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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 31 October 2005

21 October: Booker-Open Russia shortlist | Iain Sinclair at the LR Bookshop | "I Didn't Do It For You" review
22 October: Korea in Frankfurt | Man Booker boost | Edgar on censorship
23 October: Fighting literary paper flight
24 October: Pamuk picks up Peace Prize | S. Korean Nobel hopes | Beyond Borders report | Lawless World review
25 October: Eco in India | Ba Jin laid to rest | Juergen Boos on Korea in Frankfurt | Wet books
26 October: Chris(topher) Wilson's (The Ballad of Lee) Cotton | Critical clowns ? | University presses | Antonia Fraser interview
27 October: More charges filed against Pamuk | Nirmal Verma (1929-2005) | Poor recognition | Greetings review
28 October: International bestsellers | Copyright in Iran | 50 years of reviews at The Village Voice | Kinshu review | New RainTaxi | Pinter in Egypt
29 October: Basque Transcript | Whiting Writers' Awards | Pamuk speech | Wendy Lesser: NYRB sales rep | Lost sales effect ?
30 October: The literary scene in Africa: Taban Lo Liyong - Chenjerai Hove | Ezenwa Ohaeto (and Gabriel Okara) | More on new Oe prize | Harry Potter returns ? | Paasilinna in Korean ... but not English
31 October: Nobel predictor ? | Ko Un's Little Pilgrim

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31 October 2005 - Monday

Nobel predictor ? | Ko Un's Little Pilgrim

       Nobel predictor ?

       The Společnost Franze Kafky (Franz Kafka Society) may be pretty obscure, but guaranteed: next April a lot of people will be paying attention when they announce who gets their Franz Kafka Prize 2006.
       Why ?
       Because in 2004 they awarded it to Elfriede Jelinek (see our mention). And in 2005 they awarded it to Harold Pinter. More than five months ahead of the Nobel announcement they decided to honour the person who would eventually go on to take the prize the past two years (and they've only been at this for five) -- an absolutely stunning coincidence.
       Maybe people haven't noticed because, though they announce the winner in the spring, they only hand over the prize in late October (after the Nobel has been announced, in fact). And, for the second year running, the Nobel laureate has declined to pick up the prize in person (Jelinek (in)famously doesn't travel well -- she didn't show up for the Nobel ceremonies either -- and Pinter apparently isn't feeling all that fit).
       Pinter had a pretty good stand-in, though: Vaclav Havel picked up the prize on his behalf; see Vaclav Havel receives award on behalf of his friend Pinter and Sošku Franze Kafky prevzal za Pintera jeho prítel Václav Havel

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Ko Un's Little Pilgrim

       Korean poet Ko Un, allegedly a front-runner for the Nobel Prize this year (no way -- he didn't win the Kafka Prize ... see above), now also has a prose work out in English translation: Little Pilgrim, published by Parallax Press (though there's no publicity page on their website yet).
       In The Korea Herald Yang Sung-jin describes Ko Un's novel 'Little Pilgrim' translated into English -- and we're certainly eager to get our hands on a copy. (You can get yours at or

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

30 October 2005 - Sunday

The literary scene in Africa: Taban Lo Liyong - Chenjerai Hove
Ezenwa Ohaeto (and Gabriel Okara) | More on new Oe prize
Harry Potter returns ? | Paasilinna in Korean ... but not English

       The literary scene in Africa: Taban Lo Liyong

       We're still waiting for some more reports from the Beyond Borders festival in Uganda (see our previous mention).
       At New Vision Emmanuel Ssejjengo at least offers excerpts from Taban Lo Liyong's featured chat with Arthur Gakwandi in African creativity is no more.
       We like the closing words -- "Start writing" ! -- but the penultimate misconception scares the hell out of us:
But full-time writers have to engage professional literary agents. The time for literary agents in Uganda is coming soon.
       We can only hope and pray that this will not come to pass -- we can't see any hope for Ugandan literature otherwise.

       (See also the reviews of the few Taban titles we've been able to get our hands on: Another Last Word, Another Nigger Dead, and The Cows of Shambat.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       The literary scene in Africa: Chenjerai Hove

       At the BBC Zimbabwean writer Chenjerai Hove (currently living in Norway) is quoted at lenth in: African writer wants books, not bridges. He's upset that: "African governments have not put in place well-planned book development policies", and argues:
Students are never taught to read books as a pleasurable experience in itself without thinking of exams.

Universities and colleges are producing what I call the "new illiterates".

They have their degrees and diplomas, but hardly take time to sit and enjoy reading good books.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Ezenwa Ohaeto (and Gabriel Okara)

       We recently mentioned that Gabriel Okara and Ezenwa Ohaeto were co-winners of the NLNG Literature Prize (which is trying to establish itself as the big Nigerian book prize). Sadly, co-winner Ohaeto didn't have long to enjoy his victory: he has now passed away.
       See reports and obituaries:        Meanwhile, see also an interview with Okara in Vanguard, Literary conversation: 30 minutes with Gabriel Okara.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       More on new Oe prize

       A few weeks back we noted that Nobel laureate Oe Kenzaburo was going to head a new literary award (the prize being translation into English, but no cash award).
       In Asahi Shimbun Sachiko Yuri now offers more details (and comments by Oe), in Kenzaburo Oe signs his name to new literary award.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Harry Potter returns ?

       In the Independent on Sunday Nicholas Wapshott reports: Harry Potter and the half-baked print run: 2.5 million books unsold in the US:
Stacks of unsold copies are collecting dust in bookstores and warehouses across the US, and Scholastic -- the world's largest distributor of children's books, and best known in the UK for Clifford the Big Red Dog -- is bracing itself for an avalanche of returned copies.
       All is not lost yet, but still .....
       (As we often remind you: we just do not understand how the publishing industry works (and obviously it doesn't work too well, even in what appear to be no-lose cases like the Harry Potter books ...).)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Paasilinna in Korean ... but not English

       We reviewed Finnish author Arto Paasilinna's Hurmaava joukkoitsemurha a while back, and see now that it is available even in Korean (as Kibaran Chasal Yohaeng; see review (scroll down) in The Korea Times).
       How about in English ? Yeah, right .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

29 October 2005 - Saturday

Basque Transcript | Whiting Writers' Awards | Pamuk speech
Wendy Lesser: NYRB sales rep | Lost sales effect ?

       Basque Transcript

       The new issue of the tri-lingual Transcript is now available, offering an impressive look at Basque literature.
       Aside from some examples, you can enjoy Mari Jose Olaziregi's introduction to Contemporary Basque Literature (dealing "with the evolution of Basque literature in the last thirty years, in particular with prose fiction") and Aiora Jaka Irizar's look at Translating Basque Literature.
       Lots of names, but some interesting information as well -- including the fact that: "only 25 of the 256 books for adults published [in Basque] in 2000 were translations". (No doubt this is in large part because most of the local audience can also read Spanish, and get their foreign-literature fix that way.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Whiting Writers' Awards

       The remunerative (to the tune of $40,000 per person) Whiting Writers' Awards for 2005 have been announced. Among the winners: Lucky Girls-author Nell Freudenberger.
       See also brief bios of all ten winners.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Pamuk speech

       As we had anticipated, The Guardian prints a translation of Orhan Pamuk's acceptance speech for the Friedenspreis des deutschen Buchhandels (Peace Prize of the German Book Trade), as As others see us. (They advertise it as "adapted from a speech given by Orhan Pamuk in Frankfurt last weekend".)
       Among the points he makes:
(A) Turkish novelist who fails to imagine the Kurds and other minorities, and who neglects to illuminate the black-spots in his country's unspoken history, will, in my view, produce work that has a hole at its centre.
       (The ultra-nationalists back home aren't convinced: all they want to hear is about how glorious everything is, even when it isn't. Sadly, the laws on the books (under which Pamuk has now repeatedly been charged (see also our most recent mention)) demand the same.)
       Available only in German is Joachim Sartorius' laudatio (i.e. fancy introduction) when Pamuk picked up the prize, Orhan Pamuk ist für uns ein Glücksfall, in Die Zeit.
       Despite the trouble it's gotten him into, Pamuk hasn't stopped talking to the German press, either, as he continues to tour Germany -- see interviews in taz and the Stuttgarter Nachrichten. (Nothing we could find in these that we could imagine might lead to additional charges against him, but given how touchy and trigger-happy the folks back home are, who knows ?)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Wendy Lesser: NYRB sales rep

       In The Guardian Wendy Lesser makes a sales pitch for New York Review Books in Desert island bookshelf (ostensibly about her book collection away from home):
I have such a shelf in my tiny New York apartment, and I have filled it with editions from the New York Review of Books series of paperback re-issues. This is not quite as nutty as it sounds.
       Indeed, few imprints are as deserving of praise and recommendation -- but we do hope she is working on commission.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Lost sales effect ?

       As widely reported (see our previous mention), Flann O’Brien's The Third Policeman (see the Dalkey Archive Press publicity page) appeared on the American primetime soap-opera, Lost, a few weeks back.
       At The Book Standard Anna Weinberg now considers Anatomy of a Buzz: Does Getting Your Book on TV for a Few Seconds Boost Sales (If It's on 'Lost') ?:
According to Nielsen Media Research, 22 million viewers tuned in on Oct. 6 to watch the third episode of the second season of Lost, ABC’s preternaturally compelling castaway drama. Which means 22 million people around the country saw a copy of Irish writer Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman flash across the screen, prompting something of a sales surge for the tiny Chicago house that reprinted the 1967 book in 1999.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

28 October 2005 - Friday

International bestsellers | Copyright in Iran
50 years of reviews at The Village Voice | Kinshu review
New RainTaxi | Pinter in Egypt

       International bestsellers

       translation eXchange points us to an article on The European book market by Lakambini Sitoy at The Manila Times, in which she discusses -- from a South East Asian perspective -- the results of a survey in a special English edition of Svensk Bokhandel.
       Her article is worth a look, but a bit of hunting finds the entire special issue of this "official watchdog of the Swedish book industry" available online. (Worth a look -- check out what a variety of people think are the 'Ten Milestones in Swedish Literature', for example.)
       The survey-article, Domestic authors claim half of the bestseller listings by Bo Westlund, is particularly interesting. They looked at European (and US) bestsellers to see how foreign authors fared, surveying "the top ten bestselling fiction lists of eleven different countries during the period May 2004 through April 2005":
The US and Great Britain rarely acknowledge works from writers outside their linguistic base. Germans and Austrians have the most international preferences, while Swedes choose books by domestic authors to a greater extent than readers of other nationalities.
       Restricting themselves to only the top-ten on the bestseller lists means that this looks at just the very most popular authors -- and among the surprising findings is that American hegemony isn't nearly as overwhelming as widely believed (and that it has weakened significantly in recent years). Interesting also to compare the situation in various countries.
       And then there's that one depressing stand-out:
The US was the only non-Western European country in the survey. Its market features almost exclusively American authors. Even though their bestseller lists had the greatest variety of authors, 55 in all, 91 percent of these came from the US. The rest came from the UK. Another remarkable feature is that in spite of its ethnic diversity -- and the emergence of a growing Latino presence -- all but three authors had names that sound Anglo-Saxon.
       Ah, yes, the US remains a Sam Tanenhaus kind of world -- vaguely aware of the world at large (those dang foreign places), but basically only acknowledging the English-speaking part.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Copyright in Iran

       Another amusing article in Svensk Bokhandel provides an e-mail exchange between various Swedish and Iranian diplomats, What do diplomats care about rights and royalties ?
       While the Iranians were hoping to have Henning Mankell come over for an author tour to promote the pirated translation of Danslärarens återkomst (The Return of the Dancing Master) Mankell's Swedish agent was apparently less thrilled (and not even willing to provide copies of other Mankell titles -- preferably in English -- for them to illegally translate ...).
       The Iranians try to explain how things work there:
Even for Harry Potter books, there is only one translator who had the permission from the authority for their Persian translations. However, you can find many different translators and publishers for Harry Potter books in Iran. Once the original publisher, who had the permit from the author, filed suit in the Iranian courts, but he could not get anywhere ! They just do not implement the laws on publication of foreign books unless a publication is found to violate the security regulations of the regime or the Islamic laws and values !!!
       And authors are reminded that:
However, paying royalty is still prohibited by Iranian laws !
       Exclamation mark, indeed.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       50 years of reviews at The Village Voice

       The Village Voice celebrated 50 years of existence by (yet again) selling out, but they do have a nice commemorative issue out. Among the nice ideas: they offer a selection of Reviews of the last 50 years. Unfortunately, some of the bits are only excerpts, but there are a few full reviews too.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Kinshu review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Miyamoto Teru's 1982 novel, Kinshu -- his first novel to appear in English translation.
       It's due out any day now, from New Directions.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       New RainTaxi

       The fall issue of RainTaxi is now available online (well, the online part of it, anyway). An interesting selection of books under review -- including two that were among the nominees for the fall-Litblog Co-op selection.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Pinter in Egypt

       At Al-Ahram Weekly Nehad Selaiha "traces the fortunes of Harold Pinter's plays in Egypt" in Pinter in Egypt.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

27 October 2005 - Thursday

More charges filed against Pamuk | Nirmal Verma (1929-2005)
Poor recognition | Greetings review

       More charges filed against Pamuk

       He keeps giving interviews in German-language newspapers, and they keep finding objectionable (indeed treasonable !) statements. This time it's his interview with Iris Alanyali in Die Welt from last week.
       As Anadolu News Agency (and many others) now report (here at, the chairman of the Turkish Lawyers Association Kemal Kerincsiz has brought suit:
The case focuses on a statement that Pamuk made on 20 October 2005 to German newspaper Die Welt: "I do not think that the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party is a threat to Turkish democracy. The threat is unfortunately more closely related to the military."
       And, yes:
A statement such as this, Kerincsiz argues should be considered within the scope of article 301 of the new Turkish Criminal Code (TCK), which stipulates "the crime of degrading the quality of Turkish nation, the Republic and official institutions and organizations"
       This is getting completely out of hand. Somebody, please: save the poor Turkish people from their laws and their defenders !
       (See also a NTV/MSNBC mention.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Nirmal Verma (1929-2005)

       Leading Hindi writer Nirmal Verma has passed away. (His Dispatches has been on our to-review pile for a while now .....)
       See brief mentions: Indian writer Verma dies at 76 (PA News) and Noted littérateur Nirmal Verma passes away (Hindustan Times), and a longer tribute by Avijit Ghosh, Nirmal Verma: Noise in silent cemetery, in the Times of India
       For additional information, see also Nirmal Verma at The South Asian Literary Recordings Project, and at the Lettre Ulysses Award site.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Poor recognition

       Recently, MoorishGirl Laila Lalami published an essay at on Fiction in the Age of Poverty. She notes that it doesn't seem to be a very popular subject for writers any more. Too bad: a lot of people are obviously oblivious to what being poor in America means (and how many people qualify).
       Exhibit A (for today) is, amusingly enough, the comments by Powell’s Books' director of marketing and development, Dave Weich, in an interview conducted by Maud Newton:
MN: I worry about lower-income readers who may lack the resources to buy books online (.....) Is this a problem ?

DW: I don’t follow the logic of the Internet hurting lower-income readers. Almost all public libraries provide Internet access. (...) Yes, you need a credit card to order online, but last time I checked you needed a credit card to breathe in America.
       Fortunately, of course, it is not (yet) physically (or legally) necessary to possess a credit card in order to breathe in the US, but the air that Mr. Weich breathes (and the circles he moves in) obviously are fairly rarefied (i.e. he doesn't know or associate with -- or certainly have any business dealings with -- lower-income people.)
       The most recent data we found was from 2001 (for example, here), which found only 76 per cent of American adults had any credit cards (though the average American does, indeed, have several). I.e almost a quarter of Americans had no credit cards just four years ago -- and it seems safe to assume that at least a fifth of American adults still don't. That's a hell of a lot of people. (Guess what income bracket the majority of them are in ..... And recall that a significant number of Americans don't even have bank accounts -- Federal Reserve estimates from 2001 were that 13.2 per cent of American households had no checking accounts and that 9.5 percent had no bank account whatsoever (see, for example, this report) -- and that's households, not individuals !)
       (Weich's statement is breathtaking in its ignorance and sweep -- he sounds like a guy who would be surprised to hear there are a couple of people in America without health insurance, too.)
       Weich may well assume that people too poor to have a credit card (or bank account) aren't potential customers for books in any case (and thus can safely be ignored), but we doubt that. Obviously, they have less disposable income, but there's no reason to suppose that they would not spend some of that on books. Maud's question and concern are valid; Weich's cavalier dismissal is frightening. The Internet may well have made books cheaper, by and large, but there are barriers to entry that prevent many consumers from taking advantage, and he doesn't even seem to have any idea of how huge those barriers are, and how many people they affect.

       (Updated - 29 October / M.A.Orthofer): See now also Dave Weich's response to the above (at Maud Newton).
       In quick response to his comments:
  • As we said: yes, the Internet has "made books cheaper, by and large, but there are barriers to entry that prevent many consumers from taking advantage". It may not be a huge number of people, but does represent a significant percentage of lower income individuals -- and I don't believe it's true that: "People that poor aren’t buying books in the first place". The poorest 10 or 15 or 20 per cent of the population do still spend money on entertainment -- films, CDs, and, yes, books. Much less than those with more disposable income, but still -- and not just at yard sales. And this is a segment of the population for whom transactions that we take for granted -- like ordering over the Internet or depositing our paychecks in our bank accounts -- are considerably more expensive (because they don't have a bank account and thus have to rely on check-cashing services, etc.)
  • The Internet affords the poor -- like everyone else -- opportunities otherwise unavailable so, yes, there is no "net loss"; the problem I have is that the poor often pay more for those services and goods (because they don't have credit cards, for example), and the statements Dave Weich made did not in any way take this into account. (Some of the comments at Return of the Reluctant, however, suggest similar attitudes: "novels are mostly an item of luxury", or, from someone who went without a bank account for a while: "Purchasing items online was next to impossible, but I managed thanks to a little thing called a telephone and some money orders" (not mentioning that money orders are considerably more expenisve than paying by credit card (at least upfront -- not paying off a credit card can, of course, get even more expensive).)
  • Re. Dave Weich’s mention that I did not take advantage of's generous "opportunity to identify a local bookseller of choice" (see the others' choices here). As I've occasionally mentioned here before, I purchase essentially no books at or near list price; 50 per cent off is pretty much my cut-off, hence I don't really patronize regular bookshops (except to see what new books are out there). Used bookstores (and the review copies I receive) are the source of almost all my books -- something I feel considerable guilt about, since author (and publisher) don't make any money off of me. The only bookstores I could recommend are used bookstores, but I'm reluctant to both because, again, authors and publishers essentially don't profit (at least directly) from sales there (which seems part of the LBC point) and I simply don't have any favorites. (Lame ? Maybe, but there's not a general bookstore nearby I'd really feel comfortable recommending. (Powell's sounds pretty cool, though -- but it's pretty far; I've never been there.))
  • Re. the Amazon links at the complete review. Yeah, I'm not entirely comfortable with those either, but as far as consumer service goes I figure it's by far the best tailored to our users' needs. I use the Amazon pages for book information, and I assume many of our readers do too. More importantly, a large portion of our audience is overseas, and Amazon -- with branches in Canada, the UK, France, and Germany (Japan, too, but we haven't figured out how to work that in yet) -- obviously serves them better than any alternative. (For what it's worth: I've purchased a single title via Amazon, an overseas title they had in stock that I would have had to wait weeks for if I had ordered it elsewhere.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Greetings review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Hugo Claus' forthcoming Greetings -- the first collection of his poetry to appear in English translation (though he's published more than two dozen in Dutch ...).

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

26 October 2005 - Wednesday

Chris(topher) Wilson's (The Ballad of Lee) Cotton | Critical clowns ?
University presses | Antonia Fraser interview

       Chris(topher) Wilson's (The Ballad of Lee) Cotton

       In the early 1990s, we would have tipped Chris Wilson as among the most promising up-and-coming British novelists. We eagerly snapped up all his books, clever entertainments all -- Mischief, Gallimauf's Gospel, The Wurd, Baa, Blueglass, and Fou. But almost a decade ago, instead of up and coming he was inexplicably gone.
       He's finally resurfaced -- though now calling himself 'Christopher Wilson' (all grown up ? distancing himself from his earlier work ?). Further confusing matters, his new book came out as The Ballad of Lee Cotton in the UK, and simply as Cotton in the US -- this can't be the best way to (re-)conquer the market.
       Whatever the name and title, we have now reviewed The Ballad of Lee Cotton / Cotton.
       It got decent coverage in the UK, and several reviewers welcome Wilson's reappearance on the literary scene -- but memory is short: both Telegraph-reviews forgot half his output, with Sam Leith referring to The Ballad of Lee Cotton as "Christopher Wilson's third novel" (when, as best we can tell, it's at least his seventh).
       We hope he's back to churning them out again on a regular basis, under whatever name .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Critical clowns ?

       In the new Prospect Michael Coveney looks at Critical clowns, lamenting the demise of serious criticism for the masses and arguing that: "Critical clowns have stormed the citadel of Shaw, Tynan and Porter".

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       University presses

       Now accessible online: Peter Watson's look at university presses in Academic press in Prospect, noting that:
there is one important aspect of university life that is still dominated by Britain -- the university press.
       And that:
British pre-eminence in this field is remarkable for two reasons: more than 50 per cent of the presses' revenue is generated in the US, and British university presses dominate the world of science book publishing, even though America channels so much money into science.
       Bonus (of sorts): publishers from four university presses list titles they are proud to have published (scroll down to bottom of article).

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Antonia Fraser interview

       Nobel leaureate Harold Pinter's wife, 'Lady' Antonia Fraser, gets the "The Andrew Billen Interview"-treatment in The Times. Not a problem Gottfried Hüngsberg seems to have had (that would be last year's laureate's (i.e. Elfried Jelinek's) husband).
       Still, there's a bit of information on offer.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

25 October 2005 - Tuesday

Eco in India | Ba Jin laid to rest | Juergen Boos on Korea in Frankfurt | Wet books

       Eco in India

       Umberto Eco is in India, and getting considerable press attention.
       See, for example, Mukund Padmanabhan's interview in The Hindu "I am a professor who writes novels on Sundays", which includes some discussion of translation-issues, and an explanation of why there haven't been any film versions of his books after The Name of the Rose:
But after that experience, I asked my publisher not to sell the rights of the novel to cinema. I did this because I discovered that 80 per cent of readers read the book after the movie. And that is very painful for a novelist.
       Ella Datta also reports on what he's been up to in India, in Bond, James to cultures in The Telegraph (Calcutta).

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Ba Jin laid to rest

       As we've mentioned, Chinese author Ba Jin died last week, and coverage continues. He's now been laid to rest -- see, for example, Xu Jitao's China Daily-report, Ba Jin's funeral held amid tears, praise, or the press-round-up, Mainland newspapers remember writer Ba Jin
       Meanwhile, The Times now offers a good obituary.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Juergen Boos on Korea in Frankfurt

       One more look back at Korea-at-the-Frankfurt Book Fair, as Kim Ki-tae talks to Frankfurt head man Juergen Boos in 'Ko Un Better Choice for Nobel Laureate' in The Korea Times.
       The article-title is, of course, what Koreans want to hear. The full quote:
"As a result, for example, poet Ko Un was not very well known before. Now many are interested in him," he said. "I expected Ko to win Nobel Prize early this year, which could have been a big sensation here," the director said. "Personally, I think Ko could have been a better choice."
       We hope Harold hears about that ... !

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Wet books

       The US isn't the only place getting soaked by heavy rains -- and, unfortunately, in Calcutta (Kolkata) it looks like some books are getting soggy. See Imran Ahmed Siddiqui's report, Old, rare books washed away at new Bhasha Bhavan, in the Indian Express and the IANS report, Rains damage rare books in Kolkata:
Uninterrupted rain over the past six days in Kolkata has damaged over five million rare books and items stored in the underground vaults of Bhasha Bhavan building and the old annexe of the National Library due to water seepage.
       Good stuff, too:
Among others, at risk of being destroyed are original manuscripts of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, their letters and some rare world maps.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

24 October 2005 - Monday

Pamuk picks up Peace Prize | S. Korean Nobel hopes
Beyond Borders report | Lawless World review

       Pamuk picks up Peace Prize

       In typical German prize-fashion they announced he'd won this thing (the Friedenspreis des deutschen Buchhandels, i.e. the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade) months ago, back in June, but for once the long lead-up time paid off: coverage (helped by other Pamuk issues) has been wall-to-wall. He finally picked it up yesterday, and while they have pictures at the official site, no one has immediately offered up the much-anticipated speech online. (But it's the sort of thing that's likely to show up in next weekend's issue of The Guardian or somewhere like that.)
       FAZ has a special Pamuk-section, collecting their (German) coverage -- including their speech round-up. The best initial speech reports (in German) can be found at Frankfurter Rundschau (Wachstumsschmerzen by Hilal Sezgin) and Neues Deutschland (Elfenbeinturm im Sturm by Irmtraud Gutschke).
       But there's also some decent recent pre-prize coverage -- including Maureen Freely's profile in The Observer yesterday, 'I stand by my words. And even more, I stand by my right to say them ...', as well as a (German) interview by Iris Alanyali in Die Welt and Daniel Bax's profile in taz.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       S. Korean Nobel hopes

       They just don't give up: in The Korea Times Kim Ki-tae wonders: Will S. Korea Win Nobel Literature Prize Soon ? They're now pinning their hopes on the boost from being guest of honour at the just completed Frankfurt Book Fair -- and they may be onto something:
Japanese Kenzaburo Oe received the honor four years after the Japan's participation. Hungary and Portugal were also granted the Nobel prize two and three years, respectively, after a guest of honor presentations here.
       Still, it's hard to believe that:
One thing that draws unanimous agreement is that Korea's participation as the guest of honor of the Frankfurt Book Fair has certainly raised the possibility of attaining the world's top literary prize. Some even say it could come to Korea within five years.
       As always, some of the Nobel speculation is a lot of fun, especially when people claim some expertise on the subject. Kim Ki-tae quotes Guenther Butkus as saying: "But you can never be certain because some authors were on the shortlist for 20 years straight without winning the prize", as well as Thorsten Ahrend noting: "I understand that commerciality of a book is one of key factors in deciding the laureate". Both these claims are, of course, preposterous: the Swedish Academy reveals essentially nothing about the procedure -- and certainly not about the shortlist. While at least some of the nominated authors can be determined (since they are submitted by national societies, previous winners, etc.), the shortlist itself remains secret, and there's no way of knowing how often any author has appeared on the shortlist. As to "commerciality" being a "key factor" -- well, a look at recent winners suggests that it definitely is not.

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       Beyond Borders report

       We've mentioned how excited we were about the now completed Beyond Borders festival in Uganda.
       Alas, so far very little news about it: this New Vision report is the only one we've been able to find. And it raises more questions than it answers, as in descriptions like:
Anne Ayeta Wangusa’s feminine dementia was most appreciated when she talked about the chains of culture.
       Ah, yes, that seductive feminine dementia .....

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       Lawless World review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Philippe Sands' Lawless World.
       Out in the US today, it appeared in the UK in the spring. Sands' look at America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules from FDR's Atlantic Charter to George W. Bush's Illegal War already caused quite a stir in the UK -- and looks to do the same in the US now (if anybody can be stirred to care about international law there ...).. It already got a mention in The New York Times in an article by Douglas Jehl on 14 October ("Bush Cited 2 Allies Over Arms, Book Says"), referring to additional material available in the American edition.

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23 October 2005 - Sunday

Fighting literary paper flight

       Fighting literary paper flight

       In the Sunday Times Ben Dowell writes that UK Writers unite to fight flight of literary papers to US:
Andrew Motion, the poet laureate, and Lord Smith, the former culture secretary, have launched a campaign to stem the flow of famous writers’ archives being sold to universities in America.
       Not a new problem, but maybe a concerted effort by some big names will make a difference .....
       Some examples, too:
Arnold Wesker, best known for his plays Roots and Chips with Everything, sold three tons of letters, manuscripts and papers to an American university in 2000. "I was offered a derisory £60,000 from the British Library and £100,000 from the University of Texas at Austin -- there was no contest," said Wesker, 73. "I would much sooner have had my work here in London but the gap was too large ... it is a shame."
       Nice to see the collections are measured by the ton -- though it doesn't work out to too many pounds (£) per pound (lb.).

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22 October 2005 - Saturday

Korea in Frankfurt | Man Booker boost | Edgar on censorship

       Korea in Frankfurt

       As guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Korea (at least the southern version; the North failed to show up) is getting considerable coverage.

       See, for example:

       Yi Mun-yol tells Shim Sun-ah "More Attention Needed for Nation's Books" (here in The Korea Times):
A top-selling South Korean writer Wednesday called on publishers across the world to pay more attention to Korean literature, citing his unsuccessful attempt to reach out to foreign readers over a decade.
       Of course, practically every author clamours for more attention and yammers that s/he's outrageously ignored, but Yi makes a more convincing case than most. We have two of his titles under review (Our Twisted Hero and The Poet), but we'd love to have access to more -- alas, practically his entire output remains untranslated .....

       See also:        The big problem is, of course, finding any of this Korean stuff in translation -- but in London Publisher Backs Korean Books in The Korea Times Kim Ki-tae notes at least small inroads being made:
It's no wonder the Korea Literature Translation Institute (LTI) has had a hard time finding foreign partners who would publish even its selected 'Korea's 100 Books.' The selection was specially developed for the Frankfurt Book Fair, where Korea is this year's guest of honor.

Only a few foreign publishers have taken up the challenge though their reasons may be varied. London-based publisher Saffron is one of the 'brave' publishers and has persevered to publish six of the 100 books presented at the fair, including The Beauty of Korean Old Paintings and Korean Garden.
       Saffron Books is an imprint of Eastern Art Publishing; see also their information page on their Saffron Korea Library Series.
       Matters were, of course, helped by the fact that:
For the production of the six books, the English publisher has received a subsidy equivalent to 33 percent of the production cost from LTI. Without the subsidy, would he have chosen to publish the six under the firm's label ? "Honestly, I would publish all of them, but maybe over two years, not over a few months."
       Of course, we'd be more interested in more literary texts getting translated, but as Kim Ki-tae writes:
Disappointing as it may be, there is not a demand for Korean books overseas. Not many commercial foreign publishers have been willing to translate and sell Korean products in their own countries.

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       Man Booker boost

       In The Guardian Danuta Kean explains Why the Booker is highly prized, noting how much sales of this year's winning title, The Sea by John Banville, have improved, and noting previous Man Booker sales successes -- though:
The Line of Beauty was deemed a failure judged by the standards set by Roy and Martel -- it was even outsold by last year’s favourite, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. But it still sold 148,543 copies
       They also list the (estimated) sales totals for the Man Booker winners since 1998.

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       Edgar on censorship

       In The Guardian David Edgar writes on the Rules of engagement, focussing on the performing arts. He's concerned:
The dangers of a witchhunt against writing in particular are aggravated by the commodification of all forms of culture, a growing concern that the victims of crime and their relatives be protected from distress, the emergent movement against criticism of religion and attempts to proscribe the "glorification" of certain acts. The famous proscription against falsely shouting "Fire !" in a crowded theatre is no longer just a matter of preventing a stampede: now, shouting "fire" can be censured for infringing the rights of the firemen, distressing the relatives of people killed in other fires, offending religions for whom fire is a sacred object, and glorifying or celebrating arson. All of which possibilities arise out of the idea that, fundamentally, deep down, to shout "Fire !" is to start one.

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21 October 2005 - Friday

Booker-Open Russia shortlist | Iain Sinclair at the LR Bookshop
"I Didn't Do It For You" review

       Booker-Open Russia shortlist

       The (non-Man) Booker-Open Russia 2005 shortlist was announced on 7 October, and in his Salon-column in this week's issue of The Moscow Times Victor Sonkin discusses it -- apparently it is: "the most controversial in the award's history".
       Embarrassingly, we are not familiar with any of the six shortlisted authors, but the prize might be enough to at least get the winning title rendered into English (or French or German), at least eventually.
       The winning title will be announced 1 December.

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       Iain Sinclair at the LR Bookshop

       Book World reports on Iain Sinclair at the London Review Bookshop.

       (See also our Iain Sinclair page.)

       (Updated - 22 October): See now also a report on the reading in The Guardian.

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       "I Didn't Do It For You" review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Michela Wrong's look at How the world betrayed a small African nation (or: How the World Used and Abused a Small African Nation, as the UK edition has it), "I Didn't Do It For You".

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