No books were deemed worthy of Iran's most lucrative literary award during this year's edition of the Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards.
Each winner of the award receives 110 Bahar Azadi gold coins (worth over $33,000), but no winners were selected at the 2010 ceremony, which was held at Tehran's Vahdat Hall on Sunday night.
The reasoning/explanations given seem rather contorted:
"A sufficient number of works were not submitted, so we cannot select any one of them as the winner of the award," the secretary of the event, Majid Hamidzadeh, mentioned at the ceremony.
However, he claimed that there is a 60% increase in the quantity of work submitted in comparison with last year.
More works than last year, when they found prize-winners ?
So surely it was more a qualitative than quantitative issue this year (as it should be -- and good for them, for not honoring a second-rate work, just for the sake of handing out the prize).
Might I suggest that things would be helped along mightily if they re-thought this whole censorship thing (see my previous mention) .....
Meanwhile, they also have some reports at the Iran Book News Agency (and kudos to them for having such an agency, by the way -- and the reports there are generally of some use and interest); in one they report:
The closing ceremony of the 3rd Jalal Al-Ahmad literary Award was held with the attendance of Islamic Guidance and Culture Minister and his cultural deputy.
Held at Tehran's Vahdat hall the cultural deputy Bahman Dorri said that in order to develop the fictional literature we should believe that we can.
(Suggestion number two: probably not a great idea to mix 'n' match 'Islamic guidance' and 'culture', especially at the state level -- at least not if you expect any ... fictional development .....)
See also 'praiseworthy' (but not real) winner of the 3rd Jalal Award Festival author Mohammad-Ali Goudini's comments on the Role of Jalal Award on increasing writers' motivation for experiment.
Via Josh Lambert's On the Bookshelf round-up at Tablet I learn of David Cooper's review of Yael Hedaya's Eden, newly available in English translation, in the NY Journal of Books -- and his discussion that points out that:
Readers can judge for themselves whether or not that original first paragraph is expendable, but they should know that the 486-page English version being published today is an abridged edition.
The original Hebrew is 674 pages, 28% longer (the pages are smaller, but so is the font, so those factors cancel each other).
If the fact that Hebrew is a more concise language than English is factored into the equation, then the translation under consideration contains less than two thirds of the original.
And with no offense to the author intended, that is not necessarily a tragedy.
(This is the point where I have to move away from my computer for a few minutes so as not to smash it in anger and frustration.
The wall can take it .....)
I have not seen this book [god forbid anyone should send me a copy, because it's not like I ever review anything in translation, even from the Hebrew, or that I'm a judge for the Best Translated Book Award ...], and I can't imagine they wouldn't have at least printed a note (in small print, no doubt ...) explaining that they've eviscerated the text [oh, hell, of course I can imagine they didn't do that -- they're publishers, after all, and there are no depths to which publishers won't sink, at the expense of authors and readers], but I certainly do think it a tragedy -- and outrage.
I know this isn't an uncommon practice -- recall Daniel Morales writing in The Japan Times about Murakami Haruki that: "The one downside to this increase in fame is that Murakami no longer has the luxury of being abridged in translation. Previously, publishers made major cuts in his longer books" -- but I still find it about as close to criminal as anything in publishing (and there's a lot that's pretty criminal about publishing ...).
Cooper thinks that, re. Eden: "In its tighter, leaner English version the narrative flow is stronger", and if you believe that ... well, get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk (see also the Metropolitan publicity page).
Well, I have to rely on translation, since my Hebrew certainly isn't up to snuff -- but I think I'll have look at the German translation -- 944 pages, from Diogenes (see their publicity page).
In Publishers Weekly Rachel Deahl explains how Dalkey Archives Tests the Series Model, taking a closer look at Dalkey Archive Press' various series.
(As far as I can tell, they've always had (way too many) series -- the Netherlandic Literature Series, the French Literature Series, etc. etc. etc. (and I mean: etc.) -- but they've certainly become much better at monetizing and getting support for them.)
As Martin Riker explains:
His new effort in publishing foreign literature has been focused on bundling -- doing series on authors from a specific region.
This year, the Hebrew Literature Series began with the April 2010 publication of Eshkol Nevo's Homesick.
That book, the first of three titles originally published in Hebrew that Dalkey is releasing, has drawn notable press attention in both reviews and feature coverage and, Riker thinks, offers a smarter, more affordable way for Dalkey to keep its focus on translations.
Hey, whatever works (and so far the look of these new subsidized series -- Hebrew, Catalan, Slovene
-- has been pretty good).
The winner of the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award has been announced (not, of course, at the official site, last I checked ...) and, as for example the AP report has it, Rowan Somerville took it for: "the use of unsettling insect imagery in his novel The Shape of Her".
Get your copy at Amazon.co.uk -- no US publication scheduled yet, as best I can tell, though maybe the prize will entice some publisher .....
They've handed out the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2010, and among the winners is Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year Room by Emma Donoghue -- which, you'll recall, was also a finalist for the (Canadian) Governor General's Awards (as well as shortlisted for the Man Booker): the advantages of having connections to a number of countries .....
See also the report in the Irish Times.
"I was in the middle of edits when the attacks on the twin towers happened.
Suddenly, I was a Pakistani Muslim living in New York after September 11," he said, adding "There was no way the novel or I could dodge that." Hamid said that after the attacks his introspective book suddenly became part of a much larger narrative that was being pulled apart from all sides.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Vladimir Sorokin's Day of the Oprichnik.
That's the 200th review posted at the complete review in 2010, by the way .....
(Meanwhile, this past week -- yes, admittedly a 'holiday' week in the US -- I not only bought more books than I received review copies, I reviewed more books .....
Submissions for the 'Best Translated Book' award have made for some review-copy inflow; still ......)
I'm curious as to what the breakdown of print v. Kindle purchases will be (though I suspect they will be so few that it won't be statistically significant in any case); as I've noted previously, visitors who purchase products from Amazon.com via the links at the complete review overwhelmingly prefer print to Kindle (by an enormous margin -- which is why those reports that Amazon is selling so many Kindle downloads always surprise me).
In part this no doubt has to do with the types of books purchased -- many of the titles probably aren't even available on Kindle.
Still, the first batch of purchases of the site-history-title via Lulu.com were evenly split -- 5:5 -- between print and electronic format .....
Outside the Anglophone world, it is not unusual for novelists and poets to work at some point in their lives as translators.
Though most will say that they did so mainly to subsidise their own writing, it is often clear, when you look at that writing, that it has been enriched by the imaginary conversations they've had with the poets and novelists whose words they have translated.
I don't know if it's necessarily the imaginary conversations (which in some cases surely are complemented by real conversations ...), but I do agree with the whole cross-fertilization idea -- and am fascinated by how rare it is for Anglophone authors (especially of fiction) to try their hand at translation.
I'd figure writers would learn much more from some serious engagement with translation than almost anything they might do in an MFA-program .....
The other piece in The Observer is the promising-sounding but quite disappointing Writers pick their favourite translations ...: 'Novelists and translators on the translated books that have impressed them most'.
They only get six to comment -- and one title is Hunger by Knut Hamsun, suggested by Jo Nesbø; somehow I doubt that the Norwegian author read Sult in translation .....
As Arabic Literature (in English) points out, Al-Ahram Weekly's long-dormant book section has been resurrected at the new (still-in-beta) ahramOnline -- here.
It's about time, and I look forward to their posting more literary content again.
The best of the year lists continue to appear, and among the noteworthy ones is The Guardian's Books of the year, where they find out 'which books most excited our writers this year'.
The usual mix; still, it's hard to disapprove entirely of an exercise that sees mention of titles such as Animalinside by Krasznahorkai László (get your copy at Amazon.co.uk, or pre-order at Amazon.com) and Samko Tále's Cemetery Book by Daniela Kapitánová (get your copy at Amazon.co.uk) -- both of which I have and will be getting to.
The New Statesman also has 'The New Statesman's contributors and friends choose their favourite reads of the year', in their Books of the year 2010 but -- despite also getting in an Animalinside-nod -- their one-page-per-contributor presentation is so utterly obnoxious (fit it on a single page, people !) that it's hard to recommend casual perusal.
A literary translation project launched in 2005 has finally yielded fruit: 20 volumes of the most prominent samples of Turkish literature have been translated into German as part of the project, titled "The Turkish Library."
My site-history, The Complete Review: Eleven Years, 2500 Reviews, is now also available at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (indeed, at least one person has already purchased a copy via the latter ! -- many thanks !).
(They got the publication date wrong -- it's 2010, not 2006 -- but I've asked them to fix that and imagine they soon will; a Kindle edition should also be available shortly [updated: and it now is; get your Kindle-copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk].)
I'm curious whether Amazon-availability will entice more readers; at ten copies sold total prior to yesterday it hasn't been flying off the shelves (though, as what amounts to a print-on-demand title, there aren't any copies waiting on any shelves ...), and perhaps availability at the better-known retail-outlet might convince more people to have a look.
Despite the cautious price finding, the volume of books sold has decreased many times in recent years and the position of the bookshops, the main distribution channel for books, has weakened as selling directly from publishing houses or by mail order has gained importance.
This forces booksellers into constant hardships; with an average trade margin below 25 percent in urban stores and an annual profit rating only between 2 to 4 percent.
She also notes:
According to some bookstores in Estonia, under present conditions it is very hard for the average booksellers to fulfill the role as a cultural player, and the economic constraints force booksellers to focus primarily on fast-selling titles and bestsellers that they know will sell.
If a title is sold out, it is rarely reordered, even though it is still in demand and instead, booksellers rather order new publications or titles they had not stocked before.
As a result of this practice, books are sold out extremely fast if they are successful.
Most books are no longer available in the bookshops one and a half years after publication, although they are available at the publisher's warehouse; successful titles are sold out in 3 to 6 months.
They've announced the judges for the 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction: Matthew d'Ancona, Susan Hill (who previously was a judge -- in 1975 !), Chris Mullin (the former MP, not the former basketball player), and Gaby Wood ('Head of Books' at the Daily Telegraph); Stella Rimington is the chair of judges.
Will 2011 be the year of Oulipo-author Hervé Le Tellier ?
Dalkey Archive Press has two Le Tellier titles scheduled, The Sextine Chapel and A Thousand Pearls (for a Thousand Pennies) (both translated by Ian Monk), while Other Press ushers in the year with the book that's the most recent addition to the complete review, Enough about Love (due out in English in February).
They've announced that Ana María Matute has won the Premio Cervantes 2010, the most prestigious Spanish-language author prize (and worth €125,000).
Typically, not much of her work is readily available in English -- though a few volumes have been translated.
Both The Heliotrope Wall and Other Stories (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and Celebration in the Northwest -- reviewed (albeit briefly), back in the (pre-Sam Tanenhaus) day, in The New York Times Book Review ! -- (see the Northwestern University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) seem like they might be worth a look.
The Russian Большая книга -- 'Big Book' -- award (yes, despite the silly name it's one of the leading Russian literary prizes ...) has been handed out, with Лев Толстой: бегство из рая, by Pavel Basinsky (Павел Басинский) taking the prize.
The official announcement reveals the point-totals for all the finalists, and
Лев Толстой: бегство из рая garnered 635 points, to 556 for the runner-up .....
(I like that transparency -- point totals !)
See also, for example, Joy Neumeyer's report in The Moscow Times, Tolstoy Tale Takes Literary Prize, as:
Writer Pavel Basinsky claimed the 2010 Big Book award for his work Leo Tolstoy: Escape from Paradise.
Basinsky's book traces the renowned Russian author's life after his flight from Yasnaya Polyana, his childhood home and literary sanctuary, shortly before his death.
They've announced the winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize -- awarded to a British or Commonwealth writer of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, "aged 35 or under, at the time of publication" -- and it goes to The Still Point, by Amy Sackville.
Counterpoint is scheduled to publish this in the US in January -- pre-order your copy at Amazon.com --; see also the Portobello Books publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.co.uk.
The OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature is a major new award for literary books by Caribbean writers.
It will be awarded for the first time in April 2011. Books may be entered in three categories: poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction.
The prize includes an award of US$10,000
The organizers note that:
But until now there has been no indigenous Caribbean literary award, organised and judged by Caribbean people, of genuinely international scope.
Sounds good to me that they've finally gotten around to establishing one -- I look forward to seeing what their shortlists look like.
The print issue only comes out 5 December, but The New York Times Book Review has posted their 100 Notable Books of 2010 online.
I've only read eight of the fiction titles (and none of the non), though I do expect to get to a few more, eventually.
I Curse the River of Time (Per Petterson) and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
) make my top ... something list, but my 2010 stand-outs certainly don't number anywhere near a hundred (or, at this rate, a dozen).
(With five weeks to go I still think it's too early to be playing this game -- and I still hold out hope for some superior reads.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Memoir by Johanna Adorján, An Exclusive Love -- already out, for some reason, in translation in ... Australia, but only coming to the US in January.
Nevertheless, a joint statement from the EWP and Naipaul's literary agency, The Wylie Agency, said the 78-year-old had withdrawn from the event "by mutual agreement" yesterday, after the "politicisation" of the conference in the Turkish media had "altered the original conception of the event and Sir VS Naipaul's contribution to it as a celebrated author".
It's called the 'European Writers Parliament' and they're surprised that there's some politicisation ?
Isn't there with everything, nowadays ?
Embrace it and fight it, folks, (and, especially: authors) and don't walk away !
Here's hoping the remaining authors put up the good fight.
Amazon.com has announced the launch of an Italian branch, Amazon.it.
I'll be adding Amazon.it links to review pages from now on (as an 'Amazon affiliate', meaning a percentage of the purchase price of items bought by visitors who reach Amazon.it via these goes to me) -- as I already do for UK, Canada, France, and Germany (Japan and China being the other Amazon-outposts, but they're entirely too labor-intensive to link to for me at this time) -- and I'm curious to see whether any significant number of purchases are made via those.
Italy does rank in the top ten countries from which visitors reach the complete review -- but there are about thirty per cent fewer than from France (and far fewer from the other countries with Amazon-outlets).
V.S. Naipaul, one of the great, and often controversial, writers of the 20th century has said that he has reached the end of his 50-year-long literary career and may be persuaded to write just one last book.
"I would write if Andrew [Wylie, his agent] did it well," he was quoted as saying.
What Wylie 'doing it well' might be is unclear to me (although I assume it involves squeezing lots of money out of publishers -- the actual quality of the book surely not mattering the least), but if that's what it's come to then, much as I admire his fiction, I'd prefer if Naipaul just quit while he was ahead.
The Philippine National Book Awards were held 13 November; more than a week later the best I could find at the National Book Development Board (catchy name, by the way ...) was the announcement of the finalists ... (people, if you have a website ... update it when the biggest event of the year you're associated with happens ...).
In The Philippine Star Alfred A. Yuson fortunately does report on who won -- as well as on the NBDB's First International Literary Festival --, in NBA & LOL ! -- and The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata by Gina Apostol took the fiction prize (see also the Anvil publicity page).
The Israeli press has been all over this, but it hasn't garnered much attention elsewhere, as an outfit styling itself 'Just journalism' has published a report by Chris Dyszynski on London Review of Books: Ten years of anti-Israel prejudice.
What I found most shocking was actually that the money-hemorrhaging but super-well-endowed London Review of Books has apparently: "received over £767,000 from Arts Council England", and obviously they play this up quite a bit -- Dyszynski concluding: "Given the current economic climate which is seeing the biggest cuts in public spending since World War II, and in particular, the recently slashed government funding to the Arts Council -- due to be cut by 30 percent -- the British taxpayer ought to consider whether it wants to continue to foot the bill for this naked partisanship"
-- but they also emphasize that:
The LRB consistently portrayed Israel as a bloodthirsty and genocidal regime out of all proportion to reality, while sympathetic portraits abounded of groups designated as terrorist organisations by the British government such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
There's been an entirely predictable Melanie Phillips blog post at The Spectator -- The London Review of Bigotry -- but otherwise not much UK discussion I could find -- and no LRB response.
Too bad -- 'Just journalism' claims to be "an independent research organisation focused on how Israel and Middle East issues are reported in the UK media" but sure look to be as agenda-driven as everyone else who seems to want to have their say on these issues, and I think it would be just fine to stir the coverage-commentary-pot some (though I'd prefer substantive discussion over ra-ra boosterism or simple denunciations, which is how these things usually wind up).
In The Observer Philip Oltermann profiles centenarian author Hans Keilson -- who, unlike the recent spate of 'rediscovered' authors who had early and mid twentieth-century success (such as Némirovsky, Márai, etc.) is actually still alive, and whose Comedy in a Minor Key is due out in the UK from Hesperus shortly (Farrar, Straus and Giroux published it in the US; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
The Death of the Adversary is the other one of his books currently getting attention; see the FSG publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The evolution of Nigerian literature has progressed in regressive motion.
There's no lyrical excuse for our poor literature, except that writers have become lazy and hardly engage themselves in good research.
Achebe, Soyinka, Okigbo, and Okri still remain the lofty, yet-to-be-surmounted, luminous images of our literary arts.