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Via The Modern Novel weblog (which I hope you're following -- lots of good foreign literature coverage to be found across the site) I find the results of ABC's experts'-poll of las mejores novelas españolas desde 2000 -- the best Spanish novels since 2000.
(It seems pretty clear to me that this is a poll of the best Spanish (as opposed to Spanish-language) novels -- and it would be pretty outrageous if it weren't (quite a few Latin American novels strike me as obviously superior to some of this stuff) -- the confusion presumably arising from the presence of we-all-know-he's-Peruvian-right-? Mario Vargas Llosa atop the list.
But Vargas Llosa has been a Spanish citizen since 1993, and they clearly have no problem claiming him as one of their own; longtime Spanish resident Roberto Bolaño, who surely might have placed a book or two on any Spanish-language list, on the other hand is ignored.)
A surprising number of these books are under review at the complete review (and The Infatuations would be ... if I could get my hands on a copy):
(And while this Chirbes title isn't under review, others are.)
Needless to say -- I disagree with the experts.
As they begin to beat the drum for the 23 July 2013 longlist announcement of the Man Booker Prize -- or pettily try to steal the thunder from today's Man Booker International Prize announcement ... -- The Independent offers Natalie Haynes: Confessions of a Booker judge, as she relates what it's like wading through all the submitted titles.
First off: the piece does contain some actual news, as Haynes reveals that there are apparently 150 titles in the running this year (submissions plus called-in titles).
Judges have done a poor job in recalling the precise number over the years, but they're usually not too far off the mark in their public pronouncements, and 150 would be more than usual.
Still, it's probably best to wait for official confirmation regarding this number -- poor form, by the way, that the official site doesn't have more frequent news-updates providing this sort of information.
Haynes mentions what is truly outrageous about the prize, too -- but does so unquestioningly:
It robs you of the chance to talk about books, too: I'm not allowed to tell you which books have been submitted for the prize, so I can't discuss them with anyone but my fellow judges.
Why isn't she allowed to tell ?
Why don't they publish the full list, so that we can tell whether they're actually dealing with what might be the cream of the crop, or whether in fact the publishers have offered up their Man Booker-flavoured (or so they think and hope) dregs.
As I repeat every year: it's impossible to take a literary prize seriously if they don't tell you who is actually in the competition.
(And given the Man Booker's ridiculously limiting submission options this is a much bigger issue and problem with this prize than with most.)
The question I am most frequently asked about prize judging is, "How do you read all those books ?"
In close second place comes, "Where the hell do you put them ?"
But really the only question should be: what are the books ? (followed, I suppose, by: Why can't you tell us ?)
Clearly the judges have been instructed to present the Man Booker as open-to-everything so that those annoying genre discussion don't flare up again (though they presumably will, once the longlist is revealed), and so Haynes claims:
And the Booker is a broad church. We've been sent thrillers, love stories, family sagas, war novels, spy novels, detective novels and sequels (another consequence of the second Mantel victory ?).
It would sound more convincing if we were told the actual titles -- many a dryly super-'literary' novel can have elements that might be described as thriller-like, or contain a love story of sorts .....
Just tell us what the damn books are already.
PalFest 2013 -- the Palestine Festival of Literature -- runs 23 through 30 May
Among the participating writers from outside the region are China Miéville and Gillian Slovo, and M. Lynx Qualey, of the weblog Arabic Literature (in English) is also participating -- and will presumably be reporting extensively at her site.
In The Korea Times Chung Ah-young reports on Korean young writers trying to make it to global scene, as:
Han and Hae were among 38 writers who have been sent to overseas residence programs supported by the LTI since 2003.
They have been dispatched to some 20 regions in the United States, Germany, Spain and France.
The writers are supposed to participate in various events to promote Korean literature and build up friendships with foreign writers.
It's an interesting approach -- I wonder how it will work out.
See also the (limited selection of) Korean literature under review
at the complete review
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Poems in Occitan by Aurélia Lassaque, Solstice and Other Poems.
Occitan -- yes, that's the lenga d'òc (i.e. langue d'oc).
They've announced that Gerbrand Bakker's The Detour (published in the US as Ten White Geese), translated by David Colmer, has won the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
(Interestingly, the Readers' Prize and the shadow iffp selection both went to other books.)
Ten White Geese (i.e. the US edition of The Detour) only came out in the US in 2013, so it wasn't eligible for the most recently (just a few weeks ago) awarded Best Translated Book Award (for 2012 titles), but will certainly be in the running next year.
In 2010 Bakker won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for The Twin, so he already has two of the major English-language international book awards under his belt -- impressive (though two other author have also managed this particular double: Orhan Pamuk and Per Petterson (the latter with the same book)).
Last year was the Patrick White centenary, and among the highlights surrounding that was the posthumous publication (in Australia and the UK) of a novel he had begun in 1981 but left unfinished.
Now Picador has brought out a US edition (as a beautiful little (i.e. appropriately -- more mass-market than trade -- sized) French-flapped paperback original) of The Hanging Garden -- and my review of it is the most recent addition to the complete review.
It got good but not great critical attention in the UK (a lot of papers skipped it), but it's great to see that US coverage begins with a bang: apparently the cover-review of the coming (26 May) issue of The New York Times Book Review will be John Sutherland's take on the novel.
(White has been critically and, especially, popularly neglected in recent years, and only a few of his titles are still in print (barely any in the US) -- but it wasn't always quite like that: recall that even something like The Twyborn Affair had been reviewed in, of all places, People (!) back in the day.)
As longtime readers know, I'm a huge fan of White -- a batch of nine reviews (rather thin ones, I'm afraid) of White titles were among the first fifty-odd to appear on the site, more than 14 years ago (yes, back in April 1999), and almost all of his work is now under review (I'm saving up The Tree of Man, for a last hurrah -- and I still need to get my hands on a copy of Happy Valley).
Unfinished and posthumous it may be, but The Hanging Garden is well worth your attention.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has been visiting India, and this has led to a variety of protocols, agreements, and 'memoranda of understanding' getting signed, as the two nations try to work more closely together in a number of areas.
There's exciting stuff like 'coöperation in the field of sewage treatment' (something we certainly want the two most populous countries in the world to coöperate on) and 'coöperation in the field of water efficient irrigation'
The one I'm most curious about, however, is number six: the "Memorandum of Understanding [...] on Cooperation in Mutual Translation and Publication of Classic and Contemporary Works".
MoU provides for a Joint Working Group that will coordinate translation and publication of 25 books of Classic and Contemporary Works of each side over a period of 5 years in to Chinese and Indian languages respectively.
I'd love to see the list of books each side submits -- but regardless of the exact titles, it sounds like a very worthy undertaking (and maybe the start of something even bigger and better ?).
Translation -- and cross-cultural exchange --, after all, is always something good.
Tomorrow 21 May at Sotheby's in London, at 19:30, there will be An auction of fifty contemporary first edition books, annotated by their authors, with all proceeds benefiting English PEN .
Check out all the lots -- some great stuff here -- and if you're in London you can view the items before the sale, today and tomorrow.
See also the Sotheby's official page.
SaharaReporters has a Q & A with Wole Soyinka -- mainly about Chinua Achebe.
Interesting stuff, including his early doubts about the Heinemann African Writers Series (whereby Sri Lanka might not be the best example -- given how little-known Sri Lankan literature remains abroad, a series might have been damn helpful ...).
Of course the Nobel comes up, too -- which Soyinka won and Achebe didn't.
As I noted a few days ago, the Swedish Academy has just settled on the five finalists for this year's prize.
As a laureate, Soyinka can submit a name each year -- not that he gives much away here:
As a 'club member,' however, I can nominate, and it is no business of literary ignoramuses whom, if any, I do nominate.
My literary tastes are eclectic, sustainable, and unapologetic.
That sounds promising, at least.
Telegram Books have been publishing Icelandic author Sjón's books in the UK for a while now, and now he finally gets the proper treatment in the US as well, as Farrar, Straus and Giroux brought out a trio of his novels last week; two of them are the most recent additions to the complete review:
In The Australian they have an adapted version of Helen Garner's keynote speech last month at the inaugural Stella Prize, the new Australian literary prize that only considers works by women -- though in speaking about The losing game of writing books to win Garner's focus isn't on the women-only aspect as instead she talks more generally:
about the bizarre effects of prizes on people's idea of their own worth, and about the undeniable fact that every girl who writes needs a bucket of cash to be thrown over her at least once in her life, so she can soldier on, and even feel for a while that it's been worth the torture.
I missed this last week, but they've announced the longlist for the (South African) Sunday Times Fiction Prize -- where, unusually for a literary prize, once again: "A large number of books on the longlist this year are crime novels".
Among the authors of note with books on the 31-title-strong longlist are: Michiel Heyns, Nadine Gordimer, Imraan Coovadia (with the wonderfully titled The Institute for Taxi Poetry -- which I'd love to see), and Andre Brink.
They're holding this year's 'Festival international du livre et du film' Étonnants Voyageurs this weekend -- and that's a pretty fine and packed list of participants they have there.
The 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature will only be announced in October, but previously the Swedish Academy -- who select the winner -- had revealed that 195 eligible names were submitted for consideration, of which 48 were first-timers (see my previous mention).
Now, as they've tweeted:
5 candidates have been selected for 2013 #NobelPrize in #Literature according to Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy.
The permanent secretary, Peter Englund, goes into a bit more detail
at his weblog, Att vara ständig -- and apparently the five names have only been submitted; it's not entirely final until the last session before the summer at the end of the month.
A couple of observations here:
- No, they don't reveal the names.
Not until fifty (and a half) years from now.
In fact, they try very hard to keep them secret.
- As I've repeatedly stressed: you have to be in it to win it -- or to make the shortlist.
Which is easier said than done.
There's a lot of Nobel/Swedish Academy bashing that misses this point.
Consider, for example, Forged
-author Jonathon Keats' recent Wired
piece, Don't Hate Google for Reader - Award It the Nobel Prize for Books
When the Nobel Prizes launched in 1901, possible choices for the award in literature, bestowed upon a living writer to honor their entire life's work, included such historical titans as Leo Tolstoy, Edith Wharton, and Henry James.
The thing is, as a search for the 1901
nominees shows, Tolstoy, Wharton, and James were not among the names submitted to the Swedish Academy for consideration -- while eventual laureate Sully Prudhomme was nominated by three
individuals (including a University of Uppsala professor), as well as a whole gang of French academicians -- i.e. he had a lot of support.
This is relevant, because easy as it is for outsiders to say authors X,Y, and Z are obviously the most deserving, someone still has to nominate them for them to (possibly) make the final cut.
So, for example, the information that this year the Swedish Academy tried to reach out to more African academics in the nominating procedure might suggest that there's a higher-than-usual chance of African names appearing in the pool the finalists were selected from.
On the other hand, less well-known writers from less widely translated languages -- especially authors not in official favor (in a lot of these countries official writers' bodies do the nominating) -- are disadvantaged.
- The only author whose nomination has widely (and controversially) been acknowledged is Paul Goma, his name submitted by the Writers' Union of Moldavia
; see, for example, the Mediafax report
-- and e.g. the Times of Israel
report, Author accused of anti-Semitism nominated for Nobel
(His nomination can't just be dismissed out of hand as (noxious) political posturing, either: he doesn't stand much of a chance of winning -- after Herta Müller
, it's unlikely another Romanian dissident would get the prize so soon -- but he's not just some two-bit hack (and he had very good dissident cred back in the day); among his books available in English is My Childhood at the Gate of Unrest
(published by Readers International); (try to) get your copy at Amazon.com
In any case, now that the list is down to a manageable five, things get more interesting.
The Swedish Academy members, who will be reading up on the finalists, will try to be careful, but it's probably pretty hard for all of them to cover their reading-tracks convincingly: it seems pretty clear, for example, that Mo Yan's name cropped up more last summer than they would have liked (which is why he found himself a betting favorite right from the start of last year's Nobel betting-season).
The fact that a finalist or two or all five are identified only gets us so much closer to the actual winner -- who they only decide on in late September/early October, after all, but it's nice to be able to narrow the list down .....
I wonder whether Swedish bookshops (or the various European Amazons -- surely some of the finalists' books will have to be ordered from abroad, as it's unlikely they have all been translated into Swedish) are tracking bigger orders to the Academy or the members .....
And a closer translation-watch is probably also called for: the Academy is apparently willing to commission translations of untranslated works, so if a translator from some obscure language suddenly has a big hush-hush project going .....
At this point, the fact that they're down to five names doesn't get us (immediately) any closer to figuring out who the likely winner is (or, indeed, who is left in the running).
Will Chinua Achebe's passing and the nominations from more African academics nudge them towards some continental names -- perennials like Nuruddin Farah or Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
(or, dare I hope, someone like Ayi Kwei Armah) ?
Did someone remember to nominate The Colonel
-author Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, whose work-available-in-translation may have finally hit the critical level where he can't readily be overlooked any longer ?
Will they toss it at Philip Roth, now that the old man has promised not to write any more books ?
Here's hoping Swedes everywhere (and anyone in places where these academicians vacation) are keeping a close eye on the reading material the Swedish Academicians are lugging around .....
Sightings and gossip are always welcome here, too, if you have any to offer .....
Read the rest of this post
In the Asahi Shimbun Mariko Nakamura reports that When it comes to publishing Haruki Murakami in English, nothing is lost in translation, revealing that Philip Gabriel:
is now translating Murakami's latest best-seller, Shikisai o Motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to, Kare no Junrei no Toshi [色彩を持たない多崎つくると、彼の巡礼の年] (Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage).
He plans to complete the translation by the year-end, with publication expected in 2014.
"It is a very realistic book, like Norwegian Wood," Gabriel said in an e-mail interview.
"To me, it seems more serious, even somber, compared to some of his other novels, but one ultimately that is hopeful."
Don't worry, Murakami's other translator, Jay Rubin hasn't been forgotten, and he:
is currently translating Murakami's Ozawa Seiji-san to, Ongaku ni Tsuite Hanashi o Suru [小澤征爾さんと, 音楽について話をする] (Talking with Seiji Ozawa about music), which was published in 2011.
In the Times of India Parinatha Sampath reports that Now, authors prefer to be in control of their stories, as in India too authors are taking the self-publishing route.
Here, too, authors already complain:
Publishers do avoid taking a risk with anything that is considered 'non-commercial'
As I noted
yesterday, one of the just-announced Commonwealth Prize regional winners also self-published; I find it hard not to see the increasing success many self-published writers are finding a sign that publishers are falling down on the job.
In Al-Ahram Weekly Youssef Rakha considers The four avatars of Hassan Blasim.
See also my review of Blasim's The Madman of Freedom Square.
At AfricanBookClub.com Hadrien Diez has a Q & A with Franco-Congolese Novelist Alain Mabanckou On African identity and the Difficulty of Defining an "African literature".
His Tomorrow I'll Be Twenty is just out in English -- but only in the UK; see the Serpent's Tail publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.
At the Words without Borders Dispatches weblog Alison Anderson wonders Where Are the Women in Translation ? noting that for translated works women authors are under-represented even more than the abysmal VIDA count has for reviews (and bylines, etc.) in general:
Twenty-six percent, however, is just an average I have chosen from my informal and hardly exhaustive or scientific survey into the percentage of women authors published in translation in a given year.
(If anyone would like a more precise breakdown of the numbers, please contact me.)
As I've noted many times previously, female authors are grossly under-represented among authors reviewed at the complete review
-- historically (and pretty consistently) barely over 15 per cent
of all reviewed titles are by female authors.
(Yes, the most recently added review is of a book by a woman; yes, two of the past three added reviews are by women -- but look at say the last thirty or so titles and you're right back at that historic average .....)
As Ruth Franklin noted on the subject in A Literary Glass Ceiling ?
at The New Republic
two years ago, one of the reasons for less reviews of books authored by women is simply because there are less of them to review -- maybe not across the board, but among the books considered by them (and me).
So, for example, she found independents clearly under-publish women:
Graywolf, with 25 percent female authors, was our highest-scoring independent.
The cutting-edge Brooklyn publisher Melville House came in at 20 percent.
The doggedly leftist house Verso was second-to-last at 11 percent.
Our lowest scorer ? It pains me to say it, because Dalkey Archive Press publishes some great books that are ignored by the mainstream houses.
But it would be nice if more than 10 percent of them were by women.
(I note that Dalkey Archive is one of the publishers who have put out the most books under review
at the complete review
-- well over 100 (and, yes, there's probably something sexist about my reviewing so many of their books ...).)
Interestingly, this seems a particular issue with works in translation -- leading back to Anderson's question.
Indeed, as I mentioned
when I first mentioned Franklin's piece, some independents do even worse than the ones she looked at -- including, shockingly, translation-specialist Archipelago: a quick count suggests that out of 88 titles in their catalog
only seven are authored by women (and four of those are by the same author, Magdalena Tulli).
Another newer translation-focused publisher is Open Letter
, and while at 12 out of 50 it scores considerably better, that (women still come in as authors of less than a quarter of all titles) still doesn't really impress.
This seems to be a really deep-rooted problem/issue, and publishers really might want to look into this: I note, for example, that of the sixteen just announced
2013 English PEN grants for translation (see also below
) two are anthologies, thirteen of the to-be-translated books are by men, and one
is by a woman (Julia Franck).
Seriously folks ?
(Note that female translators, on the other hand, are very nicely represented.)
English PEN has announced its 2013 awards for promotion (of five translated titles) and for translation (sixteen titles).
Some promising-looking stuff here -- and, of course, I'm thrilled to see another book by The Colonel-author Mahmoud Dowlatabadi forthcoming in translation.
They've announced the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize and Commonwealth Short Story Prize regional winners.
Disappointingly, the book prize has become solely a first book prize; impressively, one of the regional winners is a self-published work (good for them for being open to them).
The stories will apparently be published online by Granta starting 27 May.
The overall winners, selected from these finalists, will be announced 31 May.
The shortlist for the Caine Prize for African Writing -- another short story prize -- has been announced; all the finalist-stories can be read on the site (albeit only in the dreaded pdf format).
While the shortlist was selected from 96 entries from 16 African countries (far too few !), an amazing four of the five finalists are Nigerian authors.
Certainly, the Nigerian scene is a particularly vibrant one -- still, that's a shocking imbalance.
But I must say I was impressed that one of the stories was originally published in the Journal of Progressive Human Services (print subscription pricing (for three issues a year): $140.00).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Florence Noiville's collection of Literary Miniatures, just out from Seagull Books.
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The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of Carlos Gamerro's The Islands -- a novel with some appeal, but one that ultimately just wore me down.