It's terribly disappointing to hear that publisher Aflame have announced that:
Aflame Books has ceased trading and will no longer publish books.
We thank all our past contributors and wish them well.
Their ambitious list of translations had made them one of the most interesting publishers since they started up in 2005; quite a few of their titles are under review at the complete review.
Despite fiction in translation getting some more attention in recent years, it's apparently still hard to make a go of it relying solely on that.
In The Ethiopian Reporter Tibebeselassie Tigabu writes about The trials and tribulations of Ethiopian writers.
A lot of the usual complaints -- which even lead to misguided nostalgia for life under regimes past (particularly nasty in that country), as, for example, Mamo Wudineh says:
Back in the days, there was a fashion of carrying books and everyone used to go around to the Piazza's 'Gianna poulos', a famous book shop.
The trend changed when it comes to this generation; the books were replaced by film, the internet, and the culture of reading stopped
And the case of Sahleselassie Berhanemariam (or Sahle Selassie Berhane Mariam, as you presumably know him) apparently shows how it is now: "a time where it is more than impossible to publish a book", as:
Publishing 14 books, with eight original and six translations, including his English books the Afersata, Warrior King, Firebrands and his famous translation of Victor Hugo's work Les Misérables into Amharic as Minduban, he now has two books which are completely finished and two more in the process which are waiting to be published.
That's great to hear (well, that there are more works waiting to be published) -- Sahle Selassie is among the few Ethiopian authors whose work is available (sort of ...) in English, the three mentioned titles, published in the African Writers Series back in the day, among the few (along with Daniachew Worku's AWS-title, The Thirteenth Sun) I have read.
(Get your copy of The Afersata (Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk) or Firebrands (Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk).)
Continuing the sexism-in-reviewing discussion that's been on-going for a few weeks now, literary editor Katy Guest asks Where are all the female reviewers ?
in the Independent on Sunday.
Looking at the past week's books coverage in 10 major newspapers (excluding this one -- for now), we can see that 71 books by men and 37 books by women were reviewed.
Of the reviewers, 68 were men and 36 women. (One paper carried 17/20 reviews of male authors, and 18/20 male reviewers.)
And she admits:
Well, looking at my contacts book of handy reviewers, I see half a dozen men who send me neat, chronological lists of forthcoming books for review, complete with publisher, publication date and brief notes about why they'd like to review them.
There are no women who do the same.
At The Second Pass former (2003-2010) Harper's book review editor Jennifer Szalai recently reported a similar phenomenon:
A vast majority of the pitches I received were from men.
In fact, during seven years in that position, I could probably count on two hands the number of women who pitched me -- I’d guess that the ratio was something like nine or 10 to one.
I also noticed that if I turned down a pitch from a man, he would likely send me another pitch the following week.
Whereas women rarely pitched me again after getting a rejection.
So one hopes that at least this discussion pushes more women to at least pitch reviews.
(Come to think of it, that's something I should do too .....)
Readers in the English-speaking world have long enjoyed translations of the cream of French, German and Russian literature.
Only in the past few decades, however, have English-language editions of the best fiction written in Taiwan become available.
At Qantara Werner Bloch profiles Egyptian author Khaled al Khamissi, in Egypt's Culture on Four Wheels, with much discussion of the current situation.
Khamissi's Taxi certainly had some appeal, and I'm curious what he'll do next.
In the Financial Times Trevor Butterworth profiles the new writers' collective Mischief + Mayhem, in 'Readers of the world unite'.
The collective is currently "composed of five writers but with aspirations to embrace up to 30".
Dale Peck is one of the members (and get's most of the air-time here):
It's time, said Peck, for a new kind of publishing.
Peck's argument is that editing has been corrupted by the new commercial mandates of publishing
And Peck suggests:
"A lot of quality fiction isn't being written.
There are talented writers not writing the books that they ought to be.
I'm not going to name names -- I'm not going to accuse people of working in bad faith.
But it's my sense that there are talented writers out there who are more concerned with reputation and how that translates into sales than they are concerned with what they are actually putting on the page."
In the Financial Times' 'Small Talk' column Anna Metcalfe has a Q & A with Galician author Manuel Rivas.
Among the responses:
What is the strangest thing you've done when researching a book ?
While I was writing Books Burn Badly I would hang the pages of the manuscript, like leaves, on washing lines so as to find the meaning of history, the secret symmetry, the golden ratio.
Who would you choose to play you in a film about your life ?
I'm torn between Orson Welles and Anna Magnani
The Guardian is apparently going to have: "literary editors reflect on the literary scene in their countries", and they get things started with Der Spiegel's Sebastian Hammelehle explaining What they're reading in Germany.
His contribution doesn't seem to offer too good a picture/impression to me.
Among other things, they have a list of 'Germany's bestsellers' at the end of the article, and he doesn't even bother mentioning the guy who is number one (but does discuss former chancellor Helmut Schmidt, as, apparently: "Four of his non-fiction works are among the 10 most successful books of the past 10 years" (though none appear on said bestseller list ...)).
Of course, the
current bestseller lists at Der Spiegel look pretty different too.
I like the idea behind this series; I hope the future contributions are a bit more insightful.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Isaka Kotaro's conspiracy thriller, Remote Control.
(It's also noteworthy because it's presumably the last work of fiction being published by soon-to-be-much-missed Kodansha International.)
They've announced that Three Sisters, by Bi Feiyu, has won the 2010 Man 'Asian' Literary Prize.
['Asian' because the prize unfortunately is not truly Asian, with submissions from many Asian nations, from Iran to Turkey to all the Arabic-speaking nations to the Central Asian countries ineligible for the prize.]
Bi picks up $30,000, while translators Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin will share $5,000.
One interesting titbit:
The author becomes the third Chinese writer to win the Prize in its four year history.
The three winning novels by Chinese authors have all been translated by Howard Goldblatt.
(No doubt Goldblatt is deserving and whatnot, and China is certainly having an impressive domestic literary run, but doesn't this concentration of success suggest that maybe their idea of 'Asian' maybe isn't quite ... Asian (i.e. far-reaching) enough ?)
They've announced the winners of the Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse -- the 'Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair', the big spring German book prize, awarded in three categories, 'Belletristik' (mainly fiction, but, confusingly also covering some non -- such as the book mentioned below, which was a finalist in this category), non-fiction, and translation.
The prizes went to Die Liebe zur Zeit des Mahlstädter Kindes, by Clemens J. Setz (Belletristik), Notizhefte by Henning Ritter, and Barbara Conrad's new translation of War and Peace.
But I am amused by the comparison to the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the assessment of the American 'market':
"What happens when you're in Iowa is that you're the only Chinese student there and everyone is like, 'What you wrote about dim sum is so interesting,'" says Xu.
"And the program would be overly influenced by what the U.S. domestic market reads, which is not what the rest of the world consumes."
Asian writers operate with a different set of references and expectations to writers from Anglophone countries, says Xu, which raises the possibility that some of the literature that is so heavily emphasized elsewhere, such as American-style short stories, might not be as relevant to aspiring Asian writers as, say, traditional Chinese storytelling.
(To be fair: I can't imagine that anyone -- much less everyone -- at the IWW 'is like': "What you wrote about dim sum is so interesting".
And given that American bestsellers enjoy enormous success abroad -- i.e. are exactly "what the rest of the world consumes" -- that statement surely also has to be ... refined a bit.)
See also the official programme page for this MFA (which, admittedly -- despite an apparent antipathy to dim-sum-themed fiction -- looks pretty decent as far as these things go).
The prize is noteworthy for several reasons:
First, we're talking about big bucks here: it has: "una dotación de 200.000 dólares americanos" (yes, that's right, US $200,000) -- yet another Spanish-language literary prize that puts the Man Booker and all the prestigious American literary prizes (Pulitzer, National Book Award, NBCC Awards) to shame, prize-money-wise.
(How do they come up with so many well-endowed literary prizes ?)
Second, Los días del arco iris was selected from 639 submitted entries -- again putting the Man Booker (where the judges invariable whinge about the 100 or 120 books they're supposed to judge) and most other English-language prizes to shame.
The French-American Foundation and The Florence Gould Foundation have announced the finalists for their 24th Annual Translation Prizes.
Amazingly, four of the five fiction finalists are under review at the complete review (as is the fifth title, Madame Bovary -- albeit in a different translation):
Mitzi Angel's translation of 03 by Jean-Christophe Valtat
Alexander Hertich's translation of Dying by René Belletto
Anna Moschovakis's translation of The Jokers by Albert Cossery
Interestingly, only one of the four eligible translations (Madame Bovary, as a re-translation, wasn't eligible) -- the Cossery -- was also longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award.
(And there's no overlap whatsoever with the recently announced longlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, though presumably some of these titles were not eligible/entered for that prize.)
They've announced the longlist for the Orange Prize for Fiction -- not at the official site, last I checked, but they should have it up there during the course of the day; meanwhile, see for example Rob Sharp's run-down in The Independent (scroll down for the full longlist).
This is, of course, the prize for which only female authors qualify.
It's no surprise that none of the titles (which also have to be written in English to qualify) are under review at the complete review; a bit more shocking to me is that I only even have a single one of them (Leila Aboulela's Lyrics Alley) -- and even that wasn't obtained via the publisher.
Lots of titles that have been getting a lot of press, from The Tiger's Wife (by Téa Obreht) to A Visit from the Goon Squad (Jennifer Egan), Great House (Nicole Krauss), and Swamplandia ! (Karen Russell), and books by Julie Orringer, Wendy Law-Yone, Joanna Kavenna, Tessa Hadley, and Aminatta Forna.
And, yes, of course, Emma Donoghue's Room is in the running for this prize as well (as it has been in the running for what seems like virtually every English-language literary prize on both sides of the Atlantic for the past year).
The trend in Italy started in 1990, when a Senegalese immigrant and an Italian journalist penned a book together.
Now, Italian publisher Campagnia della Lettere has devoted an entire department to the genre.
But examples of (critically acclaimed and popular) immigration literature can be found all over the place (including in the previous as well as the next post here ...).
It's time for Boekenweek -- the ten-day Dutch book week.
This year's 'Boekenweekgeschenk', the essentially free give-away title that will likely be read by hundreds of thousands, is Kader Abdolah's De kraai; the 'theme' of the week is 'Curriculum Vitae - Geschreven portretten' ('written portraits').
Despite the fact that none qualify for federal subsidy, the multinationals not only dominate the English-language market in Canada today, especially for fiction, they alone have made Canadian literature consistently profitable -- at home and abroad.
Judge Richard Posner is, apparently, a fan of the Alicia Silverstone movie, Clueless -- but not of celebrity mock trials of fictional characters.
That's what Jess Bravin reports at the WSJ blog, Washington Wire, in Judge Posner Dissents on Mock Trial, as:
He says mock trials of fictitious characters don't "contribute to anyone's enlightenment."
For Judge Posner, the hobby symptomizes the broader ills of contemporary "celebrity culture."
(Personally, I think some of those broader ills are rather ... broader (and iller, and far more troubling) than these kinds of mock trials .....)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Milad Doueihi's Digital Cultures.
Just out from Harvard University Press, this book -- though written in English -- actually first appeared in translation in French three years ago.
Tran Anh Hung's film version of Murakami Haruki's novel, Norwegian Wood, is just out in the UK (I haven't seen a US release date yet); see also the official movie sites, Japanese version (with the amusing www.norway-mori.com URL) and UK version.
Lots of UK reviews have now appeared, including those in:
Now Waterstone's booksellers all wear identical branded polo shirts and saggy fleeces, encouraging a customer's perception that they're unable to think for themselves.
They look (with apologies to supermarket shelf-stackers) like supermarket shelf-stackers.
In last week's Scotland on Sunday Stuart Kelly wondered Is Alasdair Gray's Lanark now considered a classic ?
There seems little doubt that it long has been (as Kelly also notes); it is, clearly, a truly landmark text -- and Kelly does a good job of explaining some of the reasons why.
But, as he also notes:
Lanark is a novel of white and black hats, heroic artists and villainous capitalist time thieves.
It is morally unambiguous.
The palettes of Spark, Massie and Boyd are far more complex: "shades of grey" seems too colourless to describe them adequately.
Lanark remains an influential and entertaining novel, though its science-fiction elements have not perhaps aged well.
It is not Gray's best book -- both 1982 Janine and Poor Things are superior, an opinion Gray himself holds.
Abdullah Hussain's 1971 novel, Interlok, has caused quite a stir in Malaysia recently, ever since it was added to the school-reading curriculum.
Priya Kulasagaran's The noose on novels in The Star offers a pretty good overview of the whole mess -- and addresses the question of what kind of material
is indeed appropriate for school reading.
(Interestingly -- and rather disappointingly --, in the case of Interlok: "The student edition of the book has already removed many elements found in the original novel, such as passages depicting rape and suicide".)
In the Nouvel Observateur Aude Lancelin looks at the French intellectual situation in the US, dropping lots of names in considering Nos intellos en Amérique.
(I think once you start referring to your 'intellectuals' as 'intellos' it's time for a basic reassessment .....)
Fluent in Japanese, German and English, Guo was also a prolific translator.
His translations include the works of German thinkers Friedrich Schiller and Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Leo Tolstoy and Ivan Turgenev of Russia, Percy Shelley and H. G. Wells of Britain, and Upton Sinclair of the United States.
They've announced the longlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2011 -- fifteen titles, of which seven are under review at the complete review (many of the others, alas, are not yet available in the US):
Fame by Daniel Kehlmann; translated by Carol Brown Janeway
Villain by Yoshida Shuichi; translated by Philip Gabriel
Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck; translated by Susan Bernofsky
Of course, it's interesting to compare the longlist to that of the Best Translated Book Award -- though, given different US and UK publication dates (and complicated by the fact that the Independent prize unaccountably doesn't reveal what books were considered ...) the two prizes have only limited overlap (the Pamuk, for example, was on last year's BTB longlist ...); still, the Erpenbeck, Grossman, and Petterson did make both.
Like the BTB, the IFFP is short on non-European languages -- nothing from the Arabic or Chinese, though at least one Japanese title (though ... the Yoshida ? seriously ?).
Still, a pretty good-looking list -- and I look forward to several of these titles, once they become available in the US.
See also judge Boyd Tonkin's overview, Independent Foreign Fiction Prize: Latin America is back with a boom.
The IFFP shortlist will be announced 11 April; the BTB shortlist on 24 March.
As Mohammed Aissaoui reports in Le Figaro, Milan Kundera entre dans La Pléiade -- noteworthy because: "Il en est le seul écrivain vivant", i.e. he is (currently) the only living author in the esteemed French equivalent of the Library of America (and he didn't even start out writing in French, though now it's his 'official' language).
See the Pléiade information page -- or get your copy of the two-volume set at Amazon.fr.
(And the Aissaoui piece is of interest also for the explanation at the end, 'Comment on entre dans la «Bibliothèque de la Pléiade» ?')