In Russia beyond the Headlines Phoebe Taplin has a profile of Mikhail Shishkin -- Russia's best-kept literary secret -- and a Q & A with the author (click on second page).
His Maidenhair, translated by Marian Schwartz, is forthcoming from Open Letter Books -- see also the Okno information page -- while Taplin reports that Andrew Bromfield is working on a translation of Письмовник; see also that Okno information page.
(Recall also similar projects, such as PEN Recommends (a pretty outdated list that still incudes Lucky Per, The Young Man from Savoy, and Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex -- to name just the titles under review at the complete review; quite a few others are also available in English),
or Scott Esposito's collection from a few years back, Translate This Book !, in which many author, translators, etc. suggested books that should be translated into English -- available on Kindle from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
Poor Salman Rushdie continues to be (ab)used as a crowd-(dis)pleasing political red flag: the Jaipur Literature Festival runs 20-24 January and he's been invited -- but, of course, someone decided that, since it's election time, they should make a big issue and stink about this.
As India Todayreports:
India's top Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband on Monday opposed Salman Rushdie's visit to India and asked the government not to allow him to travel for a literary festival as the author had hurt the sentiments of Muslims the world over.
Rushdie had visited the Pink City literary event in January 2007, which was also an election year in Uttar Pradesh.
Given the kind of nonsense the candidates for the American Republican Party presidential nomination spout daily, it's hard to be too critical of this particular silliness; still, one hopes that it is treated simply as very desperate fringe election-rhetoric and that everyone gets on with more important things.
Egyptian author Ibrahim Aslan has passed away; see, for example, M. Lynx Qualey's Goodbye Ibrahim Aslan in the Egypt Independent.
None of his books are under review at the complete review at this time, but I do have copies of several of them and expect to get to them eventually.
Meanwhile, see, for example, the American University in Cairo Press publicity page for The Heron, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Nigerian literary writers, led by Professor Chinua Achebe, Sunday, reacted to the ongoing face-off between the Federal Government and the organised labour which culminated in calling a nationwide general strike, today, by the labour saying they "stand with the Nigerian people who are protesting the removal of oil subsidy which has placed an unbearable economic weight on their lives."
This face-off has been a long time coming (well, it's been threatened since the government announced they'd cut the subsidy, and came to a head when the cut went through with the beginning of the new year).
Still, I think it's a shame that this particular issue gets mixed in with other, far more troubling local problems -- as, for example, the protest also notes: "Nigeria is witnessing a new escalation of sectarian violence, culminating in explosions that have killed or seriously wounded scores of people at churches and other centres of worship and local businesses."
The oil subsidies themselves seem to me near-indefensible, and while their removal causes obvious immediate hardship the (long overdue) sooner they are abolished the better; see, for example, The Economist's recent plea, End them at once !
(Updated - 12 January): See now also a Q&A with Achebe at the Christian Science Monitor.
(And: I still strongly disagree with his position on the blight that are those oil subsidies.)
A reminder that Damion Searls will receive the ACFNY Translation Prize tonight at 18:30, at a ceremony at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York.
The winning translation is of Elfriede Jelinek's her not all her (on/with Robert Walser) -- and I will be delivering the laudatio.
(I'm afraid, however, that I have to disappoint the cheeky Katy Derbyshire; the Lederhosen are packed away with all my summer things .....)
Slate.fr has an overview of Le palmarès des ventes de livres 2011 -- the bestselling authors in France of 2011 -- though they don't nicely chart exactly who sold how much of what when.
Still, apparently the two biggest sellers are under review at the complete review -- Stéphane Hessel, with Time for Outrage ! and David Foenkinos, with Delicacy.
(It'll probably be a while until all the numbers are published -- compare their far more comprehensive article from April and all the 2010 numbers -- including the astonishing fact that Stefan Zweig sold more copies (590,000 !) that Victor Hugo, Zola, and Balzac, among many others.)
In L'Express Marianne Payot offers a few more numbers and rankings of specific titles, in La galette des rois du palmarčs.
In Crime Wave in the Philippine Daily Inquirer Ruel S. De Vera looks at the relatively recent rise of local crime fiction in the Philippines.
Why hasn't it caught on before ?
Among the interesting explanations:
Literary critic Isagani R. Cruz says, "Our country's history is full of unsolved crimes, so it's not easy for us to believe stories where crimes are solved."
Cruz adds that "Logic, a main ingredient of detective novels, is not exactly the strong point of our novels.
Start with Noli and El Filibusterismo, and think of any other novel by a Filipino."
There are quite a few pieces looking ahead to 2012 and what books and other literary events we can look forward to.
Among those of possible interest:
- The Guardian looks at '2012's literary highlights' in a fairly extensive look at Literary events in 2012 -- and at least they try to liven things up a bit with some levity: so, for example:
April 5: Jonathan Cape publishes Irvine Welsh's prequel to Trainspotting and Andrew Motion's sequel to Treasure Island on the same day.
Hopes are high of cross-promotion (eg flashmobs of junkie pirates in city squares).
- At his Conversational Reading Scott Esposito looks ahead to Interesting New Books -- 2012 -- still a pretty limited list, but he updates it over the course of the year, so it's worth checking now and again.
"Many authors pay me out of their own pocket and then sell the book to a publisher or else the translation is used to market the book to the English market, or it’s used to sell to other markets," said Cribb.
The first two books she translated for Sjón, for example, haven’t yet been published in English.
In The Independent Gordon Bowker celebrates the release of James Joyce's work into the public domain (again) in Europe -- and thus the: "the dawn of a new age for Joyce scholars, publishers and biographers who are now free to quote or publish him without the permission of the ferociously prohibitive Joyce estate" --, in the fascinating: An end to bad heir days: The posthumous power of the literary estate
Bowker has good fun with the nuttiness of many of these estates -- but he does ignore the other side of the coin: estates which callously disregard authors' wishes and milk the literary properties for all they're worth, often debasing the authors' work and creations beyond recognition.
They announced the Whitbread Costa Book Awards category winners yesterday (though the information was still not yet available at that official site, last I checked); see, for example, the press release at booktrade.info.
None of them are under review at the complete review; the overall winner will be named 24 January.
The Nobel archives remain sealed for fifty years -- but then ! on the first of January (well, the second, this year) ! another year's deliberations are opened up to public scrutiny -- and the secrets are revealed !
The 1961 Nobel Prize in literature went to Ivo Andrić -- apparently a pretty pre-determined choice.
But Andreas Ekström -- the first to really root around in the archives this year -- reports in Sydsvenskan that Greene tvåa på listan 1961 !
Yes, apparently Graham Greene was the runner-up that year -- with Karen Blixen the third choice.
Of course, among the others in the mix was ... J.R.R.Tolkien ?
(Naturally not taken very seriously -- but amusing to see that C.S.Lewis was the one to nominate him).
In The Local they have more about the Secrets behind the 1961 Nobel prize in Literature revealed -- along with a(n annoying) gallery of choice quotes about the rejects.
Others in the discussion included Lawrence Durrell (whose "monomaniacal preoccupation with erotic complications" apparently was no help, but now makes me eager to seek his work out ...), Alberto Moravia (who: "suffers from schematism in the characterization and a general monotony"), Friedrich Dürrenmatt, and Robert Frost -- who, at 86, was apparently just too damn old.
It's Friedrich Dürrenmatt who -- beside the ridiculous idea of Tolkien being Nobel-worthy -- most surprises me -- and if he was a 1961-contender he must have come even closer in later years.
(1961 ! He was only 40 !
And recall that The Physicists only came out in 1962, and quite a few of his other major plays and impressive prose-works only much later.
Of course, taking on the Nobel Prize in Der Meteor (1966), among other works, might not have helped his cause.
(Updated - 6 January): See now also JRR Tolkien's Nobel prize chances dashed by 'poor prose', as Alison Flood picks up the story for The Guardian -- and obviously focuses on the right thing, as suggested by the 262 comments (last I checked -- and not too many fewer comments than there were readers of this post ...) and the lack of any mention of Dürrenmatt (and relative lack of mention of Greene), the far more interesting non-winners than no-hope Tolkien.
(Additional update): And now everyone is piling on board -- all focusing on the non-story here: the BBC reports JRR Tolkien snubbed by 1961 Nobel jury, papers reveal, The Telegraph reports Tolkien denied the Nobel Prize for bad storytelling -- and has Andrew Pettie offer a piece In defence of JRR Tolkien, etc. etc.
For god's sake .....
Is this what it's going to be like some five decades from now, when they open Nobel deliberations from the past few years and discover that some nutcase nominated J.K.Rowling for the prize (as is entirely possible) ?
Will there really be reports that she was 'denied' the prize ?
Come on -- Tolkien (like Rowling, at least based on her output to date) simply didn't have the slightest chance of being considered Nobel Prize-worthy.
Why aren't discussions focusing on the interesting revelations ?
Graham Greene as runner-up !
A 40-year-old Dürrenmatt already being considered !
Czech author -- and longtime Canadian exile (and important publisher) -- Josef Škvorecký has passed away; see, for example, the report at Czech Position.
Two of his books are under review at the complete review (and I've read and enjoyed many more):
The 2011 ACF Translation Prize will be presented next Monday, 9 January, at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York, at 18:30.
Damion Searls is getting the prize, for his Elfriede Jelinek translation.
I get to present the winner and deliver the laudatio; then Martin Rauchbauer will engage Damion Searls in a conversation.
In The Caravan Sumana Roy finds 'New translations introduce English language readers to the prolific Buddhadeva Bose, whose fiction drew deeply on literary Bengal', in Reader's Writer, profiling My Kind of Girl-author Bose.
Bose's When the Time is Right is now out from Penguin Books India; see their publicity page, or get your copy from Flipkart.
It'll take me a few more weeks to crunch all the numbers and present the annual 'State of the Site'-survey, but here some of the data:
- 212 reviews were posted at the site in 2011, with a total of 163,841 words; Literary Saloon postings probably close to doubled that word count -- the equivalent of a pretty fat book.
- As in 2010, titles by authors from exactly 51 countries were represented, led by France (28 titles, down from 29 in 2010), the US (22), the UK (15), Japan (11), and Sweden (9).
Only 31 languages were represented however -- way down from 41 in 2010 -- led by English (44, down from 51 in 2010), French (36), Spanish (23), German (17), and Japanese (12).
- Fiction dominated completely -- 179 titles (84.43%), of which 170 were novels and 9 story collections.
- The male/female divide remains surprisingly (but pathetically) constant, with only 16.51% of the reviewed titles (35) by female authors.
Google's re-jigging of its search algorithm had an enormous (and devastating) impact on the number of visitors to the site.
While traffic was still far ahead of 2010 in January and through mid-February, it was only keeping pace through April, and then was far below 2010 numbers for most of the rest of the year; for the year as a whole the number of visitors was down 25.44% from 2010, the number of page-views 25.63%.
(This while the available content at the site increased about 8%).
One reason for the impact of any Google-change: Google search results continue to bring by far the most traffic to the site.
In 2011 89.38% of search queries leading to the site were made via Google -- down from 92.10% in 2010, but still .....
The impact was greatest with regards to English-speaking visitors: vistits were down 31.04% from the US, 21.66% from the UK, and 34.31% from Canada (the top three sources of traffic).
German visitors (6th most popular source) were barely down (-2.52%), while the Philippines (9th) were up +1.68%.
The greatest decline from major sources of traffic was visitors from Ireland (14th), down 35.28%.
There were appreciable increases in the number of visitors from Russia (21), Greece (26), Thailand (45), Bulgaria (48), and Slovakia (54).
The greatest increase among countries from which there was a decent amount of traffic was Algeria (67th, +64.22%), the biggest decline Kuwait (86th, -43.06%); the greatest increase among countries where there was any appreciable traffic was Mali (+106.78%), the greatest decline Burma (Myanmar) (-55.81%).
- The countries sending the most traffic (and the percentage of total traffic) were:
United States 37.82%
United Kingdom 11.63%
- There were visitors from 220 countries and territories in 2011 (2010: 224); among those countries from which there were no visitors were: Chad, American Samoa, Christmas Island, Falkland Islands, Montserrat, Norfolk Island, San Marino, and Tuvalu.
- There were single visits from: Åland Islands, Central African Republic, Cook Islands, Equatorial Guinea, Comoros, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Mayotte
- New York narrowly beat out London as the city sending the most traffic; include Kensington (which Google Analytics considers a separate locale) and London is way ahead of New York (even with a negligible Brooklyn counted in).
Impressively, Manila -- the 12th most popular city of origin -- beats out, for example, San Francisco -- though it comes in behind Paris.
- The most popular search terms leading visitors to the site (2010 rankings) were:
In Outlook India 'Movers, shakers and the shaken of 2011 tell Outlook about the books that helped them tide over a turbulent year', in In Between Harder Covers.
The respondents include prime minister Manmohan Singh (who disappointingly seems not have read any fiction that impressed him), as well as Pankaj Mishra and William Dalrymple.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Charlotte Link's thriller, Die Täuschung.
Link is (and long has been) among the most successful -- sales-wise -- contemporary German writers, and is widely translated (and popular abroad, too); Die Täuschung alone has apparently sold over a million copies in German.
Oddly, however, nothing of hers has been published in English yet -- though Orion is apparently bringing out The Other Child later this year (in a translation by slumming And Other Stories publisher Stefan Tobler ...).
I'm curious whether she'll catch on in the US/UK; on the basis of this title alone (all I've read of hers), I'd say it's a toss-up: this is about equivalent to middle-of-the-pack of the current flood of Nordic crime novels -- though the fact that she's not a serial thriller writer -- which is what's all the rage, after all -- probably works (strongly) against her.