In The New York Times Pamela Druckerman has an op-ed suggesting The French Do Buy Books. Real Books. noting that bookselling In France isn't quite like in the US.
Notably, there are more bookstores -- and there's less discounting.
And, she suggests:
What underlies France's book laws isn’t just an economic position -- it's also a worldview.
Quite simply, the French treat books as special.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of The Poetry of Ālam-Tāj Zhāle Qā'em-Maqāmi, Mirror of Dew, translated and with an introduction by Asghar Seyed-Gohrab.
This is an Ilex Foundation publication (which at least means it is distributed by heavyweight Harvard University Press) -- and it's a pretty big deal.
Author Ālam-Tāj Qā'em-Maqāmi doesn't even make Wikipedia's List of Persian poets, and there seems some general confusion about even just her name -- not helped by her basically not having published during her lifetime, her use (sort of -- she didn't publish, after all ...) of a pen name ('Zhāle'), and the in(s)anity that is translaiteration (ʻĀlamtāj Qāʼimʹmaqāmī, says the Library of Congress; Alamtaj Ghaemmaghami others suggest; my favourite: Flipkart's listing, which has her undiacritcally as 'Lam-T J Zh Le Q 'Em-Maq Mi').
Even those who praise her aren't necessarily helpful: Azar Nafisi extols her (scroll down) -- but refers to her as: 'Alamtaj Esfehani'; anyone looking her up under that name is unlikely to find much of use/interest.
Noted Persian translator and scholar Dick Davis similarly doesn't get beyond identifying her as 'Alam Taj' (though at least he doesn't add the spurious 'Esfehani'), quoted as saying:
Another influential poet was Alam Taj. "She’s one of the most interesting poets I know of, and she is virtually unknown," Davis said.
With the great backstory -- she essentially didn't publish during her lifetime (ca. 1883-1946), her poems discovered between the pages of books in her library after her death -- and the jaw-droppingly forthright verse itself, this is yet again a failure of contemporary mainstream publishing.
I know poetry barely and rarely sells, but this is the kind of stuff that a major publisher, or at the very least a major university press should have picked up; Harvard University Press distribution means there's some hope this won't go entirely unnoticed, but this is the sort of stuff that should be getting major attention (well, you know -- major for poetry ...).
With its critique of the treatment of women under Islam it's also very contemporary -- and it shouldn't take much to make Qā'em-Maqāmi a feminist icon.
Strong, impressive, discussion-worthy stuff -- I hope people pay attention.
They've announced the longlist -- well, the "First selection of the Jury" -- for the 2014 Jan Michalski Prize ("awarded for a work of world literature in the fiction and non fiction categories, except poetry").
The 2013 prize went to The Colonel, by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, and the selection is always an interesting one -- though I have to admit this dozen took me by surprise: not really what I was expecting.
But then that can be half the fun with these prizes .....
None of the titles are under review at the complete review.
Depressing word from ALCS, where New research into authors' earnings released, their survey What Are Words Worth Now ? (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) finding, from the near-2500 authors that responded, that the answer is: not so much.
Median income has fallen dramatically since 2005, and very few earn their incomes solely from writing.
The survey also finds: "69% of respondents said their contracts allowed them to retain copyright all or most of the time" -- with adult fiction the best protected category (91 per cent -- which I found shockingly low).
Also interesting: "57% of respondents had signed contracts that included a 'rights reversion' clause", and of those 38 per cent had used/relied on the clause.
Also; 25 per cent reported having self-published a work -- and: "86% of those who had self-published said they would do so again"
The ongoing Amazon v. Hachette dispute is a fascinating train wreck of mega-corporate 'negotiations', with Amazon's latest salvo the inspired one of trying to undermine Hachette from within by suggesting that until the parties reconcile Hachette authors should collect 100% of their e-book sales via Amazon (terms that Hachette would have to agree to -- which it won't); see, for example, Amazon Angles to Attract Hachette's Authors to Its Side by David Streitfeld at The New York Times' Bits weblog.
It's an inspired line of attack, since e-book royalties are a major sore point among authors generally, with Hachette and all the majors royally screwing their authors by giving them a relatively poor royalty rate.
(Yes, yes, they have their 'reasons' and justifications -- but authors understandably aren't entirely convinced.)
Hachette of course cannot agree to these terms -- and their authors will hopefully see this as a crude bargaining ploy -- but again it's Amazon that at least looks pro-active, while Hachette just (at best) reacts.
Throughout this conflict I've been disappointed that Hachette isn't making its position more public; there are some legal obstacles to being too forthcoming about what terms one can accept, etc., but they could really use some better PR guidance as to this whole mess, especially in making the case that theirs is the more consumer-friendly position much more loudly and publicly.
(Part of the problem is, of course, that they, like all the big publishers -- and just like Amazon -- , want to squeeze as much out of consumers (readers) as possible, so they don't exactly have the moral high ground here: business is business, after all, and that's what they are.)
They seem to be relying far too much on the hope that, with Amazon painted as the bad guy, they'll come up smelling like roses -- but much as Amazon's position here does not look like it is in authors' and readers' longterm interest, nothing Hachette has done, in the past or currently, convinces me they care any more about either beyond to the extent that Amazon does (i.e. needing authors-as-producers, and readers-as-consumers).
Neither company has convinced me yet that their focus goes anywhere beyond strictly bottom line.
Still, I'm relieved to see that they've upped their game a bit: at least Amazon has been delisted from the retailer websites Hachette suggests for readers on its site, if they want to buy their books.
(A few weeks ago this was not the case.)
English PEN has announced which titles will be getting their 2014 'awards for promotion' and 'grants for translation' (with some lucky titles doubling up, getting both translation and promotional support).
The titles offer a glimpse of some of the upcoming translations we can look forward to -- an interesting, varied lot (that includes a translation from the Turkmen).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jean-Patrick Manchette's 1972 novel, The Mad and the Bad, which New York Review Books is bringing out.
This is the fourth Manchette title to make it into English (all of them under review at the complete review), but he still doesn't seem to have truly broken through.
As far back as 2002, when Three To Kill made it to the US, Publishers Weeklypredicted, in their 'forecast' for the book [emphasis added]:
Manchette deserves a higher profile among noir fans (in the Black Lizard series, for example), but his being a dead non-Anglophone foreigner makes the wider dissemination of his work an uphill climb.
The situation with translated titles might be slightly better, a decade-plus on, but I'm not sure how much .....
(Meanwhile, Publishers Weekly continues to try to do its best in getting the Manchette-word out: managing editor Daniel Berchenko putsThe Mad and the Bad on their 'Best Summer Books 2014' list.)
I also remind Manchette-fans of the new dead French guy on the block (or at least in US bookstores): Gallic is bringing out the works of Pascal Garnier (e.g. How's the Pain ?) -- oh, yes; definitely: yes.
The Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis -- where German-writing authors read texts out loud and are judged on the spot, in a competition also broadcast live on TV -- was decided yesterday, and they announced that German-born (as Dirk Wesenberg), long-time Vienna resident Tex Rubinowitz took the prize, with his text, Wir waren niemals hier.
(In past years they've had great English language coverage, including posting translations of all the competing text, but money has become tight so it's all in German this year .....)
My familiarity with Rubinowitz's work is basically limited to his near-ubiquitous cartoons (see Google images for a representative selection); you might remember him from his turn twenty years ago as 'Guy on bridge' in Before Sunrise, starring opposite Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (far right):
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Philostratus' Heroicus, just out as part of a new Loeb Classical Library® volume (with which they pretty much complete their Philostratus coverage).
I like the enthusiasm and ambition but have got to wonder how great world-wide interest is in devoting resources to teaching and research in this area (as, certainly in the US, most literature/language departments seem to be shrinking and shriveling to near nothingness before our very eyes).
But apparently things look good in Canada ....
Stuff like a ... supplemental site dedicated to a forthcoming symposium, 21st Century Scottish Fiction: Where are we now ? are ... neat, but maybe a bit limited in scope.
Still, good to see a decent amount of activity.
Meanwhile, The Scotsman has a 'revised and reduced version' of James Robertson's plenary address to the congress, arguing: Scots Literature speaks to all
The 2014 Wales Book of the Year Awards will be announced 10 July, and at WalesOnline Lleucu Siencyn (chief executive of Literature Wales) cleverly tries to drum up interest by taking a World Cup-style look at the contenders, in Welcome to the World Cup of literary prizes.
Okay, maybe a bit of a stretch -- but still: nicely done.
Meanwhile, check out the shortlisted books in the various categories at the Wales Book of the Year Award 2014.
Bonus points to this prize, too, for publishing the lists of all the books that were eligible/considered for the prizes (click through near the bottom of the page) -- also making for a good resource of Welsh (and English-Welsh) titles published in 2013.
As I always say: all literary prizes should make these lists of the books that were in the running public (that means you, Man Booker; you, Folio Prize; you, Pulitzers, etc. etc. etc.)
At Open Madhavankutty Pillai considers 'The art of translation and the tragedy of Indian literature', in News from Babel -- a very good introduction to translation(-into-English, mainly) in India
Some hard numbers, too, including that Sankar's 1962 Chowringhee -- published in translation in 2007 -- "continues to be one of Penguin Book India's most successful crossover hits, selling around 50,000 copies".
(See their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, or Flipkart.)
As to Benyamin's Goat Days -- another book I've mentioned several times over the years --:
Goat Days really worked.
We've sold over 6,000 copies, which is a pretty good number for literary fiction.
It is nothing compared to the number sold in Malayalam, which, a couple of years ago, must have been over 50,000.
Italian author Giorgio Faletti has passed away; see, for example, il Post's Giorgio Faletti è morto.
Several of his thrillers have been translated into English, but I'm afraid I never really took to them; I Killeasily made my list of the worst books under review at the complete review -- and you really, really don't want to know what I did to my copy of the abomination that is A Pimp's Notes .....
They've announced the judges for the 2015 'The Folio Prize' -- that relatively new prize with the moderately interesting selection-procedure (the 'Academy' members select the 60 titles from which (plus 20 more the judges 'call in' from publisher-'suggestions') the judges then select their shortlist of eight, and then a winner).
(For the life of me I couldn't remember who won the prize the first time they awarded it, earlier this year -- but that may be because it was a collection of stories and not because the prize is so forgettable.
That said, my interest would be much greater if they revealed the eighty titles from which the shortlist is then selected; as is they, like the Man Booker (et al.), unaccountably and outrageously keep the list secret.)
Oh, yeah: the judges are: William Fiennes (chair), Rachel Cooke, Mohsin Hamid, A.M.Homes, and Deborah Levy.
Sounds like an interesting mix.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mohamed Salmawy's Butterfly Wings, his semi-prescient 2011 novel of the Arab Spring in Egypt, just out in translation from American University in Cairo Press.
They held the second (and final) vote for the leading Italian literary prize, the Premio Strega, and even if the final results are not up at the official site, last I checked (because ... oh, who knows ....) it was, as, for example reported at l'Unità, Il desiderio di essere come tutti by Francesco Piccolo that narrowly beat out Il padre infedele by Antonio Scurati, 140 votes to 135 (the also-rans collecting 60, 48, and 30 votes).
Scurati had narrowly pipped Piccolo, 55 to 53, in the first round, but with fewer option more voters went for Piccolo this time around.
None of his books appear to have been translated into English yet, but see, for example, the Einaudi publicity page for the winning title.
I've mentioned Scarlett Johansson's silly lawsuit against The List of My Desires/My Wish List-author Grégroire Delacourt (and his publisher) -- for 'using' her in one of his novels --, and now the verdict is in -- and it's ... a split decision.
English-language coverage focuses on the fact that the court decided partially in Johansson's favor, and did award her damages in the amount of €2,500 -- rather less than the €50,000 she had claimed.
The AFP report -- here at The Telegraph -- has Scarlett Johansson wins £2,000 compensation over 'hurtful and demeaning' book but barely makes clear the single point decided in her favor:
"For Scarlett Johansson, the fact that she is attributed two relationships that she never mentioned herself is hurtful and demeaning," the court said.
Le tribunal a considéré que la révélation des «passades» de l'actrice, dans le livre La première qu'on regarde, avec les acteurs Jonathan Rhys-Meyers et Kieran Culkin constituaient bien une atteinte à sa vie privée.
Ils ont motivé leur décision en précisant que ces deux faits n'avait jamais été publiés dans les médias.
Otherwise, it would seem, 'Scarlett Johansson' as public figure is fair game for fiction in France.
I'm kind of hoping a couple of dozen French writers jump on the bandwagon and feature her (and her litigiousness ?) in their next novels .....
The book has already been translated into German and Italian and there has been interest in translating it into English, but publishers were waiting for the outcome of the case.
Now we are open to offers.
2014 is the Bohumil Hrabal centenary, and among the celebrations is a 'Cabaret Hrabal' in London; see the Czech Centre program.
At Radio Praha Daniela Lazarová has a Q & A with Czech Centre head Tereza Porybná about it.
Among the ... interesting (?) entertainments (?) on offer:
We have Stephen Emmerson who engages audiences and wants to present literature not only as spoken words but also in a physical way -- so he will be creating these placebo pills out of actual pages from Hrabal's books and inviting people to digest his work in the literal sense.
Some interesting ideas .....
(Only two Hrabal titles are currently under review at the complete review -- In-House Weddings and Vita Nuova -- but more will follow.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tsutsui Yasutaka's The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
(Definitely in the I've-reviewed-four-of-his-books-so-I-might-as-well-cover-this-one-too category, but still .....)
In The Korea Herald Kim Hoo-ran looks at the spread of Korean literature abroad, in Lost in translation ? as:
Speaking at a meeting with the Korean press in London, author Hwang Sok-yong was quoted as citing the lack of skilled translators who can "properly translate Korean literary works into English" as the "biggest handicap in the globalization of Korean literature."
Another literary heavyweight, Yi Mun-yol, agreed, saying that the biggest problem may be the problem of translation.
Good to see Dalkey Archive publisher John O’Brien not repeat the ridiculous and unfounded '3%' figure; less good to see him offer his own (equally far-fetched) estimate:
According to John O'Brien, president of Dalkey Archive Press in the U.S., only 15 percent of the 350,000 new books published in the U.S. each year are works of literature or books about literature, and only 0.006 percent of the 350,000 volumes are literary works in translation.
(I enjoy making up/(ab)using numbers and statistics as much as the next person, but come on folks, a bit more precision, from a definition of what you're counting as a 'new book' (if you're using Bowker numbers those include new editions, grossly inflating numbers) to what counts as a 'book' ('traditionally' published ? (while you're at it: define 'traditionally', please) including self-published ? (while you're at it: define 'self-published', please) ) to doing the math and realizing that "0.006 percent of [...] 350,000" is ... 21.)
[Helpful aside for journalists and industry 'professionals': A guaranteed safe rule of thumb is that if anyone tells you: "X percent of books published in English are translations", X is a number they (or, more likely: someone they have foolishly chosen to rely on, without questioning the basis of the claim) have pulled pretty much out of very thin air.
And anyone who says 'three percent' ... don't even get me started.]
I also worry about the fixation on translation-into-English which, despite apparent recent increased enthusiasm, still seems a bit of blind alley to me; I'm not quite as confident that:
And it is important to gain foothold in the U.S. market as having a translation in English makes a book available to a wider readership beyond the U.S.
"Countries are desperate to get into the U.S. because if the books are in English, they travel well," O’Brien said.
The final vote for the Premio Strega, the major Italian book prize, only takes place today, but they've figured out who gets the Premio Strega Europeo, from a five-title shortlist that includes Georgi Gospodinov's forthcoming-from-Open Letter (and much nominated for translation prizes across Europe) novel, Rosa Liksom's (also widely nominated elsewhere) and just translated into English Compartment No 6, ad Eugen Ruge's In Times of Fading Light.
But, as reported, for example, at l'UnitàStrega, Marcos Giralt Torrente vince il Premio europeo, as the Italian translation of his Tiempo de vida took the prize.
Despite several of his works coming out in English recently, this one doesn't seem to have made it yet -- but see the Anagrama publicity page, or get your copy of the Spanish original at Amazon.com.
July issues of online periodicals now available include Words without Borders' Migrant Labor issue (with bonus coverage of 'Folktales from Sindh') and the July issue of Open Letters Monthly.
Also available: selected pieces from the July issue of the Literary Review -- too little fiction coverage, but otherwise fairly interesting.
Denise Newman's translation of Naja Marie Aidt's Nordic Council Literature Prize-winning Baboon is forthcoming from Two Lines Press -- see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; I just got the ARC, and it looks very nice indeed -- and at the World Literature Today weblog Michelle Johnson has a Q & A with her.
(Comes with some Inger Christensen mentions, too, so .....)
No question, on the whole, the violent radicals of previous centuries were more literarily inclined than the current lot -- and at Guernica Selvedin Avdić has an interesting look at some of the literary habits of those behind the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in A Great War Library.
The (British) Crime Writers' Association has announced its 'Dagger' awards, with the CWA International Dagger going to The Siege by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, in Frank Wynne's translation.
Admirable: they list all the entered titles (i.e. reveal what titles were in the running) -- which, by the way, makes for a good overview of crime-fiction-in-translation published in the UK in the past year.
The Siege is only coming out in the US in the fall; pre-order your copy at Amazon.com, or get it at Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Marc Levy's Replay.
Levy -- year in and year out one of the bestselling (in France) French authors -- still hasn't caught on in the English-speaking markets, yet another example of an author whose work just doesn't translate (culturally rather than linguistically, I suspect) well.
Like the recent European-mega-seller, Joël Dicker's The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair (dangerously close to be(com)ing a flop stateside) -- and that other barely translated leading French-selling-author Guillaume Musso's latest, Central Park (see his official site) -- Replay is set largely in the US; that doesn't seem to be a formula for success, at least once it comes to the US editions.
Interestingly, Europa editions have brought this out in hardcover, their success with paperback-original crime-fiction-in-translation apparently not a lesson to be applied to this particular title .....