They've announced that Post Mortem by Peter Terrin has been awarded the 2012 AKO Literatuurprijs, a leading Dutch literary prize (with the winner receiving €50,000).
(Bonus points, too, for the fact that they reveal all the titles entered/in the running -- see the full list here -- as all literary prizes should (indeed, it's hard to take a literary prize -- yes, I'm looking at you, Man Booker, (American) National Book Awards, etc. etc. -- that doesn't make this information public seriously).)
For more information about Post Mortem see the information page at the always useful Dutch Foundation for Literature.
Good timing, too: MacLehose Press have just brought out Terrin's The Guard; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.
The Canada Council for the Arts has announced the 2012 Canada-Japan Literary Awards, "which recognize literary excellence by Canadian authors writing on Japan or Japanese themes".
The English-category prize went to The Reading List by Leslie Shimotakahara; see also her official site.
The French-category prize went to Coma by François Gilbert.
The French literary-prize season is about to peak, as the final shortlists have been announced -- including the final four in the running for the prix Goncourt; see, for example, this overview -- and the winners will be announced in the coming weeks.
At evene they look at all the big(ger) prizes and odds, in Prix littéraires: les paris sont ouverts.
In the Daily Maverick Rebecca Davis reviews J.C.Kannemeyer's newly translated (by Michiel Heyns) biography of J.M.Coetzee [via].
It sounds fascinating -- so when are the US and UK editions due out ?
(Can't find a trace, but see the Jonathan Ball publicity page.)
Or is this the kind of stuff soon-to-be-co-joined Penguin Random House is no longer interested in ?
What's in a name ?
Apparently a lot -- if it's the name of a Chinese Nobel laureate: as reported in Shanghai Daily:
A liquor brand with the name of Chinese writer Mo Yan -- winner of the Nobel Literature Prize this year -- has been sold for 10 million yuan (US$1.6 million), according to an engineer in Beijing who registered it on a whim with only 1,000 yuan six years ago.
Not a bad return.
The name of the tipple is 莫言醉 which, as they explain: "came from a famous Chinese ancient poem literally meaning in English, 'Don't say that you are drunk'" -- but, in a happy coincidence:
This brand name can also be translated as "drunken Mo Yan."
I wonder if the Swedish Academy has ordered a couple of cases for the Nobel ceremonies in December .....
It's been widely reported but can't go unmentioned: Bertelsmann and Pearson have merged mega-publishers Penguin and Random House into a super-mega-publisher.
See, for example, press releases from Penguin and Random House; at GalleyCat Jason Boog has Markus Dohle's letter to Random House employees.
As so often, I find the 'business' decisions of publishers completely baffling.
The bigger-is-better school of publishing apparently still holds sway at the big six-now-five, despite little evidence that this is really working out for them, and for the life of me I can't see the possible benefits consolidation of this sort supposedly offers.
A fundamental and often overlooked problem: as Levi Asher points out:
A book publisher merger, like a bank merger or a food company merger, is never designed to improve the products the companies sell.
Surely it's exactly that that publishers should be focusing on (and something that many more nimble small and independent publishers are experimenting with -- often, it seems to me, with some success).
But the big publishers seem to have largely lost sight of that -- the idea of improving their products -- a long time ago, preferring to rely on market-muscle (bulking up so that they can convince themselves they're big enough to dictate terms -- except that Amazon has kind of thrown a wrench in that model) and/or marketing hocus-pocus.
Much has been written about this misbegotten union, and much more will be; for an overview, see, for example, Eric Pfanner and Amy Chozick in The New York Times on Random House and Penguin Merger Creates Global Giant, or Chad Post's post at Three Percent, Bigger than a MegaUltraÜberApocaCane [Random House Penguins].
Not a good day for publishing; a pretty terrible one for readers and writers.
The November/December issue of World Literature Today is now available -- in part -- online.
As usual, lots of very good stuff -- and most admirably, they have made the entire review-section (still my favorite part of the publication) freely available online !
So, having reached 3000 reviews at the complete review, it's time again to look at the statistical trends and insights of the past 100 reviews.
- At an average of 860.57 words per review, review-length was up 3.28% over the previous hundred.
- The male-female divide remains (nearly) as awful as ever: a mere 15.5 of the books reviewed were by women -- just a fraction above the historical average (which now rises to an unimpressive (but at least stubbornly consistent ?) 14.98%); see also the historical Author-sex breakdown of books under review
- Books reviewed were originally written in 24 languages (including English), and by authors from 44 different countries.
For the first time in years, more than two-thirds of the books reviewed were written in English; French was the second most popular language (19 titles) -- but France was the best-represented nationality of authors (15, ahead of the US with 11).
(See the complete language list/breakdown here.)
- 80 reviewed works were novels, and two were story-collections; only one was poetry, and no plays were reviewed
- One book was graded 'A+' (Gerald Murnane's Barley Patch), none were rated 'A', seven were rated 'A-'.
(There was also one 'C' and one 'C+'.)
- Almost one fifth of the books were first published -- in the original (i.e. not counting translations only now published in English) -- in 2012; 16 were published in the 1990s, 6 in the 1980s but 7 in the 1970s, 6 in the first half of the twentieth century, but only a single title before 1900.
So there are now 3000 books under review at the complete review.
3001, actually (and it'll be 3002 by the end of the day ...).
Appropriately enough, Serena Vitale's Shklovsky: Witness to an Era is the 3000th review.
Her previous book, Pushkin's Button, was actually among the batch of about four dozen reviews posted on the very first day the site went live; amusingly, it's officially review number 30.
At Reuters Sisi Tang has a Q & A with The Civil Servant's Notebook-author Wang Xiaofang, as they spoke: 'on the sidelines of the Hong Kong Literary Festival about Honore de Balzac and urine-drinking as a metaphor for absolute authority' (maybe not the best teaser ...).
Many more talented Chinese writers stand to benefit by gaining an international readership, provided more competent translators are found.
I'd be more convinced if the argument didn't include claims such as:
Take the example of the novel Shou Huo (The Joy of Living) by Yan Lianke.
Although copyright contracts for it were signed with publishers from Japan, France, Italy and the United Kingdom in late 2004, to date none of the four translated novels have been published, as no competent translators are available.
Shou Huo ?
In other words (or rather: characters) 受活 ?
Funny, I just reviewed the US translation (also coming out in the UK) -- sure, under the very different title, Lenin's Kisses, but still .....
And it's been out in French for a while .....
Not sure whether or not I should be pleased that it's not just US and UK publishers that pull this shit, but in L'Express Jérôme Dupuis reports that Polars américains: la traduction était trop courte, as apparently practically all the best (and lots of the not so great) classic American crime novels were absolutely butchered in translation into French -- check out that picture of the Ross Thomas book to get a general idea.
"Supprimez tout ce qui est psychologique !" ('Cut everything that's psychological !') the publisher ordered -- the translator of Raymond Chandler !
François Guérif expresses outrage that not only were these 'parodies of translations' published back in the fifties -- but they continue to be sold.
Finally, revised editions are coming out, but still .....
Interesting other odds and ends Paul Claudel (!) translated Frank Kane (under a pseudonym) ?
On the other hand: Jean-Patrick Manchette translated Ross Thomas .....
He easily (and actively -- see this recent review of Adam Kirsch on Lionel Trilling) made it past a hundred, but Jacques Barzun has now died; see, for example, Edward Rothstein's obituary in The New York Times.
They've announced the judging panel for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and it consists of Turkish-and-English writing Elif Şafak/Shafak, translator Frank Wynne, The Independent's literary editor Boyd Tonkin, Gabriel Josipovici, and Jean Boase-Beier.
The leading UK translated-fiction award, this one usually has an interesting long- and then short-list (though what I'd really like to see is the actual complete list of books they consider, i.e. all the ones submitted; unfortunately, like most of the major UK literary prizes, they're unnecessarily secretive about this).
Usually, Japanese publishers only have the right to print paper books while authors retain other rights.
"Getting rights from the author is not an easy job," Kitagawa wrote.
"Editors are too busy to both publish new print books and manage rights for their old books.
Usually publishing new books is a higher priority."
Glad to see that, as elsewhere, publishers are really on top of things .....
Literalab recently discussed the PETRA -- European Platform for Literary Translation -- presentation at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and now 'The PETRA Recommendations' -- Towards New Conditions for Literary Translation in Europe (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) are available online too.
As they note, there's lots of room for improvement -- as, for example:
the publisher sees the translator as a financial burden. For economic reasons: he will hurry him in his work, not pay him his due worth, and impose upon him poor-quality works of the kind that thrive in our bestseller culture.
Good to see these matters being discussed (as they also recently were at the recent ALTA conference; see, for example, Susan Bernofsky's report).
They announced the winners of the South African M-Net Literary Awards a few days ago -- noteworthy because they award prizes for books in five language categories: English, Afrikaans Sesotho, Sepedi, and Tshivenda.
See, for example, the Books Live weblog report.
They also award a prize: 'for a novel showing the greatest promise for translation into a visual medium' -- and the winner of that is actually under review at the complete review: 7 Dae by Deon Meyer.
At Bloomberg Businessweek Christina Larson reports that Chinese Fiction is Hot.
She doesn't make a very impressive case for Chinese fiction's 'hotness', but at least there are some examples of interest.
It's always fascinating to learn what (and how much ...) publishers lose on specific titles, and at The Huffington Post they have a brief piece about TASCHEN's Biggest Losers.
Regrettably, they don't offer any explanation of how and why such vast sums were lost, but at least they acknowledge them.
Still, I'd love to hear how it was possible to lose US$1.29 million on Diego Rivera: The Complete Murals (see also the Taschen publicity page).
The US$200 book is available for $126 at Amazon.com -- which probably doesn't leave much of a profit margin; if you get a copy from Amazon.co.uk you're presumably helping cut into their losses a bit more .....
No word yet on the impact of the Nobel win on Mo Yan's book sales abroad (though his Amazon.com 'Author Rank' of 23 in the 'Literary' category, and 28 in the 'Literary Fiction' category look pretty good), but he's flying off whatever shelves his books are available on in China: as Song Shengxia reports in the Global Times in Mo money:
"Sales of Mo's book increased six or seven times before he was actually awarded the prize, and they have soared by 10 times now," said Wang Fan, a staff member in charge of public relations at dangdang.com.
"All the old versions of Mo's books sold out before October 11 and a total of 200,000 sets of Mo's 16 collected works are now being printed," said Cao Yuanyong, deputy editor of Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing House
Their 'collected works' edition includes: "16 of Mo's books, including 11 of his long novels and five medium- and short-length novels" -- quite a heap.
The four-story building, opened to the public in 2009, is located inside the First Middle School of Gaomi in the downtown area.
Only the first two stories are in use.
On the first floor of the museum are over 5,000 books Mo donated.
On the second floor is an exhibition hall to introduce in detail Mo's literature over the past 30 years, his honors and achievements, and his growth from a rural boy to an international figure.
A defensive Göran Malmqvist -- Sweidsh Academy member, Chinese speaker, and, suddenly, Mo Yan translator ... -- happens to find himself in China shortly after the Nobel announcement, and has been defending the selection -- while also making the argument that, as reported by Liu Xiaolin in the Shanghai Daily, More of China's literature needs translation.
(Amen to that !)
So, for example:
"Mo Yan is an excellent storyteller.
Among today's Chinese writers, no one equals him in the courage to talk about the darkness and unjustness" in Chinese society, he said.
Which doesn't seem like a great lead-argument, given that even I can name some more critical authors .....
Interesting also to hear that::
He personally prefers Mo's short fiction to longer work, saying the writer "has an excellent control of words."
(Interesting, of course, since it appears to be the short fiction he translated .....)
According to Malmqvist, Mo's works have been translated into the greatest number of foreign languages among the current Chinese writers.
Sounds plausible, too.
(Like I've said for a couple of years: among Chinese Nobel-choices, he was the most obvious -- including because he's one of the (or, apparently, the) most widely translated.)
"We waited a long time for a Hebrew-friendly e-reader and unfortunately when e-vrit finally arrived, it failed to capture the publicís imagination.
Kindle, Sony, Nook, Kobo, etc. are not available, and with no successful Hebrew-friendly platform it looks like Israel will skip the dedicated e-book reader phase altogether and move straight to tablet."
The Swedish Augustpriset has announced the shortlists in the three categories awards are given in -- and there have been quite a few raised eyebrows about the fact that Jag är Zlatan Ibrahimovic by football-(soccer-)great Zlatan Ibrahimovic ('och David Lagercrantz') has been shortlisted in the non-fiction category.
Sublime though he is on the pitch (currently at PSG), a ghost-/co-written sports bio that has sold more than half a million copies in Sweden alone (apparently making it one of the all-time bestselling books thereabouts) is not everyone's idea of the year's best .....
See also The Local report, Zlatan short-listed for prestigious literary prize.
Sure, I should really be covering more of Mo Yan's work (and I will), but the most recent addition to the complete review is my review of another prominent Chinese author's just-out-in-English satirical novel, Yan Lianke's Lenin's Kisses.
ROC Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai said Oct. 15 that her agency is mulling a publication policy to help Taiwan literary works break into the global market.
Sounds ... possibly good -- though government and similar national book promotion agencies have a very mixed record of 'success' in the field.
Still, it can't really hurt -- there's not nearly enough Taiwanese literature being translated or publicized.
So England Britain's oldest literary prize is holding a Best of the James Tait Black, which: "celebrates the fiction winners over the past 93 years", and chooses one from a shortlist of six previous winners as best of the best.
(Why such a celebration, given the very unround anniversary ?
Oh, it's all: "part of the University's 250th English Literature anniversary".)
The shortlist has now been announced -- though predictably not yet at the official site, last I checked ... (man, do I get tired of writing that ...) [Updated: now it is -- here].
But several news organizations have published the titles of the six finalists: see, for example, Book prize names six of the best in search for winner in The Herald and Authors in running for 'best of best' James Tait Black award at the BBC.
Some solid competition -- though a lot more interesting titles they could have chosen.
(The James Tait is certainly more reliably interesting than that Man Booker (among the few books they've agreed upon: John Berger's G, and Rushdie's Midnight's Children), and with the prize having gone to the likes of Iain Sinclair's Downriver (1991) and Timothy Mo's Renegade or Halo² (1999) ... yeah, it's hard not to have a soft spot for it.)
Nicholas Shakespeare has apparently written the introduction to a new edition of Patrick White's classic, Voss, and in The Telegraph they print 'a version' of it, where 'Nicholas Shakespeare hails the peaty novels of Patrick White, the Australian master whose work is as enduring as that of William Faulkner or Thomas Mann', Patrick White: Under the Skin
I am always glad to see a hearty White-defense -- and, as always, strongly urge you to have a look at his work (if you can find it ...).
Both Chinua Achebe and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka have just come out with non-fiction books about Africa, and while I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy of the Achebe yet (sigh), the most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Soyinka's Of Africa.