Petersen, 33, was presented with the prestigious Bachmann Prize on Sunday in Klagenfurt, Austria, for his yet-to-be-published novel entitled Bis dass der Tod ... ("Until death ...").
The prize is endowed with 25,000 euros ($35,000).
The book, which is set in an "apocalyptic landscape" and which the jury generally described as "oppressive," tells the story of a man who shoots and kills his girlfriend, who had been chronically ill for many years.
Yeah, can't wait for that one to come out in paperback .....
Admirably, at the official site they already have an English translation (by Martin Chalmers, who I hope is cashing in well on these proceedings) of the text.
However, it sounds like the competition was ... less than riveting.
What happened to the good old days -- like when, as they fondly recall at DeutscheWelle:
In 1983, the scandal-factor hit its peak when author Rainald Goetz ran a razor blade across his forehead during the reading and continued on, blood streaming down his face.
While the Nazis, cheered on by Hamsun, were deporting more than 700 Norwegian Jews to Auschwitz in the autumn of 1942, Undset was a leading activist in the Bergson Group's campaign of rallies, newspaper ads and Washington lobbying for US action to save the Jews.
Yet there is no word from Oslo about any plans by the Norwegian government to hold any year-long celebration of her life and work, nor to erect a statue of her, nor even to sponsor an exhibit acknowledging her literary and moral achievements.
(The fact that there's a nice round anniversary occasioning the Hamsun-fuss, and none for Undset might have something to do with it; no question, Undset's day -- and statues -- will come.)
In the Times of India Shreya Roy Chowdhury has a Q&A with Tamil author Sivasankari about her compendia, Knit India Through Literature (KITL), a project she describes as:
Through the writers' eyes, i look at the region, its people, their culture and literature use literature to knit India closer.
She also notes:
Literary trends swing like a pendulum.
For instance, poetry has started to sell well and, in recent times, lots of new poets have come up.
This was not the case 20 years ago when short story writers ruled.
But many have also said that poetry doesn't sell anymore.
In general, the reading habit sustains.
No language is in danger of vanishing except perhaps Manipuri, Indian Nepali, Sindhi; cases where the number of people who speak the language is very limited.
There book sales and the number of magazines are diminishing.
But languages like Tamil, Bengali, Hindi, Malayalam are flourishing.
You'd figure someone who has been around as long as Alice Hoffman would know better than to complain about what she perceived as a bad review, but for some reason she blew her stack about Roberta Silman's review in the Boston Globe
of her new novel, The Story Sisters.
She did so on Twitter [updated: as you can see, Ms. Hoffman has now deleted her Twitter account]: -- not exactly the ideal forum, either, since her objections sound even more ridiculous in this compressed form.
I can understand authors wanting to react to criticism, but surely they should know (or be well-advised -- isn't that what 'literary' agents and PR flaks are for ?) to pick their battles wisely.
Hoffman likely could have gotten away with protesting that Silman gives away to much of the plot, but her tone and attack (which includes publishing Silman's e-mail (which, admittedly, is also printed on the review-page) and telephone number) is beyond the pale.
For more discussion of her silliness, see Ron Hogan's Alice Hoffman Is Ready to Rumble at Galleycat, The Runner Stumbles: How Not to Respond to a Negative Review at Still Life with Book Maven, and Edward Champion's Alice Hoffman: The Most Immature Writer of Her Generation at his Reluctant Habits.
(Gratuitous postscript: I actually read a couple of Alice Hoffman's novels, more than a decade ago, and was shocked by their unsophistication, literary and otherwise.
She's not an author whose work I believe can be taken very seriously -- so you certainly shouldn't look for any reviews of her work here.
But if you want to see what the recent fuss is about you can get
The Story Sisters at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; I wouldn't advise it.)
Kipkoech Sigei profiles Kenyan author Henry ole Kulet in The Standard -- an author who isn't convinved of the idea that authors should be salesmen of their books:
He, however, disagrees with some who suggest writers should participate in the marketing of their books.
"It is unethical for a writer to become a vendor peddling books in the street.
My satisfaction comes when I know that I have imparted knowledge.
If money comes in the process then so be it."
'Unethical' seems pretty strong ... and surely the point of helping to market one's own books isn't solely to make more money but to get them in wider circulation, i.e. reach -- and thus impart knowledge to -- more readers.
As mentioned a few days ago, Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones recently was awarded the Athens Prize for Literature.
Littell did not accept the prize in person, but did send an interesting letter 'To the Jury of the Athens Prize for Literature'; Theodoros Grigoriadis printed a Greek translation at his weblog; for your convenience, here the English original:
Barcelona, June 23, 2009
Ladies and gentlemen,
I have just been informed that my book Les Bienveillantes -- Eumenides in Greek -- has been awarded the Athens Prize for Literature.
I am very touched by this honor, all the more so as it has been granted in and by the very city where those same Eumenides, pacified at last, were once settled "in honor for the rest of time," to make "their home at Athene's side."
In the days when Aeschylus wrote his great tragedy, literature was a public affair, the affair of every citizen.
It was a political affair, in which the most fundamental values and problems of the polis would be invoked and debated, a religious affair too, an affair of ethics as much as aesthetics.
Judgment of the work was thus the business of the whole city.
The prize that was awarded incarnated the public's sense that the work had, in some important way, contributed to the public good, and the prize ceremony, like all political and religious ceremonies of the time, was a public event, one worthy of record, to be remembered by succeeding generations.
Today, the matter is different. While literature may touch on affairs of politics or religion, it no longer participates directly in them.
Even when it seeks to explore the deepest questions besetting mankind, it now properly belongs, in the common view, to that sphere of human activity known as "culture."
The divorce, one might say, is complete.
This fact in itself is neither admirable nor deplorable, it is simply a state of affairs.
And as such it implies new roles, new responsibilities. It has always been my view that literature is a very private matter now, and that what takes place between a writer and his work belongs to a sphere utterly separate from the interaction of that work with those who read it, comment it, praise it or damn it.
Privacy, for me, is a fundamental condition of creation, of work.
It was so before my book was published, and must remain so now.
It is in this spirit that I express my hope that my inability to join you today will be taken for what it is, an expression of our common love for literature.
I thank you very much.
The novel had sold a combined 1.45 million copies as of June 19, with the first volume, Book 1, selling 780,000 copies and the second, Book 2, selling 670,000 copies.
Among the interesting answers Murakami gave:
After writing Kafka on the Shore , I spent seven years rendering one American classic after another into Japanese.
Among them were Chandler's The Long Goodbye, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
Every one of the sentences in these books represents really splendid English.
I started the translation task only after I felt confident of my ability to do it responsibly as a translator and I was pleased to subsequently be able to see it through to the end.
After that, however, I found myself somewhat distanced from novels by contemporary American writers.
So, the thought occurred to me that it was time to work out what I should do by myself, instead of trying to learn something new from others.
And there's also this exchange:
Q: Since the onset of the global economic depression, the cultural prestige of the United States has been on the wane.
A: Although I held U.S. newspapers and magazines in high esteem, that country's media outlets have been rapidly enervated since the Iraq war as their arguments have vacillated and grown erratic.
Publishing houses, too, are languid in the United States.
This city of Klagenfurt which every June, at linden blossom time, for more than thirty years now, allows itself be celebrated as capital of German-language literature, is probably the only town in central Europe with more than 100,000 inhabitants, which has no municipal library of its own,
in a province, in which the then, meanwhile cremated provincial governor together with the Roman Catholic chairman of the so-called Christian Social People's Party -- who one year ago survived a serious car accident and after his recovery humbly told his friends, that, to use his own words, "Lourdes-Mary" saved his life in the car accident -- last year,
when the Carinthian Hypo Bank was sold, this Carinthian Christian Social Party chairman and the former Carinthian Provincial Governor, who has since made himself scarce along with his ashes, last year, these two like a pair of gangsters, helped a tax consultant from Villach to a fee of 6 million Euros from the assets of the province, for two months of oral advice,
and handily enough this Villach tax consultant is also the personal tax consultant of the Carinthian Christian Social politician whose life, heaven and the Lord be thanked, Lourdes Mary saved in a car accident.
They award the Athens Prize for Literature to a Greek book and one in translation, and, as Theodoros Grigoriadis reports, at this year's prize Τζόναθαν Λίτελ's Ευμενίδες took the foreign prize.
Yes, that's Jonathan Littell and his ... big novel.
(Gotta like the Greek title, though, obvious though it is.)
Best Greek work went to Έλενα Μαρούτσου (Elena Maroutsou) for Μεταξύ συρμού και αποβάθρας, which sounds quite intriguing.
(Nothing of Maroutsou's appears to have been translated into English yet.)
In the current issue of The New York Review of Books they have excerpts from J.M.Coetzee's forthcoming book Summertime, 'Undated Fragments'.
(Pre-order the UK edition at Amazon.co.uk; there doesn't seem to be an Amazon.com listing for any US edition yet.)
They hand out all sorts of Prince of Asturias Awards -- this year they still haven't announced the winners in the 'Sports' and 'Concord' categories -- and they've announced that Ismaíl Kadaré (their diacritical marks) has won the one in the 'Letters' category.
I was already tiring of reports like Nadya Labi's Monica Ali Cooks Up A New Tale in the Wall Street Journal, as Ali has come out with a new novel, In the Kitchen (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), but her piece on: 'Researching my novel in five different London hotels made me appreciate why they are such a rich source of stories and characters for writers' in Prospect, Room for thought looked more promising.
And when she cited Bettina Matthias' The Hotel as Setting in Early 20th-Century German and Austrian Literature (subtitle: Checking in to Tell a Story -- really; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) I was fairly impressed.
But then she had to go ahead and heap praise on that "classic modernist text" ... but misspell Vicki Baum's name .....
(And surely Menschen im Hotel has always been published in English as Grand Hotel, not People at a Hotel.)
It's time for the German Literature Days 2009, whose highlight is the Bachmann Prize competition, where writers read their works aloud and are judged in front of an audience; see the participating authors.
Admirably, much of the information -- and, apparently, the texts -- will be made available in a number of languages, including English.
Georg Büchner Prize-winner Josef Winkler will also be giving the Klagenfurt Address on Literature; see the whole program.
In The New York Times Patricia Cohen writes about Rethinking Gender Bias in Theater, describing a presentation by Emily Glassberg Sands suggesting considerable sex-bias re. dramatists.
In one of her studies:
Ms. Sands sent identical scripts to artistic directors and literary managers around the country.
The only difference was that half named a man as the writer (for example, Michael Walker), while half named a woman (i.e., Mary Walker).
It turned out that Mary's scripts received significantly worse ratings in terms of quality, economic prospects and audience response than Michael's.
The biggest surprise?
"These results are driven exclusively by the responses of female artistic directors and literary managers," Ms. Sands said.
What the world doesn't know -- a far greater calamity than the political collapse -- relates to Somalia's other loss–the loss of her literary soul as a direct result of years of relentless violence and random anarchy.
Once upon a time, Somalia was known as a nation of poets whose poetic heritage was intimately connected with the people's daily lives.
There are several problems with this analysis.
But the most important one which goes to the heart of his thesis is that the literature that he claims belonged to Somalia actually did not belong to Somalia, but rather belonged to Somaliland.
Said Samatar's sleight of hand ends up doing a disservice to both Somaliland and Somalia.
He dispossesses Somaliland of its literary heritage and imposes on Somalia a heritage that does not sit well with many of its denizens, particularly in the south, where that literature and its accompanying history are seen as instruments of northern hegemony.
I think I'll just avoid taking sides on this one .....
Admirably (and conveniently) James Wood reviews Shahriar Mandanipour's Censoring an Iranian Love Story.
(I've been hoping to review this for ages, but haven't gotten a copy yet (sigh -- I don't know what's going on but currently I'm only getting a fraction of the review copies I'm begging for).)
See also the Knopf publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've announced that Gerhard L. Weinberg will be getting the 2009 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing (on 24 October).
It's worth an impressive $100,000, making it -- rather sadly -- one of the major American literature prizes.
At Publishing Perspectives Chad Post writes In Praise of Paper-Over-Board.
"Basically, paper-over-board books are hardcovers without a dust jacket", and it's the format they chose for the Open Letter books:
Marketing was the primary motivating factor in our decision making process.
Our paper-over-board books would definitely stand out in the bookstore and would be very classy (or so we thought).
And we also thought (although as you'll see below this gets a bit complicated) that readers would appreciate being able to get a nice looking, durable hardcover at a very reasonable price.
But it seems: "this special format that combines the durability of a cloth edition with the low cost of a paperback -- a hybrid if you will -- gets lost in between"
Damn consumers !
They are decent-looking books -- and, indeed, well-priced -- but my own preference is, of course, always for truly handy literature (hence also my appreciation for the Clay Sanskrit Library (see my previous mention) or the Loeb Classical Library volumes in their near-perfect 4.5 x 6.5 inch size).
So paper-over-board's day has not yet come -- and at Open Letter they've seen the writing on the wall:
Since the paper-over-board format is presenting some obstacles, this fall we're switching over to doing all paperback originals
(Alas, I fear he means ... the dreaded trade paperback format.
Mass-market, people, mass market (and smaller) is the only acceptable size !)
I have about a dozen volumes of the marvelous Clay Sanskrit Library
but, to my embarrassment, haven't gotten around to covering any of them yet -- largely because I worry about doing them justice.
(At least I'm not alone in being remiss; Pankaj Mishra has gushed about them too and wrote (scroll down), for example, in December 2007: "These translations that I have been reading for a review promise to revolutionise our sense of the Indian past: it is the greatest publishing project of recent years" -- but he also doesn't seem to have gotten around to that review yet .....)
The 19 June Times Literary Supplement has a lengthy appreciation/overview of the series by Aditya Behl (not freely accessible online at this time).
As Wendy Doniger notes in her introduction to the plays of Harsha, Sanskrit works are not appreciated because they are not available, and they are not available because they are under-appreciated.
Break the vicious cycle !
There are many good places to start -- how about with the first volume of Somadeva's The Ocean of the Rivers of Story (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) ?
Recall that John Barth wrote of the tremendous influence this incredible work had on him (albeit in a different, earlier edition); see, for example his July 1990 Harper's essay (not freely accessible online), or The Friday Book.
And I really will set aside some time to dig into a few of these volumes and provide appropriate coverage
(Tremendously disappointingly, rumor is -- in the TLS article and elsewhere -- that this tremendous project is being cut short.
That would be a great loss; it really is a marvel and something that should be carried on.)
In the Bangkok Post Anchalee Kongrut writes on the Literature of Laos -- though largely from a Thai perspective.
After all, the previous lack of interest among Thais towards literature of neighbouring countries is something worth contemplating.
Suchart Swadsri, editor of literary magazine Chor Karaked, said most Thai writers including himself are usually more knowledgeable about Western writers than about writers from neighbouring countries.
"I dare say I learn about the literature of Southeast Asia from what has been translated into English," Suchart said.
According to Douang Deuane, there is a lamentable lack of novels and stories of any substantial length in the local language.
Currently, Lao writers are experimenting with a new literary genre called "Jintanakarn Mai" or New Imaginary, which is said to be about the exploration of the processes and aftermath of social transformations.
There is almost no Lao fiction available in English translation, so don't hold your breath waiting for any 'New Imaginary' works .....
"If only our leaders read a lot of literary works, the nation would not be in the throes of difficulty.
Their conscience gets dull for being unaccustomed to literary insight," Ahmad Tohari told The Jakarta Post recently.
The lack of literary awareness among most officials, according to Tohari, has led to widespread corruption.
"They become insensitive to the suffering of ordinary people, tending to be arbitrary," said Ahmad Tohari.
By reading literary books, Tohari expressed his belief that one's character would be more refined, with higher empathy as that emanating from the soul of pieces of literature created with subtlety.
As to the production-side:
Speaking of Indonesia's literature, he said its current developments were encouraging.
"It's particularly true of short stories and poetry, qualitatively and quantitatively.
But I don't see many new novelists with quality works, which should arouse our concern," he added.
At VietNamNet Bridge they interview Dang Kim Ngoc about the preservation and upgrading of the famous Temple of Literature, at an estimated cost of 48 billion.
Okay, that's 48 billion Vietnamese dong, which only translates into US$ 2,699,000
Like the Whitbread Costa Awards, the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards (mortgage ? investment ? trust ?) -- "Scotland's richest book awards", surely known to one and all as the SMITBAs -- pits category winners -- fiction, non, poetry, first book -- against each other.
It seems Kieron Smith, boy (by James Kelman) has now beat out the competition; no information at the official site, last I checked, but that's what the BBC is reporting.
Kieron Smith, boy isn't under review at the complete review, but get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.