So I was really hoping someone -- Publishing Perspectives, The Guardian, anyone ... -- would get to this before me, but, alas, the English-language media seems to have made a fairly wide berth around what's been happening, so I will try to sum up for you (so that those other outlets can copy the information, links, etc. ...).
Founded by Peter Suhrkamp in 1950, publishing house Suhrkamp -- German publisher of Hesse and Brecht (cash-cows that long subsidized operations), Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, and foreign authors such as Samuel Beckett -- has long been an intellectual powerhouse; as they proudly note in their house-history, in 1973 George Steiner himself coined the concept of a 'Suhrkamp-culture', writing in the TLS about:
‚the Suhrkamp culture‘ which now dominates so much of German high literacy and intellectual ranking.
Almost singlehandedly, by force of cultural-political vision and technical acumen, the publishing firm of Suhrkamp has created a modern philosophic canon.
That was in 1973.
Siegfried Unseld had taken over the house as heir to Suhrkamp in 1959; he led the house -- impressively -- until his death in 2002.
His heir was his (second, and often considered trophy -- he was born in 1924, she in 1948 ... --) wife, Ulla Unseld-Berkéwicz -- and things have ... not gone uphill since then.
Unseld-Berkéwicz already rankled with her insistence on moving the fabled house from Frankfurt/Main to Berlin in 2010, which accelerated an ongoing exodus of editors and authors.
Still, they had a pretty good year in 2012 -- until recently -- including getting 3 Suhrkamp novels shortlisted for German Book Prize 2012.
Some might say Unseld-Berkéwicz treats Suhrkamp like her own private fiefdom, to do with as she pleases; unfortunately for her, it's not entirely hers to do so: there's a (major) minority shareholder in the enterprise, Medienholding AG Winterthur, and Hans Barlach, who control 39% of the company.
The two sides -- UU-B and Barlach -- have been at loggerheads (and involved in litigation) for years now, ever since Barlach came on board (and has been kept at arm's length by UU-B) in 2006, and things came to a head with a recent court decision in favor of Barlach charging UU-B with misappropriation and misuse of corporate funds -- apparently she's been billing the company for the use of a really, really nice villa and stuff like that.
Not only did the court agree, they apparently found UU-B's violations so egregious that they decreed she should be removed as publisher (i.e. head of the publishing house -- a position Barlach has apparently indicated he is after); she has appealed, and so for the moment the status quo remains ... the status quo -- but don't look for that to last.
This has been the talk of the German Feuilleton's for days now -- heaps of articles have appeared, from authors vociferously defending Suhrkamp's literary culture (slightly tattered, but still impressive) and denouncing what they see as money-man Barlach's destructive ambitions (see, for example, German statements by local favorites Volker Braun and Friederike Mayröcker (who calls Suhrkamp: "the most important publishing house in the Western world")), to attempts to dissect what is actually going on in this bizarre power-struggle.
Many hailed the announcement that former German Culture Minister (and Rowohlt (and New York-based Metropolitan Books) publisher) Michael Naumann would act as mediator -- but given Naumann's previous derogatory remarks about Barlach that quickly proved to be a non-starter.
What happens next -- who knows ?
That Suhrkamp continues to seethe in turmoil as it has since UU-B took over is surely incontestable; that Barlach isn't a good (in the literary sense) alternative equally clear.
But I suppose to expect professional management and literary standards is simply beyond anyone currently working in publishing, regardless of the country and tradition.
(A slight exaggeration -- a few houses seem to manage it -- but not much of one; American non-profits -- by definition amateurs -- of course don't qualify.)
love german books briefly had a look at this German Publishing Excitement but hasn't followed it closely; an article in The Bookseller (not freely accessible) noted the recent court decision, but doesn't seem to have followed up either.
Stay tuned, however, this is a big, big story: Suhrkamp is the most storied German publisher and even if its stock has gone way down since Unself died the catastrophic potential here is a big, big deal.
At their weblog World Literature Today lists 75 Notable Translations 2012.
Not quite the Three Percent Translation Database, but a nice reference point.
Obviously, quite a few of these are under review at the complete review.
(Note also, however, that for example The Tyrant by Jacques Chessex is just a re-issue of a pretty old translation.)
- At his Conversational Reading weblog Scott Esposito has begun collecting Interesting New Books - 2013; for now, it's still pretty rudimentary, but the page will certainly be worth revisiting as it fills out.
(Several of the listed titles are already under review at the complete review: A Hunt for Optimism by Viktor Shklovsky, Adam in Eden by Carlos Fuentes, and the classic Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau -- though the new edition he means does indeed sound worth getting (see the New Directions publicity page), even if you have the old one.)
I haven't really looked ahead yet to what's coming out, but among the obvious highlights to look forward to are:
Tirza by Arnon Grunberg -- my book of the year in 2009, and finally coming out in English
Volume two of Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle (to be published as A Man in Love in the UK); see the complete reviewreview of the first volume, and the Archipelago publicity page for volume two (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk)
Literature has lost its past glory in Kerala with the growing influence of cinema and politics in the common man's life, noted poetess and columnist O V Usha said here today.
"Literature is on the back seat now.
The growing influence of politics and cinema has killed enthusiasm for literature among Malayalis.
Writers are not getting the same acceptance in society now which matinee idols and politicians enjoy," she said.
Ah, yes, that deadly combination of politics and cinema .....
(And just a reminder, in case it's needed: Malayali ≠ Malay -- in Kerala (southern India) they speak Malayalam, which is something entirely different from Malay.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Gwenaëlle Aubry's No One, which Tin House brought out in translation earlier this year.
Yes, it comes with an Introduction by the worst writer of his generation Rick Moody -- but that shouldn't entirely scare you off.
'Best book of the year'-lists continue to be a decidedly Anglo-Saxon newspaper/magazine/weblog space-filler, and one simply doesn't find that many in foreign publications.
More will appear as the year actually comes to an end, but for now here some of the very few I've come across:
- Le Point has had a twenty-five title strong list of Les meilleurs livres de l'année 2012 up for a couple of weeks.
It begins with ... a new translation of the Aeneid, but also includes many familiar names and titles; the French ones sound (somewhat) more interesting, but originally-written-in-English works feature quite prominently: Louise Erdrich's Shadow Tag, Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie, books by Jennifer Egan, Amor Towles, and Gary Shteyngart, and even Breaking Away-screenwriter Steve Tesich's 1998 Karoo.
- Die Welt has prominent folks suggest titles -- including Jeffrey Eugenides (Alice Munro) and Rolando Villazón (Iris Murdoch's Under the Net).
- At El País' Papeles Perdidos weblog you have an opportunity to Vota los mejores libros de 2012 -- from pre-selected lists, in many categories.
Among the titles under review at the complete review: translated(-into-Spanish)-nominee Perverzion by Yuri Andrukhovych.
(Updated - 19 December): See now also The Modern Novel blog, which lists several more best lists/books (scroll down).
The announcement of the judging panel is an important moment each year because the Man Booker Prize is only as good as its judges.
I find it interesting that they claim:
Part of the reason the prize is heralded internationally is because the judges stand as a guarantee of literary weight and seriousness of intent.
If the public, publishers and writers don't trust in the competence of the judges then they don't trust the prize.
If they don't trust the prize then it becomes just another literary award.
Hmmm ... personally, I'd trust the prize much more if I actually knew which books they considered each year -- since they only consider around 120 or so submitted (with a handful of called-in) titles every year, out of the many tens of thousands of eligible titles (in no small part because of the ridiculous limit of only allowing two titles per imprint to be officially submitted) but don't reveal what they actually are.
Sure, the competence of the judges is of some interest and concern -- but surely what matters most is what is being judged.
And that they continue to keep secret.
Until they offer some proper transparency in this regard the Man Booker can't possibly be taken particularly seriously (though neither can most literary prizes, especially in the UK, where they tend to share the Man Booker attitude of keeping these most basic facts from the public).
Why practically everyone in the media continue to do so remains entirely beyond me; certainly, the well-greased Man Booker PR machine continues roll smoothly along, entirely evading the issue.
The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of Tommy Wieringa's Caesarion -- shamefully renamed Little Caesar for the US market ('cause that Latinate title, that just goes over everybody's head ...).
The Daily Beast has a The Best of the Best List: 2012 Critics' Top Books, where they: 'collect all the year-end best-of lists published by major critics and publications to find out which work wins the title of 'the single best book of 2012''.
None of the fiction titles are under review at the complete review (and I've only seen one of them); surprisingly two of the non-fiction titles are under review -- Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie and Zona by Geoff Dyer -- and I actually have one more of the titles .....
For all your 'best of the year' needs, see largehearted boy's comprehensive collection of links to Online "Best of 2012" Book Lists.
I missed this when they announced it a few weeks ago -- but then they still haven't announced it at the official site, either, last I checked ... -- but they've announced the winners of the new Gitanjali Literary Prize.
It's open to all literary genres -- as long as the work deals with the theme-of-the-year (this time around: "Resistance, Independence, Freedom") -- and there are awards for one French-language and one Indian (any Indian language, including English) work.
As The Hindu reports, Winners of Gitanjali Literary Awards announced -- and those winners are:
- அஞ்ஞாடி, by Tamil novelist Poomani [பூமணி]; get your copy at Flipkart, or see N. Kalyan Raman's piece on this 'epic new Tamil novel by a leading chronicler of subaltern lives', Clashing By Night, in The Caravan.
(I'm looking forward to the English edition; it sounds pretty impressive.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Carlos Fuentes' Adam in Eden -- the last novel he published in his lifetime, now forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press (though, in fact, apparently already available on Kindle).
It also contains the great sentences:
I am not your consommé Adam. I can only be your rib.
There's a reasonably large (and surprisingly literarily active) Swedish-speaking (and writing) minority in Finland (indeed, the most recent addition to the complete review is a Finnish novel written in Swedish; see below), and so it's not entirely surprising that this year's Finlandia-palkinto went to a book originally written in Swedish (though in fact the author is from the Åland islands); as Books from Finland reports in: The Finlandia Prize for Fiction 2012, the €30,000 went to Is, by Ulla-Lena Lundberg (Finnish title: Jää).
See also the brief (English) description at Books from Finland, or the Schildts & Söderströms publicity page.
[Mo Yan's] writing, however, has hardly been mentioned, let alone assessed, by his most severe western critics; it is his political choices for which he stands condemned.
They are indeed deplorable, but do we ever expose the political preferences of Mo Yan's counterparts in the west to such harsh scrutiny ?
I'm not sure he's right about Mo's 'most severe western critics' -- though I suppose if one focuses on the shallowest (i.e. solely easy-headline-seeking) ones he's right.
(Many others have, however, attacked the writing itself -- see, for example, Anna Sun's The Diseased Language of Mo Yan.)
But Mishra is certainly right that most people have been very quick to pounce on Mo for what he does and doesn't say about China (and his 'defenders' haven't done much to change the conversation, by insisting that he's merely approaching the matter differently ...) -- but then that's what both China and 'the West' want from the a figure that can't help but also be now Nobel-approved symbolic .....
(As longtime readers know, I'm always for focusing on the writing and ignoring the politics; many of my favorite writers have held absolutely heinous positions, but those aren't the ones I want to judge their work by -- and it's only the work I want to judge.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Henry Parland's To Pieces(on the developing of Velox paper), a nice little Swedish-Finnish (re)discovery (from ca. 1930) now available in English from Norvik Press.
Beloved Dalkey Archive Press (yeah, there are a few Dalkey Archive Press titles under review at the complete review ...) has apparently: "begun the process of succession from the founder and current publisher, John O'Brien, to a publishing house that will be directed by two-three people along with support staff", and they've begun that process by posting about those now open positions (at least eight, apparently) they're looking to fill.
No doubt a lot of folks are now aware of the job posting -- but maybe this isn't exactly the way Dalkey hoped they'd be attracting talent: Salon wondered whether this was the Worst job posting ever ? while The Los Angeles Times' Jacket Copy reported Dalkey Archive posts world's wackiest job listing.
It even got a MetaFilter thread: And Your First Born Child.
Yes, Dalkey makes clear it will be a demanding employer.
Successful candidates should also note that "in the first phase of this process" they are likely not be given actual jobs, but rather unpaid internships -- well, "one or two people may be appointed with short-term paid contracts".
I can sympathize with the sense of frustration about a general lack of professionalism in publishing that informs the job posting; while the publishing-industry folks I mainly deal with (in the publicity departments) are, in fact, generally very professional (once the hurdle of finding the appropriate publicity contact for a given title has been cleared -- one that is insurmountable at some large publishers), the business as a whole often seems to me -- admittedly at some distance, and primarily as a consumer and reviewer -- bafflingly unprofessional.
Nevertheless, the job posting seems to go a bit far out of the way to emphasize what is and isn't acceptable.
Jetting off to weddings in Rio is understandably frowned upon, but the list of "grounds for immediate dismissal during the probationary period:" might perhaps be hammering the hopes for professionalism home a bit too hard, with interns/wannabe-employees apparently having to commit to being on call 24/7 (because publishing emergencies are no less serious than medical emergencies ...), promising never to take personal calls in the workplace -- and to never 'surf' the internet.
No doubt, employers everywhere are smiling that someone has finally laid out in a job posting that a grounds for immediate dismissal is:
giving unsolicited advice about how to run things
Still, one can see how this makes Dalkey seem like it is not the most ... welcoming of workplaces .....
I have to admit, a part of me likes this ultra-professional approach -- but then I start looking for the fine print:
Do employees have to buy their own uniforms, or are they company-issued ?
What exactly is the text of the company pledge-of-allegiance, to be recited daily, no doubt, at the dawn convocation ?
And do even the employees with bum knees/hips have to prostrate themselves before the benevolent leader (to be named later) while reciting it ?
Presumably only goose-step marching is permissible on site; what is the punishment for breaking stride ?
I don't envy John O’Brien for what he's going to find in his in-box tomorrow -- and I'm curious whether Dalkey will be able to separate the serious applications (both of them ?) from the hoaxes, which I'm guessing will be flooding that now widely-circulated e-mail address.
Given the importance of this institution -- which is, no doubt about it, where it is largely thanks to the firm, controlling, and visionary hand of John O’Brien -- one hopes that their plans for the future work out.
Dalkey remains the leading publisher of translations in the United States, and any diminution of anything from its standards to the wonderful breadths and depths of its catalog would be a national and literary tragedy.
But if a transition is in the works, this is not a great start -- and honestly I don't think any institution, for profit or non, is well-served by trying to recruit a bunch of feckless yes-(wo)men willing to work for low or no wages in the hopes of being groomed to lead the future way; it sounds like a recipe for attracting a lot of folks already broken by their previous employers, and hardly the sort to lead into any sort of future.
Devotion to the cause is all well and good -- hey, it's a great cause --, but if Dalkey hopes to continue to be as important an institution as it currently still is, then a bit of real fresh blood and radical new thinking is definitely called for.
Hell, maybe they should insist new hires take time off to attend weddings in Rio (Brazil is a pretty literarily happening place right now ...).
But since apparently one of the (many) last things they want is unsolicited advice about how to run things .....
(Updated): See now also Laurence Mackin's Dalkey Archive responds to that job advertisement at the Irish Times' Pursued by a Bear weblog, which emphasizes the "satirical edge in the post", with O'Brien explaining: "The advertisement was a modest proposal. Serious and not-serious at one and the same time" (and noting that he's unsurprisingly been "swamped" by e-mails -- and, apparently and somewhat more surprisingly, job applications).
He explains: "the tongue-in-cheek advertisement was a call to apply for the internships (and the two possible positions) if you’re going to be serious" .....
(Ah, yes, tongue-in-cheek is always a good approach if you're looking for serious repsonses .....)
They've announced that the P.C.Hooft-prijs 2013 goes to A.F.Th. van der Heijden -- not yet at the official site, last I checked (sigh, etc. ....), but see, for example, the report in De Standaard.
The P.C.Hooft Prize is the leading Dutch oeuvreprijs (which is my favorite new word, by the way -- English needs a word like that, for 'life's-work-prize'), and worth €60,000.
As longtime readers know, I'm a big van der Heijden admirer, and have long complained that he's one of the major not-translated-into-English authors.
I figured Tonio stood a reasonable chance of getting published (see the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page), but I'm kind of hoping someone actually bites on one of the multi-volume series, 'De tandeloze tijd' or 'Homo duplex'.
The grim fact is that reading among Chinese people continues to shrink.
According to statistics, the number of printed books read by Chinese people aged between 18 and 70 is 4.35 per capita, much less than that of 11 books per capita in the Republic Of Korea, 20 books in France, and 40 in Japan.
(Even if the laureate had been Japanese this year, you know there would have been an opinion piece bemoaning how reading was on the decline in Japan, etc. etc.)
They also think:
The awarding of the Nobel Prize to Mo should not be over-interpreted, but Mo's success and his speech open up opportunities to the Chinese people to meditate on the pace of life in modern society and promote Chinese literature abroad.
Ah, yes ... well, I hope they go out and meditate and promote !
They report that English PEN awards new grants for books in translation -- ten titles in all.
A nice variety -- both of books and publishers.
Highlights include translations from Belarusian and Galician (yes, even if it is yet again something by Manuel Rivas), as well as a book by Michel Déon.
(Only one of Michel Déon's books has been translated into English -- Where Are You Dying Tonight ?.
That got a nice write-up even in The New York Times Book Review (here) -- in those pre-Tanenhaus-administration days, when the NYTBR was somewhat more open to reviewing works in translation (by living authors, etc.) -- but amazingly none of the prolific author's other work has been translated into English since -- leading to that desperate little note on his official site (scroll down):
Despite his preeminence as a literary figure only one of his works has been made available to English-speaking readers.
Deon is actively pursuing translation and publication of his works in English and welcomes inquiries, through his US agent.
(Note also that that US agent is apparently this one .....)
Maybe Déon would have a bit more luck in selling himself (and his work) stateside if his official site did not open with him ... selling himself quite so hard:
For Michel Deon, immortality is not just a dream; it is his reality.
Yes, yes, we're all very impressed that he's an 'immortel' -- fauteuil 8 at the Académie française -- (the second-longest tenured one, by the way), but that kind of immortality really isn't that big a selling point beyond French shores.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mitsuse Ryu's Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights -- 1960s Japanese science fiction (with Plato and Jesus as two of the major players ...), now available in English from Haikasoru.
For a while now there's been discussion of some Man Booker competition in Britain, and 'The Literature Prize' -- accepting submissions even from non-Commonwealth countries, as long as the books were written in English and published in the UK (in other words: opening up competition by pitting American-authored books against British-authored ones) -- has taken another step towards ... well, existing.
They now have a website -- www.theliteratureprize.com -- and -- so they claim -- a sponsor.
Bizarrely -- and I mean really bizarrely --:
The identity of the sponsor will be revealed in February 2013, at which time the prize will take the sponsor's name.
So 'The Literature Prize' will, not in fact, be 'The Literature Prize', but rather something like the 'Brand X® Literature Prize'.
But why can't they say who the sponsor is now (and unveil the prize with its actual name in place, rather than sowing this nominal confusion) ?
Surely it can't be a good thing if a couple of months of PR-spin and -prep are necessary to make the sponsor appear presentable and/or respectable.
Interesting too that they leave the Man Booker's top-dog position unchallenged -- at least in prize-money terms -- by offering only £40,000.
If they really wanted to show up or challenge the Man Booker folks they would, of course, have needled the old guard by offering a top prize of £51,000 .....
Still, the only questions I have are: what books will be considered (only two per imprint -- the way the Man Booker does it -- or a far more open door policy ?) and whether the list of books that are being considered for the prize will be made public (the Man Booker folk refuse to admit to what books are in the running, outrageously keeping the submission list secret).
If there's some openness and transparency ... well, maybe it will be a prize worth taking seriously (to the extent any can be ...).
They just held the National Conference on Translation, on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Translators Association of China.
At China.org they have all sorts of related material, including a variety of exclusive interviews.
Translation here covers everything from interpreting to literary translation; still, there's a fair bit of interesting stuff here.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Niccolò Ammaniti's Me and You -- which is also the basis for the new Bernardo Bertolucci movie.
The book got limited but very positive review-coverage in the UK; me, I just don't see it.