In The Guardian (Nigeria) Tony E. Afejuku offers some Thoughts on contemporary African Literary criticism.
He finds that -- especially in Nigeria --: "Critics of conscience are giving way to critics of ethnic value, critics who encourage and father commercialism"
Interesting also the complaint/call:
Why do our contemporary critics wait for the West to applaud our writers before they themselves do so ?
We must now learn to discover our writers (and critics) for the West rather than the West doing the discovery for us.
This is imperative for the growth of our contemporary literature and criticism.
That's probably a more complex issue than he allows for here.
(Regardless: how can you not appreciate an article that can speak of: "the malaria of malice and jaundice of petty prejudice" ?)
Ever wondered about all those Chinese literary prizes ?
Well, still, if you ever do need an overview-guide to Chinese literary prize's Chen Dongmei's at the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative has you covered.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea, Bandi's The Accusation.
Given the paucity of literature from North Korea available in English -- in contrast to that of South Korea, a decent amount of which has been published in recent years -- this is certainly something of an event.
Personally, I'd prefer to see some/more stuff that's actually being published in North Korea, but this is of some interest as well.
At Bookishwitty they have a Q & A with Wakefield Press-director Marc Lowenthal about the press, 'Obscurer, Obscurer': Independent Publisher Wakefield Press on Translating Forgotten Classics.
It's an unusual independent -- now up to some ten titles a year -- and they put out quite a bit of remarkable stuff.
It's also always interesting to hear what performs well and what doesn't seem to catch on (and, in some cases, why) -- surprising, for example, that despite the attention (and how good she is) the Wittkops (e.g. Murder Most Serene) haven't done better.
Quite a few Wakefield titles are under review at the complete review -- and there are many more that I look forward to.
Also worth noting: while the books come in a variety of shapes and sizes, quite a few are of the truly pocket-sized sort, making for ideal carry-along reading (and the production values of the books is very high, too -- they are lovely pieces).
They've announced that the theme of this year's PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature (1 through 7 May, in New York) will be 'Gender and Power'.
A decent amount of the schedule appears to be up at the official site (though you can annoyingly only click-through day by day), and the list of participants is certainly impressive -- too many great names to single out a few.
They've announced the shortlist for the 2017 International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
Elias Khoury makes the cut -- apparently his first short-listing, as: "Mohammed Hasan Alwan is the only author previously shortlisted for the Prize" (in 2013).
The winning title will be announced on 25 April.
The big German book prizes are the book-fair prizes: the Leipzig Book Prize, to be announced at the spring Leipzig Book Fair, and then the German Book Prize, to be announced at the fall Frankfurt Book Fair.
(The Germans prefer author-prizes; these are both relatively new.)
They've now announced the shortlists for the three-category (fiction, non, and translation -- though I guess the first of these should be non-non-fiction, since a poetry volume made it into the final five) Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse; DeutscheWelle also has the most embarrassing of English-language reports (basically a name-list -- they mention one nominated title), Leipzig Book Prize announces shortlist
Several of the fiction nominees have previously had books translated into English -- though it's been quite a while for, for example Natascha Wodin.
Meanwhile, in the translation category, Gregor Hens is nominated for his translation of Will Self's Shark -- just as his Nicotine appears in the US, with an Introduction by ... Will Self (see the Other Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or the it's-been-out-for-a-while UK edition from Fitzcarraldo at Amazon.co.uk).
Other titles include classic stuff -- some Cervantes and Journey to the West.
The winners will be announced 23 March.
I recently got a copy of Edmund Gordon's recent biography, The Invention of Angela Carter -- due out in the US shortly (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com), though it's been out in the UK for a while (get your copy at Amazon.co.uk) -- and so I'm revisiting some of her work, most of which I read ages ago -- but I had indeed forgotten just how damned good she is.
And, among the titbits from the biography (as I can't resist peeking ahead ...): while The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman got: "unanimous approval" from UK reviewers -- even from: "Auberon Waugh, the habitually stodgy and backward-looking critic of the Spectator" -- it was nevertheless quickly turned down by eight or nine US publishers, and only picked up in 1974, by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich -- who then published it under a different title (The War of Dreams).
Bonus titbit: in those days prominent reviews still meant something: William Hjortsberg's in The New York Times Book Review was enough for HBJ to tell Carter: "we are printing an additional 2,500 copies and keeping our fingers crossed".
An interesting piece at Russia Beyond the Headlines, (originally in Russian at Взгляд), The untold story: Why Stalin created a cult of Alexander Pushkin, by Vladimir Mozhegov, makes the case that it was Stalin who: "decided to celebrate Pushkin as a socialist god in order to build popular support for his regime" -- reverence for the poet: "uniting a multi-ethnic country in a common cultural space and thus becoming a most powerful imperial unifying force".
At International Literature Showcase they have a Q & A with several of those involved, in their Spotlight on; Paper Republic.
That's Paper Republic, "a website dedicated to contemporary Chinese literature in translation".
At Three Percent Chad Post has an entertaining (and long) post on a variety of translation/publishing issues, including multiple translations of the same work and humor in translation, in Likes of the Future Are Shaped by Likes of the Past.
A lot is about the two translations of Máirtín Ó Cadhain's Cré na Cille -- both published, fairly quickly one after the other, by Yale University Press.
(Only the first, The Dirty Dust, is under review at the complete review, but I do hope to get to the other and compare the two.)
As Chad notes, it's an unusual thing for a publisher to do; even more surprisingly, it's proven incredibly (well, in terms of literature-in-translation) successful: "The two editions of this book are the second and third best-selling titles in the Margellos series behind Patrick Modiano's Suspended Sentences".
In a footnote Chad also slips in:
Open Letter has yet to have a book sell as many copies as either version of Cré na Cille.
In fact, our total sales for all our books combined, is just barely more than the number of copies Yale sold of the Modiano.
(No actual numbers, alas -- publishers are even more coy about sales numbers than writers are about how much (i.e. little) they earn from their writing .....)
The observations on humor are also interesting; certainly there are difficulties in translating humor, but I do also find that what gets translated -- beyond the pure fluff -- tends towards the (supposedly) weighty and dour.
As Chad notes, the reasons for that would be worth exploring.
Via I am pointed to Charles Liu's report in The Beijinger that Japanese Pulp Thrillers Top List of Peking University's Most Popular Books; see also the full (Chinese) report.
I rarely report on most-borrowed (from) library numbers, since they often aren't really representative, depending so much as they do on the number of copies a library has in stock (it can't be borrowed if they don't have enough copies to go around ...), but as a general guide to what's popular they can offer general guidance.
Higashino Keigo's popularity comes as no surprise -- I've noted how huge he is in the Far East (Korea, too) on previous occasions.
Interesting that that hasn't quite translated into English, even as many of his books have been; four are under review at the complete review:
Surprisingly, "Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi's [白居易] long-form poem Changhenge [長恨歌] is the only Chinese non-textbook to crack the library's list of most borrowed books"; see also, for example, this translation.
At African Arguments Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire finds that: 'In Uganda and beyond, the political influence of writers has greatly diminished, with different kinds of artists starting to take their place', in: The Strong Breed: The rise and fall of Africa's great literary leaders
Interesting, in particular, that the decline of indigenous-language publishing is seen as a major reason for the diminishment of the role of writers, while:
musicians and comedians working in local languages seem to have been considerably more successful in electoral politics than writers in recent years
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alasdair Roberts' Four Crises of American Democracy: Representation, Mastery, Discipline, Anticipation, just out from Oxford University Press.
At Scroll.in Kanishka Gupta has a Q & A with: 'the publisher responsible for today's stream of successful commercial fiction in English' (in India), Jayanta Kumar Bose of Srishti Publishers.
They apparently began as: "a publisher of serious translated fiction and published several renowned names in Bengali literature" -- but then: "it was the monumental success of Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone that made you switch your focus entirely to what came to be known as the campus novel".
Yes, I can't help but: sigh.
Still, certainly of interest.
In the Myanmar Times Nandar Aung reports on the soon-to-be-opened Yangon Book Plaza: A new literary hub.
What will apparently be Burma's "largest book plaza" looks like a great space -- but for now all the pictures show only ... space.
It's the books that count !
But, with an ambition to be: "a hive for all things literary" it certainly has potential.
(But no WiFi, apparently.)
A fun piece in The Guardian, as Nick Holdstock, who got the job of cataloguing Doris Lessing's library, reports on Doris Lessing's library: a life in 4,000 books.
I love (private-)library catalogues, especially of authors' libraries, so I find this fascinating stuff; I hope they publish a full bibliography.