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<<May 2015>>
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Viewing Blog: the Literary Saloon, Most Recent at Top
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1. Read Russia Prize shortlist

       They've announced the Read Russia Prize shortlist, 'Celebrating the best translations of Russian literature' (into English).
       The two new Anna Karenina translations (by Rosamund Bartlett and by Marian Schwartz) both make the cut, as does Oliver Ready's (re)translation of Crime and Punishment. Among newer (or at least previously untranslated) works is Vladimir Sharov's Before and During (also by Ready; I have a copy and should get to it at some point) and Sergei Dovlatov's Pushkin Hills (a Best Translated Book Award finalist -- find out if it takes that prize on Wednesday !).
       See also Lisa Hayden Espenschade's comments at her Lizok's Bookshelf weblog.
       The winner will be announced 29 May, at The Grolier Club in New York.

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2. Heimrad-Bäcker-Preis

       The Heimrad-Bäcker-Preis is pretty small-time -- though actually the €8,000 in prize-money isn't bad (right there at Pulitzer/National Book Award level) -- apparently without its own website (nor one for the Interessengemeinschaft Heimrad Bäcker that awards the prize), but I think it's neat that the author and his wife used the apparently tidy sum he got for selling his archives to fund this prize (and a Förderpreis to go with it), to be awarded to an author writing in the spirit of Bäcker's edition neue texte, and so it seems well worth a mention that Monika Rincks will pick up this year's prize; see the (German) report at Salzburg24.
       Dalkey Archive Press admirably brought out Bäcker's fascinating transcript a few years ago.

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3. New The Manila Review

       Issue 6 of The Manila Review is now (partially ?) available at its (sigh) newly redsigned site.

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4. Censorship in translation in ... China

       PEN American Center has issued a report on 'Foreign Authors and the Challenge of Chinese Censorship': Censorship and Conscience (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       An interesting overview, with examples -- and author-reactions such as Paul Auster's:

The publisher, Shanghai 99 Readers, cut several pages describing Liu and his situation. In several other places, mentions of the dissident's name were replaced by "L." References to China were replaced by "Country C." Auster told PEN that he never signed off on the changes and feels his book was "mutilated." "Some limbs have been chopped off," Auster said.
       (The Chinese situation is, on the one hand extreme, but on the other also predictable -- really, writers should be aware that this might happen, especially regarding China-sensitive material. And I can't help but note that mutilation-in-translation is a near-universal practice (worse in some markets than others) -- albeit generally not due to government pressure, but rather largely publisher-initiated, as they want to 'fix' books for domestic consumption (in translation-into-English that often (but not only) means: abbreviate, as in cutting out chunks of the original); while authors are more often (though certainly not always) at least made aware of the changes that are made they generally have little choice in the matter -- and, in the case of translation-into-English, the prize (translation into English !) may seem big enough that they'll acquiesce to any gutting of their book the publisher deems fit. Disappointingly, consumers (readers) are largely left in the dark as to how a text has been (mal)treated in translation -- publishers rarely making mention of what they've done.
       My hope/wish with translation to and from any and all languages is always: fidelity to the original -- which, at the very least, should mean: no cuts, no substantive changes. Foreign-commercial/aesthetic judgments ('US readers won't get that; it has to be cut/changed') seem, at least in the end-effect, as reprehensible as politically motivated ones.)

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5. PalFest 2015

       PalFest -- the Palestine Festival of Literature -- has started, and runs through the 28th.

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6. Krasznahorkai's translators

       Krasznahorkai László was awarded the Man Booker International Prize earlier this week, and in The Guardian he writes about My hero: George Szirtes and my other translators, a nice little tribute to those who have helped spread the Krasznahorkai-word beyond Hungarian.

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7. Coe on Kundera

       With Milan Kundera's most recent work of fiction, The Festival of Insignificance, due out in English shortly -- see the Faber publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- Jonathan Coe considers How important is Milan Kundera today ? in The Guardian.
       Interesting that he doesn't bring up Kundera's language-switch -- from Czech to French (this, like his other recent novels was written in French; the popular stuff was written in Czech).
       I haven't seen this one, but he still seems a significant author -- and, of course, still has acolytes (Adam Thirlwell et al.).

       Only two of his books are under review at the complete review -- The Curtain and Identity -- along with François Ricard's Kundera-study, Agnès's Final Afternoon

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8. Ransmayr revival ?

       In the 1990s three works by Christoph Ransmayr came out in English -- all in John E. Woods' translation, which already says something -- but Grove Press notoriously overpaid for The Last World (it actually still sputters on in print just fine for a literary title, but it never came anywhere close to the advance-justifying blockbuster-sales-level) and even if that wasn't the last of the three, that seemed to signal a close to death-knell for the author in English. He shared the Aristeion Prize with Salman Rushdie in 1996 (the year before the prize went to future Nobel laureate Herta Müller; the year after, to Antonio Tabucchi, for his Sostiene Pereira ...), but, despite solid reviews, little more was heard from him in English.
       It shouldn't surprise that now, with a new title finally due out -- Atlas of an Anxious Man -- it's Seagull Books that is trying to bring him back to US/UK-attention; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- taking the kind of risks/challenges that none of the big US/UK houses seem to be willing to any longer (when it comes to literature in translation).
       Meanwhile, it's just out in French -- and in L'Express Jérôme Dupuis says: let's face it, "Christoph Ransmayr est un très grand écrivain".

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9. Translation pitching

       As part of European Literature Night, English PEN are having ELN VII: The Translation Pitch, and at PEN Atlas Rajendra Chitnis and Rosalind Harvey 'discuss their experiences of shortlisting for this year's ELN Translation Pitch event', in Lost and Found: Shortlisting for the European Literature Night Translation Pitch 2015.
       Interesting to get some background -- and the selected projects sounds pretty interesting. And I'm pleased/amused to note that I reviewed one of the finalists -- Разруха ('Ruin') by Vladimir Zarev (now being presented in Angela Rodel's translation) -- some six years ago.

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10. (Another) Mafhouz literary prize ?

       AUC Press have been awarding a Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature since 1996, and it has a good track record (with the winning titles translated into English).
       Now, apparently, as Ahram Online reports, Egypt might launch Naguib Mafhouz literary prize -- "an international literary prize named after Egyptian novelist and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz".
       With the ministry of culture doing the considering one has to wonder what kind of prize this might turn out to be -- state authorities rarely excel in the cultural-awards department (though there are exceptions -- see the Austrian State Prize for European Literature, for example). And the culture minister was consulting with Gamal El-Ghitany about this, so maybe they can come up with a decent concept.

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11. The Meursault Investigation review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kamel Daoud's The Meursault Investigation, due out soon from Other Press (in the US) and Oneworld Publications (UK).
       This variation-on-Camus (The Stranger/The Outsider (with a dash of The Fall, for good measure)) is surely one of the most-anticipated translations of the year -- and it will undoubtedly sell like hotcakes (and quickly become a college-course-staple). Racking up literary prizes left and right -- most recently: the prix Goncourt du Premier Roman -- this is bound to get a great deal of attention in the English-language press as well (beyond what's already out there, like Adam Shatz's recent profile in The New York Times Magazine).

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12. TTIP bookselling concerns

       At DeutscheWelle Kate Müser reports that: 'Germany's creatives are concerned that TTIP will knock culture off its pedestal of protection', in Chlorine concerts and butter books? TTIP tests Germany's cultural values, with protests scheduled for today, World Day for Cultural Diversity.
       TTIP (or T-TIP, as the Americans apparently prefer) is of course the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that the EU and the US are (trying to) negotiate -- and the Germans are concerned that it might also mean an end to fixed book-prices in Germany (booksellers are not allowed to discount books there, making for a level bookselling-field):

Since it currently does not apply to foreign publishers, it is feared that the TTIP would eliminate the practice if giant online booksellers and publishers like Amazon and Google lobby strongly enough.
       Helpfully, Müser notes:
The problem is, no one really knows what will happen.

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13. Prix Littérature-monde

       Two French international-book prizes will be handed out on Sunday at the Étonnants Voyageurs festival, the (French-language) prix Littérature-monde, which goes to Simone Schwartz-Bart's L'ancêtre en solitude, and the prix Littérature-monde étranger, which goes to Philipp Meyer's The Son.

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14. Man Booker International Prize

       They've announced that the 2015 Man Booker International Prize -- a biennial £60,000 prize, awarded to: "a living author for a body of work published either originally in English or available in translation in the English language" -- goes to the eminently worthy Krasznahorkai László (who has won the Best Translated Book Award two years running).
       He is splitting the the £15,000 translator's prize between two of his translators, George Szirtes and Ottilie Mulzet.
       The list of ten contenders for the prize was a very solid one, but there's little question that Krasznahorkai is deserving of the honor.

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15. RSL Ondaatje Prize

       They've announced that the 2015 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize -- a £10,000 prize for: "a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place" -- goes to Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood, by Justin Marozzi; see also the official press release (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       It's not under review at the complete review, but get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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16. NSW Premier's Literary Awards

       They've announced the 2015 (Australian) NSW Premier's Literary Awards, with the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-fiction-winning The Bush by Don Watson also taking Book of the Year, while the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction went to The Snow Kimono, by Mark Henshaw.
       There's also a NSW Premier's Prize for Translation, and this year it went to Brian Nelson, apparetnly for his translations of Zola.

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17. Disclaimer review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Renée Knight's debut thriller, Disclaimer, just out in the US.

       Do other languages not have a word for that front matter-boilerplate so common in English-language fiction publications ? The French opted to title this book Révélée -- fitting the story, but not this particular point -- while the Germans took that bizarre course of substituting a different English word: they're bringing the novel out as: Deadline. Which really doesn't work anywhere near as well.

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18. Dag Solstad profile

       At the Literary Hub Ane Farsethås writes at length about why Norway's Greatest Living Writer is Actually Dag Solstad .... Complete with a Peter Handke-endorsement !
       As long-time readers know, I've been a long-time fan -- and remain disappointed how little of his work has been translated into English. Here's hoping that Solstad-fever is just taking longer in catching on .....
       Four Solstad books are under review at the complete review:

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19. Jeanette Schocken Preis

       Today's German author-prize announcement -- and they really seem to announce one practically every other day, don't they ? -- is the biennial Jeanette Schocken Preis, the "Bremerhavener Bürgerpreis für Literatur", which this year goes to Gerhard Roth, taking special note of his novel Orkus (see the S.Fischer foreign rights page).
       At €7,500 it's not a huge cash-prize, but seems to be fairly prestigious; previous winners include: Louis Begley (1995), Kertész Imre (1997), Bei Dao (2005), and Esterházy Péter (2013).
       The only Roth title under review at the complete review is the autobiography of albert einstein, but several more of his works are also available in translation; Ariadne Press has borught out a few.

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20. Neustadt International Prize for Literature jury

       They've announced the jury for the 2016 Neustadt International Prize for Literature:

  • Alison Anderson
  • Porochista Khakpour
  • Valeria Luiselli
  • Amit Majmudar
  • Valzhyna Mort
  • Mukoma Wa Ngugi
  • Jordan Tannahill
  • Padma Viswanathan
  • Wang Ping
       The prize is unusual in that each juror selects one finalist for the prize -- they'll be announcing their selections 27 May --; they then decide on a winner when they convene in October at the Neustadt Festival. It's a nicely varied jury, so there should be an interesting group of contenders for the prize.

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21. The Folio Prize

       Prominent British literary prizes continue to have sponsorship issues: the latest to lose its sponsor is the The Folio Prize as, after a mere two years, as Sarah Shaffi reports in The Bookseller, Folio Society drops prize sponsorship.
       It seems like a fine prize-concept, so one hopes it'll continue in some form; a shame about the name (and URL: thefolioprize.com), as it's hard to establish much brand-recognition if you change your identity every two years .... Read the rest of this post

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22. Miles Franklin shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award, one of Australia's top book prizes.

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23. Anthony C. Yu (1938-2015)

       Via Paper Republic I learn of the passing of Anthony C. Yu, translator and scholar of religion and literature, 1938-2015.
       He is of course best known for his landmark translation of the Chinese classic, The Journey to the West; see the University of Chicago Press publicity page for volume one (of four), or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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24. Dubravka Ugrešić Q & A

       Issue six of Music & Literature is out, with some of the contents freely accessible online; see the impressive table of contents.
       The three authors championed in the issue are Alejandra Pizarnik, Victoria Polevá, and Dubravka Ugrešić -- and one of the accessible pieces is Daniel Medin's Q & A with her.

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25. Pedigree review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano's Pedigree: A Memoir, coming out in late August in the US, in Yale University Press' Margellos World Republic of Letters series, and in early September in the UK, from MacLehose Press.
       This is just one of several Modiano-works due out in English in the fall. Certainly a seminal text -- but familiarity with his work is probably useful in appreciating it. (Though arguably it doesn't really matter where you start -- there's so much overlap across his output.)

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