I'm a big fan of the old African Writers Series, and have a couple of dozen of them; nineteen of them are under review at the complete review.
Now, in Lapham's Quarterly, Josh MacPhee goes: 'Looking back at the design of the African Writers Series', in the interesting Judged by Its Covers.
(And don't forget James Currey's invaluable companion-guide to the series, Africa Writes Back, a must-have for anyone interested in it (or, indeed, African literature in the second half of the twentieth century).)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Imraan Coovadia's A Spy in Time, due out next month in the US from California Coldblood Books.
(It's already out in South Africa.)
This is kind of a change for him -- honest to goodness science fiction -- but then he's repetedly tried new directions in his fiction.
Good to see, in any case, that he has a US publisher for this: The Wedding got a US release and decent attention almost twenty years ago, and Green-Eyed Thieves was/is nominally available (from Seagull Books); High Low In-Between and The Institute for Taxi Poetry didn't make it to these shores, and Tales of the Metric System only after some delay (and then published by not-so-commercial Ohio University Press ...).
It'll be interesting to see whether the genre-embrace leads to more attention (and leads some new readers back to his backlist)..
With all due respect to the BDS organizations, most writers are enthusiastic about being translated into foreign languages.
An interesting/messy meeting of literature and politics -- though Kinneret Zmora-Bitan's Ziv Lewis claims:
I haven’t come across Western writers who identify with BDS.
A writer wants his book to be read by as many people as possible.
They may not want to contribute to public relations, won’t agree to be interviewed – but they want to be read.
The same is true of writers from the Arab world whom we contact: Unofficially they all want to be published everywhere and in any language, including Hebrew.
In the 1 July issue of The New York Times Book Review Benjamin Moser reviewed Kate Briggs' This Little Art (see the Fitzcarraldo Editions publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) -- and it was iimediately clear that some of what he said would not go over well with (many) translators (though note that Moser is also -- and writes as -- a translator).
Now comes the first major counter-punch, a letter to the editor signed by an all-star cast of major translators (including Susan Bernofsky, Lydia Davis, John Keene, Lawrence Venuti, and Emily Wilson).
(There are also two individual letters responding to the review.)
Many other translators have voiced their support/enthusiasm regarding this reaction as well (especially on Twitter).
I hope this develops into a broader debate, as well -- there's lots to discuss here (but, no, I'm not going to, not here, not right now -- though I do have the book and should be covering it).
Yesterday was Uwe Johnson's birthday, so they took the occasion to announce the winner of this year's Uwe Johnson Prize -- Der Gott jenes Sommers, by Ralf Rothmann; see also the Suhrkamp foreign rights page.
English-language rights have already been sold, so you'll be seeing this -- and, like his previously translated To Die in Spring (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), it's a set-in-1945 work .....
Meanwhile, even if you didn't celebrate Uwe Johnson's birthday by pre-ordering the must-have Anniversaries -- well, it's never too late .....
(And, hey, it's not set in the Nazi-era !
Doesn't late-1960s New York City (with some East German contrast-material) sound more fun ?)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Muḥammad al-Tūnisī's nineteenth-century In Darfur: An Account of the Sultanate and Its People, in the Library of Arabic Literature's two-volume, bilingual edition.
The Prix littéraire Lucien-Barrière is awarded in conjunction with the Festival du Cinéma Américain de Deauville and so you can see how this prize -- which they've been handing out since 1976 ! -- would be both American- and cinematic-heavy.
It is also the most brow-indifferent -- as in: high ? low ? no ? whatever ... -- winner's list I've ever seen for a literary prize, ranging from a Nobel (Peace) Prize-winner (Elie Wiesel) and some fairly serious authors (if not always their finest work ...) to ... well, some decidedly (and undeniably) 'popular' authors.
William Kennedy, William Styron, Jim Harrison, Colum McCann, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Ford, and Dinaw Mengestu on the one hand, Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steel, Mary Higgins Clark, Michael Crichton on the other.
This year's winner ?
Camino Island, by John Grisham .....
See the official announcement, and then scroll down through that whole wild winners list.
They've announced the winners of this half-year's (yes, they're biannual prizes) Akutagawa and Naoki prizes, with 送り火, by Takahashi Hiroki, winning the Akutagawa (see also the 文藝春秋 publicity page) and ファーストラヴ (yes, 'First Love'), by Shimamoto Rio taking the Naoki (see also the 文藝春秋 publicity page, and the brief Books in Japan entry on the author)
Both authors have apparently been Akutagawa Prize-finalists several times each, while Shimamoto has also previously been up for the Naoki.
See also The Japan Times' report, Hiroki Takahashi wins Akutagawa literary award, while Rio Shimamoto bags Naoki Prize.
And see the Index of Akutagawa Prize-winners under review at the complete review.
A good, lengthy background/overview article in The Guardian by Andrew Brown about the Nobel Prize in Literature-deciding Swedish Academy's recent troubles, and The ugly scandal that cancelled the Nobel prize.
A good reminder, too, about what a bizarre and hard -to-take-seriously institution this has always been (which is also part of what has always made Nobel Prize-watching and speculating so much fun).
The Dayton Literary Peace Prize Committee has announced that John Irving will receive this year's Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award.
He gets to pick it up at the Dayton Literary Peace Prize awards ceremony, on 28 October.
Several Irving titles are under review at the complete review:
The American Literary Translators Association has announced the longlists for its National Translation Awards.
This prize impressively: "includes a rigorous examination of both the source text and its relation to the finished English work" -- which should be particularly interesting this year, with a translation of Homer's Odyssey is in the running .....
None of the poetry titles are under review at the complete review -- though I actually have, and hope to get to, some of these -- but several prose titles are:
Affections , by Rodrigo Hasbún, translated by Sophie Hughes
Compass, by Mathias Énard, translated by Charlotte Mandell
Dandelions, by Kawabata Yasunari, translated by Michael Emmerich
Also on the longlist: Will Vanderhyden's Best Translated Book Award-winning translation of Rodrigo Fresán's The Invented Part .
The shortlists will be announced in September, and the winners will be announced at ALTA's annual conference (to be held 31 October to 3 November).
At The Paris Review's Daily weblog Kalle Oskari Mattila explains How Finland Rebranded Itself as a Literary Country.
He presents Sofi Oksanen's Purge as a break-through work with its international reach -- though I'd argue that The Year of the Hare-(etc.) author Arto Paasilinna has been a bigger brand for much longer -- just not in the English-speaking world (but he's a big hit internationally otherwise).
And for every Johanna Sinisalo success, worthy authors such as Kari Hotakainen struggle to get more than one title into English -- while huge-in-Finland works like Laura Lindstedt's Oneiron get translated but lag in attention.
(But, yes, at least more is being made available, which is great.)
FILI, the 'Finnish Literature Exchange ', do do a nice job -- though amazingly: "FILI will be closed for the summer holidays from 25 June to 31 July 2018 inclusive".
And see also the site for the Elina Ahlback Literary Agency (which goes un-diacritical at the official site).
I'm not too sure about this (altered, simplified) junior version of The Story of The Stone (a.k.a. Dream of the Red Chamber and A Dream of Red Mansions), as described by Mei Jia in China Daily, in Classical text gets novel treatment.
The simplifier, Liu Xinwu, at least seems to be an expert on the novel -- among his previous works is even one 'completing' it -- but I still have my doubts.
(Let them read the real thing !)
Still, any excuse to mention this great work and its significance -- and the article has a few interesting observations and quotes, including how big a fan Mao was (not necessarily a selling point ?) -- and that:
"You can talk about it (the novel) only after reading through it at least five times," Mao had said.
In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung Paul Jandl has an interesting (German) piece on Thomas Bernhard's first editor at Suhrkamp/Insel, Anneliese Botond, reviewing a collection of her correspondence with the author -- Wer hätte schon Thomas Bernhards Lektorin sein wollen ? Diese Frau war es !
Worth pointing to because it gives me an opportunity to remind you of the neat Korrektur Verlag publishing house, who brought out this collection, Briefe an Thomas Bernhard (see their publicity page).
I've mentioned them before, and they continue to do great Bernhard-inspired and -related stuff.
But Anneliese Botond is also interesting beyond her Bernhard-work; among the other authors she worked with was Paul Celan, and she translated an impressive array of authors from the French and Spanish, from Foucault and Simenon to Onetti,, Puig, and, above all, Alejo Carpentier.
(I happen to be knee-deep in her translation of Carpentier's outrageously not available in English La consagración de la primavera, so it's amusing to come across her in this very different context too.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Roberto Arlt's 1926 novel, Mad Toy.
My review is based on the 2002 Michele McKay Aynesworth translation (Duke University Press) -- and, yes, I acquired the book in 2002; sometimes it takes me a while to get to a book ... -- but another translation, by James Womack, was published in the UK in 2013 (by Hesperus).
Another of his novels, The Seven Madmen, has, oddly enough, also been translated twice -- while the rest of his output has so far mostly been ignored (though a translation The Flamethrowers -- the continuation of The Seven Madmen -- is apparently forthcoming from River Boat Books; see here (scroll down)).
Le HuffPost -- yes, there's a French version of this site -- asked a variety of popular French authors and other "professionnels du milieu littéraire" to name their top twenty French classics, tallying the totals to make a list of ten essential classics (for purposes of a summer reading challenge to entertain/occupy their readers) -- and Lauren Provost now sums up the results in Les 10 plus grands romans français selon les écrivains pour notre défi de l'été.
The list is definitely old-classics-heavy -- event the least long-dead of the authors died over twenty years ago -- and partially very predictable (Les Misérables, The Red and the Black, Madame Bovary).
(Only the Flaubert and Le Grand Meaulnes are under review at the complete review.)
Interesting to hear that, for example, there were a lot of votes for Zola-titles -- but that they were spread over so many titles that none made the cut.
More interesting, of course, are the individual selections -- which you can see by clicking on the links.
It is a ... curious selection of author-selectors, ranging from Marie Darrieusecq to Marc Levy to Franck Thilliez.
The „Brücke Berlin“ Prize is a German literature-in-translation award, the winning translation getting a prize of €20,000, shared equally by author and translator(s), and they've now announced that this year's prize goes to the German translation (by Natia Mikeladse-Bachsoliani) of Zaza Burchuladze's novel, ტურისტის საუზმე; see, for example, the Georgia Today report, Zaza Burchuladze Awarded Literary Prize, and the Georgian and German publishers' publicity pages for the book
Burchuladze's adibas came out in English from Dalkey Archive Press a couple of years ago; no word yet as to whether this will get a US/UK publisher.
This prize does look like it has a pretty good track record, beginning with the neat double for its opening award in 2002, an Esther Kinsky translation of an Olga Tokarczuk work.
Works by David Albahari, Andrei Bitov, Krasznahorkai László, Nádas Péter, and Serhiy Zhadan have also taken the biennial prize since.
In the Irish Times Michael Cronin profiles 'Ireland’s most distinguished living literary translator', in From 'La Bamba' to Houellebecq: Frank Wynne's linguistic odyssey.
Wynne managed the neat feat of placing two translations on the longlist for this year's Man Booker International Prize list -- particularly neat because the translations were from different languages (Spanish and French).
Quite a few of his translations are under review at the complete review, from several Pierre Lemaitres (including the prix Goncourt-winning The Great Swindle), Houellebecqs (e.g. Platform), and Frédéric Beigbeder's Windows on the World ) to a few Spanish-language works, such as Tomás Eloy Martínez's Purgatory.
A German prize for the best book published by an independent publisher has now relesed their 30 finalists (more convenient list/overview here), selected from 161 entries; readers can now vote for their favorites.
Always interesting to see what the smaller presses are bringing out in other countries -- especially also since a lot of these are titles in translation.
Among the authors with longlisted books: Marcel Schwob, Judith Kerr, Dennis Cooper, Shelley -- and Arthur Koestler, with Darkness at Noon.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ōhara Mariko's 1990 science fiction novel, Hybrid Child, just out in English from the University of Minnesota Press.
Wild stuff but certainly of some interest.
In this week's Times Literary Supplement Sam Leith tries to explain Lee Child's success, in Looking up to Jack Reacher.
As Leith notes, his fans and admirers are many -- not just the book-buying public that propels the books up the bestseller lists, but also those of an ostensibly more serious literary bent.
(Among those he doesn't mention are also César Aira, while Man Booker-winning author Eleanor Catton said he was one of her holiday go-to authors in a TLSTwenty Questions, and both John Lanchester and Malcolm Gladwell have enthused about him in The New Yorker (here and here).)
Only two Reacher novels are under review at the complete review -- Killing Floor and The Affair -- and while I suspect I'll get to a few others, I'm not an entirely won over die-hard fan.
The French 'rentrée littéraire' -- the big flooding of the book market with the big (and prize-contending) titles is still more than a month off, but the preview are beginning -- beginning with the numbers.
As widely reported, 567 novels will hit the market -- down from last year's 581, but more than 2016's 560.
One interesting note: fiction in translation continues its slow decline, with only 186 foreign works, the lowest since 1999 (!).
(The decline has been slow rather than precipitous -- there were 191 last year, 196 in 2016 -- but it's a steady, continuing decline).
On the other hand, first novels are better-represented than any time since 2007 -- a sign, perhaps, that the French are looking for something new .....
Previews of the big titles should be appearing over the next couple of weeks.
Last week, I mentioned that some Swedes had set up 'Den Nya Akademien' -- 'The New Academy' -- to do what the Swedish Academy has postponed until (at least) next year: give a big award to the most deserving world author.
Their not-the-Nobel-Prize ambitions continue apace: whereas last week the official site only had a short explanation in English alongside all the Swedish, they've now gone (international-)media-friendlily all in -- in(to) English, that is.
They've also completed the first stage of the prize process for this 'New Prize in Literature': as you might recall, they invited Swedish librarians to nominate authors for consideration; the librarians' suggestions form the 'longlist' and the public -- you ! -- then gets to vote (through 14 August) for their favorites; the four top vote-getters are then handed over for the: "final assessment by the expert jury", who will select a winner, to be announced 14 October.
(The 'expert jury' consists of: Ann Pålsson, Lisbeth Larsson, Marianne Steinsaphir, Peter Stenson, and Gunilla Sandin,.)
Well, the longlist is up and the voting open.
I'd suggest that the fact that they misspelled at least three of these names (they have "Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche", "Jamaica Kincade", and "David Leviathan") is not a great sign .....
Swedish librarians also appear to really like hometown authors: just over a quarter of the nominated writers are Swedish.
Quite a few are also very young -- in their thirties, with a limited track- (i.e. book) record -- though quite a bit of the old geezer contingent familiar from annual Nobel speculations is also accounted for.
Certainly, the list tends fairly strongly to the popular rather than 'serious'; they really seem to be going for a Nobel-lite
This little game probably doesn't deserve the attention it's getting, but the Nobel-void is obviously keenly felt and the international media needs material to fill it, so even an amateurish second-rate effort like this can attract a ton of coverage .....
(Updated): Looking over the list more closely, it really is shocking how limited (and overly Swedish -- twelve Swedish authors !) it is.
While local authors fare well, the neighbors don't: not a single Norwegian author (though I'd rate Solstad, Espedal, Fosse, Kjærstad, and Per Petterson above all the nominated Swedes, and throw in Knausgård for good measure), nor any Danes.
And not a single Spanish-writing author ?
(Meaning also -- because there's no Portuguese-writing nominee either --: none from Latin America.)
Farther afield is less surprising -- Murakami, the only Asian-language-writing author, the Arabic-writing ones ignored as well -- but still .....
But at least there is an admirable balance of male/female authors, which is at least something.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Xiao Hong's 1941 novel, Ma Bo’le’s Second Life, just about out from Open Letter.
Ma Bo’le’s Second Life is not only translated by longtime-Xiao Hong expert and translator Howard Goldblatt, one of the leading contemporary translators from the Chinese -- it's translated, "edited, and completed by Howard Goldblatt" .....
And there, of course, is the rub.
A great case study in how far the role of the translator should go -- and it'll be interesting to see how, for example, judges of translation-awards, like the Best Translated Book Award, deal with it .....
The Man Booker Prize is an annual prize that is for the best written-in-English, published-in-the-UK novel (that's submitted by its publisher for the prize ...), but every couple of years they have a 'best-of' (the previous winners) award -- most recently the so-called 'Golden' Man Booker.
For this one, judges selected one winner from each of the five decades the award has been handed out, and then opened it up to public vote -- and they've now announced that The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje, has won.
If this is the sort of thing that makes you want to check it out -- and it is a good book -- you can get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
The Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis is the famous/notorious German-language prize where authors read in front of a jury and are publicly judged on their texts; it has an impressive list of previous winners, including the most recent Georg-Büchner Prize winner (see my recent mention), Terézia Mora (in 1999).
They held this year's contest over the past few days -- and they've now announced that Ukrainian author Tanja Maljartschuk has won, with her text, Frösche im Meer (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
If the name seems familiar to readers, that might be because I recently reviewed her A Biography of a Chance Miracle, just out in English from Cadmus Press -- an impressive and good catch for/by them.
The Guardian offers part one of their round-up of 'Best summer books 2018, as picked by writers', with a pretty good line-up of authors.
Just too bad they have to so annoyingly spread it over more than one part (the second presumably to follow in a day or two ... now also up, here).
They've announced the winner of the Premio Strega, the leading Italian book prize, and it is La ragazza con la Leica by Helena Janeczek -- the first female author to win the prize in fifteen years.
At The Paris Review's The Daily weblog Francesco Pacifico offers a lot of background, in First Woman Wins the Strega Prize in Fifteen Years.
One of her novels has been translated into English -- but I'm afraid the New Academia Publishing/Scarith Books title, The Swallows of Monte Cassino, didn't attract much attention; see also their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; this one will probably do better; see also the Guanda publicity page, as well as the ANSA report, Janeczek wins 2018 Strega book prize.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Serhiy Zhadan's Mesopotamia, just out in English from Yale University Press, in their Margellos World Republic of Letters series.
Lots of blurbs for this one -- three pages worth at the beginning of the book, while they avoided any review-quotes (though there were quite a few very positive German ones to choose from).
Blurbs from Gary Shteyngart (gracing the cover, too), Timothy Snyder, Askold Melnyczuk, and Lara Vapnyar, among others -- twelve in total.
Not sure how much weight that carries with potential book-buyers, but we'll see.
As to English-language reviews so far: very little to be seen, despite the book already being out for two months .....
With this year's Nobel Prize in Literature delayed (at least) until next year, and the Man Booker International Prize having transitioned from an author- to a book-prize, there aren't that many international author prizes to look forward to this year.
Yes, there's the biennial Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which will be handed out this fall, but they announced the winner (Edwidge Danticat) last year .....
So the Österreichischer Staatspreis für Europäische Literatur -- while limited to European authors -- is among the few major author prizes that consider writers writing in different languages -- and they've announced that this year's prize will go to ... an English-writing author, Zadie Smith.
The prize has an impressive list of previous winners -- but US/UK readers will hardly need much of an introduction to this year's winner.
But, hey, at least her books are available in English .....
Via I'm pointed to Suraj Jacob and Vanamala Viswanatha's study in the Economic and Political Weekly of Gender and Indian Literary Awards.
They looked at the distribution of Sahitya Akademi Award winners -- the leading Indian literary awards, which are handed out in almost two dozen Indian languages.
In the 22 languages we consider, there have been 1,129 national Sahitya Akademi awards to date (1955–2016).
Of these, a mere 8.1% have gone to women.
This is an ... incredibly low number.
The disparity is least-bad in English, and the general trend is towards more balance, but still .....
Interesting regional/cultural differences here too.
They've announced the most recent batch of 'English PEN Awards' (which are rather confusingly called 'awards' -- and do award cash, covering translation costs -- but are what is usually called grants or subsidies, or something along those lines ...).
Seventeen projects are recognized this time around, translations from ten different languages -- and it's always interesting to see what we can look forward to in the next year or so (or what they can look forward to in the UK -- not all of these publishers' titles will be readily US available ...).
I'm not so sure about that name but the International Festival of Literature Bookstan is being held, for the third time, in Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, through the seventh.
The Geert Mak-curated festival has a theme of 'Borders and Boundaries', and the list of participants is solid -- regional-heavy, but with a few prominent foreign writers as well (including David Mitchell, Nadifa Mohamed, and Frank Westerman).
Among the panels: one on the: 'Role and Responsibility of Literature Festivals' (Saturday, at 14:30) .....
See also the brief Sarajevo Timespreview-report.
At the TLS Howard Jacobson makes a case for Why the novel matters.
(As someone for whom the novel is the be-all and end-all, the answer(s) seem self-evident, but yet another spirited defense can't hurt either, right ?)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Wolfgang Herrndorf's Sand.
Tim Mohr's translation was published by Pushkin Press in the UK last year, and now New York Review Books have brought it out in the US.
Despite the Publishers Weeklyprotestations, this strikes me as an ideal 'summer read' -- a nice fat and meaty quasi-thriller that's a lot of fun.
They've announced that tis year's Caine Prize for African Writing -- the leading African prize for a short story published in English -- goes to Fanta Blackcurrant (warning ! dreaded pdf format !), by Makena Onjerika.