Fortunately, the great majority of readers are not reviewers.
Since 2004 my translation has sold over 100,000 copies while most translations are lucky enough to approach 5,000.
Sex undoubtedly sells books, as the publishers knew when they made their investment (their commercialism seems the only explanation for their refusal to pay me a royalty).
Nonetheless, my choices have apparently not stood in the way of a readerly pleasure, whether the source of that pleasure was sympathetic identification or masturbatory fantasy, moralistic pity or voyeuristic gawking.
In yet another lesson for authors to get their literary estates in order and arrange for responsible folk to handle them there is yet another twist to the Max Brod estate-mess going on in Israel (as you'll recall, the estate includes some -- but nobody knows what -- valuable Kafka-papers, and has been in the hands of some people who don't seem to have acted in the best interest of the estate or the authors over the past decades), as the current papers-holder now claims that, as Ofer Aderet reports in Haaretz, Kafka manuscripts allegedly stolen from Tel Aviv apartment
Yes, the latest story (emphasis on story) is that:
Eva Hoffe, one of the sisters who inherited Kafka and Brod's estates from their mother, says her apartment has been broken into three times recently.
It is not yet clear which documents have been taken and by whom.
Of course it's not ......
Remarkably convenient, these 'break-ins', however ......
In her deposition earlier this week Hoffe said the first burglar broke the window bars and entered her apartment wearing gloves, but fled when she started shouting.
The second burglar, last Monday, broke the door lock and threw books, papers and other objects onto the floor.
The third burglar entered the same room and removed documents from Brod's estate, she wrote.
The National Library's attorney, Meir Heller, protested the unbearable ease with which important documents from Brod's estate disappear, while the trial to determine their fate is still ongoing.
Heller also says:
It transpires Hoffe did have valuable manuscripts from Brod's estate in her apartment -- but they have disappeared, contrary to Cassouto's earlier report that he had checked the apartment and not found what he called 'essential things' in it.
We fear Brod's original library, which includes Kafka's books, has vanished.
It seems only a police investigation can shed light on what happened.
The publicity stunt that was the 'lost Man Booker Prize' -- determining a winner for books written in 1970, which missed their chance when the prize-procedure was changed in 1971 -- has finally come to an end, with J.G.Farrell's Troublesannounced as the 'winner'.
See also the New York Review Books publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
There's no question that the major US publishers have run scared from the fiction-in-translation market -- unaccountably, in my opinion.
Many independent publishers and university presses try, with their limited resources, to fill the gaping void, but now comes a new player in this niche: gargantuan Amazon.com.
Yes, they've announced AmazonCrossing (via):
Exciting new books are being written and published around the world every day, yet only a handful are translated for English-speaking audiences to enjoy. At Amazon.com, we're fortunate to have customers who have introduced us to outstanding works from other countries and cultures, and we want to share these books with our English-speaking customers. With this in mind, we're proud to announce AmazonCrossing, which will introduce readers to emerging and established authors from around the world with translations of foreign language books, making award-winning and bestselling books accessible to many readers for the first time.
The first book is the prix Renaudot-winning The King of Kahel by Tierno Monénembo (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
It's an interesting choice -- a prize-winning novel, from the French, but by a relative unknown (and an African unknown, at that).
The University of Nebraska Press brought out his The Oldest Orphan a few years ago -- and, of course, it was reviewed at the complete review -- but that didn't seem to make much of an impression on US readers (and even after this announcement the book languishes with an Amazon.com sales rank of 973,463, last I checked ...).
If Amazon.com can prove that a bit (okay, a lot) of marketing muscle can lead to decent sales of such a book in translation ......
Well, it would be a nice lesson for the big publishers to be taught .....
See also Isabelle Metral's piece on The King of Kahel in L'Humanité, on 'A humanist traveller's African utopia before the colonial conquest'.
In the New Statesman Adam Thirlwell finds that: 'Caught for centuries between warring empires, the cluster of nations at the centre of Europe has left us a remarkable literary legacy', in Czech mates.
A rather ... loose piece, but it does include the nice sentence:
Digression under the sign of defeat: this is the form I cherish -- the novel as junk.
During the Fair, the world’s largest jury will vote: the publishers who take part in the event and the 300,000 visitors who every year pack the pavilions of Lingotto Fiere.
Everyone can vote for their favourite author. You just need to show your ticket or pass in one of the six "polling booths", electronic touch screen stations set up in each pavilion.
When all was said and done, Amos Oz emerged victorious.
Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP) is holding a two-day conference on literary translation titled 'Continuing the Conversation: Bridging Civilizations through Translation'.
Taking place at the Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q) campus from May 19 to 20, the conference which falls under the Doha Capital of Arab Culture 2010 activities is designed to create a Gulf-based platform to discuss issues related to translation at both the theoretical and practical levels.
Panels of top literary translators will discuss philosophies and strategies of translation in general.
The day for which the book lovers and literary circles of Bhutan awaited has arrived.
Bhutan's first-ever literary festival, 'Mountain Echoes' kickstarts today with Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck's, inaugural address.
This will be followed by the keynote address and a talk on Gross National Happiness by the prime minister, Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley.
On the whole, it sounds quite promising.
As to how much it will increase the local GNH .....
Yiddish author Chaim Grade's widow, the infamously Isaac Bashevis Singer-hating Inna, recently passed away, and there have been some interesting articles about her, and his literary estate (which should also serves as a useful reminder to all you authors -- yet again --: write a will, and make sure your literary estate is in responsible hands (which inevitably means: as far away as possible from anyone you're related to)).
At Tablet Marissa Brostoff tells much of the story in Keeper of the Flame -- including the sad information that:
Grade died penniless, apparently without a will, and her funeral costs were paid by the Public Administrator of Bronx County -- which also now has authority over the much-desired papers in her apartment.
Four institutions have been invited to examine her husband's papers and determine their literary and monetary value. Each has been asked to make competitive proposals for how the papers should be preserved or disposed of.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Albert Cossery's A Splendid Conspiracy, finally available in English -- a nice little discovery, and I look forward to having a look at some more Cossery titles (including The Jokers, forthcoming from New York Review Books (see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk)).
Only in America: the winner of the Sophie Kerr Prize collects more than an author who sweeps the Pulitzer, National Book Award, and National Book Critics Circle -- and only Washington College (yes, Washington College) seniors are eligible.
This year the prize was worth $64,243 -- down from $68,814 last year, but still a tidy sum.
This year's winner was announced yesterday, and it's Hailey Reissman, one of a mere twenty-four seniors to submit portfolios for the prize.
The prize is awarded to the Washington College senior who demonstrates the greatest "ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor."
While I do agree that many of our writers are overly dependant on donor funding, and that our schools have somehow failed to inculcate a love of reading and writing among students, I believe that many of our writers (and I include myself in this category) just don't have what it takes to write a full-length book.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Denis Robert's Happiness.
Ah, yes, nobody does erotica quite like the French (thank god, one has to add ...).
I suspect this book might do better in the US and UK if they (like the Germans) had copied the French cover; that one strikes me as quite ... enticing, while the one from Serpent's Tail seems merely ... artsy.
I just reviewed Edith Grossman's Why Translation Matters, and so did Michael Hofmann, here, in The Telegraph -- and he writes:
I think we may be in the twilight of translation -- every time I take one on, part of me thinks it might be the last time I get asked.
Does he really ?
Regardless, it's a usefully provocative claim.
Let's hope some discussion results .....
(Meanwhile, I'm shocked to learn that Hofmann's teenage kids don't speak German (or any foreign language).
If a translator-from-the-German can't be bothered to teach his kids the language .....)
Meanwhile, I figure it's getting to be time that I start writing my book about all these translation issues .....
Head of the Majlis cleric faction Mohammad-Taqi Rahbar has proposed to culture minister Mohammad Hosseini that the Tehran International Book Fair (TIBF) be entrusted to clerics for a year to help prevent breaches of hijab, the Islamic code of modest dress.
Yes, never mind the books on display -- apparently it's the skin on display that's the real problem:
"Unfortunately, we witnessed some who were not observing the proper Islamic dress code at the fair and that gave the place the appearance of turning it into a fashion salon," MP Rahbar told the Persian service of Mehr.
"Some clerics and ulema came to visit the fair from Qom, and left with broken hearts when they witnessed the lax observance of hijab," he added.
Those poor broken-hearted clerics !
(Of course this is the nut who: "Last year [...] advised President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not to nominate another woman as education minister.")
But one has to admit: it's a clever plan of attack, a nicely roundabout way to crack down even further on freedom of expression.
In The Guardian Philip Oltermann profiles Hans Magnus Enzensberger, whose The Silences of Hammerstein is now out in English (see the Seagull publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
There are only three Enzensberger titles under review at the complete review:
The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes shortlists have been announced.
Only one of the shortlisted titles is titles under review at the complete review -- The Children's Book by A.S Byatt -- but there are review-overviews of two more of the fiction-titles: Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro and serial prize-winner Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.
It was just the great Meša Selimović's centenary -- but Ljiljana Smiljanic reports on some of the difficulties of Honouring Mesa Selimovic at SETimes.com, as:
Writer Mehmed "Mesa" Selimovic was born just over 100 years ago, on April 26th in Tuzla.
To mark the occasion, lectures and exhibitions were held on his life and work, and the national TV station broadcast a documentary about him.
But some say the centennial did not receive the attention it deserved, in part because of controversies surrounding his nationality.
Although Bosniak by origin, Selimovic later embraced a Serbian identity, and that decision has made his role in BiH cultural history hard to pin down.
Ah, yes, because that makes the least bit of difference .....
See the complete review's reviews of his classic works:
An advertising campaign to promote reading has been launched on the Russian capital's streets, a spokesman for the Moscow Writers Union said Friday.
"An information campaign calling on citizens to read books started in the capital under the auspices of the Moscow government.
As part of this campaign, the Moscow Writers Union placed 100 thematic billboards saying 'Read books' on city streets," Alexander Gerasimov said.
Somehow, I don't see poster-propaganda really helping to convince many people in the former Soviet Union, but maybe I underestimate its power .....
"Russians read newspapers and news on the Internet, but apparently have an apathy toward reading serious literature, thick books written not only by contemporaries but by classic writers as well," he said.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Edith Grossman's Why Translation Matters -- yes, Yale University Press finally sent me a copy, and you know I have a lot to say on the subject.
(In fact, at nearly 3000 words, it's the longest review in quite a few months.)
The book is part of Yale UP's promising-sounding Why X Matters-series, which sounds like it has some potential.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alain Mabanckou's Broken Glass (which was incidentally shortlisted for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize ...).
American publisher Soft Skull did use a blurb from Peter Carty's review in The Independent -- but I'm surprised they didn't go with:
This is a work of rambunctiously feel-bad fiction.
At hlo Dóra Szekeres has a Q & A with Amos Oz.
Among the interesting responses:
I strongly believe that there is a difference between Anglo-Saxon literature on the one hand and Eastern European and Israeli literature on the other.
The readers' expectations are different.
It is not the primary function of literature to educate but it can be useful sometimes.
My job is to tell stories, not to educate the people, but one of the subjects which fascinates me the most is the subject of morality, moral dilemmas, especially conflicts between right and right, which is much more interesting for me than the conflict between right and wrong.
Quite a few Oz-titles are under review at the complete review; see also our Amos Oz-page (with links to the reviews).
I missed this when the news first broke but, yes, as The Bangkok Post reports, 'Queen of Thai Romance' bids farewell.
That would be Chuwong Chayachinda (ชูวงศ์ ฉายะบุตร), of course ...:
Although writing is her inseparable love, Chuwong Chayachinda -- the "Queen of Thai Romance" -- has put down her pen at the golden age of 80, after creating 94 novels and 56 short stories over the past six decades.
I'd love to see what some of her stuff is like -- but, like most Thai fiction, it's unknown and unavailable in English.
So also the work of those that influenced her:
Her literary idols include Dokmaisod, Wor Na Pramuanmark and Duang Dao.
She admires Dokmaisod for using simple and easy-to-understand words, and for highlighting family love in her works.
Like many other Thais, she loves Pol Nikorn Kim-nguan, a series of humour books penned by Por Intarapalit.
(Yes, Thai remains among the least-well-known national literatures in the English-speaking world.)
[Olga] Tokarczuk [...] senses a gap between a backward-looking cultural orientation and its potential.
It's not surprising then that Twisted Spoon publishes books that seem to span that gap, synthesizing a certain dark European sensibility with a lively ingenuity, combining historical consciousness with timeliness.
Several titles from Twisted Spoon are under review at the complete review -- they have an interesting list.
In the Globe and Mail Bruce Meyer reviews
T.F.Rigelhof's interesting-sounding Hooked on Canadian Books: The Good, the Better and the Best Canadian Novels Since 1984, finding:
Hooked on Canadian Books is not the map, but it is a series of insightful (at times incendiary) arguments and observations about the Canadian novel that will perhaps raise the level of literary debate in Canada.
It is also a book that wants to connect the Canadian novel to the larger issues of literature -- the context of the content.
The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini's much-discussed What Darwin Got Wrong.
Not sure I actually want to read this, but I am enjoying the critical (very critical) reactions.
In the Boston Review Michael Scharf gets around to reviewing The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets, edited by Jeet Thayil, in The Other Mother Tongue -- and finds that it: "makes a collective riposte for Indian poets writing in English".
See also the Bloodaxe publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
This sounds like it was fun: in Reading between the whines in the Sydney Morning Herald Helen Pitt describes the most recent installment of Jennifer Byrne Presents, an episode titled: 'Blockbusters and Bestsellers', in which bestselling authors get to complain about how they're not taken seriously.
(No clips available at this time, so we don't, however, see whether or not there are any scenes of them lounging in bathtubs full of cash, etc.)