They've announced this year's winner of the biennial Hohenemser Literaturpreis, a prize for German-writing authors whose mother tongue is not German, and this year the €10,000 prize will go to Que Du Luu; she will pick up her prize on 27 June.
Her (still unpublished) text 'Das Fest des ersten Morgens' was selected from 75 entries -- neat to see so many writers with other mother tongues writing in German.
Very sad to hear that Slovak author Peter Pišt'anek is dead, having reportedly: "left the world in silence and voluntarily"; see, for example, the report in The Slovak Spectator.
His Rivers of Babylon-trilogy is very good and deserves to be far better-known than it is; all three volumes are under review at the complete review:
They've announced the winner of this year's Premio Alfaguara de Novela -- not the biggest Spanish-language book prize, but at US$175,000 and with a solid list of previous winners, certainly worth paying some attention to.
The winning title was: Contigo en la distancia, by Chilean author Carla Guelfenbein; see, for example, the report in El País, where it is described as: "una historia sobre los recovecos del talento y del amor".
Never mind the Man Booker Prize-dwarfing payout: there were 707 entries -- some five times what the Man Booker deigns to consider .....
Her novel The Rest is Silence did come out from Portobello Books a couple of years ago; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've announced the Orwell Prize longlists -- which includes the twelve-title book-prize longlist.
(The prize(s) are apparently: "Britain's most prestigious prize for political writing".)
One of the titles is actually under review at the complete review, In the Light of What We Know, by Zia Haider Rahman.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Boubacar Boris Diop's The Knight and His Shadow.
Diop will be part of the PEN World Voices Festival in New York in May, and it's great to see this book available in time for that.
The Knight and His Shadow is also the first (and currently only) in Michigan State University Press' new African Humanities and the Arts-series; it's a very good start, and I look forward to seeing how the series develops.
They've announced the ten finalists for the biennial Man Booker International Prize (previously won by Lydia Davis (2013), Philip Roth (2011), Alice Munro (2009), Chinua Achebe (2007), and Ismail Kadaré (2005)).
They are -- along with their titles under review at the complete review:
It's an interestingly varied list -- and it's particularly nice to see that so many authors writing in languages other than English are being considered, especially since in the first year they were far more insistent about that 'available-in-English'-requirement: recall that 2005 judge Alberto Manguel reported that they had to limit themselves to: "authors who remained fortuitously available" (in print, in English translation) that year, and for that reason "had to delete" from consideration authors including: Peter Handke, Antonio Lobo Antunes, Michel Tournier, and Christa Wolf (despite their books surely being as readily available in English in 2005 as several of the 2015 authors' books are today ...).
Rather (over-)dramatically, Owen Matthews asks: Is Russian Literature Dead ? at Foreign Policy.
The focus turns out to be more on the dismal sales-figures of -- and limited public interest in -- contemporary Russian literature abroad.
Of course, Matthews sets the bar rather high, noting, for example, that since The Gulag Archipelago "no Russian writer has enjoyed true breakout American celebrity".
Well, yeah ... but given the limited number of foreign authors who achieved that (sure, Roberto Bolaño, Karl Ove Knausgaard ... but there really aren't that many) maybe the measure of success should be slightly more down to earth.
Matthews does note that quite a bit is at least being translated and published abroad, and even mentions some titles -- but apparently nothing is flying off any shelves.
And, he suggests:
For all their virtue, though, modern Russian works may never satisfy the nostalgia that Americans harbor for the crowd-pleasing grandeur of bygone writers' novels.
Again, maybe not the ideal measure .....
After quite a stretch in the doldrums, Russian literature and Russian literature in translation seem -- at least to me -- resurgent.
I note, for example, that among the titles eligible for this year's Best Translated Book Award (whose longlist will be announced in less than two weeks ...) are surely-longlist-worthy titles such as:
There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
(Whether any (or many, or all of them) actually made the BTBA longlist ... well, you'll just have to wait and see.)
The fact that there have been no real breakout-authors (well, aside from Boris Akunin) might be vaguely meaningful, but a lot of modern Russian fiction is spreading abroad -- with worthwhile authors including Sorokin, Ulitskaya, Pelevin, Tatyana Tolstaya, Bykov, and Gelasimov regularly getting published in English -- which seems to be the important thing.
Regrettably, however, their lack of name-recognition and popularity is also just more evidence that literature (from anywhere) in translation doesn't really sell, except in relatively rare cases.
They've announced the winner of the 2015 Folio Prize, the £40,000 alternative-Man Booker "open to all works of fiction written in English and published in the UK", and it's Family Life (by Akhil Sharma); see, for example, the report in The Bookseller (as there is no word up yet at the official site as I write this ...).
The winning title is not under review at the complete review (and I strongly suspect it's not something I'll get to anytime soon), but see the publicity pages at Faber and W.W.Norton, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Dewi Lestari's Supernova: The Knight, the Princess and the Falling Star.
With Indonesia the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair this fall, Indonesian literature should be more in the news (and bookstores) and I am trying to get a few more titles in before then -- and the Lontar Modern Library of Indonesia is a great place to start (this is a volume in that series).
On top of that, the film adaptation of Supernova -- see the trailer ! -- just came out a few months ago.
(Yeah, just domestically; it's not playing at the local cineplex yet.)
This is an interesting example of local(ized) literature: despite being (technically) available in English for a few years now, it probably hasn't sold very many copies in the US/UK, and I assume it's the first time you've heard of it.
But apparently it sold 14,000 copies in its first two weeks of Indonesian publication -- "the fastest-selling Indonesian novel to date" -- with this and the two (still untranslated) sequels selling some 200,000 by the time this book appeared in English.
(Not many copies by US/UK publishing standards, but a very big deal in Indonesia.)
As to author Dewi Lestari -- let's face it, if you're not one of my Indonesian readers, you've never heard of her.
(Okay, the complete review's readership is very knowledgeable, so there probably are two or three non-Indonesians among you who have, but otherwise .....)
Yet Lestari has 1.11 million Twitter-followers -- more than almost any author under review at the complete review, I suspect.
(By comparison: Stephen King has 671,000; Margaret Atwood 726,000, and even Salman Rushdie just 956,000.)
Another hundred titles reviewed at the complete review, as we're up to (and now already beyond) 3500 -- so it's time again to break down the numbers.
- Reviews 3401-3500 were covered over the course of 172 days (previous hundred: 181).
- The reviews total 86,979 words (previous: 92,723); the longest review was 3055 words.
- Books originally written in 28 different languages were reviewed.
Stunningly, English was only the fourth-most popular language -- it's almost always been first or second, and the previous low was eleven titles out of a hundred.
Two new languages were added: Maltese and Irish.
The most common languages reviewed books were written in:
1. French 30
2. Japanese 8
3. Spanish 7
4. English 6
-. German 6
(For the complete breakdown of languages of reviewed titles, see, as always our overview and the complete language list.)
- As always, fiction dominated: 79 novels and 5 volumes of stories.
Three volumes of poetry were reviewed, but not a single play.
- Only a single 2015 title was reviewed, and six from 2014.
(Remember: it's year of original publication: for translations (i.e. basically everything, this time around ...) that means whenever the books was first published in the language it was written in.)
The most popular decades pre-1990 were the 1960s and 1920s, with six titles each.
There were five nineteenth-century titles, and two from the eighteenth century.
- The stubborn (well, you probably have a different word for it by now ...) male-female divide looks to be as deeply ingrained as ever: at 85 male-authored titles and a mere 15 by women the historic average was pretty much maintained (indeed, it didn't budge from 15.29 per cent; see the complete breakdown).
The usual (pseudo-)excuses apply -- led by the fact that the sex-divide in translated works is also pretty bad (anecdotally averages seem to come in pretty consistently at 3:1 male) -- but I am a bit surprised.
It doesn't feel like I'm reviewing that few, but the numbers tell a very different story.
That said, this time around I'm even more shocked by how few written-in-English titles I got to: 15 books written by women is a dismal total; a mere 6 books written in English borders on the absurd.
I know I concentrate on foreign fiction, but that's always been the case, and this is way fewer than I've ever managed; I have no idea what happened here
Here's hoping that the next 100 aren't quite as Francophone-sexist (but still as fiction-focused -- that bias I'm completely fine with).
In The Korea Herald Ahn Sung-mi reports on Voicing diversity through books, noting that while the state of bookselling in South Korea seems to be worrisome, independent publishing is flourishing.
The number of registered publishers has grown to 42,000 from 16,000 in 2000, while the bookstores suffered a sharp decline -- in 1994, there were 5,683 bookshops in the country, but only 1,625 remain.
Maybe not one of the major French prizes -- though the € 5000 prize-money isn't bad -- but how can one not admire a prize named after -- and awarded to a work in the spirit of -- A Handbook for the Perfect Adventurer-author Mac Orlan !
The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two works by Irish (and Irish-writing) author Máirtín Ó Cadhain:
The Dirty Dust -- the first translation of his 1949 classic, Cré na Cille, just out from Yale University Press, in their wonderful Margellos World Republic of Letters-series
The Key / An Eochair -- a bilingual (hurrah !) edition of his story, forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press
All of a sudden Ó Cadhain is hot !
And with a premise like that of The Dirty Dust (and writing like that found in both of these ...) little wonder.
(Well, except: what took so long ?)
Admirably, too, Yale UP/Margellos World Republic of Letters has another translation of the novel planned for 2016, a "special annotated edition": Graveyard Clay: Cré na Cille, translated by Liam Mac Con Iomaire and Tim Robinson.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Cinematographic Tale by Jules Romains, Donogoo-Tonka or The Miracles of Science.
I just recently picked up -- for four times the cover-price ! (me, who never pays retail ...) -- a copy of his The Lord God of the Flesh ("a rapturous hymn to the oneness of Man and Woman", as the back-cover copy has it ...) -- in its irresistible pocket format and, yeah, sure, the cover didn't hurt:
As far as Donogoo-Tonka goes ... well, okay, it's not a rapturous hymn to the oneness of Man and Woman, but I still can't help thinking Princeton Architectural Press missed the boat (or several) here; much as I love plain covers this is not even an attractive plain cover:
Jean-Patrick Manchette's The Prone Gunman is, in its film-adaptation (and, sigh, movie-tie-in reprints) no longer prone, and The Gunman - the movie, starring Sean Penn, Idris Elba, and Javier Bardem is now out.
The critical consensus seems to be that it's a dud: see, for examples, reviews in:
The Atlantic ("A dull, generic retread of nearly every action movie you’ve ever seen")
The Independent ("This is one of [Penn's] worst films since he was selling glow-in-the-dark ties in Shanghai Surprise ")
The Los Angeles Times ("A frustrating fiasco that kills the material and squanders its exceedingly fine cast")
New York ("But while its heart might be in the right place, the script is -- how to put it -- awful, repeatedly conveying its points with thunderous obviousness.")
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Inoue Yasushi's Life of a Counterfeiter, a collection of three stories (two translated into English for the first time), in Michael Emmerich's translation, from Pushkin Press.
At the Asymptote weblog Eva Richter has a Q & A with Karl Johns and Jorun Johns about their Ariadne Press -- a publisher dedicated to publishing Austrian literature in translation, some 260 titles since 1988.
Can't really agree with the idea that:
Peter Handke ended his career when he endorsed the Serbs in the war.
That was basically his retirement.
He still seems to be churning out the books -- and doing reasonably well with them ....
But otherwise some interesting observations and information -- and their catalogue definitely has quite a few titles of interest (including Wolf Hass' The Weather Fifteen Years Ago ...).
Kenyan author Grace Ogot has passed away; see, for example, the report in the Daily Nation.
None of her work is under review at the complete review, but see, for example, the African Books Collective publicity page for The Promised Land, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Octave Mirbeau's notorious 1899 novel, Torture Garden.
Dalkey Archive Press is bringing out his 21 Days of a Neurasthenic later this year -- see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- so I figured I might as well dip into some of this decadent stuff.
(Next up: The Diary of a Chambermaid ....)
Interesting, too, to find that Auguste Rodin (!) illustrated an edition of the novel.
The colors on that page don't seem quite right -- compare individual images here and here -- but some of those are damn good.
Livres Hebdo/Electre have gathered the numbers on translations into French in 2014, and they total 11,859 -- 17.4 per cent of all publications.
Alas, only summary findings are freely accessible online -- but these show that after English (59.5 per cent of all translations), Japanese was the second most translated-from language at 11.8 per cent -- way ahead of number three, German, at 5.4 per cent.
Unfortunately, there's no breakdown of the titles/genres etc. -- which might help offer an explanation.
(The only one I can think of: they're counting manga-translations -- which they might well be: 11.8 per cent of 11,859 titles would be roughly 1400 (!) titles translated from the Japanese (suggesting more than three translated-from-the-Japanese titles appeared in France each and every day); by comparison the Three Percent database, counting US publication of translations (admittedly only first-time translations, only fiction and poetry, and excluding re-issues) counts all of 19 translations into English from the Japanese (and, indeed, only a total of 587 translations from all languages combined) in 2014.
As is so often the case with these tallies: without the details (i.e. exact listing of what titles are counted) the numbers and especially the percentages have to be treated with extreme caution -- and probably shouldn't be spouted about.)
Not much information elsewhere yet, either, though the Enfin Livre ! weblog at Le Monde does note that 33 per cent of the translations were novels, and that as far as 'literary' (presumably all adult fiction, plus poetry, etc.) translations go three-quarters were from the English.
Texas: The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa ((tr. Samantha Schnee)
Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz (tr. Danuta Borchardt)
The Woman Who Borrowed Memories by Tove Jansson (tr. Thomas Teal and Silvester Mazzarella)
It'll be interesting to see what overlap there is with the Best Translated Book Award (which will announce its 25-title longlist on 7 April).
Several of these titles are not eligible for the BTBA -- non-fiction (The Master of Confessions) or re-translations such as the 'alternate translation' of the Gombrowicz -- but most are.
By comparison: none of the PEN titles are among the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlisted ones.
Again, there are eligibility-criteria differences (none of the dead authors are IFFP eligible, for example), but it's still surprising .....
(Note also that, unlike the BTBA and the IFFP, the PEN prize is pay-to-play: there's a submission fee (US$50) and it's no stretch to believe that some notable omissions on the longlist can be attributed to the books not having been entered.)
(As to all those other PEN awards: to my embarrassment, I haven't read a one of the many, many titles longlisted in any of the other categories.)
In L'Express they report on a gathering of bestselling-in-2014 French authors, Best-sellers 2014: menu "people" au Bristol -- complete with list of the thirty-two top-selling titles (by French-writing authors, in France) of 2014 -- scroll down.
The new Modiano made it to number four (but he was a no-show -- as was number ten, Goncourt-winning Lydie Salvayre).
Amélie Nothomb did make it -- even if her Pétronille only came in twenty-fifth -- a spot behind the new Kundera (another no-show).
One big reveal (complete with Simenon-comparison): her forthcoming novel is titled: Les Meurtres de Neuville.
(In other Nothomb news: she's apparently been elected to the Académie royale de Belgique.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Bae Suah's Nowhere to Be Found -- forthcoming from AmazonCrossing, one of America's leading publishers-in-translation, who prove with a title like this yet again that they can't be ignored.
At Scroll.in Devapriya Roy suggests: 'The Sahitya Akademi awards are a handy way to discover fine literature from all the major Indian languages, and not just English', in Twenty-four Indian languages, 24 literary prizes that more people should know about -- listing this year's winners.
Of course, most people won't have even heard of many of these languages -- Bodo ? Dogri ? -- and unfortunately most of these titles are not available in English, but still, it's good to see they find at least some recognition and one hopes it might help at least get some of these translated.
(The Sahitya Akademi is the Indian National Academy of Letters.)
The Spring 2015 issue of the Quarterly Conversation is now available, so that's a lot of good content to keep you busy at the beginning of the week.
Lots of good stuff covered -- including Ágnes Orzóy on Reading Prae -- the monumental Szentkuthy (Marginalia on Casanova, etc.) work (which I will be covering soon, too); see the Contra Mundum Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Peter Bien's new translation of Nikos Kazantzakis' Zorba the Greek -- noteworthy because it's the first English translation from the original Greek.
Yes, you might have thought that what is perhaps the most famous modern Greek novel (admittedly thanks in no small part to the very successful movie-adaptation) would long have been available in a translation done from the language it was written in, but, no, US/UK publishers have long played fast and loose with translations, and they certainly did with this one.
Now, at least, Simon & Schuster have belatedly tried to set things right (Faber, with their UK edition ... apparently not so much yet ...).
Still, that took a while.
Note also that in the back-cover information about the author Simon & Schuster say Kazantzakis was: "nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in Literature", but actually they're selling him (or the Nobel-nominators) short: he was nominated a total of fourteen times (and apparently came very close to winning it in 1957 -- inconvenient though that would have been, what with him dying between the announcement of the prize and the actually ceremony).
With Indonesia as guest of honour at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair there's been a much greater effort to get works translated , and it's good to see sites like Publishing Indonesia up, providing foreign publishers information about possible titles of interest, etc.
Early dividends on the greater interest in Indonesia include a coming double-dose of Eka Kurniawan in English this fall: Man Tiger, coming from Verso (see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy from Amazon.com), and Beauty is a Wound from New Directions (pre-order your copy from Amazon.com)
They've announced the winners of the (American) National Book Critics Circle awards (for the 'publishing year 2014').
(I'm an NBCC member (I just sent in my dues-check yesterday !) but the judging is done by the board members.)
Marilynne Robinson's Lila won the fiction prize -- a book I actually have (but haven't gotten to yet ...).
They've announced that the Holberg Prize -- named after Niels Klim-author Ludvig Holberg, and: "awarded annually to scholars who have made outstanding contributions to research within the arts and humanities, social sciences, law or theology" (and worth 4.5 million NOK (ca. €538,000 or US$735,000) this year) -- has been awarded to the surely deserving Marina Warner.
None of her books are under review at the complete review, but I have several and will definitely get to them at some point.
The German Book Prize, awarded at the (fall) Frankfurt Book Fair is the biggest German book award, but the Preis(e) der Leipziger Buchmesse, awarded at the (spring) Leipzig Book Fair -- in three categories: fiction, non, and translation -- are the runners-up, and they've now announced this year's winners.
In fact the 'fiction' prize isn't exclusively a fiction prize, but rather one for 'Belletristik' -- a more all-encompassing 'popular literature' sort of thing -- and this year's winner is actually a poetry-volume, Jan Wagner's Regentonnenvariationen -- 'Variations on a Rain Barrel', as the Hanser foreign rights page has it .....
Fifty-one years ago today the great Hans Mayer -- about as influential (and well/widely-read) a non-fiction writer on me as George Steiner -- wrote in Die Zeit on Die Bücherwelt und Arno Schmidt -- noting:
Schade, daß man nicht lesen kann, wie ein künftiger Arno Schmidt in hundert Jahren über Arno Schmidt urteilen wird.
[Too bad that one can't read how a future Arno Schmidt will judge Arno Schmidt a hundred years from now.]
Just over half way there, I'm afraid my own effort falls well short of Schmidtian levels of assessment -- but it's good fun, and a good starting point on the too-overlooked author: Schmidt is certainly worth starting on (so get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, etc. ...).
Among the other titles which are also eligible for the Best Translated Book Award (for which I am judge), whose 25-title-longlist will be announced 7 April (two days before the IFFP shortlist ...), are: the books by Ávila Laurel, Can Xue, Erpenbeck, and Knausgaard (while the Tomás González will, like several other titles, actually only be BTBA-eligible next year, as it has a 2015 US publication date).
(The IFFP and BTBA differ slightly in their criteria: aside from domestic publication (UK for the IFFP and US for the BTBA), IFFP eligible authors (but not necessarily translators) have to be living (BTBA authors don't), and BTBA titles have to be first-time translations, i.e. not new translations of previously translated works (IFFP titles apparently don't -- though it's rare (though not unheard of) for work by living authors to be re-translated)).
Alas, we don't know what books were considered for the IFFP, though apparently the selection was made from 111 entries, translated from 28 languages; Booktrust has a tantalizing picture of the books, but, disappointingly and inexplicably, refuses to release the list of titles.
(The BTBA is entirely transparent: anything meeting the criteria -- pretty much anything listed on the Three Percent 2014 Translation Database (except the anthologies -- we don't consider anthologies, but they're on the database) -- is considered, and this year we've managed very, very well at considering practically all the (ca. 500) titles.)
With only seven possibly overlapping titles this year it'll be interesting to see how many also make the BTBA longlist.
And regardless of overlap, you'll see a lot of new/other titles on the BTBA list -- at least eighteen.