Vladimir Lorchenkov's The Good Life Elsewhere just came out from New Vessel Press -- a rare Moldovan novel (albeit written in Russian) to make it to the US -- and at the World Literature Today weblog Michelle Johnson has A Conversation with Vladimir Lorchenkov.
It's very much in the same tragi-comic vein of the novel, with responses such as:
MJ: Are writers in Moldova free to write what they choose without fear of punishment ?
VL: Of course they are free, because they aren't published here.
Besides, nobody reads Moldovan writers' books. However, it's cool.
MJ: Do most Moldovan writers write in Russian ?
VL: In Moldova, writers write either in Romanian or in Russian.
I suppose 50/50.
It does not matter, though, because their books are not read here.
In The International New York Times Ginanne Brownell suggests: Move Over Scandinavian Noir, Here Comes the Polish Gumshoe, as the Polish market has moved from four thrillers being released in 2003 "while last year 112 crime novels were published".
And a few of these even make it into English -- such as works by Marek Krajewski (e.g. The End of the World in Breslau), Zygmunt Miłoszewski (Entanglement), and Mariusz Czubaj.
I'm not sure the Scandinavians have much to worry about yet, but always good to see stuff from elsewhere, too.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alain Robbe-Grillet's A Sentimental Novel, forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press.
This 2007 novel was Robbe-Grillet's last, and caused quite a stir; as translator D.E.Brooke also notes in a Preface:
French publisher Fayard confirms that, indeed, all their publishing contacts in the U.S. turned the book down in 2007 due to its subject matter, which was considered beyond the pale.
(It should be noted: they weren't the only ones: while the book was reviewed upon (French) publication in some of the major German papers, the Germans, too, appear to have declined to publish a translation; the only other foreign edition I could find (not that I looked particularly hard) was a Romanian one.
Of course, it's worth noting that this wasn't published by Robbe-Grillet's usual publisher in France either, Les Éditions de Minuit; still, kind of a shame that after all those books Grove didn't rise to the challenge in the US.)
I'm curious what happens with this book -- figuring that either everyone will just ignore it (and with not even a Publishers Weekly review (yet ?) that seems a distinct possibility), or people will take a closer look and a nice little shitstorm will ensue.
(In any case, it's safe to assume it won't figure on your kid's high-school reading list anytime soon; it also won't be longlisted for next year's Best Translated Book Award (between the squeamish and the offended, it would never get by enough of the judges).)
- And for a different facet of the longlisted titles, check out 'The Many Covers of the 2014 Best Translated Book Award Nominees' -- the covers of various editions of all the longlisted titles -- Aaron Westerman has collected at Typographical Era -- the only drawback being that they're collected over (arghhh) five pages: one, two, three, four, and five.
'Literary' agent Andrew Wylie (of The Wylie Agency) weighs in on Amazon.com's recently announced plans to play at being a publisher in Germany in an entertaining (he's always good for that) interview (in German) with Patrick Bahners in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
(I have no idea, however, what image he is trying to project with the accompanying headshot.)
Basically, he ridicules the idea of Amazon as a publisher (and as much of anything else book-related) over the entire interview -- calling it a "publishing program that stands out for its idiocy".
Only one of the authors he represents ever published with Amazon, he says -- against his advice, a 'Kindle single'.
Wylie also says that: "Nothing that Amazon publishes is worth reading" (which seems a slight exaggeration -- a handful of AmazonCrossing titles are under review at the complete review, and a lot of this stuff is certainly decent fiction -- and most of these titles, at least, were published in their native languages by reputable and often leading literary publishers; Seuil-published Le roi de Kahel even won the 2008 prix Renaudot -- so, unfortunately (as is his wont), Wylie exaggerates a bit unfairly, undermining whatever credibility he may have ...).
As to his closing advice for publishers:
My advice is: if you have a choice between the plague and Amazon, pick the plague !
(So, sadly, that's the level of current debate, about rather serious issues.)
No word, however, on what Wylie thinks of nook press (presumably he, like the rest of us just burst out giggling at the very mention ...).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Michael Emmerich's The Tale of Genji: Translation, Canonization, and World Literature.
(Yes, it's a study of The Tale of Genji: I still don't know that that justifies titling it ... The Tale of Genji.)
This came out last year from Columbia University Press, and I'm rather disappointed to see that it's gotten so little attention -- okay, it's a bit specific, but it's still an impressive work, and a fascinating case-study, and deserves to be in the discussion-mix.
(Author Emmerich is also a fairly well-known translator-from-the-Japanese -- and half of the most impressive brother-and-sister translating team around, as sister Karen translates from the Greek; in fact, just yesterday I got my advance copy of her translation of Amanda Michalopoulou's Why I Killed My Best Friend, forthcoming from Open Letter (see their publicity page (and note that in real life the cover doesn't look anywhere near that purple ...), or pre-order your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).)
At The Daily Beast Henry Krempels has a Q & A about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Literary Lagos.
I can't help but note that she doesn't actually answer the first question, 'Can you describe the area of Lagos you live in ?' (though it sounds more like she's unwilling to rather than not able to).
Les Echos report on a recent Livres Hebdo survey (not freely accessible online) finding Faute de temps, les Français lisent moins, as the percentage of respondents who claimed (admitted ?) to reading a book in the past year fell quite dramatically, from 74 in 2011 to 69 currently.
Lack of time is the major factor (have the French suddenly gotten busier ?) -- though having kids under fifteen is also reported to cut into reading time.
In imitation of the UK's Diagram Prize for oddest book title the Germans have started their own Ungewöhnlichster Buchtitel des Jahres-competition -- with the prize just handed out, for Das Mädchen mit dem Rohr im Ohr und der Junge mit dem Löffel im Hals (get your copy at Amazon.de).
As the ten-title shortlist suggests, the Germans don't really seem to get the oddity-idea that well -- most of these are just ... long.
Though Das erotische Potential meines Kleingärtnervereins ('The erotic potential of my garden club') isn't half bad.
(I suppose How to Tell If Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You (a translation from the English) -- the runner-up -- is okay, too.)
One of the ironies about Mo Yan is that his style of writing is a kind of Chinese literature that international publishers are getting tired of and are deciding not to continue publishing -- the very long, epic novels about China's rural problems and recent history.
There's a real fatigue among publishers and among readers.
(For 'fatigue' presumably read -- at least among publishers --: annoyance that this stuff just doesn't sell.)
Interesting also to hear the example of the popular (in China) author of the just-published-in-translation Decoded:
We'll take an extreme example.
Mai Jia's advance supposedly from his Chinese publisher was over 10 million yuan ($1.6 million).
You could push [a foreign publisher] to maybe $10,000 at best.
That does skew incentives, quite a bit -- though you figure entry to the English-language market (and via that potentially to many others) is worth an upfront discount that you hope to make up in the long run.
The writers that China has been bringing to the international book fairs have been actually good writers.
But they show up, they're squirreled away in the hotel, their media contact is doled out very carefully, they don't get a lot of opportunities to talk to local writers, they do a couple of events at the book fair and then they're whisked away again.
People still get the feeling that these are a bunch of party hacks that have been stuck on a plane and flown over here to give us the impression that China has literature.
(You know my opinion: that's part of the problem -- paying attention to authors rather than to their works.
Don't worry about signing personalities (or party hacks) -- worry about signing texts .....
Of course, this kind of silly thinking is exactly why I am not employed in publishing .....)
As I recently noted, Switzerland is the 'guest of honour' at the current Leipzig Book Fair, and at Deutsche Welle Susanne von Schenck reports on an often overlooked sliver of Swiss literature, in A fading language finds new life in literature.
That language is Romansh: not widely spoken -- "About 50,000 to 60,000 people still speak Romansh" -- but nevertheless an official language of Switzerland, along with German, French, and Italian.
Among the authors and works mentioned are Arno Camenisch -- who: "sprinkles his German texts with phrases from Romansh" -- and his Sez Ner.
Noteworthy because the admirable Dalkey Archive Press is coming out with a translation shortly, The Alp; I just got my galley and hope to cover it; meanwhile, see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's Definitely Maybe.
Melville House has just reissued this one, one of a number of Strugatsky titles coming back in print (some in new translations), with Chicago Review Press' Hard to Be a God due up next; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've announced the winners of the National Book Critics Circle ('for Publishing Year 2013'), with Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie taking the fiction prize and Distant Reading by Franco Moretti winning the criticism category.
They've announced the winners of the Preise der Leipziger Buchmesse (though, amazingly, they seem incapable of offering that information on a single page at the official site ...), with How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone-author Saša Stanišić's new book, Vor dem Fest, taking the fiction prize, and Robin Detje's translation of William T. Vollmann's Europe Central winning in the translation category.
Via I'm pointed to Takayuki Iwasaki's piece in Nikkei Asian Review finding Japan's literati impervious to politics -- meaning that, despite tensions with nearby South Korea, China, and Taiwan, Japanese titles are still selling well in those markets.
But, while the Americans and Europeans don't have similar beefs with the Japanese: "exports to Europe and the U.S. are not progressing as desired".
Japanese literature is struggling in Europe and the U.S.
Writers such as Fuminori Nakamura and Yoko Ogawa have garnered attention, but Haruki Murakami is about the only widely recognized author.
It is difficult to get Japanese literature translated and sold in the U.S. and European markets, where commercial success is a prerequisite.
I note that Higashino also gets published in English (The Devotion of Suspect X and Naoko, among others) -- even if he has not enjoyed anywhere near as much success and popularity as he has in easter Asia --, and Isaka's Remote Control is also available.
But, yes, overall the US/European picture is pretty dismal regarding translation-from-the Japanese.
L'Express report on Le palmarès 2013 des best-sellers, as they got together the authors of many of last year's bestselling (in France) titles, fiction and non, to exchange ... (sigh) "confidences et selfies".
Noteworthy for the list of the top 35 bestselling titles and for the picture of the authors -- and for how male-dominated both groups are.
Just three ladies (including Amélie Nothomb in trademark black hat) in the photograph, and the best-placed female author on the bestseller list is Yasmina Reza, whose Heureux les heureux ranks ... twelfth.
Switzerland is 'Guest of Honour' at this year's Leipzig Book Fair, and among the promotion-ideas they came up with was to add 'Literaturlandkarten' -- six semi-interactive literary maps -- to their guest-website.
Only in German, and a bit limited -- but still, gotta love a map of 'Todesorte' ('death spots').
See also the (German) NZZarticle describing the project.
Literary mapping has apparently become very popular -- see also A Literary Atlas of Europe, where they're working: 'towards a geography of fiction'.
Via I learn that the Library and Information Association of South Africa has selected the Top 20 South African Books, 1994-2014 (from 253 titles nominated by librarians).
An interesting variety, certainly -- but only two titles are under review at the complete review: Disgrace by J.M.Coetzee and 13 ure by Deon Meyer.
The Leipzig Book Fair starts tomorrow, and runs through the 16th; they'll also announce the winners of the Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse, the big German spring book prize (the German Book Prize is the big(ger) fall prize).
They let readers vote for their favorite in the fiction category (Am Ende schmeissen wir mit Gold by Fabian Hischmann easily won) -- and I'm kind of disappointed that they used the word 'voting' for this process; there is a perfectly good German word for that .....
Meanwhile, today Pankaj Mishra -- who has been on some kind of prize-roll (he just won the big-money Windham Campbell Prize) -- gets the Leipziger Buchpreis zur Europäischen Verständigung ('Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding') -- but in Die Welt Necla Kelek denounces the choice, arguing Mishra is 'anti-European' (and not much one for understanding ...).
It'll be interesting to see what he says in his acceptance speech.
(Also always good to see: that even a small weekly like the Falter offers a jam-packed book review section in the Leipzig-week issue.)
Chad Post had a preview-post with some of the statistics on Sunday, noting that:
the books are published by twenty-three different publishers, an absolutely amazing spread
books originally written in sixteen different languages are represented
More statistics and observations:
the two Nobel laureates with eligible titles -- Mo Yan and Elfirede Jelinek -- both made the cut
two authors with the first name: 'Stig' made the cut
two translations by Damion Searls made the cut
only two books that made the recently-announced Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist also made the BTBA cut: The Infatuations and A Man in Love/My Struggle: Book Two (because of different eligibility criteria (most notably US/UK publication -- but also, for example, the IFFP requires authors to be living (and seven of the BTBA nominees are deceased ...) only a limited number of titles are eligible for both prizes)
Among the surprise omissions from the BTBA longlist the most notable is surely last year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize winner, Gerbrand Bakker's The Detour/Ten White Geese.
Presumably also a surprise: 2012-BTBA-winner Wiesław Myśliwski's new novel, A Treatise on Shelling Beans (an Archipelago title -- one of only two publishers to place two titles on this year's longlist) also fell short.
Other books you might have expected include: Amos Oz's Between Friends, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself, at least one of Dalkey Archive Press' Korean titles (No One Writes Back by Jang Eun-jin, for example), and Ogawa Yoko's Revenge.
If I had to identify the biggest oversight, I'd say -- no question: Where Tigers Are at Home by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès, a book that just can't seem to get the respect, attention, and readers it deserves.
I am one of the judges for the BTBA; I have already at least dipped into every one of these books save Textile (which I did not get a copy of in time; I do have one now).
In selecting the longlist, each of the judges votes for their top ten, the top vote-getters are the sixteen title-foundation of the longlist, and then each judge gets to throw in another title of their own choosing.
Just like last year, only six of my top ten made the top-sixteen; with my additional personal choice seven of my top ten are on the longlist.
The £40,000 Folio Prize, a new literary prize that: "aims to recognise and celebrate the best English-language fiction from around the world, published in the UK during a given year", has been awarded for the first time, and they've announced that it goes to Tenth of December, a collection of stories (by George Saunders).
It's not under review at the complete review, but see, for example the Bloomsbury publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Until the 1960s and 1970s, readers not only waited for the arrival of the new issues of literary periodicals such as 'Nuqoosh', 'Seep', 'Funoon' and 'Auraaq' but any literary writings that deserved attention were discussed in teahouses and continued to reverberate through literary circles.
I still remember that as a schoolboy when I would pass by the Regal bus stop in Karachi's Sadder area, I would notice the banners displayed by roadside booksellers, announcing the arrival of a new issue of a literary magazine or a new novel by Ibn-i-Safi.
But they continue to be published -- despite the fact that, in most cases:
publishing a literary magazine is not a viable commercial venture and it is a sheer delight or pride of the editor that keeps the magazine going.