Yuri Kageyama's AP report, Blog Catapults Japan's New Literary Star, about recent Akutagawa-winning author Kawakami Mieko has made it into a lot of publications.
While there have only been a few English-language bloggers-who-get-published success-stories, Japan apparently shows there's more potential here:
Steve Weber, an American who has written about marketing books online, said Japanese writers are far ahead of Americans in making their work available on the Internet.
Many have had successful books published after producing novels intended to be read on mobile phones, for example.
In the U.S., publishers are just starting to understand the market power that writers with hit blogs can wield, Weber said.
For a review of Kawakami's Akutagawa-winning novel, 乳と卵, see this one at néojaponisme.
And you can also check out her weblog.
No word at the official litblog co-op site, but apparently the LBC is closing down.
At The Reading Experience Dan Green offers a good Stock-Taking.
(Local barkeep M.A.Orthofer was a founding member of the LBC, but also couldn't keep up and retired from it last year.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Jens Bjørneboe's Without a Stitch.
No surprise that this -- on the heels of the Danish film-version, and its being banned in his native Norway -- was the first of his books to be published in English translation, back in 1969.
But it's no great loss that it is far, far out of print -- it's an amusing curiosity, but also far from his best, a tossed-off work (if you'll pardon the expression) serving a specific purpose (mainly getting some notoriety) that seems to have been a pretty limited success.
From 29 June to 2 July they're holding a Writers' and Literary Translators' International Congress -- WALTIC -- in Stockholm.
It features a very impressive line-up, and we hope there will be good coverage of it.
The April-May issue of Bookforum is now available online, and there's loads of stuff to work your way through.
(The only slightly disappointing thing: the promise on the cover of an article on 'Iranian Women Novelists' -- which is then more accurately (and disappointingly) described in the table of contents as 'Nana Asfour on Iranian-American Women Novelists' (something already quite different).
Fortunately, Asfour does contrast what these authors have written with current Iranian conditions, at least a bit -- even mentioning Fataneh Haj Seyed's 'Drunkard Morning'.)
The OB folk must be absolutely thrilled with the incredible amount of attention they're getting here, especially since much of it is of the fanning-the-flames type.
So, for example, Charlotte Higgins writes that Women's fiction prize 'infected by misery memoirs' in
The Guardian, where she hears:
"Reading 120 books I did find myself thinking, 'Oh god, not another dead baby'," said Kirsty Lang, as the longlist for the prize was announced.
"There were a hell of a lot of abused children and family secrets."
The novelist A. S. Byatt told The Times that the Orange was a sexist prize, saying that she was so critical of what it stands for that she forbids her publishers to submit her novels for consideration.
"Such a prize was never needed," she said, noting that many works of literature were by women.
(What we're curious about: what's the deal with that picture accompanying the article, showing her and Tibor Fischer (who has nothing to do with -- and goes unmentioned in -- the article).
Are they trying to suggest he's her long lost son ?
Or are they just being needlessly cruel ?)
At this rate we can't wait until the shortlist comes out -- who knows what the commentators will be spewing then .....
In Haaretz Shiri Lev-Ari reports on the Paris Salon du livre, in A holy and uncontroversial trinity (referring to Amos Oz, A.B.Yehoshua and David Grossman, who were on a panel together).
As to all the fuss about Israel being the centre of attention there:
In any case, it is unclear to what extent French readers, apart from the Jewish community in France, are interested in Israel's literature.
Currently, in large cities like Ha Noi and HCM City, book shops are proliferating because the book business is generating large profits.
Compared to other industries, book sellers need less capital and pay lower taxes, so many distributors have become billionaires.
Even reckoned in dong we have a bit of trouble believing that book-selling leads to such riches .....
At hlo Zoltán András Bán profiles
Zsolt Béla, who was apparently An eroticist of politics (see our review of his Nine Suitcases).
He's yet another of these authors who are really only being discovered now, as:
Even after the decline of Hungarian Stalinism Zsolt never became a popular author in this country.
During the socialist years his name is only ever mentioned as a polite "also ran" and of his novels only one (An Embarrassing Affair -- Kínos ügy) was republished, in 1970.
It is only at the present time that he is being rediscovered: 2007 saw the re-publication of two of his novels.
They've announced the winners of the three prizes awarded at the Leipzig Book Fair, which seem to have established themselves as among the bigger individual-title-prizes in Germany (where they still seem to prefer awarding prizes to authors, rather than 'best books').
Fritz Vogelgsang won in the translation-category, for his version of the Catalan classic, Tirant lo Blanc, while best novel (well, best book in the 'Belletristik'-category) went to Die Nacht, die Lichter by Clemens Meyer.
The prize does seem to have some effect --
Die Nacht, die Lichter had an Amazon.de sales-rank of 26, last we checked; get your copy at Amazon.de or see the S.Fischer publicity page.
And for an English-language take, see the review at love german books.
We're oddly facsinated by transliteration issues -- maybe because as we seek out information about various authors and titles we come across so many different spellings of non-western names in various European languages.
Arabic names seem to be the least consistent (Naguib Mahfouz is Nagib Machfus in German, for example), but there tend to be local variations across the board.
Somewhat surprisingly, it's the pretty-close-to-Latin-alphabetical Cyrillic names that are consistently different in the French/English/ German spread, and that brings us to a doozy of a transliteration mess we've just come across.
It's no surprise that Ilija Trojanow's Der Weltensammler is coming out in English translation.
A novel centred around explorer and prolific author Richard Burton, it's of obvious interest to English-speaking readers.
Now Faber and Faber is bringing it out (in June, in the UK; no word on an American publisher yet), as The Collector of Worlds in a translation by Will Hobson.
Ilija Trojanow was born in Bulgaria, but his family left the country when he was very young and he has lived all over the world.
He writes in German, and has always published his books under the name 'Ilija Trojanow'.
Of course, Bulgarian is written in Cyrillic letters, and were one to transliterate his name from those into English one would do so differently than into German: the German w is the English v-sound, and a y is the obvious choice where the Germans use j.
And, apparently seeking to get the pronunciation right, Faber is publishing The Collector of Worlds as by: Ilya Troyanov.
Which does give English-speaking readers a better idea of how to pronounce his name.
The problem with this is that
Ilya Troyanov is better-known as -- indeed, very well known as: Ilija Trojanow.
Even in the English-speaking world.
Two of his books have even been published in English translation -- Mumbai To Mecca and Along the Ganges (get your copy at Amazon.com) --
and they were published under the name: Ilija Trojanow.
When he appeared at the PEN World Voices festival last year it was as: Ilija Trojanow.
(See now The Messiness of Now, an adapted version of his conversation at the festival now up at the PEN site, which is where we learned about the forthcoming translation.)
Perhaps most obviously to the point, in this Internet age, consider the Google results for the searches of his name:
You think maybe anyone who goes looking for information about this new Faber-author "Ilya Troyanov" on the Internet might wind up missing something ?
(We'd also be just slightly more confident in Faber's reasoning if they hadn't managed to spell his name yet another way ("Iliya Troyanov" (12 Google results ...)) quite prominently (but not consistently) in their catalogue
(warning ! dreaded pdf format !).)
You have to wonder whether Faber made the right choice here.
If he were a new-to-the-scene author it might make more sense, but Trojanow is a well-established figure and he's published so widely under this name that it just seems like a lot of opportunities are being wasted.
In The Observer Robert McCrum offers an extensive profile of V.S.Naipaul, 'Pride and prejudice' -- see part one and part two, while in the Sunday Times his former editor, Diana Athill, reminisces about the old master.
They've announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the nine-title-strong longlist for the Australian Miles Franklin Literary Award -- with a quite a few familiar names.
Only 59 books were submitted for consideration, a pretty feeble number that makes us wonder about the state of literary affairs down under.
The shortlist will be announced 17 April.
In The Telegraph Michael Henderson argues that Life's too short to read five novels a week -- which is apparently how many Philip Hensher reads (and has, since age ... five).
Obviously any judgment depends very much on the novels -- five Tolstoys (and equivalents) a week is one thing, five of the novels Hensher was presumably reading when he was five quite another.
As to whether life's too short for this sort of commitment ... surely that also depends on what the alternatives are.
But if we make our way through less than five novels in a given week we feel we've missed something .....
Henderson also finds:
Then we come to a question that cannot be ducked: are there really 10,000 novels worth reading ?
Surely it is not essential to read every word an author wrote, and in the case of some well-known writers, one may not want to read anything at all.
At some point, personal taste must come into it.
We'd hope personal taste comes into it early on -- but we're pretty sure there are far, far more than 10,000 novels that are worth reading.
"Sometimes the audiences were so small, and it embarrassed us in front of our speakers," said fair organizer Maha Al-Sinan, who added that most literary events aren’t heavily attended in Saudi Arabia anyway.
Not all visitors however were interested in reading.
Some were accompanying their kids (on the "family" days where women and children were allowed to attend) hoping that they would pick up the reading habit.
"I’m not into books, but I want my kids to be," said a book fair attendee Um Abdullah.
"I bought some books for my children and a cup of coffee for myself."
Women are only 'allowed to attend' on family day ?
Maybe a bit more openness towards female readers would help things along.
And while it's nice to see that dad gets the kids some books, what kind of a message does it send them when he admits he's not into books ?
And the publishers could probably also use some help:
Majed Shebber, from Al-Waraq publishing company, said that he happened upon books whose rights are owned by Al-Waraq being exhibited by other companies.
"I reported that to the ministry, but they did not take any action," he told Arab News.
"There were no penalties or actions taken against people violating intellectual rights.”"
We wonder whether they would have been similarly indifferent if, say, someone reported that there were books on display that were un-Islamic .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Marek Bieńczyk's Tworki -- just out in English translation, and apparently a book no one has bothered to have a look at (despite it appearing in Northwestern University Press' almost always interesting 'Writings from an Unbound Europe'-series).
We can't help but notice, however, that this is yet another newly translated Eastern European title that isn't exactly new (the Polish edition came out in 1999) and deals with either World War II or the (end of the) Communist era (WWII, in this case) -- just like almost all the Eastern European fiction we've come across lately.
We understand it can take some time for things to get translated, but when you look at what the continentals (French, Germans, and Italians especially) are bringing out ... well, it's a completely different picture of Eastern European literature you get.
American (and UK) publishers too often seem to think that the only things that can possibly succeed are the good old standards: if it's Eastern European it's gotta deal with Nazism or Communism .....
Admittedly a lot of Eastern European literature is still pre-occupied with this subject-matter -- and a lot of it is worth translating -- but the way things are going the picture English-speaking readers get of the Eastern European literary scene is woefully incomplete, and way behind the times.
(Of the Western European scene too -- if not quite to the same extent, in part
-- of course .....)
We'd love to see a bit more risk-taking -- and maybe a bit more awareness of the current fast-changing scene -- on the part of US/UK publishers.
As is, English-speaking readers are missing a hell of a lot -- and the possibility of fully participating in the many exciting contemporary literary discussions beyond the US and UK borders.
(Meanwhile, if Tworki sounds too serious for you, note also this author-description at the official site for another book Bieńczyk co-authored:
A pioneer of wine critique in Poland, he has held a weekly column in the country's most popular daily Gazeta Wyborcza and now writes for weekly Przekrój.
His columns have been gathered in the popular Wine Chronicles.
He has been a regular contributor to Polish WINO Magazine.
He owns one of the most outstanding wine collections in Poland, and focuses mainly on France, with particular interest for the Rhône, Loire and Languedoc.
The Friday Project published 44 titles in 2007 and was planning to publish 60 this year. [...]
Last year it had four of its titles featured on Richard & Judy within a three-week period.
It takes a lot of cash(-flow) to publish that much -- and especially to finance those Richard & Judy print runs, and apparently they didn't plan far enough ahead.
Still, this is a pretty quick flame-out for any business (they only started up in 2005 !).
The Leipzig Book Fair runs from today through the 16th, and Geert Mak has apparently been awarded the 'Book Prize for European Understanding', "awarded to writers who have written about East-West relationships in Europe".
No word at the official site -- and he only gets to pick it up in September anyway (they announce these things way ahead of time, in typical Central European-prize fashion) --, but at least one Polish outlet is reporting that Writer Stasiuk wins Vilenica International.
The writer is Andrzej Stasiuk (see our review of his Nine), the prize the Vilenica International Literary Prize, which they've been handing out since 1986 "to a Central European author for outstanding achievements in the field of literature and essay writing".
The list of winners includes some familiar names -- Adam Zagajewski, Milan Kundera, Zbigniew Herbert, Peter Eszterházy, and Peter Handke among them -- but look how few of the recent winners are familiar and/or available in English translation .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Alexander Ikonnikov's Lizka and her Men.
Curiously enough, though written in Russian, this book was first published in German translation.
Noteworthy also, the French translation was by yet another author-who-also-translates, Antoine Volodine (see our review of his Minor Angels).
Celebrating its 100th anniversary, German publisher Rowohlt is garnering much press attention, including many anecdotal-type stories.
Lots of good coverage, but Perlentaucher points us to one of particular interest
: Rowohlt has long had its own 'translation department', and Günter Grass-editor Helmut Frielinghaus who ran it from 1967 to 1981 offers some insight into it in Aus der Übersetzungsabteilung.
He describes how Heinrich Maria Ledig-Rowohlt took a personal interest in a number of translations every season, and how he'd take his 'team' -- the head of the translation department and an assistant, the translator (if s/he wanted to come along), another editor
-- to an out-of-the-way inn to go through the translation word for word for three or four days, or sometimes a whole week.
The most interesting part:
Es waren drei Sorten von Büchern, deren Übersetzungen Ledig sehen und notfalls mit uns bearbeiten wollte: Umsatz versprechende Unterhaltungsromane, die im Verlag farm books genannt wurden, dann Bücher, in denen es auch oder hauptsächlich um Sex ging, und literarische Bücher, die er besonders liebte.
In den Übersetzungen der farm books sollte es, wie er fand, nicht eine Stolperstelle geben.
Bei Büchern mit viel Sex wollte er, dass alles in einer eleganten Sprache passierte.
Die Übersetzungen literarischer Bücher sollten sprachlich so lange gefeilt werden, bis sie dem anspruchsvollen Original gerecht wurden.
Er war ein Verleger, der Respekt vor dem Werk der Autoren und vor den Lesern hatte.
[There were three sorts of books where Ledig wanted to work on the translations with us himself: popular literature promising commercial success -- which were called 'farm books' --, then books in which sex played a large or dominant role, and finally literary titles which he was particularly fond of.
With the translations of the farm books he felt there shouldn't be any stumbling spots.
With books with a lot of sex he wanted everything to be expressed in an elegant language.
With the translations of literary books he wanted them to be linguistically finely polished, until they were true to the original.
He was a publisher who respected the works of the authors as well as the readers.]
Hopefully the Abu Dhabi prize will help wake the Arab world from its long slumber by restoring a sense of pride in current accomplishments rather than in those of the past -- and by reviving interchanges with other cultures.
At Slate Jim Lewis introduces what he thinks is The Perfect Novel You've Never Heard Of, Juan Rulfo's
all the coverage it's gotten the past couple of years -- including our review -- we're pretty sure you've heard of it; still, nice to see some more coverage.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Björn Larsson's Den sanna berättelsen om Inga Andersson.
Several of his books have been translated into English, but not this one -- but we wouldn't consider it a high priority.
In The Observer Ally Carnwath and Tom Templeton collect Booker favourites from former (Man) Booker judges.
More interesting than their thoughts what should and what will be named the best Booker, however, are their descriptions of their own judging experiences.
In Outlook India Sheela Reddy has 10 Questions for Man Asian Literary Prize-head Peter Gordon.
Lots of talk about 'Asia', but no discussion of why the MALP notion of Asia remains so limited, excluding all the Arabic-speaking nations, Iran, and the Central Asian former Soviet states -- i.e. why it remains a South/East Asian rather than truly Asian literary prize.
(See the Rules for Submission (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) for the countries that are eligible for the prize.)
(For those who do come from eligible countries, note that submissions for the 2008 prize are due by 31 March.)
They're announcing the winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction tomorrow, and Al-Ahram Weekly has a nice 'Countdown to the Prize' feature: reviews of three of the shortlisted novels
(with author-interviews with two of the authors), here, here, and here.
At The Guardian weblog Edmund Gordon wonders Where are the women writers in translation ? -- definitely a question worth asking.
As we've noted repeatedly, books by women writers are dreadfully under-represented at the
complete review; could it be that the reason is because we focus so much on books in translation ?
Jane Henderson reports that World literature thrives in translation in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Amazingly, she means translation-into-English -- but the article isn't as completely off-the-wall as that sounds, since the concept of 'thriving' here is pretty limited.
Everything is relative, after all -- leading to comments such as:
"I think it's picking up," said Douglas Kibbee, director of the School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which has a new Center for Translation Studies.
"If you look at what's reviewed in The New York Times Book Review, more translations are showing up.
Now it's rare to go a single issue without having a translated work in it.
Also, the number of universities that have some kind of translation courses seem to be increasing although there are still few that have a real degree program.
'More translations are showing up' in the NYTBR ?
Compared to when ?
It's still a ridiculously limited amount that's covered in those pages.