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21 November 2014 - Friday

Lydia Davis reading Dag Solstad
Coming to NY: New Literature from Europe festival - Russian Literature Week !

       Lydia Davis reading Dag Solstad

       'Tis, sadly, already newspaper/magazine literary-silly-season -- meaning, astonishingly, things get even sillier than usual, with periodicals filling their pages (prematurely) with their 'best of the year'-selections -- see, for example, Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2014, Kirkus Reviews' Best Fiction Books of 2014, and The Washington Post's The top 50 fiction books for 2014.
       Slightly more interesting than these are the contributors'/authors' favorites of the year that a variety of publications always publish -- the Times Literary Supplement's is always a favorite, The Guardian/The Observer always has a good line-up, The Spectator .....
       Among the first up this year: the New Statesman offers their: Books of the Year: NS friends and contributors choose their favourite reading of 2014.
       Worth it just for Can't and Won't-author Lydia Davis, who reveals:
One of the most interesting books for me this past year has been the latest "novel" by the much-laurelled Norwegian Dag Solstad.
       (As longtime readers know, I revere Shyness and Dignity-author Dag Solstad, the Scandinavian author -- along with, perhaps, Per Olov Enquist -- most deserving of the Nobel Prize, if they dare pick anyone from that region anytime soon.)
       Even more impressively:
Since the book, known familiarly over there as "Telemark novel" (its full title is long), does not exist in English, I have been struggling, happily, to make what I can of it in Norwegian
       Way to go Ms. Davis !
       (The book is -- suggested English title -- The Insoluble Epic Element in Telemark in the Years 1592-1896; see the Aschehoug Agency information page (and, hey, the opening words are, apparently: "Read slowly, one word at a time, if you want to understand what I am saying", which is presumably what Davis is doing). I'm hoping for imminent translation into English (though I'll settle for: in my lifetime -- and am tempted to seek out a Norwegian copy, to try to make my way through it Davis-style ...).)

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

       Coming to NY: New Literature from Europe festival

       This year's New Literature from Europe festival -- Crossing Borders: Europe Through the Lens of Time -- is on 5 and 6 December.
       As always, a nice little line-up (though the only title under review at the complete review so far is Viviane, by Julianne Deck).

       Flabbergasting, however: the site with the URL -- surely the one you'll be pointed to if you 'Google' (or whatever you do) for 'New Literature from Europe' -- only offers information about last year's festival, while the official site for this year's festival is apparently Why not update the old site (archiving the 2013 information there too, so it's nicely all together ...) ?

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

       Coming to NY: Russian Literature Week !

       It's Russian Literature Week ! 1 to 5 December.
       Some pretty interesting-sounding panels, definitely worth a look.

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

20 November 2014 - Thursday

(American) National Book Awards | Cubanabooks | Kertész Q & A
Korean Literature Translation Awards | The Three-Body Problem review

       (American) National Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of the 2014 (American) National Book Awards.
       Redeployment, by Phil Klay, won the fiction prize; I can imagine almost no circumstances under which I would review this title, but see the Penguin Press publicity page or get your copy at, or pre-order it at

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


       The number of recently and newly-founded presses devoted to literature in translation continues to impress -- the promising Deep Vellum just released its first title, for example, and the still very young Hispabooks has already done an impressive job of bringing literature from Spain to English-speaking readers in a very short time.
       New to me is Cubanabooks, but a just-received stack of their six fiction titles easily wins me over. With a focus on: "contemporary literature by Cuban women writers" they offer the sort of things we're unlikely to otherwise see -- and, impressively, their books are bilingual editions; in a country (the US) where Spanish is widely spoken and read, that seems like a great way of making these works accessible to the largest possible audience, from native speakers more comfortable reading the originals to those without any Spanish who can rely entirely on the translated versions.
       Surely worth a closer look -- the just-released The Bleeding Wound, by Mirta Yáñez looks like a great place to satrt; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or

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       Kertész Q & A

       At hlo they reprint an excerpt from An interview with Imre Kertész by Thomas Cooper from The Hungarian Quarterly.
       See also my review of Kertész's The Holocaust as Culture, which is mentioned here and surely deserves to get more attention than it has so far.

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       Korean Literature Translation Awards

       The Korea Times prints the judges' report -- by Brother Anthony, Jung Ha-yun, and Min Eun-kyung -- for the 45th Modern Korean Literature Translation Awards.
       One of their more positive reports in recent years -- though sad/interesting to note: "In the poetry category, only four entries were received". But at least fiction-translation seems to be thriving.

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       The Three-Body Problem review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Liu Cixin's The Three-Body Problem -- one of this year's most anticipated translations, as the first blockbuster science fiction title out China to make it into English.

       Interesting publishing side-notes: after some back-and-forth publisher Tor went with a Western-style arrangement for the author's name on the cover: 'Cixin Liu'. While Japanese authors' names have long been written 'Western' style ('Yukio Mishima', 'Haruki Murakami') only recently have publishers ventured to 'westernize' Korean names ('Young-ha Kim' and 'Kyung-sook Shin' are the first to get the Western treatment, while, for example, Dalkey Archive Press' Library of Korean Literature still adheres to the Korean-(/Chinese-/Japanese-)style of writing family names first ('Mao Zedong')), and I can't recall seeing it used for a translation-from-the Chinese (well, excluding also-English-writing authors like Zhang Ailing). (House style at the complete review is home-turf style wherever the book was first published -- hence: 'Liu Cixin' (and 'Kertész Imre, etc.).) I am curious to see whether this takes.

       On a more troubling note: the work is translated by Ken Liu -- but the copyright page insists:
English translation © 2014 by China Educational Publications Import & Export Corp. Ltd
       That's just outrageous.

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

19 November 2014 - Wednesday

'Public Domain Rank' for authors ? | David R. Godine profile
Whitbread Costa shortlists | 'Literary' agents

       'Public Domain Rank' for authors ?

       Allen B. Riddell's 'Public Domain Rank: Identifying Notable Individuals with the Wisdom of the Crowd' (see abstract or (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) full text) is an interesting attempt at: "identifying authors of notable works throughout history". The main purpose is to identify works coming into the public domain -- determining which ones are most worth preserving -- but the methodology also works for authors whose work won't be in the public domain for quite a while, with Riddell suggesting:
A second application arise from treating the Public Domain Rank as a general, independent index of an individual's importance for contemporary audiences.
       So how well does this thing work ?
       Admirably (and entertainingly) there's an easy-to-use Public Domain Rank Browser -- allowing anyone to see for themselves.
       The results are ... actually rather disappointing.
       Okay, I've been complaining that Arno Schmidt hasn't been getting his due -- hence my Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy (you've got your copy, right ?) -- but does he really rank just 62nd among authors who died in 1979 ?
       Okay, maybe I'm a little too close to that one; how about Brecht -- 17th among authors who died in 1956 ? And among authors who died in 1989, surely I'm not alone in believing Samuel Beckett (12th) and Thomas Bernhard (33rd) rate higher ?
       How about a bumper year like 1970 ? Some authors of considerable note who died that year fare pretty poorly:
  • S.Y.Agnon - 21st
  • John Dos Passos - 22
  • Paul Celan - 54
  • John O'Hara - 57
  • Jean Giono - 68
  • Erich Maria Remarque - 77
  • Stanley Edgar Hyman - 86
  • Unica Zürn - 146
  • Nelly Sachs - 173
  • François Mauriac - 188
  • Mishima Yukio - 373 (or thereabouts -- it's hard to keep track that far down the list)
       Do these rankings really reflect their relative: "importance for contemporary audiences" (especially when you consider some of the higher-ranked names) ? Methinks ... not so much.
       And consider even a year long in the public domain -- 1910, where the top four author are, in order:
  1. Ambrose Bierce
  2. Mark Twain
  3. Goldwin Smith
  4. Leo Tolstoy
       Any formula that puts Goldwin Smith ahead of Tolstoy ... maybe not entirely reliable.
       Still, fun to play with, and maybe a decent place to start. But it could certainly use some tinkering.

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

       David R. Godine profile

       In the Boston Globe Mark Shanahan profiles David R. Godine (of the eponymous publishing house), in Beyond sales, Boston publisher's devotion speaks volumes.
       Godine now famously published (and kept in print) a couple of Patrick Modiano titles, even as for year they were ... not exactly flying off the shelves ("I couldn't sell them to Chicago for landfill", in his words), which has now paid off (see, for example, my review of Honeymoon). But that's just the tip of an excellent list -- notable also for its many Georges Perec titles.

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

       Whitbread Costa shortlists

       They've announced the category shortlists for the Whitbread Costa Book Awards -- though not yet at the official site, last I checked .... See, for example, the report in The Telegraph.
       None of these titles are under review at the complete review, but I do have and will be getting to the Ali Smith (and, if/when I get my hands on a copy, possibly the Neel Mukherjee).

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

       'Literary' agents

       At The New Republic Stephen Akey writes about 'The problem with literary agents', in My Book Is Not About Vampires or Childhood Trauma. I'm Doomed.
       "I have no problem with the role played by literary agents as cultural gatekeepers", he claims -- but he does seem to have a problem: not with the abstract ideal of such agents as cultural gatekeepers, but the reality of how they perform that role -- concluding that:
in mediating between writer and publisher, the agencies build in an extra layer of exactly what is not needed: more conservatism and caution.
       You know where I stand -- at a safe and cautious ten-foot-pole distance -- but always fun to see yet another perspective on the peculiar business that is the publishing industry.

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

18 November 2014 - Tuesday

Poetry in ... Poland | New issue(s)/look for list
Leave Me Alone review

       Poetry in ... Poland

       At Eurozine they reprint Lukasz Wojtusik's Q & A with Polish poet Ewa Lipska from New Eastern Europe, A musician of words.
       For a Lipska-sampler, check out The New Century; see the Northwestern University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       New issue(s)/look for list

       _list Books from Korea has a new (confusing and messy) look to their site, which doesn't seem to be quite all there yet. The Summer, 2014 issue, which I had not previously seen/linked to is conveniently available; the current one -- apparently with a lot of Ko Un coverage, which you can access via the main page -- not so much.
       I hope they make it more functional/user-friendly, but meanwhile there's some interesting stuff to be found in the summer issue, including the usual reviews.

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

       Leave Me Alone review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Novel of Chengdu by Murong Xuecun, Leave Me Alone.
       This first came out in English from Allen & Unwin in Australia, in 2009, and has now been picked up by Make Do/Forty-six in the UK.

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

17 November 2014 - Monday

Translations from ...Chinese | Jaume Cabré profile | Margaret Drabble Q & A

       Translations from ...Chinese

       The Translation Databases at Three Percent offer a good overview of most of what has been translated into English and published in the US in 2014, from all languages (though the upcoming long overdue update will certainly offer a better picture ...), but it can still be helpful to have more specific lists -- like Paper Republic's 2014 translations from Chinese -- a bumper crop.
       This doesn't quite overlap with the Three Percent list, as it includes both US and UK publications (Mo Yan's Frogs, for example, is only coming out in the US in 2015, and will thus only be included on next year's database), but gives a good sense of what has been translated.
       Surprisingly, almost a quarter of the fiction is under review at the complete review -- four titles, with another to follow later this week:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Jaume Cabré profile

       Jaume Cabré's Confessions is now out in English (in the UK ... and elsewhere, having apparently already sold 60,000 copies in Poland; see Bestsellery z wysokiej półki), and in The Scotsman David Robinsom profiles Jaume Cabré: Barcelona's literary superstar.
       See also the Arcadia publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Margaret Drabble Q & A

       At The Believer online, Lydia Perović has a Q & A with A.S.Byatt's sister, Margaret Drabble, a fine writer in her own right.
       I certainly like her attitude towards historical fiction ("I know the plot. I know my Shakespeare. I know what happened. I don't need to read it to find out.").
       And then there's her take on (The Sea, the Sea, etc.-)author Iris Murdoch:
Basically, she was an androgynous figure. She wasn't really a woman; she wasn't a man, but she wasn't a woman. She was married to this elderly professor...
       Still, can't disagree re. Bayley's Iris .....

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

16 November 2014 - Sunday

Books in ... Burma
German literary prizes: Bremer Literaturpreis - Roswitha Literaturpreis

       Books in ... Burma

       At CNN Alisha Haridasani reports that Myanmar comes in from cold with bookish revival, finding a literary and reading revival -- though with a long way to go:
A local library I visited in Bagan was a case in point -- bookshelves creaking under the weight of unloved, mildew-covered books, most of them obscure and unrecognizable. According to a survey by the Asia Foundation, almost 90% of books at libraries such as this one are religious texts.
       See also the (limited) index of books from and about Burma under review at the complete review.

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

       German literary prize: Bremer Literaturpreis

       It seems like one -- or indeed several -- German literary prizes are being awarded daily, and yesterday they announced that Marcel Beyer takes this year's Bremer Literaturpreis -- a rare German literary prize awarded for a specific title, Beyer's Graphit, in thsi case.
       A €20,000 prize barely seems worth a mention -- but the list of winners suggests this is one is worth paying some attention to: consider, they've given the award to: Clemens Meyer (2014), Wolf Haas (2013) Friederike Mayröcker (2011), Clemens J. Setz (2010), W.G.Sebald (2002), Elfriede Jelinek (1996), Peter Handke (1988), Volker Braun (1986), Peter Weiss (1982), Christa Wolf (1978), Thomas Bernhard (1965), Paul Celan (1958), and Ingeborg Bachmann (1957), among others.
       Equally impressively, their 'Förderpreis', for up-and-coming authors recognized talents such as Herta Müller (1985) and Durs Grünbein (1992) early on. So they're clearly doing something right.

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

       German literary prize: Roswitha Literaturpreis

       The Roswitha-Preis is apparently the German variation on the English-language prize that use to be called the Orange Prize -- though it's been around considerably longer.
       At €5,500 it's not a huge money prize -- but that winner's list is a knock-out: future Nobel laureates were recognized way early on: Elfriede Jelinek in 1978 (!) and Herta Müller in (1990), and other winners include Aichinger, Mayröcker, Sarah Kirsch, Irmtraud Morgner, Julia Franck -- and die Grande Dame des deutschen Comics, Dr. Erika Fuchs.
       They've announced this year's prize-winner: it's Gertrud Leutenegger.

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

15 November 2014 - Saturday

Mao's little book | Dwight Garner Q & A
Children Come by Ship review

       Mao's little book

       Among the bestselling books of all time (okay, like that other big 'seller', the Bible, more copies were probably given away than actually sold) is Mao Tse-Tung's (as he was called/transliterated, back in the day) so-called 'Little Red Book' (actual title: Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung; get your copy from or
       At (New York's) Grolier Club they have a 50th anniversary exhibit -- see also the coverage in The New York Times. It sounds pretty neat, and I will certainly be going to have a look. (My own appreciated-for-its-pocket-size copy is a Foreign Language Press one from 1967.)
       And I am also really curious about Mao's Little Red Book: A Global History, edited by Alexander C. Cook, and will try to get my hands on a copy; see the Cambridge University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Dwight Garner Q & A

       At The New York Times' 'Times Insider' Susan Lehman has a Book Reviewer Tell-All: Dwight Garner on Reading, Reviewing and Avoiding Blindness with The New York Times' book reviewer.
       Always of interest to me: how many books other reviewers/outlets have to deal with -- and Garner says: "I get about 25 books a day in the mail". By comparison, I -- admittedly better able to keep the unsolicited titles at bay -- have gotten 466 review copies to (yesterday's) date in 2014 -- less than a book and a half a day; at a 25-per-day rate I would be entombed in my apartment in short order (admittedly: not the worst fate I could imagine) -- I can barely handle sorting, and especially deaccessioning, from the trickle I do get .....
       (By further comparison: I have reviewed 173 books to date in 2014 -- not many less than have been reviewed in the daily edition of The New York Times so far this year .....)

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

       Children Come by Ship review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Oliver Friggieri's Children Come by Ship -- the first title translated from the Maltese under review at the complete review.

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

14 November 2014 - Friday

Prizes: AKO Literatuuurprijs - ALTA NTA | Pre-Arabian Tales

       Prize: AKO Literatuuurprijs

       They've announced that Oorlog en terpentijn, by Stefan Hertmans, has won this year's AKO Literatuuurprijs -- one of the leading (and, at €50,000, most remunerative) Dutch literary prizes; the book was also shortlisted for another one of the big ones, the Libris Literatuur Prijs, earlier this year.
       See also the foreign rights information page at De Bezige Bij -- and note that foreign rights have already been widely snapped up, including into English -- Knopf will be publishing this in the US, and Harvill Secker in the US; as to whether they'll keep the suggested English title as 'War and Turpentine' .....

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

       Prize: ALTA NTA

       The American Literary Translators Association's National Translation Award winner has been announced; since they're ... between websites, the only notice I could find was the Twitter mention: Eugene Ostashevsky and Matvei Yankelevich's translation of Alexander Vvedensky's An Invitation for Me to Think takes the prize.
       See also the New York Review Books publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Pre-Arabian Tales

       A neat-sounding volume coming out from Penguin Classics is Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange -- described by Robert Irwin in (what I assume is) his Introduction, here reprinted in The Independent as The earliest known Arabic short stories in the world have just been translated into English for the first time.
       Among the translation(-and-translators-)-move-in-mysterious-ways observations:
I suggested to Malcolm Lyons, the translator of a recent edition of the Nights, that having completed that mighty task, he might consider translating Tales of the Marvellous. He sounded unenthusiastic and I thought no more about it. Then, last summer, he emailed to let me know that he had completed the translation.
       In any case, I look forward to seeing this.
       See also the Penguin Classics publicity page, or get your copy from, or pre-order from

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

13 November 2014 - Thursday

Indian literature abroad | Prizes: Goldsmiths Prize
Bad Sex in Fiction shortlist - Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize longlist
Honeymoon review

       Indian literature abroad

       At Arunava Sinha argues that Indian literature must look beyond English to go global, suggesting it's time to:
create a Library of India, comprising, say, translations of the 50 best works in Indian languages (fine, we'll include original works in English too) into a set of books that can truly represent the India story
       As Mahmud Rahman discussed in his recent series of posts at the Asymptote weblog, a variety of hurdles still present themselves to such efforts. One hopes that it's only a matter of time .....

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

       Prize: Goldsmiths Prize

       They've announced the winner of the 2014 Goldsmiths Prize, the £10,000 fiction prize with the cringe-worthy tag-line: 'Fiction at its most novel', and it is How to be both, by Ali Smith, selected from 119 (regrettably unnamed) novels entered.
       That Man Booker-shortlisted title isn't out in the US yet -- a couple of more weeks -- but I should get to it around then; meanwhile, get your copy at or pre-order your copy at

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

       Prize: Bad Sex in Fiction shortlist

       The Literary Review has announced the shortlist for its Bad Sex in Fiction Award.
       The Guardian helpfully presents the offending passages -- and gives you a chance to vote for your favorite.
       The only shortlisted title under review at the complete review is Murakami Haruki's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

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

       Prize: Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the 2015 Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize, fifteen titles selected "from over seventy entries"; I'm afraid none of them are under review at the complete review.

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

       Honeymoon review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano's Honeymoon, one of the few Modiano titles in print in the US at the time of the Nobel-announcement, and now quickly reissued in paperback by Godine.
       Published in French in 1990, this one comes and fits smack in the middle of the trio just published by Yale University Press in Suspended Sentences (see my review of, for example, the title novel). There's little doubt that this is one of the Modiano-peaks (of a pretty high (and very extensive) plateau). And while Suspended Sentences fare very well under the translating hand of Mark Polizzotti, it was old master Barbara Wright who translated this one -- and nailed it.

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

12 November 2014 - Wednesday

Prizes: Premio Carlos Fuentes - Business book - Science book
Mark Polizzotti Q & A | The Creator review

       Prize: Premio Carlos Fuentes

       They've announced that the Premio Internacional Carlos Fuentes a la Creación Literaria for 2014 will go to Sergio Ramírez (the first one, in 2012, went to Mario Vargas Llosa).
       Worth US$250,000 (though the actual pay-out is in Mexican pesos), this is trying to establish itself as a major Spanish-language author award; with Ramírez they've certainly selected an author that helps establish their bona-fides: woefully under-appreciated/noticed in English (perhaps because of his inconvenient politics -- he was vice-president of Nicaragua in the Sandinista government, from 1985 to 1990 ...), he is a major writer.
       Three of his works are under review at the complete review: the novels A Thousand Deaths Plus One and Margarita, How Beautiful the Sea, as well as A Memoir of the Sandinista Revolution Adiós Muchachos.

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

       Prize: Business book

       Surely there was never much doubt about what book would win this year's FT and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award, but they had to go through the process and the motions; now the inevitable has been announced: Thomas Piketty's Capital wins Business Book of the Year.
       This really was no contest: the other books might have been impressive, but nothing has come close to the impact this book has had in a long, long time.
       See also the Harvard University Press publicity page, or get your copy, if you really still don't have one, at or

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

       Prize: Science book

       They've announced that Stuff Matters, by Mark Miodownik, has won this year's Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books
       Get your copy at or

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

       Mark Polizzotti Q & A

       At the Yale Books Unbound weblog they have An Interview with Mark Polizzotti, whose translation of their new three-in-one volume of Patrick Modiano -- reviewed separately here as Afterimage, Suspended Sentences, and Flowers of Ruin -- just came out.
       Good to hear that he and Yale UP are: "discussing the possibility of more Modiano".
       (His Modiano is very good, but don't forget about his translation of Flaubert's Bouvard and Pécuchet; as to Franck Thilliez's Syndrome E .....)

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

       The Creator review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mynona's (actually: Salomo Friedlaender) 1920 novel, The Creator, yet another nice (re)discovery from Wakefield Press.

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

11 November 2014 - Tuesday

Prizes: Schweizer Buchpreis - Scotiabank Giller Prize
Jurek Becker's Jacob the Liar | Birth of a Bridge review

       Prize: Schweizer Buchpreis

       They've announced that Koala, by Lukas Bärfuss, has won this year's Swiss Book Prize, selected from 80 (unnamed ...) submissions (and note that the prize is only for written-in-German books).
       See also the Wallstein Verlag publicity page (which has some English book-information; scroll down and click on 'Englisch').
       Bärfuss' One Hundred Days came out in Tess Lewis' translation not too long ago; get your copy at or

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

       Prize: Scotiabank Giller Prize

       They've announced that Us Conductors, by Sean Michaels, has been awarded this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize -- with prize money that's been upped to C$100,000.
       See also the official site (great URL !), publicity pages from Penguin Random House Canada and Tin House, or get your copy at or

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

       Jurek Becker's Jacob the Liar

       I'm puzzled by a Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung article by Jochen Hieber looking back at the literature of GDR -- and making the claim that only one work of true 'world literature' was produced under the East German regime (arguing that pretty much everything else of note was pretty much solely of (greater-)German interest): Jurek Becker's Jacob the Liar.
       I lapped up everything of Becker's back in the day (the 1980s), but can't say that this stood out above a heap of other works that seemed to be of greater-than-just-national-interest.
       Of course, that Robin Williams film version (see the IMDb page) didn't help much. But you can still get your copy from or

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

       Birth of a Bridge review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Maylis de Kerangal multiple-award-winning 2010 novel, Birth of a Bridge, now available in English from Talonbooks.

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

10 November 2014 - Monday

New old Georges Perec novel | Daphne Awards
Self-publishing Arno Schmidt

       New old Georges Perec novel

       In The Guardian Georges Perec-biographer David Bellos explains How Georges Perec's lost first novel has finally come to be published as Perec's Portrait of a Man is now coming out in English (well, in the UK; American readers will have to be patient until next year ...).
       Who would have thought that Perec would be out-Bolañoing Roberto Bolaño as far as posthumous publications go, but this comes hot on the heels of the first English publication of his classic I Remember -- good times indeed for fans (and who isn't ?).
       See the publicity pages for Portrait of a Man from MacLehose Press and the University of Chicago Press, or get your copy at (or pre-order your copy at

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

       Daphne Awards

       They've held the first Daphne Awards -- a great idea, reassessing the best books of 50 years ago (1963, for this first go) -- and they've now announced the winners.
       The fiction prize went to the eminently worthy The Ice Palace, by Tarjei Vesaas -- yes, a (very rare) top-rated book hereabouts.
       Much as I love it (and I do, it's a beautiful book), however, I think that fifty years on it's hard to put it ahead of Julio Cortázar's (equally highly rated, hereabouts) Hopscotch which, I'd argue, is probably one of maybe the dozen most influential (and 'significant') works of fiction written in the second half of the twentieth century. Mind you, I'm talking influence, which isn't the same as quality, but in this case it comes on top of it being just a great work. Yes, nice that Vesaas' much quieter work gets some recognition (it's in print, but doesn't get nearly the attention/love it should), but Hopscotch was the book of the year.
       (I'm talking fiction here because ... well, what else is worth talking about ? But they did award prizes in several other categories as well -- Akhmatova. Primo Levi, sure, good stuff too).

       Jessa Crispin, whose conceived the awards, also comments at Bookslut -- though I have to admit I really don't get where she's coming from in claiming about the "post-1945 era in literature", that:
The names that we associate most strongly with that era -- Mailer, Roth, Updike, etc -- are all of this macho pose, this high masculinity. They dominate our view of what the post-war novel is supposed to be, and everything else kind of hides in their shadow.
       Admittedly, I'm not very worldly, but: not in any world I know. (Though I suppose there might be some university seminars where this is the prevailing wisdom/party line.)
       (Also: how relevant is this in this context ? By 1963 Roth had published all of two novels, and Updike three (and surely neither had really entered their full 'macho pose'-phases yet (long though those then extended ...); they had barely made any impact on even just the American world of letters, much less the larger, lasting one.)
       Besides, I'd worry about (or rather, simply ignore) anyone who thinks the novel -- even in a specific period or era -- "is supposed to be" any particular way or thing. That's the wonderful thing about fiction: anything goes, and any way can be the right way (even, occasionally, Roth's and Updike's (yeah, even I have my doubts about Mailer)).

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

       Self-publishing Arno Schmidt

       As I mentioned last week, I've released a little book, Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy. (I hesitate to say 'published' because it's not yet widely available via many distributors (currently only in Kindle-form ( (US), (UK), and any other Amazon you care to buy from), in print from (here), and as an ePub from (here)), so so far it's been a very soft launch.)
       My main reason for writing it was because there was essentially no English-language coverage of the Schmidt-centennial this year, and because he's an author deserving more attention; it's gratifying to see that there does seem to be some interest in him and in this -- seventeen copies sold in less than a week, to readers in the US, UK, and Germany, which considerably exceeds my early expectations. Maybe there is hope yet, of bringing Schmidt ... if not into the mainstream (a tall order) at least the busier periphery.

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

9 November 2014 - Sunday

Murakami picks up Welt-Literaturpreis | Avelum review

       Murakami picks up Welt-Literaturpreis

       Not quite the Nobel, either cash- or prestige-wise (but, hey, Philip Roth did win it (2009) -- albeit six years after ... Jeffrey Eugenides), but the Welt-Literaturpreis has a decent list of winners (Kertész Imre, Jonathan Franzen, the obligatory Amos Oz) and this year they gave it to Murakami Haruki, who got to pick it up a couple of days ago.
       With Clemens J. Setz (whose Indigo is just out in English; get your copy at or giving the laudatio, and surprise guest Patti Smith playing three songs it sounds like it wasn't bad for an awards-show. Murakami's speech isn't online yet, but The Japan Times, for example, reports that Novelist Murakami hails Hong Kong democracy protesters in German award speech.
       Meanwhile in Die Welt Richard Kämmerlings has a long (German) Q & A with Murakami -- fairly interesting, once you get past the ridiculous lede that explains: 'Haruki Murakami doesn't like giving interviews' (which makes everyone involved -- interviewer, interviewee, reader -- sound like a chump).

       (Updated - 11 November): See now also the (German translation) of Murakami's acceptance speech.

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

       Avelum review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Otar Chiladze's 1995 novel, Avelum: A Survey of the Current Press and a Few Love Affairs, which came out in Donald Rayfield's translation from Garnett Press last year.
       With Georgia set to be 'guest of honour' at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2018 more literary attention should be coming their way -- and Chiladze is one of the twentieth century Georgian greats. Garnett has also published his A Man was Going Down the Road (which I have and should be getting to as well) -- a book that's coming out in German shortly, in a pretty cool looking edition (and, honestly, with a better title -- see the Matthes & Seitz Berlin publicity page).
       Meanwhile, of course, Dalkey Archive Press is building up a nice little Georgian Literature Series -- and among their forthcoming titles is another Rayfield translation, the fun-sounding Kvachi by Mikheil Javakhishvili; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or

       Odd coincidence: this is the second book this month I've read which mentions Hélène Carrère d'Encausse. Okay, the previous one was her son's book (Limonov) -- but what are the chances of coming across a second work of fiction in which she gets name-checked within a month ?

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

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