At Xinhuanet -- annoyingly spread out over three pages -- Yang Guang writes about Chinese literature Getting a foot in abroad -- or not:
Quality translations and targeted marketing alone can help break the lingering stereotype in overseas markets of modern Chinese fiction as propaganda, literary experts say.
That's what will do the trick ?
(Emphasis on 'trick' ?)
A vicious cycle ensued, in which publishers were wary of taking on modern Chinese literature because it was little known, and were also unwilling to invest in quality translation and editing for the works they did publish.
This in turn confirmed the stereotype and further weakened interest in Chinese literature.
There seems a fair amount of interest -- and supply (at least relatively speaking) -- nowadays -- suggesting the problem lies elsewhere.
Interesting, however, to learn that:
Alexey Rodionov, Russian translator and associate professor with Saint Petersburg State University, points out that of the 20 titles of Chinese novels and essays published in Russia between 1992 and 2009, the works of Wang Meng and Feng Jicai are the most sought after.
A great deal of Wang Meng's work has been translated into English (though admittedly not in particularly accessible form), and I'm always surprised that he (a former Minister of Culture, too), hasn't had more of an impact.
(Interesting, also, that a mere twenty Chinese titles were published in Russian in that span -- barely one a year.)
At Oye!Times Marina Darmaros reports on Challenging the classics in Russia, as 'A congress in Moscow will focus on the problems faced by the translators of Russian books', the First International Congress of Translators:
The idea is to gather together the translators who carry the responsibility of translating the great names of Russian and world literature.
At the congress there will be discussions on, among other things, the real possibilities of translating artistic literature, of teaching translation and the problems of translating of Russian literature.
Future plans for this cultural reformer include the creation of a translation institute, "a kind of institution that does not exist in Russia yet".
(Surely the Soviets -- who did a decent job of translating huge amounts of Soviet literature (of the most varied quality) -- had such an institution -- what became of that ?)
In the Financial Times' Small Talk-column this week Luke Sampson has a Q & A with Ismail Kadare.
Among his responses:
Who are your literary influences ?
The three peninsulas of Europe: the Apennines, with Dante; the Balkans, with Greek tragedies and medieval Albanian ballads; and the Iberian Peninsula, with Don Quixote. The British Isles (Shakespeare). Russian and central European literature (Kafka).
Michel Houellebecq's new novel, La carte et le territoire, isn't even out yet (another week to wait; pre-order your copy at Amazon.fr), but already there's a good literary stir going: Tahar Ben Jelloun -- a judge for the prix Goncourt that Houellebecq has never won and that his publisher is supposedly pushing for -- has denounced the book and laments the time wasted reading it, in Il caso Houellebecq in la Repubblica (yes, rather than a full frontal attack, he launched his in Italian translation -- an interesting move).
Publick Journal has a good overview of this first round in what looks like to become a season-long battle that many will join in, in Ben Jelloun hates even the gentler, kinder Houellebecq; for a French perspective see, for example Rue89's Ben Jelloun vs Houellebecq: une histoire de prix Goncourt.
Ministry of Education official Dr. Gabi Avitan has expressed concern over the lack of Zionist literature in Israel.
(Avitan is apparently 'Chief Researcher' at the ministry.)
Always great when politicians expect authors and artists to be ideologically correct:
"Authors should be part of the nation's spiritual backbone," he said.
"They should be those laying out a vision for the country.
Astonishingly, the leading group of authors [in Israel] express alienation to the point of automatic identification with Israel's enemies in their writing."
"I'm talking about A.B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, David Grossman, and others," he specified
Yeah, those are the guys letting Israel down .....
"The print dictionary market is just disappearing, it is falling away by tens of per cent a year," Nigel Portwood, the chief executive of OUP, told the Sunday Times.
Asked if he thought the third edition would be printed, he said: "I don’t think so."
(See also the complete review review of Ammon Shea's Reading the OED (or, as the UK paperback edition now has it, in the worst case of re-titling a book I've ever come across: Satisdiction).)
In The Observer Rachel Cooke has a lengthy profile of David Grossman.
His To the End of the Land is due out shortly in the UK and in a couple of weeks in the US (pre-order your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk); I don't have a copy yet, but I imagine I might be able to get one, and expect to review it once I do.
In what follows I will attempt to illustrate both the range and the commonalities of the new Egyptian novel.
It has been argued that this work should be understood outside the limits of genre classification, in terms of a free-floating trans-generic textual space.
Instead, I will suggest that these new novels do indeed share a set of distinct narrative characteristics; these involve both a rupture with earlier realist and modernist forms, and a transformation of the rules of reference by which the text relates to the extrinsic world.
I will suggest that, whatever their actual settings, these works share demonstrable formal homologies with the sprawling slums of Cairo itself.
No session of modern African poetry is complete without a reading of the poem titled 'Ibadan', by John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo.
It is certainly difficult to escape an encounter with this poem, it being one of the most anthologized poems ever to come from Africa.
It celebrates a city which is, and was, the champion cradle of literary culture in Nigeria.
Munhakdongne, one of the nation’s largest publishers, has brought out 10 volumes of the Korean Classic Literature Series after five years of collaboration with prominent scholars as part of a long-term project.
While a decent amount of modern Korean literature is being translated into English (relatively speaking, considering how little of anything is translated into English ...), the Korean classics have really been overlooked -- especially in comparison to the amount of classic Chinese and Japanese literature that is available.
(Yes, a slightly different situation: still, there's no excuse for so little of it to be available.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Andrej Blatnik's collection of short pieces You Do Understand.
It's one of three books Dalkey Archive Press are bringing out in the beginning of September, inaugurating their new Slovenian Literature Series, which looks very promising.
At The Rumpus Greg Gerke has a lengthy Q & A with Lydia Davis, about both writing fiction and translating; her new translation of Madame Bovary is due out soon -- I just got a copy (pre-order yours at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), and it looks good, but with the book already under review I'm not sure I'll be able to devote separate review-coverage to it.
Non, pas du tout, j'y fais des tournées plutôt confidentielles, mais qu'un auteur belge soit traduit là-bas est déjà un privilège.
But maybe with a G.I. as a main character this one will catch on in the States .....
(Actually, I'd hope that maybe her next book due out in the US -- her debut, finally available in translation -- would do the job, too: Hygiene and the Assassin (and three cheers for Europa editions not messing with the title (as another publisher did with Métaphysique des tubes ...); see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).)
Jonathan Franzen's previous translator Bettina Abarbanell has been working with Eike Schönfeld on changing Freedom into Freiheit.
It's due for release on 17 September, just over two weeks after the official US publication date.
As in the case of Foer's book, the German publishers Rowohlt have chosen excellent translators for the job -- but one wonders whether an 800-page novel can be translated excellently by two different people.
Meanwhile, as she also notes, Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals ('Tiere essen') apparently required three translators (though I can sort of understand that ... who wants to face that alone ?)
In the English-speaking world -- where, of course, there's almost never a rush (Stieg Larsson being a semi-exception, those books somehow managing to get manhandled and still taking ages to come out in the US ...) -- co-translations seem a much rarer phenomenon -- which is surely for the best.
(Updated - 27 August): The Germans apparently really like to get a lot of people involved: Sam Savage reports that his Firmin -- which only comes in at 216 pages in the German translation (see also the Ullstein publicity page) -- was tackled by a team of four (!) translators.
That apparently didn't work out too well in the first instance, but, admirably, corrections and improvements were made in subsequent printings.
It has become immensely hard to get a "literary" writer the attention he or she deserves.
(Here I use the word in its trade sense, the way Amazon does.)
The proximate cause is the collapse of book reviewing.
Ten years ago, reviews were the publishing strategy at a house like FSG.
They maintained a stable market for literary books.
We simply filled an existing need.
Having been at this for more than a decade now I don't see quite the shift that Stein does -- but then I suppose my vantage point is that of (review-)consumer, not publisher; true, the book sections have disappeared in the US, but widespread coverage continues to be available.
(And I'm amazed that "reviews were the publishing strategy" a mere ten years ago.
As far as reviews go I suppose I rely more on online sources than Stein seems to think most people do:
The amazing thing, to me, is how book-lovers banded together to fill the gap.
First you had sites like Salon, Slate, and Feed.
Their idea was to create an alternate world of book reviews online.
(Full disclosure: I've occasionally written for Salon and Feed.)
The trouble, as we all learned, is that even the smartest book reviews tend to vanish on the Web.
You don't go searching for coverage of a book you haven't read.
A book review, to be effective, has to stand there like a billboard (or a Kindle ad) and call out for your attention.
Again: my experience is a very different one.
For one, it doesn't seem to me that reviews "vanish on the web"; indeed, I'm always amazed at the ones of obscure books at the complete review that continue to attract a sizable audience, month in and month out.
And there seems to be a steady and very large flow of visitors who come to the site who are very interested in coverage of books they haven't read (yet).
Finally, Stein also claims:
There was, to an unexamined degree, September 11th.
For six months, the media more or less stopped covering literature.
The sky didn't fall. Most newspapers realized they could do without it, forever.
I must have missed something: didn't a little book called The Corrections come out on 11 September 2001 ?
Didn't that get great press (and review) coverage all fall long -- especially once the Oprah-fiasco happened ?
As regular readers know, I am fascinated by Chinese outfit Shanda's apparent success with its online literary sites, which receive an incredible amount of traffic and suggest a sort of model for online literary ventures.
Unfortunately, English-language press coverage hasn't looked at this phenomenon very closely.
The Forbes-blog Q&A with iResearch senior analyst Xufeng Zhao, China's Online Gaming Industry Faces Demographic Battle, doesn't focus on it, but offers one (scary) way of seeing it: scroll down to the last question:
Q. What will come of efforts by companies such as Shanda to create a literature business ?
A. Whether any literature is successful will depend on how it's ultimately packaged.
It's not only the value of any literature itself that involved.
If Shanda only generates money from one-at-time sales, then it will be a failure.
The greatest value from literature is that it is an invisible asset.
The real question is how you can later integrate it into your production chain.
How can you create more value from something that starts out as a book ?
So for Shanda, what I can say at least for now is that they are trying to do that -- integrate. They are ahead of others.
Wow -- integrating literature into your production chain .....
Potentially very scary times ahead, indeed .....
'Literary' agent Andrew Wylie went rogue a month ago and set up his own e-book publishing house, Odyssey Editions, pissing off publisher Random House to the extent that they announced they'd have nothing to do with any of his clients until the matter had been settled; see my previous mention.
Now the parties have apparently kissed and made up, though the press is presenting it as Wylie having bent over and lowered his trousers in complete submission: in The Bookseller Philip Jones claims Random House wins battle over e-rights with Andrew Wylie, while in The New York Times Julie Bosman claims Random House Wins Battle for E-Book Rights.
The Bookseller piece includes the short 'joint press statement' issued by Random House and Wylie (god forbid they'd post that at either the Odyssey Editions site or Random House's supposed press release page (where the most recent one is from 26 July -- way to keep us up to speed)), but other than noting that they have "resolved our differences over the disputed Random House titles" there's nothing substantive here.
Without knowing what terms were exacted by each side who fucked whom remains unclear; my experience suggests that wherever Wylie is involved it's the reader that gets fucked.
I.e. this is probably no happy end.
I am amazed that no journalist managed to get any Wylie author to comment on the stand-off while it lasted, and I'm curious whether there was a great deal of behind-the-scenes pressure from them for him to resolve this.
But what's really of interest is whether his play paid off: he said he was doing it for the authors -- so did he just give in to Random House or did he get some really good terms from them ?
Indeed, the way this whole thing has (un)folded, you (well, I) have to wonder whether or not Dohle and Wylie weren't in it together from the beginning .....
Open questions now:
What happens with Odyssey Editions, now reduced to a feeble seven titles ?
(Side question: why didn't Wylie add any titles over the last month if he meant this as some sort of serious enterprise ?)
Will Amazon sue for breach of contract, their two-year exclusive on Lolita and the like suddenly up in smoke ? (Astute businessman (if nothing else) that he is, I imagine Wylie planned for this contingency -- or knew it was coming .....)
As I write this -- some twelve hours after the announcement, and with the books-in-question removed from the Odyssey Editions site -- all the titles are still available at Amazon.com.
Did no one send them the memo ? More importantly: what happens to the e-editions that have already been purchased ?
Are we looking at another set of mass-deletions from Kindles ?
I look forward to the follow-up stories; the stories covering/leading
up to this have been feeble indeed -- is everyone so terrified of the Jackass' bite ?
As faithful readers know, I'm unimpressed by how publishers conduct their 'business' -- and astounded by, in particular, how unbusiness-like they often are in their conduct of it -- but I acknowledge that publishers could play some role in the future of the book business.
But 'defenses' or explanations like Philip Goldberg's Who Needs Publishers ? We All Do ! at The Huffington Post make me think I'm fooling myself.
Even Goldberg, despite the bold title of the piece, concludes rather feebly:
My bottom line is this: when it comes to serious nonfiction especially, readers, libraries, reporters and everyone else concerned about accuracy and readability should rely only on books that have been competently edited.
From 'we all need publishers' to the narrow field of 'serious non-fiction' ?
And all he has to offer is two reasons why publishers are necessary: advances (note: he's an author, who likes to get bankrolled before doing any work -- and doesn't expect to pay it back if he doesn't earn enough with the final product (as is generally the case) -- a sweet deal everyone I know would sign up for in a heartbeat) and quality control.
Of course, authors love advance -- who wouldn't ?
But I'm not sure that it makes the greatest publishing model --and just because it has been around for a while (not that long, by the way) doesn't mean there aren't better alternatives.
As to quality control -- yeah, I'm all for that too.
But I don't always see that from publishers either (indeed, I'm shocked by some of the shoddy stuff I get from well-endowed publishers ...), and there are alternatives for that as well.
The September/October issue of World Literature Today, with a centerpiece on International Short Fiction, is now available with some-- though far from all -- of the content available online.
Among the content that is available is Alan Cheuse's introduction to the short fiction-theme, as well yours truly's interview with Eshkol Nevo.
Reasons to get the print issue include so that you can sample all the short fiction on offer, as well as the invaluable review-section.
And I am also interested in the interview with Charles den Tex -- titled 'This Year's Best Crime Writer'.
I have no idea why den Tex has not been translated into English yet -- though European writers specializing in what might be considered more 'international thrillers' do seem to have a harder time getting translated than those that stick to domestic color; for more about den Tex and his books see, for example, this NLPVF page.
I mentioned the interesting-sounding foray into publishing -- translated fiction ! -- at Amazon.com when they announced AmazonCrossing a few months back, and I was very, very pleased yesterday to receive an ARC of the first title, Tierno Monénembo's prix Renaudot-winning (in 2008) The King of Kahel, due out 2 November (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
(As I noted, Monénembo's The Oldest Orphan is already under review at the complete review; it won't take much for The King of Kahel to get more review- or other attention.)
This is an interesting experiment and I am very curious to see how it turns out.
(I haven't heard, for example, what the second title is to be -- maybe they're waiting to see whether this one was worth their while first .....)
One right track: despite my constant and grumpy griping about not getting the review copies I ask for, this one came to me without my lifting a finger (which I otherwise eventually would have).
So, at least from my vantage point, publicity-wise they're on at least part of the right track (you know I'll review this before the publication date).
What I liked less: the translation copyright isn't in translator Nicholas Elliott's name, but rather is held by "AmazonCrossing" .....
(Even Dave Stevenson gets to keep his "map illustration copyright", so that one hurts.)
Interesting, also: the AmazonCrossing address listed on the copyright page is a Las Vegas post office box .....
Indian publisher Rupa & Co. have been around for 75 years, and in The Hindu Sangeeta Barooh Pisharoty has a look at The reach of Rupa, talking with managing director Kapish Mehra.
We don't dilly dally much with authors. In just 3-4 weeks, we tell them if we can publish their work.
There's a motto (and concept): No dilly-dallying with authors !
Also in New York, Andrew Rice has a long piece on the current Barnes & Noble shake-up, The Billionaire and the Book Lover.
I'm very curious what will happen to Barnes & Noble, but don't have clue as to how this might play out (and what the consequences will be -- though the dramatic possibilities are entertaining to consider).
I was holding back coverage of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom
in the hopes of being able to post a full-fledged review, but there are already a lot out there and I still haven't gotten a copy of the book, so for now I've posted a review-overview page.
(And, yes, I continue to feel a bit like a reviewer non grata
, certain by now that I have mightily offended the publicist-gods (surely they have their own deity) and wondering what sacrifice will be necessary for symbolic (or actual) atonement.
Though I'd guess that anything I do in August, when the publishing industry is ... perhaps not so industrious might well pass unnoticed.)
At the Inquirer's Global Nation Benjamin Pimentel is Celebrating Filipino books & authors, looking ahead to next year's first Filipino American International Book Festival, to be held at the San Francisco Public Library.
Books and author's that get mentioned include, of course, prominent recent Filipino success Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco, but also Wilfrido Nolledo's But for the Lovers, celebrating the 40th anniversary of its first publication.
But for the Lovers is the rare Dalkey Archive Press title (they did the paperback re-issue) that I've never even seen (and, for example, the entire New York Public Library stystem doesn't have a copy in its circulating stacks); see the Dalkey publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
There have been a few variations on this story over the years, but Time revisits it, as Kayla Webley writes about What Prisoners Are Reading at Gitmo.
There are apparently: "18,000 books, magazines, DVDs and newspapers on offer from the prison library".
The library also bans books that have excessive graphic violence, military topics, travel offers, classified advertisements (which could be used to send coded messages to the detainees) and physical geography, such as maps of buildings or subway systems that could provide targets for potential attacks.
Despite the silly name, the Vodafone Crossword Book Awards are among the premier book prizes in India, and they were handed out yesterday; no news thereof at the official site, of course, but, for example, the Times of India runs down the winners, in Mumbaikar brings home fiction award.
Venus Crossing by Kalpana Swaminathan took the fiction prize; see, for example, the Penguin (India) publicity page.
(I actually have two of Kalpana Swaminathan's earlier works on my shelves -- kindly sent to me by the publisher at her behest -- and I really should get to those.)
"The Orange prize is a sexist prize," she said.
"You couldn't found a prize for male writers.
The Orange prize assumes there is a feminine subject matter -- which I don't believe in.
It's honourable to believe that -- there are fine critics and writers who do -- but I don't."
The community of 38 writers from 32 countries includes a mix of fiction writers, poets, translators, essayists, filmmakers, playwrights, screenwriters, editors, journalists and critics.
The roster includes the first IWP representatives from Mauritius, Belarus and Djibouti.
At Qantara.de Kersten Knipp has an Interview with Tahar Ben Jelloun about his recent book, Au pays -- out now in German translation, and due out in January, 2011 in English, in a translation by Linda Coverdale, as A Palace in the Old Village; pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.