ReadySteadyBlog

Before I rest up for the weekend, a coupla things to draw your attention to:


  • Steve provides us with "a selection that might be called The Best of This Space"
  • The Armies by Colombian writer Evelio Rosero, translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean, has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (as you know, I was judge, and I'm still scratching my head as to how come Dag Solstad's Novel 11, Book 18 wasn't even shortlisted!)
  • interviews over on The Book Depository site with historian Andy Beckett ("The British 70s are full of political surprisess if you make yourself look at them with fresh eyes... the Labour vote in the 1979 election actually went up, especially among wealthier voters -- the idea that the behaviour of the unions sent the electorate running screaming away from Labour is a myth...") and Thomas Traherne expert Denise Inge ("Readers with imagination fall for Traherne. He takes you on unexpected interior journeys into desire and lack, infinity, time and eternity. Reading him isn't always easy since the language of his day is so different from ours and his world view sometimes challenges the assumptions of our time, but he will thrill, surprise and exhaust you...")
  • a brief interview with Béla Tarr
  • trailer for new Godard film Socialisme

Now that the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is all but decided (see details about the shortlist here) I'm feeling the need to opinionate so, next week, I'll try to pick up the blogging baton again (not least because I want to write about the IFFP09 shortlist)...


In the meantime, Mr Mitchelmore is in superb form opinionating once again about Littell's The Kindly Ones:


The Kindly Ones is perhaps the first novel I have read and felt the need to write about before any hype kicked in. Had it been another, quieter publication, such as Tao Lin's Eeeee Eee Eeee or Thomas Glavinic's Night Work, then the review itself would have been enough. All three novels, however different and however removed from the vicious modernist circle familiar to this blog, prompted long attention because they opened a space making narrative possible, even necessary. Or, to put it another way, the space became palpable only through writing like this. Each review was an attempt to make this space clear and thereby to ease future readers into a different kind of reading than that practised elsewhere (more...)

Boyd Tonkin on this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize:


What advice would a seasoned observer of the British book market give to a publisher who, like some demented literary version of Mel Brooks in The Producers, wanted to release a novel that stood absolutely no chance of reaching the bestseller lists? Not a book with some faint glimmer of hope, mind you – but one doomed to hobble in among the stragglers? First, make sure that it's very long, complicated, sometimes eccentric and driven by a quixotic idealism. Second, guarantee that the author – little-known on these shores in any case – is safely dead. And last, make this cast-iron catastrophe a translation. Then retire to a bar and toast your fail-safe flop (more...)

Last Monday, Linda Grant, Kate Griffin, Fiona Sampson, Boyd Tonkin and I chose the 2009 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist. After hours of discussion, we came down to a list of sixteen:


FYI: the 2009 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist (of sixteen titles) will be announced next Wednesday! (Following this, the shortlist of six titles will be announced at the end of March, and the winner will be announced mid-April.)

As part of Jewish Book week, on Sunday March 1st at 2pm "Paul Verhaeghen and Boyd Tonkin discuss moral choices, writing history and translating one's own work into English." Verhaeghen, as you'll recall, won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize last year with "his extraordinary novel Omega Minor, an exploration of the world of Nazis and Neo-Nazis alike, the destructive logics of The Holocaust and the Bomb, truths that kill and lies that keep alive, passionate love and devouring lust. "

Thanks to Nigel Beale and D.G. Myers for responding to my question concerning what should be on a history of the novel reading list with long reading lists of their own. Both Nigel's and D.G.'s lists are very useful (and this bibliography from the University of Warwick has some good pointers too), but I'll compile one of my own here soon which is specifically just about the history of the novel itself. (For starters, my current Book of the Week, The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain: Volume 2, 1100 - 1400, would certainly be on it, as would Robert Mayer's excellent History and the Early English Novel and Nancy Armstrong's flawed engagement with Ian Watt, How Novels Think: The Limits Of Individualism From 1719-1900.)


Really, though, the last thing I should be doing is starting a new project! I'm run off my feet at the moment: we got over 120 submissions for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, (so lots and lots and lots of reading, but nothing I can talk about until after we've longlisted some of them); and I'm also working on getting all sorts of content together for the new look Book Depository website which will land some time in the next couple of weeks.


Whilst all that should be enough for anyone, I'm rather beside myself with excitement as The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Volume 1, 1929-1940 (CUP) has just landed. A bottle of whisky and a few nights without sleep seem in order!


Finally, you'll have all no doubt noticed that Twitter has become all the rage -- despite having been around for quite a while, it suddenly seems to have really taken off. RSB has had a Twitter page for ages (and so has The Book Depository and BritLitBlogs), but I've relied on RSB's RSS feed to do all the tweeting for me and have not actually done much active tweeting myself. Well, expect that to change soon!

Right. Time to crack open a beer and have a shufty at: Life after bankruptcy -- Jürgen Habermas talks to Thomas Assheuer and Naomi Klein on the Bailout Profiteers and the Multi-Trillion-Dollar Crime Scene (both via wood s lot).


And then, tomorrow, I'm in Big London for the first IFFP09 meeting. In case you were wondering, I'm not allowed to blog about submissions as I'm reading them -- submissions are a secret it would seem. Which strikes me as... bloody daft!


In the background, Gas's Nah Und Fern -- you so need this!

Firstly, do, please, forgive the recent radio silence. I've been out and about (Windsor and Big London) doing exciting Book Depository-related things. The Book Depository recently expanded so lots of cool stuff is going on behind the scenes which you'll see the fruits of soon ...


Regular readers will know that I've always been a bit of fan of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (last year, for example, I called it "by far the most interesting of the UK-based literary prizes [which] always turns up a few gems"). Well, I'm thrilled (and delighted and honoured) to say that I've been asked to be one of the judges for the 2009 prize. Yay! How exciting! 80-odd more books to read, mind! Dunno much more than this for now, but shall report back when I learn more (the judging panel is meeting up for our first natter in a few weeks time).

Thanks to Nigel Beale and D.G. Myers for responding to my question concerning what should be on a history of the novel reading list with long reading lists of their own. Both Nigel's and D.G.'s lists are very useful (and this bibliography from the University of Warwick has some good pointers too), but I'll compile one of my own here soon which is specifically just about the history of the novel itself. (For starters, my current Book of the Week, The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain: Volume 2, 1100 - 1400, would certainly be on it, as would Robert Mayer's excellent History and the Early English Novel and Nancy Armstrong's flawed engagement with Ian Watt, How Novels Think: The Limits Of Individualism From 1719-1900.)


Really, though, the last thing I should be doing is starting a new project! I'm run off my feet at the moment: we got over 120 submissions for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, (so lots and lots and lots of reading, but nothing I can talk about until after we've longlisted some of them); and I'm also working on getting all sorts of content together for the new look Book Depository website which will land some time in the next couple of weeks.


Whilst all that should be enough for anyone, I'm rather beside myself with excitement as The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Volume 1, 1929-1940 (CUP) has just landed. A bottle of whisky and a few nights without sleep seem in order!


Finally, you'll have all no doubt noticed that Twitter has become all the rage -- despite having been around for quite a while now, it suddenly seems to have really taken off. RSB has had a Twitter page for ages now (and so has The Book Depository and BritLitBlogs), but I've relied on RSB's RSS feed to do all the tweeting for me and have not actually done much active tweeting myself. Well, expect that to change soon!