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1. Nupe literature

       The Nigerian Tribune has a Q & A with Isyaku Bala Ibrahim, who argues Nupe literature has come of age.
       Among his responses:

What do you think are the factors hampering Nupe literature ?

First, the government's total negligence at all levels, little efforts from traditional institutions, gross negligence by the department of Nigerian languages of our higher institutions to explore other languages other than Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo; not teaching the language in the core language centres in Niger, Kogi, Kwara, and Abuja.
       So, yeah, maybe there's still a ways to go ..... Read the rest of this post

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2. Literary prizes in ... Zimbabwe

       In The Herald Beaven Tapureta argues that We need literary awards in Zimbabwe.
       Of course, the whole writing/publishing infra- and all other structures could use some help in Zimbabwe, but more literary awards, of the sort he proposes, probably wouldn't hurt.

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3. Arnon Grunberg retrospective

       "The University of Amsterdam will present a major retrospective exhibition" on Tirza-author Arnon Grunberg 31 October through 1 February, as described here. It apparently has the (sad, German) title: "Ich will doch nur, dass ihr mich liebt"..... Impressive that they can mount a retrospective for such a young author. But there's certainly enough material to deal with: it's hard to believe that he's only been publishing for twenty years (he's accumulated a huge body of work).
       He's also featured in the current issue of De Boekenwereld -- none of the contents freely accessible online, but that cover certainly seems to be in keeping with the theme ..... Read the rest of this post

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4. Hong Kong International Literary Festival

       The Hong Kong International Literary Festival runs 31 October through 9 November.
       Sorry, but The Translator and the Translated event is already sold out.

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5. The Strange Library review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Murakami Haruki's The Strange Library, coming out in early December in (different-looking and -illustrated) US and UK editions.

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6. Prix Goncourt final four

       They've now announced the final cut, leaving just four titles in the running for the biggest of the French book prizes, the prix Goncourt.
       One of the favorites -- Eric Reinhardt's L’Amour et les forêts -- fell by the wayside, but hot tip Meursault, contre-enquête by Kamel Daoud continues its impressive prizes-run. I was pleased to see a Lydie Salvayre-title in the final four -- and surprised the David Foenkinos made the cut: BibliObs may assure that: "L’auteur de «la Délicatesse» a quitté son domaine de prédilection, le roman «feel good»", but surely the judges should have seen through this: "roman taillé pour les honneurs" (complete with Auschwitz setting, sigh).
       [A reminder that, despite being a book prize (in contrast to author-prizes such as the Nobel), the Goncourt is a one-and-done prize: authors who have won it can't win it again (unless you're Romain Gary ...), which is why you tend to see lots of new names every year.]

       The winner will be announced next Wednesday, 5 November.

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7. Mulisch festival

       Harry ! the Harry Mulisch Festival runs tomorrow through 2 November, and the great Dutch master is always celebrating.
       An ... interesting program: I'm not so sure about those book signings, but they've got Arnon Grunberg in conversation about Mulisch's Criminal Case 40/61, for example.

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8. The Horrors of Love review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jean Dutourd's 1963 novel, The Horrors of Love.
       The University of Chicago Press have one Dutourd title in print -- A Dog's Head -- but otherwise the author has fallen far out of favor. Regularly translated into English until the mid-1970s -- and regularly reviewed in publications such as Time -- he was one of a whole bunch of French authors that the US/UK lost touch with about forty years ago (and since he lived until 2011, and kept publishing until near the time of his death at ninety-one, that's a whole lot of his work that US/UK audiences have missed).
       This is one of his wilder (and bigger -- over two hundred thousand words) efforts, but it holds up well fifty years on. Of course, I do have a particular soft spot for fiction-in-dialogue.

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9. Uncultured minister ?

       Fleur Pellerin may be French Ministre de la Culture et de la Communication but as far as culture goes ... well, as for example Anne Penketh reports in The Guardian, Modiano, who ? French minister unable to name book by Nobel winner -- this after lunching with the guy, mind you. See also the BBC report that French culture minister admits she 'reads very little' (scroll down for the great picture of Modiano to cruelly go with it ...).
       Yes, points for candor, but for someone in this position ...:

Pellerin told the Canal+ presenter, who had asked her to identify her favourite Modiano book: "I've no problem in confessing that I've not had any time to read for the past two years. I read a lot of notes, a lot of legislative texts, news, AFP stories, but I read very little."
       I'd be slightly more forgiving (though admittedly just slightly ...) if she had at least been better-prepped by her staff so she could at least name a Modiano book, even if she hasn't read it. (What kind of notes is she reading if not basic background stuff like this for these situations ?) But for a minister of culture not to read any fiction, or indeed any books ..... "(N)otes, a lot of legislative texts, news, AFP stories" -- that's pretty feeble.
       (Of course, in the US there isn't even anything close to a cabinet-level position for the arts -- no Secretary of Culture -- and the very idea of one probably strikes a considerable percentage of the electorate as an absurdity .....)

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10. Translating A True Novel

       I was very impressed by Mizumura Minae's A True Novel last year, and via I'm now pointed to a post by Avery Fischer Udagawa at the SCBWI Japan Translation Group weblog, where translator Juliet Winters Carpenter offers One Passage, Seven Translations - Minae Mizumura from a translation workshop. Always fascinating to see different renderings of the same passage.
       On the same site, check out Anna Zielinska-Elliott and Lynne E. Riggs's Q & A with Juliet Winters Carpenter, True Collaboration on A True Novel.

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11. Another dramatist prize for Handke

       Just a couple of weeks ago Peter Handke picked up the International Ibsen Award, the biggest international dramatist award, and while he was again overlooked for the Nobel, they've now announced that he will be getting this year's (albeit only handed-over on 1 February 2015 ...) Else-Lasker-Schüler-Dramatikerpreis, one of the biggest German-language dramatist prizes; Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek won this one in 2003.

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12. Raja Rao revival ?

       Apparently Penguin Books India has recently re-issued four Raja Rao titles -- Kanthapura, The Serpent and the Rope, The Cat and Shakespeare, and a volume of Collected Stories (though I can't find any listings of these books at their official site ...); see, for example, S.B.Easwaran in Outlook on The Soul in its Village or Rajni George in Open on The Return of Raja Rao.
       English-writing -- and longtime US resident -- Rao did publish many of his works in the US, but most everything is out of print (the exception: Kanthapura, which New Directions faithfully upholds; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com). Disappointingly, these Penguin Classics are apparently geographically limited, too -- though they do seem to be available, reasonably priced, in the UK; get, for example, The Serpent and the Rope at Amazon.co.uk.
       I've always been a fan, though the only title under review at the complete review is the distinctly second-tier Comrade Kirillov; I read all the others long before starting the site, with just The Chessmaster and His Moves still to properly get to.
       In The New York Times Book Review in 1964 Santha Rama Rau already suggested: "Raja Rao is perhaps the most brilliant -- and certainly the most interesting -- writer of modern India" (though admittedly Americans were hardly paying attention to anything from India at the time). Pratapaditya Pal's review of The Serpent and the Rope in The Los Angeles Times (August, 1986 ...) warns it is: "a highly cerebral novel that will be enjoyed primarily by intellectual readers" and that: "the dialogues are often much too erudite and, sometimes, even contrived", but I have to admit it was right up my alley.
       Definitely an old master who still deserves a place in the contemporary library.

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13. Translating Murakami

       I missed this, many months ago when it first appeared, but it's definitely worth pointing to: at nippon.com Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit writes on Orchestrating Translations: The Case of Murakami Haruki, with a focus on the German and English translations.
       Among the interesting bits:

After this first success in German, and with more English and other translations in preparation, the author seems to have pursued a stricter streamlining policy through his American agent since the early 1990s. He refused to grant translation rights for a selection of his short stories into German on the grounds that translation rights for an English edition of the stories were still under negotiation, and that he preferred to make the selection by himself.
       (His American agent is (and presumably was) ICM's Amanda "Binky" Urban.)
       More generally/interestingly/disturbingly:
This opinion was not limited to Murakami's international presence; it rubbed off on all other literary productions of Japanese origin, so that a Japanese agent in the 1990s, during the high tide for Japanese literature in central Europe, was reluctant to even negotiate translation rights for a German version as long as no English language publisher showed interest in the book in question.
       Dear god, no wonder they've fared so relatively poorly -- English would certainly seem to be positioned to serve well as the 'lead' language to be translated into, but as we've seen over the years and decades, American and British publishers (especially the big houses) tend to be followers rather than leaders. Big mistake by the Japanese (and they seem to have been paying for it, too, as contemporary Japanese literature continues to punch far below its weight on the international literary stage).
       Also interesting to learn that:
It is worth noting that the overall rate of direct versus indirect translation via English and a few other languages into German has in fact remained fairly stable since 1868 through the present, amounting to 88% versus 12%. Indirect translations today mostly apply to manga and to popular literature, including crime and mystery novels.
       Amazing, first of all, that it has remained relatively stable over that period (if true ... I'd love to see hard numbers ...); amazing, too, that second-hand translation remains so popular. (It hasn't been killed off completely in English either;' the case of Ismail Kadare is a special one (many of his works are translated from the French translations; see David Bellos on The Englishing of Ismail Kadare), but the occasional other example still crops up (far too) regularly.)

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14. Writing in ... Belarus

       No worries -- as reported by BelTA:

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko does not believe that the Belarusian literature has plunged into the twilight.
       So that's settled .....
       Or maybe not: for all his optimism, Lukashenko still wondered aloud:
Why does the contemporary Belarusian literature fall short of the highest standards set by our great writers ?
       They do have that nice Books from Belarus site -- now with drawings of the authors -- with a pdf booklet of the most recent offerings. The Zen novel Just Don't Tell My Mom ! (by Adam Hłobus) anyone ? Alena Brava's autobiographical Heaven is Already Overcrowded ?
       I'm not so sure about some of these, but would certainly like to see more Belarusian literature available in translation; the only local writers under review at the complete review are Victor Martinovich (Paranoia) and Svetlana Alexievich (Voices from Chernobyl).

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15. Imraan Coovadia profile

       Imraan Coovadia's new novel, Tales of the Metric System, is just out in South Africa (see the Random House Struik publicity page or the Pontas Agency information page), and in the Mail & Guardian Bongani Kona profiles him, in Impressive feat of imagination.
       Seagull Books did bring out his Green-Eyed Thieves a couple of years ago, so that's available in the US and UK (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), and his debut, The Wedding, was published in the US, ages ago, but I'm surprised he hasn't made greater inroads in the US/UK yet. Acclaimed in South Africa, his books don't even need to be translated .....
       The only Coovadia title under review at the complete review is The Institute for Taxi Poetry.

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16. William Hill Sports Book of the Year shortlist

       They've apparently announced the shortlist for the 2014 William Hill Sports Book of the Year (though not yet at the official site, last I checked); see, for example, Graham Sharpe on the William Hill Sports Book of the Year: 25 years of runners and riders at The Guardian's Book Blog.
       Needless to say, I haven't read (or even seen) any of the seven finalists. Sports-books are definitely under-represented at the complete review ..... Read the rest of this post

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17. Foreign children's classics in the Soviet Union

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Alena Tveritina reports that: 'In Soviet children's literature, retellings and altered versions of foreign classics captivated society far more than translations -- so much so that some classic characters were completely russified', in How Dr. Dolittle became Dr. Aybolit.
       So, for example, Alexander Tolstoy took on Pinocchio -- but:

At first I just wanted to write Collodi's content in Russian, but then I abandoned that idea because it was too boring and bland
       (For what it's worth, his version was phenomenally successful, even for that captive market.)

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18. Jonathan Franzen Q & A

       In the Indianpolis Star Will Higgins has a Q & A with Jonathan Franzen.
       J-Franz reveal his favorite TV shows, how many bird species he's seen (2,600 worldwide), and the fact that both he and David Foster Wallace have/had a one-handed backhand (increasingly rare at the pro level).

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19. Polizzotti on translating Modiano

       Mark Polizzotti -- translator of the forthcoming Yale University Press three-in-one collection by newly crowned Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano, Suspended Sentences (see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) -- writes on Quiet Resonance: Translating Patrick Modiano at the YUP weblog, Yale Books Unbound.

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20. Neustadt Festival

       The Neustadt Festival -- culminating in The Tuner of Silences-author Mia Couto picking up the 2014 Neustadt International Prize for Literature -- started yesterday; see the full program.

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21. New World Literature Today

       The November-December issue of World Literature Today, with a focus on 'After the Wall Fell: Dispatches from Central Europe 1989-2014', is now available, a decent chunk of it accessible online -- as is the entire World Literature in Review-reviews section.

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22. Per Petterson Q&A

       At PEN Atlas Tasja Dorkofikis has a Q&A with Per Petterson, author of I Curse the River of Time, etc.

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23. Prize shortlist: T.S.Eliot Prize

       They've announced the ten-title shortlist -- selected from 113 (unnamed, sigh) book submitted for consideration -- for the T.S.Eliot Prize.

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24. Prize shortlists: Prix Femina

       They've announced the shortlists for the French prix Femina -- notable because it has three categories: fiction (French), foreign fiction, and non-fiction.
       There doesn't seem to be an official site, so see, for example, Prix Femina 2014: Le jury dévoile ses finalistes at 20 minutes. Three of the five foreign-fiction finalists are translations of books written int English.

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25. The publishing-wait in Iran

       Books in Iran generally aren't officially censored -- publishers are just denied the permission needed to actually publish them. All books need to get official permission, and while permission is sometimes denied outright, usually the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance just makes authors and publishers wait, and wait. and wait.
       How long ? Well, as IBNA reports: Iranian author's 'The Smoke' was released after eight years, as Hossein Sanapour's novel finally got the green light after eight years.
       Mention that: "It was waiting for the issuance of a publication permission in the previous government for some years" suggest perhaps change is in the air -- but things still seem to be moving slowly.

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