Well-known Iranian author, Simin Daneshvar, has passed away; see, for example, Author Simin Daneshvar passes away at 90 in the Tehran Times.
Her most famous and widely translated book is the novel Savushun -- the rare Iranian novel translated not once but twice into English: once under its original title, by M.R.Ghanoonparvar (see the Mage publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk),
and once as A Persian Requiem, by Roxane Zand (see the Halban publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk)
None of her books are under review at the complete review (though I keep meaning to get to Savushun in at least one of the translations; I first read it long before I started the site ...), but two by her husband, Jalal Al-e Ahmad, are; see, for example, By the Pen.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jacques Roubaud's Mathematics: -- the third ... installment ? variation ? branch ? in/of his 'The Great Fire of London' project, just out from Dalkey Archive Press.
Less than ten days after the longlist for the (US) Best Translated Book Award was announced, now the (UK) Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012 longlist announced -- and while eligibility requirements (published in the respective countries; BTBA doesn't allow re-translations, IFFP doesn't allow dead authors) mean the pool wasn't quite the same for both prizes, it is still surprising to see that only two titles -- New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani and Scenes from Village Life by Amos Oz -- made both longlists.
(Does that make them favorites ?)
The IFFP longlist includes books in three different Far East Asian languages -- Chinese, Korean, and Japanese --, all eligible for the BTBA, but all falling short of the BTBA longlist (which includes no translations from any of those languages ...).
Neither list includes any translation from the Arabic.
Sadly, the IFFP longlist also seems further proof that there is a huge gender-disparity in what is being translated, with far less fiction written by women being translated (even as a lot is being translated by women) than by men: a mere two of the fifteen titles are authored by women.
Among the other titles from the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist under review at the complete review are:
The winners of the (American) National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced yesterday.
None of the winning titles are under review at the complete review; among the winners are Binocular Vision, Edith Pearlman's story-collection -- apparently the very first book from Lookout (see their publicity page), which is pretty impressive -- in the fiction category, and Otherwise Known as the Human Condition by Geoff Dyer in the criticism category.
Youssef Ziedan's 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction-winning novel, Azazeel, is apparently due out in the UK from Atlantic Books soon (pre-order your copy at Amazon.co.uk; there's no publicity information at the publisher's site yet).
It came out in German last year, and Qantara.de now publish a translation of Andreas Pflitsch's review.
Ziedan goes well beyond the pure suspense of popular literature in his portrayal of the conflicts of conscience in the mind of his hero, and his wanderings through the desert of his own personality.
With its concern for the danger of running aground in religious dispute, of the abuse of power, violence and the instrumentalisation of hatred, the book, which will be available in English translation next month, can be seen as a parable about the current state of the Middle East and a plea for religious tolerance.
I certainly hope I'm able to get my hands on a copy eventually.
The History of Nordic Women's Literature is now available online, in three languages -- an online version of the monumental Nordisk Kvindelitteraturhistorie, originally published in Danish in five volumes between 1993 and 1998.
With: "229 articles from 815 writers through 1000 years" it offers quite the overview.
I've just begun to root around there, but can certainly recommend it -- I'd love to see more sites like this.
Yes, Orange Prize for Fiction announces 2012 Longlist -- twenty titles in the running for: "the UK's only annual book award for fiction written by a woman".
I'm glad to see Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick is in the running (and embarrassed that I somehow still haven't gotten to that); none of the titles are under review at the complete review (and, indeed, I only own a copy of one title other than the Ozick ...).
The shortlist will be announced 17 April, the winner on 30 May.
I enjoyed and was impressed by Goce Smilevski's Conversation with Spinoza, and am very pleased to see that his Сестрата на Зигмунд Фројд is due out from Penguin this fall in the US and UK (in August; pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
It was a 2010 European Union Prize for Literature- winner -- and looks like by far the most successful of the lot, with rights sold all over the place already.
The Italian translation came out last year and seems to have been very well-received -- topping RaiNews Libri's 10 libri del 2011 list, for example.
I've mentioned the Indonesian-literature promoting Lontar Foundation repeatedly here over the years, and was especially excited to hear about their new Modern Library of Indonesia-series -- see, for example, the Jakarta Globearticle, or this mention, which also lists the first ten titles in the series.
(Inconveniently, the official Lontar Foundation site is still being overhauled and not readily accessible at this time.)
Curious though I have long been about the Lontar publications, I never managed to get my hands on any -- until last week, when I came across a copy of the first title in the Modern Library of Indonesia-series, Abdoel Moeis' 1928 classic, Never the Twain (and, yes, my review of that is the most recent addition to the complete review -- only the second Indonesian-language title covered here (and the other one isn't by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, either -- what are the odds ?)).
I do hope to be able to cover more of these titles -- Indonesian fiction deserves considerably more attention than it has gotten.
[That was a banner book-buying day when I found this, by the way: among the other finds: a copy of the out-of-print The Sharks by Jens Bjørneboe (Moment of Freedom, etc.); see also the Norvik publicity page.]
The National Book Critics Circle Awards will be announced tomorrow -- but first you have the opportunity to see the National Book Critics Circle Awards finalists reading at 18:00 tonight at the Tishman Auditorium at The New School in New York.
Meanwhile, you can read up on the finalists at the NBCC's weblog, Critical Mass, and their series, 30 Books in 30 Days.
In the Sydney Morning Herald Joel Meares wonders: 'Cookbook sales are plummeting. Is it time for a new recipe ?' in Too many books ...
That's a bit misleading, as sales are not, in fact "plummeting"; still:
The sector in which sales rose 35 per cent between 2008 and 2010 suffered a slowdown last year and Nielsen BookScan reports the figure fell to 3,386,000 last year.
We haven't lost our appetite completely; the fall is less than the 7.1 per cent drop in book sales across the board
An interesting overview of a market-sector that is surely particularly vulnerable to digital alternatives.
However, while all this is good news for aspiring authors, publishers and readers, the trend has had one negative side-effect -- birth of shady literary agents in India.
literary agents are still a very new concept in India and over 90 per cent of the authors submit their manuscripts directly to the publishers.
Over the last few years, many unscrupulous individuals in India have taken advantage of the absence of big names in the country and lack of awareness among aspiring writers and established dubious literary agencies.
Unfortunately most don't offer a single service that a literary agent should.
I'd suggest that one reason why the publishing industry is thriving in India is because so little of it as yet passes through the hands of 'literary' agents, scrupulous or not .....
Look for everything to go downhill fast once they establish themselves.
The spring issue of The Threepenny Review has Robert Boyers' Norman Manea at Seventy-Five -- a good occasion also to remind you that Yale University Press' admirable Margellos World Republic of Letters series is bringing out four Manea titles in the coming months -- The Lair, The Black Envelope, The Fifth Impossibility, and Compulsory Happiness.
Yes, most are (or should be !) familiar, and yes, their Compulsory Happiness is just a reprint of the old Linda Coverdale translation from the French (which is not the language the contents were written in -- which, despite her observation that: "whatever its flaws and virtues" it "arrives with the author's own seal of authenticity", still seems ... less than ideal) -- but this looks like a pile of books well worth getting.
(Reviews will be posted if/when I can get my hands on the books .....)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Friedrich Christian Delius' Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman.
Peirene Press brought this out in the UK in 2010, and Farrar, Straus & Giroux has now picked it up, publishing a paperback-original US edition (ah, yes, US publishers, as trail-blazing as ever ...).
I am very impressed how many reviews the book has gotten (not in the US print media, of course, but at least elsewhere).
They've announced the winner of the Kobzar Literary $25,000 Biennial Award -- which: "recognizes outstanding contributions to Canadian literary arts by authors who develop a Ukrainian Canadian theme with literary merit".
The winning book is Under this Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell; get your copy at Amazon.com (where it's on offer at a 'bargain price'), Amazon.co.uk, or Amazon.ca.)
In Vanguard Prisca Sam-Duru and Vera Samuel Anyagafu have a Q & A with writer Ogochukwu Promise, who also founded the Lumina Foundation, which runs the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa (which is what several of the questions focus on).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Donald S. Lopez, jr.'s The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Biography.
Yes, that's a book aboutThe Tibetan Book of the Dead, not the book itself -- one of the first volumes in Princeton University Press' promising sounding new series, Lives of Great Religious Books.
Great idea (and the books are a nice size and look, too).
(How did I become aware of this book ?
By reading the review in The Japan Times .....)
In The Hindu Subash Jeyan has a Q & A with Amit Chaudhuri, Quiet polyphonies -- mainly about Chaudhuri's new book, On Tagore (apparently currently only available in India; see the Penguin India publicity page, or get your copy at Flipkart).
The French-American Foundation has announced the finalists for its annual translation prizes for "the best translation from French to English in fiction and non-fiction".
All the fiction titles except The Mirador by Elizabeth Gille are under review at the complete review (and I should get to that one too):
Life and a Half by Sony Labou Tansi (yes, they actually managed to misspell his name in the announcement)
IBNA has announced that 380 works shortlisted for Martyr Avini Literary Award.
That's the Iranian 'Resistance Book of the Year', awarded in six categories, with this 'shortlist' selected from 18,000 (!) works, of which "1720 works were selected to be scrutinized".
I do like the six categories -- especially the 'Soft War' one, which covers: "cultural invasions and threats, national security, propaganda, psychological war and operations".
And there's also 'documentary literature', which includes: "memories, reports, biographies, wills"
As I have often noted, I think the focus on 'Sacred Defense' literature -- writings about the Iran-Iraq conflict of the 1980s (!) -- is an artistic dead end that has been beaten to death, and that everyone would be much better if they moved on.
Sure, there's still stuff to be written about it -- but 18,000 works published in 2009 and 2010 alone ? Sounds like an unhealthy and unproductive preoccupation -- especially considering all the rich material of recent years they could be writing about .....
But obviously the regime prefers everyone to concentrate on those martyr'iffic times, rather than the present .....
(For those who might be wondering who this Martyr Avini is: check out the official site.
Ayatollah Khamenei apparently "commemorated his memory as 'the lord of martyr authors'", while the martyr himself is reported to have: "considered the Western countries as a historic manifestation of Satan".
So he maybe wasn't exactly the most open-minded of creative types .....)
The full schedule will only be out 15 March, but the official site already offers a few highlights of the upcoming PEN World Voices Festival, which runs 30 April to 6 May in New York.
Great to see The Colonel-author Mahmoud Dowlatabadi will be there, as well as Nobel laureate Herta Müller; see also the full list of participants.
At the Guardian and Observer, where over the last four weeks 37% of reviews were by women, and 25% of the books reviewed were by women
They also point to one reason why there is such a consistent imbalance:
The Guardian contacted a number of the UK's largest publishing houses and found that 2011 non-fiction releases for Penguin, Atlantic Books, Random House and Simon & Schuster all painted a similar picture, with 74%, 73%, 69% and 64% per cent of all titles male authored respectively.
(However, they don't bother to wonder or explain why so many periodicals bother so much with non-fiction coverage, rather than what really counts (i.e. covering fiction).)
Saramago sent the manuscript for Claraboya, which tells the tale of residents of a Lisbon apartment building, through a friend to a Portuguese publishing house in 1953 but never heard back from them.
Well, he didn't hear back until 46 years later, at which point he presumably told them where they could stuff it.
(At that point he he didn't want it published.)
It's always great to see yet another case of a publisher acting so professionally and responsibly -- especially when it had such consequences:
The author did not write another novel for nearly two decades after he failed to get a response from the publishing house over Claraboya and focused instead on his career as a journalist.
Of course, given the times, they probably would have been too chicken to publish it anyway (because, you know, they're publishers and their business is ... oh, wait ...).
Spanish journalist Pilar del Rio is quoted:
She said Claraboya is a "transgressive novel" which the publishing house did not dare publish in Portugal during the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, which ruled the country until 1974.
"It was a difficult novel for the era.
It is a book where the family which is the pillar of society is a bit of a nest of vipers.
There is rape, lesbian love, abuse. Could Portuguese society handle this in the 1950s ? I don't think so," said del Rio.
Still, a rejection letter explaining things might have been nice .....
Oprah Winfrey's Book Club increased sales for endorsed titles and other books by endorsed authors.
Despite the popular belief that the Club expanded the population of Americans who read regularly, I find no evidence that these endorsements attracted individuals into the book market.
Following an endorsement, there is a reduction in the aggregate sales of adult fiction -- the category containing the majority of Club endorsements.
To sum up:
The estimated sales effect provides evidence that the benefits of celebrity endorsements primarily come from business stealing
In The New York Times Julie Bosman reports that Slate to Begin a Monthly Review of Books.
[Aside: much as I continue to fail to understand the publishing industry, so too I am baffled by 'journalism': why do I get this information from The New York Times rather than ... say, Slate ?]
Bosman reports that:
Slate will introduce a monthly book review on Friday, the latest expansion of literary criticism online as stand-alone book review sections in newspapers have dwindled.
It will apparently: "nearly triple the number of book-related articles that Slate publishes", which sounds quite promising; they actually occasionally offer decent review-coverage.
Kim's career writing in English began in 1957 and spanned nearly four decades.
He published one book of folk tales, six novels, dozens of short stories, two essays, one television show and one movie (in Korea).
He was published in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Bazaar, Mademoiselle, and the Hudson Review among other magazines, had a book of short stories published, and was anthologized several times.
Why is it that this pioneer is forgotten ?
It is because Kim advanced to the beat of his own drummer.
In his early years as an author Kim wrote fiction that focused on Korea and Korean issues in a language whose speakers did not know of Korea and/or Korean issues.
In his later career, always the iconoclast, Kim continued to stand alone, often refusing to identify himself as an Asian, Asian-American, or Korean-American writer.
The only one of his books that appears to be readily available is The Diving Gourd (as a ridiculously expensive reprint); get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two recently translated Krasznahorkai László books:
His 1985 novel (and the basis for the movie of the same name), Satantango (hey, it only took a little over ... a quarter of a century to see this translated ... (the Germans managed to get around to it by 1990, the French by 2000))
The monthly SWR-Bestenliste, where thirty leading German literary critics vote on the recent titles they're most impressed by, is out for March -- with Nádas Péter's Parallel Stories (just out in German) coming in at number two, and Christian Kracht's very controversial Imperium (see my previous mention) coming in at number three.