They've announced the shortlist for The Hindu Prize for Best Fiction 2013.
Disappointingly, the prize is once again English-language books only.
Only one of the shortlisted titles is under review at the complete review, The Illicit Happiness of Other People, by Manu Joseph (who took the prize in 2010).
The winner will be announced 13 January.
Franzen's speech begins with him describing the TV show Hogan's Heroes as his introduction to Germany -- and he notes that when he first came to Germany he didn't take to Munich: he liked the food and beer, but it turned out that his parents -- from whom he was trying to get some distance/rebel against -- were, despite not having German ancestry, decidedly too Bavarian in spirit, and so he found the Bavarians stiflingly too much like good ol' mom and pop.
And he notes that one of the qualities he really appreciates about German literature is its humor -- which, I fear, will backfire completely as an endorsement .....
"I think there is a pretty thriving LDS book culture," Professor Madden said.
"But a lot of it is faith-affirming and uncomplicated-type writing.
Maybe that's why there's a pretty strong thrust of LDS genre writers.
Because when you write sci-fi and so forth, things aren't as messy as with realistic fiction."
And then there's the whole thing about writing YA/kids' fiction:
"I'll tell you why they write young adult," said Ms. Nunes.
"Because they don't have to write the pages and pages of sex. They don't want to spend a lot of time in the bedroom."
(And here I was thinking the multiple-wives thing would lead naturally to lots of bedrooms and lots of scenes in bedrooms .....)
In the Daily Star Chirine Lahoud has a Q & A with Amin Maalouf, immortal and back in Lebanon, as he's in town for the book fair.
Among the things he discusses: how being a member of the Académie française has affected his schedule.
They've announced the shortlist for the Literary Review's annual 'Bad Sex Award' -- given: "for the most embarrassing passage of sexual description in a novel".
Last year's winner, Infrared, by Nancy Huston, was actually under review at the complete review, but I'm afraid none of this year's batch is (or seems likely to be, any time soon).
But helpfully The Telegraph offers excerpts from all the contenders.
At Bookforum Morten Høi Jensen has a Q & A with Mircea Cărtărescu, as the first volume of his Orbitor-trilogy recently came out in English, as Blinding, from Archipelago -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Interesting that he says he wrote the entire novel -- over the course of fourteen years -- abroad, and that:
I have to make a living in Romania, so I can't afford to write there.
Instead I try to find grants or opportunities to live abroad.
I should be getting to this soon; meanwhile, the only one of his titles currently under review at the complete review is Nostalgia.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the first (of four) volumes of Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq's seminal 1855 classic, Leg Over Leg.
This is one of the first volumes in NYU Press' new Library of Arabic Literature -- "Arabic editions and English translations of key works of classical and premodern Arabic literature" (i.e. attempting to do something like the Harvard University Press' Loeb Classical Library does for classical Greek and Latin writing) -- and, as my enthusiastic review suggests, it's a big, big deal.
Zibaldone -- see the Farrar, Straus & Giroux publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- may well be the most impressive translation-achievement of the year, but as far as literary-historical significance goes I think Leg over Leg has it (easily) beat (and Humphrey Davies gives them a run for their money as far as translation goes, too).
Oh, yeah, it's pretty damn good book, too.
It will certainly eventually get the review-coverage it deserves -- though I wonder if publications are holding off until the complete four-book set is available (next year).
The Goncourt is a pure novel play; the Renaudot has two categories, fiction and non; and the third of the major French literary prizes, the Prix Femina, announced yesterday, is actually a trifecta of prizes, honoring fiction, non, and a work in translation.
Dark Heart of the Night-author Léonora Miano took the fiction prize, for La saison de l'ombre (see the Grasset publicity page), while Richard Ford took best foreign work, with Canada.
Meanwhile, the non-fiction prize went to the father-and-son team of Jean-Paul and Raphaël Enthoven for their Dictionnaire amoureux de Proust (and, yes, that's the Raphaël who was married to Nothing Serious-author (and BHL daughter) Justine Lévy, and then had an affair (and a kid) with Carla Bruni before she went on to become Mme Sarkozy, for those of you keeping score at home).
See, for example, US author wins top French literary prize at France24.
With their meager payouts the top American book prizes are notoriously underfunded by most international standards: the (American) National Book Awards and Pulitzer Prizes each offer only $10,000 while the Man Booker Prize pays out £50,000, the Nigeria Prize for Literature US $100,000, the Premio Planeta €601,000 (hell, the runner-up gets €150,250 ...), etc.
Among the few other prizes that can get by on reputation and name alone is the French prix Goncourt, just awarded this year, to Au revoir là-haut, by Pierre Lemaitre (see my mention).
That prize is worth all of €10; here's a picture of Lemaitre's check:
With the Goncourt, the real money is in the additional sales -- and as Mohammed Aissaoui reports in Le Figaro, the original 30,000 first printing for the Lemaitre was already up to 100,000, and they're now going back and printing 220-250,000 additional copies.
It should pay off: check out the chart of the sales increases attributable to last year's prize-wins (in what was an off-year for the Goncourt, with the Joël Dicker (coming in English next year ...) the big winner):
The UK-based prize for fiction by a female author -- best known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, and after that the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and for the moment (though who knows, by the time you read this ...) apparently the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction (or WPFF, as they abbreviate it), have announced the jury for the 2014 prize -- and:
To celebrate the first year of the Baileys sponsorship of the Women's Prize for Fiction, Baileys has commissioned acclaimed portrait photographer, Suki Dhanda, to photograph the 2014 judging panel.
I have to say that I am very disappointed that the women aren't all chugging bottles of Bailey's -- what use a drinks-sponsor if there isn't a constant supply at hand ? -- and I'm surprised there aren't a few subtle hints of orange hidden in the picture (as subliminal reminders of the prize's previous incarnations) but ... whatever.
There's no timetable as to long- and short-list announcements for the 2014 prize (perhaps they'll do without them ?), just that the prize will be awarded 4 June.
Jonathan Littell's prix Goncourt-winning monstrosity, The Kindly Ones, elicited a ... wide variety of critical responses when it appeared in the US, many of them (very) negative (deservedly so -- it is not a good book).
Two Lines Press is now bringing out a smaller and very different collection authored by Littell, The Fata Morgana Books -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- and as part of their marketing strategy they've chosen to remind readers and booksellers of some of the less enthusiastic reactions to The Kindly Ones -- such as Ruth Franklin finding it: "one of the most repugnant books I have ever read".
At The Washington Post's The Style Blog Ron Charles has a Q & A about the marketing of the book with TLP marketing manager (and Mr. Conversational Reading) Scott Esposito, Jonathan Littell's previous novel made critics want to vomit. What now ?
Given the strong reactions to Littell's previous book this seems like a viable approach.
By acknowledging what's widely known anyway -- that opinions were split on the book, and tended to extremes -- they certainly gain some credibility for a rare bit of honesty in the industry (compare this approach to the usual very ... let's say: creative (to put it politely) blurbing of follow-up books, etc.).
And if critics were passionate about a book, that's a selling point that's worth reminding folks of; it's certainly preferable to indifferent reactions.
Scott acknowledges some risks to the approach, but they seem to have struck the right balance, and he's right that this might also helps foster continuing engagement with both titles.
(Coverage of the book should be up at the complete review, too, sometime later this month.)
Of course, the really brave marketing strategy would have been to dredge up Littell's first book, the notorious Bad Voltage, and bring that into the equation -- showing how truly ... versatile ? Littell is.
Surely, it too deserves to be part of any dialogue about Littell's art.
And, of course, they could not have gone wrong by designing a cover in imitation of (homage to ?) either of the Bad Voltage editions (though, yes, I can see now that the emphasis on bad might seem a bit too front and center ...):
For decades, many South Koreans had been sick and tired of their country's novels, which tended to harp on serious, weighty themes about history, war and ideology.
These South Korean readers were quickly enamored with Murakami's urbane, stylish romance fictions, which didn't contain a drop of history or ideology.
They deeply sympathized with the dry and cool styles of love he depicted.
They also supported the writer's snub to the hypocritical posture of writers who pretended to detest capitalism.
They've announced that Au revoir là-haut, by Pierre Lemaitre, has won the most prestigious French literary prize, the prix Goncourt 2013.
It immediately vaulted to number one at Amazon.fr, where you can get your copy.
An English translation, by Frank Wynne, is due in 2015 from MacLehose Press.
It's a glorious novel - sort of Céline meets Buster Keaton
See also, for example, the France24 report, France's top literary prize goes to Pierre Lemaitre.
Lemaitre is known as a crime writer, and this is his first non-genre novel -- an impressive cross-over success; coincidentally, his Alex just came out in English (and I just reviewed it ...).
The Goncourt may be the most prestigious French literary prize, but the Renaudot is widely considered the runner-up prize.
Lemaitre's Au revoir là-haut -- which took the Goncourt -- was one of the six finalists, but it was Yann Moix's massive ("1,3 kilo et 1 152 pages", as Le Monde helpfully weighs in) Naissance that took this prize.
Intriguing though it sounds (sort of ...), this one doesn't look quite as likely to appear in English any time soon -- but you can get your copy at Amazon.fr.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ivan Vladislaviċ's novel Double Negative, now out in a US/UK edition from And Other Stories.
Amusing though The National's review-headline is -- Ivan Vladislavic's Double Negative is a no-no -- I think they and Publishers Weekly missed the boat on this one, a profound work of deceptive depth which they seem to have approached with mistaken expectations (see also Edward Nawotka's recent profile of Vladislaviċ at Publishing Perspectives); I hope the US/UK reviews it receives (and it deserves widespread coverage, this is a major work) see what there really is here.
(My own review feels entirely inadequate to me too, barely scratching at all the surfaces.)
And in a few months' time we get The Restless Supermarket, folks -- go ahead, pre-order from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; I think this is still his leading work.
(Both of these have, of course, been available for a while in South African editions, but it's time for Vladislaviċ's international break-through -- be there for it !)
The Autumn 2013 issue of list - Books from Korea is now available online.
I'm not sure about the special section on ... Korea's Apartment Buildings, but at least it is a rather original thing to focus on .....
And as Kim Mansu explains in the issue Foreword:
Korea’s apartments form a type of langue, defining the life of Korean people according to a structuralist perspective.
Koreans create their own "parole" in the langue called the apartment.
Very little Amharic fiction -- and, indeed, any fiction from Ethiopia -- makes it into English, so it's always interesting to read about anything from there, even if it hasn't been translated yet.
Mehiret Debebe's new novel, የተቆለፈበት ቁልፍ, is even available from Amazon -- get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- which is pretty neat, and there's a lengthy review (or sort-of-review) of it in The Reporter (Ethiopia).
Unfortunately, Neamin Ashenafi's discussion of the book doesn't really give a very good idea of what the hell the book is about (other than ... well, pretty much everything -- "a fictional manifestation of Ethiopian reality" indeed), much less what the story or storylines might be.
Yes, yes: "The writer narrates the story via fictitious characters that give him more power and space to play with his ideas freely" -- but who these characters are and what the author has them do remains unrevealed.
I appreciate a reviewer not giving away the whole plot of a novel, but suggesting a book manages to do everything ("in his thoughtful and imaginative investigation of the history, culture, philosophy belief system, social fabric, social organizations of the country") without providing a clue about the actual story isn't very helpful either.
I suppose it's better than no information at all, given how little one hears of Amharic fiction, but it would be nice to see more revealing coverage -- and maybe a few actual translations, too.
Mozambican author Mia Couto has beat out contenders such as César Aira, Duong Thu Huong, and Murakami Haruki and been named the winner of the 2014 Neustadt International Prize for Literature -- a biennial author-prize that is one of the world's most prestigious.
See also, for example, this Q & A at PolicyMic.
In The Daily Star Rifat Munim has a Q & A with Hasan Azizul Haque -- "perhaps the most revered short story writer in contemporary Bangla literature" -- 'Without translation promotion of Bangla literature is impossible'.
"What we need is to reach acclaimed foreign publishers such as Penguin", he says -- though disappointingly even smaller, less ... acclaimed publishers are largely unwilling to seriously consider much Bangla writing.
European and a few well-subsidized other languages still win in the -- alas, often subsidy-driven -- translation game (and, yes, it is very much a game (and subsidy-based business ....), rather than a serious exercise in finding the most worthy literature to translate ...).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pierre Lemaitre's thriller Alex.
Alex is the first of Lemaitre's books to be translated into English, but his Au revoir là-haut is also one of the four finalists for the prix Goncourt -- the most prestigious French book prize -- to be announced on Tuesday.
What I like about the MacLehose Press edition: two title pages, one just with title/author, the other with just title/'Translated from the French by'.
What I don't like about the MacLehose Press edition: this is the second in a trilogy -- and they published the translation of this one before they bothered with the first.
Well, they waited until November to release it online, but, yes, Publishers Weekly have already decided on their Best Books 2013 -- a hundred titles in various categories.
Of the top ten overall one is actually under review at the complete review -- The Silence and the Roar by Nihad Sirees.
The Nordic Council Literature Prize is the leading Scandinavian literary prize, with an impressive list of winners (see also the ones under review at the complete review), and they've now announced that the 2013 prize goes to the Danish Profeterne i Evighedsfjorden, an historical novel by Kim Leine.
Rather surprisingly, US/UK rights have already been snapped up (well, it had already picked up a couple of prizes and was apparently a fairly 'hot' book) -- it is scheduled to be published in 2014, as The Prophets of Eternal Fjord, by Atlantic Books in the UK and Norton in the US, in a translation by Martin Aitken; see also the Gyldendal publicity page.
In Varsity Olivia Murphy reports that Persian epic brought to life thanks to £1.2 million gift, describing the latest cash infusion for this very worthy project -- and any excuse to point you to the marvel that is the Shahnama Project at Cambridge is worthwhile: check it out for yourself (but be warned: "There are currently about 1500 manuscripts and single pages recorded, 18,000 records of paintings, and 12,000 images from all over the world, now accessible with a few clicks of a mouse" -- i.e. a lot to keep you busy).
At the Scottish Book Trust Stuart Kelly (and staff at Scottish Book Trust) picked 'the past half-century's most memorable Scottish reads', in 50 Best Scottish Books of the Last 50 Years -- and you can vote for your favorites (through 22 November).
Alas, they went the one-book-per-author-limit-route, but there's still a lot of very good stuff here.