Tag Archives: world literature

The trouble with prizes and translation

(From Asymptote Journal. Link to the complete article given below)

If you love reading fiction by writers from around the globe, you are used to hearing about the big prizes that put international literature in the spotlight: the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Man Booker International, the Caine Prize, the Prix Goncourt, the German Book Prize, the Cervantes Prize, the Tanazaki Prize, and many others.

In fact, you might even have trouble keeping up with the variety of United States–based awards just for literature in translation, from the Best Translated Book Award (now eleven years old) to the National Book Award’s new Translated Literature category. It’s getting to be like following the Olympics, without all the fuss over new stadium construction. For one thing, winning books, like medal-bedecked Olympians, don’t get to the podium all by themselves. Winners need a team (and a coach and money) behind them. For another, we know that lots of great contenders don’t make it to the final round.

So what should we know about book prizes as we are reading the shortlisted candidates or hoping for a win for one of our favorite writers?

First of all, many of the biggest prizes aren’t simply a competition among books. With the exception of those giving awards for lifetime achievement, prize committees aren’t out scouring the shelves for great literature, they’re reviewing submitted books. Publishers, usually from the country where the prize is awarded, submit those books. The publishers actually do the first round of selection simply by choosing the prizes they will submit for, and then selecting books they think have a chance of winning.

If that sounds easy, think of the small presses weighing the cost of their time for the submission process, maybe even paying a submission fee, and shipping off multiple free copies (often presses have to supply a bound copy for each member of the prize committee) year after year. They may even have to commit to attend the award ceremony at their own expense, just to watch another publisher’s submission win the prize. A look at the 2017 finalists for the National Book Award shows, for example, a book by the small independent Graywolf Press alongside those from much larger Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Grand Central, a Hachette imprint, and Knopf Doubleday, itself a division of the international behemoth Penguin Random House. When you compare the financial and marketing resources these big publishers have behind them, it seems like a daunting David vs. Goliath competition for smaller presses to enter. Of course, it is worth all the trouble when you win.

Read more at this Asymptote Journal link

New Palestinian literature examines exile, memory and nostalgia

Words Without Borders, the widely-respected magazine of world literature in translation, has devoted its May 2015 edition to new writing from Palestine.

As the blurb for the special edition emphasizes, the “eight young authors here work in multiple languages and hail from five continents, testifying to Palestinian literature’s vast thematic, stylistic, and linguistic range.” Read more

Sinologist calls for improving translation of Chinese literature

Less-qualified translation and less attention from Western publishers have made the Chinese literature less acknowledged as the world literature, a sinologist said in a recent interview.

Goran Malmqvist, a sinologist and Emeritus Professor at Stockholm University, told the LSE SU China Development Forum here on Saturday that the Chinese literature is less acknowledged as the world literature, though it was developed and matured earlier than that of the Western countries. Read more

Indian writers’ focus on personal agonies denies them place in world literature, says novelist Sethu

Lack of profound experiences and harsh realities like war and mass exodus are forcing regional writers in India to hold on to themes like personal agonies and dilemmas in their works, eminent Malayalam novelist Sethu observed. The choice of such themes deny them a place in world literature as Indian writers are often forced to harp on personal sorrows, Sethu said here last evening on the sidelines of the release of the English translation of his short story collection A Guest for Arundhati and other stories. Read more

UK: New literature festival planned for Bradford

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Syima Aslam and Irna Qureshi, organising the Bradford Literature Festival after it received funding from the Arts Council.

Syima Aslam and Irna Qureshi, organising the Bradford Literature Festival after it received funding from the Arts Council: Telegraph & Argus

A new literature festival for Bradford aims to be the first in the UK to champion world literature and British writing on an equal footing.

The Bradford Literature Festival is being set up by two local bookworms who believed the city deserved its own festival to rival those in Hay-on-Wye and Edinburgh. Read more

Palfest: Who represents whom in literature?

This year’s Palfest raises important questions of the politics of literary representation: Aljazeera

palfest_finalOn the opening night of the sixth Palestine Festival of Literature (PalFest) in Ramallah, an impassioned controversy broke out over the political correctness of literary and cultural representations of Palestinians in world literature. The renowned Danish writer Hanne-Vibeke Holst read an excerpt from her 2011 novel, Undskyldningen (The Apology), which injects a Palestinian turned suicide bomber, Khalil, into a rocky relationship between a liberal mother, Helena Tholstrup, and her daughter Sophie. Holst had not finished reading when some members of audience audibly made it clear that such images are offensive and outrageous. Read more

The global expansion of immigrant literature

Cologne is not the capital of the literary world. But this week, it’s been a hub for many of the world’s greatest authors. Renowned critic Sigrid Löffler explains to DW the significance of ‘new world literature.’ – DW

Salman_RushdieLit.Cologne, which closes on March 22, is one of Germany’s largest literature festivals. Readings and discussions take place over 10 days in theaters and concert halls, bookstores and churches across the city on the Rhine River. Based on the number of sold-out events, it seems that Germany is into books – and into talking about them. Read more

Is World Literature a wholesome idea?

It’s hard not to be suspicious of anything as wholesome as World Literature. The word literature itself has come to sound fake. Is there something the addition of world is making up for, a blemish it’s trying to conceal?: n+1

World Literature certainly sounds like a nice idea. A literature truly global in scope ought to enlarge readers’ sympathies and explode local prejudices, releasing us from the clammy cells of provincialism to roam, in imagination, with people in faraway places and times. The aim is unimpeachable. Accordingly, nobody says a word against it at the humanities department conclaves, international book festivals, or lit-mag panel discussions where World Literature is invoked. People writing and reading in different languages (even if one language, English, predominates) about different histories and cultures and ideas: who could be against that? Read more

Hay Dhaka: “Is There a World Literature?”

Pankaj Mishra

Pankaj Mishra

Pankaj Mishra and Eliot Weinberger discuss world literature at Hay Festival, Dhaka: The Daily Star

While the lawns of Bangla Academy soaked in the early winter sun’s glory, curtains to the Hay Festival rose with an insightful session, titled “Is there a World Literature?”, featuring Pankaj Mishra and Eliot Weinberger. K Anis Ahmed welcomed the audience to the first session of the day, right after the inaugural. Read more