Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Building Devoted to Literature Wins top Architecture Prize
The Museum of Modern Literatue in southern Germany has won the prestigious Stirling Architecture Prize for outstanding achievement in design, reports Deutshe-Welle.
The site, completed in 2006, contains
"more than 1,300 objects, including letters, documents and personal items from famous 20th century authors, are on exhibit at the museum. Friedrich Nietzsche's death mask and original manuscripts by Franz Kafka and Alfred Doblin," reports, DW. The building won praise for its "simultaneously rich and restrained" design, achieved on a budget of 12 million Euros. ($17 million).
Nobel in Literature to be Announced Thursday
The news agency Agence-France Presse reports that Sweden's Nobel Prize committee has announced the date the Literature Prize will be announced -- Thursday, October 11. The Nobel Prize in Literature is bestowed in recognition of excellence of a writer's body of work. Past winners include the Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez and American Toni Morrison (1993).
The Nobel committee keeps its nominees secret, but rumors say that American Philip Roth and Haruki Murakami from Japan are front-runners.
Meanwhile, the online betting site Ladbrokes, which correctly predicted last year's winner, Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, has Italian Claudio Magris in the top spot with 5-to-1 odds.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

In Translation: The Transformation of Natsuo Kirino's Grotesque
Back in May, Grotesque, the second novel to be translated into English by the prolific Japanese writer Natuso Kirino hit bookstores. Almost immediately, rumors arose that the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf had done more than translate it -- cyberspace book geeks trembled with outrage at the news that the holiest of holies had been tampered with -- the ending been changed from the original version. The rumor inspired plenty of outrage and incredulity from yours truly, so I decided to check it out.
A cursory investigation confirmed that changes were made through an interview that the author did during an appearance to promote the book in California. She didn't elaborate too much, except to say that the changes were made to make the book understandable to U.S. readers.
Emails to Kirino went unanswered, so I contacted Knopf, who agreed to have the book's editor, Lexy Bloom. answer my questions about the translation via email. Below, is our enlightening exchange, slightly edited for length and clarity.
Is it true that the American edition of Grotesque was changed from the Japanese original?
Yes, there were editorial changes made to the English-language edition (published in the US, Canada, and the UK).
Were there changes throughout the book or was it just the end as I have read elsewhere)?
Once Grotesque was translated from the Japanese to English, we felt that the novel was, at points, digressive in nature and overly long. The author, agent, translator, publishers and I agreed that it needed further editorial work prior to publication in English.
With complete approval from the author and translator, I undertook a series of editorial cuts on which the author fully gave her permission. Knopf would never publish a book without approval from the author on any editorial changes.
Why the ending?
In Japanese - a language I do not read - the ending was rendered in an almost fantastical way - it was not meant to appear real. In English, the literal translation rendered these events as entirely realistic. I suggested to the author and translator that the best way to convey the fantastical tone of the ending and get to the same endpoint was to adjust it in the manner that you've read in our edition. The author agreed.
Was the plot/story changed? Was the style changed?
The style remains 100% pure Kirino - deliciously twisted, dark, deeply insightful into the meanings of beauty, cruelty and violence. As for the story, there were no cuts that dramatically altered the storyline; rather we feel they helped bring out what was at the heart of the story, deleting scenes or aspects that were otherwise confusing or distracting.
How often does this happen with books translated into English?
It's not at all uncommon. This happens in every language, not just English -- when our authors are translated into other languages, we get requests for cuts and changes which we pass to our authors for their input and approval (or not, as the case may be) and we make sure the author and translator are in direct touch about it.
Many readers believe that changing the narrative in any way for a specific audience compromises the writer's artistic integrity, not to mention the work itself. What is your response to this?
Were an author to disapprove of any of the cuts I suggested, I would never make them. I would cancel a book contract before I would publish a book with significant changes that the author did not approve. In the case of Grotesque, the author and I underwent a normal editorial process -with the additional help of trusty interpreters and translators - to collectively come up with what we all feel is the best possible English-language edition of the book. This is, at heart, an artistic process and one that I feel heightens artistic integrity, rather than compromises it. I am heartened by such enthusiastic and inquisitive responses from readers about Kirino's work. She's an author I truly believe in - I think her approach to contemporary social issues in Japan is visionary, and that she writes like no one else. In an era where only 3% of books published in the US are translations, a dialogue like this one - where readers care passionately about the content of a Japanese writer's book - is thrilling to me.
Next spring we'll publish another of Kirino's novels, called What Remained, and there are two more, Real World and Metabola, scheduled for the future. I hope all of Kirino's fans will keep reading.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

You Can Take it With You -- Digitally
Yesterday Sony unveiled the new version of its Reader, which at $300 stores up to 160 books as well as pdfs and Word documents. Available in sleek silver or dark blue, the redesigned e-library weighs just nine ounces (without a cover), sports a six-inch high-res display using "E-ink" technology which looks like paper and is readable even in bright sunshine. The text can be enlarged or reduced, the page view can be set to portrait (pictured) or landscape, and it promises a 180-degree viewing angle.
The Reader's battery life has also improved, promising 7500 page views per battery charge.
And if 160 books isn't enough for you, there's a memory slot so you can add even more by logging on to Sony's own Connect ebookstore, which has over 16,000 titles available. And you can get your classics for free from
And the company is offering buyers a certificate for 100 free ebooks from Connect, mostly classics.
Imagine that, no more lugging paperbacks on vacation. No more tattered covers, broken spines or dusty old editions...wahhhh! But seriously folks, anything that makes reading easier, more enjoyable and accessible does it for me. Just in time for that letter to Santa, too...

Friday, September 28, 2007

British Library to Digitize Unavailable Books
In an inevitable move, the venerable
British Library announced that it will digitize 18th and 19th-century works that have been out of print and unavailable to the public for centuries, reports the BBC. When the scanning gets underway, up to 50,000 pages per day will be digitized, adding an untold amount of pages for scholars and fans to study and peruse.
The first 25 million pages are expected to take two years to complete, comments the
The books will be fully text-searchable.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Did He or Didn't He?
Polish Novelist gets 25 years for Murder by the Book -- His Book

Krystian Bala wrote Amok in 2003. In it he describes the murder of a woman who is tortured, starved, beaten and hog-tied. Soon after it's publication police in Wroclaw, Poland received an anonymous tip urging them to check out the similarities between the murder in the book and the murder of local businessman Dariusz Janiszewski, a cold case from 2000.
Indeed, Janiszewski was found tied up, beaten, tortured and there was evidence of starvation.
Despite almost having the case dropped for lack of evidence again, Polish police doggedly put together a strong case of circumstantial evidence including the motive: that Bala suspected his wife of having an affair with the businessman and that the dead man's phone was sold by him on an Internet auction site.
Bala has maintained his innocence throughout to no avail. The evidence gathered gives sufficient basis to say that Krystian Bala committed the crime of leading the killing of Dariusz Janiszewski," Judge Lidia Hojenska said. "He was the initiator of the murder; his role was leading and planning it."
He was sentenced yesterday to 25 years in prison.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bronte Blasphemy
Casting of Biopic Spurs Outrage in Cannes

Williams as Emily; Wood as Anne; Howard as Charlotte

From the Cannes Film Festival comes the news that British director Charles Sturridge (Brideshead Revisited) plans a biopic of the Bronte sisters, which come to think of it, is long overdue. But Sturridge has stirred up horror in the film community with his casting. Oscar-winner Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain) will play Charlotte, author of Jane Eyre and Villette; Bryce Dallas Howard (Lady in the Water, Spiderman 3) will play Emily, author of Wuthering Heights; and Evan Rachel Wood (Running with Scissors) will play Anne, author of The Tenant of Wildfeld Hall. Besides the fact that the actresses are all American, the Brits (and some Yanks too) fear what such lives of genius will become in the hands of three actresses who have yet to play in a period film, never mind speak with the particular Yorkshire accent. Just to keep things interesting, the broodingly intense Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Matchpoint) will play their brother, Branwell Bronte, reports IMDB.
The Daily Telegraph's literary editor Michael Prodger wrote, "There must be lots of talented Yorkshire actresses who could play the three Brontes. It does seem a slightly bizarre choice." The film, already in production will be in theaters in 2009.
The Bronte Sisters (above) in a portrait
by their brother Branwell circa 1834..
L to R : Anne, Emily and Charlotte