Random Updates: What I’m Reading, WIT Month Cometh, Summer Holiday Reading & Two Translation Awards Get Together

I’m currently enjoying The Brotherhood of Book Hunters by Raphaël Jerusalmy – a swashbuckling Alexander Dumas kind of tale translated from the French by Howard Curtis.  It’s completely charming!  The two main characters remind me quite a bit of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser.  Jerusalmy has taken what’s best about sword & sorcery fiction and moved it into a historical setting – 15th century France, Jerusalum & (perhaps, I haven’t gotten that far yet) Italy.  I’m not sure if he did it on purpose – this is where an introduction or translator’s note would be helpful – but the parallels are there all the same.

Have I mentioned lately how I wish more books included Introductions, Forwards, Afterwards & Translator’s Notes? Obviously not all at once – there wouldn’t be much room for an actual story – but any combination/variation of the above would be acceptable & is always appreciated.

August is Biblibio’s 2nd Annual Women In Translation Month  – I’m hoping to take a more active part this year and with that in mind I’ve been putting together a tentative list of books to read & review.  There was a link on Twitter this morning to the New  Yorker article “The True Glamour of Clarice Lispector” (am I the only one who is constantly thrown off by the similarity between “Lispector” and “Inspector”?)  It was written by Benjamin Moser – well, taken from an introduction Moser wrote to a New Directions collection of her work, to be exact.  Benjamin Moser also wrote a biography of Inspector Lispector (see!?).

I’m very interested in reading that biography, titled Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector, despite the fact that I still need to read anything by her. A deficiency I hope to correct soon. Thanks in a large part to New Directions the English translations of her work seem to be enjoying a well-deserved moment in the California sun. And from what I’ve heard about her books she seems to belong to The Club of Fierce Women Writers – members include Marie NDiaye, Naja Marie Aidt, Yoko Ogawa, Anne Garréta, & Therese Bohman (to name a few).  Women writers who aren’t afraid to leave it all on the page.

If you’re not already planning to take part in #WITM2015 follow this link to a great post listing FAQ’s & suggestions on ways to participate.  The only real requirement is to read women writers who’ve been translated into English.  And if you’d like some recommendations (or would like to leave some recommendations) feel free to use the comments section below.

More August News:  This year we’ve scheduled our Summer Holiday for the end of August and I’m already putting together a list of books to read poolside.  A solid seven days of uninterrupted reading time – bliss!  5 books seems to be a safe, and somewhat realistic, number.  Current contenders are:

  • War, So Much War by Mercè Rodoreda, tr. Maruxa Relaño & Martha Tennent
  • The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker, tr. Sam Taylor
  • Decoded by Mai Jia, tr. Olivia Milburn & Christopher Payne
  • A Clarice Lispector book & biography double-header
  • Hollow Heart by Viola Di Grado, tr. Antony Shugaar

Of course this list will change at least 12 times between now and then.  Not least because I don’t think the Viola De Grado book is going to last (i.e.- remain unread) until then.

By now everyone has heard that the Man Booker International Prize and the International Foreign Fiction Prize have joined forces… just when the Man Booker International Prize finally had a list that was actually interesting!  In my unsolicited opinion the whole thing seems like a step backwards for International & Translated Literature. The two prizes evaluated two entirely different things – the former celebrating an international author, the latter an individual book published within the same year.  Of course, now the translator will be recognized (obviously a good thing) .  And the Man Booker International Prize list is usually a huge disappointment.  But wasn’t it lovely seeing the likes of Mabanckou, Aira, Van Niekerk, Krasznahorkai, Condé & Ghosh all up for the same award in 2015?

Your thoughts?

7 thoughts on “Random Updates: What I’m Reading, WIT Month Cometh, Summer Holiday Reading & Two Translation Awards Get Together

  1. I am not sure what to make of the blending of the IFFP and the International Booker. This year’s Booker line-up was spectacular and recognizing a body of work rather than the criteria of “published in the UK in 20_” opens the field. It also has the potential of recognizing international writers who do write in English (in contrast to the past winners, what about an African or South Asian writer living in the west, the increasing number of emigrant writers who write “from the hyphen” as Sri Lankan-Canadian writer Shyam Selvadurai has put it. I shadowed the IFFP this year and there was a fair share of mediocre material there, works that may have been translated but had no “international” feel (that is they felt western in a generic way).

    So in other words, translation is not necessarily my measure for international (or worth reading). It is still something I love but for my money, the BTBA is the prize to follow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the BTBA as well, but I do think that like any other price it does have it’s limitations. The judges tend to focus on small presses and the overly esoteric – probably because those books get unfairly overlooked for so many other prizes.

      I do agree that after Down the Rabbit Hole the IFFP hasn’t impressed me either. And Man Booker International Prize lists prior to this year have been eh… Tim Parks has written quite a bit about the homogenization of literature and how more and more “international” writers are trying to write for the Western book market. He agrees with you, and so do I.

      The whole ‘writers who write “from the hyphen”‘ trend is very exciting, don’t you think? More & more of the writers I’ve fallen in love are the result of diaspora. Most of these still write in their original language & so still need to be translated.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My view on booker iffp is for the old iffp prize the rename and rebrand could work I’m the long run for uk publishers maybe having the booker name if promoted right could increase sales as the booker still just has a cache here .Now the old man booker prize never really took off poorly put across an international prize that four of the last five winners are English language writers really isn’t that international so sad to see it go maybe it might be brought back if new man booker gets established more a writer of the year would work .But I think some.else hit it on the head saying a book is more likely to capture people than a writer and the body of his work .How the new prize moves on is what matters

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Stu –

      “…a book is more likely to capture people than a writer and the body of his work” is probably true. And I know these prizes are meant to sell books. But this year’s Man Booker International list was such a fantastic list of authors – I know I’m being entirely biased – that I’m sad that there won’t be a next one equally as good.

      You’re right though – what they do with the new prize is really what matters. And it’s not like most of the past lists weren’t stacked with English language writers, or authors from the US, Canada, etc. at the cost of non-Western/non-English authors.That is the bright spot in all this: at least we won’t get any more patronizing “International” lists that included Alice Munro, Philip Roth, etc.


  3. I liked reading your plans for Women in Translation Month. I hope to read some Japanese authors myself, to coordinate with my Japanese Literature Challenge 9. But, one can never read enough translated literature, right? Hopefully there will be room for more! (Thanks for following my blog. It’s nice to “meet” you!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bellezza –

      Nice to meet you too. I’m sure I can find some interesting Japanese women writers to include! I’m already looking at Yuko Ogawa’s collection of short stories – The Diving Pool.


  4. Lots to enjoy here 🙂 Obviously, I’ve had my own say elsewhere about the IFFP/Booker affair, so I’ll leave that…

    ‘Hollow Heart’ was a great read, and I’m hoping to look at Lispector again at some point soon – oh, and I’ll be doing *lots* of posts for #WITMonth. Hope you enjoy your August reading 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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