The Nigeria Prize for Literature -- at US$100,000 more remunerative than many major American literary prizes (though you'd figure with the kind of cash they could get around to updating the official page to this year's competition ...) -- rotates through four genres (fiction, non, children, drama), and this year is a kid's-lit year.
At This Day they now report that 109 Authors Vie for 2015 NLNG Literature Prize.
Good to see there's that much eligible children's literature being written in Nigeria -- and hopefully the prize can help raise the profile of some of it.
I hope you've been following the daily installments of the 'Why This Book Should Win' (the Best Translated Book Award)-series at Three Percent as the judges (and a few others) make the case for each of the twenty-five longlisted titles.
Yesterday was my (first) turn, making the case for Leopoldo Marechal's Adam Buenosayres.
They've announced the shortlists for the (many) PEN Literary Awards.
Of most interest to me (also but not solely because I haven't reviewed any of the shortlisted titles in any of the other categories): the PEN Translation Prize.
The final five are:
Perry Link's piece on The Wonderfully Elusive Chinese Novel -- nominally a review of the final volume of David Tod Roy's five-volume translation of The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P'ing Mei -- is now freely accessible at The New York Review of Books site, and well worth a read.
Among the points raised by Link:
Whether Chin P'ing Mei is taken as broad social canvas, literary innovation, serious ethical criticism, or only spicy entertainment, a question that has haunted its study over the last hundred years is whether it is -- indeed whether China has -- a "great novel."
I think China would be better off if the question were not asked so much.
But why do I feel that China -- and Sinologists -- would be better off to relax about the idea that "we have great novels, too" ?
I feel this because I think that setting up literary civilizations as rivals (although I can understand the insecurities that led Liang Qichao and others to do it) only gets in the way of readers enjoying imaginative works.
Interesting also his observation:
Should we compare poetry across civilizations ?
If we do, classical Chinese poetry wins easily.
The contest is almost unfair, because, as my students of Chinese language eventually come to see, the fundaments of language are different.
I'm sure there are a few English professors left gasping by the thought:
Emily Dickinson might have come to be known as the greatest poet in world history if she had written in classical Chinese.
Overall, the piece is a good (and probably necessary) reminder of how varied literature is, and why familiarity with the foreign (mostly, sigh, via translation) -- and an understanding of its 'difference' -- is so (in)valuable.
Like longtime local favorite The Story of the Stone, I can certainly recommend Chin P'ing Mei -- though I read (back in my college days) the Clement Egerton translation (with its infamous Latin passages).
For the David Tod Roy translation (beginning with volume one), see the Princeton University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
At The New York Review of Books' blog Tim Parks wonders whether there are Too Many Books ? -- arguing: "it's hard not to feel that we are in an era of massive overproduction", as well as that this surfeit: "tends to diminish the seriousness with which I approach any particular book".
I barely understand the question/concern -- sure, I'm annoyed by the piles of crap that flood the market (or non-market ...), and could certainly do without the dozens of e-mail pitches touting yet another anguished memoir I seem to get daily, but I don't think we've reached anywhere near capacity and I still thirst for (much) more.
(The limited amount of fiction-in-translation published in English annually -- however many hundreds or even now/soon thousands of titles it is -- is a constant reminder of how little of even just the good stuff we get to see: it remains just a fraction of what is written in other languages, a needle-tip of an iceberg (sorry about that mixed metaphor, but it seems about right).)
Bring it on, I say.
We -- well, I -- can't get enough.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Simon Leys' nice little novella, The Death of Napoleon.
This has been re-issued (it seems) countless times, but New York Review Books are having another go at it -- and theirs is certainly a nicer-looking volume than the horrific movie-tie-in one.
(While on the subject of national book sites, I'm cautiously optimistic about how the Georgian National Book Center is shaping up -- especially with the promise of an electronic database of Georgian literature in translation (due to be available in August -- though already pictured (with a link to nowhere ...) on the site's main page).)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of One More Last Rite for the Detective Genre by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, The Dead Mountaineer's Inn, available in English translation (by Josh Billings ) for the first time, from Melville House.
An earlier translation was slated for publication in 1988, as Inspector Glebsky's Puzzle -- it even had an ISBN number (0931933684) -- but it apparently never saw the light of day.
They've announced the shortlist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award -- at ten titles still quite long, but certainly more manageable than the 142 titles they started out with.
Three of the ten finalists are translations.
Embarrassingly, I've only read one of the shortlisted titles (Horses of God by Mahi Binebine, which also made the Best Translated Book Award shortlist last year) and reviewed none (with the small excuse that the two other translated titles don't appear to be published in the US yet).
Among the notable titles failing to make the final cut were Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, and NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names, as well as titles by J.M. Coetzee, Elena Ferrante, and Karl Ove Knausgaard.
Stephen King and Thomas Pynchon, too.
They've announced the winners of the European Union Prize for Literature (which should surely be the European Union Prizes for Literature, given that they hand these out a dozen or so at a time).
I also don't understand why this is a European prize for literature, since it is distinctly national: the winners are selected by national juries, who (are mandated to) each select a hometown winner.
Still, the basic idea -- to get authors from across Europe some attention on a bigger stage -- is certainly worthy, and it seems to be working reasonably well.
1999 Nobel laureate Günter Grass has passed away; see, for example obituaries in The New York Times and The Guardian.
As one of the authors whose work I had read long before I started this site, little is under review at the complete review -- just a few odds and ends from the past fifteen years:
A few weeks ago Peter Handke was in New York, at the Wim Wnders retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, and in one of the post-film discussions he rambled on about all sorts of things.
Grass came up too, and Handke acknowledged he was a very great writer -- or, as Handke put it, had been, 'for three years' (presumably meaning the trilogy years -- which were actually four, 1959 (The Tin Drum) to 1963).
If he peaked there, Grass certainly also wrote enough else that deserves to be remembered and read.
There's tons of media coverage of course; for some writer-reactions see Salman Rushdie explaining The Greatness of Günter Grass at The New Yorker's Page-Turner, and a Q & A with Jeffrey Eugenides at DeutscheWelle.
At Literature Across Frontiers they have posted Publishing translated literature in the United Kingdom and Ireland 1990-2012 statistical report (pdf; see also the summary press release).
(This supersedes the preliminary and (so I found) very problematic 2012 study and looks to be considerably more thorough and precise (and reliable).)
Lots of interesting information here -- including re. source languages (where it's nice to know that some woefully under-represented ones have fared better in recent years (e.g. Georgian, with Dalkey Archive's Georgian-series -- or Korean, with Dalkey's Library of Korea-series outpacing all translations from Korean from 2000 to 2012)).
But it's the methodology and definitional questions which are of course of the greatest interest -- what exactly is being counted, and how, and the discussion here is very helpful -- especially compared with the previous study, which helpfully provided raw data but overlooked many of the issues that data presented.
What's really exciting is the promise of what comes next:
The next step in the effort to provide comprehensive information on translations published in the United Kingdom and Ireland will be the creation of a freely available database of literary translations, analysis of the previous decade (1990 – 2000) and ongoing analysis of future annual data supplied by the British Library.
With a slightly different ambit (beyond just the geographical) than the Three Percent Translation Database (limited, e.g., to (adult) fiction and poetry, and only first-time translations), this study counts a somewhat different (and, helpfully, broader) variety of titles -- but, like the Three Percent database, the database should prove very helpful in providing some insight and being a useful starting-point for analysis.
All these numbers must be treated with some caution -- note for example with 168 translations from ancient Greek, these translations would make ancient Greek the ninth-most-translated from language in the period 2000-2012 (here's where the raw data/the database will be useful -- in revealing what these titles are, allowing us to better judge how we should consider them), while on the Three Percent database it essentially doesn't figure at all ... -- and I'd still be cautious about throwing around that 'three per cent' figure (unless you add it all up carefully -- as they do here --, noting all the necessary caveats and limiting definitions), but this is a nice step forward in coming to grips with the question of what and how much is getting translated into English.
(Of course, just like the Three Percent US-distribution requirement, the geographical/BNB limitation, in this age of much greater/easier cross-border movement of foreign publications (including of foreign English-language publications from huge markets such as India, Australia, and South Africa to local/governmental publications) doesn't necessarily reflect what and how much is actually quite readily available .....)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Antoine Laurain's The Red Notebook, just out in English, from Gallic Books.
Written and published in France shortly before Patrick Modiano was named the Nobel laureate, the book features a Modiano cameo appearance -- using and capturing the author pretty darn well, too.
Modiano's Nobel-win probably spoils this a bit in the French original -- Modiano suddenly too 'big' a writer for Laurain's purposes -- but actually helps for the English-language version, since it seems most US/UK readers otherwise wouldn't have had the foggiest idea of who this guy is.
An interesting piece by The Three-Body Problem-translator Ken Liu at io9 on how when: 'early science fiction novels were first translated into Chinese, the translators took a lot of liberties with the material', in The "Heroic Translators" Who Reinvented Classic Science Fiction In China
As he notes this early-days (and often via the Japanese translation) "audacious style of translation-cum-adaptation came to be known as 'heroic translation'".
(No fan of free/adaptive translation, I'd prefer to employ a different term .....)
But while translated literary titles have steadily been available in India, especially in Kerala and West Bengal, translations of English titles into regional languages or those of regional works in other Indian languages, is a slowing trend.
Interesting odds and ends -- including that apparently: "There is no Assamese equivalent for many words, such as seconds, minutes, miles, etc." -- as well as the usual depressing observations, such as:
Even if a book has been translated well, it is questionable whether a publishing house will take it up.
The Times of India previews an upcoming Nepali literary symposium, reporting that Literary meet to explore challenges, trends in Nepali literature.
I hope there will be some reports from the proceedings -- especially regarding the: "presentations on trends in Nepali literature and renaissance in south Asian literature".
Daniel Hahn just published the second edition of the Oxford Companion to Children's Literature (see the Oxford University Press publicity page or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk, or pre-order it at Amazon.com) but now reports at PEN Atlas that, as far as children's literature in English translation goes, it remains: A rather grim story.
He sees translation generally having made strides recently:
But one area where we haven't made our progress yet is in books for children; in recent years our children's publishing world has been as closed to work from other languages as it's ever been.
Imprints like Pushkin Children's Books certainly help the cause -- but compared to the movement of children's literature across other languages it's amazing how closed-off the English-language market one remains (far more so than adult fiction, for example).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sergio Ramírez's Divine Punishment.
A 1988 novel, this was actually slated for publication from a major American publisher in the late 1980s but, as translator Nick Caistor notes, they pulled the plug in 1989, after the Sandinistas held (and lost) elections in Nicaragua: soon-no-longer-vice-president Ramírez was suddenly not such an interesting personality, apparently.
At the time, Ramírez certainly was hot: when this title came out in Spanish he got profiles in, among other publications, The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times; you'd think with lead-ins like that the publisher would go ahead with publication even after he was no longer in political office.
But no -- and it's taken a quarter of a century until the book now finally appears in English, from McPherson & Company.
The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has announced the 173 Fellowships they awarded this year.
Fiction prize-winners include Sacred Games-author Vikram Chandra and Rivka Galchen.
Two fellowships went to translators: Ross Benjamin and Tess Lewis; it's not clear for what projects.
[Updated - 11 April: In fact, the pdf list gives a bit more information about many of the fellows' projects -- including those of the translators: Tess Lewis will be translating Ludwig Hohl's Notizen, whole Ross Benjamin is working on Kafka's Complete Diaries -- two major, ambitious projects.]
The museum will make Norenskaya a place of pilgrimage for Brodsky lovers from different countries, schoolchildren and university students, said the press service.
Yeah, okay, sure .....
I note that the Wikipedia page on Norenskaya -- suggesting it really is little more than a spot -- is unclear exactly about how populous it is ... but apparently the 2010 census counted all of seven souls.
Also: the museum: "is located in a cottage on the spot where Brodsky lived" -- but:
The cottage was in such disrepair that it was knocked down and replaced with a similar cottage found nearby.
Still, it's a museum, poetry and Brodsky are being celebrated ... who could complain ?
Words without Borders has announced that Sara Bershtel, publisher of Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, will be the recipient of the 2015 Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature.
She'll receive it at the Words without Borders gala on 2 November.
Having won the 2014 Friedrich Ulfers Prize -- awarded for championing "the advancement of German-language literature in the United States", Bershtel has now, in quick succession, won two of the major US foreign/international literature lifetime achievement awards.
Two days after the announcement of the US Best Translated Book Award longlists (see my mention) the shortlist for the UK Independent Foreign Fiction Prize has now been announced; see also Nick Clark's report in The Independent.
The six finalists are:
By Night the Mountain Burns by Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel
New online periodical the Literary Hub started publishing yesterday.
It is apparently meant to be: "an organizing principle in the service of literary culture, a single, trusted, daily source for all the news, ideas and richness of contemporary literary life".
It certainly looks like it's offering some interesting material -- a Lydia Davis profile, first published in the Norwegian Morgenbladet, is a pretty impressive opening salvo (with bonus points for the Dag Solstad mentions).
Fairly promising, and worth keeping an eye on.
Geographically and linguistically it's a pretty decent spread -- though Spanish is definitely the language-of-the-year (eight titles); Chinese also had a good showing (three titles).
Among the surprises: nothing in Arabic, Japanese, or Korean -- and perhaps the biggest surprise of all: no German titles -- despite making up a full third (5 of 15) of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist this year, leading Boyd Tonkin to suggest a possible change in the literary balance of power (well, that definitely didn't register on the other side of the Atlantic).
Not all the same titles were BTBA-eligible, but Jenny Erpenbeck's The End of Days is certainly among the high-profile BTBA omissions, as is Daniel Kehlmann's F (and Judith Schalansky's IFFP-longlisted The Giraffe's Neck was also BTBA-eligible).
A good variety of publishers are represented -- but translation powerhouse (and two-time defending BTBA winner) New Directions was shut out -- despite contenders including the Erpenbeck and Roberto Bolaño's A Little Lumpen Novelita.
The only title to make both the BTBA longlist and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist was The Last Lover, by Can Xue
The only two titles to make the BTBA longlist and the PEN Translation Prize longlist were Baboon, by Naja Marie Aidt, and The Woman Who Borrowed Memories, by Tove Jansson.
Despite such a large longlist, some notable and excellent books failed to make the cut.
Chad mentioned some already; from Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano's Suspended Sentences to two by Murakami Haruki (the IFFP-longlisted Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and The Strange Library) to Man Booker International Prize-winner Ismail Kadare's Twilight of the Eastern Gods other prominent names also fell by the wayside.
Still, overall this feels like a very strong longlist -- a bit more story-collection- and Spanish-tilted than I would have anticipated (liked ?), but thoroughly defensible.
Unlike in some previous years, it feels more even too -- with very few exceptions, it's hard to guess which titles will make the next cut, to the ten-title the shortlist.
Meanwhile, note that the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize shortlist will be announced on Thursday.
(For some reason they've already told me what's on it, but I'll refrain from commenting for now.)
They've announced the twenty-five-title strong (South African) Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize longlist.
Lots of familiar big names -- Zakes Mda, Zoe Wicomb, and Ingrid Winterbach among them -- and several books that I catually have, but haven't yet gotten around to covering: Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut, Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes, and Tales of the Metric System by Imraan Coovadia (the latter two I should be getting to, sooner rather than later).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Valeria Luiselli's Faces in the Crowd.
This was longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award (see above); I've been holding off covering any of the eligible titles the last few weeks, to avoid tipping any hands, but I should get to a couple more in the coming weeks (though there are quite a few I won't, for various reasons, be posting reviews of).
I hadn't realized this came out in the UK in 2012 already (go figure -- despite her much closer US-connections ...); it would have been 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize eligible, but did not make that longlist.
Gotta believe her The Story of my Teeth is an early favorite to achieve the BTBA/IFFP-longlist double; see the Granta publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com.
The 25-title strong longlist for the fiction category of the Best Translated Book Award will be announced at Three Percent at 12:00 EST today (with the poetry longlist announced at 10:00 EST).
Given that it's only being unveiled this late in the day I'll leave my commentary for tomorrow (rather than updating this post) -- so for now you have to check out Three Percent to see what made the cut.
At Three Percent Chad Post already did reveal The Books I Thought Would Make the BTBA Longlist ... But Didn't -- listing some of the bigger surprises (though there are others, too -- as I'll note tomorrow).
Obviously, I'm especially surprised The Symmetry Teacher didn't make the cut (despite its translation-focus -- on top of its general excellence ...).
Reminding you again of how the longlist was reached: each of the nine judges (I'm one of them) voted for their top ten titles (in order of preference), and the top sixteen vote-getters made the longlist.
Then each judge got to put up a personal selection, rounding out the twenty-five.
As you'll see, it works out pretty well -- and I suspect most observers would have a hard time guessing which titles were voted in by all, and which were the personal selections.
Nevertheless, with nine judges involved, personal favorites did not always fare well: only three of my top ten made the top-sixteen cut (including only one of my top four selections !), and none were personal selections of the other judges, leaving only my personal selection to round out the final twenty-five with four of my initial top ten.
(Yes, the Bitov was one of my initial top four selections that did not make the cut; while subjectively I favored it I had to put forward another title as my personal choice because it seems the objectively overall stronger candidate.)
I think this is the lowest percentage of titles that I voted for to make the longlist (last year six of the final 25 featured on my top ten, the year before it was seven) -- my influence seems to be waning (or my tastes diverging from the norm ...) !
Of course, we only vote/rank our top ten; several more of these titles would have made my personal top-twenty-five, if there had been reason to select that many .....
But I have to admit, if I were an outsider, guessing the longlist, I don't think I would have guessed much more than 10 of the 25 titles .....
Remember also that at Three Percent we'll be posting -- practically daily, starting tomorrow -- a 'Why this book should win'-defense/argument/explanation for each of the longlisted titles !
The 2014 VIDA Counts are now up, measuring the sex-divides at various publications re. contributors, authorship of reviewed books, and bylines.
Always interesting to see -- and usually leading to some useful discussion (though also admittedly a lot of less than useful discussion ...).
In The Myanmar Times Zon Pann Pwin reports on the Burmese publishing (well, printing) industry, in Hot off the press.
Things have improved since the 1950s -- when there were: "about 10 book publishers who owned manual presses" -- though the transition to offset printing was ... offset, until recently, by stricter censorship.
And interesting that even now: "Every printing press in the country is second-hand".
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Margaret Millar's Edgar-winning 1955 novel, Beast in View.
Syndicate Books acquired the Millar estate last year and plan to re-issue her books, starting this fall (in this, her centenary year).
Here's hoping her often re-published (but rarely remaining in print) titles show some more staying power this time around.
In The Observer Peter Conrad profiles literary critic (and one-time novelist) James Wood.
The occasion is apparently the publication of Wood's The Nearest Thing to Life, out from Jonathan Cape in the UK (see their publicity page) and ... Brandeis University Press in the US (see their publicity page); get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The longlist for the Best Translated Book Award (for which I am a judge) will be revealed in all its 25-title-strong glory on 7 April, but all last week Chad Post has been providing clues as to what made the cut at Three Percent.
Helpfully, Trevor Berrett sums them up (and tries to make sense of them) at The Mookse and the Gripes.
As he notes, one of the clues is more than that .. a gimme, unambiguously revealing one of the longlisted titles.
As to the other twenty-four ... well, you can narrow a few possibilities down (and the gimme helps with another clue, too), but they only help so far ....
For additional speculation, see also The Mookse and the Gripes Forum's speculation discussion .....
The Hindu puts out the call for The Hindu Prize 2015 -- you (meaning, sigh, publishers) have until 31 May to submit titles.
Alas, written-in-English only -- "Works in Indian languages or translations are not eligible" -- because, you know, it's an Indian literary prize, and who could imagine local writers writing in other languages .....
Yes, the first reviews went up at the complete review sixteen years ago today.
3500 and some odd reviews later ... well, here we are.
Hope you enjoy being here: I still do.
(But: sixteen years ?!??
Man, time flies.)
At PEN America they helpfully transcribe a recent Three Percent podcast with Chad Post, Tom Roberge, and Alex Zucker discussing: 'Translators, Rates, Money, and Unions'; you can also listen to it here.
Lots of interesting (and generally depressing) odds and ends about the business of translating, and what the PEN Translation Committee tries to do.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ippolito Nievo's nineteenth-century classic, Confessions of an Italian, a Penguin Classics edition now also available in the US -- and the first unabridged English translation.
A recent Vogue-profile of Italy's currently hottest writer, Elena Ferrante, reported:
At sixteen, Ferrante found herself captivated by Ippolito Nievo's Confessions of an Italian
And this translation made two 'Best of 2014' lists, The New Yorker's (Elizabeth Kolbert) and the New Statesman's (Lucy Hughes-Hallett).
Tim Parks' recent review in The New York Review of Books seems to have helped generate some interest in this title, too -- good to see it get all this attention.