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1. Best Translated Book Awards !

       They've announced the winners of the Best Translated Book Awards, and the fiction award went to Signs Preceding the End of the World (by Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman).
       (The poetry prize went to Rilke Shake (by Angélica Freitas, translated by Hilary Kaplan).)

       I was certainly impressed by the Herrera -- and it is also one of the finalists where the translation-achievement is perhaps more obvious than elsewhere, making it an even more obvious choice. It was presumably somewhat of an outsider -- a slim volume, up against heavyweights like Lispector and the concluding Ferrante (I suspect the concluding Knausgaard, two years from now, will make a stronger showing as far as series-finales go) -- but I can't imagine there will be much criticism of the selection: this is a deserving book, and translation.

       (Note, however, that this means we won't see a Best Translated Book Award - Man Booker International Prize double this year, as the Herrera wasn't a finalist for the MBIP. (The winner of the MBIP will be announced 16 May).)

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2. Tom Stoppard profile

       In the Evening Standard Katie Law profiles Tom Stoppard.
       A bit gossipy (and hair-obsessed -- he: "still has a mane of thick curly hair" (though that photo sure suggests he's getting a bit ... threadbare); his latest wife is: "girlish and goldilocked at 61"), there's still some decent stuff here, as well as the usual fun-at-his-expense about his (not-quite-)use of e-mail and the like.

"I've very rarely emerged from writing something which I feel deserves an alpha plus." For which of his plays would he award himself an alpha plus ? The Invention of Love, his 1997 play about A E Housman, "presses all my buttons," he replies, and then he pauses. "But I think it's rather bad taste to start proposing your own A-stars."
       (And while The Invention of Love is a great play, it is of course Arcadia that is his masterpiece.)

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3. Paul Auster

       Eric Clement had the scoop in La Presse last week but it seems to have (entirely ?) escaped English-language notice so far (or no one cares ?): that we can look forward to Un roman de 925 pages signé Paul Auster, Auster's forthcoming novel a near-thousand-pager he expects to have out in early 2017.
       No word as to the title of the just-finished work, or any of the details beyond its (great) length:

L'écrivain préfère ne pas dévoiler l'histoire de ce nouveau roman. Il souhaite que la surprise soit totale pour ses fidèles lecteurs. Il consent toutefois à dire qu'il s'agit d'une sorte de «saga».
       They follow up this week with a proper Q & A -- no additional clues about the book, but more general odds and ends (including about American politics).

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4. Little Girls Breathe the Same Air as We Do review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Oulipo-author Paul Fournel's 1978 novel, Little Girls Breathe the Same Air as We Do.

       This actually came out in English very quickly, George Braziller publishing it in 1979, and for example the Kirkus review suggested:

(I)t remains an odd, narrow exercise -- significant only as a minor-key promise of things to come from this young French writer.
       Ah, yes, the promise ! And a lot did come -- only not into English, with the recently published Dear Reader the first of his novels to be translated since then, after well over thirty years ! (though there was also that bicycling book in the meantime).
       Born in 1947, Fournel was indeed a promising young 32-year-old when Little Girls Breathe the Same Air as We Do -- and only now returns to the US/UK scene when he is closing in on 70.

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5. Thomas-Mann-Preis

       They've announced that this year's Thomas Mann Prize will go to Jenny Erpenbeck (Visitation, etc.) -- though not yet at the official site, last I checked, so see, for example, the Boersenblatt report.
       She gets to pick it up on 17 September.
       The list of previous winners is a bit mixed (as indeed is the prize itself, which combined two previous prizes in 2010, and now alternates between being awarded on Lübeck and in Munich), but last year the (recently deceased) Lars Gustafsson got it, which was certainly also an excellent choice.

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6. Geoff Dyer Q & A

       In The Hindu Tishani Doshi has a Q & A with author Geoff Dyer.
       Among his responses:

The real issue for me is not whether it's true or untrue in accordance with what actually happened. But it's to do with form and the expectation of what people give to a certain form.

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7. Xorandor review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Christine Brooke-Rose's 1986 novel, Xorandor -- apparently recently re-issued in a two-for-one volume (with Verbivore) by Verbivoracious Press (though I only have the original Carcanet edition (and what I really wanted was the Avon paperback ...)).

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8. Online writing in ... China

       At Xinhua Lyu Dong and Li Zhengwei report on Leafing through online literature for China's Harry Potter, as:

If China's film market is a flame burning bright, the country's online literature is increasingly its fuel.
       As I've (often, sigh) noted, the Chinese online-publishing industry (and it sure looks like an industry -- "Over 140 million Chinese were regularly reading online literature on their computers and smartphones as of December") is a greatly under-studied and -reported-on phenomenon.
       Maybe now more will take notice, if indeed:
Online novels have amassed hundreds of millions of readers, and now they are being tapped for their potential to reach an even broader audience once adapted into films.

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9. St. Louis Literary Award

       The St. Louis Literary Award has a decent list of previous winners, and they've now announced that Noted Writer Michael Ondaatje Named Recipient of 2016 St. Louis Literary Award.
       He gets to pick it up on 6 October.

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10. Bird in a Cage review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Frédéric Dard's 1961 novel, Bird in a Cage.
       This is only due out -- from Pushkin Press, in their Vertigo imprint -- in June (in the UK) and September (US), but a Frédéric Dard sighting in English ? in a translation by David Bellos ? no way you can hold me back.
       In my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction (just out -- but you already have your copy, right ? if not ... get it at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, etc.), I noted that Dard (especially in his San-Antonio incarnation): "never stood much of a chance in English translation", as they've tried some odds and ends over the decades but nothing ever really took -- but Pushkin Press is having a go with several of his works, and with translators like Bellos (David freaking Bellos ! who is always up for a translation-challenge) maybe he stands a chance after all.
       As a reminder of where translation-into English stands, however, note that this (and quite a few other) Dard titles appeared in ... Iran (yes, that Iran) before they have in English: see e.g. ‘The Elevator’ of Frédéric Dard in Iran (or the more extensive Persian report -- and, yes, that's this title), as well as “Novels of the Night” in Persian Translation (with nice cover-images) at the International Crime Fiction Research Group.

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11. Eka Kurniawan Q & A

       In The Jakarta Post Stevie Emilia has a Q & A with Eka Kurniawan (who recently made a splash in English translation, with Beauty is a Wound and Man Tiger).
       Among Kurniawan's answers: re. his favorite author he singles out:

If I have to mention only one, it's Knut Hamsun ( the Norwegian author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature ). His works convinced me to become a writer.
       And as far as 'social media' (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram) go, he says: "Don't like any of them."

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12. Chinese investment in French publishing

       At Paper Republic Bruce Humes points out that Chinese media are reporting that Chinese publisher/media firm ThinKingDom (新经典文化) has apparently invested in (i.e. bought a chunk of) leading French publisher of east Asian literature ("des livres de l'Extrême-Orient", as they put it) in translation Editions Philippe Picquier; see also the (Chinese) reports at The Paper and, a bit more extensively, sina (and note the deafening silence in the European press -- I couldn't find anything in the French papers ...).
       As Humes notes, it's unclear just how much of a stake they've staked themselves, but this is an interesting move, with Philippe Picquier a relatively small boutique independent -- but a leading conduit for east Asian literature into European languages and with a first rate list (and, presumably, contacts). Worth keeping an eye on.

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13. Audin on Oulipo

       Michèle Audin's One Hundred Twenty-One Days is just about out from Deep Vellum, and now the author explains her relationship with the Oulipo-group at Publishers Weekly, in What is the Oulipo ? (Meanwhile, see also all the other Oulipo titles under review at the complete review.)
       (And I remain eager to see Audin's Remembering Sofya Kovalevskaya; see the Springer publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)

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14. Russian Library introduction

       At the Columbia University Press blog series editor Christine Dunbar offers An Overview of the Inaugural Russian Library Titles (three of them to get things going).
       I've mentioned this project before -- in particular as the first instance, a collaboration with Overlook Press, apparently died a(n exceptionally) quiet death. But it looks like they're actually going through with this -- with publicity pages for the first titles (e.g. Sokolov's Between Dog and Wolf) already up (though note that the 'Series: Russian Library' link doesn't lead anywhere yet ...).
       Looks good and promising; can't wait to see these (and future) titles.

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15. Ladivine review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of (prix Goncourt-winning author) Marie NDiaye's Ladivine, just out in English.
       This is an exceptionally good piece of writing -- that is also exceptionally difficult to like/enjoy. NDiaye's presentation of family-/personal relationships makes Thomas Bernhard look like a softy ..... (And where Bernhard goes all bitter his depictions at least have a comic edge; NDiaye is rarely bitter but heartlessly earnest -- which is, far, far worse.)
       This title/translation was longlisted for this year's Man Booker International Prize, but fell short of the shortlist; I'm very curious how it will do at next year's Best Translated Book Award: on the face of it it is (in its very good translation) an obvious finalist -- and yet ..... Read the rest of this post

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16. Enrique Vila-Matas on the future

       At Music & Literature they print Thomas Bumstead's translation of Enrique Vila-Matas' talk when he received the premio Juan Rulfo at the book fair in Guadalajara on 28 November of last year, The Future (original) -- well worth a read.

       (Many Vila-Matas titles are under review at the complete review -- with the recent Because She Never Asked a particular favorite (which I don't think has gotten its due, critically or otherwise).)

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17. Marie Darrieussecq profile

       At news.com.au Emma Reynolds profiles Marie Darrieussecq (Pig Tales, etc.) -- and I was not aware of her role at Charlie Hebdo.

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18. A General Theory of Oblivion review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of José Eduardo Agualusa's A General Theory of Oblivion.

       This is one of two titles -- along with the latest Elena Ferrante -- that is a finalist for both the Best Translated Book Award and the Man Booker International Prize this year, so it's hard not to consider it one of the biggest titles-in-translation of 2015.

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19. Prize: Austrian State Prize for European Literature

       The Austrian State Prize for European Literature only honors European authors, but as that list of previous winners shows, they have a pretty damn good track record.
       They've now announced the 2016 winner -- albeit only in a ridiculous summary-press release unworthy of the prize -- and it's Polish author Andrzej Stasiuk, who has been reasonably well translated into English. Two of his books are under review at the complete review: Fado and Nine.

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20. Prize: International Prize for Arabic Fiction

       They've announced that Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba [مصائر: كونشرتو الهولوكوست والنكبة] by Rabai al-Madhoun has won this year's International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
       The US$50,000 award is one of the leading Arabic literature prizes, and does the best job of publicizing winning works abroad, with most of them appearing in translation in a variety of languages.
       The winning author is not unknown in English, as Telegram published his (IPAF shortlisted) The Lady from Tel Aviv a few years ago; see their publicity page, and get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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21. Prizes: Hugo Awards finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the 2016 Hugo Awards -- and there's even one of the novel finalists under review at the complete review, Seveneves by Neal Stephenson.
       Apparently, there are issues regarding the voting process and campaigns by groups -- of 'Sad Puppies' and 'Rabid Puppies' -- but it's all rather beyond me; see, for example, David Barnett on Hugo awards shortlist dominated by rightwing campaign in The Guardian.

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22. Voroshilovgrad review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ukrainian author Serhiy Zhadan's Jan Michalski Prize-winning Voroshilovgrad, just about out from Deep Vellum.

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23. Kertész Imre funeral

       As, for example, hlo reports, Imre Kertész laid to rest last Friday, with The Book of Hrabal-author Esterházy Péter and Captivity-author Spiró György delivering the funeral orations for the deceased great.
       The hlo piece has speech excerpts, but you can listen to the Esterházy speech in its entirety in the original -- or read full German and Swedish transcripts. (English ? Ha ... dream on.)

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24. Nigeria Prize for Literature entries

       In The Nation Evelyn Osagie reports that 173 authors in race for NLNG $100k literary prize (meaning, presumably, 173 books, since it's a book prize (though possibly some authors might have entered more than one title ...)).
       The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates through four different genres (poetry, drama, kids' stuff, and prose fiction) -- and they're finally back to the one that counts, which Chika Unigwe won in 2013 -- as she: "beat 213 authors to the prize". (Interesting that there were considerably more entries (entrants) last time around.) Last year was the kid-lit turn, but they didn't find anything was deserving of the prize.
       While this prize will pay out in US dollars (if they award it ...), there's also a literary criticism prize ("open to literary critics from all over the world") which only pays out in local currency -- and while NGN 1,000,000 might sound good, well, it's only about US$5000. Even more depressingly, Osagie reports that they got all of ... two entries for the prize.

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25. Mario Bellatin Q & A

       At Sampsonia Way they now have a transcript of a Q & A with Beauty Salon-author Mario Bellatin.

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