I'm pleasantly surprised by the variety on offer here -- a nice range of very different kinds of books, with a decent geographic spread.
I'm also pleased to see that several of the titles that were individually put up by the judges for the longlist (we all voted for the top sixteen, and then each judge got to throw another personal choice into the pot to round out the twenty five) -- including mine -- made the final top ten.
I do think there are quite a few surprises here -- surprises of omission, too.
(I note that two of my top three choices from the longlist did not make the top ten, and only six of the ten titles I supported most strongly made the final cut.)
Among the arguably 'major' omissions are Michel Houellebecq's The Map and the Territory and Traveler of the Century by Andrés Neuman, though I think the only real shocker is that Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle failed to advance.
(I have a soft spot for Joseph Walser's Machine by Gonçalo M. Tavares, too .....)
Still, there's a lot of very impressive fiction here, and a couple of clear stand-outs; I look forward to the discussions about which title is most deserving.
The New York Times Book Review remains one of the most significant book-review outlets in the US, and after almost a decade in office as editor running the place Sam Tanenhaus is finally moving on: as, for example, Romenesko reports, Pamela Paul is Named New York Times Book Review Editor.
As longtime readers know (probably all too well), I have not been a fan of the Tanenhaus administration.
Initially put off by his antipathy to fiction-coverage (things have improved slightly, but non-fiction has consistently received considerably more attention under his watch), it's the shockingly limited coverage of literature-in-translation that has really been a great disappointment over the Tanenhaus-years.
Yes, The New York Times Book Review reached it's absolute nadir with his predecessor Charles 'Chip' McGrath's annual indulgent baseball-themed-issue -- a debasement I'll never be able to forgive --, but issue in, issue out Tanenhaus managed to disappoint with remarkable consistency.
Not only was there little coverage of anything in translation, but far too often, when there was, it was of books by dead authors, or of re-translations.
His successor is Pamela Paul; see also her official site.
She moves up from being the Book Review's features editor and children's books editor -- so I'm immediately a bit wary: unless they have a bestseller list editor (and given how many pages they devote to those damned pages they very well might), these are the two areas of the NYTBR of the least interest to me.
Paul has also written several books -- but they're all non-fiction, so it's unclear how receptive she is to fiction.
I haven't read her Pornified: How Pornography is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families, but maybe it's not too great a leap to think that she might not be the most open of editors regarding ... let's say: edgy material.
Not that anyone could accuse NYTBR coverage of having been particularly edgy in quite a while.
(Tanenhaus is generally considered a 'conservative' (though he again recently denied that) and at least by the silly American labels of 'conservatism' and 'liberalism' (and all the rest -- this is, after all, a country where many seriously consider Barack Obama to be 'socialist') it seems safe to say that the NYTBR is not about to swing ... let's say: hard left.)
The fact that they went in-house is a bit troubling, since the direction of the NYTBR seems to have been off for well over a decade now, and while obviously things such as the lack of coverage of translated works may be due in part to Tanenhaus' commanding influence they likely have become institutional over the course of his long tenure (all the pre-readers certainly seem to have gotten the message, and it would probably take a firm hand to free up minds ...).
Still, I hope for the best and look forward to Paul shaking things up and getting things back on track.
The John Leonard heyday (and those old-time page-totals -- the NYTBR was a lot fatter in those days) remains a very distant memory, but one can dream .....
At Freeword Canan Marasligil has a Q & A with Turkish author Perihan Mağden [via].
Among her responses:
Translation is a huge problem.
I can only read in English -- thank God ! -- and whenever I need to check the work, I find it pretty unbearable.
I feel like I was robbed; my language was, if not better, completely different.
With one translation I felt -- and to this day I feel -- that my novel was murdered.
It was done so sloppily, so lazily, so shamelessly.
Sad (but far too common ...).
Two of Mağden's novels are under review at the complete review: Ali and Ramazan and Escape.
[Caesarion (published in the US as, sigh, Little Caesar) by Tommy Wieringa.]
None of the shortlisted titles is on the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist (and hence also won't be on their shortlist), but the Houellebecq is also on the BTBA longlist, so it has a chance to make that shortlist, too.
The schedule for the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature is now available online, and it looks fairly interesting.
Running 29 April through 5 May, in New York City, among the highlights are:
There are also a lot of 'workshops' this year.
And the Best Translated Book Award winner is being announced somewhere here on 3 May, apparently at 17:30 -- though for some reason that's missing from the online schedule .....
GQ offers The New Canon: The 21 Books from the 21st Century Every Man Should Read.
For 'books' they mean 'works of fiction' (fine by me: that's what counts); of the twenty-one titles only nineteen were written in English (apparently the Sam Tanenhaus-influence extends very far indeed -- even to the extent that the two books written in foreign languages are both by authors who are now dead ...).
[For those who haven't been following closely: the long-time The New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus only very rarely dares to offer coverage of translated fiction (or non-fiction, for that matter) in its pages; when he does, it far too frequently is either of a new translation of something previously translated (say, yet another Madame Bovary) and/or by a safely dead author ]
Nevertheless, several of these titles are under review at the complete review:
The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being.
I wouldn't read to much into my not having finished this one; I've been flinging aside books half-read every other day, it seems -- and unable to bring myself to review quite a few of the ones I am finishing every other day; this one has gotten enough reviews to link to that it at least makes sense to put up a page for it (if there's nothing to link to I usually don't bother).
Still quite a few months away, but it's good to see Leonardo Padura's The Man Who Loved Dogs is finally coming out in English -- from Bitter Lemon Press in the UK (pre-order your copy from Amazon.co.uk) and Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the US (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com); both are due out in December.
As the Tusquets Editores foreign rights page explains, it looks back at Trotsky's murder -- a bit of a change from Padura (Fuentes') Mario Conde novels (see, for example, Havana Blue).
In this week's issue of New York Mark Danner has a nice long Q & A (link to print-view, apparently the only way to make it single-page viewable ...) with Robert Silvers of The New York Review of Books.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Gareth J. Wood's Javier Marías's Debt to Translation: Sterne, Browne, Nabokov.
This monograph -- an 'Oxford Modern Languages and Literature Monograph' from Oxford University Press -- is one of the most expensive books I've ever reviewed at the complete review: the list price is $110.00 (though it is cheaper at Amazon.com).
I understand the profit-maximizing pricing -- presumably 95+ per cent of sales of this title would be to libraries and academic institutions, regardless of the price-point -- but it's kind of a shame that more people won't see this fine introduction to Marías and his work.
Among the many interesting titbits: Wood reports that Marías is:
a Luddite who neither owns nor uses a computer, still writes on an electric typewriter, and sends his correspondence by post and fax.
Nevertheless, he has some understanding of the significance of an online presence: see javiermariasblog or, for example, the accompanying Twitter feed, both of which seem pretty well-managed.
At Words without Borders translator-from-the-Greek Karen Emmerich has an intriguing piece on 'The Making of Originals: The Translator as Editor' (obnoxiously spread out in two parts: see part one and two -- come on, people: single-page (and single-day, while we're at), always single-page presentation: you can't (or shouldn't) be this desperate to inflate your page-view totals (and piss off your readers)).
An interesting discussion, though as someone who doesn't even like to see the author tampering with a 'finished' (I know, I know ...) work -- and worries greatly about authors bending to publishers' and translators' demands suggestions because of their desperation to get published in English at whatever cost to their, and their text's, integrity (don't doubt it: I've had authors insist to me they're just fine with their books being translated into English via a third language (i.e. not from their original, but rather a translation into another language) -- though since they've only done so per e-mail I can/do still imagine their sobs and tears as they write those words ...) -- there's an awful lot here that turns my stomach.
(Hmmm, maybe spreading out publication of such a piece over two days and pages is the safest way to present such shocking material .....)
Hair-raising indeed is Emmerich's description of the translation of Vassilis Vassilikos' The Few Things I Know About Glafkos Thrassakis (about which, after (and, no doubt, also in part because of ...) all that trouble (and cutting), the Publishers Weeklyreview found: "the uneven structure and the long-winded treatment of Thrassakis's work reduces the effectiveness of this elegantly written (and pristinely translated) satire" ...).
I'm always reluctant to touch on these issues, since I sit on the far (eccentric/nutty/deeply unpopular) end of the spectrum -- I prefer my translations absolutely (and hence, to many ears and eyes, often painfully) literal, and hold the original (and hence adherence to it) as sacrosanct -- but I appreciate Emmerich's giving some examples, and hence raising awareness of just how contemporary translation(-into-English, though it's much the same -- and often worse -- in other languages) works.
Yes ! as reported at Diena, Nosaukti Latvijas Literatūras gada balvas 2012 nominanti -- i.e. they've announced the finalists for the Latvian Literature Awards (or, as you of course know them as, LaLiGaBa); see also the official LaLiGaBa site.
Among the categories is books in translation, and among the nominees in that category is the translation of "Alfrēda Dēblīna romāns Berlīne. Aleksandra laukums" -- yes, Alfred Döblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz (which should be appearing in a new translation in English, by Michael Hofmann, soon too; you can apparently already pre-order at Amazon.co.uk).
Nice also to see, as also reported in The Baltic Course, that as part of LaLiGaBa Alberts Bels named winner of Latvian literature prize for bulk of outstanding prose.
Several of his works have been translated into English -- yes, some only by Soviet publisher Progress, but Peter Owen did bring out The Cage (and you can apparently still get a copy at Amazon.co.uk).
In Al-Ahram Weekly Ameera Fouad reports on the recently-held -- at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina -- second conference of the Arab Publishers Association, in God save the book.
A lot to cover, and so not everything is fully covered (essentially nothing on that: "seventh and the last session, 'Translation Problems and the Publishing Industry', focused on translation problems and the future of translation in the Arab world", which I'd certainly love to hear more about), but some odds and ends of interest -- including the observation that:
"Nowadays," he said, "we have some 35 thousand television channels that broadcast knowledge in all fields.
Nevertheless, books in the Arab world do not enjoy any media attention or responsiveness as do sports and the arts."
Regarding the internet and its role in spreading culture, Mihoubi said, "Not all that is written on web sites is 100 percent trustworthy."
Of course, he doesn't mention what untrustworthy websites he's been visiting .....
The imprint, explained Ig publisher Robert Lasner, will "bring back the very best in young adult literature, from the classics of the 1930s and 1940s, to the thrillers and social novels of the 1970s and 1980s."
Sounds fun -- though interesting to note that:
While Lizzie Skurnick Books releases will be marketed to YA readers, Skurnick believes that women who, like herself, came of age in the ’70s and ’80s, will form the core readership. "[These books] are not for teens," she said.
"Teens’ tastes have changed.
Hey, I'm looking forward to ... Debutante Hill (see their publicity page).
(Really -- several Lois Duncan titles are under review at the complete review.)
Yes, I've been at this for fourteen years now: the first reviews were posted at the complete review on 5 April 1999.
(The weblog part -- this Literary Saloon -- is a relatively late addition, as I only started that in August 2002 .....)
There are a few perks -- easier (and free !) access to a lot of books I'm interested in, for one (though given the length of my on-reserve list at the local library -- I'm finding it easier just to get the books there than I am from some major publishers ... -- obviously not across the board) -- but given the limited rewards, tangible or otherwise, and the amount of time lost spent working on the site (which I could instead be spending actually reading ...) I'm hard-pressed to say it's been worthwhile.
Regardless: today it's fourteen years, and 3109 reviews and books down, a year from now it will be fifteen years and presumably over 3300 reviews down .....
So it goes, and continues to go.
Thanks, of course, as always, for your continued interest and patronage.
German-born Anglo-Indian/American Man Booker Prize-winning author (and, as Merchant-Ivory collaborator, twotime Academy Award winning screenwriter) Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has passed away; see, for example, obituaries in The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Telegraph.
The New Yorker has now also made several of her stories that were published there accessible online.
None of her books are under review at the complete review, but I've read quite a few.
Publishers feel that it won't be long before India unveils its own 50 Shades... series.
Meanwhile, in The Hindu Pheroze L. Vincent reports on the trend towards more suggestive and eye-catching titles, in Judging the book by its cover, as titles such as: "F?@K Knows, Massage No Boom Boom and Love and That Bitch Called Life" proliferate.
Older readers, however, are still apprehensive to give risky titles a share of their literary budget.
As literary critic Latha Anantharaman puts it, "As a reader and book buyer, I personally feel it is a gimmick to get me to buy the book, so just to be contrary I wouldn't buy the book even if curious."
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Essays on Marseilles, Mediterranean Cuisine, and Noir Fiction by Jean-Claude Izzo, Garlic, Mint, and Sweet Basil (which comes with a dash -- well, an introductory essay -- by Massimo Carlotto).
Korean author Ha Il-ji's 2009 novel The Republic of Uzupis [우주피스 공화국] has been selected as one of the 12 best translated books of 2012 by Lithuania's government-affiliated literary organization.
The Lithuanian Association of Literary Translators has a (still open) poll on the best translations into Lithuanian of 2012 here -- interesting to see what titles got translated (and which books haven't been translated into English yet ... including Ha Il-ji's novel).
It's not really surprising that 우주피스 공화국 was an obvious fit for Lithuania -- see the listreview -- but it'd be great to see this in English, too .....
(See also the (Korean) Mimusa publicity page, as well as the (Lithuanian) one from Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla.)
The Roncagliolo is coming out in a week (or two) -- but pre-orders at Amazon.com seem to have been ... limited to date: the 'Amazon Best Sellers Rank' of 12,758,977 (last I checked) is one of the more impressive I've seen to date.
But that should improve fast once word gets around .....
The Association for Asian Studies has a relatively new prize, the A.L.Becker Southeast Asian Literature in Translation Prize, which honors: "an outstanding English translation of a work of Southeast Asian literature from any country of the region".
Given how little is available in translation from these countries, any prize that might help bring attention to the literature of the region is certainly most welcome.
No word up yet at the official site, but the 2012 winner was announced recently and, as they report in the Bangkok Post, Translation of Thai classic wins international prize, as The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen, translated by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit has taken the prize.
I've mentioned this book previously but, alas, have still not been able to get my hands on a copy (but I hope to, eventually).
It's now out in paperback; see the Silkworm publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.