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1. Jiang Rong Q & A

       At The New York Times' Sinosphere weblog Amy Qin has a Q & A with Jiang Rong on Wolf Totem, the Novel and Now the Film.
       The author's Wolf Totem -- get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- has indeed now been made into film, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud; see the IMDb page, or the Mars distribution page.

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2. David Cohen Prize for Literature

       At £40,000 the biennial David Cohen Prize for Literature is one of the leading British author prizes (they're not that big on author-prizes in the UK, preferring to honor specific titles (with book prizes)), and they've announced that Tony Harrison is the winner of the 2015 prize; see also, for example, Jonathan McAloon's report in The Telegraph, 'Obscene' poet Tony Harrison wins David Cohen Prize for Literature 2015 -- focusing on his thirty-year-old poem, v. (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).

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3. Society of Authors' Translation Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's Society of Authors' Translation Prizes -- five of them, this year (it varies), for translations from the Arabic, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
       Two of the prize-winning titles are under review at the complete review: the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for translation from the Arabic-winning The Corpse Washer, for Sinan Antoon's own translation of his work, and the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for translation from the German-winning The Mussel Feast, for Jamie Bulloch's traslation of the Birgit Vanderbeke novel.
       Meanwhile, neither the John Florio Prize (Italian) winner -- Patrick Creagh's translation of Memory of the Abyss by Marcello Fois -- nor the Premio Valle Inclán (Spanish) winner -- Nick Caistor's translation of An Englishman in Madrid by Eduardo Mendoza -- seems to be out in the US yet.

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4. New issue of World Literature Today

       The March/April issue of World Literature Today is now available, with much of the content accessible online. Among other things, there's: "a special section featuring four writers from the Persian diaspora".
       Best of all, as always: the extensive book review section, World Literature in Review, is fully online-accessible.

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5. The Blood of Angels review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Johanna Sinisalo's The Blood of Angels.
       Although published by UK publisher Peter Owen, and despite her two previously translated works having gotten good critical attention there, this title seems to have been largely overlooked in the UK, surprisingly getting more review coverage in the US. I wonder why.

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6. Windham-Campbell Prizes

       They've announced the 2015 recipients of the Windham-Campbell Prizes, three each in fiction, non, and drama, each winner receiving US$150,000 unrestricted grants.
       Among the winners are Ivan Vladislavić (Double Negative, etc.), Helon Habila (Oil on Water, etc.), Teju Cole, and Geoff Dyer.

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7. Forthcoming German edition of Mein Kampf

       The copyright on Hitler's infamous Mein Kampf is running out in Germany, and so they've been debating for quite a while now what the hell to do about that. Apparently they've settled on a scholarly edition being made available -- an unannotated/explicated plain-text version apparently remains out of bounds (prohibitable not on copyright but potential-incitement grounds).
       The Institut für Zeitgeschichte got the call, and apparently their critical edition should be available already shortly after the copyright runs out, in January 2016. In Die Zeit they report on some of the details -- including that the two-volume edition might extend to 2000 pages, some 780 of actual text and the rest taken up largely by the up to 5000 explanatory notes.
       It'll be interesting to see whether annotation blunts the symbolic power of this ridiculous but far from harmless tome.

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8. Walter Scott Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction -- fifteen titles, including ones by authors such as Martin Amis and Damon Galgut.
       They note that:

In a change to prize protocol this year, the longlist is made public for the first time.
       Alas, they don't reveal the pool of 124 entries the longlisted titles were selected from (as they really should).

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9. Who is Martha ? review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of German-writing Ukrainian-born Marjana Gaponenko's Who is Martha ? recently published by New Vessel Press.

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10. Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature

       The Jewish Book Council has announced the winner of this year's (US$100,000) Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature -- and it goes to The Best Place on Earth, by Ayelet Tsabari.
       This HarperCollins Canada publication doesn't seem to have been published in the US or UK yet; presumably the price for the rights just went up. See their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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11. 'Library of Bangladesh'

       Sounds good: the Dhaka Tribune reports that Dhaka Translation Centre to create 'Library of Bangladesh' [via].
       Having Arunava Sinha as the series editor makes it sound promising; the official DTC site -- where they are still offering information about Potential Programs for 2014 -- suggests some reasons for concern.

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12. Typographical Translation Award

       Typographical Era has its own 'Typographical Translation Award' and they've now announced the winner for best 2014 translation -- Texas: The Great Theft, by Carmen Boullosa, in Samantha Schnee's translation, the first offering from promising new publisher Deep Vellum (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
       No doubt, some of the long- and short-listed titles will also be on the 25-title-strong longlist for the Best Translated Book Award (for which I am a judge) -- spoiler: Summer House With Swimming Pool ... probably not (like: bet the summer house probably not ...) -- and I am curious to see how much overlap there will be. Does this make Texas: The Great Theft an early BTBA favorite ? Hmmmm ..... Read the rest of this post

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13. Reading in ... Thailand

       In the Bangkok Post Saengwit Kewaleewongsatorn reports that Thais read books for 28 minutes a day, says Pubat -- shockingly down from 37 minutes in 2013.
       Okay, this is all anecdotal, self-reported stuff (reliability: close to none), but then so was the last survey, so .....
       Not much more heartening:

Cartoons and illustrated fiction are the most popular content, followed by health and cuisine, history, Thai novels and tourism.
       Interesting, if true:
Some 99% of buyers make their purchases from physical bookstores, with only 1% buying online.

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14. (Hindi) literature in ... India

       In the Hindu Business Line Kalyani Prasher wonders: Is Hindi literature back in fashion ? finding:

The new Hindi reader is someone who reads in both English and Hindi, because she cares (or thinks it's cool to care) about the language, and her roots.
       And/but:
Translation is a double-edged sword -- in catering to the semi-urban reader's need for reading English fiction translated into a language she is comfortable in, it can remove her need to read original fiction in that language. This way, you lose more and more readers of original writing in Hindi.
       Meanwhile, in the Business Standard Shilpa Raina's IANS report finds that Hindi publishers adopt technology, new strategies to revamp business, noting:
(T)here was a big void in the Hindi publishing industry. Either we had pulp fiction or literary writings, so we decided to fill this gap and started publishing novels that are contemporary, which youngsters can relate to.
       Both articles note -- as Raina quotes:
The readers are there, but they are not always willing to spend a lot of money on Hindi books.
       Good to see the attention paid to this market, which seems to be paying off, here and there.

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15. โมบี-ดิ๊ก: Moby-Dick (finally) complete in ... Thai

       In The Bangkok Post Kong Rithdee reports on The crowdsourced hunt for the great Thai whale.
       Apparently there's never been a complete translation of Melville's Moby-Dick, so they (successfully) crowd-sourced Kwanduang Sae-tia's translation, via Readery.
       I'm not sure: "We're not translating the book in order to sell it" is entirely the way to go, but it seems like an admirable undertaking -- and it's good to see the (long-overdue) complete translation will soon be available.

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16. Jalāl Āl-e Ahmad reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two of Jalāl Āl-e Ahmad's travel-inspired works from the 1960s:

  • His hajj-account, Lost in the Crowd (a Three Continents Press volume that you'll be hard-pressed to find nowadays but got a full-length review in The New York Times Book Review, back in a very different day (1986))

  • The Israeli Republic -- one of the first releases from new publisher Restless Books, who are certainly doing some interesting things
       Somehow, I've now managed to review four of Āl-e Ahmad's works without getting (back) to his most famous one, the seminal غرب زدگی (which is available in English in several translations). But I suspect that even among the well-read visitors to the complete review -- at least outside Iran -- he's at best known as Simin Daneshvar's husband.
       (Worth noting, also: aside from his own writing, he translated quite a bit, including Camus' L'Étranger, Sartre's Dirty Hands, and short works by Albert Cossery, Ernst Jünger, and Dostoevsky.)

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17. Adolf Muschg wins Grand Prix

       They announced the winners of the Swiss literary prizes a few weeks ago (see my previous mention), but waited before announcing who gets the big 'Swiss Grand Prix in Literature' (or, as it is for example in Romansch, the 'Gron premi svizzer da litteratura').
       They've only handed this out three times: in 2013 it was divided between three people; in 2014 between two (Paul Nizon und Philippe Jaccotte); now, in 2015, the prize -- and the entire (and meanwhile much increased in conversion-value) CHF40,000 -- goes to Adolf Muschg for his life's work. See also, for example, the swissinfo report, Adolf Muschg wins Swiss literature's top prize
       Hard to complain about the choice; it seems a pretty obvious one -- and I've always enjoyed his work. Easier to complain about: is it really possible that The Blue Man and other stories (get your long out of print copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) is the only Muschg title ever translated into English ? That's ridiculous.
       So maybe this prize will help get him a bit more of the recognition he deserves in the US/UK -- surely an obvious choice for, say Seagull, or Dalkey Archive Press, with their Swiss series. How about it ?
       Also of interest, though it's thirty years old (and in the dreaded pdf format ...): An Interview with Adolf Muschg by Judith Ricker-Abderhalden in Studies in 20th Century Literature.

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18. Horcynus Orca, in German

       I mentioned Stefano D'Arrigo's Horcynus Orca a couple of weeks ago, because the German translation of the nearly 1500-page work, by Moshe Kahn, is a finalist for the translation award of the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair (and I also mentioned it previously, more than five years ago, when it was still very much in the works ...), and the translation has now come out from S.Fischer, just a few days ago (get your copy at Amazon.de)
       Good (and impressive) to see some English-language coverage about this: at Books in Italy Andrea Tarabbia talks with the translator, in Translating Horcynus Orca: An interview with Moshe Kahn
       Always good to hear from a translator:

I spared the German reader nothing.
       In addition, Vittore Armanni takes the occasion to write about: Fifteen Torturous Years: Stefano D'Arrigo and foreign publishers -- covering more than fifteen years, and apparently finding the book is still stuck along great parts of that path.
       Here's hoping US/UK interest is further stirred and spurred -- hey, the books seems to be doing quite well in Germany already.

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19. Mishra on Murty Classical Library of India

       In the Wall Street Journal Pankaj Mishra finds: 'An ambitious new library of Indian literature shows the cultural riches ignored by today's Hindu nationalists' in The Many Strands of Indian Identity, profiling the promising-sounding Murty Classical Library of India (which I've previously mentioned quite a few times).
       As he notes:

This elite's fossilized notions of India's Sanskritic past came to obscure the vitality of the country's many other old and still existing cultures.
       And:
The Murty Library doesn't only repair a devastating breach in India's cultural memory -- one akin to the disappearance of Greek learning from Europe in the Middle Ages. It also facilitates a continuing and potentially revolutionary reassessment of how we understand the world's political as well as literary history.
       I haven't seen these volumes yet, but I am very much looking forward to them.

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20. Publishing in ... Zimbabwe

       In The Herald, in Tawanda Marwizi's ‘Cry my beloved literature’, Aaron Chiundura Moyo complains that in Zimbabwe:

Literature is now dead not because we don't have good writers but because of piracy. It's not only in music but it has killed our literature,
       It's not digital piracy that's the problem, but rather an older technology: photocopying.

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21. Nobel nomination numbers

       Nominations for the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature were due before 1 February, and at his weblog the still-in-charge-of-Nobel-matters (until the end of May) permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Peter Englund, now reports on the final numbers (but not, alas, the names).
       259 names were suggested (2014: 271), resulting in 198 candidates (2014: 210) -- duplicate nominations, as well as ineligible suggestions (such as, say, now-deceased Assia Djebar) presumably accounting for the differential -- with 36 first-time nominations (2014: also 36).
       They're looking to quickly cut the 198 down to 20 to 25 contenders, and then reach a shortlist of five by the end of May (when Englund steps down from this position, and Sara Danius takes over permanent-secretary- (and the associated Nobel-) duties).

       Englund also takes this occasion to express his irritation at nominators and nominating bodies who reveal/leak the names they've submitted -- and even suggests that in future such nominations might be removed from consideration.
       The rules do state: "Nominations are subject to complete secrecy" -- which I find unfortunate. As always, I'm for openness, and think it's far more troubling that nominations (and who made them) are kept secret. True, the Nobel Prize hardly needs the additional publicity, and the betting shops do a good job of stirring up a speculation-frenzy for it, but it'd also be a lot more fun if we knew who was -- at least at the outset -- in the running for each year's prize.

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22. Festival Neue Literatur

       The Festival Neue Literatur has started -- bringing some: "of the best emerging and established writers from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland to New York City for a long winter weekend".
       A solid program which you might want to check out, if you're in the area.
       Yesterday was the opening reception, where they also awarded the Friedrich Ulfers Prize -- given to: "a leading publisher, writer, critic, translator, or scholar who has championed the advancement of German-language literature in the United States" -- to Robert Weil.

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23. Bolaño literary criticism criticism

       Cuban author Leonardo Padura (The Man Who Loved Dogs, etc.) isn't impressed by Roberto Bolaño as literary critic, calling him: "the worst literary critic of recent years", as Prensa Latina reports in Bolaño: Good Writer, Bad Literary Critic, says Padura.
       In particular, Padura seems to doubt that Bolaño read anywhere near as much or widely as he claimed, suggesting: "if he had read all the books he said he read, he would not have been able to write not even one of his own".
       I don't really think it's that hard to believe Bolaño was such a great reader. And while I don't think much of what he wrote is truly 'literary criticism', I also think he was a very good reader, and he wrote well about what he read -- see, for example, Between Parentheses. Yes, some of his judgments were off, but a lot were spot-on.

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24. Nordic Council Literature Prize finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the 2015 Nordic Council Literature Prize.
       Each country/territory gets to nominate a fiction and a poetry title (though some only put up one or another); among this year's entries are Karin Erlandsson's novel Minkriket ('Mink Kingdom') representing Åland and the Sami language area representative poetry collection amas amas amasmuvvat (apparently translating as: 'not to the strange alien shall be made') by Niillas Holmberg.
       Click on each title for a description of the works in the running.

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25. He Who Kills the Dragon review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Leif GW Persson's He Who Kills the Dragon.
       This came out in the UK in 2013 but has just been published in the US -- as Bäckström: He Who Kills the Dragon. Why ? Because the series -- it's part of a series -- is the (very, very loose) basis for the new Fox Television series, Backstrom. Which, however, doesn't quite explain why the US publishers went with the second in the series to introduce it to American audiences.
       I suspect American editors have been trained to refuse to publish series-in-translation in their proper sequence unless it is really, really unavoidable -- Stieg Larsson's The Girl ...-trilogy, or Persson's earlier Olof Palme-trilogy.

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