They've (apparently) announced the longlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (though not, of course, at the official site -- few and far between are the prizes and sites that manage to coordinate
The Khaleej Times article, Three Saudis Listed for Arabic Booker Prize, lists the sixteen longlisted titles, selected from 115 submissions from seventeen countries.
The only one of the longlisted authors that has a book under review at the complete review is Ali Bader, whose Papa Sartre I recently got to.
I look forward to learning more about all the longlisted books -- and hope that more than just the winning title eventually winds up available in translation.
"There is not much of a market for classic literature books.
Very few avid readers now take an interest in classics of Western literature; books by Albert Camus, James Joyce and John-Paul Sartre, which were snapped up within three days of going on sale a decade ago.
These days even renowned books such as Outsider by Albert Camus have not sold at all this year," he said.
But look on the bright side:
Myanmar readers may struggle with such books, which are difficult for native speakers to understand.
However, in the absence of comprehension readers can take refuge in collecting.
Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes said that it is important that authors "play around with truth and lies" because the alternative is to promote the idea that absolute truth exists, which would imply "a dictatorship."
In a talk Wednesday at the Latin American Art Museum in Buenos Aires, Fuentes said that the "separation between the press and literature" lies in the fact "it's assumed the press aims to tell the truth."
The 2009 (American) National Book Awards were announnced yesterday; none of the finalists were under review at the complete review.
Admirably, the National Book Foundation site posted the names of the winners practically as soon as they were announced.
Salander, on the other hand, is a witch, and that is I think the secret of the novels' extraordinary popularity.
Her magic is known as "hacking" in the books, but it has nothing much to do with real technology.
Her gadgets give her magical powers.
She can read anyone's thoughts off their hard disks, and listen to anyone's conversations from their email or phones.
The untraceable theft of a few hundred million dollars is the work of a couple of weeks.
All blockbuster novels of this sort are fantasies in which the heroes acquire superpowers; Larsson's originality was to discover a new fantasy.
He also notes:
Larsson's heroes are purely individual, with no social bonds other than those they choose themselves.
Children do not impinge on their lives: parents, where they occur, are monsters.
"This crisis is going to cause young Africans to lose interest in reading and books.
They are going to move towards telefilms, videos and cinema. And this tendency worries me," said the Nigerian novelist and playwright in an interview with PANA in Paris.
Wole Soyinka said he was nevertheless confident in the future of African literature.
And see also the Q & A with Aluko in The Guardian.
But, unfortunately, Reuben Abati does note:
But the production of the book to be fair is atrocious. The collapse of standards is the bane of the publishing industry in Nigeria. Careless editing and poor production pose a serious threat to the development of Nigerian literature. Heinemann Nigeria, the publishers of T.M. Aluko's Our Born Again President do much disservice to the writer's eminent stature by releasing in his name a book that is full of so many spelling errors. The name of the hero, Tanbata is mis-spelt in at least one instance, same with Riviera, the country. All through, the word cacophony is spelt as cocophony, gimmick as gymic and so on. The cure for this should be an immediate reprint.
Several older Aluko titles are under review at the complete review:
The 2009 Man 'Asian' Literary Prize has been awarded to The Boat to Redemption (河岸) by Su Tong; no word at the official site yet, last I checked, but see, for example, China Daily's extensive coverage, including Liu Jun's profile, Redemption pays off.
Once again, a Chinese author whose book was already under contract -- it appears (in the UK and Australia, at least) in less than two months; pre-order your copy at Amazon.co.uk -- comes out on top.
Given how widely published Su Tong already is in English, this unfortunately also isn't a very horizon-expanding selection (though it may well have been the best book under consideration).
(I think it's more important for the prize to become truly Asian (i.e. allow submissions from the Arabic-speaking Asian nations, Iran, the Central Asian states, etc. -- all currently barred from the competition), but since one of their objectives is to "bring exciting new Asian authors to the attention of the world literary community" they also have to decide how important the 'new' aspect is: whatever else Su Tong may be, new -- to the English-language world -- he ain't; sure, it's the film version of Raise the Red Lantern he's best known for, but several of his novels and collections have long been available in translation.)
"Su has surpassed himself again. His novel announces the end of the 'avant-garde literature' era."
(Is this is an announcement we should be pleased by ?
Isn't this an era we (or they) could have used a bit more of ?)
And Chitralekha Basu writes about M'A'LP-judge Colm Toibin, in Following in the footsteps of The Master -- noting:
His favorite Chinese writer is the relatively obscure two-book-old Li Yiyun.
Which shows how relative obscurity can be, since English-writing Yiyun Li is far better known in the US (where she writes) than most Chinese-writing authors.
(Updated - 18 November): Good to see that, for example, in her prize-coverage in The Guardian Alison Flood sees fit to mention:
The Man Asian award goes to an "Asian" novel unpublished in English, with the intention of bringing "exciting new Asian authors to the attention of the world literary community".
Its definition of Asian excludes countries such as Iran, Turkey and all the central Asian Stans.
The Washington Post's 'Ombudsman', Andrew Alexander, weighs in on a recent book reviewing conflict of interest issue, in Blame to spare on a book review (via).
The review in question was Andrew Exum's of Jon Krakauer's Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, and Alexander opines:
Krakauer doesn't blame The Post's book editors.
They're stretched and can't be experts in all subjects.
But I think they bear some responsibility.
A routine database search before offering Exum the assignment would have revealed his advisory role, which might have prompted questions about his neutrality.
But I also think Exum deserves blame.
The contract language is explicit.
Despite media coverage of his role in Afghanistan, the contract puts the onus on the reviewer to notify The Post if there is an "appearance of a conflict of interest."
Established a year ago at the University of Illinois, the Center for Translation is already working to build a name for itself in the community.
three internationally renowned writers from Brazil will speak and read at the Illini Union Bookstore, as part of a "Brazilian Writers and their Translators" program that will also have the authors and translators reading Tuesday in Chicago.
Does an author of fiction owe a duty to the reader to present history accurately, or does the fact that he claims this is fiction absolve him from that moral responsibility?
Well, he doesn't really wonder, finding:
Galloway uses events in history that are still untested by evidence and then goes on a fishing trip in order to give his characters a moral position when he does not know who is moral and who is immoral.
Galloway can cook his fiction the way he wants, but this is his ethical stand, and I am allowed my moral outrage because of the evidence that I have, and for the fact that he provides us with no evidence to believe his historical backdrop.
(The book in question is Steven Galloway's The Cellist of Sarajevo; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
Somewhat embarrassingly, I seem to have missed the 'Day of the Imprisoned Writer', which was celebrated (?) yesterday.
I don't really get the whole commemorative day idea -- as with so many other things, surely every day should be imprisoned writer day ... -- so I don't feel too bad, but still .....
See the press release from International PEN, as well as the interview RFE/RL correspondent Bruce Pannier conducted, and Greg Wiser's report on Writing under the threat of censorship, imprisonment and death at DeutscheWelle.
"As for demanding, artistic literary work as a whole, there is not much of that left.
It is often translations -- we read translations and translate a lot.
I have the impression sometimes that we often translate overrated best sellers.
I sometimes have the feeling we feed ourselves with the waste of US culture. Unfortunately that is how it is.
Maybe it is not a popular thing to say but whatever is regarded as an interesting title in the US is translated here within a year and backed up with massive marketing.
That is the best sellers.
The overall choice is enormous but it is also a bit false.
Ninety percent of the offer is low level literary rubbish, factual works or second rate historical novels and such like."
Privatisation became a cultural disaster.
In the words of Andrew Nurnberg, a seasoned European literary go-between: "Readers became like children let loose in a sweet shop."
In Russia particularly, there was a surge in pornography, novels of sex, drugs and violence and a mass exodus from serious reading.
According to some estimates, as many as three million readers simply turned their backs on Russian literature.
Simultaneously, without state subsidy and state control, and under the relentless, westernising pressure of the market, the Soviet distribution system for new books collapsed, burying what was left of the culture in commercial anarchy.
In Britain, a philistine, provincial and chauvinistic culture, there was a dramatic falling-off in the sales of European literature in translation.
At times, only Christopher MacLehose of Harvill Press seemed to sustain any long-term commitment to serious new writing.
Lots of debatable points, but at least worth discussing .....
As Stephen Adams reports in The Telegraph, Robert Louis Stevenson's archive goes online.
Check it out here -- very impressive, and perhaps it will get people to look beyond the few really well-known works -- Stevenson's work is well worth exploring in depth.
In Thanh Nien Daily Thuy Linh reports that in Viet Nam they're working on Turning a new page, especially as far as promoting local literature abroad goes.
In particular, the Vietnamese Writers Association is organizing: "a major national conference to promote Vietnamese literature abroad":
The six-day conference next January envisages 300 foreign translators, publishers and others interested in Vietnamese literature, from 38 countries as well as an exhibition at the National Library in Hanoi showcasing Vietnamese works that have been translated into foreign languages and vice versa.
"I estimate only 50 foreign guests will actually attend, but that would be good enough for a start," said Hoang Thuy Toan, a veteran translator in charge of the exhibition.
Sad that they have such (realistically low) expectations.
Twenty-six Americans have been invited; I wonder how many will show.
As they note, however:
It is not that local literature has been languishing in obscurity.
In its heyday, the Soviet Union did a systematic job of introducing Vietnamese writers.
Sadly -- but hardly surprisingly --, translation into Russian and publication by Soviet publishers did not help smooth the path towards further translation into other languages, or widespread international recognition.
Also: scroll down for a brief Q & A with American cultural attaché in Viet Nam, Patricia D. Norland.
With Vladimir Nabokov's The Original of Laura just out, and the reviews flooding in (see the complete reviewreview-overview to keep track) Martin Amis carefully jumps on the bandwagon, wisely not reviewing the text itself, but writing more generally about Nabokov -- or rather: The problem with Nabokov in The Guardian.
Lot 95/Sale 2227.
Auction date: 4 December.
Estimate: US$ 400-600,000.
Yes, if the published version of Vladimir Nabokov's why-didn't-they-burn-it-like-I-asked-them-to The Original of Laura (see the complete review's review-overview) isn't enough for you, you can now bid on the original manuscript, which Nabokov-son Dmitri (no doubt spurred on by 'his' (i.e. the Vladimir Nabokov estate's) incorrigibly money-grubbing-at-all-costs 'literary' agent, Andrew Wylie) is selling off to the highest bidder.
The Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy-weblog reports on the sordid details, in Nabokov's Notes For The Original of Laura Go on the Auction Block; among the information there:
Of the coincidence of the sale and the novel's publication, Lecky said, "It will certainly increase the exposure of both.
They're obviously intimately linked," since the Knopf book reproduces the cards.
Asked if any institutions had expressed interest so far in the manuscript, Lecky said it's "still pretty early, but there have been people who have inquired from various corners of the world."
Does anyone believe this Wylie character didn't orchestrate this whole thing ?
Meanwhile, Alexander Theroux reviews the 'book' -- and says of Dmitri's 'contribution':
his introduction is nonsensical, snobbish and cruel and reads as if it has been translated from the Albanian.
I wouldn't have expected anything more (or better) from him.
Finally it has come to this.
Our literature, the lone place where it has been possible to revel in an unqualified sense of achievement, has now too been placed on the altar of desecration.
Every year since 2005 the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas company gathers a philistine crowd to wine and dine at a well-appointed venue in Lagos or Abuja.
The gathering, usually preceded by a publicity fanfare, is ostensibly to honour writers through the award of a so-called Nigeria literature prize but by the end of the evening it will have done more to insult than flatter them.
In the annals of Nigerian writing, there hasnít been a more self-aggrandising project.
It'll be interesting to see if any good comes of all this -- like a serious literary prize that properly honors Nigerian writers' accomplishments.
In The Nation Elaine Blair reviews the fascinating Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky -- the new (?) collection, Memories of the Future.
(As I've mentioned, it sounds suspiciously similar to his Seven Stories -- but I haven't seen a copy yet; either way, it's probably worth getting.
See the New York Review Books Classics publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
You have been referred to as the father of modern African literature. How do you feel about that title?
I resisted that very, very strongly.
It's really a serious belief (of mine) that it's risky for anyone to lay claim to something as huge and important as African literature ... the contribution made down the ages.
I don't want to be singled out as the one behind it because there were many of us -- many, many of us.
I'm very much looking forward to his recently published The Education of a British-Protected Child, which I'll review as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.
(Meanwhile, get your copy at Amazon.com, or pre-order at Amazon.co.uk.)
Currently, he is the Director of the Chinua Achebe Centre for African Literature and Languages at Bard College in New York.
His aim is to discover new African authors and help launch them both regionally and internationally.
His familiarity with authors and publishers from Cape Town to Nairobi, Kampala to Lagos puts him at the center of the so-called 'African literary renaissance.'
(Surely there's a bit of sad and telling irony to be found in the fact that this man at "the center of the so-called 'African literary renaissance'" is working on this out of New York rather than, say, Africa .....)
The Bishop's Man, by Linden MacIntyre, has been awarded the Scotiabank Giller Prize, one of Canada's leading literary prizes; see, for example, John Barber's MacIntyre takes Giller Prize in The Globe & Mail.
No US publisher yet (not a real surprise ...), as far as I can tell, but you can pre-order the UK edition from Amazon.co.uk -- or get your copy from Amazon.ca.
They've announced that Godenslaap, by Erwin Mortier, has taken the AKO Literatuurprijs, one of the major Dutch literary prizes.
Several of Mortier's books have been translated into English, and presumably this one will be, too -- in a couple of years.
See also English-language information about the author and his books at NLPVF, and see his official site.
After all the 'Herta-who-?' reactions when Herta Müller took the Nobel Prize this year it's good to see, for example, Richard Woodward take a stab at Discovering Herta Müller in the Wall Street Journal.
After working his way through several of her books, his reaction is decidedly mixed:
I am happy to have made Ms. Müller's acquaintance without being eager to revisit her.
And he concludes:
Ms. Müller's worthy books should find a place on many shelves but, for English readers at least, I suspect they will stay there.