They held the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature last week, the Philippnes' 'most prestigious and longest-running literary contest', and while the official site doesn't have the results yet (sigh ...), you can find all the winners here, for example.
(They only hand out the 'grand prizes', for best novel (one in English, one in Tagalog) every three years, so we have to wait another two until that one is awarded again.)
Now Alfred A. Yuson also offers a recap, Reliving the tradition: The 62nd Palanca Awards, in The Philippine Star -- quoting that:
For this year's Palanca Awards, we received a total number of 1,077 entries in 20 categories.
57 judges awarded prizes to 59 winning works from 58 authors, 29 of whom are former winners, and an equal number of 29 who are new winners.
Sounds like there's some literary enthusiasm there .....
AS IBN live reports, in the Indian state of Kerala Science Literature Awards announced.
While I think it's fiction that should be getting pretty much all the attention, I grant that it's pretty nice that there's local support for local science writing too -- the ₹25,000 prize-money isn't a fortune (less than US $500), but it's not bad, and the recognition has to count for something, too.
They've apparently announced the title that has won this year's Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa (though not yet at that official site, last I checked ...), and as Ozolua Uhakheme reports in The NationSouth African wins Soyinka Literary Prize (because apparently they think it's not the book that wins the prize, and it doesn't matter what the author's name is, it's where s/he comes from that is the only thing that's of any importance ...).
So Young Blood, by Sifiso Mzobe (not that they manage to spell his name right, either ...), took the prize.
It's not readily available at the Amazons, but see, for example, the NB publicity page.
And after also winning last year's Sunday Times Literary Prize for fiction you figure someone has got to pick this up for the US/UK markets ... right ?
Do you see a similar disconnect between your reputation and who you really are ?
I did at one point.
Early on, people thought I was louche and wild and provocative.
Now I worry that I've over-mellowed ...
I'm tame now, aren't I ?
I'm just a National Treasure.
People want to pat me.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tonino Benacquista's The Thursday Night Men.
I remind you that the original French title was the more appropriate Homo erectus; the Spanish went with that as well, but the Italians also wimped out and chose the American-style alternative.
The two books translated by Noy -- My Uncle Napoleon (by Iraj Pezeshkzad) and The Colonel (by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi) -- were just recently published by Am Oved.
(I don't have My Uncle Napoleon under review, but I have read it, and it's a (comic) classic (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).)
So I hope there's some Iranian publisher translating Amos Oz, etc. .....
As the Viet Nam Writers Association plans to launch a translation center to help promote Vietnamese literature abroad, VNS' Culture Vulture has a Q & A with critic and translator Pham Xuan Nguyen 'about translating literature from and into Vietnamese'
Translating literature needs three types of people: translators, editors and critics. At present we are lacking editors and critics.
Philip Roth sure as hell appears to be trying to make sure that he's the one who decides exactly what his legacy looks like.
First came the news that he's given his seal of approval to yet another 'official biographer' (it didn't work out with the last one ...), some guy named Blake Bailey, who's done this kind of thing before.
Approved as biographer: there's a double-edged sword if ever there was one.
As the ArtsBeat post by Charles McGrath has it, Philip Roth to Cooperate With New Biographer -- and, sure, any biographer wants as much access to (and 'coöperation' from ...) his subject(-matter) as possible, but how reliable can someone like Roth -- a lifelong reshaper of (mostly his own) facts-into-fiction -- possibly be expected to be ?
Now Roth has posted An Open Letter to Wikipedia at The New Yorker's Page-Turner blog, 'explaining' that
I am Philip Roth. I had reason recently to read for the first time the Wikipedia entry discussing my novel "The Human Stain."
The entry contains a serious misstatement that I would like to ask to have removed. This item entered Wikipedia not from the world of truthfulness but from the babble of literary gossip -- there is no truth in it at all.
I have to wonder what possessed him -- for someone who has (apparently) shown no interest in Wikipedia pages on his work previously, not even bothering to look at them.
Looks a lot like a very vigorous effort at legacy-shaping -- and surely a really bad sign for a would-be biographer ('would-be' because I'll believe it when (i.e. if) I see the book -- "The project will take him 8 to 10 years to complete, he estimated, and he plans shortly to send out a proposal to book publishers", sheesh ...).
Sure, you can argue that Roth is just trying to set the record straight -- begging still the question: why now (the Broyard-mention has been included on the Wikipedia page since at least 2005 (see here, last paragraph)), as well as: to what end ?
I am amused to see that Roth had to resort to an 'open letter' to Wikipedia -- but fully agree with the Wikipedia Administrator that: "I, Roth, was not a credible source".
Authors may not be the last people to trust re. their own books, but they certainly aren't very high up on the list; I'm disappointed that they have found this open letter sufficient that it has led them change the page entirely to his wishes.
(I also note that Roth did not contact Wikipedia directly but did so through an "interlocutor" -- and surely it's a safe rule of thumb that if you employ an 'interlocutor' (speak: lawyer, 'literary' agent (and guess whose Roth's is ...), etc.) to get something like this done for you you're acting like an asshole and probably have something to hide.)
Roth spins a plausible sort of story in his open letter -- but given that he's a professional story-spinner ... well, again, his is not the first person's testimony I would want to rely on, in this or any matter having to do with his fiction.
More importantly: why does anyone care -- Broyard ? Tumin ? what does it matter ?
It's a novel -- and it's the novel that counts.
The fiction Roth created, however he created it .....
Meanwhile, at Slate's browbeat-weblog Jonah Weiner weighs in, wondering Philip Roth Taught a Course at Bard; Did It Inspire The Human Stain ?
I look forward to the day when we can all stop wondering and focus on the book, and treat it like it should be treated: a novel, a work of fiction .....
Argentine-born author Horacio Vázquez-Rial has passed away; see, for example, the EFE report at the Latin American Herald Tribune, Spain's Great Forgotten Writer Horacio Vazquez-Rial Dies.
See also his official site -- and note also that he worked as a translator, and his list of translations impressively ranges from D.W.Winnicott to V.S.Naipaul to Ring Lardner (though admittedly that 'Susan Sonntag' mention does not look good ...).
Only Triste's History appears to be available in English -- get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- from readers international (and I'm so pleased to see they're still around, with a website that almost makes this one look ... up-to-date).
Marginal literature is a literary movement made up of writers from the popular classes, people who live on the margins of society and write about the daily life of poverty and crime they see outside their windows.
But, as someone whose entire literary philosophy is diametrically opposed to the 'write-what-you-know' school of writing (the last thing I want to read about is what anybody sees outside their windows -- for god's sake, if I had any patience for that I might think non-fiction was worth anyone's while ...) I have to admit that this isn't really my kind of thing.
More power (and cash) to those writers, yes -- but move on, folks.
One of the highlights of the fall publishing season is Hard Case Crime having found and now published James M. Cain's last novel, and a review of that much-anticipated title, The Cocktail Waitress, is the most recent addition to the complete review
Via love german books I see that the five-title-strong shortlist for the Swiss Book Prize has been announced.
This is, of course, the German Swiss book prize, which apparently ignores what's written in French, Italian, and Romansh; still, it at least gives some sense of what's being written in Switzerland.
The 76 titles submitted for the prize were seven more than last year -- and the forty-five publishers submitting titles five more than last year.
They've announced the longlist for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize -- which: "celebrates medicine in literature" (and is worth £25,000).
Admirably: "Books published in English translation are eligible"; interestingly (and oddly) none of the fourteen longlisted titles appears to be a translation.
Are there so few books-in-translation that 'celebrate medicine in literature' ?
Apparently so .....
The French literary prize season now also starts to get rolling, beginning with the announcement of the première sélection pour le prix Goncourt 2012.
Among the authors with books in the running who have previously had books translated into English are Tierno Monénembo, Mathias Énard, Linda Lê, and Vassilis Alexakis; apparently the failure of Olivier Adam's Les Lisières (see the Flammarion publicity page, get your copy at Amazon.fr) to make this longlist is the (relatively) big surprise.
So now they've passed -- at least in a 'first reading' in the Knesset (so it's not the law of the land yet) -- a 'Law for the Protection of Literature and Authors' in Israel -- and guess what ! not everybody is happy about it !
As Zvi Zrahiya and Adi Dovrat-Meseritz report in Haaretz, Publishers say book legislation is unfair.
Since some of the publishers aren't just in bed with one of the two dominant book-chains but actually have ownership stakes -- notably Kinneret Zmora-Bitan -- that's a bit ... rich.
As are their complaints:
Kinneret Zmora-Bitan said it supported the law in principle, but wants to remove three sections that harm competition between stores -- and harm consumers.
One bans bookstores from favoring any specific publisher.
A second clause bans publishers from pushing sales via the book stores, and a third bars publishers from refusing to sell books to stores.
Sound like pretty sensible, competition-enhancing (and hence consumer-serving) clauses to me .....
They've announced that Alfredo Bryce Echenique is this year's winner of the FIL Literary Prize -- "presented in recognition for lifetime achievement in any literary genre" (and worth US $150,000 -- yet another Spanish-language literary prize that belongs on the Wikipedia List of the world's richest literary prizes ... [updated: and, indeed, it has now been added]).
With previous winners that include local favorites Augusto Monterroso, Juan Goytisolo, and António Lobo Antunes it looks like it can be taken pretty seriously.
A World for Julius is probably the best-known-available-in-English book by Bryce Echenique (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) -- but, honestly, aren't you more curious about Tarzan's Tonsillitis (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) ?
See also the report in the Latin American Herald Tribune, Peru's Bryce Echenique Wins Mexican Literature Prize.
They've announced the Shortlist of 10 for the Nigeria Prize for Literature 2012.
This prize rotates through four different genres from year to year, but this year it's the one that counts: the prose fiction prize.
This initial shortlist (apparently a shorter one is due soon) was drawn from 214 entries -- substantially more than, oh, say, the Man Booker Prize .....
They've narrowed down the contenders for the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa -- a pan-African prize which they try to sell a bit too hard as 'Africa's Nobel' (and whose US $20,000 prize is decent, but not even in the Nigeria Prize for Literature ballpark ...) -- and announced the three-title-strong shortlist (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
(They announced this a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't see it mentioned anywhere .....)
The three books are:
The German weekly Die Zeit has been running a series on a post-war literay canon of European literature, naming some 70 novels -- ten for each post-war decade -- that they think belong.
Iris Radisch explains the exercise in Europas Weltliteratur, and the novels are listed -- annoyingly over six pages, rather than in one simple, neat list ... -- here.
For a German-heavy list there are some striking omissions -- led by Peter Weiss' epochal The Aesthetics of Resistance, though I'd also make a strong case for Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries.
(The very few British selections are predictable, and the absence of other titles suggests they really don't get English lit at all.)
Still, I'm surprised by how many of these I've read (a quick count suggests over fifty of the seventy), and quite a few are under review at the complete review (predictably, I read most of the older ones long before I started the site):
It's National Book Week in South Africa (sorry, there doesn't seem to be any link to any central site ...) and in The Times (South Africa) Siphiwo Mahala suggests We are what we write -- and that:
Book Week offers literary enthusiasts a glorious opportunity, without being prompted by controversy and sensationalism, to interrogate the trajectory of our literary architecture with a view to shaping its growth.
Mahala notes that there is much that is very positive going on in South Africa -- but also that there is something of a disconnect:
The establishment of new literary journals, blogs, online discussion forums and other electronic media, the proliferation of book fairs and literary festivals, the emergence of new publishers and the publication of hordes of new authors bear testimony to a thriving literary landscape.
Sadly, our burgeoning literary output has not translated into a sizeable increase in consumption.
Ah, yes ... consumption.
Where are the readers ?
(Note, of course, that this is a lament and complaint that is hardly unique to South Africa; see also the next item .....)
Okay, this is a headline that I could probably dig up every other day, in a different newspaper in a different nation each time: yes, it's that old standard, Critics regret death of reading habit.
This report happens to be by Aloke Chatterjee, in the Hindustan Times.
Part of the fun in pointing to these pieces is that they are also reliably full of silly quotes -- and this one starts out with a beauty:
Literary stalwarts regretted the diminishing habit of buying and reading books, a fact reflected in the lack of values among the youth of today.
The kids of today !
A line that never gets tired, generation after generation after generation .....
Here too we find insights such as:
Vajpayee regretted, that the reading public has failed to develop a resistentative taste with the result, that globally, pygmies were at the top everywhere.
Blame the reading (and/or non-reading) public, that's the ticket !
On the other hand, there are some publishing successes -- books people buy and read ! -- in India which maybe make you wonder: in The Hindu Jaya Bhattacharji Rose reports on the Metro Reads phenomenon (I've mentioned that new Penguin Books (India) imprint before, too), in Easy urban reads.
The piece is a bit ... breathless ("It now boasts of its own logo !") -- and it's not exactly reassuring to read:
With a target audience of 18-35 year olds, it does tend to blur the lines between young adult and trade fiction, and yet, it has created a neat little identity of its own.
Issue 29 of The Quarterly Conversation is now available -- a great batch of Labor Day holiday reading.
Besides some reviews and a bit by Enrique Vila-Matas, there are several pieces that are part of a 'Harry Mathews Symposium'.
I'm a big Mathews fan (see also the complete reviewHarry Mathews page) -- and while I almost never go to author readings with books to get signed, I did bring my copy of the omnibus edition Ed Park describes in his piece (get your (used) copy at Amazon.com (though Dalkey Archive Press now has reissued the novels in nice, shiny separate volumes, too)) to a Mathews/Oulipo event and had him sign it, many, many years ago.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Claudio Magris' novel, Blindly, just out in Yale University Press' great Margellos World Republic of Letters series (though it was already published in a Canadian edition in 2010, by Hamish Hamilton).
I'm surprised by the lack of pre-publication reviews -- and the lack of Canadian coverage when it came out there.
A perennial Nobel Prize-contender, Magris hasn't made a huge splash in English, but he is fairly well-known, and this is quite an impressive work.
(It is, however, the sort of book I'm tempted to write three reviews about, there's so much to be said about it, and different aspects of it.)
They announced this a couple of weeks ago, and presumably the San Francisco Chronicle is only the first of what will be many outlets offering some variation on The E-Reader: reviews of e-books.
As John McMurtrie explains there:
Without diminishing The Chronicle's longtime coverage of print books, we feel it's important to recognize new formats in book publishing.
And so today the Books section inaugurates the E-Reader, a monthly column devoted to e-books.
Many print books, of course, are simultaneously published electronically, but the column will focus on titles that are available solely as e-books.
Liz Colville is handling the duties (like mystery or other genre-review sections in newspapers, they've oddly decided one reviewer can handle the entire e-variety ...), and here's her column this week: Reviews of e-books, Sept. 2.
(I still struggle mightily with writing reviews based on e-formatted books; I recently did review one title but it was a painful experience; the total number of titles reviewed at the complete review based on e-formatted texts can still (just) be counted on one hand.
What I would give for everything to be printed and available in mass-market paperback size, sigh ......)
In The Nation (Sri Lanka) Vihanga Perera considers English writing (and fiction in general) in Sri Lanka, in Unsold books, noting that:
The reality is that in Sri Lanka we do not have a vibrant literary traffic for Lankan authors' English writing.
Except for a very limited number who have a cultivated nag to 'check out' the work of Lankan writers who hit the market, our writing in English has little movement at all.
I love these articles for observations such as:
With state-of-the-art publication coming in our post off-set era, literary produce has become more an object of technology than what it has been up to the late-1980s.
Exotic covers, content, marketing lines, writer thumbnails, sassy blurbs, gloss sheens, embossed fonts all become a part of literary transmission which is more market-strategy than literature.
(Though really, once you refer to (or consider) anything as: 'literary produce' you might as well just hang it up right then and there.)
Among September issues of online publications now available online are Words without Borders' September 2012: Writing from the Silk Road issue, featuring: "work from Central Asia, Georgia, and China" (the former two woefully underrepresented any- and every-where), and the September issue of Open Letters Monthly.
In The Caravan Amit Chaudhuri considers 'what counts for an indigenous tradition of Indian English writing ?' in The Sideways Movement (with a focus on Arvind Krishna Mehrotra's poetry).
Among the interesting observations:
Midnight's Children was published to a neglectful silence in Britain, and then, after winning the Booker Prize, was almost immediately reassessed as having given, in the words of the New York Times reviewer, a "voice" to a "continent".
Rushdie's novel should have been placed in the unique line of Indian cross-cultural works that Mehrotra was arguing for in his essay.
Instead, Midnight's Children was appropriated by a powerful new discourse, postcolonialism; applauded for its 'difference' from 'well-made' English novels; congratulated for 'writing back' to the Empire and making English an Indian language -- while Rushdie cooperated with this large-scale makeover.
Nationalism is noxious under the best of circumstances, but when it comes to this sort of thing .....
Most pathetically, this guy argues:
Through the yearly Nobel Prize for Literature, best writers from all languages of the world are being felicitated for their outstanding works.
But for almost a century competent Indian writers have been left out.
Can you believe it ?!??
Competent writers have been 'left out'.
Because apparently it shouldn't be about excellence, but rather simply about ... competence, and about every nation having a turn .....
(And, yes, I realize you can argue that it doesn't look like it's always been about excellence at the Swedish Academy, but still .....)