In Vanguard Prisca Sam-Duru has a Q & A with Ogochukwu Promise, 'the founder and coordinator of The Lumina Foundation which instituted the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa', about the literary situation in Nigeria Good books generate constructive criticisms.
The British Science Fiction Association has announced the shortlists for the 2012 BSFA Awards, and The Kitschies -- rewarding 'the year's most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic' -- have announced theirs.
Far too little is translated into English from Greek, and now one of the main sources of support for what little there is has collapsed, as EKEBI -- the National Book Centre of Greece -- has been shuttered by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports (yeah, there's a good bureaucratic mix ... ), the latest casualty in Greece's f(l)ailing austerity ambitions (though the 35 employees apparently haven't been paid for moths in any case ...).
Surely, another case of being penny-wise/pound-foolish (as they suggest: "Το Εθνικό Κέντρο Βιβλίου είναι ένας φορέας που κοστίζει ελάχιστα στο δημόσιο και φέρνει πίσω πολλαπλάσια") -- but at least there's a bit of a backlash and protest, including an online petition.
Jakob Arjouni, German author of the Kemal Kayankaya-mysteries (published in English by No Exit and Melville House) has passed away; see the (German) report from his German-language publisher, Diogenes, or Melville House's Dennis Johnson's Hail & Farewell.
They've announced the winners of two of the leading Japanese literary prizes, the Akutagawa and the Naoki, and, as The Japan Times has it, Top literature awards split by oldest, youngest novelists.
Kuroda Natsuko (黒田夏子) -- at 75 almost as old as the Akutagawa itself -- won for abさんご, noteworthy also because:
Without using individual names or pronouns, ab Sango depicts the memories of a child whose life with a parent gradually crumbles.
It is written horizontally instead of vertically as Japanese is conventionally written.
And you have to like her reaction:
"Thank you for discovering me while I am still alive," Kuroda said after the Akutagawa award was announced.
Meanwhile, Asai Ryo (朝井リョウ), just 23 years old, shares the Naoki for his novel 何者.
(He shares the prize with middle-aged Abe Ryutaro (安部龍太郎), who I suspect is not going to be getting much of the attention .....)
An annual favorite: Le Figaro lists the top ten bestselling French novelists of 2012 -- counting sales of all their books.
In 2012 the top three were:
Guillaume Musso - 1,710,500 copies sold
Marc Levy - 1,433,000
Katherine Pancol - 705,000
That's the same three, in the same order, as last year -- see my discussion of the 2011 list -- but while the top two had similar sales totals in both 2011 and 2012 Pancol was down over half a million copies sold.
Last year 967,000 copies sold was only good for 4th place, and 790,500 copies sold for fifth .....
A surprise this year was Joël Dicker, who came in fifth with 496,000, largely on the basis of La Vérité sur l'affaire Harry Quebert, while the winner of the biggest prize of the year, prix Goncourt winner Jérôme Ferrari, flopped mightily, his 321,000 copies shifted only good for a pathetic seventeenth place.
Meanwhile, local favorite Amélie Nothomb slipped down one place but still (just) made the top ten with 405,000 copies sold.
The 7,000,000 copies of titles sold by the top ten nevertheless apparently accounted for 23 per cent of all sales of contemporary French fiction.
The (American) 2012 National Jewish Book Award Winners have been announced -- in all the many, many categories, including: 'Holocaust', 'Sephardic Culture', and 'Writing Based on Archival Material'.
None of the titles are under review at the complete review.
Yes, the National Book Critics Circle Announces Its Finalists for Publishing Year 2012 in its six categories.
In addition, they announced that William Deresiewicz took the Nona A. Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing (beating out Abigail Deutsch, Lev Grossman, Garth Risk Hallberg, and Kathryn Harrison), while Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar get the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.
The only book-finalist under review at the complete review is Laurent Binet's HHhH, which, as you can guess, I'm ... surprised rates so high.
The winners will be announced 28 February.
Aleksandar Gatalica's Veliki rat has been named the winner of the NIN-ova nagrada/НИН-ова награда, the leading Serbian literary prize; see, for example, the report in The Balkans Daily.
For some information about the book, see the (English) information at his official site.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Mo Yan's Sandalwood Death.
Just out in English from the University of Oklahoma Press, this is a pretty damn impressive work.
I'm not the biggest fan of socialist realism, but I have to say I do find it heartening that there are still flag-bearers somewhere out there: in Frontline S. Dorairaj has a Q & A with 'D. Selvaraj, winner of the Sahitya Akademi award', 'Socialist realism is still relevant'.
Yes, Selvaraj maintains:
I don’t think that socialist realism has become obsolete.
Thol is living proof of the relevance of socialist realism, which cannot be replaced by any other 'ism'.
Magical realism may be relevant to Latin America, which was under the oppression of the United States.
Post-modernism is only a perverted understanding of life.
But socialist realism is dialectical, which sees the transformation in individuals, society and nature.
It is a scientific approach.
Okay, he kind of lost me claiming that it's 'a scientific approach', which is pretty much the last thing I want to see in my fiction, but still.
Vanguard has a transcript of a recent Garden City Literary Festival panel
Kind of all over the place but with interesting titbits -- such as:
Electricity is my biggest challenge in Nigeria, particularly at night.
There are also the challenges of the publishing industry.
But I also see a kind of renaissance in African fiction.
Nigeria/ Africa are reading again.
This is one of the continents to watch.
Or, for example, Doreen Baingana observes: "I find that it is more difficult for me to make a living as a writer in Uganda than it would be in USA."
And one participant suggests:
young people should be encouraged to read, not by just preaching to them, but by making the books available and having functional school libraries.
In Dawn Ikram Junaidi reports that Unlettered security irks literary figures, as 'Over 100 literary figures boycotted the inaugural ceremony of an international writers' conference after waiting for security clearance for over two hours outside the Prime Minister Secretariat on Thursday'.
So, for example:
Saadullah Shah, a poet and author of 35 books, said literary personalities were not eager to meet the prime minister.
"In fact, most of us do not want to meet him but still we have been brought to the PM Secretariat.
The government officials are humiliating us," he said.
'Columnist and poet Ataul Haq Qasmi' meanwhile opined:
Although I am in favour of democracy, most of the things on the credit of the government are negative,
Nevertheless, a few titbits of interest are buried in here as well -- such as that Prime Minister Ashraf: "raised the stipend for literary persons from Rs5,000 to Rs7,000".
Okay, Rs7,000 is only about US $72.00 -- but still ... they give 'literary persons' (no definition offered) a stipend in Pakistan ?
In the Wall Street Journal Alexandra Alter profiles Nele Neuhaus, in Germany's Top Crime Writer Aims at the U.S..
(I don't know her definition of 'top', but as best I've heard Neuhaus neither leads the pack in sales nor in critical acclaim, so .....)
A one-two punch of Neuhaus books is appearing in English this year, beginning with Snow White Must Die; see the Minotaur publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Typically, of course, this is not the first in her Oliver von Bodenstein/Pia Kirchhoff series, but rather the fourth ... god forbid English-speaking readers should be introduced to a foreign crime series in proper order .....
(I'm certain there's a special circle of hell reserved for the US/UK publishers who decide this is the way to publish translated crime series (i.e. out of series), but to expect anything less of them (like simply publishing the damn books in order) is obviously beyond the sensible, well-functioning, and of course enormously successful industry that is modern-day trade book publishing.)
(Interestingly too, better-known-for-his-translations-from-Scandinavian-languages Steven T. Murray translated it.)
I'm more curious about the stand-alone Swimming with Sharks, coming out in June from AmazonCrossing; pre-order your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The Alter profile is also interesting for the stray bits of sales data on offer -- so, for example:
Last fall, Hyperion Books released The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, an international best seller by Swedish author Jonas Jonasson that sold four million copies in 34 countries.
The U.S. print edition sold just 13,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, while the digital edition sold more than 30,000 copies.
"Publishing an unknown author who’s not based here is a challenge," says SallyAnne McCartin, a Hyperion publicist.
Note, however, that at Futurebook Philip Jones offers a glimpse of some UK numbers, in E-book sales data, the truth is out there -- including the UK sales for Jonasson's book: 175,531 copies sold in print, 145,000 as ebooks.
Maybe it was the added 'of' in the way they wrote the title that convinced UK book-buyers ?
(I'm actually surprised by the relative success of this one: it is truly not a good book -- though the lack of US marketing probably didn't help any.)
Another example Alter offers:
In 2009, Minotaur published Therapy, a psychological thriller from German suspense writer Sebastian Fitzek.
The novel had dominated the German best-seller lists, selling millions of copies, but sold fewer than 1,000 hardcover copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen.
Ms. Rapp, who acquired the book, says she has no clue why the book failed.
"I couldn’t give it away," she says. "I honestly couldn’t tell you why."
Although reviewed in, for example, The Washington Post I can't even recall hearing about this title (and for all of Rapp's failed efforts to give it away, I also didn't ever see a copy).
Well, I hope to get my hands on both of the Neuhaus titles eventually, and judge for myself; I'll let you know what I think.
The Kitschies are literary awards that: "reward the year's most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic" -- and with prizes in 2010, for example, going to, among others, Zoo City by Lauren Beukes and Memory by Donald Westlake, they seem to have pretty decent standards.
There were 221 submissions for the 2012 prizes, and at Pornokitsch they now have a post, The Kitschies: 2012 Submissions by the Numbers [via].
Among their findings:
There's a shocking lack of fiction in translation -- statistically, a UK genre title is twice as likely to have a zombie than be first published in a non-English language.
Sadly, I suspect this is probably true across the genre, and not just in our submissions pile.
The only way to make that work in the resource shy cottage industry that is publishing is to be an expert.
Know your market sector.
And the simple fact of the matter is that publishers do not because publishers still expect to shift between celeb auto's, swords and sandals, chick lit, reading group fiction etc. etc. in any given month.
A few averagely paid marketing people cannot possibly make that work.
I don't need much convincing -- indeed, I've long held that there's a great opportunity for niche independents (like those specializing in fiction in translation ...) or, as they have it:
Publishers need to become experts again and to do that they need to specialise.
I have my doubts as to whether the big houses can adjust quickly enough -- they've certainly been lumbering in their efforts thus far.
Outlook India has two pieces looking back at the literary year 2012 in India: Zafri Mudasser Nofil offers A Look Back at the Literary Scene of 2012, while in Mint, Cracked, Dog-Eared ... "Personages from across the spectrum tell Outlook about the books in 2012 that helped pass time, or enriched its passage", with even the prime minister weighing in.