In total, around 2,200 authors and illustrators will be attending, and the number of book signings is expected to exceed 5,600.
With the fair being a public event (and Monday unofficially designated as the professional day), crowds thronging the Porte de Versailles exhibition center give it a totally different atmosphere from the more sedate and calm London, BookExpo America or Frankfurt fairs.
Cashiers are busy ringing up sales while visitors are rushing to form long book-signing queues
Disappointing to hear that some things seem to remain unchanged, as fair manager Bertrand Morisset notes:
For Morisset, the translation traffic has been pretty much a one-way street.
"On one hand, we don't have a strong and effective campaign to promote French authors and titles to the U.S.
On the other, Americans don't seem to like our titles.
Why is that?
We love American thrillers and stories, and I think a healthy cultural exchange is the way to go forward."
And to think that this is a language from which a great deal actually is translated into English .....
Consider the frustration that must be felt by those countries/languages where traffic really is a one-way street .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of BDSM Tales from the Classic Master, Dan Oniroku's Season of Infidelity.
(Yes, there's so little reasonably contemporary fiction coming out of Japan that I'm reduced to taking on stuff like this .....)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Claudia Piñeiro's Thursday Night Widows, which was recently longlisted for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
It also comes with a blurb from José Saramago, won a big Spanish literary prize, has been made into a movie, and has apparently sold over 130,000 copies in Argentina.
It's a fine enough novel, but certainly not worth all that fuss.
The festival in Bhutan's capital, Thimphu, aims to present the more positive aspects of Bhutanese culture.
In addition to French, who in 2008 was a guest at the colourful coronation of King Wangchuck's son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the festival will feature a number of Indian authors, including Omair Ahmad, who penned The Storyteller's Tale.
Yet the organisers are determined that Bhutanese writers, who have a more restricted access to an international audience, are also showcased.
The Bay of Noon by Shirley Hazzard, a tale of Naples just after the war, is so exquisitely atmospheric – this Italy is both third-world and impossibly glamorous – that it would have been a sin not to shortlist it.
The same went for Troubles by JG Farrell, which is set in Ireland after the first world war, where Major Brendan Archer is visiting his fiancee at her home, the crumbling Majestic hotel (in Farrell's deft hands, a beautiful metaphor for the wider crumbling of empire).
Patrick White's The Vivisector, an account of an artist's life from birth to death, came at us like a punch, throbbing with rage and testosterone and some of the best writing I've ever read.
And then there was Muriel Spark's The Driver's Seat, short and black and chilling.
"Writing careers are short," he expands.
"For every 100 writers, 99 never get published.
Of those who do, only one in every hundred gets a career out of it, so I count myself as immensely privileged.
I will have written 12 novels when I finish this next book and it's enough.
I'm going to stop.
Too often bitterness is the end product of a writing career.
I keep seeing writers who have grown bitter.
And I know that I am just as likely to turn bitter as anyone else.
So it's self-preservation."
Investment on inculcating reading habit in a society is an investment in the development endeavors of a given country, says Mr. Solomon Tsehaie
Personally, I'm more interested in the hard numbers:
The number of newly printed books has increased slightly from last year where 28 new books are released.
It is to be recalled that there were 24 newly published books last year, while the book sales were around 70 thousand.
But I do think it's nice that articles such as this offer gems such as:
An iron has to be continuously sharpened to remain effective and sharp until it gets entirely depreciated.
Likewise reading enables us to update ourselves as it is an effective means of self-renewal.
A micro-habit provides people with a micro-benefit, explains Mr. Abrar Ibrahim, a visitor.
(Damn, I have not been keeping my iron sharp -- though I guess that explains why it hasn't depreciated yet.
But reading ?
Come on, that's a macro-habit, all the way .....)
In Assessing contemporary Czech literature in The Prague Post Stephan Delbos reports on a recent panel on "How Is Literature in East-Central Europe and Russia Faring After 1989 ?"
Among the observations:
Czech writers have lost their privileged position as "supreme moral authorities" in Czech society since the fall of communism, according to Vrba.
"After 1989, literature stepped aside and kept silent in the chaos of modernization and is now little more than a fragmented private hobby," he said.
"Poetry is living, and that's always good news, but it has become epigrammatic, bitter commentary."
Ala Hlehel was named one the Beirut39 -- a literary honor -- but, since he lives in Israel, he's not supposed to go join in the festivities, as:
It is absolutely forbidden, according to Section 5 of the Extension of Validity of Emergency Regulations Law, whose broad powers have been in force since independence, for residents and citizens to leave Israel for any country designated by law as an enemy state, including Lebanon.
So they've announced the shortlist for the so-called 'lost' (Man) Booker Prize -- the one they didn't award for books published in 1970.
The only title under review at the complete review is The Vivisector by Patrick White.
In searching for stories to write around this publicity stunt prize a popular take has been -- as for example Arifa Akbar writes in The Independent -- that it's a Posthumous blow to the author who hated book prizes.
They mean Patrick White -- but kind of overstate the case.
Sure, he withdrew titles from consideration from a couple of prizes (including the Booker), but come on -- this was a guy who used his Nobel Prize winnings to ... endow a literary prize, the Patrick White Award.
The new generation's style is perhaps best typified in the 2003 Being Abbas el Abd, told in a fragmented form intertwined with pop culture references, often in a sort of "emoticon" Arabic used in writing mobile phone text messages.
It's good to hear that the success of Alaa Al Aswany's The Yacoubian Building apparently "opened the floodgates for fiction", with Hind Wassef, "a co-founder of Diwan, a chain of American-style bookshops complete with coffee, loyalty cards and special offers" claiming that now:
"It is a fiction market," she said, "And we go out of our way to stock an excellent collection of fiction. It is what sells."
As it should be !
See also the comments on the article at Arabic Literature (in English).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Fernando Sorrentino's Seven Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges, just re-issued by Paul Dry Books.
Lots of good quotes (and opinions) -- and I like the admission:
I judge literature in a hedonistic manner.
That is, I judge literature according to the pleasure or emotion it inspires in me.
Would that more did !
Also nice: this take on reading in translation:
Not knowing Greek and Arabic allowed me to read, so to speak, the Odyssey and The Thousand and One Nights in many different versions, so that this poverty also brought me a kind of richness.
Big, big bucks for Margaret Atwood and Amitav Ghosh as they split the '2010 Present'-category -- 'Literature: Rendition of the 20th Century' -- of the 3 x $1,000,000 Dan David Prize.
I have no idea what this is, but, hey, it's a lot of money; good for them.
The award will recognize writers of any ethnicity writing about South Asia and its diasporas.
The books competing for the prize must be an original work of fiction published during 1st April 2009 and 31st March 2010, written in English or translated into English.
The regional focus still strikes me as a bit bizarre, but let's see how it goes the first few times .....
A longtime Durs Grünbein-fan, I'm disappointed to miss the conversation/reading with him this evening (19:00) at the Goethe Institut in New York.
The occasion is to introduce the English translation of his Descartes' Devil: Three Meditations (see the Upper West Side Philosophers' publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk); I have the German edition but haven't gotten around to reviewing it yet.
One of the big-money (US$175,000) -- though far from the biggest -- Spanish-language literary prizes, the Premio Alfaguara de Novela has gone to El arte de la resurrección by Hernán Rivera Letelier; see also, for example, the report at the Latin American Herald Tribune.
Among the points of interest: it's a US dollar-denominated prize -- making for the peculiar prize-sum of €129,279.
(It's unclear whether the pay-out is in dollars or euros.)
And: 539 manuscripts were considered (well worth remembering when the latest batch of lazy-ass Man Booker judges moan -- as they inevitably will -- about the mere ca. 100 titles they have to consider for the prize ...) -- and it's interesting to see the country-by-country rundown.
Spain contributed the most submissions -- 194 --, followed by Mexico (102) and Argentina (100).
A surprising 25 submissions came from the US (yes, the United States) -- but only 14 from Chile, which I would have taken for more of a literary hotbed .....
Elif Batuman is enjoying great success with her book on 'Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them', The Possessed (see the Farrar, Straus and Giroux publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com orAmazon.co.uk), but apparently she is
"the US-born daughter of a Turkish immigrant couple" and so in Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman Rüya Karliova has a Q & A with her in which Batuman 'speaks about her new book and shares her musings on Turkish literature'.
Apparently she's not a huge Pamuk fan:
You wrote in The Possessed that you were bored reading Orhan Pamuk's novels.
How would you evaluate the current state of Turkish literature?
When I was in Istanbul I noticed that the bookstores had an explosion of Turkish novels.
I think Pamuk made novel writing an acceptable profession in Turkey.
He brought a lot of honors to Turkey thanks to the Nobel Prize, and everything.
Turkish novels do seem very interesting and diverse to me.
And interesting to see her take on why her book has been as successful as it has:
I think the publisher did an amazing job in positioning the book.
And I think they have a lot to do with the success.
A famous cartoonist, Roz Chast, did the cover.
Everyone recognizes her from The New Yorker.
When the reader looks at the cover, he/she understands that it is not a boring book about Russian literature.
That was very smart.
The book is in paperback; that was also a smart thing to do.
And for the reviews, there have been few books that have been kind of between creative writing and academia.
That was something new and appealing to general readers.
Positioning, format (paperback), and the cover as three of the main reasons for its success ?
I.e. nothing to do with the content .....
Sure, a nice and generous pat on the shoulder for the publisher, but still .....
Making my way through some of August Strindberg's prose I came across the 1987 first English translation of The Roofing Ceremony, a thin volume published by the University of Nebraska Press (see their publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) -- but what really surprised me was to find that Michiko Kakutani had reviewed it for The New York Times when it came out.
What are the chances that any book like that would get such prominent review coverage nowadays ?
The Kakutani doesn't bother with much fiction any more, and neither The New York Times nor The New York Times Books Review care much for fiction in translation -- especially of this obscurer sort -- any longer.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jo Nesbø's The Devil's Star.
Normally I'd complain that this book -- published in Norwegian in 2003, and in English translation in the UK in 2005 -- is only making it to the US now (it just came out here).
But this was the first in Nesbø's Harry Hole-series to be published in the UK, and I have to wonder: what were they thinking ?
It's the fifth in the series, and a whole lot of backstory -- including some that seems fairly essential -- is almost entirely missing for readers who are introduced to Hole at this point, and not earlier (Nesbø does summarily mention the essentials, but it's hardly the same).
In the US the two previous volumes in the series -- the ones leading up to this one -- were published first, and that certainly helps.
(Mind you, the American publishers have so far ignored the first two volumes, which means that some of the backstory remains missing .....)
Some mystery-series lend themselves to being presented in any old order, but hardly all -- and yet it's rare that US/UK publishers will begin at the beginning (and continue in order ...) when offering a series in translation.
At Al-Ahram Weekly Youssef Rakha 'wonders if the United Arab Emirates might end up being the Arabs' answer to an international publishing hub' in an extensive report on the recent Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, K for kitab.
Meanwhile, at Three Percent Chad Post usefully reposts his reports from the ADIBF.
Writers are often regarded as teachers or social visionaries.
The addition to the modern African writer's role should debunking tribal and state myths by writing from inside the tribe without dissolving in it.