The federal Swiss literary prizes have been announced, with Italian-writing Anna Felder winning the 'Grand Prix Literature' -- the Gran Premio svizzero di letteratura 2018 (though you can read that announcement in all four of the official national languages; link here to the Italian one, since that's what she writes in ...); see also, for example, the swissinfo report, Author of 'musical and poetic' novels wins award.
Other prizes announced include a 'prix spécial de traduction 2018', which went to translator Yla von Dach (bonus points for that great name ?), while seven other authors were honored for specific works.
Neither Felder nor any of the others seems to have made any mark in English yet .....
So, are the machines taking over ?
Will they come to dominate even literary translation ?
Antonio Toral and Andy Way considered What Level of Quality can Neural Machine Translation Attain on Literary Text ? (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) (see also the abstract) -- using English-to-Catalan (!) for their study.
One clear conclusion -- or confirmation --: neural machine translation beats, and continues to beat, phrase-based statistical machine translation handily, and is presumably where the future is (see also, for example, this recent Empirical evaluation of NMT and PBSMT quality for large-scale translation production (warning ! dreaded pdf format !), which found: "In all cases, the human reviewers, all native speakers of the evaluated language pairs, ranked the quality of the NMT engines higher than that of PBSMT").
Human translation is still ahead -- by a wide margin -- but it's getting more interesting.
A long way from truly interesting -- but recall that it wasn't that long ago that it was widely considered unthinkable that AI programs could beat a human at Go .....
They've announced the winners of the latest round of the Naoki and Akutagawa Prizes -- the two best-known Japanese literary prizes.
See, for example, the report in The Japan Times, Chisako Wakatake and Yuka Ishii win Akutagawa literary award; Yoshinobu Kadoi bags Naoki Prize.
The Akutagawa -- 'for up-and-coming authors' -- was split between Ishii's 百年泥 and Wakatake's おらおらでひとりいぐも (see also the Kawade publicity page).
Amusingly both authors are, for up-and-comers, of a rather advanced age .....
The Naoki -- 'for popular fiction' -- went to Kadoi's 銀河鉄道の父, a Miyazawa Kenji-novel; see also the Kodansha publicity page.
At boersenblatt.net they report that the number of book-buyers in Germany has declined alarmingly, in Der Buchmarkt verliert vor allem jüngere Käufer.
Between 2012 and 2016 the percentage of Germans who purchased books sunk drastically, from 54.5 per cent to 45.6 per cent -- and between 2015 and 2016 the 6.6 million new book-buyers were more than outweighed by 8.9 million lost book-buyers (including 800,000 who had previously purchased five or more books annually and now were buying ... none ...).
Revenues remained relatively stable -- thanks to higher prices, and more purchases from the remaining book-buyers --, but the trend is more than troubling, especially since it seems to be concentrated among younger consumers (i.e the future ...).
Le Figaro's popular annual feature of the bestselling French authors (all their books, not just the latest) in France in the past year is now out for 2017, Les dix romanciers français qui ont vendu le plus de livres en 2017.
Guillaume Musso tops the list yet again -- by a mile, with a total of 1,540,900 copies sold (way down on last year's 1.8 million, however) -- with Raphaëlle Giordano, the one other author to top a million copies shifted, the runner-up.
Of course, they barely register in the Anglosphere: Musso has been translated, Giordano doesn't seem to have been, and, other than maybe Fred Vargas, none of the top ten really have attracted much English-language ... appreciation.
(Yes, there's Marc Levy ... there's always Marc Levy .....)
Still, this is a very different list than that of the bestselling fiction -- individual titles -- where the big prize winners had impressive showings.
But if backlists are included -- as here -- then it's the old familiar authors that churn the stuff out that dominate.
But, hey, Virginie Despentes lurked in the eleventh spot .....
Whatever 'literary' might mean ...: the original The Booksellerarticle is paywalled so the full explanation is inaccessible; Alison Flood's overview in The Guardian, Female writers dominated 2017's literary bestsellers, figures show suggests they: "limited ourselves to those who have been major award winners and/or shortlistees" -- which seems rather ... unclear (major award winners and/or shortlistees when ? where ?).
Still: actual numbers ! Copies sold and cash taken in ! Yes ! Let's see more of that !
Though I have to admit those volume numbers are ... disheartening.
They've announced the longlist (and the judges, and the dates, for this year's International Prize for Arabic Fiction -- 16 novels, chosen from 124 entries, from 14 countries.
If you click on the covers at the bottom of the announcement you can find more (English) information about each of the titles.
The shortlist: "will be announced in February" (hmm ... so much for announcing the dates ...), and the winner will be announced 24 April.
Hey, it's Arno Schmidt's birthday !
He would have been 104 today.
Back in 2014 -- the centenary -- I was so disappointed by the lack of interest in all (or any ...) things Schmidt that I put out my little Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy (you got your copy, right ? if not, it's still and always available at, say, Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk ...).
Despite the epochal publication of John E. Woods's translation of Bottom's Dream in the meantime ... well, he's still not getting the recognition he deserves.
(Such is, apparently, that author, and book's, and translator's sad fate: Bottom's Dream is the translation-into-English of the millennium, to date, yet, for example, the Best Translated Book Award didn't even rate it among the top twenty-five of the year, sigh .....)
Read him !
The six-title shortlist for the inaugural Society of Authors' Translators Association First Translation Prize has been announced.
This prize was admirably founded by Daniel Hahn with his share of the International Dublin Literary Award prize-money he recently was awarded; "The aim of the prize is to recognise new talent in the translation profession".
There were "over twenty books" submitted, and both five out of the six translators, and five out of the six authors were women; the only title under review at the complete review is Elisabeth Jaquette's translation of Basma Abdel Aziz's The Queue.
The winning translation will be announced 1 March.
They've announced the winners of the 34th annual Deutscher Krimi Preis -- the German Mysteries Prize --, with an Oliver Bottini winning in the national category -- just as his Zen and the Art of Murder (awarded third place in the 2005 awards) comes out in English from MacLehose Press; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
In the international category John le Carré's A Legacy of Spies beat out Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer, with Jérôme Leroy's Le bloc rounding out the top three.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hanne Ørstavik's 1997 novel, Love, coming out in English next month from Archipelago.
Peirene Press have brought out another work by her, The Blue Room (see their publicity page), which I unfortunately haven't seen yet; certainly another impressive contemporary Norwegian talent, and I'm sure we'll be seeing more by her.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Iain Pears' The Raphael Affair, the first in his Art History Mystery-series.
This is a bit of a 'filler'-review, but having reviewed two others in the series it seemed to make sense to post a review of the first, which introduces the central characters.
That said, Pears always makes for at least entertaining reading -- and I'm sure I'll get to more of his books.
It's actually already been up for a while, and I have been an avid user, but now the official announcement is also out, as Jim Milliot reports at Publishers Weekly that Translation Database Now Hosted by 'PW', as the venerable Three Percent Translation Database-collection -- while still available there (the data only, however, in downloadable Excel spreadsheet form) -- is now available in a more user-friendly (and easily updated) form at Publishers Weekly, here.
As you can see, you can limit/specify search parameters, making this version much handier to check most things (specific genres/countries/languages, etc.).
I'm finding it incredibly useful; I imagine many of you will as well.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alexei Remizov's Sisters of the Cross, recently out from Columbia University Press in their Russian Library-series.
Remizov is one of those Russian writers who slipped into relative obscurity in exile -- born in 1877, he lived until 1957.
For a while, he did pretty well internationally: for example, in 1924 his The Clock was published by Alfred A. Knopf (US) and Chatto and Windus (UK).
This 1910 novel hasn't previously been translated, however, and it's a nice little re(dis)covered work.
"There are certain parts of the work that are weak from the standpoint of a novel," he said.
"That made me want to provide as much support as I could, so I earnestly added new elements to the work.
I tried to provide a smoother progression to those parts that did not flow smoothly."
Translating Chandler has obviously been a useful exercise for Murakami and his own fiction -- but it's interesting to see him tackling an author whose work has already been repeatedly translated.
They've announced that this year's prix du Livre Inter étranger -- one of the leading French book prizes for a foreign work of fiction -- goes to the French translation of Paul Auster's 4 3 2 1.
Surely not a major upset -- Auster is huge in France -- though it was disappointing that all the finalist competition it faced was also translated-from-the-English.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ahmed Naji's Using Life, recently out from the University of Texas Press.
This book has gained some notoriety because its author was, ridiculously, charged with, basically, obscenity -- see, for example, the PEN America Ahmed Naji page, and Lucy Popescu's overview in the Literary Review.
An extended (Friday, 5:00 to 22:00) localized power outage, and an internet-disconnect extending beyond that makes for the first day in many, many years that there's a day with: no new post(s) at the Literary Saloon (this delayed one doesn't count).
Apologies, but the (non-) utilities prevented me; blame US infrastructural collapse (on such an unseasonably balmy day -- some 30 degrees Fahrenheit above the seasonal norm hereabouts --, no less !) -- so of course the man in charge: el Presidente and his inept administration.
(It takes a lot to keep me from posting, but somehow Trump enabled it.
(Yes, yes, American infrastructural collapse is a long-festering, on-going problem -- but might as well lay the blame on the (after all, always credit-taking ...) one(s) currently (ostensibly) in charge.))
Pushkin Press -- and then New York Review Books -- came out with Len Rix's translation of Antal Szerb's Journey by Moonlight a couple of years ago -- but Alma Books came out with a new translation just last year, by Peter Czipott; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
(There was an earlier translation, by Peter Hargitai, too, but that attracted nowhere near the attention or readership Rix's did.)
At hlo Mark Baczoni talks with Czipott and another Szerb-translator, Peter Sherwood, in A Double Interview on Translating Antal Szerb.
Some interesting background, and always good to see Szerb get mre attention.
They've announced the winners of the 2017 (American) National Jewish Book Awards.
'Jewish Book of the Year' went to Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel, by Francine Klagsbrun; get your copy Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
The 'Fiction' award went to David Grossman's Man Booker International Prize-winning A Horse Walks Into a Bar; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
(There are lots of other categories, too.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Adrián Bravi's Dust, recently out from Dalkey Archive Press.
Though he was born and grew up in Argentina, Bravi lives in Italy and writes in Italian.