Tonight they're holding the Translation Prizes 2010/Sebald Lecture in London, which should be a pretty decent event.
Ali Smith will be delivering the lecture.
As to the translation prizes, the only two (of the six) where I've seen winners announced yet are the The Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, which went to Humphrey Davies' translation of Yalo, by Elias Khoury (see my previous mention), and the TLS Risa Domb/Porjes Translation Prize (from Hebrew), which apparently went to Peter Cole for his translation of The Dream of the Poem, a collection of 'Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492' which he also edited and introduced; see the Princeton University Press publicity page.
I'll mention who took the other prizes as soon as I find out .....
(Updated - 1 February): Admirably, the TLS make their usual run-down of the prize-winners (published in the issue of 28 January) freely available online; see Adrian Tahourdin's piece on the Translation Prizes 2011.
Winners include Margaret Jull Costa, sharing the Premio Valle Inclán for translation from Spanish for her translation of Poison, Shadow and Farewell by Javier Marías with Christopher Johnson for his bilingual edition of the Selected Poetry of Francisco de Quevedo, while Breon Mitchell took the Schlegel-Tieck prize for translation from the German for his re-translation of Günter Grass' The Tin Drum.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of The Story of a Crime by Leif GW Persson, Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End.
The crime is that seminal Swedish one, the Palmemordet -- Olof Palme's assassination.
But I think I've pretty much had it with Swedish political (and similar) thrillers; don't look for coverage of any more for a while.
In The Observer they have: 'Critics reflect on how social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and myDigg, fit into the perennial debate on cultural elitism' (or at least say they do: I find one reference to Facebook, and none to whatever 'myDigg' is -- something I (admittedly outside of all loops) have never heard of) in Is the age of the critic over ?.
It sounds like the sort of piece I -- pretend critic, running a pretend critical site, and whatnot (hey ! I sometimes 'tweet' ...) -- should link to, although my reaction to these commentaries was basically: 'Huh ?'
I have little idea what they're talking about, nor do the examples -- to cite just one pseudo-observation: "If every critic in the western world loved Jonathan Franzen's Freedom but it has only been on the US bestseller list for 17 weeks, well, then the critic must be dead" (again: Huh ? Since there was nothing approaching such a critical consensus, this doesn't seem a particularly useful (or even reasonable) starting point for any sort of argument) -- strike me as ... revealing.
I'm not that much of a fan of the 'Forgotten Author'-series running in the Independent on Sunday, but #62 is Thomas Love Peacock, and even the cursory praise Christopher Fowler offers is worth drawing attention to if it helps introduce a few more readers to the brilliance of this odd author's work.
Fowler writes of Nightmare Abbey that it is:
what you might get if you removed the plot from Gormenghast and crossed it with Ronald Firbank's The Flower Beneath the Foot.
The result is a novel so abstruse and witty and disconnected from everything that it seems best to stumble from one page to the next and merely enjoy the juxtaposition of words.
Hey, anything to get people to have a look at his work -- get your copy of the Penguin edition of Nightmare Abbey and Crotchet Castle at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- though his complete works (not all that much, in volume) are well worth making one's way through.
In a further change, the rule which allows novels by all living past winners to be automatically eligible for the prize is to be extended to novels by all living past shortlisted authors.
Indeed, rule 4.a has been changed in the official rules for the Man Booker Prize; previously only authors who had been shortlisted in the previous five years were automatically also eligible (along with all prior winning authors (well, those still alive ...)).
Is this an advance ?
Doesn't it instead entrench the status quo ?
How about making all books published in the UK eligible ... rather than just the two per publisher, which remains the (ridiculous) limit .....
In The GuardianArabic writers reflect on the situation 'After Tunisia', as ten writers with connections to the region respond to what happened in Tunisia -- though events seem to be overtaking most commentary.
Haruki Murakamiís long-awaited magnum opus, 1Q84, out from Knopf 10/25.
In one volume. Booyah ! Midnight store openings for this one ?
It's unclear whether that really means all three books, or just the first two that Jay Rubin is translating (Philip Gabriel is doing volume three) -- all three would clock in at well over 1500 pages, so that seems a bit unlikely .....
But I should hope there will be midnight store openings for this one -- see my review of the first two volumes.
(Despite the announcement: no Amazon.com listing, or Random House site listing yet, as best I can tell.)
Two weeks ago I reported on the best-selling French novelists of 2010; now L'Express provides a list of the thirty best-selling titles in France in 2010, in Le palmarès des ventes de livres 2010 (with sales figures !).
Indignez-vous !, Stéphane Hessel's pamphlet (see my previous mention), was by far the best-selling title, its 741,779 copies sold outdistancing runner-up Michel Houellebecq's La Carte et le territoire (453,076) by quite a bit.
What's noteworthy is how French works dominate the list, with Camilla Läckberg the first foreigner, showing up only in twelfth place (and a Dan Brown barely out-selling a Mathias Enard).
The only title under review at the complete review: Purge, by Sofi Oksanen (14th best-selling title, with 150,520 copies shifted).
In Slate Sophia Raday writes about Jean Larteguy's The Centurions, wondering: 'What is it about The Centurions that makes it so wildly expensive, and what makes it appeal to our generation's most influential military strategist ?' in David Petraeus Wants This French Novel Back in Print !
(which it now is -- albeit at a ridiculous $59.95; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
When Les Centurions was first published in France in 1960, it was a blockbuster, selling more than 450,000 copies and establishing Jean Larteguy as a household name.
Opinions on its literary merit varied.
Reception in the United States in 1962 -- when The Centurions first became available in English -- was more clearly negative.
The Harvard Crimson called it "a very bad novel," and the New York Times said "it is difficult at first to keep track of who's who and it is impossible to care."
This is not a usual rant on the boycott of the festival by Noam Chomsky and Arundhathi Roy.
This is about the failure of GLF from its first launch to recognize that there are two more languages in Sri Lanka and there are people who do write in these languages.
Why does politics seep into every aspect of our lives ? Even a literary event is not spared.
How did the English speaking elites of this country simply forget that literature of Sri Lanka does mean Sinhala as well as Tamil ?
It's the first published work that I've done which was written in English, and I then had to decide whether I was going to have it translated or not.
And I couldn't face being translated in my other language, if you like, so I decided to do it myself.
And what I did is I re-dictated it to somebody from Feltrinelli, one of the top editors we have.
She came and we spent four days: me looking at the English text and then speaking in Italian.
And it was an extraordinary experience because I realized how the text changed.
I can't find an English edition available yet, but the Italian translation, Vento scomposto, has been published; see the Feltrinelli publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.it.
Apparently the Man Booker Prize judges will be able to read this year's entries in both paper and electronic form.
As the Press Association reports:
Writer Susan Hill, who is one of the five members of this year's judging panel, tweeted: "We are to be given Kindles for Booker judging so they won't have to post us tons of real books."
I wonder whether they will actually be given Kindles -- with Amazon getting the publicity -- or be able to select their own e-reader and platform.
(Making the books available in e-form sounds entirely reasonable to me, as long as it's in addition to the printed form (i.e. as long as they don't have to rely solely on the e-format): I certainly couldn't have waded my way through the Best Translated Book titles (see my previous mention) solely in the format -- give me print any day .....)
Touch by Adania Shibli, translated from the Arabic by Paula Haydar
Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky
A few observations:
Two nominees are in the running with two separate titles: author Albert Cossery and translator Susan Bernofsky.
As Chad Post notes, authors from 19 countries writing in 12 languages are represented.
The breakdown by language is:
French: 7 titles
Languages with 1 title each:
Noteworthy here: last year (see my discussion) 17 languages (five more !) were represented.
Amazingly, for the second year in a row, there were no books translated from the Italian or the Japanese; also: last year there was one title each translated from the Chinese and Russian and there are none this year.
Once again, small and independent publisher-offerings completely dominate the longlist: Knopf (To the End of the Land) and Grove/Black Cat (The Black Minutes, The Blindness of the Heart) are the only larger houses represented (which I think says a lot about the major houses ...).
With two titles the new Yale University Press' Margellos World Republic of Letters has obviously shown a nice touch in their book selection, while old reliables -- Dalkey Archive Press, New Directions, New York Review of Books -- and newer ones -- Open Letter, Archipelago -- also continue to have solid showings.
Not too many surprise omissions this year, I think (recall that the eligibility period is a December 2009 through November 2010 first publication (in the US) date; check the translation database before you complain about specific missing titles ...[updated: predictably enough, the first complaints about specific omissions I have seen online have not done so, complaining about titles that were not eligible]), though among the titles passed over were some by Roberto Bolaño, Purge by Sofi Oksanen (which has done particularly well abroad), and Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson.
The 10-title fiction shortlist will be announced 24 March.
(And looking ahead to next year: I say the Japanese streak will be broken with Murakami Haruki's 1Q84 easily making the longlist.
Among other titles I suspect will be in the running for next year's longlist:
(Updated - 28 January): Among the early print-reactions is Benedicte Page's, as she notes 'Twenty-five books in contention, but none from publisher that protested over Amazon.com's sponsorship'.
That would be Melville House Books, and among all the small-press names I completely overlooked that they had, indeed, been shut out.
But I think Chad had a reasonable explanation:
Post said the judges had not excluded Melville House titles, but that the publisher had only three eligible books in the running this year.
"Based on that, it doesn't seem all that remarkable that they were left off," he said.
(I did think Kertész Imre's The Union Jack was consideration-worthy, but it didn't stand out far enough to make the longlist.
I would, however, be surprised, if no Melville House title is longlisted next year: they're bringing out a ton of translations, and while many are reprints (the Bölls) quite a few should be eligible and in the running.
(If Kurkov's Death and the Penguin is eligible (prior publication in English complicates these things -- though it looks like that was just a UK edition) then it is a shoe-in.))
In the US (led by California and Texas) and the UK state library funding is being radically cut back; in South Korea they apparently haven't heard that this is the thing to do nowadays -- instead, as Kim Yoon-mi reports in The Korea HeraldW552 billion allocated for 180 new public libraries, as:
A total of 552 billion won ($493 million) has been earmarked for opening 66 public libraries and 114 small libraries, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said Wednesday.
The government plans to boost the total number of public libraries in Korea to 814 in 2011 from 748 in 2010, with the number of public librarians increased to 3,470 in 2011 from 3,258 in 20
What fools ! actually investing in the future, education, and the common good !
Where could that possibly lead ?
Why aren't they cutting taxes instead ?!?
(This is also the country that has also led the world in internet connection speeds for quite a while -- far ahead of American speeds (see, for example, this recent look at The Fastest Internet Speeds In The World).)
Cop-shooting, Baader-Meinhof sympathizing German author Peter-Paul Zahl has passed away; see, for example, the (German) obituary in Der Tagesspiegel; see also his official site.
A middling writer, he didn't make any compromises and rode that to considerable success -- at least in terms of literary prizes and recognition.
Certainly his writings from the late 1970s and early 1980s played a useful role in a Germany whose literary radicalism took on quite different forms at the time.
They've announced the Whitbread Costa Book of the Year, and it's the poetry-category winner, Of Mutability, by Jo Shapcott, that takes the prize.
See also the Faber publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.
The adventures of a lesbian detective kept millions of Pakistanis enthralled for eight years.
In weekly instalments, its male writer brought to life in high Urdu and Farsi the voracious Bano, a wealthy Karachi-ite who solved crimes and trawled school buses for schoolgirls.
The Times of India also reports on When pulp' session had to be toned down.
The presence of some kids (or adolescents)
seems a pretty feeble excuse ... and I imagine this did nothing more than get them all to rush to their local bookstores afterwards, hoping to track down some Challawa-tales .....
As Hodge reports:
"It's so arbitrary what people take immense umbrage to.
In Pakistan this is what people are likely to read and people aren't scandalised by it," says Khan.
"But I suspect if it was written in English it would generate far greater fuss."
My essential concern is with non-Western writers who do not write in English. They don't find true representation.
But for those writing in other languages, their work is rarely translated and never read.
So much of human experience is marginalised. This is a major deficiency
Okay, 'never read' is an exaggeration (if it gets translated, someone is going to read it -- even if that doesn't amount to much of a readership), but he does have a point.
Meanwhile, Srijana Mitra Das' report in the Times of IndiaDo non-western writers face more problems ? has Rana Dasgupta spout silliness such as:
"We live in a far more integrated system today," the author of Tokyo Cancelled argued.
"Globalisation has broken down barriers between West and non-West."
Some, sure -- especially for an English-writing author (who was born in the UK, studied in the US, and is represented by ... The Wylie Agency ...; yeah, here's somebody to talk about any 'non-West' perspective) -- but far, far from all.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Urs Allemann's ... provocatively titled Babyfucker.
A scandal-causing text at the 1991 Ingeborg Bachmann Prize (where it was runner up, winning the 'Preis des Landes Kärnten') this isn't even a book I'd bother listing under the index of Erotic, Pornographic, and Sex-related fiction under Review, but that title seems likely to put a lot of people off (and, despite its wonderful pocket-sized format, it's probably not the kind of text you'll be wanting to carry around and pull out to read on the local park bench while you're watching the little 'uns ...).
Too bad: it's of quite some literary interest and worth -- and the contents are ultimately less shocking than what happens in, say, the grotesque Dolly City by Orly Castel-Bloom.
(The edition is -- admirably -- bilingual, too.)
In Next Arthur Anyaduba complains about Examination set texts and our literature.
(He probably has a point, but surely this kind of problem is near-universal -- just with local twists.)
Among the things he takes issue with:
The literature texts recommended by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the National Examination Council (NECO) reveal a poor taste for literature.
Apart from the obvious fact that these recommended texts came from the same age-long colonial mentality of recycling works from English authors, some of the works are purely mediocre pieces that shouldn't be used for examinations as supposedly prestigious as the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE).
Among the interesting points:
This raises some suspicions that these Examination bodies intentionally promote exhausted Anglophone African books over a much richer, broader outlook on the African literature.
Hardly would one find students of literature in the know of writers beyond their own countries.
Meanwhile, in The Nation (Nigeria), Biyi Olusolape really takes issue with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun, in Another half-decent book -- arguing, among other things, that:
HYS doesn't transcend Biafra.
It's not great literature. Anyway, Adichie says she just wants to write her "Fiction", and I know that in that land of the MFA there's this divide between Literature and Fiction (I think the distinctions are nonsense, profit motivated, profit influenced, arbitrary ...).
Does this mean, for instance, that she just wants to be the John Grisham of Nigeria, not John Steinbeck ?
Well, there's nothing new in HYS that others before her haven't handled with more depth, confidence, feeling and wit, except, maybe, the blowjob.
If the names above sound strange, it means that you haven't heard the latest in African fiction.
And the reason you haven't read reviews of these books is that we are in dire need of critics who have the keenness to keep reading and reviewing new books to an extent that they have their finger on the pulse of publishing and the literary trends in East, Central and other parts of Africa.
And he concludes:
My only wish is for critics and reviewers to help us feel the gravity of the literary generational changeover happening right under our noses, and cease spreading the lie that publishers only go for established writers among other annoying untruths.
Its a jungle out there, there is no more literary desert.
I, for one (or, I guess: another) would also love to see more review coverage in Africa and of new African literature.
In How To Write a (Good) Sentence Adam Haslett reviews Stanley Fish's new book, How to Write a Sentence in the Financial Times (re-published here at Slate).
Along the way he also takes on Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, noting:
The trouble with the book isn't the rules themselves, which the authors are sage enough to recognize "the best writers sometimes disregard," but the knock-on effect that their bias for plain statement has tended to have not only on expositional but literary prose.
In this, admittedly, Strunk & White had a few assists, in particular Hemingway.
If the history of the American sentence were a John Ford movie, its second act would conclude with the young Ernest walking into a saloon, finding an etiolated Henry James slumped at the bar in a haze of indecision, and shooting him dead.
The terse, declarative sentence in all its masculine hardness routed the passive involutions of a higher, denser style.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Stefan Zweig's Journey into the Past -- recently published by not one but two of my favorite publishers: New York Review Books (in the US) and Pushkin Press (in the UK).
They've announced the winner of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature -- though (unbelievably, and yet oh so predictably ...) not yet at the official site, last I checked .....
It went to Home Boy by H.M. Naqvi -- a book that's been out in the US for a while (and, indeed, is apparently set in New York city); get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The Maltese sure know how to award those National Book Awards: as Matthew Vella reports at maltatoday, Author facing obscenity charges takes second prize at book awards, as Alex Vella Gera's self-published Żewġ took second prize in the 'Literary Prose: Novels and Short Stories in Maltese'-category while also facing charges of obscenity.
Meanwhile, Mario Azzopardi (any relation to Trezza ?):
author of the banned collection of short stories for adolescents, Vampir, was awarded yet again in the category for adolescents by a jury chaired by Rev. Norbert Ellul Vincenti.
His book was not stocked in secondary school libraries.
One book banned for adolescents (but great to see the vampire craze take hold even in Maltese, eh ?), another by the same author (with the catchy title L-Aħħar Ġranet ta’ Ciorni u Stejjer Oħra) takes second place in the national prizes ......
In How to bring back the book in Next Akintayo Abodunrin reports on a recent conference organised by the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), 'When the President Wants to Bring Back the Book - What's to be Done Now?'
[Aside: is there a Committee for Irrelevant Art ?
I'd love to be part of that .....]
Nigerian Publishers Association Executive Secretary Kunle Sogbei delivered a paper on 'What Publishers Want':
Some of his suggestions towards moving forward include; exempting printing machines and papers from taxes; offering credit lines to publishers; equipping the Nigerian Copyright Commission properly and instituting literary prizes amongst others.
But some problems are apparently more fundamental:
Publisher and bookseller, Kolade Mosuro, noted that not only do children lack the skills to read; the erratic power supply in the country is another disincentive to reading because people can't read once it's dark.
Melville House continues to expand -- especially with fiction in translation (yay !) -- almost faster than one (well, I) can keep track of.
Now they've started up the Neversink Library, which:
champions books from around the world that have been overlooked, underappreciated, looked askance at, or foolishly ignored
Okay, everyone that starts one of these series seems to jump on some Simenons (there remain more than enough to choose from ...), but any series that also starts with an Ödön von Horváth novel certainly has my support and attention (and can even be forgiven for describing Horváth as: "a major Weimar author" ...).
(The novel they're publishing is The Eternal Philistine (the first translation of Der ewige Spießer); see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
And for a nice take on Horváth check out Christopher Hampton's Tales from Hollywood.)
The Neversink Library is yet another (very welcome) attempt by a publisher to resurrect the backlist (and add to it, with new translations) -- in part like Faber Finds.
And they're eager for input -- allowing (or rather: encouraging) readers to Suggest Titles for the Neversink Library (also not a new idea -- think New York Review Books' call: "Is there a book that you'd like to see back in print, or that you think we should consider for the NYRB Classics series ? Let us know !").
I look forward to seeing the first batch of titles -- and to many batches to follow !
All attention (and most of the media coverage) is on the on-going DSC Jaipur Literature Festival, while the Galle Literary Festival -- to follow, in Sri Lanka, 26 to 30 January -- is only getting the wrong sort of headlines.
They have a very impressive list of participants
-- but apparently not all of them will make it: as, for example, R.K.Radhakrishnan reports in The Hindu, Pamuk and Desai pull out of Galle Literary Festival, as Orhan Pamuk and Kiran Desai have backed out: "due to Indian Re-entry visa restrictions".
(Never heard that excuse before .....)
[Updated - 25 January: Note, however, that R.K.Radhakrishnan now reports in The Hindu that No re-entry restrictions on Pamuk, Desai: India.
Nevertheless, it's unclear whether Pamuk and Desai will now be going to the festival.]
Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) have announced Galle Literary Festival: An international appeal launched -- signed by, among others, Noam Chomsky and 'Arundathi Roy' (not a great sign when you misspell a signatories name on the official press release ...).
They're: "asking writers and intellectuals to endorse a campaign for more freedom of expression in Sri Lanka" -- though, of course, they're asking for a bit more than that:
We believe this is not the right time for prominent international writers like you to give legitimacy to the Sri Lankan governmentís suppression of free speech by attending a conference that does not in any way push for greater freedom of expression inside that country.
I.e. they suggest you no-show -- perhaps with the assistance of the Indian immigration authority taking a hard line on your re-entry visa ?
The claim is that: "It is this environment that you will be legitimizing by your presence".
It is a pretty nasty environment, as they correctly point out; the legitimizing-issue is, of course a more fraught one.
(Similarly, Ian McEwan apparently inevitably has to 'defend' accepting the Jerusalem Prize (see my recent mention); see, for example, Ian McEwan says he will accept Jerusalem prize by Stephen Bates in The Guardian.)
No doubt Galle will add some token free-speech get-togethers, but it will be interesting to see who else bails (or suddenly finds themselves with Indian visa-issues ...).
(My free-speech/exchange-of-ideas-fostering instincts are: the more talk, by the more people, on site, the better, regardless -- though admittedly there are places/moments where things begin to look a lot like those Soviet propaganda tours.)
French authorJean Dutourd has passed away; see, for example, La mort de Jean Dutourd, «l’éternel réfractaire» by Nicolas d'Estienne d'Orves in Le Figaro.
The only Dutourd title under review at the complete review is A Dog's Head, but quite a few more were translated into English (back in the day ... not much of his recent work was translated, and little of the old stuff is still readily available) -- and I even consideredThe Horrors of Love for my Christmas reading list .....
He was also a member of the Académie française -- fauteuil 31, a seat he held since 1978.
I can't entirely make heads or tails of this, but the Walls and Bridges ... festival ? event ? season one ? runs 27 January to 4 February in New York, and with "nearly 50 cultural events, combining about 100 speakers and artists, 30 partners and over 20 venues" (well, that's over all three 'seasons' ...) sounds like it might be of some interest.
'Transtlantic insights' and so on .....