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1. Pulitzer Prizes

       The 2015 Pulitzer Prizes -- which include several book categories -- have been announced.
       The Fiction prize went to All the Light We Cannot See (by Anthony Doerr; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk). Nice to see The Moor's Account by Laila 'MoorishGirl' Lalami was one of the finalists .....
       The Criticism prize went to a TV critic.

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2. Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize

       They've announced the (co-)winners of this year's Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize: Diary of the Fall (by Michel Laub) and Hanns and Rudolf (by Thomas Harding); see, for example, the report at The Jewish Chronicle.

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3. Israeli book-price law

       Last year Israel passed legislation placing limits on book-discounting (previously widespread, especially among the market-dominating retailers), and it would be interesting to learn about the consequences of the implementation of this legislation.
       Unfortunately, what coverage one finds tends to be along the lines of Sharona Schwartz's New Israeli Law Mandates Price Controls for Books, Minimum Payments to Authors -- Here's What Happened to Sales After Just One Year at something calling itself 'The Blaze'.
       While several sources are cited, the only person who seems to have been interviewed for the piece is one "Boaz Arad, the head of the Ayn Rand Center's Israel branch", with predictable results -- quoted at length and offering such helpful textbook economic explanations as:

For example, Arad said, "If I can produce at the rate of $5 an hour -- that's what I'm worth to my employer -- maybe I'm not disciplined, maybe I'm disabled, but if you enact a minimum wage of $6 an hour, it means my employer will lose a dollar on every hour he will have me so the next day I'll lose my job."
       Much as readers no doubt appreciate the 'lesson' in basic economic theory ... well, there's considerable debate about the effects of minimum wage laws and this simplified version only makes the grade in your junior-high economics class. Beyond that, and more significantly: minimum wage laws are not really comparable to pricing laws of the sort under (ostensible) discussion.
       But good to see Arad 'understands' publishing -- and how authors can become successful ! --, offering helpful and insightful advice such as:
Almost the only way for unknown writers to become popular is to put their first book on sale, even to give it for free if possible, to publicize their name and get their audience and eventually make money from their writing,
       So that's the secret ! Now you know !

       As to the Israeli law in question: more (real) hard data and less ideologically tainted theorizing, please. Please.

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4. Attachment review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Florence Noiville's Attachment., due out shortly from Seagull Books (in a nice-looking little volume, by the way).

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5. Los Angeles Times Book Prizes

       They announced the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes over the weekend -- and one title is even under review at the complete review: First Fiction winner Faces in the Crowd (by Valeria Luiselli).

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6. German Book Prize

       The German Book Prize -- with a winner to be announced in October, at the Frankfurt Book Fair -- has revealed that Publishers submit 167 titles.
       Alas -- and inexplicably -- they don't reveal what those 167 titles are, embracing a Man Booker-like lack of transparency.

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7. Jazz, Perfume and the Incident review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Seno Gumira Ajidarma's Jazz, Perfume and the Incident., another title in Lontar's excellent Modern Library of Indonesia.

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8. Q & A: Marina Warner

       At her Arabic Literature (in English) weblog M. Lynx Qualey has a Q & A with author and Man Booker International Prize judge Marina Warner, including about the wonderful Library of Arabic Literature. (A note at the end suggests: "This interview first appeared on the Library of Arabic Literature website", but I can't find a trace of it there.)
       Some interesting observations about the Man Booker judging process, Warner also mentioning that Radwa Ashour "was a strong candidate for the shortlist if she hadn't died", and:

One of the writers whom we read, who unfortunately didn't quite make the list, is Bensalem Himmich. And Himmich is a very strong example of writing about the past in a very detailed, rich way -- as Gamal al-Ghitani does, in Zayni Barakat, a novel I also admire profoundly. These are exemplary historical writings, that bring the past into living being, but at the same time they're actually palimpsests through which one sees the present time.
       As far back as 2010 I suggested Himmich was among the strongest Arabic Nobel-contenders (along with al-Ghitani -- as well as Ibrahim al-Koni, who is a Man Booker International Prize finalist this year); see reviews of The Polymath and The Theocrat.

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9. Q & A: Willis Barnstone

       At The New York Times' Sinosphere weblog Ian Johnson has a Q & A with Willis Barnstone on Translating Mao and Touring Beijing With Allen Ginsberg, the translator recounting some interesting experiences [via].

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10. The Four Books review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yan Lianke's The Four Books.
       This has been out for a few months in the US (and UK), but has received very little major-US media attention -- a bit surprisingly, to me, given Yan's stature (and the decent amount of coverage his previous titles have gotten). True, it doesn't seem entirely successful to me, but in many ways it's his most interesting work, lending itself to college course-reading, for example.

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11. Georgi Gospodinov profile

       With The Physics of Sorrow out in English this week Garth Greenwell writes about The Bulgarian Sadness of Georgi Gospodinov at The New Yorker's Page-Turner weblog.

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12. Nigeria Prize for Literature

       The Nigeria Prize for Literature -- at US$100,000 more remunerative than many major American literary prizes (though you'd figure with the kind of cash they could get around to updating the official page to this year's competition ...) -- rotates through four genres (fiction, non, children, drama), and this year is a kid's-lit year.
       At This Day they now report that 109 Authors Vie for 2015 NLNG Literature Prize. Good to see there's that much eligible children's literature being written in Nigeria -- and hopefully the prize can help raise the profile of some of it.

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13. Why these books should win (the BTBA)

       I hope you've been following the daily installments of the 'Why This Book Should Win' (the Best Translated Book Award)-series at Three Percent as the judges (and a few others) make the case for each of the twenty-five longlisted titles.
       Yesterday was my (first) turn, making the case for Leopoldo Marechal's Adam Buenosayres.

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14. PEN Literary Awards shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for the (many) PEN Literary Awards.
       Of most interest to me (also but not solely because I haven't reviewed any of the shortlisted titles in any of the other categories): the PEN Translation Prize.
       The final five are:

       Only one of these titles also made the Best Translated Book Award longlist (of 25 titles) -- Baboon -- but I'm pleased to see the Bitov figure in the final five here, too.

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15. Translation from ... Chinese

       Perry Link's piece on The Wonderfully Elusive Chinese Novel -- nominally a review of the final volume of David Tod Roy's five-volume translation of The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P'ing Mei -- is now freely accessible at The New York Review of Books site, and well worth a read.
       Among the points raised by Link:

Whether Chin P'ing Mei is taken as broad social canvas, literary innovation, serious ethical criticism, or only spicy entertainment, a question that has haunted its study over the last hundred years is whether it is -- indeed whether China has -- a "great novel." I think China would be better off if the question were not asked so much.
       He explains:
But why do I feel that China -- and Sinologists -- would be better off to relax about the idea that "we have great novels, too" ? I feel this because I think that setting up literary civilizations as rivals (although I can understand the insecurities that led Liang Qichao and others to do it) only gets in the way of readers enjoying imaginative works.
       Interesting also his observation:
Should we compare poetry across civilizations ? If we do, classical Chinese poetry wins easily. The contest is almost unfair, because, as my students of Chinese language eventually come to see, the fundaments of language are different.
       I'm sure there are a few English professors left gasping by the thought:
Emily Dickinson might have come to be known as the greatest poet in world history if she had written in classical Chinese.
       Overall, the piece is a good (and probably necessary) reminder of how varied literature is, and why familiarity with the foreign (mostly, sigh, via translation) -- and an understanding of its 'difference' -- is so (in)valuable.

       Like longtime local favorite The Story of the Stone, I can certainly recommend Chin P'ing Mei -- though I read (back in my college days) the Clement Egerton translation (with its infamous Latin passages). For the David Tod Roy translation (beginning with volume one), see the Princeton University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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16. Book surplus ?

       At The New York Review of Books' blog Tim Parks wonders whether there are Too Many Books ? -- arguing: "it's hard not to feel that we are in an era of massive overproduction", as well as that this surfeit: "tends to diminish the seriousness with which I approach any particular book".
       I barely understand the question/concern -- sure, I'm annoyed by the piles of crap that flood the market (or non-market ...), and could certainly do without the dozens of e-mail pitches touting yet another anguished memoir I seem to get daily, but I don't think we've reached anywhere near capacity and I still thirst for (much) more. (The limited amount of fiction-in-translation published in English annually -- however many hundreds or even now/soon thousands of titles it is -- is a constant reminder of how little of even just the good stuff we get to see: it remains just a fraction of what is written in other languages, a needle-tip of an iceberg (sorry about that mixed metaphor, but it seems about right).)
       Bring it on, I say. We -- well, I -- can't get enough.

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17. The Death of Napoleon review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Simon Leys' nice little novella, The Death of Napoleon.
       This has been re-issued (it seems) countless times, but New York Review Books are having another go at it -- and theirs is certainly a nicer-looking volume than the horrific movie-tie-in one.

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18. 'Books from Taiwan'-site

       I'm not sure how useful national literary sites are in getting the word out among readers or potential publishers abroad, but I find some of them are very helpful. A relatively new one on the block is Books from Taiwan (already staking '© 2015-2016' ...), and it looks like it has some potential [via].
       Presumably the page of greatest interest to foreign (especially American) publishers is that describing the funding support -- the NT$150,000 translation grant translates into a bit less than US$5,000; the publication-only grant is (impressively) three times that amount.

       (While on the subject of national book sites, I'm cautiously optimistic about how the Georgian National Book Center is shaping up -- especially with the promise of an electronic database of Georgian literature in translation (due to be available in August -- though already pictured (with a link to nowhere ...) on the site's main page).)

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19. Günter Grass (1927-2015)

       1999 Nobel laureate Günter Grass has passed away; see, for example obituaries in The New York Times and The Guardian.
       As one of the authors whose work I had read long before I started this site, little is under review at the complete review -- just a few odds and ends from the past fifteen years:

       A few weeks ago Peter Handke was in New York, at the Wim Wnders retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, and in one of the post-film discussions he rambled on about all sorts of things. Grass came up too, and Handke acknowledged he was a very great writer -- or, as Handke put it, had been, 'for three years' (presumably meaning the trilogy years -- which were actually four, 1959 (The Tin Drum) to 1963). If he peaked there, Grass certainly also wrote enough else that deserves to be remembered and read.
       There's tons of media coverage of course; for some writer-reactions see Salman Rushdie explaining The Greatness of Günter Grass at The New Yorker's Page-Turner, and a Q & A with Jeffrey Eugenides at DeutscheWelle.

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20. Eduardo Galeano (1940-2015)

       Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano has passed away; see, for example obituaries in The New York Times and The Guardian.
       The Book of Embraces is a good, personal starting point; see the W.W.Norton publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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21. International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award -- at ten titles still quite long, but certainly more manageable than the 142 titles they started out with.
       Three of the ten finalists are translations. Embarrassingly, I've only read one of the shortlisted titles (Horses of God by Mahi Binebine, which also made the Best Translated Book Award shortlist last year) and reviewed none (with the small excuse that the two other translated titles don't appear to be published in the US yet).
       Among the notable titles failing to make the final cut were Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, and NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names, as well as titles by J.M. Coetzee, Elena Ferrante, and Karl Ove Knausgaard. Stephen King and Thomas Pynchon, too.

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22. European Union Prize for Literature

       They've announced the winners of the European Union Prize for Literature (which should surely be the European Union Prizes for Literature, given that they hand these out a dozen or so at a time).
       I also don't understand why this is a European prize for literature, since it is distinctly national: the winners are selected by national juries, who (are mandated to) each select a hometown winner.
       Still, the basic idea -- to get authors from across Europe some attention on a bigger stage -- is certainly worthy, and it seems to be working reasonably well.

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23. Hoda Barakat Q & A

       In the Daily Star India Stoughton has a Q & A with Man Booker International Prize-finalist Hoda Barakat (a prize she was apparently unfamiliar with until she was named a finalist ...).

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24. Agenting translations

       At Publishing Perspectives Tara Tober has a Q & A with Laurence Laluyaux on agenting translated fiction.

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25. The Dead Mountaineer's Inn review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of One More Last Rite for the Detective Genre by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, The Dead Mountaineer's Inn, available in English translation (by Josh Billings ) for the first time, from Melville House.
       An earlier translation was slated for publication in 1988, as Inspector Glebsky's Puzzle -- it even had an ISBN number (0931933684) -- but it apparently never saw the light of day.

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