The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Italy, Europa Editions)
The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney (Mexico, Coffee House Press)
War, So Much War by Mercè Rodoreda, translated from the Catalan by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent (Spain, Open Letter)
About half what I expected, half I certainly did not -- and a pretty far cry from what I would have chosen: looking back to my picks -- the top ten and top twenty-five that would have been my choices had I been a judge this year -- my favorites went zero-for-ten (top ten picks) and 4-for-25 overall .....
Still, lots of good books here -- and some nice variety.
And there's still the possibility for a Man Booker International Prize-BTBA double this year, with both the Ferrante and Agualusa now finalists for both prizes.
Being so obviously out of tune with the judges' tastes I won't hazard a guess as to who might take the prize -- though I suspect Lispector and Ferrante must be the front-runners.
The winner will be announced on 4 May.
The International Book Festival Budapest begins tomorrow, running through the 24th.
Slovakia is the 'guest of honour'-country, and while they've enticed few US or UK authors, there will be a very full slate of Hungarian authors present.
The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of A Memoir by Alain Mabanckou, The Lights of Pointe-Noire.
I still can't work myself up to writing about memoirs at the moment, but figured it was worth posting the review-overview for the links to other reviews -- in particular because, after being widely and well covered in the UK it was recently published in the US, to very little notice.
I'm baffled why it hasn't attracted more US attention yet.
After all, Mabanckou is well know here, too -- and he has been a resident for ages, teaching at UCLA.
As widely reported, they've announced this year's Pulitzer Prizes -- and the fiction prize went toThe Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen -- conveniently just out in paperback.
It beat out finalists Get in Trouble by Kelly Link and Maud's Line by Margaret Verble (though unfortunately we do not know what other titles the judges were allowed to consider, since they don't reveal these ...), as selected by judges Art Winslow, Edward P. Jones, and Leah Price.
See the Grove publicity page , or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
I actually have this, so there's a chance I might get to it (someday ...); my track record with the Pulitzers isn't great -- though I did get to the two most recent I reviewed before they picked up the prize: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2014) and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (2003).
They've apparently announced that Sylvie Germain has won this year's Prix mondial Cino Del Duca, which she gets to pick up -- along with the €200,000 (!) prize money -- 8 June.
Not that they've managed to mention this at the official site, last I checked -- but Livres Hebdo has the scoop.
(Recent winners include Patrick Modiano (2010), Milan Kundera (2009), and Mario Vargas Llosa (2008) -- and Alejo Carpentier got it back in 1975 -- so: pretty decent track record.)
I have to admit that I've never really gotten Germain -- and the only one of her titles under review at the complete review is The Weeping Woman on the Streets of Prague --, but Dedalus are all in with her and one hopes they'll reap some benefits from this.
It's already been available via Amazon for a few weeks now, but this is the originally announced official publication date for my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction, and so it should now be more or less readily available at you local bookstore, so you have even less of an excuse for not having gotten your hands on a copy yet .....
The Goodreads reactions (and those elsewhere) have been very kind, and it's gratifying to see that readers seem to appreciate what I've done -- I hope you will too.
(Get your copy at Amazon.com, if not your local bookstore; at Amazon.co.uk it appears to be 'currently unavailable' -- and is apparently only officially dropping there in mid-May ...).
In London the SLOVO Russian Literature Festival runs through the 24th, with quite a few well-known authors (including Boris Akunin and Mikhail Shishkin) still to appear.
Interesting to see/note that they see fit (and/or think it important) to mention -- quite prominently -- that: "SLOVO is not supported by the Russian government".
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mathias Storch's Singnagtugaq: A Greenlander's Dream -- apparently the first Greenlandic novel (first published in 1914), and now available in English, from, of course, the International Polar Institute Press (the seventh in their 'Adventures in New Lands'-series).
Dead languages aside, Romansh probably (just) edges out Greenlandic as the language with the fewest speakers any books under review at the complete review were written in -- but it's close.
I do hope to find some more modern translated-from-the-Greenlandic fiction.
(Maybe this year's Nordic Council Literature Prize-nominated Zombiet Nunaat, by Sørine Steenholdt -- see the milik publicity page --, if it gets translated .....)
(It's also not the last of the Scandinavian languages I want to get to -- there's still Sami, Faroese .....)
As I have often noted, it's remarkable how little literature from India not written in English makes its away abroad.
The ILA ('Indian Literature in Translation') project sounded like a great venture to address this -- but Manik Sharma can now only wonder (at Scroll.in) Why did India's ambitious global translations project, die prematurely ?
Questionable punctuation, and spelling ("India's literary cannon"), aside, it's an interesting -- and depressing -- overview of a project with a lot of good people behind it.
Obviously it didn't help that: "it appears that not a rupee was released by the Ministry of Culture, under which the project was to have run".
Embarrassingly, "Almost all the committee members have been unaware of the status of the project since 2013, and most believe it has been shut down" -- even as it is listed among the 'three Projects running successfully under Sahitya Akademi' -- and they have a whole nice page devoted to the ... scheme.
Issue 2016:1 of the Swedish Book Review is now available, with much of the content freely accessibly online -- including the most interesting part, the reviews: among authors with previously-translated-into-English works under review are Jonas Karlsson, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Aris Fioretos, and P.C.Jersild.
Via I'm pointed to Thi Ri Han reporting on the Tough Times for Translators in Burma at Frontier Myanmar, as: "the golden age of revered translators has long passed".
(I have to say I'm rather suspicious of any claims of any 'golden age of translators', anywhere .....)
Apparently the censorship-hangover still has lingering after-effects -- including that: "a budding young generation of translators has emerged in recent years, but many remain weak in the quality and quantity of their work".
And interesting to hear that:
"It's been very bad, almost half of this book was censored, so it was not published," he said, pointing to his translation of Norwegian Wood by acclaimed Japanese writer Haruki Murakami.
"Indiscriminate censoring has made translators reluctant to do their job"
(Of course, recall that much of Murakami's work is pared down in English translation, too -- for 'editorial' reasons, as if that were any better .....)
A reader points out to me that they've announced this years's Aegon Művészeti Díj -- a leading Hungarian literary prize -- and Oravecz Imre's volume of poetry, Távozó fa, took the prize.
As the list of winners (and shortlisted titles) suggests, this prize has a pretty decent track record, and offers a good overview of some of the best literature currently being published in Hungary.
(2006 winner Captivity is the only winning title under review at the complete review, but quite a few other titles by other shortlisted authors are also under review.)
At the PEN World Atlas Erica Jarnes has an interesting piece on 'the theme of 'reputation' with respect to non-Anglophone writers', World literatures and literary worlds (apparently originally published in In Other Words, but not freely accessible there).
Well worth a read, and thinking about -- not least, for example, for such titbits such as that, looking at PEN Translates grants between 2012 and 2015:
We found that out of 34 titles submitted in French, 25 were by French writers and the remaining nine were by writers from Morocco, Algeria, Iran, Afghanistan, Canada and the Republic of Congo.
But all 34 were acquired by UK publishers from publishing houses in Paris, who had acquired them from local publishers in the source countries where relevant; in other words, for the UK publishers in our sample, Paris seems to have been the gate-keeper of literature written in French, no matter where the writers themselves were from or based.
That is shocking and embarrassing -- and suggests yet again how limited publishers' perspectives are -- that they are unable (for whatever reason) to make the effort to look further afield for themselves, and prefer instead to fall back on convenience, and on the herd-mentality of what everyone else is doing.
Jarnes seems more optimistic -- but, much as I see the value of, e.g. the 'new high-profile Man Booker International Prize' I don't think it's "really exciting" -- indeed, translation-supporting-wise, I can't imagine anything more staid and old-establishment (as it's just-announced shortlist -- see my mention just yesterday -- again proves -- though I hasten to add: that's not entirely a bad thing (but it's certainly not an exciting thing, or something that will in any way shake things up)).
At Poets & Writers Michael Taeckens has a Q & A with the editor of The New York Times Book Review, Pamela Paul.
Not too much background-dirt, unfortunately -- she remains diplomatic about the inner workings -- but folks always seem eager for any glimpse into the NYTBR.
A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler, tr. Charlotte Collins
Some surprises there -- Ōe Kenzaburō's Death by Water and Fiston Mwanza Mujila's Tram 83 are the two longlisted titles I thought stood a better chance of making the final six -- but this also leaves the interesting scenario of a possible Best Translated Book Award double this year, as three of the finalist are also still in the BTBA-running, having been longlisted (see my previous mention): the Agualusa, the Ferrante, and the Yan Lianke.
Zimbabwean author Alexander Kanengoni has passed away; see, for example, the ZBC report, Journalist, war vet Kanengoni dies.
He was one of the leading writers of the Zimbabwean struggle for independence; see, for example Brian Chikwava (first entry) and Sekai Nzenza (third entry) on two of his novels here, at Warscapes.
Chikwava writes of Kanengoni's Echoing Silences (see the publicity page, and get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk):
According to Tolstoy, one must only write when he/she can leave a piece of his/her flesh in the inkpot with every dip of the pen.
If a writer's success is measured in these terms, then Kanengoni, an ex-combatant himself, succeeds enormously.
They've announced the Griffin Poetry Prize shortlists -- apparently selected from : "633 books of poetry, from 43 countries, including 25 translations" (though, alas, the considered titles are not revealed to us); the winners receive C$65,000 (along with the C$10,000 fee all finalist receive for playing along at the 'Shortlist Readings' on 1 June).
That link goes to the press release; there's also a ... fancier (?) shortlists-announcing page -- and while I know this site has the most ridiculously antiquated design etc. etc. it's this kind of page, apparently the future of the 'web' (and presumably tailored to mobile devices), that I dread above all else -- what a horror ! a single, scrolling horror !
They've announced the ten-title strong shortlist for the International DUBLIN Literary Award -- that hard-to-explain, library-nominated prize that considers both titles in translation along with those originally written in English,
The shortlisted titles are:
Your Fathers, Where Are They? And The Prophets, Do They Live Forever ? by Dave Eggers
That's four out of ten titles in translation -- and some English-language heavyweights (Robinson's National Book Critics Circle Award-winner; Marlon James' Man Booker winner), as well as the expected head-scratcher (Eggers ?).
This is yet another shortlisting for Susan Bernofsky's translation of the Erpenbeck -- a title that didn't even make the longlist for last year's Best Translated Book Award (for which I was a judge ...), making this look even more like the biggest oversight in the history of that award.
See also Eileen Battersby's entertainingly opinionated reaction to the shortlist in the Irish Times -- complete with (deafeningly) ringing Erpenbeck-endorsement ("possibly the first true literary masterpiece of the 21st century" -- a claim I'm afraid I can not come close to agreeing with).
[*: The safe rule-of-thumb really is: if it is a translated work, and the translator does not get copyright credit -- throw that book away.
Just far, far away.
I know there are ... exceptions (Ferrante, and everything else Europa Editions (and similarly (mis)inclined publishers put out), but for the most part this rule will serve you very well.]
They announced the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, which cover a variety of categories, over the weekend -- and one of the winners is even under review at the complete review: fiction winner The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli (a rare case of a work-in-translation taking a bigger US literary prize).
They've announced the winners of the Sheikh Zayed Literature Awards, a major Arabic-language literary award which also awards prizes in a number of categories (including one non-Arabic one, the 'Arab Culture in Other Languages Award').
(It also has an impressive pay-out: the AED 750,000 each category-winner gets is equivalent to over US$200,000.)
The 'Literature Award' went to ما وراء الكتابة ('Beyond Writing'), by Ibrahim Abdel Meguid -- while: "titles in both 'Children's Literature' and 'Young Author' categories did not meet the Award's standards" (which is kind of disappointing to hear).
Quite a few of Ibrahim Abdel Meguid's works have been translated into English -- see the American University in Cairo Press' offerings.
(And, yes, he does rate a (very short) mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction .)