The wonderful Northwestern University Press series, 'Writings from an Unbound Europe' -- many volumes of which are under review at the complete review --, is being terminated.
At Three Percent Chad Post offers an Obituary: Writings from an Unbound Europe -- which includes an explanatory letter (of sorts) by series general editor Andrew Wachtel.
Among the interesting titbits from Wachtel's sign-off:
By far the best selling title in the series is Death and the Dervish (Drviš i smrt) by the Bosnian writer Meša Selimović (1910-1982), which has sold close to 6000 copies since it appeared in 1996.
While a bit disappointed that this classic has only sold 6000 copies, it is certainly one of the peaks of this great series; among the earliest reviews posted at the complete review (posted 16 June 1999), I'd like to think I had a (very) small part in its success, and it probably ranks among the top ten or fifteen best-selling (via the Amazon links) titles under review at the site.
(Aside fom the titles in the series, see also Wachtel's own useful Remaining Relevant after Communism: The Role of the Writer in Eastern Europe.)
They appear to be distancing themselves from the series fast: the dedicated site www.unboundeurope.com, despite being registered through March 2012, is already inoperative [updated: apparently it just fell into disuse and was more or less forgotten about, rather than being recently and wilfully abandoned; still, it was still working fairly recently] -- and while the whole Northwestern University Press site is being worked over, the section dedicated to the series (that link is, e.g., where Google wants to send you to for a "Writings from an Unbound Europe"-search) has apparently been hacked.
(Updated): Note that, as they remind me, Northwestern University Press does remain committed to publishing fiction in translation, and indeed to fiction in translation from this region -- they just will no longer be doing so using this particular platform.
(A big fan of the series-model (and particularly enthusiastic about this one, with its only recently abandoned sleek, simple, uniform cover-look) -- who still mourns and complains about Penguin dumping their 'Writers from the Other Europe'-series back in the day -- I hope they can, indeed, sustain the interest over the long term.)
The shortlist for the Caine Prize for African Writing has been announced -- with the five stories available on the official site (albeit in the dreaded pdf format).
The stories were selected from 126 entries from 17 African countries.
(Sadly, they insist on selling themselves short by claiming yet again: "The Caine Prize, widely known as the 'African Booker' and regarded as Africa's leading literary award".
It is, indeed, a fine and admirable literary prize -- and may well be Africa's leading one (the continental book prize situation is terrible, with none -- including this one (because of the language-limitations -- works in translation are eligible, but guess how many have been shortlisted ...) establishing itself as comprehensively African) -- but it is a short story prize ("Indicative length is between 3000 and 10,000 words") and as such can and should never be compared to the Man Booker.)
The Sveriges Författarförbund -- the Swedish Writers' Union -- decided they needed a prize for best translation into Swedish, and they've announced that this year the Årets översättning goes Lena E. Heyman, for her translation of Roberto Bolaño's 2666.
Good to see translation into local languages being honored (and surprising that it took so long ...); also good to see that there's decent money on offer: Heyman got SEK 75,000 -- some US$12,000.
India's first widely marketed graphic novel was published only in 2004.
While the readership remains niche, the variety and diversity of themes and forms being explored by graphic novels have rapidly increased.
Pure text will soon start facing stiff competition from graphic novels, say publishers.
Among the publishers mentioned is the interesting-sounding Tara Books.
The thirteen finalists for the Indie Booksellers Choice Awards have been announced -- and employees at independent bookstores (the only ones eligible to vote) are certainly encouraged to vote for the winner; polls close 20 May, and the winner will be announced on the 23rd.
Not a single work of translation among the final thirteen (what's up with that ?) -- and none are under review at the complete review (though there is a review-overview of Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi); other than the Bacigalupi (borrowed from the library) I haven't seen copies of any of these titles.
At Qantara.de Fakhri Saleh's piece on 'Rethinking World Literature' considers The Arabic Novel in Non-Western Eyes -- an interesting topic that's worth a closer look.
But this is certainly a start.
Among the observations:
Mahfouz is not a Balzac, nor a Galsworthy or an Emile Zola, or even a Thomas Mann.
Mahfouz is rooted in Arabic tradition, and his style, even in his realistic works, fuses the subtleties of the Arabic language with influences of the European genre.
(Though, of course, even that oversimplifies the case: there are few authors that show the range of Mahfouz -- certainly not those mentioned here.)
Good also to see the nod to a local favorite, Gamal al-Ghitani's novel:
Zayni Barakat is a real and genuine development of the form in world literature.
Like Emile Habibi's The Pessomptimist, it shifted the development of the Arabic novel and redefined the meaning of drawing elements from the heritage and using the European genre of the novel.
In that sense, the concept of world literature has to be transformed, breaking the western bars that imprisoned literatures produced by other nations from east to west.
But, again: there's a lot more to be said on the subject matter, and many more examples to be considered.
They've announced that the 2011 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize goes to Jean M. Snook for her translation of Gert Jonke's The Distant Sound.
If that title sounds familiar in the translation-prize context, it might be because it also took -- when it was still in manuscript -- the 2009 ACF Translation Prize (for which I was one of the judges).
You have to figure that this second stamp of approval confirms that this is a mighty fine translation.
See also the Dalkey Archive Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mela Hartwig's Am I a Redundant Human Being ?
This 1931 novel didn't fit the popular female image of the time and was turned down for publication at the time; it only made it into (German) print in 2001, with the English translation coming last year.
Think a darker, more brutal (and, I'd say, better) Irmgard Keun (the other recent (re)discovery from that era).
signandsight.com offer an English translation of Fritz Raddatz's Die Welt piece on E.M.Cioran, as Witness to intellectual suicide [original], about the recently published-in-German volume of early Cioran, Über Deutschland ('On Germany'; see the Suhrkamp publicity page), in which Raddatz finds the book "tracks E.M. Cioran's consistent erring towards fascism".
(The German version of the piece is titled 'Gottfried Benn für Arme' -- 'A poor man's Gottfired Benn'.)
I was amused by this personal aside re. Vladimir Nabokov (and his wife) by Alexander Theroux in his Wall Street Journalreview of Lila Azam Zanganeh's The Enchanter:
In college I once mailed to his hotel in Montreux, along with a gift of butterfly stamps, one of his novels for him to inscribe and was immediately sent back, along with the unsigned novel and rejected gift, a scolding letter from Vera telling me not to bother them.
So the (Burmese) Thuta Swesone Literature Awards have been announced; see, for example, Zon Pann Pwint's report in The Myanmar Times.
I have to admit some disappointment that rather than some literary work it was Winning by former GE boss Jack Welch (with Suzy Welch ...) that took the translation prize .....
Winners get 300,000 kyat -- a solid US$45,000 at the official rate, a more realistic US$350 at the black-market rate .....
I posted a review of Jo Nesbø's The Snowman yesterday, and the publicity machine is certainly doing a good job of getting media-attention for next week's US release of this book -- see now Monica Hesse's Jo Nesbo, the next Stieg Larsson ? Norway’s bestseller is no fan of the thought in The Washington Post.
Nesbø and his series deserve a lot better than the very tired next-Stieg-Larsson tag-line -- but then, as I mentioned, he also deserves better than his American publisher's out-of-sequence presentation of his Harry Hole series.
Indeed, someone needs to explain to me why one can already find, for example, a review of The Leopard (number eight in the series, due out in the US in 2013 -- after the 2012 publication of number six (!) in the series, The Redeemer; The Snowman is number seven ...) in the south Indian Deccan Chronicle while the US is still a book and a half behind .....
(And why the Deccan Chronicle can manage to print that slashed-o ("ø") in his name and The Washington Post can't .....
Though maybe American readers appreciate the pseudo-phonetic pronunciation of his name: "Yooo Nez-baugh".)
hlo prints George Szirtes' Introduction to Ágnes Lehóczky's Poetry, the Geometry of the Living Substance: Four Essays on Ágnes Nemes Nagy, as Mona Lisa among the rocks.
Nemes Nagy's verse rejected both identity and display.
Her poetry is composed of significant understatement, its power latent rather than displayed, power held at tension.
There isn't that much of Nemes Nagy's poetry -- "The posthumous Hungarian edition of the Collected Poems has 132 pages of poems published in book form in her life time, the rest of the 300 odd pages being unpublished, posthumously collected work composed of sketches, commemorative verses and some reflections" -- but quite a bit is available in English, notably The Night of Akhenaton; see the Bloodaxe publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
For Lehóczky's Poetry, the Geometry of the Living Substance, see the Cambridge Scholars Publishing publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jo Nesbø's The Snowman, about to be published in the US (by Alfred A. Knopf, who take over the series after Harper Collins had a go at it; unfortunately they too do not bother going in order, publishing this seventh installment in the series ahead of the sixth (with the first two still missing in action, or at least in translation ...)).
Among the May issues of online periodicals now available and worth a look is that of Open Letters Monthly, as well as the May issue of Words without Borders -- devoted this month to Writing from Afghanistan (with a dose of 'Writing from Malta' also on offer).
The SWR-Bestenliste, where thirty German literary critics vote for the best new publications, is out for May, with a John Burnside book getting the top spot, and the new Michel Houellebecq in second place.
His The Tunnel was recently reissued (in the UK) as a Penguin Classic; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk (or try to get your copy at Amazon.com).
Back in the day -- 1988 -- there was a review in The New York Times Book Review, where they found:
When it was first published in Spanish, The Tunnel won the applause of Thomas Mann and Albert Camus and was described as an existentialist classic.
Some of today's readers may find Castel's descent into insanity a trifle romanticized.
Still, in this fine new translation by Margaret Sayers Peden, Mr. Sabato's novel retains a chilling, memorable power.
The Copenhagen Post reports that in Denmark One in three like their literature in English -- and these "numbers have remained steady for at least a decade".
On top of that, University of Copenhagen English lecturer Henrik Gottlieb reports that:
He did a study of Danish translations of books and found that they were chock-a-block with errors.
"A translator captures maybe 98 percent of the original meaning, and in my experience, there are an average of three errors per page in a translated book," he said.
"In a 300-page book there are around 1,000 errors -- things you don't understand, if you read the Danish translation."
(I'm not sure about the methodology and definitions here, but the order-of-magnitude sounds right(-to-generous).)
In Himal Frederick Noronha wonders 'How to connect discerning readers with discerning titles ?' in A reader for every book, looking specifically at the problems smaller and independent publishers in India face.