Last week the big author-prize -- the Nobel -- was announced; today they'll announce the winners of the leading German-language novel prize, the German Book Prize, and the leading English-language novel prize, the Booker Prize.
In Metropolis Eric Margolis wonders at some length What's Up With Bad Sex in Murakami ? -- as in Haruki (fellow (if unrelated) Murakami Ryu, who also gets a mention here, is also known for his (rather different) sex scenes; see, for example, Piercing).
There's also considerable focus on translation here -- including the observation that:
“Murakami is born in translation,” Snyder said.
“He is constantly translating his own works back and forth and his works seek out translations in various ways.”
Snyder is referring to a variety of translatable features in Murakami’s work, from Murakami’s self-stated preference for English, to the overt influences of American authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Raymond Carver, to the many familiar Western cultural touchstones in his work, like jazz and classical music.
I'm not sure about this, however:
“To do a translation properly and enter a sex scene, you have to become aroused,” [Ted] Goossen said.
“Some translators might feel that you should stay detached, but I believe that you really have to participate in the scene in order to make it work in English.”
Just in case it wasn't clear, Murakami-translator Goossen also notes that Murakami is: "not an amoral flesh-peddler".
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of newly minted Nobel laureate Peter Handke's 2007/2008 monologue Till Day You Do Part or A Question of Light.
The English-language edition is a trilingual (!) one from Seagull Books that also includes the original French draft and the finished German version.
It's sort of a response to yet another Nobel laureate's work, Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape.
In total, according to PRH UK, global sales of the new translations reached a landmark one million copies.
Through Nielsen BookScan, Simenon sold 433,157 books for £3.13m.
The first in the Maigret collection, Pietr the Latvian, released in November 2013, shifted a respectable 19,041 copies.
Five of these are under review at the complete review, and I have about twenty more -- and do expect to slowly get to them.
But, of course, I'm particularly interested in Simenon's impressive other work -- and so it's good to hear:
"Simenon was famously prolific so there is plenty more for us to delve into," said Greywoode.
"We would like to really establish this series now we've reached the end to ensure it has a long life.
But, yes, then we will be publishing more of the novels Simenon wrote outside of the series of which there are around 200.
We'll be looking to curate a selection of those to bring to readers hungry for more !"
As someone who is, indeed, very hungry, I hope they don't limit themselves to a mere "selection".
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Inui Rokuro's Automatic Eve, recently out from Haikasoru -- though unfortunately apparently their last title, for now, as they've gone on a hiatus of as yet undetermined length.
I am not saying that we should not read Peter Handke’s literary work.
My objection is not a version of the age-old question of whether we should listen to Richard Wagner.
Go ahead and listen to Wagner. Go ahead and read Handke. My point is this: It is one thing to read him, it is quite another to bestow upon him a prize that delivers a great amount of legitimacy to his entire body of work, not just the novels and plays that are most impeccable and nonpolitical.
At issue is the support Handke has expressed and shown to, most notably, Slobodan Milošević and Serbian war crimes during the Yugoslavian conflicts.
Even those otherwise sympathetic to the author and his work are generally baffled by his position and actions in this sphere; these are: "wohl nicht wirklich erklärbar" ('probably not really explicable'), Paul Jandl flails, for example.
(While he has been very active in -- and generally lauded for -- supporting Slovene language- and political-rights in his native Carinthia, Handke's nostalgia for the Yugoslavian confederation seems to trump even these; Slovenia broke off from Yugoslavia early and rather easily, but Handke was not supportive of this.)
Handke made his first mark as a provocateur, way back in the 1960s, but this is something rather different, and one can see how people are disturbed by it.
It also shows how the Nobel is seen as a validation that goes beyond the purely literary, for better and worse.
Hence, for example, the disappointment (even from me ...) that the Academy did not select an author from outside the so familiar European-North American literary world.
From a purely literary perspective, the selection of Handke is hard to criticize.
Indeed, I would argue that he is a considerably stronger winner -- again, in purely literary terms -- than Tokarczuk.
She is good -- good enough to be a worthy laureate -- but Handke belongs in the literary pantheon; his output is surely among the strongest among all laureates of recent decades.
(Overlooked in US/UK coverage is also the sheer range of his work: like Jelinek (and fellow Austrian Thomas Bernhard), he is also one of Europe's leading dramatists of the past half century.)
I'm not sure how much my opinion/tolerance of Handke is colored by the fact that I pretty much grew up with his work, and read much of it before these Yugoslavian issues reared their very ugly heads (and before I started this site, which is why so few of his books are under review here).
The Yugoslavian fiasco came as sort of an afterthought to an already enormous body of work -- unforgiveable, perhaps, but also very late in the day.
I am a bit bewildered by the widespread sweeping condemnation -- the throwing out of the literary baby with the bathwater, as it were.
True, even I can't bring myself to read his Yugoslvian apologias -- but most of his work is far removed from that, much of it in what surely can be considered an entirely different sphere.
(Recently I got the latest Mishima Yukio translation, Life for Sale -- already out in the UK, but only coming to the US next April --, and I certainly won't be able to resist it, just like I couldn't recent translations The Frolic of the Beasts and Star -- but surely Mishima's ultra-militant nationalism (put into action, no less) is an altogether different order of noxious; if you draw the line at Handke, then Mishima surely must be way, way over it.)
One wonders to what extent the Academy selecting Handke was an intentional affront -- a way of proving their independence, public opinion be damned (many people long believed Handke could not possibly be considered for the prize).
On the one hand, it's admirable that they appear not to have cared -- and, with Handke, they did choose a literarily worthy winner -- but their arguably tin ear probably doesn't help enhance (or restore) their reputation, at least in the US/UK.
But maybe we should try to see it as just about the writing ?
Tokarczuk generously (and unsurprisingly) was enthusiastic about her fellow laureate (as was Jelinek -- a full-fledged Communist for a time ! -- who has long said Handke deserved the prize before her) .....
The Nobel ceremony -- on 10 December -- should be ... interesting.
As should Handke and Tokarczuk's Nobel lectures, delivered a few days earlier.
Obviously, I love this series -- and quite a few NYRB Classics titles are under review at the complete review.
And the one book at the site that has sold the most -- by far -- via the Amazon-link on the review page is the great volume, The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton; it's the only title that has sold hundreds of copies.
(A few other titles have sold over a 100 copies over the years, and I shifted a couple of dozen copies of Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries over the last year, but nothing has proven anywhere near as popular as the Burton.)