The winners of the 2011 Best Translated Book Awards have been announced, and they are:
Fiction: The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, translated by Thomas Teal (who gave a nice speech accepting the award)
Poetry: The Book of Things by Aleš Šteger, translated by Brian Henry; see the BOA publicity page (are you kidding me ? they can't be bothered to mention the name of the translator here ?) or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
I was one of the judges for the fiction prize; it was a very nice awards-ceremony, with several (though, alas, not all) of the judges in attendance.
Meanwhile, looking towards next year's prize, here a couple of the titles I figure might be in the mix:
The May/June 2011 issue of World Literature Today is now available -- including, partially, online, in a new look.
Both 'German Crime Writing' and 'World Cup/World Lit 2011' (i.e. football (soccer) stuff) are centerpieces of the issue.
The new online-look is pretty decent -- and though it would, of course, be nice if more material were available, it's great to see the review section -- always my favorite part -- is available in expanded form, and a few reviews are accessible.
Also available: A Conversation with Carsten Jensen by Ray Taras -- which brought tears to my eyes when I read that, re. I Have Seen the World Begin:
The English volume is only the first of two and has been drastically shortened, and I had to put up a real fight to feel it was still my book.
(Oh, the sins of publishers !)
(Get your copy of this abridged I Have Seen the World Begin at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
Mario Vargas Llosa compared Peru's presidential candidates to cancer and Aids, but in choosing one over the other the nobel laureate has triggered an angry backlash
Yeah, this run-off -- and weighing in on it -- look like a no-win situation.
Still, Vargas Llosa has as much right to make his opinion known as anyone -- and, given his history (especially with the Fujimori family), it presumably won't influence many voters.
For a few more days (until 1 May) you can catch A Prince's Manuscript Unbound: Muhammad Juki's Shahnamah at the Asia Society in New York, and now there's also a Schahname-exhibit at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin (through 3 July); even if you can't make either, check out the informative and well-illustrated sites.
And don't forget Dick Davis' translation of the Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings (which I will get around to reviewing, eventually ...); get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
There have already been a few events, but now the PEN World Voices festival really gets going in New York.
An almost overwhelming number of interesting events .....
Check out also: the World Voices Blogs; the PEN World Voices Stand-Up Critics -- see the first one, Eric Banks' five books, at Critical Mass (three of his five recommendations are under review at the complete review: C by Tom McCarthy, A Tomb for Boris Davidovich by Danilo Kiš, and Seven Years by Peter Stamm) -- ; as well as Anna Sussman's Q & A with festival director Laszlo Jakab Orsos at a The New York Times weblog.
Among the PEN World Voices festival events is the announcement of the winner of the Best Translated Book Award on Friday night.
See also the official site, where Chad Post is handicapping the field .....
Meanwhile, I'll also take this opportunity to remind publishers (and authors) that the judges (that includes me) are already reading the eligible titles for next year's award -- and that submissions are always welcome; indeed, they're strongly encouraged.
Any new (i.e. not previously translated) fiction by a single author (no anthologies) published between December 2010 and November 2011 is eligible [ditto for the poetry category], and while we try to read everything we can it helps a lot if publishers actually get the books to us -- and preferably not at the last minute .....
I get a fair amount of the eligible titles, but far from all of them ... and getting copies of the books into at least one judge's hands (and preferably several) at this stage helps a great deal (and makes it much more likely that the books will be properly considered -- we do try to get to everything, but if we have to scrounge for copies of books next January it does complicate things).
JoongAng Daily has a Q & A with Please Look after Mom-author Shin Kyung-sook, claiming Korean author finds stardom in U.S.
(With a sales rank at Amazon.com of 76, last I checked, it certainly seems to be doing pretty well.)
I haven't seen this book yet, but I suppose I'll have to have a look eventually .....
Get your copy at Amazon.com.
At hlo Ágnes Orzóy has a Q & A with Barbara Epler of New Directions.
Understandably, it's a bit focused on Hungarian literature (which New Directions has published quite a bit of) -- it was conducted at the Budapest Book Festival, after all -- and includes observations such as:
László Krasznahorkai is, I think, a really great writer, he is probably the genius on our list who should get more attention, and will probably get it when we publish Satan's Tango that we're bringing out in February.
(Indeed, that will be a major event !)
But there are lots of other interesting answers -- including:
How much do you rely on your backlist ?
We used to rely on our backlist.
The backlist was such an engine that if something on the frontlist sold well, then we opened a champagne, but now the backlist doesn't function in the same way, because on the internet a lot of our books are available used for maybe ten percent less.
Interesting also to learn that:
March was the worst months for sales I've ever seen in my life.
This is because of the economic crunch, but also and particularly because we are not fast enough at changing.
The whole thing of moving into e-books is not speedy enough for us.
Certain people want so much for e-books rights that we make less money on the e-book than on the print book, whereas the whole idea of e-books is that both publishers and authors make more.
Traditional book-vending has changed so much, so we are trying to use new ideas, like using the website to sell directly.
(Many, many New Directions titles -- including many of those mentioned here -- are under review at the complete review -- and I look forward to reviewing many more.)
(Updated - 28 April): Barbara Epler clarifies that, as the interview was conducted in a noisy Budapest bar, there were some transcription errors -- in particular, she said many of their books online are: "available for ten cents plus postage" (not: "ten percent less").
At Publisher Perspective Olivia Snaije writes about The Elegance of Gallic Books, profiling the publisher Gallic Books who only publish books translated from the French -- and seem to be doing quite well.
Several Gallic titles are under review at the complete review:
Chilean poet Gonzalo Rojas has passed away; see, for example, the obituary in The Telegraph.
Green Integer have a nice bilingual edition of his poems, From the Lightning; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The useful Asian Review of Books has apparently completely overhauled their site and are now re-launching it; there was even a re-launch event at the Asia Society in New York yesterday (sorry, I only heard about it after the fact ...).
Check out the beta version -- where editor Peter Gordon notes:
The Asian Review of Books is both a decade old ... and brand new: a new look, a new and outstanding editorial board, and new, longer and deeper original content.
I'm not sure about the new look -- hate those frames, as well as anything multi-page -- but the content is always worth a look.
In Bestsellers mirror social landscape of the time in The Korea Times Chung Ah-young writes about a new book, Bestsellers for 30 Years, written by Han Ki-ho, director of the Korean Publishing Marketing Research Institute.
Sounds like a Korean version of Michael Korda's Making the List, and while I wouldn't read too much into bestseller lists, it still sounds pretty interesting.
The Global Times reports on the Eighth National Chinese Reading Survey, which was released on Thursday by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication, in 'Web opens new page for readers'.
Among the unsurprising findings:
the number of Chinese readers using digital media dramatically increased last year.
Fascinating -- and disturbing: at his it is NOT junk weblog Michael Eisen reports on Amazon's $23,698,655.93 book about flies.
It seems that, alongside fifteen used copies, two Amazon Marketplace sellers had new copies of The Making of a Fly: The Genetics of Animal Design by Peter A. Lawrence on offer -- but apparently didn't set the price manually:
As I amusedly watched the price rise every day, I learned that Amazon retailers are increasingly using algorithmic pricing (something Amazon itself does on a large scale), with a number of companies offering pricing algorithms/services to retailers.
Both profnath and bordeebook were clearly using automatic pricing -- employing algorithms that didn't have a built-in sanity check on the prices they produced.
But the two retailers were clearly employing different strategies.
Feeding off each other, this led to the price peaking, on 18 April, at a ridiculous (though things had gotten ridiculous way before then) $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping, as Eisen helpfully notes).
This is sort of amusing (especially since no one was obligated to buy at these prices) -- until you start wondering about what else is getting priced in this way.
Recall the 6 May 2010 'flash crash' .....
(Note also that, as I write this, one 'new' copy has since sold (presumably at about the reset price of closer to $100.00) but the remaining 'new' copy's price has crept up to $976.98 (from seller bordeebook).)
Leavis told a particular story about English literature.
It's not the only one. But we owe it to him to show that, so far, nobody has told a better one, or told it with a braver conviction of why it matters to tell it at all.
While there have long been pirated translations of Gabriel García Márquez 's One Hundred Years of Solitude in China, the author vowed (back in 1990): "that even 150 years after his death, his works would not be authorized in China".
Apparently he's changed his mind, as Zhang Lei reports in Márquez relinquishes China '100 years''ban' in the Global Times:
The first authorized Chinese edition of the classic magic-realism novel 100 years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez will be published this summer.
ThinKingDom House (新经典文化) apparently were able to convince the Nobel laureate (and his representatives).
In The Guardian Nicholas Wroe profiles John Berger: a life in writing.
He has a new book coming out, Bento's Sketchbook; see the Verso publicity page, or pre-order your copy from Amazon.co.uk or, if you're willing to put up with a longer wait, Amazon.com.
The only Berger title under review at the complete review is the unfortunate King; I do, however, admire much of his earlier work -- and Bento's Sketchbook sounds like it has some potential too.
A reminder that the deadline for applications for the CEI Fellowship for Writers in Residence -- for writers up to 35 from non-EU CEI countries (Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine) -- is 1 May.
Offering a cash award of € 5,000 for a three-month stay in any of the CEI Member States, along with an invitation to the 26th Vilenica International Literary Festival (7-11 September 2011) it sounds worth applying for.
Via I learn of the Jean Dutourd estate sale -- his library (208 lots) to be auctioned off 6 May, his apartment furnishings (including paintings (including his own)) 11 May by Millon & Associés.
It's in the dreaded pdf format, but the (illustrated) catalog is well worth a look.
The books include a lot of signed copies -- my favorite being lot 156, a first edition of Jean Genet's The Thief's Journal (!), inscribed:
à Jean Dutour et à sa femme, mes amitiés sincères. toute ma gentille sympathie à (...) de gentillesse. mais c'est votre fillette qui est encore la plus adorable
And that in a first edition, and the estimate is only € 80 to 100 !
But if I was bidding, it's lot 195, the Zazie in the Metro which Raymond Queneau inscribed, that I'd go for -- estimate a mere € 150/200.
Among the items going for a bit more: the three volumes of Charles de Gaulle's memoirs (lot 151) -- though here the estimate (€ 2000 to 2500) surely is largely for the six letters from de Gaulle to Dutourd included in the package.
(The apartment-furnishings are also worth a look -- including just to see how this guy lived.
And I have to say, with the proper provenance-documentation (it's unsigned) I'd think about lot 341 -- the oil painting by Dutourd of Salomé -- in that € 300 to 500 range.)
The only Dutourd title currently under review at the complete review is A Dog's Head -- but I will get to more.
The young generation of intellectuals have been subjected to prison and torture since the mid-1970s.
Some of them went into exile.
Today's generation stayed away from the spotlight because critics and novelists in Libya were absent and marginalised.
Maybe that's why Libyan literature has been ignored for so long.
A majority of literary figures have been marginalised due to a number of political reasons, and also because of the media.
I feel that the absence of critics, apart from the dictatorship and scarcity of books contributes to the isolation of Libyan literature
Interesting that the absence of critics is considered such a big problem .....
(My guess is that the presence of the demented 'colonel' has been a much bigger problem.)
Well, one hopes things will get a lot better there soon .....
Fadia Faiqr has some (angry) fun with 'Oriental Clichés in Literary Publishing' in A Dalek in a Burqa, at Qantara.de.
So, for example:
Editor Arzu Tahsin says, Lyrics Alley is one of the most accomplished and thrilling portraits ever written of Sudanese society just around the time of independence in the 1950s.
Serious fiction you might think, but the way it is packaged and promoted trivialises it.
It's kind of touching that she actually expects anything from publishers .....
In the TLS Tim Parks explores the fact that 'Translated works are increasingly prominently among Nobel candidates but what kind of literature appeals to a global audience and can "direct, unmediated contact" between a writer and their reader survive translation ?' [sic, sic, sic -- who penned that copy ?], in The Nobel individual and the paradoxes of 'international literature'.
Where to start ......
Well, maybe with the claim that "Translated works are increasingly prominently among Nobel candidates".
We actually don't know, until long after the fact, who the 'Nobel candidates' were -- it's a complicated process, and there are candidates (nominated by the local literary organization in obscure country x) and candidates (the ones actually in the running); assuming that the Swedish Academicians can handle the Scandinavian languages, as well as English, German, and French it doesn't appear translated works have become any more dominant: English, German, and French alone cover seven of the last ten laureates, which is actually less international than most of the post-World War II decades .....
Parks tries to stuff a lot of argument into this piece, and overextends himself; the Nobel focus certainly doesn't help.
Still, there's some interesting stuff here-- such as the idea that:
Readers, wherever they are from, want to feel that they are in direct, unmediated contact with greatness.
They are not eager to hear about translators.
The writer wants to believe his genius is arriving, pristine, unmediated, to his readers all over the world.
So the prize is important, while the translator must disappear.
The translator must be reduced to an industrial process, or a design choice; he is on the same level as the typeface or the quality of the paper.
Okay, maybe he goes overboard with the argument (the "quality of the paper" ? come on, Tim ....) -- but certainly
the basic point is correct.
Also of interest:
In a study I have been directing at IULM University in Milan, we have compared the number of articles in the cultural pages of major newspapers dedicated to Italian authors and the authors of other nations.
The space given to America is quite disproportionate.
American authors, far more than their British, French or German counterparts, need not make any special claims to international attention.
No novelty is required.
The opposite is true for the writer from Serbia, the Czech Republic or Holland.
A writer from these countries must come up with something impressive and unusual in terms of content and style if a global audience is to be reached.
Five hundred pages of Franzen-like details about popular mores in Belgrade or Warsaw would not attract a large advance.
Again: it's surely a bit more complicated: Franzen's Freedom may have gotten something of a free pass -- but then it's hardly his first book to reach the local market; in fact, he's been at this for a while, and I'm guessing Strong Motion ... scusi, Forte movimento didn't get quite the same attention back in the day (which was quite a few days ago).
True, it's harder for a writer from Serbia or wherever to accumulate the same publishing credits in translation; nevertheless .....
I also disagree with the idea that:
If a translator himself or herself wins a prize it is because he or she has translated a major author.
A brilliant translation of a little-known author impresses no one.
'Little-known' is relative, and international authors tend to remain -- especially in the English-speaking world -- little-known.
Parks himself has translated works by, for example, Antonio Tabucchi -- surely a 'major author', yet just as certainly qualifying as, at best, 'little-known' in the UK and especially the US.
What sort of 'little-known author' does he mean ?
There's something to Parks' point that:
An editor at a Dutch publishing house remarks that if she wishes to sell the foreign rights of a Dutch novel, it must fit in with the image of Holland worldwide.
An Italian editor comments that an Italian novelist abroad must be condemning the country’s corruption or presenting the genial intellectuality that we recognize in different ways in Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco or Roberto Calasso.
All too often, novelists from ethnic-minority communities find that publishers will only buy their work if it speaks about those communities.
This is a universal problem -- but extends just as much to American fiction: it's expected to be 'American' -- surely a major reason behind Jonathan Franzen's international success.
(Indeed, the problem extends to regional, ethnic, etc. fiction within a language, too.)
In sum: it's a lot more complicated than Parks' short piece suggests.
I'm very pleased to see that this year The Hindu Literary Prize is also wiling to consider works in translation -- and I wonder how that will impact what's submitted and what makes the long/shortlists (and what Tim Parks will have to say about that ...).
Publishers have until 25 June to submit entries.
(Publishers .... sigh ......)