Just in time for the weekend -- though really stretching it, as far as the issue date goes -- the January issue of Asymptote is now available online: wall-to-wall international literature goodness, from fiction/non/poetry translations to reviews and Q & As.
See for yourself -- just make sure you actually have time to explore for a while: there's a great deal of worthwhile material here.
At PEN Atlas Broken Glass Park-author Alina Bronsky writes about belonging to: "the subset of authors who write books in a language that is not their native tongue", in You speak such good German.
This is neither a new nor very uncommon phenomenon -- though in recent years English has, of course, been by far the most popular secondary language that writers have turned to.
But quite a few have adopted German too (many from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, but also from other languages -- e.g. Tawada Yoko (e.g. The Naked Eye) -- while French also continues to be a popular second choice.
They've announced that Anne Enright has been named the inaugural 'Laureate for Irish Fiction' -- selected from 34 nominees (including William Trevor, Edna O'Brien, and John Banville, among some other pretty big names).
It's a three-year gig, and she:
will be expected to continue her work as a creative artist.
In addition, over the course of her term, Anne Enright will spend one semester at University College Dublin and one semester at New York University.
It also pays out €150,000 over the three years, which sounds pretty good, too.
It's an old piece ("first published in Books from Finland 1/1982") but now available online -- and always an interesting question: translator Herbert Lomas (e.g. Arto Paasilinna's The Year of the Hare) tries to explain: Why translate ?
Among the questions he tries to answer: "Why this lack of interest ?" (in literature in translation) -- a situation that has perhaps improved since (there seems more intense interest -- even if not yet exactly a widespread one).
Kanishk Tharoor's piece on 'Revisiting Raja Rao's fiction', India As Metaphysic ?, is now finally freely accessible at The Caravan.
The focus is on the recently republished by Penguin India titles -- with Tharoor not equally enthusiastic about all of them: "How to describe the monumental tedium of The Serpent and the Rope ?" he wonders .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Vivant Denon's small eighteenth century classic (in Lydia Davis' translation), No Tomorrow, which New York Review Books brought out a couple of years ago.
They've announced that הבית אשר נחרב ('The Ruined House') by Reuven "Ruby" Namdar has won this year's Sapir Prize (פרס ספי), one of the leading Israeli literary prizes.
It's apparently noteworthy that longtime New York resident Namdar is an "expat" author -- the first to take the prize.
See, for example, Beth Kissileff's Reuven Namdar Wins Israel's Sapir Prize at Tablet, or her Q & A with the author in the Forward.
They've announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) this year's Whitbread Costa Book of the Year, selected from the five category winners -- and it is the Biography-winner, H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald.
It's not even out in the US yet -- coming in March; pre-order your copy at Amazon.com -- but has already enjoyed considerable success in the UK; get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.
In The Herald Beaven Tapureta offers A tale of two book industries, comparing the situations in Kenya and Zimbabwe.
High book prices, lack of media coverage, and the failure of schools to develop a reading culture are among the problems identified.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Higashino Keigo's Malice.
Higashino is phenomenally successful in eastern Asia -- his native Japan as well as China and South Korea, where he is among the most successful authors.
Two of his 'Detective Galileo'-mysteries have been published in English (The Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint), with a third to follow this year; Malice is from his 'Detective Kaga'-series (a 1996 novel that has only now been translated -- but apparently the fourth in the series); there's also the stand-alone Naoko.
This haphazard and very limited presentation of his work -- he's written dozens of novels, and these 'Detective Galileo' volumes are also random ones in the larger series, not the first two ... -- can't be helping his success in the US/UK, which falls well, well short of his Asian success -- but he's gotten pretty good US/UK-press reviews, including for this book -- much better, in fact, than the book deserves, in my opinion.
At boersenblatt.net they look at the top-25 bestselling paperbacks in Germany in 2014 in both fiction and non -- alas only ranked, not with actual sales numbers.
Translated-from-the-English works dominate both lists, with Jojo Moyes and James Bowen each placing three of the top five titles in their respective categories (fiction, non) -- two authors whose very existence I have only the fuzziest awareness of, and whose books I can not imagine reading.
Wolfgang Herrndorf's Tschick -- bizarrely transformed into Why We Took the Car in English (see the Arthur A. Levine publicity page, get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) -- is the top-selling domestic novel.
And at least a Patrick Modiano slips onto the list, at 24th.
The top non-fiction title is the legal reference book, the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (see the dtv publicity page) -- an almost 1000-pager --, while Florian Illies 1913 enjoyed success even in 2014 (15th), and Anne Frank's diary also made the top 25.
They've announced the longlist for this year's Libris Literatuur Prijs, one of the leading Dutch literary prizes.
The eighteen-title strong list was selected from the groslijst of eligible titles -- revealing quite a few familiar names who have had work translated into English and whose books didn't make the longlist cut, including: Kader Abdolah, Anna Enquist, Herman Koch, Tessa de Loo, Erwin Mortier, Dimitri Verhulst, and Tommie Wieringa.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mikheil Javakhishvili's early Soviet-era classic, Kvachi, a nice addition to Dalkey Archive Press' Georgian Literature Series (and translated by the leading Georgian-literature authority, Donald Rayfield).
In Publishers Weekly Jim Milliot reports on The Hot and Cold Categories of 2014 in the US, looking at the "print book unit sales among adult segments in 2014" ("at outlets that report to Nielsen BookScan").
On the positive side, "Occult/Psychological/Horror" showed the biggest drop among adult fiction categories (-26%).
On the other hand, "Graphic Novels" showed the biggest increase (+13%).
(That's in 'adult fiction'! Oddly, this isn't even a category in 'juvenile fiction' ....)
The only other adult fiction category with any plus ?
Amusingly, "Religion" was minus 15% in adult fiction -- but plus 12% in adult non-fiction.
The recent, abrupt pull-back by the Swiss National Bank, allowing the Swiss franc to float freely (and appreciate most dramatically) -- see, for example, Edward Harrison at Foreign Policy on What the Wild Swiss Franc Appreciation Really Means -- has ripple effects far and wide (including in a lot of eastern European countries, where way too many folks somehow got themselves talked into franc-denominated mortgages ...).
Much of Switzerland's economy is, of course, affected -- including the publishing industry.
As Jürg Altwegg reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Der Schweizer Buchmarkt schwächelt.
Local German-language publishers enjoy most of their sales abroad (Diogenes and Kein & Aber: about ninety per cent, he writes), and that suddenly doesn't work out to nearly as much profit domestically.
Worse: Swiss book buyers now have even more of an incentive to purchase via Amazon Germany, paying the euro price (and avoiding any import-duty if they don't buy too much at one time) -- a disaster for local booksellers.
Canada has faced similar issues in recent years, when the loonie was strong, but the current Swiss situation seems considerably more extreme.
At Russia Beyond the Headlines Julia Shevelkina reports that: 'Russian bookstores are using movie style trailers to grab people’s attention and promote interest in reading', in Bringing a touch of Hollywood sparkle to Russian bookstores.
'Sparkle' may be a bit of an exaggeration, but see for yourself: several examples are on offer.
As I mentioned last week, Michel Houellebecq's Soumission has been a phenomenal success in France.
It's now come out in Germany -- and its run continues: boersenblatt.net reports that it easily debuted at number one on the German bestseller lists, that 150,000 copies have sold, and that it is going into its fourth printing (within a week of publication).
So, yeah, it's doing reasonably well.
Meanwhile, the US/UK publishers are ... still getting their act together ?
UK publication is slated for the fall, while the Americans seem to have been totally taken by surprise that anyone might be interested in this (his longtime publisher Knopf losing the title to Farrar, Straus & Giroux -- out of indifference ? -- who themselves seem a bit overwhelmed by what they've lucked into).
If fiction in translation is really being taken more seriously in the US/UK you'd (well, I'd ...) figure they could get a potentially 'hot' title like this out within a reasonable time.
(Hey, even the Italian translation is already out.
Remember that the next time you make fun of Italy's ridiculous economy and extol the superiority of all business-conducting-ways in the US.
They've announced the five finalists for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, the impressively endowed -- the winner gets US$100,000 -- prize for: "a book of literary merit that stimulates an interest in themes of Jewish concern".
They alternate between rewarding fiction and non; this year is fortunately a fiction-year.
Nevertheless, none of the finalists are under review at the complete review.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the first English translation of Selected Poems by Volker Braun, Rubble Flora, translated by David Constantine and Karen Leeder and published by Seagull Books.
As longtime readers know, I've long been a Braun fan -- the first review of a Braun-title went up some fifteen years ago ! -- and I'm currently enjoying the second volume of his work diary, Werktage 1990 - 2008.
Here's hoping he finally makes some proper inroads into the English-language markets.
They've announced that The Lowland (by Jhumpa Lahiri) has won the 2015 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.
It's not under review at the complete review, but you can get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've now tallied the 2014 sales in France and while the official GFK/Livres Hebdo figures aren't freely accessible online they do offer a bit of a summary.
Valérie Trierweiler's tell-all topped the list as bestselling title, with 603,300 copies sold.
The three E.L.James titles all made the top ten, while Guillaume Musso's Central Park came in third (with 556,600 copies sold) and his Demain came in fifth.
Good to see: fiction dominated, with 39 of the top 50 bestselling titles.
Meanwhile, Livres Hebdo editor in chief Christine Ferrand explained:
Les lecteurs ont plébiscité en 2014 les feel good books
They've announced that Tess Lewis' translation of Maja Haderlap's Engel des Vergessens, 'Angel of Oblivion' has won this year's Austrian Cultural Forum New York Translation Prize -- apparently beating out translations of works by Josef Winkler, Clemens Setz, Friederike Mayröcker, Christoph Ransmayr, Walter Kappacher, Raoul Schrott, and others (quite the impressive list).
See also, for example, the information about the book at New Books in German.
The award ceremony -- which author Maja Haderlap will be present for -- is 24 March.
Nine titles were selected as grantees for the Fall 2014 session of the French Voices Award -- five fiction and four non-fiction (with a stunning three being published in English by Fordham University Press), and yesterday they announced the Grand Prize Winner -- Pascale-Anne Brault's translation of Barbara Cassin's La Nostalgie, which Fordham University Press will be publishing in English in the spring of 2016.
Tough competition -- including Fiston Mwanza Mujila's eagerly awaited Tram 83 (coming from Deep Vellum), Dominique Fabre's Guys Like Me (coming from New Vessel Press), and an Andreï Makine and a Chantal Thomas -- but it does sound interesting too.
Iris Murdoch's husband (and Elegy for Iris, etc. author) John Bayley has passed away.
Though accomplished in his own right -- as literary critic, among other things -- he has not unexpectedly gotten the Elizabeth Jane Howard-treatment in death, i.e. he is recalled primarily as the spouse of a more famous writer; hence, for example, The Telegraph's obituary, John Bayley, widower of Dame Iris Murdoch, dies.
(The Telegraph also notes that he died back on the 12th and they've already held the funeral.)
At Entropy they have a Q & A with Marc Lowenthal of the wonderful Wakefield Press.
Always fascinating to see how small presses with such an impressive output manage -- with Wakefield the rare tiny publisher (with translation focus, no less) that isn't officially a non-profit (not that they make any profit, apparently).
In Hurriyet they report that Book production on rise in Turkey, which sounds good.
Hey, "More than 561 million copies of books were published in Turkey last year" !
Alas, a mere "3 percent were adult fiction books".
By comparison: 71 per cent were "educational books" -- and "9 percent were faith books".
When faith-book-production outnumbers fiction by three to one ... not good.
By comparison, US numbers from 2013 had fiction at 16.57 per cent of traditional book production -- with "religion" titles a still way over-represented 6.12 per cent.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Bengt Jangfeldt's Mayakovsky: A Biography, just out in English from the University of Chicago Press.
Let's hope it leads to a bit of a Mayakovsky revival !