New York Review Books, the book-publishing arm of the well-respected journal, wasn't the original publisher of any of these -- Fearing's dates from 1946, Baker's from 1962, Leigh Fermor's from 1977 and Chatterjee's from 1988 -- but it reissued them as part of its list of about 200 titles now available.
This series bids fair to be the most interesting reissue series of our lifetimes.
One of the series' signatures -- consistent with the generally retro look of the book designs -- is that they are classically sized paperbacks.
Their size and trim, usually associated with mass-market books, enable you to take them wherever you want, tucked into your back pocket (which is what I do).
In fact, they are slightly larger than traditional mass-market size, but still better than the currently popular (and ridiculously over-sized) trade-paperback size ......
As has also been widely noted, NYRB now also has a weblog -- A Different Stripe: "Notes from NYRB Classics".
Time Out (NY) is 'Critiquing the Critics' -- including (some of) New York's literary critics.
(The New York Times' representative -- the Kakutani and Janet Maslin -- do not fare particularly well.)
Local barkeep M.A.Orthofer was one of the panelists; others weighing in on the book critics presumably included: Jonathan Franzen, Dennis Loy Johnson, Ben Marcus, and Rick Moody.
(See also the Critical Mass mention.)
Time Out (NY) also recently had a look at the small presses that make a greater effort to publish fiction in translation, as Michael Miller looks at what's Found in translation (the Time Out (NY) folk having apparently missed Bookninja's declaration of "an absolute moratorium on the use of the headline" (which we wholeheartedly endorse)).
Among the quotes:
FSG editor Lorin Stein suggests that a little can go a long way.
He has worked on books by Americans (Lydia Davis, Sam Lipsyte) and international authors (Bouillier and Bolaño), and for him, it’s reading, not translation, that publishers should focus on.
"This vague idea that reading things in translation is like eating your vegetables -- it’s good for you—is terrible," he says.
"It makes much more sense to talk about individual writers you love than to say, ‘You should go out and buy books by Chileans or Germans.’"
Stein has a point.
Perhaps the only reason to pick up Dalkey’s recent translation of Anita Konkka's A Fool’s Paradise -- a spare, chilly buzzkill -- is that it may be the only book you’ll ever read by a Finnish author.
Stein does have a point -- but we'd argue for the Konkka, and, indeed, that a lot more worthwhile stuff (a lot) can be found abroad.
The Finlandia-palkinto (Finlandia Literature Prize) has gone to Där vi en gång gått by Kjell Westö; see also the report at Helsingin Sanomat, Finlandia Literature Prize goes to Kjell Westö.
What's noteworthy about this ?
Just like last year, when Bo Carpelan picked it up (for the second time), Finland's biggest literary prize goes to a book written in Swedish.
Swedish is a widely spoken minority language in Finland, but this is still comparable to a Spanish-language book winning one of the big American book prizes (except it wouldn't be eligible, because the biggest require entered books to be written in English ...).
See also the FILI page on Westö.
The French government was apparently so embarrassed when Jonathan Littell -- an American ! -- won the prix Goncourt for Les Bienveillantes that now, after turning him down twice previously (when he was a mere relief worker), they've granted him French citizenship.
(Funny how a big prize and some international acclaim can grease the wheels of bureaucracy .....)
See, for example, the brief report at L'Express.
No word whether or not he's giving up his American citizenship (the French probably won't make him, permitting dual-citizenship), but there are certainly a few good reasons for him to do so -- first and foremost the added notoriety and publicity it'll get him in the US (especially if he frames his decision as a political one, as he can readily afford to do now), which would certainly help sales of his book.
But the prime reason is surely the tax situation he otherwise faces: Americans are (above a certain level -- which he has catapulted over) taxed abroad (almost no one else is), and given his new tax bracket that's a huge double-taxation hit he'd be taking.
On the downside: if he travels to the US for the book-tour on a French passport he'll no doubt face all sorts of complications with the INS -- if they hassle Ian McEwan (as they recently did), surely they'd hassle him too .....
Meanwhile, there's yet another English-language review of Les Bienveillantes, this time in the New Statesman -- finding:
Littell's novel is not the most interesting or original of the books published in the rentrée littéraire 2006 (for me, this would probably be Dans la Foule by Laurent Mauvignier, an account of the Heysel disaster of 1985 from the point of view of football fans), but in some ways it is the most timely.
And, in more Littell-related news, Le Monde continues a recent French trend of paying too much attention to literary agents (i.e. any), as Jean-Pierre Langellier profiles Littell's agent in Andrew Nurnberg, agent bienveillant.
Al-Ahram Weekly prints the first Naguib Mahfouz Memorial Lecture, Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer's Witness: the inward testimony, which she delivered a few days ago.
It's part of Naguib Mahfouz Celebration Week, which will also include the 11 December Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature Award Ceremony.
In The K File – number one Hungarian Literature Online gives an overview of the German critical reactions to Nobel laureate Kertész Imre's memoir, K. dosszié, which recently came out in German and is doing very well there.
(Should we even bother asking about the status of any English translation ?
Of whether anyone has even bought the rights ?)
Orhan Pamuk has arrived in Stockholm (the first literature prize winner to make it in three years, so that's already something) -- see, for example the dpa report (here at Raw Story), Turkish writer Pamuk arrives for Nobel prize ceremony.
Pamuk will be delivering his Nobel lecture, 'Babamin bavulu' ('My Father's Suitcase'), today at 17:30 CMT; you can catch it live (and the English transcript) at that link.
The audience at Production Workshop's "The Flies," which is slated to run from Dec. 8 through Dec. 11, will feature an element perhaps more appropriate for the hit NBC show "Fear Factor."
As they gather to watch Jean-Paul Sartre's 1943 adaptation of the Greek drama "The Oresteia," audience members will be surrounded by 30,000 live fruit flies.
The flies were bred specifically for the production by Sara Naylor '07, a biochemistry and molecular biology concentrator, Rutherford said.
The flies will circulate within a box tent made of netting -- a small space that will also enclose the audience and the 7 feet by 7 feet stage.
The effect will immerse audience members and draw them into the action onstage, Rutherford said.
"The audience is actively participating in the symbolism of the play," he said.
"They are the citizens of Argos."
Stage-fly-breeder -- there's a job .....
But does the ASPCA know about this ?
In the end, not everyone will survive the performance.
"Yes, the flies will die," he said, noting that they only had a week to live anyway.
But he added that "they're getting to see live theater. How many flies can say that ?"
But we do look forward to the reviews and audience-reports -- this has all the makings of a complete and very messy disaster.
A few weeks ago we reviewed what is perhaps the major Dutch 19th century novel, Multatuli's Max Havelaar, and now the most recent addition to the complete review is our review of the (very different) major Finnish 19th century novel, Aleksis Kivi's Seven Brothers
How big is Kivi ?
Apparently Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden päivä ('Finnish Literature Day') is also Aleksis Kivi-Day.
It's recently been released in a new translation too, by Richard Impola from Finnish-specialists, Aspasia Books, and maybe we should have waited for that version; the Alex Matson translation -- half a century old by now -- is certainly ... unusual.
(Our edition -- published by The American-Scandinavian Foundation ! -- is also quite possibly the single most physically hideous book we've read all year.
No wonder the novel never really caught on .....)
Sorry about that headline, but the whole McEwan-'plagiarism' story is so silly we haven't even bothered mentioning it until now -- but once 'reclusive' Thomas P. gets involved, it's hard to resist.
(Though we have to wonder: doesn't he have better things to do ? Couldn't he be out promoting his new book ? Give a reading at the local B & N ? Of all the non-issues to get involved in he chooses this one ?)
Yes, the Daily Telegraph has the scoop -- and the letter --: see Nigel Reynolds' Recluse speaks out to defend McEwan -- and click on the letter to read Pynchon's own (?) words.
The letter is, of course, the most interesting part of the story -- not what Pynchon writes, but the fact that it looks typewritten (maybe he really is a Luddite) and that he can't even afford (well: bother with) paper with a letterhead.
As to the McEwan 'affair':
In an extraordinary campaign launched yesterday, many of the world's best known authors rallied around McEwan, complaining that the future of historical novel-writing was threatened if they could not copy or borrow details from eyewitnesses to history.
We're baffled that anyone is taking this seriously enough to bother rallying around -- and even if the question is worth discussing, surely McEwan's case is among the most benign and uninteresting.
Oh, we tried to hold our tongues, but we just can't:
The New York Times Book Review100 Notable Books of the Year list has been available online for a while now, but it just appeared in print in the 3 December issue -- and with it the 'Up Front'-editors' note is now available (albeit -- unlike the list itself -- cookie enabled and registration requiring to access; sorry -- though of course it's this shite site that should apologise for these shenanigans), offering a bit of background and explanation -- including the 'observation':
One last point: This year’s selections divide evenly between fiction and nonfiction (last year’s list favored nonfiction by three to two).
This indicates, most obviously, that the past 12 months have been an especially strong period for fiction.
But it also suggests, perhaps, that novelists and short-story writers have begun to rediscover the uses of narrative and to find new ways of making their imagined creations more relevant to our complicated moment.
The divide is not, in fact, 50-50, since they slip a few (four, by our count) volumes of poetry on the fiction list, but okay, it's pretty close.
Recall, however, that the 100 notable are all selected from books reviewed in the NYTBR (yes, by definition, books they don't review can't possibly be 'notable') -- and this is where we begin to fume.
Because, as we've pointed out ad nauseum, Sam Tanenhaus doesn't much like assigning fiction for review -- and assigns a lot less than he does works of non-fiction.
Let's just consider the number of full-length reviews devoted to individual (adult) titles in the last three issues:
19 November: 3 works of fiction (including such serious and significant works of literature as The Godfather's Revenge by Mark Winegardner) v. 11 works of non-fiction
26 November: 2 works of fiction (plus one fiction-anthology, and the 'Crime'-round-up) v. 4 works of non-fiction (as well as one three-for-one review)
3 December: 5 works of fiction (plus a comics-anthology) v. 24 works of fiction (plus at least 7 reviews of multiple titles)
(There are also a few poetry titles in these issues, but that's a whole different issue ....)
Total: 10 full-length reviews devoted to individual adult fiction titles v. 39 full-length reviews devoted to individual adult non-fiction titles.
Anyone notice a slight disparity there ?
(Toss in the multiple-book reviews and the disparity is even bigger.)
So someone has got to explain to us how these editors (oh, come on, it's all Sam's bad influence ...) can write with a straight face "that the past 12 months have been an especially strong period for fiction" and then still not bother to review any -- or anywhere near an appropriate amount (or percentage) of the stuff.
It's amazing enough that they'd admit fiction is worth taking at all seriously -- so when is this (obvious) insight going to be reflected in their coverage ?
(Our guess: not as long as Tanenhaus is anywhere near in charge.)
Widely linked to, Genevieve Tucker writes at some length on the literary weblogging phenomenon, in Online, everyone's a critic.
It's part of the current issue of the Australian Literary Review, which, a few issues in, seems to be doing very nicely, suggesting expanded book coverage is still possible and worthwhile in the print media.
We certainly approve.
(See also, for example, Lindsay Tanner defending his reading habits in Pleasure between the covers.)
We don't know how much translation prizes help in getting more literature translated (and/or more attention for what is translated) but they can't hurt, and so we're big fans of, for example, the TLS translation prizes (awarded for translations from a variety of specific languages) -- as well as the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize, probably the single most prestigious one of all (see the list of past winners) .
Unfortunately, there's not that much press focus on these, so we're glad to do our small part and spread what news we can -- in this case the call for submissions for the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize:
Entries are invited for the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize 2007.
The £2000 Prize is for book-length translations of fiction, poetry or drama into English from any living European language.
Entries for the 2007 prize must have been published for the first time in the calendar year 2006, and must be distributed in the UK.
They must be submitted by the publisher by 31st January 2007.
Further details of how to enter can be obtained from Sandra Madley, Office of the Principal, St Anne’s College, Oxford OX2 6HS, or from email@example.com.
This year Robert McCrum, literary editor of the Observer, joins the judging panel alongside Oxford academics and translators Matthew Reynolds (chair), Caroline Warman, and Chris Miller.
The shortlist will be announced on 8th May, and the Prize will be awarded at an event at St Anne’s College, Oxford on 6th June.
The prize is sponsored by St Anne’s College, New College and The Queen’s College, Oxford, and by Lord Weidenfeld.
Submit, publishers, submit !
And translators: remind your publishers to submit !
(And it's good to see a leading literary editor like McCrum get involved -- and we hope a column or two about his judging-experiences will also result out of this.)
Among the many writers who have written endings for the book, Hu Nan is the youngest.
Because of her age, she can better understand the feelings of the characters in the book and write down their destinies.
Well, it will hit (Chinese) bookstores in January.
No need to rush the translation .....
B.R.Myers is best known for A Reader's Manifesto, which caused quite the stir a few years ago, but his specialty is North Korean literature and his first publication was a revised version of his doctoral thesis on The Failure of Socialist Realism in the DPRK, Han Sorya and North Korean Literature -- our review of which is now the most recent addition to the complete review.
It is true that modern prose and verse need to be placed in perspective but who precisely are these placers ?
Comments on contemporary literary output warrant a sparse 300-500 words in newsprint, appear under bylines of dubious origins and stress the absence of any formal training school for critics.
A book page is the newspaper's cover-up of its corporate concerns with a pseudo-cultural cough.
The space so sacred that nuances are martyred in the marvellous new world of cut-paste editing and the ensuing sloppy scribbles served sunny side down.
Most criticism is an exercise in vanity, a bid to showcase the critic's mastery of language than any real desire to taketh from the plot what the plot can giveth.
The three things he will not do are: evaluate author's work vis-a-vis previous writings, describe context, genre or milieu, admit to drunken hangover while writing of review.
As we mentioned yesterday, other than a few journalists nobody showed up when Orhan Pamuk returned home for the first time after being named this year's Nobel laureate -- but at least he has one fan there: in Turkish Daily News Yüksel Söylemez (see also his homepage) offers A salute to Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, writing:
Turkey must be profusely grateful to him and should be truly proud of this greatly cherished and outstandingly unique distinction given to him.
But rather than enjoying this extremely rare honor and literary privilege, alas Turkey's intellectual elite questioned whether he merited the prize or not.
He does seem to get a bit ahead of himself (or at least ahead of Pamuk's booksales ...), writing:
Orhan Pamuk was teaching at Columbia University in New York when the news reached him in the middle of the night, via his New York publishers who have already made a profit of $ 50 million from his novels, less than 10 percent of which went to him.
Pamuk's books have sold a record number of 1 million in Turkey alone.
We'd be surprised if Pamuk's American publishers had grossed anywhere near 50 million with his books, much less made that kind of profit .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Sir Walter Lamb's translation of Heliodorus' Αιθιοπικά, Ethiopian Story -- one of the earliest surviving novels.
(Surprisingly, it doesn't appear to be available in a (bilingual) Loeb edition -- perhaps the single major missing work in that great series.)
The Washington Post have announced their Book World's 10 Best of the Year.
We don't have a single of these titles under review, though we plan to cover what we consider their most intriguing choice, Ferdowsi's Shahnameh.
As pleased as we are that they chose that title, we note that it's not exactly a new book.
We don't mean the fact that it's an eleventh century-text, but rather that even the translation (by Dick Davis) isn't (brand)new: the new edition collects three volumes originally published in 1997, 2000, and 2004 by Mage Publishers -- only no one seemed to take the slightest bit of notice when they first came out.
Yes, having the 'right' (and major) publisher -- in this case Viking -- apparently makes a big difference.
True, the Mage volumes were ridiculously expensive (see their publicity pages for volumes one, two, and three), and the Viking volume, though also not cheap, brings them all conveniently together, but it still is disappointing that Mage didn't get more credit and the books didn't get immediate notice .....
Still, better late than never.
In Meeting Mr. Narayan in The Hindu Swedish writer Zac O'Yeah (yeah, a Google-search suggests that's really his name) recounts his encounter with the great Indian writer in 1998, apparently one of the last interviews R.K.Narayan gave.
When Orhan Pamuk flew to Istanbul for the first time since winning the Nobel prize, he was greeted by no one.
Orhan Pamuk won a Nobel Prize last month and has come to Turkey for the first time now after a month and a half.
No one picked him up from the airport.
He waited one hour for his luggage; and read newspapers in the meantime.
We're not big on cults-of-the-personality, and Pamuk doesn't seem to like too much attention anyway, so this is probably for the best -- but it's still a bit disappointing that the Turks aren't more pleased by one of their own being honoured by this prize.
In The Australian Rosemary Neill "charts the abandonment of Oz lit" in the lengthy piece, Lost for words.
Especially at the university level things are apparently not going well down under -- or, at least, domestic literature isn't considered a high priority:
When Pierce leaves James Cook, the University of Sydney will host the nation's only remaining chair in Australian literature.
Sydney is the sole tertiary institution where undergraduates can major in Australian literature.
Yet recently, there were moves within the university to undermine the chair and the teaching of Australian literature as a separate subject.
And most disappointingly:
Today, Australia's only literary Nobel laureate is unfashionable again on Australian campuses.
(That would be the great Patrick White, of course.)
But at least it seems to be more highly regarded abroad (or so they think ...).
The flood of reviews of Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day continues apace (see, of course, our review, where we continue to track them), with new reviews today in, for example, The Times or yesterday in The Economist and the Financial Times.
German-language coverage has also been impressive, from radio-exchanges about the early review-reactions (Denis Scheck and Karin Fischer at Deutschlandfunk) to actual reviews -- Peter Körte's in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung and Angela Schader's in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (link likely only short-lived).
The FASz-review also notes that the German translation of Against the Day is due out from Rowohlt in the spring of 2008, and that they expect it to be 1800 pages long (!).
(No word on the translator(s) or the German title.)
In his Salon-column in The Moscow Times Victor Sonkin considers whether: "the Big Book can take the Booker's place as Russia's No. 1 literary award."
See also the official sites for the Большая книга ('Big Book') award and the Русский Букер ('Russian Booker').
We finally got around to reviewing Alaa Al Aswany's The Yacoubian Building.
Solid enough that we can even look past what is probably the most disturbing description of sexual intercourse we have come across all year:
The rose opened to the touch of his fingers and he watered it more than once till it was quenched.