German publisher Voland & Quist has exciting news: they're starting up an English-language imprint, V & Q Books, with translator Katy Derbyshire as publisher, publishing five to six translations from the German annually, starting in the fall of 2020.
While German is fairly well represented in translation, if you consider things relatively -- it's consistently the third most translated-from language, behind Spanish and French -- in absolute terms the numbers are still pretty feeble, so it's great to see a dedicated imprint like this.
In Die Zeit Johannes Schneider has a (German) Q & A with Katy Derbyshire in which she talks more about this promising undertaking.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kim Man-jung's seventeenth century Korean classic, The Nine Cloud Dream, recently out in a new translation in the Penguin Classics series.
At Qantara.de Nasrin Bassiri has a Q & A with Amir Hassan Cheheltan, "Literature is based on politics and eroticism".
The Iranian author still lives in Iran but notes: "I have not been able to publish a single novel in Iran in the past 15 years" -- while publishing several in German translation over that span (including one under review at the complete review)
The LitProm Weltempfänger-Bestenliste is a seasonal German best-of list for works in (German) translation from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and the latest one is now out.
It is topped by Valeria Luiselli's Lost Children Archive, followed by Pyun Hye-Young's The Hole -- and a Mishima Yukio comes in at number five.
They've announced the finalists for the Dayton Literary Peace Prizes, six each in the fiction and non categories.
One of the finalists is under review at the complete review -- Insurrecto, by Gina Apostol.
The winners will be announced 17 September, with the awards ceremony then to be held 3 November.
Go ! Perec ! Roubaud !
What more could one ask for ?
As always, the Wakefield Press edition is a lovely little one.
I can only hope it gets the attention the Italian translation got a few years ago.
(It's also coming out in German later this year, as Diaphenes is doing an impressive collected Perec.)
Of list-making there is no end, and we now have The SupChina Book List -- apparently: "The 100 China books you have to read, ranked":
There was no criteria except availability in English.
Yes, this was more mad than methodical
It's also limited to one title per author (a list-limitation I have never understood the purpose of).
Still, they get it right with number one, so who am I to complain ?
See the more convenient all-on-one-page list -- with a few of the titles under review at the complete review (the latest one added ... two days ago):
At her Biblibio weblog Meytal Radzinski, who has long provided a valuable voice and pressure in support of more attention being paid to women in translation (most notably as founder of 'Women in Translation Month' (which it currently is ...)) offers the results of her call to readers to nominate the best works by women in translation, in The 100 Best Books by Women Writers in Translation (noting also: "This is obviously not really a list of the 100 best books by women in translation... because no such list could ever possibly exist! (...) Our list is crowdsourced and borne of reader-love; it is a list that is strongly rooted in current reading trends")
It really is "strongly rooted in current reading trends" -- among other things, as far as I can tell, there are only two pre-twentieth century work on the list (Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji and Sappho's poetry) -- and very current-/recent-heavy.
The top few aren't really that surprising, but some of the other selections are; more surprising is what's missing.
I'm terrible at participating in this sort of thing (and I didn't), but two novels I would definitely have put on my top-ten-list are The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice as Chronicled by her Minstrel Laura by Irmtraud Morgner and the sublime Loving Sabotage by Amélie Nothomb (and I'm surprised that not a single Nothomb title made the cut).
As is, a quick count suggests 37 of the titles listed are under review at the complete review.
Look for further discussion of this list -- and on the issue of women (too often not ...) in translation -- at Biblibio.
But you have it bookmarked already anyway, right ?
In the Daily News Daya Dissanayake wonders about What ails Sri Lankan Literature, finding that: "during the past few years we have been facing a serious decline in our creative fiction and critical studies" -- so much so that: "what is coming out in Sri Lanka today as literature is pathetic".
The organizers of the awards had previously said that they intend to struggle against a current trend of attempts to sanctify the Pahlavi regime.
It's like the Soviets worrying about Romanov-nostalgia .....
That said, it doesn't look like they anointed simple programmatic works: specifically, Mohammadreza Sharafi-Khabushan's عاشقي به سبک ونگوگ ('Romance in a Van Gogh Style'), co-winner in the adult fiction category, looks like the real deal.
His more recent work, بیکتابی ('Booklessness'), swept the major, established Iranian literary prizes, and he seems to have made it into the ranks of leading literary authors; I'd be very surprised if we have to wait much longer for his international breakthrough (well, some of his books getting published abroad -- though the current American sanctions situation has obviously dampened (m)any opportunities, even in European markets).
See also the Adab publicity page for 'Romance in a Van Gogh Style' -- with its clever cover-image.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the first volume of Jin Yong's Legends of the Condor Heroes-saga, A Hero Born, which came out in the UK last year and is now finally, in a couple of weeks, also coming to the US, from St. Martin's Press, with a decent bit of fanfare (i.e. they're putting some marketing money into this -- though so far the level of buzz has been a bit underwhelming).
This is planned as a four-volume set -- the second volume is already out in the UK -- but certainly suffers some from being only partial here.
True, publishing it all-in-one would have been risky -- it's enormous, and putting all the eggs in that one basket would have required quite some nerves on the part of the publishers -- but I'm glad that, for example, I was able to read his similarly mammoth The Deer and the Cauldron all in one go.
Of course, with this one the fear has to be that readers will wait until all four volumes are available before taking the plunge .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Manu Joseph's Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous, already out in India and the UK and coming to the US this fall, in the Myriad Editions edition, as well.
In The Guardian Dorian Lynskey wonders: Is the political novel dead ?
He argues: "the campaigning novel has become an anachronism" -- in a paragraph that mentions Things Fall Apart and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, neither of which seems particularly 'campaigning' .....
Aside from the fact that there is, in fact, an incredible amount of 'campaigning' fiction being written and published (though admittedly most of it not widely read) -- I get review-pitches for this kind of stuff by the bucket-load --, it seems to me a lot of contemporary fiction is, in significant respects, political.
Not always (rubbing-it-)in-your-face obviously so, but still.
Always interesting to see what are considered 'must reads', and in French Vogue Claire Beghin lists Les 15 meilleurs livres qu'il faut avoir lus dans sa vie -- suggesting it's something of a consensus, an aggregate list ("En comparant les listes diverses établies au fil du temps par les journaux, les éditeurs, les auteurs et, bien sûr les lecteurs français ou anglo-saxons, voici ceux qui trônent inlassablement en tête du classement") but without noting what sources were relied on.
(Presumably a reliance on English-speaking readers' lists -- this sort of exercise is much more popular in the English-speaking world than elsewhere -- explains why so many English-language titles feature on a French magazine's list .....)
Definitely not international enough -- or French enough, even, at least for a French list (Proust is the extent of it ...), but a few weeks ago she offered the much more specific Les 5 livres de Guy de Maupassant à lire au moins une fois dans sa vie, so .....
Meanwhile, Houellebecq's not quite so new latest novel is scheduled to come out in English soon -- though, as an impatient David Sexton notes in the Evening Standard, in a profile of the author, What France's most important writer said next:
Published in France in January, with an initial print run of 320,000 copies, Serotonin appeared in German, Italian and Spanish versions just days later.
Why we have had to wait so long is not clear.
I've often mentioned the popularity of Chinese online fiction, with an incredible volume of (maybe not always so good ...) fiction finding a large audience -- but: "Chinese online literature has had trouble being under the spotlight overseas due to the lack of translators and translation inefficiency as the main obstacles in this industry".
What to do ?
Apparently -- machine-translate it .....
So reports Gabriel Li at pandaily, in Chinese Online Literature Steps Into Overseas Market With AI Translation, focusing on: "an open platform named funstory.ai to help online literature make their way to overseas markets"
Obviously, it's more ... efficient.
Whether it's anything else -- like readable -- ... well, we'll see.
(Regardless of the quality currently achievable, we'll obviously be seeing more and more of this -- and there will, no doubt, be improvements in quality.
Whether they'll ever be anywhere near good enough ... I still have my doubts.)
Far too little Albanian fiction is translated into English -- and this hasn't been, though some of Agolli's other work has been -- albeit only by the official Albanian publishers of the time (i.e. maybe not the most impressive of translations ...); a decade ago Peter Constantine made the case for (re)translating one of Agolli's books, and more of his work in general, in the Quarterly Conversation's 'Translate this Book !'-feature, noting that:
what is most remarkable in the writings of both Agolli and Kadare is that during the years of the harshest and most restrictive censorship they both managed to write deep and powerful novels, despite having to avoid an endless list of unmentionable and untreatable topics.
I'd certainly argue for more Agolli-in-English (and some contemporary Albanian fiction, too, for good measure).