They've finally filled another of the empty fauteuils at the Académie Française, as Jean-Christophe Ruffin was elected to take over Henri Troyat's old seat, fauteuil 28, yesterday.
He narrowly beat out Olivier Germain-Thomas, 14 votes to 12 (with zero votes going to Nathan Riolon).
See, for example, Libération's report, Et le gagnant est ... Jean-Christophe Rufin.
Rufin has the literary pedigree -- he won the Prix Goncourt in 2001 -- and several of his titles have been translated into English (though we've been less than impressed).
On top of that he's also a (medical) doctor -- and currently serves as France's ambassador to Senegal .....
Fred Vargas' novels now regularly get translated into English, and her works seem to fare quite well in the US/UK, but she's a mega-selling star in France and with a new novel coming out next week -- Un lieu incertain (get your copy at Amazon.fr, or see the Editions Viviane Hamy publicity page) -- there's already considerable pre-publication build-up (and the book is already the top-selling title at Amazon.fr).
Among the interviews alone, see those at L'Express, Libération, and the Nouvel Observateur.
(For now, we only have one Vargas-title under review, Have Mercy on Us All.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Leonardo Padura's Havana Gold.
This is the fourth volume of Padura's 'Havana quartet' to be published in English translation -- though it's actually the second in the series; since the quartet covers the four seasons of a single year the order is actually meaningful -- there's a distinct progression -- which makes this out-of-sequence publication even more peculiar.
Of course, now that all four volumes are available it doesn't really matter any more, and readers can read it in order.
Interestingly, readers who refer to the copyright page might be led to believe that it was the last of the books to appear, since the Spanish copyright date is given there as 2001.
In fact, the book was first published in 1994 -- but the original Cuban edition apparently exists outside the acceptable literary world.
They're announcing the winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award today [Updated: they've announced it, and the prize went to The Time We Have Taken, by Steven Carroll], but in Eyes on the prize in The Australian Geordie Williamson finds that:
And yet despite its evident success through five decades, as well as its confident claims to cultural authority, the advertised virtues and real influence of the Miles Franklin are open to doubt. The problem lies in the Faustian bargain the literary community makes with the prize.
In return for a generous cheque, extra sales of about 2000 copies (to compare, Anne Enright's publishers printed an extra 30,000 copies of The Gathering after it took last year's Man Booker prize), along with a brief adulatory blast from the media, the writer submits to a process that is more likely to burnish the prize's credentials rather than the book's.
Tap the Miles Franklin back list and you will hear a hollow ring.
So, for example, the winning works of multiple-award-winners David Ireland and Thea Astley are entirely or largely out of print .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Catherine O'Flynn's What Was Lost.
It came out in the UK last year and got some prize attention -- Man Booker-longlisted, Costa First Novel winner, etc. -- and is now finally coming to the US (as a paperback original).
It was apparently rejected by many, many UK publishers before finally getting picked up by Tindal Street, which really makes us wonder about the publishing world: the book's qualities are obvious -- it's just plain good, and a very engaging read --, and it does not seem like a high-risk title (it doesn't just have a limited-audience appeal, it isn't particularly long or heavy, etc.).
Why not take a chance on it ?
It also only got relatively limited review-coverage in the UK -- most of the major outlets did get to it (some only once it was prize-listed), but a lot of the reviews were of the 'in-brief' sort.
as to what the American reactions will be; things are at least off to a good start with Jane Smiley's (full-length) review in The Los Angeles Times.
The Spring 2008 issue of 91st Meridian (from the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa) now seems to be fully accessible online.
It's a non-fiction issue, but there's still a considerable amount that's of interest.
In The outsider, in The Guardian, Richard Lea profiles local favourite Amélie Nothomb -- despite having trouble recognising her .....
(Note also that when he refers to Fear and Loathing he means Fear and Trembling (Stupeur et tremblements).)
Afghanistan's tumultuous history of the last three decades is behind the incredible popularity of poetry in Pashto, the language of the majority Pakhtoons in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP).
At hlo they print Ágnes Nemes Nagy's To Translate, where she writes:
The Hungarian language is isolated.
The Hungarian language means death for world literature.
To write poetry in Hungarian is galley slavery.
The Hungarian language is exceptionally suitable for poetry.
Let me support my bold conviction with a simple reason, with the formal and metrical possibilities inherent in the Hungarian language.
Let us repeat this again and again: our rhythmic systems, both individually and in interaction with each other, bring about such abundance in versification that cannot be found anywhere else in Europe.
And as for the Hungarian rhyme: the twentieth century loathing for rhymes in European (Indo-European) languages is only partly valid for our entirely differently structured language.
No, we have not quite played all the notes of Hungarian sheet music.
When we talk about our mother tongue, we should never forget that we are the children of a young mother.
They're announcing the winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award sometime today, but we won't be updating for a few days, so you'll have to check the official site to find out who got it.
[Updated: Actually they've announced it early enough for us to pass on the information: De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage took the prize.]
In The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Mark Roth prepares readers for it, in A lucky novelist will discover a bonanza in little-known IMPAC prize -- and writes that:
it's safe to say that many Americans are completely unaware of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, even though it hands out more money than any other annual fiction prize in the world.
Tomorrow's winner will get 100,000 Euros, or roughly $157,000.
However, as we've mentioned what feels like countless times before: the IMPAC is not the biggest single-title literary prize out there: the Spanish Premio Planeta de Novela, for example, hands out a whopping €600,000 to the winner .....
They've announced the winner of the Russian Национальный бестселлер (yes, 'National Bestseller') prize -- which Galina Stolyarova calls 'Russia's premier literary prize' in her report in The St. Petersburg Times, A prize for Prilepin.
We don't know about it being the top Russian prize -- but, as Stolyarova notes:
The National Bestseller award was founded in 2001.
During the contestís brief history, its winners and finalists have included some of the countryís bestselling and most controversial writers, including Viktor Pelevin, Vladimir Sorokin, Alexander Prokhanov, Mikhail Shishkin, Pavel Krusanov and Irina Denezhkina.
So it can't be all bad.
This year's winning title is Грех ('Sin') by Zakhar Prilepin; see also his official site, or English information at the
Nibbe & Wiedling Agency
(who also have descriptions of two of his titles (though not this one).
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Abdelilah Hamdouchi's The Final Bet, which the publishers describe as being: "The first Arabic detective novel to be translated into English".
Kyrgyz author Chingiz Aitmatov has passed away, another of the old guard from the far reaches of the Soviet Union to pass away recently (previously: Yuri Rytkheu).
He was pretty popular: as RIA Novosti report:
His works have been translated into more than 150 languages with over 40 million copies sold worldwide
See also, for example, the Reuters obituary.
Telegram (who spell his name: Tchingiz Aïtmatov -- oh how we love transliteration confusion !) have recently brought out his Jamilia; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
We're big B.S.Johnson fans, and are thrilled to see that New Directions have brought out his The Unfortunates again.
We've admired the box in bookstores, but haven't received our own copy yet; in The New York Sun today Benjamin Lytal reviews it, and finds:
Johnson's own dogged seriousness, and his concomitant boyishness, make a fascinating medium for his occasional bursts of pity and shy friendliness. This book deserves a place in the history of memoir, and in anthologies about illness, and, with luck, it will have one, if readers do not judge it by its covers.
As Three Percent noted, Eurozine continues its useful 'Literary perspectives'-series with a look at Austrian literature, by Daniela Strigl -- who finds it: 'Anything but a "German appendix"'.
We have quite a few of the titles that are mentioned under review, including everything by Daniel Kehlmann and Thomas Glavinic (including Die Arbeit der Nacht (which should be appearing in translation soon) and the very enjoyable Das bin doch ich) and Wolfgang Haas' Das Wetter vor 15 Jahren.
The Athens Prize for Literature is only in its second year, but looks fairly ambitious, and they've announced their prize-winners for this year (no press release out yet, but they were kind enough to let us know).
They have an international category, in which Javier Cercas' The Speed of Light beat out Martin Amis, Sarah Waters, Uzodinma Iweala, Andrew OíHagan, Jan Henrik Swahn, and Zsuzsa Bank.
Ioanna Bouratzopoulos won for best Greek novel, for What Lotís Wife saw.
In his Short Cuts-column in the current London Review of Books John Lanchester writes about the Library of America: he admits he's "an abject fan of the Library" and that: "The books are lovely, lovely objects. They are about the nicest books I have."
What is really hard, though, is to read them.
The books are so gorgeous, so marmoreal, that I find them unreadable.
Not unreadable in the Pierre Bourdieu/Edward Bulwer-Lytton sense, and not unreadable in theory -- I want to read them, I really do.
Itís just that in practice, I donít.
He also has a few Pléiade-volumes, and all together:
That makes 16 volumes of beautifully produced and entirely unread great writing.
What is it about these amazingly gorgeous books that makes one not want to read them ?
Perhaps itís to do with having a palate corrupted by paperbacks.
We don't really get what his problem is, but at least his concern that: "Thereís a risk that memorialising writers, consigning them to Culture, is a way of ignoring them" is worth thinking about.