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23 June 2017 - Friday

(In)direct translation | Losing is What Matters review

       (In)direct translation

       Translation via a third language -- those Hungarian novels translated into English via the German translation, say (e.g. Embers) are less common -- in(to) English -- than they used to be (though surprisingly still not entirely rare exceptions), but especially with books from smaller languages it remains fairly common to find these translated into other languages via the dominant translation languages (English, French, and German). So it's nice to see more direct activity -- as now, as Maydaa Abo El Nadar reports at Egyptian Streets, In a Historic First, Zorba the Greek is Translated from Greek to Arabic.
       It's not that there hadn't been translation of Kazantzakis' classic in Arabic previously -- but:
Zorba the Greek was translated from Greek to Arabic through other languages. Thanks to Khaled Raouf this treasure book was directly translated from Greek to Arabic.

"I read several Arabic translation for Zorba, where translations happened from a third bridge language. Unfortunately in these Arabic translations many things were lost," said Raouf. "Translation is transmitting a culture to another one, without a third one being involved. This is why I am very happy to offer a direct translation of Zorba to the Arabic reader," added Raouf.
       The (old) translations -- in a number of languages -- of Zorba the Greek are notorious for having been mishandled/edited/censored, and so a new, direct translation is especially welcome; the relatively new (2014) English re-translation -- the one under review here -- by Peter Bien regrettably didn't get the attention it should have.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Losing is What Matters review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Manuel Pérez Subirana's Losing is What Matters, a 2003 novel that came out in English translation from Dalkey Archive Press last fall.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

22 June 2017 - Thursday

International DUBLIN Literary Award | Mizumura Minae Q & A

       International DUBLIN Literary Award

       They've announced that this year's International DUBLIN Literary Award -- for which both books originally written in English, as well as those translated into English are eligible -- goes to A General Theory of Oblivion -- with author José Eduardo Agualusa getting €75,000 and translator Daniel Hahn getting €25,000
       The International DUBLIN Literary Award is unusual for a literary award in that the books considered for the prize -- 147 this year -- are nominated by libraries across (some of) the world. Unfortunately, the nominating libraries are geographically and linguistically not nearly as diverse as one would wish -- and there's (way) too much hometown-favoritism in the nominating process. So also, while the winning title is from Africa, not a single African library was involved in the nominating process -- while three of the four libraries that did nominate the winning title were in Portuguese-speaking countries. Meanwhile, not a single title originally written in Chinese, Korean, or Japanese was nominated -- not entirely surprising when only a single library from the entire region was involved (the Osaka Municipal Library -- which picked a title by ... Kazuo Ishiguro).
       While there is always quite a mixed bag as far as the nominated titles goes, there's enough quality for the shortlist -- and generally the winning title -- to be quite solid; so also this year.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Mizumura Minae Q & A

       At the Literary Hub Benjamin Moser has a Q & A with Minae Mizumura on Serializing Novels, Aging, and the Eternal Internet, with lots of interesting background information.
       Her Inheritance from Mother is just out in English, while The Fall of Language in the Age of English came out last year -- and don't forget the also worthwhile A True Novel.
       And how great to hear that An I-Novel From Left to Right is: "due out in English in a couple of years"

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

21 June 2017 - Wednesday

Georg-Büchner-Preis | HKW Internationaler Literaturpreis
The Dying Detective review


       The Georg-Büchner-Preis is the leading German author-prize, and they've announced that this year's prize will go (on 28 October) to poet Jan Wagner (not to be confused with mystery-writer Jan Costin Wagner ...); see also the Deutsche Welle report, Top German literature prize goes to poet Jan Wagner.
       His Self-Portrait with a Swarm of Bees recently came out from Arc; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       HKW Internationaler Literaturpreis

       They've announced that the German translation of Tram 83, by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, has won this year's HKW Internationaler Literaturpreis -- pretty much the German Man Booker International Prize, for the best translation into German; see also Sabine Peschel's Deutsche Welle report, International Literature Award goes to Fiston Mwanza Mujila's 'Tram 83'.
       The author will get €20,000; translators Katharina Meyer and Lena Müller will share €15,000.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Dying Detective review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Leif GW Persson's The Dying Detective, now also out in the US.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

20 June 2017 - Tuesday

Premio Strega finalists | Copyright (not) in Iran | Kids' lit in ... Russia

       Premio Strega finalists

       A few days ago they announced the five finalists for the Premio Strega, the leading Italian literary prize.
       It is unusual among (inter)national literary prizes in not being decided on by a small group of judges but rather a huge (660 strong, this year) pool of voters.
       Paolo Cognetti's Le otto montagne (see the Einaudi publicity page)) took the most first-round votes -- 281 -- while the other four titles were bunched more closely, receiving between 158 and 177 votes.
       The winner will be announced on 6 July.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Copyright (not) in Iran

       Until the Soviet Union finally signed on international copyright treaties books from the Soviet Union were free game for foreign publishers -- which is why you had multiple translations/editions of, for example, many Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn works in English in the 1960s
       Iran still doesn't play by the international rules (but, hey: "The Iranian government submitted a new copyright bill to the Iranian parliament in May 2016 to tackle the chaos ruling the Iranian printing industry"), and while this isn't much of an issue with Persian-works-in-translation (for which there appears to be minimal interest in the US/UK ...), it does mean there's a free-for-all in Iran as far as translations into Persian go. Today's Exhibit A -- yes, there's practically a new one daily -- is Paula Hawkins' Into the Water (get your copy at or, as there are apparently six (!) different translation set to hit the market shortly.
       See the Tehran Times report, where translator Ali Qane' complains that "at least five other of his colleagues are working separately on the novel". And there were only two translations of The Girl on the Train .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Kids' lit in ... Russia

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Alexandra Guzeva offers a ist (of sorts) of the Top 10 most popular children's writers in Russia.
       It's not exactly clear, for example, who qualifies/was counted as a 'children's author' (Pushkin ?), and surprising that, for example, Holly Webb made the sales-cut, but J.K.Rowling didn't.
       Still, useful in providing the names of some Russian kids-lit authors (most of the authors are Russian-writing).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

19 June 2017 - Monday

Translating from smaller European nations
Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist | The Sacred Era review

       Translating from smaller European nations

       Via I'm pointed to the AHRC Translating Cultures Research Innovations Award Project at the University of Bristol, Translating the Literatures of Small European Nations -- and specifically the project report, Translating the Literatures of Smaller European Nations: A Picture from the UK, 2014-16 (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       An interesting overview -- with some reason for optimism, but also some harsh conclusions, such as:
Translated literature remains a preoccupation of the educated urban middle-class, centred fundamentally on London and almost completely absent from school curricula.
       (I do note that the report appears to be largely anecdotal -- relying on expert (or other) opinions rather than doing the numbers .....)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist

       They've announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the shortlist for this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award, a leading Australian fiction prize.
       ANZ LitLovers LitBlog helpfully has all the titles under review -- and favors Waiting by Philip Salom.
       Of course, the one I'm most curious about is Their Brilliant Careers, by Ryan O'Neill -- "a hilarious novel in the guise of sixteen biographies of (invented) Australian writers", so the Black & Inc. publicity page; get your copy at get your copy at or
       The winning title will apparently be announced on 7 September.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Sacred Era review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Aramaki Yoshio's 1978 science fiction novel, The Sacred Era, now out in English from the University of Minnesota Press.

       Aramaki is clearly an interesting author and I'd love to see more of his work -- especially ある晴れた日のウイーンは森の中にたたずむ, a title Tatsumi Takayuki translates in his Foreword as 'One fine day in Vienna lingering in the woods', and which he describes as being: "structured around a profound meditation on the writings of the Marquis de Sade". Please, somebody translate and publish this !

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

18 June 2017 - Sunday

'Academic Books and their Future' (in the UK)
Literary prizes: Premio Gregor von Rezzori - Walter Scott Prize

       'Academic Books and their Future' (in the UK)

       Michael Jubb's recent report on (UK) Academic Books and their Future (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- part of the Academic Book of the Future-project -- makes for depressing reading.
       Matthew Reisz's piece in Times Higher Education sums it up pretty well: Worst sellers: warning of existential crisis for academic books, as "the number of individual [academic] titles sold rose by 45 per cent, from 43,000 to 63,000" between 2005 and 2014 -- but (Nielsen BookScan-tracked sales figures): "show a decline for academic books of 13 per cent between 2005 and 2014, from 4.34 million to 3.76 million annually". Add it all up, and: "this meant that average sales per title fell from 100 to 60"
       University presses continue to churn them out:
University presses accounted for 11% of sales in both 2005 and 2014 from all the publishers analysed, and their revenues for 13% of the total in both years, indicating that their average revenues per title were slightly higher than the average for all publishers. But in 2005 they represented 43% of the titles for which sales were recorded, so their sales per title were only a little over a quarter those for other publishers.
       In the 'Literature' category:
The number of titles recorded with sales rose by 37%, to 10.8k [...]. But sales were only around a quarter of those shown in history, and between 2005 and 2014 they fell by nearly half, to 365k. The result was that sales per title fell from 88 to 34
       (As a point of comparison, my essentially self-published monograph, Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy had sold, as of 31 May, 117 copies (72 paperback and 45 e-versions) -- with a few more sold in the past few weeks.)
       Then there's this:
including all the creative writing titles, during the seven years 2008 to 2014, the submitted version of only just over half (54%) of the books submitted in English literature and language had any UK retail sale. Of those, 355 (16%) had sales of more than one hundred, and 128 (6%) of more than a thousand.
       (Emphasis added.)
       Lots of caveats re. the titles that are counted and so on ("Comprehensive and reliable statistical data on sales of academic books is notable mainly by its absence"), but the study is well worth closer perusal -- if you can read through the tears and head-shaking.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Literary prize: Premio Gregor von Rezzori

       The Premio Gregor von Rezzori is an Italian literary prize awarded for the best work of foreign fiction published in Italian, and they've announced (though not yet at the official site, last I checked ...) that this year's prize goes to Compass, by Mathias Énard, while the (separate) prize for best translation goes to Anna D'Elia for her translation of Antoine Volodine's Radiant Terminus (which I could see winning a couple of translation-into-English prizes next year ...); see, for example, the report in Corriere della Sera.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Literary prize: Walter Scott Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction (though not yet at the official site, last I checked ...), and it is Days Without End, by Sebastian Barry; see the ... official tweet.
       It's apparently an (American) Civil War novel, so it's very unlikely I'll get around to covering it; see instead the Faber publicity page, or get your copy at or

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

17 June 2017 - Saturday

Asian fiction in translation | Unusual translation problem

       Asian fiction in translation

       At livemint Sana Goyal wonders: 'Is there increasing space in the UK for Asian fiction in translation ?' suggesting that it's A good time for translations -- based on the success of Vivek Shanbhag's Ghachar Ghochar.
       Still, with apparently only 15 per cent of the 126 titles submitted for the Man Booker International Prize from Asia (including -- indeed, presumably dominated by -- titles from China, Japan, and Korea) -- and a shocking only two from the sub-continent -- there's still a lot of room for improvement. Translations from Indian languages should be well-positioned, especially in the UK, but there's a great deal beyond that too .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Unusual translation problem

       Here's an unusual translation problem: Carson Ellis' Du Iz Tak ? is a kids' picture book where the dialogue is in a made-up language (see the title ...); see, for example, the Candlewick publicity page, or get your copy at or
       This turns out to have befuddled 'translators' of the foreign edition -- so Ellis has written an English 'translation' to guide them along: see Sue Corbett's piece in Publishers Weekly on Working Out the Bugs: Adventures in Translating Carson Ellis's 'Du Iz Tak ?'.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

16 June 2017 - Friday

Even creative writing isn't safe from AI (?)
Bookselling in ... Thailand | Suite for Barbara Loden review

       Even creative writing isn't safe from AI (?)

       A paper recently put up at considers When Will AI Exceed Human Performance ? Evidence from AI Experts (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- though they undermine themselves from the get-go by claiming 'evidence' in the title: what they did was ask around, i.e. get opinions -- which doesn't really qualify as any sort of 'evidence' in my book .....
       Still: "352 researchers responded to our survey invitation (21% of the 1634 authors we contacted)", and their opinions as to when machines -- powered by artificial intelligence (AI) -- will perform at the same (or higher) levels than humans is disturbing enough.
       Among the very depressing results: there are experts who think it won't be much more than a decade before AI can: "Write New York Times Bestseller" (defined as being able to: "Write a novel or short story good enough to make it to the New York Times best-seller list"), with the median response a still-depressing 33 years.
       (Perhaps even more depressing: some experts think "Write High School Essay" (defined as: "Write an essay for a high-school history class that would receive high grades and pass plagiarism detectors") is pretty much around the corner -- and the median (!) guess is 9.6 years -- ahead of "Generate Top 40 Pop Song" (11.4 years), which I suspect says more about the standard that the experts thinks American high school learning is at than anything else .....)
       So, you creative types, you can hang on a bit longer -- the outlook is rosier than for retail salespeople (median expectation until AI takes your job: ca. 15 years) -- but apparently there's no long term future in writing The New York Times (or presumably any other kind of) bestsellers ..... (And I suspect if they had asked the experts, the median expectation for literary-artsy novels would have been even lower .....)
       I imagine James Patterson is already looking into collaborating with computers -- his 'books' surely lend themselves to automated writing -- and once he figures it out he'll probably dominate the bestseller lists even more than he already does (the brand-name being the only thing humans will have left going for themselves).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Bookselling in ... Thailand

       In the Bangkok Post Nanat Suchiva reports that: 'Thailand's independent bookstores have shown a remarkable resilience in the face of the rising popularity of digital media', in In the good books.
       Apparently, the independents -- about fifty of them in the entire cuntry -- are having more success in adapting to changed circumstances than the big chains .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Suite for Barbara Loden review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nathalie Léger's Suite for Barbara Loden, out in nice editions from Les Fugitives (in the UK) and Dorothy (in the US), in a prize-winning (Scott Moncrieff !) translation.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

15 June 2017 - Thursday

Man Booker International Prize | Seoul International Book Fair

       Man Booker International Prize

       The Man Booker International Prize has been awarded, in this incarnation -- a mash-up of what used to be the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (whose format -- book prize for a work of translated fiction published in the UK -- it took over) and the old-style Man Booker International Prize (which used to be an author-career prize, with them only retaining the name and the big bucks) --, for the second time, and they've announced that A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman Wins The Man Booker International Prize 2017, with translator Jessica Cohen getting half the prize pay-out.
       A Horse Walks Into a Bar isn't (yet) under review at the complete review -- I might get to it, though I haven't seen a copy yet --; meanwhile, see for example the Alfred A. Knopf publicity page, or get your copy at or

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Seoul International Book Fair

       The Seoul International Book Fair runs through Sunday.
       They have both a 'Guest of Honor' (Turkey) and a 'Spotlight Country' (Canada). There are also some Special Exhibitions & Events, including on 'The Era of Bookstores' (apparently small independents are making a comeback in South Korea too) and the promising-sounding 'Reading Clinic' ("It is a one-on-one reading clinic with pre-registered readers and experts of writing, science and genre literature").

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

14 June 2017 - Wednesday

Peace Prize of the German Book Trade | Salki review

       Peace Prize of the German Book Trade

       They've announced that Margaret Atwood to Receive the 2017 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, as she will pick up the prestigious €25,000 prize on 15 October, at the conclusion of the Frankfurt Book Fair.
       As I mentioned two weeks ago, she's also been named the winner of this year's Franz Kafka Prize -- and the prize-ceremony for that is usually around that time of the year too, so that will be convenient for her, she can just hang around Central Europe for a while.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Salki review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Wojciech Nowicki's Salki, just out in English from Open Letter.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

13 June 2017 - Tuesday

PEN Translates honorees | Michel Houellebecq Q & A

       PEN Translates honorees

       They've announced the winners of the 2017 English PEN Translates 'awards' -- which aren't really prizes, but rather: "made to publishers to cover the English language translation costs" -- though the projects are selected on the basis of: "outstanding literary quality, strength and innovation of the publishing project, and contribution to literary diversity in the UK".
       Some familiar big-name authors (well, relatively speaking, as far as literature in translation goes) in the mix, including César Aira, Javier Cercas, and Jenny Erpenbeck, and some big-name translators, too, but at least there's quite an effort to go beyond the usual, and so we find a translation from Somali (see the Bloodaxe publicity page) -- not fiction, alas -- as well as from the Belarusian, the Прэмію Гедройца-shortlisted A large Czeslaw Milosz with a dash of Elvis Presley (maybe not the final title in English ... ?), forthcoming from Scotland Street Press, among other promising-sounding titles..
       I look forward to seing some of these (though, since this is a UK-based effort, probably not many of these, except the bigger names ...).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Michel Houellebecq Q & A

       At Garage Christian Lorentzen offers Nobody Will Make Us Do Yoga: A Conversation with Michel Houellebecq, as the Submission (etc.)-author's art show recently opened in New York and he's been doing and getting lots of press.
       It's kind of an odd interview, but among the interesting answers is Houellebecq's explanation why he moved back to France, after living in Ireland for eleven years: "To speak French."

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12 June 2017 - Monday

Czech literature in translation | In Praise of Litigation review

       Czech literature in translation

       At Radio Praha David Vaughan speaks with the Readers International-publisher, in Dorothy Connell and the Challenges of Bringing Czech Writing to the English-speaking World.
       Among their publications which they discuss is Michal Viewegh's Bringing Up Girls in Bohemia; -- and for: "probably the most popular Czech writer of the last quarter of the century", it's sad how little of his work has been translated into English (Bliss Was it in Bohemia is a recent exception).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       In Praise of Litigation review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alexandra Lahav's book In Praise of Litigation, recently out from Oxford University Press.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

11 June 2017 - Sunday

Sofia Translation Forum | The Great Passage review

       Sofia Translation Forum

       At bnr they report that the recently held Sofia Translation Forum addresses literary exchange between the Balkans and the Arab world -- and how great is it to see that there's active work in this area.
       Gotta love the official site and name -- Translation Collider ! -- and would love to see more of this kind of support and exchange.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Great Passage review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Miura Shion's The Great Passage.

       This just came out from AmazonCrossing -- and the 125 reviews on Amazon suggest it's attracting some attention (though apparently not from reviewers elsewhere ...).
       The translation is by Juliet Winters Carpenter -- whose translation of Mizumura Minae's Inheritance from Mother also just came out (that from Other Press; it's reviewed in today's The New York Times Book Review).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

10 June 2017 - Saturday

Princess of Asturias Award for Literature
More One Hundred Years of Solitude celebration

       Princess of Asturias Award for Literature

       They've announced this year's winner of the Princess of Asturias Award for Literature, and it is Adam Zagajewski, whose Slight Exaggeration just came out in English; he'll get to pick up the prize with the other laureates "in the second fortnight of October".

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       More One Hundred Years of Solitude celebration

       As I recently noted, it's the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude (get your copy at or, and there's been quite a bit of coverage.
       In addition to the interesting piece by Alvaro Santana-Acuña in The Atlantic I previously pointed you to, How One Hundred Years of Solitude Became a Classic, see now also:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

9 June 2017 - Friday

Andrey Kurkov Q & A
French-American Foundation Translation Prizes | Griffin Poetry Prizes

       Andrey Kurkov Q & A

       At TOL Kseniya Turkova has a Q & A with Death and the Penguin-author Andrey Kurkov -- "Ukraine's best-known writer" --, 'My Dreams Are Not Related to Literature'.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       French-American Foundation Translation Prizes

       They awarded the French-American Foundation Translation Prizes -- for the 30th time ! -- at a nice ceremony at the Century Association yesterday, with keynote remarks from last year's 'Translator Laureate', Lydia Davis.
       (Information about the winners wasn't up at the official site yet, last I checked, but see all the finalists.)

       The fiction prize went to Sam Taylor's translation of Maylis de Kerangal's The Heart (not to be confused with the UK/Canadian translation of the same book by Jessica Moore, published as Mend the Living ...).

       The non-fiction prize was split between two books:
        - Charlotte Mandell and Lauren Elkin's translation of Claude Arnaud's Jean Cocteau: A Life; see the Yale University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or
        - Jane Marie Todd's translation of Olivier Wieviorka's The French Resistance; see the Harvard University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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       Griffin Poetry Prizes

       The Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize is one of the major international poetry awards, with two categories -- international and Canadian -- and yesterday they announced this year's winners.
       Falling Awake, by Alice Oswald, won the international category; see, for example, the W.W.Norton publicity page, or get your copy at or
       Injun, by Jordan Abel, won the Canadian category; see the Talonbooks publicity page, or get your copy at or

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

8 June 2017 - Thursday

Women's Prize for Fiction | Czech fiction in translation
Number 11 review

       Women's Prize for Fiction

       They've announced the winner of the prize-that-was-once-called-the-Orange-Prize-but-I-can't-be-bothered-to-remember-this-week's-sponsor (give me a break: next week, or soon thereafter, there's going to be ... yet another 'new sponsorship model'), and it's The Power, by Naomi Alderman.
       This does not appear to have been released in the US yet; one hopes this prize-win changes that; meanwhile, get your copy at

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       Czech fiction in translation

       The Prague Daily Monitor reports State to sponsor foreign publishers to translate Czech writers, as the government has apparently decided to be more generous, covering up to 70 per cent of translation costs (previously: 25 per cent) and with publishers now:
newly able to ask for money for the layout and printing of a book, the costs associated with copyright fees and promotion
       (The official Culture Ministry documentation can presumably be found here.)
       On the one hand -- yay ! great ! On the other -- it just shows how dependent US/UK publishers remain on being subsidized. Essentially, except in the rarest cases, they need to be paid to publish something. No wonder translation-into-English is dominated by European languages (that can cough up the most cash). A sad state of affairs.

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       Number 11 review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jonathan Coe's Number 11.

       This is Coe's eleventh novel -- and, yes, all eleven are under review at the complete review, as is his B.S.Johnson biography. It came out in the UK in the fall of 2015, and in the US only this January -- considerably after both the French and Italian translations (and even slightly after the Spanish one); it also hasn't been widely reviewed in the US. Not really to American tastes, I guess -- even as he is such a continental (European) hit .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

7 June 2017 - Wednesday

The Starling Bureau profile | Prix mondial Cino Del Duca

       The Starling Bureau profile

       At the World Literature Today weblog Jen Rickard Blair has a Q & A with Roland Glasser about the translator-collective he formed with Morgan Giles, Ruth Clarke, Paul Russell Garett, and Zoë Perry -- The Starling Bureau.
       An interesting idea -- and the success of Paper Republic, focused on translation from the Chinese, suggests this might be a useful way forward.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Prix mondial Cino Del Duca

       The Prix mondial Cino Del Duca may not be the best-known of author-prizes -- and with its 'contemporary humanism' focus extends beyond the merely literary -- but with an impressive (if wildly varied) list of laureates and quite staggering €200,000 in prize money it is ... not insignificant.
       They've now announced -- though not yet at the official site, last I checked -- that Benedetta Craveri is this year's prize-winner; see, for example, the report at Livres Hebdo.
       While not too widely translated into English, her French-salon-study, The Age of Conversation, is available from New York Review Books; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

6 June 2017 - Tuesday

Bob Dylan delivers (sort of) his Nobel Lecture
Translation prize events in NYC

       Bob Dylan delivers (sort of) his Nobel Lecture

       The 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature was, bizarrely, awarded to Bob Dylan, and Dylan couldn't be bothered to show up for the official ceremony and only picked up the medal -- furtively -- two months ago, when he was passing through Stockholm anyway. Nevertheless, while he had the official stamp of approval -- he was their Nobel laureate, regardless of how boorish his behavior -- to get the cash (a decent SEK 8,000,000 for the 2016 prize) he had to present, in one form or another, a 'Nobel Lecture', with a deadline of six months after the official ceremony to get that in -- by 10 June.
       Just under the wire, Dylan came through, sending in not the apparently hoped-for video, but at least an audio recording -- yes, he literally mailed it in, rather than showing up in person: you can read it here, or listen to it, for example, here. And, hey, it's an actual lecture -- not just some rambling -- and though he doesn't sing, there's a musical accompaniment of some sort (I have no idea what that's about ...).
       At her official blog, the Swedish Academician-in-charge, Sara Danius hopes: "the Dylan adventure is coming to a close" -- but I'm afraid this embarrassment (and its many humiliating chapters) will take generations to get over.
       Still, one has to admire her being able to write with a ... straight face (oh, I assume some pens and papers and laptops got crushed in the process ...):
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Bob Dylan and his staff, especially Jeff Rosen, for having cooperated so beautifully.
       If this has been beautiful cooperation ... boy, do I have a bridge to sell the Swedish Academy .....

       Playing them until the very end, Dylan not only kept them waiting, he held onto the copyright for the Nobel lecture:
The Nobel Foundation has not obtained the right to assign any usage right to the Nobel Lecture to any third party, and any such rights may thus not be granted.
       This is unheard of and, quite honestly, outrageous: all Nobel lectures have always been copyright © The Nobel Foundation, but apparently in their desperation to get some words from Dylan they didn't even get that. This will probably go less-noticed, but is yet more proof that the awarding of the prize to this guy was a disastrous misstep.
       (Regarding the copyright issue, I do imagine there are some very irate Nobel laureates lodging complaints with the Foundation at this very moment, wondering why the guy with the guitar gets this special, kid-glove treatment -- without even having to show up in that silly white-tie outfit for the king.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Translation prize events in NYC

       A busy couple of days with translation-prize ceeremonies in New York City this week:

        - today, there's the Albertine Prize Award Ceremony and Party, as J.T.Mahany's translation of Antoine Volodine's Bardo or Not Bardo (see the Open Letter publicity page, or get your copy at or is honored -- with Volodine in attendance (unless he does a Houellebecq -- a no-show at an Albertine event on Friday ...) and Lydia Davis too !

        - on Thursday, 8 June, at 19:00, the Goethe-Institut will be hosting not just the 2017 Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize -- going to Charlotte Collins for her translation of Robert Seethaler's A Whole Life (see the Picador and Farrar, Straus and Giroux publicity pages, or get your copy at or, since Bottom's Dream was apparently (and inexplicably) not entered for the prize -- but also the Gutekunst Prize of the Friends of Goethe New York.

        - also on Thursday, 8 June, at 18:00, the French-American Foundation's Translation Prizes will be awarded, at a ceremony with a keynote address by Lydia Davis; see the prize-finalists here.

       (Yes, one might have hoped the French and Germans would have been in closer communication and managed not to schedule the ceremonies for their high-profile translation prizes at the same time, but ..... Flip a coin, choose one, you won't go wrong.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

5 June 2017 - Monday

Juan Goytisolo (1931-2017) | The Parthenon Bomber review

       Juan Goytisolo (1931-2017)

       The great Juan Goytisolo has passed away. There are hardly any English-language reports yet -- see, for example, the one at Morocco World News -- but internationally, and especially in the Spanish-language press there's already a lot; see, for example, Muere el escritor Juan Goytisolo a los 86 años en Marrakech at El País.
       A favorite hereabouts, he impressed particularly in his willingness to continue to try new approaches in his writing over the entire course of his life, and in his cross-cultural perspective, including his continuing engagement with Islam (in a very different way than what one finds in, for example, the Anglo-American world of the past two decades). I'd argue he belongs on any list of the ten greatest writers of the past half century.
       Thirteen of his books are under review at the complete review and I should be getting to more. The memoirs are a decent place to start -- Forbidden Territory -- but it's the fiction that really counts. The Marx Family Saga -- the great post-collapse-of-communism novel -- is a personal favorite, but really, it's worth dipping into a variety of his work -- because there is such variety (and so much of it is so very good).

       (Updated - 10 June): See now also translator Peter Bush's A tribute to Juan Goytisolo at the TLS site.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Parthenon Bomber review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Greek author Christos Chrissopoulos' novella, The Parthenon Bomber, just (about) out from Other Press.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

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