The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Long-List

Another day, another fiction prize longlist.  Are you getting tired of my posting these?  For me they’ve been a great (and easy) resource for books that have been translated into English, as well as what’s been going on in foreign fic in general, over the past year that it seemed a shame not to share information.

This particular list of 15 books was published on March 9th.  The Independent is a UK newspaper.  Its Foreign Fiction Prize has been around since 2001 and was designed “to honor contemporary fiction in translation in the United Kingdom”.  I learned about it from SavidgeReads & GavReads on The Readers podcast.  What got my attention was the inclusion of two books I missed from the Best Translated Book Award – Sjón From the Mouth of the Whale and Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery.  (To be fair, I don’t think the Sjón novel was published in the U.S.).

  • Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfed (translated from Hebrew by Jeffrey M. Green)
  • Seven Houses in France by Bernardo Atxaga (translated from Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa)
  • The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco (translated from Italian by Richard Dixon)
  • Hate: a romance byTristan Garcia (translated from French by Marion Duvert & Lorin Stein)
  • Alice by Judith Hermann (translated from German by Margot Bettauer Dembo)
  • New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani (translated from Italian by Judith Landry)
  • 1Q84: Books 1 & 2 by Haruki Murakami (translated from Japanese by Jay Rubin)
  • Parallel Stories by Peter Nadas (translated from Hungarian by Imre Goldstein)
  • Scenes from Village Life by Amos Oz (translated from Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange)
  • Next World Novella by Matthias Politycki (translated from German by Anthea Bell)
  • The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg (translated from Swedish by Sarah Death)
  • Please Look After Mother by Kyung-sook Shin(translated from Korean by Chi-Young Kim)
  • From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón (translated from Icelandic by Victoria Cribb)
  • Professor Andersen’s Night by Dag Solstad (translated from Norwegian by Agnes Scott Langeland)
  • Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke (translated from Chinese by Cindy Carter)

I keep hearing good things about New Finnish Grammar, so that’s one that will definitely be going on my TBR list.  Have you read any of the longlist-ers that you recommend (or not)?

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Rule, Britannia!

The Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II were officially inaugurated in the UK last month.   It’s the centennial of Charles Dickens birth.  Plus, the 2012 Orange Prize Longlist will be announced on Thursday.

I’m feeling a bout of Anglophilia coming on!

And it just so happens that three books – all with connections back to the Isle of Albion – are coming out this Spring/Summer that I can’t wait to tell you about.  Too soon for the full reviews…so you’ll have to make do with teasers and the release dates (though I’m sure number 2 on my list will shock no one).

   The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen (available April, 2012).  This is a first novel for Grace McCleen – an author and singer/songwriter who lives in London, England.  It’s getting quite a bit of attention on both sides of the Atlantic. A 10-year-old narrator with a bully problem, a miniature town built from scraps and a mystical initiation of the End of Days: The Land of Decoration could be the Book Club read of the Summer.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (available May, 2012).  The sequel to Wolf Hall focuses on the downfall of Anne Boleyn and what it cost Thomas Cromwell to bring that about.    I love Mantel’s prose and have a bit of a crush on Cromwell, so I’m counting the days until I clasp those 432 pages in my grubby little hands.

City of Ravens: The Extraordinary History  of London, the Tower and its Famous Birds by Boria Sax (available July, 2012).  Legend has it that London will fall if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London.  Sax delves into the foundation of that story and a host of others about these enormous (and scary looking) black birds.

Have a book to add to the list?  A new release you’re looking forward to or an old favorite everyone should read?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Is This the Future of the Book Group? I sure hope so!

The Guardian posted an interesting article that I recommend taking a moment to read, particularly if you think of reading as a social activity (that’s what BookSexy is all about!).  The author was invited to take part in a Book Swap.  He and another writer were instructed to bring along a book to discuss, and eventually swap, with the audience.  The creative mind behind this is Scott Pack, described as one of the mavericks of the British book trade. He hosted the first event in his hometown and according to the article it was incredibly successful at creating a lively discussion/exchange between the attendees.

Pack’s idea is that a  Book Swap would be an alternative to literary festivals or author book tours.   But I could easily imagine swaps taking the place of the ubiquitous book clubs that have started to become a bit stagnant in my opinion.  Whereas I could see a swap being attractive to a more diverse audience – younger, hipper, both men and women – rather than niche groups interested in only the one author, genre or book that these events usually feature.

Here are a few benefits I see of a Book Swap over a traditional Book Club:

  • Rather than reading a specific title, you could pick a theme for the meet-up: works by a specific author, from a specific time period,  hold a poetry or art book night, bring along your favorite Pulitzer Prize winner, etc.
  • Let’s face it, everyone’s free time is limited these days. The beauty of a book swap is that no one will be obligated to read a  book that they are not interested in.  Even if someone is having a particularly hectic month, they can still take part with a book they’d read in the past.
  • The group wouldn’t be dependent on the same people showing up for every meeting. Attendance at the prior event wouldn’t be necessary, so swapping people in and out wouldn’t be disruptive
  • The atmosphere would be more cocktail party and less AA meeting.  The added bonus is it makes it more difficult for that one person (you know who I mean) to take over the floor and use the get together as their own personal therapy session.

Click here for a description of the original event hosted at a renovated & re-purposed fire station in Pack’s hometown. It gives a glimpse into his intentions and pointers on how to put together an invitation/advertisement to hold your own.

And because I want to give credit for a fabulous idea where credit is due, here is a link to Scott Pack’s blog.

The Magic of Podcasts (Redux)

The next best thing to reading a book is reading about books. Fact. But let’s face it: there are only so many hours in the day. Thankfully there are the Podcasts. (Seriously, what is sexier than an Ipod?) I subscribe to a few different ones on a variety of topics. Below are a few of my favorite literary podcasts. Needless to say (we are in a recession) they’re all free to download.

The Penguin Podcast – Beware! There are both British & American versions. My personal favorite is the British and it’s not just because of the nifty accent. Its has been a great source for new books and authors that haven’t yet made the leap across the pond. Luckily, even we Yanks can order from AmazonUK. All the books featured are published by Penguin (and eventually its American affiliates). Additional value comes from good quality production, entertaining readings by the authors and rather catchy music mixes featuring quotes from books in the Penguin library. Average time: 15 minutes per episode, with new episodes about 1-2 times a month (though lately they seem to be updating less).

Slate Audio Book club – Young, terminally hip and bordering on unacceptably smug… this podcast conforms to the Slate brand identity. The NYC group of three usually discusses a book that falls squarely into the critically acclaimed bestseller category. (Lately they’ve been reading a lot of recently deceased authors such as Updike and Wallace). Keep in mind that this is a discussion group, not a reading and not a review, so major plot points are revealed. There’s the added frustration of listening to people express opinions you don’t agree with and can’t respond to. On the plus side, it’s always informative, and a great resource for current fiction and non-fiction. Each episode lasts 1 hour.

World Book Club (The BBC) – I love the BBC (that accent again). This podcast features author interviews done in front of a live audience – doing a quick question and answer with the host and then taking audience, call in and emailed questions from readers. The authors featured are always at the top of their game. Toni Morrison, David Guterson, Iain Banks, Armistead Maupin and Michael Ondaatje are some examples. Overall the podcast is very entertaining, informative, with the added bonus of hearing the audiences’ responses, laughter and applause. Each episode lasts approximately 1 hour.

KCRW Bookworm – This is National Public Radio – kickin’ it OLD SCHOOL! Here is your chance to experience the classic author interview, done by an erudite NPR host. Expect obscure questions and inferences into the text that even the author has trouble following. Marvel at the strange emotional intonations and inappropriate pauses for emphasis as the interviewer goes on lengthy tangents that no one understands. And always expect to be faced with the age old question – who is REALLY the expert on this book? – The author or the NPR host/critic? Bookworm is a weekly radio program (more of an institution) out of California, so scheduling is consistent, shows 1 hour in length, and features a steady stream of relevant & established contemporary authors.

Short Stories (for those awful and unfortunate times when you can’t read):

The New Yorker: Fiction – The podcast features short stories from the archives of the New Yorker. The stories are guaranteed to be well written and well read. The stories are selected and read by a contemporary figure (writers, actors) – and always feature an insightful (or at least interesting) interview as to why the story was chosen. Each episode averages about a ½ hour, and they come out monthly. These are great on headset for doing chores, running errands, walking the dog or commuting to work.

PRI: Selected Shorts – Fabulous reading from members of the American Theater at the NY Symphony Space (broadcast by NY Public Radio). Each episode lasts about 1 hour and consists of a variety of short readings. One program I listened to included a short story by Kate Chopin, Mark Twain, a fairy tale and readings from Capote letters. The readers are equally as impressive, featuring the likes of John Lithgow (my personal favorite). Recommend listening while making dinner.