The Nobel countdown continues -- and today we'll hear whether they'll actually already announce the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday (unlikely).
Meanwhile, as to the latest Nobel news and gossip:
- One interesting big move in the Ladbrokes odds: Jon Fosse has leapt from 100/1 to 25/1 [updated: they rose further this morning, to 14/1].
This is more meaningful than Javier Marías' leap -- and not only because it's bigger (Marías only made it to 33/1): while Marías' leap looks like a course correction -- the well-known author shouldn't have started out at such low odds -- Fosse isn't a name anyone outside the Scandinavian region likely would put money on, unless they had good reason .....
He's figured on the odds-lists before, but then so do many Nordic authors -- but he's a more serious contender than most.
The fact that he's Scandinavian complicates matters -- the Swedish Academy seems to have turned largely away from their own and their neighbors, with local boy Tommy Tranströmer the only Nordic laureate in almost four decades.
But Fosse is younger than the usual suspects -- a plus, I think (though I'd rather see old guard Per Olov Enquist get the nod) -- and with an impressive body of work both in fiction and drama he has to be taken seriously.
These circumstances suggest: Fosse is someone that might very likely be in that pool of (likely) five finalists they're selecting the winner from.
(Only two of his books are under review at the complete review -- well, two parts of one bigger work, Melancholy and the still untranslated forthcoming in translation Melancholy II.)
I have to admit, of all the places that might have a 'Peer Gynt Literary Award', I did not expect Malawi to be among them -- but Norwegian sponsorship explains that (sort of), and in the Nyasa Times they now report that Malawi writer Chikoti wins Peer Gynt Literary Award with futuristic story, as Shadreck Chikoti's 'futuristic novel', Azotus the Kingdom, has been awarded the prize.
African science fiction -- sounds intriguing.
Let's hope the prize gets it some international circulation.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hédi Kaddour's Little Grey Lies.
This is another book from Seagull -- the India-based publisher that is doing such a remarkable job in bringing literature-in-translation (mainly from the German and French) to English-speaking audiences (their books are distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US) -- and it's really worth remarking yet again what a wonderful product they put out.
These are beautifully designed (and blurbless !) volume -- and a fascinating selection of titles.
Bok & Bibliotek -- or the Göteborg Book Fair, as it's known in English -- runs through today; the full programme (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) is pretty impressive-looking.
Romania is the focus country this year, so authors such as Mircea Cărtărescu and Norman Manea are on site.
In The Nation (Sri Lanka) Kusumanjalee Thilakarathna writes about the Sinhala novel, in Passive literature -- and suggests:
Some say that this downfall of Sinhala literature is because there is no censoring process.
Some say it is because of the publishers who are more concerned about the monetary aspect of it.
"We have doubts about the future of literature in our country. Whatever is said and done, there is no doubt that the current novel has become just a business deal," he [Chandrasena Palliyaguru] reiterated.
Regrettably little Sinhala fiction seems to make it into English -- and certainly not to the US/UK, with almost all Sri Lankan fiction that makes it to these shores written in English.
In the Financial Times Pankaj Mishra is the latest to weigh in on this topic that has been receiving a lot of attention lately (n+1's World lite-editorial; the endless stream of Tim Parks pieces, etc.), as he makes The case against the global novel.
You can have heads ripped open and sacrifice. The only time you get in trouble with the publishers is if there's kissing.
Sex is a no-go. Apparently boys don't want to read about sex. It's ridiculous. We should be more concerned about violence than exposing teenagers to sex.
(Who are these boys and what kind of bizarre focus groups are publishers relying on, I have to wonder ?)
It seems worth noting that a kissing-scene isn't exactly a depiction of sex.
As to the real deal, I find it hard to believe that boys "don't want to read about sex" (and that publishers believe they don't).
Again: there's a difference between sappy/chaste/boring 'romance' (the hero gets the girl and: fade out as they kiss as the sun sets) and actual sex (the hero gets the girl, and the reader gets the graphic details), and one can understand why publishers might be reluctant to venture there.
Still, it can't be worse for impressionable young minds than this insanely gory stuff, can it ?
(As a lad, I certainly always found it far more intriguing.)
I have to admit, I don't really get the EU Prize for Literature, awarded, on a rotating basis, to new writers from all 37 European Union countries -- in batches of 12 or 13 a year (so each country gets a prize-winning author every three years).
National juries determine the national winners, so there's no uniformity of standards whatsoever, and while it's nice to encourage the new talents, this seems a messy way of doing things.
(I also find it annoying when authors are the billed/sold as 'winner of the EU Prize for Literature' -- which suggests they were the sole honoree that year when, in fact, a dozen others got the same honor .....)
Anyway, they've announced the winners of this year's prizes; you can find the list here (and, yes, it is nice that authors from Cyprus, Macedonia, Luxembourg, etc. get attention they otherwise couldn't hope for; still ...).
In Business Daily Margaretta wa Gacheru makes the case that Kenya can no longer be termed literary wasteland [via].
'Wasteland' always seemed rather too strong a term (and Taban did mean the broader region -- 'East Africa') but, yes, with some peaks and valleys, Kenyan literature seems to have done pretty well these past decades -- and to be quite well-situated nowadays.
They actually announced this almost a month ago: as hlo report, Janus Pannonius Prize goes to Simin Behbahani.
This is the second time they've handed out the award; it didn't go so well the first time, when winner Lawrence Ferlinghetti decided to decline the honor.
An international poetry prize, it is described by the sponsor as: "given to poets whose work fits into the main currents of European poetry" -- though I'm not sure how seriously they take that, given these first two winners.
Persian poet Behbahani is a major figure, and while not much has been translated into English (your best bet is still A Cup of Sin: Selected Poems; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) she has been quoted by Barack Obama and featured in a Frontline report, 'Ancient Eve': The Ghazals of Simin Behbahani.
See also her official site.
At PEN Atlas Lucas Stewart, who is coördinating the British Council's 'Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds' project, writes about it in discussing The hidden languages of Burma (and the literature in those languages).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Leonardo Sciascia's The Day of the Owl -- originally published in English translation fifty years ago, as Mafia Vendetta -- which is available from New York Review Books, and which Granta will be re-issuing at the start of next year.
2013 Literature Prize will be announced at the earliest in: 7 days
'At the earliest' are the operative words, of course -- it'll be a Thursday, but the 10th of October is more likely (and the 17th an outside possibility) -- unless they can come to some quick agreement.
So no reason to panic yet -- you still have time to place your bets or hurl around your wild theories; it's unlikely they have come to an agreement on the winner yet.
(They'll announce that they'll announce the prize that Thursday on the Monday of whatever week they choose, so we'll have a few days of warning/serious countdown time.)
In The Guardian a few weeks ago Andrew Martin reported on Highbrow betting: gambling on cultural events is on the up, providing some actual numbers -- such as that at Ladbrokes:
Betting on the Nobel prize for literature is up from just over £1,000 in 2005 to approaching £20,000.
The Ladbrokes odds have, for the most part, not changed much since they were first posted, suggesting betting action is still pretty light this season.
The trio of Murakami, Oates, and Nádas continue to lead the way, their odds all unchanged since day one (i.e. when the odds were first posted).
Through yesterday, the (few) movers were (opening odds in parentheses):
Some interesting moves -- recall that betting in Ngũgĩ was even suspended briefly -- but in the case of Ngũgĩ and Marías it could easily be argued that it's also simply a re-alignment of the odds to more realistic ones.
Odds at Betsson are roughly similar -- though while Ngũgĩ has made a corresponding jump (in his odds, if not on the out-of-order (last I checked it) list), Marías has not -- he can still be had at 100/1.
(Any punter worth his salt would of course put his money where he can get the better odds -- great discrepancies in odds suggest someone isn't even bothering to shop around .....)
Paddy Power has now also listed odds -- fewer choices, but better odds on some of the favorites (even as they ignore Nádas), so worth a look, but nothing really promising, movement- or other-wise.
So what do the odds-lists tell us so far this year ?
As usual, not too much -- but as usual, too, they're worth paying at least some attention to, particularly the (near-endless ...) Ladbrokes list.
The winner is usually found on the list, and often found pretty high up from early on; recall that few were paying much attention to Tomas Tranströmer in 2011, but when betting opened at Ladbrokes he was their second-favorite; in 2012 Mo Yan (and Cees Nooteboom) were second-favorites (behind Murakami).
So there's decent reason to believe several of the finalists are among their top picks once again.
Here my guess is once again on the number two -- at least as one of the finalists --, Joyce Carol Oates.
Though it wouldn't surprise me if Murakami and/or Nádas rounded out that shortlist, too.
Early betting movement -- limited though it has been -- is only modestly suggestive, but the Ngũgĩ-jump, in particular, smells of insider information to me (helped by the fact that he's surely also a serious contender).
(The Marías less so, because, as noted, you can still get him at 100/1 elsewhere -- and anyone who was serious about their betting would have spread their money around.)
Of course, now is when it really gets interesting -- and when sharp changes in the odds begin to look more suspicious.
At some point in the next week or two they will have decided on a winner -- and then they will have to try to keep that information secret; we'll see how well they manage.
There was a German Nobel Prize 'stock exchange' a few years back, and now Nautilus have "an online fantasy contracts market", the Nautilus Nobel Exchange.
For five Nobel categories -- Chemistry, Economics, Literature, Medicine, and Physics -- you can buy 'contracts' on potential winners (though they offer far too few of the serious contenders, and not just in literature), with the person holding the most contracts of actual laureates after these are announced emerging as winner.
The way it seems to work is that each new player gets $10,000 to invest, and can put that on candidates who all started off with a 'value' of $100.
Each time someone buys a contract in candidate X, the value of that contract goes up -- and the corresponding values of all the other candidate-contracts in the same field decline by a commensurate amount (the more candidates there are to spread the money across, the less the decline; if there were only one other candidate then the decline would be equal to the increase for candidate X, if there were two other candidates, each would decrease by .5 of X's increase, etc.).
Each candidate starts out with 10,000 'house' contracts, so whatever the current contract number is, minus ten thousand, tells you how many entering players bought contracts: mid-day yesterday, for example, there were 18,207 Haruki Murakami contracts -- meaning over 8000 contracts had been purchased over the course of the game.
(He is by far the favorite among all the contenders, making his contract way over-priced.)
Meanwhile, Dacia Maraini contracts number an even 10,000 -- it seems someone purchased some at some point, but I assume they since have dumped them.
Even Ko Un only has 10,013 contracts.
There were less than 600 players playing along when I checked yesterday, but with the vast majority of prices hovering around $100 you can still load up on your favorites.
Still, it looks to be hard to amass more that 100 contracts for almost anyone at this point -- suggesting the game will ultimately either be really close (a lot of people holding about 100 contracts in the one contender they bet everything on) or won by an early entrant who was able to generate enough cash through trading to buy more than 100 contracts in his or her favorite.
Interesting, too, that volume is highest in the Medicine category (414k when I checked yesterday), followed by Literature (372k), with Economics dead last (222k).
But a big problem remains the lack of candidates -- many serious ones are missing.
(Oh, and: yes, of course I'm playing along.
Contracts on eight contenders in three fields, for now.
After a few hours yesterday mine ranked 196th out of 581 portfolios; if a lot more entrants buy into Literature (and don't all plump down on Murakami ...) I should do okay, at least in the cash-value portion of the game; once it's down to how many winning-laureate-contracts you're left holding, who knows ... ?)
- Thomson Reuters boast of: "Having accurately forecast 27 Nobel Prize winners since its inception in 2002", but once again Thomson Reuters Predicts 2013 Nobel Laureates is limited to the scientific prizes (well: and economics); scroll down for their tips.
(At least one author whose books are well-represented at the complete review is listed: Richard Posner, "For extending economic theories of regulation".)
- There are a few (but surprisingly few) pieces about various candidates' chances.
Alexander K. Opicho's rather confused Why Ngugi wa Thiong'o 'won't bag Nobel Prize' in The Standard -- with insights such as: "None of Murakami’s works have been translated into English but they are selling well in Japan" and the suggestion that Wangari Maathai and Barack Obama won the literature Nobel Prize -- sets the bar pretty low.
On the other hand, I'm certainly a huge fan of this Facebook page [via] in support of Mahmoud Dowlatabadi getting the Nobel -- and its 13,716 "likes" suggest I'm not alone.
(I haven't seen whether other authors have Facebook pages supporting their candidacies; it probably won't sway the Swedish Academy, but I assume it can't hurt.)
So what about my predictions ?
No really strong feelings yet, beyond seeing Oates and Ngũgĩ among the finalists; I could see -- with a heavy dose of wishful thinking -- the final five rounded out by Nádas, Murakami, and Marías.
(One consequence of my pretty firm belief that Oates is in the final five: I don't think any other American is (i.e. yet again no Roth, no McCarthy, no Pynchon, no ... Dylan).)
I've made my case for Ngũgĩ often enough, but a few more observations about some of these others:
- I don't see Oates winning it, and I'm kind of surprised she'd be the pick of the Americans, but as I've mentioned, she's widely translated into Swedish -- i.e. a fairly prominent presence there.
And this is a country where you can find pieces even making claims such as: Oates poesi håller Nobelprisklass earlier this year -- not something I've heard in the US, as far as I can recall.
- Nádas' Parallel Stories (see the Picador publicity page) has been coming out in Sweden over the past two years (in three volumes), with the final volume scheduled for release later this fall (see the Albert Bonniers publicity page) -- the kind of magnum opus that surely has kept him front and center in literary discussions over the past year.
As noted, it's still too early to call a winner -- as, presumably, the Swedish Academy hasn't even gotten that far yet -- and I'll certainly have more thoughts as the announcement-date approaches.
The Australian Stella Prize has released The Stella Count, compiling: "Australian statistics for 2012 showing how many books by men and women were reviewed in most of our major newspapers and literary magazines" (i.e. doing down under what the VIDA count did for US/UK publications).
No surprise that male-written books dominate (though none of these publications do nearly as bad as I did/do; see also below); see also Bethanie Blanchard's discussion at The Guardian's Australia Culture Blog, The Stella Count: why do male authors still dominate book reviews ?.
Topping the 3200-review mark at the complete review, it's time for another look at the last 100 reviews (numbers 3101-3200):
The reviews were written over a span of 184 days and total 89,651 words.
Reviewed books were originally written in 28 languages in addition to English; the most popular languages were:
French - 23 books
(For a full breakdown of all the languages (now 62 !) of reviewed books at the complete review, see our language-list.)
Surprisingly, the French books were really French this time: authors of 22 of the 23 books were from France (usually there are more from other Francophone countries).
The nationality of authors of the most reviewed books were:
1. French - 22 books
2. Italian 8
3. Japanese 7
-. US 7
5. Argentine 5
-. Spanish 5
7. Indian 4
As always, fiction dominated, with novels making up 73 of the books reviewed.
No review rated higher than an "A-" -- but there were 7 of those, along with 29 "B+" and 55 "B".
Two works rated only a "C".
An astonishing 45 of the reviewed titles were first published in the past five years (that includes translations -- not the date of the English translation, but the original).
Only five books were written before 1945; not one before 1921.
And, shamefully, the sex-disparity remains consistent as ever: 84 books were written by men, 16 by women -- just a bit above the historic average (which is now up to ... 15.14%); see the Author-sex breakdown of books under review.
They've announced that the Warwick Prize for Writing -- a biennial, all-genre writing prize that seems to be a bit unsure of what exactly it wants to be (currently rewarding: "an excellent and substantial piece of writing in the English language") -- goes to the Homer-retelling Memorial, a poem by Alice Oswald; see also the Faber publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've announced the winners of this year's Dayton Literary Peace Prizes (honoring books that: "have led readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions, and political points of view") -- not yet at the official site, last I checked, but Meredith Moss has the news in the Dayton Daily News.
The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson will receive the prize for fiction -- get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- and Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon will receive the prize for nonfiction.
The prize ceremony will be on 3 November.
At Free Word Canan Marasligil and Nicky Harman briefly debate the use of forewords, footnotes, and the like in translations, in To foreword or not to foreword ? -- a preview of their debate next week as part of the International Translation Day 2013 events at the British Library (worth going: it will also feature Amanda Hopkinson in conversation with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o).
(As someone who leans strongly towards the extreme literalist fringe of translation -- preferring bilingual editions and comprehensive annotation (though context-setting and similar introductory matter ... not so much) -- there can never be enough detail-information for my taste .....)
It's 'genius grant'-time, as this year's batch of MacArthur Fellowships -- "$625,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years" -- are announced.
Early AP reports -- such as here, at the Daily Press -- reveal the fellows.
Not too many writerly types, but Donald Antrim picks one up, as do youngsters Tarell McCraney and Karen Russell.
(Playwright McCraney has racked up quite the year: he already picked up a $150,000 Windham Campbell Prize just a few weeks ago .....)
One of the grand old South American masters, Álvaro Mutis, has passed away; see, for example, the BBC report -- or, to get a better feel for the man, Francisco Goldman's Q & A with him at Bomb.
The standard volume in English is the collection The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll, from New York Review Books -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- but he wrote considerably more and was also a highly regarded poet; check out, for example, his Summa de Maqroll el Gaviero: Poesia reunida (1947-2003) (see the Alfaguara publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com).
If you need additional reasons to read him, El País helpfully offers Por qué hay que leer a Álvaro Mutis, según los escritores.
Leading Australian author -- and two-time Miles Franklin Literary Award-winner -- Christopher Koch has passed away; see, for example the obituaries by Marc McEvoy (in the Sydney Morning Herald) and Stephen Romei (in The Australian).
Best-known for The Year of Living Dangerously (get your copy at Amazon.com; it appears to be out of print in the UK ...), his other work is worth seeking out as well -- he was a fine writer.
In the Zambia Daily Mail Austin Kaluna gets Upclose with literary mogul, Ngugi wa Thi’ongo.
I have to admit, I'm tickled by the idea of Ngũgĩ being considered a 'literary mogul' (and also their inconsistent (but incorrect, regardless) apostrophization of 'Thiong'o').
And good for him for denouncing the 'tribal'-idea (and diplomatic of him to avoid the Nobel question).
At The Beliver Rebecka Bülow has a Q & A with Karl Ove Knausgård.
See also my reviews of My StruggleBook One and Book Two -- and, yes, I'm now more eager than ever to get my hands on the final volume (still a few years away in English, I fear).
As widely reported, among the dozens killed in the outrageous Nairobi mall-attack -- just one in the past few days' episodes of senseless violence, alongside Peshawar, Chicago, etc. -- was Ghana poet Kofi Awoonor; see, for example, Alice Vincent's report in The Telegraph, Kofi Awoonor: the literary world pays tribute.
Some of his works have been available in the US/UK, too, such as Comes the Voyager at Last; see the Africa World Press publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
is not satisfied with the current output, saying most of the books focus on commercial purpose rather than conveying a message.
The writers aim to maximize profit, neglecting to address the current social, political and economic issues, Moges argues.
Currently many books are published with a high price but reduced quality, lacking coherence on the issues they raise.
Authors are blamed to some extent (and rather unfairly, surely):
Formerly writers focused on social issues and did not bother about the money, but now some authors get deals before they’ve even started to write; the market leads them.
Publishers will tell the writers or translators to focus on a specific issue, then the deal is made and the work reaches the public.
As a result the price of these books is high, due to their basic nature of profit making.
As in many places, pricing is apparently a big issue -- and:
Tesfaye is saddened by the issue of the price tag, talking about it with great emotion.
Those who create new prices by erasing the original ones are criminals -- greedy and immoral.
According to his view they are seeking unlawful enrichment, which is illegal.
In some cases the vendors are earning more than both the publisher and author.
It is undeniable that there is an increase in the cost of printing, but the amounts requested by publishers and authors have also skyrocketed.
Many readers comment that as the prices rise the substance falls.
Ah, yes, the problem of 'substance falling' -- a widely heard (if often slightly differently expressed) complaint, not just in Ethiopia .....
They handed out the South African M-Net Literary Awards yesterday -- a noteworthy award, because it has categories for several African languages, with winners in English and Afrikaans as well as Ndebele and Setwana, among others.
Books Live has The 2013 M-Net Literary Awards Winners.
While I can't find an exact break-down of submissions and languages, Books Live did report "96 novels, spanning 11 languages" were submitted this year.
And I'm pleased to note that the English-language category winner is under review at the complete review -- The Institute for Taxi Poetry by Imraan Coovadia.
Frédéric Andrau's Monsieur Albert, a new biography of the late Franco-Egyptian writer Albert Cossery, is unusual in that it makes a secret of its source material (it has no notes), and large parts of it are given over to what might best be described as speculation.
The book as a whole is addressed to Cossery, though since he died some years ago he will never read it.
Tresilian does say:
On the other hand, despite its eccentricities Andrau may have written what could be the best (and thus far only) full-length account of its subject.
(Given that it's the only one, Tresilian is really hedging his bets here, in suggesting it "could be the best" ... faint praise, indeed.)
Still, I'm curious -- and wonder whether any US/UK publisher will take a stab at it.
Meanwhile, see the Éditions de Corlevour publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.fr.