The winner of the 2012 Premio Cervantes, the leading (and worth €125,000) Spanish-language author prize -- see the impressive list of previous winners -- has been announced, and it will go to José Manuel Caballero Bonald; see, for example, the brief AP report (here at The Washington Post).
The Spanish press, of course, has much more extensive coverage: ABC's Caballero Bonald, Premio Cervantes 2012 by Antonio Astorga provides a good overview.
Among other contenders for what is generally a prize reserved for those very advanced in age were, apparently, Eduardo Mendoza, Antonio Muñoz Molina, and brothers Juan and Luis Goytisolo.
Caballero Bonald is, of course, not well-known in the English-speaking world, and appears to be more or less untranslated -- his contribution to the art-book: Botero: The Bullfight (Rizzoli, 1990) looks like more or less the extent of it.
On the other hand: good timing for Ross Woods' just released Understanding the Poetry of José Manuel Caballero Bonald: The Function of Memory in a Spanish Writer's Art; see the Mellen Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Mo Yan has reappeared on the Chinese Writers Rich List for the first time since 2006, snaring second place for having earned 21.5 million yuan ($3.45 million) in royalties this year
You can find the full list (in Chinese) here, while at Paper Republic Helen Wang compares the Chinese Writers' Rich List 2012 - The Top 10 and their rankings in the previous four years.
Note, however, that the numbers themselves are hardly BookScan-precise, as the methodology involved:
The team interviewed 200 professionals in the publishing industry around the country, and made the list according to the price of the book, the number of copies released, and the ratio of writers copyright gains.
So, while the rankings probably provide a decent general impression of relative success, the actual earnings look like pretty rough estimates.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of F.G. Haghenbeck's cocktail-noir, Bitter Drink.
This is yet another translation from AmazonCrossing, and with its real-life setting -- on the film-set of John Huston's The Night of the Iguana, which starred Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, and Sue Lyon (with Elizabeth Taylor tagging along for good measure) --, a decent alcohol-related gimmick (the next in the series, still untranslated, is titled El caso tequila ...), and lots of leaning on Raymond Chandler should have pretty decent cross-border appeal; it seems to have done reasonably well in a couple of other languages already.
No place has done worse than post-Soviet Russia in the naming of their literary prizes -- consider, for example, the Русский Букер (yes, really, the 'Russian Booker' -- but without the Man support ...) ! -- but surely the Большая книга ('Big Book') takes the (at least very rich) cake.
Anyway, they've announced that nonagenarian Daniil Granin (Даниил Гранин, who still rates an entry in the 'Encyclopedia of Soviet Writers' !) won, for his Мой лейтенант ....
(Yeah, don't look for that translation anytime soon.)
Lisa Hayden Espenschade, of the invaluable Lizok's Bookshelf, was apparently on site and will, no doubt, post helpful commentary (nothing up yet, last I checked); but see also, for example, the overview at literalab.
As longtime readers know, I frequently complain that Central Asia remains one of the most ignored of literary areas -- but promisingly they just held the Open Central Asia Book Forum and Literary Festival (less promisingly: I only heard about it after the fact ...).
At eTN Agha Iqrar Haroon reports that Central Asia's first international Literature Festival concluded; see also the official press release (which, in Russian, is apparently transliterated way too phonetically as a пресс-релиз (even in the URL ...)).
You have to admire a book festival that includes in its list of partcipants authors such as Begenas Sartov, who actually died more than three decades ago .....
Nevertheless, I can not recall coveting a book more than I do Sartov's When the Edelweiss Flowers Flourish ('including further six short stories' !), launched at the festival as the: "first Kyrgyz fiction novel in English language".
Sure, it's a 1960s Soviet work -- but: I want !
(You can try to get you copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
Clearly, Central Asian fiction is still far from ready for primetime ... but I remain ever-hopeful.
Of course, When the Edelweiss Flowers Flourish is a title that's so hard to top they might have all just packed it in back then and there.
(Damn, am I eager to get my hands on that book .....)
(Updated - 6 December): See now also a review at The Modern Novel.
Nu Nu Yi's Smile as they Bow is one of the few Burmese novels in recent decades to have been translated into English and published in the US (you can count the total on one hand ...), but apparently even the Burmese edition had problems with the censor -- and, as the AFP reports, now Myanmar author explores new literary freedom.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kari Hotakainen's The Human Part.
Unbelievably, this is the first of Hotakainen's novels to be translated into English (but the third under review at the complete review) -- and the MacLehose Press edition makes it accessible to UK readers, but not to those in the US.
Sooner or later he will catch on hereabouts too .....
The editors of The New York Times Book Review have selected their 100 Notable Books of 2012.
Predictably enough, I've only read and reviewed four (last year: six) -- and only seen a small handful of the other titles mentioned here.
The four under review at the complete review are:
(Two of those I got via the library, by the way.)
Predictably, too -- the NYTBR is still headed by translation-phobic Sam Tanenhaus -- only four of the books are translations (last year's list: 5): the Sada and Binet, as well as Silent House by Orhan Pamuk and Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye (neither of which I have been able to get a copy of ...).
'Slate's editors, designers, and columnists choose their favorite books of 2012', in 2012 Books: Slate Staff Picks.
Yet again I wonder what reading/reviewing universe I'm operating in: I have only seen a single one of all these titles -- the one that's under review at the complete review, Zone by Geoff Dyer.
(Updated - 29 November): Slightly more interesting: their Overlooked Books of 2012, where: 'Slate Book Review critics suggest 20 great books you never heard about -- but should’ve'.
At hlo they have an interesting paper by Zsolt Czigányik that 'examines reader's reports in the archives of a Hungarian publishing house, and provides a glimpse into the elaborate ritual of tacit negotiations and the exercise of self-censorship in the Kádár era' -- with a focus on George Orwell and Anthony Burgess --, Literature and censorship in the Kádár era in Hungary.
They only provide the very summary reader's reports on the Burgess works -- barely more than thumbs up or down -- but it's still pretty amusing/disturbing.
The Augustpriset is the leading Swedish literary prize, and they've announced this year's winners.
They seem to have been in a real nostalgic-for-World-War-II mood this year: the fiction prize went to Ett kort uppehåll på vägen från Auschwitz by Göran Rosenberg (for English-language information, see the Uta Körner information page), while the non-fiction prize went to ”Det står ett rum här och väntar på dig…”. Berättelsen om Raoul Wallenberg by Ingrid Carlberg (see the Norstedts Agency information page).
The 'best books of the year'-lists keep coming (even as the year has not come to a close), and while I find them moderately interesting they also remind me that I seem to be living (and reviewing) in some sort of alternate universe: not that I requested any of them, but publishers did not send me a single title on, say, the Publishers Weekly top 10 list (and I've only seen two of the eighteen on the fiction list).
So I'm somewhat surprised to find four titles I have seen and read among the Kirkus ReviewsBest of Fiction 2012: The Top 25:
As the Tehran Times reports, No winner selected for Iran's most lucrative literary awards this year.
Normally, winners in each of the categories receive: "110 Bahar Azadi gold coins worth over 121 million rials (over $43,000)"; this year ... not so much: just four 'honorable mentions' (which still got the authors 25 Bahar Azadi gold coins each).
I wonder if anyone will (or rather: won't) make the obvious connection between overzealous government interference as to what can be published and the quality of what is published .....
Maybe a lesson to be learnt here ?
The Svenska Deckarakademin have announced their annual crime fiction prizes (see my previous mention) -- though not yet at the official site, last I checked .....
As reported (here at Svenska Dagbladet), Till offer åt Molok by Åsa Larsson took the Swedish-language honors, while Before the Poison by Peter Robinson won as best translated work.
But the one I'm really interested in is the non-fiction winner, Karl Berglund's study Deckarboomen under lupp: Statistiska perspektiv på svensk kriminallitteratur 1977-2010.
Love those statistical perspectives !
An English abstract is available online, and among the points of interest:
Nearly 2.5 times as many first editions of crime fiction were issued in Sweden in the first decade of the 2000s, compared to the 1980s
The share of crime fiction written by women increased in the same period of time from between 10 and 20 percent to just over 30 percent. Furthermore, the gender balance among the bestsellers of crime fiction in the 2000s is nearly even.
Crime fiction has been extremely dominant on the bestseller charts in Sweden during the 2000s, and the genre outnumbers all other fiction taken together.
Obviously, Nordic crime fiction is still going very strong domestically.
The effect of Mo Yan's work is not illumination through skilled and controlled exploitation, but disorientation and frustration due to his lack of coherent aesthetic consideration.
There is no light shining on the chaotic reality of Mo Yan's hallucinatory world.
The discontent lies in Mo Yan's language.
Open any page, and one is treated to a jumble of words that juxtaposes rural vernacular, clichéd socialist rhetoric, and literary affectation.
It is broken, profane, appalling, and artificial; it is shockingly banal.
The language of Mo Yan is repetitive, predictable, coarse, and mostly devoid of aesthetic value.
The English translations of Mo Yan's novels, especially by the excellent Howard Goldblatt, are in fact superior to the original in their aesthetic unity and sureness.
Superior translations !
Mo Yan's language is striking indeed, but it is striking because it is diseased.
The disease is caused by the conscious renunciation of China's cultural past at the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
And she notes:
It is worth noting that many superb Chinese writers' work does not read well in translation.
(Although there are certainly exceptions: David Hawkes' magnificent translation of Dream of the Red Chamber is both a faithful translation and a masterpiece of English prose.)
An interesting thesis presented here; I hope lots of folks weigh in.
Well, clearly Nobel laureate Herta Müller wasn't the one who nominated Mo Yan for the prize, as she has given an interview to Dagens Nyheter (not freely accessible, but apparently here) in which ... well, the AP reports she:
says she wanted to cry when she learned of the 2012 laureate choice.
She says she feels "it's a catastrophe," and an "incredibly upsetting" choice.
(Updated - 30 November): See now also at the New Statesman they have 'friends and contributors choose their favourite books of 2012', in Read all about it: NS Books of the Year 2012; unfortuantely it's one opinion/book per page -- thoroughly obnoxious and nothing I have patience for.
In the Financial Times John Banville writes on a new "sumptuous -- it is the only word for it " edition of The Book of Kells just out from Thames & Hudson; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've announced the winner of the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature 2012 -- "awarded for a work of world literature in the fiction and non fiction categories, except poetry", and worth CHF 50,000, and one of the more interesting international literature prizes.
In a regrettably and unaccountably non-fiction dominated year, The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China by Julia Lovell took the prize; get your copy from Amazon.com (though it looks kind of ... out of print ?) or Amazon.co.uk.
They've announced the winners of the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards -- not at that official site, last I checked (no comment ...), but Rosita Boland has the full run-down in the Irish Times Ancient Light by John Banville took the 'Eason Novel of the Year' -- and Country Girl by Edna O'Brien took the 'Argosy Non-Fiction Book of the Year'.
None of the books are under review at the complete review, but I do hope to get to the Banville (once I get my hands on a copy, etc.).
The Svenska Deckarakademin -- the Swedish Crime Academy -- is awarding their prizes tomorrow.
In the Swedish-language category the only non-household name in the US/UK is Tove Alsterdal, but all the others are readily available in translation (though not yet these titles).
More interesting, of course, is to see what translated works are considered prize-worthy in this hub of Nordic crime fiction -- and while it's possibly no surprise that two familiar Icelandic names figure among the five finalists, it does seem kind of surprising that Belinda Bauer places two titles on the shortlist.
As the list of previous winners (and finalists) shows, they have a pretty decent track record -- all the way back to a double-volume of John Franklin Bardin titles in 1976 (both under review at the complete review: The Last of Philip Banter and Devil Take the Blue-Tail Fly).
Okay, 1996 sounds like it was a mistake (Snö faller på cederträden ? seriously ?), but overall .....
They're relieved in France to find the natural order of things (well, literature) has been restored, as a couple of recently announced prize-winners have finally pushed the bestselling horror that is Cinquante nuances de Grey out of the top spot as far as book sales go: as reported in L'ExpressPalmarès: deux Goncourt détrônent un porno soft.
Some sales-totals on offer there too -- as well as the observation that quite a few other prize-winners haven't cracked the bestseller list (yet ?).
Publishers Weekly lists what they headline The 10 Most Expensive Books of 2012 -- though it doesn't look like an entirely comprehensive list: missing, for example, are the Robert Crumb. Sketchbooks 1982-2011, suggested retail price US $1,000 (see the Taschen publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com).
Obviously, there are also lots of academic titles at outrageous prices to be had, too -- how about: Travel Writing, in the 'Critical Concepts in Literary and Cultural Studies' series from Routledge ?
A bargain, at $995.00 (get your copy, at Amazon.com) .....
Or, appropriately enough, you could buy the latest Bookman's Price Index, at just $625.00 (get your copy at Amazon.com).
It's also good to see that some of the booksellers who sell their books on Amazon.com still don't entirely understand how to use automated pricing algorithms: there are dozens of used books available for over $10,000 on Amazon -- and you can find, for example, a used paperback of Herman Wouk's Don't Stop the Carnival at a bargain $1,196,776.00.
Plus 3.99 for shipping .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Eva Joly and Judith Perrignon's The Eyes of Lira Kazan.
Joly, you might recall, was a candidate in the French presidential elections earlier this year.
Or, since she got just 2.31% of the vote, maybe you don't.
The scheme, which falls under the Malta Arts Fund, will help tackle this by allowing them to share their literary works with larger audiences, in the language of their choice.
(My first bit of advice would be not to call it a 'scheme' .....)
The first submission deadline is 1 March 2013 -- and, in a touch I really like (and which I suppose one can get away with in a country the size of Malta): "Applications must be delivered by hand".
euronews profiles recent Latvian winner of a European Union Prize for Literature, Inga Zolude, in Unchain my language !
"I think there should be an interest in Latvian literature because Latvian Literature is unique, it is different and specific, it's very high quality literature.
I hope that the time when it is fully discovered on a bigger scale is approaching," she says.
Hey, me too .....
But, of course: "the Holy Grail of the English-language market is hard to crack".
The Literary Review has announced the shortlist for its annual 'Bad Sex' award, awarded: "for the most embarrassing passage of sexual description in a novel".
No surprise that the execrable Tom Wolfe is in the running -- and one of the titles is even under review at the complete review: Infrared by Nancy Huston.
They've announced the shortlist for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2013, selected from 81 entries; none of the titles are under review at the complete review, though I do hope to get to some of them.
And I really think they should forget about the other currencies and emphasize that the winner gets INR 2,800,000.
They've announced the shortlists for the Whitbread Costa Book Awards -- though annoyingly only in a pdf press release.
While they do reveal that, for example, there were 159 entries in the novel category, and 88 in the first novel category they inexplicably and outrageously do not reveal what those titles were.
Come on, folks: a bit of transparency !
Many of the media reports have focused on the fact that 'graphic' texts (i.e. comic books) are among the finalists -- see, for example, Costa book awards 2012 shortlists first graphic works by Mark Brown in The Guardian.