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1. Archive: Maurice Blanchot

       Via I'm pointed to the report at Harvard University's Houghton Library's weblog, Modern Books and Manuscripts, that Maurice Blanchot papers acquired by Harvard -- some twenty cartons worth.
       I suspect not everything is ... revelatory ("Real estate transactions including the sale of 48 rue Madame, 27 rue de Vaugirard. 1 folder" or "Wall calendars: 1965, 1971"), but a lot is intriguing -- including the: "Correspondence including Jacques Derrida, Edmond Jabès, Monique Antelme, Jacques Abeille, René Char, and presidents of France" (presidents ! plural !).

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2. Archive: Ian Rankin

       In the Daily Record they're reporting that Rebus author Ian Rankin aims to leave his literary archive to the National Library of Scotland.
       He kindly wants to donate his archive -- including "his boxes of receipts, bills" -- though it's unclear how much insight his faded faxes will offer scholars:

"I was going through some boxes of stuff recently, stuff from the late 80s when the fax machine was god, and I had all these rolls of shiny fax paper, and they have now faded to blank sheets.

"I have just got boxes full of blank sheets of paper, where faxes once were, probably from my publisher.
       (Quite a few of the Rebus-novels are under review at the complete review, beginning with the first, Knots and Crosses.)

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3. Brian Friel (1929-2015)

       Irish playwright Brian Friel has passed away; see, for example, obituaries in The Guardian (Richard Pine) or The New York Times (Benedict Nightingale), as well as a collection of reflections at the BBC.
       None of his work is under review at the complete review -- not even Translations, which I really should get to (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).

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4. Biblioasis profile

       In The Globe and Mail Mark Medley profiles publisher Biblioasis, in Biblioasis is no mirage.
       It's an impressive and deserved success story -- always great to see a small independent doing so well (and nice to see that works in translation are part of the success-programme ...).

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5. Simone review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Eduardo Lalo's Simone, due out shortly from the University of Chicago Press.

       This book won the 2013 Premio Rómulo Gallegos -- a biennial prize that has one of the most impressive winners-lists of any Spanish- (or, indeed, any-)language book prize, including: One Hundred Years of Solitude, Terra Nostra, Palinuro of Mexico, and The Savage Detectives, as well as books by Mario Vargas Llosa, Javier Marías, Enrique Vila-Matas, and Ricardo Piglia. That's some impressive company .....
       So how will Simone fare in the US -- as the first of Puerto Rican author Lalo's books to appear in English ?
       Lalo doesn't make it easy: the beginning of the book isn't bad or anything, but is a kind of writing that is very familiar -- and that many readers have probably had enough of. Anyone who dips in for the first ten or twenty or however many pages to get a feel for the book might well be inclined not to continue. The thing is: that initial feel is upended, as Lalo goes considerably further -- not quite elsewhere, but certainly not just on the same course -- later in the book.
       It's also interesting for its treatment of a more or less 'marginal' culture, including being about being a Puerto Rican writer in a time where Spanish-writing publishing is dominated by publishers in Spain (and much more regionalized in Latin America), with all the consequences of that.
       It was interesting reading this just as Haruo Shirane's What Global English Means For World Literature -- a review of Mizumura Minae's The Fall of Language in the Age of English -- appeared, discussing some of the issues Lalo raises.

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6. Park Kyong-ni prize

       The Park Kyong-ni prize is the big South Korean international literary award founded five years ago, and they've now announced this year's winner -- selected from five finalists: Isabel Allende, Amitav Ghosh, Milan Kundera, Amos Oz, and Philip Roth.
       Last summer, in the NB column on the back page of the Times Literary Supplement J.C. joked about:

devising a new prize, to be given to an author who has already received all the other prizes. What to call it ? The Amos Oz Prize is one suggestion.
       And, indeed, Amos Oz adds to his All the Prizes Prize (the designation they seem to have settled on, though they might be rethinking that right now ...) tally, taking this prize too (and what is apparently $100,000 in prize-money).
       Previous winners include Marilynne Robinson and Ludmila Ulitskaya -- as well as, last year ... Bernhard Schlink.

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7. Goldsmiths Prize shortlist

       They've announced the six-title strong shortlist for the Goldsmiths Prize -- "awarded to a book that is deemed genuinely novel and which embodies the spirit of invention that characterises the genre at its best".
       It looks like a decent selection -- though I had issues with the two titles from it I have read (Lurid & Cute and Satin Island). I do hope to get to both the Richard Beard and the Magnus Mills, but neither appears to be available in the US yet.

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8. Bookselling in ... Nigeria

       Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani has an interesting piece on the book business in Nigeria, The Secret of Nigerian Book Sales at The New Yorker's Currency-weblog.

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9. Vilas Sarang profile

       Marathi- and English-writing Indian author Vilas Sarang passed away earlier this year (see my mention), and in The Caravan Mantra Mukim's extensive look at 'Vilas Sarang's bilingual modernism', Laughter in the Dark, is now freely accessible -- a good introductory overview.

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10. Man Tiger review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the other Eka Kurniawan novel to appear in English last month, Man Tiger; I reviewed Beauty is a Wound a few weeks ago.

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11. Looking forward to the Nobel Prize in Literature

       It's that time of the year again, and the Nobel Prize in Literature may very well be announced one week from today, on 8 October. (The prize is always announced on a Thursday in October -- but the Swedish Academy only reveals the actual date of the announcement on the Monday prior; in recent years they have been announcing the prize during the big 'Nobel week', when most of the other prizes are announced -- which, this year, is next week.)
       This year saw Sara Danius take over as permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy from Peter Englund -- meaning she's in charge of the Nobel proceedings at the prize-deciding body (and will also be the one announcing the winner to the world) -- albeit only at the end of spring, well into the decision-making process. So far things have been fairly quiet during her tenure -- but then the Academy has spent most of it on their summer vacation. The real arguing and deciding has presumably only started in recent days ..... As to gossip and rumors, it's been astonishingly quiet (so far) this year.
       I've been finding it a bit hard to get into the Nobel spirit of things this year, since there's not really much to add to my discussions from previous years: there really aren't (m)any names that haven't previously -- often long -- been in the mix.
       Internationally, Krasznahorkai Lázsló has been gaining traction (locally too: they just reviewed his Satantango in the Göteborgs-Posten a few days ago ...), but I think it might be a few more years before he's really in the thick of things (having Hungary as the thematic focus at the just-concluded Göteborg Book Fair probably doesn't help either, not for this year). Elena Ferrante is obviously sizzling hot in the US but don't forget that she has made a much more limited European impression -- including, apparently, not even yet being translated into Swedish (not a precondition to win the prize, of course, but it doesn't hurt) -- though at least she's coming: Elena Ferrante ges ut på svenska 2016 as Dagens Nyheter reports; indeed, for what it's worth (again: not that much) the Swedish Academy's Nobel library only has four of her books in its holdings (and only one is checked out ...) (Krasznahorkai: twenty-two).
       Betting at Ladbrokes pretty much just continued where last year left off, with most of the same names at similar odds. As I've often noted, the betting list is unlikely to get the favorite right, but chances are pretty good the eventual winner is on the list, at pretty decent odds. And, once again we have Murakami and Ngũgĩ right up there, as well as still-less-well-known in the US/UK Svetlana Alexievich and Jon Fosse; Philip Roth is among the few whose odds have edged slightly higher over the summer -- one last gasp for the retiree ? Poets Adonis and Ko Un figure, as always. (And, yes, Bob Dylan, at a ridiculous 33/1.)
       Missing from the Ladbrokes list are a few authors I've mentioned previously as plausible candidate -- Iranians Mahmoud Dowlatabadi and Shahrnush Parsipur, for example, or any number of Arabic-writing authors (Ibrahim Al-Koni ?). Yes, overall it's all pretty much the usual suspects once again.
       Discussion has been pretty active at The Fictional Woods and the World Literature Forum -- all over the place, but covering most of the possible or potential contenders too, so certainly worth checking out and keeping up with.

       I'll try to offer more speculation as announcement-day approaches -- and maybe there will be some hot gossip leaking out of Stockholm ..... Read the rest of this post

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12. Not the Folio Prize

       The Folio Prize was to be an alternative-Man Booker Prize. They handed out the prize in 2014 and in 2015, but sponsor Folio ditched them, and they apparently haven't been able to find a new sponsor (and name ...) -- and now they've announced they won't be handing out a 2016 prize (though they: "intend to return with a full-scale Prize in 2017" -- though one suspects that that too is heavily dependent on their finding a sponsor to pay for the thing ...).

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13. Writing in ... Indonesia

       At Qantara.de Wayan Sunarta 'sheds light on the history of modern Indonesian literature', in The island that literature forgot, a useful introductory overview.

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14. Korean literature abroad

       In The Korea Herald Literature Translation Institute of Korea-president Kim Seong-kon considers, yet again, ways of Raising the profile of Korean literature overseas.
       He notes: "my immediate concern is translation" -- and that, apparently:

In the case of English translation of Korean literature, there has been a heated debate on who is the better qualified translator between an American or British translator and a Korean translator. Some people insist that American or British translators are much better than Korean translators because the latter are prone to make mistakes in grammar, syntax and wording, not to mention inadvertently using unstylish sentences and awkward expressions. Others strike back, insisting that Korean translators are better because British and American translators almost always make quite a few mistakes in their translation since they are often unable to comprehend Korean words or phrases and their cultural implications correctly.
       What to do ?
In my experience, both arguments are right. Thus collaboration or cotranslation by two nationals can be a good solution.
       Okay .....
       I'm also not sure pinning hopes on a first wave of: "suspense and mystery" titles to pave the way for 'real' literature is the wisest course of action -- much less the advice that:
Indeed, we should produce literary works that would have strong international appeal. Once the door is open, more serious literature can follow
       Once you start trying to 'produce' a specific kind of literary work -- especially one for a foreign audience (i.e. one that by definition authors are likely to be less familiar with) ... well, that's unlikely to work out well.

       At least more is being published in English -- led by Dalkey Archive Press' Library of Korean Literature.

       See also the Korean literature under review at the complete review.

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15. Agustín Fernández Paz reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two of popular Galician-writing author Agustín Fernández Paz's novels just out from Small Stations Press:

       These are apparently nominally 'YA' horror novels, but differ from most US/UK YA fiction in that the characters are adult.

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16. Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature

       The winners of the (Kenyan) Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature -- actually several prizes -- have been announced, with Dust (by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor) winning the adult English category (a book that's actually available in US and UK editions; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and Pendo la Karaha (by John Habwe) winning the adult Kiswahili category (see the not very useful Moran publicity page).
       See also the Daily Nation report, Owuor wins literature prize at book awards.

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17. Writing in ... Indonesia

       In less than a month Indonesia will be Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and at Inside Indonesia Petia Dimitrova has a Q & A with Lontar's John McGlynn about Bringing Indonesian literature to the world.

       Meanwhile, at Qantara.de Bettina David writes about a part of the Indonesian literary market we're unfortunately not likely to see much of, in Frankfurt or elsewhere: 'Sastra Islami' -- Islamic popular literature -- in "God's gift to Indonesia".
       Interesting, for example, that:

Unlike the rather elitist Western-influenced literary scene, Sastra Islami is ruled by an ethos of shared idealism, community and mutual motivation -- which fits with the Indonesian love of collective fellowship and personal contact.
       And also that:
The "most inspiring" book in this new wave of Indonesian literature has of course been Andrea Hirata's The Rainbow Troops
       And shocking to hear that the German edition of the next volumes (apparently a two-for-one abridgement) takes considerable liberties, as:
Its view of the West also seems naive. In Hirata's The Dreame, Arai receives an EU grant for a research project at the Sorbonne in which he tries to refute the theory of evolution with Harun Yahya's bizarre "theories" -- though cut from the German translation, many of his Indonesian readers like to believe in them.
       Surely these are exactly the parts that shouldn't be cut -- we want to see these things: "his Indonesian readers like to believe in". (Never mind that many Americans seem to be pretty receptive to Harun Yahya-type interpretations of evolution in the first place .....)
       And I remain disappointed that Habiburrahman El Shirazy's Ayat-Ayat Cinta (which I first mentioned quite a while back, when first looking at this phenomenon) apparently still isn't available in English.

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18. Blurbs !

       'Blurbs' remain a fascinating part of the odd business that is publishing, and at NPR Colin Dwyer offers an enjoyable overview, in Forget The Book, Have You Read This Irresistible Story On Blurbs ?
       (I tend not to be much moved by blurbs -- though I have found misleading ones (which are often fairly easy to identify/spot, often smelling of desperation ...) a good indicator of lack of quality in a book.)

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19. 109 entries, no winner

       The US$100,000 NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates through (four) genres, and this year it was the turn of children's literature. They got 109 entries, but, as Evelyn Osagie reports in The Nation, No winner for 2015 NLNG's Literature prize.
       As the judge's report [sorry, Facebook link; there isn't an up-to-date official site with this information ...] explains:

This year, 109 entries were received. Eighty-nine (89) entries did not meet the preliminary criteria for assessment. This number represents 81.6% of the total number of entries received for 2015. The percentage by any standard is worrying; especially as there is a paucity of literature for children
       This isn't the first time no prize has been awarded -- 2004 (prose) and 2009 (poetry) also came up empty.
       And admirably:
NLNG is determined to promote excellence by investing the prize money, which would have been won, back into the process for a creative writing workshop for Nigerian writers of children's literature.
       Which seems a constructive solution.

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20. Sigit Susanto Q & A

       At Qantara.de Birgit Lattenkamp has a Q & A with Indonesian author Sigit Susanto (as Indonesia-as-guest-of-honour-time at the Frankfurt Book Fair approaches, in a couple of weeks).
       He is a bit concerned that Indonesia isn't fully prepared for Frankfurt, and suggests:

Maybe Indonesia will be guest of honour again in 2025, and can be better prepared to present itself then.

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21. Variations on Shakespeare

       So they're apparently publishing a Hogarth Shakespeare-series -- "Shakespeare's plays reimagined by some of today's bestselling and most celebrated writers". Sort of like Canongate's Myths-series (which seems to have sadly petered out; see also the volumes under review at the complete review).
       In The Telegraph Alex Clark has a Q & A with Jeanette Winterson and Howard Jacobson on retelling Shakespeare's plays -- since they're among the first tackling the exercise.
       I'm not so sure about these -- but have to admit some curiosity about the promised Jo Nesbø-Macbeth.
       Get your copy of Winterson's The Gap of Time -- the first of these volumes to appear -- at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.u.

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22. The French influence in Viet Nam

       Via I'm pointed to a Việt Nam News piece on Scholars debate role of French language in Viet Nam -- an interesting look at the colonial legacy.
       Interesting to see them consider the consequences of changed circumstances:

"It makes sense that young students have decided to focus on English due to globalisation," he said. "But I'm now wondering which is better: the former generation that had no choice but to study French literature, or the modern generation that is free to choose any language, rendering their minds like a ‘hotpot'," he said.

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23. Kafka, Angry Poet

       Pascale Casanova's The World Republic of Letters impressed me greatly, and I was very pleased to see and now read a copy of her Kafka, Angry Poet (see the Seagull publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) -- but I found myself stymied in trying to write up a review -- and have, for now, given up.
       I found her take on Kafka informative and interesting, but find it hard to try to write anything about it without falling in the Kafka-rabbit-hole (which, as you may have noticed, I've by and large managed to avoid; I got Kafka in and out of my system long before I started the site, and I have little patience for the mythologized (if not outright deified) depictions of him that are the order of the day (though Casanova, to her credit, does well to avoid a lot of that)). When I get my hands on the third Stach volume (the early years), maybe I'll get to some in-depth Kafka coverage, but for now I can't help but keep a little distance.
       I am disappointed, however, how little critical attention this volume has gotten (which is why I mention this): it really is very good -- interesting, informative and accessible. Baffling that it hasn't been more widely reviewed.

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24. Dalkey's new home

       As I previously mentioned Dalkey Archive Press has moved on -- to the University of Houston-Victoria, Texas -- and, as the Victoria Advocate reports they've now settled in, as Dalkey publishes first books since relocating to UHV. No full list, alas -- but given the steady impressive flow it doesn't really matter; check out the full list of new releases.
       Also good to see: the Applied Literary Translation programme they're rolling out.

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25. Multiple Personalities review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tatyana Shcherbina's Multiple Personalities, just out from Glagoslav.

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