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July 31, 2013

Mixed response to Man Booker longlist


booker-longlist-2013-smaller-pic  By Joshua Farrington

The newly released Man Booker Prize longlist has been praised by the media for its diversity, but criticised for missing several big names and including multiple titles that have yet to be published.

The Guardian praised the judges, and said: “This is a jury not afraid to be experimental.”

It commended the scope of the longlist and said: “The longlist casts a wide net in terms of both geography and time, ranging from the slimmest of novels—Colm Tóibín’s stark, surprising The Testament of Mary conjures the gospel according to Jesus’s mother in a mere 100-odd pages—to vast doorstops, playful with genre and form.”

The Daily Mail focused on authors it saw as being “snubbed” from the Booker list, describing the nominated authors as “obscure . . . mostly unknown”. It said: “This year’s longlist is notable for the number of big-name authors who have been overlooked, including J M Coetzee, Roddy Doyle and Margaret Atwood. Five of the books have yet to be published.”

The Daily Mail also quoted Alex Donohue of bookmaker Ladbrokes, which has appointed Jim Crace as the current favourite at 9/2.

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June 12, 2013

Books to read in your 30s

8766731By Karen Tay

A couple of weeks ago we discussed books to read in your 20s, that glittering decade of late nights followed by early-morning greasy kebabs and burgers by the footpath, massive hangovers, low-paying jobs and learning to sleep with earplugs in mildewed flats and backpacker “hostels” that are really more like “hovels”.

The kind of books you want or need to read in your 20s are different from those for your 30s, because you’ll be at a completely different life stage. That’s if you follow the normal path of society. If you are a daredevil who lives outside the margins of society, doing something funky and potentially illegal, then I salute you – and hey, you probably don’t need to read books, because you’re already living the fantasy.

This is not to say that the books I’ve listed should only be read while you’re in your 30s. People can read and love them at any age, and I’m sure they do. These are suggestions to get readers started. And perhaps if you’re at a certain stage of your life, to get you thinking about where you’re heading.

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May 10, 2013

Can You Guess the Authors by Their Nobel Citations?

Mr. Murakami is not pleased, Swedish Academy.

Mr. Murakami is not pleased, Swedish Academy.

By Gabe Habash

PWxyz doesn’t have time for non-nerdy quizzes; there are too many of those. Instead, here’s one of the more blistering tests this side of the Badwater Ultramarathon–guess the Nobel winner by citation. The format is much like a non-demanding English course–everyone’s favorite: multiple choice! In an attempt to make it less trying, we’ve narrowed down citations and choices to the more household-known Nobel winners.Sorry, 1903 laureate Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, you just missed the cut.

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April 18, 2013

Does ‘SA Literature’ matter?

JM Coetzee

JM Coetzee

By Leon de Kock

“Now, 10 years after JM Coetzee left the country … South African literature in English does not matter very much any more.”
This sweeping – and to many, potentially devastating – comment, was uttered just a few weeks ago by veteran UCT-based critic Ian Glenn during his public spat with Imraan Coovadia.
In the context of his intra-UCT wrangle with Coovadia, Glenn’s judgement serves to diminish Coovadia’s importance as a South African author, but in a more general sense the statement deserves wider consideration.
Is it true that South African literature doesn’t matter “very much any more”?
A few years ago, I published an academic article under the title, Does South African Literature Still Exist? In that piece, I asked whether the anti-apartheid imperative of “landlocked”, special-case struggle literature had not fatally overdetermined what we used to call “SA Lit”.
Not only did the symbolic and legislative conditions for such a literature disappear after 1990 (though not the material ones), but the world also became “post-national”. It is a globalising world in which success as a writer increasingly demands readership – and content – beyond determinate borders.
Simply put, “national” struggles such as apartheid – and national “exceptionalism” – no longer capture the world’s attention. As a writer, you now need to speak to larger issues, breaching terrestrial boundaries.

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March 26, 2013

Folio to sponsor Literature Prize; stellar Academy revealed

folioprize | By Charlotte Williams

The Folio Society has been announced as sponsor of the Literature Prize, the new award co-founded by Aitken Alexander director Andrew Kidd.

In an announcement at the British Library last night (13th March), organisers revealed the £40,000 prize, which aims to “celebrate the best English-language fiction from around the world”, will now be known as The Folio Prize.

The organisers also revealed a stellar and international list of over 110 authors and critics —including many of the biggest names in books—who have agreed to become members of the Folio Prize Academy, which judges the award.

Ian McEwan, J M Coetzee, Peter Carey, Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood, John Banville, Philip Pullman and Jeanette Winterson are among them; they are joined by literary editors including Claire Armitstead (the Guardian), Gaby Wood (the Telegraph) and Erica Wagner (the Times), as well as Granta editor John Freeman. The Academy members are listed in full below.

The inaugural award will be presented in March 2014 for books published in the UK between 1st January and 31st December 2013, written originally in English from authors anywhere around the globe, and published in any form or from any genre.

The Academy will choose 60 titles, and then pick an additional 20 books from publisher nominations. The five judges of the prize will be Academy members, and will be drawn by lots in July. The panel must include three members from the UK, and two from outside the UK, and there must be no more than three members of the same gender. Five names will be drawn randomly from the two groups alternately, starting with those from the UK.

The selected judges then choose a shortlist of eight books, which will be announced in February 2014.

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January 14, 2012

Kannemeyer’s death causes publishing conundrum

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:47 am

John Kannemeyer


The death of noted literary biographer John Kannemeyer has created something of a publishing conundrum around Kannemyer’s eagerly awaited biography of J.M. Coetzee.

Sources close to the writer report that Kannemeyer had completed the biography, and that he himself was happy with the work as it stood, but that publishers might have wanted to negotiate further revisions with the author, who died of a stroke on Christmas Eve.

Retired publisher and philanthropist Hannes van Zyl, who has acted as a go-between in the production and translation of the biography, says “there is no uncertainty at all” about the book’s publication.

“The contracts have been signed with Jonathan Ball, the South African publisher, and with the overseas agents for the book.”

Pressed on the matter of who would negotiate possible changes arising from readers’ reports – matters not yet fully dealt with – Van Zyl said he would handle such matters, with great care and in consultation with all parties involved, including a possible literary executor named in Kannemeyer’s will. He had not yet seen the will, Van Zyl said.

It is understood that three international experts on Coetzee were asked to act as readers for the publisher.

If a literary executor has been nominated in Kannemeyer’s will, then matters will be simplified, as such a person will have the authority to deal with outstanding literary matters on behalf of Kannemeyer’s estate.

The situation also raises the question of authorship and revision when a writer dies before production of a book is finalised. (Many authors report having nightmares about just such a possibility.) Even Roland Barthes could not have foreseen such a literal exemplum of his theory when he penned his famous essay, “The Death of the Author”, in 1967.

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October 10, 2011

Nobel Prize-Winning Writer J. M. Coetzee’s Archive Acquired By Harry Ransom Center

The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, has acquired the archive of Nobel Prize-winning writer and University of Texas at Austin alumnus J. M. Coetzee. Spanning more than 50 years, the archive traces the author’s life and career from 1956 through the present.

“My association with The University of Texas goes back almost half a century,” said Coetzee. “It is very satisfying to me to know that my papers will find a home at the Ransom Center, one of the world’s great research collections.”

Coetzee was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1940 and graduated from the University of Cape Town. After working three years as a computer programmer in England, he enrolled in The University of Texas at Austin in 1965 to pursue his Ph.D. in English, linguistics and Germanic languages, which he earned in 1969. While at the university, he conducted research in the Ransom Center’s collections for his dissertation on the early fiction of Samuel Beckett.

Coetzee is an acclaimed novelist, academic and literary critic. Influenced by his personal history of growing up in South Africa, he writes with strong anti-imperialist feelings. He has published 13 books, including “Life & Times of Michael K” in 1983 and “Disgrace” in 1999. Both novels received the Man Booker Prize, awarded each year for best full-length novel, making Coetzee the first author to receive the award twice. His novel, “Waiting for the Barbarians” (1980), was adapted into an opera by composer Philip Glass.

“Known for his spare, striking and powerful prose, J. M. Coetzee has left an indelible mark on our culture,” said Ransom Center Director Thomas F. Staley. “He writes brilliantly of his native home of South Africa, but the themes and conflicts he explores in his works are universal. We are delighted that his remarkable archive will be available for study at the Ransom Center.”

Approximately 155 document boxes, five filing cabinet drawers and an additional eight storage boxes of journals, manuscripts, correspondence, and business documents comprise the archive.

Included are notebooks and manuscripts in various draft forms for many of Coetzee’s works of fiction and autobiography, from early works such as “In the Heart of the Country” (1977) to materials related to his forthcoming revised edition of “Scenes from Provincial Life” (2011).


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