The Cahiers Series is an impressive little series of very nicely produced translation-related book(let)s; several are under review at the complete review (with more to follow).
It's nice to see them get some good attention in the Times Literary Supplement, where Margaret Jull Costa now writes about them, in Through a glass darkly.
In October the top title on the SWR-Bestenliste, where 31 German literary critics recommend their favorite new publications, was Clemens Meyer's Im Stein -- but, in a striking drop-off, the book proves to be a one-month-wonder and doesn't even make the current list, for November (with October's number two, Daniel Kehlmann's F, dropping to a tie for tenth place).
I've been impressed with Im Stein, but it is a bit hard to come to grips with -- you can sort of understand them wanting to move on --; in any case, two new titles take the top two spots -- led by Jerôme Ferrari -- though strikingly much of the rest of the list consists of carryover titles (including that Kertész diary that I'm really eager to have a look at).
With a week to go before the winner is announced, they've made the Dernière sélection pour le prix Goncourt 2013, cutting the list down to four contenders for the most prestigious French literary prize.
I'm actually curious about all four -- the Toussaint, obviously (the previous three novels in his quartet are under review at the complete review, the previous installment being The Truth about Marie), but the others too; I'm not sure about a clean sweep of these making it into English, but the odds look better than in any year I can recall.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Wolfgang Jeschke's The Cusanus Game, just out in English.
It's good to see Tor bringing out some translated science fiction -- there's far too little of it, and books like this and Ofir Touché Gafla's The World of the End, which they published earlier this year, are a nice complement to the usual Anglo-American offerings.
Readux Books has now officially opened shop, with their first batch of four titles.
As they explain:
Readux Books will individually publish short works of (mostly) translated literature.
Based in Berlin, our location in the heart of European literary life is one of our great strengths.
We will release four teeny books (small format, 32-64 pp.) three times yearly
Restless Books is, as publisher Ilan Stavans' (!) note explains: "a new digital publisher devoted to books from all around the globe [.....] committed to bringing the best of international literature".
Among their first books are forthcoming ones from Hamid Ismailov and Jalal Al-e Ahmad, so this is definitely a list with some promise.
This is another new publisher with an international focus that, like Frisch & Co, is going the ebook-only route; it'll be interesting to see whether/how that model works.
(Compelled to read more titles in e-versions this year than ever before, my loathing for the format has only increased (by leaps and bounds); I realize it is only a matter of matter of advances in formatting and e-reader-technology before at some point e-reading does become palatable, but that day still appears very, very far away to me.)
They've announced the winner of the 2013 AKO Literatuurprijs (though not yet at the official site, last I checked ...), and the €50,000 prize went to Feest van het begin, by Joke van Leeuwen; see, for example the NRC Boeken weblog report, or the Querido publicity page for the winning title.
Several of her books have been translated into English -- see, for example, the Gecko Press publicity page for ... The Day My Father Became a Bush; see also her official site.
As Grace Cuddihy reports in The Moscow Times, Brodsky Criticizes His Contemporaries From Beyond the Grave, as Colta.ru print an apparently never-before-released 1972 interview (well, an: неизвестное интервью !) poet Joseph Brodsky gave.
He really rags on Yevgeny Yevtushenko -- "Он, конечно, поэт очень плохой. И человек он еще худший" (even I get that, in my very basic Russian) -- and it's interesting too that he acknowledges that, yes, he is a 'Soviet' poet.
I assume The Book Haven will soon have more in-depth commentary and analysis.
At hlo Orsolya Karafiáth wonders Authorial acrobatics: Is it the job of writers to popularize reading ? questioning the demands placed on authors to be salesman-performers, putting on a show to get word -- and their books -- out.
Meanwhile, in The New Republic, Lionel Shriver describes How to Succeed as an Author: Give Up on Writing: The rancid smell of 21st century literary success, noting also the extra-literary demands placed on writers.
As someone who would pay for all authors to go underground, never to be seen or heard from or about ever again, left just to scribble away silently, unnoticed, and undisturbed, and who thinks it should always and only be about the texts and just the texts, I need little convincing.
Of course, in the current climate -- where trying to retreat from the public eye or going underground à la Pynchon or Salinger is spun as a headline-grabbing publicity stunt that leads to endless in-print speculation about the person rather than the texts -- it's pretty hopeless.
this year’s judges had complained that around two-thirds of the 151 entries for the prize were not up to standard, with only 40-50 worth reading for consideration and the others "junk".
This complaint by judges was a consistent one across the years, and generally applied to around the same proportion of entries, Trewin added.
"I urge you to look twice at some of the books entered, unless you truly believe they have a chance of being longlisted," he told publishers.
Of course, given the Man Booker's ridiculous policy of not revealing what books were actually entered, there's no way of knowing and judging what these 100+ junk titles were.
(Yet another reason for the transparency I've long called for: public ridicule that publisher X submitted crap-novel Y for consideration -- that might be an incentive for them to only put up the good stuff .....)
Trewin is no doubt right that publishers are submitting undeserving books -- but he seems oblivious to the root(s) of the problem.
These are obvious:
a lack of transparency (allowing publishers to play perverse games of what books they put up and what lies they can tell their authors): make public all the books in the running
a submission process that rests almost entirely with the last people who should be entrusted with it -- the publishers (whose as likely as not have no idea of even what the best book(s) to submit are)
The recently announced procedural changes insanely limit publishers to a single entry per award-cycle, with bonus submission opportunities for publishers who have placed books on the longlist in the past five years (as well as a limited number of opportunities for titles to be called in).
How this should improve the quality of submissions is, at least to me, unfathomable.
The moaning about the number of submissions the judges have to consider -- "the volume of entries has become "an impossible mountain for the Man Booker judges to climb"" -- is also striking in that by international standards the Man Booker folk have an exceptionally light load: the judges of the recently announced German Book Prize reviewed a total of 201 titles; the also recently announced Premio Planeta (offering a much bigger payday than the Man Booker, too) considered 478 entries this year; in 2012 the American National Book Award fiction judges picked the winner from 311 entries (while in the non-fiction category the judges dealt with 479 submissions), etc. etc.
Trewin has a point of sorts -- a lot of non-contenders have to be dealt with, and it would be better if the judges didn't have to bother -- but by international standards the Man Booker judges are getting off easy.
Again: the solution lies in the submission procedure: a lot more books should be considered in a preliminary way, and then far fewer should actually be in the running for the prize (500/50 sounds like a reasonable split for a prize with the Man Booker's incredibly wide ambit).
And, again: publishers should have nothing to do with either selection-process (beyond providing copies of the books).
Interesting, too, to hear that:
Among other concerns expressed by publishers over the entry rule changes for the Prize are fears that British and Commonwealth writers may be sidelined with the entry of US authors.
But Trewin said that during the consultation process that preceded the rule changes, he had explored the number of US literary novels published in the UK and found it "far fewer than I had anticipated
That seems worth exploring -- beginning with the whole bizarre (or shorthand ?) notion of "literary novels" (as opposed to all those non-literary ones ?) .....
Good to see there's some debate about all this; I just wish more people would be pushing for more submission-transparency, and for more (rather than fewer) books being considered, at least in the initial stages of the judging.
With a focus on 'Writing the Great Recession', the November-December issue of World Literature Today is now, in part, available online.
Quite a bit of interest, as usual -- and the entire World Literature in Review-section is freely available, hurrah.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ivan Turgenev's novella, First Love.
I was a big Turgenev fan in my adolescence (Turgenev and Tolstoy, yes; Dostoevsky, not so much) and I was long wary about revisiting his work -- especially this one, with all its adolescent passion.
But, damn, it's good, even in Constance Garnett's slightly creaky translation.
Quite a bit of Turgenev made a lasting impression on me -- though the scene that really got to me back then, a wallop like few from my reading before or since, was not from this but from Rudin, the exchange between Natalya and Rudin:
'But you do not answer my question ?'
'What question ?'
'What do you think we must do now ?'
'What we must do ?' replied Rudin; 'of course submit.'
'Submit,' repeated Natalya slowly, and her lips turned white.
'Submit to destiny,' continued Rudin.
'What is to be done ?
Yes, it wasn't Chernyshevsky's 'What is to be done ?' (though I read that too), but Rudin's that was among the perhaps half-dozen most affecting and shocking scenes I've ever read, with Rudin's (and then especially Natalya's echoed) 'submit' among the most terribly haunting words .....
Ah, yes, the crushing force of destiny .....
The ten-title-strong shortlist for the T.S.Eliot Prize for Poetry has been announced, selected from: "113 books submitted by publishers" (unfortunately, the other submitted titles remain unidentified ...).
The winner will be announced 13 January 2014.
Assaf Gavron has won the Bernstein Prize for his novel, הגבעה ('The Hilltop') -- see, for example, Maya Sela's Haaretzreport.
This is apparently a fairly prestigious Israeli prize, but what's striking about it is that, as the submission requirements explain, it is limited to authors under the age of 50.
There are a lot of prizes for authors with age limits, meant to help young(er) talents -- but fifty ... that seems almost cruel as a cut-off point.
Okay, maybe it helps prevent the old geezers (and Israeli literature has an impressive collection of them -- Oz, Yehoshua, Grossman, etc.) from collecting all the prizes ... but still .....
The Yacoubian Building -author Alaa Al Aswany (i.e. one of the few contemporary Arabic-writing authors to have achieved considerable success in (even English) translation) recently published a new novel in Arabic, نادي السيارات, and an English translation is due out next year.
Jonathan Wright was asked to translate it, but things didn't work out.
Really didn't work out, as Wright now explains at his weblog, in the post: Why translators should give Dr Alaa Al Aswany and Knopf Doubleday a wide berth.
(Among the other players: al-Aswany's agent, none other than Andrew Wylie.)
Wright's careful timeline and detail offer fascinating insight into the seamier-than-you-might-have-thought world of publishing (and, once again, I add: if this is how the business 'works' it's amazing it's survived this long).
At her weblog, Arabic Literature (in English), M. Lynx Qualey offers additional perspective and analysis, in her post on Making It Visible: Jonathan Wright on (Not) Translating Alaa al-Aswany's 'Automobile Club'.
Both posts are worth reading, and raise a number of troubling issues in how translation is handled by (American) publishers.
I'll leave others to hash the translation-questions out (and, please: hash away: they're important, too), but would like to emphasize again the issue of how translators are handled.
Wright helpfully provides a copy of the contract he was sent (and signed) -- and I was flabbergasted ... well, by so much about all of this, but in particular by the fact that they offered him (and he accepted) "work for hire"-designation (meaning, as they also spell out, that the publisher gets to maintain, for every and all purpose regarding the final product: "we are the 'author' thereof").
Folks, that's unacceptable.
Yes, American copyright law permits 'work made for hire' (in some cases, which do include translation), and far too many publishers still request/demand it.
But, as for example noted translator Tiina Nunnally explains in 17 More Rules for Translators (also at Arabic Literature (in English) -- you do get that you should have this site bookmarked, right ?): "Don't sign a book contract that includes the term 'work-for-hire.'".
Or, as PEN explains (scroll down):
given the restrictions associated with them, the Translation Committee does not recommend that translators accept work-for-hire agreements.
There is a different kind of appreciation for poets in the Ukraine, says Danish artist Nielsen.
"Poets here are still worshipped.
In Germany, that might happen to Hölderlin or Celan, but poets who are still alive are only a small part of the literature crowd."
Presumably it helps that:
Poets don't just recite their poems, they perform, they celebrate, they act.
Zhadan, a sort of lyrical punk rocker, made people start up from their chairs right at the beginning.
No word on (poetry-)book-sales, however, I note .....
(Several Andrukhovych-works are under review at the complete review (see -- and read ! --, for example, Perverzion), though none of the poetry, and Glagoslav recently brought out Zhadan's Depeche Mode (again: not poetry); see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
There was a big fuss about the recent Man Booker Prize announcement of their 'global expansion' (as they moved from considering only Commonwealth + Irish + Zimbabwean authors to, starting next year, allowing anyone writing in English (and published in the UK) to (potentially -- if their publisher submits their book) play along), but sixteen years ago the American National Book Critics Circle did them one better, deciding to let any US-published work of fiction compete for the prize: already permitting story-collections (also a no-no for the Man Booker novel prize ...) Linda Wolfe reports on how things changed in 1997, in Remembering Alice Munro's National Book Critics Circle Award.
The NBCC truly went global -- and it had an immediate impact: an Andreï Makine was among the finalists that first year, and Penelope Fitzgerald took the prize, and the foreigners have fared fairly well -- while not completely drowning out the locals -- since then; see the complete list of winners.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the latest collected/selected edition of Hugo Claus's poetry, Even Now, forthcoming from Archipelago.
As Claus explains: "My poems aren't a classic fuck/they're vulgar babble or all too noble bluster" -- so: well worth your while.
But let's see a real, complete collection, shall we ?
The biennial Man Booker International Prize has announced its advisory 'e-Council', who will make: "suggestions of writers who might be considered for their initial reading list" in selecting the finalists for the prize.
There are already some 80 councilors, with more expected .....
On the one hand, I see that it can be useful to get suggestions as to the names of authors to consider; on the other hand, given that all the councilors have some Man Booker connection (they are former judges and winners), the prize threatens to become even more narrowly Anglophone than it already is, with only a very few of the former Man Booker Internatioanl judges in the mix offering a real foreign language perspective.
Not an approach likely to make the prize more 'international' in its outlook, I think and fear.
Scratch is apparently a new online site, and they now offer a free preview issue with, among other things, Manjula Martin's Interview with Jonathan Franzen.
Apparently: "Despite his ability to deliver inflammatory sound bytes, Franzen's conversational style isn't reactionary" .....
In any case, certainly of interest if you have any interest in Franzen and his opinions.
(And, yes, he disses Play-Doh, not convinced that it is: "an expressive medium for the ages" .....)
The Literacka Nagroda Europy Środkowej -- Central European literary prize -- Angelus has gone to The Museum of Abandoned Secrets, by Ukrainian author Oksana Zabuzhko; see also the WNU report, Ukrainian Writer Wins Central European Literary Award.
The finalists included books by Jerzy Pilch, Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, and Andrzej Stasiuk -- so: pretty serious competition.
The Museum of Abandoned Secrets was published in English by ... AmazonCrossing; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
I should get around to posting a review eventually; for now the only Zabuzhko title under review at the complete review is Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Oliver Pötzsch's recent thriller, The Ludwig Conspiracy.
And, yes, I did shed some tears at the thought of Anthea Bell devoting some weeks of her precious translating-life to this 400+ page work.
They've announced the 15-title-strong longlist for the 2014 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, selected from "over 65 entries" (did they lose count somewhere along the way ?) -- which are unfortunately and outrageously not identified.
An interesting selection, which includes several translations (well, three, but still ...) and even two works already under review at the complete review: The Illicit Happiness of Other People (by Manu Joseph) and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (by Mohsin Hamid).
The shortlist will be announced 20 November.
At Radio Bulgaria Daniela Konstantinova offers: Intense Literature: Ivan Vazov - the one-man show.
As she notes: "Ivan Vazov was Bulgaria's first celebrity writer. Everybody knew him".
That's still the case in Bulgaria, but abroad ... not so much (perhaps the fact that: "linguists have registered him using as many as 60,000 words as vocabulary units" got lost in translation) -- though at least his Under the Yoke has been available in seemingly countless editions (get yours at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, or read an old translation online).
Certainly an author worth knowing (or at least worth knowing a little about and by).
They introduced the Burmese chapter of PEN -- PEN Myanmar -- at their International Congress last month, and in The Myanmar Times Chit Su reports on how Myanmar takes up PEN (an effort: "nearly 15 years in the making"), as:
PEN Myanmar is accepting member applications from this month and will hold an official PEN Myanmar Congress in November to choose a director and board, although the dates are yet to be confirmed.
It hasn't made the official PEN centre map yet, but hopefully will soon.
An interesting/disturbing piece in The New York Times yesterday, as Andrew Jacobs reports that Authors Accept Censors' Rules to Sell in China
So, for example, Ezra F. Vogel's Deng Xiaoping-biography had significant critical pieces cut -- but:
Mr. Vogel, a professor emeritus at Harvard, said the decision to allow Chinese censors to tinker with his work was an unpleasant but necessary bargain, one that allowed the book to reach the kind of enormous readership many Western authors can only dream of.
His book, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, sold 30,000 copies in the United States and 650,000 in China.
"To me the choice was easy," he said during a book tour of China that drew appreciative throngs in nearly a dozen cities.
"I thought it was better to have 90 percent of the book available here than zero."
So much for textual (and generic ?) integrity, I guess .....
It's hard to begrudge authors the big paydays and sales-numbers; on the other hand .....
I'm no big fan of editorial interference in translations under the best of circumstances, but when it comes to facts, and is done at the behest (and hence tacitly in support) of a regime such as that in power in China it seems rather on the far end of the morally dubious spectrum, if not entirely over the moral cliff .....
At Artcurial they had a nice-looking (hell: mouth-watering) auction of nineteenth and twentieth century books a few days ago.
Among the items: a first edition of Céline's Journey to the End of Night -- a really first edition: the first of ten numbered, unbound copies on special paper.
It's uncut, too (which always seems to me to defeat the purpose of book-ownership, but obviously, given the sales price: what do I know ?).
The estimate was a healthy €60-80,000 -- and it sold for €165,068.
(See also the report at BibliObs.)
They've announced the 2013 New Zealand Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement winners: Owen Marshall (fiction), Michele Leggott (poetry), and Martin Edmond (non-fiction).
See also the list of previous winner.