They've announced the finalists for the 2008 Kiriyama Prize -- five each in fiction and non.
The Kiriyama is one of those peculiar regional prizes -- "established in 1996 to recognize outstanding books about the Pacific Rim and South Asia that encourage greater mutual understanding of and among the peoples and nations of this vast and culturally diverse region.
Despite, the regional limitations we're big fans, for two reasons.
First, they're willing to consider books in translation, which many prizes aren't.
And second, they're exemplary in letting everyone know which books are actually in the running for the prize: see their lists of the books submitted in both the fiction and the non categories.
It's incomprehensible to us why other prizes -- first and foremost the ultra-secretive Man Booker, with its strict limitations on what books they'll consider -- aren't equally open and forthcoming.
After all, surely the only way to judge whether a prize is worth anything is to see who is in the running for it.
So kudos to the Kiriyama Prize ! and let's see everyone else follow suit !
We have two of the finalists under review, both in the fiction category: I Love Dollars by Zhu Wen and Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones.
They've announced that Chiquita by Antonio Orlando Rodríguez has been awarded the 2008 Premio Alfaguara de Novela -- yet another very rich (US $ 175,000) Spanish fiction prize.
Antonio Orlando Rodríguez was born in Cuba in 1956, but now lives in the US.
Chiquita was chosen from among 511 entries (with Spain leading the way, with 120 submissions, followed by Mexico (102) and Argentina (76)).
So not only do they pay a lot more than the Man Booker, they also are willing to look at far more submissions -- more than four times as many -- than the Man Booker folk are.
Even Reed Business Information was apparently too embarrassed to keep pretending this was a literary prize so, as Publishers Weekly reports, Quill Awards Program Suspended:
PW’s parent company, Reed Business Information, has announced plans to suspend support of the Quill Awards program.
It's hard to imagine anyone will miss these ridiculous and astonishingly poorly conceived things.
Recall, however, that it was just over a month ago that John Sutherland was singing their praises -- "The Quill machine may seem over-engineered. But it works." -- and suggesting the Man Booker folk could learn something from them:
The Quills Prize, based in New York, has devised an elegant and adventurous judging system which, I think, Trewin and his coadjutors could think about as they review the moth holes in their own.
Anyone to whom the phrase "cultural ghetto" pops into their mind should immediately hit the delete button.
There are in effect two cultural worlds that are slowly moving closer toward each other.
Here is a little example: until not long ago, there were five Russian-language bookstores along a stretch of some 100 meters of Allenby Street.
One of them closed recently. The demand is dropping and the meeting points are increasing: Greater numbers of Israeli authors are being translated into Russian and growing numbers of veteran Israelis are visiting the Russian-language stores.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Giwi Margwelaschwili's Officer Pembry.
Margwelaschwili's own story -- and the idea behind the book -- are pretty fantastic themselves, sounding like a writer's invention.
Born in German in 1927 to Georgian emigrants, he was forcefully repatriated to Soviet Georgia after World War II, where he lived until 1987, writing in both German and Georgian.
This is his first novel in about a decade -- and in it the 80-year-old author imagines a world straight out of Jasper Fforde and Philip K. Dick -- by way of The Silence of the Lambs.
Certainly a writer worth looking into further -- and we'd be surprised if he didn't wind up getting translated at some point.
See also his official site.
Australian poet Les Murray has moved on to trying more desperate measures to try to keep from getting asked to blurb new books, as Susan Wyndham reports in Peeves aplenty in poets' corner in the Sydney Morning Herald.
He's apparently had enough:
"People are forever asking me for blurbs.
I've been pestered unmercifully."
Anyway, he said, "blurbs are nonsense -- they're all hyperbole and hype, a publishers' bad habit.
Read the contents of the damned book."
There's an idea .....
But, of course, the blurb isn't going away anytime soon.
Meanwhile David Musgrave, the publisher at Puncher & Wattman who made the request, thinks Murray went too far:
"If he'd said no, we would have said, 'Fine, thanks,' but he's gone out of his way to offend us," Musgrave said.
"He has been very unpleasant and he does seem to court hatred. We refuse to be bullied."
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review-overview of Aris Fioretos' The Truth about Sascha Knisch, due out in the US now.
Fioretos translated it himself -- and he's also translated Nabokov into Swedish.
In Don't mention it in The Guardian they report on George Steiner's recent appearance at the Royal Society of Literature to discuss his new book, My Unwritten Books.
Particularly interesting: his claim:
"We are overpowered by cliché."
Poets are the answer; novels, on the other hand, are not.
The power of metaphor is located in constraint, and "now that anything can be said, fiction is in deep trouble".
The western novel -- British in particular -- he said, is in dire straits.
Maggie Gee, outgoing president of the Royal Society, challenged this sweeping damnation, but he stuck to it, conceding only that "there is in American English a kind of contract of hope, a kind of escalator upwards, that we don't have in Europe any more", and anyone who tries, like young Amis aping Bellow, looks merely risible.
"I believe the narrative form is very very tired."
A few more observations on the death of Alain Robbe-Grillet (see also our previous mention): in The Guardian Gilbert Adair pays tribute with 'He must be mad!', while in The Telegraph Tim Martin thinks
the French reaction to Robbe-Grillet's last book, Un roman sentimental, was spot-on:
Robbe-Grillet made it on to one chat show to promote his novel, where, as one commentator noted, he appeared "visibly excited to be shocking people again".
And there the matter rested. No fuss, no bans; not even the decision to deprive it of the oxygen of publicity.
It was bad art, so it bombed.
This year's guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair is Turkey, in 2009 it will be China, and in 2010 Argentina.
No official announcement or confirmation yet but longtime front-runner Finland says the nod has instead gone to ... Iceland: see the Helsingin Sanomat report Finland now not to take pride of place at 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair (and suggesting the non-literary factors that may have played a role).
Interesting, too, to learn:
At present, around 30-40 Finnish books are translated into German each year.
And what about the fact that:
Moreover, more than two million copies of books by the five best-selling Finnish authors were sold in Germany in the period from 1997 to 2006.
The author of over 20 books, more than half written in French, she is equally at home, and somehow not, in both cultures.
Though she still raises her dipthongs Canadian-style, and "out" sounds like "oat", her spoken English sometimes sounds French; her French, perfectly accentless.
Asia's biggest English language publisher Penguin Books India has announced that it is entering into a partnership with Mobifusion to make content available on the mobile platform.
The Penguin-Mobifusion partnership will begin with content from three popular Penguin books -- The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living with Mother Teresa complied by Jaya Chaliha and Edward Le Joly, The Path to Tranquillity by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and The Book of Prayer edited by Renuka Narayanan—being made available on mobile platforms
The Man Booker people have announced that The Best of the Booker award launched: "One-off award announced as part of 40th anniversary celebrations".
(They've already done this before, but 'one-off' apparently means something different in Man Booker-land than everywhere else .....)
And the public gets to vote -- sort of:
The public will choose from a shortlist of six novels to be selected by a panel judges chaired by Victoria Glendinning.
The two other judges on the panel are writer and broadcaster Mariella Frostrup and John Mullan, Professor of English at UCL.
Their shortlist will be announced in May, and public voting will then begin here on the Man Booker Prize website.
(By the way: ever wonder why the official Man Booker Prize site has the somewhat unwieldy web-address themanbookerprize.com ?
Shouldn't they (or rather their PR handlers) try to see to it that
they gain control of the more obvious and slightly simpler URL, the one without the 'the' ?)
Journalist Vilis Normanas has experimented with translating a few pages from prize-winning foreign novels and sending them to Lithuanian publishers ? he received only rejections.
"Why did I do it ?
Let me explain. Because for a long time now, no books have been published in Lithuania without the promise of profit, that means no important books intended for an intellectual public.
Instead, we find a whole array of romances, crime novels and other entertainment literature. I don't deny that publishers must survive somehow, but they're really not doing badly at the moment.
Many confirm that sales are up. The real question, however, is whether anyone at all in Lithuania really wants to read good literature."
An amusing variation of the popular submit-a-well-known-work-under-a-different-name-and-watch-the-publisher-reject-it stunt -- but we'd love to know more.