The work has been several times translated into English.
The first was a partial translation by A.L.Sadler; the second was that of Hiroshi Kitagawa and Bruce T. Tsuchida, which appeared in 1975; the third was that of Helen Craig McCullough; and the fourth is this one of Burton Watson.
But, as he notes:
Watson's version, however, is not intended to be complete.
It is edited to be a part of Haruo Shirane's new anthology of classical Japanese literature and would comprise, I would guess, about half the text of the original.
The sections are connected by precis (written by Shirane), which connect the parts of the story.
He's impressed by it, but the pared-down presentation disappoints him as well:
We sympathize with the demands of the coming anthology (which will duplicate this text) but at the same time entertain our own vision.
Watson's is, I believe, the best of the translations.
How splendid would have been his version of the complete work.
Cutting down to size is fairly common with 'classical' texts.
Another book we're enjoying and will cover in the next months is Dick Davis' translation of Abolqasem Ferdowsi's Shahnameh (see the Viking publicity page) -- but we can't help but feel disappointed by all that has been left out of that as well.
We recently mentioned the Caine Prize for African Writing (the winner will be announced today), mentioning our disappointment that there wasn't a proper pan-African novel prize (the Caine is strictly for short fiction).
Maybe the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa -- to be handed out for the first time 5 August -- comes a bit closer (though submissions can apparently be "in any genres of literature").
Vanguard has a countdown-article -- and the organisers certainly have high ambitions:
"This prize is our own Nobel Prize and anyone who wins it has earned for himself/herself, a warm place in the hearts of those who cherish excellence.
The winning book will be made available and affordable as the organizers are doing their best to ensure that everyone gains access to excellent books which will, invariably, enhance the quality of their lives and, in the long run, bring about the much needed individual and collective development." organizers said.
Still, things seem to be getting done last minute:
Apparently, the call for entries for first Wole Soyinka Prize for literature in Africa ended on June 26.
The books have since been dispatched to the various judges in different parts of the world.
The judges will all arrive Nigeria by the end this month. While the tribe await the decision of the judges, there is imperative need to wonder who goes home with the coveted prize as entries were received from both Francophone and Anglophone countries.
(One prize-issue: "Submissions must be written either in English or French" -- leaving out both Lusophone and Arabic books (not to mention books written in any of the many other local languages ...).)
Apparently 36 books were submitted -- we'd love to know which ones.
This site is an interactive form of advertising and creativity, as well as being a bit of a cyber experiment in literature and art !
The idea is simple, buy words from me to get published on my website ...
The words will combine to form a novel/story created by a multitude of people.
It doesn't sound like the most promising get-rich-quick scheme (much less produce-a-great-book scheme) -- and he still has a way to go: last we checked the 'Million Word Story' (read it here) had 999,841 words left to buy and 159 words sold, while the 'Million Character Story' had 1,000,000 characters left to buy and 0 characters sold.
As The Hindu reports, Raja Rao passes away; the very fine Indian author died Saturday.
Not many obituaries or appreciations yet, but there should be quite the flood next week.
We only have his Comrade Kirillov under review, but hope to get to The Chessmaster and His Moves and The Serpent and the Rope sooner or later.
See also Raja Rao at books and writers -- and the poem To Raja Rao by Czeslaw Milosz.
(Updated - 11 July): We're shocked by how little notice there has been of his death so far.
Among the few notices:
India is the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair this fall, and they even have a dedicated website for the occasion, India Guest of Honour at Frankfurt Book Fair 2006.
Still a bit short of actual (and up-to-date) information, but it might prove be a useful resource.
Meanwhile, the Bibliofile column at Outlook Indiareports that the Indian National Book Trust have made their choice of which authors get to go to Frankfurt -- but:
Only 33 to go to Frankfurt out of a nation that seems to be spawning an author a minute !
The selection was made by a steering committee headed by the secretary, HRD ministry and included other quasi-government organs like the Sahitya Akademi.
Need we say more ?
Among the English language authors who have made it are Namita Gokhale, Altaf Tyrewala (who he ?), Mamang Dai and Mushirul Hasan.
(Unfortunately, we have not been able to find a list of the 33 chosen ones yet.)
But after India’s participation in 1986, no more than 40 works from India’s regional languages were translated into German and published.
How do you explain that lack of interest ?
In its second appearance as "Guest of Honour" this year, do you think that we will succeed in creating a sustained interest among German readers for India's regional literature ?
What is needed is a good mix of authors, well-known and lesser known, writing in regional languages and in English.
Authors writing in a language and on themes that are easily accessible to readers here must be given the function of a locomotive, to take along their colleagues writing in regional languages. Transporting literature is a tough business.
There are numerous pictures of Jorge Luis Borges' tombstone on the Internet, but the ones Pierre Assouline offers at his weblog (scroll down, and click on pictures for larger views) are among the better ones we've come across.
Lisa Appignanesi is pleased by the whole bunch of Angela Carter re-issues now available, offering the informative Carter the unstoppable . . . in The Times.
We really do plan to get around to Carter's books sometime soon .....
Authors still do respond to reviews in letters to the editor and the like, but the Internet -- especially author sites and weblogs -- provides wonderful opportunities to complain and correct at greater length.
A recent example is Glenn LaFantasie's Authors Don't Own Their Books at the OUP blog:
These days, I am feeling a bit of pique myself.
An anonymous reviewer in Publisher's Weekly (a.k.a PW), the publishing rag where every author hopes to get favorable notice, wrote some pretty harsh things about my latest book, Gettysburg Requiem.
In September this year, the final part of the trilogy, The Sirens of Baghdad, will be published in France.
As a portrait of a young Bedouin who grows to despise the American occupation of Iraq, it's bound to be the subject of polemic -- as well as one of the most important books to be published in Europe this year.
We're wary of books that are heralded -- pre-publication, no less -- as: 'one of the most important books to be published this year', but we are curious about it.
Pre-order the French version (due out 17 August), Les sirènes de Bagdad at Amazon.fr.
(No English translation listed anywhere yet, but they did The Attack admirably quickly, and since that has gotten lots of attention (and so many of his other books have been translated) look for this one to appear in the US and UK sooner rather than later as well.)
The Turkish law under which they tried to put Orhan Pamuk away -- article 301 -- continues to be (ab)used to harass authors.
This time the lucky writer is Elif Shafak (as well as her publisher and translator !): the prosecutor originally declined to proceed against them, but, as reported at BIA, an eager beaver lawyer got that overturned:
Istanbul's 7th High Criminal Court has rejected a June 7 decision by the Beyoglu Republic Prosecutor not to prosecute Elif Shafak, and Metis Publishing House chief Semih Sokmen and translator Asli Bicen for "publicly insulting Turkishness" in Shafak's new bestseller Father and Bastard, asking instead, for charges to be brought forth.
The recent Court decision overturning last month's dismissal of proceedings is result of an appeal made by lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz, a leading member of the right-wing organisation of lawyers who call themselves "The Unity of Jurists".
What the hell kind of 'Turkishness' is this guy defending ?
And who would want any part of it ?
With the new decision, the case file has now been sent to the Beyoglu Republic Prosecutors' Office for charges to be brought forth against the book and those involved in its publishing under article 301 of the Penal Code.
A date for an indictment or trial has not been listed yet.
In the 23 June issue of the TLS (they arrive here with considerable delay ...) Eric Bulson reviews the five-volume Franco Moretti-edited study of Il romanzo ('The Novel'; see also the ReadySteadyBook.com mention) -- coming out, in drastically cut form (and a mere two volumes), in English next month.
Bulson makes two interesting points re. the translation situation.
Over the years of its staggered publication, Il romanzo has been reviewed in many of the leading newspapers and journals in Italy, but nothing has been heard in English-speaking venues.
Princeton University Press have just published a condensed two-volume version in English (roughly half the original's length), so a more widespread response, I think, is imminent.
But the silence about the Italian edition should give us pause.
If this project is any indication, global collaboration will sooner or later have to deal with the issue of language and translation.
If the research is not in a language you know, are you responsible for it ?
Will comparatists alone be responsible for synthesizing what comes out of this critical melange ?
Jonathan Arac asks elsewhere whether the collaborative project Moretti has in mind is even possible without English as the medium of intellectual exchange.
Interesting questions, worth pondering.
Second -- and really worth considering (read it and weep, like we did):
The Princeton volumes have their own problems.
When interviewed by an Italian journal, Moretti explained that he was forced to downsize Il romanzo because the American editors were afraid it wouldn't sell (it will be fully intact in the forthcoming Brazilian and Korean editions).
As a result, much of the international context was cut out to accommodate an Anglo-American public.
Maybe it's appropriate that Il romanzo, like the novels it examines, will have to make some formal compromises while travelling round the globe, but it is the English audience that loses out in the end.
If Moretti is right about the provincialism of American English departments, they need more, not less perspective on the world.
The American publishers -- a university press (non-profit, public interest, academic standards ...) -- was so afraid it wouldn't sell that they tossed half of it out.
And the part they tossed out is the international part -- the part which Americans are most in need of information about.
And to rub it in, there will be full translations into Korean and Portuguese, but not English ......
We're still spluttering in disbelief .....
We're still not sure how to handle this ... the stunted English volume hold limited appeal, but the five Italian volumes (and the Korean and Portuguese translations ...) are beyond us.
But it'll be interesting to see what the critical reception/response is like.
For additional information about the English volumes, see:
Henry Chakava, chairman of East African Educational Publishers, said in a telephone interview: "Earlier African writers seemed to have a Western audience in mind, and most of their writing seemed aimed at explaining Africa to the West.
They took on the posture of teacher, moralist and spokesman for their communities.
The new generation is more individualistic.
They deal with day-to-day happenings and do not consider themselves responsible to anybody."
It's certainly a worthy award, but the two issue we have with it are: why is this leading African literary prize awarded in Oxford ?
(In 2000 they handed it over in Harare, in 2001 in Nairobi, but since then .....)
Sure, they get a lot more press attention in England, but still .....
Second: why is the leading African literary award a short-story award ("Indicative length, between 3000 and 10,000 words") ?
(Compare the ratio of well-known short story awards to well-known novel prizes in the US and UK to get a sense of how ridiculous that is.)
Stunningly, there doesn't appear to be any pan-African novel prize.
About the closest there is is the Noma Award ("for an outstanding book published in Africa" -- emphasis on the 'published in', as it covers non- as well as fiction, as well as kiddie lit).
(We also have some issues with the Caine Prize English-language requirement, but since they do tolerate translations we won't complain about that too much.)
Meanwhile, don't forget the Words without Borders Book Groups.
The next one starts up 14 July (next Friday), when local barkeep M.A.Orthofer will lead the discussion of Svetlana Alexievich's Voices from Chernobyl .
(Don't worry, we'll remind you again when the time comes.)
The first English review of Amélie Nothomb's The Life of Hunger we've seen is Caroline McGinn's in the current issue of the New Statesman.
(We think it warrants a bit more than what's on offer there .....)
Javier Marías was elected to the Real Academia Española last week -- a high honour ... but Arturo Pérez-Reverte has been on board since 2003.
Like the better-known French Academy, the Real Academia Española is responsible for language-upkeep, putting out the official Spanish dictionary.
As Graham Keeley recently reported in The Times, not everyone is pleased with what they've been doing -- indeed it's apparently a: Dictionary that redefines how to be really offensive:
Jews, Gypsies, gays, feminists and even people from Galicia are up in arms over the latest edition of the authoritative dictionary of the Spanish language, which they say promotes prejudice and racism.
Looks like Javier has his work cut out for him .....
(We have several Marías titles under review, including the first volume of Your Face Tomorrow, Fever and Spear; the next volume, Dance and Dream is due out in the US later this month, and we were thrilled to get our copy -- our review will follow shortly.)
For Chris(topher) Wilson life imitated art a bit too closely, as he describes in A writer's life in the Sunday Telegraph.
He had his character in The Ballad of Lee Cotton (US title: Cotton) go through a near-death experience -- and then came much to close for comfort to reliving (redying ?) the experience for himself:
I don't recommend cardiac arrest to the faint-hearted -- not as research, recreation, travel or extreme sport.
You lose your pulse and stop breathing.
You look and act thoroughly dead.
My wife, who watched the first episode, was totally convinced.
The July/August issue of World Literature Today is available online.
The content is accessible but -- warning ! warning ! warning ! -- only in the dreaded pdf format.
We also have to wonder about the cover picture and story ... Yo Yo Ma ?!?
Yes, they get around to some literature in the interview, but still .....
And while there's some good stuff in the reviews-section, they don't cover all that many books .....
"I am worrying about my country," says the 57-year-old writer, widely considered Japan's Nobel laureate-in-waiting.
"I feel I have a responsibility as a novelist to do something."
He is particularly concerned about Tokyo's popular governor, the novelist Shintaro Ishihara.
"Ishihara is a very dangerous man. He is an agitator. He hates China."
And he apparently: "plans to make a public statement opposing Ishihara, and weave an anti-nationalist subtext into his next novel".
Not mentioned in The Guardian and elsewhere is the fact that the objectionable figure Ishihara is not only Governor of Tokyo but also an Akutagawa Prize-winning novelist (albeit more than half a century ago).
Yes, a rival writer -- several of whose books have appeared in English, most recently Undercurrents ('Episodes from a Life on the Edge'), from Kodansha.
(See their publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
(Given the Amazon sales ranks -- Amazon.com Sales Rank: 2,505,271, Amazon.co.uk Sales Rank: 1,731,810 last we checked -- it doesn't look like it's doing too well .....)
The translation was also JLPP-supported -- and we've been impressed by the rest of the stuff they've done.
(We actually have a copy of Undercurrents, and now aren't sure whether we're more or less likely to cover it .....)
For additional Ishihara information, see also the profile at Metropolitan, and the official profile at the municipal Tokyo site.
We already had Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad under review, but now Canongate have sent us the other four currently available titles from their The Myths-series, and our reviews of these are now also available:
David Grossman interprets The Myth Of Samson in Lion's Honey
The Myths is actually a multi-publisher undertaking -- in dozens of languages and countries (Canongate covering the UK and US) -- and they plan dozens of these re-tellings.
We're looking forward to a lot of them -- Chinua Achebe ! A.S.Byatt ! -- though we also have our concerns about a few of them (Donna Tartt ?!?).
In Time Lev Grossman wonders at some length: Who's the Voice of this Generation ?
He wonders why none of today's young novelists truly "express the essence of their era":
Well, it's a fun issue to debate, and he gets it off to a decent start:
The novel is one of the most vital cultural resources we have -- a private, potent means of sharing the unspeakableness of daily life with one another.
So it's only natural to wonder who's taking care of the novel -- who's taking up the torch and where exactly they're taking it.
Or whether it has gone out.
The novel is one of the platforms from which the voice of a generation speaks.
And if you listen closely, you'll start to wonder if the current generation has a voice at all.
But he concludes:
The fact is, a generation of readers will probably never again come together around a single book the way they did in the 20th century, when Holden Caulfield went looking for the ducks in Central Park.
Those birds have flown.
We're not quite convinced -- but given that we've gone almost four months (and some sixty-odd reviews) without covering a piece of American fiction our opinions probably don't carry all that much weight.
Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française has gotten loads of attention -- even if much of it comes for the story around it the work, rather than the books itself.
And the bandwagon keeps growing: a few weeks back Timelisted it among '5 Fine Books You Missed (We Did)', and this week Cathleen McGuigan reviews it in Newsweek.
The Wall Street Journal also recently covered it, in a piece by Robin Moroney (no link to that ridiculously subscription-requiring site) -- titled 'The Tragic Saga Of a French Masterwork'.
It may have been tragic, and a saga (and admittedly hard for a mere work of fiction to compete with), but it's the book that counts people ... read the book !
Paul Theroux has been re-tracing his 1973 trip that resulted in The Great Railway Bazaar, and so he's been interviewed by a variety of Asian papers along the way -- most recently by Parvathi Nayar in The Hindu, in Finding the way home.
See also Kristina Tom's interview in The Star (Malaysia), From Saint to erotica.
This is an exceptional book: big, ambitious and awash with Winterson's usual inventiveness, but not, as the jostling of its big ideas might suggest, too clever by half.
Writing for children seems to have lent warmth to Winterson's voice and the novel is leavened with a kind of loving, godmotherly assurance that makes it not merely impressive but enormously likable, and fun.
Kate Thompson reviewed it in The Guardian a couple of weeks back and wasn't quite as enthusiastic:
Tanglewreck is an ambitious project, wide-ranging and colourful, but it suffers from a lack of discipline and, more seriously, from a lack of credibility.
Yes, it's the same everywhere, with minor variations.
Today's example: Malawi.
In The Nation (Malawi) Herbert Chandilanga asks: is Reading culture lost ?
Malawi’s reading culture is standing on one leg, hobbling as it awaits the worst unless something happens to salvage the situation.
Things have gone bad in recent years.
Locally written and produced books have disappeared from the shelves in bookstores, seeking a haven in dusty storerooms.
Of course, some of the attitudes -- notably the 'blame the reader'-one -- miss the point:
"It’s not that the books are not there, or that publishers are not trying their best.
There are plenty of books.
But what is missing is the demand for the publications.
The book industry must have demand and government can help us create this demand in the people by setting up libraries that would stock these books."
"For instance, we now have an active writers union and the writers in there are a good base of raw materials.
But what we lack is the demand for the books we write.
If the market, in terms of book purchases, doesn’t exist, we will still continue to have many books gather dust in the warehouses.
It is the many books that lie in the stores countrywide without prospects of being bought that get writers frustrated," says Ng’ombe.
Obviously it's a bit more complicated, but the complaint that: "what we lack is the demand for the books we write" ... well, that's really not the place to start (indeed, that's the place where one can say to the Malawian authors and publishers: join the club).
Meanwhile, in The Daily Times Chatinkha Mzaza writes Publishers body in book fair.
There's going to be a National Book Fair 12 to 16 July, with the theme 'Reading for Knowledge and Pleasure'
Among the quotes:
Our libraries are full of donated books which do not say anything on our culture.
This is a challenge for Malawian writers to come up with inspiring works.
Yes, yes, we've seen god knows how many variations on this column, but Robert McCrum's Blurbs fail me in The Observer today -- offering 'The Observer's Guide to What That Blurb Really Means' -- offers a few chuckles.
And we welcome any article that attacks that obscenity that is the blurb and reminds you not to pay the least attention to them.
It's time to pad the book-pages with summer reading lists, and The Times starts things off with Summer Books 2006, recommending some 212 books.
(Hey, it's a slow time of year -- even we're reduced to linking to crap like this .....)