So, as we've mentioned and surely often displayed on these pages, we have little understanding about how the publishing industry 'works' -- but of course we're always eager to learn.
Today's case study is in an area of particular interest to us: translated fiction.
The three most recent additions to the complete review are our reviews of three novels by Cuban author Leonardo Padura Fuentes, all starring policeman-turned-PI (and wannabe writer) Mario Conde:
The first two came out in English in 2005, the third in 2006.
Canongate published Adiós Hemingway, foreign-mystery specialist Bitter Lemon Press the other two.
Canongate and BLP used different translators (John King and Peter Bush, respectively) -- regrettable for the lack of consistency, but certainly understandable (and, alas, very common practise).
But it's a few other things that really makes us scratch our heads:
1.) Adiós Hemingway is ascribed to 'Leonardo Padura Fuentes'; the other two to 'Leonardo Padura'.
We're not sure why he/they dropped the Fuentes in the one case, but it's the same guy, and in both cases can and should be filed under "P" (think Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa, etc.).
We'd like to have faith in the local Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, etc. shelvers, but somehow suspect that the one book will be found under "F" as often as not.
And it's not like they're the only ones who would make that mistake: Michael Dibdin reviewed the book in The Guardian and refers to the author simply as "Fuentes".
Some confusion with the double-last-name is perhaps inevitable, but it certainly would have helped if all the books were ascribed to one version or the other of the name ...
2.) There's an author's note at the beginning of Adiós Hemingway that explains:
That story of Mario Conde's last detective adventure appears in the novel Autumn Landscape, ending the 'Four Seasons' cycle that also includes Perfect Tense, Lent Winds and Masks, written between 1990 and 1997.
Okay, this book was published (in English) shortly before Havana Red, but surely Canongate and BLP were aware of each other's publishing plans.
But any reader who enjoyed Adiós Hemingway and then looks for the 'Four Seasons'-series will likely not find themselves pointed in the right direction.
Everywhere else it is billed as the 'Havana quartet', and the two titles BLP has so far brought out don't go by the titles mentioned here, but rather Havana Red and Havana Black.
Couldn't someone have gotten this story straight ?
3.) Speaking of getting the story straight: BLP admirably is bringing out Padura Fuentes' 'Havana quartet', a.k.a. the 'Four Seasons' cycle.
It introduces Lieutenant Mario Conde and offers four episodes of his police career, one for each season of a single year (at the end of which Conde leaves the force).
They've brought out two volumes so far, the volumes we now have under review.
Yet incredibly they don't start at the beginning, but rather with volume three (Masks/Havana Red) and then follow it (at least in order !) with volume four (Autumn Landscape/ Havana Black).
Is this the most user-friendly method approach ?
Wouldn't starting at the beginning be preferable ?
We sure would have thought so.
(Hey, that's what they did with the French and German editions.)
So is it just us or does this seem like a really poor approach to popularizing this author ?
In fact, could one do it any worse ?
A few days ago we mentioned that Durs Grünbein's collection Ashes for Breakfast was now available in the UK in an edition from Faber (after FSG brought it out in the US last year).
A reader now informs us that shockingly the Faber version does not include the German originals facing the English translation (as the FSG edition does).
We're big fans of the two-language approach, especially of poetry, and often find it useful even when we're not familiar with the original language, so we think this is a horrible, horrible misstep on the part of Faber.
For like-minded readers who purchase their books via Amazon.co.uk we helpfully point out that, last we checked the Faber edition was listed at:
Saqi Books is bringing out Lebanon, Lebanon at the end of the month, an anthology with a hell of an impressive list of contributors (and all the proceeds are for a good cause, too).
See their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
the tanjara also has some additional information (and presumably there will be some press coverage, at least in the UK papers, in the next week or two).
In the current issue of The New York Review of Books Anthony Grafton writes on the I Tatti Renaissance Library in Rediscovering a Lost Continent.
The I Tatti Renaissance Library is "designed to make the most important Latin works of the Italian Renaissance available to a wider audience".
Good stuff that we hope to eventually get to too, at least in part -- though there are quite a few other classical series we hope to get to first .....
However eclectic Chávez's taste in books might appear, there is one constant on his bookshelf.
Chávez often refers to maxims by military or guerrilla leaders, admiring their rise to power through the barrel of a gun.
Glad to see the books have had such a civilizing effect on the guy .....
Friday was the 250th anniversary of Karl Philipp Moritz's birth.
He was one of those authors Arno Schmidt championed, and there's been a nice resurgence of interest in his work over the past few decades.
At the Stadtbibliothek Hannover they have an exhibition to mark the occasion, and Jochen Stöckmann talks with Christof Wingertszahn about the author at Deutschlandradio.
More impressively, in Die Zeit Benedikt Erenz offers 10 Gründe, Karl Philipp Moritz zu lesen ('Ten reasons to read KPM').
For a (German) biography and German texts available online, set the Gutenberg KPM page; not much of his work appears to have been translated into English, but Travels in England in 1782 is available online.
The big French literary prizes are all awarded at about the same time in the fall, one after another, and the first longlists are out now: see who made the first cut for the Goncourt, Renaudot, and Médicis.
(Some of these prizes go through several rounds: long, shorter, and shortest lists .....)
The big winners: everybody's hot tip, Jonathan Littell's Les Bienveillantes (see our previous mention) and Alain Fleischer's L'Amant en culottes courtes, which both went three for three.
Something of a surprise: Amélie Nothomb's Journal d’Hirondelle made the longlist of the most prestigious prize, the Goncourt, but was ignored by the other two.
(The Nothomb is currently the number two bestselling novel in France, the Littell the runaway number one.)
For those who want to follow absolutely all the French prizes and announcements, the very useful prix-litteraires.net site now has a weblog, Prix-Litteraires: Le blog.
(Where's the US/UK equivalent ?)
Jonathan Weiss' Irène Némirovsky: Her Life and Works is due out about now; see the Stanford University Press publicity page or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
In Behind the Legend at Nextbook Paul La Farge (sort of) looks at it -- though his focus is on Némirovsky's life rather than Weiss' book (link first seen at Maud Newton).
Certainly Némirovsky's death overshadows the life that preceded it, making it hard to think of her as anything but a tragic figure, a martyr, perhaps even a kind of Jewish saint.
And yet, as Jonathan Weiss's new biography shows, for most of her life Némirovsky wasn't any of these things.
This isn't exactly news -- see our previous mention, as well as Alice Kaplan's very useful Love in the Ruins in The Nation, where she notes:
That book [David Golder] became a well-known film in the 1930s, but it also made Némirovsky the darling of the anti-Semitic right, who celebrated her portrait of a Jewish profiteer and lauded her for her "pure" prose style (this detail, gleaned from an admiring review by the virulently anti-Semitic writer Robert Brasillach, is cut from the English-language version of Anissimov's original French preface).
(The attempt by the American publisher to shape the image of Némirovsky by outrageously editing out these inconvenient facts seems to have worked quite well .....)
La Farge also writes:
Némirovsky's "discomfort" with respect to her own identity mars David Golder, and clouds Suite Française, despite the fact that not a single Jew appears in the novel, nor a single concentration camp.
We'll certainly try and get our hand on a copy of Weiss' book soon -- and we're also going to try to cover a few more Némirovsky titles .....
As soon as the jury had announced their shortlist the media began extensively covering authors they had otherwise ignored.
Most importantly, the prize made waves internationally and numerous international publishing houses started making inquiries about translations and the rights to the books.
But it's still an uphill battle for zum Hingst, who said the word hasn't spread far enough.
Ion Trewin for example, director of the renowned Man Booker Prize, had never heard of the award.
Ironically, the German Book Prize was closely modelled on this very prize.
Disappointing observations all around -- from the fact that it takes a prize to get publishers (who really should know better than to believe that prizes really guarantee either excellence or (foreign) sales success) interested, as well as the general ignorance on the part of those associated with the Man Booker with anything to do with literature (though that's hardly surprising ...).
See also Finalists Announced for German Book Prize.
Yes, yes, they've announced the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2006 shortlist.
The only title we have under review is Hisham Matar's In the Country of Men (which we did not consider a strong candidate -- but who the hell knows what their criteria are).
Presumably there will be considerable fuss about the overlooked titles, as several 'favourites' from the longlist missed the cut.
A new literary prize, sure to get considerable attention: the Sobol Award, which promises $ 100,000 to the winner.
Among the requirements: it has to be an unpublished manuscript, and the author can't have a literary agent.
Oh, right, submitters must also: "pay a one-time non-refundable registration fee of $ 85 by credit card only" .....
Registration and entry will be closed on the earlier to occur of (a) once 50,000 Entries are received or (b) 11:59:59 pm EST December 31, 2006.
Note that if they get 50,000 entries they should make a tidy profit (they would take in $ 4,250,000, which should cover all their costs).
Of course, if they get 50,000 submissions (minimum length 50,000 words !) you have to wonder how they'll be able to judge them .....
(But since we complain about how few books are allowed to compete for most 'literary' prizes (the Man Booker had a pathetic 112 entries this year !) we can't complain too much about this.)
Note also that:
The Sobol Literary Agency will represent the winning novels, present them to publishers and negotiate the best possible contracts.
It will be mandatory for the writers to sign a representation agreement (...) in order to pass from the semi-final to the final round.
And what are they looking for ?
Manuscripts will be judged on plot, characters, writing style, setting, opening, dialog, and originality, with equal weight given to each
Sure, theoretically we agree that everybody should be able to have their say on whatever they want, but it's stuff like this that really makes us wish once again that authors would stick to writing fiction and otherwise just shut up: as Reuters (and all the German papers) reports: Austrian writer Handke slams Grass for SS past:
"He is a disgrace to all writers," Handke told the Austrian weekly News in an interview due for publication on Thursday.
Apparently he's pissed that Grass is getting all the attention now, after he had dominated the news so long with his various 'issues' this year.
We got a nice pile of books from the American University in Cairo Press recently -- great looking stuff, our only dilemma being: where to start.
An obvious (and, it turned out, good) start was Denys Johnson-Davies' memoir of A Life Between the Lines Of Arabic Literature (complete with (brief) introduction by Naguib Mahfouz), Memories in Translation -- see now our review
But the point is, of course, to be exposed to some actual Arabic literature, and the first thing we reached for -- Sonallah Ibrahim's Zaat (see our review) -- also did not disappoint.
A lot more to get to -- so you should be seeing reviews of Arabic titles here all fall.
The Sep/Oct/Nov issue of Bookforum is now online (well, parts of it -- though a pretty decent selection).
There's no mention or evidence on the site itself yet, but the print issue has an ad promising "more Bookforum online !" and a fall "relaunch of bookforum.com".
Among the promised new bits: 'guest blogs' ("writers and critics on books and culture"), 'cultural and literary news', and even ... horoscopes.
We can do without the horoscopes, but the rest sounds very promising.
We look forward to it, and hope they get things started soon !
They took a few days longer than the Man Booker to announce their longlist, but they've gotten to the shortlist first: the German Book Prize 2006 has announced the six titles that remain in contention.
The winner will be announced 2 October.
The September/October issue of World Literature Today is now available online; as usual all the content is freely accessible, but it's in the horrific pdf format -- if you're willing to put up with that (and the issue is almost worth it), click on the articles at the table of contents page.
It's 'The Censorship Issue', with a special section on 'Censorship in the 21st century', but there are also other goodies, including the usual reviews of a variety of international literature and pieces such as Tiina Nunnally on Removing the Grime from Scandinavian Classics: Translation as Art Restoration and William Atkinson on The Perils of World Literature.
Like we said: worth suffering even the frustration of the pdf-pages -- but better yet: get yourself a subscription (6 issues, 20 bucks (in the US) -- sounds like a good deal) !
(No, we don't get a commission ... not even a free subscription ... but if you're interested in 'world literature' it is among the most valuable resources out there.)
Very few books get reviewed or discussed in the major American media outlets that haven't been translated into English yet; Günter Grass' Beim Häuten der Zwiebel ('Peeling the Onion') is a rare exception that has actually gotten quite exceptional coverage -- with Ian Buruma's review in The New Yorker the latest entry.
Somewhat lost in the scandal is the fact that Grass has written a memoir of rare literary beauty.
(Which is not what many of the other reviewers have been saying ......)
Bonus observation: The New Yorker is allegedly fastidious in its attention to copy-detail -- spelling, etc.
For shame, then, that they misspell the title of Grass' book, misplacing the umlaut (they write: 'Beim Haüten der Zwiebel').
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Ronald Dworkin's Principles for a New Political Debate, Is Democracy Possible Here ?.
An excerpt, Three Questions for America, in the current issue of The New York Review of Books is far from representative, but it should be interesting to follow the reactions to the book as they appear.
The movie version of Patrick Süskind's Perfume -- "the most successful German novel, among both German and international readers, since Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front - 15 million copies published worldwide" -- is coming out in Germany this week, and in Der Spiegel Urs Jenny wonders at considerable length whether it was Worth the Wait ?
See also the official site, see the Random House publicity page for the book, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
His name is still among the most reviled around, but Aftenpostenreport (in English) that Norwegian Nazi front-man Vidkun Quisling's Universism will be published by juritzen forlag:
Quisling, who was Norway's head of government during the Nazi occupation, had high ambitions as an author and thinker.
His ambitious work on what he called "Universism" aimed to "ignite a new light for mankind".
There's a Record participation in The National Book Prize in Malta -- "162 books have been presented ".
And it seems they have almost as many categories .....
("Novels and short stories in Maltese: 9 books, Novels and short stories in another language: 1 book", etc.)