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20 September 2014 - Saturday

Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books shortlist
Prix Médicis longlists | Over the Rainbow review

       Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books -- looks like interesting stuff (and I hope to get around to reviewing the Philip Ball).
       The winner will be announced 10 November.

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



       Prix Médicis longlists

       They've announced the longlists for the prix Médicis -- interesting because they also have a foreign-fiction category. Among the titles to make the best foreign book longlist were the ubiquitous Evie Wyld's, Vladimir Lorchenkov's The Good Life Elsewhere, and Mohsin Hamid's How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.
       Among the authors placing books on the French longlist are Antoine Volodine and Christine Montalbetti.

       (I will also take this opportunity to note yet again how horrific the French-prize sites (or closest approximations thereto) are. For years one could at least rely on the invaluable Prix-littéraires.net for all necessary French literary prize information, so it didn't matter what the official and quasi-official sites looked like, but since that site is no longer being updated the situation has gotten near-hopeless. Get your acts together, folks !)

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



       Over the Rainbow review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Solomonica de Winter's Over the Rainbow.

       De Winter was born in 1997, which makes her the currently youngest author with a title under review at the complete review (and, I suspect, the youngest ever). But what's most noteworthy about this book is that, although written in English, it has not yet been published in English (and doesn't have a US/UK publisher yet, to the best of my knowledge); instead the review relies on the German translation, Die Geschichte von Blue. (A Dutch translation is also forthcoming, as Achter de regenboog.) This makes for a peculiar addition to the index of foreign-language books under review that are not yet available in English .....
       (This isn't entirely unheard of -- for various reason books sometimes aren't/can't (immediately) be published in the language they were written in -- including some written in English. So, for example, Gabriel Josipovici's Only Joking infamously found a German publisher in 2005, but only appeared in English in 2010; Moses Isegawa's first novels were published in Dutch before they came out in English (Snakepit, for example, appearing in Dutch in 1999 and then only in the English it was written in in 2004).)
       Die Geschichte von Blue was published by (Swiss) German publisher Diogenes -- who happen to be the publishers of Solomonica's dad, Leon's, books (11 titles) and Solomonica's mom, Jessica Durlacher's, books (5 titles) -- possibly making them more ... receptive to publishing Moonie's (as she's apparently nicknamed ...) debut.
       As longtime readers know, I have repeatedly expressed surprise that Leon de Winter never caught on in the US -- a couple of his titles have been translated into English (notably the very good Hoffman's Hunger), but, despite spending a great deal of time in the US (where his daughter also went to school -- hence, presumably, her choice of writing in English), he just never figured the place/market out (a stint as a fellow at the Hudson Institute probably didn't help in that regard, either). Jessica Durlacher also seems to have made no inroads whatsoever in the US/UK; it'll be interesting to see if the daughter can (eventually) break the family curse.
       Seven of Leon's books are under review at the complete review, the Leon-Solominca combo is hardly the first time I've read books both by parent and child -- though it may be the first where I've reviewed books by both. But now I'm really eager to read some of Durlacher's work: I don't think I've ever read books by three so closely related family members (siblings, yes, but not relatives of two different generations).

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



19 September 2014 - Friday

Newman Prize for Chinese Literature | Romain Gary at 100
H.C.Artmann-Preis | Literary Turk

       Newman Prize for Chinese Literature

       They've announced that Chu T'ien-Wen [朱天文] Wins 2015 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature. The fourth winner of the biennial prize -- after Mo Yan, Han Shaogong, and Yang Mu -- she beat out other nominees Yan Lianke, Yu Hua, Ge Fei, and Chang Kui-hsing.
       Chu is best-known in English for her novel, Notes of a Desolate Man; see the Columbia University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Romain Gary at 100

       Romain Gary is one of the big-name authors celebrating the centenary of their birth in 2014 (others include: Tove Jansson, Julio Cortázar, and Arno Schmidt) and among the more impressive efforts celebrating that can now be found at the Institut français de Lituanie (!), where they have a pretty impressive web-documentaire on the Hocus Bogus-author. Yes, it's all in French, but if you can manage that it's well-worth your while.

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



       H.C.Artmann-Preis

       I think it's pretty neat that the city of Vienna has a (biennial) H.C.Artmann-Preis -- a decent €10,000, and a namesake who isn't exactly one one would expect hidebound bureaucrats and politicians to appreciate. Near-impossible to translate, Atlas Press have given it a go with The Quest for Dr. U -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- but his original Viennese-dialect(ic) wordplay is, in fact, a challenge even for German-German readers.
       They've announced this year's winner of the prize, and it's Elfriede Czurda -- one of whose books, Almost 1 Book / Almost 1 Life, has been translated by Rosmarie Waldrop (if anyone could, then she); see the Burning Deck publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. (I have a copy; it looks good, and I hope to review it at some point.)

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



       Literary Turk

       At Eurozine E. Khayyat wonders How to turn Turk ? (a piece originally published in the Belgrade Journal of Media and Communications), an interesting look at: "The literary history of the Turk".

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



18 September 2014 - Thursday

(American) National Book Awards longlists
Best International Literary Adaptation film prize
Kapittel festival | Dear Committee Members review

       (American) National Book Awards longlists

       The (American) National Book Awards have been announcing longlists all week -- one category revealed each day -- but the fiction list, due to be unveiled only today was 'leaked' yesterday, so they're now already all up. [The National Book Foundation foolishly tried to 'embargo' the fiction list, revealing it to some journalists and expecting them not to jump the gun; someone goofed, a popular website missed or misread the memo and posted the information (for a while), and once the cat was out of the bag The New York Times considered it fair game and they and everyone piled on. To their credit, the NBF handled the situation very well, jumping right on board and reacting philosophically to the leak.]
       As usual, I haven't read, much less reviewed any of the titles in any of the categories -- though at least I actually have a copy of ... one of them (Lila, by Marilynne Robinson).
       Meanwhile, the Americans can at least lord over the whiny Man Booker judges that they consider a much larger pool of books: while this year's Man Booker longlist was selected from a mere 154 books, the National Book Foundation reports that there were 417 books (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) submitted for the fiction prize, and 494 books (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) submitted for the non-fiction prize. Disappointingly, however, the National Book Awards, like the Man Booker, don't reveal the titles that were submitted and considered in each category.

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



       Best International Literary Adaptation film prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Frankfurt Book Fair's film prize for Best International Literary Adaptation, which goes to Anton Corbijn for his John Le Carré adaptation, A Most Wanted Man; he gets to pick up the prize on 10 October.
       I happened to see this recently, and ... meh, it was okay. But I don't know what the literary-adaptation-competition was. And I haven't read the book; maybe it's a particularly successful adaptation .....

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



       Kapittel festival

       The Stavanger International Festival of Literature and Freedom of Speech -- Kapittel -- started yesterday and runs through Sunday.
       Some pretty decent authors lined up -- and definitely not your usual literary festival, as this year's theme is ... oil. Hence also panels such as: "Gas and Satire" (hey, it's with Andrei Kurkov, so well worth attending just for that).

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



       Dear Committee Members review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Julie Schumacher's Dear Committee Members.
       I'm a sucker for epistolary novels, and for campus novels, so this was certainly something I was looking forward to; of course, that sets the bar higher, too, and unfortunately this fell a bit short (and reinforced my anti-MFA-writing prejudices (as any and every creative-writing-program-associated piece of writing seems to manage to do ...)).

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



17 September 2014 - Wednesday

Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist | Q&A with Robbe-Grillet-translator
Another Man's City review

       Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize, one of the leading Canadian fiction prizes ("The first word in fiction", so their tagline ...) which has impressively upped the ante by doubling its prize money, with C$100,000 going to winner (and C$10,000 to each finalist).
       The longlist was selected from 161 entries -- which are, alas, not revealed (bad form, guys)..
       The shortlist will be announced 6 October.

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



       Q&A with Robbe-Grillet-translator

       At The New Yorker's Page-Turner weblog Elisabeth Zerofsky has a Q & A with 'D.E. Brooke', the pseudonymous translator of Alain Robbe-Grillet's A Sentimental Novel, about Translating a Novel of Sadism.

       Oddly, while I have no problems with pseudonymous authors -- indeed I'd be (almost) perfectly fine with books being published entirely anonymously or namelessly ('almost' only because the lack of corresponding names would complicate categorization -- shelving, indices, etc.) -- but I'm slightly less comfortable with anonymous/pseudonymous translation. Part of that is probably in reaction to the fact that often translators still tend to get ignored anyway -- i.e. aren't named, even if they'd like to get and take credit for their work --, which seems patently unfair, but part of it is also that, if you're going to mess with an author's work (and that's what translators do, after all, for better and worse) you should own up to it.
       Sure 'Brooke''s excuse/explanation seems reasonable enough; still ..... (But, no, you aren't going to get any guesses out of me; if s/he chose to be 'D.E. Brooke' in public, that's their choice, and I won't pull back any curtains.)

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



       Another Man's City review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ch'oe In-ho's Another Man's City, one in the latest batch of titles Dalkey Archive Press is releasing in its Library of Korean Literature-series.

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



16 September 2014 - Tuesday

New issue of the Quarterly Conversation | Marian Schwartz profile
Ready to Burst review

       New issue of the Quarterly Conversation

       Issue 37 - Fall 2014 of the Quarterly Conversation is now available, with the usual variety of interesting literature under discussion -- well worth setting aside some time for.

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



       Marian Schwartz profile

       Marian Schwartz was recently awarded one of the 2014 Read Russia Prizes, for her translation of Leonid Yuzefovich's "postmodern whodunit" Harlequin's Costume, and at Russia Beyond the Headlines Phoebe Taplin profiles her.
       Among the interesting bits:
"Having translated about 70 books over the last 35-plus years, fewer than five of them, probably, have been at my initiative," she told the Moscow audience for the Read Russia Award Presentations. "I found, appreciated, and translated Harlequin's Costume on spec, convinced that it would find a publisher eventually."

In the end, the book was finished only with help from a grant, and it was several years before Glagoslav published it in 2013.
       I haven't seen this one yet; it'll be interesting to see whether the trilogy now gets picked up by a larger publisher and takes off (maybe not, to judge by the post-award Amazon-sales-ranks -- still in the 1,000,000 vicinity at both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk ...). See the Glagoslav publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Ready to Burst review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Frankétienne's Ready to Burst, finally translated into English, by Kaiama L. Glover, and published by Archipelago Books.

       Though not much of his work has been made readily available in English, he remains quite well known -- see, for example, The New York Times' profile from a couple of years ago (which unconscionably puts a possessive apostrophe into his mouth where none belongs: "He admires James Joyce, and it shows. "Finnegan's Wake was like a crazy book, just like I write crazy books," he said."). He's also coming to New York to launch Ready to Burst, and will be at this weekend's Brooklyn Book Festival -- on a panel that includes high-wire man Philippe Petit and Geek Sublime-author Vikram Chandra.

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



15 September 2014 - Monday

Korean literature abroad | Juja review

       Korean literature abroad

       After the apparent success of Shin Kyung-sook's Please Look After Mom abroad the Koreans are apparently busy, as Kwon Mee-yoo reports in The Korea Times, Looking for next Shin Kyung-sook.
       Kim Ae-ran is one hopeful -- though her success has been in other languages, not English -- while: "earlier Korean writers, such as Yi Mun-yol [Our Twisted Hero, etc.] and Hwang Sok-yong [The Guest]" are (regrettably) being written off as producing less: "universal themes in lively style" .....
       And:
The LTI said that in addition to Kim, Park Min-kyu and Kim Young-ha were also drawing attention from translators interested in Korean literature.
       Dalkey Archive Press' Library of Korean Literature is leading the Korean-charge into English, and among their upcoming offerings is Park's Pavane For a Dead Princess (see their publicity page), which I should be getting to soon.
       Kim Young-ha has done quite well in English -- I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, etc. -- though I'm not entirely reassured by the claim that: "More than 40 of her works have been translated and published overseas" (as Kim is a dude).

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



       Juja review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nino Haratischwili's Juja.
       This 2010 novel was her debut -- and it was longlisted for the German Book Prize; she's been getting a lot of attention for her Das achte Leben (Für Brilka), her just-released 1200+ pager that (somewhat controversially) missed this year's German Book Prize longlist cut. (I have a copy and warmed myself up for it with Juja.)
       Interesting sidenote: Georgia-born Haratischwili writes in German under this name -- but literary agent Rachel Gratzfeld lists her (in English) transliterated as Nino Kharatishvili (note, however, the URL-spelling ...).

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



14 September 2014 - Sunday

Murakami Haruki profile | International Congress of Translators
Per Olov Enquists Pris | Singapore Literature Prize shortlists

       Murakami Haruki profile

       In The Guardian Steven Poole profiles Haruki Murakami: 'I'm an outcast of the Japanese literary world. Critics, writers, many of them don't like me'. (I sort of get that pretty much every author likes to portray/sell him/herself as an 'outsider' who doesn't fit in the 'establishment', but surely Murakami is about as 'outcast' (in Japan or anywhere) as poor misunderstood Jonathan Franzen is in the US -- i.e. not in the remotest possible way (except in the eyes and hurt feelings of the ultra-, super-sensitive author's own beyond-deluded mind). Get a grip, Haruki -- for foreign purposes, you are the "Japanese literary world" (which no doubt rubs some of your compatriots the wrong way), and as to being: "Always the duckling, never the swan" ... come on.)
       Great to hear that he's a fan of:
Norwegian novelist Dag Solstad, whom he is currently translating into Japanese from English ("He's a kind of surrealistic writer, very strange novels. I think that's serious literature").
       A bit disappointing that the Japanese will only get the great Solstad's work second-hand (as opposed to translated directly from the Norwegian) -- but the Murakami-imprimatur will likely get him a larger audience than he otherwise would find. The book in question is apparently Solstad's Professor Andersen's Night.

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



       International Congress of Translators

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines they report on the III. Международный конгресс переводчиков художественной литературы -- the recently held Third International Congress of Translators -- in A labor of love or a science ? Experts gather in Moscow to discuss translation

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



       Per Olov Enquists Pris

       Since 2005 (Juli Zeh) they've awarded the Per Olov Enquists Pris annually at the Göteborg Book Fair, and this year Dorthe Nors tilldelas årets PO Enquist-pris, as the Karate Chop-author will get the prize.
       A solid list of previous winners -- but nothing close to the master, Per Olov Enquist, himself.

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



       Singapore Literature Prize shortlists

       They had some issues with the judges this year at the Singapore Literature Prize -- several withdrawing over the controversy surrounding the National Library Board withdrawing and pulping three children's books from their collection -- but they've now announced the shortlists for the 2014 prize. Admirably, they have multiple language categories -- English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil.

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



13 September 2014 - Saturday

Approving books in ... the Maldives
'100 Best Novels, in Translation, Since 1900' ?
AKO Literatuurprijs longlist | The Meteor Hunt review

       Approving books in ... the Maldives

       You'd figure they might have more pressing concerns in the Maldives -- the 1000+ island nation of barely 350,000 is infamously the lowest-lying in the world, and likely to go under as sea levels rise ... soon -- but, no: as Ahmed Naish reports in Minivan News: New regulations mandate government approval before publishing literature, as they've gone for Iranian-style control of what gets published, as:
New regulations enacted yesterday will subject the publication of prose and poetry in the Maldives to government approval.
       On the one hand, it's good to hear that there's a vibrant enough publishing industry locally to necessitate such a law (though I couldn't find any data on how much is actually published annually). Still, never good to hear 'explanations' such as:
The stated purpose of the 'Regulations on approving literature published in the Maldives' (Dhivehi) is "that literature published or made public in the Maldives fit Maldivian laws and regulations as well as societal norms".

The rules are aimed at "reducing adverse effects on society that could be caused by published literature."
       I'm curious what those adverse effects are -- why no examples ?
       So approval must be sought from the National Bureau of Classification -- scroll down for some examples of 'latest approved books' (and note a disconnect between the depicted book-covers and the descriptions of the approved books if you click on them).

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



       '100 Best Novels, in Translation, Since 1900' ?

       Ah, the irresistible lure of the list -- and novels in translation since 1900 ? Sounds promising.
       It's Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn who offer up their personal (and ranked) 100 Best Novels, in Translation, Since 1900 at CounterPunch. A couple of odd limitations here: they: "limited each writer to one entry" (apparently because: "otherwise, novels by Georges Simenon and Roberto Bolaño might have dominated the list") -- and they each had: "unlimited preemptory challenges to be invoked against writers we hated. Thus no: Gunter Grass or Michel Houellebecq."
       There are a few slips -- misattributed languages, misspelled names ('Steig Larsson') -- and it's an odd mix of greatest-hits and very personal choices; still, one could do (much) worse.
       I've read a whole lot of these (I didn't count, but probably haven't missed more than a dozen or so) -- though most of them (classics, by and large) long before I started the site, so the number under review at the complete review is considerably smaller. Those would be:        I still have a lot more books to read before I'd venture to list my top-100; several of these would likely make it -- and several would definitely not.

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



       AKO Literatuurprijs longlist

       They've announced the 25-title strong longlist for the AKO Literatuurprijs, one of the leading Dutch literary prizes.
       Among the books in the running: ones by authors with (other) titles under review at the complete review: Maarten Asscher (2 titles, including Julia en het balkon), Arnon Grunberg (11 titles, including Tirza), and Peter Terrin (The Guard).
       At NRC Boeken they have short quotes from their (Dutch) coverage of each longlisted title, in Wat schreef NRC over de genomineerden ?
       And the only title I see coming that will be available in English soon is the Maarten Asscher, from new publisher Four Winds Press, Apples & Oranges; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       The Meteor Hunt review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jules Verne's The Meteor Hunt, the University of Nebraska Press 2006 edition that restored the text to Verne's original (more or less), as opposed to the widely circulated Michel Verne-edited/manhandled version.

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



12 September 2014 - Friday

Gogol exhibit | Translating The Poetic Edda (again)

       Gogol exhibit

       In The Moscow Times Kit Rees reports on an art installation at the Gogol House Museum, in Gogol Lives Again in New Wing of House.
       The exhibit is called #АВТОРЖЖЕТ and looks pretty neat; certainly a welcome effort to push audiences to engage with an author in additional ways. (Yes, my preferred method of engagement is to actually read the author's work, but if you're going to go visit an author's home or museum you're probably expecting something more than just the words.)

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



       Translating The Poetic Edda (again)

       At the OUPblog Carolyne Larrington writes about "Young girl, I declare you are not like most men": retranslating The Poetic Edda, as she got a chance to revisit her translation, first published in 1996, for a second edition -- now out; see the Oxford University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       Borges would, no doubt, have been intrigued.

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



11 September 2014 - Thursday

German Book Prize shortlist | Jill Schoolman Q & A
New issue of The Manila Review | The Alp review

       German Book Prize shortlist

       The day after they announced the six-title shortlist for this year's Man Booker Prize for Fiction they announced the six-title shortlist for this year's imitation-Man Booker German Book Prize.
       At DeutscheWelle Silke Bartlick offers brief descriptions of the six titles, in German Book Prize announces short list, and "English translations of excerpts from the six titles on the shortlist, along with English-language dossiers for each title" will apparently be made available at New Books in German, "Starting at the end of September".
       The winner will be announced 6 October.

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



       Jill Schoolman Q & A

       At Bomb Bibi Deitz has a Q & A with Archipelago Books' Jill Schoolman
       Among the reveals: alternate names considered for the publisher: Ship of Fools and Terra Incognita.

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



       New issue of The Manila Review

       Issue 5 of The Manila Review is now available online.

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



       The Alp review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Arno Camenisch's The Alp -- the first in a trilogy, published by Dalkey Archive Press.
       This was originally written in German and Romansh (Rhaeto-Romanic) -- which is a bit hard to convey in translation. Still, a pretty neat literary take on a particular slice of contemporary Swiss life.

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



10 September 2014 - Wednesday

Boom ? Bust ? Literature in translation ! | Man Booker shortlist

       Boom ? Bust ? Literature in translation !

       A few weeks ago Dalya Alberge wrote in The Observer how, supposedly, British readers lost in translations as foreign literature sales boom -- a piece I found ... a bit problematic; at MobyLives Sal Robinson also wondered about the treatment of the subject, in Do books in translation sell ? A chestnut considered. Now comes Hephzibah Anderson at BBC Culture, wondering Why won't English speakers read books in translation ?
       Unfortunately, this article too focuses on the fairly arbitrary/pointless/random pseudo-statistic that always seems to haunt this discussion (and drives me nuts): that three, or two, or some fairly small per cent of published-in-English fiction is fiction-in-translation. (For some discussion of this issue, see my taking issue with Literature Across Frontiers' (woeful) last attempt to determine a percentage .....) And so we also get stuff like:
Professor Edwin Gentzler, director of the Translation Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, sees ample reason for optimism regarding the health of translation in English-speaking countries, despite those damning stats.

English-language publishers bring out so many books between them that three per cent is a hefty number -- far heftier than Slovenia's 70%, he says. Moreover, the statistics often overlook small independent presses like Dalkey Archive and Open Letter, as well as specialists like Mage, an American press that publishes translations exclusively from Persian.
       First off: seriously ? You want to compare translation into Slovenian -- "the first language of about 1.85 million people" as Wikipedia (probably reasonably) suggests -- with translation into English ? Seriously ?
       Okay, I'll humor you. Let's go there. In 2013 the official numbers have a mere 5,084 books published in Slovenia (US: 304,912 traditionally published titles) -- of which 1571 were translations -- 30.9%. The more interesting sub-set of numbers: 1,189 works of literature were published, of which 606 were translations: 50.97%. (I have no idea where Anderson and Gentzler got the 70% number from -- but pulling numbers/percentages out of thin is air is par for the course for discussions of this subject matter .....).
       Here's where it gets embarrassing: the Three Percent translation database (warning ! dreaded ... xls format !), of new translations published/distributed in 2013 in the US currently lists 524 literary works in translation (novels, stories, anthologies, and poetry). Meanwhile, taking out the translated dramas (not on the Translation Database -- but only amounting to four anyway), 602 literary works in translation were published in Slovenian in 2013.
       Okay, the US total would be slightly higher if re-translations were included (they're excluded from the Translation Database, but are included in the Slovenian numbers); new ("re-editions") of all published titles in Slovenia made up just under 15% of all publications; if that total holds true across literary translation too (and presumably it's somewhere close to that), Slovenian production would be almost exactly the same as US production.
       "English-language publishers bring out so many books [...] a hefty number -- far heftier than Slovenia's 70%" ? you say. I say: you don't know what you're talking about. Combine US and UK (and Irish and Indian and whatnot) totals (i.e. English-language publishers worldwide), yes, it's surely considerably (well, at least a bit ...) bigger -- but it looks like Slovenia, a country with a population the same as ... Houston, publishes about the same total number of titles of literature in translation as the US does.
       So, before you go spouting numbers (and choose to rely on (nonsense -- like 'three percent' (and, apparently 70%, which would have Slovenia publishing far more translations than the US)) statistics), maybe take a closer look at the available figures .....

       Beyond that, to get back to the Gentzler-quote above -- if you still want to bother -- nobody ever, ever forgets Dalkey when compiling these statistics, since year in and year out (for quite some time now) Dalkey is one of the leading publishers of literature in translation in the US. Like far and away leaders -- 9.56% in 2013, and 8% (!) of the fiction totals on this year's (admittedly still incomplete) translation database at Three Percent, which currently lists 384 published/distributed-for-the-first-time-in-the-US translations, the leading publishers being (with the number of titles in translation they're publishing):
  • 1. Dalkey Archive 31
  • 2. Europa Editions 18
  • -. Gallic Books 18
  • 4. AmazonCrossing 17
  • 5. Seagull Books 16
  • 6. Other Press 15
  • 7. Atria 9
  • 8. American University at Cairo 8
  • -. Farrar, Straus & Giroux 8
  • -. Melville House 8
  • -. Minotaur 8
  • -. Open Letter 8
       (I note also that three of the top twelve are not even US-based (Gallic, Seagull, AUC Press).)
       As to Mage -- much as I appreciate what they and many similar niche publishers are doing, they're not padding the statistics: their literary output is limited, to say the least (something every couple of years recently).
       And, yes, there's wonderful stuff being done by magazines, websites, independent publishers, etc. etc. -- but, I fear, much is still at the fringes.

       Enough for today (my head hurts from bashing it against the wall so often in frustration and annoyance ...) -- that's enough to chew on for now, isn't it? But I wish the level of argument were at a higher/more substantive level (like using/citing actual data -- published numbers, sales totals, etc.). Why always so anecdotal ? (whereby I include 'three percent' and the like as anecdotal, since no one ever seems to manage to offer supporting evidence for that claim). Why always so wrong ?

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



       Man Booker shortlist

       They've announced the six-title shortlist for this year's Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
       This is the first year that they waived the citizenship requirement (previously: Commonwealth plus Zimbabwe and Republic of Ireland), but they managed to avoid getting completely swamped (as they feared might happen) by US writers -- though two did make the cut. Meanwhile, half of the books -- The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee, J by Howard Jacobson, and How to be Both by Ali Smith (which, coincidentally (?) are the three I'd want to read) have not yet been published stateside.
       For some UK coverage, see:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



9 September 2014 - Tuesday

Future Library | Ananthamurthy as translator
The Leavenworth Case review

       Future Library

       This has gotten a lot of press already, but this Future Library is a project with some decent potential.
       As they describe the concept:
A thousand trees have been planted in Nordmarka, a forest just outside Oslo, which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed in one hundred years time. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished, until 2114. Tending the forest and ensuring its preservation for the 100-year duration of the artwork finds a conceptual counterpoint in the invitation extended to each writer: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future.
       It's Katie Paterson's idea/project, and with Margaret Atwood the first to contribute a volume ... well, that's helped garner lots and lots of media attention; the most thorough overview so far appears to be Alison Flood's Margaret Atwood's new work will remain unseen for a century in The Guardian.
       It's a creative spin on the usual time-capsule idea -- with the possible drawback that, over a century, things can go wrong. Very wrong. (Personally, I think the forest is the weak spot -- though financing, even in (currently) ultra-wealth Norway had got to be a concern.)
       Fascinating from an author-perspective, however: how do you write for an audience that will only read your book x years from now ? (I fear the temptation will be not so much towards guessing-the-future but rather retreating to the pseudo-safety of the old-familiar -- Norse or Biblical myth, or stuff like that.)
       Atwood is, of course, a nice name to start with; I hope they can continue to get a similar caliber of writer, year in and year out (but preferably not all English-writing and 'Western' ...).

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



       Ananthamurthy as translator

       As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago (and as no major US/UK media outlet appears yet to have realized ...), leading Indian author U.R.Ananthamurthy has passed away; among the many interesting pieces about him in the Indian press, Bageshree S. now writes in The Hindu on The writer as translator, as Ananthamurty translated works by:
W.B. Yeats, Bertolt Brecht, Rainer Maria Rilke, Edwin Muir or the teachings of Lao Tzu to Kannada.
       As I frequently note, I think translation is a great exercise for writers; I'm not surprised Ananthamurthy took this, too, seriously.

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



       The Leavenworth Case review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Anna Katharine Green's 1878 The Leavenworth Case.
       Hey, it's been published in a Penguin Classics edition .....

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



8 September 2014 - Monday

Pushkin Prize: declined | Translation prizes, open for submission

       Pushkin Prize: declined

       As, for example, The Moscow Times reports, Blaming Putin's Behavior, Dutch Literary Translator Refuses Pushkin Medal as Hans Boland (the name misspelled in this article) has declined the prestigious Медаль Пушкина, specifically because of the "threat to freedom and peace on our planet," that Vladimir Putin represents -- the man who would have pinned the medal on him at the November ceremony.
       It'll be interesting to see whether other cultural or academic figures take similar stands in the coming months. The translators honored with the Read Russia prizes didn't when they got them last week -- see, for example, the report Прочитали Россию in Российская газета (since there's nothing at the official site yet, last I checked ...). (Lizok's Bookshelf has the winners in English in a comment in her post -- and will presumably follow up with a longer report/discussion in the days to come.)

       (Updated - 12 September): See now also The Moscow Times report by Nataliya Bokareva, Ukraine Crisis Intrudes Into Translators Congress.

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



       Translation prizes, open for submission

       A reminder, especially to publishers, about submitting titles for two of the major fiction-translation prizes in the UK and US:

       - In the UK you only have (only !) until 16 September to submit titles for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015 -- so if you haven't yet, do so now.
       Eligibility requirements of note:
  • Published in the UK during the calendar year 2014
  • First UK publication of the work in question
  • "E-books are eligible, but must be submitted in print form (10 copies)"
  • The author must be living (the translator, however, is free to be dead)

       - In the US you still have lots of time to submit titles for the Best Translated Book Award (officially until 31 December ...) but, as one of the judges, I can tell you it is appreciated if we get the books sooner, rather than later (and so thanks especially to those publishers who have already sent in their titles -- much appreciated !). Details as to where to send submissions can be found, for example, here
       Eligibility requirements of note (and note that some of these differ from the IFFP's criteria):
  • Published or distributed in the US during the calendar year 2014
  • First US publication of the work in question (meaning also: absolutely no new translations of previously translated works)
  • E-book submissions are fine
  • Author, translator, anybody and everybody associated with the book can be deceased
       (Note also that while the IFFP will only consider submitted titles, the BTBA tries its hardest to consider all eligible titles, even those publishers don't bother/want to submit -- but obviously it doesn't hurt a book's chances if a publisher ensures the judges get copies .....)

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



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