So with all sorts of the-year-ahead-in-books previews out it looks like one of the -- and arguably the -- publishing event of the year has thus far been almost entirely overlooked.
At 2672 pages that would seem hard to do, but those showing us the way ahead into 2013 apparently didn't stumble over it (or don't think it's worth your while -- which, given the considerable while involved in reading it, seems plausible).
Sure, size isn't everything -- but the first complete translation of Giacomo Leopardi's Zibaldone (with seven listed translators) would be an event of outsize proportions even if there were a dozen books appearing this year that dwarfed it physically.
For some background, see the University of Birmingham's The Zibaldone project page and the Arts & Humanities Research Council's interesting feature on Translating the 'Zibaldone' -- where, for example, one of the editors points out:
In fact, the work can also be read as a very early example of a non-linear text.
Any single entry can be connected to one or more others: the book is a kind of net.
Indexes are indispensable here, and Leopardi even made one of his own.
The actual content of the diary, with its pitiless analyses of modernity, ranges from philosophical and moral questions, questions concerning man, nature and society, literary matters of course, the special status of poetry, through to scientific, political and linguistic issues
It's due out in July in the US, from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and in the UK apparently from Penguin in September; pre-order your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
(In the FSG catalog they promise, under 'marketing', that they'll have: "Author Appearances", so I'm very much looking forward to those .....)
They announced the shortlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction yesterday.
(In one of the oddest ways of proceeding I have ever heard of for a literary prize, the names of those on the judging panel were kept secret until yesterday; naturally, this late announcement of who the judges were distracted from the selected books (and raises all sorts of questions, at least in suspicious minds like mine).)
At her Arabic Literature (in English) weblog M. Lynx Qualey has (and will no doubt continue to have in the coming weeks) more, reporting here that International Prize for Arabic Fiction Shortlist Features Young, Lesser-known Author.
She also suggests:
In general, the shortlist seems to emphasize page-turning novels over more experimental works
The Jerusalem Prize is the biennial prize of the Jerusalem International Book Fair, and they've announced that Antonio Muñoz Molina will get it this year.
No announcement at the official page yet (which could use more than just some updating -- it's a great list of winners but I think Graham Greene, J.M.Coetzee, and Zbigniew Herbert would all prefer it if their names were correctly spelled (a transliteration issue, no doubt -- but still ...)), but see, for example, a (Hebrew) report at ynet
I'm always amazed at how little of his work has been translated into English -- he headed the Instituto Cervantes in New York, for god's sake -- and while more is coming out he hasn't gotten nearly the attention hereabouts he deserves.
Titles currently under review at the complete review are In Her Absence and A Manuscript of Ashes -- but more are sure to follow.
If not money -- at €18,000 it's chicken-feed by Spanish literary prize standards (though not, you'll note, by American ones ...) -- the Premio Nadal at least has history on its side: apparently it's the oldest running Spanish novel prize, and with Carmen Laforet's Nada it started with an impressive bang.
They've now announced this year's winner: Estaba en el aire by Sergio Vila-Sanjuán, selected from 229 submissions; see, for example, the report in El mundo.
Vila-Sanjuán isn't well-known abroad -- but impressively one of his titles is available in (recent) translation: A Barcelona Heiress.
But only as an ebook.
This is one of the first publications from Barcelona eBooks (who really might want to ... elaborate on their site).
See the Open Road (the folks behind Barcelona eBooks) publicity page, or download your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've announced the shortlist for the Hatchet Job of the Year Award -- awarded to: "the writer of the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review of the past twelve months".
You can read the reviews at the site -- always good entertainment.
The Millions usually does a pretty decent job with their annual preview of the books appearing in the upcoming year, but their 2013 Book Preview leaves me rather underwhelmed -- despite promising that: "7,900 words strong and encompassing 79 titles, this is the only 2013 book preview you will ever need".
Maybe it's just that they leave out Tirza and misspell César Aira's name at one point; it does provide a reasonable overview of many of the year's major publications.
(Scott Esposito's Interesting New Books - 2013 at his Conversational Reading weblog -- to which titles continue to be added (many and frequently, one hopes) -- continues to be the ... most interesting 2013 pre-/overview (though the reliance on the horror that is publicity-copy for descriptions of the books is unfortunate).)
A couple of years ago, when Luis Goytisolo's -- rather than, more obviously, brother Juan's -- name popped up in discussions about the Nobel Prize I looked into whether or not he really might be Nobel-worthy.
Given how little of his work has been translated into English -- yeah, that 360° Diary still seems to be about the extent of it -- and how little of an impact that seems to have had (the Amazon.com sales rank is, at 9,982,169, unbelievably actually worse than when I last checked it ...), one might still wonder.
In that post from three years ago I noted that another bad sign was that the Times Literary Supplement had reviewed the first two volumes of his magnum opus, Antagonía -- "but passed on the final two".
But now they have taken a look -- and maybe it's time to take a look at Luis again.
Michael Kerrigan did the Antagonía-honors, in the 14 December issue of the TLS -- in a review (not freely accessible online) covering more than two full pages and clocking in at over 4000 words (that's some serious attention).
Anagrama's nice new one-volume edition -- see their publicity page, or get your copy of it at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, or Amazon.es -- provided a good reason to (re)consider the tetralogy as a whole, and Kerrigan suggests it is certainly worth our while.
Narratives within narratives, worlds within worlds, the past within the present: we're at once at home and thoroughly adrift in a universe of infinite regression.
Which already sounds like a pretty good start.
And, yes, his endorsement also carries quite a warning -- but still, who could resist a book about which Kerrigan concludes:
Reading Antagonía is, in the real world, almost an impossibility, requiring great intellectual commitment -- not to mention a month or so off work.
But the rewards are immense: this is an endlessly stimulating gothic cathedral of a novel, a world to wander in -- surprised, affected, diverted and perplexed -- for weeks on end.
I read something like that and I'm tempted to take a stab at it, despite my most rudimentary Spanish .....
So I'm wondering: which American publisher has the balls to commission the translation ?
If figure they'll have to go all in -- it's the one-volume tetralogy or nothing; American readers aren't going to buy the four volumes separately.
Another Kerrigan quote to tempt you/them:
With all his wit and humour, he has the "high seriousness" of the Victorian sages; and the nineteenth-century novelist's desire to trace the sources of the self.
With a Romantic's conviction of the centrality of art, he is utterly uncompromising in his aesthetic, and unembarrassed by the demands he makes on his reader's time and trouble.
I figure Dalkey might be tempted but would probably shy away from something this size at this time.
Is something of this bulk too daunting for Open Letter and Archipelago ?
New York Review Books Classics ?
A university press ?
Or will a commercial publisher like FSG -- hey, they did Nádas' Parallel Stories last year, and I figure the cost/return-math (unfortunately, 'cost/profit' probably isn't an applicable reckoning ...) would be similar on this ... -- dare ?
In any case, it sounds like English-speaking readers are missing something -- and I hope there's a publisher out there willing to rectify that situation.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of what's billed as Eleven Dark Tales by Ogawa Yoko, Revenge.
As you may have guessed, I'm a fan (four of her other titles are under review at the complete review, though there are only three available in English), and I think this is the most successful and complete of the ones I've read -- there may be a bit more to some of the others, but they're not as elegantly put together, as whole.
(Okay, maybe The Housekeeper and the Professor, but that one is also so damn tame, and what Ogawa does best is the decidedly not-so-tame stuff.)
A few observations:
- I say it's a novel, and should be read as such, not 'eleven tales'
- I say they should have tried some variation of the Japanese title -- 寡黙な死骸 みだらな弔い.
Simple 'Revenge' ?
- The French have published so much Ogawa that they're collecting her works: check out volume one of Actes Sud's collected edition.
Why do we lag so far behind ?
And in the meantime: how do I get copies of all those French editions ?
The law stipulates that copyrights expire 50 years after the end of the year in which the writer died.
The copyrights held by authors who died in 1962 expired at the end of 2012, and their works can now be used for free without permission.
Meanwhile, in the US ... well, as the Center for the Study of the Public Domain reminds us:
Not a single published work is entering the public domain this year.
Or next year. In fact, in the United States, no publication will enter the public domain until 2019.
Volume fell 6.3 per cent to 56.6 million, worth $978 million, a 9.3 per cent drop on 2011.
Without the contribution of James's trilogy, sales would have fallen by 11.2 per cent and value by 12.5 per cent, according to Nielsen BookScan's tally of sales.
The managing director of Dymocks, Steve Cox, said his 74-shop chain sold 500,000 more books than in previous years but the average price was down from $23 to $15.60.
German weekly Die Zeit polls critics for their top ten works of crime fiction monthly (see, for example, the January, 2013 list) and have now tallied the top ten of 2012.
Stretching the category so that, for example, Helon Habila's Oil on Water places second, it is noteworthy how the list is dominated by books originally written in English (though a French title came out tops) -- and by the complete absence of any title by a Scandinavian author.
The Germans are a few years ahead of the Americans/British as far as the whole Nordic-wave has been going -- does this mean that it's coming to an end ?
(It'll take a while to wind down, one way or another, but that not a one found the German critics' favor suggests more dregs and less stand-outs .....)
I've pointed to English-language previews of what books we can look forward to in 2013 (for example, here), but it's also always interesting to see what's getting published in other countries and languages.
I've mentioned the first French previews, but the Spanish now also offer some:
One of the fun things at the start of every year is that the Swedish Academy opens up the archives to the Nobel Prize in Literature deliberations from fifty years ago.
This year the documents relating to the 1962 prize -- which went to John Steinbeck -- were due to be released, and Kaj Schueler of Svenska Dagbladet offers the first look, in Till slut återstod bara Steinbeck.
The big news is the name of the finalists he beat out: Jean Anouilh, Karen Blixen, Lawrence Durrell, and Robert Graves -- with Blixen putting herself out of the running by dying in early September, before deliberations got serious (but apparently unlikely to have taken the prize anyway).
Also interesting: Sartre entered into the discussions, too -- presumably undermining Anouilh's candidacy, and paving the way for his 1964 win.
It's interesting to compare this to the 1961 discussions (when the prize went to Ivo Andrić) -- see my discussion of the 1961 deliberations -- which had Graham Greene as runner-up and also included Blixen, J.R.R.Tolkien, C.S.Lewis, and Friedrich Dürrenmatt in the mix.
Greene's absence from the 1962 shortlist sticks out -- perhaps he wasn't nominated that year ?
I'm looking forward to more revelations from the deliberations (like who else was nominated) in the coming days; meanwhile, it's amusing to note that Schueler reminds readers that the choice was widely derided in the Swedish press at the time -- to the extent that an Aftonbladet commentary suggested Pearl Buck should be pleased, since now she would no longer be held up as the best example of the Academy's poor judgement .....
(Yes, that Swedish attitude of not taking American writers seriously apparently has one hell of a long history, and isn't restricted to the Swedish Academy .....)
The official Nobel site has some nomination-information -- see, for example, Nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature each year (1901-1950) -- but it would be great if they updated this annually to keep up with the newest revelations.
[Updated:Via Alison Flood's coverage in The Guardian [hey, I wonder how she stumbled onto this story ...] I learn that the Nobel site now offers some 1962 nomination information -- including that 66 individuals were nominated, 15 of them for the first time, and that Steinbeck had been nominated eight times previously; unfortunately, they do not seem to have comparable pages covering the 1951 through 1961 nominations (yet ...).]
(That page is interesting with regards to some of the other much-derided choices, by the way: note how often some of the eventual winners had been nominated -- Grazia Deledda a dozen times, Frans Eemil Sillanpää nine times, Johannes V. Jensen a stunning eighteen times (including by seven different nominators in 1938 (the infamous Pearl Buck year ...), finally winning it in a year when there were only twenty other authors nominated).
As with the Man Booker and most other literary prizes: you have to be in the running (i.e. nominated, in this case) to win -- and multiple nominations by multiple nominators surely suggest some of these authors weren't considered anywhere near as forgettable as they are nowadays.
(The Nomination Database also only covers 1901 to 1950, but a search shows that Steinbeck had already been nominated in four separate years before 1950 -- each time by a different nominator.
The database is useful in considering some of the Academy's notable omissions over the years: Joyce, Proust, Rilke, Brecht, and Kafka were among authors never even nominated, for example, so it's hard to blame the Academy for never giving them the prize; Tolstoy, on the other hand, was nominated sixteen times -- by five different nominators in 1905 alone ....
Zola was only nominated twice (dying in 1902, the second year of the prize, cut that short), Ibsen and Edith Wharton thrice, Henry James four times -- while Jules Verne was nominated eleven times.
Strindberg (surprisingly -- Scandinavian nominations were always popular) and Musil are also among notable authors never to get nominated.)
At this distance I've never really noticed or paid attention to the ostensible (or actual) political leanings of these various publications, but there are quite a few interesting titbits in the piece -- including that:
The only other literary magazine that, like Quadrant, publishes monthly is Australian Book Review.
For several years it has had a special deal with the Australia Council that has netted it more than $110,000 a year.
This deal was done when ABR pledged to review all Australian-published trade books in literature and the other humanities.
An admirable -- and surely subsidy-worthy (if anything is) -- ambition -- though, alas, ABR apparently falls short of it (including, amusingly enough, never having: "reviewed any of the works published by Quadrant Books").
Yesterday I gave an overview of the year in reviews at the complete review -- a breakdown of how much and what was reviewed.
Now as far as what got read at the site .....
I'm glad I don't keep closer track of this during the year, because it would be kind of depressing: total unique visits and page views were down an astonishing 24 per cent from 2011 (and down just short of 40 per cent in 2010) -- despite an increase of 8.4 per cent in review-content since the end of 2011 (and 17.25 per cent since the end of 2010).
I have no idea what the reason for the steep decline is.
Pages from the site haven't returned to old-time Google-search-result heights, but seem much improved over last year, yet far fewer people sought out content.
The one country from which growth has been strong is India -- up from 4.06% of traffic in 2011 to 5.71% in 2012 (and jumping past Canada (down from 6.45% to 5.11%) into third spot behind the US and UK as the nation sending the most visitors to the site.
As far as visitors from individual cities go, London (3.53% of all traffic, up from 2.92%) jumped past New York (3.20%, up slightly from 3.15%) to take the top spot, while New Delhi jumped from eighth to third place.
In all, there were visitors from 215 countries in 2012, with 101 sending an average of at least one visitor a day, and 157 at least one a week.
(Among the countries sending no visitors was South Sudan -- though Sudan itself ranked a respectable 116th as a source of traffic (and, for example, Somalia (187th) sent almost as much traffic as Liechtenstein (186th).)
Search traffic remained by far the biggest source of traffic, and Google remained the dominant search engine visitors used to get to the site -- accounting for over 90 per cent of search traffic (up slightly over 2011, while Bing's share, for example, dropped from 4.32% to 3.98%).
The top five search queries sending visitors to the site were:
book review sites
the complete review
(Hey, last year 'porno' was third (and the top two positions reversed).)
Not surprisingly, traffic from visitors using iPads increased dramatically -- almost doubling.
In 2011 there was still more traffic from iPhones than iPads, and even though iPhone traffic also increased dramatically it couldn't keep pace.
For the most-viewed reviews of the year, see the top 50 of 2012.
It looks a lot like the 2011 list; shockingly the best performance by a first-published-anywhere-in-English-in-2012 title was My Struggle (UK title: A Death in the Family) by Karl Ove Knausgaard -- in 125th (!).
The exhaustive and comprehensive 2012 'state of the site' survey will appear at the end of the month.
Meanwhile, though the amount of traffic has little bearing on what actually gets done at the site, I wouldn't mind seeing a reversal of that recent and slightly demoralizing downward spiral trend.
(Given the international focus hereabouts, and with the bulk of the loss in traffic coming from the US (down 16.26%), the UK (down 23.68%), and Canada, I can't help but worry that it also in part reflects a loss of interest in that whole fiction-in-translation thing -- odd, because internet coverage of it seems as extensive and interesting as ever (but maybe it's just a small circle of the same readers and online-writers who are paying much attention to it ...).)
It's been a busy year at the complete review: the 236 reviews posted mark the most in any year since 2000, and more than 10 per cent more than last year's total (212).
That's also a total of 197,916 review-words (an average of almost 839 words per review, up from the 2011 average of 773); I don't keep as close a track of Literary Saloon-posting word-counts, but I figure, conservatively, there were at least 250,000 words worth here.
Reviews of fiction dominated, as always: 190 of the reviews were of works of fiction (and 180 of those of novels) -- though that's a slightly lower percentage than in 2011.
Interestingly, a majority of books by US authors were non-fiction -- 15, vs. only 9 fiction -- while, for example, books by authors from other countries were overwhelmingly fiction: France: 24 fiction vs. 3 non; UK 13 fiction vs. 2 non.
Male-authored books were, as usual, predominant too ... 192.5 (81.57 %) .....
(Best balance: 3 books of 13 by Japanese authors reviewed were by female authors, 4 of 17 from the UK, 2 of 7 from Spain; worst: Netherlands: 0 of 6; US: 3 of 26.)
Reviewed books were originally written in 33 different languages (up slightly from 31 in 2011, but still far below the 41 in 2010); the most common were:
English - 67 books
French - 40
Spanish - 23
Japanese - 12
Arabic - 9
Reviewed books were by authors from 64 countries (up considerably from the 51 in 2011 and 2010); the best-represented were:
1. France - 30 books
2. US - 26
3. UK - 17
4. Japan - 13
5. Argentina - 7
-. India - 7
-. Spain - 7
Rather surprisingly, I reviewed at least one book first published in each of the years between 1986 and 2012.
(Note that I only count year of first publication, in whatever language a book was originally written in, not first US or English publication -- hence only 36 of the reviewed books are counted as having been first published in 2012; if the US publication date were the deciding one, that number would be about three times as high.)
I reviewed at least five books from each decade since the 1910s except the 1940s (3) -- including 19 from 1910 to 1939 -- but only a very feeble four from before 1900.
Only one title was graded 'A+' or 'A' (Gerald Murnane's Barley Patch), though 22 rated 'A-'.
The most frequently assigned grade was 'B' (104), but four titles were rated 'C+' or lower.
Except for the date-of-publication range there aren't too many numbers here that make me want to fundamentally change my approach to what I review.
The pervasive sexism is embarrassing, but then it has been since day one at the site; I really don't know what to do about it (sorry, affirmative action isn't in the cards).
But I would like to focus more on classical works -- that 98.3 per cent of the books reviewed were written in the past century (and hence less than 1.7 per cent before then) seems way too modern to me.
As for the rest, the site will certainly remain as internationally (and multi-lingually) focused -- though I suppose I would like to extend the range of coverage of some other genres some as well: poetry (2 books in 2012), drama (1), etc.