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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review


18 January 2019 - Friday

Grand Prix suisse de littérature | EBRD Literature Prize longlist
Kotob Khan profile | Arno Schmidt at 105
A German Officer in Occupied Paris review

       Grand Prix suisse de littérature

       They've announced the 2019 winner of the Grand Prix suisse de littérature -- Zsuzsanna Gahse -- and the seven prix suisse de littérature winners.
       One of Zsuzsanna Gahse's works is available in English: Volatile Texts -- from Dalkey Archive Press (of course ...): see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. (I have this, but haven't gotten to it yet -- but it sounds intriguing.)

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



       EBRD Literature Prize longlist

       They've announced the ten-title longlist for this year's EBRD Literature Prize, which promotes: "translated literary fiction from its regions of operations" (an eclectic selection of some thirty countries).
       The only one of the titles under review at the complete review is The Devils' Dance by Hamid Ismailov, translated by Donald Rayfield.
       A three-title shortlist will be announced 18 February, and the winner will be announced 7 March.

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



       Kotob Khan profile

       In The National M. Lynx Qualey profiles Kotob Khan Publishing, The small Cairo bookshop that grew to be a publishing powerhouse -- who now also have a book longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

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



       Arno Schmidt at 105

       It's Arno Schmidt's 105th birthday !
       Disappointed by the lack of US/UK notice when he hit a hundred, I published a little monograph later that year, Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy; it's nice to see continued interest in it -- three copies sold last month ! -- with a total of 135 copies shifted to date (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk). (I had guessed it might hit 150, on the coattails of John E. Woods' epochal translation of Bottom's Dream, which came out soon after, but that book -- though it seems to have sold out its first printing -- didn't get nearly the attention I expected and it deserved .....)
       There doesn't seem to be much anniversary-activity this year -- except that in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Tilman Spreckelsen announces that his work will be put online on the occasion. I'm not sure what that means, but certainly curious .....

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       A German Officer in Occupied Paris review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ernst Jünger's A German Officer in Occupied Paris: The War Journals, 1941-1945.

       Quite a bit of Jünger's work has been translated into English -- Storm of Steel, obviously (as a Penguin Modern Classics), as well as everything from The Glass Bees (a New York Review Books classic) to The Worker: Dominion and Form, recently from Northwestern University Press -- but this is, amazingly, the first translation of this, just out from Columbia University Press. Good to see it's already gotten considerable review-attention; interesting to note the UK press has been interested in it than US reviewers, so far.

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



17 January 2019 - Thursday

Translating from ... Japanese Q & As
Translating from ... Zulu | Takis Würger's Stella

       Translating from ... Japanese Q & As

       At The Sun Daily S. Indra Sathiabalan has a Q &A with Murakami Haruki-translator Philip Gabriel.
       Several books he mentions are under review at the complete review, from the first translation-from-the-Japanese he read (Kawabata Yasunari's Snow Contry) to his own first full-length novel translation (Shimada Masahiko's Dream Messenger).

       Meanwhile, at Books and Bao Will Harris has a Q & A with Morgan Giles -- whose translation of Yu Miri's Tokyo Ueno Station is due out sonn (and which I should be getting to soon, too).

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



       Translating from ... Zulu

       In the Mail & Guardian Sandile Ngidi writes about how Translating Nyembezi no walk in the park -- as he translated Sibusiso Nyembezi's The Rich Man of Pietermaritzburg for much-missed Aflame Books over a decade ago.

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



       Takis Würger's Stella

       Takis Würger's bestselling fiction debut, The Club, is coming out in English shortly -- see the Grove publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- but his next novel, Stella, just came out in German and, as Petra Lambeck reports at Deutsche Welle, Novel based on Jew 'catcher' Stella Kübler stirs controversy
       "An abomination in children's book style" is the quote from the review in Die Zeit .....
       I'm not sure the Hanser foreign rights page description helps:
A story about fear and hope, a dancing SS man, squirrels and betrayal. A story based on true events.
       (I have The Club, and will give that a go -- but I'm passing on Stella, now and when the English version (rights have apparently already been sold, also to Grove) comes out.)

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16 January 2019 - Wednesday

African literature in ... China | Bibliomania exhibit | やさしい訴え review

       African literature in ... China

       At Quartz Africa Abdi Latif Dahir reports how Chimamanda Adichie is leading the rise of an African literature wave in China -- based on Bruce Humes' work at his weblog, specifically his 2018 Round-up: AfroLit in Chinese Translation.

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



       Bibliomania exhibit

       Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library the exhibit Bibliomania; or Book Madness: A Bibliographical Romance opens on Friday, and runs through 21 April.
       The exhibit is presented as four case studies; see also the Yale News report by Michael Morand, Beinecke Library exhibition invites bibliomaniacs to go mad for books.

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



       やさしい訴え review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ogawa Yoko's 1996 novel やさしい訴え.

       This is the ninth Ogawa title under review at the complete review -- of which five are not available in English translation yet. Another Ogawa title is coming in translation this summer -- The Memory Police; see the publicity pages from Pantheon and Harvill Secker -- but US/UK publishers remain way behind in bringing this versatile and interesting author to audiences .....

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



15 January 2019 - Tuesday

Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation
Republic of Consciousness Prize longlist | Wingate Prize shortlist

       Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation

       They've announced that the 2018 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation will go to Luke Leafgren for his translation of Muhsin Al-Ramli's The President's Gardens.
       See also the MacLehose Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Republic of Consciousness Prize 2019 longlist

       They've announced the thirteen-title-strong longlist for the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize, a UK prize for: "the best fiction published by publishers with fewer than 5 full-time employees".
       Only one of the titles is under review at the complete review -- Doppelgänger, by Daša Drndić; indeed, that's the only one of all of these I've seen .....
       The shortlist will be announced 2 March, and the winner on 28 March.

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



       Wingate Prize shortlist

       They've announced the six-title shortlist for the JQ Literary Wingate Prize -- a UK prize: "awarded to the best book, fiction or non-fiction, to translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader".
       The winner will be announced 25 February.

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



14 January 2019 - Monday

The Hindu Prize | Censorship in ... China | The Mongolian Travel Guide review

       The Hindu Prize

       They've announced the winners of The Hindu Prize, one of the leading Indian literary prizes -- see, for example, The Hindu's report.
       Requiem in Raga Janki, by Neelum Saran Gour, won the fiction prize; see also the Penguin India publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Censorship in ... China

       In The Atlantic Amy Hawkins and Jeffrey Wasserstrom suggest that: 'Censorship in the country is more complicated than many Westerners imagine', as they explain Why 1984 Isn't Banned in China.

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



       The Mongolian Travel Guide review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Svetislav Basara's The Mongolian Travel Guide.

       No, this is not a travel guide; it's another novel by Basara -- great to see Dalkey Archive Press bringing out more by him, and this one is one I have long been looking forward to.

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



13 January 2019 - Sunday

Science fiction in ... China | Benyamin on renewal | The Waiter review

       Science fiction in ... China

       At Factor Daily Gautham Shenoy goes about Telling the China Story: The Rise and Rise of Chinese Science Fiction.
       Shenoy notes brief bursts of science fiction popularity over the past century, but suggests:
It was only to be in the early 1990s when Chinese science fiction would enter an uninterrupted golden age
       Liu Cixin, especially with the trilogy that begins with The Three-Body Problem, has been the international stand-out, but there's other work of interest too.
       Among the titles mentioned in the piece is Chan Koonchung's The Fat Years; I also have the anthology The Reincarnated Giant (see the Columbia University Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), which looks intriguing.

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



       Benyamin on renewal

       Goat Days-author Benyamin writes Gained in translation: A promise to renew in the Indian Express.
       Rather too much focus on (and concern about) readers for my taste -- "Crucial to the writer’s evolution is the need to self-introspect and analyse whether the works are acceptable to her/his new readers" -- but certainly of interest.

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



       The Waiter review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Matias Faldbakken's The Waiter, recently out in English.

       Yes, yet another Norwegian !
       This is the first of Faldbakken's novels to be available in English translation -- but he was one of the few (then-still-)untranslated authors I included in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction -- because of his trilogy (published under the pseudonym Abu Rasol, which still hasn't quite made it into English) and because he was an obvious contrast to his father, himself a well-known author (and more of whose books have been translated ...).
       It would be great to see the earlier trilogy in English, too; meanwhile, however, Matias Faldbakken is better-known in the US/UK as an artist -- at, for example, the Paula Cooper Gallery and Simon Lee.

       This is also an unusual book in another respect: the original Norwegian title is actually English -- The Hills, which is the name of the restaurant the waiter-narrator works at. The German translation keeps the title (while the Dutch one oddly opts for De Hills); in the US/UK they presumably decided the confusion with a TV show of the same name would be too confusing .....

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



12 January 2019 - Saturday

Sahitya Akademi goes more commercial
The book industry in ... Germany | Bookselling in ... China

       Sahitya Akademi goes more commercial

       India's National Academy of Letters, Sahitya Akademi, has long published books -- apparently: "about 500 books annually in 24 languages" -- but mostly just sold them themselves -- but now, as, for example, Vanita Srivastava reports in the Hindustan Times, Sahitya Akademi books to go online for wider reach, sell in 24 languages.
       Selling on Amazon seems to be the first step -- not entirely encouraging, but their: "aim is to sell physical books via portals", so hopefully that also extends beyond the one juggernaut.
       In any case, making it easier to find and purchase these titles is certainly a great step.

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



       The book industry in ... Germany

       At Deutsche Welle Jochen Kürten offers an overview of The German book market: Between crisis and hope.
       Total sales in 2017 of €9.1 billion were down 2.3%, while book prices rose 1.7%; 82,636 titles were released -- considerably down from ca. 95,000 a decade ago .....
       As far as the export-market goes, 7,856 works "found their way into non-German languages in 2017" -- but:
In the US and Great Britain, there simply is not enough interest in German books. At least in this area Donald Trump does not have to be afraid of the German export economy.

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



       Bookselling in ... China

       Xinhua reports China boasts more bookstores, increasing sales -- "225,000 bookstores and sales outlets for books at the end of 2018, a 4.3-percent increase from the previous year", which certainly sounds good.

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



11 January 2019 - Friday

PEN Pinter Prize speech | Prix du Livre étranger JDD/France Inter
The Fetishists review

       PEN Pinter Prize speech

       Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's PEN Pinter Prize speech has been available to watch or listen to at the English PEN site for a while, but for those (like me) who prefer text, the New Statesman now helpfully prints Shut up and write: Art, citizenship and what it means to be "an African writer".

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



       Prix du Livre étranger JDD/France Inter

       They've announced the winner of the prix du Livre étranger JDD/France Inter, a French foreign fiction prize -- and it goes to Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich's The Fact of a Body; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.
       Translated from the English, it is of course available in English; see the Flatiron publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
       Among the finalists it beat out is Ma Jian's China Dream, Katharine Dion's The Dependents, and two novels not yet available in English: Kaspar Colling Nielsen's Det europæiske forår (see the Salomonsson Agency information page) and Michal Ben-Naftali's המורה (forthcoming from Open Letter; see the ITHL information page).

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



       The Fetishists review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ibrahim al-Koni's The Fetishists: The Tuareg Epic.

       This came out in William M. Hutchins' translation from the University of Texas Press in November and is surely one of the major translations of 2018, though it seems to have been ... somewhat slow to attract interest so far.
       Several other works by al-Koni have been translated into English -- including the more recent trilogy also brought out by the University of Texas Press (The Puppet; New Waw, Saharan Oasis; and The Scarecrow), which I also have, and should be getting to -- and he has gotten some critical attention, notably also being named a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize (when it was still an author prize). Still, his work seems to be flying a bit under the radar in the US/UK. I'm not sure this one can change that -- it is his magnum opus, but it is not the most approachable of works, and one can magine reviewers and readers being a bit hesitant about the commitment. Still, this is a significant work, a major literary work, and it really does deserve more attention
       It did not make the PEN Translation Prize longlist; it will be interesting to say whether the Best Translated Book Awards include it in their twenty-five-title longlist (the announcement of which is still a few months away). Not easy going, but I think this is a very hard book to ignore .....

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



10 January 2019 - Thursday

RBC Taylor Prize finalists | National Jewish Book Awards
The year in reading at other weblogs

       RBC Taylor Prize finalists

       They've announced the five finalists for this year's RBC Taylor Prize, a Canadian prize awarded: "to enhance public appreciation for the genre known as literary non-fiction".
       The winner will be announced 4 March.

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



       National Jewish Book Awards

       They've announced the winners (and finalists) for the 2018 National Jewish Book Awards, which has quite a few categories.
       Hunting the Truth: Memoirs of Beate and Serge Klarsfeld -- a work in translation -- was named the Jewish Book of the Year, while Michael David Lukas' The Last Watchman of Old Cairo won the Fiction category. There's also an award, the 'Paper Brigade for New Israeli Fiction', for an untranslated work.

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



       The year in reading at other weblogs

       A couple of days ago I posted on 2018 in review at the complete review; here are some year-at-the-site and year-in-reading overviews from other weblogs:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



9 January 2019 - Wednesday

The Millions' 'Most Anticipated' | Yi Sang Literary Award
City of Refuge review

       The Millions' 'Most Anticipated'

       I've posted links to 2019-previews of books to look forward to -- here and here -- and now The Millions offers its Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2019 Book Preview of over 120 books.
       A good overview -- though there are a lot more independent press titles deserving of attention .....

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



       Yi Sang Literary Award

       As Kwak Yeon-soo reports in The Korea Times, Novelist Yun I-hyeong wins 43rd Yi Sang Literary Award -- a leading South Korean literary prize -- with 그들의 첫 번째와 두 번째 고양이 ('Their First and Second Cat').
       Previous winners of this prize include Yi Mun-yol (for Our Twisted Hero), The Vegetarian-author Han Kang, I Have the Right to Destroy Myself-author Kim Young-ha, and City of Ash and Red-author Pyun Hye-young.
       Several of Yun I-hyeong's works have been translated into English -- get, e.g. Danny at Amazon.com --, but not by any commercial US/UK publisher, but I imagine that will change (eventually ...).

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



       City of Refuge review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kitakata Kenzo's City of Refuge.
       Vertical brought this out in 2012 -- one of four of his titles they've published in English (all are under review at the complete review) -- and I'm surprised he hasn't caught on at least a bit more in English.

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



8 January 2019 - Tuesday

IPAF longlist | Whitbread Costa Book Awards category winners

       IPAF longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's International Prize for Arabic Fiction, sixteen novels selected from 134 entries.
       Six authors have previously been longlisted for the prize, and nine countries are represented (including Eritrea, by Huji Jaber).
       A six-title shortlist will be announced on 5 February, while the winner will be announced 23 April.

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



       Whitbread Costa Book Awards category winners

       The Whitbread Costa Book Awards have announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the five category-winners -- First Novel (The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (published in the US as The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle ...)), Novel (Normal People by Sally Rooney), Biography, Poetry, and Children's. See also, for example, Alison Flood's overview in The Guardian, Costa first novel award winner recalls 'awful' time writing his book.
       These five now compete head-to-head, the winner to be named, on 29 January, the Costa Book of the Year.

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



7 January 2019 - Monday

Les Murray tributes | Stanisław Lem profile | Nayantara Sahgal disinvited
A Mysterious Affair of Style review

       Les Murray tributes

       The great Les Murray has stepped down as poetry editor of Quadrant -- after twenty-eight years ! -- and they have a nice and very extensive selection of tributes In Praise of Les Murray there now.

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



       Stanisław Lem profile

       At The New Yorker's Culture Desk Paul Grimstad has a nice overview of The Beautiful Mind-Bending of Stanislaw Lem.

       Lem is one of those authors where I read practically everything that was available (mainly in German translation, in which a lot more was available) before I started the site -- close to forty books, and over ten thousand pages worth -- which is why there are no reviews up beyond Peter Swirski's A Stanislaw Lem Reader, but he's certainly an author I'd like to revisit (including the English translation of his Summa Technologiae, and of course the wonderful fictional book review volume, A Perfect Vacuum).

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



       Nayantara Sahgal disinvited

       Ninety-one-year-old (!) Nayantara Sahgal was invited to inaugurate an Indian literary festival -- but, as now reported (by the PTI, here at the Business Standard), Literature fest withdraws invite to writer Nayantara Sahgal after threat.
       Apparently, her criticism of the Narendra Modi government is just too great a risk .....

       (Updated): Here is what she was going to say: Nayantara Sahgal's speech for Marathi Sahitya Sammelan: In some cases, our duty to hurt sentiments (at the Indian Express).

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



       A Mysterious Affair of Style review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the second in Gilbert Adair's Evadne Mount trilogy, A Mysterious Affair of Style -- with a review of the final volume to follow soon.

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



6 January 2019 - Sunday

More: coming in 2019 ... | Translating from ... Danish
2018 in review at the complete review

       More: coming in 2019 ...

       Last week I listed links to some coming-in-2019 lists in various publications, and here are a few more noteworthy ones that have appeared since then:        (Updated - 8 January): See now also:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Translating from ... Danish

       In the Copenhagen Post Christian Wenande has a Q & A with a number of translators-from-the-Danish who gathered at the annual Bogforum book fair, Wizards behind the words: the unsung heroes of Danish literature
       Several of the favorites they mention are under review at the complete review: Lucky Per, Brummstein, and Havoc.

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



       2018 in review at the complete review

       The year that was at the site, in (some) numbers:

       In 2018, 217 books were reviewed at the complete review, just over one more a month than in 2017 (203). (The soft target each year is 200.)

       You can find the 50 most popular reviews, 2018 here. (I've discussed these previously, here.)

       The most popular (of the not particularly popular) author pages were:
  1. Patrick White
  2. Amélie Nothomb
  3. Murakami Haruki
  4. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
  5. Naguib Mahfouz
       The Patrick White page repeated as the most popular author-page, and the top four were also last year's top four (though in different order).

       The most popular review-indices were for:
  1. Erotic, Pornographic, and Sex-related books
  2. Far East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) literature
  3. Mysteries and Thrillers
  4. Eastern European literature
  5. French literature
  6. Books Written Before 1900
  7. Latin and South American literature
  8. Science fiction and fantasy
  9. Books from selected Imprints and Publishers
  10. Indian literature
       The science fiction index was the only new one in the top ten (with German dropping out, to eleventh place); the erotic index leapt to the top spot.

       The most popular author-(last-)name indices were: m (again by a large margin); s; b; a; and c. These top five were the same as last year -- though s moved up in the rankings.

       I received 384 review copies, down yet again (2.8%) from the 395 received last year, and the fewest since 2006, continuing the longterm trend. An address-change during the course of the year might have contributed to the decline -- more books lost along the way than usual -- but seems to have gone quite smoothly, so I'm a bit surprised by how relatively little I received.
       The leading providers of review copies were the usual suspects -- led by:
  • 1. New York Review Books (23)
  • 2. Other Press (17)
  • 3. Dalkey Archive Press (16)
  • 4. Harvard University Press (15)
  • 5. New Directions (14)
  • 6. Europa Editions (13)
  • -. Seagull Books (13)
  • 8. Archipelago (10)
  • -. Columbia University Press (10)
  • -. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (10)
  • -. Oneworld (10)
  • -. Oxford University Press (10)
  • -. Vintage (10)
       As of 31 December 2018 I had reviewed 101 (26.30% of all review copies received, and accounting for 46.54% of all titles reviewed) of the titles acquired this way (i.e. not including library or bought books, etc.), a higher rate than usual.

       Books originally written in 44 languages (up from 35 in 2017) were reviewed -- an even wider variety than usual. French narrowly beat out English, with Norwegian doing particularly well (despite only one Knausgaard and one Solstad getting reviewed over the course of the year).
       The top eleven languages were:
  • 1. French 37 (17.05% of all books) (2017: 39/19.21%)
  • 2. English 35 (2017: 40)
  • 3. Japanese 22 (26)
  • 4. German 17 (9)
  • 5. Norwegian 13 (4)
  • -. Spanish 13
  • 7. Italian 7
  • -. Korean 7
  • -. Russian 7
  • 10. Dutch 5
  • -. Serbian/Croatian 5
       Counting countries is a bit less useful, since they change (and occasionally disappear) over the decades and centuries, but books by authors from 54 countries were reviewed (2017: 51), the top eleven being:
  • 1. France 28 (2017: 27.5)
  • 2. Japan 22
  • 3. Norway 14
  • 4. UK 13
  • 5. Argentina 11
  • -. US 11
  • 7. India 9
  • 8. Germany 7
  • -. Yugoslavia 7
  • 10. Austria 6
  • -. Italy 6
       Fiction was, as always, dominant: 170 of the reviews were of novels, along with reviews of three novellas and eight story-collections. Fifteen works were of general non-fiction, along with two biographies, three autobiographies, and one travelogue. Six poetry collections and five dramas were reviewed.

       Recent publications again dominated, with 14 works originally published (in the language they were written in, not the English translation) in 2018, with a dozen or more each 2014-2017.
       For the second year in a row, the 1980s were a markedly unpopular decade, while quite a bit from the 1970s was reviewed:
  • 1990s: 14
  • 1980s: 6
  • 1970s: 20
  • 1960s: 10
  • 1950s: 9
  • 1940s: 8
  • 1930s: 4
  • 1920s: 9
  • 1910s: 1
  • 1900s: 1
       Four titles from the nineteenth century were reviewed, as well as five from earlier than that.

       The ratio of male-to-female authors continued near the terrible historical average, with only 17.51% of titles by women (38).

       In 2017 six titles were graded 'A', while in 2018 one was graded 'A+' (An Accidental Man, by Iris Murdoch), and two were graded 'A':        The lowest grade was a 'C', given to Norman Mailer's Deaths for the Ladies (and other disasters).

       Books reviewed ranged in length from 33 to 1152 pages (2017: 30/1653). Sixteen titles were over 500 pages long (2017: 12), and fifteen were less than 100 pages long (2017: 18); five were actually under 50 pages long (2017: 7).
       The total number of pages reviewed was up considerably, to 56,101 (compared to 50,657 in 2017), as the average reviewed book had 258.53 pages (median: 220).

       The length of the average review increased significantly, to 1167.76 words (2017: 961.02 words), and the reviews posted in 2018 totaled a pretty staggering 253,405 words, almost 60,000 (!) more than in 2017 (195,088). The longest review was 4040 words long, two more were over 3000 words, and twelve more over 2000; only four were under 500 words (2017: 10).

       Disappointingly, site traffic as a whole continued to decline, down a rather worrying -9.33% compared to 2017, though the decline was almost entirely in the first half of the year, stabilizing in the second half. The top countries from which more visitors came were Italy (12.; +3.10%), Ukraine, (25.; +92.73%), and Bangladesh (37.; +15.46%).
       There were visitors from 220 countries and territories in 2018 (2017: 226). There was traffic from two countries/territories from which there hadn't been any in 2017 -- Western Sahara and St. Barthélemy -- while nine from which there had been traffic in 2017 were not represented (Åland Islands, Dominica, Guinea-Bissau, St. Martin, Norfolk Island, Nauru, São Tomé & Príncipe, Tonga, and the British Virgin Islands).

       The countries from which the most traffic came were:
  1. United States (33.17%; 2017: 37.12%)
  2. India (13.66%)
  3. United Kingdom (7.91%)
  4. Canada (4.93%)
  5. Philippines (3.93%)
  6. Nigeria
  7. Australia
  8. Germany
  9. South Africa
  10. Netherlands
       Nigeria narrowly moved ahead of Australia, while South Africa made it into the top ten, displacing France.

       Visitors to the site still overwhelmingly reach it via search-queries -- and Google search queries at that (Bing, DuckDuckGo, and anything else are barely a trickle compared to the Google flood) -- while outside site-referrals continue to depressingly barely rate a mention.

       Users acessed the device from a variety of platforms:
  • desktop: 56.06%
  • mobile: 36.82%
  • tablet: 7.12%
       (Presumably one of the reasons for the site's decline in popularity is that it isn't particularly mobile/tablet friendly while there has been an enormous shift to internet-use such devices. (The content and what is presented at the complete review doesn't readily lend itself to more mobile-friendly formatting, so this will likely continue to be an issue.))

       There was only one title which a significant number (i.e. dozens+) of copies were purchased by users via the Amazon links on the review-pages -- Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries -- though several other titles did sell a decent number of copies, including highly-rated Iris Murdoch's An Accidental Man and Carlos Rojas' The Valley of the Fallen, as well as Gerald Murnane's Border Districts.
       I suppose that in the case of the Johnson and the Rojas, attention to them at the site may have had at least a small impact on overall interest/sales, but those seem to be the only two titles for which that could be said in 2018.

       Content-wise, the year was fairly satisfactory. Obviously there are areas in which it would be nice to see increased coverage -- of books in certain languages; books by women (and by authors in quite a few other categories ...); certain genres; certain (older) time-periods -- but on the whole the spread was fairly good this year, and the coverage even more extensive than usual.
       Areas in which I hope to specifically increase coverage are drama and -- really ! -- English-language fiction, which I really feel has been getting increasingly neglected hereabouts, especially contemporary stuff (I look at the best-of-the-year lists that come out from the major publications and am astonished how few of these books I've even seen, much less looked at).
       On the other hand, I would love to never touch a story-collection again -- even as two of the first three books reviewed in 2019 were story collections ..... (Seriously, though: story-collections continue to appeal less and less to me -- and novels evermore. Let everything be novels !)

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



5 January 2019 - Saturday

Bestselling in 2018 in ... France | New Houellebecq
Night School review

       Bestselling in 2018 in ... France

       At ActuaLitté they report on the top-selling titles in France in 2018, as determined by L'Observatoire de la librairie. The rankings just take into account bookstore sales (not online sales), and are from a limited number of bookstores at that, but presumably/hopefully give a decent idea of what was most popular (though sadly no actual sales figures are given).
       The top three titles were:
  1. La disparition de Stéphanie Mailer by Joël Dicker
  2. Couleurs de l'incendie by Pierre Lemaitre
  3. Leurs enfants après eux by Nicolas Mathieu
       Apparently, bande dessinée -- graphic novels and the like -- did particularly well, with an increase of 6.3 per cent over 2017.
       See also their break-down of the year as a whole -- split between impressive growth (7.7 per cent from the beginning of the year through 19 August (the beginning of the fall 'rentrée' bookselling season) and a decline of 2.1 per cent over the rest of the year.

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



       New Houellebecq

       The new Michel Houellebecq, Sérotonine, is now out in France -- see the Flammarion publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- and while translations into other European languages are due out shortly (the German one is due out Monday), English-speaking readers will have to wait until the fall.
       In The Guardian Angelique Chrisafis writes at length about it in 'Vanquished white male': Houellebecq's new novel predicts French discontent, while France 24 has the AFP report, French literary rebel Houellebecq releases 'Serotonin,' a novel that echoes 'Yellow Vest' protests. Meanwhile, there's already a ton of French coverage -- as well as even some German reviews (e.g. in the Süddeutsche Zeitung), while Die Welt has an entertaining sampler-piece (sorry, in German ...).

       (Updated - 6 January): See now also Robert Zaretsky on the book and author, explaining that Michel Houellebecq Hated Europe Before You Did at Foreign Policy (where they've had a surprising amount of solid literary coverage recently).

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



       Night School review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Reader for Grownups, Bán Zsófia's clever collection of stories, Night School, just (about) out from Open Letter.

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



4 January 2019 - Friday

1968 Nobel Prize | Bestselling in 2018 in ... Germany
Publishers Weekly buys The Millions
'2018 speculative titles in translation' | Tel Aviv Review of Books

       1968 Nobel Prize

       The 1968 Nobel Prize in Literature went to Snow Country (etc.)-author Kawabata Yasunari.
       Fifty years after the awarding of the prize the Swedish Academy opens up its archives -- and it's no surprise the Japanese are first to report on how it went down in 1968; see the Asahi Shimbun report by Mariko Nakamura, Details released about selection of Kawabata for 1968 Nobel Prize.
       More details -- including the full list of nominees -- hopefully to follow .....

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



       Bestselling in 2018 in ... Germany

       At Börsenblatt they have the bestsller lists for 2018 for Germany for books in a variety of formats, fiction and non.
       Sebastian Fitzek's Der Insasse was the top-selling hardcover fiction title, ahead of novels by Frank Schätzing and Dörte Hansen, a Jojo Moyes was the top foreign title, in fourth place. Fitzek also had the number too (mass-market) paperback title -- sandwiched between two Carmen Korn novels.
       (Fitzek has had several novels translated into English, most recently The Nightwalker; see the Pegasus publicity page.)
       Michelle Obama's Becoming was the bestselling non-fiction title -- followed by a Stephen Hawking volume.
       See also the overview-article at Börsenblatt.

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



       Publishers Weekly buys The Millions

       Jim Milliot reports at Publishers Weekly that PW Takes Over the Millions, as:
PWxyz, parent company of Publishers Weekly, has acquired the online magazine the Millions, plus its website TheMillions.com, for an undisclosed price.
       At The Millions founder C. Max Magee also shares the news.
       It'll be interesting to see how/whether the site changes -- the sound financial backing can't hurt -- but hopefully they'll continue to do what they do best -- including their bi-annual 'Most Anticipated" book previews.

       (Updated - 10 January): See now also The Millions Will Live on, But the Indie Book Blog Is Dead by Kat Rosenfield at Vulture.

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



       '2018 speculative titles in translation'

       At Locus Rachel Cordasco compiled a list of Speculative Fiction in Translation: Novels, Collections, and Short Stories 2018.
       Some of these are re-issues (the Dath, some of the Živkovićs), others don't seem to have been published in the US (e.g the Marie Darrieussecq), and of course 'speculative fiction' arguably covers more (and/or less ...), but it's certainly a useful general overview.

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



       Tel Aviv Review of Books

       Via I'm pointed to the brand new The Tel Aviv Review of Books, which looks fairly promising -- see, for example, the lengthy Q & A with translator Jessica Cohen, 'A Translator is First and Foremost a Reader'.

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



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