In The Guardian Tim Martin looks back at the now re-published (in the UK) early works of the most recent Nobel laureate, in JMG le Clézio.
Martin writes about these works:
Itís a strange experience watching perfectly preserved fossils of Sixties and Seventies experimentalism emerge into the sunlight.
They come with their weird, obsolete machinery: long authorial digressions on the truth of the novel; pages devoted to minute examinations of light bulbs, knives and cigarette packets; non-conversational conversations; and gloriously pompous sex scenes.
Mainly though, you're excused by the fact that there's no novelist out there so essential that an unfamiliarity with his work represents a crime against taste and good judgment.
Obviously you could make a pretty strong case for Flaubert and Dickens, Tolstoy and Austen, Updike and Roth, but none of them is absolutely indispensible.
Charlotte Roche's Wetlands -- see our review --
is almost set to be unleashed on the UK, and in The Times Joan Smith offers the first major review, which is certainly an improvement on most of the pre-publication stories (though we still think we're closer to the mark).
Roche's publishers do have to update those sales figures in the publicity material: Smith too writes Wetlands has: "sold half a million copies at home" when in fact it's already well over the million-mark.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of César Aira's Ghosts.
Also worth a look: María Moreno's interview with Aira in Bomb -- though we we almost tossed it aside in disgust when we had to read:
He rarely agrees to be interviewed -- never doing so in his own country, and almost never outside of it -- because he reserves literary invention and originality for his own literature.
Funny how we keep coming across interviews with all these authors who rarely or never -- so it is always, always claimed -- give interviews .....
Can't they just give Moreno a medal or whatever for landing the interview and not bother us with this pointless pseudo-information ?
Or, better yet: can't these authors 'reserve literary invention and originality for their own literature' and just not give interviews in the first place .....
The new generation of Vietnamese authors are writing books about love, sex, work and the disillusionment of a rapidly changing urban society undergoing having severe growing pains.
Critics, including some of Vietnam's old literary guard, complain that today's authors are not politically engaged, but others say they are responding to readers who crave stories about ordinary concerns, not decades of conflict.
Of course one doesn't get much of a sense of this in translation yet .....
They've announced the finalists for the $100,000 2009 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature -- which, fortunately, goes to a fiction title this year (they alternate annually between fiction and, for some reason, non-fiction).
We don't have any of the finalists under review.
In The Nation Akiva Gottlieb reviews the two Angel Wagenstein titles available in English, in Schlepics; we only have Farewell, Shanghai under review, but we'll get to Isaac's Torah as well (there's not much Bulgarian literature available in translation, and we're grateful for every bit we can get our hands on).
As long as we have a territorial copyright our publishers have a commercial argument to support Australian literature.
They will battle for the sake of our readers and our writers, even if their owners have no personal commitment to the strange loves and needs of Australian readers, or the cultural integrity and future of the Australian nation.
Take copyright away from them, and they no longer have a commercial leg to stand on.
And then ?
Then the global companies will decide that their Australian offices will be much more profitable as distributors of product than publishers of books.
If this sounds creepily colonial, it is because it is.
Among his strongest arguments:
On this January day in 2009 we still have territorial copyright. We have a distinct market.
And even if our publishing houses are, for the most part, owned by people who do not know who Henry Lawson is, our local publishers are like us -- Australian.
Their global bosses may let Patrick White go out of print in America.
But to an Australian publisher this is a national heritage.
And that is, indeed, a very strong reason for a bit of protectionism (even as, as we recently noted, two more titles are now back in print in the US ...).
Though we would argue the problem(s) (and solution(s)) are very different ones.
The Washington Post is killing Book World as a separate Sunday section and moving its coverage of books and publishing elsewhere in the paper.
"Of course it's disappointing," said Rachel Shea, now deputy editor of Book World, who will oversee The Post's coverage.
"It's nice to have a separate section with big display and a big shout-out to what the most important book is.
But it's not worth gnashing our teeth about too much."
I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: it is the destiny of serious arts journalism to migrate to the Web.
This includes newspaper arts journalism.
Most younger readers -- as well as a considerable number of older ones, myself among them -- have already made that leap.
Why tear your hair because the Washington Post has decided to bow to the inevitable.
Maybe it's a generational thing -- though we rarely think of ourselves as that old -- but, man, do we miss paper coverage.
Sure, all our own coverage is online, but the sources of literary coverage that we like dealing with most are those that come in printed form, which we find much easier to deal with, read, and turn back to.
(Yes, online has many advantages -- such as the huge archives instantly at one's disposal, and search capability (for specific phrases, etc.) -- but day in, day out we much prefer to receive the information in printed form.)
Indeed, we'd hardly bother with The New York Times Book Review if we didn't get it with our Sunday paper (admittedly in part that is due to our loathing for the nature of the semi-registration-requiring The New York Times' online presence
-- though most other sources we reluctantly turn to are considerably worse).
Iceland Review reports on the 20th Icelandic Literature Awards, in Two Authors Receive Icelandic Literature Awards, as Einar Kárason won the fiction prize for his novel Ofsi.
He received ISK 750,000 -- which really, really ain't what it used to be -- it's a mere USD 635 or EUR 477, apparently (if you could convert it into either of those two currencies .....)
See also the Forlagið publicity page for Ofsi -- or watch the book trailer !
Maitresse interviews Charlotte Mandell, the translator of the forthcoming The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell (which we've finally gotten our hands on and will be reviewing soon; see also our review-overview page) and Proust's The Lemoine Affair.
hlo has an interview with translator-from-the-Hungarian (and poet) George Szirtes, "Translations live in an imagined terrain".
Especially pleasing to here that he is working on a translation of Krasznahorkai László's Sátántangó (even though it's disappointing that it's number two in the queue).
Time for a new SWR-Bestenliste, where the leading German literary critics select their favourite reads of the month.
For February the list is led by Thomas Bernhard's much-anticipated (and even mentioned on quite a few English-language weblogs) Meine Preise (see, for example, the Suhrkamp publicity page).
Number two is a book that seems to have (undeservedly) disappeared almost without a trace when it came out in the US, Peter Adolphsen's Machine.
Somewhat surprisingly: the big book of the month, Daniel Kehlmann's Ruhm (which we'll review if/when we ever get our hands on a copy) only comes in at number three.
Mr. Wylie, who began handling Mr. Bolañoís work last year, said in a telephone interview that the writerís widow, Carolina López, whom Mr. Bolaño met after moving to Spain in the late 1970s, had "mentioned en passant" to him during a recent dinner in Barcelona that she regarded reports of her husbandís heroin use as "inaccurate."
Still, he balked at discussing the matter further, saying "literary detective work" did not interest him.
We'd prefer it if people just forgot about the author and focussed on the books, but if they are going to discuss the author and his habits, we'd hope they'd dig a bit deeper than Rohter does .....
They've announced the 2008 Best Translated Book of the Year award finalists in fiction and poetry at Three Percent.
We don't have any of the poetry titles under review.
Local barkeep M.A.Orthofer was one of those involved in selecting the fiction finalists, and we have several of those under review:
There's been a wave of literary-editor firings at UK publications in recent months, while in the US book review coverage has widely been getting 'downsized' for over a year now.
The latest US casualties include, as widely reported, Publishers Weekly editor-in-chief Sara Nelson; see, for example, Leon Neyfakh's report at The New York Observer
Ironically, Nelson's (presumably) last column at PW is titled 'Change I Believe In', and begins:
Call me gullible or impressionable, but I'm actually feeling kind of hopeful this week.
In Al-Ahram Weekly David Tresilian compares the success of Afghan authors Khaled Hosseini and recent prix Goncourt winner (for Syngué sabour) Atiq Rahimi in Afghans and others, finding:
And so while the success of Hosseini's novels in English owes a lot, according to his publishers, to their emotional possibilities and their presentation of familiar family dramas against an otherwise exotic Afghan background, for the more intellectual readers of Le Monde Rahimi's success in French owes less to the emotional experiences his fiction offers and more to its indirect presentation of France as a country of tolerance and openness and of the French language as an international vehicle of free expression.
There is a familiar lesson in all this for outside observers: while British and American audiences apparently like stories of emotional suffering and moral uplift, French ones are more likely to be intrigued by the conceptual possibilities offered by a given situation and like to be reminded, even indirectly, of their country's continued international standing.
which will be published in an English translation later this month, may also prove to be Chinaís first successful export of literary fiction.
Given that quite a few high-profile works of literary fiction came out in 2008 with some critical but apparently very limited sales success
we have our doubts about this being a break-out work.
See also the Pantheon publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
We've frequently expressed astonishment that, for as long as we've been running this site (going on ten years now), the great Patrick White's fiction has been out of print in the United States.
New York Review Books has, in the meantime, reissued Riders in the Chariot, but until now that's been all that has been readily available.
Until now: finally, Penguin is reissuing ... well, just two of the novels, but still .....
This week new editions of The Vivisector (with an introduction by J.M.Coetzee -- and the most off-putting cover imaginable) and Voss (with an introduction by Thomas Keneally)
go on sale.
Edward Champion has a post up In Which I Talk with Tanenhaus -- The New York Times Book Review-editor Sam Tanenhaus.
Among the points of interest (and disappointment):
He did express some regret that he hadnít given enough space to translated titles, but he had no answers as to how or when he would do this in the future.
The sense I got was that Tanenhaus was completely reliant on his editorsí respective judgments and that this judgment permitted him to do what he needed to do in an executive capacity, but prevented him from plunging first-hand into some of todayís realities.
(Updated - 26 January): See also Levi Asher's report at LitKicks.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Louisa Gilder's book about When Quantum Physics was Reborn, The Age of Entanglement.
Coincidentally, the book of papers discussing John S. Bell (a central figure in Gilder's book) and his work, Quantum Reflections -- which we reviewed nearly a decade ago --, is just out in paperback.
is an international cross-disciplinary award which will be given biennially for an excellent and substantial piece of writing in the English language, in any genre or form, on a theme that will change with every award.
The Theme of the Warwick Prize for Writing 2009 is Complexity.
China Miéville chairs the jury, which also includes Maureen Freely, Maya Jaggi, Ian Stewart, and This Space's Stephen Mitchelmore.
The only shortlisted title we have under review is Enrique Vila-Matas's Montano's Malady.
Charlotte Roche's Wetlands, due out in the UK shortly, continues to get extensive preview-coverage: today Danuta Kean takes it as a starting point in The Independent as she wonders: Are these taboo-breaking novels art or porn ?
She's not that impressed, and thinks:
This is a Marmite book, one that you either love or loathe.
Within publishing, women seem to hate it and men think it is ground-breaking. That shows some things don't change.
The danger with having a manifesto driving a character is that, instead of a girl with a one-track mind, the lead character is reduced into a one-track girl.
What may start out as a strong voice becomes monotone.
Helen knows how to talk dirty but lacks emotional leverage.
She is not helped by coy references to women's bits, such as "pearl trunk" for clitoris. Maybe they work better in the original German.
Wetlands didn't strike us as either art or porn -- and most certainly not erotic (though, yes, some of this would seem to work better in German -- "muschi" rather than "pussy", for example).
But as we mentioned recently, it can't be dismissed out of hand.
(Note also that of the titles she mentions we also have 'Melissa P''s 100 Strokes Of The Brush Before Bed, which certainly can and should be dismissed out of hand .....
We're surprised there hasn't been more weblog-mention of Roche's Canadian publisher's publicity stunt with the review-copies; see again the Quill & Quire report, as well as the picture at the Globe & Mail's weblog, In Other Words.
In Time Lev Grossman looks at the state of the industry and the future of publishing in Books Unbound -- noting, for example, that:
In theory, publishers are gatekeepers: they filter literature so that only the best writing gets into print.
But Genova and Barry and Suarez got filtered out, initially, which suggests that there are cultural sectors that conventional publishing isn't serving.
We can read in the rise of self-publishing not only a technological revolution but also a quiet cultural one -- an audience rising up to claim its right to act as a tastemaker too.
Even though Merrill views Korean literature as refined and sophisticated, he said more effort should be made to train professional translators and put out more English versions of major Korean literature.
"Some of the English translations do not fully reflect the nuances of the original Korean work," he said.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of M.M.Tawfik's Murder in the Tower of Happiness (yet another book which the author himself translated into English ...).
Note also that the AUC Press publicity page they still have the other title they were considering on the cover-illustration ......