2016, The Year That Was (The Happy Version)

happyYesterday, my readers were subjected to grumpy Tony in full flow, bombarded by a tirade of complaints about imagined slights and minor mishaps from the past year.  Enough – time to move on.  Today’s post strikes a far more positive note, with a focus on the many things that went right in 2016.  That’s right, it’s time to be happy, as hard as that can be for someone of my rather cynical nature 🙂

Yesterday, I was whinging about my struggles to get ARCs, but the truth is that is I still receive a lot of books, and occasionally even have to politely decline offers.  Many thanks to all those publishers out there who continue to feed my book habit, sending books half-way across the world just so that they can sit for months on my shelves waiting to be noticed again.  I’d like to extend a special thanks here to Pushkin Press who not only send me some great books, but also keep my daughter Emily in reading material as well!

In my last post, I also had a bit of a moan about my lack of success with external reviewing, but while I haven’t had many requests recently, I was asked to contribute to a few online journals earlier in 2016.  The start of the year saw my review of Tahar Ben Jelloun’s novel The Happy Marriage appear at Words Without Borders, with my take on Mercè Rodoreda’s War, So Much War up at Necessary Fiction a few months later.  Perhaps the most interesting review, though, was my look at Jung Young-moon’s Vaseline Buddha for Asymptote in July, which was the first time my work had been subjected to serious editing (an interesting process, to say the least!).  It’s something I’d like to do more of in the future, so it’s up to me to be a little more proactive this year, approaching people with concrete ideas as to the kind of reviews I’d like to contribute.

Quite apart from the actual reviews, one of the best aspects of blogging is the sense of community it brings.  Living in Australia can be isolating, but my interests have enabled me to get in contact with people all over the world and become part of a global community passionate about the same things I enjoy.  It’s true that time zones can make social media interaction awkward (many’s the time I’ve missed out on decent conversations in the middle of my night – or had to go to bed on a school night just when someone had started a chat), but on the whole I enjoy discussing translation with people I would never have met, or even heard of, otherwise.

That also means that I enjoy the events I take part in each year, with German Literature Month and Women in Translation Month among my favourites.  In addition, this year may have seen a change in literary prizes, the Man Booker International Prize taking over from the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, but Stu Allen’s Shadow Panel carried on regardless, and I was lucky enough to be a part of the fun for a fifth consecutive year.  I was also asked to be a (distance) judge for a Korean prize, the Ku Sang Young Writer’s Award, for the second year in a row, recognition perhaps of my knowledge in the area of Korean literature.

Despite my laments yesterday, I was able to get to a few real-life events in 2016 too.  There was an evening with Ann Goldstein mid-year (marred by a rather loquacious moderator…), and in a nice twist of fate, one of my Melbourne Writers Festival trips was to see Tim Parks – I’m sure many of you will see the irony there.  I was even lucky enough to spend some time a few months back with another translator, the ever-globetrotting Daniel Hahn, after he was kind enough to make time in his schedule to catch up with me for a chat during his visit to Melbourne – thank you 🙂  Yes, it would be great to have more translation events happening in this neck of the woods, but I should really be grateful for what I get.

The undoubted highlight of my literary year, though, was the opportunity to make my debut as a literary translator!  At some point in 2017, Canadian Press QC Fiction will be publishing a book called I Never Talk About It by Véronique Côté and Steve Gagnon, a collection of thirty-seven stories brought into English by thirty-seven different translators – of whom I am one 🙂  The translation process was a fascinating experience and a huge surprise (I’d always assumed that if I did venture into translation, it would be from German, not French, and especially not Québécois!), and even if it was a very short piece, it was immensely rewarding to actually translate literature into English.  I’d definitely love to try my hand again at some point, but I mustn’t forget that the opportunity arose because of my blogging work…

So, despite yesterday’s grumbles, I think we can say that 2016 turned out OK after all on the blogging front (and a huge thank you to everyone who commented yesterday, either here or on Twitter and Facebook – it was humbling to have so many people take an interest in my petty woes…).  Nevertheless, there are still a few ways I’d like to make the coming year even better.  For one thing, I’d like to reach a greater balance between simply churning out reviews here and reaching out elsewhere, especially as those posts tend to be slightly different in form and involve a greater focus on my writing.  In particular, I’m planning to increase my focus on Korean literature, so I hope to get more involved in publications in that area.  It would also be nice to find a few paid gigs if possible, but I’m not going to lose any sleep if it doesn’t happen 😉

Looking back at what I’ve just written it sounds a little arrogant – am I getting ahead of myself here?  Do I even deserve any of that?  Am I deluding myself that people might be interested in what I have to say?  To be honest, I’m not really sure.  Let’s just see what the new year brings…


24 thoughts on “2016, The Year That Was (The Happy Version)

  1. Hello, Happy Tony!

    Congrats on all your 2016 achievements. They seem to weigh more than yesterday’s rant.

    I missed that you translated a text from the French. Well done! I envy you. While I have no regrets regarding my lack of writing abilities, literary translation sounds great.


    1. Emma – It was a *very* short text, but an achievement all the same. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished book with my tiny contribution 🙂


  2. That actually sounds like a very busy year, full of achievements! I saw your contribution on the Necessary Fiction site (and felt guilty that I was a bit lax and only produced one review all year there), but I wasn’t aware of your translation venture. Well done! It’s always good to stretch yourself in new directions – you’re building muscle for when you fully launch, right?


    1. Marina Sofia – I think I’m about as fully launched as I’ll ever be (and when I go back to work tomorrow, I’m sure plans of literary world domination will go on the back burner for a while!).


  3. I haven’t read the rant yet, but love that you’ve thought back and pulled out your very many achievements and even come up with a few goals that’ll help validate how valued you are by a significant but often quiet audience.

    You are one of the super stars of book blogging Tony, don’t let publishers be the measure of that, you’ve created a substantial foundation, adapted with the times, don’t ever let up, stay true to you and your niche and to those who openly value your efforts! Your perseverance will be rewarded. Bonne Continuation!


    1. Claire – Thanks for your kind words 🙂 One of the best things to come out of this bout of venting and stock-taking has been the support I’ve received, both here and on social media – very nice to feel appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I live all that blogging brings me
    The people I meet via London book fair ,man booker and just invites to events . I am also glad for what I get sent not as many as one time but still more than enough


  5. I don’t comment as much as I should (have commented in the past as Jeff, now using my WordPress account) but I’ve discovered so many great books thanks to this blog, Tony. Thanks a lot.


    1. Jeff – No worries 🙂 I think commenting is past its high point to be honest – I don’t think people do it anywhere near as much as they used to…


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