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1. New translation of Zorba the Greek

       A new translation of one of the best-known works to come out of modern Greece, Nikos Kazantzakis' Zorba the Greek, is coming out -- at least in the US, from Simon & Schuster.
       Why a new translation ? Well, Carl Wildman's did come out in 1952, so one can argue that, after more than half a century, it might be time for a new one. But Peter Bien offers a better explanation in his Translator's Introduction:

The answer is both clear and simple. The earlier translation was made by someone who did not know Greek and who worked from a previous translation into French.
       [That sound you might have heard in the distance was my pained wail, followed by by the thud of my head again smashing against a brick wall. Is there no international court of literary justice seeing to it that the miscreants responsible for these outrages are held accountable ?]
       Okay, it is Kazantzakis, and true fans (like me) will recall that he actually wrote a couple of his works in French -- Toda Raba, anyone ? -- but certainly not this one.
       Bien also notes that:
when one places the earlier translation next to the original Greek text, one is quite amazed by the differences: omissions sometimes of many sentences, obvious errors, even commissions, i.e., supposedly translated material not in the Greek text at all.
       Surprised ? Hardly. Editors and translators continue to take such absurd liberties (and readers continue to be kept in the dark ...).
       I note also that the UK publisher of Zorba the Greek is Faber & Faber -- who notoriously are also responsible for the continued circulation of the abomination that is the from-the-French-translation translation of Lem's Solaris -- and that they don't seem to have jumped aboard the new-translation-bandwagon here either: their catalogue listing -- and Amazon.co.uk listing -- continue to be the Wildman translation-translation.
       But at least in the US readers will now have a chance to read a closer translation; see the Simon & Schuster publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com.
       I'm not sure that 23 December publication date is ... ideal -- hoping for the very-last-minute- shoppers, are they ? Looks more like any and all coverage of this important publication -- come on, this is pretty much the only modern Greek title that readers can probably identify (Z is surely more famous for the film version) -- will be lost in the Christmas noise and rush. (Which is why I mention it now.)

       And while I am very pleased to see this proper translation, it pains me to read:
Translation copyright © 2014 by Kazantzakis Publications Ltd
       Sorry -- no, no apologies necessary: translation copyright belongs with and to the translator. Any other 'arrangement' is unacceptable.

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2. The literary scene 2014 in ... Zimbabwe

       In The Herald Beaven Tapureta has a piece Reflecting on the 2014 literary scene in Zimbabwe.

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3. Walker on Water review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Estonian author Kristiina Ehin's collection of stories, Walker on Water.

       (While there's much here that impresses -- there's some great writing here, and some great ideas --, ultimately this is yet another collection that just reinforces my novel-bias; sometimes I wonder why I (or anyone) bothers with anything else.)

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4. Forthcoming Houellebecq

       The French literary year will start with a bang, as the new Michel Houellebecq novel is due out on 7 Janaury -- Soumission (yes, 'Submission'); pre-order your (French) copy at Amazon.fr.
       Les inRocks have some of the details (in French); The Local.fr has the gist -- 'Muslims rule France in provocative new novel', as their headline has it, of this set-in-2022 novel -- in English (but without the intriguing detail that the novel's erectile dysfunctional protagonist is also a: "spécialiste de J-K Huysmans").
       No word yet as to US/UK editions, but presumably they shouldn't be too long coming. While Houellebecq sure as hell doesn't look like he's aging well, he still has a name/brand-recognition rare among authors-in-translation.

       Quite a few Houellebecq-titles are under review at the complete review; see, for example: The Elementary Particles (published as Atomised in the UK).

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5. New Quarterly Conversation

       The Winter 2015 issue of the Quarterly Conversation is now available online -- lots of good material to keep you busy for the rest of the week.

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6. Books in translation, 2014

       Kaija Straumanis puts together a nice list at Three Percent of 50/50: Fifty Books in Translation from Fifty Presses [Our 2014 Year-End Book List], showing just how many varied publishers are bringing out works in translation.
       (The more adventurous can refer to the considerably more extensive Translation Database, aspiring to record all the (first-time) translations published in the US in 2014.)

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7. Māori Book Awards

       A couple of days ago they announced the Ngā Kupu Ora Aotearoa Māori Book Awards.
       Great to see the support for Māori writing (and hopefully it will translate, at least a bit, abroad as well), and good to see, for example, Patricia Grace as guest speaker (though it kills me that her advice included: "write about what you know" -- the most dangerous and damaging of Creative Writing 101 advice (because the kids take it so to heart, in all the wrong (i.e. confessional) ways) ...)).

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8. Decline of literary culture - regional report: Agra

       The oft-repeated story, from every corner of the world: today's installment, from Ishita Mishra in the Times of India: Agra's literary landscape dying a slow death.
       You know the story/routine:

Libraries and book stores that once saw their premises bustling with bibliophiles at one time wear a deserted look now.
       And:
None of the shops are up-to-date. The reason is the same -- a lack of interest in reading.
       And, while India has lagged in this regard until recently, e-books -- and the fact/concern that the: "onset of online behemoth Amazon has dramatically altered the rules of the game" (Amazon being very new to India) -- are, of course, much/easy to blame for the situation.

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9. Folio Prize nominations

       They've announced the eighty titles that will be considered for the Man Booker (II) Prize, a.k.a the 'Folio Prize':

These are the 80 works of fiction published in the UK in 2014 that, in the eyes of the 235 writers and critics who constitute the Academy, are the best of the year.
       Unmentioned: these are the 80 works of fiction written in English (or maybe they just can't conceive that a translated work might also be among 'the best of the year' ...).
       The process explanation also suggests the selection process is slightly more complicated -- that of the eighty titles:
The first 60 will be nominated by the Academy. Publishers will then be invited to write letters in support of additional titles, after which the balance of 20 books will be called in by the judges.
       Strangely enough, this is not mentioned in the official announcement.
       See also the list of the eighty titles (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       Reminding me yet again that I read far too little contemporary English-language fiction, very few of these titles are under review at the complete review:        An eight-title shortlist will be announced on 9 February, and the winner will be announced 23 March.

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10. Modiano in English

       Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have apparently announced (though not yet at their 'media center', last I checked ...) that they'll be publishing the English translation of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano's latest in the US, the bestselling-in-France Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier (see the Gallimard publicity page), in late 2015. (MacLehose Press had previously announced it was publishing this one, and two more, in the UK.)
       Alexandra Alter reports the news in The New York Times -- along with some sales figures for the few Modiano titles actually currently available in English;

One of his most famous works, Missing Person, which is published by David R. Godine, had sold just 2,031 copies before the prize was announced in October, and has since sold more than 13,600 copies. Yale University Press has sold more than 30,000 copies of Suspended Sentences, a collection of three novellas by Mr. Modiano that was published last month.
       At The Washington Post's Style Blog Ron Charles also reports on the news, in New Patrick Modiano novel coming to U.S. next fall, with the additional information that the translation will be by Euan Cameron (translator of, for example, Philippe Djian's Unforgivable book), and offering slightly different sales-numbers:
The book clubs are all adopting Missing Persons [sic], and if you're going to read a Modiano, that's the one to read. We've sold 18,000 copies. Honeymoon also did well, and his children's book [Catherine Certitude] did well.
       Meanwhile, an interesting titbit from Jennifer Maloney's report at the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy weblog:
British publisher Harvill Secker UK then pulled its e-book version of Modiano's novel, The Search Warrant, off Amazon.co.uk.

It turned out that Harvill Secker never had the rights to publish the ebook -- which Modiano's French publisher, Éditions Gallimard, discovered after the Pulitzer [sic] was announced, according to Anne-Solange Noble, Gallimard's foreign-rights director.

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11. The Black Signs review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lars Mørch Finborud's The Black Signs, an intriguing offering from the Norwegian from the intriguing Broken Dimanche Press.

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12. Worst book lists

       What with all the best-of-the-year book lists coming out I'm kind of disappointed that there aren't more worst-of lists to be found, a reminder of the year's over-hyped crap and flops and disappointments. Admittedly, they can be hard to put together -- after all, there are a limited number of good (or great) books, but seemingly no end of mediocre to terrible ones, and it's not so much a matter of scraping the bottom of the barrel as figuring out which of the many barrel-fulls to consider ..... But reviewers or publications would certainly be performing a public service if they at least pointed to the worst they've covered during the year, for example.
       Among the few worst-lists is Entertainment Weekly's -- disappointingly not even a bottom-ten but rather only 5 Worst Books of 2014 -- one of which I've even read (The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, by Joël Dicker -- which, I agree, is pretty bad).
       At his stevereads weblog Steve Donoghue offers 'best-of-the-year'-lists in all sorts of categories, and fortunately also a few 'worst'-lists -- notably the Worst Books of 2014: Fiction ! Some notable names here (he has a somewhat unusual populist/contrarian streak), but, alas, none that I've read.

       While my fervent wish would be not to see any more book-lists at all for the remainder of the year, given how many best-of lists I'm sure to come across I hope that there will at least be a few more worst ones as well.

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13. Turning to Finnish translation

       At Books from Finland they wondered how people whose mother tongue isn't Finnish became interested enough in the (difficult and not exactly widely-spoken) language to become translators of Finnish literature, and in Encounters with a language they get answers from: "Three translators into English, one into French, German and Latvian"

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14. Naudé-Vladislavić exchange

       At Granta they print an interesting exchange, In Conversation: S.J. Naudé and Ivan Vladislavić, the two writers discussing 'translation, divided cityscapes and the electric current in writing'. Lots of interesting observations, especially about translation and editing.
       So, for example, Vladislavić notes (horrifyingly):

I've seen revised foreign editions that are substantially different to the originals. I suppose it's tied up with a weakening sense of the text as definitive or sacrosanct, and a new conception of it as a dynamic, customized product.
       (As longtime readers know, I'm entirely in the sacrosanct camp, and value fidelity to the original (and the author's intention) above all (even comprehensibility).)

       Several of Vladislavić's books are under review at the complete review; see, for example, Double Negative.

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15. Books review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Charlie Hill's entertaining killer-novel novel, Books.

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16. The nefarious 'international literature lobby'

       In The Guardian Alison Flood reports that Turkish novelists Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak accused of being Western stooges by pro-government press, as:

Major Turkish authors Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak have been accused by the pro-government Turkish press of being controlled by an "international literature lobby" that has the Turkish government in its sights.
       It would be funny if it weren't so cynically-sinisterly disturbing.
       Though I'm sure writers everywhere can't help but be flattered at the thought of an 'international literature lobby'. Hey, it could be the premise for a new Marvel comic ..... Read the rest of this post

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17. Early Chekhov

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines George Butchard reports on efforts at Bringing early Chekhov to an English-speaking readership as apparently -- and somewhat surprisingly -- a great deal of early Chekhov has: "never been systematically translated into English".
       It'll be interesting to see how this project develops.

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18. James Patterson profile

       He's incredibly -- and somewhat bafflingly -- popular, and in Vanity Fair Todd S. Purdum profiles The Henry Ford of Books.
       An interesting background and path -- and apparently: "success may have mellowed Patterson somewhat":

"I always thought he was a total dick," one non-Little, Brown executive told me. "I think that's not fair now."

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19. Modiano picks up Nobel Prize

       They held the fancy Nobel ceremonies yesterday, and everybody got to pick up their medals and diplomas and shake the royal hand and so on. All very fancy and slightly ridiculous -- white tie and tails are mandated at the Nobel Banquet -- but good fun and, given the payday, what the hell ? Anyway, the official site does a really nice job of providing coverage of every silly last detail, from video footage of the ceremony to the menu (side note: the wine selection looks kind of weak to me -- I would have stuck with the champagne -- and then Grönstedts Cognac VO ... not even XO ? come on, nice to support the local guy, but even akvavit would be preferable to this).
       Modiano gave his Nobel lecture on Sunday. Here now is the award ceremony presentation speech, given by "Writer, PhD Jesper Svenbro" -- and here is the Nobel diploma Modiano got yesterday:

Patrick Modiano's Nobel diploma


       I have to admit, I'm no great fan of the Nobel diplomas (yes, the official site lets you look at all of them since 1997 -- neat !). But some of the art work is pretty good.

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20. Literary money in Piketty's Capital

       Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century -- see the Harvard University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- is surely one of, if not the book of the year in the US. It is, of course, an economics book -- but also refers to actual literature. At Slate Ted Underwood, Hoyt Long, and Richard Jean So now consider what Piketty has to say about literature (and, in particular, money in fiction) in his book, in Cents and Sensibility.
       They argue that:

Piketty's account of literary history turns out to be wrong -- but wrong in a way that casts a surprising new light on the way novels do respond to the changing economic fortunes of people in the real world.
       Yes, interestingly:
References to specific sums increased in frequency from 1825 to 1950, undeterred by the accelerating pace of inflation.
       (And Eliot's Middlemarch is a somewhat surprisingly money-obsessed outlier.)
       Also interesting/strange to note that "the median reference to money" (i.e. the specific amount mentioned) has decreased tremendously over the same period.

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21. Meursault, Counter-Investigation (coming) in English

       Other Press will be publishing the US edition of Kamel Daoud's much-discussed and prize-winning variation on Camus, Meursault, contre-enquête, and at Publishers Weekly publisher Judith Gurewich answers four questions from Clare Swanson about it.
       As Gurewich notes, this probably won't be a hard sell -- this book should fairly easily get the attention it deserves. I look forward to seeing it, and the reactions to it.

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22. Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature

       They've announced that Sudanese author Hammour Ziada awarded the 2014 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature -- though, of course, since this is (supposed to be ...) a book prize, it is, in fact, his novel, شوق الدرويش ('The Longing of the Dervish'), that was awarded the prestigious prize. See also M. Lynx Qualey's report at her Arabic Literature (in English) weblog.
       It's a prestigious prize, with a solid list of winners (several of which are under review at the complete review), and has certainly helped bring contemporary Arabic fiction into English.

       (Meanwhile, don't forget the old master whom the prize is named after -- and, yes, lots (and lots) of Naguib Mahfouz's books are under review at the complete review.)

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23. Translation recommendations

       Among the endless best of year and the like lists, the more specialized ones tend to be both more interesting and useful -- and at PEN Atlas they get translation recommendations from a variety of authors and others, a decent selection, despite the unforgiveable head/tagline, Yule love these books in translation 2014.

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24. Man Booker Prize judges

       Yes, 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction: Judges announced, and they are: Ellah Allfrey, John Burnside, Sam Leith, and Frances Osborne, with Michael Wood as chair.
       Interesting (?) side note: in 2011 the judges got Kindles, to read submissions electronically if they wished to; for the 2015 lot -- like last year:

The judges will read submissions both in hard copy and using iPad Airs, donated by Apple.

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25. Self-Portrait in Green review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Marie NDiaye's Self-Portrait in Green, recently published by Two Lines Press.

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