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1. Reading in ... Bangladesh

       At Scroll.in Ulka Anjaria finds: 'Choosing what to read is playing a crucial role in the uneasy conflict between the mother-tongue and English', in Reading Chetan Bhagat in Dhaka: the anxiety of English literature.
       (Chetan Bhagat is of course the immensely popular (writing-in-English-)Indian author -- whose success hasn't quite ... translated to the US/UK (several of his titles are under review at the complete review; see, for example, One night @ the call center, which was actually published in US/UK editions as well).)
       An interesting (beginning of a) discussion -- as is also the notion, re. Bhagat, that:

Without explicitly saying so, his works shift attention from the traumas of South Asia's past to the shared anxieties of its future.
       The shift in attention may be welcome, but I'm not sure his works are best suited for leading the way ..... Read the rest of this post

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2. E-books at independent bookstores

       In the Denver Post Jessica Iannetta reports that E-books for sale, but not selling, at independent booksellers, as:

Eight years after Amazon released the first Kindle, surviving independent bookstores are now selling e-books -- and finding that no one really wants the ones they're offering.
       Of course, part of the convenience of buying e-books is that you don't actually have to go to a bookstore to do it. But, as someone who will only suffer an e-book in extremis, I'm probably not the right person to speculate about e-book purchasing patterns.

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3. Writing in ... India

       In the Hindustan Times Aneesha Bedi looks at the phenomenon of 'young Indian authors whose writing is vibrant, personal and clicks instantly', in Literature in a hurry.
       A nice touch at the end is having two established, older authors comment on the phenomenon -- the section introduced: 'What Seniors Say' .... Read the rest of this post

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4. Arabic literature in English

       As part of the Shubbak Literature Festival in London they held a panel on The Rise of Arabic Literature in English yesterday.
       M. Lynx Qualey (of Arabic Literature (in English)) was one of the panelists, and she previewed the discussion with a piece asking Can Arabic literature ever be fully understood in English ? in The National.
       The situation has certainly improved in recent years -- "it's almost something of a small stream" she writes, about the flow of translations in recent years. And she's right that "literature builds on literature", and as more (finally) becomes available to English-speaking readers, more will also more readily be understood and appreciated, with the Library of Arabic Literature invaluable in bringing foundational texts into English.

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5. Indian literature

       In The Hindu Mini Krishnan writes on literature in and from India -- especially in local languages --, in More than one life.
       She suggests:

Well, the selfie of us with our Indian-language writers shows that the rest of the globe is fairly safe from us: our writers have not penetrated any other culture's consciousness deeply.
       A major part of the problem seems (to me) that they haven't penetrated the markets yet -- paving the way for consciousness-entering. I'm always on the lookout for translated-from-the-Indian-languages fiction here in the US, but there's essentially none to be found.
       As she notes:
Both serious studies and hastily cobbled articles based on interviews with writers and publishers over the last two years reveal that outside India, very little of our huge literary output -- contemporary or otherwise -- is being read anywhere in the world. We are a literary supercontinent but as dark as Krishna and as difficult to reach.
       Again: a major part of the problem is that it's simply not (readily) available. I'd read it if I could get my hands on it; I rarely can. Which really shouldn't be quite this difficult, in this day and age. (In just the past few days I have gotten review copies of a Malay novel from Singapore (e-version) and four paperbacks translated from the Galician (these from a publisher based in Sofia, Bulgaria, of all places -- check out Small Stations). But she suggests that even within India -- where availability is less of a problem -- there hasn't been nearly enough engagement with literatures from other local languages/regions.

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6. All You Need is Kill review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sakurazaka Hiroshi's All You Need is Kill.

       This was the first title brought out by Haikasoru, in 2009; it is also the book on which the recent Tom Cruise movie, Edge of Tomorrow, is based.

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7. Wind/Pinball goes global

       Murakami Haruki's early novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 are being published in new translations (by Ted Goossen) in the US/UK -- in one volume titled, sigh, Wind/Pinball -- at the beginning of August; see the publicity pages from Alfred A. Knopf and Harvill Secker, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       Early reviews are already out -- Arifa Akbar's in The Independent and Matthew Adams' in The National (both notable also for being dismissive of Alfred Birnbaum's earlier translations, which were hardly anywhere near as obscure as they suggest; I can remember stumbling over them at New York bookstores frequently in the late 1980s and 1990s).
       What I hadn't realized is that the Wind/Pinball phenomenon is apparently a global one: the novels aren't just being resurrected for English-reading audiences: this summer and fall also sees editions in, at least, German (see the DuMont publicity page for Wenn der Wind singt / Pinball 1973), Spanish (pre-order your copy of Tusquets' Escucha la canción del viento y Pinball 1973 at aAmazon.es), and Catalan (see the Editorial Empúries publicity page for Escolta la cançó del vent i Pinball, 1973).
       Why the concerted push to bring these to (all these) markets now ? Surely not a cash-flow issue for Murakami. But maybe a setting the (literary) record straight/on the table for posterity (and Nobel-angling) purposes ?

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8. Mésopotamie, carrefour des cultures exhibit

       The Archives nationales exhibit Mésopotamie, carrefour des cultures: Grandes Heures des manuscrits irakiens runs through 24 August in Paris, and in Al-Ahram Weekly David Tresilian writes about it as a Refuge for Iraq's manuscripts -- given that many of the objects are on loan from the library of the Dominican mission in Mosul.

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9. Books to look forward to in ... South Africa

       At BooksLive they have an overview of The Local Books to Look Forward to in 2015 (July-December), suggesting some of the more interesting publications forthcoming in South Africa in the coming months. Some of this will make it to the US/UK sooner rather than later (the Deon Meyer, hurrah -- pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), some not quite so soon (the Zakes Mda ?).
       Anyway, always interesting to see what is of local interest/prominence. (And nice to see a re-issue of Thomas Mofolo's classic Chaka.)

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10. Kalidasa redux

       I haven't seen Mani Rao's Kalidasa for the 21st Century Reader (see the Aleph Book Company publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), but Vijay Nambisan's review in The Caravan is now (finally) fully freely accessible online, in which he considers: 'Revisiting Kalidasa in the modern age'.
       (With several reviews at the complete review of both Sakuntala (four, including this one) and the Meghaduta (three, including this one), both of which are also translated anew in the Rao volume, I'm always curious about new takes on this Sanskrit master.)

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11. William T. Vollmann 'By the Book'

       The New York Times Book Review's 'By the Book'-column continues to be ... uneven, but this week's respondent is William T. Vollmann, and though I've never really taken to his work he offers up a pretty interesting set of answers.

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12. Memory Theatre review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Simon Critchley's novella Memory Theatre -- which came out last year from Fitzcarraldo Editions in the UK, and is due out in the US (as Memory Theater ...) from Other Press in November (quite a while after the French translation was published, I can't help but note ...).

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13. Prix du Roman Fnac longlist

       With the French 'rentrée littéraire' about to be unleashed -- 589 titles published over the course of just a couple of weeks -- any guidance is helpful; the prix du Roman Fnac offers a just-announced longlist of thirty top titles (see them, for example, at BibliObs; for some reason the Fnac site doesn't have a convenient overview) and, given their track record -- mixed, but local favorite Where Tigers are at Home won in 2008, and widely acclaimed (if locally less appreciated) Purge (2010) as well as Vie Française (2004) have also taken the prize -- looks worth at least a closer look..
       The presence of Marisha Pessl's Night Film would seem to be a big red flag, but new works by Claro (Crash-test; see the Actes Sud publicity page), Mathias Enard, and -- maybe -- Laurent Binet, among others, are certainly intriguing.

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14. Kranichsteiner Literaturpreis

       This week's German author prize is ... the Kranichsteiner Literaturpreis, the €20,000 prize that's gone to Rainald Goetz (this year's just-announced (see my mention) Georg-Büchner-Preis winner), in 1983, Wolfgang Hilbig (1987), Nobel laureate Herta Müller (1991), and Sibylle Lewitscharoff (2006).
       No word yet at the official site, last I checked, but they've announced that Esther Kinsky will get to pick up this year's prize on 6 November; see, for example, the report at boersenblatt.
       Her Summer Report is available in English (from Seagull Books, of course); get your copy at Amazon.com or (ridiculously cheaply, at this moment) at Amazon.co.uk.

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15. Dexter is Dead review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the final volume in Jeff Lindsay's serial-killer series, the just published Dexter is Dead.
       Okay, not exactly my proudest reviewing accomplishment, but at some point my tidy, completist side kicks in -- hence you can find coverage of all eight Dexter-books at the site.

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16. E.L.Doctorow (1931-2015)

       You probably don't need me to tell you, but, as widely reported, E.L.Doctorow has passed away; see, for example, Bruce Weber's obituary in The New York Times.
       None of his work is under review at the complete review; among the best-known is, of course, Ragtime; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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17. Reading in ... Bulgaria

       At Radio Bulgaria Desislava Ivanova briefly writes Of Bulgarians and books.
       We are treated to not-quite-up-to-date 'statistics':

In figures from the National Statistical Institute, in 2011 fifty-one percent of Bulgarians did not read even a single book and only 19% of the population read more than 10 books.
       Newer writers have made half an impression:
As to contemporary Bulgarian writers, more than half of respondents say they love to read books by them as well. 27% however claim present-day Bulgarian writers fail to offer worthy reads, and others believe reading their books is a fad. The polled mentioned the names of Georgi Gospodinov, Donka Petrunova and Ivan Trenev.
       (Of these, Gospodinov has been reasonably well translated into English -- see, for example, The Physics of Sorrow or And Other Stories.)
       Interestingly, one bookseller notes:
There is no big demand for contemporary Bulgarian writers for adults. One notable exception is Stefan Tsanev from the older generation whose books are quite successful on the market. As to children though, they most often prefer Bulgarian authors. Adolescents read mostly fantasy and historical novels. Among children's writers, one of the most popular is Yulka.
       (Nothing by either Tsanev (Стефан Цанев) or Yulka (Юлка; actually Julia Spiridonova) seems to be available in English, but see, for example, some (Bulgarian) samples by Yulka at LiterNet.)

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18. Writing in ... Cambodia

       In The Phnom Penh Post Harriet Fitch Little profiles the Nou Hach Literary Journal, in Literary journal rewards talent in a still small field.
       Disappointingly:

"Writing is kind of considered to be somewhat secondary to art at this point, maybe largely because things have become so visual with new media," she said, adding that the visual arts were also far easier to sponsor:

"It's sexier." Yamada said that when offers of funding did come in, they were often tied in ways that were unacceptable.
       Interesting:
"Cambodia has been heavily influenced by Sanskrit," she said. "And unlike Thai, they haven't separated their words. When we started out, a whole page would have no paragraph breaks, no stops, no phrases."

Today, Yamada said, that's changing -- work is presented in a more legible form, and language is less repetitious.
       Ah, well .....
       But, yes, one hopes that they get over this 'development literature'-phase soon ..... Read the rest of this post

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19. Premio Strega

       Rather shamefacedly I note the awarding of the Premio Strega ... a full two weeks after they announced the winner. (It's summer, news travels slowly ? But seriously, where's the English-language coverage of this, the best-known of the Italian literary prizes.)
       No doubt you would have heard if finalist Elena Ferrante had won with The Story of the Lost Child -- forthcoming from Europa editions; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- but in the second and final round of voting it came a rather distant third, with 59 of the 368 votes cast. The winner was: La ferocia by Nicola Lagioia; see the Einaudi publicity page. (His Bringing It All Back Home is apparently available in English -- electronically; get you Kindle copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)

       They also award a Premio Strega Europeo -- a best foreign book prize -- and German-Ukrainian author Katja Petrowskaja's Maybe Esther (the 2013 Ingeborg-Bachmann-Prize-winning title, forthcoming from Fourth Estate in English; see the Suhrkamp foreign rights page) beat out hot favorite Rafael Chirbes (and Alain Mabanckou, among others).

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20. Mirages of the Mind review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi's 1990 novel Mirages of the Mind; Random House India brought this translation out last year, and now New Directions has brought it stateside.
       Good (though unusual -- really, it's not what you're used to reading) fun -- and lots of great observations and sentences. I think my favorite is still the pithy:

There is no real harm in swimming against a river's current. I mean, none for the river.

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21. Maj Sjöwall profile

       In The Telegraph Jake Kerridge profiles Maj Sjöwall, in The couple who invented Nordic Noir (the other half being long-dead Per Wahlöö, with whom she co-authored the classic Martin Beck-series (Roseanna, The Man who went up in Smoke, etc.)).
       Nice to see her/them get the attention -- though surely they always get their due, as no one can doubt they weren't: "the begetters of what we now know as Nordic Noir"

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22. Premio Dashiell Hammett

       So they just handed out a bunch of literary prizes at the Semana Negra 2015, and the Premio Dashiell Hammett went to Yo fui Johnny Thunders by Carlos Zanón; see, for example, Carlos Zanón gana el premio Dashiell Hammett 2015 in El País.
       I have to admit that I thought it was kind of sad that a prize for the best Spanish-language crime novel (well, 'novela negra') was named after a non-Spanish-writing author. It has an impressive track-record, with winning titles by Paco Ignacio Taibo II (again and again), Leonardo Padura, Jorge Franco, Ricardo Piglia -- even Sergio Ramírez's Divine Punishment (just recently out in English translation) -- but still .....
       Looking at what the body behind the prize is -- the Asociación Internacional de Escritores Policiacos/International Association of Crime Writers -- both clears up and muddies the question further: founded in 1986 in Havana, the founding authors consisting of: "Paco Ignacio Taibo II of Mexico, Julian Semionov of the then U.S.S.R., Jiri Prochazka (Czechoslovakia), Rafael Ramírez Heredia (Mexico), Daniel Chavarría (Uruguay), Alberto Molina and Rodolfo Perez (Cuba)", this looks very much to have been set up as a counter-weight to 'Western' mystery-writers organizations -- and so you can see why they'd go with Hammett (if they had to go with an English-writing author).
       Yet its (few) international branches look pretty local-mainstream, and among them is the North American one -- which hands out its own Hammett Prize (also with a reasonably solid list of winners (though Alice Hoffman beating out Walter Mosley and Donald E. Westlake in 1992 is ... striking)). (The German branch -- Das Syndikat -- sensibly went local-language: theirs is the Friedrich Glauser Preis.)
       A bit confusing and murky ... but maybe appropriate for a noirish organization/prizes.

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23. The Novella Award shortlist

       So there's something called The Novella Award -- "a writing competition that celebrates new fiction in the novella form" -- and they've now announced their shortlist, with the winner to be announced 7 October.
       As the report by Katy Guest in the Independent on Sunday observes, it does at least answer that burning literary question of what the hell is a novella (or at least how long should it be) -- which they then manage to get wrong in the headline (Novella Award organisers have defined a novel as being a piece of fiction between 20,000 and 40,000 words).
       Yes, apparently it's 'the Richard Ford solution'/definition:

"When a writer approaches the 20,000-word mark," Ford wrote in The Granta Book of the American Long Story, "he knows he's edging out of the country of the short story; likewise when he passes the 40,000-word mark, he's edging into the country of the novel."

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24. Prix Littéraire de La Mamounia

       They've announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the five finalists for the prix Littéraire de La Mamounia, one of the leading hotel-sponsored literary prizes, a MAD 200,000 prize for French-Moroccan literature -- and whose seven-person judging panel includes Alain Mabanckou and ... Douglas Kennedy this year.
       The winner will be announced 19 September.

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25. Modiano coverage

       A flurry of Patrick Modiano-translations (and updated translations ...) are due out in the US/UK in the coming months, with Pedigree due out soon, and the three-pack of The Occupation Trilogy -- a first-time translation his debut, plus revised translations of two early works that were published in English some forty years ago -- also soon available (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
       Hence we can also expect lots of Modiano-coverage -- but I hope we can soon move beyond the Patrick Modiano: the Nobel Prize-winner nobody had read-sort (so Duncan White in The Telegraph). I know a lot of this is tempting -- but Modiano was neither that obscure nor that undertranslated, even in English (and especially not elsewhere, even outside France).

       (Meanwhile, for an amusing Modiano cameo in someone else's novel -- which I'm afraid plays very differently, post-Nobel --, check out Antoine Laurain's The Red Notebook.)

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