You'd think -- indeed, I suspect most readers are convinced of it -- that there's simply no reason for this to happen any longer -- and yet it does.
Yes, there are still books being published in English translation that are not being translated directly from the language they were written in, but rather via a translation from another language.
A recent example, pointed out to me by a reader, is Agata Tuszyńska's memoir, Family History of Fear, just out from Alfred A. Knopf (an outfit which you'd think would know better; surely Blanche would blanch ...); see their publicity page -- which, you'll note doesn't so much as mention any sort of translator involvement (other than that Tuszyńska "is the author of six collections of internationally translated poetry" ,,,), or get your copy at Amazon.com.
At Amazon you can 'Look inside' -- and get a look at that shocking copyright-page, where they admit, in small print: "This translation is based on the French edition", and that the book is: "Translated by Charles Ruas from the French of Jean-Yves Erhel".
(Adding further insult to all this injury, Ruas didn't even get the translation copyright -- Knopf took care of that too.)
Yes, occasionally translation via other translations is justified -- and, indeed, many translations from 'smaller' languages into other smaller ones often happen via the English translation -- but this instance looks pretty dubious (to put it politely) to me.
Polish is not exactly an obscure language, and there are several first-rate translators(-directly)-from-the-Polish out there (Antonia Lloyd-Jones and Bill Johnston, for a start), and it's hard to imagine as much is gained via the French translation -- no matter how masterful Jean-Yves Erhel's work is -- as is lost by the two-fold translation process.
Of course, maybe the explanation is that Americans have become such translation-enthusiasts that they think the more translations a book has been through the better .....
They've announced the shortlist for this year's 'Internationaler Literaturpreis', a leading German prize for works of contemporary literature in German translation awarded by the 'Haus der Kulturen der Welt' ('house of the cultures of the world').
(At €20,000 for the author of the winning title, and €15,000 for the translator it also doesn't lag far behind the Man Booker International Prize in pay-out, either.)
Somewhat surprisingly, only one of the six titles was written in English -- and it's not by an American or British author, but rather by South African Ivan Vladislavić, the wonderful Double Negative.
The other title under review at the complete review is The Story of My Teeth (whose English translation has been doing well on the literary prize (translation and otherwise) circuit too).
The winner will be announced 14 June (though the awards ceremony will only be on 25 June).
They've announced the shortlist for this year's Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize -- eight books selected from "nearly 110 titles in translations from 15 different languages".
Though limited to (living) European languages, the prize does consider any "book-length literary translations into English" -- so there is a poetry volume along with a number of works of fiction.
Two of the finalists are under review at the complete review: John Cullen's translation of Kamel Daoud's The Meursault Investigation and Lisa C. Hayden's translation of Eugene Vodolazkin's Laurus.
The winner will be announced 11 June.
(T)he book has gone into a second printing of 20,000 copies in the United Kingdom and 7,500 copies in the United States.
More interesting is that, as Choi Jae-bong reports at The Hankyoreh, in South Korea itself:
News of the Man Booker Prize nomination of The Vegetarian resulted in sales of over 40,000 copies for the novel, published in Korean in 2007.
Around 4,000 copies each were sold at Kyobo Books and on the online bookstore Aladdin on the award date of May 17 alone; at another online bookstore, Yes24, sales were up by 38 times from the day before.
Daisuke Kikuchi reports on the winners of the Yamamoto Shugoro Prize and the Yukio Mishima Prize, with Confessions-author Minato Kanae taking the former ("an entertainment award"), and eighty-year-old Hasumi Shigehiko taking the latter ("given for pure literature and essays").
Amusingly, in the Asahi Shimbun they report that:
This literary prize is awarded to up-and-coming novelists, but Hasumi is 80 years old.
He is well known as a critic.
But since his award-winning novel was just his third, it appears he was considered an "up-and-comer."
"I consider this an extremely lamentable thing for Japanese culture," Hasumi said about being selected for the award at his age.
They've announced that the 2016 Man Booker International Prize goes to The Vegetarian (by Han Kang, and translated by Deborah Smith -- who share the £50,000 winnings).
(A reminder that the Man Booker International Prize used to be a biennial award that honored authors (whose work was written in, or widely available in, English) for their life's work, but that starting this year the Man Booker International Prize is what the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize was (and replaces that award in its entirety) -- an annual award for best translated work published in the UK over the previous year (more or less -- the 'year'-eligibility was stretched for this go-round ...) except that there is now more money on offer (and they call it the 'Man Booker International Prize').)
A worthy winner -- and there's still a chance this will be the first book to win both the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Man Booker International Prize and the Best Translated Book Award -- albeit in different years, as The Vegetarian, published in the US considerably after it was in the UK, will only be eligible for next year's BTBA award.
They've announced that the 2016 Joseph-Breitbach-Preis will be awarded to Reiner Stach, for his work in literary biography -- specifically, his three-volume Kafka biography, the final volume (covering Kafka's earliest years) of which is due out in English in November; see the Princeton University Press publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
This prize has a pretty decent list of winners -- which includes W.G.Sebald (2000), Herta Müller (2003), and Jenny Erpenbeck (2013).
Stach gets to pick his €50,000 up on 16 September.
They've announced the winners of this year's (Australian) NSW Premier's Literary Awards -- possibly even at the official site, but I can't make heads or tails (much less want to wade through) that user-unfriendliest of abominations.
Fortunately, you can find the winners listed at the end of Susan Wyndham's coverage of the awards in the Sydney Morning Herald, titled and noting: Indigenous writers rise to the top of the 2016 NSW Premier's Literary Awards.
My book, The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction came out in the US last month, and today is apparently the offical UK (and beyond ...) publication date -- so if you haven't pre-ordered or gotten your copy yet, you can now easily from Amazon.co.uk and the like (and, of course, you can get your copy in the US, too, from your local bookseller, or Amazon.com, etc. ...).
Yes, apparently the world premiere of an opera version of Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown -- music by Jack Perla, libretto by Rajiv Joseph -- will take place at the Opera Theatre of St.Louis 11 June.
The Zimbabwe International Book Fair runs 27 to 30 July this year, and in The Herald they're suggesting It's time to revamp ZIBF.
There's much reveling in what once was -- "ZIBF used to be one of the prestigious events on the local arts calendar and many renowned figures in the world of literature visited the country to attend the fair" -- but things haven't been going quite so well in recent years, as: "strategies to make the fete attractive seem to evade custodians of the event".
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Georges Simenon's 1942 novel, The Widow -- one of his darker, non-Maigret titles, which New York Review Books re-issued a couple of years ago
This was made into a film in 1971, with some pretty good casting: it starred Alain Delon and Simone Signoret.
In his Introduction to the NYRB edition, Paul Theroux notes that Simenon was confident of winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, and: "predicted in 1937 that he would win it within ten years" -- and that he was outraged that "that asshole" Camus got it (in 1957) before he did.
Simenon as Nobel laureate may sound unlikely but he was indeed -- regularly -- nominated for the prize (albeit only starting in 1958 -- the year after Camus' win).
[Recall that you have to be in it -- nominated -- to win it: Proust, Kafka, Joyce, and many others never were.]
The records are only open to 1965 so far (they're only opened fifty years after the fact), but Simenon already managed seven nominations by then; given that he only died in 1989, it's distinctly possible that he eventually was nominated more often than Camus (eleven times, in seven different years).
It's still unclear whether he was ever a serious contender, but the nominations -- including multiple ones in 1958 (three -- or were they all just reacting to the Camus win ?) and 1961 (two) -- suggest quite a few folks thought he should be.
The International Dylan Thomas Prize is only limitedly international -- "The £30,000 Prize is awarded to the best published or produced literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under", but I guess 'international' sounds better than 'monolingual' ... -- but is otherwise a nice idea, and they've announced that this year's winner is Grief is the Thing with Feathers (by Max Porter).
The US edition is due out shortly, from Graywolf Press -- pre-order your copy at Amazon.com -- or get your copy from Amazon.co.uk.
Good to see some Frédéric Dard anticipation-excitement building, as Pushkin Press are set to publish a couple by the prolific (and super-best-selling) French master -- even if it comes with horrific headlines such as 'Unknown' French author's noir crime novels set for UK, as Dalya Alberge writes in The Observer.
'Unknown' in quotation marks indeed -- Dard has sold ... more than most (literally hundreds of millions of copies).
But, yes, he's not well-represented in English (but I did slip him in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction because ... Frédéric Dard ! come on !).
And, yes, Pushkin's commissioning editor Daniel Seton is correct in noting that one reason so little has been translated into English is because especially the San-Antonio books (the bulk of his output) rely on language-play that's hard to translate, while these 'novels of the night' (that Pushkin is focusing on): "are less reliant on that kind of wordplay".
Nevertheless, the translator of the first title they're publishing is none other than master word-playing translator David Bellos.
It's already under review at the complete review, too: Bird in a Cage.
Reviews of the other ones will follow just as soon as I can get my hands on them.
At the Los Angeles Review of Books Liesl Schillinger inaugurates what sounds like a promising series of conversations with literary translators which, she explains: "reflect my desire to learn as much as I could about these masters, and to share with you some of the secrets of their art: I wanted to translate the translators".
First up in this series of/on 'Multilingual Wordsmiths' is Lydia Davis and Translationese.
On Tuesday 17 May, at 19:30, there will be a panel on The Sound of Translation at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York, moderated by Liesl Schillinger (who is obviously prepped and ready for some serious translation discussion; see above), with Tess Lewis, Rüdiger Wischenbart, Ross Ufberg, and yours truly.
As if that weren't exciting enough, it's a three-for-one event, as this year's ACFNY Translation Prize will also be launched, and the Diversity Report 2016 will be introduced.
They've announced the shortlist for the Caine Prize for African Writing -- selected from 166 stories by writers from 23 African countries.
You can read the shortlisted stories at the official site; the winner will be announced 4 July, in Oxford (yes, the Oxford in the UK, because ... it's a prize for African writing, so ... of course ...).
José Eduardo Agualusa's A General Theory of Oblivion was a finalist this year for both the Best Translated Book Award and the Man Booker International Prize -- it didn't win the BTBA, but still has a chance to take the MBIP next week -- and at the PEN Atlas Tasja Dorkofikis has a Q & A with the author.
As he admits, the novel is not based on a true story: "Ludo is me, or was me, during a certain period when I was living in Luanda, in that very building."
Interesting also to hear:
How do you think Angolan writing is influenced by Brazilian and Portuguese writing and vice versa ?
Brazilian literature was -- at least until the late 1970s -- very important for the development of Angola's writers.
It doesn't seem so important now.
All the same, it does still have more impact than Portuguese literature.
Oh, dear !
As the Malay Mailreports: "literary laureate Datuk Zurinah Hassan is appalled at the taste of local readers".
Don't they know better ?
Don't they know what's better for them ?
(Because Zurinah apparently does .....)
Worse still, these works of fiction are not written in proper, scholarly, Bahasa Melayu as their authors have opted for a modernised version of the language, complete with a generous dose of slang -- certainly not the stuff Malay literature or Bahasa Melayu teachers would recommend to their students to read.
Shocking, isn't it ?
It will also have adverse effects on character building ... and even pose a threat to the very future of our race as our civilisation is known for its rich literary and cultural history.
And displaying an ... unusual sense of irony:
She also found it ironic that novelists who pay no heed to syntax or the nuances of the Malay language were producing works that outsell books authored by national laureates and other esteemed authors.
And my favorite idea:
She also urged Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka to exercise more creativity when publishing reading materials and to refrain from bringing out publications merely on account of their popularity with the people or their profitability.
Publish books that people actually read or are even willing to buy ? -- no, standards must be higher !
No mention, however, of how this culture decline/death spiral might affect those plans/hopes for a Malaysian Nobel laureate in 2057 .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Adrien Bosc's 2014 Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française-winning Constellation, just out in English from Other Press.
(This is -- surprisingly, to me -- the tenth Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française-winning title under review at the complete review -- one more than there are Goncourt-winners.
It's also the second I've reviewed in less than a month -- with another (the just re-issued-in English 1971 winner) on deck .....)
The Dr. Leopold-Lucas-Preis is a €50,000 prize, awarded annually by the University of Tübingen for outstanding achievement in the fields of theology, history, philosophy, or the like, and while there's no word yet at the official site, they have announced that the 2016 winner will be Adam Zagajewski; see, for example, the Radio Poland report.
Two of Zagajewski's books are under review at the complete review: Another Beauty and Canvas.