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.
Stil, 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.
They handed out the 2016 Icelandic Literature Prizes on Wednesday, with The Greenhouse-author Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir winning the fiction prize, for Ör; see, for example, the Benedikt publicity page.
See also the Félag íslenskra bókaútgefenda press release, which includes the other shortlisted titles, as well as Vala Hafstað's report in Icelandic Review, Icelandic Literary Awards Presented.
The winners each receive ISK 1 million -- though that's only the equivalent of US$8,800.
They've announced the longlist for the 2017 International Dylan Thomas Prize, "Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under" (so maybe 'English-language' (rather than 'International') Dylan Thomas Prize would be more appropriate ...).
The twelve-title strong longlist consists of: "six novels, four short story collections, and two volumes of poetry".
None of the titles are under review at the complete review at this time.
The shortlist will be announced "at the end of March", and the winner on 10 May.
On the one hand: yay, translation ! on the other: you have to wonder about a report on a national literary award headlined: Turkish translation of Shahnameh wins Iran's Book of the Year Award, as the Tehran Times has it, slightly misleadingly, in covering one of the major Iranian literary awards (President Hassan Rouhani was there, so, yeah, it's a pretty big deal).
There are, of course, many category winners, of which this translation was one -- it's not like it was the winner.
But it's interesting to see how this is highlighted.
And only way down the line do they mention what won novel of the year -- surely one of the major categories.
And that does get two (short paragraphs); still, it certainly feels ... relegated, despite being (yet another ...) novel set "during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war" (they also usually have a more dramatic name for that conflict).
But the novel-winner seems worth noting: the prize went to Mohammad Reza Bayrami, for his لم یزرع ('Barren'; see also the publisher's publicity page).
Sound familiar ?
It should: I mentioned it winning a prestigious Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Award just over a month ago, and that's a pretty impressive double.
Maybe an author -- and book -- worth looking out for ?
It's not like he's entirely unknown unpublished in English: Mazda have brought out two volumes, The Tales of Sabalan (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and The Eagles of Hill 60 (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
And he's apparently represented by Gazelle International, if publishers are interested .....
Книжная Капелла, newly opened in St. Petersburg, is certainly an ...impressive-looking private library, a cathedral (of some sorts) of books.
It's also one that charges an entrance fee: 'Стоимость разового посещения — 7 000 рублей'.
Yes, 7,000 rubles for a single (four-hour) visit -- that's almost US$120.
Sure, cheaper than a visit to the local bordello, but right up there with a first-rate meal.
(By comparison, an annual Апостола Книги-card is a bargain 230,000 rubles -- not even US$4,000.)
There are corporate packages available too !
Yes, it's run by a publishing house (Альфарет), for whom it's apparently also a showroom (they specialize in: "reprints and facsimiles of Russian and international masterpieces"), but still, you have to wonder about the business model here.
(While it's kind of fun to imagine they mean and do all this for the love of books -- and believe that there are actually readers out there willing (and able ...) to pay for the privilege --, I'm afraid there's a distinct whiff of something rather different to this set-up.)
See also Alexandra Guzeva's report at RBTH, 5 million for a book: Russia's most expensive library opens in Petersburg.
Tzvetan Todorov has passed away; see, for example, Sewell Chan's obituary in The New York Times.
None of his work is under review at the complete review yet, but The Conquest of America (get your copy at Amazon.com) certainly impressed me, back in the day.
And maybe The Inner Enemies of Democracy is something to look at now ? (See the Polity publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
For a time he was also half of one of the more impressive literey/intellectual power-couples, married to novelist Nancy Huston (Fault Lines, etc.).
They've announced the longlist for the 2017 Stella Prize -- the A$50,000 "literary award that celebrates Australian women's writing".
I haven't seen any of these, and most don't seem to have been published in the US yet; one hopes this will help bring them to the attention of publishers (and readers) abroad as well.
The shortlist will be announced 8 March, the winner on 18 April.
They've announced the 2017 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants -- for 15 projects, in 13 different languages, each one subsidized to the tune of US$3,870.
Quite a few of these don't have publishers yet, but one hopes this will help a few more find their way into print -- certainly some interesting-sounding stuff.
Among the works of greatest interest to me: Ithaca Forever by Luigi Malerba (tr. Douglas Grant Heise), There's a Carnival Today by Indra Bahadur Rai (tr. Manjushree Thapa), and Felix Austria by Sophia Andrukhovych (tr. Vitaly Chernetsky) -- which I told you more than a year ago: "looks like the sort of thing that might eventually get translated into English"; see also the book's official site.
Recall also that this fund was founded by Michael Henry Heim and Priscilla Heim -- and that you can read more about the translator in the very nice (and under-appreciated) Open Letter volume on Michael Henry Heim & A Life in Translation: The Man Between.
"Murakami Industries" (...) has always had an interest in cultivating and protecting his reputation in the West as carefully as possible.
This has meant a consistent presentation as a capital-N Novelist, which has meant a de-emphasis, not to say suppression, of the less literary side of his work: travel books about countries like Greece, Turkey, Australia, Laos, Scotland, and Ireland (those last two toured specifically to pursue his interest in whisky), anthology after anthology of columns on various everyday subjects, and a collection of his recollections from the 1980s
And all that jazz.
Kind of disappointing -- as is the constant cutting of his work in English translation (most egregiously in one of the few translated non-fiction works, Underground) -- but not entirely surprising.
Maybe eventually .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of another dark Frédéric Dard novel, The Executioner Weeps, forthcoming from Pushkin Press (and bless them for bringing these Dards out at a steady clip !).
One of the recent French re-issues of this had one of the worst cover-images I've ever come across -- though it touches on some of what's in the novel (tears; a violin -- though not one that gets played with a knife ...):
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Senegalese Novel by Sembene Ousmane, The Last of the Empire.
I can see that this is a book of (and past) its time, but I'm still surprised by how unmentioned/discussed it goes; if I was surprised yesterday at how many reviews I found for Amélie Nothomb's play, Human Rites, I was disappointed by how little I found for this.
Come on people -- it was Sembene Ousmane !
Or do folks only care about his movies ?
(Or was it too topically-hot, and too obvious in its attack on a (then still-)living legend ?)
(Of course that cover didn't help; I like simple covers, but .....)
The great Alasdair Gray is featured in the Winter 2016 issue of The Paris Review, with a (not yet fully freely available) 'The Art of Fiction ' Q & A, and at The Paris Review's the Daily Caitlin Love also offers a brief look -- with examples ! -- at his paintings, in Drawing and Imagining -- always worth a look.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Amélie Nothomb's play, Human Rites.
That's the twentieth Nothomb title under review at the complete review, as I am getting close to plugging the (older) backlist holes (Attentat next !).
It's also one with surprisingly many English-language reviews -- albeit for the stage-production, rather than the print version.
Always interesting to see what foreign literature is subsidized elsewhere, and in Germany Litprom -- supporting African, Asian, Latin American, and Arabic literature -- have announced their most recent subsidies -- though it's a poor show of a press release, tucked away at the official site.
Boersenblatt has the same (limited) news: Zuschüsse für zehn Titel -- subsidies for ten translations.
No titles are mentioned, so it's not clear what the subsidized titles are, but the authors are noted (because apparently it matters who wrote it, rather than what they wrote ...), and three Syrian works are being subsidized, along with an Alejandro Zambra story-collection, a 'rediscovered' Samuel Selvon novel, and novels by Meja Mwangi (nice !), Mia Couto, and 'an Indian novel' by Karan Mahajan.
A decent spread of titles.
The Bangkok City Library (no official site ?) is, amazingly, apparently opening early, the big project due to be finished two months early and opening next month; see Supoj Wancharoen's Bangkok Post report, Ambitious library to carry capital's literary ambitions.
Sounds/looks promising ("The library could potentially be kept open 24 hours a day if there is enough demand for it" !).
At least for the most part - I'm not sure about some of the priorities ...:
Entering the first floor, visitors will be greeted with a large portrait of the late King.
There are sculptures containing Rama IX's remarks about the importance of reading and curiosity in pursuit of knowledge.