With New Zealand the guest of honour at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair (and, yes, that official site doesn't quite measure up to last year's Fabulous Iceland (which is still worth visiting)) there will be considerable mention and discussion of Kiwi literature in the coming months.
At Stuff.co.nz they get a bit introspective, as Sophie Speer wonders What's so wrong with NZ fiction ? as she finds that: 'Kiwis love NZ books, but they're not popular' (a not uncommon national-literature problem).
Among the statistics:
According to Nielsen BookScan, fiction -- both New Zealand-published and international titles -- comprised 24 per cent of the book market last year, and New Zealand- published fiction accounted for 4 per cent of that.
No. 137 in the Independent on Sunday's 'Invisible Ink' series has Christopher Fowler write about Pierre Boulle -- the prolific author whose legacy now finds: "Only two books are in print."
Of course, those two are The Bridge on the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes .....
But he did write a lot of other stuff, and terrible though most of it is -- grand ideas but really rushed presentation -- I do have a bit of a soft spot for his fiction -- and two other titles are also under review at the complete review: Desperate Games and Trouble in Paradise (and, yes, you can expect reviews of additional titles too -- The Good Leviathan, anyone ?).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Franck Thilliez's thriller, Syndrome E.
I had high(er) hopes for this (in a translation by Mark Polizzotti, who re-did Bouvard and Pécuchet so nicely !), but .....
And I have no idea how this gets a starred review in Publishers Weekly.
"The city lacks a browsing serendipity," believes Ahalya Naidu Momaya of Literary Angels, a group that promotes a book culture.
"The lack of bookstores and libraries does not allow citizens to chance upon good books.
Ah, yes, browsing seredipity ... that's something every city needs.
In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung Ibrahim Farghali -- author of, for example, The Smiles of the Saints -- believes Die arabische Literatur hat mehr zu bieten (i.e. 'Arab literature has more to offer' -- meaning: than what's currently on offer in 'Western' translations).
This is the kind of article that will probably appear in translation at the invaluable Qantara.de in a couple of weeks, but is nevertheless worth pointing to already; some interesting observations.
In The Hindu Tabish Khair has a Q & A with Pankaj Mishra, Return of the native -- with some reactions to the (wide spectrum of) reactions to Mishra's new book, From the Ruins of Empire, has been getting.
By the way: the American publisher's subtitle for Mishra's book is: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia (get your copy at Amazon.com), the British publisher's: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia (get your copy at Amazon.co.uk) .....
Prolific Tamil author Ra Ki Rangarajan -- apparently popularly known as 'Ki Ra' (கி. ரா.) -- has passed away -- noteworthy, among other reasons, because he sounds like he was truly impressively prolific: as Sudhangan writes in the Deccan Chronicle:
In his 43 years' stint in Kumudam, he became a household name among Tamil readers.
He wrote more than 3,500 short stories and over 1,000 novels that included several translated works like Papillon and the Sydney [sic] Sheldon novels.
One problem with being so prolific ?
As the Times of Indiareports:
Ra Ki, as he was popularly known, had been a virtual writing machine, week after week churning out stories for Kumudam.
He wrote under 10 different pseudonyms, only to regret it later, when recognition and awards refused to come his way as people thought the 10 were different writers.
(Don't feel too bad: over the long term he does seem to have done okay, recognition and awards-wise, despite all the pen-names ....)
Everything sold but the fiction.
Everyone who deals in fiction has plenty, and more is spilling onto the market from the sale of the Serendipity Books stock now being dispersed on the West Coast.
Many people asked me if I was sad to see so many books go.
I wasn't -- mainly I was irritated to discover that I still had 30,000 novels to sell.
I'm always amazed that anyone would be interested in anything other than fiction .....
In The Scotsman David Robinson profiles Ian McEwan, author, whose Sweet Tooth is out soon -- sooner in the UK (get your copy at Amazon.co.uk), not quite so soon -- only November -- in the US (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com).
(Updated - 19 August): Another day, another profile: here is Rachel Cooke's from The Observer.
In The Guardian Ahdaf Soueif makes that familiar ugly argument, In times of crisis, fiction has to take a back seat -- almost as popular a topic for opinion pieces as arguing that the best art arises out of crisis and turmoil .....
Sure, her argument isn't quite so simplistic, but I still take issue with many of her claims.
(Of course, I think nothing (well, little ...) is as important as fiction in the first place .....)
While to this day, those in power in Algeria obstruct an honest, uncensored processing of the past, Algerian literature repeatedly tries to create a space where collective hurt and the experience of violence can be played out.
This is a positive thing.
They've announced that Jury nominates 20 novels for longlist for the German Book Prize 2012.
They selected the twenty from 162 titles; disappointingly, they, like the Man Booker Prize, do not reveal what the 162 submitted and called-in titles were.
(Note also that they managed to consider more than 10 per cent more titles than the Man Booker Prize judges did for their (admittedly longer) longlist.....)
There are quite a few familiar names here -- but the big story is undoubtably the stunning success of Suhrkamp: with five titles they make up a quarter of the longlist.
(This, yet again, makes the case against publisher-submissions (and limited ones at that): just like with the Man Booker, publishers were limited to two submissions apiece for the German Book Prize -- meaning Suhrkamp had at least three called-in titles in the mix.)
And while Suhrkamp did exceptionally well, major literary publishers Rowohlt (one title) and S.Fischer (shut out) did shamefully poorly.
The editor who has brought more than 200 foreign science fiction novels to China has decided to introduce the most popular Chinese-language sci-fi trilogy of the last three decades to English readers.
Yao Haijun, deputy director of Science Fiction World (SFW), the world's most popular science fiction periodical in terms of circulation, signed a contract to make award-winning author Liu Cixin's [刘慈欣] Three Body [三体] trilogy the first full-length sci-fi work to be translated for an overseas audience, marking a giant leap for the Chinese sci-fi industry.
I've never seen any CEPI&EC Ltd. publications, but I hope they send me a copy .....
As to the likely/possible success, they're realistic in understanding:
"Whether Americans can understand Chinese sci-fi remains a big question.
America is still the center of the world's sci-fi writing, and we are actually trying to walk from the edge to the center," Liu said.
Far too little genre-fiction of this sort os published from many languages, so it would be great to see this.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Wajdi al-Ahdal's A Land without Jasmine.
There's not much Yemeni literature available in translation, but al-Ahdal looks well worth following; this is the only work of his available in English, but his قوارب جبلية has been translated into a number of other languages and I'm sure we'll be hearing more from him.
Australia's Dependable Laundry Solutions have teamed up with the local State Library and are offering A novel approach to a major problem, with Laundry Reads.
What is/are 'Laundry Reads' ?
The Laundry Reads project supplies books to selected laundromats to encourage community users to broaden their reading horizons and discover, or rediscover, the joys of reading -- in a novel twist, visitors to the selected laundromats will be able to enjoy a book while they wash and dry their laundry.
A recent poll by the Gilani Research Foundation put Amjad Islam Amjad as the most popular Pakistani author, followed by Ashfaq Ahmed and Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi.
No doubt you expected nothing different, right ?
(Just kidding -- in fact, outside the sub-continent it would be fairly astonishing if you had ever heard of any of these writers.)
As the title of the Express Tribune article this quote comes from suggests, however, maybe indeed In literature, you 'can't rank authors'.
(Though the poll at least serves a small purpose in bringing these names to the attention of those who don't follow Pakistani literature that closely .....)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Giorgio Scerbanenco's 1966 novel, A Private Venus, finally available in English.
This is the first in Scerbanenco's Duca Lamberti-quartet; until now, only the second in the series has been available in English (translated more than thirty years ago ...).
To say that translation of this is overdue would be putting it mildly.
(I had the good fortune of first encountering these in German translation, years ago; Alfred Andersch's raves convinced me to have a look, and I was not disappointed.)
Indeed, it's hard to argue with Peter Rozovsky when he now writes at Detectives Beyond Borders:
In short, the first-ever English translation of his 1966 novel A Private Venus (Venere Privata) has to be the year's biggest event yet for readers of translated crime fiction
Scerbanenco's towering reputation as the father of Italian noir should be enough to have all you Massimo Carlotto, Carlo Lucarelli, etc. fans rushing to get your hands on this, but really, it is one of the major mystery/thriller publications of the year for any interested reader.
The Viet Nam Writers' Association will launch a translation centre next month to help promote Vietnamese literature abroad, according to the association's chairman Huu Thinh.
I look forward to hearing more details; the South-East Asian region (including Thailand, Burma, as well as Laos and Cambodia) is, along with the Central Asian one, one of the huge, almost-nothing-gets-translated-from-here (into English) global deadspots, and it'll be interesting to see if this helps.
Arabic Literature (in English) reports on The 22 Entries for the 2012 Banipal Translation Prize -- and yes ! yes ! yes ! I am most pleased that they reveal all the titles in the running.
(This is the way it should be done, all you literary prizes !
Let us in on who is in the running.
Yes, ultra-secretive Man Booker Prize, I'm looking at you (and all the rest of you prizes, too -- you know who you are).)
Arabic Literature (in English) quotes from the press release:
For the first time, the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature, which runs the prize, decided to reveal the details of the entries, seeing it as an initiative that would encourage wider interest in the prize.
(And the open list immediately proves its worth, by leading to sensible questions and comments from Arabic Literature (in English) about inclusions and omissions ....)
(Still, in the interest of making this information available to the entire interested audience, and of true transparency, it would be kind of nice if that press release were ... available at the official Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation site; last I checked, it -- and the list of the entered titles -- wasn't .....)
Fortunately, Arabic Literature (in English) does list all the entered titles; several of them are under review at the complete review, with more to follow:
Yes, they've announced the winners of the 'Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest' (where, sigh, "'WWW' means 'Wretched Writers Welcome'") -- which: "challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels".
Since I've happily made my way through close to 10,000 pages of Bulwer-Lytton's work (nearly everything except for some of the dramas and poetry, and his England and the English) I think he gets kind of a bum rap with this contest; on the other hand, at least it helps keep his name in circulation .....
In The Myanmar Times Zon Pann Pwint profiles Burmese publishing house Seikku Cho Cho -- and I'm impressed by publisher U San Oo's path to success:
"First I opened a book rental, pawn and grocery shop in my native town of Myanaung in Ayeyarwady Region, but the business was unsuccessful," U San Oo said.
"Then I left for Yangon hoping for a career in the literary world because I was quite unhappy operating a pawn and grocery shop."
I'd kind of like to have a combination book rental/pawn and grocery shop in my neighborhood .....
To coincide with celebrations of Jorge Amado's centenary, Penguin Classics is bringing out two new translations -- by Gregory Rabassa -- of novellas of his (one previously translated, one entirely new), and reviews of these are the most recent additions to the complete review:
NP: What are the most prominent features and attributes of the modern African literature ?
CA: Yes ...
I have stated elsewhere that one cannot cram African literature into a small, neat definition.
I do not see African literature as one unit but as a group of associated units -- in fact the sum total of all the national and ethnic literatures of Africa.
I'm very much looking forward to his soon-forthcoming There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra (even if it's not fiction ...); pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk (and note those very different covers for the US and UK editions -- I much prefer the latter).
In The Scotsman David Robinson profiles Ruth Rendell, writer and author of The Saint Zita Society.
He harps a bit too much on how amazing it is how active she still is, but she has been remarkably consistent over an impressively long career; I haven't picked up anything of hers in ages, but I have a couple of unread books by her on my shelves, and know that I can safely reach for them anytime I need a dependably good pass-time read.
Hermann Hesse passed away fifty years ago (9 August 1962), leading -- at least in the German-language press -- to some (re)appraisals.
Some of these pieces have also been translated into English: at Deutsche Welle Kate Bowen finds Hermann Hesse -- misunderstood but loved, while at Qantara.de Andreas Pflitsch reviews Gunnar Decker's recent Hermann Hesse biography.
In the Babel that is New York City, where nearly 200 languages are spoken and read within the public school system and nearly 40 percent of the population was born abroad, literary tastes among immigrant cultures turn out to be as different as their cuisines.
But what is popular in foreign languages is not always what is selling well back home in Bahrain or Bucharest.
She also looks at the New York city public library systems -- and among the interesting observations is that:
Foreign language books also tend to last twice as long in the library system; they rarely return dog-eared or food-splotched.
She also mentions:
A Lower East Side branch, once in the heart of Little Germany, has a longstanding endowment to buy books in German, now little used.
(That's presumably the Ottendorfer branch.)
As someone who has long lamented the decline in the NYPL's German-language collection (which really started going south fast after the disastrous shut-down of the Donnell Library Center in 2008, and the move of the World Languages Collection to the Mid-Manhattan branch) I'm shocked that there's money out there that they might be able to replenish their embarrassingly bared shelves with that's going unused .....
The complete review is now well into its teens -- the first review was posted back in 1999 -- but today is the ten-year anniversary of the weblog part of the site, the Literary Saloon.
I'm not sure that there's much more than continuity to brag about here (and a bit more change would probably be a good thing ...), but it's always served my purposes well enough and I hope readers have gotten something out of it as well.
Back when I started, Dennis Johnson's MobyLives -- very much still all his back then -- was still at mobylives.com (its latest incarnation is now at the empire he and Valerie Merians have built up at Melville House); the inspiring Laila Lalami was still plain MoorishGirl; and, in those pre-This Space times, 'Britain's first book blogger' Stephen Mitchelmore was posting at Spike Magazine's splinters .
Among the few forerunner blogs that inspired me -- and there were very few others, back in that day -- that can still be found at the same URLs as back then are Maud Newton and Bookslut (though disappointingly neither has archives that extend back this far -- Maud's only seem to go to November 2002 and Jessa's only to June 2003 (though the Bookslut weblog has been going strong since the first entry, of 26 February 2002; the first few issues of the monthly magazine also seem to have fallen into the archival abyss).
(Two other worthies from the first the Literary Saloon blogroll have also withstood most tests of time, but they both have an ambit beyond the merely literary: Arts & Letters Daily and the wonderful wood s lot.)
Others have come and gone (and sometimes come back again) in the meantime, many have reinvented themselves (and, as frustratingly noted, pretty much everyone seems to have fiddled with their URLs -- if not the main one, so then with their archives).
If nothing else, the Literary Saloon has been reliably present and unchanging (beyond even just the page-URLs ...) all the while.
I hope you've enjoyed being along for the steady ride as much as I have enjoyed leading this small part of the way.
Certainly the literary weblog heyday -- the time when it was the most fun, when there was a real, constantly interacting community but not yet so many voices as to lose track of and/or be overwhelmed by it all -- was ca. 2003 to 2005 or so.
Not that I'm complaining about the countless new book blogs -- focused on reviews, commentary, news -- that have sprung up over the years; I try to keep up with many of those on the Links to Literary Weblogs-page, and I'm always coming across useful and interesting new ones.
But, yeah, as I and the blog are getting old, I do feel a twinge of nostalgia, too -- but then part of what keeps me going is also the excitement of what else will come next.
These are still pretty exciting times, as far as literary coverage (and its potential) in all its forms goes.
The formula -- insofar as there is one -- at the Literary Saloon still suits me just fine.
It was pretty clear to me from day one what I could offer here, and it's stayed pretty much the same over the years; readers surely know fairly exactly what to expect (and, despite that, at least some of you continue to insist on coming ...).
Reader-traffic is hard to gauge: direct page-views have declined very slowly but perceptibly over the past two years or so, but there's clearly been a great increase in the number of people who read via RSS -- as measured, for example, by Google Reader subscribers to the feed.
(There are also a tiny number of users who access the material via their Kindle subscriptions .....)
In any case, even if it is not that large, there seems to be some sort of fairly devoted and interested audience out there -- many thanks !
I don't expect much will change in the coming months (or years ...) either.
Sure, the whole site needs an overhaul, for the sake of appearances, but as far as the substance goes, I'm afraid you're stuck with this and my continuing variations on the same old themes.
(You'll probably get tired of them before I do .....)
In any case, thanks also to all of you readers out there, and all your support and criticism and encouragement and help over the past decade -- much appreciated !