They've announced that the Premio FIL de Literatura en Lenguas Romances -- a romance-language author prize, worth US$150,000 -- will be awarded to The Lair-author Norman Manea this year, at the Guadalajara International Book Fair in November; see also the report in the Latin American Herald Tribune.
This has an impressive list of previous winners -- among those with works under review at the complete review are: Nicanor Parra (1991), Juan José Arreola (1992), Augusto Monterroso (1996), Juan Goytisolo (2004), Fernando del Paso (2007), Yves Bonnefoy (2013 ), Claudio Magris (2014), and Enrique Vila-Matas (2015).
Nice to see the expansion of Romance language-winners to include one from the Romanian !
They've only been handing out the US$60,000 Premio Iberoamericano de Narrativa Manuel Rojas (scroll down) since 2012, but with a winners' list that consists of Rubem Fonseca, Ricardo Piglia, Horacio Castellanos Moya, and Margo Glanz they seem to have started off pretty well -- and with How I became a Nun (etc.)-author César Aira as this year's laureate they continue on track.
No word yet at the official site re. this year's award, last I checked, but see, for example, the report in La Nación.
I'm not really sure what this is supposed to be, but at Russia Beyond the Headlines Alexandra Guzeva reports how Google and Mosfilm launch online readings of 'The Master and Margarita', where 'Russian-speakers around the world have a unique opportunity to participate in a virtual reality reading of this classic Russian novel'.
The official site is here, so jump right in .....
In The New Republic Sophie Pinkham argues that: 'Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich crafts myths, not histories', in Witness Tampering, arguing that: "by seeking to straddle both literature and history, Alexievich ultimately succeeds at neither".
While I've admired Voices from Chernobyl-Alexievich's writing, I've always had problems with what it 'is', and as someone who doesn't like their non-fiction anecdotal in any case have never been truly won over.
Pinkham does a good job of illustrating some of the problematic aspects of what Alexievich does, and how she does it -- looking, in particular, at the now-available-in-English Secondhand Time; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
There are a couple of collections of ancient Egyptian literature available in translation, but it's nice to see there's now a Penguin Classics volume, too -- Writings from Ancient Egypt, translated and with an introduction by Toby Wilkinson; see their publicity page, or get your copy at
Amazon.co.uk, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com (as the US edition is only due out in January).
From the looks of the table of contents, it appears to offer quite the variety.
See also Dalya Alberge's background-piece in The Guardian, Ancient Egyptian works to be published together in English for first time.
In The Guardian Hannah Beckerman has a Q & A with Dutch author Herman Koch, whose Dear Mr M has just appeared in English.
Among his responses:
Who would be your fantasy dinner party guests ?
It might be a famous football player but he might be quite boring.
I would like to meet the French writer Michel Houellebecq.
But maybe after the first course I would say: "Sorry, Michel, I have an important phone call to make," and never show up again.
Ian McEwan's new novel, Nutshell, with its in utero-narrator, is due out shortly -- see the Nan A. Talese publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- and in The Guardian Decca Aitkenhead now has a long profile of the author.
As to McEwan's review-expectations:
He expects reviews of Nutshell to be "wildly varied", but says he's so used to no critical consensus that he no longer reads reviews.
Annalena provides edited summaries instead, but the wild divergence of opinion can be "hilarious".
Solar, for example, enjoyed "fairly good" reviews in the UK, but "In the States it was disastrous.
It was just unbelievable. I remember sitting on the edge of a hotel bed with Annalena, and she said, 'Well, I advise you not to read the Boston Globe, or the New York Times, or the Washington Post.
And don't go anywhere near the Chicago Tribune, and stay away from the LA Times and the San Francisco Chronicle'."
[Updated: 31 August] The Telegraph gets a go at him too (as, no doubt, many publications will), and their profile, by Lewis Jones, is now up too.
The AS$60,000 Miles Franklin Literary Award -- arguably the leading Australian literary prize -- has been awarded to Black Rock White City, by A.S.Patrić.
The only print US or UK-available edition seems to be, bizarrely, the large-print one -- get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- but see also the Transit Lounge publicity page.
(Also/gratuitous aside: this is the first time I've had occasion to visit/link to a Facebook page in a while -- and I have to scratch my head and ask again: why the hell is anyone using this site/platform ?)
Esther Allen's translation of Antonio Di Benedetto's classic novel, Zama, just came out -- see the New York Review Books publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; I should be getting to it shortly -- and at Publishers Weekly she (sort of) wonders: Can Google Translate Help Translate a Classic Novel ?
Okay, she doesn't really wonder -- the opening line is: "No, Google Translate was in no way useful to my translation of the 1956 Argentine novel Zama: let's get that out of the way first thing" -- but she nevertheless has some interesting observations about Google Translate (and its limitations, and evolution).
The American National Endowment for the Arts has announced its 2016 translation grants (which, for some reason, are called 'fellowships'), disbursing US$325,000 to 23 translators; see also here (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) for the full list of the recipients and a description of their projects.
There are some great-sounding projects here -- including (but not limited to) a previously untranslated novel by Alfred Döblin, and a new translation of one by Halldór Laxness previously translated from the Danish translation; 1000-page novels by Miljenko Jergović and Bernard Ollivier; and a translation of " the longest extant Arabic epic poem" (7000 pages !), "the 12th century folk epic The Tale of Lady Dhat al-Himma".
One observation: among the criteria for grant support is taking into account whether projects are from: "languages that are often underrepresented".
So how did that go ?
The language break-down of the projects is as follows:
French: 5 projects
French has long been the language from which the most literature has been translated into English, with Spanish and German the usual runners-up -- so maybe it's not surprising that these are the likeliest to be best-represented.
Still, it is noteworthy that the languages that did best here tend to be those which come from languages where there are official bodies that are already among the most supportive of translation (i.e. there are national organizations that offer at least some financial subsidy for translations into English and other languages).
(Mind you, there's never enough financial support for translation, and many French and German and Nordic books don't get official support from the local book authorities, but relatively speaking, they do very, very well.)
So the NEA is supporting twenty-one projects translated from European languages, with Arabic and Chinese the two nons that slip in -- two languages that have done fairly well, in terms of getting books translated into English in recent years.
Look, I'd argue every language is 'underrepresented' in translation into English, but let's get serious.
The Translation Database at Three Percent isn't a perfect proxy, but does give a reasonable idea of what got translated -- and of the 569 titles in 50 languages (plus some that were 'various') the 2015 totals and, in parentheses, ranks for the NEA grant languages were:
French: 113 (1)
German: 74 (2)
Russian: 16 (8)
Spanish: 71 (3)
Arabic: 22 (6)
'Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian': 3+2 (=21)
Chinese: 23 (5)
Czech: 6 (18)
Danish: 16 (8)
Icelandic: 3 (25)
Norwegian: 14 (11)
Romanian: 1 (37)
Portuguese: 15 (10)
Okay, Romanian is properly underrepresented -- but only four of these languages had less than double-digit numbers of translations.
While dozens of major languages -- all non-European, many with tens or even hundreds of millions of native speakers -- had none.
Something these grants will not, alas, rectify.
There are some (sort of) valid reasons for this -- too few translators from these languages, for example, and limited publisher interest in / awareness of them.
But, just like the problem of too few works by women being translated into English, it is a big and obvious one, and one where steps can (relatively easily) be taken to rectify it.
For example, fellowships that want to support "languages that are often underrepresented" might ... actually do so.
(I know, I know, the NEA probably got 100 French applications for every Bengali/Hindi/Thai/Hausa/etc./etc. one.
But still .....)
French author Michel Butor has passed away; see, for example, Le Monde's (French) report (there hasn't been any noteworthy English-language coverage yet, as I write this).
None of his books are under review at the complete review -- what I read of his (quite a bit) I read before I started the site -- but he does get half a page in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction.
Dalkey Archive Press have several of his title in print; Degrees is certainly something -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- though for a quick(er) dip, maybe Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ape ?
The University of Edinburgh DELC Michel Butor pages are fairly useful -- though there's apparently no bibliography of works-translated-into-English.
At the Dalkey Archive Press site you can find Anna Otten's 1995 Review of Contemporary FictionQ & A with the author.
They've announced the 25-title-strong (!) longlist for the €50,000 AKO ECI Literatuurprijs, the leading Dutch literary prize.
The longlist was selected from 450 (!) titles -- putting both the recently announced longlists for the German Book Prize (20/178) and especially the Man Booker Prize (12/155) to shame.
Quite a few of the authors with nominated books have been (previously) translated into English, including Arnon Grunberg and Connie Palmen (both of whom have aleready won this prize in its previous AKO incarnation), as well as, for example, Frank Westerman and Tommy Wieringa.
The shortlist will be announced 16 September, the winner on 10 November.
At the Asymptote blog Allegra Rosenbaum has a Q & A with Lydia Davis.
Good to hear:
What is the best translated book you've read recently ?
As for the best translated book I've read recently, it was the Norwegian Dag Solstad's Professor Andersen's Night, translated by Agnes Scott Langeland.
I've been told that the translation flattens it a bit, that it is wittier and sharper in the original, but it is a very well done book.
And I can't complain about her answer to this either -- though it did make me laugh:
What author would you like to see more popular/translated in the first place ?
In answer to this question, I'll mention one novel that I read a bit of and actually wanted to translate and that is now being translated into English, and that is a Dutch classic from 1947 called De Avonden (The Evenings) by Gerard van het Reve.
It portrays just ten days in the tedious life of a clerk who lives with his parents.
It is very funny and strange -- the clerk arguing with his mother over such things as the spoiled herrings she keeps trying to serve for dinner, or her absurd attempts to smoke a cigarette.
Reve is a writer who may yet "catch on" in the Anglophone world.
In the Netherlands De Avonden has always been highly regarded -- a standard on any top-ten modern Dutch novel list -- and it's among the (many) puzzles of modern English-language publishing why it's taken this long to get this into English.
On top of that, one of Reve's early books was actually written and published in English -- but he decided to (re)turn to Dutch for the rest of his career.
(Maybe UK/US readers have never forgiven him ?)
As to his chances of (finally) 'catching on in the Anglophone world' ... well, I wouldn't hold my breath.
(Both Reve and Solstad of course figure in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction.
Davis, too, albeit only incidentally.)
They've announced the twenty-title-strong longlist for this year's German Book Prize, selected from 178 titles (outdoing the Man Booker Prize longlist (12/155) in both categories -- but, sadly, like the Man Booker, refusing to reveal what titles were actually in the running).
Quite a few familiar names, and S.Fischer is the big publisher-winner (five finalists) -- with Suhrkamp (one sad finalist) arguably the big loser.
The shortlist will be announced 20 September, and the winner on 17 October.
The 2016 Fall residency at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa has now started, with its usual interesting group of authors.
A book by one of them -- Khaled Al-Khamissi's Taxi (first published, back in the day, by much-missed Aflame) -- is even under review at the complete review.
What used to be the quarterly publication _list: Books from Korea is now Korean Literature Now, complete with new URL and everything, and the semi-inaugural new issue is now up -- sort of.
The varied and informative content appears to be more of the same, but, alas, you now apparently have to 'sign in' (with your Facebook, Twitter, or other privacy-invading account, if you want) to read beyond a mere teaser -- not something I can accept or deal with, so I expect I won't be visiting or pointing you to this site any longer.
Too bad -- there's always material of interest here.
The Moscow Times reports that Dissident Author Sorokin Accused of 'Promoting Cannibalism' in Work.
(Among the sigh reasons: it's his 2001 (!) story настя that stands accused; given that Russia hasn't been overwhelmed by cases of cannibalism in the past fifteen years you have to figure and admit that it hasn't done a very good job of promoting cannibalism .....)
This is the kind of silly story barely worth mentioning, but this did strike me as worth pointing out:
As well as reporting the book to police, Vasina also employed a linguist to analyze the book's content.
"The expert concluded that the book degrades people's Russian Orthodox heritage and their sense of nationhood"
And people wonder why there's so little faith in 'experts' and expertise nowadays .....
(Also: I did not know linguists were so well-trained nowadays that they could ascertain threats to things like 'sense of nationhood' .....)
Okay, folks, time to get serious: the publication of John E. Woods' long-awaited, career-culminating translation of Arno Schmidt's magnum (and we are talking magnum !) opus, Bottom's Dream is only a month away.
There's work to do !
Preparatory work, especially for you literary editors, critics, and reporters !
So let's get to it !
I'm here to help .....
Sure, Hillel Italie might try to convince you, in reporting that a Rich season of fiction expected this fall that: "For the weightiest novel this fall, or most any season, Alan Moore has the grandest ambition", and, yes, Jerusalem is big (1266 pages) and a big deal (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), but let's get real: Bottom's Dream is the (literary-)book- and translation-event of the year, hands down.
(Yes, AP has missed that part of the story , sigh.
But I'm here to remind/tell you !)
[Look: to date, there are practically no books I've seen that are more or less guaranteed to make the Best Translated Book Award longlist for 2016 publications; the Man Booker International Prize-winning Han Kang novel The Vegetarian is one, but this one is an even more un-overlookable translation; the recent (multi-person) translation of Leopardi's Zibaldone is the only possibly comparable book, in scale and madness, of recent years.]
Dalkey Archive Press, who are bringing out the impressive looking-edition (scroll down on the Amazon.com page (where you can pre-order the book -- at a nice discount already, no less) for some pictures) now have pdfs available, so if you're a literary 'professional' -- reach out, and grab for one.
(I've got my copy, and dreaded though the pdf format is, I've got to say -- you can work with this.
Maybe, some of you, even better than with the thirteen pound oversize print volume in your lap .....
Because of the nature of the text, this is extremely unlikely ever to appear in Kindle or ePub format, but the rigid pdf can handle it, and while your tablet screen is a bit small to deal with it (turning it on its side helps), it's a decent fall-back and introduction.
Take a look, just to get a sense of what the thing is about.)
So what's the big deal ?
Well, first of all, it's just plain big.
Unwieldy, to put it mildly.
Three columns of text on the page, and almost 1500 of those pages .....
(Kudos to Woods not only for the translation but for the typesetting, which he took responsibility for too -- the edition beautifully mirrors the typeset-revised German standard issue.)
In his 1995 The New York Times Book Reviewreview of some other Woods Schmidt-translations Jeremy Adler hopes Woods:
will have an opportunity to attempt the impossible and give us an English Bottom's Dream too.
Then Arno Schmidt will assume his rightful place in modern literature.
Well, it's happened -- Woods has tackled, and completed what Adler called: "the ultimate but untranslatable challenge to any translator".
So let's see that Schmidt does indeed: "assume his rightful place in modern literature".
This is Woods going out with the biggest of bangs -- "When I'm done with Bottom's Dream, I've done my work", he's said -- and what a career it's been.
The standard translations of the biggest Thomas Mann novels, including Joseph and His Brothers and Buddenbrooks.
Popular stuff, like Patrick Süskind's Perfume.
And piles of Arno Schmidt -- pretty much everything that's (been) available in English !
Even if the book itself is too much for you, it makes for a great story, so I'm hoping there's adequate literary coverage of it.
(So far, disappointingly (and actually rather shockingly): none.)
Come on, reviewers, critics, reporters, booksellers, librarians -- check it out !
Have a peek !
Let yourself be seduced !
To ease the path, I also recommend:
- Check out my Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; it's also available on Kindle (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk)).
Not so much pure Bottom's Dream-prep, but surely the best introduction to Schmidt and what the hell he was about you'll find in English.
Essential background-reading, I'd suggest.
(Booksellers: I hope you're stocking up, to prepare readers for Bottom's Dream; it should be readily via-Ingram-obtainable -- but if you have any problems/special needs etc., let me know !)
- Check out The School for Atheists, another of Schmidt's 'typoscript' novels, and also translated by Woods, but more manageable, in every form.
Amazon lists it as out of print (and hence ridiculously expensive at either Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), but publisher Green Integer lists it [when, sigh, the site is working] as available for US$16.95, and surely they've gone for a reprint to take advantage of Bottom's Dream-fever !
In addition, mark your calendars for the upcoming John E. Woods events.
As far as I can tell, so far:
And, all you editors/critics/reporters/journalists, I'm sure if you get in touch with Dalkey Archive Press they'll be more than happy to try to set up an interview with Woods for you .
- The Untranslated has suspended their project of Reading Zettel's Traum, but they got a few hundred pages in and given how little other introductory material is available this is well worth checking out.
So let's go !
Editors, commission those profile articles -- and, if you're feeling really brave, actual reviews !
This is not a book that can be ignored -- not by the standard-bearers of literary coverage !
(And not by all you wannabes .....)
If your publication has Literary or Review of Books on the masthead, you have to be covering this.
(But you know that -- and let's hope some of the other, smaller publications, brave it too !)
(If you're having trouble finding someone to read the damn thing, and write something up, I am open to commissions -- for a price.
You know where to find me.)
Mexican author Ignacio Padilla was killed in a car crash; see, for example, the Latin American Herald Tribunereport.
Two of his books are under review at the complete review: Shadow without a Name and Antipodes, and he impressed me enough to rate a mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction.
I have to say, I was shocked to only find out about this days after it happened -- and that while there have been some English-language reprts (like the LAHT one), and it has been widely reported internationally, his death seems to have been completely overlooked in the US and UK so far.
Next Sunday, on 28 August, at 17:00, I have the great honor of being in conversation with Simon Winchester, talking about my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction at The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts -- a great venue, a great conversation-partner, and the promise of lots of international literature talk, so if you're in the neighborhood .....
(The Mount -- Edith Wharton's old place -- is having an impressive summer season, with a great Lecture Series -- with Ruth Franklin speaking about her new Shirley Jackson biography today at 16:00 (and again tomorrow at 11:00, if you don't have tickets for today's already sold-out event ...), and Simon Winchester speaking about his Pacific next Monday at 16:00 (and, in a repeat performance, next Tuesday at 11:00)
And the gardens are always worth checking out.)
The soon-upon-us fall season is big all around the world, and in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Andreas Platthaus runs down what he thinks are the 'Wichtigste Romane des Herbstes' (the most important novels of the fall) set to appear in Germany -- with Atlas of an Anxious Man Christoph Ransmayr's promising-sounding Cox (see the S.Fischer publicity page) leading the way.