We recently reviewed Oulipo-author Paul Fournel's Need for the Bike (or at least the half of it that was translated into English).
Now he's come out with a book (again not very Oulipian-looking) about his time as director of the French Cultural Centre in Cairo, Poils de cairote.
David Tresilian offers a thorough review in Al-Ahram Weekly.
Additional reviews (albeit in French) can be found at L'Humanité, Lire, and Le Temps.
Small but creative (and nicely international) British publisher Dedalus is having a row with the British Arts Council re. funding issues.
Lilian Pizzichini mentions it (scroll down) in the Daily Telegraph, noting that Dedalus: "has come under threat from the Arts Council, which may withdraw the publisher's funding."
In the 17 April issue of The Guardian Nicholas Clee also mentioned it, noting that: "The Arts Council says that Dedalus may well end up with increased support."
At the Dedalus site we learn: Arts Council vendetta against Dedalus to end in court.
Whatever the situation, we certainly agree with Pizzichini:
Let's hope that Dedalus's one-man team, Eric Lane, finds a way out of the financial wilderness.
In his column in the Daily Telegraph this week A.N.Wilson writes that Foreign literature should not be a closed book.
He's disappointed to find practically no foreign-language literature (in its original, foreign-language form) available in London:
The absence of European literature from the shelves of the big London bookshops would not perhaps mean very much if there were any big retailers that catered for such "specialist" tastes.
But there are only two shops that even attempt to do so, and they are not especially large.
We're disappointed with the stock of English-language literature we find in bookstores in both the US and UK, and don't really expect much foreign-language literature -- though we are pleasantly surprised when we do find any.
But between the hugely inflated prices (what currency conversion tables do these places use ? or is the duty on foreign books especially high ?) and the bizarre selection (generally safe classics in paperback, rather than new publications) we'd hardly ever consider purchasing a book in these shops.
This is certainly an area where the Internet is very useful -- international shipping rates are outrageous, but between Amazon.fr, Amazon.de, and local online booksellers elsewhere it's pretty easy (if still disturbingly expensive) to get one's hands on most everything that's available.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of David Lindley's Tale of Genius, Invention, and Tragedy, Degrees Kelvin.
(It's a biography of Lord Kelvin, in case you couldn't guess (in which case you probably wouldn't be that interested).)
It's mentioned at Return of the Reluctant, and Old Hag kindly reprints the whole thing; Publishers Lunch (an apparently useful but in its registration-requiring state extremely -- to us -- unappealing publication) had a conversation with new NYTBR-head, Sam Tanenhaus.
Most of it is disturbing, most of all:
And Tannenhaus [sic] said neither he nor the paper have it in for fiction; he simply believes that, "If anything fiction is just generally being slighted, by the publishing industry and by us.
We live in a nonfiction moment."
A 'nonfiction moment' ?
What the hell is a 'nonfiction moment' ?
And why does he think we live in one ?
(And what 'we' is he talking about -- our moments remain emphatically fictional !)
And who is in a better position to change things (at least at the NYTBR) than he ?
In any case: the slighting continues: the 25 April issue had 10 full-length reviews of 11 non-fiction titles, plus books-in-brief reviews of 7 more non-fiction titles (total: 18 non-fiction titles), and a mere 4 full-length reviews of 5 fiction titles (and a handful of 'Crime'-shorts).
In yesterday's Daily Illini Kate Conrath reports on Arts, literature coming together, in a new publication called Ninth Letter.
The first issue looks like it's of some interest -- poetry by Tomaz Salamun, fiction by people we've never read but who we understand have followings here and there (Robert Olen Butler, Steve Almond, Dave Eggers (or Dave Eggars, as Conrath calls him in her article)).
The Conrath article and quotes aren't too inspiring, however:
According to Chris Maier, the assistant editor of the magazine and a graduate student in creative writing, the magazine features work such as fiction, nonfiction, journalism and interviews.
"(It is) packed with high-quality stuff that talks to each other," Maier said.
"What's going on in literature right now is that it's existing in this isolated pocket of society where it's not really mixing with other parts of society."
(Clearly the Daily Illini has a copy-editing problem (Dave Eggars), but even so: "high-quality stuff that talks to each other" ?)
The title Ninth Letter can mean many things, Graham said.
Among the possible interpretations, the ninth letter of the alphabet "i" can stand for Illinois, or it can mean "eye" or the first-person pronoun "I."
"There is a cloud of meaning to hover above the title," Graham said.
All of which almost makes the official manifesto look good:
Ninth Letter is a publication that rejects the notion that literature is an isolated mode of expression.
Instead, we recognize and seek the intersections of literature with various fields of creative and intellectual life, such as visual arts, journalistic arts, science, history, and cultural studies.
Certainly, there would appear to be some potential here.
Regional literati, and literary, arts and cultural activists are set for a three-day convergence in Surabaya, Indonesia for their annual regional meet entitled the 13th Pertemuan Sasterawan Nusantara (PSN XIII) this September 9.
We're all for converging -- but then they lost us:
Themed Actualisation of Regional Values for the Sake of the Future, the largest gathering of literature activists, will feature the tabling of various paper works from the intellects of Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.
Once discussions get started on themed (or other) actualisations -- even for the sake of the future -- , well, honestly, we don't know what the hell is going on.
The Tehran Times reports that Author of Controversial Book Arrested .
We're not much bothered by blasphemy (and are all for freedom of expression), so we're probably the wrong ones to ask about the merits of this case.
Still, he pulled off the impressive feat of ticking off pretty much everybody:
The Truth of Unification in Religion, has two sections; the first slanders some esteemed Shi'a sources of jurisprudence and in the second section deeply insulting phrases question the beliefs of Sunni brethren.
We received a proof of the forthcoming US edition of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas today (much appreciated); it's scheduled to be out 17 August (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com).
It's gotten good reviews (and much coverage) in the UK; we'll review it in the next month or so (and provide all the links at that time).
Interesting note: it's being published as a "Trade Paperback Original" -- i.e. Random House isn't bothering with a hardback version (see their publicity page).
This apparently isn't that unusual any more with well-reviewed books of semi-literary interest published first in the UK: Ali Smith's The Whole Story also didn't get the US hardcover treatment.
We have no idea what this means (as always, American publishing business decisions mystify us), but we found it surprising.
Also of interest: a different Random House imprint managed to come out with a very similarly titled novel recently, Liam Callanan's The Cloud Atlas (see their publicity page, and Callanan's site).
Yeah, that's not going to cause any confusion .....
The current issue of The New Yorker offers a story by Edward Jones, Old Boys, Old Girls, and there's also an online-only conversation Cressida Leyshon had with Jones, A Writer in His Own Mind (in which he discusses: "his stories, his inspirations, and the importance of place").
The revival of Tom Stoppard's Jumpers has now opened in New York; on our review-page you can find links to most of the new reviews (as well as the British reviews), but if you're too lazy here are the links to the newest batch of reviews:
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Miroslav Krlea's The Banquet in Blitva, which Northwestern University Press recently published (translated from the "Croato-Serbian" for the first time).
We hope to cover more of Krlea's work -- and actually, we wouldn't have minded covering more of The Banquet in Blitva: it's a trilogy (the first two parts published 1939, the third in 1962), but this edition only offers the first two volumes .....
Also astonishing: the hefty price-tag: this small (7 3/4 by 5 inches, and less than 350 pages) trade-paperback (!) has a list price of US $ 25.95 -- more than many heftier hardbacks.
Not a great way to make books-in-translation more accessible, we would think .....
The Orange Prize shortlist has been announced.
Typically, there are in-depth articles in the British newspapers before the list is even posted at the official site .....
See: Surprise as Ali and Heller are excluded from Orange shortlist by Louise Jury in The Independent, Ali snubbed again by Luke Leitch in the Evening Standard, and Debut novel from Nigeria storms Orange shortlist by John Ezard in The Guardian.
Ezard claims that this is the first time a Nigerian author has been shortlisted for a major British literary prize; we thought Ben Okri qualified (he won the Booker in 1991 for The Famished Road) -- after all, when he was a Commonwealth Writers Prize finalist it was because he won in the Africa Region (1987, for Incidents at the Shrine) -- but apparently not.
We wish there were some more constructive articles in preparation for the Arab world being featured at the Frankfurt Book Fair this fall, but maybe shaming readers is the way to go.
Two more articles jump on that bandwagon:
In The Daily Star today Fatimah Hamdan writes about: Reading, books and literature, three things alien to Lebanon.
While monitoring the media one cannot but notice the absence of the word "book."
Whether televised, broadcast on radio or printed, there is not one promotion for a single book, regardless of its origin.
Not a single program broadcast talks about a book, not even annually.
The only books that are promoted are cooking and astrology books.
It is strange that when it comes to football, the Arab world is always ready; the money is there and we are bombarded with slogans about its vitality and importance.
Football always comes before books here -- but is it a question of money or mentality ?
Amin Maalouf's new book, Origines, is now available in France (get your copy at Amazon.fr), and Ghassan Hage reviews it in considerable depth in The Daily Star; it sounds interesting.
See also (all in French): an excerpt, an interview at L'Express, and a review in Lire.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Uno Koji's Love of Mountains.
The book only offers two stories from a storied career, but at least it is something (though an influential figure, he hasn't been widely translated, to say the least).
One warning: translator Elaine Gerbert writes in her preface:
The reader of Japanese may notice that my translations do not always strictly follow the sentence order or even the paragraphing of the original texts.
On many occasions I shortened sentences and broke up paragraphs to convey more effectively what I believe to be the essential aspects of Uno's writing -- namely its ludic, humorous, and especially critical quality.
You know our opinion about this sort of thing (but aren't you impressed how we're controlling our seething ?).
In writing about recent Nobel laureate J.M.Coetzee the press constantly mentions and maintains that he is shy and reclusive and won't give speeches or interviews, etc. etc., -- but practically every time we've seen an article about him over the past six months or so he's off somewhere giving a speech or a lecture or an interview.
So it was with considerable relief that we learned in yesterday's issue of The Harvard Crimson that Coetzee Pulls Out of English Lecture.
Scheduled to appear 30 April to give the The Morris Gray Lecture, he "cancelled due to personal reasons".
We probably shouldn't make light of it since he presumably does have a good reason (he seems like an honourable guy who wouldn't have accepted the invitation in the first place just to jerk the Harvard folk around), but we could still respect it if he were doing it merely to try to live up to that reclusive reputation that's currently in tatters.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Andrey Kurkov's Death and the Penguin.
Of course, everyone else has already moved on to the sequel, Penguin Lost, which recently came out in the UK: see reviews by Lesley Chamberlain (The Independent), Julian Evans (New Statesman), and Michel Faber (The Guardian).
(Faber concludes: "I only hope Kurkov resists the temptation to write Penguin Regained.")
See also the Random House publicity page.
Our mouths water at all the goodies to look forward to: the PEN Translation Fund has announced the ten translation projects that will share in the $ 25,000 grants they offer.
One we already have under review -- Landnahme by Christoph Hein, which Philip Boehm is translating.
But that still leaves a lot to look forward to -- notably The Other World, a collection of Sony Labou Tansi's unpublished writings, and Patrik Ourednik's Europeana
It's a nice mix and selection of works PEN is supporting -- good work !
In 1998 the annual Fest'Africa organised a project about Rwanda, getting numerous authors to write about the horrible events there in 1994; see the programme from that year's event, and Corinne Moncel's article following up on what the writers involved had done, Rwanda: écrits contre l'oubli (in L'Humanité).
One of the participants was Tierno Monénembo; his contribution, first published in France in 2000, is now available in translation, as The Oldest Orphan -- and our review is now available.
At In Writing Stephen Mitchelmore finally offers his long-anticipated W.G.Sebald-essay, WG Sebald - On the Natural History of Destruction, "an essay review of WG Sebald's fiction in general and the non-fiction collection On the Natural History of Destruction in particular".
Part reaction to our own review of the Sebald essays, he has quite a different take.
We still haven't gotten around to covering Sebald's fiction, but we'll probably revisit all this at some point.
For the first time in 15 years, Scotland’s oldest literary prize will be presented tonight to a Scottish writer, when Andrew O’Hagan is declared the winner of the James Tait Black Award
O'Hagan's Personality is the prize-winning volume -- though Robinson notes:
His novel Personality had not even made it on to the shortlist for any other major literary award since it was published a year ago.
We haven't totally given up on the book, but our attempts to review it have fallen short so far; despite enjoying previous O'Hagan efforts, this one is one we've had trouble mustering sufficient enthusiasm for.
(See also the Faber publicity page.)
Enormously popular in Spain, Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind is being touted as an international bestseller, now appearing in country after country (it just came out in French and in the US, and the UK edition should be available soon).
Our review is now available, and it should receive pretty good (or at least extensive) review coverage in the American press (the first big review -- Jennie Yabroff's, in Sunday's issue of the San Francisco Chronicle -- wasn't very enthusiastic -- but we figure Janet Maslin will like it).
The book is notable because it's part of the first batch of books published by Ann Godoff's new imprint, The Penguin Press -- the only work of fiction out of a dozen titles (how sad is that ?).
(See also Ruiz Zafón Captures Hearts at New Penguin Press (Rebecca Miller, at Library Journal) and the Pearson press release, Penguin announces unprecedented list of award-winning authors for Ann Godoff's new imprint.)
Oh, also: at Elle "B.D." (who understandably won't reveal his/her actual name) calls it (scroll down): "a rousing adventure that reads as if Jorge Luis Borges were writing in the mode of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose"
A site we weren't familiar with: book-o-rama's Journal, offering The Daily Book, with reader ratings (and the occasional comment) on a book a day.
Interesting also just to see what percentage of visitors have read the various titles.