While we have been struggling with the various problems we face such as climate change, Putin and his nasty little war, supply chain issues, inflation, SCOTUS, Trump (possibly) resurgent and, here in the UK, the disaster of Brexit and having the worst prime minister in British history replaced by an even worse prime minister, spare a thought for the publishing industry. No I am not talking about the failed PRH-S&S merger but about supply chain issues, particularly that of paper. See, for example, this article and this one.
Quite a few of the books that publishers have kindly sent me for review have been delayed, often more than once for this reason. In some cases, publishers have published ebook versions well ahead of the print version, instead of the other way round, which had often been the normal practice. They and I are well aware that many people do prefer the print version but needs must. Let’s hope that the situation improves next year, though I am not optimistic.
The other issue I wish to raise may be more contentious. I am seeing more and more in translations into English (which is what I read most) a variety of solecisms. Most of these seem to have come from the US but have now permeated the UK and are just as common here. I am well aware that when solecisms become standard they cease to be solecisms but part of normal speech and I am also well aware when writing/translating dialogue the writer/translator has to reflect what the speaker might say and if the speaker uses solecisms then they must be translated accordingly . My concern, however, is that these solecisms are used in standard, non-dialogue text. There are many but I am going to focus on four.
1. Bring for take.
This is now ubiquitous, particularly in US texts. It is quite simple really. Bring means to move someone/something towards the speaker while take means to move someone/something away from the speaker. However more and more I am seeing phrases like he brought his mother to the shops. No he did not. He took her to the shops. Another example: he was determined to bring her away from this place. No he was not. He was determined to take her away. These are actual examples though somewhat disguised so as not to identify the translator. Surely schools teach the difference between the two.
2. different than
Than, according to Wikipedia, introduces a comparison and is associated with comparatives and with words such as more, less, and fewer. In other words bigger than and more famous than but not different than. It is different from or, at a pinch, different to.
3. I as object pronoun
This is the ubiquitous between you and I or Fred told my wife and I…. Would you say Fred told I? I hope not. So it is between you and me, Fred told my wife and me.
4. comparative/superlative of adverb-adjective compounds
This is the all too common more well-known and the like , with or without the hyphen. More governs well, not known, with or without the hyphen, so it is better-known.
There are, sadly, others, but I should get enough flaming just for these so I will leave it there.
I have read fewer books this year for a variety of reasons I will not bore you with.
Last year I read 141 but this year only 103.
Norway was my country for my annual reading marathon and, as I read four other Norwegian books that means Norway tops the list with twenty-four, which may be a record.
Other multiple countries: Russia (nine, England (five), Hungary (five), Japan (five), Mexico (five), Ukraine (five),Catalonia (four), Germany (four), USA (four)China (three), Spain (three). Less well-represented nationalities include Bulgaria, Cuba, Dagestan, Croatia, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia and Venezuela.
Putinphobes, which , I hope, we all are, may be horrified that Russian ends up in second place but I can assure you that it was pure coincidence and I can assure you that some of those writers are no more Putinphiles than you or I. One person, however, who may well be horrified is Oleksandr Tkachenko, Ukraine’s Minister of Culture who wrote this article calling on us to (temporarily) cancel Russian culture. While I fully sympathise with him and totally abhor how Russia has tried to destroy Ukrainian culture should we really “pause” performances of Tchaikovsky? While I think it is quite likely that Tchaikovsky would have supported Putin and some of his music is definitely martial, we cannot really judge his political views the same way we might judge the views of a contemporary. I, for one, will continue to read Russian books, though certainly not actively seek them out and definitely avoid any author who is known to be a keen supporter of Putin. I shall also, of course, read Ukrainian novels.
In terms of languages the books i read were originally written in the order was : Norwegian (twenty-four), English (fifteen), Russian (twelve), Spanish (ten), (German (seven), Hungarian (five), Japanese (five), Arabic (four), Catalan (four), Chinese (three), French (three).
There were thirty-three women authors, representing just under a third of the total.
New (to me) publishers included Die Brotsuppe, Dufour, Jnana, Seal Press/Journeyman, Stone Bridge, Turtle Point, Unbound and White Rabbit.
I read 28093 pages (far fewer than last year) making an average of 272 pages per book, also fewer than last year.
As always. I shall not name a book of the year but indicate several I particularly enjoyed but, unusually, I shall name a publisher of the year. Dalkey Archive Press could be the publisher of the year any year but this year they have certainly excelled themselves, almost publishing three major literary masterpieces. The first two I had previously read in other languages but it it is really good to see them in English.
If you follow The Untranslated – and if you do not, you really should – you will be aware that he has been promoting the work of the Romanian writer Mircea Cărtărescu and, in particular his great novel Solenoid. This had been translated into various European languages – I read it in French – but is now available in English from Dalkey Archive Press in Sean Cotter’s translation.
The third is actually not published till March 2023 in print format but will be available in ebook format before that. It is the almost mentioned above as it was originally scheduled for publication this year. Miquel de Palol is another writer promoted by the Untranslated and, thanks to him, de Palol’s work El jardí dels set crepuscles (The Garden of Seven Twilights) has now been translated (by Adrian Nathan West) and will be published by Dalkey Archive Press. All three of these works are long and while quite readable (no) Finnegans Wake here), they are not something that you will polish off in a couple of afternoons but require commitment. In the case of all three, it will be well worth it so rush out and buy them. Thanks to Chad Post Will Evans and all at Dalkey Archive and the three translators for making them available in English and to Andrei (The Untranslated) for promoting them. For those of us who love literature from other parts of the world, this has been a golden year.
Dalkey also published this year Vladimir Sorokin‘s Сердца Четырех (Their Four Hearts), translated by Max Daniel Lawton, who also translated Sorokin’s Теллурия (Telluria) published by NYRB. Expect to see more Sorokin next year. It is safe to say that Sorokin and Putin are not friends. Also from Dalkey I read Sergey Kuznetsov‘s Хоровод воды (The Round Dance of Water) which I very much enjoyed but which seems to have had very little traction. Given that Kuznetsov has been critical of Putin’s stance on homosexuality, I very much doubt if he and Putin are friends.
And, yes Dalkey also publishes Jon Fosse (Fitzcarraldo publishes him in the UK) and I read the three novels of his published in English that I had not read. He should have won the Nobel Prize. Maybe next year?
Yes, there were lots of other worthy publishers whose books I read this year. I read two or more books from And Other Stories, Archipelago, Contramundum, Dedalus, Deep Vellum, Europa, Fitzcarraldo, Fum d’Estampa, New Directions, New Vessel Press, Peter Owen and Seagull, and one book from several worthy publishers. A few random highlights:
I struggled through Miklós Szentkuthy‘sPrae 1 and Prae 2. Apart from the length (some 1500 pages) it was difficult. Like Finnegans Wake it clearly is a great work and deserves to be better-known and, now it is available in English, it hopefully will be. The first volume was translated by the late Tim Wilkinson and the second one by Erika Mihálycsa.
I have been meaning to read Galician novelist Manuel Rivas for some time – several of his works are available in English – so I was glad to read O último día de Terranova (The Last Days of Terranova), translated by Jacob Rogers, which I did enjoy. I hope to read more of his works in the not too distant future.
And while I am on Archipelago, who published the Rivas novel, I must mention their publication of Hermann Bürger‘s Brenner Part 1 Brunsleben (Brenner) which I very much enjoyed. It was translated by Adrian Nathan West who also translated El jardí dels set crepuscles (The Garden of Seven Twilights) mentioned above. I think I can declare him my translator of the year.
Sylvie Germain was one of the many writers I had long been planning to read and was very glad to read Dedalus’ republication of her Jours de colère (Days of Anger), translated by Christine Donougher. I described it as Gothic Greek tragedy. The fact that French students did not like it added to its appeal.
And while we are on the slightly odd, I was glad to have discovered Hiroko Oyamada. I read two of her books both short and yes, they were slightly odd and thoroughly enjoyable.
László Krasznahorkai is a writer I have been planning to read more of and I managed three of his works this year. I particularly enjoyed the book with the longest title – Északról hegy, Délről tó, Nyugatról utak, Keletről folyó (A Mountain to the North, a Lake to the South, Paths to the West, a River to the East), translated by Ottilie Mulzet, but the other two – Az ellenállás melankóliája (The Melancholy of Resistance), (translated by George Szirtes) and Aprómunka egy palotaért (Spadework for a Palace) (translated by John Batki) – were also excellent. The Oyamadas and Krasznahorkais were all from New Directions, another top publisher.
Andrey Kurkov has become something of a symbol of the resistance to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as he regularly tweets and comments on Putin’s horrible war. This year saw the publication of his recent novel Серые пчелы (Grey Bees). I can safely say that more of my friends and relatives have read this book than any other on my website and all loved it, including me. And, yes, I bought extra copies for various people.
If you wondered about the publisher Die Brotsuppe mentioned above, this was one of the few books I read that is not available in English – Erlend O. Nødtvedt‘s Vestlandet [Westland], a wonderful road novel, with two colourful characters carrying a skull to bury it in its rightful place and their adventures. I read it in German thanks to the German translator, Matthias Friedrich. I hope it makes it into English but I am not optimistic.
I could go through most of the books as I enjoyed virtually all of them – the two new works by the now ninety-year old Cormac McCarthy; another 1930 novel – Yuri Felsen‘s Обман (Deceit), translated by Bryan Karetnyk, from a publisher new to me, Protoype; Najwa Barakat‘s مستر نون (Mister N), translated by Luke Leafgren, from And Other Stories, another excellent publisher; the always superb Esther Kinsky and her Rombo (Rombo), translated by Caroline Schmidt, from the always excellent Fitzcarraldo (publisher of four Nobel Prize Winners) and Sonallah Ibrahim‘s العمامة والقبعة (The Turban and the Hat), translated by Bruce Fudge from the always top-quality Seagull. I could add several more but I will leave it that. However, everything I read this year is worth reading.
Inevitably, lots of writers died this year. The following writers on my website all sadly died this year: Walter Abish, Sergio Chejfec, Lygia Fagundes Telles, Déwé Gorodé, David Ireland, F Sionil José, Raffaele La Capria, George Lamming, Rosetta Loy, Hilary Mantel, Javier Marías, Iraj Pezeshkzad, Nélida Piñon and Zigmunds Skujiņš.
Though not on my website, I will mention two others who died this year: I have never read Doris Grumbach but I did meet her a couple of times in her bookshop in Maryland and an excellent bookshop it was.
Jean-Luc Godard was, of course, a film director but in my younger days, I saw every one of his films and they made a huge impression on me.
Last year I commented: There are three books mentioned here: Javier Marías‘ Tomás Nevinson, Mohamed Mbougar Sarr‘s La Plus Secrète Mémoire des hommes [The Most Secret Memory of Men] and Michel Houellebecq‘s new novel Anéantir [Annihilate]– all of which are certain to be translated into English but, to date, there is no sign of them appearing in translation into English. Guess what? They are still not out in English! The Marías should be out in May next year and the othe two have vague dates but nothing definite for next year. You can, of course, read the Houellebecq in Catalan, Danish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Spanish and Swedish, the Marías in Dutch, German and Italian and the Mbougar Sarr in Dutch, German, Italian, Korean, Spanish and Swedish.
I wish you a Putin-free 2023 and good reading.