Linz is a most unlikely figure to instill fear in the hardened hearts of his foes, nor does he have truck with the oldfangled uncertainties of his subordinates.
He is a jovial German.
The affable director of AUC Press describes himself as very pragmatic, but one suspects that he does have strong convictions.
There are many who credit Linz with getting AUC Press back on its feet again after it nearly fell apart.
He managed to clear out the deadwood at a time when the country was in economic and social upheaval.
Quite what he did is the subject of some myth-making.
Linz certainly has done a fine job -- see also the AUC Press titles under review at the complete review -- and is surely right when he says
"AUC Press is the leading English-language publishing house in this part of the world," he repeated, suddenly becoming serious.
And then he mentioned his staff.
They may not look it, but these men and women are on the frontline in the battle against bigotry and zealotry.
"Colleagues share our commitment and significant contribution to culture dialogue."
Martin Amis has a new book coming out -- The Pregnant Widow, due out in a couple of weeks in the UK (get your copy at Amazon.co.uk) and in May in the US (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com) -- and so we will be deluged with Martin Amis-pieces in the coming weeks and months.
An early one is Andrew Anthony's profile in The Observer, where he seeks to convince us that The wunderkind comes of age, as:
Still, if the joke with Yellow Dog, the poorly received 2003 novel, was that Amis had dropped the enfant and was just plain terrible, then The Pregnant Widow is a return not just to form but to more juvenile days.
Well, I look forward to seeing the book (I haven't yet) -- but I have my doubts.
And even Anthony admits:
Amis is strong on describing the world and weak on plotting a story.
This is not, as is commonly argued, because he is a stylist but, rather, because he is a moralist.
Instead of narrative drive, he seeks universal significance.
Sometimes, he strains literally for it with astronomical descriptions and sometimes he achieves it with effortless aplomb.
Miyabe Miyuki (see, for example, the complete review review of her All She was Worth) has a new book coming out (well, an old book, finally coming out in an international English edition), The Sleeping Dragon.
Mark Schreiber reviews it in The Japan Times, but what I found particularly amusing is that there is an Oxford University Press (!) publicity page for the book.
Presumably, they're distributing it for Kodansha, but still .....
(Get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
I first mentioned the Marie Darrieussecq v. Camille Laurens 'plagiarism' dust-up in the summer of 2007 (see also, for example, Elisabeth Ladenson's piece on it in the London Review of Books back then), and now it has flared up again, as both ladies have published books dealing with it, Darrieussecq's Rapport de police: Accusations de plagiat et autres modes de surveillance de la fiction (get your copy at Amazon.fr) and Laurens' Romance nerveuse (get your copy at Amazon.fr).
Matthew Campbell has a lengthy piece on the whole mess in the Sunday Times, reporting that Novelists Camille Laurens and Marie Darrieussecq at war over 'theft of dead baby'.
Mohsen Parviz, deputy minister of everyone's favorite Iranian ministry, the one for 'Culture and Islamic Guidance for Cultural Affairs', has it all figured out.
Yes, he knows the Americans have come up with a ingenious way to hit the Iranian regime where it really, really hurts, and now he's revealed that:
for many years, the U.S. has maintained a secret budget for funding confronting the Islamic Republic of Iran in various ways including politically and militarily, but nobody really knows the details of how every single dollar of such a huge budget is spent.
"And now this is my question: who spends this huge budget and where is it spent?
I think that the subject is clear and it answers some of the ambiguities about the funding of certain literary awards," he said.
Of course !
What better way to undermine a country and a regime (and maybe some of that 'Islamic guidance') than to ... fund literary awards !
(That also might explain why American literary awards like the Pulitzers, National Book Awards, and National Book Critics Circle Awards all offer such meager (if any) monetary prizes: all the money is apparently being spent on those prizes abroad .....)
Yes, Parviz is certain that, as MNA report, Some literary awards in Iran are financed by U.S.
He doesn't name (prize) names, but it seems pretty clear that those not fully on board with that whole Islamic-guidance thing (which, of course, at this point only has minimally to do with religious guidance, and has instead become a convenient way of forcing folk to toe the regime-line) are the ones who must be getting the American cash.
Why else would they not be giving their prizes to those surely most deserving regime-friendly authors and those books that focus on the past (Sacred Defense-lit !) rather than the let's-better-turn-a-blind-eye-to-it present ?
"Once I said that we have two kinds of literary awards in Iran: one group of awards is Iranian and the other is from those who are in service of the enemy," he told the Mehr News Agency.
It sounds like they're getting worried about authors getting uppity again, after the crackdowns of the last years that have stunted the publishing industry (getting permits to publish books has become increasingly difficult, making for an effective form of censorship (which conveniently comes in a slightly different form from straightforward censorship)).
Whether tarring any prize that is not governmentally approved in this way will be effective remains to be seen; presumably, the regime's supporters already considered these relatively independent prizes suspect and the titles they honored unacceptable, while the intelligentsia -- and the authors who might be in contention for the prizes -- are, at best, wondering where all the cash is if the Americans are subsidizing these things now .....
The Bookseller looked at the accounts of six literary agencies, with only one, AP Watt, returning a profit in the latest financial year.
While I am constantly baffled by the industry (and the need for and role of 'literary' agents in it -- though I realize they've made themselves near-indispensable, given the way publishers now 'work'), most of its basic failures can be explained one way or another.
But for middlemen whose only expenses are overhead to make a loss -- that requires special talent (or profligate ways).
That publishers can (easily) lose lots of money I understand, but middlemen ?
Well, the sooner they all go bust the better.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Margaret Sayers Peden's new translation of Fernando de Rojas' classic, Celestina.
I'm always glad to see a translation, even if it's just a retranslation -- and arguably Celestina has been due an overhaul.
So: good for the new The Margellos World Republic of Letters-series at Yale University Press to go ahead with this.
But did we need two new Celestina-translations, published almost side by side ?
Because Peter Bush has just done one too, published by Dedalus and now Penguin.
(Amusingly, too, the Dedalus edition apparently used the same cover-image as the Yale University Press edition .....)
I know Celestina is relatively high stakes in this small translation world -- a popular college text, the edition of choice is guaranteed solid sales for the foreseeable future -- but I'd prefer such talents to be spread more widely.
There are a lot of other texts, both contemporary and classic, waiting to be translated ......
Currently, the north of India is often unaware of what is going on in the literature of the south, the east of the west -- and few seem to ever know what is happening in the remote but sizeable north-east. No literary scholar, let alone the general reader, possesses a map of the entire country.
Happily, though, over the course of the past decade, Indian translation work has been building up to a state of critical mass.
(I'm afraid, however, that it might take a while for that good work to begin to properly seep outside India's borders .....)
The Goethe-Institut Istanbul is very proud to be organizing a large-scale, high-profile arts tour throughout Turkey and the EU from May 2009 until June 2010 -- "European Literature Goes to Turkey / Turkish Literature Goes to Europe".
The annual batch of seven TLS translation prizes (each from a different language) will be handed out on Monday, and admirably the TLS already has made Adrian Tahourdin's overview, Translation Prizes for 2009, available online.
The surprise in the awarding of translation prizes this year is the absence of poetry from the list -- given the quality of the work being done in that field -- in contrast to last year when five of the seven prizewinning translations were of books by poets (even the runners-up this year feature no poetry).
Instead, the year has been dominated by fiction.
Only one of the seven winning titles is under review at the complete review -- Fair Play, by Tove Jansson -- (though a review of Gross Margin by Laurent Quintreau should be up in a few days).
Other winners include books by Stefan Zweig, Bernardo Atxaga, and The Collar and the Bracelet by Yahya Taher Abdullah (which I should also be getting to eventually).
The awards ceremony is at Kings Place, London, on 11 January, at 19:00, and besides the presentation of the prizes will include The Sebald Lecture, to be held by Will Self (title: 'Absent Jews and Invisible Executioners: WG Sebald and the Holocaust').
I hope some English bloggers will be in attendance and will report (and that Peter Stothard will have a few things to say at his weblog .....)
Not a full (or neat) breakdown, but in L'Express Marianne Payot reports that Les ventes de livres s'envolent pour la fin de l'année -- and offers a few hard sales numbers.
Dan Brown heads the list even there, with 565,000 copies of his latest sold, but Goncourt-winner Trois femmes puissantes by Marie NDiaye did shift 450,000 copies, and Anna Gavalda's latest sold 350,000.
Also impressive: La Première nuit, by Marc Levy -- which was only released in December -- has already sold 255,000, while the prolific author's Le Premier jour, released earlier in the year, has topped 360,000.
Roman français by Frédéric Beigbeder -- the title I'm most curious about among these bestsellers -- has sold more than 200,000
And The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Cercle littéraire des amateurs d'épluchures de patates) has done well here too, with 260,000 sold.
"The institute's translation projects will expand from Korean literature into other genres such as arts, history and philosophy," Kim said in an interview with The Korea Herald.
"The procedure for revising the related bill is now underway in favor of broadening the categories that would get the government's support."
Sounds good -- though they seem to be having hard enough a time getting much fiction translated, at least into English.
The article also mentions the periodical list: Books from Korea -- a good example of the type of informational magazine many national literary foundations and the like publish, and well worth checking in on every few months.
As, for example, Carles Geli reports in El País, Un 'thriller' psicológico gana el Nadal, as Lo que esconde tu nombre (by Clara Sánchez) has taken the Premio Nadal, from among 261 entries.
(Someone remind me again why the Man Booker people can only be bothered to consider a hundred or so titles a year .....)
It's apparently Spain's oldest running book prize -- and has a decent track record
The International Conference on Promoting Vietnamese Literature has now begun, and the English-language Vietnamese press has a good deal of coverage.
VNS enthusiastically suggest that Vietnamese literature to go global -- though since: "only 570 Vietnamese books have been translated into foreign languages" (all time, mind you !) they have a long way to go.
VNExpress (at VietNamNet Bridge) ask foreigners attending the events about Vietnamese literature abroad -- it quickly becoming obvious that: World knows next to nothing about Vietnamese literature.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nicanor Parra's Antipoems: How to Look Better & Feel Great.
This book came out in 2004, and I have to admit I was put off by the subtitle, which kept me from reviewing it previously.
Meanwhile, however, repeated praise by Roberto Bolaño did make me curious -- and, indeed, I will look out for more of the fascinating and impressive Parra's books.
(Bookslut also just
reviewed this and several other Parra-books.)
The fiction longlist for the Best Translated Book Award has now been announced at Three Percent.
The twenty-five longlisted titles (with the finalists to be announced 16 February) are:
[Highlighted ones are under review at the complete review]
(I expect to have reviews of most of those not yet under review up by the time of the announcement of the finalists.)
I was one of the those involved in selecting the longlist; fifteen of the twenty-five books I voted for (and all my top choices) made the list, and overall I think it's a very solid list.
As Chad Post notes, there are "authors from 23 different countries, writing in 17 different languages, and published by 15 different publishers", which makes for pretty impressive diversity.
Particularly noteworthy: how few "major" publishers are represented -- the Pamuk (Knopf) is the only title from a true major.
The Prieto is from Grove, but everything else is from relatively small independents or university presses.
Great to see, in a way -- but also disturbing, as it suggests the majors have just abandoned the field of interesting fiction in translation.
There is a decent spread of languages.
Among major 'missing' languages are Japanese and Italian, while Chinese and Russian are only represented by one title each, and French (from which so much is translated) only by two.
Meanwhile two Baltic languages are represented (astonishing, given how little is translated from any of them), while Spanish leads the way with five.
Several eligible translations that attracted considerable attention
in 2009 failed to make the list.
Among the most prominent were:
The Armies by Evelio Rosero, which won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the UK's most prominent fiction-in-translation prize
Brothers by Yu Hua, which got a lot of press and was shortlisted for Man 'Asian' Literary Prize
The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell, which won the Goncourt and sold something like a million copies in France
Wetlands by Charlotte Roche, another novel that sold over a million in Europe (but, admittedly, did not get great reviews anywhere)
(None of these came very close to making the cut -- rightly so, in my opinion.)
[Updated - 7 January: I forgot to mention that Stieg Larsson's best-selling The Girl who Played with Fire also didn't make the list -- but, fun though that book is, I can't imagine anyone is too surprised by that.]
Other books that attracted review- and other attention (most considerably more than the twenty-five selected titles, including getting coverage in the foreign-fiction-phobic The New York Times Book Review) that did not make the longlist include:
(I find it interesting that the longlist includes so many translations that did not get much coverage any/elsewhere; book-review editors certainly don't seem to be digging very deep in what few translated works they do cover.)
The books I'm most surprised didn't make the list (not that I voted for all of them ...) are:
The Collector of Worlds by Iliya Troyanov, the Leipzig Book Fair Prize-winner which seems to have sunk almost without notice in the US, despite the fascinating material it presents
Doghead by Morten Ramsland, which has been widely hailed internationally
Running Away by Jean-Philippe Toussaint, an author who would seem to appeal to this particular voting crowd (and a book that I thought one of his best)
I hope the list helps arouse some interest in the twenty-five titles.
There should be lots of activity at Three Percent, where one of the books will be introduced daily as the count down to the finalist-announcement begins, and I hope other weblogs will also join the fray and discussion.
The SWR-Bestenliste, where German critics select the top recent publications, for January is now available.
Lots of newcomers -- and somewhat surprisingly Ukrainian author Serhij Zhadan (Сергій Жадан) comes out tops.
(I actually have this -- and two other of his books, which I've been meaning to get to .....)
I'm surprised the Thomas Bernhard/Siegfried Unseld correspondence didn't rate higher.
Noteworthy, however, that it's one of three titles on the list that clocks in at 869 or more pages .....
There had, of course, long been the translation and publishing of Arab literature in Britain, issued by such well-regarded publishers as Saqi and Quartet.
But the 2000s witnessed the gathering of a critical mass for Arab fiction publishing, especially when in 2008 the London Book Fair chose the Arab World as its World Market Focus.
For authors whose books do not turn a quick profit, these are perilous times and serious fiction by black authors is on the verge of extinction.
So are black book stores.
His own experiences aren't due solely to race, but symptoms of a more widespread problem:
Last year, I submitted an outline for a memoir at an editor's request.
The editor, a bright young person, took it to an editorial meeting where it was rejected.
It was decided that I was a "cult" writer and that such a book would only garner critical praise and prizes.
Having published my first novel in my twenties, I remember a time when critical praise and prizes were enough.
In this increasingly virtual age of open access and universal availability, it's important for readers to keep in mind what it is that a publisher does for an author.
A publisher -- and I write as one -- does far more than print and sell a book.
It selects, nurtures, positions and promotes the writer's work.
Which is, of course, why you hear so many authors wax so enthusiastically about their publishers and how their books have been treated .....
No doubt, much more commentary on this piece will appear; Galassi does not make a great case.
In fact, a myriad of problems are believed to beset the blossoming of creative writing in the region.
These include lack of readership on account of illiteracy.
Texts written in Hausa or other local languages find limited audience and have not benefited from translations.
Lack of publishing companies like those that operate in the South before the bubble burst on literary publishing is seen as a problem.
The absence of critics to mediate between the writers and the audience has made existing literary texts in the region to be obscure and almost non-existent to readers.
The region's rigid religion stance is also advanced as circumscribing the creative impulse of writers to the point of self-censorship.
The Hindu's January issue of the Literary Review is now available online.
Among the pieces of interest: in The decade in books 'five eminent writers' offer 'the books that had an impact on them over the last ten years', while in Tradition and the IWE writer Shashi Deshpande writes on Indians writing in English.
The Guardian has a nice feature celebrating 'the great writers who died in the past decade', Living in the memory.
Various well-known figures briefly write about the dead, including Michael Moorcock on J.G. Ballard, Ian Jack on Simon Gray, Ahdaf Soueif on Naguib Mahfouz, John Banville on John McGahern, Amit Chaudhuri on R.K.Narayan, Geoff Dyer on W.G.Sebald, Ian Rankin on Muriel Spark, and Ian McEwan on John Updike.
In recent years, China has increasingly flaunted its soft power, winning notice for its bold contemporary art and epic films featuring flying swordsmen.
But when it comes to literature, the country is still struggling to make its mark.
So far all breakout hopes abroad have fallen far short; I suspect it may still be a while.
(It might help if publishers didn't tamper with (by radically cutting) works in translation (apparently in some deluded hope of somehow thus making them more appealing for domestic audiences (i.e.by making them less true to the original and somehow supposedly (but, in fact, not at all) tailored to English-reading audiences), as happens far too often (the works of Mo Yan, Wang Gang's English, etc. etc.).)
In The man who wanted to reinvent literature in Haaretz Maya Sela interviews the always interesting Mario Bellatín, now that his Beauty Salon has also been translated into Hebrew.
(I do look forward to more of his work becoming available in English; unlike most, I was not that impressed by Beauty Salon, but much of what he does does sound interesting -- including his most recent book, Biografía ilustrada de Mishima (see, for example, the (Spanish) review at Moleskine®Literario).)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Leon de Winter's Het recht op terugkeer.
I've repeatedly complained about how little of his work is available in English (only two novels); this one seems a likely candidate to be fast-tracked, but I'm not sure that that's a good choice: it's a very problematic text (and he's done better).
But it is readable -- and nice and controversial.
Many thanks to all my many readers for your interest and patronage in 2009, and I wish you all all the best for the new year !
I think it's been a pretty good year, and I hope you've enjoyed the coverage here and at the rest of the site; I hope to be able to provide much the same in 2010 too.
(However, I doubt that I'll be able to manage 365 uninterrupted days of posts at this Literary Saloon -- as I apparently did in 2009 (there were 1347 posts for the year, an average of some 3.7 per day).)
Only 172 books were reviewed at the complete review in 2009; I was fairly busy and occasionally distracted by other duties and events; I certainly aim to read and review more in 2010.
(A full year-in-review overview will follow ... eventually.)
Thanks again for visiting; hope to see you here again throughout 2010.