In The Guardian Julian Barnes recounts My life as a bibliophile.
He seems to have long been a pretty diehard one, recognizing (just) how far his obsession went (goes ?):
I also bought books it made no sense to buy, either at the time or in retrospect -- like all three volumes (in first edition, with dust-wrappers, and definitely unread by the previous owner) of Sir Anthony Eden's memoirs.
Where was the sense in that ?
(Several Barnes titles are under review at the complete review, including his Man Booker-winning The Sense of an Ending.)
In The Guardian Stuart Jeffries has a solid profile of John Banville: a life in writing.
Banville's Ancient Light is just out in the UK (get your copy at Amazon.co.uk) but only due out in the US in October (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com) -- though look for that date to be pushed up if it gets Man Booker-shortlisted, as Banville (tongue quite deeply in cheek, no doubt) is certain it will:
"I think they may as well call the whole thing off and give me the prize now !"
(Several Banville titles are under review at the complete review, including his Man Booker-winning The Sea.)
The second volume in Deborah Harkness' 'All Souls Trilogy', Shadow of Night, is due out shortly (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), so I've finally gotten around to the first volume: the most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Discovery of Witches.
They've announced the 2012 PEN Translation Fund Grant Recipients, as the Fund's Advisory Board -- Susan Bernofsky, Barbara Epler, Edwin Frank, Michael Reynolds, Richard Sieburth, Eliot Weinberger, and Natasha Wimmer, and chair Michael F. Moore -- has selected a dozen projects from a field of 130 applicants.
Among the projects: two Urdu novels -- one of which has this fancy web page.
In the Wall Street Journal Alexandra Alter reports on: 'Digital-book publishers and retailers now know more about their readers than ever before. How that's changing the experience of reading' in Your E-Book Is Reading You.
Publishing has lagged far behind the rest of the entertainment industry when it comes to measuring consumers' tastes and habits.
TV producers relentlessly test new shows through focus groups; movie studios run films through a battery of tests and retool them based on viewers' reactions.
But in publishing, reader satisfaction has largely been gauged by sales data and reviews -- metrics that offer a postmortem measure of success but can't shape or predict a hit.
That's beginning to change as publishers and booksellers start to embrace big data, and more tech companies turn their sights on publishing.
Fascinating though that data might be, I must say I'm pleased that my e-reader is not Wi-Fi, 3G, or otherwise data-collecting-and-passing-on enabled .....
In the Financial Times Nick Rice looks at the continuing ties between 'financiers' and literary prizes and festivals, in Buy the book, as:
Although anti-establishment attitudes are common in the literary world, such protests are still surprisingly rare.
As anti-capitalist demonstrators camp out in bustling financial centres, financiers and organisers of literary festivals and book awards have continued to engage with one another.
Sadly, of course, literary folk can rarely afford to decline even the dirtiest money, whether in the form of festival invitations or actual prize-cash.
As I mentioned yesterday, I just reviewed a Bosnian book (in German translation); publication, by Seifert Verlag, of that translation was made possible with help of traduki, which is a pretty impressive sounding regional coöperative undertaking.
As they explain, they cover quite a bit of territory:
traduki is a European network for literature and books, which involves Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Switzerland.
And: "The program gives a special focus to the translators".
See also, for example, the forthcoming translations they're involved with -- a pretty impressive and varied list.
This seems to be working pretty well; maybe such regional arrangements are a good foundation to start spreading literature-in-translation.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o addressed the just-held South African Sunday Times Literary Awards, and they now print his speech, Linguistic Power-sharing: Culture and the freedom of expression.
Some fun details about his first literary honors ("I am sure I could have done with something less honorary and more monetary"), and then he again makes the case for the revitalization of the use of African languages, concerned that:
The African middle class is running from their languages.
In the process they perpetrate child abuse on a national scale.
For to deny a child, any child, their right to mother tongue, to bring up such a child as a monolingual English speaker in a society where the majority speak African languages, to alienate that child from a public they may be called to serve, is nothing short of child abuse.
To have mother tongue, whatever it is, and add other languages to it is empowerment.
But to know all the other languages and not one’s own is enslavement.
I hope Africa chooses empowerment over enslavement.
And, of course, I completely agree with his closing words:
I still like what Mao once said: let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend.
So also languages: Let a hundred languages contend and a hundred flowers will bloom.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Santiago Gamboa's Necropolis, the first of his works to be translated into English (and just out from Europa Editions).
Certainly an author I'd like to see more by -- Hotel Pekín looks particularly intriguing (see the Schavelzon information page or the Seix Barral publicity page; get your copy of the Spanish original at Amazon.com).
After publishing 16 books of Korean lit, mostly collections of poems, White Pine Press' founding editor and poet Dennis Maloney says he is now interested in writers and translators from Korea's younger generation.
A representative from Dalkey Archive Press, who reportedly also have ambitious from-the-Korean plans (see my previous mention), was also there; great to see KLTI working so energetically to push Korean fiction abroad (and compare that with the recent Japanese fizzle (see my mention) ...).
See also the index of Korean literature under review at the complete review.
I'd love to cover more .....
At Dawn's InpaperMagzine, Claire Chambers offers a Who's who: South Asian writers making waves.
Disappointingly restricted to English-language fiction (god forbid anything in translation might make waves ...), it's a decent if very basic overview.
See also the index of South Asian literature under review at the complete review.
The Zimbabwe International Book Fair -- once (but quite a while ago ...) the leading one in Africa -- is scheduled to run 30 July to 4 August this year, and there are encouraging signs that they are getting at least part of their act together -- so, for example, there's a Zimbabwe International Book Fair Association website .....
Unfortunately the deadline for sending in proposals for presentations has passed, but from the suggested topics they list one hopes that some interesting subjects will be up for discussion; the theme of this year's fair is 'African Literature in The Global and Digital Era'.
As reported by Junbungaku (and confirmed by Japanese-language reports), the Japanese Literature Publishing Project (JLPP) has been shut down.
This government-financed organization was set up to: "to promote the awareness and popularization of modern Japanese literature to the world"; in practice this meant subsidizing (in a variety of ways) the foreign translation of Japanese works; the JLPP also selected the works they would support.
The decision to shutter the project was apparently based on the thinking that this was a waste of money for a task the private sector could do just as well.
I have often complained about the JLPP -- while reviewing at least seventeen of the books published under its auspices -- but my complaint has never been against their mission, which I wholeheartedly endorse.
Rather, it was their hamfisted approach to ... everything.
Never mind the often peculiar selection of texts they opted to support -- I'm thrilled to see (practically) anything available in translation -- but often they were simply taken advantage of by disinterested publishers who did, nominally, 'publish' these works in English, but did nothing to help them find readers.
Indeed, as is the case with many subsidized translations, JLPP-supported books were often little more than a strange sort of (national) vanity publishing -- a far more widespread phenomenon than you might think.
The books deserve better -- but so do readers, and with their peculiar selection of titles, sometime insistence on hardcover editions (rather than the more sensible paperback), etc. the JLPP did not help their cause much among foreign readers.
Unfortunately, it appears such national agencies remain vital in assisting in making translations available (not just in English, but certainly that is the market everyone is most interested in).
It's shocking how little is translated from Japanese into English, especially recent fiction, and without the JLPP backing there will be a steep decline in the number of 'literary' works that get translated.
One hopes that the government will quickly realize that a JLPP-like institution would be money very well spent (but one hopes also that they take a completely different approach to it next time around).
At Book from Finland Johanna Sillanpää reports on: "the biggest international meeting of translators of Finnish literature of all time", in In other words.
They're already prepping for their role as 'Guest of Honour' at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2014 -- and what is particularly impressive here is how many authors showed up to add their input.
In The Guardian Stuart Jeffries has a profile of Sven Lindqvist: a life in writing.
I'm not a huge non-fiction fan, but I've always found his work rather interesting -- and I'm certainly curious about the forthcoming (but long overdue) translation, The Myth of Wu Tao-tzu (pre-order your copy at Amazon.co.uk).
They've announced that the (South African) Sunday Times Prize for Fiction this year goes to Lost Ground by Michiel Heyns (who, aside from writing novels, is also the prize-winning translator of Marlene van Niekerk's Agaat ...); see, for example, Andile Ndlovu's report, Witty Heyns wins award.
Lost Ground doesn't have a US publisher yet (this should help), but you can (try to) get the Jonathan Ball edition at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; see also the Jonathan Ball publicity page.
The Heimrad-Bäcker-Preis isn't particularly big -- even though at €8,000 the main prize is more remunerative than the American National Book Award, Pulitzer, or National Book Critics Circle Award -- but it's a nice thing author Bäcker did with the proceeds he got from selling his literary estate to the literary archives of the Austrian national library (see here), funding such a prize.
His work was unusual -- see my review of his transcript, recently published by Dalkey Archive Press -- and the prize goes to similarly creative authors; a few weeks ago they announced this year's winner, and via I learn that the prize will be presented to Urs Allemann.
He is the author of the it's-worth-a-look-despite-the-off-putting-title Babyf**ker, brought out in a bilingual edition by Les Figues.
He gets the prize 25 June at the StifterHaus in Linz -- The Centre for the Literature and Language of Upper Austria (and pretty impressive-looking at that).
In The Argentina Independent Jess Cotton considers Top 5 Argentine Literary Reviews -- "literary journals that have acquired a mythical status in the cultural imagination".
So, yes, it's more of an historical overview -- one of these closed shop in 1927 ... -- but still of some interest.
And Proa is still around.
At Publishing Perspectives Michael Stein finds: 'Unless a writer is translated into one of the big languages -- English, French, German, Spanish -- then it becomes very hard to get translated into the smaller languages', in EU Lit Prize Winners Dish on Tyranny of Big Languages, as:
Three winners of the EU Prize for for Literature gathered together at a panel last month at Book World Prague to speak about the award, the difficulties of getting their work translated, and the role of agents.
Disappointing, of course, also that prizes such as this one have come to play such an important role.
(I realize that I remain a complete naïf when it comes to the publishing 'business', but even after all these years I fail to see why publishers have to rely on 'literary' agents, translators, or prizes and why they can't actually find this stuff themselves.
All I ever hear about is them listening to other people -- publishers, agents, translators, etc. -- when it should always and only be about the text.
And, yes, I know they all can't read any foreign languages (only a slight exaggeration, in the Anglo-Saxon publishing world, apparently), but still .....)
Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury has no intention of setting his next novel in the Arab Spring.
From behind his desk at the Institute for Palestinian Studies, he explains that for him, literature and reportage are not interchangeable.
"I don't need to prove my point of view through literature," he says.
"Literature is much more serious than that, much deeper."
Always good to see an author taking literature properly seriously !