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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 July 2008

11 July: 'The writer in a time of crisis' | This year's 'Best of the Booker' ... | What I Talk About When I Talk About Running review
12 July: Fifty outstanding translations from the last fifty years ? | Winterson on translation
13 July: Literary estates | Okot p'Bitek profile | More on the death of the critic ... | Coming of Age at the End of History review
14 July: Dylan Thomas Prize longlist | African investments | Sátántangó DVD
15 July: Dutch prespectives | Alaa al Aswany profile | Waltic report | Archives ahoy | Rwandan fiction ? | Talk show hosts and books
16 July: Romanian translations | BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction | Reading in ... Turkey
17 July: Indian writing In English | Nepali writing abroad | Francophone writing in the Indian Ocean ? | Bessie Head Literature Awards | Chinese non-fiction bestsellers | C.K.Stead review-overviews
18 July: Tibor Fischer profile | Chinese takes Akutagawa Prize | Speed signing | The Creator's Map review
19 July: A.S.Byatt on Penelope Fitzgerald | Will Eisner profile | Esterházy's Revised Edition | Eros review
20 July: Key Murakami facts ? | Translating titles | Bestsellers in ... Iran | Literary agents in ... India | Guilty pleasures embarrassing admissions


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20 July 2008 - Sunday

Key Murakami facts ? | Translating titles | Bestsellers in ... Iran
Literary agents in ... India | Guilty pleasures embarrassing admissions

       Key Murakami facts ?

       In the Sunday Times Stephen Armstrong offers what he thinks are: 'The key facts about the coolest writer in the world today', in Ten things you need to know about Haruki Murakami.
       See also our Murakami-page, with links to our reviews of many of his books.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Translating titles

       In the Telegraph Gary Dexter investigates How The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea got its name -- meaning the English title of the 1963 Mishima Yukio novel.
       The Japanese original, 午後の曳航, was, as he points out
rather different. It was Gogo no Eiko, which hinges crucially on the homonym eiko, and can be rendered either 'An Afternoon's Glory' or 'An Afternoon's Towing'.
       And:
Mishima's English translator, John Nathan, was stumped (all he could think of was Glory is a Drag) and went to the author for help.
       Whatever the title, it's a great first Mishima for those not yet familiar with the author's work (much of which is worthwhile, though we don't yet have any under review); get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       This is, of course, also the Mishima-title that was infamously turned into a film starring Sarah Miles and Kris Kristofferson; get your copy of the DVD at Amazon.com.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Bestsellers in ... Iran

       MNA find that Iranian bookstores have different bestseller lists, and, for example:
J.K.Rowlingís Harry Potter series, Persian translations of Khaled Hosseiniís The Kite Runner and A Thousand of Splendid Sun by Mehdi Ghabraii, books written by the American professional speaker Anthony Robbins and Australian television producer Rhonda Byrne are among the bestsellers in a bookstore on Mirdamad Street, located in a wealthy district in Tehran.
       Elsewhere the picture is slightly different:
Other Iranian cities deal with major problems in book distributing and financial pressures. Many of the bestsellers are editions that date back to two or three years ago.

A bookseller in the Iranian western city Sanandaj that is located 512 km from Tehran told MNA reporter that they do not receive the latest editions of books in a timely manner and then when they arrive, they are no longer up-to-date.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Literary agents in ... India

       In Words Worth in the Sunday (Deccan) Herald Mita Kapur offers a solid overview of the rise of so-called 'literary' agents in India, finding:
Literary agents in India were and are a realistic need. With the publishers receiving a barrage of manuscripts every day and not being able to find time to wade through the pile, we may have lost out on some exciting writing talent. If an agent with a good nose steps in, it is a significant help to both -- the publisher and the author.
       Still: far too rosy a picture, to our minds -- and giving literary agents far too much credit (i.e. any).

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Guilty pleasures embarrassing admissions

       In Five Best in the Wall Street Journal 'Jackie Collins picks her favorite literary guilty pleasures' and that's just bizarre enough of a combination ( Jackie Collins, the term: 'literary', and the WSJ) that I couldn't help but take a peek; how embarrassing then to note that of the five titles she mentions I've read three (and The Godfather is not one of them). Talk about misspent youth ..... (And now, of course, an instant widespread loss of what little literary street-cred I might have had .....)
       But has this woman not picked up a book since 1974, when the last of these five came out ?

       A variety of much better summer-suggestion-lists can be found at many of the dailies; the one at the Independent on Sunday -- Holiday hotlist: Our favourite writers nominate the perfect book for summer -- isn't bad, with suggestions like Joanna Kavenna's: Céline's Death on Credit (US title: Death on the Installment Plan), about which she notes:
It will make even the most dysfunctional family holiday seem idyllic.
       (Get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.)

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



19 July 2008 - Saturday

A.S.Byatt on Penelope Fitzgerald | Will Eisner profile
Esterházy's Revised Edition | Eros review

       A.S.Byatt on Penelope Fitzgerald

       In the 1960s both A.S.Byatt and Penelope Fitzgerald taught at:
the Westminster Tutors, an institution that prepared students, almost all female, for the long-abolished entrance exams to Oxford and Cambridge. We sat together in the small staff room on sagging sofas, amid a rich and pervasive smell of old upholstery and decaying dogs.
       In The Times A.S. Byatt discusses her former teaching colleague Penelope Fitzgerald.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Will Eisner profile

       In The Times Paul Karasik profiles Will Eisner, granddaddy to the superhero generation.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Esterházy's Revised Edition

       Esterházy Péter's Celestial Harmonies came out in English a few years ago (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) , but the essential sequel/revision, JavŪtott kiadás ('Revised Edition'), still has not; at hlo Lajos Jánossy writes about it, in The shadow of a father.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Eros review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Helmut Krausser's Eros.
       And, yes, he did write a novel titled Thanatos a decade before this one; still, it's a lot to burden a novel with.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



18 July 2008 - Friday

Tibor Fischer profile | Chinese takes Akutagawa Prize
Speed signing | The Creator's Map review

       Tibor Fischer profile

       We're fans of Tibor Fischer's fiction, and thrilled to hear that Alma Books will be bringing out a new novel by him, Good to be God, in September (pre-order your copy at Amazon.co.uk; no US listing yet).
       In The Budapest Sun Robin Marshall profiles him, in The Fischer King: Good to be God; among the comments of interest: Fischer finds:
Budapest is still more relaxed [than London is], although public transport was better under the Communists. Thatís the one thing I will give them, they knew how to make the trains run on time !
       And:
For some reason, I am very big in Russia. They have translated all my books. Except one. Under The Frog

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Chinese takes Akutagawa Prize

       Sure she's lived in Japan for decades, and wrote her award-winning book in Japanese, but on the island(s) it's still big news: Yang Yi won the Akutagawa Przie, and the Yomiuri Shimbun thinks that now Japanese literature turns page with foreign writers, as this: "is a symbol of literature's globalization".

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Speed signing

       At least there are a lot of copies to sign, but we're not sure what this says about Salman Rushdie the writer, who apparently is taking inordinate pride in his speed-signing prowess, as reported by Maev Kennedy in The Guardian, in New writing success for Salman Rushdie:
Rushdie said he had signed 1,000 copies, on his most recent tour promoting The Enchantress of Florence, in a books warehouse in Nashville in 57 minutes.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       The Creator's Map review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Emilio Calderón's The Creator's Map.
       We can sort of understand the fad for Scandinavian crime novels that's going round (the globe), but we're baffled by the widespread interest in (we hesitate to say popularity of) Spanish ... recent-historical thrillers of The Shadow of the Wind-variety (which seems to have been the title that really got this thing rolling). The Calderón is nowhere near as terrible as Juan Gómez-Jurado's textbook-abomination God's Spy, but it's another title that seems to have bene fitted from a publisher-frenzy, with editors presumably not having a very thorough look at the books themselves before outbidding each other. How did the Penguin Press get stuck with this clunker ? (And how could they have ever imagined that it might earn back whatever they shelled out for it ?)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



17 July 2008 - Thursday

Indian writing In English | Nepali writing abroad
Francophone writing in the Indian Ocean ? | Bessie Head Literature Awards
Chinese non-fiction bestsellers | C.K.Stead review-overviews

       Indian writing In English

       At Little India Abhinav Maurya wonders at some length: How Indian Is Indian Writing In English ?

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Nepali writing abroad

       At Nepalnews Indra Adhikari reports that Nepali literature blooming in Diaspora.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Francophone writing in the Indian Ocean ?

       Témoignages reprints Aline Groëme-Harmon's article from L'Express (Maurice), Littérature francophone régionale, l'énigme.
       All excited about the Réunion-literary scene, she quickly has escalating doubts:
Mais est-ce à dire que cette littérature de l'océan Indien est connue du reste du monde ? Du reste de l'Océan Indien même ? D'ailleurs existe-t-il une littérature francophone de l'Océan Indien ?

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Bessie Head Literature Awards

       They've announced this year's winners of the Bessie Head Literature Awards (in Botswana), and we're always pleased to see local initiatives like this. See also coverage at Mmegi.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Chinese non-fiction bestsellers

       We'd rather hear about the most popular fiction titles, but at Bloomberg John Liu at least offers a run-down of the non-fiction bestseller list in China, in Confucius TV Spin-Off Leads China's Non-Fiction: Top 10 Books.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       C.K.Stead review-overviews

       Some of New Zealand author C.K.Stead's books do make it over one or the other pond (more to the UK than the US), and we have several of them under review (but would desperately like to get our hands on more). We don't know why he's not more of an international star; at the very least, his books are always interesting.
       Now the most recent additions to the complete review are our review-overviews of two of his recent books:
(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



16 July 2008 - Wednesday

Romanian translations | BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction
Reading in ... Turkey

       Romanian translations

       signandsight.com points us to the very promising-sounding Observer Translation Project, which will:
host Romanian fiction, poetry, literary criticism and literary history, and news about Romanian writing abroad, all translated into English, French, German, Italian and Spanish starting in May 2008. Look for single author fiction issues every other month, with more free-wheeling issues in between. We are proud to announce that the core languages will be joined by an evolving series of guest languages, including Dutch and Polish in our first issue.
       So far they only have one month up, i.e. already seem behind schedule, but the Ştefan Bănulescu-material is worth a look, and we do hope they can keep this up.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction

       They've announced the winner of the BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction, and it is The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, by Kate Summerscale.
       We don't have it under review, but you can get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Reading in ... Turkey

       The usual dismal statistics -- this time from Turkey -- but also some efforts to improve the situation, as they report in Today's Zaman that 'Turkey Reads' campaign targets book-free mentality.
       The statistics really are dismal:
Statistics shows that most Turks do not read on a regular basis. In fact, the average Turk spends only $10 a year on books. According to the United Nations 2007 Human Development Report, Turkey ranks 101st among 177 countries for its level of adult literacy. While Turks spend an average of five hours a day watching television, they devote only six hours in an entire year to reading. Furthermore, only 4.5 percent of the population reported that they are regular readers.
       But they're trying to encourage reading, nationally and locally:
In Trabzon local administrators have come up with their own campaign, called "Reading is Everywhere." To set a good example, officials there have pledged to read for at least 20 minutes every day.
       And, of course, there are the heart-warming success-stories:
Some judges have also gotten into the act by ordering minor offenders to read books. Murat Şenol Demirci, who was convicted for firing shots into the air at a celebration of his friendís enlistment, was sentenced to reading four books every month for one year.

"It was a punishment, but I enjoy reading books; I will continue to read after I finish my sentence," Demirci noted.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



15 July 2008 - Tuesday

Dutch prespectives | Alaa al Aswany profile | Waltic report
Archives ahoy | Rwandan fiction ? | Talk show hosts and books

       Dutch prespectives

       We seem to have missed this when they first posted it last year, but Eurozine offer a look at Dutch literature in their 'literary perspectives'-series, as Margot Dijkgraaf's considers "Profound Holland" and the new Dutch, which is worth a look.
       We have quite a few of these authors and titles under review -- though we haven't gotten around to Hella S. Haasse yet.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Alaa al Aswany profile

       A worthwhile profile of The Yacoubian Building-author Alaa al Aswany at The National, Egypt between the lines.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Waltic report

       At the Words without Borders weblog Samantha Schnee reports on the recent WALTIC ('Writers' and Literary Translators' International Congress'), in Waltic on the Baltic.
       Some confusion about the Nobel nominating procedure (national and international literary organisations also get to nominate candidates), and it seems way early for the Swedish Academy to have decided things (as we understand it, they usually meet in the fall to determine the winner), but maybe she knows a few things we don't:
No hints were dropped, but this yearís candidates have been notified and the decision is imminent, if it hasnít been made already. If our source is any good, this may be Murakamiís year (in addition to his own work, Murakami has translated a number of English authors into Japanese). Letís hope s/heís right.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Archives ahoy

       In The Guardian Chris Arnot looks at Stemming flow of literary heritage across the pond.
       Yes, you've read variations on this article a dozen times already, but it's always fun: the Brits worry yet again about the Harry Ransom Center (or 'Ransom Centre', as they have it in the article ...) and assorted other cash-rich American institutions buying up all their literary goodies. This time Jim Crace is (again) the focus, and:
He did have another offer from what he will only call a "university in the Midlands", but the money was "a tenth" of what Texas offered. "This'll be my pension," he says. "But there's a serious issue here. Stuff is bleeding out of this country. I'm obviously flattered to have this interest from America, but I'm hardly the only British writer there.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Rwandan fiction ?

       allAfrica.com reprints Kelvin Odoobo's piece from The New Times wondering Where Are Our Fiction Writers ? in Rwanda (link likely only short-lived).
       He notes:
One way to promote reading and writing is to provide avenues by setting up Rwandan literary magazines, short story competitions with good monetary rewards, publishing contracts, or by organizing book fairs where local talent can be exposed.

Currently for a determined Rwandan fiction writer, the options are, limited.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Talk show hosts and books

       It's a transcript of a show that's a couple of years old, but this exchange (at Ed Champion's) between Leonard Lopate and Terry Gross is revealing, hilarious, and very disturbing.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



14 July 2008 - Monday

Dylan Thomas Prize longlist | African investments | Sátántangó DVD

       Dylan Thomas Prize longlist

       They've announced the 14-title strong longlist for the £60,000 Dylan Thomas Prize for young writers (under-thirties only) -- though, predictably, not yet at the site, last we checked; the BBC has the run-down, at Star unveils Dylan prize hopefuls.
       We don't have any of the titles under review.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       African investments

       In the Business Daily Mukoma Wa Ngugi writes about Why Africa needs to invest in its own literature, noting:
Yet in a country like Kenya, you have only one literary journal that can be considered national. In the whole continent, with an exception of African Writing, there is hardly a literary journal that can considered Pan-African in that it serves the concerns of the whole continent. Considering Africa has a population that is close to 700 million, we are in terrible shape.

Or take the question of literary prizes. Again in the West, there are literary prizes for all ages and regions in addition to national ones. In Africa there are only a handful with the most prestigious being Western.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Sátántangó DVD

       We still have to wait a bit longer for the English translation of Krasznahorkai László's Sátántangó, but a new four-disk DVD set of Tarr Béla's film-version is coming out (in the US) next week; see the Facets Video publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



13 July 2008 - Sunday

Literary estates | Okot p'Bitek profile | More on the death of the critic ...
Coming of Age at the End of History review

       Literary estates

       In Literary agents fight over Brideshead Revisited in the Sunday Times Ed Caesar looks at the new frenzy of literary agents going after literary estates, as:
Dead writers are hot this summer. No point wasting oneís time with new authors. Theyíre unpredictable, demanding. They require lunch. No, what any literary agent worth his salt needs in 2008 is a classic author with form: famous, prolific and deceased within the past 70 years.
        Quite interesting -- and with a variety of quotes, including from The Wylie Agency-man Andrew Wylie, explaining how he makes (or hopes to) cash out of these estates:
"Actually, itís easy to see where the value resides," Wylie says. "Many estates, when they come to us, have been neglected. The foreign rights, for instance, are spottily managed. And we take care of a lot of small problems on an international basis: thatís the specialité de la maison. Itís like walking into a house that hasnít been cleaned in a decade. We strip the bed, put on new sheets, fluff up the pillows, clean the kitchen -- and suddenly the house increases in value.Ē
       Seems to us more like he's consistently just after the big paydays, ignoring readers' interests (i.e. simply having the books available and in print). But if he claims the specialité de la maison is something different, who are we to say otherwise ?

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Okot p'Bitek profile

       In Remembering Okot p'Bitek's 'comic singing' in the Daily Sun Johnson Ndukwe profiles the Ugandan author.
       See also our review of his White Teeth.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       More on the death of the critic ...

       In The Observer Jay Rayner follows many others in wondering Is it curtains for critics ?, given all the criticism and commentary available on the Internet. Not much new, but somewhat in-depth -- and includes estimable literary weblogger Lynne Hatwell of dovegreyreader scribbles.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Coming of Age at the End of History review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Camille de Toledo's Coming of Age at the End of History.
       The French title was Archimondain, jolipunk and apparently they toyed with titling the English edition Superhip Jolipunk, which certainly would have been more catchy. Even the German solution -- Goodbye Tristesse -- seems preferable .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



12 July 2008 - Saturday

Fifty outstanding translations from the last fifty years ? | Winterson on translation

       Fifty outstanding translations from the last fifty years ?

       In The Times they note that:
The Translators Association of the Society of Authors celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion they have compiled a list of 50 outstanding translations of the last half century
       The link to the list -- which they describe as "by no means definitive" -- at the SoA site didn't work, last we tried, but fortunately The Times prints the whole list of The 50 outstanding literary translations from the last 50 years (which sure makes it sound more definitive).
       Certainly a lot of worthwhile titles here, and some particularly interesting translations -- but we have to wonder what Ralph Manheim's translation of The Tin Drum by Günter Grass is doing on it.
       As we mentioned, at an event we attended last summer Grass had to strain himself to remain ... diplomatic regarding what he thought of that translation, and apparently he's been angling for a new one since the 1970s; Breon Mitchell's new translation is due out for the fiftieth anniversary of the book next year.
       (On the other hand, at least they didn't select any of Manheim's Céline-translations .....)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       Winterson on translation

       In The Times Jeanette Winterson enthuses about reading translations, in writing on the joy of books in translation -- though she's sticking to re-reading classics: Victor Hugo, Colette, Hermann Hesse, and Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



11 July 2008 - Friday

'The writer in a time of crisis' | This year's 'Best of the Booker' ...
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running review

       'The writer in a time of crisis'

       At Pambazuka Aurelie Journo talks to Binyavanga Wainaina, the founder of Kwani? about this year's Kwani? Litfest, in The writer in a time of crisis.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       This year's 'Best of the Booker' ...

       It's not quite an annual event yet, but no doubt the 'Best of the Booker'-competition will be soon, and they've now announced this year's winner -- and just like last time around, it's Salman Rushdie's Midnightís Children. (Surprisingly -- or appropriately, given what a lame idea this was -- only 7800 people bothered voting.)
       In some of the coverage surrounding this Victoria Glendinning, chair of the shortlist committee, asks 'what makes a novel an enduring classic ?' in Salman Rushdie wins the Best of the Booker award for Midnight's Children at The Times, while at The Independent Christina Patterson argues We should be celebrating this literary triumph ? while D.J.Taylor argues We should not be celebrating this literary triumph ? -- and notes:
Midnight's Children was, and is, an exceptionally good novel, which has a strong claim -- something that can only be said of one book in a generation -- to have changed the face of English literature. Yet its influence on the fiction of the succeeding quarter-century has been almost entirely malign.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



       What I Talk About When I Talk About Running review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Murakami Haruki's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -



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