It's strong, everyone is writing them, everyone wants to read them.
Maybe we're not so interested in what is happening in London, but we're interested in what's happening in Zadie Smith's new novel. I think the form has immense possibilities.
But he does believe US TV serials are a real threat:
That really kills the novel -- it takes away the regular pleasures of reading novels.
The power of those sophisticated serials is that you watch it with your wife, your friends, and you can immediately chat about it.
It's a great pleasure to enjoy a work of art and to be able to share it with someone you care about.
(I beg to differ: immediate (or even eventual) chatability isn't the test of a novel (or movie or TV show, or any work of art) to me -- and surely the much more widely-watched TV series of previous eras did much better in terms of getting water-cooler (and the like) discussion going among a much larger pool of viewers.)
Interesting also that Pamuk believes:
The novel is a middle-class art.
And we see the proliferation of middle classes in India, China, definitely in Turkey, so everyone is writing novels.
If you want to predict the future, I can predict that in Europe, in the West, the importance of literary novels will decrease, while in China, India, popular literature will continue.
Innovation will come from there, because the populations are large, there will be a lot of production.
Quite a few dubious leaps in logic here, from the belief that, because 'there will be a lot of production' consequently: 'Innovation will come from there', to the mix up between the (dubious categories of) 'literary novels' and 'popular literature'.
The Prize is awarded annually to a British writer or a writer resident in Britain of outstanding literary merit who, in the words of Harold Pinter's Nobel speech, casts an 'unflinching, unswerving' gaze upon the world, and shows a 'fierce intellectual determination ... to define the real truth of our lives and our societies'.
English PEN's Writers at Risk Committee, in association with Stoppard, will now also select: "an international writer of courage" with whom he will share the prize when they receive it on 7 October.
(No word yet at the official site, last I checked, but see, for example, Tom Stoppard wins PEN/Pinter prize by Rozina Sabur in The Telegraph.)
They've announced that translator-from-the-English (of Anthony Burgess, Melville, Charles Olson, Gertrude Stein, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, and James Joyce) Friedhelm Rathjen has won this year's Paul-Celan-Preis for an exceptional translation into German (not that they've announced it yet at that official site, sigh, but see, for example, the (German) boersenblatt report); he'll get his €15,000 at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 10 October.
The Paul-Celan is one of the more remunerative German translation prizes; among the other interesting ones is the Erlanger Literaturpreis für Poesie als Übersetzung -- the 'Erlangen Prize for poetics as translation' -- which they recently announced that German and Japanese-writing author Tawada Yoko (see, for example, The Naked Eye) will get this year.
As is the German way, the winners of these prizes are announced way beforehand; she gets to pick up the €5,000 prize at this year's Erlanger Poetenfest at the end of August.
The Germans are less than thrilled by the revelations about America's NSA spying, apparently facilitated and supported by their own intelligence service, the BND, even as chancellor Merkel denies having known about what was going on.
(Sumi Somaskanda's report at The Atlantic, NSA Spying Rankles Privacy-Loving Germans, provides a good overview.)
Now some forty German authors have signed and published an open letter (German) to Angela Merkel in protest, asking for clarification of the nature and extent of the violation of the privacy of German citizens, as well as what the chancellor intends to do about the situation.
The letter is also open for signing at change.org, and as I write this 7,939 people have added their names to the petition.
The list of authors is a pretty solid one, with the younger generation fairly well represented (and the old guard noteworthy for their absence); among the authors who signed who have books under review at the complete review are Ilija Trojanow, Josef Haslinger, Robert Menasse, and Antje Ravic Strubel.
Meanwhile, at DeutscheWelle Petra Lambeck has a Q & A with historian Josef Foschepoth, NSA: permission to spy in Germany, in which he points out the existence of: "secret supplemental agreements which guaranteed key rights for the Western allied forces; among them, the right to monitor telephone and postal communications" since 1955 -- so that PRISM and the like should be no big surprise to anyone in Germany (especially anyone in government).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Robert Perišić's Our Man in Iraq, which came out in the UK from Istros last year, and is now available in a US edition from Black Balloon (complete with cover-blurb by Jonathan Franzen).
The title they chose for the English translation -- with its Greene-echo -- isn't bad, but it's 'Iraq', of course, that immediately catches the eye of every US/UK book-buyer; in fact, the book is set in and is about Perišić's native Croatia (though 'our man in Iraq' does play a role, and does send some dispatches from the front); it's noteworthy that the original title (Naš čovjek na terenu) -- and the ones chosen for translations into other languages -- don't mention Iraq .....
Michael Wood recently selected the letters for the collection, Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985 (see the Princeton University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), and at Publishers Weekly's Tip Sheet he now offers his list of The 10 Best Italo Calvino Books.
Given that he's not even willing to rank them ("because they are so different from each other"), and that not many more volumes of Calvino are available in English, it's not really that exciting -- but any reminder of Calvino's works is, of course, always welcome.
(No Calvino works are under review at the complete review at this time; I read pretty much all of them long before I started the site.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Leena Lehtolainen's My First Murder, out now in English from AmazonCrossing.
Not really something I need to spend my (or your) time on, but I have to admit continuing curiosity regarding what AmazonCrossing puts out.
This 1993 Finnish thriller has been translated into all the major languages, but comes pretty late into English; still, with literary references to the likes of Henry Parland (see, for example, To Pieces) I'm not too upset about the time invested in reading and reviewing it.
(It also seems to be doing pretty well, to go by Amazon's sales rank -- especially in Kindle.)
Perhaps the single biggest difference between US/UK writing culture and that of writers in the rest of the world is that almost everywhere else a significant number of noted authors not only write fiction but translate it as well.
Sure, there are some US/UK exceptions -- Paul Auster and Lydia Davis are the most prominent names -- but basically it's as Hillel Italie now has it in his AP article (here at the San Francisco Chronicle): 'Cloud Atlas' author is rare novelist-translator -- by which he means Cloud Atlas-author David Mitchell, who has apparently now co-translated some kid's memoir from the Japanese with his wife.
As Italie notes:
Higashida's book, for which Mitchell also wrote an introduction, is a rarity in the publishing world.
Translation is mostly the work of academics and professionals, with Gregory Rabassa, Edith Grossman and William Weaver among the most celebrated.
Well, it's not at all a rarity in the "publishing world", but, yes, in the in many ways limited US/UK fiction-writing world it is -- in very stark contrast to the rest of the world where translating novelists are a dime a dozen.
A second major example Italie cites is Jonathan Franzen's forthcoming The Kraus Project: Essays by Karl Kraus.
(At this point it also seems worth pointing out that both these translations-by-notable-novelists are translations of works of non-fiction -- disappointing, too.)
Fascinating, too, that the brilliant Kraus isn't seen as the main selling point of the The Kraus Project:
Even the book's cover is a departure, reversing the usual billing for author and translator.
The title may be The Kraus Project, but featured placement and the biggest letters belong to Franzen.
"To me, this is a Franzen book," Galassi said.
Such, apparently, is the state of translation in the US, that even the likes of Jonathan Galassi -- himself a dabbler in translation (even well-regarded, in some circles, as such) -- doesn't think that Kraus could sell the book on his reputation alone (one that surely dwarfs Franzen's by any measure, save that of contemporary tabloid mentions), but rather that the Franzen-connection is seen as the main selling point and draw.
See also the Farrar, Straus and Giroux publicity page for The Kraus Project (where you can check out the offensive cover),or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
I have long maintained that translation is a great exercise for writers of fiction -- and continue to argue that it would do most would-be authors a whole lot more good to translate a good foreign-language text (or, preferably, several) than to get an MFA (from a purely technical/creative/writing point of view; the social and professional benefits of MFAing are, of course, something else -- but also have very little to do with actual writing).
Certainly, I wish that more US/UK fiction writers would engage in this most direct and intimate of ways with foreign texts (preferably fiction-texts, not the stuff Mitchell and Franzen spent their time on ...).
Via psfk I learn about yet another artistic re-purposing of books -- not the kind of stuff I'm usually in favor of (a soft spot for Tom Phillips' A Humument aside, I like books to be left as books ...), but, yeah, what Alexis Arnold does here is pretty cool.
See also the interview with Arnold at redefine, or her official site.
Italian author Ugo Riccarelli -- who won, among other prizes, the Premio Strega -- has passed away; see, for example the (Italian) report at Critical Mastra or his official site.
It's a bit surprising that he's never really made it in the English-speaking market (well, nothing is really that surprising as far as omissions in translation into English goes ...), since he's fared quite well elsewhere.
The only title that appears to have made it into English is the sporting collection Coppi's Angel -- published by Middlesex University Press (good for them !), whose admirable reach unfortunately does not seem to have served them well: they were apparently shut down soon afterwards, in 2009 (see this mention in The Bookseller).
Good for The Independent, too, where Chris Maume reviewed it -- and found: "whatever the particular blend of fact and invention, there is no story here that doesn't resonate".
Get your copy of Coppi's Angel at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
the nation's beloved literature has remained niched, out of the limelight and still struggling to find its place in the American market
Among the problems ?
Apparently: "Many translations of Korean literature are dry and incredibly high-brow."
(Alas, I think the idea that there are 'many' translations from the Korean is already misleading: I note that the (admittedly still incomplete) Translation Database figures for 2013 at Three Percent find all of ... one translation from the Korean appearing in the US for the entire year .....)
A pretty basic-level article -- and I'm beginning to think these muddy the waters as much as they bring attention to the issues.
Also: it's hard to tell whether the substantive explanations have been edited out of the quotes, or (as I often suspect) no one dealing in any way (even, like me, as an outside observer) with publishing has any real grasp of the 'business'.
(And, yes, this is an article that begins with a reference to the infamous 'three per cent' figure (mangled further by the claim that: "literary fiction and poetry comprises about 0.7 percent of that" -- 0.7 per cent of 3 per cent ? Whatever the actual number, it's nowhere near that minuscule), so that should have been a tip-off; see also my previous rant on the subject ...).)
At Qantara.de Anna Gabai looks at comics in Arabic (original and imported) in From Micky Mouse to Handala.
(The only Arabic comic under review at the complete review is Metro by Magdy El-Shafee, which also gets a mention.)
They've announced that Found in Translation Award for Antonia Lloyd-Jones this year.
The Found in Translation Award is usually: "given annually to the translator or translators of the best translation of a work of Polish literature into English that was published as a book in the preceding calendar year" -- but Antonia Lloyd-Jones apparently so overwhelmed them with submissions this year that they decided:
to give the award to Ms Lloyd-Jones for the entirety of her output from the previous year
They list the works -- seven (!) translations published in 2012 -- on the announcement page.
(Yes, seven is a lot for one year -- though note that she didn't necessarily translate them all within one year -- publication delays etc. can lead to a backlog, etc.; in any case, she's shown a consistently high level of quality in her work, so she certainly appears deserving (though surprisingly, I haven't gotten to any of these yet))
In more good support-for-translation-in-the-US news, National Endowment for the Arts Announces $250,000 for 16 Literature Translation Fellowships, with 16 projects selected from 82 eligible applications.
Among the highlights: Angela Rodel is getting $25,000 in support of her translation of The Physics of Sorrow by Natural Novel-author Georgi Gospodinov [even if they don't spell the author's name correctly], a book I've mentioned before and which I'm very much looking forward to (it's forthcoming from Open Letter).
It's also good to see there's a poetry collection by In the United States of Africa-author Abdourahman Waberi to look forward to.
And the epic poem Insurgency by Nâzım Hikmet sounds good, too.
Finally, there's Christina E. Kramer getting a grant in support of translating "The Path of the Eels by Albanian writer Luan Starova"; I'm pleased to note that I first reviewed a book by Starova at the complete review in ... 2000.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of recent Man Booker International Prize finalist U.R.Ananthamurthy's Bharathipura.
Oxford University Press published this (new translation), and even got some US coverage for it -- it was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal -- but presumably recognize the US/UK market for it is rather limited: even the copy they kindly provided me with had a price-sticker on it with only the Indian rupee price .....
One of the advantages of being thrown off-schedule by localized Internet-outages (see below) is that it leaves my posting for a different point in the news cycle -- so I can already report today the 'big' news that the Man Booker Prize for Fiction Longlist 2013 announced.
Predictably enough, none of the titles are under review at the complete review (though there is a review-overview of A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki); the title I've most been looking forward to from this list is The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, and I will probably have a look at We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo and Harvest by Jim Crace (always assuming if and when I can get my hands on copies; I actually don't have a copy of any of these titles -- though several have also not, or not yet, been published in the US)).
As usual, I contest that the Man Booker is hard to take seriously when we don't know what the pool of books the judges made their selections from is -- but, alas, they won't reveal the 150-odd titles that were submitted/called in for consideration.
They've announced the 2013 PEN/Heim Translation Fund recipients -- grants of US$3,300 each -- and there are some great-sounding projects here, from familiar authors -- a new Tabucchi that Archipelago is bringing out, another Franz Fühmann (his "highly personal (auto)biographical response to the great Expressionist poet Georg Trakl" -- though the working title 'At the Burning Abyss' doesn't have quite the same (Traklian) lyric beauty as the original Vor Feuerschlünden (a book I've read and was very impressed by, by the way)) coming from Seagull, to Vasily Kamensky's ferro-concrete poems: "Originally printed on wall-paper and decorated with cubo-futurist drawings".
Mateiu Caragiale's Rakes of the Old Court sounds pretty awesome, too.
I've often expressed my disappointment at the lack of inclusiveness of international literary prizes in their focus on works written or at least translated into English (such as the Man Booker International Prize), and particularly my disappointment that there isn't a greater effort in India and Africa to really consider all the contemporary fiction being produced, not just that written in or available in English.
The new Etisalat Prize for African literature (see my previous mention) continues this unfortunate tradition and emphasis -- it is a prize solely for written-in-English African literature -- and in the Weekly Trust Carmen McCain rightly asks: African Literary Prizes: Where are the translations ?
I'm looking forward to a time when there will be leading African literary prize that is willing to consider the entire literary output of the continent (and that also means: not just of the sub-continent).
The diversity of the books that would be in contention would both nicely demonstrate that 'Africa' is a vast and varied continent that doesn't just produce a specific kind of fiction (i.e. that 'African fiction' is no less varied than 'European' or 'Asian' fiction) but also show that the many languages which are spoken (and written in) on the continent offer additional layers of richness, just as the wonderful variety of European, Asian, etc. languages do.
And it would certainly be encouraging to authors who don't write in a dominant language (usually: English).
Frustratingly, our Internet is down (and there's surprisingly little (stable) local WiFi from the neighbors to hack into ...), so posting will be iffy, limited, and delayed for a day or or two (or maybe longer ...?).
I apologize for the inconvenience and annoyance.
Sébastien Japrisot's Trap for Cinderella was made into a film almost half a century ago -- with a screenplay co-written by Jean Anouilh -- and now Iain Softley has had another go at it, his version -- starring Aneurin Barnard, Tuppence Middleton, and Frances de la Tour -- just out in the UK.
Reviews have been ... not too great: "This looks dated and clunky" says Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian; "Middleton is good as the heroine all at sea, but everything else sinks like a stone" says Anthony Quinn in The Independent.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Zakes Mda's The Sculptors of Mapungubwe.
This is coming out from Seagull Books -- showing they are not just a player in books-in-translation.
Szentkuthy Miklós' Marginalia on Casanova certainly ranked among the translations-of-the-year last year, and I (and many others, surely) eagerly await the next Szentkuthy-volume from Contra Mundum Press, Towards the One and Only Metaphor (see their publicity page; no Amazon listing yet).
Meanwhile, helping to tide us over, Contra Mundum have posted a new issue of their periodical, Hyperion -- a 'Miklós Szentkuthy Special Issue' which is wall-to-wall Szentkuthy (on and by) -- 318 pages worth, and you can download it all here (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
That should keep you busy for a while; it's certainly keeping me busy.
In The talking cats are just the start in The Australian Rick Wallace profiles (one of the) Murakami-translators, Philip Gabriel -- who is working on the latest Murakami novel 'Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage' (hmmm, can't really see Knopf sticking with that title for the US edition).