I was excited to recently see the fascinating-sounding variation-on-Camus by Kamel Daoud, Meursault, contre-enquête, make the first cuts of both the Goncourt and the Renaudot -- the two leading French literary prizes.
Warming up for those, the book has now picked up two prizes in quick succession: the Prix François Mauriac (not to be confused with ... the Prix François Mauriac (seriously, guys ? I mean ... seriously ?)) and the Prix des 5 continents (see also, for example, Algerian writer wins world French literature prize).
If a US/UK publisher hasn't pre-empted this yet ... more fools you be -- this property is hot, and the price is only going up.
The concept alone should be enough to sell it, but apparently it's actually good, too.
And now: prize-winning, too.
Although Canada-based, the folks behind the Cundill Prize in Historical Literature know a loonie is just a loonie and so offer their pay-out in real money: US dollars [I kid, I kid; please -- no e-mails/protests/boycotts] -- and, at 75,000 of them, they lay claim to the title of: "the most lucrative international award for a nonfiction book" -- well, according to the Toronto Star, where they announce this year's shortlist (which isn't yet available at the official site, sigh ...).
Six titles -- and one of them is actually one I've been making my way through (though haven't managed to review yet) -- a title in translation, no less: David Van Reybrouck's Congo (see the HarperCollins publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
In the current issue of The New Yorker Masha Gessen profiles Lyudmila Ulitskaya -- surely also one of the maybe two dozen authors in the serious running for the Nobel Prize.
As Gessen notes, Daniel Stein, Interpreter was a huge success in Russia(n) -- but: "the English translation flopped in the United States" and was "barely noticed" (I noticed, and, yeah, I was a disappointed).
Still, I am certainly looking forward to/curious about The Big Green Tent (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Open Letter's tribute-volume to Michael Henry Heim & A Life in Translation, The Man Between, edited by Esther Allen, Sean Cotter, and Russell Scott Valentino.
(It's a nice (and well-priced !) volume -- but I do note with some amusement that a misspelling of Stieg Larsson's name slipped through (yup, they called him 'Steig', p.276) -- something I'm encountering almost as frequently as misspellings of Edgar Allan Poe's middle name and the mistakenly apostrophized version of Joyce's Finnegans Wake -- a slip that feel almost Freudian coming from translators (who surely have a very uncomfortable relationship with the mega-success of that translation and its notorious history).)
Last I checked, the Nobel Prize in Literature page still had a blank in the space for specifying: "2014 Literature Prize will be announced at the earliest in:"; if the Swedish Academy has decided to announce the winner this Thursday they'll let us know today -- but it's much more likely that the announcement will only come next Thursday (or later).
Not only would a 2 October announcement not fit in with that nice banner the Nobel organization has, promising the prizes will be announced between 6 and 13 October, but as the Swedish Academy's pointman Peter Englund notes at his weblog, a fair number of Nobel-deciding academicians (including him) have been busy this weekend at the Göteborg Book Fair -- leaving them little time for deliberations.
So presumably they'll only really be getting down to business today, trying to settle on a winner from their ca. five-author strong list of finalists in time to reveal the winner next week.
So for now it's premature to wonder about the winner -- they very likely haven't settled on one yet.
There is, however, room and reason to speculate on what authors are left in the running.
Most years, the bookies' favorites are a pretty good indicator -- the future winner tends to be one of the top five or so (so also Alice Munro last year, even a month before the anouncement came).
So what are the current odds ?
Books have been disappointingly limited this year -- but here the ones of interest:
At Ladbrokes (2 September v. 28 September): Ngũgĩ (10/1 to 5/1); Fosse (25/1 to 12/1)
At PaddyPower (2 September v. 28 September): no significant movement
At Unibet (8 September v. 28 September): Murakami (6/1/ to 4.5/1) jumps ahead of Ngũgĩ (5/1); Fosse (30/1 to 18/1)
A few more names that pop out:
Don Paterson (25/1 at Unibet and 20/1 at Paddy Power; not listed at Ladbrokes) is a new-name-out-of nowhere (which I find hard to take very seriously, but it's plausible that he was nominated, and maybe he somehow made the shortlist).
Ismail Kadare, who wasn't listed anywhere at the start of trading but now figures at Unibet at a healthy 8/1 (but still isn't listed at the other two).
Richard Ford, another author added to the Unibet line-up (but not the other two), at a decent 20/1.
Kadare is a name that has to be taken seriously, and his popping up so high on the (Swedish-based) Unibet list makes him this year's likeliest leaked-shortlist-candidate.
A few of the other authors with short(ish) odds seem like harder sells this year: Joyce Carol Oates (another English-writing North American woman ? but her Karthago has just come out in Swedish ...), while authors including Adonis, Amos Oz, and Svetlana Alexievich would surely be seen as the Swedish Academy making (too powerful ?) a political statement.
More of my own speculation to follow in the days/week to come .....
At her love german books weblog Katy Derbyshire proposes A Women's Prize for Translated Books -- which, given the sad situation that far more fiction written by men gets translated into English than fiction by women, may be a helpful way of attracting attention and perhaps nudging publishers (et al.) towards rectifying the ridiculous imbalance.
They've been handing out the საბა literary awards in (former Soviet, not US) Georgia annually for over a decade now, and they seem pretty well established as a leading local literary prize; they've now announced this year's winners; see also SABA Announces Literary Winners at Georgia Today.
ფორმა N100, by Zviad Kvaratskhelia (ზვიად კვარაცხელია), took best novel -- beating out five-time winner (and Journey to Karabakh-author) Aka Morchiladze.
And while there was an award for best translation into Georgian, impressively they also had one for best translation from the Georgian -- and Donald Rayfield's translation of Georgian great Otar Chiladze's Avelum took that prize; I actually have a copy but shamefully haven't yet managed to get to it yet (but I will -- meanwhile, get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
It's good also to see that a couple of new titles are due soon in Dalkey Archive Press' Georgian Literature Series -- including one in translation by Rayfield.
Dalkey's Georgian Literature Series and holding the 80th PEN International Congress (right now !) in Bishek (Kyrgyzstan) helps, but this Central Asian/Caucasian stretch of former Soviet states is among the worst represented in (English) translation of any region in the world (only South East Asia comes close) -- and that extends to a non-former-Soviet area, too, Kurdistan.
Now at Sampsonia Way Tarık Günersel has a Q & A with Selim Temo, discussing The Rise of Kurdish Literature -- a decent introductory overview.
Unfortunately, almost nothing is available in English translation, but it's good to hear that things seem to be looking up again.
In The Japan Times Kris Kosaka takes a look at several English-language Japanese literary magazines, in Read up on books about books about Japan.
They have limited material accessible online, but are all of some interest.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Albert Sánchez Piñol's historical novel of The Fall of Barcelona (in 1714, during the War of the Succession), Victus -- a book that came out in English a couple of weeks ago and has gotten astonishingly limited coverage.
Interestingly, Catalan-author Sánchez Piñol did not write this, like his earlier work, in Catalan, but rather in Spanish.
Interestingly, too, it has proven to be a somewhat controversial book -- given all the Catalan secessionist rumblings, many Spaniards don't seem to be too thrilled about how Sánchez Piñol presents this particular bit of history (and the Spanish ...).
The controversy has been stirred up further by things like -- as the Catalan News Agency see it -- Spanish Embassy in The Netherlands censors presentation of novel on 1714 Barcelona's siege.
At English PEN's PEN Atlas Tasja Dorkofikis has a Q & A with Swiss author Arno Camenish, whose The Alp -- written in both German and Romansch -- was recently published by Dalkey Archive Press.
Among his comments:
I live now in Biel/Bienne, which lies on the language boundary between French and German and it is a bilingual city, but you hear over 140 languages spoken here and it is very enriching to have so many sounds and so many cultures around.
Linguistic diversity is good for openness and understanding.
Albertine, 'A project of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy' and a "reading room and bookshop devoted to works in French and in translation", opens for business in New York today.
will offer the most comprehensive selection of French-language books and English translations in New York, with over 14,000 contemporary and classic titles from 30 French-speaking countries in genres including novels, non-fiction, art, comic, or children's books.
That sounds damn good !
Given the backing of the French state they're not under as much (or any ?) pressure to actually make any money, so the focus isn't on being a commercial enterprise but rather a cultural one -- and it looks pretty promising in this regard: just check out the events they have planned, too.
(Housed in some of Manhattan's prime real estate -- unaffordable for any but the highest of high-end retailers if it were commercially available -- they will surely be the envy of quite a few rent-stressed outlets .....)
I'm looking forward to checking it out soon.
(Updated): See now also a nice peek Inside Albertine by Dan Piepenbring at The Paris Review's The Daily-weblog.
They've apparently announced the jury for the 2015 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature -- though, sigh, not yet at the official site, last I checked; see instead, for example, the dna report.
Keki N. Daruwalla will chair, with former Granta-editor John Freeman, Maithree Wickramasinghe, Michael Worton, and Razi Ahmed the other judges.
Apparently, there were "more than 75 entries" for this year's prize; the longlist will be announced 20 October, and the shortlist on 27 November.
In The New York Times Stephen Heyman profiles Javier Marías: Spain's Elegant Master Novelist, who apparently: "remains something of a niche author among English-speaking readers" (hey, everything is relative, right, even what qualifies as 'niche' ?)
Nice to hear Marías say:
In a way I think my way of writing my own things has been somehow influenced by my having been a translator
(And I take this occasion to commend to you yet again Gareth J. Wood's study, Javier Marías's Debt to Translation.)
Lots of his work is under review at the complete review (but too much still isn't); Dark Back of Time (in the beautiful original New Directions edition) probably remains my favorite -- but you really have to read All Souls first .....
They've announced the six finalists for this year's Schweizer Buchpreis -- limited to German-language books (though Guy Krneta's Unger üs stretches that limitation some; see the Der gesunde Menschenversand publicity page).
Finalist Panischer Frühling is also in the final running for the German Book Prize; Koala was longlisted
Eighty titles were submitted (their names unfortunately not revealed ...), by 53 publishers.
The winner will be announced 9 November.
Copying a page from The New York Times Book Review -- their 'Bookends'-feature -- the weblog at Asymptote now offers ... 'The Tiff' (which seems wrong on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin -- except the most obvious, that taking a page out of what passes for the NYTBR's literary coverage and debate is about as wrong as you can go).
Still the subject-matter for this week's 'tiff' is interesting enough -- How Often Should We Re-translate the Classics ? -- and it pits (is that the proper term in a 'tiff') Antony Shugaar against (alongside ?) EJ Van Lanen.
There's a national 'Guest of Honour' at each Frankfurt Book Fair -- this year it's Finland -- and, over the past years and months, they've built up a roster of upcoming GoHs: 2015: Indonesia; 2016: Netherlands and Flanders; and 2018: Georgia, but until now they'd left open the 2017 slot.
Now comes confirmation -- first reported by Odile Benyahia-Kouider and Grégoire Leménager at Le Nouvel Observateur -- that France has, indeed, accepted the invitation to be Guest of Honour in 2017 -- their first time since 1989.
At the 'Free Word' weblog Sophie Mayer wonders Where are the women in translation ? -- meaning: why do so many more books by male, rather than female authors get (historically, as well as currently) translated (as, as far as the translating itself goes, women seem quite well represented).
One of the reasons the complete review has such an abysmal M/F ratio regarding the sex of authors of books under review is because the focus here is on fiction in translation, and there's simply a lot less of it available that's written by women.
(That's obviously not the only reason -- the ratio is even worse than could be blamed solely on that -- but it is certainly a contributing factor.)
The Translation Database at Three Percent offers a good rough tally of what new works have been translated this (and in recent) years in the US; I haven't done a head-count yet, but I suspect female representation is, as usual, well (or, more likely: horribly) under 50 per cent.
I'm not sure sex-specific prizes are the way to go to remedy this (or, more reasonably, to improve the) situation, but it's certainly a disturbing fact worth pointing out (as is pointing to publishers whose lists are predominantly male, as is the case with several of my favored ones ...).
In the TLS Richard Sieburth reviews the two-volume Pléiade edition of Blaise Cendrars' Œuvres autobiographiques complètes (see the Gallimard publicity page for, for example, volume one), in Blaise Cendrars in the sky -- noting:
Given Cendrars's well-known (and self-confessed) penchant for fabulation, the title Oeuvres autobiographiques raises as many problems as it solves.
Several Cendrars-works are still available in translation, including some that figure in these two volumes; Peter Owen has four titles, including The Astonished Man (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), and there's also Moravagine, from New York Review Books Classics (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk)
They've announced the fiction (and non) winner (and runners-up) for the 2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize.
The fiction winner is Bob Shacochis' The Woman Who Lost Her Soul; so far, as Ron Charles notes at The Washington Post's 'Style Blog', it seems to have: "generated far more enthusiasm among critics than among readers".
Shacochis gets to pick up the prize at the official awards ceremony on 9 November, maybe that will help.
(You can get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk)
They've announced (or 'unveiled', as they put it) the shortlist for the FT and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award -- and you really have to wonder why they even bothered: if Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century -- surely already the business book of the decade -- doesn't win .. well, it's almost impossible to believe it wouldn't.
(See also the Harvard University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
A narrative is very useful.
It's like a laboratory in which all your past conflicts are rehearsed, and that's why narrative is like a second life.
I would say it's twice real.
Because there's you -- your present, your life, your memory -- and then there's what might happen.
It's like your life plus your potential lives.
It's you plus potential you.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of An Attainable Utopia by Julio Cortázar, his 1975 novel(la), Fantomas versus the Multinational Vampires, now finally available in English (from Semiotext(e)).
This sounded too good to be true -- a novel inspired by Cortázar finding himself a character (along with Susan Sontag, Octavio Paz, and Alberto Moravia) in a Mexican comic book (which you can read in its entirety here), but it exceeded my wild expectations -- indeed, it's a near-perfect book, beautifully treating the material (and a whole lot of fun, too).
It's the Cortázar centenary, and while you should read more of his work to celebrate, this one surely isn't to be missed.
The only disappointing thing about the entire production: translator David Kurnick doesn't get copyright credit, which Semiotext(e) keep for themselves.
Bad form, to say the least.
Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century continues to be one of this year's unlikely publishing success-stories -- a university press-publication, a work in translation (indeed, I wonder how many have sold more copies this year), and, well, on some level, a pretty scholarly-dry tome (though it is, in fact, a pretty good read).
In The Guardian they ask now four "star economists and finance experts" (and no literary experts, oddly enough) Why is Thomas Piketty's 700-page book a bestseller ?
(I've been impressed by the book, but the surfeit of reactions and reviews has kept me from posting review-coverage for now; meanwhile, see the Harvard University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)
In The Observer Robert McCrum profiles Emmanuel Carrère: the most important French writer you've never heard of.
[Aside: that sort of claim should really be reserved for the truly obscure, not someone who has been widely translated into English (six of his books are under review at the complete review ...); along with 'Lost in Translation' it's probably the single worst and most over/ab-used article headline in (pseudo-)literary journalism.]
The occasion -- rather prematurely, as readers have to wait another month in both the US and UK -- is the publication of the English translation of Carrère's "non-fiction novel", Limonov (see the Farrar, Straus and Giroux publicity page [aside: that's a hell of a URL], or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; I have a copy and should be getting to it in the coming weeks).
It's based on the life of the: "wrecked, transgressive figure of Eduard Limonov" (who you might also remember from Arslan Khasavov's Sense) -- whom McCrum also devotes considerable space to.
Disappointingly, McCrum doesn't discuss Carrère's new book, Le Royaume -- 640 pages about the early days of Christianity, and a book that has gotten much attention but failed to make even just the longlists for the biggest French literary prizes this fall, the Goncourt and the Renaudot (see the P.O.L. publicity page)
As noted, six of Carrère's titles are under review at the complete review; The Adversary still strikes me as his best.
In the Independent on Sunday Christopher Folwer [sic ?] continues their admirable long-running series on overlooked literature with installment nr. 242 -- considering (some of) what still remains Untranslated (into English).
I am, of course, always thrilled when folks point to the enormous amount of great and interesting literature that has not yet been translated into English; recall PEN's wonderful PEN recommends-page (which they seem to have ditched recently, sigh ...) or Scott Esposito's Translate this Book ! selection at the Quarterly Conversation (and note that some titles from both these lists now are available in English, which is wonderful).
However, I'd be more impressed if, for example, Folwer didn't spend a paragraph explaining:
A friend from the Netherlands once told me: "If you want to understand who we are as a nation, you must read Character, written in 1938 by Ferdinand Bordewijk."
The Dutch classic concerns a bailiff who tyrannically rules over the slums of Rotterdam, and the ambitious son who becomes a lawyer in order to destroy him.
A keystone of 20th-century literature in its own country, it's impossible to find in an English translation.
A film version won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1998, but the book is still unavailable.
I understand that folks may currently be boycotting Amazon.com and hence don't do a simple book search there, but come on, you don't need a fact-checker to know (or at least figure out) that Peter Owen published E.M.Prince's translation of this in 1966, and that Ivan R. Dee reprinted it in 1999; my copy ($7.50 at Strand, purchased August, 2007), pulled from my bookshelf and beside my laptop on my desk as I write this, belies the fact that: "it's impossible to find in an English translation"; see the Ivan R. Dee publicity page, or get your own copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
And, yes, the Bordewijk may be a Dutch keystone -- but it's a widely-circulated-in-English one, and given how much else really isn't available in English (just from the Dutch: a pile of Gerard Reve, for one; J.J. Voskuil's epic Het Bureau for another; pretty much anything by local favorite A.F.Th. van der Heijden for a lot more ...), well ... not the greatest example.
Well, at least Folwer has some other nice catches, right ?
By contrast, Angel Ganivet's masterpiece about the Latin temperament, Idearium Español, remains untranslated.
Where is the translation of that Ángel Ganivet masterpiece ?!??
Oh ... wait.
Right there: Eyre & Spottiswoode published J.R. Carey's translation in 1946, as Spain: an interpretation.
With an introduction by R.M.Nadal.
So, yeah, worst researched (and fact-checked) 'literary' article of the week -- as the only two supposedly untranslated titles he explicitly mentions turn out to have been translated.
I hope they get their money back, because that is some beyond-belief shoddy work.
(And people complain about 'book-bloggers' .....)
And a real disservice and wasted opportunity, because there's so much that really hasn't been made available in English yet.
(I was going to note that, while Folwer accurately notes that: "The mass of Holocaust literature, novels in Yiddish, Norwegian, German, Baltic, and Eastern European languages remains untranslated", that this is perhaps not the greatest untranslated issue/oversight to be concerned about -- valuable though it no doubt is, there seems to be a reasonable amount of Holocaust literature available in English -- and maybe a peek beyond the merely European (everything Folwer talks about is European ...) is warranted.
But, as the above examples show, this article is is no way to be taken seriously, so why bother arguing points like that .....
They should just pull it and kill it and put us out of our misery.
And maybe try commissioning authors who have a vague idea of what they're writing about.)
At Guernica Philip Zimmerman has a Q & A with Daniel Kehlmann: Forging the Artist.
Kehlmann's novel F recently came out in English (to surprisingly little notice so far), but in this interview he also reveals -- shockingly, to me -- that he messed with the ending of Me and Kaminski in the English translation:
I wrote an ending with a lot less pathos for the English version.
I didn't really rewrite it, but I cut it down to a few paragraphs, much more minimalistic, sort of a Raymond Carver thing.
Apparently, you see:
German can take a lot more pathos than English can.
Aw, come on, Danny, give the Amis a proper dose of pathos and see what happens .....