"He is our textbook, and our road map for today's transitional period from a closed and communal terrain to its Western alternative, one open and competitive," she continues.
"How to survive and succeed in this Western world, which Russia always deemed linear, cold and calculating: this is what the art of Vladimir Nabokov teaches us."
Meanwhile The St.Petersburg Times reprints Steve Coates' recent review of the book from The New York Times Book Review.
Mark Sarvas mentioned this regarding the Australian edition of his Harry, Revised, that they had to rush to get it out down under within 30 days of the original publication elsewhere, otherwise Australian booksellers would be free to import the foreign edition.
Now Justine Ferrari reports in The Australian that Publishers and authors in book fight about that rule:
The Council of Australian Governments decided last week to ask the Productivity Commission to review copyright laws restricting the parallel importation of books.
These laws give the Australian copyright owner control over who is allowed to import books subject to the 30-day rule.
Under this rule, local publishers must supply a book within 30 days of its publication overseas, otherwise booksellers can import directly from the foreign publisher.
The Australian Publishers Association and the Australian Society of Authors are organising a grassroots campaign to educate the public that cheap books will come at a cost to the local industry.
We've now reviewed over 2100 books, and so we've once again tallied up how foreign our focus was over the past hundred titles (about half a year's worth of reviews): see our updated overview, How international are we ? Literature in translation at the complete review, as well as the complete breakdown by language on this list.
With 25 languages (other than English, which made up just a hair over one-fifth of all books) represented in the last 100 books this was the most 'international' stretch so far.
As usual, French books were the second most popular, after English, with 14, while Arabic also continues to be well-represented.
And we added two new languages (bringing the total to forty-eight): Nepali and Zulu.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Okuda Hideo's Lala Pipo.
Despite the title (and cover) this turned out to be a ... pleasant surprise.
It's fresher than a lot of the recent Japanese fiction Vertical brings out (perhaps because it is more recent ? -- it came out in Japan in 2005) and, next to Kitakata Kenzo, probably the most interesting voice they've brought out so far.
De papieren man alerts us to the fact that Janwillem van de Wetering has passed away; no English-language reports yet whatsoever, despite the fact that he died in Maine (though they should follow soon); meanwhile, see, for example, the NRC Handelsbladmention.
For more information about Van de Wetering and his books, see the pages at Dunn & Powell Books, or this recent Blowhard-appreciation.
In Haaretz Ofer Aderet gives a fascinating account of a potentially fabulous haul of Franz Kafka's papers in Uncovering an old leaf, as:
On a quiet street in the heart of Tel Aviv, not far from Ben-Gurion Boulevard, stands an old apartment building with a well-tended garden in front.
The exterior does not reveal the exciting story that has been hidden for decades inside the building, to which the eyes of scholars and lovers of literature are now turned: Many researchers believe that in a ground-floor apartment there can be found the remnants of the estate of the great 20th-century writer Franz Kafka, whose 125th birthday was celebrated on July 3.
Who is to blame ?
Max Brod, of course (and we use this opportunity to once again remind all authors: get your literary estates in order, and be very careful whom you entrust it to -- current flavour of the month Andrew Wylie wouldn't be our first choice, but considering what a hash Brod
made of everything even a horrible solution like that one is preferable ...) !
When the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia, Brod fled with one suitcase containing Kafka's property.
In 1939 he settled in Tel Aviv. Eventually he transferred some of the materials in his possession to archives -- among them the manuscripts of The Castle, The Metamorphosis and Amerika, but he retained in his possession a great deal of varied material that had belonged to Kafka.
Brod and his wife had no children and after his wife died, shortly after they arrived in Palestine, he lived alone, but had close relationships with a number of women.
One of them was his married secretary, Ilse Esther Hoffe.
Before his death in 1968 at the age of 84, Brod bequeathed his estate to Hoffe.
She seems to have done quite well with them -- selling off some of the goodies for tidy sums -- but she also kept a lot ("in her apartment in Tel Aviv in unsuitable conditions, exposed to the elements and to sanitation-related hazards").
The authorities got involved, too:
While only partially and only temporarily, the Israel State Archives, which is attached to the Prime Minister's Office, did in fact succeed in gaining access to the estate that Hoffe held.
In 1974, the archive people brought about her arrest at Ben-Gurion International Airport while she was en route abroad with some of Kafka's letters and his travel journal.
The excuse for the arrest was suspicion of a violation of the Archives Law, which prohibits the removal from Israel of valuable archival material before the state facility has registered and copied it.
In the wake of this incident Hoffe agreed to the registration of all of the documents and objects in her private collection.
However, the archive staff later claimed that she continued to conceal the really valuable material and had even smuggled some of it abroad.
As to the present situation:
Last year Hoffe died at the age of 101.
The rare legacy she had been keeping has been transferred to her two daughters, Ruth and Hava.
Hava, the younger one, who is now 74, is living in the apartment where her mother lived and kept the estate.
However, all attempts to contact her have failed. Neighbors who live nearby describe her as a woman who is "charming, but naive."
A new issue of the Swedish Book Review is up, though only a very limited amount is available online.
But the most important bit of new is: as Helen Sigeland writes, Translation Support is Back !.
Not just that, but:
We hope foreign publishers will also welcome the fact that Swedish authors will now qualify for travel grants in conjunction with the subsidy scheme.
A foreign publisher whose application for a translation grant has been successful will be able to invite the Swedish author to take part in readings and presentations, with their travel costs paid for by the scheme.
While publication of a translation could be seen as the final goal, author promotion broadens interest and prepares the ground for others to follow.
No word yet at the official site, last we checked, but they announced the winner of the 2008 Caine Prize for African Writing -- the prestigious African short-story prize -- yesterday, and, as the BBC report, 'Poison' by South African author Henrietta Rose-Innes took the prize.
(Updated - 10 July): You can now read the story at The Guardian.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Francis Ponge's Mute Objects of Expression, which Archipelago has now admirably brought out in English.
Peter Handke translated it into German -- what more do you need to know ?
Deutsche Welle report that The Pope of German Letters Returns to TV, as they're making a $8.3 million-budget TV-movie of German super-critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki's autobiography, The Author of Himself -- though:
the made-for-television movie will not concentrate on Reich-Ranicki's rise to fame as a literary critic.
Instead the 90-minute biopic will adapt Reich-Ranicki's 1999 publication, The Author of Himself: The Life of Marcel Reich-Ranicki, a memoir that retells the critics extraordinary life as a Jew who survived the Nazi era.
The book is actually available in translation; see the Princeton University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The film is scheduled to be aired next April.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Rivka Galchen's Atmospheric Disturbances.
We had a couple of problems with the book.
Certainly, having read Antonio Muñoz Molina's In her Absence -- with its almost identical opening scene/premise -- not too long ago didn't help.
And then there was the "character" of Tzvi Gal-Chen
-- which surprisingly few of the reviews made much of.
Adam Kirsch did write, in his review in The New York Sun, that:
By giving the elusive Tzvi, who never actually appears in the novel, a version of her own name, Ms. Galchen means to complicate her novelistic game, but the actual effect is to simplify it.
Every time we read the name -- and it appears more and more often as Leo starts to believe his own lie, convincing himself that Tzvi holds the key to Rema's disappearance -- we are reminded of the fictionality of Ms. Galchen's world.
"Gal-Chen" is like the author's wink to the reader, delivered over the heads of the characters, reminding us that after all this is just a novel, a made-up story.
But we had just the opposite reaction, since the use of the figure suggests an author's wink that this is not just a novel or made-up story (since many of the details about Tzvi -- and presumably the two photographs of him -- are factual).
James Wood goes into this a bit in his review in The New Yorker; in any case, we couldn't help but see it as central to the novel, even as it also remained mystifying (and highly irritating).
There's an exhibit of portraits by Wyndham Lewis at the National Gallery through 19 October.
In the Sunday Times Waldemar Januszczak writes about Wyndham Lewis's big mistake, arguing that: 'Yes, he was a fascist sympathiser, but the firebrand vorticist Wyndham Lewis is still one of our finest portraitists':
The Hitler book is now lying innocently enough in a case at the centre of the National Portrait Gallery’s feisty little survey of Lewis’s portraiture.
It has an assortment of punchy swastikas on the cover, redesigned at sharp, vorticist angles: the modernist swastika, no less.
It’s full of nonsense about Hitler being "a man of peace" and the Zionist conspiracy to take over the world, but then, so much of Lewis’s literary output is the slavering of a crackpot.
It’s his paintings that are the real achievement -- because this literary loony was surely the finest British portraitist of the 20th century.
The author Amanda Foreman is being accused of turning the genteel world of historical biography into a playground for glamorous young female writers trying to make a quick killing in the bestseller lists.
Oh, dear !
Foreman, who posed naked in Tatler magazine behind a pile of books after finding success with her first book Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, published in 1998, is blamed for "devaluing the biographer’s skill", "doing a disservice to biography in general" and ushering in an era of books commissioned more for the author's looks than their contents.
(The picture -- reprinted in the Sunday Times article -- is ... well, certainly attention-grabbing.)
Almost two decades ago Brad Kessler reported in The New York Times that:
The Aly Baba Cafe in downtown Cairo is a cheerless place with yellowing walls and soiled soapbox-sized tables.
By day, couples rendezvous in its dark corners, and at night it is mostly empty.
But the cafe on Tahrir Square has two things to recommend it.
The second-floor window looks out over the monuments that have come to symbolize modern Egypt: the Nasser-era Mugamma building, the bureaucratic hub of the country; the Arab League headquarters, unused since Egypt signed the Camp David accords; the Nile Hilton, and the Egyptian Museum.
And in the early morning, another monument of modern Egypt is on view at the Aly Baba: Naguib Mahfouz, the 78-year-old author who is the first Arab to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Finally, we are at Tahrir Square, crowded and brightly lit, where everything seems to be happening at once.
Café Ali Baba is right there, except that it is abandoned and boarded up.
A traffic policeman gladly turns away from his impossible job and explains that the old café has been sold by its owner; a fast food establishment is soon to open in its place !
FLIP -- the Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty -- runs through 6 July, with an impressive list of participants that includes Cees Nooteboom, Pepetela, Pierre Bayard, and Tom Stoppard.
There are also video-clips of some of the events at the official site.
A.N.Wilson is still obsessing over Virgil's Aeneid (see our previous mention), and now offers a column in The Telegraph comparing three recent translations, Virgil through modern eyes.
Not exactly an in-depth comparison, but at least a glimpse of the alternatives (though the best he can say about the OUP edition is that: "OUP is to be commended for dropping the really bad translation by Cecil Day Lewis").
At hlo József J. Fekete profiles 'the Proteus of Hungarian literature',
Szentkuthy Miklós (1908–1988), in Outprousting Proust
He sounds like a fascinating author -- and he also dabbled at translation (James Joyce's Ulysses, among other works).
His own translation-record abroad is also interesting:
He has also been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian and Slovakian.
But not into German, even though this language has been a most welcoming host to Hungarian literature, nor into English.
There was only one Proust and one Joyce, and Hungarian commentators agree with foreign critics in ranking Szentkuthy on a par with these two authors.
The translators of the neo-romance languages instantly recognised that here was a genius of European standard.
The fact that he has not been translated into German might partly be explained by something that Szentkuthy himself covertly alluded to: German is most of all the ultra-precise language of philosophy and is thus unsuited to show the nuanced richness of artistic thinking.
To the English he has probably remained unknown for the simple reason that no translator with the right kind of interest has come across his books to raise a publisher’s interest in the way in which it happened, say, in Paris.
It's rare to see such a cultural split in translation, but it seems accurate; check out also the Szentkuthy-page at French publisher José Corti -- or this Spanish weblog "dedicado al escritor húngaro Miklós Szentkuthy".
For some sense of what he was about, check out this excerpt from his Frivolous Confessions at The Hungarian Quarterly.
We were thrilled to come across a translation of Danilo Kiš' first novel, but Mansarda
could be a case study in how not to publish a book in translation.
Danilo Kiš is an author that many of our readers are familiar with.
If not his work -- though Dalkey Archive Press have recently re-issued two of his books --, then at least the name.
And a translation of any of his previously untranslated works ... well, that is pretty big news.
Except, of course, that it wasn't.
We're pretty sure you were unaware this book was being published.
We certainly were -- and, let's face it, if anyone was likely to know about something like this, well, it would be us.
So what's gone wrong with the publication of the book ?
It's a nice enough little volume, though a bit expensive for a hundred-page paperback ($19.95 list price).
But that's almost a different issue, and the least of our concerns (especially since we paid less than $2.00 for it).
The basic problems are: how will interested readers ever learn about the existence of this book -- and how will they be able to get their hands on it ?
The book seems to have been released ... well, as if printing and binding it were all there was to it.
The publisher is Serbian Classics Press, and with their mission of: "publishing classic and contemporary Serbian fiction, biography, literary criticism and reference works in translation, as well as original English language works by authors from the Serbian diaspora" they sound like exactly the kind of outfit we should know about.
Except, of course, that we didn't.
That happens -- we're constantly learning about new publishers.
But what can we learn about them and their offerings ?
Yes, they have a website, but the catalogue-page doesn't seem to have been updated in years, and we couldn't find any information about the Kiš-title on it.
Mansarda is exactly the kind of title that would benefit immensely from a strong internet-presence, with information (and ordering opportunities) at the publisher's website.
Barnes & Noble isn't going to stock this thing, and likely few independents would.
But Kiš-fans -- and enough kids read him in college for there to be some die-hard enthusiasts -- would certainly seek this kind of thing out ... if they heard about it, and if they could, vaguely conveniently, lay their hands on it.
Which leads to the second problem: not only is there no information at the publisher's site, this book is not listed at any of the English-language Amazons.
(Or Barnes & Noble.)
Imagine that, in this day and age, where every print-on-demand title is listed
at every online bookseller.
Here's a book, published in New York in 2008, which you can't buy through Amazon.com.
You can buy two different editions of the original in Serbian, or the French or German translations -- but not the new English edition.
Maybe they're still working on getting it listed, but we have a finished copy, so it's already circulating (though, we suspect, not very far).
(Updated - 10 July): We're pleased to see that it is now listed (though for now still 'temporarily unavailable') at Amazon.com.
It's admirable that they've brought this (and others -- they list six more Serbian classics at the back of the book) out, but what exactly is the distribution plan here ?
We hope and assume they're working on it, but given the state of the catalogue-page on their website it appears they're taking a ... patient approach.
Unrelated to these issues, we'd also question the choice of the English title.
Yes, the Serbian title was Mansarda (well, Мансарда -- and maybe we should be relieved they didn't use the Cyrillic lettering ...), but while readers in many European countries would understand what that is (and the French title is La mansarde -- though even the Germans didn't opt for the perfectly understandable Die Mansarde) surely any publisher of translations has to realise that English-speaking readers probably need a little more help.
Sure, many are more open-minded than, say Sam Tanenhaus, for whom the little squiggle on Kiš' last name was likely enough for him to drop the book in baffled disgust, but a more recognisable title, something reassuringly English, would certainly make them more likely to at least consider the book.
As is, and given how little information is available about the book, some might well even worry that it's actually a Serbian text, rather than a translation .....
We're glad to provide a review and some information about the book -- that's what we're here for, after all -- but it's not a great sign when we supply not just a bit of possibly useful supplemental information about a book, but rather are pretty much the only source in town (or rather: on the internet).
We understand that large publishers sometimes drop the ball, but at least they go through the motions and do the basics (some information at the corporate site, listing the book at online booksellers, etc.), but for a tiny independent publisher doing everything that's possible (and so much is, for relatively little money and effort) is a necessity.
Maybe Serbian Classic Press do well enough on the Serbian-circuit (local fairs, church bazaars, Yugoslavian fan clubs ?) that they don't need to sell their books in the usual way.
But it's too bad, because some of these titles -- and this one in particular -- are of interest to a broader audience.
And if we hadn't chanced upon a copy, and if we weren't obsessed with making our readers aware of stuff like this, probably very few of you would ever have heard of it.
And that would have been a shame.
For those interested in the book, you can presumably order it directly from Serbian Classics Press through their website -- or ask your local bookseller to get it for you (the ISBN number is 9780967889375).
(Updated - 8 July): See now also Chad Post's comments at Three Percent.
While the results were somewhat disappointing, we're impressed by this effort to look at the larger picture of quality issues with translations from the Korean, as reported, for example, by Chung Ah-young in Literature Translation Has Long Way to Go in The Korea Times:
As of 2007, more than 700 translation works have been published in English-speaking countries, bringing about a dramatic surge in quantity.
But what about the quality ?
So: "41 novels in 72 editions from 721 books that had been translated and published up to 2006 were evaluated."
Again: it's impressive that they're trying to learn from everybody's mistakes.
Arts Journal points us to James Adams' article in The Globe and Mail on Taking a shot at a new canon, where: 'Five well-versed experts pick their Top 10 Canadian novels -- a concept that caused a literary storm when it was first tried 30 years ago at a conference in Calgary'
The popular TV show Lost now has its own Book Club, "home to any and all literary references made on the show", which is a pretty cool idea.
It does sound good, though we remind you that they've done variations of this with other TV shows and, as we complained, completely blew it pretty quickly with the Gilmore Girls' 'Rory's Book Club'.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Elena Ferrante's The Lost Daughter.
Europa editions has now brought out three of Ferrante's titles (we have the other two under review as well), and it's interesting to see that, while they haven't received much US attention, a few outlets have been more ... receptive to them.
For example, both the (notoriously foreign-fiction-phobic, under its current administration) The New York Times Book Review and the Seattle Times have reviewed two of the three titles.
But what stands out is that she's hit the trifecta with The New Yorker.
Sure, all three were reviews of the 'Briefly Noted'-variety, but still .....
Anyone think this might have something to do with who the translator of all three books is ?
(All three novels were translated by Ann Goldstein.
Ann Goldstein happens to be an editor at The New Yorker.)
Anyone have a problem with that ?
We're just asking .....
The Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz have announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format ! and German !) that Marcel Beyer has won the Joseph-Breitbach-Preis.
At € 50,000 this is another very rich author-prize (which Beyer only gets to pick up a couple of months from now); you would have figured, though, that with that kind of cash on hand they could have polished up the official site by now .....
Okay, Ahmed Ateeq's Images of women in Yemeni fiction isn't the most exciting piece we've ever linked to, but we're impressed the Yemen Times
reprints an article like this -- and it's not entirely far-fetched, as he takes several examples from the works of Mohammed Abdul Weli, whose They Die Strangers we happen to have under review .....