They've announced the winner of the Saif Ghobash - Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, and:
The 2008 Prize is to be awarded to Fady Joudah for his translation of Mahmoud Darwish's poetry collections in The Butterfly's Burden, published in a bilingual edition by Bloodaxe Books in the UK, and by Copper Canyon Press in the USA, the latter being short-listed earlier this year for PEN America’s poetry in translation award.
See the publicity pages for the bilingual (!) edition from Bloodaxe and Copper Canyon Press, or get your own copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The award wil be handed out 29 September at the South Bank Centre, where Louis de Bernières will also give the 'Sebald Lecture on the Art of Literary Translation', speaking on 'A Day Out for Mehmet Erbil'.
At the BCLT site they describe it as:
Louis de Bernieres, author of Captain Corelli's Mandolin, explores fiction as the terrain for translation between cultures, inspired by his interest in history and place, and its relationship to Englishness
Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan first met in Vienna shortly after the end of World War II, and while Celan soon moved on to Paris they kept up a relationship for quite a while.
Now their correspondence has been published in Germany, as Herzzeit (see the Suhrkamp publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.de).
It's been getting a great deal of press coverage -- see, for example, reviews in the FAZ, Frankfurter Rundschau, or Die Welt, as well as a conversation between Ulrike Timm and one of the editors -- and seems to be doing very well (an Amazon sales rank of 50, last we checked).
The release of this correspondence wasn't expected for a while, but the heirs and literary executors decided to jump the gun.
It's unclear to us whether it was Bachmann herself that wanted to keep this stuff out of print as long as possible (presumably the usual fifty-years-after-her-death span) or that's what the heirs originally decided on.
Obviously, it's interesting material to have access to now, but still .....
City Lights, San Francisco’s indie publisher and bookshop, may sit on a fault line but over the years it has created a few shock waves of its own.
And while we like the sentiment she doesn't seem to know quite when to stop, concluding:
City Lights is a flagship local bookshop for a flotilla of self-sufficient booksellers and publishers around the world who are committed to independent thought and who refuse to succumb to a mass-marketed literary canon.
We may not like some of the books but, if we care about their right to be read, City Lights is an indie institution whose actions still speak louder than words.
The beat goes on.
Set on a planet called Arbe (pronounced "arb"), Anathem documents a civilization split between two cultures: an indulgent Saecular general population (hooked on casinos, shopping in megastores, trashing the environment—sound familiar?) and the super-educated cohort known as the avaunt, or "auts," who live a monastic existence defined by intellectual activity and circumscribed rituals.
We have most of Stephenson's books under review, so we hope to get to this too.
As we mentioned, they recently announced the winner of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, but some people think enough is enough.
The mayor of Lytton, Chris O'Connor, wrote to the Globe & Mail, announcing a debate between contest-man Scott Rice and Henry Cobbald-Lytton (Bulwer's great-great-great-grandson) on the subject of Lord Lytton's writing prowess.
The Ash-Cache-Journal has more, in Lord defends namesake in Lytton:
The Honourable Henry Lytton Cobbold (great-great-great-grandson of Victorian novelist and politician Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, namesake of the Village of Lytton) is taking the gloves off for a no-holds barred literary slamfest with his famous forebear’s tormentors from San Jose State University.
"I am very pleased for the opportunity to defend Bulwer Lytton’s literary reputation in debate with Professor (Scott) Rice, whose scurrilous Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest cannot even spell the great man’s name correctly," said Lytton Cobbold.
Fortunately, Rice is getting into the spirit of things, too:
For his part, Rice isn’t afraid to take the gloves off to defend his contest.
"I come to bury Lytton, not to praise him," said Rice.
"The evil that men do lives after them, in Lytton’s case in 27 novels whose perfervid turgidity I intend to expose, denude, and generally make visible."
For those who are interested:
The trans-Atlantic literary slugfest, dubbed the Great Bulwer-Lytton Debate, takes place Aug. 30, at 3 pm in Lytton and is a centerpiece of Lytton’s Riverfest celebrations (Aug. 29-31).
The yet untitled collection of seventeen (17) autobiographical essays has been described by those who have read sections of the new work as "quintessential Achebe’s a tour de force of concise essays that deliver a powerful wallop of a commentary on life and letters through the lens of one of the world’s most gifted writers."
Meanwhile, at USAfrica they write that the collection will be titled Reflections of a British Protected Child.
Most African writers say we do not have enough readership in the continent. What is your take on this ?
"I do not know what the quick fix to that is. But the fact is that many Africans have not been brought up in a reading culture.
We never take it as entertainment, enlightenment or bemusement.
I’m rather hesitant about Government intervention.
Maybe as writers, we should go the Nollywood way.
Those video people are not waiting for books to be written then turn them into films.
Maybe we should just tell our stories, direct, for relaxation even, not just heavy-lit."
We're kind of surprised that, as Dwight Garner notes in his Inside the List-column (last item) in The New York Times Book Review:
The novelist Haruki Murakami hits the nonfiction list for the first time with What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
It's on last week's list (the one in this week's -- issue of 17 August -- print edition) at 14th, as well as next week's list (already available online ...), at 16th.
Given the mixed reviews (see ours, with links to and summaries of many of the other reviews) and the subject matter it seems a pretty unlikely bestseller, but it seems that currently pretty much anything Murakami does attracts a lot of interest.
That's certainly also the case hereabouts, where four of the top fifteen most-accessed reviews at the site last month were of Murakami titles.
In The Scotsmanthis week's Bookworm column offers some early highlights from this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival; aside from some disturbing examples of child-(naming-)abuse the most interesting titbit is the:
Most troubled Transylvanian translator: Gyorgy Dragoman, who rendered Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting into Hungarian.
"It was my first book," he said, "and I had trouble with some of the words.
I really needed to find someone from Leith who could help me with them but I couldn't so I just had to be very creative with Hungarian swear words."
Dragomán -- author of the well-received The White King, which we will be getting to -- is yet another example of a novelist who also translates.
Why is this so common everywhere except in the English-speaking world ?
In A forum for African writers in the Mail & Guardian Percy Zvomuya introduces James Currey's fascinating sounding Africa Writes Back: The African Writers Series & the Launch of African Literature, already out in Africa and forthcoming from Ohio University Press in the US and UK (see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
As big African Writers Series fans, this looks like a definite must-read for us.
Interestingly, Zvomuya begins with an Ayi Kwei Armah ... anecdote -- and notes:
although Armah has been busy in recent years, studiously going through the continent's history and appropriating Egyptology for use in his new works, his later novels are as unavailable as the author himself.
He has published Kmt: In the House of Life and The Silence of the Elders .
Most of his readers, though, have no way of getting hold of any of these books as they are not available in any local bookshop except from Armah himself or as overpriced copies sold by online shops.
Indeed -- check out the prices for (the tantalizing 'epistemic novel') KMT: In the house of life at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
-- though the list price at Armah's Per Ankh-house is more reasonable.
(We have also complained about the difficulties of gaining access to his books, in Looking for Ayi Kwei Armah.)
Zvomuya also writes that:
Africa Writes Back is a thorough book, excavating even the likes of Yambo Ouologuem, author of Bound To Violence
But Bound To Violence -- which we have under review -- is surely far from the obscurest of the AWS titles.
What we hope to learn is what happened to the likes of Daniachew Worku .....
Die Zeit cruelly teases
by announcing the first and sole publication anywhere of excerpts from
Vladimir Nabokov's last work, The Original of Laura, four index cards worth -- but only in the print edition, not online.
They also mention that the German edition will be out in September 2009.
At his Sentences-weblog Wyatt Mason presents Malcolm Lowry's response to Jacques Barzun's curt dismissal of Under the Volcano, in (the somewhat misleadingly titled post) "May Christ Send You Sorrow and a Serious Illness".
It's taken from a new collection of 'Fictions, Poems, Fragments, Letters' by Lowry, The Voyage That Never Ends, that New York Review Books is bringing out; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've announced the winner of the (in)famous Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (where: "entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels") for 2008, and you can find it -- and all the category-winners and 'dishonorable mentions' -- at the official results page.
Always fun, though as actual Bulwer-Lytton fans (we haven't read all his works, but have made it through 19 of them -- some 10,000 pages) we feel bad for the guy, to be immortalized in this manner.
But it's presumably still preferable to being entirely forgotten, as he would be otherwise.
There hasn't been that much 'rentrée littéraire' buzz yet, though the big French fall season where publishers flood the market with their big books is about to be unleashed -- most of the French sites still have last year's information up.
In The Guardian Alison Flood did suggest that there was a Gloomy autumn on way for French writing ('with fewer titles published and grim subject matter prevailing'), providing a brief overview (676 titles coming out, etc.).
Among the few points of interest (though it seems, to put it mildly, exaggerated):
"More and more young authors don't want to be published by the big houses so are self-publishing via the internet," said Thomas, suggesting that big houses may be missing out on future literary stars.
Also on the potential best-seller list of French-penned titles is a 17th novel by Belgium's somewhat gothic Amelie Nothomb
Somewhat gothic ?
Well, the word does come up in a long interview of Nothomb by Marie-Françoise Leclère in Le Point, Amélie Nothomb, l'écriture est la vie
-- in which Nothomb notes that while Le Fait du prince is her 17th published novel, it is actually the 61st (!) she's written, as she famously writes for the drawer (or herself).
As she reckons, she writes an average of 3.7 books a year, but only publishes one.
And she's determined that she will be the one to decide what happens with all those manuscripts after her death.
(We wish her good luck with that -- she better tread very carefully, as, as we have often mentioned, literary executors and heirs manage to do the darnedest things after authors die .....)
On their homepage the National Book Foundation reveals that:
Over 200 publishers submitted 1,258 books for the 2008 National Book Awards, an increase of six percent from 2007.
The total broken down by genre:
Young People's Lit., 274
Outrageously -- but just like far too many literary awards (including, notoriously, the Man Booker) -- they leave out the most important information: just what were those books ?
Publishers, of course, don't want this information made public (because their authors would see that they were too cheap to pay the $125 per title entry fee ...), but we don't understand why the NBF plays along with that game.
How can the public know whether this is an award worth taking seriously if it's not allowed to know what the competition is ?
The fiction total is suspiciously low -- as best we can tell the limitations on what can be entered aren't too great: authors must be U.S. citizens and alive, the books must have been originally written in English.
What, there were only 271 such works which their publishers thought might possibly be prize-worthy published in the US all last year ?
Come on !
As with the Man Booker, titles can also be 'called in' -- but again, there's no information as to whether any had been (much less which).
On a slightly different note: one additional requirement also isn't very much to our liking, as publishers are required to commit
To purchase from the National Book Foundation, when appropriate, medallions to be affixed to the covers of Finalist and Winning books.
The Foundation will also license the medallion image artwork for reproduction on the covers of Finalist and Winning books.
Please contact the Foundation offices for details about pricing and licensing.
Hey, it's a worth institution and whatnot, but does the money-grubbing have to be so front and centre ?
(The Pulitzers at least don't require an entry fee .....)
There's a whole lot of discussion about the apparent success of Amazon's 'Kindle'-device, especially in the wake of Erick Schonfeld's claim at TechCrunch that We Know How Many Kindles Amazon Has Sold: 240,000 ("according to a source close to Amazon with direct knowledge of the numbers").
Among the posts of interest, see Chad Post's at Three Percent, More Kindle Quotes, and Levi's comments at LitKicks.
Much of the guesswork about whether or not the device has caught on has revolved around personal observation -- who has and hasn't seen the device in actual circulation.
We haven't (but we're not very observant) and, outside those who have mentioned it on their weblogs, we don't know anyone who owns one (but then we don't know many people, either, certainly not many who read much).
Nevertheless, we have to question whether this thing has really caught on, and the reason we are very suspicious is that we figure if there are so many devices out there people would also be buying content at Amazon.
So: are they ?
Quite a few visitors to our site click through to Amazon and make purchases there.
Indeed, we've been considering adding an additional link on our review pages, to the Kindle-editions of the titles under review.
But in fact few people who click through any particular title at Amazon from our site actually go on to purchase that title, so we've decided that for now it isn't worth the bother.
But many people do click through to Amazon and wind up buying something (and let us take this opportunity to thank you -- very much !-- for doing so, since we do get a commission, and we much appreciate the small amounts that come our way this way).
Since the release of the Kindle, visitors to our site have purchased several thousand items, including several hundred non-book items, from DVDs and CDs to apparel, food, toys, cleaning utensils, kitchenware, a chainsaw, and various electronic items (again: all much appreciated !).
No one has bought a Kindle, but that isn't that surprising (well, someone did buy a chainsaw ...).
The vast majority of purchases are for literary content.
Several thousand of which have been purchased since the release of the Kindle.
But so far only one person has bought -- one single -- Kindle download (it happened quite recently, which is why we're jumping into this whole discussion).
Now obviously there are all sorts of demographic issues here: is the sample of our users large enough to be statistically significant ?
Sure, it's a literary-minded audience, but maybe it's not the audience that has embraced the Kindle ?
Still, the time-span, our obviously book-content-interested audience, and the sheer number of book purchases compared to Kindle-content purchases suggests this thing isn't quite that popular.
It's a shame Amazon won't reveal all the numbers (god, all this secrecy drives us nuts ...) -- and too bad the Nielsen BookScan numbers can't count Kindle-title sales yet.
But until we see some some verified hard numbers we continue to have considerable doubts about this thing.
a federal appeals court has overturned a 2006 decision that awarded rights to 10 John Steinbeck titles to the author's son and granddaughter.
The new decision returns the rights to Steinbeck's publisher, Penguin.
Three big titles among the ten -- The Red Pony, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath -- so quite a bit of money at issue.
Interestingly, the overturned decision was a summary judgment -- not the kind of thing judges like to have overturned.
The full Appeals Court decision in Penguin Group (USA), Inc. v. Steinbeck can be found here (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- it's not too long, but does show how very bizarre copyright law can get.
"We've read a number of memoirs by the Iranian diaspora, but seldom have we read their poetry.
So I see Iranian poetry as an untapped source of information and illumination, with the power to connect people rather than divide them.
"Bottom line, the literature in translation has to find readership in order to have presence and impact.
So the questions to ask are whether enough work appears in translation, whether they are the 'right' works for the readiness of the receiving culture during a particular historical and aesthetic period, and whether the translations are effective.
Then there is the question of the editor/publisher's willingness to publish and invest in works of translation
As we've mentioned previously, as far as selecting books to review, The New York Sun
consistently makes more interesting choices than ... well, pretty much any newspaper (though admittedly their coverage is almost all bunched together on Wednesdays).
Case in point: today's review by Eric Ormsby of a new bilingual (hurrah !) edition of Sa'di's Gulistan.
Not the sort of thing Sam Tanenhaus would give a second look.
The Ibex edition of The Gulistan (Rose Garden) of Sa'di: Bilingual English and Persian Edition with Vocabulary by Wheeler Thackston does, however, sound well worth a look; see also their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk (but see also the reader-review at Amazon.com ...).
Given the number of literary prizes out there, the 10,000 euro Rheingau Literatur Preis wouldn't usually rate a mention, but beside the cash this year's winner, Ursula Krechel, also gets 111 bottles of local riesling, courtesy of the VDP-Rheingau, which sounds like a pretty good deal.
It's awarded as part of the September Rheingau Literatur Festival (the 'WeinLese 2008', as the awful German pun has it) -- and from the sounds of it they'll be going through quite a few barrels.
(Krechel took the prize for her forthcoming Shanghai fern von wo; neither that nor anything else are available in English, but you can pre-order the German edition at Amazon.de.)
Critics at the Locarno film festival have given the author's directorial debut -- an adaptation of one of his own novels -- a resounding thumbs-down after the movie was savaged for its flat dialogue, confusing plot and unwelcome dose of sentimentality.
There wasn't even, they cried, much sex.
As a novelist, Michel Houellebecq has long been the enfant terrible of French literature.
As a film director, according to initial reactions to his first movie, he is simply terrible.
Most of the movie appears to have been filmed in a quarry (actually on location in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands).
The costumes, characters and gadgets resemble those from a science fiction B movie from the 1950s or an early black and white episode of Doctor Who.
The desultory action takes place against a sound-track mostly taken from Ravel's "Bolero".
Is it finally happening ?
Is it possible that Israel is about to join the family of nations that appreciate and value comics ?
Will Israeli fans of the graphic novel soon be able to enjoy a steady supply of local works in Hebrew ?
Or is this, perhaps, just wishful thinking, with Hebrew comics destined to remain forever on the fringe, far from the mainstream, appearing in only especially small quantities ?
Tensions between Egypt's Muslims and Coptic Christians are not uncommon.
The latest spark is ignited by a book, which Coptic critics accuse of trying to insult the Church and calling into question the tenets of Christianity.
Since published last month, Azazel, a novel by professor of Islamic philosophy Yousuf Zidan has been panned by Coptic clerics as unfair and offensive to Christianity.
"The author tries to Islamise Christian beliefs and takes the side of heretics," added Bishop Bassiut.
Shocking, isn't it, what these novelist dare do in their works of fiction.
No word as to whether Random House has put in a bid for the US rights yet.
The complete review itself is closing in on its ten-year anniversary, so this Literary Saloon is a relatively young part of the site, but today does mark the sixth anniversary of when we started posting.
We're glad to see that you do find it worth occasionally dropping by, and that our efforts continue to be of some interest and use.
We appreciate your continued patronage.