what were the most decorated books in foreign-language fiction during the same period ?
And how many of them are currently available in English ?
Not surprisingly the premier French prize, the Prix Goncourt, fares well: a TQ ('translation quotient' -- percentage) of 73%.
Others -- less so.
One problem is, of course, in determining what the relevant prize to look at is, as it's hardly clear-cut for most languages.
As we've frequently mentioned, the Germans have long preferred to give out author- (rather than single title-) prizes -- and The Millions' choice of the Ingeborg Bachmann Preis is a non-starter (that's an almost American Idol-like read-aloud prize -- and limited to short prose).
Eventually the German Book Prize will fit the bill -- but that's only been around for the past few years.
Still, we're almost flabbergasted to see how many off the 2006 longlist are appearing in English this year -- seven, that we know of: the books by Katharina Hacker, Thomas Hettche, Paulus Hochgatterer, Ingo Schulze, Peter Stamm, Saša Stanišic, and Ilija Trojanow.
(And we have to admit some sense of trepidation at the way US/UK publishers seem to be leaping like lemmings at these longlisted titles, rather than looking around for themselves ... but then that's probably asking way, way too much.)
Still, the TQs do seem to refelect general translation-trends, and the one that really sticks out is Russian, from which astonishingly little gets translated.
Again, there are competing prizes, but the 'Russian Booker' probably is the one to look at first -- and as The Millions notes, quite a few of these titles sound like they'd be of considerable interest.
Consider another, too: Ludmila Ulitskaya's 2001 winner, Казус Кукоцкого -- tranlsated into at least 13 languages, but not English (despite the fact that several Ulitskaya works have been translated, and that she's fairly well-known in the US/UK (well, for a post-Soviet Russian author ...) -- and those 900,000 copies sold in Russia surely should count for something too).
The Columbia University Press blog points us to PRI's The World's interview with Michael Berry 'about translating The Song of Everlasting Sorrow, Chinese author Wang Anyi’s acclaimed yarn about the allure of filmmaking and the city of Shanghai'.
We should be getting to this sometime soon -- and Berry certainly sells it for all it's worth:
Song is a wonderful entry point into the world of contemporary Chinese literature, but it does much more than simply tell the reader things they "need to know about China."
I think the book tells us things we need to know about the human condition, about relationships, desire, our dreams vs. the everyday, and the weight of time and history on the individual.
The novel may be set in China, but this is truly one of the masterpieces of world literature (at least the original is, I can’t speak for the translation!) and really speaks to much larger themes.
We find it hard to be anything but dismissive about this 'Best of the Booker'-competition, but looking at the Amazon.co.uk sales ranks for some of the shortlisted titles -- which surely haven't sold this well in ages -- does speak in (small) favour of this silly exercise.
Sure, most of these books don't need the help, but it's nice to see new readers made aware of The Siege of Krishnapur, for example.
Amazon.co.uk sales ranks, last we checked, for the shortlisted titles were:
We also noted last week that
Paul Verhaeghen's Omega Minor was awarded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize -- and we were curious as to what effect on sales that would have.
Several days later (after what was presumably an initial buying-flurry) it's still doing well at Amazon.co.uk: a sales rank of 1209, last we checked.
But the prize doesn't seem to have influenced as many US buyers: there the sales rank was 23,987 last we checked (which was still up considerably from the 85,084 we found earlier in the day ...).
It's worth mentioning that the Amazon-deals look like a pretty good deal right now: it's a fat book, and at $10.88 at Amazon.com and £6.99 at Amazon.co.uk (off a RPP of £9.99 !) ... well, that's more than reasonable.
Some of our readers occasionally purchase titles via our links to Amazon -- always much appreciated, since we get a commission on that, and every penny helps ! -- and we couldn't help but admire the audience we seem to attract when looking through the list of what had been purchased on Monday (we get the list of titles, number sold, price at which sold, etc. but -- don't worry ! -- no personal data).
Beside the usual few English titles our users purchased bilingual texts in no less than three languages on Monday:
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Davud Ghaffarzadegan's Fortune Told in Blood.
The rare piece of Iranian fiction from not too long ago (first published there 1996), by an author still active in Iran.
And an interesting approach to writing about the Iran-Iraq war -- but a book that, in English, is being published very much into a vacuum.
We're curious to see whether anyone else will have a look.
Yes, we were growing green with envy, reading how Conversational Reading's Scott Esposito and ABC of Reading's Thomas McGonigle had received their Advance Reader's Copies of Roberto Bolaño's 2666.
But, to our great joy, our own copy arrived yesterday
-- and a lovely big, fat ARC it is !
It's only due out in November, so we're in no rush to review it (or do you desperately need our coverage ?) and will try to set aside a suitable period for tackling the 898 pages -- though it is pretty hard to resist diving straight in.
What can we tell you about it ?
For a start, we like the promise of the epigraph, from Baudelaire:
An oasis of horror in a desert of boredom.
Part one of the five-part novel is: 'The part about the critics' (tempting us further to start in on it already -- especially since the publisher's introductory remarks describe this as: "romantic farce").
2666 was first published posthumously, and so there's both 'A note from the author's heirs' -- explaining that Bolaño left instructions for it to be published in five separate volumes, but that after his death everyone decided it was better to do it in one go --, as well as Ignacio Echevarría's 'Note to the first edition', explaining that
decision more fully, as well as some other editorial matters (that: "There has been only the rare need to make minor changes and to correct some obvious errors", etc.).
The ARC has a small picture on the back of the two versions of the text FSG plans to publish, the one-volume hardcover and three-volume paperback set, but the images are too small to really say much about the (hardcover) cover-image (beyond that it's a fairly dark and crowded painting) -- and while for now the author-name and title seem just to have been superimposed on the cover-images we like the look of the '2666' printed in large red numerals running top to bottom on the right hand side and down the spine.
(But they should have the cover images up fairly soon at the publicity pages, surely (see the FSG pages for both the hardcover and the paperback-set) -- though
what we're really looking for is the dedicated site they must be setting up for the book .....)
Anyway, we probably won't be able to hold off until November, so you should find our full review-coverage up later in the summer; meanwhile, you can (and, might we suggest, really should) pre-order your own copies -- get the hardcover or paperback-set at Amazon.com (the US editions are now listed at Amazon.co.uk, but there must be a British edition in the making too, no ?) -- and the truly ambitious can, of course, get right to it by getting the (available now) Spanish edition.
(Updated - 15 May): Chad Post has now also received his copy -- and posts pictures !
Yet another International Writers Festival, this time in Jerusalem, where they're holding one through the 15th.
An impressive list of authors, at any rate: aside from almost all the big-name Israeli authors the guests include: Javier Cercas, Nadine Gordimer, Lidia Jorge, Ismail Kadare, Andreï Makine, Ingo Schulze, and an assortment of American authors (Russell Banks, Jonathan Safran Foer, etc.)
Haaretz has quite a bit of coverage, including David B. Green's lengthy look, Turning over a new leaf.
Lessing, 88, whose works include the feminist classic The Golden Notebook and The Good Terrorist, said instead of pursuing her first love of writing, her life was constantly disrupted by media requests.
"All I do is give interviews and spend time being photographed," she told Radio 4's Front Row programme, in an interview to be broadcast tonight.
Are we missing something ?
She's complaining that all she does is give interviews -- in an interview ?
What exactly is the problem here ?
Of all the disruptions to one's life, surely this one is readily solved: just tell the media to go to hell and turn down all interview requests.
(Sure, the pesky paparazzi are harder to keep at bay, but it's not like she's writing in public places where they have easy access to her, is it ?)
You should be able to find the interview archived at the Front Row site (it aired Monday), at least for a while -- though we weren't able to open it and listen in (so we don't know if she didn't actually have a better explanation and complaint).
In Measure for Measure in the Boston Globe
Jonathan Gottschall argues that: 'Literary criticism could be one of our best tools for understanding the human condition. But first, it needs a radical change: embracing science'.
Class enrollments and funding are down, morale is sagging, huge numbers of PhDs can't find jobs, and books languish unpublished or unpurchased because almost no one, not even other literary scholars, wants to read them.
I think there is a clear solution to this problem.
Literary studies should become more like the sciences.
Literature professors should apply science's research methods, its theories, its statistical tools, and its insistence on hypothesis and proof.
Instead of philosophical despair about the possibility of knowledge, they should embrace science's spirit of intellectual optimism.
If they do, literary studies can be transformed into a discipline in which real understanding of literature and the human experience builds up along with all of the words.
Are 'literary studies' worth saving ?
Sure, there's something to be said for what he proposes -- but like anatomists happily dissecting cadavers, it seems pretty far removed from any joy of reading or anything like that .....
We look forward to the sure-to-follow discussions.
The ridiculous 'Best of the Booker'-competition proceeds apace, as they've now announced the shortlist.
(The only one of the titles we have under review is J.M.Coetzee's Disgrace.)
Obviously, the public couldn't be trusted to winnow down the list to six finalists, so a panel of judges made the choice for them -- but they (you !) can now vote for the winner, if you care to.
In writing about the (apparently soon to come) ouster of Random House head Peter Olson in Just Business, 'The fall of book publishing’s last don', in New York, Marion Maneker suggests:
If you want to understand book publishing, you need to think less Bloomsbury and more Gambino: The five big companies are like the five families.
Imprints are crews with plenty of ambitious upstarts looking to make their bones.
And every once in a while even a good earner has to get whacked to send a message.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Per Wahlöö's The Generals.
This 1965 novel is one of several he didn't write with his wife, Maj Sjöwall -- and hasn't quite endured as well as the Martin Beck series.
Indeed, we have quickly added it to our most obscure books under review .....
This week's Bibliofile-column in Outlook India can't offer actual sales figures, but does look at the number of copies of a variety of titles ordered by bookstores, as well as some print-run number:
Among the Big Three, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth at 23,000 orders is way ahead of Patrick French’s biography of V.S. Naipaul, The World is What It Is (15,000).
Salman Rushdie’s Enchantress of Florence is trailing in third place with 10,000 orders.
But there are more popular authors:
Shobhaa De is not the mai-baap of Penguin for nothing: 40,000 copies of her latest Superstar India have gone into bookshops, and there are more waiting in the warehouse.
Newcomer Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger is trailing at 18,000 pre-orders.
Meanwhile One night @ the call center-author Chetan Bhagat's forthcoming 3 Mistakes In My Life apparently has a record (for India) first-print-run of 60,000.
a recent row surrounding the Government-backed quango set up to fund and promote Scottish publishing looks set to tear the industry apart and raises questions over the future of the sector.
With claims of "staggering incompetence" and "bleeding cash" amid splits and resignations, the atmosphere among this small group of publishers has turned poisonous.
At the centre of the dispute is the funding of literature and publishing in Scotland. Or, as Hugh Andrew, owner of Polygon, puts it, "the lack of financial skills among those who spend the public purse".
Andrew's beef is with Publishing Scotland, a not-for-profit company formed to take responsibility for the representation and development of the publishing sector in Scotland.
Andreas Breitenstein's interview with David Albahari in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung is in German, but we still point you to it, as he gets far too little attention in the English-speaking world (despite living in Canada) -- with his recent major work, Pijavice shockingly still not available in English translation.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Florian Zeller's Julien Parme -- the first of his books published in America (by Other Press).
He hasn't hit thirty yet, and though we were less impressed by this than the two previously translated titles still figure he's someone to keep an eye on over the long term.
Paul Verhaeghen's Omega Minor has taken the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize; for full coverage see Boyd Tonkin's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize: Goodbye to Berlin in The Independent (with comments from the other judges, and the mention that "Daniel Kehlmann's Measuring the World (translated by Carol Brown Janeway; Quercus) ran the winner closest").
See also Verhaeghen's official statement on winning the prize, at his weblog.
The prize goes to both author and translator -- and in Omega Minor's case he's one and the same, as Verhaeghen did his own translation.
We've long, long been touting the breakout-potential of this title but -- vividly demonstrating our very limited clout -- don't seem to have been able to convince many people, and it'll be interesting to see whether this prize now gives it the necessary push for it to begin to really find an audience.
This will also be an interesting test-case about the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize-effect in the US market:
Omega Minor has been out here quite a few months now (past the usual review-cycle, in any case), while the American edition of last year's winner, José Eduardo Agualusa's The Book of Chameleons (which we very conviently justreviewed ...) is only coming out in a few weeks (from Simon & Schuster), making for an interesting sort of head-to-head competition.
As we've mentioned before, we'd have figured Omega Minor had mass-market paperback potential (while still being a 'literary' book) -- and it looks to us as having potentially far wider appeal.
But readers (and assigning book review editors ...) seem to have been hard to convince.
Italian author Luigi Malerba has passed away; see, for example, Paolo Mauri's E' morto lo scrittore Luigi Malerba maestro di realtà deformate in La Repubblica.
No English-language notice of his death yet -- and he doesn't seem to be widely known
hereabouts, two William Weaver translations from some forty years ago (The Serpent and What is this buzzing, do you hear it too ?), both long out of print, seems the extent of his work to get published in translation .....
At least Words without Borders offers a small sample, Bakarak, in a translation by Lawrence Venuti.
In Speak, Nabokov in The Moscow Times
James Marson looks at Nina Khrushcheva's book, Imagining Nabokov: Russia Between Art and Politics (see the Yale University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), now that it's come out in Russia (as В гостях у Набокова; see the Время publicity page) -- and where not everybody is thrilled by her approach.
The Académie Goncourt has elected Tahar Ben Jelloun and Patrick Rambaud to its ranks (or rather, to its table), so now all ten slots are filled.
Among the other members who will be voting for the Prix Goncourt this fall -- choosing from an expected 700 titles -- : Jorge Semprun, Michel Tournier, and Bernard Pivot.
(See also the previous couvert-holders -- that first group, with Joris-Karl Huysmans and Octave Mirbeau, must have been fun.)
For French coverage, see Rambaud et Ben Jelloun, nouveaux visages du Goncourt by Mohammed Aïssaoui at Le Figaro and Un jury rajeuni pour le Goncourt by Alain Beuve-Méry in Le Monde.
The French-American Foundation and the Florence Gould Foundation announce today the finalists for their 21st Annual Translation Prizes for superior English translations of French works published in 2007.
No one else seems to have posted the news yet, so we might as well (and we do have quite a few of the shortlisted titles under review -- and expect to get to more of them).
Awards are given both in fiction and non, and the shortlisted titles were:
They've announced the shortlist for the 2008 Caine Prize, the short story ("indicative length, between 3000 and 10,000 words") prize popularly but inexplicably known as the 'African Booker'.
With 90 entries from 17 African countries it at least does cover quite a bit of the continent.
See also, for example, Lindesay Irvine on Five make shortlist for 'African Booker' at The Guardian site.
In the meantime, are foreign funding agencies getting any smarter about how to get more of their countries’ literary works translated into English ?
The answer is “not much,” or not at all.
The country that has made this easier, for Dalkey Archive at least, is Japan.
Other countries are on a kind of cusp: Romania, Switzerland, Latvia, Estonia, Norway, Mexico, Lithuania, and Spain.
The countries that remain nearly intransigent to changing old practices are France, Germany, Austria, and Italy.
The latter group continues to fail to understand that paying for the cost of the translation (or part thereof) is of little help; nor does providing funds to send unknown authors to the States to do tours help at all unless there are substantial marketing funds made available that will help to promote the authors’ books before and after such tours.
Yes, he really doesn't think the traditional (for some countries) approach is working out:
This past year, France and Germany co-sponsored one of those hopeless "group tours" for American editors to meet publishers.
Do either of these countries ever evaluate the effects of such tours ?
How many books get signed on as a result ?
No. This too falls into the category of appearing to address a problem by having everyone back-slap each other.
God only knows how much these tours costs (a lot), and one can speculate on how such money could be better spent.
Meanwhile, they continue to fix up the Dalkey Archive Press site, and while they're still working on making The CONTEXT Blog a work in progress, they have updated the Review of Contemporary Fiction -- most notably and importantly making the book review-sections from the most recent editions accessible online.
The RCF has among the most interesting selections of books they review; many of the reviews get recycled at Context, but it's worth working your way through these pages too.
As Chung Ah-young reports at The Korea Times, leading Korean writer Park Kyung-ni Dies at 82.
She is best known for her multi-volume saga Toji (토지; 'Land').
The first part of this was published in translation in 1996 (as Land), and now Kegan Paul have re-issued that volume, and published a second one: see their publicity page for volume one (or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), as well as their publicity page for volume two (or pre-order your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk); we very much hope to be able to get to these two books .....
Kertész Imre isn't getting much attention in the US, despite two new translations, but the spring issue of The Hungarian Quarterly, now available online, devotes a decent amount of space to him.
There's 'Imre Kertész in Conversation with Zsigmond Sándor Papp', discussing Why Won't He Tell a Proper Story?, while in All That Fall Kertész-translator Tim Wilkinson looks at the 'Upsides of the Shorter Fictions of Imre Kertész'.
One of George Steiner's 'unwritten books' described in his recent memoir was a study of the brilliant Joseph Needham; now Simon Winchester has had a go at the man.
The book has come out as The Man Who Loved China in the US -- see the HarperCollins publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com -- but it's only coming out in September in the UK, and as Bomb, Book and Compass at that ... (pre-order your copy at Amazon.co.uk).
Marjorie Kehe reviews it in the Christian Science Monitor; we have several of his books under review (see, for example, our review of The Meaning of Everything) and will certainly eventually get to this as well.