Since the beginning of this century, Chinese literature has played a passive role in the international literary world.
We focused too much attention on increasing domestic influence but neglected the spread of Chinese literature overseas.
This has caused many foreign readers to have a mistaken impression of China, since they had few works to read through which they could get to know the country.
And of course they're now hoping to rectify this.
I.e.: oh, dear, oh, dear.
Still, providing information abut many more Chinese titles certainly can't hurt, so maybe something will come of this.
With Pushkin Press bringing out Frédéric Dard-titles at a nice, regular clip -- all of which I am reviewing; see, for example, The Executioner Weeps -- he's finally getting some long overdue attention in the US/UK.
In France, of course, he is beyond huge -- but better known as and for his 'San Antonio'-work, the pseudonym under which most of his works were published.
Now Éric Bouhier has published an over-700-page Dictionnaire amoureux de San Antonio (see the Plon publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.fr) -- a dictionary-style homage (with, as the Amazon-preview suggests, long, detailed entries), Bouhier suggesting:
Enfin, rendre hommage à Frédéric Dard, dit San-Antonio, c'est écrire en toute liberté et emprunter à tous les genres qu'il a lui-même explorés, le roman, la nouvelle, l'article de journal, la critique, etc.
Ayant bien retenu la leçon, je n'ai reculé devant aucune fantaisie littéraire
(I.e. he took all the liberties Dard would, and threw in the kitchen sink.)
Sounds promising !
See also, for example, Delphine Peras' (French) review in L'Express.
As I noted a few days ago, Nobel laureate Bob Dylan will be giving two concerts in Stockholm on the 1st and 2nd of April -- but the Swedish Academy continued to have problems getting in touch with him.
Apparently, however, his representatives have now reached out, allowing Swedish Academy-woman-in-charge Sara Danius to report that she has Good news about Dylan.
Never mind that he still hasn't committed to the required (if he wants the cash ...) Nobel lecture -- no, what matters is that: "the Swedish Academy and Bob Dylan have decided to meet this weekend".
Yes, the star struck fan-girls and -boys of the Swedish Academy finally get to swoon over the man they ridiculously awarded a Nobel to in person !
(And they're excited about the concerts, too, promising that they: "will show up at one of the performances".
(I bet they've been studying the set-list, too, so they can sing along.))
No lecture, no press -- "no media will be present; only Bob Dylan and members of the Academy will attend, all according to Dylan's wishes" -- but at least they get to: "hand over Dylan's Nobel diploma and the Nobel medal, and congratulate him on the Nobel Prize in Literature".
(And maybe, if they're really lucky, he'll autograph their T-shirts .....)
Like everything about this ridiculous awards-choice, it leaves as many questions open as it seems to answer.
I certainly hope the Swedish media stake out the meeting-place -- I wouldn't put it past the Swedish Academy to be ... indulging in some wishful thinking about all this, in a hopeless attempt to try to save a smattering of (egg-covered-)face.
(Well, I do believe they're going to one of the concerts -- I'm sure they got their tickets months ago.)
And I certainly wouldn't put it past Dylan to bail on them, even if a meeting has been arranged.
I look forward to reading the reports about this -- nothing has gone right for the Swedish Academy with this prize-awarding yet, and there's wonderful potential for things to go wrong here, too.
They've announced the winner of this year's (Woody Allen, Hannah and her Sisters-inspired) prix de la Page 112 -- and it went to Sanglier, by Dominique Rameau (the 70-year-old author's debut), out from Éditions Corti; see their publicity page.
With the third volume of Lydia Davis' translation of his La règle du jeu just about out (see the Yale University Press publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and the previous two conveniently re-issued, I figure this is a good prep-volume.
Ladivine by Marie NDiaye, translated from the French by Jordan Stump (France, Knopf)
Last Wolf and Herman by Krasznahorkai László, translated from the Hungarian by George Szirtes and John Batki (Hungary, New Directions)
Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Tawada Yoko, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky (Japan/Germany, New Directions)
Moonstone by Sjón, translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb (Iceland, FSG)
Moshi Moshi by Yoshimoto Banana, translated from the Japanese by Asa Yoneda (Japan, Counterpoint Press)
My Marriage by Jakob Wassermann, translated from the German by Michael Hofmann (Germany, New York Review Books)
Night Prayers by Santiago Gamboa, translated from the Spanish by Howard Curtis (Colombia, Europa Editions)
Oblivion by Sergi Lebedev, translated from the Russian by Antonina W. Bouis (Russia, New Vessel Press)
On the Edge by Rafael Chirbes, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (Spain, New Directions)
The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz, translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette (Egypt, Melville House)
A Spare Life by Lidija Dimkovska, translated from the Macedonian by Christina Kramer (Macedonia, Two Lines Press)
Super Extra Grande by Yoss, translated from the Spanish by David Frye (Cuba, Restless Books)
Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marías, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (Spain, Knopf)
Umami by Laia Jufresa, translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes (Mexico, Oneworld)
Vampire in Love by Enrique Vila-Matas, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (Spain, New Directions)
War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans, translated from the Dutch by David McKay (Belgium, Pantheon)
Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya, translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell (Dominican Republic, Mandel Vilar Press)
The Young Bride by Alessandro Baricco, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Italy, Europa Editions)
Zama by Antonio di Benedetto, translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen (Argentina, New York Review Books)
Naturally, I am flabbergasted and inconsolable that the clear and obvious best translated book of the year -- John E. Woods' translation of Arno Schmidt's Bottom's Dream (see my previous discussion/speculation) -- didn't make the cut.
I look forward to hearing the judges' explanations and excuses about this, but I can't recall a year when one book so obviously towered above everything else -- and so its non-inclusion is ... striking.
(For those arguing Bottom's Dream is too demanding, in some way, recall that Woods' translation of another of Schmidt's over-sized typoscript-novels (i.e. similarly un/readable in its presentation), Evening Edged in Gold, won the 1981 PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize.
Book-of-the-Month Club (prize-)endorsed !
(The BTBA is Amazon-subsidized -- so that's about right, right ?)
Sure, Bottom's Dream is longer ... but still .....)
Noteworthy, too -- though I have a lot more understanding for that omission -- is that last year's Man Booker International Prize-winning title, Han Kang's The Vegetarian also failed to make the cut -- continuing a BTBA tradition of divergence ?
(Recall that the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (essentially, the pre-2016 incarnation of what has become the Man Booker International Prize) winner, The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, did not get longlisted when it was eligible, either.)
Much of what isn't on the list was already inferable from some of the clues Chad Post posted at Three Percent leading up to the announcement -- including the rather the stunning fact that no books by either of the two leading publishers of translations (numbers-wise) are represented on the longlist.
AmazonCrossing and Dalkey Archive Press (who should have been represented, at the very least, by Bottom's Dream ...) -- responsible between them for over fifth of the eligible titles ! -- both came up empty.
AmazonCrossing -- though they have more titles -- is more understandable; Dalkey is -- even beyond the inexplicable Bottom's Dream-oversight -- more surprising; there were several titles I would have thought might be in the running (and I would have been pleased to see Gonçalo M. Tavares' A Voyage to India double up with longlistings in both the fiction and poetry categories ...).
(As it turns out, none of the top three publishers of translations made the fiction longlist -- venerable Seagull was shut out too.)
Interesting also that no Chinese or Korean translations made the cut -- and I'd never have guessed that of all the Far Eastern language-translations, the Yoshimoto would be the one title to make it through.
Meanwhile -- maybe a bit heavy on the Spanish-enthusiasm ?
Huh ? Maybe ?
(And impressive -- but surely a bit troubling, no ? -- to see Margaret Jull Costa get four mentions.)
As to the selected titles ... well, it's the typically odd list, perhaps a bit tamer than usual (even the Krasznahorkai -- though a two-for-one -- is more manageable than his previous prize-winning titles).
One of the things to remember is how the selection process fairly easily allows good books to slip through: there are nine judges, and consensus makes for some sometimes odd choices, with each judge only allowed a single 'personal choice'; to round out the top 25: one of the judges reports: "My number one didn't make the list until I called it in as my personal choice", and my experience as a judge in previous years was similar.
(Not that that excuses overlooking Bottom's Dream -- come on, folks !)
One title does seem to have made it onto the list in error: Wassermann's My Marriage clearly contravenes one of the most basic BTBA rules, having been previously translated, as part of Kerkhoven's Third Existence (Liverwright, 1934; tr. Paul Eden and Paul Cedar).
I assume they won't pull it from the competition (and replace it with Bottom's Dream ... ?) but obviously it can't be considered for the shortlist.
The Boubacar Boris Diop, Doomi Golo, is also an interesting choice -- they're selling it as the first translation from the Wolof (and, as such, the first from any 'African' language (yes, other than Afrikaans ...)), but the copyright page of the book explains: that this is an:
English translation of Les petits de la guenon (2009), "a liberal French adaptation of the Wolof original."
Interestingly, the English version appears to have been somewhat ... re-Wolofed, "where the foreignizing Wolof element has been restored", so the translators' claim.
(I only have a frustrating e-version, but will review it and take a closer look at this issue when I get a text-copy -- I have it on reserve from the library.)
I hope the judges address this too -- a fascinating double-lens of translation which I don't think has been previously encountered at the BTBA.
(There have been eligible second-hand translations, but none have ever been longlisted.)
I'm surprised (and a little disappointed) that I've seen -- indeed, have -- almost all the titles on the list (the two exceptions: Among Strange Victims and Wicked Weeds).
I was more enthusiastic about the Marías than most, so I'm fine with that making it, and pleased to see some of the others -- the NDiaye and Chirbes, in particular.
But there's nothing I'm really excited about -- as noted, Bottom's Dream really seems the only contender this year, and nothing comes close to it.
As to what comes in second place (i.e. will win the BTBA) ... a lot of titles that stand a chance, but none that really stand out, in my mind.
The shortlist will be announced 18 April.
(Will the judges see the light ?
Will Bottom's Dream be called in ? One can still hope and dream .....)
The PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature is a new lifetime/author prize, "given to a living author whose body of work, either written in or translated into English, is of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship": (i.e. what the Man Booker International Prize used to be, before they made it a (single-)book prize).
They awarded it for the first time this year, announcing the winner when they handed out the rest of the PEN literary awards on Monday, and while they seem to try to be keeping it really quiet, the prize went to ... Syrian poet Adonis.
Bob Dylan, inexplicably awarded the Nobel Prize last year, will finally make it to Stockholm in a couple of days -- his tour kicks off with concerts there on 1 and 2 April.
The Swedish Academy -- the poor folks who made the mistake of giving him the prize -- expect him to give a Nobel lecture at some point (all the laureates do -- it's basically the only requirement), and since he's in town .....
But, as the lady in charge, Sara Danius, now admits/reveals... well, they apparently haven't been able to get him on the phone for months.
So they have no idea what his plans are, or aren't.
As she says: "Vad han sedan beslutar sig för att göra är hans ensak".
She does note that he won't get the big payout (the check) if he doesn't give a lecture by 10 June -- but otherwise they remain committed: Dylan is their man:
För Svenska Akademiens del står det i alla händelser klart att 2016 års Nobelpristagare i litteratur är Bob Dylan och ingen annan.
This continuing humiliation train-wreck is something to behold.
But I bet they all have their concert tickets .....
They've announced the category-winners for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, which now go head-to-head-to-head for the grand prize (to be announced 29 April).
The fiction award went to Augustown, by Kei Miller; see the Weidenfeld and Nicolson and Pantheon publicity pages, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
In the US, Tor just re-issued this 2007 novel (in mass-market paperback format, half the reason I picked it up ...) and while the cover tag-line -- "The war on terror is over. Terror won" -- is annoyingly not-quite-accurate, the novel has aged particularly well: arguably, it's more current now than it was when it originally came out.
Not quite your typical MacLeod -- but, yeah, he's always worth a look.
His work was actually, relatively speaking, reasonably well translated into English -- including a couple from Penguin (India); see, for example, The Ghosts of Meenambakkam (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk)
For a sample, see Two Minutes, at Words without Borders.
At The Wire Atharva Pandit makes the case for the newly-published-in (English-)translation novel by Bhalchandra Nemade, in 'Bidhar' and the Madmen of Literature -- comparing this 1967 (but just translated ...) novel to nothing less than Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives.
The first in a foursome making up the 'Changdeo Quartet', it was published by the Sahitya Akademi; alas, it's not an easy get in the US/UK -- listed at Amazon.com (but not in the UK), but apparently not readily available.
There will be a world premiere reading of Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek's On the Royal Road: The Burgher King, in Gitta Honegger's translation, tomorrow (Monday, 27 March, at 18:30) in New York.
As Honegger promisingly describes it:
Jelinek offers a provocative European perspective on Donald Trump's persona.
The main speaker, a blind female seer suggests Miss Piggy channeling a confused Tiresias as she tries to get a handle on the bizarre behavior of the leader elect to draw from it some sort of oracle for the future.
This seer with bleeding eyes sends Trump through a shattered looking glass where Jelinek examines him through the distorted mirrors of the heroes of Western culture: From Oedipus to Abraham, Isaac and Jesus, to Martin Heidegger, who attempted to lead the Führer.
Sounds about right, right ?
Jelinek still hasn't really taken off in the US, but recall that in Europe she's probably better-known for her stage-work than for her fiction.
Could this be her break-through work in the US ?
(Yeah, I doubt it -- don't look for the Broadway production next year ... -- but the Trump angle should at least get her more attention.)
And will there be any pro-Trump protesters ?
(Doubtful, pretty much anywhere, I suspect, but especially in Manhattan, where Trump got less than 10 per cent of the vote in the presidential election.)
See also Joshua Barone's report in The New York Times, A Nobel Laureate Takes On Trump in Her Latest Play.
(Updated - 30 March): And now you can watch the performance on YouTube.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mathias Énard's 2015 prix Goncourt-winning novel, Compass -- now (almost) out in English, from New Directions in the US, and Fitzcarraldo Editions in the UK.
They've announced the winners of the Preis(e) der Leipziger Buchmesse, with Natascha Wodin's Sie kam aus Mariupol winning the 'Belletristik'-category; see also the Rowohlt foreign rights page -- and recall that she was married to Wolfgang Hilbig, and that several of her works have been translated into English (way back when ...), including Once I Lived (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
In the translation category, Eva Lüdi Kong won for her translation of the Chinese classic, Journey to the West; see the Reclam publicity page.
They've announced the shortlist for this year's Libris Literatuur Prijs -- one of the leading Dutch-language literary prizes (and, at €50,000, with a nice payout).
The most familiar name on the list: Tirza-author Arnon Grunberg, for his Moedervlekken; see also the (English) Dutch Foundation for Literature information page.
He had an estimable career, but Serge Doubrovsky will always be known and now remembered as the man who coined the term 'autofiction', a genre of ridiculously popular-in-French not-quite-fiction (yes, a whole sub-section -- well, a page and a half -- of my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction is devoted to it).
And he has now passed away; see, for example, the report at Diacritik.
The Leipzig Book Fair opened with the ceremony for its Prize for European Understanding, which went to Mathias Énard -- whose Compass is due out in English shortly (and a review of which should be up shortly at the complete review [updated: indeed, here it is]).
See, for example the Deutsche Welle report, Leipzig Book Fair opens with prize for European understanding.
A link to the German translation of his speech can be found at the official city page re. the prize -- download the pdf (arghh) here -- but I haven't seen a French or English version, or the video, yet.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Magha's Sanskrit epic, The Killing of Shishupala -- the first complete translation into English, recently published in the Murty Classical Library of India (from Harvard University Press).
This has one of the great examples of ... the difficulties of translation I've ever come across: check out the original (and transliteration), and then the -- content-accurately-conveying -- translation by Paul Dundas.
You don't have to know Sanskrit to get it:
Bounteous with gifts, punishing assailants of the virtuous and then offering them protection, destroying with his mighty arms the demons oppressing the world, liberal toward the generous and the miserly without discrimination, but extirpating the greedy -- as such a hero Krishna had taken up arms against the enemy.
Amazing, no ?
These Murty volumes have gone woefully under-reviewed/noticed, and while I do wish folks who knew what they were talking about covered them (The New York Review of Books (who have [$]) and the Times Literary Supplement, for example), what I think would be really great is if 'general' readers had a go at these.
These shouldn't simply be scholarly volumes -- like the Greek and Latin classics, many of these should find regular readers, and it would be great to hear how they took to them, and what they made of them.
Several of Connie Palmen's novels have been published in English over the decades -- starting with The Laws, almost a quarter of a century ago (by George Braziller in the US -- a typical get for the recently deceased publisher); get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- and she's enjoyed great success with her recent novel, Jij zegt het; see the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page.
You might think that novel -- 'The tragic love story of Plath and Hughes told by the husband who was branded a monster' -- might be of interest to US/UK publishers -- but apparently you'd think wrong.
(Or you might not think it, resigned to finding US/UK publishing decisions, especially regarding fiction-in-translation, as baffling as always.)
I mention it because it has apparently been translated into a number of languages -- including, now, Arabic.
And at ahramonline Mohammed Saad now has a Q & A with her, Connie Palmen on the horror Ted Hughes had to face.
Swedish author Torgny Lindgren passsed away a couple of days ago -- not that there seems to have been any notice in the English-language press (but see, for example Sara Danius' weblog mention).
It's a major loss, of an author reasonably well translated into English; only one of his works is under review at the complete review -- In Praise of Truth -- but there's more that's still readily available.
The Swedish Academy blew it bigtime last year by awarding (or trying to ... he still hasn't given that supposedly obligatory lecture ...) the Nobel Prize in Literature to song-man Bob Dylan, and they have their work cut out for them in trying to reassert their literary bona fides; I can't see it happening anytime soon -- but awarding the Svenska Akademiens nordiska pris, the 'lilla Nobel-priset' ('little Nobel Prize'), as some style it (and worth about US$45,000), to the great Dag Solstad, as they have just done can't hurt.
(Of course, giving Solstad -- certainly deserving -- the actual Nobel last fall probably would have been the wiser course, all around.)
Several Solstad titles are under review at the complete review:
The proportion of original Lithuanian books to translations from foreign languages is 50/50.
Which doesn't even sound that bad for a relatively small language.
And it'll be interesting to see whether Kristina Sabaliauskaitė's Silva Rerum books will ever make it into English; see, for example, the LCI Kristina Sabaliauskaitė page.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Thai author Prabda Yoon's The Sad Part Was, just out from Tilted Axis Press.
This is the first Tilted Axis Press title under review at the complete review, but already this looks like a very promising publishing venture, and I expect to cover many more.
And it's great to see a Thai title in English translation -- as I have often complained, there are far too few of these (only one other one under review at the site so far ...).