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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 October 2008

11 October: Nobel notes: Mauritian excitement ! - Suspicious betting ? | Chetan Bhagat success | Wetlands fever | Man Booker nominee 2Q & A | Korean writers look elsewhere
12 October: F.Sionil José profile | Alberto Manguel interview | Recent Pakistani fiction | Iranian literature abroad | Six celebrity memoirs
13 October: Reich-Ranicki disses TV award | Knocking French philosopizing | Vertical love | Translation prize report | Remix review
14 October: Kundera's betrayal | Der Turm takes the German Book Prize
15 October: The White Tiger takes Man Booker Prize | BL buys Ted Hughes archive | 'The dilemmas of Central European writers' | Murakami in Berkeley reports | The Black Path review
16 October: Keeping up with the Frankfurt Book Fair | Pamuk profile | Best foreign books ? | Bloomsbury goes Arabic | (American) National Book Award finalists | Le Clézio at Godine
17 October: La hermandad de la buena suerte takes Premio Planeta | Stray Le Clézio commentary | Translations from the Arabic
18 October: Bolaño's The Third Reich | Australia-Asia Literary Award longlist | Pamuk's library | Chicago review
19 October: Translation interest in Frankfurt | Customer Service review
20 October: Wylie interview | Kurdish literature | Yellow-Yellow takes NLNG Prize | FBF round-up | Smile as they Bow review

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20 October 2008 - Monday

Wylie interview | Kurdish literature | Yellow-Yellow takes NLNG Prize
FBF round-up | Smile as they Bow review

       Wylie interview

       Tirant al cap makes us aware of yet another Andrew Wylie interview, this time at El País, where Guillermo Altares writes El Chacal de los libros se confiesa.
       Our favourite bits ? Wylie's Spain-bashing, culminating in:
Pero hay un problema: es más fácil y serio hacer negocios literarios en el Congo que en España.
       Sadly, we fear he's resorting to dreaded hyperbole here; if he actually did conduct business in the Congo (and hence could draw such comparisons) we might actually have a bit of admiration for the guy.
       As they note, he has few Spanish authors on his client list; one of them, however, is Antonio Muñoz Molina -- which goes a long way to explaining why he's so underpublished in the US (where they've released, what ? four of his books ?) while, for example, Rowohlt offers ten titles by him in German.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Kurdish literature

       Turkey was the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair, but it's good to see a small bit of attention also focussed on the slowly growing Kurdish scene, as Sarah Marsh reports for Reuters that Kurdish literature revives in Turkey, writers say:
"While there are too few Kurdish publishers here -- we are the only one -- it was an important step to invite us, because this wouldn't even have been debatable before," said Lal Lales, a poet and chief editor at Lis publishing house.

Lales said there were now 16 Kurdish publishers in Turkey, publishing Kurdish literature and translating foreign literature into Kurdish.

"The number of Kurdish authors is also multiplying from day to day, and slowly, a modern Kurdish literature is establishing itself," he said.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Yellow-Yellow takes NLNG Prize

       They actually handed this out a week ago, but the reports of Yellow-Yellow (by Kaine Agary; get your copy at taking the NLNG literary prize in Nigeria have been rather limited. Now Benjamin Njoku reports on The drama, the tension, as Kaine Agary wins NLNG literary prize at Vanguard.
       Professor Ayo Banjo, representing the panel of judges, noted:
He pointed out that the entry was picked for the prize not just because of the novelist’s unpretentious narrative technique and unsentimental account of the unexplored aspect of the Niger Delta experience, but particularly because of her ability to explore two dominant themes that address contemporary issues in Nigeria.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       FBF round-up

       Surely there will be more in-depth overviews forthcoming, but DeutscheWelle's 2008 Book Fair Closes as Frankfurt Looks to China is a decent quick summing up.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Smile as they Bow review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Nu Nu Yi's Smile as they Bow, a rare piece of contemporary Burmese (Myanmaran) fiction.
       Its obscurity should help it garner some attention; it was also shortlisted for that Man 'Asian' Literary Prize. And Murakami Haruki-translator Alfred Birnbaum co-translated it, with his Burmese wife, which can't hurt either.
       Certainly worth a look.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

19 October 2008 - Sunday

Translation interest in Frankfurt | Customer Service review

       Translation interest in Frankfurt

       Apparently most US and UK publishers remain cheerfully oblivious to the opportunities being at an international book fair like the Frankfurt Book Fair offers.
       At The Guardian's book blog Alison Flood finds that Translated fiction fails to win over Frankfurt buyers, as:
One of the things independents are particularly good at, he adds, is taking a risk on translated fiction. But so far at this Frankfurt there hasn't been a foreign book to spark excitement amongst English-language publishers.
I was expecting to hear lots about Nobel Prize winner JMG Le Clézio -- he's largely unavailable in English and so I'd imagined there'd be a clamour for rights and lots of announcements. Not so much.
       Meanwhile, in The New York Times Motoko Rich finds that Translation Is Foreign to U.S. Publishers, although:
Mr. Godine, who has been running his publishing house for 38 years, said he published foreign authors because it gave his tiny press literary credibility. But he said there was also a basic economic reason.

"When you look at how much is paid for a mediocre midlist author" in the United States, he said, "and how much you have to pay to get a world-class author who has been translated into 18 languages, it is ridiculous that more people don’t invest in buying great literature." Mr. Godine said he had purchased the rights to a foreign book for as little as $2,000.
       Rich also mentions translation-interested publishers Chad Post of Open Letter, Jill Schoolman of Archipelago Books, and Fiona McCrae of Graywolf Press; disappointingly, she did not get any quotes from the Times' in-house expert, Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus, who, with his phobia of literature in translation, might have been able to shed better light on the attitudes of those American publishers who shy away from this stuff.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Customer Service review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Benoît Duteurtre's slim satire, Customer Service.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

18 October 2008 - Saturday

Bolaño's The Third Reich | Australia-Asia Literary Award longlist
Pamuk's library | Chicago review

       Bolaño's The Third Reich

       At Publishers Weekly Rachel Deahl warned about this a couple of weeks ago, but now in The Guardian Giles Tremlett has the fuller story, of how Publishers fight over little-known Bolaño novel.
       Apparently they've discovered a previously unknown and unpublished novel by Roberto Bolaño, The Third Reich (well, El Tercer Reich), and the Bolaño estate's new agent, that Wylie guy, is shopping it around at Frankfurt:
The Third Reich is said to have been written in the early 1990s before Bolaño began to work on a computer. The Wylie agency was touting the book at Frankfurt as "a type-written, completed novel that is meticulously corrected by hand", according to Spain's El Periodico.

Described as "a man's descent into a nightmare", the book features a German wargames champion who travels to the Costa Brava to take on an American opponent. He is pursued by a private detective while a friend disappears after encountering two sinister characters.
       (That description -- "a man's descent into a nightmare" -- is presumably exactly what anyone trying to acquire the rights to this thing is feeling; once again, we're pretty sure neither readers' not Bolaño's best interests will wind up being served -- though no doubt his heirs will be able to cash in nicely.)
       (See also the El Periodico-article .)
       Well, we do look forward to the book -- though we hope there's more of a selling point to it than the fact that it was typewritten and "meticulously corrected by hand" (as opposed to by foot, or what ?) ..... (Those Wylie-folk really know how to push a book, don't they ?)

       Meanwhile, we just received out copy of Bolaño's poems, The Romantic Dogs (pre-order your copy at or, which looks pretty darn good; we'll have our review up in a couple of weeks -- in conjunction with our review of the eagerly anticipated and very good-looking 2666 (pre-order your copy, in hardcover or the three-volume paperback boxed set).
        There's already some 2666-action online, most notably this week the entries at BookFox, as well as Thomas McGonigle's post at ABC of Reading. (See also our review of Attila Bartis' Tranquility, which he also mentions.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Australia-Asia Literary Award longlist

       The new and relatively cash-rich (A$110,000) Australia-Asia Literary Award has announced its longlist. The peculiar geography makes it a bit confusing, but as best we can figure it's like the Pacific Rim-focussed Kiriyama Prize without the US; like the 'Man Asia Literary Prize' their Asia doesn't include much of what most of us would consider Asia .....
       We actually have a few of these titles under review:
(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Pamuk's library

       A very interesting piece at The Guardian, as Orhan Pamuk writes about being The collector, as we turn green with envy reading:
Between 1970 and 1990, my main preoccupation after writing was buying books; I wanted my library to include all the books that I viewed as important or useful.
       But what's particularly interesting is the picture of the Turkish scene he offers, from the fact that:
In the early 70s, poetry was still seen as true literature in Turkey, while the novel seemed a lesser, populist form. The novel has come to be taken more seriously over the past 35 years, while poetry has lost some of its importance. Over the same period, the publishing industry has grown with breathtaking speed.
I wasn't buying as a book collector would, but as a frantic person who was desperate to understand why Turkey was so poor and so troubled. In the 80s, there were on average 3,000 books published in Turkey each year, and I saw most of them.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Chicago review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Alaa Al Aswany's Chicago.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

17 October 2008 - Friday

La hermandad de la buena suerte takes Premio Planeta
Stray Le Clézio commentary | Translations from the Arabic

       La hermandad de la buena suerte takes Premio Planeta

       Several major literary prizes have been handed out over the past week, and while the Nobel offers the most cash, that's also for an author's entire work; as far as single title prizes go the Premio Planeta is way ahead of the pack, at €601,000 (still over $800,000, even as the euro falters), and they've awarded this year's prize to La hermandad de la buena suerte by Fernando Savater.
       No news at the official site (you'd figure with this much money to throw around they could really do better ...), but see also Savater's official site or, for example, Javier Rodríguez Marcos' profile in El País, "Sospechar del Planeta es como sospechar de los Reyes Magos".

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Stray Le Clézio commentary

       A few more stray Le Clézio reactions:

       The predictable Stephen Schwartz on 'The predictable politics of the newest Nobel Prize laureates' at the very predictable Weekly Standard, in Ignoble Prizes, who has fun arguing:
The transformation of Le Clézio from literary nonconformist to pillar of the French Academy may be taken as symbolic of the broader deadening of French nerve as the rebels of the 1960s became the comfortable bien-pensants of 21st century official culture. Predictably, the work of Le Clézio, who was born on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius and has traveled extensively in Mexico and other tropical countries, pays homage to multiculturalism.
       And, continuing to hit them where it hurts:
Where once a Duchamp or Breton, a Borges or Paz, a Joyce or Beckett dared new forms of expression, millions of their tenured imitators simply repeat enervating clichés. Le Clézio comes to us now as a decorative, French simulacrum resembling the mendacious myths of Edward Said.
       Meanwhile, at his ABC of Reading the admittedly also predictable (but far more entertaining) Thomas McGonigle also makes the case for the earlier novels (and the disappointment of the later ones), in J.M.G. LECLEZIO: Getting older sometimes just means getting older, noting:
THE GIANTS appeared in 1975 and for almost twenty years LeClezio did not exist in the US. I tried and failed to get Dalkey Archive to reprint the early books.
       And then, about Wandering Star:
Not for a moment did I believe that he could inhabit the experience of an Israeli or Palestinian woman… not for a moment was I unaware of the dreadful fall into the imperialism of LeClezio's imagination and a politically correct and calculated arrogance that had displaced his heroic stuttering yet articulate hesitation that had shaped those early book…

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Translations from the Arabic

       A press release (not available at the official site yet) announces that 'Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation to Translate 50 Selected Arabic Books into Foreign Languages', as:
The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation today announced it will translate 50 selected books by leading Arab intellects and writers into several foreign languages, starting with the German language.

Books to be translated will include Al Sultan al-Ha'er (The Perplexed Sultan) by renowned Egyptian writer Tawfiq al-Hakeem, The Mural of Mahmoud Darwish by famous Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, and Morals of the Muslim by leading Islamic thinker Muhammed Al-Ghazali.
       Sounds good -- as does:
Yasser Hareb, Acting CEO, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation said: "We are determined to reinstate the role of translation as an effective tool to facilitate knowledge transfer to and from the Arab world. Translation is a key bridge that will help us reach out to other cultures and delve into their values. We hope our efforts will also enable other cultures to know more about the Arab world and appreciate its rich classical and contemporary intellectual wealth."

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

16 October 2008 - Thursday

Keeping up with the Frankfurt Book Fair | Pamuk profile
Best foreign books ? | Bloomsbury goes Arabic
(American) National Book Award finalists | Le Clézio at Godine

       Keeping up with the Frankfurt Book Fair

       We're glad to be at a safe distance from the Frankfurt Book Fair, but usefully they have an official weblog to help us follow it from afar. Great to see also: the FAZ lets much-missed weblogger Richard Charkin get back in the game, in Hall Eight.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Pamuk profile

       Orhan Pamuk is the big draw for the Guest of Honour country at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Turkey, even as, as Alison Flood reports in The Guardian, Frankfurt Book Fair: Orhan Pamuk denounces Turkish oppression. Meanwhile, at The Independent Boyd Tonkin profiles him, in From public enemy to Turkey's national hero.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Best foreign books ?

       At NPR David Kipen talks to Madeleine Brand about The Best Foreign Books You've Never Heard Of and provides a short list of some (though our well-read audience will have heard of many of these, and we have about half of them under review) . And at the NPR weblog, daydreaming, Heather Murphy continues the discussion (and gives you an opportunity to play along).

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Bloomsbury goes Arabic

       In The Guardian Alison Flood and Ian Black report that Publishers seek new talent in Arab world, as:
Bloomsbury announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair yesterday that it is to launch a new Arabic-language publishing house, Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, in partnership with the Gulf state. "The emphasis so far in Qatar has been on literacy, and our second challenge is how to move from literacy to literature to create a culture," said Abdel-Rahman Azzam, a spokesman for Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, the emir's consort and the chair of the Qatar Foundation.
       See also the report in the Gulf Times, Bloomsbury, QF launch Doha venture.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       (American) National Book Award finalists

       As widely reported, they've announced the finalists for the 2008 National Book Award; as usual, we have none of the books in any of the four categories under review.
       1,258 titles were submitted, including 271 in the Fiction category; outrageously and disappointingly, just like with the Man Booker and far too many other literary prizes, the identities of the titles that did not make the shortlists were not identified. Still, the fiction list does look pretty strong (we have no idea about the merits of the books on the others).

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Le Clézio at Godine

       At The Millions there's a guest-post from Daniel E. Pritchard of David R. Godine about the impact of J.M.G. Le Clézio's Nobel Prize, A Little Publisher Hits the Big Time; they brought out The Prospector a few years ago and have now hit a well-deserved payday; see their publicity page or get your copy at or (We, of course, would have hoped they would have long enjoyed much success with their great selection of Georges Perec-books.)

       (We note also that, since we have a couple of stray (older and French) Le Clézios, we were in no great rush to seek out the few titles currently in print, but Godine was quickest in not only reaching out and offering us a copy of The Prospector, but in getting it to us -- so that puts that volume at the head of the queue and up first for review when we start tackling those Le Clézios.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

15 October 2008 - Wednesday

The White Tiger takes Man Booker Prize | BL buys Ted Hughes archive
'The dilemmas of Central European writers' | Murakami in Berkeley reports
The Black Path review

       The White Tiger takes Man Booker Prize

       It's not quite a debacle on the scale of when they gave the Man Booker Prize to Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre, but we're mighty stunned that The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga has taken the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, as they've now officially announced.
       We're hesitant to be too critical, since we haven't read any of the other shortlisted titles and it is certainly possible that they were all worse than the Adiga, but no matter what: this is not a good choice.
       In Out of the Darkness: Adiga's White Tiger rides to Booker victory against the odds in The Guardian Charlotte Higgins reports on the: "closely fought final judging session", as:
Michael Portillo, the chair of the judges, talked of a final panel meeting characterised by "passionate debate". Adiga's book won by a "sufficient", but by no means unanimous, margin.

"It was pretty close," said Portillo, and in the last stages it was down to a battle between The White Tiger and one other book.
"What set it apart was its originality. The feeling was that this was new territory."
       Possibly these judges don't read much (which somehow seems unlikely) or the crop of submitted titles consisted largely of books publishers thought would appeal to the judges (rather than ones they thought were actually any good -- and possibly original). The White Tiger didn't strike us as particularly original, and while its bizarre conceit -- it's framed as a letter to the leader of China -- had some potential, Adiga makes so little of it that any writing school teacher (or responsible editor) surely would have made him cut it (or, preferably, actually do something with it).
       Meanwhile, at The Guardian's book-blog John Sutherland still avoids discussing his shameful refusal to curry his proof of Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence and eat it (see our previous complaint/mention), and instead tries to distract readers with the obligatory discussion: Aravind Adiga wins Booker prize: a worthy winner ?. (It's an easy, one-word answer: No.)
       And in The Independent Arifa Akbar reports that Debut author wins Booker with searing portrait of Indian poverty ... and that's about as much of these articles as we can stomach.

       (Updated - 16 October): See now also the discussion at booklit, which covers things nicely. Meanwhile, at Paper Cuts Motoko Rich reports on Frankfurt Book Fair: Booker Prize Reactions, as: "Morgan Entrekin, president and publisher of Grove/Atlantic Inc. and an unofficial impresario of the fair, whooped".

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       BL buys Ted Hughes archive

       The British Library has announced that: Saved for the nation: British Library acquires major Ted Hughes archive, having forked over £500,000 for it:
The collection comprises over 220 files and boxes of manuscripts, letters, journals, personal diaries and ephemera, and offers an invaluable resource for researchers in all areas of Hughes's prolific and wide-ranging career over more than forty years.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       'The dilemmas of Central European writers'

       They recently held a forum at the Central European University in Budapest, Between Fiction and Reality: Dilemmas of the Central European Writers, and at hlo Anna Marczisovszky reports on it, in ... The dilemmas of Central European writers.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Murakami in Berkeley reports

       Murakami Haruki recently appeared at Berkeley, and there are now a few reports available at various weblogs, notably Ben Dooley's Haruki Murakami in Berkeley at The Millions.
       See also reports at organgrinder and Random Thoughts, Organized Chaotically.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       The Black Path review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Åsa Larsson's The Black Path.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

14 October 2008 - Tuesday

Kundera's betrayal | Der Turm takes the German Book Prize

       Kundera's betrayal

       The big story currently making the rounds is the exposé in the Czech magazine Respekt by Adam Hradilek, with the assistance of Petr Třešňák, Milan Kundera's denunciation. (Yes, the article is available in its entirety in English; start there.)
       As has been widely reported, the piece claims that in 1950 Milan Kundera went to the police and informed on someone's whereabouts, leading to his arrest and lengthy incarceration. Certainly, a life was destroyed here. Additional documentary evidence is now also available at the Institute for Studies of the Totalitarian Regimes; click on the picture on the lower left hand part of the page for an image of the police report and an English translation.
       CTK have now gotten a reaction from Kundera, Czech-born writer Kundera denies having denounced anybody:
"I am totally astonished by something that I did not expect, about which I knew nothing only yesterday, and that did not happen. I did not know the man at all," Kundera told CTK after having learnt from the media about the information released on him in the Czech Republic.
       (No one claims Kundera knew the man in question; indeed, everyone acknowledges that they did not know each other. So that's surely not the point.)

       For UK overviews of the unfolding situation, see:        Among the many open questions the major one is, of course, as Pancevski notes:
However, it remains unclear why the communist authorities of Czechoslovakia never used the document to discredit Mr Kundera, who was monitored by the secret service as one of the most vehement critics of their regime.
       In the Respekt piece Hradilek wrote:
And luckily for Milan Kundera, the earlier denunciation probably escaped the attention of the secret police, who had him in their sights at the beginning of the "normalisation" period as one of the key reformists. The StB did everything in their power to break his nerve, but they never tried to blackmail him on the basis of those events of twenty years earlier.
       Surely not the last we'll hear about this affair.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Der Turm takes the German Book Prize

       We'd hoped to have our review of Uwe Tellkamp's Der Turm up before they announced the winner of the German Book Prize, but it's a nearly thousand-page novel and the review will still be a few more days. Meanwhile, they have announced the winner, and it doesn't come as much of a surprise that Der Turm did take the prize; to tide you over, additional information can be found on our rump-(p)review page (to which our review will be added shortly).
       We figured the signs were already there a few months ago that this would shape up to be the German book of the fall; looks like it'll be unstoppable now (and will be some decent bids for the foreign rights in Frankfurt ...).

       (Updated - 15 October): See now also Dresden Novelist Wins Prestigious German Book Prize at Deutsche Welle.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

13 October 2008 - Monday

Reich-Ranicki disses TV award | Knocking French philosopizing | Vertical love
Translation prize report | Remix review

       Reich-Ranicki disses TV award

       German super-book-critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki -- last mentioned hereabouts with regards to news about the $8.3 million-budget TV-movie of his autobiography, The Author of Himself -- still knows how to make good TV. After sitting through most of some god-awful TV awards show, when it was time to pick up his lifetime achievement award, his reaction was not what they had hoped for.
       As Jess Smee reports in The Guardian, Literary critic rejects rubbish TV award on air:
It was meant to be the crowning moment of an illustrious career, but the award of a lifetime-achievement prize to Germany's top literary critic, Marcel Reich-Ranicki, veered off script when he spurned the prize and tore into German television.

"I don't belong here among all this rubbish," the 88-year-old critic and author said from the stage of the annual German Television Awards gala in Cologne. "I have been given many literature prizes in my life, but I don't belong in this line-up.
       He offers more explanations in a (German) interview with Hubert Spiegel in the FAZ, saying his reaction was spontaneous, after watching so much mediocrity being honoured.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Knocking French philosopizing

       Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog has gotten reviews ranging from the enchanted to the completely dismissive in the US and UK press, but Beth Jones strikes the lowest blow so far in her review in The Telegraph:
Barbery's entire tale is soaked in sentimentality. What is most irritating is that it steadfastly refuses to acknowledge itself as such -- hiding under a mask of philosophical fuss. (...) (T)he enormous numbers who bought into the pseudo-philosophical twittering of Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist will probably buy into this as well. But this doesn't change what this book essentially is: a cobbled-together framework of potted philosophies draped with the softest of sentimental messages.
       Ouch ! Comparisons to Coelho are surely the most stinging slap in the face an author could possibly get.
       But even once-established French philosophers are getting the treatment -- at least in The Telegraph, which really seems to have it in for them --, as, for example, A.N.Wilson (gleefully crows) 'on a philosopher's new-found obscurity' in considering (how he thinks) How Sartre came to be sidelined.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Vertical love

       Vertical gets decent review-coverage online for their books, and from the occasional 'alternative' publication, though far too little in the regular press; at least The Japan Times regularly covers their offerings, including now with Steve Finbow's review of one of their more interesting recent titles, Okuda Hideo's Lala Pipo (yeah, that title can't be helping much ...).
       As he also notes in the review:
Vertical Inc.'s publications offer a wider, more contemporary view of modern-day Japan beyond the cliches and the tourist propaganda. We should welcome such a brave contribution to publishing and look forward to more translated works by younger Japanese authors.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Translation prize report

       A bit late in the day, but always good to see more coverage: in A magical metamorphosis in the Saudi Gazette Susannah Tarbush reports on the Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Remix review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Lawrence Lessig on Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy in Remix.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

12 October 2008 - Sunday

F.Sionil José profile | Alberto Manguel interview | Recent Pakistani fiction
Iranian literature abroad | Six celebrity memoirs

       F.Sionil José profile

       In Master wordsmith in The Sunday Time (Manila) Perry Gil S. Mallari profiles leading Filipino author Francisco Sionil José.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Alberto Manguel interview

       Alberto Manguel's The Library at Night has now come out in Turkish, and so in Sunday's Zaman Can Bahadir Yüce interviews Argentinean writer Manguel: Our intelligence is being threatened.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Recent Pakistani fiction

       In the Financial Times William Dalrymple has a look at recent Pakistani fiction, in Moonlight's children .
       Among the books he looks at: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid and A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif -- neither of which impressed us as much as they did him.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Iranian literature abroad

       Payvand reports on a Literature event with five Iranian exile authors in Vienna: October 24-26, 2008 organised by KuuL.
       An interesting-sounding project they've run over the past few years -- and among other things:
Currently, the Vienna collection may be one of the largest Persian contemporary literature in the world.

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       Six celebrity memoirs

       Weren't these things supposed to be dying out ? Apparently not -- celebrity memoirs continue to be big business (or at least something publishers waste a lot of money on, hoping they'll become big business), and if one has to review them it is presumably better to at least get it over with a half a dozen at a time, as Roland White does in the Sunday Times, in This winter's big celebrity autobiographies -- though, as he notes:
I have just worked my way through six showbiz autobiographies -- a drop in the literary ocean of titles published in time for the pre-Christmas frenzy. It was not a job for the squeamish.
       (Updated - 13 October): See also But that's enough about them, Rachel Cooke's roundup in The Observer, where she finds: 'This year's celebrity memoirs offer all too little in the way of insight, let alone decent prose.'

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11 October 2008 - Saturday

Nobel notes: Mauritian excitement ! - Suspicious betting ?
Chetan Bhagat success | Wetlands fever
Man Booker nominee 2Q & A | Korean writers look elsewhere

       Nobel notes: Mauritian excitement !

       We continue to update our Nobel coverage re. the J.M.G. Le Clézio-win -- start here and scroll your way down -- but a few of these stories are worth a separate mention.
       So, for example, the excitement in Mauritius, where they can hail the native son (just as the Iranians did Persian-born Doris Lessing ...). But good for them, as Paramanund Soobarah writes in the Mauritius Times, that Le Clézio awarded Nobel Prize for literature:
This is a glorious achievement by a fellow citizen the like of which has never been seen nor even hoped for before. May all our bells toll in his honour. All Mauritians should join together in celebration of this victory for weeks. The feat should be carved in stone in our public places for all to see for all time to come.
       We hope they've already started carving !

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       Nobel notes: Suspicious betting ?

       Well, this is fun: it looks like the winner's name was leaked -- and to those wagering on the outcome at that. As several outlets report -- here the CBC -- Leak in Nobel deliberations suspected after bettors pick Le Clézio:
"I have a strong suspicion that there has been a leak in the system this time," Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy said in an e-mail Friday. "I don't want to say more."
       So betting at Ladbrokes was actually halted on Wednesday, as:
"Suddenly, there were more and more bets on him," said Lasse Dilschman, head of Ladbrokes' Nordic division. "The odds went from 15-to-1 to below 2-to-1. That's when we decided to close."
       So much for the Swedish Academy's ability to keep the winner's name secret ......

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       Chetan Bhagat success

       In The Guardian Randeep Ramesh thinks Author's mass-market success upsets Indian literati, as:
He is the biggest-selling writer in English you've never heard of. His name doesn't grace any Booker list, but it is found on the lips of every college student in India. While the global literati dwell on the fiction of India's past, Chetan Bhagat has become India's favourite writer by embracing the present.
       (Note that his One Night @ the Call Centre was actually published in the US and UK; see our review.)
       Ramesh also writes:
Bhagat's formula is simple: write in the quirky, quick-fire campus English that young Indians use and focus on the absurdities of how to get ahead in contemporary India. "What is the purpose of literature ? It is to raise a mirror to society. What is the point of writers who call themselves Indian authors but who have no Indian readers ?" he said.

Such brash populism has drawn barbs from the literary world. Many critics say his books have no lasting value. He is condemned for not using "proper" English and writing novels fit only for "toilet reading".

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       Wetlands fever

       At Me And My Big Mouth Scott Pack finds his readers have gone Click Crazy now that the English translation of Charlotte Roche's Wetlands can be pre-ordered -- as it can at both and; see also the ... interesting cover at
       Publication day is still a ways away -- 2 February in the UK, and 8 April in the US. Given the "Customers Who Bought Items Like This Also Bought"-feature at, it doesn't look like everybody has a clear idea what they're getting themselves into, either (with a lot of technical real-wetlands books listed there).

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       Man Booker nominee 2Q & A

       With the Man Booker Prize 2008 due to be announced on 14 October, articles continue to appear, and Reuters has a decent little Q & A feature with all six finalists, Just a Minute With: The six Booker Prize nominees, asking each of them just two questions: Can you describe your book and why should people read it ? and: What does the Man Booker Prize mean to you ?

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       Korean writers look elsewhere

       Interesting story, especially in light of that whole enaging-the-world debate, at The Korea Times where Chung Ah-young reports that Korean Literature Targets Third World Countries, as:
International translators have agreed that more of Korean literature should be introduced to third world countries where only a small number of Korean works are known.

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