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23 March 2017 - Thursday

Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding
The Killing of Shishupala review

       Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding

       The Leipzig Book Fair opened with the ceremony for its Prize for European Understanding, which went to Mathias Énard -- whose Compass is due out in English shortly (and a review of which should be up shortly at the complete review). See, for example the Deutsche Welle report, Leipzig Book Fair opens with prize for European understanding.
       A link to the German translation of his speech can be found at the official city page re. the prize -- download the pdf (arghh) here -- but I haven't seen a French or English version, or the video, yet.

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



       The Killing of Shishupala review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Magha's Sanskrit epic, The Killing of Shishupala -- the first complete translation into English, recently published in the Murty Classical Library of India (from Harvard University Press).

       This has one of the great examples of ... the difficulties of translation I've ever come across: check out the original (and transliteration), and then the -- content-accurately-conveying -- translation by Paul Dundas. You don't have to know Sanskrit to get it:
दाददो दुद्ददुद्दादी दाददो दूददीददोः
दुद्दादं दददे दुद्दे दादाददददोऽददः

[dādado duddaduddādī dādado dūdadīdadoḥ
duddādaṃ dadade dudde dādādadadado'dadaḥ
]

Bounteous with gifts, punishing assailants of the virtuous and then offering them protection, destroying with his mighty arms the demons oppressing the world, liberal toward the generous and the miserly without discrimination, but extirpating the greedy -- as such a hero Krishna had taken up arms against the enemy.
       Amazing, no ?

       These Murty volumes have gone woefully under-reviewed/noticed, and while I do wish folks who knew what they were talking about covered them (The New York Review of Books (who have [$]) and the Times Literary Supplement, for example), what I think would be really great is if 'general' readers had a go at these. These shouldn't simply be scholarly volumes -- like the Greek and Latin classics, many of these should find regular readers, and it would be great to hear how they took to them, and what they made of them.

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



22 March 2017 - Wednesday

Connie Palmen Q & A | Colin Dexter (1930-2017)

       Connie Palmen Q & A

       Several of Connie Palmen's novels have been published in English over the decades -- starting with The Laws, almost a quarter of a century ago (by George Braziller in the US -- a typical get for the recently deceased publisher); get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- and she's enjoyed great success with her recent novel, Jij zegt het; see the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page.
       You might think that novel -- 'The tragic love story of Plath and Hughes told by the husband who was branded a monster' -- might be of interest to US/UK publishers -- but apparently you'd think wrong. (Or you might not think it, resigned to finding US/UK publishing decisions, especially regarding fiction-in-translation, as baffling as always.)
       I mention it because it has apparently been translated into a number of languages -- including, now, Arabic. And at ahramonline Mohammed Saad now has a Q & A with her, Connie Palmen on the horror Ted Hughes had to face.

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



       Colin Dexter (1930-2017)

       'Inspector Morse'-author Colin Dexter has passed away; see, for example, Dennis Barker's obituary in The Guardian.

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



21 March 2017 - Tuesday

Torgny Lindgren (1938-2017)
Nordiska pris to Dag Solstad | Robert B. Silvers (1929-2017)
Reading in ... Lithuania | The Sad Part Was review

       Torgny Lindgren (1938-2017)

       Swedish author Torgny Lindgren passsed away a couple of days ago -- not that there seems to have been any notice in the English-language press (but see, for example Sara Danius' weblog mention).
       It's a major loss, of an author reasonably well translated into English; only one of his works is under review at the complete review -- In Praise of Truth -- but there's more that's still readily available.

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



       Nordiska pris to Dag Solstad

       The Swedish Academy blew it bigtime last year by awarding (or trying to ... he still hasn't given that supposedly obligatory lecture ...) the Nobel Prize in Literature to song-man Bob Dylan, and they have their work cut out for them in trying to reassert their literary bona fides; I can't see it happening anytime soon -- but awarding the Svenska Akademiens nordiska pris, the 'lilla Nobel-priset' ('little Nobel Prize'), as some style it (and worth about US$45,000), to the great Dag Solstad, as they have just done can't hurt. (Of course, giving Solstad -- certainly deserving -- the actual Nobel last fall probably would have been the wiser course, all around.)
       Several Solstad titles are under review at the complete review:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Robert B. Silvers (1929-2017)

       Robert B. Silvers, co-founding and long-time editor of The New York Review of Books, has passed away.
       See the NYRB notice, William Grimes' obituary in The New York Times, and Laura Miller at Slate on How Bob Silvers and the New York Review of Books Transformed the Literary World.

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



       Reading in ... Lithuania

       Lithuania is the guest of honor (well, 'Schwerpunktland' ...) at this year's Leipzig Book Fair (23 to 26 March), and so at DeutscheWelle Inga Janiulytė has a look at What Lithuanians read -- and what they want you to read about them.
       Apparently:
The proportion of original Lithuanian books to translations from foreign languages is 50/50.
       Which doesn't even sound that bad for a relatively small language.
       And it'll be interesting to see whether Kristina Sabaliauskaitė's Silva Rerum books will ever make it into English; see, for example, the LCI Kristina Sabaliauskaitė page.

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



       The Sad Part Was review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Thai author Prabda Yoon's The Sad Part Was, just out from Tilted Axis Press.

       This is the first Tilted Axis Press title under review at the complete review, but already this looks like a very promising publishing venture, and I expect to cover many more. And it's great to see a Thai title in English translation -- as I have often complained, there are far too few of these (only one other one under review at the site so far ...).

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



20 March 2017 - Monday

Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award shortlist
Marathi recommendations | Heretics review

       Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award shortlist

       They've announced the six-title shortlist for this year's £30,000 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award.
       You can read excerpts of the stories (yeah, excerpts ...) at the official site, but some can be found elsewhere on the internet in their actual entirety -- such as the one of most obvious appeal to me, Richard Lambert's The Hazel Twig and the Olive Tree: Presence, absence, and a lost story of Jorge Luis Borges (in #NewWriting).
       The winning story will be announced 27 April.

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



       Marathi recommendations

       At Scroll.in Devapriya Roy offers Fourteen Marathi classics, handpicked by Bhalchandra Nemade, that must be read (and translated).
       With no Marathi titles under review (yet) at the complete review, certainly somerthing to look into .....

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



       Heretics review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Leonardo Padura's big and ambitious Heretics, just out in English -- from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the US and Bitter Lemon Press in the UK.

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



19 March 2017 - Sunday

Murakami on translation | Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award longlist
Translation from the ... Hungarian

       Murakami on translation

       Less than a month ago, as I mentioned, a massive two-volume Murakami Haruki-novel came out in Japan -- and now, just a few weeks later, another book by him has just come out: 村上春樹 翻訳(ほとんど)全仕事 -- helpfully sort of subtitled on the cover in English as: 'Translation Works of Haruki Murakami'; see the publisher's publicity page.
       Apparently he talks about (most of) his ca. 70 translations in it; the volume also includes pictures (action-pictures of the translator at work ? one can hope ...) and a dialogue with noted translator Shibata Motoyuki.
       I very, very much hope this gets translated -- soon -- into English. (And note, yet again, how common the phenomenon of even very successful foreign novelists dedicating themselves to translation is -- and how uncommon it remains among authors who write in English.)
       See also the Asahi Shimbun article Murakami to give talk about his work as a translator.

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



       Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the 'foreign literature' (иностранная литература) category of the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award.
       The twenty-eight titles include books by Nobel laureates (Coetzee; Vargas Llosa; Modiano; Toni Morrison), Michel Houellebecq's Submission, Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger, and two Jonathan Franzens, among ... a lot else.
       Translations from the English dominate -- and quite a few of these titles aren't all that fresh (Beloved ? Birtdsong ?) but are apparently new-to-Russian.
       See also Alexandra Guzeva's report at Russia Beyond the Headlines.

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



       Translation from the ... Hungarian

       At hlo they have a Q & A, What's the point of translating anything easy ? -- an interview with Peter Sherwood.
       It includes his suggestions as to authors deserving of (more) translation -- including:
We must hope that the remarkable Tim Wilkinson recovers very soon and completes his magnificent assault on Miklós Szentkuthy's monumental oeuvre (and also finds publishers for the work of many other, contemporary, writers he has virtually ready for publication.)
       Amen to that (and very sorry to hear Wilkinson isn't fully fit !).
       And Sherwood notes:
It would be wonderful if other Hungarian writers were able to capitalize on the recent acclaim that has met László Krasznahorkai's work in the English-speaking world. However, there is, of course, only one László Krasznahorkai -- and he is a hard act to follow.
       Indeed .....

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



18 March 2017 - Saturday

Derek Walcott (1930-2017) | George Braziller (1916-2017)
The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping review

       Derek Walcott (1930-2017)

       Nobel laureate (1992) Derek Walcott has passed away; see, for example, obituaries in The Guardian (Anita Sethi and Lawrence Scott's) or The New York Times (William Grimes').

       None of his titles are under review at the complete review, but Omeros is a fine place to start; see the publicity pages at Farrar, Straus and Giroux or Faber, or get your copy at Amazon.com.

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



       George Braziller (1916-2017)

       George Braziller -- publisher, under the eponymous imprint -- has passed away; see, for example Robert D. McFadden's obituary in The New York Times.
       Quite a few titles published by George Braziller are under review at the complete review, and his (swirling) logo was certainly always one to look out for.

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



       The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Higashino Keigo's The Name of the Game is a Kidnapping, recently out from Vertical.
       As I've often noted, Higashino is the mystery star in the Far East -- incredibly popular not only in Japan but especially South Korea and China.
       He's achieved some success in English, with his Detective Galileo (e.g. The Devotion of Suspect X) and Detective Kaga (e.g. Malice) series, but Vertical actually introduced him to the US market with another stand-alone, Naoko.

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



17 March 2017 - Friday

NBCC Awards | Albertine Prize

       NBCC Awards

       The announced the (US) National Book Critics Circle Awards yesterday, with LaRose, by Louise Erdrich, taking the fiction prize.
       None of the winning titles are under review at the complete review -- but see, for example, the Harper publicity page for the much-praised LaRose, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Albertine Prize

       They launched the Albertine Prize yesterday, longlisting ten translated-from-the-French titles, with internet-users able to vote for the winner. It'll be interesting to see how that goes .....
       Good to see another prize encouraging translation-into-English -- though, of course, translated-from-the-French titles probably need less help than almost any others. (French is invariably the language from which -- by far -- the most books are translated into English. Not that the individual books can't use the help .....)
       Four of the titles are under review at the complete review:        And, hey, they didn't nominate Charlotte, so there are some standards at work here. (In fact, it's a pretty solid list, given what was published in 2016 -- and we'll see in two weeks whether any of these also make the Best Translated Book Award longlist.)
       With US$10,000 for the winning title -- US$2,000 of which goes to the translator -- certainly ... encouraging.

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



16 March 2017 - Thursday

Man Booker International Prize longlist
New Swedish Book Review | Slow Boat review

       Man Booker International Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's Man Booker International Prize.
       The thirteen novels left in the running (out of 126 books they considered -- though god forbid they'd let us know what those were ...) are:
  • Black Moses, Alain Mabanckou, tr. Helen Stevenson
  • Bricks and Mortar, Clemens Meyer, tr. Katy Derbyshire
  • Compass, Mathias Énard, tr. Charlotte Mandell
  • The Explosion Chronicles, Yan Lianke, tr. Carlos Rojas
  • Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin, tr. Megan McDowell
  • Fish Have No Feet, Jón Kalman Stefánsson, tr. Phil Roughton
  • A Horse Walks Into a Bar, David Grossman, tr. Jessica Cohen
  • Judas, Amos Oz, tr. Nicholas de Lange
  • Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, Dorthe Nors, tr. Misha Hoekstra
  • Swallowing Mercury, Wioletta Greg, tr. Eliza Marciniak
  • The Traitor's Niche, Ismail Kadare, tr. John Hodgson
  • The Unseen, Roy Jacobsen, tr. Don Bartlett, Don Shaw
  • War and Turpentine, Stefan Hertmans, tr. David McKay
       There's little potential overlap here with the (US) Best Translated Book Award (see my preview) -- the Yan Lianke, the Oz, and the Hertmans are the only ones that appear to be BTBA eligible (for the 2017 prize -- more will be for next year's prize).
       Two translated-from-the-Hebrew titles are perhaps the language-surprise (no translation from the Japanese, Arabic, Russian, or Korean, sadly, less so).
       For some early overviews/discussions, see reports in the Irish Times (Eileen Battersby's) and The Guardian (Sian Cain's), or at weblogs such as 1streading's Blog and A Little Blog of Books.
       The shortlist will be announced 20 April.

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



       New Swedish Book Review

       The 2017:1 Issue of the Swedish Book Review is now (partially) available online, including Ian Giles' interview with translator, and former SBR editor, Sarah Death, A Career in Swedish Literary Translation (warning ! dreaded pdf format !)
       Most importantly and usefully, there are a lot of freely accessible -- and not in pdf format ! -- reviews, including one of Lina Wolff's August Prize-winning The Polyglot Lovers -- forthcoming from And Other Stories; see also the Bonnier Rights information page.

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



       Slow Boat review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Slow Boat to China RMX by Furukawa Hideo, Slow Boat, just about out, apparently, from Pushkin Press in their new Japanese novella series.

       This is the third Furukawa to appear in English -- after Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure (Columbia University Press) and Belka, Why Don't You Bark ? (Haikasoru) -- and the Murakami Haruki-connection could help make this his (overdue) breakout(-in-the-US/UK) work.
       Much as some of the newer Japanese talents appeal to me -- Kawakami Hiromi (most recently The Nakano Thrift Shop), Ogawa Yoko (Revenge, etc.), Nakamura Fuminori (The Thief, etc.), Mizumura Minae (whose Inheritance from Mother is forthcoming), etc. -- but I have to figure Furukawa should be the next big (literary) thing.
       The translated samples are impressive enough already -- but check out descriptions of some of his other, as yet untranslated stuff here. Or the already available in French Soundtrack (see the Picquier publicity page).
       I'm surprised US/UK publishers have been so slow to commit to him. (Okay, not that surprised -- caution prevails when it comes to translation ..... Still .....)

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



15 March 2017 - Wednesday

Ottaway Award | Wellcome Book Prize shortlist
Publishing in ... Morocco | Galatea review

       Ottaway Award

       Words without Borders has announced that Archipelago Books-founder and publisher Jill Schoolman will receive this year's Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature (on 1 November).
       Certainly a deserving and good choice !
       (Interesting to see also that, despite being under-represented in books actually translated, women are certainly at the forefront of bringing translated literature to English-speaking audiences: the Ottaway is now five-for-five in honoring a woman with the award.)

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



       Wellcome Book Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Wellcome Book Prize -- celebrating: "exceptional works of fiction and non-fiction that engage with the topics of health and medicine and the many ways they touch our lives".
       Two works of fiction make the shortlist -- including Maylis de Kerangal's Mend the Living (US title: The Heart) -- which stands the rare chance of making the translation prize double: we'll learn today whether it made the Man Booker International Prize longlist, and in two weeks whether it gets Best Translated Book Prize longlisted. (I think its chances are good.)

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



       Publishing in ... Morocco

       A nice profile by Alice Kaplan in The Nation, of Algeria's New Imprint, explaining 'How Éditions Barzakh publishes books for Algerians who think and dream for themselves'. (The name is: "inspired by the title of a French translation of a Spanish novel that Hadjadj loves -- Juan Goytisolo's Quarantine"; inspired by the great Goytisolo ? they have to be on the right track !)
       They are, of course, best known for Kamel Daoud's The Meursault Investigation -- but that's a list worth checking out far beyond that.

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



       Galatea review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of James M. Cain's 1953 novel Galatea.

       Yeah, I'm filling in the gaps in my Cain-coverage -- this is the ninth Cain under review at the complete review -- but I kind of get how I snagged this first edition for a mere US$1.00 .....

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



14 March 2017 - Tuesday

Miriam Tlali (1933-2017) | Spring 2017 Quarterly Conversation
Deadly Sorrows | The Tongue of Adam review

       Miriam Tlali (1933-2017)

       South African author Miriam Tlali (1933-2017) passed away a few weeks ago; see, for example, Barbara Boswell's Rest in power, Miriam Tlali: Author, enemy of apartheid and feminist.
       She is best-known for her Muriel at Metropolitan, now re-published as Between Two Worlds; see the Broadview Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Spring 2017 Quarterly Conversation

       The Spring 2017 issue of the Quarterly Conversation is now available -- the usual good variety of review- and other coverage. Enough to tide you over, if you're snowed in on the East Coast today .....

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



       Deadly Sorrows

       Sean Braswell tells a familiar story, but, hey, anything that reminds folks of Goethe's classic (one of his many, many classics), The Sorrows of Young Werther -- and at least the piece has a catchy headline: Is This German Novel the Deadliest Book in History ?
       A couple of years ago, Rachel Shteir wrote in The New Republic, apropos of yet another translation of the book:
(I)n America today, this book -- Goethe in general -- remains, even more than Shakespeare, under-read. (Corngold's translation has not been reviewed, as far as I can tell.) There are many reasons why: centuries of hagiography surrounding Goethe; American literary nationalism; a distaste in the academy and outside it for anything written prior to last week. [...] There is not an eminence in world literature who has not read him. But Werther is not widely taught in universities. And I meet a lot of writers from Iowa Writer's Workshop, Columbia, and so on, and if they adore Goethe and Werther, they are keeping it secret. I have heard homages to Murakami and David Foster Wallace, to cool irony and knowingness, but on the subject of Werther's hot subjectivity I have heard nothing.
       (As to its not being widely taught -- hey, maybe everyone's being careful in these cautious days, worried about the kids offing themselves after reading it ?)
       I'll cop to adoring Goethe -- obviously the towering figure of German literature, the be-all if not quite end-all -- and can't recommend him highly enough (though of course translation does get in the way for those of you not reading him in the original). Still, Werther is hard to kill; check out, for example, the OUP World's Classics David Constantine translation; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

       A Werther-bonus: familiarity helps make even more accessible one of the iconic East German novels, the recently re-translated The New Sorrows of Young W., by Ulrich Plenzdorf (which also can't have quite the same impact in translation, but is perhaps the essential GDR read). The new translation also didn't get nearly the attention it deserved ... but then that's a familiar translated-book fate .....

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



       The Tongue of Adam review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Abdelfattah Kilito's The Tongue of Adam -- which, in addition to being a nice read also comes in a perfect, truly-pocket sized edition from New Directions.

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



13 March 2017 - Monday

MBIP speculations | OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature longlist
Orbital Cloud review

       MBIP speculations

       The longlist for the (US) Best Translated Book Award will be announced 28 March -- see my speculation about contenders (for the runners-up spot ...) yesterday -- but first the (UK) Man Booker International Prize will announce its (slightly shorter) longlist. This week already -- on 15 March !
       The MBIP -- the successor to the Independent Foreign Fiction Prrize, essentially -- has different limitations: UK-published, obviously, but also: both author and translator must be alive (because ... ? books die with their authors/translators ?). It also, bizarrely, doesn't cover the calendar year -- because that would be just too simple and sensible.
       Anyway, they apparently considered 126 titles this year -- though regrettably they don't reveal what the hell the eligible/considered titles actually are (as the BTBA does ...) -- presumably because that also would be too simple and sensible. (Why be transparent when you can obscure ?) A Goodreads group lists what they find to be Man Booker International Prize: Eligible Books 2017, and they only find 142 eligible titles, so that would mean the judges got to close to the lot -- and would also be really sad, that there were only 142 qualifying titles. (The UK-restriction suggests, for example, no Dalkey Archive Press titles were considered eligible -- somewhat odd, considering a Dalkey title (Omega Minor) won the predecessor IFFP (in 2008) -- but, yes, Dalkey has since 'moved' their European alternate site from London to Ireland.)
       The overlap between these apparently MBIP-eligible titles -- and the Goodreads list surely has most of it covered, regardless -- and the BTBA is surprisingly small, too, and I've seen far too few of these to toss in my two cents -- but several bloggers have. Check out, for example:        I figure I'll have more to add once the longlist is released (like complaining why I haven't seen any of these ...).

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



       OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.
       There are three genre-categories, the winners of which will be announced on 27 March; the overall winner will be announced on 29 April.
       None of these are under review at the complete review -- but some of those titles are certainly tempting, even just going by the actual titles.

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



       Orbital Cloud review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Fujii Taiyo's near-contemporary science fiction thriller, Orbital Cloud, just about out in English from Haikasoru.

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



12 March 2017 - Sunday

Best Translated Book Award speculation
Adelbert-von-Chamisso-Preis winds down

       Best Translated Book Award speculation

       The 25-title strong longlist for the 2017 Best Translated Book Award in fiction is scheduled to be announced on 28 March. (The poetry longlist too -- but I'm afraid my focus and discussion will be entirely on the fiction award.) I have been a BTBA judge in previous years but am not judging this year -- but of course I still love to play along and speculate.

       Arguably, this is the easiest BTBA to date, with one contender towering over everything else: it seems almost inconceivable that John E. Woods' translation of Arno Schmidt's Bottom's Dream wouldn't be the winner. So much more, in every respect, than any of the other eligible titles, how could it not win ? I mean, they might as well announce it on 28 March and then make the rest of this year's BTBA a contest to pick a runner-up from the 24 remaining longlisted titles .....
       Oh, yes, well ... maybe not ? One can't help but notice that Bottom's Dream didn't even get longlisted for the 2017 PEN Translation Prize ..... (Of course, we don't know if it was even considered -- unlike the BTBA, they don't reveal which titles have been submitted; with the BTBA that's not an issue: they all are, automatically (indeed, whether they like it or not ...) !) And, of course, there's the issue that it's unlikely all (or, actually, any) of the judges have made it through the whole damn thing (I haven't either). And there's the argument that this is too out there, too heavyweight (in every respect) a title to burden readers with, and that the BTBA should try to honor something a bit more accessible (you know, like some Krasznahorkai ...). Then there's the fact that, while you can get it reasonably discounted at Amazon, this is a book with a list price of a hefty US$70.00 .....
       In my mind, there is no question: there simply isn't any other title that even comes close to competing with Bottom's Dream, and it should win the 2017 BTBA. End of story, end of speculation. (That said: easy for me to say from the sidelines .....)
       Still, there's lots of room to speculate beyond it: even taking a Bottom's Dream-win for granted (as I'd love to do ...), twenty-four other titles will fill out the longlist and it's certainly fun to consider what might make that list. (And, yes, worryingly a Bottom's Dream-win of course can't be taken for granted: the judges might very well think differently, and they're the ones who get to decide.)

       So what (else) is in the running for the BTBA ? Every not previously translated or published translation of a work of fiction published or distributed in the US in 2016. At Three Percent the 2016 Translation Database (warning ! dreaded Excel spreadsheet format !) -- last updated 24 January 2017 as I write this -- should be fairly close to the list the judges are working with, so check that out to see what's being considered.
       (The judges are presumably working off a more accurate updated list, but for those playing at home, my too-hurried scan of the publicly accessible list finds the following adjustments:
  • 4 ineligible titles: not yet published/not published in 2016:
    • Two by Aleshkovsky, Yuz Aleshkovsky (Dalkey Archive Press) (no official US pub date yet)
    • Two Seagull books titles: Moor, Gunther Geltinger (official US pub date: 20/3/2017) and Chemmeen by Thakazhi Sivasankara (official US pub date: 30/1/2017)
    • Kizumonogatari: Wound Tale, Nisio Isin (Vertical) (publisher page (and Amazon) have a 15 December 2015 pub date for this; also, it's a (usually BTBA-not-included) YA title)
  • 1 ineligible title: previously published:
  • 4 ineligible titles: previously translated/published:
    • Vertigo, Boileau/Narcejac; previously translated (originally -- before the movie -- as The Living and the Dead), 1957
    • Pereira Maintains, Antonio Tabucchi; previously translated and reprinted numerous times
    • Hill, Jean Giono; previously translated twice, FFS -- as Hill of Destiny (1929) and Colline (1986)
    • [Updated - I had missed this one; a reader pointed this out]: Dance on the Volcano, Marie Vieux-Chauvet; previously translated 1959 and publication of new translation delayed until January 2017
  • 1 ineligible title: previously translated:
  • One title double-listed

  • 6 eligible titles that aren't listed (all Pushkin Vertigo)
       As is, the spreadsheet counts 512 fiction titles; incorporating my emendations (nine ten entries removed, six added) and removing the (11) not-prize-eligible fiction anthologies (works with "various" authors) leaves a formidable 497 still to be considered. (Note that there probably are a few more titles that belong on the list (and maybe some more that don't) -- if you know of any, let Chad Post at Three Percent know; the Translation Database is a work in progress and additional information is always welcome.)

       Of the 497 (actually) eligible titles for the 2017 BTBA, only 99 are under review at the complete review; I have read another dozen or so, and taken a closer look (more-than-just-leafed-through, let's say) maybe fifty more. Disappointingly, I'd estimate I haven't even seen fully half of the titles (the one disadvantage of not being a BTBA judge: I am well-provided with review copies of translations, but BTBA judges are even better-supplied).
       Obviously, the BTBA judges have each read considerably more of these than I have, and while it's of course (essentially) impossible for any one of them to have read them all, I assume (and hope) that between them they have covered at least 400 -- and maybe even been able to at least have a look at a few dozen more. (Because of the difficulty of getting some titles, or getting access to them, there are always a number of titles that remain unconsidered -- but hopefully that number is a small one.)

       In trying to guess what will come out tops (or second best, in this case) what matters almost as much as the books themselves is, of course, who the judges are. Helpfully, this year's BTBA panel of nine fiction judges includes several with prominent internet presences where you can try to glean insight into what they might be thinking.
       The obvious place to start is Three Percent and the BTBA page. Over the past few months, judges have (ir)regularly been posting about the award and their reading. Somewhat confusingly, these don't all seem to be cross-posted on the BTBA page itself, but they're easy enough to find scrolling through the Three Percent weblog (where they all can be found). Here you can see what at least some of the judges were drawn to, and while they don't show their hands too obviously, many of the notable eligible titles do get mentioned.
       One of the judges, Trevor Berrett, also has a 2017: BTBA Speculation-thread at his The Mookse and the Gripes Goodreads group, and while there hasn't been that much activity there -- and while he hasn't revealed too much (yet ?) ! -- it's also a useful resource (and you are of course encouraged to offer your thoughts there too).
       The reviewing and other literary posting work of some of the judges can also be revealing. You can Google around to find much of their work, while some also conveniently run weblogs focused on reviewing, notably Berrett, at his The Mookse and the Gripes and Rachel Cordasco, who runs Speculative Fiction in Translation (allowing for the easy takeaway that, hey, maybe science/speculative fiction -- generally neglected in BTBAs past -- will get more consideration this time around).

       To the longlist !
       Remember how this works: each of the nine judges ranks their top ten (that's not a lot of books, out of 498 !) and those votes are tallied, with the top sixteen vote-getters making the longlist. Each judge then gets to toss in a personal pick -- anything they want -- and those nine selections fill out the 25-title longlist.
       While I am tempted to guess what the judges are thinking, I think I'll limit my own speculation largely to my own opinion. (I remind you that individual voices often don't hold that much sway in any case: when I was a judge, I was often surprised by how few of my initial top-ten picks made it on the longlist ..... Of course, given that track record, my guesses as to what should make this year's longlist probably aren't that helpful either .....)
       So:
  • The book that obviously has to win (yeah, I'm not backing down from this one): Bottom's Dream

  • Books that I haven't reviewed (yet), but that I expect will make the longlist

    • Angel of Oblivion, Maja Haderlap. Tess Lewis just won the 2017 PEN Translation Prize for this, and it previously was awarded the ACFNY Translation Prize so, yeah

    • Confessions, Rabee Jaber. Looks like the cream of the Arabic crop, and from much-loved-by-the-BTBA New Directions, so stands a good chance. (And, yes, I will get around to reviewing it too)

    • Sudden Death, Álvaro Enrigue. I was a bit surprised that I didn't take to this -- maybe I had too high/wrong expectations -- and I didn't review it at the time; might after a re-read. But enthusiasm has been high for this one elsewhere.

  • My top choices:

    • Agnes, Peter Stamm. This book has been out in English for ages, but, yeah, this apparently really is the first US publication. Still my favorite Stamm.

    • The Doomed City, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. There are some interesting speculative fiction titles in the running this year, but a new Strugatsky is hard to beat.

    • On the Edge, Rafael Chirbes. I'm a bit surprised this didn't have more of an impact; it came out early in the year, so I hope it hasn't been forgotten.

    • Ruined City, Jia Pingwa. Great to finally see more of his work available in English (and more is coming) and this is indeed a very good one.

    • Zama, Antonio Di Benedetto. A nice classic, finally translated into English.

    • A Zero-Sum Game, Eduardo Rabasa. The biggest unknown-to-me surprise of the year -- and how has this not gotten more attention ?

  • Prominent titles that seem likely to make the longlist:

    • The Heart, Maylis De Kerangal. Didn't get the attention I thought it would, but seems pretty widely admired.

    • Ladivine, Marie NDiaye. NDiaye is always hard to ignore.

    • Memoirs of a Polar Bear, Tawada Yoko. Translator Susan Bernofsky usually has something in the mix, and this one has obvious appeal.

    • Moonstone, Sjón. A pretty effective compact little novel -- and Sjón seems to have wide appeal.

    • Thus Bad Begins, Javier Marías. While this one doesn't seem to have found as much favor as Marías usually does, it's worthy of being in the mix

    • The Vegetarian, Han Kang. Yeah, it won the Man Booker International Prize, and it would be a major upset if this weren't on the longlist.

  • Less prominent titles that I'd certainly consider for the longlist:

    • Albina and the Dog-Men, Alejandro Jodorowsky. Quirky stuff, but I think it worked pretty well.

    • Brother, Rein Raud. Among the most under-appreciated novels of the year, getting far too little attention.

    • The Deep Sea Diver's Syndrome, Serge Brussolo. More speculative fiction -- and definitely worth a look.

    • Mannequin, Ch'oe Yun. Probably my favorite of last year's big Korean batch.

    • A Voyage to India, Gonçalo M. Tavares. The Translation Database has the listed as 'fiction', but I'm hoping it's also being considered for the poetry prize, and that it becomes the first title longlisted on both.
       One more title that wouldn't be in my top ten but which I'd put in the top 25 is Multiple Choice, by Alejandro Zambra -- I'm a sucker for the playful, unusual stuff.
       That's twenty-two titles. Some expectations (and some suggestions/hopes ...) for the final three would include:
  • Between Dog and Wolf, Sasha Sokolov
  • Dance on the Volcano, Marie Vieux-Chauvet [Updated: as a reader points out to me, this has both previously translated and official publication was delayed until 2017]
  • Invisible Hands, Stig Sæterbakken
  • The Last Wolf/Herman, Krasznahorkai László
  • Love Letter in Cuneiform, Tomáš Zmeškal
  • One Hundred Twenty-One Days, Michèle Audin
  • Oblivion, Sergei Lebedev
  • One of the five Modianos ?
       I do hope the Jia Pingwa gets the Chinese spot ahead of the considerably more attention-getting (but not nearly as good) The Explosion Chronicles by Yan Lianke -- indeed, I'd prefer to see Ge Fei's The Invisibility Cloak ahead of it too.
       I am disappointed not to see any from-the-Japanese titles that really strike me as longlist-worthy (of the two Nakamuras, The Kingdom would be my pick; other than that there's arguably the Yoshimoto (Moshi Moshi) and the amusing little Kitano Yusaku, Mr. Turtle -- which judge Cordasco reviewed, and brought up in a BTBA post -- still, overall, fairly slim pickings).
       I'm sure I've overlooked quite a few very good titles (though some that are being touted as likely finalists impress me less ...).
       Further thoughts to follow, if anything comes to mind -- and I hope others start playing the guessing game too ! (That Goodreads group thread looks like a good place to start, if you don't have your own forum.)
       Just over two weeks left -- until we can start debating how right/wrong the judges were, and what then deserves to move on to the ten-title shortlist.

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



       Adelbert-von-Chamisso-Preis winds down

       The Robert Bosch Stiftung has been handing out the Adelbert von Chamisso-Prize since 1985, to: "authors writing in the German language whose literature is affected by cultural changes" -- a decent € 15,000 for the prize-winner, and up to two € 7,500 'supporting awards' each time around -- and that's a mighty fine list of prize winners that they've accumulated over the years (with many whose work is translated into English, too).
       They recently awarded this year's prize to The Village Indian-author Abbas Khider -- while also noting that this is the grand finale, the last time they'll be awarding the rpize. Apparently the thinking is that 'foreign' authors -- originally the prize was for "guest worker literature", and then: "migration literature" -- now are well-enough integrated into the German literary scene that they don't need the additional support. Possibly so -- still, sad to see this go.

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



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