Little known Spanish author Luis Leante was Friday awarded the Alfaguara Spanish literary prize for his novel Mira si yo te querré (See How Much I Love You).
The novel was chosen from 574 entries -- 179 from Spain and 395 from Latin American authors.
The award, announced by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, includes a cash prize of 133,000 (US$175,000) and a work by Spanish sculptor Martin Chirino.
(As we've frequently pointed out, the prize money dwarfs what the Man Booker -- frequently (but wrongly) touted as the richest single-work literary prize in the world -- offers.
Note also that they pick the winner from a far more realistic number of titles -- some five times as many as the Man Booker folk are willing to consider .....)
See also the official announcement -- or Mario Vargas Llosa's comments at YouTube .....
Open Letters is a new online 'Monthly Arts and Literature Review'.
It might be worth keeping an eye on.
Right up our alley: a monthly feature "reviewing the reviewers who review new books".
Here, in Nasty Glitter, John Cotter looks at the reactions to Martin Amis' House of Meetings.
C.K.Stead -- whose work is regrettably hard to find in the US -- is profiled by Nicholas Wroe in Writing in the dark in The Guardian.
(We have a few of Stead's titles under review; see, for example, our review of The Death of the Body.)
The Guardian has a nice Writers' rooms-series; this week: J.G.Ballard's.
(Updated): As a considerably more observant reader alerts us, either Ballard's writing room is remarkably identical to Beryl Bainbridge's, or they goofed with their links at The Guardian (the description of the room is Ballard's, but the picture apparently not ...).
(Updated - 11 March): An astute reader (man, we attract a knowledgeable crowd) has found the link The Guardian, at this time, still hasn't made, pointing us to the actual picture of Ballard's room to go with the article.
Willem Frederik Hermans' Beyond Sleep is due out in the US next month, but meanwhile we're ploughing ahead with coverage of Hermans' other (often still untranslated) work: the most recent addition to the complete review is our review of his De tranen der acacia's.
"Nothing has really changed, he always said the tour was never completely off.
Now he's suggested May, and we're delighted that we were able to find new dates with the organizers fairly quickly," she said.
French publishing has already been thrown into turmoil by the success of the (very rare) agent-represented novel, Les Bienveillantes by Jonathan Littell, and now Josyane Savigneau reports in Le Monde that L'agent américain Andrew Wylie signe avec trois auteurs français.
Who are the lucky (?) three ?
Christine Angot, Philippe Djian, and Florence Hartmann.
Wylie also says that one of the reasons why French literature is not as successful abroad (?) is that the publishers handle the foreign rights sales in-house -- which he obviously doesn't think is a great way of doing things.
So what's the deal with Zygmunt Haupt ?
The Polish author lived 1907-1975; it was just the 100th anniversary of his birth (5 March).
He emigrated to the US in 1947, became an American citizen, and worked for the U.S. Information Agency for 18 years.
His papers are at Stanford.
The Paris Review published some of his stuff in the 1950s, but there doesn't appear to have ever been an English-language edition of any book of his (not that he wrote that much).
But both Suhrkamp and Czarne offer English foreign-rights information about Pierścień z papieru -- and there's more information and an excerpt at Instytut Książki.
(In Das Klirren der Eiswürfel im Wasserglas (link likely short-lived) in the NZZ Ulrich M. Schmid offers an overview of his life.)
Probably worth some publisher's while to have a look .....
The Spring issue of the Middle East Quarterly has two fairly extensive looks at Iran in Books (by Patrick Clawson) and Iraq in Books (by Michael Rubin).
Non-fiction focussed, but not bad as far as introductions to the recent literature go.
The shortlists for the 'Galaxy British Book Awards' have been announced.
(They call themselves: "the Oscars of the publishing industry", and we're surprised the Academy Award folk are letting them get away with that .....)
See also, for example, Paul Kelbie's Kay and Gervais in running for book award in The Independent.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Clayton Eshleman's translation of The Complete Poetry of César Vallejo -- an impressive bilingual edition from the University of California Press.
Sometime this spring, the Los Angeles Times is expected to announce that it is folding its highly esteemed Sunday book review into a new section that will combine books with opinion pieces.
It leaves very few stand-alones out there -- with Trachtenberg focussing on the advertising-issue, as, apparently:
Most newly published books don't get any consumer advertising at all.
Instead, publishers employ publicists to spread the word to readers through interviews, reviews and book signings.
Increasingly, publishers are also using independent bloggers to convey news of new titles, which helps to pinpoint specific interest groups.
He notes that despite the newspaper-review problems::
And there are some who think the stand-alone section has a future -- notably The Philadelphia Inquirer's Frank Wilson (who has also embraced the new and alternative technologies -- see, of course, his weblog Books, Inq.):
Frank Wilson, the paper's book-review editor, says that he has proposed that the paper restore its standalone section.
"I think it's time to relaunch," Mr. Wilson says.
"I don't understand why newspapers, when they want to cut space, they immediately think of depriving people who like to read."
Mr. Wilson says his plan calls for using new technology to franchise such a section to other papers nationwide that could add reviews for local authors.
"I think it will enhance revenue if we can hit 30 cities," he says.
A good idea, we think.
Also of interest in Trachtenberg's article: he notes:
And unlike other advertisers, publishers can't do brand-building: No one buys a book because it comes from Random House or Simon & Schuster.
We'd suggest that, in fact, publishers can brand-build -- and many smaller ones have been very good at it (from, say, City Lights and Dalkey Archive Press to specialty-houses like Vertical).
But, obviously, the mega-houses have pretty much run down any 'brands' they had .....
As we recently mentioned, the American National Endowment for the Arts International Literature Awards recipients were recently announced -- and it's nice to see that the Boston Globe deems that worthy of an editorial comment.
Jean Baudrillard has passed away, which should make for some interesting coverage.
So far, however, very little English-language notice -- Elaine Ganley's Canadian Press French philosopher and social theorist Jean Baudrillard dies is about the extent of it (though much more is sure to follow).
For some French coverage, see:
Back in the 1990s, there were a host of blockbuster novelists.
Their novels easily sold 1 million copies, bringing fat profits to publishers and encouraging ambitious writers to hone their skills for the booming market.
The boom, however, became a downturn in the past decade and it's difficult for a single novel -- even from top-rated writers -- to sell more than 100,000 copies, much less a million.
What's going on ?
The latest spring edition of World Literature, a literary quarterly published by Minumsa, argues that novels in general do face a fatal crisis.
Korean novels, it says, are struggling to survive -- a situation whose root cause traces back to writers ignoring the drastic change in literary trends.
Lev Aslanovitch Tarasoff -- better known as Henri Troyat -- passed away on 4 March.
A member of the Académie française (fauteuil 28) since 1959 (!) he wrote a staggering number of books.
See, for example, the obituary in The Times.
First Richard Branson sold (90 per cent of) Virgin Books to Random House.
A day later he gets a £ 1 million advance for a five-book deal with ... Random House.
Draw your own conclusions (and surely there is only one conceivable conclusion .....)
Not that Branson probably cares about such (relatively, to him) trivial sums.
Still, you'd figure if anybody thought Branson-authored tomes were worth anything at all Virgin Books might have signed him up long before the deal went through (or, for that matter, Random House ...).
We hope the authorities take a good hard look at this.
For the story, see, for example, Branson signs £1m deal with Random House to write five books by Saeed Shah in The Independent.
Alas, only in German, but the NZZ has an interesting interview with Ukrainian author Yuri Andrukhovych (or Juri Andruchowytsch, as they have it), as Ulrich M. Schmid and Andreas Breitenstein talk to him in Am Ende der Maskenspiele.
See also, for example, our reviews of Andrukhovych's two translated-into-English works, Perverzion and Recreations.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of 2000 Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian making The Case for Literature.
This came out in Australia last year (from the local HarperCollins, no less), but now Yale University Press is bringing out in the US/UK.
The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance prevented 16 publications from Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan from participating in the 20th Tehran International Book Fair
Ah, yes, that much-loved 'Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance' .....
(Who the hell ever came up with the idea of putting 'culture' and 'Islamic guidance' together ?)
But, of course:
According to the ministry’s international affairs deputy, the ministry is duty-bound to avoid the participation of those publishers that promote superstition and untrue religious issues and damage the unity in the world of Islam.
Newsweek continues its enjoyable 'A Life In Books' series, asking various authors about the 'five most important books' to them.
This time it's Harold Bloom's turn -- and more interesting than his top-five is his answer to being asked to name: "An Important Book that you admit you haven't read":
I cannot think of a major work I have not ingested.
Hard not to admire the guy's chutzpah .....
(But also: hard to take anyone who would say something like that seriously .....)
The Japan Times has an interview with Akutagawa and Bungei prize-winning young author Aoyama Nanae, Office worker takes exalted literary status in her stride.
She won the Akutagawa Prize for Hitori biyori ('Being Alone') -- with the unlikely pairing of Murakami Ryu and Ishihara Shintaro on the selection committee that chose the winner.
The Times reports on a Waterloo sunset, with one of the saddest opening paragraphs we've recently come across:
John Calder, publisher of 19 winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature, sits in overcoat and scarf in his windowless basement office in Waterloo, contemplating the end of his 60 years in the book business.
Among the chaos of paper on his desk is a letter informing him that his rent is about to rise to £20,000 a year.
He last published a new title four years ago, no longer actively sells his list and sells only a few thousand pounds-worth of books in a good month.
Under pressure, he is about to sell the rights in his most valuable author, Samuel Beckett.
Fascinating to see how enthusiastically all this top ten talk has been received, culminating (for this week) in the World Book Day (in the UK and Ireland) stunt to determine The ten books you can't live without.
Among the interesting things about this exercise is, as Sarah Crown observed in Books poll rounds up usual suspects at the Guardian blog, how very predictable the results are.
(Pride and Prejudice came out tops, named by one out of five; see the top 100 at The Guardian.)
Unsurprisingly, English-language books dominate this British/Irish list: the Bible is the highest-ranked translated work (at number 6) -- and most folk presumably mean the King James version, which is about as standard an English text as there is.
(After that the next translated work -- War and Peace -- comes in in 24th place.)
(Updated - 3 March): See now also Sam Leith Dismissing the list at his weblog.
Meanwhile, the collection of author-picked top ten lists edited by J.Peder Zane, The Top Ten, has garnered a lot of attention in both the US and now the UK (most recently with a review in the New Statesman).
And reader-interest appears to be great too: we only put up our review in February, but it cracked our top-fifteen of most popular reviews of the month -- exceptional for a new review.
William Gass' classic, The Tunnel, has now been translated into French (as Le Tunnel) by Claro (whose Electric Flesh was recently brought out by Soft Skull; see their publicity page).
Le Cherche Midi brought it out (see their publicity page) -- in a series with the Pynchonesque name 'Lot 49'.
Pierre Assouline reports on the publication (with pictures !) at his weblog, la République des livres, in William H. Gass et le fascisme du coeur.
The Mellon fellowship will support a thorough revision of that translation, featuring the conversion into the now standard Romanization of Chinese characters, a new scholarly introduction and updated annotations.
In The New York Sun Benjamin Lytal reviews Christa Wolf's One Day a Year, just out from Europa editions (see their publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk (or get the German original from Amazon.de)).
A neat idea -- an account of her 27 September every year, for four decades -- and good to see it out in translation.
Hungarian Literature Online is one of the better national literary websites offering information about still-untranslated local literature.
See now, for example, Time for total art, reviewing Szécsi Noémi's recent novel, Kommunista Monte Cristo ('A Communist Monte Cristo').
(See also the Tericum publicity page.)
Martin Amis is out promoting his new novel, House of Meetings, and so he's getting coverage all over -- see, for example, Simon Houpt's profile in The Globe and Mail.
Fortunately Robert Birnbaum's latest interview with Amis is now also available.