Whenever I travel abroad I always marvel at the number of American authors whose names I recognize when visiting bookstores, even when they’re published in Cyrillic, Thai, Setswana, whatever…Whether in Valletta, Bucharest or Jakarta there seem to be shelf upon shelf of USA originated material. On the other hand, visitors to the US from abroad nearly always remark at how few translated titles there seem to be on offer.
That's not to say that there's a dearth of information about world lit available stateside. One of the finest, yet lesser known sources of information comes out of remote Norman, Oklahoma – deep in Indian territory where most publishing folk are too fearful to tread lest they get scalped by the yokels, errr, locals. (I can say that, I live in Texas, where we have a long standing rivalry with our neighbors to the north).
It’s called, most fittingly, World Literature Today. Published six times per year, WLT is a journal fat with reviews of books from languages and countries that span the globe. Most are done by academics with a thorough knowledge of the language and literature out of which a book arises.
What’s more, World Literature Today sponsors the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. It is, to me, one of the best judged and juried prizes going -- and to many, an early indicator of likely candidates for the Nobel Prize.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the prize in 1972, a full decade before he was lauded in Stockholm. (Actually, 32 laureates, candidates or jurors in the past 39 years have been awarded Nobel Prizes following their involvement with the prize).
Take a look at the list of recent winners: Patricia Grace (New Zealand), Claribel Alegría (Nicaragua), Adam Zagajewski (Poland). Time to brush up on your Swedish ladies and gentlemen…