A favorite annual feature in The Guardian is the year-(near-)end Gifts and misses: publishers pick their books of 2016, where UK publishers answer the three questions: 'Which books did best ? Which should have done better ? Which books by their rivals would publishers like to have brought out ?'
(I seem to have missed pretty much all of these, hits and misses alike (though of course not all of these titles were/are US-available).)
Bob Dylan was to have picked up his Nobel Prize a couple of days ago, and today he should be in white tie and tails at the Nobel banquet and ceremonies (which you can watch live on YouTube, starting at 16:30 CET), but as we all know -- thanks to his near-perfect and wonderfully public staging of the complete and ongoing humiliation of the Swedish Academy and its processes -- he's a no-show.
In The New York Times Sarah Lyall has a good overview of the sad situation, straight from Stockholm: Dylan, Polite ? It Ain't Him, Babe.
"From a P.R. viewpoint, it's been a disaster," said Jens Liljestrand, the book editor at the Swedish newspaper Expressen.
"It's been a very unfortunate autumn for the Swedish Academy."
Of course, P.R. shouldn't really matter, it should be about the literature -- but of course that's the other half of the problem they foisted upon themselves in creating this nightmare scenario, making what many think was an inappropriate selection in giving him (or wanting/trying to ...) the prize.
Sure, all this prize stuff is kind of silly -- but they do take it seriously, and they want to be taken seriously, and this has not gone well; this laughing-stock situation is not the image they want to project.
At least the Dylan-fiasco has kept up interest in -- and press coverage -- of the prize (albeit not in the ways they'd have preferred), and at least some interesting discussion has resulted.
Even in Dhaka they've been debating, as Reaz Ahmad reports in the Daily Star, in 'Dylan Debate' engrosses Dhaka's literary minds, making the best of the situation.
As to what Dylan will be missing at the banquet today: the menu hasn't been released as I write this, but it is scheduled to be up later today -- and it's usually pretty impressive.
At Shanghai Daily Yao Minji reports that China writers suffer from lack of good translations.
The article is occasioned by the recent announcement of the awarding of five 'Shanghai Translation Grants' (well, 上海翻译出版促进计划) -- established in 2015, these are meant to encourage translations of Chinese works (and indeed it is good to see the prizes aren't limited to translations-into-English).
The piece incudes the usual -- and hardly limited to Chinese -- beyond-translation complaints, too:
But increasing the numbers of translated Chinese books isn't enough.
Such works also need better marketing and distribution to alert foreign readers to their existence.
Most translated works are hard to find in overseas bookstores and are rarely reviewed by influential literary journals.
Some of the claims seem ... a bit of a stretch:
Chinese fiction has made the greatest inroads with foreign readers, especially in science fiction, crime and romance.
Such novels, devoid of excessive detail on Chinese culture and history, embrace genres already popular in Western countries and have themes with universal appeal.
Other than the success of Liu Cixin's trilogy (The Three-Body Problem, etc.), this hasn't really been my impression -- and both the crime and romance genres seem woefully under-represented in English; 'literary' fiction still seems to be (by far) the most popular (or at least widespread) form.
They've announced that Mathias Énard will receive the 2017 Leipziger Buchpreis zur Europäischen Verständigung, for his prix Goncourt-winning novel, Compass.
This now-€20,000 award has a solid list of previous winners -- right down to Svetlana Alexievich having shared the (then still slightly different version of the) prize way back in 1998, and Kertész Imre getting it five years before he got his Nobel Prize.
Énard gets to pick up his prize and cash on 22 March 2017 -- conveniently almost exactly when the English translation, by Charlotte Mandell, is scheduled to come out in the US (from New Directions) and the UK (from Fitzcarraldo Editions); see also the New Directions publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've announced the longlist for the PEN Translation Prize -- a solid selection, and a good variety, dominated, of course, by smaller presses.
Several of the titles are under review at the complete review (and I should be getting to more of these):
Quite a few 'big' names are missing -- but the one truly glaring oversight is John E. Woods' translation of Arno Schmidt's Bottom's Dream.
Possibly it wasn't submitted -- alas, this is yet another literary prize that doesn't reveal what titles are actually being considered -- but it's hard to see this not making every 2016-translation-prize list.
Interesting also now to see whether the longlist is a good indicator of what the early Best Translated Book Award favorites are .....
They also announced the longlist for the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation; I have several of these, which I hope to get to -- and I've reviewed one of them: Peter MacMillan's new translation of The Tales of Ise.
An interesting piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, where Susan Wyndham discusses The hidden costs that threaten Australian literary awards -- much of which applies elsewhere too.
Many literary prizes have submission fees, and/or require multiple copies of submitted titles -- costs that can quickly add up for publishers.
Allen & Unwin calculated:
in the past nine months the company had spent [A]$15,000 on fees to enter 300 titles in 23 books awards, and sent out 1731 copies of books worth [A]$40,000.
And even if a title wins, the payout is apparently often not that impressive: one publisher speaks of: "the minimal sales results from our winning entries"
I'd love to see similar reporting from/about US and UK publishers .....
They announced the winner of one of the big Russian prizes last week, the 'Russian Booker' -- though oddly the news still hasn't appeared at the official site, last I checked.
But Lizok's Bookshelf, as usual, has you covered -- and it's Крепость, by Peter Aleshkovsky, that took the prize.
At Russia Beyond the Headlines they now also print an abridged translation of a Q & A with Aleshkovsky by Klarisa Pulson from Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
Several of his works have been translated into English; for example, get your copy of Stargorod at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The Modern Language Association awards all sorts prizes for publications, and they've now announced the latest batch of winners (some of the prizes are biennial, some annual); see the press release (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
One of the prizes is the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for a Translation of a Literary Work -- and this year's prize (well, the 2015 prize, now announced) goes to Fred Bridgham and Edward Timms' new translation of Karl Kraus' The Last Days of Mankind; see also the Yale University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
There were also two 'honorable mentions' for this prize -- one of which was for Thoraya El-Rayyes' translation of Hisham Bustani's The Perception of Meaning.
Italian-writing Swiss author Giovanni Orelli has passed away; see, for example, obituaries in Italian (Corriere della Sera) and German (Neue Zürcher Zeitung) (because, sigh, of course there's nothing available in English yet ...).
What is probably his best-known work, Walaschek's Dream, has been translated and was published by Dalkey Archive Press (and, yes, is under review at the complete review).
See also this Q & A with him from Context.
At The Paris Review Ane Farsethås' The Art of Fiction-Q & A with the great Dag Solstad is now fully and freely available.
As longtime readers know, I am a huge fan -- and several Solstad novels are under review at the complete review:
The invaluable Three Percent Translation Databases give a good overview of much that has been translated into English (though the last updated version of the one covering 2016 was posted ... more than a year ago and you're better served downloading the 'Complete Translation Database' and picking out the 2016 translations for a more up-to-date overview).
Still, it only covers US-published and -distributed never-before-translated fiction and poetry titles, and so there's still room and need for other lists, such as the French Culture 'Books in the US' translations from the French listing, which, for example, includes non-fiction, comics (BD), kids books, and re-issues (see the 2016 overview and (only in the dreaded pdf) the 2016 list).
Another useful one is Paper Republic's now-out 2016 translations from Chinese, which covers: "book-length translations from Chinese into English" and includes (many) that aren't published in the US.
Several of these titles are already under review at the complete review:
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yoshimoto Banana's Moshi Moshi, just out from Counterpoint.
This did make Jane Ciabattari's BBC list of Ten books you should read in December, but otherwise seems to have slipped onto the US market practically unnoticed -- surprising, given how huge Yoshimoto once was; when Kitchen came out in English it almost looked like she could give Murakami Haruki a run for his money as to who was going establish themselves as the next-big-thing from Japan.
At LiveMint Tishani Doshi has A conversation with Martin Amis.
Lots of interesting comments, including about the American president-elect -- as well as the attention paid to writers, which he thinks was a temporary aberration:
I don't think it will ever disappear, but it will shrink.
It will go back to what it was when I started out, which is a minority interest sphere, which some people happen to be very interested in.
And interesting also the apparently common practice that: "As a rule you never read anyone who's younger than you unless they're friends" (which I find a rather baffling idea):
But usually I read the dead or else very old people, or very, very old people, because why read the sensational new novel by the 25-year-old when you have no idea whether it's going to last more than six months ?
No wonder then that:
At a certain point, you lose your connection with the contemporary.
That's why as I get older I write about the past because I know about that.
My reading of the present, my general sense, my take, is not as confident as it used to be.
At Radio Praha David Vaughan has a Q & A with publisher Michael Tate: bringing us the best of Central European writing, as Tate runs the wonderful Jantar Publishing, who specialize in: "high quality English translations of literature written in the languages of Central and East Europe".
They just launched Burying the Season by Antonín Bajaja, which is also discussed at some length here.
(I have a copy and should be getting to it soon; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk)
Tate says they've published eight books to date, and several are under review at the complete review: Daniela Hodrová's A Kingdom of Souls, Jan Křesadlo's GraveLarks, and Michal Viewegh's Bliss Was it in Bohemia.
I haven't been disappointed yet.
And apparently next year they're coming out with ten new titles -- I can't wait for that flood.
The Harry Ransom Center has acquired books from Gabriel García Márquez's library, including ones "that are inscribed, signed and sometimes annotated" -- and some of the inscribed ones can be viewed online (click on the covers to see the dedications).
Neat to see doodles by Orhan Pamuk and Carlos Fuentes !
One they unfortunately don't picture is described in the press release:
One of the oldest presentation books is an inscribed first edition of Augusto Monterroso's Obras Completas (y otros cuentos) (Complete works (and other stories)).
García Márquez once said of one of Monterroso's works, "This book should be read with your hands in the air: Its danger is based on its sly wisdom and the deadly beauty of its lack of seriousness."
I've long been a huge Monterroso-fan, and remain very disappointed that so little of his work is available in English -- though that volume is certainly a stand-out.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kenneth Goldsmith's Wasting Time on the Internet (just in case you need some help with that -- though there's actually quite a bit more to the book).
End-of-year best book lists aren't nearly as popular or widespread abroad (and also tend to appear appropriately closer to the actual end of the year ...) but Lire puts out a top twenty in various categories, and they've now announced their 20 meilleurs livres de 2016 -- usefully complete with runners-up this year.
An Elena Ferrante takes their 'book of the year' prize, a Serge Joncour is their top French book, and Richard Flanagan's 2014 Man Booker-winner is their top foreign fiction title (with the runners-up also (originally) English-language books -- as notably (disturbingly ? ) many of the titles-in-translation that won categories, or were finalists, are translations from the English).
All the American Nobel laureates were invited to the White House where they met the president, before they head off to pick up their medals and cash, and, yes, as press secretary Josh Earnest briefed the press, literature prize winner Bob Dylan was -- do you need three guesses ? -- a no-show:
Q: Did Bob Dylan give a reason for why he can't be here this afternoon?
MR. EARNEST: He didn't.
I know that he has indicated publicly that he's honored to have received the Nobel Prize, but I know that he's also indicated that he does not intend to travel to Norway to participate in the ceremonies in which he'd be awarded the prize.
Again, based on what I've seen in published reports, I think the Norwegians are hopeful that he'll choose another time over the course of the coming year to travel to Norway and give a speech and accept his prize.
But that will be up to him.
There have been previous occasions -- at least one previous occasion where Mr. Dylan has had an opportunity to visit the White House, and the President enjoyed meeting him there.
But he'll not be here today.
So maybe the Swedish Academy shouldn't feel too bad -- Dylan snubbed the American president as well, without explanations or excuses.
Of course, he'd also 'been there, done that', so it's not quite the same .....
(Since Obama is on his way out, Dylan presumably didn't think it was worth his while (to show up, or even just to say he couldn't come); maybe if Trump were already in office he would have rushed over ?)
And Earnest's earnest explanations also suggest that the Swedish Academy's utter humiliation didn't really register -- the guy thinks it's all the Norwegian's fault, and is under some poorly-informed delusion that the Nobel ceremonies take place in Norway (as he kept repeating, over and over) when, of course it is -- save the Peace Prize stuff -- an entirely Swedish affair.
(Seriously, who prepares the briefings for this guy ?)
A generally more interesting variation on the usual best-books-of-the-year-lists is the more personal approach: The Millions have their huge A Year in Reading: 2016 (which is, however, presented horribly annoyingly piecemeal ...), for example.
Among other publications that do this is Open Letters Monthly -- see parts one and two of their 'Our Year in Reading 2016'.
And, of course, I'm particularly pleased to find my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction among Sam Sacks' selections.
As a reference to writers rarely discussed in the United States, Orthofer's guide is invaluable, and just as importantly, it capably defends the "genre" of world literature, which has been subject to easy disparagement from people who know too little of it.
Orthofer's Guide, which one can hardly believe was written by a single individual, traces almost every nation's literature since 1945, with a particular emphasis on the past two decades.
And suggests it is:
(T)he most complete resource for readers of a transnational bent, interested in further expanding their horizons.
And he also notes, among other things that:
Especially impressive are the chapters on Chinese and Iranian fiction, and adventurous readers will make good on the inclusion of sub-genres
I recently mentioned that this might be a useful book for you to make your Christmas-giving selections -- or indeed that it makes a decent gift, too .....
See also the Columbia University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The Premio Cervantes is the leading Spanish-language author prize, and they've now announced that Eduardo Mendoza has won this year's prize (which he gets to pick up next April); see also, for example, the DeutscheWelle report.
Three Mendoza titles are under review at the complete review:
The Crossword Book Awards are among the biggest Indian literary prizes, awarded in a variety of categories, with both a juried selection (four categories, including translation) and a set of 'popular' awards (six categories, including ... "Business and Management" and "Health and Fitness" (but no translation, since that couldn't possibly be popular ...)).
There's lots of coverage of this award (and who attended, etc.) -- but few run-downs of who actually won any of the prizes, including at the official site, which, last I checked, still only listed the finalists.
But here, at The Hans India, you can find all the winners listed (scroll down) -- and Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh won the fiction prize, and The Sun That Rose From the Earth by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, in his own translation, took the translation prize; see the Penguin India publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The Literary Review has announced the winner of this year's 'Bad Sex in Fiction Award' -- and it's Erri De Luca's The Day Before Happiness.
Yes, it's long been under review at the complete review !
And I'm pleased to note that I even made specific mention of part of the offending passage cited by the Literary Review -- though since I read the Michael Moore-US translation it reads slightly differently than the new Jill Foulston-UK edition.
Moore, for example, had it:
My sex was a block of wood glued to her womb.
Meanwhile Foulston has it as:
My prick was a plank stuck to her stomach.
Either way, I think it's fair to say: not good.
Meanwhile, the official announcement notes that De Luca has pulled what is surely now being called 'a Dylan' in the literary prize-giving world:
De Luca was unable to attend the ceremony and unavailable for comment.