The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of a career-spanning collection of Love Stories by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, There Once Lived a Girl who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself.
This is one of several works in translation recently published as a paperback original in the US by Penguin (Gerbrand Bakker's Ten White Geese is another), and they seemed to have managed quite a decent Internet/weblog publicity-effort with it (and it even got reviewed in the generally translated-literature-phobic The New York Times Book Review).
This seems an obvious paperback original candidate, and it's good to see it seems to have caught on a bit (and that, for example, the NYTBR did not shy away from coverage).
At his Sapping Attention weblog Ben Schmidt looks at 'Digital Humanities: Using tools from the 1990s to answer questions from the 1960s about 19th century America.'
One tool is the awesome bookworm, which is a fun tool to play with, and most recently he used it to consider Canonic authors and the pronouns that they used.
Nineteenth century authors, mainly, and only extending a bit into the twentieth (relying on out of copyright data), but still a fascinating glimpse of the ratio of he to she in the work of many authors.
This is exciting: a new publisher of translated fiction with a good-looking list coming out later this year: New Vessel Press.
I'm looking forward to seeing these -- a nice selection (including a Moldavian novel !).
A novel titled I Love Manchester United probably wouldn't raise eyebrows in the UK or even the US -- but when the title is actually من منچستر یونایتد را دوست دارم ('I love Man U' in Persian) and the author is Mehdi Yazdani-Khorram it gets a bit more interesting.
The Cheshmeh publicity page gives limited insight -- and apparently it's only in (small) part a footballing novel -- but still: I want to see this.
And fortunately maybe I will: as the Tehran Times reports, Iranian novel I Love Manchester United being translated into Turkish, and they also note: "I Love Manchester United will also appear in English and Italian in the near future".
Not that I'm holding my breath or anything -- but I'll certainly be keeping my eyes out for it.
It's a similar story in many places, but this report, from what had seemed to be a fairly bookish place, is pretty troubling: as Kim Tong-hyung reports in The Korea Times, apparently For the local book market, it's apocalypse now, as:
A report from Statistics Korea Monday showed that book consumption -- measured by the sales of hardcovers, paperbacks and magazines -- hit a new low last year with the average spending of households sinking below 20,000 won (about $18.44).
All sorts of terrible numbers here, such as:
New books released by publishers decreased by a staggering 20 percent in 2012.
The online purchases of books pulled back for the first time since the statistics agency started keeping track of electronic commerce activity in 2001.
Yes, even e-book sales are already in decline there !
According to separate data from the Korean Publishers Association (KPA), publishers introduced 39,767 new books last year and printed and published 86.97 million copies.
It was the first time since 2000 that less than 100 million copies of new books were published over a full year.
The number of bookstores was counted at 5,683 in 1994, but reduced to 2,247 in 2003 and 1,752 in 2011
In The New York Times Book Review this Sunday the Q & A has Marilynne Robinson: By the Book -- and one of her responses helps explain, I think, why I've never really warmed to her and her work (though obviously the whole religiosity-thing doesn't help either):
What's your favorite literary genre ?
Any guilty pleasures ?
Oddly enough, my favorite genre is not fiction.
Always disappointing to hear.
(I know it's unrealistic to expect everyone to venerate fiction to the extent I do, but I can't help but hope that at least for people who occasionally write fiction it would also be their be-all and end-all.)
Schwob.nl is a showcase website for these forgotten or undiscovered books.
Schwob is created by translators into and out of Dutch, foreign publishers and editors, researchers, readers and critics.
And now, as Cleaves reports:
Schwob is now about to start operating at a European level.
The Dutch Foundation for Literature will cooperate with literature foundations and partners in six other countries: Catalonia (Institut Ramon Llull), Finland (Finnish Literature Exchange), France (European Society of Authors), Poland (Polish Book Institute), Belgium (Flemish Literature Fund) and the UK (Wales Literature Exchange).
The partners will work together on the selection, distribution and promotion of 'Schwob titles' -- the truffles of world literature; exceptional but hard to find or undiscovered modern classics that whet the appetite.
Sounds pretty good, and €200,000 is certainly a hell of a lot of money to play with (by comparison: the complete review's annual budget is considerably less than 1 per cent of that ... sigh).
They already have a few titles up at the still-all-Dutch site, including several under review at the complete review: Tun-Huang by Inoue Yasushi, Niels Lyhne by Jens Peter Jacobsen, and Border Town by Shen Congwen -- and I certainly approve of some of the other choices (Karl Philipp Moritz, Bolesław Prus ...).
I'm very curious to see what develops here.
As longtime readers may have noticed, I essentially never refer to the 'statistic' that only three per cent of all fiction published in the US is translated; I've heard the anecdotal evidence, but that's all it's always seemed to me; I've never seen any numbers that would really convince me it's anything more than the most ballpark of estimates.
The Three Percent Translation Database offers the best documentation of what fiction and poetry is published in (first) translation in the US in any given year, but without a corresponding measure of total comparable publications doesn't yield any useful percentages either.
Now Literature Across Frontiers has taken a closer look at UK and Irish publications to try determine the numbers there.
The resulting study, Three percent ? Publishing data and statistics on translated literature in the United Kingdom and Ireland (warning ! dreaded pdf format !), by Jasmine Donahaye offers some insight -- but ultimately does little more than demonstrate how hard the hard numbers are to come by.
The findings "reveal a steady growth of translated titles" (between 2000 and 2008, the time period studied), and that may be accurate.
But as to the actual numbers and percentages -- oh, no, no, no.
I already dread how folks are going to irresponsibly claim that: "approximately 2.5% of all publications and 4.5% of fiction, poetry, drama (literature) are translations".
That is what the raw numbers might show -- but, boy, are those numbers raw.
By far the most useful part of this study is the section on: "proposed mechanisms for change", suggesting how data may better be presented and collected -- and, yes, metadata issues are a major issue.
As to what this study counted: well, admirably, they include the BNB Literary Translations Bibliography 2000_2005_2008 (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- the titles of all the books they count.
And here, very easy for all to see, is the rub.
Or rather: the very many rubs.
In the report they note several caveats, including:
Another potential problem is that hardback and paperback editions of the same title will appear as two publications, and some titles that appear in the record as 'intention to publish' may not in the end have been published.
Also challenging is the matter of place of publication.
But, in fact, it's so much worse than that.
So horrendously much worse.
Even a cursory examination shows there are a large number of titles of dubious value -- many that should not have been counted at all, or must be categorized with care.
So many that they call any and all 'conclusions' into doubt.
- First off, there are a number of titles that are not translations into English at all: Moses Isegawa's Abyssinian Chronicles was admittedly first published in Dutch, but it was translated into Dutch; the 2000 UK publication is of the English original, not a translation from the Dutch.
- I'm not familiar with the book, by it seems obvious that the many mentions of Michael Rosen's We're Going on a Bear Hunt, listed in multiple languages, is again not a translation into English, but rather are bilingual editions (in various languages) of Rosen's originally-written-in-English kiddie-book. Not really what we're looking for.
- There are an incredible number of titles listed twice -- the first instance comes just ten titles in, Aḥmad Ibrāhīm Faqīh's Gazelles and other plays, and it just goes on and on and on.
(And, yes, these clearly were counted separately for percentage-determining purposes.)
- There are an incredible -- really incredible -- number of new editions of previously published work included here.
We're not talking new translations, we're just talking new editions of previously published translations -- some only a year or two earlier, some much, much earlier.
Don't believe me ?
Scroll down near the end and check out how many of those 2008 Turgenev translations are credited to ... Constance Garnett.
(Many of these new editions of old work are also readily identifiable because a second, earlier copyright date is acknowledged.)
While there may be some argument for new (i.e. re-) translations being counted -- though note that these are explicitly excluded from the Three Percent Database -- there is not much good reason for including new editions of old translations; yes, it gives some idea of how popular books in translation are, but still .....
(I do note that every god damned republication of a Jane Austen novel also counts as a "new book" in those grossly inflated annual books-published lists (the ones against which the percentage of translated titles is, perforce, measured) -- it is a problem how to properly deal with all these.)
- There are an awful lot of children's books here, inflating totals.
And pretty basic ones, too -- do we really want to count Philippe Corentin's 30-page picture book Splosh ! in trying to figure out how much literary fiction is being translated ?
(And I remind you of Michael Rosen -- one the most-represented authors on the list .....)
- Plays are also included.
Nothing against plays, but that's a pretty separate category (and yes, I'd love to see poetry separated out too).
These are my findings after scrolling more or less randomly through this bibliography for less than an hour -- and I can come to no other conclusion than that it is irresponsible to draw the conclusions they did about how many literary works in translation were published in 2000, 2005, and 2008 from this.
With a little teasing -- weeding out those duplicates, those kids' books, etc. -- the data can yield better results -- it is a great foundation -- but no one should claim 4.5 or whatever per cent of UK/Irish literary publications were translated .....
This bibliography is actually a great starting point (though there are also issues of what isn't listed here -- I note, for example, two 2005 volumes from the Clay Sanskrit Library (NYU Press) are listed, but the several additional titles that came out in 2008 are missed), but it needs a lot more work than was performed on it to yield any truly useful data (weeding out duplicates would seem to be the minimum; as the totals in the language tables in the report proper show, not even that was done).
Honestly, the way this subject (and the data) is treated (i.e. manhandled) drives me nuts.
I'm seriously considering applying for an NEA (or NEH ?) grant to do a proper count and study .....
Meanwhile, do me a favor and do not spread the oh so wrong word that 4.5 or whatever percent of all UK/Irish literary titles are translations.
(Don't say it's three percent either .....)
At his Att vara ständig weblog Swedish Academy point-man Peter Englund offers a few tiny clues about Årets långa lista -- this year's longlist for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
For one, there are the number of nominations: 195 eligible names were submitted, of which 48 are first-timers -- roughly in keeping with recent totals (last year: 210 names, of which 46 were new).
Rather disappointingly, only five previous laureates took advantage of their privilege of being allowed to nominate an author; I count (hastily, so maybe I'm off by one or two) twenty living laureates, so that's a pretty poor response rate.
Here's where it gets interesting, however: he mentions that there had been an increased effort to solicit nominations from US-based academics (was it Harold Bloom who nominated Mo Yan ... ?) -- and this year they made a special effort to ask Africa-based academics.
Will that have an affect on who got nominated ?
Put someone like Ayi Kwei Armah into play ?
And does that include the Maghreb universities -- which, despite the Arab Spring, may well still be dominated by some rather reactionary literary thinking ?
One note: before you start complaining about what was outrageously overlooked, check that the book in question was actually eligible -- the 2012 Translation Database at Three Percent is slightly out of date, but pretty much corresponds to the titles that could be considered.
Observations: as Chad Post tallied: nineteen different countries and thirteen different languages are represented -- but only four women (authors).
While the (sixteen-title-strong) Independent Foreign Fiction Prize includes no translation from the German, the BTBA has four titles; the IFFP has two translations from the French, the BTBA six.
On the whole, the geographic spread (for what that's worth ...) is pretty impressive -- though there's only one title from Africa.
The obvious major gaping hole is that there are no titles translated from the Arabic (but there is one translated from the Persian, and one from the Urdu).
Notable authors missing from the BTBA list include a whole slew of Nobel laureates: Mario Vargas Llosa, Orhan Pamuk, Mo Yan, and José Saramago all had eligible titles, but Herta Müller is the only one to make the list.
Other notable titles missing are Laurent Binet's HHhH, Marie NDiaye's Three Strong Women, either of the two eligible César Aira titles, Claudio Magris' Blindly, Per Petterson's It's Fine by Me, and Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend.
I was a judge for the BTBA -- but to give you an idea of the limited influence each individual has: we each named our top ten, and the top vote-getters made for sixteen longlisted titles, with each of us then naming one additional title for the final spots -- and only six of my top ten were among the top sixteen vote-getters; the one additional spot I could fill still meant that only seven of my top ten made the list .....
Among other titles that didn't make the longlist which I would have liked to see (but which I didn't necessarily vote for in my top ten) are also:
The Neighborhood by Gonçalo M. Tavares -- very different from the Tavares that did make the longlist, but a lot of fun
The Thief by Nakamura Fuminori -- seemed the likeliest (and most deserving) crime/thriller candidate this year ....
Why the Child is Cooking in the Polenta by Aglaja Veteranyi -- it recently won the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for translation from the German
Meanwhile, it's also amusing to compare the actual list to my predictions from last year -- which weren't half-bad.
Since I'm still judging I won't tip my hand regarding favorites (though my reviews, where available, certainly give you some sense of what I'll be supporting and what I probably won't ...).
The shortlist will be announced 10 April, and the winner on 4 May.
I mentioned being intrigued by the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes last week, and now they've announced the nine recipients of the prize.
(As noted last time, they still really have to work on their PR: there was no print-mention of the winners on the official site last I checked (twelve hours after the press release was released at variuous sites), and the video announcement has two whole minutes of dead air time before the announcement begins .....)
You can find the press release here.
Fifty-nine English-writing writers were nominated (without their knowledge) for the prize that pays $150,000 each, and:
The recipients, who range in age from 33 to 87, are James Salter, Zoë Wicomb, and Tom McCarthy in fiction; Naomi Wallace, Stephen Adly Guirgis, and Tarell Alvin McCraney in drama; and Jonny Steinberg, Adina Hoffman and Jeremy Scahill in nonfiction.
The only author under review at the complete review is Tom McCarthy; several of his books are under review, including Remainder.
VIDA: Women in Literary Arts have now published The Count 2012, tallying how many (or rather, how few) reviews/bylines/authors reviewed in a variety of prominent publications were female.
As in previous years, a decidedly male slant is far too prevalent (and as in previous year, The New Republic really stands out: only 10.23 per cent of book reviews were by females, and only 16.67 per cent of books reviewed were by female authors.)
As frequently noted, I've considered How Sexist are We ? at the complete review, and I'm afraid the numbers continue to be bad (and it comes as a slight relief that at least the review added yesterday was of a book written by a woman).
As also previously noted, the focus on books in translation helps skew results here -- considerably more male-authored books are translated than female-authored ones (though the gap narrows with more recent publications).
Of course, the demographics hereabouts are far from any norm anyway: less than ten per cent of the last sixty titles reviewed were originally written in English, for example.
In The Independent (Uganda) Yusuf Serunkuma presents "the best titles -- published not only in Uganda, but also anywhere, by a Ugandan as the best books of the year 2012", in One man's reading list.
While that is, of course, of some interest, the really jaw-dropping detail is that:
Excluding schoolbooks, about 20 books are published in Uganda every year all genres combined; that is politics, histories, autobiographies and biographies, works of fiction such as novels and collections of short stories, and poetry.
In The Hindu Mariam Karim-Ahlawat finds 'Translation creates empathy and understanding between cultures, but only when we are ready to acknowledge and value the differences', in Translating or transcending.
Next week the 25-title-strong longlist for the (US) Best Translated Book Award (I'm one of the judges) will be announced, and it's always fun to compare that with the (UK) Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, which has now announced its longlist -- not at the official site, yet, last I checked, but Boyd Tonkin spills the beans in his The Week in Books column in The Independent, in From Syria to Colombia, and Albanian to Afrikaans, enjoy a global feast.
Several of the titles are under review at the complete review; the complete list (with review-links, where applicable):
Observations: it's a very male-dominated list -- and doesn't manage to look farther east than Turkey/Syria (there's nothing from the Chinese, Japanese, or Korean).
Nothing from the Russian either, and among the languages from which the most is translated into English it's noteworthy that there are only two titles from the French, and none from German.
[No doubt there are similar odd lacunae in the BTBA list; I'm just saying .....]
There is a bit of overlap with the BTBA longlist (sorry, you'll have to wait until next week to find out how much), but a lot of these titles weren't considered for the BTBA because they haven't been published in the US yet (the Bakker, Barnard, Huelle, Kadare, and Vásquez will all only be considered for next year's BTBA, for example, and several others don't seem to have any US publisher/distributor yet).
Overall it's a solid list, with a couple of titles I love.
Via Books from Finland I learn of Lola Rogers' piece, Finnish Literature in English: A Tiny Boom at the Finnish-English Literary Translation Cooperative -- and the first thing I have to ask is how did I not know there was a Finnish-English Literary Translation Coöperative ?
Anyway, Rogers notes that:
The number of works of Finnish literature published in English is perhaps too small to make any firm claims about statistical trends, but it seems to be experiencing a tiny but definite boom.
From 1992-2002, there were fewer than 20 English translations of Finnish novels published abroad.
From 2002 to the present, there were at least 34. This increase is due largely to the new availability of qualified translators.
Okay, three titles a year still seems like way too few, but, yeah, any increase (especially in direct, as opposed to second-hand, translation) is welcome.
In China Daily Mei Jia offers an appropriately muddled and confused article claiming Literary agents open new chapter in China.
There's Nobel laureate Mo Yan announcing that: "his daughter Guan Xiaoxiao has full rights to represent him in copyright talks and any other negotiations on cooperation" -- though maybe that doesn't extend globally, as Andrew Wylie still lists him as a client .....
Chen Liming, president of Beijing Genuine and Profound Culture Development Corp, who has been offering literary agent-like services to top Chinese writers including Mo and Mai Jia, known for his spy and detective novels.
(Personally, I think representation by them is worth it just for the name alone -- who could ask for more than: 'Genuine and Profound Culture Development' from their representative ?)
Of course Chen does have a problem:
Chen said a big block in front of him is the lack of talent.
Thank god China is still a nicely unsequestered statist place -- so:
Yilin's Liu suggests government support in the budding period of literary agents.
But what will they do in the rotting period sure to follow if these folks actually get their claws into the field and establish themselves as pseudo-vital ?
In The Guardian Alison Flood profiles Ruth Rendell: a life in writing.
None of her books are under review at the complete review, but I've read close to two dozen and almost always found her to offer reliably good entertainment.
Yesterday the National Book Critics Circle announced the winners of the 2012 NBCC Awards -- usually one of the more reliable American literary prizes.
None of the winning titles are under review at the complete review (though I do expect to get to Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights, by Marina Warner); Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain won in the fiction category.
They've announced the longlist for the 2013 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, ten titles in three categories (fiction, non, and poetry), representing six Caribbean countries.
One heavyweight among the nominees: Junot Díaz.