At his La république des livres weblog Pierre Assouline reports on L'angoisse de Milan Kundera -- the anguish of Milan Kundera -- quoting at length from a recent speech Kundera gave when he accepted the Prix de la BnF (the French national library) a few weeks ago.
C’est à cause de cette angoisse que, depuis plusieurs années déjà, j’ajoute à tous mes contrats, partout, une clause stipulant que mes romans ne peuvent être publiés que sous la forme traditionnelle du livre.
I.e. for several years, he's insisted on a clause in his contracts stipulating that his books only appear in 'traditional' (i.e. printed) form -- no e-book versions.
And, indeed, you won't find any Kundera titles on Kindle (etc.).
Not many authors are still holding out from e-formats -- and, indeed, presumably few have enough clout to be able to do so.
Kundera can afford to -- though one has to wonder: to what end ?
The British Library has announced a major project:
Its plans will digitise more than 500,000 pages from the archives of the East India Company and India Office, in addition to 25,000 pages of medieval Arabic manuscripts -- all of which will be made freely available online for the first time.
Two female authors in Japan have each won one of Japan's honored literary prizes.
The 147th Akutagawa Prize, given to up-and-coming fiction authors, was received by Maki Kashimada for her story Meido Meguri ("Touring the land of the dead").
Mizuki Tsujimura, writer of Kagi no Nai Yume o Miru ("Having a dream without a key"), was the 147th recipient of the Naoki Prize, awarded to semi-recognized fiction writers.
This is the kind of story I only mention because of its sheer ridiculousness: in the Egypt Independent Amir Zaky reports that A young Egyptian writer retires, as:
Kareem al-Sayyad, a 31-year old Egyptian writer, recently announced his retirement through a Facebook event, saying that he would devote himself to studying music and proceeding with his academic career.
The idea of 'retiring' at thirty-one from something like writing (via Facebook announcement, no less ...) suggests a basic misunderstanding of what being a 'writer' is.
For al-Sayyad, being a writer was apparently not about writing but about being a (public) writer -- a role, or job, like any other.
In fact, lots of 'real' writers often spend years or even decades not publishing anything -- but don't officially announce their retirements because they know that, hey, maybe, at some point ... (and because they know that it's not necessarily about publishing, or being part of the literary establishment, etc. but rather that it's simply about the writing ...).
Sayyad says, "The current state of the literary scene is very regressive.
It depends on compliments and personal relations, and in the end you find yourself writing for your friends."
This, as well as personal reasons, was behind his early retirement.
What's wrong with writing for your friends ?
Or yourself ?
Or no one ?
Who cares about the 'literary scene' ?
Though come to think of it, there is a lot of local 'talent' here in New York I wouldn't mind seeing opting for this kind of early retirement .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Philippe Claudel's The Investigation, just out in the US.
MacLehose Press is bringing this out in the UK next year -- and, of course, the big question is whether they will use the same title as the US edition does; US and UK publishers were unable to agree on titles for Claudel's two previous works to be translated ......
(Given that this is the third book with this title under review at the complete review -- there's also the novel by Juan José Saer and the play by Peter Weiss) I have my doubts .....)
[Updated - 20 July: The good Man Booker folk picked today to unveil their new look for their site.
Professionally done as are so many things in publishing, all the old links no longer work (why forward when you can just be lazy and not bother ? old articles, press releases, discussion forums -- who needs 'em ? flush them into that great cyber-void, and good riddance, right ?).
I'm sure all the people who were, for example, participating on the discussion boards really appreciate that; maybe those fora are still somehwere on the site, but I'll be damned if I can find them.
This isn't the first time they've completely overhauled the site (and thrown away a ton of useful pages and links), and from the look of this it shouldn't be the last; I've updated links where I could below.]
They're announcing the longlist for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction on 25 July -- next Wednesday -- and so there's been a bit of speculation about what the list will look like.
Since they disappointingly cut down [link deleted; no longer available at site] the longlist to a mandated 'Man Booker Dozen' -- twelve or thirteen titles -- in 2007 at least the number of titles to consider is predictable.
(Recall that before then there was apparently no limit, and the years 2001 (when it was still just the Booker) through 2006 saw longlists of 24 (!), 20, 23, 22, 17, and 19 respectively. Ah, the good old days .....)
Yesterday, Canongate Books publisher Jamie Byng tweeted that:
Peter Stoddart, the chair of the Man Booker judges this year, said they had 145 novels to read. Sadly he was otherwise way too discrete!
[Much as one wants to make allowances for tweets, it's difficult for me not to express dumbfounded wonder that the head of a major UK publisher, who presumably has (had ?) some titles in the running for this prize neither spells the Times Literary Supplement editor and Man Booker chair of the judges Peter Stothard's name (even close to ...) correctly, nor uses the correct (spelling of) discreet .....
Despairing of the publishing industry in general, I'm trying my best not to read anything into that.]
In previous years judges have ... made claims that turned out to be higher than the actual totals, so 145 titles shouldn't be considered the official tally yet, but if true it would be an all-time high, as best I can tell.
Given the Man Booker's absurd limits on submissions (publishers are limited to two titles each, though titles can be called in; books by previous winners and previously shortlisted authors may also be submitted without counting against the publisher-quota), that's an extraordinary number -- the highest on record, as far as I can tell (and seven more than in each of the past two years).
What we don't know, however, is how many of those titles were called in.
(Updated - 20 July): The (revised) official site now offers Booker Prize Foundation Literary Director Ion Trewin on the upcoming longlist selection for the 2012 prize -- and he reveals that: "Publishers entered 147 novels".
It's safe to assume that that is now the official books-considered-for-the-longlist number, not 145 -- but there is no question that Trewin is lying fudging the facts in claiming 147 titles were entered by publishers: that number is surely ten (or twenty ...) lower, with the 147-book total being filled out by called in titles.
Looks like we'll have to wait until next week to get the actual numbers.
(As to the actual titles -- the names of those 147 entered books --: dream on -- they ain't saying .....)
The total number of books in the running for the prize, and the number of these that were 'called in' (i.e, not submitted by the publishers) since 2001 are:
I take this opportunity also to raise my greatest objection to the Man Booker Prize: that they do not reveal the names of the titles in the running for the prize
I find this completely inexplicable (well, sure, I understand: publishers love it (and insist on it), because this way they can lie to many, many of their authors and claim they submitted their books without doing so -- but that's hardly a good or honorable reason (yes, yes, I know: we're talking publishers here: 'good' ? 'honorable' ? 'professional' ? that's all far too much to ask or expect), and I'm stunned this prize is taken as seriously as it is, given that we don't know what books are actually considered for the prize.
(With the longlist reduced to a mere twelve or thirteen -- along with the few should-be-automatically-submitted (the latest by previous winners and previously shortlisted authors) -- it's a very small percentage of the total submitted (and called-in) titles that are ever made public.)
There don't seem to be too many longlist-predictions out there yet.
Among the few:
- At the official site's discussion forum there's a Man Booker 2012 Longlist - Predictions ? thread -- pretty feeble so far
[Updated - 20 July: Yeah, they just killed this with the site-'update'; as a reader pointed out to us there was actually also a more active prediction-thread.
But, yeah, they killed that too.]
- Winstonsdad's Blog also offers Booker longlist 2012 guesses (though note that at least one of them is wrong: Shehan Karunatilaka's Chinaman's April 2011 UK publication date meant it was eligible last year, but not this one)
Of some interest and use is the goodreads Man Booker Prize Eligible 2012 list, which at least gives you an idea of what books might be in the running.
(I haven't vetted this list, so no guarantees that all these titles are, in fact, eligible.)
Interesting to note, however, that as of this writing the list only comes to 140 titles -- five short of the number the Man Booker judges apparently considered .....
Having barely seen, much less read any of the eligible titles, I'm in no position to make any guesses beyond the gut feeling ones (Banville, yes; Amis -- though I doubt they bothered submitting it, taking their chances on it getting called in (which I can't imagine it was) -- no, etc.).
Six of the winners are translations into English. Ádám Bodor’s Sinistra District will be published by New Directions (New York), the publisher of several books by László Krasznahorkai and Dezső Kosztolányi. Miklós Szentkuthy’s Marginalia on Casanova will hopefully be the first in a series to be published by Contra Mundum Press (New York), who intend to come out with more works by Szentkuthy in the years to come.
Miklós Mészöly’s Death of an Athlete, a 1966 book by one of the greatest postwar Hungarian masters of prose, undiscovered as yet by the English-speaking audience, will be published by Bluecoat (Liverpool).
A collection of poems by Endre Kukorelly (St Louis: JK Publishing), a major poet of the mid-generation; a memoir by Switzerland-based writer Yudit Kiss, entitled Summer My Father Died (London: Telegram); and a novella by writer, essayist and visual culture scholar Zsófia Bán (New York: Epiphany) are also among the books to be published in English with the support of the Office.
I'm really excited about the Szentkuthy (and really like what Contra Mundum Press is doing), and have no doubt New Directions exhibits their usual sure touch in picking the Bodor.
Good to hear also that:
The publishers, who will receive 40 to 60 per cent of the translation costs as well as professional support, are obliged to publish the books within two years.
While e-books have certainly taken off in the US and UK, there are still many markets where they are just beginning to be widely available.
In The Hindu Anuj Srivas reports that Penguin launches e-books (with the other major English-language Indian publishers soon to follow suit, no doubt).
While Indian readers will presently have to buy from international retailers, thereby paying a higher price, Penguin Books India hopes that will change soon.
Amazing that buyers still have to go through foreign retailers -- they're e-books, for god's sake; anyone can sell them, anywhere .....
Meanwhile, at Reuters Jeremy Wagstaff and Mari Saito report that Rakuten, Japan's Amazon, steals a march on its nemesis, as Rakuten is launching "its Kobo e-reader and e-book service in Japan on Thursday" -- yes, Japan is another market that has seen only limited e-book retailing.
Rakuten's secret ?
Print publishers, analysts say, may be afraid of losing a lucrative business, but they're even more afraid of Amazon. And, says Mikitani, "although we are an aggressive company by Japanese standards, we are still a Japanese company."
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ranga Rao's Fowl-Filcher -- the first original novel published by Penguin Books (India), back in 1987 when they were just getting started.
idreambooks.com -- variously referred to as 'iDreamBooks' and 'I Dream Books' in press reports, but only as 'Dream' at the site (and, confusingly, the official blog of the site calls itself: 'The official blog of 'Dream'(www.dreamonus.com)' ...) -- has now launched.
They offer: "Book Reviews by Critics" -- or, as they explain:
We aggregate book reviews by critics to help you dicover the very best of what's coming out each week.
In short, we are like rottentomatoes.com for books.
(Note, however, that that official blog describes them as: "an online book giveaway web service for new titles" .....)
Great to see another aggregator out there (there are too few), and this certainly looks like it might have some potential; I'm curious how it develops.
The bestselling novels that Bhagat wrote delivered an epiphany: one need not be well-versed in literature or display sophistication in oneís use of English to write a book.
This led to writers coming out of the woodworks.
Most had no literary background, no agents and no big publishing houses to back them.
But their books became quick bestsellers, much to the delight of small publishers like Srishti, which entered the fiction market in 2006 and cheerfully accepts unsolicited manuscripts.
Interesting to note also that the market seems to be growing at a good pace, and:
Just three years ago, a bestseller was a book that sold approximately 5,000 copies but today, to be considered a bestseller, a book has to sell upwards of 10,000 copies, which shows a robustly growing market.
They also write about Penguin's attempts to break into this market, with Penguin Metro Reads -- touted as: "books that don't weigh you down with complicated stories" .....
Check out also their current titles.
I am curious about these ... but do have my doubts.
This weekend saw the (very limited) US release of the film versions of two novels under review at the complete review: Benoît Jacquot's take on Chantal Thomas' Farewell, My Queen (Virginie Ledoyen plays along, so I'm sold ...) and Jens Lapidus' Easy Money (which will also re-appear in a Hollywood re-make, sigh ...).
The box office take wasn't exactly overwhelming (though they did okay on a per screen basis): Farewell, My Queen took all of $72,100 on four screens; Easy Money did $23,800 on a mere two.
Reviews of the film version of Farewell, My Queen include:
A neglected manuscript by the late Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata turns out to be an unpublished novella adapted from a Hungarian play.
Curators were aware the manuscript existed but had not studied it in any detail.
All they knew was that it was an adaptation of Liliom, a work by Hungarian author Molnar Ferenc (1878-1952) which served as a basis for the Broadway musical and movie Carousel.
At 22 handwritten pages and as an adaptation it doesn't appear to be a major work (though you figure somebody would have checked this out more closely at some point ...)., but anything by the master is certainly welcome.
The Guardian has just come out with its list of The big novels of 2012, a modestly useful overview of many of the 'big' (i.e. published by major houses, guaranteed lots of press coverage anyway) novels of the year -- many of which are already available (and quite a few of which are under review at the complete review).
(Note, however (though they do not) that their: "guide to an extraordinary year in fiction" is inexplicably restricted to novels written in English -- there's not a translated work in sight here.)
Just a few weeks ago The Millions brought out their slightly more comprehensive list of the Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2012 Book Preview (which is not restricted to novels (or to originally-written-in-English works)) -- "8,700 words strong and encompassing 76 titles" -- which complements their beginning-of-the-year list (which, you'll recall, was: "8,400 words strong and encompassing 81 titles"), the Most Anticipated: The Great 2012 Book Preview (which was billed, at the time, as being: "the only 2012 book preview you will ever need"; apparently they reconsidered, since they saw need to add that 'Second-Half 2012 Book Preview' ...).
Meanwhile, Scott Esposito continues to occasionally update his more eclectic and still a bit thin (but still the most interesting of the lot) list of Interesting New Books -- 2012 at Conversational Reading.
(The list that I suspect I will find the most useful is the 2012 Translation Database at Three Percent, listing (more or less -- re-translations are not included, etc.) all the new translations appearing in the US this year; unfortunately, this year's list is still not yet available ... (but keep an eye on the Translation Database page, and keep your fingers crossed that a first draft appears soon).)
Author Larry McMurtry also runs the mega-bookstore, Booked Up, but 10-11 August he's holding The Last Book Sale, where over two hundred thousand titles are going to be auctioned off (over 1400 shelf-lots of about 150 books each).
The auction-site has some lot details, and there's also a list of The McMurtry 100 (warning ! dreaded pdf format !), as they asked: "Mr. Larry McMurtry to pick out 100 books to give bidders an idea of the type of quality books which will be offered within the shelf-lots".
At his store-site, McMurtry explains the reason for pushing out the books is: "Because we believe that in the book world migration is healthy".
At Muslimah Media Watch they report on Censorship and contemporary Hausa literature, with a focus on littattafan soyayya -- the 'Onitsha market literature' of the north (of Nigeria), centered in Kano.
They report on the efforts to censor and control local literary production -- but, at least for now:
Despite the precariousness of being under this constant threat of censorship however, the popular novels knowns littattafan soyayya continue to thrive today, providing a source of entertainment for a wide and growing audience.
(Disappointingly, I haven't come across any examples of littattafan soyayya in translation yet; there are, however, numerous works of Onitsha market literature under review at the complete review; Kurt Thometz's collection, Life Turns Man Up and Down is a good place to start.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of João Ubaldo Ribeiro's House of the Fortunate Buddhas -- his contribution to Brazilian publisher Objetiva's Plenos Pecados-series on the seven deadly sins (in his case, the best of all: lust)
(There's actually another one of these under review at the site: Luis Fernando Verissimo's take on gluttony, The Club of Angels.)
I mentioned the contest for the title of 'World Book Capital 2014' a few days ago, and now UNESCO has announced that Port Harcourt named "World Book Capital 2014" -- beating out Oxford, among others (scroll down here for all eleven finalists).
(Yerevan, of course, is the current World Book Capital City, and it is Bangkok's turn next year; given that the only previous African city to hold the title was ... Alexandria, in 2002, the announcement perhaps does not come entirely as a surprise.)
As they note:
The city of Port Harcourt was chosen "on account of the quality of its programme, in particular its focus on youth and the impact it will have on improving Nigeria's culture of books, reading, writing and publishing to improve literacy rates," according to the Selection Committee.
There's certainly good potential here, and I hope the Nigerians take advantage of it, and the time they have to prepare.
Via BooksLive I see that the Lumina Foundation has announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the fifteen-title strong longlist for the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa.
Selected from "Four hundred and two (402) entries from 26 African countries", they at least seem to have gotten a decent sampling of African literature -- though the requirement that: "For a book to be eligible, it must be written either in English or French" kind of limits things (the prize honors 'Literature in Africa', a continent of some fifty nations where it's apparently unthinkable that anyone write in any language other than English or French ...).
At least it's not just a short story prize, like the much more touted Caine Prize (and, at $20,000, hands out a bit more money (the Caine winner gets £10,000), but they could be a bit clearer on exactly what they're trying to honor: as it stands, they claim that: "Any excellently written book by an African in any genre may qualify for this award" (but don't forget that caveat: only if it's written in English or French ...).
Still, good to see a continent-spanning (sort of) book prize of this sort.
One might think there is nothing lower than the 'literary' agent (well, in the literary field; there are of course real estate agents, those employed in financial services, politicians, .... oh, the extra-literary list is endless), but the literary agents of the old Eastern European variety make for a particularly sordid, sorry lot: at hlo they now review Szőnyei Tamás' Titkos írás. Állambiztonsági szolgálat és irodalmi élet, 1956-1990 ('Secret Writing. The State Security Services and Literary Life, 1956-1990'), which appears to give some insight into the nastiness; see their piece on Literary spies.
They've announced the jury for the 2013 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, which will be headed by K. Satchidanandan.
(And if it helps make more of Satchidanandan's work readily available in the US/UK, I wouldn't complain either .....)
In the Irish Times Arminta Wallace profiles Australian author Alex Miller.
When I read the title of the piece -- A well kept secret in a world of hype -- I guffawed (yes, guffawed; I often find myself doing that when reading literary coverage in newspapers).
Alex Miller, one of Australia's most famous authors (a two-time Miles Franklin Award-winner), a well-kept secret ?
In what strange universe ?
But seeing as how neither Autumn Laing -- his most recent work -- nor most of his fiction seems to have a US publisher .....