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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 June 2008

11 June: Chingiz Aitmatov (1928-2008) | B.S.Johnson's The Unfortunates | Austrian overview | Festival & Co. | Athens Prize for Literature | Too lovely to read ?
12 June: And the IMPAC goes to ... | Национальный бестселлер prize | The Final Bet review
17 June: Amélie Nothomb profile | Moscow International Book Festival | Ben Jelloun, Goncourt judge | Pashto poetry revival ? | Hungarian poetry | Turkey-in-Frankfurt preview
18 June: Josef Winkler to get Georg-Büchner-Preis | Amos Oz-translator interview | 91st Meridian - spring issue | Fear of Animals review
19 June: Miles Franklin Literary Award | What Was Lost review
20 June: Rufin elected to Académie Française | Fred Vargas anticipation | Havana Gold review


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20 June 2008 - Friday

Rufin elected to Académie Française | Fred Vargas anticipation | Havana Gold review

       Rufin elected to Académie Française

       They've finally filled another of the empty fauteuils at the Académie Française, as Jean-Christophe Ruffin was elected to take over Henri Troyat's old seat, fauteuil 28, yesterday. He narrowly beat out Olivier Germain-Thomas, 14 votes to 12 (with zero votes going to Nathan Riolon). See, for example, Libération's report, Et le gagnant est ... Jean-Christophe Rufin.
       Rufin has the literary pedigree -- he won the Prix Goncourt in 2001 -- and several of his titles have been translated into English (though we've been less than impressed). On top of that he's also a (medical) doctor -- and currently serves as France's ambassador to Senegal .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Fred Vargas anticipation

       Fred Vargas' novels now regularly get translated into English, and her works seem to fare quite well in the US/UK, but she's a mega-selling star in France and with a new novel coming out next week -- Un lieu incertain (get your copy at Amazon.fr, or see the Editions Viviane Hamy publicity page) -- there's already considerable pre-publication build-up (and the book is already the top-selling title at Amazon.fr).
       Among the interviews alone, see those at L'Express, Libération, and the Nouvel Observateur.
       (For now, we only have one Vargas-title under review, Have Mercy on Us All.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Havana Gold review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Leonardo Padura's Havana Gold.
       This is the fourth volume of Padura's 'Havana quartet' to be published in English translation -- though it's actually the second in the series; since the quartet covers the four seasons of a single year the order is actually meaningful -- there's a distinct progression -- which makes this out-of-sequence publication even more peculiar. Of course, now that all four volumes are available it doesn't really matter any more, and readers can read it in order.
       Interestingly, readers who refer to the copyright page might be led to believe that it was the last of the books to appear, since the Spanish copyright date is given there as 2001. In fact, the book was first published in 1994 -- but the original Cuban edition apparently exists outside the acceptable literary world.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



19 June 2008 - Thursday

Miles Franklin Literary Award | What Was Lost review

       Miles Franklin Literary Award

       They're announcing the winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award today [Updated: they've announced it, and the prize went to The Time We Have Taken, by Steven Carroll], but in Eyes on the prize in The Australian Geordie Williamson finds that:
And yet despite its evident success through five decades, as well as its confident claims to cultural authority, the advertised virtues and real influence of the Miles Franklin are open to doubt. The problem lies in the Faustian bargain the literary community makes with the prize.

In return for a generous cheque, extra sales of about 2000 copies (to compare, Anne Enright's publishers printed an extra 30,000 copies of The Gathering after it took last year's Man Booker prize), along with a brief adulatory blast from the media, the writer submits to a process that is more likely to burnish the prize's credentials rather than the book's. Tap the Miles Franklin back list and you will hear a hollow ring.
       So, for example, the winning works of multiple-award-winners David Ireland and Thea Astley are entirely or largely out of print .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       What Was Lost review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Catherine O'Flynn's What Was Lost.
       It came out in the UK last year and got some prize attention -- Man Booker-longlisted, Costa First Novel winner, etc. -- and is now finally coming to the US (as a paperback original). It was apparently rejected by many, many UK publishers before finally getting picked up by Tindal Street, which really makes us wonder about the publishing world: the book's qualities are obvious -- it's just plain good, and a very engaging read --, and it does not seem like a high-risk title (it doesn't just have a limited-audience appeal, it isn't particularly long or heavy, etc.). Why not take a chance on it ?
       It also only got relatively limited review-coverage in the UK -- most of the major outlets did get to it (some only once it was prize-listed), but a lot of the reviews were of the 'in-brief' sort.
       We're curious as to what the American reactions will be; things are at least off to a good start with Jane Smiley's (full-length) review in The Los Angeles Times.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



18 June 2008 - Wednesday

Josef Winkler to get Georg-Büchner-Preis | Amos Oz-translator interview
91st Meridian - spring issue | Fear of Animals review

       Josef Winkler to get Georg-Büchner-Preis

       The Georg-Büchner-Preis, handed out by the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung ('German Academy for Language and Literature'), is probably the most prestigious German literary prize; it's awarded to an author for their entire work (rather than an individual title), and this year it will go to Josef Winkler: see the official press release, as well as the DeutscheWelle report, Austrian Novelist Wins Renowned German Literary Prize, where they note:
Josef Winkler was chosen as this year's winner for responding "to the catastrophes of his childhood in a Catholic village in his books, whose obsessive acuteness is unique"
       Two of his works are available in translation, from Austrian-focussed Ariadne Press: The Serf (see the Ariadne publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and Flowers for Jean Genet (see the Ariadne publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
       See also the Suhrkamp foreign-rights page for his most recent work, Roppongi -- and the FAZ also has a brief (German) reaction-interview.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Amos Oz-translator interview

       In Guide to the Land of Oz at JBooks.com Benjamin Pollak interviews Amos Oz-translator Nicholas de Lange.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       91st Meridian - spring issue

       The Spring 2008 issue of 91st Meridian (from the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa) now seems to be fully accessible online. It's a non-fiction issue, but there's still a considerable amount that's of interest.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Fear of Animals review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Enrique Serna's Fear of Animals.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



17 June 2008 - Tuesday

Amélie Nothomb profile | Moscow International Book Festival
Ben Jelloun, Goncourt judge | Pashto poetry revival ?
Hungarian poetry | Turkey-in-Frankfurt preview

       Amélie Nothomb profile

       In The outsider, in The Guardian, Richard Lea profiles local favourite Amélie Nothomb -- despite having trouble recognising her .....
       (Note also that when he refers to Fear and Loathing he means Fear and Trembling (Stupeur et tremblements).)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Moscow International Book Festival

       In The Moscow Times Victor Sonkin offers an overview of the Moscow International Book Festival (see also a lot more information at the Russian site), which ran 11 through 15 June.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Ben Jelloun, Goncourt judge

       We mentioned last month that Tahar Ben Jelloun had been selected to be one of the 'ten members' of the Académie Goncourt that decide who gets the Prix Goncourt; in Al-Ahram Weekly David Tresilian now also writes about the fact that Ben Jelloun joins the Goncourt.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Pashto poetry revival ?

       The Daily Star brings the Inter Press Service story that Afghan political dislocation contributes to Pashto literary revival, as apparently:
Afghanistan's tumultuous history of the last three decades is behind the incredible popularity of poetry in Pashto, the language of the majority Pakhtoons in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP).
       We hope a fiction revival follows .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Hungarian poetry

       At hlo they print Ágnes Nemes Nagy's To Translate, where she writes:
The Hungarian language is isolated. The Hungarian language means death for world literature. To write poetry in Hungarian is galley slavery. The Hungarian language is exceptionally suitable for poetry. Let me support my bold conviction with a simple reason, with the formal and metrical possibilities inherent in the Hungarian language. Let us repeat this again and again: our rhythmic systems, both individually and in interaction with each other, bring about such abundance in versification that cannot be found anywhere else in Europe. And as for the Hungarian rhyme: the twentieth century loathing for rhymes in European (Indo-European) languages is only partly valid for our entirely differently structured language. No, we have not quite played all the notes of Hungarian sheet music. When we talk about our mother tongue, we should never forget that we are the children of a young mother.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Turkey-in-Frankfurt preview

       There will be tons of preview-coverage of Turkey as guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair this fall, but DeutscheWelle have a useful introductory dpa report, Turkey Promises Cultural Diversity at Major Book Fair.
       The cultural diversity does sound promising:
Kurdish authors Lal Lales and Seyhmus Diken, Armenian writers Migirdic Margosyan and Jaklin Celik, and Jewish writer Mario Levi would be making appearances in person.
       And the opening should be interesting too, as:
Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel literature prize winner in 2006, will open the fair with Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



12 June 2008 - Thursday

And the IMPAC goes to ... | Национальный бестселлер prize | The Final Bet review

       And the IMPAC goes to ...

       They're announcing the winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award sometime today, but we won't be updating for a few days, so you'll have to check the official site to find out who got it. [Updated: Actually they've announced it early enough for us to pass on the information: De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage took the prize.]
       In The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Mark Roth prepares readers for it, in A lucky novelist will discover a bonanza in little-known IMPAC prize -- and writes that:
it's safe to say that many Americans are completely unaware of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, even though it hands out more money than any other annual fiction prize in the world. Tomorrow's winner will get 100,000 Euros, or roughly $157,000.
       However, as we've mentioned what feels like countless times before: the IMPAC is not the biggest single-title literary prize out there: the Spanish Premio Planeta de Novela, for example, hands out a whopping €600,000 to the winner .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Национальный бестселлер prize

       They've announced the winner of the Russian Национальный бестселлер (yes, 'National Bestseller') prize -- which Galina Stolyarova calls 'Russia's premier literary prize' in her report in The St. Petersburg Times, A prize for Prilepin. We don't know about it being the top Russian prize -- but, as Stolyarova notes:
The National Bestseller award was founded in 2001. During the contestís brief history, its winners and finalists have included some of the countryís bestselling and most controversial writers, including Viktor Pelevin, Vladimir Sorokin, Alexander Prokhanov, Mikhail Shishkin, Pavel Krusanov and Irina Denezhkina.
       So it can't be all bad.
       This year's winning title is Грех ('Sin') by Zakhar Prilepin; see also his official site, or English information at the Nibbe & Wiedling Agency (who also have descriptions of two of his titles (though not this one).

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       The Final Bet review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Abdelilah Hamdouchi's The Final Bet, which the publishers describe as being: "The first Arabic detective novel to be translated into English".

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



11 June 2008 - Wednesday

Chingiz Aitmatov (1928-2008) | B.S.Johnson's The Unfortunates
Austrian overview | Festival & Co.
Athens Prize for Literature | Too lovely to read ?

       Chingiz Aitmatov (1928-2008)

       Kyrgyz author Chingiz Aitmatov has passed away, another of the old guard from the far reaches of the Soviet Union to pass away recently (previously: Yuri Rytkheu). He was pretty popular: as RIA Novosti report:
His works have been translated into more than 150 languages with over 40 million copies sold worldwide
       See also, for example, the Reuters obituary.
       Telegram (who spell his name: Tchingiz Aïtmatov -- oh how we love transliteration confusion !) have recently brought out his Jamilia; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       B.S.Johnson's The Unfortunates

       We're big B.S.Johnson fans, and are thrilled to see that New Directions have brought out his The Unfortunates again. We've admired the box in bookstores, but haven't received our own copy yet; in The New York Sun today Benjamin Lytal reviews it, and finds:
Johnson's own dogged seriousness, and his concomitant boyishness, make a fascinating medium for his occasional bursts of pity and shy friendliness. This book deserves a place in the history of memoir, and in anthologies about illness, and, with luck, it will have one, if readers do not judge it by its covers.
       See also the New Directions publicity page, or get your own copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Austrian overview

       As Three Percent noted, Eurozine continues its useful 'Literary perspectives'-series with a look at Austrian literature, by Daniela Strigl -- who finds it: 'Anything but a "German appendix"'.
       We have quite a few of the titles that are mentioned under review, including everything by Daniel Kehlmann and Thomas Glavinic (including Die Arbeit der Nacht (which should be appearing in translation soon) and the very enjoyable Das bin doch ich) and Wolfgang Haas' Das Wetter vor 15 Jahren.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Festival & Co.

       The Globespotters weblog points us to the intriguing-sounding Shakespeare & Co. Literary festival, which runs 12 - 15 June and this year deals with: 'Real Lives: Exploring memoir & Biography'.
       Among the participants are local favourites Amélie Nothomb and Jeanette Winterson, as well as Alain de Botton and authors ranging from Marjane Satrapi to Tété-Michel Kpomassie.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Athens Prize for Literature

       The Athens Prize for Literature is only in its second year, but looks fairly ambitious, and they've announced their prize-winners for this year (no press release out yet, but they were kind enough to let us know). They have an international category, in which Javier Cercas' The Speed of Light beat out Martin Amis, Sarah Waters, Uzodinma Iweala, Andrew OíHagan, Jan Henrik Swahn, and Zsuzsa Bank.
       Ioanna Bouratzopoulos won for best Greek novel, for What Lotís Wife saw.

       (Updated - 12 June): For more information, see the Athens Prize for Literature-weblog.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Too lovely to read ?

       In his Short Cuts-column in the current London Review of Books John Lanchester writes about the Library of America: he admits he's "an abject fan of the Library" and that: "The books are lovely, lovely objects. They are about the nicest books I have."
       But:
What is really hard, though, is to read them. The books are so gorgeous, so marmoreal, that I find them unreadable. Not unreadable in the Pierre Bourdieu/Edward Bulwer-Lytton sense, and not unreadable in theory -- I want to read them, I really do. Itís just that in practice, I donít.
       He also has a few Pléiade-volumes, and all together:
That makes 16 volumes of beautifully produced and entirely unread great writing. What is it about these amazingly gorgeous books that makes one not want to read them ? Perhaps itís to do with having a palate corrupted by paperbacks.
       We don't really get what his problem is, but at least his concern that: "Thereís a risk that memorialising writers, consigning them to Culture, is a way of ignoring them" is worth thinking about.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



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