They've announced that Die Mittagsfrau by Julia Franck has taken the German Book Prize this year; get your copy at Amazon.de -- where its sales rank was an impressive 2, last we checked --, and see also an excerpt in English translation at signandsight.com (where they translated the title as Lady Midday, which we're pretty sure the US and UK publishers will not accept as the title when/if the book does come out in English
See also the DeutscheWelle report, Julia Franck Wins German Book Prize With Abandonment Tale, as well as German reports in, for example, the FAZ and the NZZ.
They're announcing the Nobel Prize for Literature tomorrow (and we should have coverage for you by 15:00 GMT, with updates throughout the day), and the Ladbrokes odds haven't shifted much.
But they have shifted: Philip Roth has gone from 7/1 to being the new favourite at 7/2, while early front-runner Claudio Magris has dropped from 5/1 to 6/1.
Murakami Haruki has also gone from 10/1 to 7/1.
Perhaps the one to look out for is Yves Bonnefoy, who came out of nowhere -- he wasn't listed originally -- and now sits at a respectable 16/1.
(J.K.Rowling has also been added to the list, at 100/1 (and even at those odds a punt on her is money thrown away).
We need to keep alive our apprehension of the value of the Patrick Whites and Christina Steads and Martin Boyds as well as the Maloufs and Helen Garners for our children's sake and their children's sake.
If we don't, no one else will
He's certainly right about that: for years now (as we have long complained) there's only been a single Patrick White-novel in print in the US .....
I'm back from a very enjoyable two-day stay in Iowa, where they are celebrating the International Writing Program's 40th Anniversary, which I was pleased and honored to take part in.
Note that the events continue through the end of the week, and there are quite a few which would obviously be worth your while -- notably today's panel on The Business of Arabic-Language Literature (12:00 - 13:30), and tomorrow's Creating and Promoting African Literature (12:00 - 13:30) and Publishing Books In Translation (14:00-15:00).
I hope to report (and link) more, but the Chicago-New York leg of the journey yesterday was a bit longer than expected (more than eight hours on the plane, most of it spent sitting on the tarmac at O'Hare and then in Harrisburg where we had to stop for gas), meaning I got home rather later than expected (past midnight, rather than in time for dinner) and don't really have very collected thoughts or links -- beyond what you find above, quickly thrown together .....
(And I do have to rest up a bit in preparation for the Nobel-day tomorrow .....)
For the next week they'll be celebrating the International Writing Program's 40th Anniversary at Iowa, and they have a pretty impressive program lined up.
Among the events: Monday's noon panel on World Lit Net: Writing in the Age of Global Communication -- which I will be taking part in.
But there's certainly also a lot else of interest -- check it out if you're in the neighborhood.
(And, yes, the trip to Iowa is the reason why I'll be giving it a rest here through Tuesday -- though we'll be back in time for all the Nobel fun !)
A rich work such as Voss has many facets.
Calling it a novel almost robs it of its awesome narrative potency.
Voss combines the logic of a dream with the metaphysical power of revelation.
White's evocative prose is almost impossible to describe; it must be experienced.
It's the literary equivalent to widescreen cinema.
In In the skin of a lion in The Hindu Tishani Doshi talks with: 'Michael Ondaatje on his new book Divisadero, the art of editing and what’s currently blowing the top of his head off.'
It turns out not to be quite that dramatic, the question being:
What’s the last thing you read that blew the top of your head off ?
I read Coetzee’s The Master of Petersburg the one about Dostoevsky. Really amazing. I think he’s wonderful … such a personal grief book. Everyone thinks he (Coetzee) is a cold fish, but the emotion in that book is devastating
Guo has previously written books in Chinese, but she wrote this one in English, and she apparently has divided her time between London and Beijing since 2002.
Interestingly, she and her publishers have chosen to write her name in Western fashion -- Xiaolu Guo, with her family name second.
In China (as in Japan and Korea), family names are traditionally written first: Mao Zedong, Murakami Haruki, etc.
While English-language publishers have long written Japanese names in the Western style ('Haruki Murakami', 'Yukio Mishima', etc.) Chinese and Korean authors still tend to be presented in the local style, with very few exceptions (e.g. Eileen Chang) -- making for lots of shelving confusion at bookstores etc.
Is there now a movement towards standardizing name-order ?
Guo isn't the only example we've recently come across: Kim Young-ha's publishers have also presented his name in Western-order on the recently published translation of I Have the Right to Destroy Myself.
(We, for one, aren't going for it: for us local standards apply -- hence also our insistence on Kertész Imre, etc.)
The Swedish Academy will announce this year´s Nobel Laureate in Literature at 1 p.m. on Thursday, October 11.
(That's 13:00 Stockholm time .....)
Meanwhile there have been a few more articles discussing who the contenders might be -- but they all rely (too) heavily on the Ladbrokes odds (which, incidentally haven't moved much, suggesting there's little action so far -- only Dylan has zoomed up from 500:1 to 150:1, meaning quite a few fools are just handing money over to the Ladbrokes folk).
See, for example, Sarah Edmonds' Reuters-report, Literature Nobel date set, few new names in focus
-- which does at least get a Peter Stothard quote.
German author Walter Kempowski has passed away; see, for example, the AP mention.
Highly regarded and prolific, he was also very German -- hence you find condolences from the likes of chancellor Merkel and German president Köhler (see Der Spiegel's reaction-summary), but practically no translations into English.
There are already tons of German obituaries: see, for example, Rainer Moritz's in the NZZ or Gerrit Bartels' in Der Tagesspiegel.
See also the Walter Kempowski site.
After the yearly bookfair held in Romainmôtier, a small quiet Swiss town near the border with France, artist Jan Reymond takes the remaining books and creates an installation.
Reymond says he wanted to give the unsold books "a last life" before they got thrown away.
Check out the pictures -- and more here.
Given the success of Alaa Al Aswany's The Yacoubian Building we figured his new novel, Chicago, which came out in Arabic at the beginning of the year, would appear in translation sooner rather than later.
So it now has -- but only in French translation (get your copy at Amazon.fr, where its sales rank was, last we checked, an impressive 577).
It's also getting good review coverage: see, for example, Claude Guibal's in Libération or Pierre Prier's in Le Figaro.
Meanwhile, there's no English edition listed at Amazon.com -- just the Arabic edition, with cover-image but also 'currently unavailable'.
It's not quite as bad as it looks: AUC Press have the translation (by Farouk Abdel Wahab, who just took the Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for translation from Arabic for his version of Khairy Shalaby's The Lodging House; see our previous mention, our review to come) slated for January 2008; see their publicity page.
Meanwhile, for some English-language coverage of Chicago see Ursula Lindsey's report on the book launch at The Arabist, and reviews from, for example, Global Cairene and Nah·det Masr.
What a great idea !
Words without Borders still hasn't (last we checked) posted their October issue -- or the beginning of the Elegant Variation-led book group on Márai Sándor's The Rebels -- but this will more than do for now: they've started a series of dialogues where: "two translators produce versions of the same text, then discuss their choices and approaches".
First up: Daniel Hahn and Clifford E. Landers: A Dialogue on Translating Germano Almeida.
Interesting stuff -- and given some of the translation-shenanigans publishers have been pulling lately (see our stories here and
) it seems ever-more important that readers be made aware of everything that goes into translating.
In The new wave in The New Statesman Andrew Hussey writes on 'the North African novelists at the gates of "Fortress Europe"'.
Not nearly enough, but a few odds and ends of interest, and quotes such as:
"We are sick of being told that as North Africans we cannot write in European languages," I was told by the poet Touria Nakkouch at a literary conference in Tunis.
Nakkouch is an academic expert on Angela Carter as well as a poet, and she argues that North Africa is, and has always been, part of the European literary mainstream.
From this point of view, she argues, colonialism is a historical accident that temporarily interrupted centuries of cross-cultural traffic between both sides of the Mediterranean.
"We are not European," Nakkouch says, "but we have made European history and so our voices should be heard in Europe."
This attitude informs a new wave of novels from North Africa that refuse to be categorised as "third world chic".
(We hope Laila Lalami will at some point offer her extended thoughts on the subject, about which, we're fairly sure, she'd have considerably more to say.)
We recently reviewed controversial Russian author Vladimir Sorokin's Ice, and now learn that the author was recently involved in an at least somewhat suspicious accident.
As The Moscow News reports in Accident or Intimidation ?:
Last week, the Russian PEN Center, a domestic chapter of the international writers association, sent a letter to the Moscow's prosecutor's office, asking for a thorough investigation of a road accident involving well-known Russian author Vladimir Sorokin earlier this month.
The letter suggests that Sorokin, in light of attempts to prosecute him by some organizations over the last few years, could have fallen victim of a deliberate attack as opposed to an accident.
According to press reports, Sorokin was riding his scooter on an empty highway outside Moscow in plain daylight and was knocked off the road by a truck, which didn't stop after the accident.
Sorokin suffered some injuries, including a broken collar bone, and was taken to hospital where he underwent a surgery.
No big movement on the Nobel odds we mentioned that we can discern so far (meaning there's not much betting action yet), but the first of the literature-prize overview-articles have started to appear.
Jeanne Rudbeck's No jokes please, we're the Nobel Prize Committee in The Local has the advantage that it's ... local -- i.e. some who are closer to the action add their two cents (though two cents is about all these comments are worth).
So, for example:
Magnus Eriksson mentions Cormac McCarthy as a candidate; Peter Lutherson, head of the high-brow publishing house Atlantis, thinks Don DeLillo is deserving; Carl Otto Werkelid, culture editor at Svenska Dagbladet tips Amos Oz is a possibility, but adds that it is harder than ever to guess.
The secrecy this year is absolute.
More likely, the 2007 prizewinner will be a writer most of us have never read: Syrian poet Adonis and Korean poet Ko Un are two names that keep popping up.
Which leavs us pretty much where we started.
Why can't the Swedish Academy be a more gossipy institution ?
In the new introduction to the 2007 edition of his classic book, Ideology: An Introduction, Eagleton launches an impassioned attack on the views of "Amis and his ilk" who argue that the West needs to clamp down on Islam.
Eagleton also attacks Amis's father Kingsley as "a racist, anti-Semitic boor, a drink-sodden, self-hating reviler of women, gays and liberals".
He adds that he believes that "Amis fils has clearly learnt more from him than how to turn a shapely phrase".
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of the German Book Prize-shortlisted novel by this year's Georg-Büchner-Preis-honoree Martin Mosebach, Der Mond und das Mädchen.
Don't look for it to win the soon-to-be-announced German Book Prize: for such a simple book it's gotten surprisingly strong and divided reactions.
Mosebach is, apparently, politically (and otherwise) conservative -- and proud of it -- and quite a few of the critics have found the book disappointingly (if not downright disgustingly) retrograde.
We weren't that shocked, or put out or off
-- but it's certainly true that this is not cutting-edge fiction.
But then: not everything has to be, does it ?
Still, given some of the harsh reactions one has to wonder how it made the GBP shortlist.
Did they figure that they had to put the Büchner-Prize-winner up ?
Yesterday we reported on the still fairly healthy (East) German reading habits, now come the Czechs with a Czech National Library/Institute of Czech Literature survey that finds, as Ruth Frankova reports at Radio Praha, that Czechs - Europe's biggest bookworms.
As Jiri Travnicek of the Institute of Czech Literature explained:
"Our main criterion, which is used generally, is one book read per year.
From this point of view Czech population has 83 percent of readers and 17 percent of non-readers.
On the average Czechs read 60 books per year and they spent 1300 CZK per year.
That 60-book-a-year habit sounds impressive (indeed: unbelievable), but apparently it's just a copy-editing slip.
The CTK report on the survey -- focussing on the fact that Czech women read more than men -- is a bit more precise and careful with the numbers:
The poll shows that 88 percent of Czech women and 77 percent of men read one or more books a year.
An average Czech reads 16 books a year
But they all seem to agree on the very impressive book-collection numbers:
Czechs have 274 books at home on average.
They prefer contemporary fiction and non-fiction.
In the past year, Czechs bought 6.6 books on average and spent 1303 crowns on them.
The Prix Goncourt list has been winnowed down some in the second longlist (two more rounds to go ...) -- and we're pleased to see that all the names we recognise are through, including local favourites Amélie Nothomb and Lydie Salvayre
Meanwhile, Prix-Litteraires: Le blog has collated all the first-round nominations of the top six (!) prizes now -- and finds two titles going five for six (Un roi sans lendemain by Christophe Donner and Baisers de cinéma by Eric Fottorino).
Just in time for the Frankfurt Book Fair former Suhrkamp-man Rainer Weiss and Anya Schutzbach are getting lots of (German) press attention for their just-announced new publishing house venture, weissbooks.
Five titles are to be published in February, another five in the fall, then 14 in 2009.
Most of the press reports had them pretty coy about who they would actually be publishing (or else all the journalists only caught the mention that the American author was a suicide in 1979 and not the name of the poor fellow), but in In der Waldschneise in the NZZ
there's a bit more information.
The American's book is The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake, and other authors they've signed apparently include Artur Becker and Jacqueline Moser.
(Poor show: nothing to show yet at what will presumably be the official site: surely they could have put a single page announcing their intentions up .....)
Ah, we love these petty nationalist jealousies and this self-important posturing: APA (the Azeri Press Agency -- motto: 'We are shouldering a world of news' !) report that Azerbaijani people’s writer Akram Aylisli: Orhan Pamuk’s Nobel award is not related to literature.
Akram Aylisli is, no doubt, a prominent local literary figure -- in Azerbaijan -- and good for him to get some publicity for his new book (not that the description is likely to win over any foreign-rights buyers).
But why does he have to go bash the neighbours ?
Aylisli saying that his books were published in Moscow stated that Turkish literature was in low level at present.
"I am not satisfied with the level of Turkish literature.
Orhan Pamuk was awarded Nobel Prize, but it is not related to literature.
I have read his work attentively.
But, of course, if Pamuk can win these big prizes then the locals should be able to too:
Aylisli also expressed his confidence that any work of Azerbaijani literature will also be awarded Nobel Prize.
(We'd actually love to see some Azeri literature (preferably in better translation than their news articles ...), but somehow we don't think they should be getting their hopes up.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Jean Dutourd's A Dog's Head.
We actually picked this up almost a decade ago, when the University of Chicago Press edition came out, but it was only after recently leafing through another (French) volume collecting several of Dutourd's novels that we finally took a stab at it -- only then also realising that this wasn't a recent work, but rather a reprint of the 1953 translation.
Somewhat to our surprise, it turns out that Dutourd -- born 1920 -- is still alive, and though none of his more recent work appears to have been translated
he actually did fairly well in getting his books published in English for a while.
From the looks of this one -- and some of the others we leafed through -- he looks worth paying closer attention to.
This book also put us in mind of yet another once-popular, now largely forgotten French author, Marcel Aymé (who has some
similar whimsical-fantastical elements, as well as a bit of a bite), who we really also should have a look at again.
Aymé's obsolescence is perhaps more readily excused, since he has been dead some four decades now, but wouldn't you know, Pushkin Press have just brought out his Beautiful Image, which we really should try to get our hands on.
(See their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk or pre-order at Amazon.com.)
A new survey by the LEIF-Institut finds a decline in the number of readers in the former East Germany -- 126,000 fewer readers than in 2005 ! -- but it doesn't sound all that bad: 81 per cent of respondents read at least one book in 2006, a level considerably higher than reported in the latest US polls, and 8 per cent read more than 20 books.
Interesting also that fiction is far and away the most popular category of reading-material, the biggest declines have been in travel-books -- and that youngsters (high school and university students) were among the most avid readers.
Internet-use also did not correlate negatively with reading.
Just yesterday we mentioned that it was getting to be Nobel-guessing time, and lo and behold Ladbrokes have put up odds for this year's Nobel Prize for Literature.
It is, pretty much, the usual list of suspects -- with the obligatory ancient and completely obscure Nordics thrown in (Willy Kyrklund, anyone ? (hey, he's 40/1) Eeva Kilpi ?) and the apparently now obligatory Bob Dylan (an afterthought at 500/1)).
Noteworthy that, beside the excusable missing Umlauts they still manage to mangle quite a few names: who is going to place a bet on Thomas Transtromer, Antoni Tabucchi, or Umberto Ecco ?
(And if, say, Umberto Eco wins, would they even have to pay out to those who bet on this Umberto Ecco ?)
They also include one dead guy (Pramoedya Ananta Toer -- 40/1, despite being ineligible to win due to his deceased status.....
(In fact, it looks like they just copied an early version of last year's list, where they also misspelled Tabucchi's name -- and included the already then dead Indonesian author .....)
Anyway, the odds are likely to change as bets are placed, so here for reference the current odds of those they consider the leading contenders:
Magris seems way overrated here, but maybe that's just to fool you into thinking that, say, Atwood at 20/1 is a reasonable bet .....
We're not sure where we'd put our money if we were betting folk; spreading it over Murray/Mulisch/Yehoshua (at these odds) would be our first gut instinct.
Yes, everyone is already all excited about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award -- an Amazon.com/Penguin/Hewlett-Packard get-together -- and many have already torn this thing apart better than we care to.
Still, we can't help but be fascinated by this bizarre contest.
Among the interesting rules and requirements:
Residents of the following countries are eligible to enter the Contest: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada (excluding the Province of Québec), China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States (the 50 states and D.C.), and the United Kingdom.
We wouldn't be surprised if they'd already reached their 5000-registrant limit (though presumably not all of those will actually be able to submit completed manuscripts in time ...).
They're understandably excited in the Spanish-speaking world, where Veneno y sombra y adiós -- the final volume in Javier Marías' trilogy, Tu rostro mañana
-- has now been published (and weighs in at over 700 pages); see the Alfaguara publicity page.
(The previous two volumes of the Your Face Tomorrow-trilogy have been published in English translation, by New Directions; shamefully we still only have the first, Fever and Spear, under review.)
Meanwhile, at El Pais María Luisa Blanco offers a (Spanish) dictionary-guide
to Marías and his work.
They recently held a Christopher Okigbo conference in Boston, and though there hasn't been much coverage it was certainly well-attended: at Nigerian Village Square you can find the first part of Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo's Dispatches from Okigbo Conference, as well as some Okigbo Conference Pictures -- which finds Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka in the frame together, along with Chimamanda Adichie and Ali Mazrui sightings
Meanwhile, at Vanguard you can find Torch Taire's Okigbo-reminiscences -- as they put it: "over the momentous and memorable days shared together with him".
See also our reviews of Okigbo's Labyrinths, as well as of Ali A. Mazrui's The Trial of Christopher Okigbo.
Come October it's time to start wondering who will pick up the Nobel Prize for Literature
None of the betting shops have started taking bets, best we can tell [(Updated - 2 October): but it hasn't taken them long: see our next mention], and the newspapers will probably wait another week until the generic articles start appearing, but there's a bit of Internet activity already:
The Swedish Academy's decision will probably be announced on the 11th (the second Thursday of the month), but they can change the date (and prolong the agony) if they want.
We didn't think Pamuk stood much of a chance last year, and so we aren't hazarding any guesses this time around -- at least not yet.
Though, of course, there are a couple of names we think would be deserving .....
In the FAZ they interview The Glass Palace-author Amitav Ghosh about the situation in Burma, in Das Herz und die Seele des Landes rebellieren.
(Give them a B for effort and originality -- no English-language newspaper seems to have bothered --; sadly, of course, finding an actual Burmese ('Myanmaran') fiction-writer to comment is near-impossible.)
For a decent overview of the present (and past) governments of this horribly misruled country, see also Thant Myint-U's The River of Lost Footsteps
(which Ghosh also mentions -- though they mangled the title in the printed piece).
A new translation of The Brothers Karamazov, published in five volumes by Kobunsha as part of a series of new translations of classics, has sold more than 300,000 copies, making the book an unusual best seller.
For the first time in years, Dostoevski is the subject of panel discussions and publications.