They've announced that Margaret Jull Costa has been awarded this year's Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize for her translation of Eça de Queiroz
's The Maias.
See also the publicity pages at New Directions (the US publisher) and Dedalus (the UK publisher), or get your own copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
With Euro 2008-fever dominating the (sporting) month in Europe the literary tie-ins also continue.
At The Guardian's weblog John Keenan finds that Orhan Panuk's 'observation that football encourages xenophobia has led to an angry backlash in his home country' in Pamuk's own goal on Turkish nationalism ?.
The whole interview in Der Spiegel, by Christoph Biermann and Lothar Gorris, is actually available -- in English -- online, as 'Football is Faster than Words' -- and well worth a look.
Harvard University recruited Bernardo Atxaga as an author-in-residence, but the Basque author turned the famous university down.
Instead, he accepted the position of Center for Basque Studies William Douglass Distinguished Scholar for 2007–2008.
Someone would choose the University of Nevada, Reno, over Harvard -- and Reno over Cambridge ?
Well, maybe he has a gambling habit he'd like to keep up .....
But actually, that Center for Basque Studies does look very impressive, and it's hard to imagine Harvard could have competed with that.
See also Atxaga's official site
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Margarita Karapanou's Kassandra and the Wolf.
This 1976 novel has pretty much disappeared from view, and it's no big loss.
Still, at the time it must have attracted some notice: excerpts from the novel were published in Antaeus, Fiction, Shenandoah, and Tri-Quarterly, which ain't bad.
That's a bit misleading, however: some select the pieces here are definitely far better than the book as a whole.
Karapanou is fairly well-known in her native Greece, but this seems to have been the end of the road for her in the US.
They've announced that David Dollenmayer has been awarded the 2008 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize, for his translation Childhood. An Autobiographical Fragment by Moses Rosenkranz (see the Syracuse University Press publicity page (as well as the German Rimbaud Verlag publicity page, with links to some of the German reviews), or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; with a sales rank (last we checked) of 2,125,159 at the American Amazon (and none at all at the UK one) it doesn't seem to have been flying off the shelves ...).
See also the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (where Dollenmayer teaches) press release.
In conjunction with the prize they're holding the Helen and Kurt Wolff symposium; Chad Post reports that he'll be there, and we look forward to his report at Three Percent.
Encouragement seems to be a primary need throughout the entire Arab publishing industry, from writers to distributors.
But he's also a bit defensive:
It certainly can be disconcerting to see negative accounts written in Arabic about Saudi Arabia and then published in other languages.
In actuality though, fictional tales of life in the Gulf are already out there and these can’t even claim to be based on fact.
They've announced the shortlist for what is probably the leading Indian (and one of the worst-named, universally, even in its new variation) book award, the Vodafone Crossword Book Award.
In the Bibliofile-column in Outlook India (where they manage to mispell one of the sponsors' names, which must thrill them no end) they think: "surprisingly, all the usual suspects have been left out" in the English-language-fiction category, though a few of these titles have been made it abroad already.
In the Wall Street Journal Emily Parker profiles Salman Rushdie.
Among the points of interest, his comments about The Satanic Verses:
Mr. Rushdie still argues that the book can be justified within the Islamic tradition.
"I felt I knew more about the Islamic tradition than most of the people who were attacking it ...
As part of my history degree I did a special subject in the history of early Islam ... my father was quite scholarly about Islam.
I do know this stuff," he says.
"In early Islam it was an absolute tenet that the prophet was not to be worshipped.
The prophet was a messenger.
And one of the things that's happened in Islam is this cult of the prophet, which to my view is counter to the original tradition.
And so I was writing a book thinking, OK, well if the prophet himself had this view that he should only be thought of as a human being, let me try and create a human being.
And human beings are imperfect."
(Being 'scholarly' about any of this religious nonsense -- Muslim, Christian, or otherwise -- never seemed to get anyone very far, as best we can tell .....)
Not much talk about The Enchantress of Florence, however, -- which may for the best: while some reviews have been very enthusiastic, more have been pretty devastating (see our review-overview for links and quotes), including now Deirdre Donahue's in USA Today, where she writes:
The best thing about Salman Rushdie's tiresome and confusing new novel The Enchantress of Florence is its lovely gold and orange cover. At the bookstore, admire the cover, then move on.
(John Sutherland -- who famously promised: "If The Enchantress of Florence doesn’t win this year’s Man Booker I’ll curry my proof copy and eat it" (which the UK literary establishment better hold him to) -- might want to start experimenting with recipes .....
We didn't make such a big deal out of this when we first mentioned it last week, figuring it would be widely picked up and discussed, but that hasn't turned out to be the case.
There's been some internet notice, but Jason Steger's mention in The Age (!), The American way with books, is more than has been found in practically all US papers.
What's the big deal ?
When Bowker Reports U.S. Book Production Flat in 2007 one can understand that the incredible rise in the number of POD titles is the big news (not that that has attracted all that much attention either), but surely also worth considerable
discussion is the fact that, as Steger notes:
Novels are clearly back in vogue, though, with 50,071 published in the US, up 17% from 2006.
That is double the number published as recently as six years ago.
And if you're worried about what sort of novels these were, rest assured there were literary ones in there.
There was a 19% increase in "literature" titles to 9796, which is on top of a 31% increase the previous year.
Twice as much fiction was published in 2007 as in 2002 !
(and that doesn't include the POD publications).
To repeat: twice as much fiction was published in 2007 as in 2002 in the US !
(So much for creative writers having trouble practising their craft in a post-September 2001 world .....)
Is everyone just trying to ignore that ?
Quite possibly: it certainly doesn't fit in the view of the literary world a lot of prominent folk have.
So for example The New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus: in 2004 it already seemed dubious (to us) that he excused the lack of fiction coverage at the NYTBR by claiming: "There's a lot more nonfiction published these days than there used to be" -- but certainly he now should face the fact (and the facts, in terms of raw numbers) that if that was true then the tide has turned -- in a big, big way.
But after the 25 May issue (ratio of fiction titles to non-fiction titles that get their own full-length review 1:5 !) they offer their 1 June 'Summer Reading' issue -- and provide only three (3) reviews of fiction titles and nineteen (19 !) reviews each devoted to an individual non-fiction title, as well as four reviews each devoted to several works of non-fiction.
What world are they living in ?
Obviously one where fiction doesn't count for barely anything (devote the 'cover'-review to a novel, and that's apparently good enough ...).
If it were only the NYTBR we probably wouldn't even bother mentioning it (we've pretty much given up on their selection process, as what they come up with is essentially entirely at odds with any imaginable -- to us -- list of what we consider the review-worthy titles of the day (and one guess as to how many of those 20+ books getting the full-review treatment in the 1 June issue were originally written in a foreign language ...)).
But this week also saw, for example, the publication of a double issue of The New Yorker.
The 'Summer Fiction' issue.
They offer two long reviews -- but one is on Ezra Pound and the other has something to do with religion.
They even only manage to devote two of their four "Briefly Noted" mentions to works of fiction .....
In the 'Summer Fiction' issue .....
For the coming months all these book review editors of course have the excuse of the American presidential campaign and all those 'timely' (i.e. worthless the day after the election) titles they 'have to' get to.
(It wouldn't surprise us if the NYTBR reviewed more books with 'Obama' in the title than they did books in translation over the next five months .....)
So what will it take for fiction to get the review coverage it deserves ?
(Another question raised by this incredible statistic: is that sense that there's more available in translation these days just a reflection of there being so much more fiction generally available ?
Even if the percentage of translated works of fiction just remained the same, that would still also mean: twice as many available titles over 2002 .....
(This seems distinctly possible: translated non-fiction seems to remain as elusive and rare as always .....)
If you're looking for consolation as Euro 2008 begins today, consider the space that Waterstones will now have to give over to proper books in lieu of all the football autobiographies shelved in the wake of England's failure to qualify.
He also wonders why there haven't been any great football (soccer) novels, and contrasts that with American literature, which is filled with sporting novels.
He might have a point when he notes the differences in sports-'culture':
Americans have always accepted the injection of theatricality into sport -- all that cheerleading and Take Me Out To The Ball Game crap -- whereas here, we know that any theatrical recreation, whether in prose or celluloid, is going to crumble compared with the experience of the real thing.
(We also take this moment to note that, whatever Sam Tanenhaus' failings as head of The New York Times Book Review -- and they are many and grievous -- we remain forever grateful to him for abolishing that abomination that was the annual 'Baseball-issue' that his predecessor Charles McGrath indulged in.)
Philip K. Dick novels was their fastest-selling title ever, I was pleasantly surprised, but I wanted some proof.
LOA marketing manager Brian McCarthy was happy to oblige, informing me that the Library had shipped 23,750 copies of Four Novels of the 1960s -- the better part of two complete print runs -- and that returns were a "staggeringly low" 5 percent.
(The Amazon.com sales rank, last we checked, was also a very respectable 5,381.)
Of course, as Ron points out:
And for those of you who think the LOA hardcovers are too fancy and expensive for your science fiction tastes, consider: "PKD1 offered at $35 four novels which in paperback cost $53," McCarthy told me.
"PKD2, at $40, offers five novels which in paperback cost $62."
That's because the individual titles are now sold only in the ridiculous (and inevitably over-priced) trade-paperback format; we're glad we filled our shelves with whatever we could get our hands on (over two dozen titles) some two decades ago, when it was easy (and cheap) to find everything in mass-market-paperback editions (though a lot of those were UK editions).
The second volume of Dick in the Library of America, Five Novels of the 1960s and 70s, is due out soon; see their publicity page, or pre-prder your copy at Amazon.com.
In The Guardian Angelique Chrisafis profiles French author (of Just Like Tomorrow (also: Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow)), Faïza Guène.
She has a new novel out in the UK, Dreams from the Endz; get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.
And there's a review of it, by Nicholas Tucker, in The Independent today.
Fernando Morais' biography of Paulo Coelho, O Mago ('The Magus'), has come out in Portuguese; an English translation is already listed at Amazon.co.uk (publication date: March 2009) and Sant Jordia Asociados have an information page on it.
Reuters report that in it the 'Wild, dark side' of Coelho revealed, as:
It contains "shocking" confessions Morais said he found in almost 200 diaries and 100 tapes that Coelho, 60, kept hidden in a chest for years.
The 632-page book hit stores this week and sold more than 10,000 copies in Brazil the day it was released.
The Magus, a 600-page portrait by journalist Fernando Morais, makes several eyebrow-raising claims, among them that the Brazilian Academy of Letters (ABL) accepted Coelho in 2002 because the writer was childless and it speculated that in the case of his death, he could leave a substantial part of his fortune to the institution.
It usually goes to a novelist, or at least someone who writes books, but the German Publishers' and Booksellers' Association has announced that Anselm Kiefer is getting this year's Peace Prize of the German Book Trade ('Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels') -- which he'll get to pick up at the Frankfurt Book Fair, at a ceremony on 19 October.
See also the list of previous winners.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Jean Teulé's The Suicide Shop.
This has gotten a fair amount of UK-weblog notice, which Scott Pack seems to have started, and it'll be interesting to see whether it becomes a sleeper hit (as it apparently was in France).
It's published by Gallic Books, yet another new publisher trying to carve out a foreign literature niche -- in their case: "English-language editions of the very best in French fiction".
Sounds great, so we hope they fare well with this and their other titles -- and maybe work out some US distribution .....
As Three Percent and others have mentioned, in the London Review of Books Nicholas Spice reviews Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek's Greed (or rather: Martin Chalmers' translation of her Gier), and focusses in on what may be one of the big problems with her work as far as English-speaking audiences (and reviewers) are concerned:
For all its derangement, Greed is not ugly.
Indeed, once one has got used to it, it yields strange and memorable pleasures.
But only if read in German. With its constant shifts of tone and register, the slippery sideways movement of thought through wordplay and punning, the frequent allusions to other German texts, the idiom of Greed poses almost insuperable obstacles to good translation.
And he is really unimpressed by that translation:
As it is, doubtless under tight economic constraints, the publishers have paid for a hit-and-miss, standard, ‘by the page’ translation and the result is a disaster.
It’s hard to imagine that Jelinek’s reputation in the English-speaking world will ever recover.
It would have been better to have left the novel untranslated.
(He also notes that Jelinek has also done some translation work -- such as (with Thomas Piltz) the German translation of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, Die Enden der Parabel (leading us to wonder yet again why it is that prominent foreign authors so frequently do translation work, while hardly any American or British authors are willing to ...).)
Spice also writes:
Reviewers of Greed have met it at best with polite puzzlement, at worst with disdain.
Philip Hensher said it was ‘atrocious’.
And he was right -- Greed is unreadable.
But it is not the same book as Gier.
What has also been atrocious has been the failure of anyone reviewing it to go back and read the German.
(Well, Tim Parks did seem to take the slightest stab (or jab) at it, in his review in The New York Review of Books, though presumably he didn't go nearly far enough.)
See also the publicity pages for the book from Serpent's Tail and Seven Stories, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk (or get the German edition, from Amazon.de !).
Meanwhile, however, the German critics have also been puzzling over Jelinek's latest work, the online-only novel Neid ('Envy') that can be found at her official website (both under Aktuelles as well as Prosa).
She finished it a couple of weeks ago, and it apparently amounts to 936 pages .....
Among the articles about the finished product:
The summer issue of The Quarterly Conversation
is now available online and, as always, there's a great deal of interest -- including Nigel Beale's review of Bolaño's Nazi Literature in the Americas (he's somewhat underwhelmed; see also our review)
as well as
François Monti's interview with French author and translator (Christophe) Claro (see also our review of his Electric Flesh).
Claro's workload is amazing -- and among the books he has and will translate are Pynchon's Against the Day and Paul Verhaeghen's Omega Minor (shockingly and disappointingly: from the English translation).
But check out everything that's on offer at The Quarterly Conversation.
Martin Amis already spouted lots of nonsense in his rather silly collection, The Second Plane, and apparently he can't stop himself.
It's not entirely his fault -- apparently audiences want to hear his wisdom/foolishness on global geopolitics -- but his arguments and opinions ccontinue to astound.
He recently appeared at the Hay festival, and The First Postreports that:
Martin Amis has issued an ominous warning to Barack Obama, saying that if he secures the Democratic nomination and goes on to become President of America he will, having been born a Muslim, "deserve" to have a fatwa pronounced upon him.
Amis made his remarks at the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival, where he had gone to plug his book The Second Plane.
He said: "His father was a Muslim, that means he is a Muslim.
It doesn't matter that his mother is a Christian.
He was born a Muslim and has converted to Christianity so he is in the same position as Salman Rushdie and deserves the death penalty."
Thank Allah the Muslims have Amis around to clear up these religious issues for them .....
We're not sure how accurate the quote is (nobody else seems to have reported anything as detailed), but among the problems with the statement is that the fatwa was issued against Rushdie specifically for his (perceived as) insulting-to-Islam book, The Satanic Verses.
Prior to that, no one seemed to care much about his apostasy.
(As far as we know, Sir Salman also never converted to Christianity, again making his case an entirely different kettle of fish.)
Amis' spin on Islamic doctrine may be 'true' (i.e. there is surely some documentary evidence out there saying that Muslims who abandon their religion are subject to the death penalty), but then again a literal reading of the Bible suggests lots of heinous punishments for all sorts of everyday infractions too.
We don't 'get' any of this religious (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or other) nonsense (and to us it really is very much all non-sense), but for the most part even those professing adherence to their various beliefs behave in a relatively civilised manner, rather than strictly 'by the book' (whichever book that may be).
Sure, there have been outrageous cases of individuals accused of apostasy, but these do seem to be very much the exception.
The First Post also reports that:
Amis, however, sees this apostasy as presenting difficulties when dealing in Middle Eastern politics.
He added: "He will have problems when he goes to Saudi Arabia if he becomes president."
Given the jr. Bush's 'successes' when visiting Saudi Arabia -- and the fact that no visiting dignitary could, say, enjoy a nice Christian Sunday service (or, if female, even drive a car ...) -- we somehow doubt that Obama's having rejected Islam (if that's how you want to put it) really is going to make things that much worse.
(John Harris also mentions Amis' remarks, in his comment at The Guardian, Stop digging !, but
another weblog post, Amis at full throttle finds: 'Amis's take on the great geopolitical issues of the day is relishable not for his analysis but for his phrases -- and what phrases'.)
[(Updated - 5 June): A reader also points us to the reactions when Edward Luttwak made similar claims in The New York Times, explaining further and better why Amis is so off-base with his (not even original) interpretations.]
Addendum: The New Yorker's Summer Fiction issue is now available, and also focusses quite a bit on religion: lots of 'Faith and Doubt'-shorts, as well as a book review, of sorts, by current blogger-darling James Wood dealing with religion.
We really should get around to reading his book on how fiction works, to see what all the fuss about this guy is about; we generally find his reviews worth reading but often baffling -- so also here, where it takes him 1800 words (!) before he even mentions the book that he's apparently reviewing (Bart D. Ehrman's God's Problem).
Not that what he says beforehand isn't of some interest, but we're not big fans of reviews where the reviewer's personal experience plays such a large role -- the book here seems barely more than an excuse for him to spout his own memories and philosophy (and we really would have hoped and thought he'd gotten all that religious stuff out of his system with his own novel, The Book Against God).
"In vernacular India, as literacy has grown, there is a huge hunger to learn," says K. Satyanarayan, director of New Horizon.
"Wisdom has it that nobody reads books now. But wisdom misses the point that people read newspapers. If you publish the right thing, people will read."
When I have a choice I go for interesting jackets, elegant typefaces, acid-free paper, but above all I prize compactness.
Whenever possible I go for omnibus editions.
The more books can fit in a single volume, the happier I am.
And I mourn the passing of the pocket-sized paperback, which was once allowed to contain all sorts of material and is now strictly reserved for the kinds of books that inspire gold-embossed titles and peekaboo die-cuts.
I like to carry books in my pockets, and trade paperbacks are an awkward fit, except in the dead of winter.
At The Guardian they have the first instalment of a collaborative story -- and with Jeanette Winterson, Ali Smith, A.M.Homes, and Jackie Kay working on it together we figure it may be of some interest.
In The Bookseller Graeme Neill reports that, as feared, the UK rights to Charlotte Roche's Feuchtgebiete have been snapped up: yes, German literary porn hit to HC:
Feuchtgebiete by Charlotte Roche -- the talk of the London Book Fair after it topped Amazon's worldwide bestseller chart in March -- has been acquired by Fourth Estate publishing director Nicholas Pearson for a "decent" sum.
Though you figure that for a piece of porn like this they'd have at least offered an indecent amount .....
Spain's book trade has not only escaped the downturn afflicting the rest of the economy, but is spectacularly bucking the trend.
Publishing houses say business last year broke all records, and they predict even better results for 2008.
They've announced the 32-book (!) strong longlist for the fiction prize of the 2008 Sunday Times Literary Awards -- and discuss the selection.
A few familiar names and titles (by Coetzee, Mda, Deon Meyer), but lots that hasn't made it to the US or UK yet.