In a big step for Indonesian literature on the world stage, American publisher Farrar, Strauss and Giroux has agreed to publish an English-language version of the popular novel Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Troops).
That's Andrea Hirata's million-selling 2005 novel, which was also made into a very popular 2008 movie.
But even with that success ... how extraordinary that an American publisher picks up an Indonesian novel .....
Except, of course, that it's long been available in English, in Angie Kilbane's 2009 translation; see the Bentang Pustaka publicity page -- or, in fact, read most of it at Google Books.
Oh, yeah: the fact that Brad Pitt's production company has apparently expressed some interest in it probably helped too.
(Hirata was also a 2010 resident at the International Writing Program, University of Iowa.)
Not that I'm complaining -- but if this is what it takes for an American publisher to pick up a South-East Asian novel not originally written in English ... that's a pretty (ridiculously) high hurdle for any book or author to clear (which helps explain why so little from the region is published stateside).
With Patrick White's posthumous The Hanging Garden coming out in Australia and the UK (the US ? who knows ...) there's been quite a bit of coverage -- see also my recent mention.
Richard Davenport-Hines reviewed it in The Spectator, and while he calls it: "a coherent and polished read" he recommends:
Readers who want to explore the difficult, uneven terrain of White's novels should, however, begin with the masterpieces of his mid-career, The Vivisector and The Eye of the Storm.
These are thunderingly powerful, full of emotional depth and grandeur, epigrammatic and ironic, with brilliant scrutiny of human character and motives. Their intermittent bursts of livid misanthropy come like an asthmatic's rasping spasms.
White has been sacrificed on the altar of an activism that he helped bring about.
On indigenous rights, censorship, immigration, nuclear power and a host of other issues White was an impassioned spokesperson for those who believed that the old Anglo-Australian order was culturally stultifying and politically backward.
A disgust for materialism, racism and philistinism in Australian society pulses through his work, as does compassion for the outcast and excluded who suffer their effects.
For a reminder of these truths we need only turn to the opening pages of The Hanging Garden.
The Bangkok Post has a little item about a book launch, of the Thai translation of Wang Anyi's 小鮑莊 (published in English as Baotown), and while it's nice to see this book becoming available in Thai what's most striking is who the translator is: Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
Yes, HRH turns out to be quite active, literarily speaking -- aside from having gotten a Master of Arts in Oriental Epigraphy (Sanskrit and Cambodian) (see her biography, at her fancier-than-the-usual-author/translator-site ...), she's written quite a few books, as well as translated some; see her ... bibliography.
(Of course, given Thailand's notoriously nutty lèse-majesté laws (see, for example, Thailand's lese-majeste law fuels calls for reform in The Los Angeles Times just last week), it seems unlikely that any critic would dare comment on the quality of the translation except in the most general, generous terms .....)
Yes, as Philip Stone reports in The Bookseller, they've announced the winner of this year's Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year -- and Cooking with Poo scoops Odd-Title Prize.
That's Saiyuud 'Poo' Diwong's Thai cookbook Cooking with Poo, of course -- not to be confused with Marlene Brown's classic, Cooking with Pooh (get your copy at Amazon.com) ...
(Yes, 'Poo' is Diwong's nickname, not an exotic (?) ingredient .....)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Georgian author Tamta Melaschwili's prize-winning novella, გათვლა.
With a Dalkey Archive Press anthology of contemporary Georgian fiction due out soon -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, and expect the Daniel Kalder review any day now -- could it be that Central Asian fiction is finally due for a breakthrough ?
Yeah, I'm not counting on anything yet, but it's a start.
(Interested publishers should meanwhile presumably turn to this 'literary' agency, which seems to have the Georgian market pretty well covered.)
There's been a lot about this in the Spanish-language media, but little so far in English, but now at the Financial Times' beyondbrics weblog Jude Webber reports on the nutty new Argentina: import restrictions on books -- a situation that has led to:
Meanwhile, foreign books and language textbooks are already reportedly missing in stores.
The policy looks like a plot straight out of Borges. But itís not.
Really, what are they thinking ?
Economically, literarily -- it just doesn't make any sense.
After seven years we are shutting down signandsight.com.
The site will remain online, but for now no new texts will be posted.
As they note:
There was a great deal of enthusiasm, but there was always a lack of funds.
Signandsight.com is not a business model.
The editorial and translation costs are too high.
Ideally signandsight.com would have become a project of an emerging European civil society, financed by European foundations and sponsors.
As longtime readers of the Literary Saloon surely noticed, I frequently linked to pieces at the site; it will be missed.
Mario Vargas Llosa has announced that he's donating his personal library of over 30,000 volumes to his Peruvian hometown of Arequipa; see, for example, the AP report (here at The Washington Post).
Thirty thousand volumes -- that's a pretty decent collection.
I hope they publish the catalogue .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of a collection of Miyamoto Teru stories, Phantom Lights.
The book is published by Kurodahan Press, whose interesting list -- Edogawa Rampo ! Japanese science fiction and mysteries ! Dazai Osamu ! Zoran Živković ? -- certainly merits attention.
They've announced that Una misma noche, by Leopoldo Brizuela, has been awarded the Premio Alfaguara de Novela 2012 -- selected from 785 submissions (whingeing Man Booker Prize judges: take note ...).
It's also the biggest cash prize of the day: the prize is: "dotado con 175.000 dólares" (yes, those would be US dólares ...).
It's also always fascinating to see the breakdown of country-of-origin of the submissions, giving a basic sense of literary activity in the Spanish-writing countries.
The top submitters were:
Chile and Ecuador (25)
With a mere 8 submissions each, Venezuela and Bolivia are way down on the list -- and Paraguay lags last, with 4.
(Cuban authors apparently don't get to play along.)
See also the Latin American Herald Tribune report, Argentine Leopoldo Brizuela Wins Alfaguara Prize, as well as the author page at his 'literary' agent's site.
Note also that Brizuela was a 2003 resident at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa -- but none of his work is yet available in English.
This prize should help change that.
But in our time, many essential freedoms are in danger of defeat and not only in totalitarian or authoritarian states.
Here in India also, a combination of religious fanaticism, political opportunism and, I have to say, public apathy is damaging that freedom upon which all other freedoms depend: the freedom of expression.
Voices are being silenced.
Publishers are more frightened to publish.
Galleries are more afraid to display certain kind of art; certain kind of films would not be made that might have been made 15 -20 years ago.
The chilling effect of violence is very real and it is growing in this country.
Good of Rushdie to speak up -- and good of the conclave organizers not letting themselves be intimidated into not letting him speak up (as certain literary festival organizers recently were ...).
Like some partisans of translated literature, Hemon and Krauss can speak in utopian terms, as if translated literature could raise us all to an ecstatic state.
But they do so convincingly, with a goal of cultural plenitude, of turning American literary culture away from its tendency towards self-isolation.
Sad to hear that Italian author Antonio Tabucchi has passed away.
A very fine author, who wrote not only In Italian but also in Portuguese; New Directions has published many of his works in the US.
Essentially no English-language reporting on this yet, as I write this -- the AFP report is about the extent of it -- but I'll update with links when some start appearing in the coming days.
Meanwhile, see Italian-language coverage in, for example, La Repubblica, La Stampa, and Il Sole 24 Ore.
Several of his books are under review at the complete review
Just recently Adam Mars-Jones won the first Hatchet Job of the Year Award -- awarded for: "the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review" of the year -- and now he finds himself hatcheted, as David Cozy rips apart his Noriko Smiling in The Japan Times, finding it An unserious look at the work of Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu.
Cozy notes that: "'I can hardly be accused of being an expert on Japanese film,' Adam Mars-Jones assures us early in Noriko Smiling", and then suggests:
Having asserted his ignorance in the second paragraph of his book, he then devotes the remainder to offering evidence in support of his claim, and it has to be said: The case he builds is airtight.
There are also observations such as:
Mars-Jones gets about 30 pages out of his tussle with Richie, but only manages to squeeze a page or so out of the cigarette holder -- his constant effort to fatten his slight book is palpable.
In the Independent on Sunday Paul Bignell reports that Dracula's contract to see the light of day 100 years on -- meaning the contract Bram Stoker drew up for the UK rights for Dracula, for which he apparently negotiated himself a 20 per cent royalty fee.
Admirably and sensibly, he didn't use -- or apparently see much use for -- a 'literary' agent:
In an interview months after its release, Stoker spoke of his dislike for publishing agents: "Some men nowadays are making 10,000 a year by their novels, and it seems hardly fair that they should pay 10 or 5 per cent of this great sum to a middle man.
By a dozen letters or so in the course of the year they could settle all their literary business on their own account."
Too bad that thinking didn't catch on .....
Of course, maybe he could have used one re. the US rights, which the article suggests were not quite as straightforward (and where the original contract hasn't yet seen the light of day ...).
Pascal Bruckner's The Paradox of Love is one of those books I just did not know what to do with -- throwing it away in frustration and never mentioning it seemed like the best option, but I couldn't quite bring myself to do that (in part because it's gotten baffling heaps of praise and I figured you might deserve a warning).
So, the most recent addition to the complete review is my not-quite-a-review of that title.
In the Daily Times Michael Jimoh reviews the inaugural issue of the Lagos Review of Books and Society, in A literary magazine at last.
There doesn't seem to be a corresponding website (yet), but the publication certainly sounds of interest.
The author of a book that is said to defame the Armenian Army has been charged with dissemination of pornographic material and his book, Demob Day, has been removed from some bookstore shelves following pressure from the Military Police.
Yeah, they're apparently none too pleased about it:
Nonetheless Military Police attorney Anahit Yesayan says Ishkhanyan's work of fiction distorts truth, defames the military, is offensive to religion and Armenian mothers.
I do admire them for resorting to the 'offensive-to-moms' defense, but I'm afraid this guy lost the entire argument when he complained about this work of fiction distorting truth ....
('Cause, you know, fiction never distorts truth, and no one ever expects it to.)
In The Washington Post's The Style Blog Ron Charles comments on a recent piece [not freely accessible] by Arthur Krystal in the Chronicle of Higher Education, leading him to wonder about meanness in book reviews.
Krystal is right, of course, there's no need to be cruel, but sometimes the exasperation of slogging through a dull, stupid or monumentally over-hyped book gets the best of even the nicest person.
He also observes:
As a reader of many, many reviews, I have to admit I'm more alarmed by the number of dull ones than the number of unkind ones.
He'd also like to see more authors fight back -- suggesting that might lead to: "more robust review pages" .....
Very sad to hear that the truly innovative Christine Brooke-Rose has passed away; see, for example, the note at PN Review (and bad show elsewhere: no obits up yet, as I write this).
With books with titles like Amalgamemnon, Textermination, and Verbivore ... yes, wild stuff, but good fun too.
See also, for example, the author page at Carcanet.
And nine linear feet of her papers are stored at the Harry Ransom Center .....
The Brooke-Rose Omnibus is one place to start -- if you can find a copy (check Amazon.com, or see also the Caracanet publicity page) -- though Life, End of also seems appropriate: see the publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've announced that Dager i stillhetens historie, by Norwegian author Merethe Lindstrøm, has won the prestigious Nordic Council Literature Prize 2012.
See also the Aschehoug Agency information page for more about the novel.
I hired a translator and a separate proofer to proof the translation for each book.
In some instances I used a second proofer as well to make sure the translation was as accurate as it could possibly be.
I went through Elance.com for a couple of the translators and another was referred by an author to me.
It's a complicated process, but I do believe the global market is going to grow and I would love to make my stories available around the world in as many languages as possible.
There's already a pretty steady trickle of self-published translations-into-English -- the language everyone wants their books to be available in -- but it's great to see that it's also moving in the other direction.
(As to the quality of these translations ... well, like I always say, one of the few areas where publishers can still prove their worth is as editorial gatekeepers, insuring that translations are ... competently done, etc.
Too bad they don't always take that role too seriously .....)
In L'Express Emmanuel Paquette has a Q & A with French publisher Antoine Gallimard -- who warns: "Amazon veut tuer la concurrence" ('Amazon wants to kill (the) competition').
But don't worry: he bashes Apple, too, noting he refused to go along with iBooks -- not for financial reasons but as a matter of principle ("Nous avons refusé de travailler avec Apple sur sa librairie iBooks non pour des raisons financières, mais pour une question de principe").
He is amusingly dismissive of Amazon's forays into publishing (and touts the fact that: "Nous pouvons être une aide morale pour un auteur, voire un banquier" -- i.e. traditional publishers like Gallimard still provide 'moral support' -- and are willing to act like a bank, even extending credit lines to authors).
But they obviously haven't figured out the e-book formula yet: he notes that even the best-sellers, like David Foenkinos' Delicacy, have only had 'marginal sales' (a pathetic 4,900 copies shifted, in that case).
In the Wall Street Journal Lanie Goodman profiles Emmanuel Carrère -- writing mainly about his recent Lives Other Than My Own (published, sigh, in the UK as Other Lives But Mine).
She does reveal that the prize-winning Limonov -- see, for example, the FranceLivre information page -- is: "slated for release in English by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux in September 2013".
Nonagenarian Time for Outrage !-author Stéphane Hessel (who will be at this year's PEN World Voices Festival) has a new book(let) out, The Path to Hope (with Edgar Morin); Guernica has an excerpt, The Crisis of the Democracies, and, impressively, you can download a free e-version -- pdf or ePub -- of the whole book at Other Press.
At Tablet David Samuels has a Q & A with Ben Marcus, Keeper of the Flame.
They open the piece claiming Marcus 'may be the best Jewish writer in America' -- a bit confusing when Samuels notes in the actual interview: "I never saw you as a 'Jewish writer' before, but I think that was my problem with the genre".
But there is lots of discussion of that apparently burning labeling-issue .....
(I know, I know -- it's Tablet, it's their thing (their motto: "A new read on Jewish life™" -- ™ !) .....
They've announced that Dutch author Guus Kuijer will receive the 2012 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award -- a children's book award that pays out the jaw-dropping sum of SEK 5 million, over US$743,000 at the current exchange rate.
The Book Of Everything has been translated -- see, for example, the Arthur A. Levine Books publicity page -- but doesn't appear to currently be readily available at Amazon -- other than in a Kindle edition.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the first volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard's six-volume epic, My Struggle, forthcoming in the US from Archipelago -- and already available in the UK as A Death in the Family.