As we've noted, Open Letter recently won the US rights forZone by Mathias Enard, and the anticipation is already building -- thanks to one good hook (and one hell of a translation-challenge).
As Patrick T. Reardon notes in the Chicago Tribune:
The new owner of the record for the longest sentence in published literature is Mathias Enard for his 517-page French novel Zone.
In fact, the entire novel, except for a few pages of flashbacks, is made up of a single 150,000-word sentence.
He lists some of the other contenders -- and also gets reassuring words from Open Letter-man Chad Post:
"It has a lot of commas."
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of A Novel of Burma, Ma Ma Lay's Not Out of Hate.
A rare case of a Burmese work of fiction getting translated -- but not quite as obscure as you might think: there's actually another Ma Ma Lay title coming out next year.
Unfortunately it is non-fiction, not another of her novels -- A Man Like Him: Portrait of the Burmese Journalist, Journal Kyaw U Chit Maung, a biography of her husband; see the publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
We hadn't realised that Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire -- out in limited release in the US -- is the film version of Vikas Swarup's Q&A.
It's been getting good reviews, too -- and the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures (with a pretty decent track record) have named it the Best Movie
of 2008, meaning it's an instant Oscar® contender.
See also the publicity site, and the IMDb page.
At the Words without Borders weblog (which he is now running) Bud Parr reports on A Great Conversation on 2666 -- last week's discussion with Francisco Goldman and translator Natasha Wimmer about Roberto Bolaño's 2666.
I did a book tour in London and Paris for my last novel, Heir to the Glimmering World.
American reviewers all mistook its closing chapters for a happy ending, which in some ways it is: a marriage and a baby and a fortune, all the trappings of traditional comedy.
And all intended ironically. In France, in particular, where I had many interviews with critics, they got it.
They saw that the book ended in 1937 and that it could not possibly foretell happiness in the years leading up to the slaughters of World War II.
In Europe, where history has left its deepest wrinkles, they could see the irony and they could catch Bertram’s manipulative cynicism.
They saw and they understood. Here it was mostly taken for a standard happy ending.
We have several Roberto Bolaño titles under review and have mentioned him in many posts here but have never bothered to mention that he was (or wasn't) a heroin addict; we don't care much about authors and prefer to focus on the books, and, while we enjoy the occasional juicy gossip for its own salacious sake, are generally bored to tears by all that yapping about authors' lives (oooh, V.S.Naipaul is a bully ... as if that had anything to do with anything).
But folk certainly seem to want to make an issue of Bolaño's (alleged ?) drug addiction -- an amazing percentage of the (American) reviews of 2666 (or, indeed, any other Bolaño-title) see fit to mention it, as, invariably, do the author profiles.
But now Andrew Wylie wants to set the record straight: in a letter to the editor at the NYTBR he -- the agent representing the Bolaño estate (i.e. hardly a disinterested party) -- writes:
Roberto Bolaño’s widow, Carolina López, and I would like to clarify that Roberto never suffered any form of addiction to drugs, including heroin.
This longstanding misunderstanding seems to have been conjured from the coincidence of Roberto’s illness and the subject matter of his story "The Beach."
Though written in the first person, that story is truly a work of fiction.
Yeah, okay .....
As noted at Conversational Reading, many seem surprised by the claims that Bolaño was a heroin addict, but it is certainly a notion that has taken hold, for whatever reason.
And rather than clarify matters, Wylie's going on the record certainly muddies them more -- and brings them to the fore.
Possibly the letter has been edited for space, but it leaves uncomfortably much wiggle-room -- after all, he only claims 'Roberto' (by the way, when did they get to be on a first name basis ?) "never suffered any form of addiction to drugs" -- which surely still leaves open the possibility that he was shooting up morning, noon, and night (or at least occasionally) but, well, wasn't 'addicted'.
And if Wylie is going to go down this road he has to go all the way and answer the question: how did Bolaño contract hepatitis C ?
(Apparently: "injection drug use now accounts for at least 60 percent of HCV transmission in the United States, according to CDC. This estimate may be conservative because about 10 percent of people newly diagnosed with HCV do not report an identifiable risk factor. Some of these cases may represent people who are reluctant to identify injection drug use as a risk factor", so the conclusion doesn't seem all that far-fetched.)
Given how hot Bolaño is it's a surprise that Wylie and the widow want to mess with the
Bolaño-mystique that has sold so well so far (and, yes, the heroin chic can't have hurt); surely they understand that the public persona has nothing to do with the real person.
You'd hope his biographers get it right somewhere down the road, but for now -- who cares ?
In fact, in the interest of separating author and work even further we hope that people continue to expand on this rumour -- and perhaps add more, like:
Bolaño is still alive !
(And, yes, living it up as a junky on skid row, selling his poems for hits !)
We'd suggest: ignore the biographical 'facts' (and don't for a second believe that Bolaño's estate-manager has any interest in providing you with an accurate version: he's interested in shaping a legacy and then selling it out) and just focus on the damn books !
We've noted that, despite all the attention Roberto Bolaño's 2666 has received in the US press, few UK outlets (even on the Internet) have taken much note.
The book is only coming out early next year in the UK, but it has still been surprisingly quiet there -- especially given the almost ridiculously enthusiastic coverage found in the US (and, for example, here ...) -- but finally the Sunday Times gets things rolling, with a nice introduction/profile by Christopher Goodwin, Roberto Bolaño leaves a lingering impression.
A bit more credit on the wrong side of the Atlantic than seems due ("His English-language breakthrough was thanks to the Harvill Press"), but otherwise pretty good.
(We also note with some amusement that
Goodwin mentions Bolaño's early death due to complications from hepatitis C, and finds: "The disease, which he had almost certainly contracted while sharing needles when he was a heroin addict, blighted and shadowed the last years of his life" (cf. above).
No doubt Andy Wylie has already penned yet another letter to the editor to nip this in the UK bud .....)
The December issue of the Literary Review at The Hindu is up, with several pieces of interest -- including Ashley Tellis' look at regional literature, Ear to the ground, where he wonders:
Dorji’s novel, written by an Arunachali writing in Assamese about a body-cutting tribe of Manapa in Arunachal Pradesh -- where the dead human body is cut into 108 bits and thrown in the river -- caught the voyeuristic middle class Assamese imagination like nothing did in recent times and Jeevan Noroh, a Mishing writer, is often cited by critics as single-handedly revitalising the Assamese language in his writing.
But the big question is: are these writers really doing radical cultural work that truly expands the understanding of Assamese culture or have they become domesticated representatives of assimilated otherness ?
The fall issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction is now out; none of the (good looking) articles are accessible online, but a nice batch of book reviews is -- as usual, an interesting selection of titles (and we're glad to see they had a look at the Ramuz, which deserves more attention).
The 'Best Translated Book' 2008 longlist has now been posted at Three Percent (where you can also find additional background etc. information, and see also Carolyn Kellogg's interview with Chad Post at Jacket Copy).
There are twenty-five titles, of which we have thirteen under review:
As one of the panelists I'll be reading the remaining finalists, and reviews of most of these should eventually also get posted.
Among the striking things about the longlist are, of course the omissions; Chad listed a few honorable mentions yesterday, but more noticeable is the large geographic/linguistic blank areas -- most notably Far East Asia.
Not a single Chinese, Japanese, or Korean title -- indeed, nothing from anywhere in Asia until we hit the Mediterranean !
(I lobbied for Beijing Coma by Ma Jian and Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan, but practically all these other titles appear to have had considerably stronger support -- and, after all, I haven't even managed to put reviews of either of those fat novels up.)
Note also: only one Arabic title, and no Russian titles (the Serge is French).
One African title.
On a case-by-case basis much of this can be explained -- practically nothing in translation came out of Africa (or sub-continental Asia), the Russian and Japanese selections were arguably relatively weak (though I thought Lala Pipo was worth considering), etc. etc., but it still is fairly striking, if not outright shocking.
(Especially from among the Arabic and Chinese titles, I'm surprised more didn't slip in.)
Part of the problem is, of course, familiarity -- or the lack of it: I've read just over eighty of the eligible titles, and seen/have maybe fifty more.
A couple that I haven't had access to I guessed would make decent selections -- Metropole has gotten great reviews, I have faith in Saramago -- but that still leaves a hundred which are more or less blanks to me (many of which have gotten essentially no review coverage, as far as I can tell).
Even those I suspected I'd like if I could get my hands on a copy -- notably Pirouettes on a Postage Stamp by Bohumil Hrabal, Old Garden by Hwang Sok-yong, or The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin -- I had too little information about to make much of a case for.
I imagine many of the other panelists were in a similar position (and I fear there were a handful of books which not one of us saw ...).
Still, it's a fairly interesting list and -- leaving aside the elephant in the room (are there any doubts about which book will emerge top of the heap ? I mean, I can't commit my vote yet, since I haven't read all the titles and I'll have to revisit some I read a while back, but come on ...) -- it should make for some interesting discussion.
Good to see that French efforts to emulate American-style book-marketing-campaigns based on personality rather than the books themselves fall about as flat as they do everywhere else: in Le Figaro Dominique Guiou reports on Le grand flop des coups médiatiques.
There were several books this fall which were launched with great expectations and masses of media coverage, and which have now mightily underperformed:
Les livres lancés avec force effets d'annonce n'ont pas tenu leurs promesses.
Loin s'en faut.
Le tandem Houellebecq-Lévy n'a pas conquis les lecteurs malgré le plan média peaufiné par Flammarion.
Idem pour Catherine Millet et Christine Angot. À l'heure des comptes, ces auteurs feront perdre de l'argent à leurs éditeurs respectifs, Flammarion et le Seuil.
Les ventes de ces livres ne dépassent pas les 50 000 exemplaires.
Un chiffre à faire pâlir d'envie la plupart des écrivains présents en cette rentrée littéraire mais qui, compte tenu des sommes engagées (tirages colossaux, à-valoir très élevés) se révèlent être des fiascos financiers.
Yes, Jour de souffrance (get your copy at Amazon.fr), Catherine Millet's follow-up to the notorious The Sexual Life of Catherine M., and the publicity-stunt pairing of Michel Houellebecq and Bernard-Henri Lévy, resulting in Ennemis publics (get your copy at Amazon.fr), have sold in the 50,000 copy range -- but that's way less than was printed and the publishers took a bath on these.
What's particularly noteworthy about these titles is that not only was the French press all over this stuff, but there were also a considerable number of articles in the US and UK press (and, indeed, even we got caught up in reporting on them ...).
And, of course, also noteworthy is that what the publishers were pushing were the authors, not the books -- but French consumers appear to be at least somewhat discriminating and not ready to be so easily taken in and actually thought about what they were supposedly getting for their hard-earned euros -- and decided it was not worth it.
A small victory for the written word over the cult of the personality.
Sometime today they'll list the longlist for the 'Best Translated Book' at Three Percent; we have thirteen of the twenty-five longlisted titles under review and will have our comments tomorrow [[updated] see here].
See also the list of a few titles that fell just short, in Chad Post's The Honorable Mentions -- we had two of these under review (The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante and To Siberia by Per Petterson).
The New York Times Book Review
has released its list of The 10 Best Books of 2008; the only title we have under review is Roberto Bolaño's 2666.
Note also, as GalleyCat has: Alfred A. Knopf got a whole lotta love from the NYTBR here .....
Mr. Stein told Media Mob, with FSG planning to publish a short volume tentatively titled A Day in the Life of an Oprichnik in the near future.
That would be День опричника; see also the Literary Agency Galina Dursthoff information page (and note how many languages it has already been translated into ...).
The only Sorokin title we have under review is
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Jacques Chessex's novella The Vampire of Ropraz.
Swiss author Chessex took the prix Goncourt in 1973 but is practically unknown in English; unfortunately for him, this work doesn't quite fit in the current vampire-craze.
But this book has sold something like 100,000 copies in France ......
(It also only came out last year -- a very fast turnaround time to get an English translation out.)
The Nobel ceremonies are coming up shortly, with literature prize winner Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio scheduled to give his Nobel lecture -- titled: 'Dans la forêt des paradoxes' -- on Sunday, 7 December, at 17:30 p.m. (CET).
We rarely have words of praise for publishers, much less the big American houses, but we were pleasantly surprised -- and quite impressed -- when Simon & Schuster got us a copy of their reprint edition of The Interrogation in time for all the excitement.
The official publication date in 9 December, but Amazon is already shipping copies (get yours at Amazon.com -- and see also the S&S publicity page).
A good-looking hardback (though truly just a reprint), and certainly the title -- his debut -- we were most curious about.
Look for our review (along with that of The Prospector) soon.
[Updated: see now our reviews of: The Interrogation and The Prospector.]
Admittedly, it was then deflating to see how much further ahead the UK publishers are with the reprints of that old batch of Le Clézio novels, with Penguin beating the Americans to The Interrogation punch not only by a week or two -- get your copy at Amazon.co.uk or see their publicity page -- but managing to bring it out in paperback, and both Penguin and Vintage bringing out pretty much the whole English-translation backlist (though admittedly in their rush they don't seem to have made all of them available yet).
So you can already (or at least soon) find:
(Penguin also needs to work on those publicity pages -- in a twist from the usual they only list the translators' names, not the author's (and searching for "Le Clézio" won't lead you to most of these titles ...).)
We hope American publishers follow suit, soon -- but at least they got The Interrogation out in pretty good time.
Leith was told of his redundancy today and left the building immediately after nearly 10 years on the paper, according to TMG insiders.
His departure comes after TMG management told staff on Thursday that it was seeking 50 redundancies across its editorial operations before Christmas.
It will be interesting to see how this affects what has been the pretty decent books coverage at The Telegraph, though the immediate impact won't be obvious (this being the time of year when books coverage everywhere seems limited largely to 'best of'-lists and pretty much anyone can run the section ...).
Leith is still listed as one of the Paper Tiger-bloggers -- and, unfortunately, there have been no posts about his dismissal there yet.
Novelist Francisco Goldman and translator Natasha Wimmer will discuss Roberto Bolaño's 2666 this Thursday at Idlewild Books in New York City. Brought together as part of the Words Without Borders "Conversations on Great Contemporary Literature" series, there are not too many people who could carry a more interesting discussion on Bolaño's masterwork.
That's 4 December, at 19:00 -- and Bud is probably right: this sounds very promising.
The Asian American Writers' Workshop present the Annual Asian American Literary Awards on 8 December, with a VIP Reception 18:00-19:30 at Deutsches Haus at NYU and then the awards ceremony at Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Film Center at NYU (36 East 8th Street) from 19:30 to 21:00:
The winner of the Asian American Literary Award for Fiction is Mohsin Hamid for The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Harcourt).
The winner of the Asian American Literary Award for Nonfiction is Vijay Prashad for The Darker Nations (New Press).
The winner of the Asian American Literary Award for Poetry is Sun Yung Shin for Skirt Full of Black (Coffee House Press).
The European Commission is launching a new European Union prize for contemporary literature.
The aim is to put the spotlight on the creativity and diverse wealth of Europe’s contemporary literature, to promote more circulation of literature within Europe and encourage greater interest in non-national literary works.
The first edition of the Prize will be awarded in autumn 2009.
The European Prize for contemporary literature will consist of a prize for emerging talents in the field of contemporary literature (fiction) from each of the participating countries in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively.
The aim of the prize is to attract a wide audience of European citizens, to discover new emerging talents and promote their work, especially in countries outside their own. The prize will be a starting point for intercultural dialogue and a way to bring together cultural actors from the book sector from across Europe.
Each Scandinavian country (and a few semi/autonomous regions) gets to nominate one local fiction title and one local poetry title for the Nordic Council Literature Prize, which has a pretty good track record; the nominations for the 2009 prize have now been announced, with the winner to be chosen 3 April 2009.
Not many familiar names here, except for one -- Norwegian Per Petterson, whose Jeg forbanner tidens elv is in the running.
Aschehoug Agency helpfully have an information page for the book, whose title they translate as 'I Curse the River of Time'.
It's already picked up the 2008 Brage Prize for Best Novel -- and English-language rights have been sold to Graywolf (US) and Harvill Secker (UK).
And you can click through for a: "brochure with sample translation and a presentation of Petterson's work"
(Pretty decent presentation of a title to whet the appetites of foreign publishers, no ?)
They do make one mistake on the publicity page, claiming the protagonist, Arvid Jansen, previously appeared in Out Stealing Horses; they mean In the Wake, of course -- and we're very eager to see this chapter of his life, regardless of whether or not it picks up this particular prize as well.
At the Financial Times -- which, we remind you, has a surprisingly strong books section -- they look back at The reading year with all sorts of best-of lists in a lot of categories.
The only ones of real interest (to us): their Critic’s choice selections, by reviewers such as A.S.Byatt and Fay Weldon, and their Fiction list.
Bookslut Jessa Crispin offers her selection of the Best Foreign Fiction Of 2008 at NPR -- though she seems a bit torn between foreign and foreign-language (i.e. translated) fiction, as a vast amount of 'foreign' fiction (from the UK, Ireland, India, etc. etc.) published in the US is, after all, written in English (and much less is published that is translated from other languages).
She opts for four translated titles, and throws in Kieron Smith, boy by James Kelman with the observation that: "Glasgow-born Booker Prize–winning novelist James Kelman's prose occasionally feels like it needs a translator."
(See also our reviews of Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos, 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, and The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante; we hope to get to Metropole (if we ever get our hands on a copy).)
The Aura Estrada Prize will be awarded biannually to a female writer, 35 or under, living in Mexico or the United States, who writes creative prose (fiction or nonfiction) in Spanish.
As the AFP report notes:
Due to taxation concerns, the prize will only be awarded to women living in the United States and Mexico, "but since many young people from Colombia, Argentina and other Latin American countries study there, the prize is somehow open to all," said Estrada's widower, Franscisco Goldman.
We have no idea how that will work out ... (and: taxation concerns ?!??).
The official application process
hadn't been posted yet, last we checked, but presumably will be soon.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Boris Vian's I Spit on Your Graves.
As far as the best story behind a book, this is certainly up there: published in 1946, Vian claimed it was a translation of an American book that couldn't be published in the US (and he even went so far as to publish an English translation to prove his claim ...), and it became a sensational bestseller (over half a million copies sold by 1950).
They made a film of it in 1959 and Vian keeled over at a screening of the flick, dead at thirty-nine .....
Unlike in the West, where many works of fiction first see the light of day in literary journals, most of our local works appear in book form first.
This may change with the launch in the past year of two literary journals, Wordsetc and Baobab.
In New York Boris Kachka and Brian Raftery find that: 'For customizing your reading, nothing beats the neighborhood shop', in The Curated Bookshelf -- and:
"Independent stores are where innovation lies," says Kent Carroll of Europa Editions.
"They can still make best sellers [like Europa’s Elegance of the Hedgehog]. The chains didn’t come onboard until after the fact."
The eighteen-member Swedish Academy decides who gets the Nobel Prize in literature, so when a seat opens up, it's news: Sten Rudholm, the longest serving (and, narrowly, oldest) member, occupying chair number one (see his official page) has passed away at the age of ninety.
See, for example, the AP reoprt at the IHT, Swedish Academy member Rudholm dies at age 90 -- where academy secretary Ulrika Kjellin
Rudholm did not attend the academy's meetings in recent years, but "he was still active and worked until the end."
With one other seat still vacant, the Academy has a chance to freshen things up: as is, nine still sitting members were born before or in 1933
(i.e are 75+).
We're still wondering why Lars Gustafsson doesn't have a seat .....