I should be getting to a handful more, eventually).
This week's By the Book-column in The New York Times Book Review features Amos Oz -- and he was definitely my kind of childhood reader:
I read everything. Anything at all.
I read the user's manual of the electric heater, I read novels that were way above my grasp, I read poetry which could only offer me the music of its language while the meaning was still far from me.
I read newspapers and magazines of all sorts, leaflets, ads, political manifestoes, dirty magazines, comics.
Anything at all.
Also: among the books he singles out for praise: Yan Lianke's Lenin's Kisses.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ban Toshio and Tezuka Productions' The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime, just out -- after nearly a quarter of a century -- in English, from Stone Bridge Press.
Despite combining two genres I generally avoid -- biography and cartoons -- (and that problematic 'Tezuka Productions' writing credit) ... well, in this case, it's appropriate and, more or less, works.
The Jan Michalski Prize for Literature is a CHF50,000 prize: "awarded for works of fiction or non fiction, irrespective of the language in which it is written", and it has a pretty decent track record of selecting good titles.
The three finalists this year were, fortunately, all novels: The Physics of Sorrow (by Georgi Gospodinov), The Way Things Were (by Aatish Taseer), and Što pepeo priča (by Dževad Karahasan; see the Suhrkamp foreign rights page, and let's hope someone decides to translate this sometime soon ...) -- and they've now announced (though not yet at the official site, last I checked ...) that The Physics of Sorrow has taken the prize.
They've announced the shortlists for this year's Whitbread Costa Book Awards, albeit only in the dreaded pdf format at the official site so far (are you kidding me ? pdf ? you're kidding me, right ?), leading me to reluctantly link you to an outside page -- here at The Guardian -- where, if you scroll down, you can find all the titles in the various categories listed.
None of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review at this time.
They've announced the 147-title strong (formerly but no longer IMPAC-branded) International DUBLIN Literary Award 2017 longlist -- which is actually more of a starting list, consisting of the 147 titles nominated by libraries in 109 cities and 40 countries.
The weakness of the selection process is evident, like every year, in the peculiar 'international' selection: while impressively 43 of the titles are in translation, a stunning none of these are translations from the Chinese, Korean, or Japanese (yes, there are more titles in the running with 'Japanese' in the title (one) than there are translated from all of these languages combined ...); there's also only one translation from the Arabic.
This isn't merely silly, it's ridiculous.
The other -- though related -- problem with the selection process is that the libraries doing the selecting tend to be ultra-nationalist in their selections -- something the prize hasn't done near enough to combat.
(The problems are related because, for example, no libraries from Korea, or China, or all of Africa (!), or anywhere in the 'Middle East' played along this year -- depriving them also of the chance to nominate their own (since clearly no one else had any interest in doing so).
So, while somewhat 'international' this disappointingly remains a far from comprehensively global literary prize.
Quite a few titles are under review at the complete review -- though there are also quite a few that I haven't seen yet.
In the Irish Times Eileen Battersby has an enjoyably opinionated overview (though I don't quite agree with her opinions -- and am disappointed she doesn't take the prize to task for its nominating-weaknesses and -biases).
Irish author William Trevor has passed away; see, for example, obituaries in The New York Times and The Guardian.
Surprisingly, none of his books are under review at the complete review, but see for example his The Art of Fiction Q & A in The Paris Review.
And the fat volume of The Collected Stories isn't a bad place to start; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Filtering Chinese literature through Western intermediaries and languages determines which books are distributed in African countries.
And that this is problematic.
Disappointing, too -- if not entirely surprising -- that: "There is also a noticeable shortage of translations into African languages".
So it's good to see a Kiswahili translation.
As to her hopes:
I would suggest that there should be efforts to build collaborations between Chinese and local African publishing houses without going via a European or Western intermediary.
I've long been a fan of Tom Phillips' 'treated Victorian novel', A Humument -- though I hadn't realized just how different the various editions are; at his site you can compare the pages from the original book and Phillips' first two editions to get an idea of what he's done.
The one I have is the green-covered first revised, but there have been quite a few since then, and apparently he's now launched the definitive and 'final edition' (the sixth); see also the Thames & Hudson publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
I haven't seen this one yet, but it's reviewed in The Scotsman, by Roger Cox, who says:
The effect on the first-time reader (I had only previously seen a couple of pages under glass in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art) is dazzling, verging on overwhelming.
It is definitely one of the more impressive text-experiments of the past half-century, and I look forward to seeing this final iteration.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the collection of Critical Perspectives on Gilmore Girls, edited by David Scott Diffrient with David Lavery, Screwball Television.
This came out in (and, embarrassingly, I've had my copy since) 2010, but now -- with Netflix four-part addendum to the old TV series, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, airing 25 November -- seemed a good time to get to it.
And two other Gilmore Girls-related titles have already long been under review: