At The New York Review of Books' weblog Tim Parks writes about The Dull New Global Novel.
He's correct that too many authors now worry about cracking the international market (largely via English), and that they sacrifice too much for that:
More importantly the language is kept simple.
Kazuo Ishiguro has spoken of the importance of avoiding word play and allusion to make things easy for the translator.
Scandinavian writers I know tell me they avoid character names that would be difficult for an English reader.
But he exaggerates some -- "It is not unusual for foreign rights to be sold before the work has a local publisher" (it happens, but come on, it's pretty unusual ...)
And as to:
What seems doomed to disappear, or at least to risk neglect, is the kind of work that revels in the subtle nuances of its own language and literary culture, the sort of writing that can savage or celebrate the way this or that linguistic group really lives.
I think that while the much-translated widely read 'multinational' literature (written by a few handfuls of authors ...) may suffer from this, there's still a lot of this savaging/celebrating going on in many foreign languages (it's just not being widely translated, especially into English ...).
A lot of local literature is much more vibrant than ever before -- but a lot of that is remaining fairly local.
In the Gulf Daily News Basma Mohammed reports that a Literary renaissance underway in Bahrain, as: "More books have been published since 2001 than in almost the whole of the last century" (1650, versus 1502).
Only five political books were written before the Charter compared with 65 published afterwards, he added.
"The National Action Charter allowed freedom of words and opinions," he said.
MNA reports that Iran's Book of the Year Awards winners announced.
Lots of categories -- including a veterinary section (predictably, Quantitative Trait Loci Analysis in Animals won) -- and the literary prizes are buried near the bottom of the article .....
Given the number of translations from the English that took prizes it seems quite possible that this is one of those Iranian literary prizes that Mohsen Parviz, deputy minister of 'Culture and Islamic Guidance for Cultural Affairs', suggested might be covertly funded by the US (see my previous mention).
Though in that case I suppose it is a bit surprising that the awards were handed out "in the presence of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad" .....
Widely linked-to already, but well worth a look: Toril Moi writes about the new (and the old) translation(s) of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex in the London Review of Books, in The Adulteress Wife.
Some horrifying stuff about how publishers (oh, how I love and admire them ...) treat translations -- as, for example, with regards to the first translation:
It was the publisher, not Parshley, who insisted on cutting the text; in the end he cut 145 of the original 972 pages, or almost 15 per cent of the original.
And, of course: "Demand for a new translation gathered force, but the publishers resisted."
And while they finally were convinced (and bribed -- they even got the French government to kick in a translation subsidy, as if they weren't earning enough off this title ...) to give it another go:
Now we have the new translation. Many will turn to it with high hopes.
Is it the definitive translation? Does it convey Beauvoirís voice and style? Unfortunately not.
Read on -- pretty shocking stuff (so much for quality-control on the part of publishers ...).
What's sad, of course, is that this will reflect badly on all translation-endeavors, and make many publishers even less inclined to have a go at some.
Pre-order the new translation by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier
(or don't ...) at Amazon.com,or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.
Or get your copy of the old, radically cut version at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Following American examples, protests by parents of high school students in Israel have led to Yona Wallach's "sexually explicit poems" being removed from classroom reading lists; see Maya Sela and Or Kashti reporting Israeli author: Censorship turning Israel into mini-Iran in Haaretz.
God forbid teenagers should be exposed to mention of ... genitals.
Among those who disapprove of those actions is author Yoram Kaniuk -- who goes so far as to say:
"We are gradually becoming a mini-Iran," said Kaniuk.
"Everyone talks about the threat of Iran's bombs and missiles, but they forget that the worst thing is this lousy religion, which is flourishing nowadays.
They're taking over our lives.
It's terrible what they've done to the Jewish religion.
Yona Wallach is a terrific poet."
The chances that anyone apart from a couple of Estonians living in exile will read an Estonian-language book are next to zero.
True lovers of Estonia prefer to put in a personal appearance and visit us here to experience this rare language in its spoken form.
... The market for Estonian authors is and remains Estonian, and it makes no great difference whether the works are in electronic form or in paper form.
Given how widespread the availability of (illegal) downloads of huge amounts of Scandinavian literature is I don't think the Estonians should get too cocky .....
North Korea, the planet's deepest information void, appears to be dabbling with electronic books (e-books)
"North Korea will have less complications surrounding copyright issues compared to the South, and with the government pushing the project directly, the country seems to have acquired a wealth of e-book content over a relatively short period of time," Kim told Yonhap News.
('Less complications' means, of course, that they'll simply ignore copyright.)
Another century-mark at the complete review -- there are now (over) 2400 reviews -- and so it's time for another (statistical) look at what was reviewed in the last batch of a hundred.
Once again, I tallied up how many foreign languages the last hundred reviewed titles were written in -- see the now updated list.
Books originally written in 26 different foreign languages (i.e. not including English) were reviewed, the most languages ever over any 100-book span -- and fifteen of those were represented by two or more titles.
Two were first-time languages: Latin and Vietnamese, and there are now a total of 52 languages that books under review have been written in.
Of the past 100 titles, 24.5 books were originally written in English, 14 each in French and Spanish, 7 in Arabic and 5 in Dutch.
I also updated the Author-sex breakdown of books under review, with considerably less impressive results: only a ridiculous 15.5 of the past 100 titles were written by women (bringing the total to 349 out of 2400 (14.54 per cent)).
Not very impressive at all.
(Oddly, it was the same title that was responsible for both the "0.5" division (English and German) on the language list, and on the male/female list: "Dearest Georg"The Letters of Elias, Veza, and Georges Canetti 1933-1948 (wherein many of Veza's letters were originally written in English).)
As Middle East Onlinereports, the winners in two of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award categories have been announced -- and I like the way they put it:
The Sheikh Zayed Book Award for "Literature" went this year to Hafnaoui Baali from Algeria for his book Comparative Cultural Criticism- an Introduction (published by Arab Scientific Publishers, Inc 2007)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ian McEwan's forthcoming (and much-anticipated) Solar.
Interesting to note that both McEwan and Martin Amis (in his just-published (in the UK ...) The Pregnant Widow) mention 'dysmorphia' right at the start of their new novels: the old geezers are apparently really preoccupied with the physical decline that accompanies aging.
(McEwan: "An early sign of Beard's distress was dysmorphia"; Amis: "Body Dysmorphic Syndrome, or Perceived Ugly Disorder, was what he hoped he'd got".)
Dan Rhodes has some new book out, and in the Independent on Sunday Katy Guest profiles him, in Dan Rhodes: 'Revenge is why I write'.
I probably should have a look at the new book, but so far Rhodes has done little for me; see also the reviews of Anthropology and The Little White Car (which he published under the name of 'Danuta de Rhodes' -- ha, ha) at the complete review.
There's a reasonable piece to be written about 'Why the literary world has still got it in for Martin Amis' (and why it may have gotten it wrong) but William Skidelsky's take in The Observer is not it.
Skidelsky's 'reading' of the anti-Amis arguments is so limited as to be pointless.
Typically, he dismisses Amis' recent euthanasia comments (see my previous mention) in a parenthetical 'observation': "he jokingly told one interviewer that "booths" should be erected for the purpose on street corners", and suggests (again parenthetically) that "references to his alleged Islamophobia" are solely: "based on his notorious off-the-cuff comment that the Muslim world needs to get its own "house in order"".
'Jokingly', 'off-the-cuff' -- yeah, right.
As if that weren't enough, Skidelsky actually suggests stuff like:
Quite apart from being unfortunate for Amis, there is another danger in all this.
Younger writers may look at the fate that has befallen him and tell themselves that there is little value in striving to engage with the present, no point in being outspoken.
Engaging with the present ?
I've just started The Pregnant Widow, but after the short introductory section from 2006 isn't it set in 1970 ?
Isn't it sub-titled 'Inside History' ?
And isn't Amis' problem not that he's outspoken but that he is a super-self-obsessed publicity whore who is so caught up with his ways with words that he doesn't always think through what he's spouting ?
(Hey, I'll read anything he writes -- even if I often disagree with his reasoning -- but could he just stop with the profiles and interviews ?
If there's a lesson for younger writers here, it is: focus on the writing -- and think before you speak (i.e. don't spout half-thought-through opinions) on current events and conditions (better yet: just shut up ...); Amis' problem seems to be that he's so pleased with himself and the way that he can express himself that he largely overlooks the substance (or lack thereof) of his statements.)
Culture and the Arts Minister John Day said he made the decision to strengthen the successful and popular WA Premier's Book Awards (PBA), while the Australia-Asia Literary Award (AALA) would be discontinued.
In The Believer Daniel Alarcón engages in a roundtable discussion with Eduardo Halfon and Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez.
As Alarcón explains, these:
two fluent, native English speakers raised in the United States, have both chosen Spanish as their literary language; something that I'll admit struck me at first as crazy.
I mean, isn't writing fiction hard enough already?
(Which, quite honestly, seems to me like an extraordinarily silly thought to entertain.)
Among the interesting discussion-points is that of reading certain authors in Spanish versus in English.
Alarcón, for example, notes:
Juan Rulfo. Read him in English and was like, What's the big deal? Read him in Spanish and couldn't write for three weeks, you know what I'm saying?
Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez goes even further:
I tried reading Rulfo in English.
This was after I read him in Spanish.
The short stories of El llano en llamas were OK in translation.
Pedro Páramo was not. I don't think I've ever made it past the second page of that translation.
I missed this when they announced it over a week ago, but they've named the winners of the 2010 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.
While meeting last month to decide the winner of the $100K Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, the judges found themselves unable to eliminate one of the two outstanding final candidates.
After much deliberation, an unusual solution was found.
The two contenders would share the top honor, the runner-up category would be eliminated, and the monies allocated for the winner and runner-up prizes would be combined into one award, to be split by the two winners, with each author taking home $62,500.
The winners are Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce
(by Sarah Abrevaya Stein; see the Yale University Press publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution
(by Kenneth B. Moss; see the Harvard University Press publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
There's a lengthy piece on Fawwaz Haddad's International Prize for Arabic Fiction-shortlisted The Unfaithful Translator by Youssef Rakha in this week's Al-Ahram Weekly, The Butterfly Dream.
(See also the Q & A with the author in The National.)
In the London Review of Books Tom McCarthy reviews Jean-Philippe Toussaint's Running Away and La Vérité sur Marie -- but, in fact, looks at all his work, mentioning also that:
All his books are short, and the shortest of all is La Mélancholie de Zidane, a ten-page essay which Minuit, charmingly but quite properly, published in 2006 as a stand-alone book.
The English-language publishers balked at publishing it separately, but it can be found in Dalkey Archive Press' Best European Fiction 2010 (see their publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
Lots of Toussaint coverage at the complete review, too: see reviews of:
In The Jakarta Post Oyos Saroso H.N. reports on the 2010 Rancage Literary Awards, 'which recognise outstanding literature written in local languages' (Sundanese, Javanese, Balinese, and Lampung), in Rancage Literary Awards go to local short story writers
Apparently there's limited support for the Lampung literati:
The director of the Jung Foundation on Lampung heritage, Christian Heru Cahyo, said the provincial administration had yet to play a role in developing Lampung literature and culture or help writers get their work written published.
"The Lampung provincial administration is too busy with the 'Visit Lampung Year program'," he said.
"There has been no real effort to preserve Lampung literature and culture.
Moreover, no magazine or newspaper runs Lampung works."
There's an interesting (German) interview with Arno Geiger in the Falter.
He won the German Book Prize with Es geht uns gut a couple of years ago, but the interviewer notes that it was not one of the two books his publisher submitted for the prize (like the Man Booker, the German Book Award ridiculously lets publishers decide which books are in the running, and (also like the Man Booker) only allows two submissions per house).
The book was one of the 'called in' titles -- and I suppose one could argue that that proves their system (and the Man Booker's ...) works, but I think the system makes it far too easy to overlook worthy texts.
Interesting also to learn that the book was a big success (20,000 copies sold before the prize) -- and that Hanser did not have nearly such high expectations for it.
At Publishing Perspectives Siobhan O'Leary looks at the consequences of a recent court ruling on remuneration for German translators (they "are now entitled to claim a percentage of the proceeds of books that sell more than 5,000 copies") -- and takes a glimpse at the Dutch model, too -- in Translators say, "Show Me the Monnaie"
As, for example, Deutsche Welle reports, Hans Magnus Enzensberger has received the Danish Sonning Prize.
Worth 134,000 euros ($187,000 -- or DKK 1,000,000), the biennial prize is 'Denmark's most respected literary award' (though in fact the recipients include all sorts of non-literary figures -- it's a weird list).
Enzensberger's The Silences of Hammerstein was recently translated (by Martin Chalmers) and brought out by Seagull Books; see their publicity page, or that of US distributor the University of Chicago Press, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Recently Open Letter and Russian Life concurrently brought out new, complete translations of Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov's The Golden Calf (The Little Golden Calf in the case of Russian Life) -- the version under review at the complete review is the Open Letter one -- and in a (now successful) bid to attract attention Russian Life posted a ... provocative piece on One satirical novel, two seriously different versions.
It has provoked Chad Post to respond at Three Percent.
I look forward to a ... healthy debate ensuing.
María Zambrano, Miguel Delibes, José Ángel Valente, Antonio Gamoneda and Carmen Martín Gaite were some of the Spanish authors included in the show.
Hungarian and Belgian literature was also included using recreations of the works of Sándor Márai and Hugo Claus, respectively.
The February issue of Words without Borders is now also out -- '(Worth) Ten Thousand Words, Part IV: International Graphic Novels'.
Fortunately, there's also some additional content -- including Sony Labou Tansi's play, His Majesty: The Stomach.
(There are three works by Tansi under review at the complete review; see, for example, The Antipeople.)
The February SWR-Bestenliste -- where thirty German literary critics select the best recent releases -- is now out.
A surprise number one is Leonid Dobychin's (Леонид Иванович Добычин) The Town of N (Город Эн).
Northwestern University Press came out with an English translation a while back; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- or read it in the original.
A reminder that the Inaugural Queen Sofía Spanish Institute Translation Prize is being handed out in New York, at 18:00, tonight:
With the aim of elevating awareness and engendering appreciation of Spanish literature in the United States, this triennial $10,000 prize has been created by the Cultural Committee and Board of Directors of Queen Sofía Spanish Institute to honor the best English-language translation of a work of fiction written in Castilian by a Spanish author and published by an American imprint.
The first prize goes to Edith Grossman for her translation of Antonio Muñoz de Molina's A Manuscript of Ashes; see also the official press release (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
Tomás Eloy Martínez has passed away; see, for example, the El Paísobituary.
Far too little of his work has been translated into English; the only work under review at the complete review is The Tango Singer.
(Recall also that he was a (surprise) shortlisted candidate for the 2005 Man Booker International Prize.)
On and on it goes: Tom Chatfield's interview with Martin Amis (in which he disses J.M.Coetzee) is now available at Prospect, while Stephen Moss also chats with him in a profile in The Guardian.
Meanwhile, at The First Post Nigel Horne reports that:
There were strong rumours this afternoon that Martin Amis has pulled out of the upcoming Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival following a scathing review of his new novel, The Pregnant Widow, from the Sunday Times itself.
I find it hard to believe that Amis is that pathetically petty, but who knows .....
(I was also amused to hear that Amis hasn't seen Ian McEwan's Solar yet, saying: "No, I haven't, no. Itís very heavily embargoed."
-- given how many copies are floating around (even I have one -- and I've had the damndest time keeping myself from posting a review already (it'll be up soon)).
(Pre-order your copy of Solar from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
With time to fill until it's time to announce the longlist for this year's Man Booker, the Man Booker-folk unveil another stunt: The Lost Man Booker Prize announced.
The prize switched from being retrospective to one for best novel of the (current) year in 1971, which means that books published in 1970 were never put up for the prize -- a situation which they're now trying to rectify.
It's a decent longlist -- though what they don't mention is that they don't play by the (Man) Booker rules -- i.e. didn't rely on publishers to nominate the books, and didn't limit publishers to two submissions apiece .....
The only titles under consideration that is under review at the complete review is the great Patrick White's The Vivisector.
See also Arifa Akbar's Judges to name winner of 'lost' Booker Prize in The Independent.