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1. New issue of the Quarterly Conversation

       Issue 37 - Fall 2014 of the Quarterly Conversation is now available, with the usual variety of interesting literature under discussion -- well worth setting aside some time for.

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2. Marian Schwartz profile

       Marian Schwartz was recently awarded one of the 2014 Read Russia Prizes, for her translation of Leonid Yuzefovich's "postmodern whodunit" Harlequin's Costume, and at Russia Beyond the Headlines Phoebe Taplin profiles her.
       Among the interesting bits:

"Having translated about 70 books over the last 35-plus years, fewer than five of them, probably, have been at my initiative," she told the Moscow audience for the Read Russia Award Presentations. "I found, appreciated, and translated Harlequin's Costume on spec, convinced that it would find a publisher eventually."

In the end, the book was finished only with help from a grant, and it was several years before Glagoslav published it in 2013.
       I haven't seen this one yet; it'll be interesting to see whether the trilogy now gets picked up by a larger publisher and takes off (maybe not, to judge by the post-award Amazon-sales-ranks -- still in the 1,000,000 vicinity at both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk ...). See the Glagoslav publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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3. Ready to Burst review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Frankétienne's Ready to Burst, finally translated into English, by Kaiama L. Glover, and published by Archipelago Books.

       Though not much of his work has been made readily available in English, he remains quite well known -- see, for example, The New York Times' profile from a couple of years ago (which unconscionably puts a possessive apostrophe into his mouth where none belongs: "He admires James Joyce, and it shows. "Finnegan's Wake was like a crazy book, just like I write crazy books," he said."). He's also coming to New York to launch Ready to Burst, and will be at this weekend's Brooklyn Book Festival -- on a panel that includes high-wire man Philippe Petit and Geek Sublime-author Vikram Chandra.

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4. Korean literature abroad

       After the apparent success of Shin Kyung-sook's Please Look After Mom abroad the Koreans are apparently busy, as Kwon Mee-yoo reports in The Korea Times, Looking for next Shin Kyung-sook.
       Kim Ae-ran is one hopeful -- though her success has been in other languages, not English -- while: "earlier Korean writers, such as Yi Mun-yol [Our Twisted Hero, etc.] and Hwang Sok-yong [The Guest]" are (regrettably) being written off as producing less: "universal themes in lively style" .....
       And:

The LTI said that in addition to Kim, Park Min-kyu and Kim Young-ha were also drawing attention from translators interested in Korean literature.
       Dalkey Archive Press' Library of Korean Literature is leading the Korean-charge into English, and among their upcoming offerings is Park's Pavane For a Dead Princess (see their publicity page), which I should be getting to soon.
       Kim Young-ha has done quite well in English -- I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, etc. -- though I'm not entirely reassured by the claim that: "More than 40 of her works have been translated and published overseas" (as Kim is a dude).

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5. Juja review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nino Haratischwili's Juja.
       This 2010 novel was her debut -- and it was longlisted for the German Book Prize; she's been getting a lot of attention for her Das achte Leben (Für Brilka), her just-released 1200+ pager that (somewhat controversially) missed this year's German Book Prize longlist cut. (I have a copy and warmed myself up for it with Juja.)
       Interesting sidenote: Georgia-born Haratischwili writes in German under this name -- but literary agent Rachel Gratzfeld lists her (in English) transliterated as Nino Kharatishvili (note, however, the URL-spelling ...).

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6. Murakami Haruki profile

       In The Guardian Steven Poole profiles Haruki Murakami: 'I'm an outcast of the Japanese literary world. Critics, writers, many of them don't like me'. (I sort of get that pretty much every author likes to portray/sell him/herself as an 'outsider' who doesn't fit in the 'establishment', but surely Murakami is about as 'outcast' (in Japan or anywhere) as poor misunderstood Jonathan Franzen is in the US -- i.e. not in the remotest possible way (except in the eyes and hurt feelings of the ultra-, super-sensitive author's own beyond-deluded mind). Get a grip, Haruki -- for foreign purposes, you are the "Japanese literary world" (which no doubt rubs some of your compatriots the wrong way), and as to being: "Always the duckling, never the swan" ... come on.)
       Great to hear that he's a fan of:

Norwegian novelist Dag Solstad, whom he is currently translating into Japanese from English ("He's a kind of surrealistic writer, very strange novels. I think that's serious literature").
       A bit disappointing that the Japanese will only get the great Solstad's work second-hand (as opposed to translated directly from the Norwegian) -- but the Murakami-imprimatur will likely get him a larger audience than he otherwise would find. The book in question is apparently Solstad's Professor Andersen's Night.

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7. International Congress of Translators

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines they report on the III. Международный конгресс переводчиков художественной литературы -- the recently held Third International Congress of Translators -- in A labor of love or a science ? Experts gather in Moscow to discuss translation

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8. Per Olov Enquists Pris

       Since 2005 (Juli Zeh) they've awarded the Per Olov Enquists Pris annually at the Göteborg Book Fair, and this year Dorthe Nors tilldelas årets PO Enquist-pris, as the Karate Chop-author will get the prize.
       A solid list of previous winners -- but nothing close to the master, Per Olov Enquist, himself.

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9. Singapore Literature Prize shortlists

       They had some issues with the judges this year at the Singapore Literature Prize -- several withdrawing over the controversy surrounding the National Library Board withdrawing and pulping three children's books from their collection -- but they've now announced the shortlists for the 2014 prize. Admirably, they have multiple language categories -- English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil.

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10. Approving books in ... the Maldives

       You'd figure they might have more pressing concerns in the Maldives -- the 1000+ island nation of barely 350,000 is infamously the lowest-lying in the world, and likely to go under as sea levels rise ... soon -- but, no: as Ahmed Naish reports in Minivan News: New regulations mandate government approval before publishing literature, as they've gone for Iranian-style control of what gets published, as:

New regulations enacted yesterday will subject the publication of prose and poetry in the Maldives to government approval.
       On the one hand, it's good to hear that there's a vibrant enough publishing industry locally to necessitate such a law (though I couldn't find any data on how much is actually published annually). Still, never good to hear 'explanations' such as:
The stated purpose of the 'Regulations on approving literature published in the Maldives' (Dhivehi) is "that literature published or made public in the Maldives fit Maldivian laws and regulations as well as societal norms".

The rules are aimed at "reducing adverse effects on society that could be caused by published literature."
       I'm curious what those adverse effects are -- why no examples ?
       So approval must be sought from the National Bureau of Classification -- scroll down for some examples of 'latest approved books' (and note a disconnect between the depicted book-covers and the descriptions of the approved books if you click on them).

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11. '100 Best Novels, in Translation, Since 1900' ?

       Ah, the irresistible lure of the list -- and novels in translation since 1900 ? Sounds promising.
       It's Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn who offer up their personal (and ranked) 100 Best Novels, in Translation, Since 1900 at CounterPunch. A couple of odd limitations here: they: "limited each writer to one entry" (apparently because: "otherwise, novels by Georges Simenon and Roberto Bolaño might have dominated the list") -- and they each had: "unlimited preemptory challenges to be invoked against writers we hated. Thus no: Gunter Grass or Michel Houellebecq."
       There are a few slips -- misattributed languages, misspelled names ('Steig Larsson') -- and it's an odd mix of greatest-hits and very personal choices; still, one could do (much) worse.
       I've read a whole lot of these (I didn't count, but probably haven't missed more than a dozen or so) -- though most of them (classics, by and large) long before I started the site, so the number under review at the complete review is considerably smaller. Those would be:

       I still have a lot more books to read before I'd venture to list my top-100; several of these would likely make it -- and several would definitely not.

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12. AKO Literatuurprijs longlist

       They've announced the 25-title strong longlist for the AKO Literatuurprijs, one of the leading Dutch literary prizes.
       Among the books in the running: ones by authors with (other) titles under review at the complete review: Maarten Asscher (2 titles, including Julia en het balkon), Arnon Grunberg (11 titles, including Tirza), and Peter Terrin (The Guard).
       At NRC Boeken they have short quotes from their (Dutch) coverage of each longlisted title, in Wat schreef NRC over de genomineerden ?
       And the only title I see coming that will be available in English soon is the Maarten Asscher, from new publisher Four Winds Press, Apples & Oranges; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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13. The Meteor Hunt review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jules Verne's The Meteor Hunt, the University of Nebraska Press 2006 edition that restored the text to Verne's original (more or less), as opposed to the widely circulated Michel Verne-edited/manhandled version.

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14. Gogol exhibit

       In The Moscow Times Kit Rees reports on an art installation at the Gogol House Museum, in Gogol Lives Again in New Wing of House.
       The exhibit is called #АВТОРЖЖЕТ and looks pretty neat; certainly a welcome effort to push audiences to engage with an author in additional ways. (Yes, my preferred method of engagement is to actually read the author's work, but if you're going to go visit an author's home or museum you're probably expecting something more than just the words.)

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15. Translating The Poetic Edda (again)

       At the OUPblog Carolyne Larrington writes about "Young girl, I declare you are not like most men": retranslating The Poetic Edda, as she got a chance to revisit her translation, first published in 1996, for a second edition -- now out; see the Oxford University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       Borges would, no doubt, have been intrigued.

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16. German Book Prize shortlist

       The day after they announced the six-title shortlist for this year's Man Booker Prize for Fiction they announced the six-title shortlist for this year's imitation-Man Booker German Book Prize.
       At DeutscheWelle Silke Bartlick offers brief descriptions of the six titles, in German Book Prize announces short list, and "English translations of excerpts from the six titles on the shortlist, along with English-language dossiers for each title" will apparently be made available at New Books in German, "Starting at the end of September".
       The winner will be announced 6 October.

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17. Jill Schoolman Q & A

       At Bomb Bibi Deitz has a Q & A with Archipelago Books' Jill Schoolman
       Among the reveals: alternate names considered for the publisher: Ship of Fools and Terra Incognita.

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18. New issue of The Manila Review

       Issue 5 of The Manila Review is now available online.

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19. Pushkin Prize: declined

       As, for example, The Moscow Times reports, Blaming Putin's Behavior, Dutch Literary Translator Refuses Pushkin Medal as Hans Boland (the name misspelled in this article) has declined the prestigious Медаль Пушкина, specifically because of the "threat to freedom and peace on our planet," that Vladimir Putin represents -- the man who would have pinned the medal on him at the November ceremony.
       It'll be interesting to see whether other cultural or academic figures take similar stands in the coming months. The translators honored with the Read Russia prizes didn't when they got them last week -- see, for example, the report Прочитали Россию in Российская газета (since there's nothing at the official site yet, last I checked ...). (Lizok's Bookshelf has the winners in English in a comment in her post -- and will presumably follow up with a longer report/discussion in the days to come.)

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20. Future Library

       This has gotten a lot of press already, but this Future Library is a project with some decent potential.
       As they describe the concept:

A thousand trees have been planted in Nordmarka, a forest just outside Oslo, which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed in one hundred years time. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished, until 2114. Tending the forest and ensuring its preservation for the 100-year duration of the artwork finds a conceptual counterpoint in the invitation extended to each writer: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future.
       It's Katie Paterson's idea/project, and with Margaret Atwood the first to contribute a volume ... well, that's helped garner lots and lots of media attention; the most thorough overview so far appears to be Alison Flood's Margaret Atwood's new work will remain unseen for a century in The Guardian.
       It's a creative spin on the usual time-capsule idea -- with the possible drawback that, over a century, things can go wrong. Very wrong. (Personally, I think the forest is the weak spot -- though financing, even in (currently) ultra-wealth Norway had got to be a concern.)
       Fascinating from an author-perspective, however: how do you write for an audience that will only read your book x years from now ? (I fear the temptation will be not so much towards guessing-the-future but rather retreating to the pseudo-safety of the old-familiar -- Norse or Biblical myth, or stuff like that.)
       Atwood is, of course, a nice name to start with; I hope they can continue to get a similar caliber of writer, year in and year out (but preferably not all English-writing and 'Western' ...).

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21. Ananthamurthy as translator

       As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago (and as no major US/UK media outlet appears yet to have realized ...), leading Indian author U.R.Ananthamurthy has passed away; among the many interesting pieces about him in the Indian press, Bageshree S. now writes in The Hindu on The writer as translator, as Ananthamurty translated works by:

W.B. Yeats, Bertolt Brecht, Rainer Maria Rilke, Edwin Muir or the teachings of Lao Tzu to Kannada.
       As I frequently note, I think translation is a great exercise for writers; I'm not surprised Ananthamurthy took this, too, seriously.

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22. The Leavenworth Case review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Anna Katharine Green's 1878 The Leavenworth Case.
       Hey, it's been published in a Penguin Classics edition ..... Read the rest of this post

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23. Boom ? Bust ? Literature in translation !

       A few weeks ago Dalya Alberge wrote in The Observer how, supposedly, British readers lost in translations as foreign literature sales boom -- a piece I found ... a bit problematic; at MobyLives Sal Robinson also wondered about the treatment of the subject, in Do books in translation sell ? A chestnut considered. Now comes Hephzibah Anderson at BBC Culture, wondering Why won't English speakers read books in translation ?
       Unfortunately, this article too focuses on the fairly arbitrary/pointless/random pseudo-statistic that always seems to haunt this discussion (and drives me nuts): that three, or two, or some fairly small per cent of published-in-English fiction is fiction-in-translation. (For some discussion of this issue, see my taking issue with Literature Across Frontiers' (woeful) last attempt to determine a percentage .....) And so we also get stuff like:

Professor Edwin Gentzler, director of the Translation Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, sees ample reason for optimism regarding the health of translation in English-speaking countries, despite those damning stats.

English-language publishers bring out so many books between them that three per cent is a hefty number -- far heftier than Slovenia's 70%, he says. Moreover, the statistics often overlook small independent presses like Dalkey Archive and Open Letter, as well as specialists like Mage, an American press that publishes translations exclusively from Persian.
       First off: seriously ? You want to compare translation into Slovenian -- "the first language of about 1.85 million people" as Wikipedia (probably reasonably) suggests -- with translation into English ? Seriously ?
       Okay, I'll humor you. Let's go there. In 2013 the official numbers have a mere 5,084 books published in Slovenia (US: 304,912 traditionally published titles) -- of which 1571 were translations -- 30.9%. The more interesting sub-set of numbers: 1,189 works of literature were published, of which 606 were translations: 50.97%. (I have no idea where Anderson and Gentzler got the 70% number from -- but pulling numbers/percentages out of thin is air is par for the course for discussions of this subject matter .....).
       Here's where it gets embarrassing: the Three Percent translation database (warning ! dreaded ... xls format !), of new translations published/distributed in 2013 the US currently lists 524 literary works in translation (novels, stories, anthologies, and poetry). Meanwhile, taking out the translated dramas (not on the Translation Database -- but only amounting to four anyway), 602 literary works in translation were published in Slovenian in 2013.
       Okay, the US total would be slightly higher if re-translations were included (they're excluded from the Translation Database, but are included in the Slovenian numbers); new ("re-editions") of all published titles in Slovenia made up just under 15% of all publications; if that total holds true across literary translation too (and presumably it's somewhere close to that), Slovenian production would be almost exactly the same as US production.
       "English-language publishers bring out so many books [...] a hefty number -- far heftier than Slovenia's 70%" ? you say. I say: you don't know what you're talking about. Combine US and UK (and Irish and Indian and whatnot) totals (i.e. English-language publishers worldwide), yes, it's surely considerably (well, at least a bit ...) bigger -- but it looks like Slovenia, a country with a population the same as ... Houston, publishes about the same total number of titles of literature in translation as the US does.
       So, before you go spouting numbers (and choose to rely on (nonsense -- like 'three percent' (and, apparently 70%, which would have Slovenia publishing far more translations than the US) -- statistics), maybe take a closer look at the available figures .....

       Beyond that, to get back to the Gentzler-quote above -- if you still want to bother -- nobody ever, ever forgets Dalkey when compiling these statistics, since year in and year out (for quite some time now) Dalkey is one of the leading publishers of literature in translation in the US. Like far and away leaders -- 9.56% in 2013, and 8% (!) of the fiction totals on this year's (admittedly still incomplete) translation database at Three Percent, which currently lists 384 published/distributed-for-the-first-time-in-the-US translations, the leading publishers being (with the number of titles in translation they're publishing):
  • 1. Dalkey Archive 31
  • 2. Europa Editions 18
  • -. Gallic Books 18
  • 4. AmazonCrossing 17
  • 5. Seagull Books 16
  • 6. Other Press 15
  • 7. Atria 9
  • 8. American University at Cairo 8
  • -. Farrar, Straus & Giroux 8
  • -. Melville House 8
  • -. Minotaur 8
  • -. Open Letter 8
       (I note also that three of the top twelve are not even US-based (Gallic, Seagull, AUC Press).)
       As to Mage -- much as I appreciate what they and many similar niche publishers are doing, they're not padding the statistics: their literary output is limited, to say the least (something every couple of years recently).
       And, yes, there's wonderful stuff being done by magazines, websites, independent publishers, etc. etc. -- but, I fear, much is still at the fringes.

       Enough for today (my head hurts from bashing it against the wall so often in frustration and annoyance ...) -- that's enough to chew on for now, isn't it? But I wish the level of argument were at a higher/more substantive level (like using/citing actual data -- published numbers, sales totals, etc.). Why always so anecdotal ? (whereby I include 'three percent' and the like as anecdotal, since no one ever seems to manage to offer supporting evidence for that claim). Why always so wrong ?

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24. Man Booker shortlist

       They've announced the six-title shortlist for this year's Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
       This is the first year that they waived the citizenship requirement (previously: Commonwealth plus Zimbabwe and Republic of Ireland), but they managed to avoid getting completely swamped (as they feared might happen) by US writers -- though two did make the cut. Meanwhile, half of the books -- The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee, J by Howard Jacobson, and How to be Both by Ali Smith (which, coincidentally (?) are the three I'd want to read) have not yet been published stateside.
       For some UK coverage, see:

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25. The Alp review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Arno Camenisch's The Alp -- the first in a trilogy, published by Dalkey Archive Press.
       This was originally written in German and Romansh (Rhaeto-Romanic) -- which is a bit hard to convey in translation. Still, a pretty neat literary take on a particular slice of contemporary Swiss life.

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