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1 September 2015 - Tuesday

Liu Cixin Q & A | Graywolf Press profile

       Liu Cixin Q & A

       Liu Cixin's The Three-Body Problem won the 'Best Novel'-category this year at the just-announced Hugo Awards (all the more impressively for being a replacement-finalist that wasn't even in the running originally), and at Caixin Shi Rui has a Q & A with the author.
       Asked about the differences between Chinese and Western science fiction he suggests:
One aspect is that Western sci-fi stories are often embedded with elements of Judeo-Christian thought and tend to focus on belief systems, concerning itself with moral issues such as cloning or artificial intelligence. Chinese sci-fi has emerged from its own cultural background and this accounts for many differences in how the genre has been uniquely interpreted.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Graywolf Press profile

       At Vulture Boris Kachka explains How the Tiny Graywolf Press Became a Big Player in Book Publishing in a profile of independent non-profit publisher Graywolf Press.
       As he notes:
Publishing just over 30 books a year, Graywolf has had authors win four NBCC awards, a National Book Award, two Pulitzers, and a Nobel Prize -- all in the last six years. This year, it will exceed $2 million in sales for the first time. No other independent press, never mind a 41-year-old nonprofit, has come so far so fast.
       A nice success story.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

31 August 2015 - Monday

Lanark, the play | Chetan Bhagat Q & A | French Concession review

       Lanark, the play

       Alasdair Gray's best-known work -- and modern classic -- Lanark has been turned into a play, by David Greig, and has now premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival; see their publicity page.
       Not an easy work to adapt -- but at a nearly four-hour running-time Greig seems to have tried to stuff a great deal in.
       Early reviews -- see those in The Guardian, The Observer, and The Stage -- have been enthusiastic.

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       Chetan Bhagat Q & A

       The Times of India gets a number of writers to play along in its 'Write India' initiative, soliciting reader-questions for them; this month they offer Chetan Bhagat's responses to fifteen reader-questions

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       French Concession review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Xiao Bai's French Concession.

       I was particularly curious about this one, because Yao Minji, in Old Shanghai thriller lures Western publisher, noted:
The novel by Shanghai author Xiao Bai sold only moderately well in China, but it has the elements that appeal to Western readers.
       Personally, I'd much rather see titles that are more popular in China, even if that means they're ostensibly mystifying to 'Western' readers -- and, indeed, despite whatever Western-reader-appealing elements this novel (supposedly) has, it turns out not to be a very good one. I'm not particularly surprised it wasn't a big hit in China -- and I suspect it won't be in the 'West' either; sure, aspects of it are interesting -- but it's also a mess.
       I fear publishers still haven't hit on the formula of Chinese fiction translating into Western success ..... (I also fear they are going about it mostly, if not all, wrong -- but then that would be more or less par for the publisher course, at least as far as the majors are concerned.)

       (Note also that this was a work-for-hire translation -- translator Chenxin Jiang didn't get to keep the copyright (as she should have), instead it's: "English language translation © HarperCollins". Yes, there are exceptions -- Elena Ferrante, sigh ... -- but basically it's a good rule of thumb: if the translator doesn't have the copyright the work is much more likely not to be ... of the highest quality .....)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

30 August 2015 - Sunday

हंस profile | Mountain lit. prize | Murakami and the Nobel (sigh ...)

       हंस profile

       In the Hindustan Times Manoj Sharma reports that For Hindi literature, Hans writes a story of grit and revival, profiling हंस (Hans) magazine.
       Hey, founded by Premchand and with Mahatma Gandhi as its editorial adviser .... that's not a bad pedigree. (Okay, there was a long interim between that time and Hans 2.0, but still ......)
       In any case, good to hear that this kind of publication can survive -- indeed that its readership is apparently growing:
Interestingly, in this digital age when the circulation of major magazines has going down, that of Hans has gone up in the last two years from 9,500 to 11,000, which makes it the largest-read Hindi literary magazine.
       And I kind of like the idea of a 'literary' magazine printed on newsprint.

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       Mountain lit. prize

       The Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature is ... exactly that, "an annual award to authors of literary works, the central theme of which is concerned with mountains" (and worth £3,000).
       They've now announced their shortlist for the 2015 prize -- though I am a bit disappointed by the similarity in covers (blue and snow dominate), as well as the fact that a book with the subtitle: "A Life Rocked by Mountains" passed muster .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Murakami and the Nobel (sigh ...)

       I haven't really gotten into much Nobel-speculation yet -- even though the announcement-date is only about six weeks off -- but there hasn't been much gossip in the air so far (even though the Swedish Academicians have long narrowed down the list to the final five or so contenders). (But if you want pre-Nobel activity: there has been pretty active discussion at The Fictional Woods and the World Literature Forum -- and of course you can already place bets at Ladbrokes.)
       Not that much media coverage, either, but in The Japan Times Damian Flanagan gets things rolling with his look at Mishima, Murakami and the elusive Nobel Prize.
       (Note that I don't think he makes quite enough of the fact that Mishima's Nobel chances were surely mainly dashed by his youth, and then his death at a very early age -- only three authors (Kipling, Sinclair Lewis, and Camus) were 45 (Mishima's age at his death) or younger when they won the prize; the average age of literature laureates in the 1960s was -- despite Camus -- 65, and in the 1970s 69.)

       (As to the: "here we are now, with only two Japanese winners in the 114 years since the prize was first awarded", a reminder that there still hasn't been a Dutch winner. (No Korean one either, etc. etc., but Dutch still ranks as the most glaring omission to date.))

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

29 August 2015 - Saturday

Pirate libraries | Fiction from ... Central Europe | Moods review

       Pirate libraries

       At Eurozine they reprint Bodó Balázs' piece (originally in Visegrad Insight), offering 'A central and eastern European perspective' on Pirate libraries.
       He reports that:
Today's pirate libraries were born to address political, economic and social issues specific to Soviet and post-Soviet times, but they quickly became vital beyond their original context.
       Of course, the legal morass remains ... a morass.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Fiction from ... Central Europe

       Checking out Visegrad Insight (re. above), I find this useful Translators' guide to new fiction from the Visegrad Group countries (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland) -- a nice overview of notable recent fiction from Central Europe.
       None of these titles are available in English yet, as best I can tell (and I can tell pretty well -- and it's hardly surprising: fiction from these nations usually does not get translated with ... alacrity), but a lot of these names are familiar -- indeed, almost all of them have had works published in English.
       Among the less well-known (but already translated) is Martin Reiner -- though I have to say I'm not so sure about his (600-page) "biographical novel in the form of literary collage", about Ivan Blatný; see the Torst publicity page.
       Among the better-known: books by Esterházy Péter, Kertész Imre, and Olga Tokarczuk. And Rivers of Babylon-author Peter Pišťánek's last work.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Moods review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yoel Hoffmann's Moods, recently published in translation by New Directions.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

28 August 2015 - Friday

Mogadishu International Book Fair | China Bookworm Literary Award

       Mogadishu International Book Fair

       Great to hear that they're holding the Mogadishu International Book Fair (see also the write-up by Warka at Mareeg, Literary feast in Mogadishu as Mogadishu International Book Fair opens).
       Or is this just a reaction to the Hargeysa International Book Fair they held earlier this month (see also Nyabola, H. Nanjala's write-up at Quartz, Somalilandís book fair opens the country to the world) ... ?
       Still, holding book fairs has got to be a good sign, right ?

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       China Bookworm Literary Award

       With judges including A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers-author Guo Xiaolu and translator (e.g. Running Through Beijing) and editor Eric Abrahamsen, the China Bookworm Literary Award seems well-positioned to select worthy new Chinese fiction deserving of translation -- and now they've announced the first winners of the award, with the winner getting 5000RMB, and both the first and second place titles to be published in English translation.
       Hard to judge based on the brief descriptions available here, but second-place-winner Li Ziyue's I Am in the Red Chamber, You are on the Journey to the West is one of the best titles I've heard this year.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

27 August 2015 - Thursday

'Novel Scarlett Johansson tried to ban'
Posthumous Günter Grass | Lisa Hayden Q & A
Philippine Literary Festival | Tram 83 review

       'Novel Scarlett Johansson tried to ban'

       I mentioned Scarlett Johansson's suit against French author Grégoire Delacourt (The List of My Desires (US title: My Wish List)) about his using her (sort of) as a character in a novel of his -- and now Nick Clark reports in The Independent that Novel Scarlett Johansson tried to ban, Grégoire Delacourt's The First Thing You See, to be published in UK.
       I'm actually surprised the publisher isn't going with: 'Novel Scarlett Johansson tried to ban' as the title ... or that they aren't even playing up this angle more. Good for them -- and I am eager to see the book. (No US publication is sight, yet, as best I can tell.)
       See also the Weidenfeld & Nicolson publicity page, or pre-order your copy at (and ignore that 'July, 2014' publication date -- it's only coming out in English now).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Posthumous Günter Grass

       Günter Grass may be dead, but that's no reason why he shouldn't have more books coming out -- and, indeed, as DeutscheWelle reports, Günter Grass leaves a last farewell book (I'm not quite clear on how many first/other farewell books he 'left' ...), Vonne Endlichkait.
       See also the (very nice) Steidl publicity page, or get your copy at And apparently: "An English version should be available in the fall of 2016".

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Lisa Hayden Q & A

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines they have a translation of Yulia Arseniy's Q & A with translator and Lizok's Bookshelf-blogger Lisa Hayden.
       I have both Addendum to a Photo Album (see the Dalkey Archive Press publicity page, or get your copy at or and Laurus (see the Oneworld publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or and hope/expect to get to them.

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       Philippine Literary Festival

       The Philippine Literary Festival runs tomorrow through 30 August.
       They seem to be using the 'big' foreign names -- Matthew Quick and Meg Wolitzer -- as ... loss leaders ? but most of the other participants are local. Interesting to see especially the local phenomena -- iamkitin ! iDangs ! marielicious ! KwentoNiJhingness ("I write. I rant. I am a potato." her weblog promises) ! blue_maiden ! Yam-Yam28 ! Art Sta. Ana ! And why haven't I seen any of their books ?

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Tram 83 review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Fiston Mwanza Mujila's Tram 83, yet another impressive addition to the Deep Vellum catalogue.

       Tram 83 odds and ends:
  • Lubumbashi-born Mwanza Mujila was the 'Stadtschreiber' (city-writer) 2009-10 (and is currently pursuing his PhD) in my hometown of Graz, Austria.

  • The Kirkus review offers the wonderful incongruous observation: "Mujila is not working in the George Eliot tradition of realistic fiction". I mean it's true, sort of, technically -- but talk about out of left field .....

  • Papa Wemba gets a shout-out in the novel ! Does no one listen to Papa Wemba any longer ? Maria Valencia has been echoing in my head all night .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

26 August 2015 - Wednesday

Man Booker International Prize judges
New World Literature Today

       Man Booker International Prize judges

       As I (tried to) explain last month, the one-time biennial author prize that was the Man Booker International Prize ate -- and transmuted into -- what used to be the annual book prize that was the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (which no longer exists as such -- or rather exists pretty much unchanged (except there's now more prize money on offer) but is now called the 'Man Booker International Prize' ...).
       Now: The Man Booker International Prize 2016 Judges Announced -- and a pretty impressive panel it is, chaired by Independent Foreign Fiction Prize-holdover Boyd Tonkin, and including Tahmima Anam, Ruth Padel, Daniel Medin, and, most impressively, David Bellos.
       Of particular interest: Medin was a two-time Best Translated Book Award judge, and he's the first to serve on the juries for both of these leading translation prizes. And of course it raises the question of whether Krasznahorkai's Seiobo There Below isn't the prohibitive favorite to take the 2016 Man Booker International Prize -- it won the 2014 BTBA (on which Medin served as one of the judges, as did I). (It is presumably eligible, with official UK publication only coming this year; get your copy at or

       One of the reasons they apparently ditched the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and went all-in on the revised Man Booker International Prize was to take advantage of the brand recognition. It's disappointing then to see that, aside from a more or less regurgitated press release mention at The Bookseller the announcement of the judging panel so far hasn't rated any major-press mention. Sure, this isn't the most exciting news in the world -- but you'd (well, I'd) figure it would make for filler-material in the British papers at this relatively slow-news time of the year. It's hard to imagine something won't pop up -- especially at The Independent, given the Tonkin connection -- but so far the Man Booker brand hasn't pulled its weight .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       New World Literature Today

       The September/October issue of World Literature Today is now (partially) available online.
       Completely available: the World Literature in Review-section -- i.e. the reviews, with lots of good coverage.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

25 August 2015 - Tuesday

Writers from ... Indonesia | Les Misérables in ... Urdu | Erdal Öz Edebiyat Ödülü

       Writers from ... Indonesia

       With Indonesia the guest of honour at the upcoming Frankfurt Book Fair there has been a decent amount of coverage -- and at Monika Griebeler now introduces Seven must-know authors from Indonesia (with a bonus of three dead-so-they-won't-be-able-to-attend authors, making for ten in all).
       A decent introduction, and hard to argue with most of these inclusions, which include Ayu Utami (whose Saman remains one of the defining novels of the past twenty years (even as it opens, as I never fail to be amused by, overlooking (New York's) Central Park ...)); Leila Chudori, whose Home is forthcoming in English from Deep Vellum soon (see also the Modern Library of Indonesia publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or; Supernova-author Dewi ("Dee") Lestari; and The Rainbow Troops-author Andrea Hirata.
       You can argue about who was overlooked -- and the most obvious name here is Eka Kurniawan, two of whose books are appearing in English this fall too (my review of Beauty is a Wound should be up soon; meanwhile see the New Direction's publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or
       As to the three bonus-selections: yes, Pramoedya Ananta Toer remains the foremost Indonesian author, the other two are also worth seeking out.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Les Misérables in ... Urdu

       In Dawn Rauf Parekh reports on A new, complete Urdu translation of Les Misérables -- apparently the first complete-length rendering, though an abridged one appeared almost a century ago.
       I must say I also like the cover, which includes the famous Émile Bayard-Cosette but goes beyond the bleakly black-and-white.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Erdal Öz Edebiyat Ödülü

       He won the Nobel Prize quite a few years ago, but only now does Orhan Pamuk win the Erdal Öz Edebiyat Ödülü; see, for example, the report in Today's Zaman
       The previous winners of this prize aren't nearly household names abroad -- but maybe this is a sign that the Turkish literary establishment is fully embracing Pamuk as one of their own .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

24 August 2015 - Monday

The NYTBR reviews slanders Mario Vargas Llosa ?
Ishiguro archive to Ransom Center | Shimmer Chinodya Q & A
Savage Seasons reviews

       The NYTBR reviews slanders Mario Vargas Llosa ?

       Oh, dear.
       So The New York Times Book Review had Book of Numbers-author Joshua Cohen review Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa's new non-fiction title, Notes on the Death of Culture -- an admittedly somewhat thankless task (Mario Vargas Llosa's Notes on the Death of Culture is as uplifting as the title suggests, The Globe and Mail titles its review ...); I have the book and haven't managed to bring myself to cover it yet .....
       As the 'Editors' Note Appended' warning now found at the top of the review suggests, there are ... issues with the review. Vargas Llosa helpfully also wrote a letter to the editor, complaining about: "information about me that is both slanderous and perfidious", and noting, nicely indignantly:
I am flabbergasted to learn that this kind of gossip can work its way into a respectable publication such as the Book Review.
       The New York Times Book Review helpfully explains both that the text has now been altered and that:
editors determined that the reviewer had based his account of these matters mostly on information from an article about Vargas Llosa in The Daily Mail, but neither the reviewer nor editors independently verified those statements. Using such information is at odds with The Timesís journalistic standards, and it should not have been included in the review.
       Interestingly, that Daily Mail article still stands -- with the offending claims unchanged (unlike the NYTBR piece ...), despite the stricter British libel laws. And I can't find a letter to their editor from Vargas Llosa .....
       Not a shining moment for The New York Times Book Review -- but fact checking is something that's presumably easy/tempting to skimp on. I think the fact that they couldn't even spell the poor lady's name right -- see the first correction, because there were several ... ---, something even one of their kids could/should have checked on the Internet, is even more damning .....
       This one is going to be tough to live down, all around .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Ishiguro archive to Ransom Center

       They've announced that Ransom Center to Acquire Archive of Kazuo Ishiguro, as the Harry Ransom Center has purchased Kazuo Ishiguro's archive (for: "just over $1m", The Guardian reports).
       Among the finds: "his first serious attempt at fiction, a pulp Western", which I am so hoping someone publishes.

       Ishiguro seems kind of young (he's sixty) to be selling out -- though, yeah, the money is good and times are tough. Still .....
       And I wonder how much younger writers -- who don't have nearly as much archival accumulation in this electronic age -- consciously try to collect papers so that they'll someday have a pile to sell too .....

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       Shimmer Chinodya Q & A

       In The Herald Elliot Ziwira has a lengthy Q & A with Zimbabwean Chairman of Fools-author Shimmer Chinodya.
       All over the place -- but also some good advice:
Read, read, read ! Write, write, write, write ! Open your windows to ventilate your imagination.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Savage Seasons reviews

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Haitian author Kettly Mars' novel of 'Papa Doc' consolidating power in the 1960s, Savage Seasons, recently released in translation by the University of Nebraska Press.

       A bit depressing to see how many online reviews of the German edition (published by a really small publisher) are available, while the English-language version has had a .... limited impact (not even reviews at Publishers Weekly or Kirkus Reviews ...).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

23 August 2015 - Sunday

Chetan Bhagat Q & A | Swedish romance ?
The Maestro, the Magistrate & the Mathematician review

       Chetan Bhagat Q & A

       At Mayank Jain has a Q & A with mega-bestselling (in India ...) Chetan Bhagat (One night @ the call centre, etc.), occasioned by the publication of his new book -- a non-fiction collection ("I want to expand my range as a writer", he explains ...), Making India Awesome.
       And while a bit of an exaggeration -- interviews such as this one surely are marketing-efforts (even if he doesn't have to pay for them) -- interesting to hear that:
So how much emphasis do you put in marketing your books ?

I don't need to. I just need to put on Twitter that I am writing a book, if you can call that marketing. I have zero budget for marketing. I have never spent anything on it at all.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Swedish romance ?

       After the Nordic crime wave comes ... Swedish romance novels ? Francis Hoch suggests that terrifying prospect in Publishers Weekly, in Swedish Romance -- the Next Hot Trend ? as a novel by the 'Swedish queen of of romance' (yes, Sveriges romancedrottning) Simona Ahrnstedt -- "an avid feminist, and a passionate cheese lover", as her agency's information page helpfully informs -- is going to be published in English.
       I'm always glad to see popular fiction in all its form get published in translation -- and several of her works have already been translated into other languages -- but I think it's unlikely that this is the beginning of something big. Still, I am curious as to the impact -- and whether it will lead to popular romance novels from other languages/countries (not just Scandinavian) getting translated.

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       The Maestro, the Magistrate & the Mathematician review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tendai Huchu's The Maestro, the Magistrate & the Mathematician.

       This came out from Zimbabwean publisher amaBooks last year, and is now being published abroad by Welsh Parthian. Just last week The New York Times Book Review covered his debut, The Hairdresser of Harare (now out in a US edition).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

22 August 2015 - Saturday

Korean fiction | Q & As: Yevgeny Yevtushenko - K.E.Semmel

       Korean fiction

       In The Korea Times Nam Hyun-woo writes about Kim Jin-myung's (김진명) latest novel, 글자전쟁 ('Letter Wars'), which has apparently been very successful in South Korea.
       The premise has a predictably nationalistically-pleasing twist -- Chinese (writing) characters aren't Chinese at all, the Koreans invented them ! -- but hand it to the author, he presents it dressed up in a very different sort of story, featuring:
an ambitious arms dealer who proclaims that his ultimate goal is earning 50 billion won. However, his successful career starts to go wrong as a prosecutor investigates him on a charge of illegal lobbying. He flees to China and gets along with North Koreans, looking for a chance to return to his job.
       As Nam notes:
Writer Kim has garnered popularity with his stories deriving from a hidden piece of history or a conspiracy that can be interpreted in a way of promoting Koreans' pride. Such a theme and the veteran novelist's technique create a riveting read.
       Much as I appreciate a great deal of the Korean literature that is finding it's way into English, what I want to know is why crap like this isn't. Surely, this is excactly the sort of pop fiction we should be seeing (and reading), too. Come on -- here's an author who: "never distracts readers with absurd bids to materialize abstract thoughts" !
       Okay, I understand most 'literary' publishers couldn't touch (or bear) this stuff with a ten foot pole -- but there must be publishers who could handle it.
       AmazonCrossing, how about it ? We need to see this stuff !

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       Q & A: Yevgeny Yevtushenko

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines they have an English version of Igor Virabov and Pavel Basinsky's Российская газета Q & A with Yevgeny Yevtushenko (original).
       Among the take-aways: he's coming to Brooklyn next month (really).
       There's also some fun Soviet-era nostalgia:
It was a venue for about 800 people, but they put speakers out on the street, and people stood and listened there, too. It was a very chilly day in April. I read for four and a half hours without a break. There were children in the audience as well. That was one of the happiest days of my life.
       And interesting (if unsurprising) the observation:
Our intelligentsia simply does not understand how detached it is from the general public.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Q & A: K.E.Semmel

       At the Asymptote blog Katrine Øgaard Jensen has a Q & A with translator-from-the-Danish K.E.Semmel -- whose translation of Naja Marie Aidt's Rock, Paper, Scissors, just out from Open Letter, I recently reviewed. (Another Semmel-translation under review: Disgrace (US title: The Absent One) by Jussi Adler-Olsen.)
       In response to the question; 'What is the best translated book you've read recently ?' he says ... The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist .....

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21 August 2015 - Friday

Mountain Echoes literary festival | Etgar Keret Q & A
Vondel Translation Prize shortlist | Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic review

       Mountain Echoes literary festival

       Bhutan's literary festival, Mountain Echoes, runs through tomorrow -- sounds like a nice place to have a literary festival.
       See also the PTI report -- here in the Business Standard -- Mountain Echoes: A literary fest with a royal touch.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Etgar Keret Q & A

       At Guernica Meakin Armstrong has a Q & A with Etgar Keret, We Can Try to Be Human.
       Among his observations:
In America, where writers are preoccupied with the craft of writing, I always try to introduce this concept of the badly written good story. Turning the hierarchy around and putting passion on top and not craft, because when you just focus on craft, you can write something that is very sterile. It looks beautiful, but soulless.
       Also interesting:
Apparently, I'm very, very popular in jails. [...] Most of them were murderers. But when I went there to talk, they were the nicest people.

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       Vondel Translation Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for the biennial Vondel Translation Prize, given: "for the best English translation of a Dutch literary novel or cultural-historical book".
       Two of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review: Tirza (Sam Garrett's translation of Arnon Grunberg's novel) and The King (Nancy Forest-Flier's translation of Kader Abdolah's novel).

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       Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Octave Mirbeau's 1901 novel, Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic, now available in a translation from Dalkey Archive Press.

       Now somebody just has to translate La 628-E8 ..... (Meanwhile, read the French here (warning ! dreaded pdf format !), for example.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

20 August 2015 - Thursday

German Book Prize | Friedrich-Hölderlin-Preis

       German Book Prize

       Generally -- no, overwhelmingly -- the Germans prefer author- to book-prizes: they'd rather honor a life's work over specific works. But seeing the success of the Man Booker Prize they launched an imitation-Man Booker a decade ago, the Deutscher Buchpreis -- and they've now announced the 20-title-strong longlist for this year's prize (selected from 167 novels, submitted by 110 publishers -- alas, in overzealous imitation of the Man Booker they too do not reveal what those submitted titles actually were, so we have no idea what worthy titles weren't even in the running).
       Quite a few of the longlisted authors have had books published in English translation, including Jenny Erpenbeck (Visitation, etc.), Alina Bronsky (Broken Glass Park, etc.), Ilija Trojanow (The Collector of Worlds, etc.), Clemens J. Setz, and Rolf Lappert.
       I haven't seen/read any of these titles -- and while there are several I'd like to see, the one I am most curious about is definitely Die Erfindung der Roten Armee Fraktion durch einen manisch-depressiven Teenager im Sommer 1969 (by Frank Witzel); see the Matthes & Seitz publicity page.
       The shortlist will be announced 16 September; the winner will be announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair, on 12 October.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -


       As noted above, the Germans really go for author- over book-prizes, and they've now announced that Herta Müller -- yes, the one with the Nobel under her belt -- has won this year's Friedrich-Hölderlin-Preis.
       That would be the biennial, €10,000 Friedrich-Hölderlin-Preis awarded by the university and the city of Tübingen -- and not the annual, €20,000 Friedrich-Hölderlin-Preis awarded by the city of Bad Homburg v.d.Höhe.
       Yes, there are two of these ..... And while I venerate Hölderlin as much as (or probably more than) the next guy ... come on....
       (Also: with all due respect etc. etc. for Herta: she's most deserving, certainly, but ... she needs another author prize ?)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

19 August 2015 - Wednesday

Drama in translation | James Wood Q & A
Rock, Paper, Scissors review

       Drama in translation

       The Three Percent Translation Databases are an invaluable resource -- but list only (previously untranslated) works of fiction and poetry, i.e. don't cover much else that appears in English translation.
       Admirably David Sledge (on Twitter here) has put together a Theater Translation Database 2008-2015 [updated: And see now also the accompanying Theater in Translation page]. A lot of these are multiple-play volumes, so the total number of translated plays is somewhat larger, but amazingly there seem to an average of less than thirty translated-drama-volumes appearing annually in English -- a rather limited/disappointing total.
       Interesting also -- if perhaps not entirely surprising -- that the big publishers of fiction in translation don't figure very prominently as publishers of drama in translation.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       James Wood Q & A

       At Slate Isaac Chotiner has A Conversation With James Wood, The New Yorker book critic and author of The Book Against God.

       Wood's most recent book is The Nearest Thing to Life; get your copy at or

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       Rock, Paper, Scissors review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Naja Marie Aidt's Rock, Paper, Scissors, just out from Open Letter.

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18 August 2015 - Tuesday

James Tait Black Prizes | Mao Dun Literature Prize
St. Francis College Literary Prize short list

       James Tait Black Prizes

       They've announced the winners of the James Tait Black Prizes, and In the Light of What We Know, by Zia Haider Rahman, has taken the fiction prize.

       (I can't help but note one of my pet peeves here: this is a book prize, so it should be the book that is spotlighted: 'Debut novelist and best-selling writer scoop oldest book awards' and 'Zia Haider Rahman, fiction winner' misplace the emphasis on the author. Who cares who the author is ? It is the book that counts, and the book that should be honored.)

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       Mao Dun Literature Prize

       The Mao Dun Literature Prize (茅盾文学奖) -- awarded only every four years -- is one of the most prestigious (and controversial) Chinese literary prizes, and they've now announced this year's five winning titles, selected from 252 qualifying novels; see also, for example, the gbtimes report, Winners of 2015 Mao Dun Literature Prize announced.
       Among the authors with winning titles who have previously been translated into English are Su Tong and Wang Meng; several of Ge Fei's works are also already available in French translation.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       St. Francis College Literary Prize short list

       They've announced the shortlist for the $50,000 St. Francis College Literary Prize -- awarded biennially 'for a 3rd to 5th published work of fiction'.
       I'm afraid none of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review (and I don't expect to get to any of them anytime soon).
       The winner will be announced 19 September.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

17 August 2015 - Monday

100 greatest English-language novels ? | Mia Couto profile

       100 greatest English-language novels ?

       Robert McCrum's two-year-long project of listing The 100 best novels: from Bunyan's pilgrim to Carey's Ned Kelly -- which, as the small(er) print clarifies considers only 'the 100 greatest English-language novels of all time' [emphasis added] (quite the caveat, one would think, but hey ...) -- has apparently now reached its conclusion; there is no convenient one-page list of the 100 titles (because that would be too ... convenient [updated - 18 August: this has now belatedly been rectified: see the full list here]) but you can find them starting here.
       McCrum admits to getting off track over the course of compiling his classics -- "I cursed the leniency I had exercised towards the novels published between 1880 and 1930", and he acknowledges "a few howlers, several regrets" -- and of course it's a terribly subjective exercise, regardless.
       Certainly of some interest, but, yeah ... not my top 100, by a long shot.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Mia Couto profile

       In The Guardian Maya Jaggi profiles Mia Couto -- the Neustadt International Prize for Literature-winning author of The Tuner of Silences and the just-released-in-translation Confession of the Lioness (which I have, and should be getting to; meanwhile, see the publicity pages at Farrar, Straus and Giroux or Harvill Secker, or get your copy at or

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