Okay, the Frankfurt Book Fair is still a ways away -- almost two months (it runs 6 to 10 October) -- but it's always worthwhile looking ahead.
This year's 'guest of honour' is Argentina, and they already have a dedicated site up -- culture in motion.
It's okay -- but what I've really been impressed by is 2011 guest of honour Iceland's site -- yes, they have one, and it's been up for a while -- Fabulous Iceland.
That's the way you do it !
(The whole Frankfurt-guest-of-honour role seems to me to have has proved a boon to the nations/cultures in question: (South) Korea, Catalonia, the Arabic-writing countries, they all seem to have gotten a really good boost from it.
It's also impressive how the German publishers have embraced it: every other publisher seems to have an Argentina-program planned for the fall.)
The longlist for the FT/GSBBotYA has been announced; see, for example, the official press release (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
Despite having covered quite a few business titles this year, none of the longlisted books are under review at the complete review.
But I was pleased (and amused) to see that they included a novel: Adam Haslett's Union Atlantic (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
The Sowetan prints 'a shortened version of the wWrite speech of the project director of the South African Literary Awards, Morakabe Seakhoa', Literature is food for the mind.
He really gets into the spirit, too:
Literature is the food of the mind.
It is an integral aspect of our food for thought menu and a vital ingredient in the diet of all free, democratic and open societies worldwide.
In Haaretz Nirit Anderm wonders: 'With so many works by Israeli authors made into films, why has Meir Shalev not seen his name in bright lights ?', in Bookshelf to big screen -- offering a good overview of the Israeli book-to-screen scene, including noting that:
According to data compiled by the Israel Film Fund, only around 10 percent of the movies produced in Israel are based on literary works.
This year, a third of the 18 films that contended for Ophir prizes are based on books
In The Korea Times Chung Ah-young reports that: 'Novelist Kim Young-ha returns after six years with his new book No One Knows What Happened' (in Korean, at least), in 'No One' touches hopeless, unstable reality.
Chung reports that:
His novels and stories have been translated into more than 10 languages.
Kim is now recognized as the representative writer in Korea in the post-industrialization era.
Agreed -- not that one has a real sense of that in the US (or UK) yet.
But Your Republic is Calling You (referred to here only as 'The Empire of Light', the title it was published under in Korea (and France, etc.))
is due out soon, and maybe that will help a bit.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Laurence Cossé's A Novel Bookstore -- a rare title in translation that is actually recent: Europa Editions did well to already bring out this 2009 title in English.
It sounds like a can't-miss, but I'm afraid I thought it fell rather short of the mark.
But worth pointing out: the excellent official site to go with it.
I just hope they expand the list of books .....
The House of Sitt Wasila, behind Al-Azhar Mosque, has become a House of Poetry, a place where poets can gather, hold readings and musical soirées, and do what they often do best -- disagree with one another.
There's much at this site that I've been meaning to get to (over the many, many years ...), to make it more user-friendly.
Long overdue: any sort of search capability.
Well, as you may have noticed, at the top of this page and several other obvious ones, I've now added a search-box -- this one, to be exact:
Consider this still a 'beta' test, but I think users may find it useful.
Why the 'Bing' -- rather than 'Google' -- search platform ?
Two main reasons:
Almost everyone who comes to the site via a search engine, comes via Google; almost no one does via Bing (less than three per cent of all visitors).
To offer Google-search on-site would be somewhat redundant for most visitors: that's probably how they got here in the first place.
Both Google and Bing have some weaknesses in how they retrieve/rank local pages, but on the whole Bing does a slightly better job -- and I can live with the few things they don't handle well.
Whether or not this search capability is of much interest or use should soon be clear, but user-feedback is also always welcome.
If users do find the search box useful it will be placed on more pages on the site -- certainly all the index pages.
An interesting four-book review by James Lovegrove in the Financial Times, as he (tries to) get a sense of foreign science fiction, in Alien nations.
As he notes:
Rare is the foreign-language SF novel that is imported into an anglophone country, against the prevailing current.
One reason for this is translation costs, which take a chunk out of what may already be slender profit margins.
But there is also, perhaps, an inherent conservatism in the core readership.
By and large, anglophone SF aficionados know what they like and like what they know.
The translation-cost issue never sounds convincing to me; the conservatism of science fiction readers is an interesting
thought (you might figure science fiction readers would be particularly open to the new, but I think he's right: they're not).
One of the books isn't even a translation: Finnish author Hannu Rajaniemi wrote The Quantum Thief in English -- and as Lovegrove suggests:
Perhaps by writing in English it's easier for Rajaniemi to embrace the tropes of anglophone SF that he so admires.
It also has the handy side-effect of making the book much more readily saleable around the world (an American deal has already been secured).
A Finnish-language SF novel, however excellent, would struggle to find a publisher in the UK or US.
Sad to think that last sentence might be true .....
In any case: no US availability yet, but get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.
Another title he looks at is Zoran Živković's Escher's Loops -- get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk --, and he finds:
What emerges most strongly from Zivkovic's work is the sense of western SF being absorbed, reconfigured, and served back up in an unusual and exciting new form.
Živković is definitely among the most interesting writers out there -- see, for example, the complete review review of The Fourth Circle.
Meanwhile, Lovegrove notes that:
In SF publishing, as elsewhere, a foreign-language title almost invariably must be a mega-seller in its homeland for it to generate interest in a market where there's already a surfeit of locally grown produce.
Sadly, that's probably especially true for science fiction -- even though those mega-sellers aren't always the cream of the crop.
But recall that US and UK publishers can't even be bothered to commission a translation of Stanisław Lem's Solaris that's directly from the Polish (the one on the market is a translation of the French translation), despite all the cash they've earned from the movie tie-in versions .....
Howard Jacobson is profiled in The Guardian by Lindesay Irvine.
His new novel, The Finkler Question, has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize; get your copy from Amazon.co.uk; don't hold your breath for an American edition (he's not made much of an impression in the US).
Several of his titles are under review at the complete review; for example, The Mighty Walzer.
At Publishing Perspectives 'Chad Post argues that publishers should focus on finding and developing readers for international literature rather than on fixing supply-side factors like translation costs', in Building an Audience (and a Case) for Translations.
A good point, as:
So if the end goal is to increase readership instead of focusing on how to pay production costs, the question becomes, "how do we get people interested in these books ?"
So after four issues of The New York Times Book Review in which not a single work in translation was reviewed (think about that: four issues, not one book), translation-coverage returns to the NYTBR with an (apparent) splash:
on the cover of this week's issue is Francine Prose's review of two Hans Keilson titles, Comedy in a Minor Key (see the FSG publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and The Death of the Adversary (see the FSG publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com).
(That's the only coverage of any translated titles, by the way ... they really don't want to overwhelm you all at once .....)
Now don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for any attention they deign to pay to works in translation (they don't deign much or often, after all), and a cover-spread for this worthy author is certainly welcome.
Still, I can't help but notice how these titles fit the pattern for what translated fiction Sam Tanenhaus does stoop to cover.
Sure, there are a few modern odds and ends he'll take a look at, but generally you have to be a Nobel laureate (yes, the new Saramago will be reviewed in those pages in the coming weeks) or the book's popularity/notoriety has to be impossible to ignore (Stieg Larsson, Jonathan Littell) for him to judge discussion of it to be worth your (or their) while.
Otherwise, in the NYTBR's (super-slim) coverage of translated fiction Tanenhaus tends strongly towards books and authors with the following attributes -- and look how close Keilson's books come to fulfilling his criteria:
Set in World War II: Bingo ! as Prose notes: "both are set in Nazi-occupied Europe"
By dead authors : Fortunately Keilson is still with us -- but come on, he's 100 (yes, one hundred) years old ! (Yes, he was born in 1909.)
New translations of previously translated works : Sure, Comedy in a Minor Key is new to English -- but The Death of the Adversary isn't even a re-translation, it's an old translation (first published in the US in 1962 -- 1962 !) that has just been reissued. Hell, Time magazine reviewed it back then. Tanenhaus is only half a century behind the times .....
I continue to be absolutely baffled by the NYTBR's approach to fiction (and non-) in translation.
How I wish they'd reassess their selection process and criteria.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Atiq Rahimi's Earth and Ashes.
I think it's great that Other Press is bringing this out in the US -- in an attractive but reasonably-priced hardcover edition, no less -- but I do note that this book came out in the UK in ... 2002.
An interesting piece in The Independent, showing just what a role the (hard-earned) success of Stieg Larsson's books played in Quercus' success, as Nick Clark writes on The publishing house that Stieg Larsson built.
(Finally fixing up that website -- previously one of the worst in the business (with pdf pages for book information !) -- can't have hurt either.)
Interesting to learn that:
The hardback edition of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo failed to cause much of a stir when it was published in January 2008, selling around 8,000 copies.
"The paperback that followed in the summer did okay but was nowhere near as popular as elsewhere in Europe," Mr Smith added.
The publisher failed to get the books into prominent positions in the shops, and some refused to stock it.
One prominent retailer, who Mr Smith declined to name, said its customers "don't like authors with funny names".
With word-of-mouth being the best way to sell a book, small presses, already experts at cultivating loyal followings, are positioned to thrive in the march toward digital distribution -- but don't count on them making a profit.
Worldreader is trying to figure out with a series of trials in Ghana that involve giving students Amazon.com Kindles to read in school and at home.
The Amazon-connection -- the founder was an executive there, and Amazon supplied the Kindles (it's unclear how many) free of charge -- devices Worldreader.org generously describe as "the best-in-class Kindle e-reader" -- can't be ignored, but it certainly is an interesting experiment.
(Though I suspect the wireless downloading doesn't work quite as smoothly there .....)
SPIEGEL: How much of your turnover comes from e-books ?
Dohle: It's around 8 percent in the US right now, which represents a huge increase.
I can imagine that we'll end up above 10 percent next year.
And he thinks:
The market share for electronic books, even in the United States, will more likely be between 25 and 50 percent by 2015.
That would be a very significant percentage .....
But then there are also responses such as:
The question, however, is whether publishers have the ability to find the right retail price in order to reach as many readers as possible.
There may be a translation issue here; something is obviously missing (the right retail price if the only goal is to reach as many readers as possible is free; obviously, he means the profit-maximizing price; for the most part publishers don't care about actually reaching readers, much less as many as possible: the bottom line is what counts).
And, unfortunately, the Wylie-question is not asked -- despite the fact that they've announced that: "Random House on a worldwide basis will not be entering into any new English-language business agreements with the Wylie Agency until this situation is resolved" -- the situation being Andrew Wylie's publishing exercise, Odyssey Editons (see my previous mention)
In February of this year, Western Armenian joined UNESCO's online Atlas of World Languages in Danger1, earning the "definitely" status within the list's degrees of endangerment.
Out of the five-tier spectrum that ranges from "vulnerable" to "extinct," "definitely endangered" refers to a language that children no longer learn as their mother tongue at home.
Still, there are some significant authors still working in the language, notably Krikor Beledian (Գրիգոր Պըլտեան):
His oeuvre seems to defy the linguists' label of "definitely endangered," considering the sheer volume of his prose works in Western Armenian.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Buddhadeva Bose's 1951 novel, My Kind of Girl, published in India last year and being brought out by Archipelago (in the US) and Hesperus (in the UK) this fall.
Good to see some Bengali fiction getting published in these markets -- a few Mahasweta Devi works are also coming out this year (for example, Bait) -- though there's a lot of catching up to be done.
Our core categories include outdoor sport, adventure, team sports, nature, country living, with a good dose of politics, true crime, history and military history, reference and humor -- practical, literary, and general trade.
Whether you are looking for a practical guide to fly tying, a lively read about organized crime or the world of politics, or a unique book to give as a gift, we hope you'll find what you are looking for on our list.
And this is the new home for the Arcade fiction list ?
Or did they buy it just for the non-fiction list ?
True, Skyhorse is relatively young -- they've only been around since September, 2006 -- so they're still shaping their identity.
At the Global Voices weblog Silvia Viñas has an entertaining look at the reactions to Isabel Allende being a candidate for the Chilean National Prize for Literature, in Isabel Allende and the National Prize for Literature.
An interesting situation: her ... impact can hardly be denied, her ... talent ... well, can one even call it that ... ?
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Christa Wolf's new novel -- set almost entirely in Los Angeles, as it describes the time when she was a guest scholar at the Getty Research Institute almost twenty years ago -- Stadt der Engel, oder The Overcoat of Dr. Freud.
Surely an English translation can be expected -- by 2012 or 2013, I suspect.
Here's a bizarre international incident: as sify (and many others) report, Kim Jong Il biographies seized in Myanmar.
Despite having been published with the approval of the Myanmar Press Scrutiny and Register Department (and, yeah, you can imagine what a fun bunch they are), not everyone was thrilled to see this Kim Jong Il biography in print, as:
North Korean diplomats seized translations of a biography on regime leader Kim Jong Il by a local writer prior to a visit of the country's foreign minister, sources said Saturday.
'They came to my office earlier this month and told me to hand over these books,' said Hein Latt, 62, a well-known Myanmar translator of biographies on world leaders.
What possible authority they could have -- even in the whacky world that is contemporary Burma ('Myanmar') -- is unclear; nevertheless:
'They demanded I hand over all books including those were already in the stores, but I told them it was impossible to take them back from book stores,' Hein said.
'Finally I had to hand over 310 books that I was keeping with me for sale.'
'I gave my books to them because I did not want to get into trouble with North Korean men,' said the writer, adding that he did not receive any compensation.
About 700 books have already been distributed, he said.
Pretty understandable that he "did not want to get into trouble with North Korean men" -- who would ?
Still, you figure local authorities might see this as them overstepping their bounds.
It would be great if this results in an 'international incident'; alas, I don't expect anything much to come of it.
What is being missed in the debate about the division of digital spoils is the opportunity offered by e-books to authors and readers, as well as to publishers who have the specialist skills to exploit it.
Ooh, specialist skills -- but as to examples thereof ... yeah, I'm not holding my breath (or buying Pearson stock).
The 85-year-old author of 25-odd Konkani books, Kerekar said that Indians have inclined towards English language, which is only uprooting Indians from their home land.
"We are getting more and more involved into English language and neglecting our languages.
I feel there are dark clouds hovering over Indian languages," Ravindra Kaliaji who verbalized Kerekarís speech, said.
The pendulum seems actually to have begun swinging ever so slightly the other way, but, yes, it does still look to be an issue.
Many thanks to all who came to my appearance at The Bookstore at Lenox (and to The Bookstore itself, with an almost finished wine-bar that makes these events even more appealing !).
A great audience -- and great to meet so many long familiar with the site, and so many translators, too (who probably would have had a lot more to say on the subjects).
The Big Beach Read has changed. It has grown a bit smarter, and a bit deeper.
Pure escapism has given way to a more solid grounding in character, history and even social reality.
Wising up, rather than dumbing down, has marked the evolution of premier-league popular fiction over the past two decades.
Once, the critically lauded Booker winner and the must-read chunky paperback epic axiomatically belonged in separate literary galaxies.
No longer. Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, already one of the prize's highest-grossing victors, has since its paperback release in March added another quarter-million to its UK sales.
But then he closes his piece by commending Iain Pears' Stone's Fall .....
In New York magazine Joe Keohane finds that: 'Against all odds, a small army of neighborhood bookshops has arrived' in New York, presenting an overview in Indie Bookstores Rising.
Among the pages of interest: Book-o-nomics, where the ledgers of Greenlight Bookstore are revealed (and they're making money !), a Cover to Cover guide of: 'The new (and renewed) guard of independent bookstores' -- and Jillian Goodman's look at: 'What used bookstores (and eBay customers) will fork over for three previously loved titles', in Seller's Market.
The Hindu Literary Review has instituted The Hindu Best Fiction Award 2010
The only problem ?
Only works in English will be accepted. Translations will not be considered.
Even the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature accepts "work in English, or translated into English", as does the Man 'Asian' Literary Prize; even the Vodafone Crossword Book Award has a translation category.
The Hindu Best Fiction Award, meanwhile, says: no thanks.
What gives ?
And what are they thinking ?
In The Reporter (Ethiopia) Yelibenwork Ayele reports that the Ethiopian Writers Association celebrated its 50th anniversary and that as part of that they hosted a Book fair to encourage reading.
One sales-success example on offer:
One of the best-selling novels in Ethiopia, Oromay by Bealu Girma, sold about 40,000 copies which, by local standards, is a huge success.
But they may not have all the right ideas in trying to achieve similar successes:
The reason most people are not motivated to read when new books are published is that the books are not properly introduced to the public before they hit the market, Gebrekristos Haile-selassie, manager of the Ethiopian Writers Association, says.
In the developed countries, Gebrekristos says, a large-scale work of promotion precedes the publication of a book.
Therefore, before a book is in the stores, the readership has the necessary information about its title, author and contents.
And finally the book is inaugurated.
I hope they're not pinning all their hopes on this theory.
He had a theory to explain this.
"It's as if they were paranoid about being nominated for the Bad Sex Award," he said, referring to the Literary Review's annual giggle at the most purple description of carnality in the year's fiction.
Motion, caricatured during his time in the laureateship as "Pelvic Motion" by the Daily Mail, noted with dismay that "there were a lot of people writing about taking drugs, as if that was a substitute for sex".
Do writers really run scared so easily ?
On the other hand, I can see them turning to drugs .....
A reminder that tomorrow (Monday, 2 August, at 7 PM) I'll be at The Bookstore in Lenox, Massachusetts, having my say on the state of international literature (and especially translation) -- and coverage thereof -- in the US.
Yes, inevitable The New York Times Book Review-bashing included (they bring it on themselves -- check out all that coverage of translated fiction (or anything else ...) in today's issue.)