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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 31 August 2010

21 August: Prizes: Vodafone Crossword Book Awards - James Tait Black Memorial Prizes | 2010 IWP Participants | Tahar Ben Jelloun interview | The Engagement review
22 August: Filipino writing | Guantánamo reading
23 August: Rupa & Co. at 75 | New York's most anticipated fiction (and non) | The B&N shake-up saga | Freedom review-overview
24 August: September/October World Literature Today | The King of Kahel and AmazonCrossing | Speak, Nabokov review
25 August: Wylie and Random House make e-peace | UK library usage | The need for publishers | Roseanna review
26 August: Franzen in translation | Lorin Stein on 'literary' attention | Shanda's literary business-model ? | Writing in ... Zimbabwe | The Princess, the King, and the Anarchist review
27 August: Profile: David Mitchell | Q & A's: Lydia Davis - Amélie Nothomb | 'ABCs of E-Reading'
28 August: Korean classics | Guardian first book award longlist | You Do Understand review
29 August: David Grossman profile | Foreign views of Japan | 'The New Egyptian Novel' | J.P.Clark's 'Ibadan' | French literary news
30 August: Tahar Ben Jelloun v. Michel Houellebecq | A call for pro-Zionist literature | OED goes out of print ? | C review
31 August: Chinese fiction in translation | Julia Lovell profile | Translating Russian literature | Ismail Kadare Q & A

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31 August 2010 - Tuesday

Chinese fiction in translation | Julia Lovell profile
Translating Russian literature | Ismail Kadare Q & A

       Chinese fiction in translation

       At Xinhuanet -- annoyingly spread out over three pages -- Yang Guang writes about Chinese literature Getting a foot in abroad -- or not:
Quality translations and targeted marketing alone can help break the lingering stereotype in overseas markets of modern Chinese fiction as propaganda, literary experts say.
       Really ? That's what will do the trick ? (Emphasis on 'trick' ?)
A vicious cycle ensued, in which publishers were wary of taking on modern Chinese literature because it was little known, and were also unwilling to invest in quality translation and editing for the works they did publish. This in turn confirmed the stereotype and further weakened interest in Chinese literature.
       There seems a fair amount of interest -- and supply (at least relatively speaking) -- nowadays -- suggesting the problem lies elsewhere.
       Interesting, however, to learn that:
Alexey Rodionov, Russian translator and associate professor with Saint Petersburg State University, points out that of the 20 titles of Chinese novels and essays published in Russia between 1992 and 2009, the works of Wang Meng and Feng Jicai are the most sought after.
       A great deal of Wang Meng's work has been translated into English (though admittedly not in particularly accessible form), and I'm always surprised that he (a former Minister of Culture, too), hasn't had more of an impact.
       (Interesting, also, that a mere twenty Chinese titles were published in Russian in that span -- barely one a year.)

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

       Julia Lovell profile

       Also at Xinhuanet, also by Yang Guang, also annoyingly spread out over three pages, translator-from-the-Chinese Julia Lovell is profiled, in Establishing a Bond with Chinese writing.
       See the complete review review of her The Politics of Cultural Capital, as well as reviews of her translations of Han Shaogong's A Dictionary of Maqiao and Zhu Wen's I Love Dollars.

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

       Translating Russian literature

       At Oye!Times Marina Darmaros reports on Challenging the classics in Russia, as 'A congress in Moscow will focus on the problems faced by the translators of Russian books', the First International Congress of Translators:
The idea is to gather together the translators who carry the responsibility of translating the great names of Russian and world literature.
       Interesting that:
At the congress there will be discussions on, among other things, the real possibilities of translating artistic literature, of teaching translation and the problems of translating of Russian literature.

Future plans for this cultural reformer include the creation of a translation institute, "a kind of institution that does not exist in Russia yet".
       (Surely the Soviets -- who did a decent job of translating huge amounts of Soviet literature (of the most varied quality) -- had such an institution -- what became of that ?)

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

       Ismail Kadare Q & A

       In the Financial Times' Small Talk-column this week Luke Sampson has a Q & A with Ismail Kadare.
       Among his responses:
Who are your literary influences ?

The three peninsulas of Europe: the Apennines, with Dante; the Balkans, with Greek tragedies and medieval Albanian ballads; and the Iberian Peninsula, with Don Quixote. The British Isles (Shakespeare). Russian and central European literature (Kafka).

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

30 August 2010 - Monday

Tahar Ben Jelloun v. Michel Houellebecq | A call for pro-Zionist literature
OED goes out of print ? | C review

       Tahar Ben Jelloun v. Michel Houellebecq

       Michel Houellebecq's new novel, La carte et le territoire, isn't even out yet (another week to wait; pre-order your copy at, but already there's a good literary stir going: Tahar Ben Jelloun -- a judge for the prix Goncourt that Houellebecq has never won and that his publisher is supposedly pushing for -- has denounced the book and laments the time wasted reading it, in Il caso Houellebecq in la Repubblica (yes, rather than a full frontal attack, he launched his in Italian translation -- an interesting move).
       Publick Journal has a good overview of this first round in what looks like to become a season-long battle that many will join in, in Ben Jelloun hates even the gentler, kinder Houellebecq; for a French perspective see, for example Rue89's Ben Jelloun vs Houellebecq: une histoire de prix Goncourt.

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

       A call for pro-Zionist literature

       At Maayana Miskin reports that Top Ed. Min. Official: Where is the Pro Zionist Literature ?, as:
Ministry of Education official Dr. Gabi Avitan has expressed concern over the lack of Zionist literature in Israel.
       (Avitan is apparently 'Chief Researcher' at the ministry.)
       Always great when politicians expect authors and artists to be ideologically correct:
"Authors should be part of the nation's spiritual backbone," he said. "They should be those laying out a vision for the country. Astonishingly, the leading group of authors [in Israel] express alienation to the point of automatic identification with Israel's enemies in their writing."

"I'm talking about A.B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, David Grossman, and others," he specified
       Yeah, those are the guys letting Israel down .....

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

       OED goes out of print ?

       In The Telegraph Alastair Jamieson reports that Oxford English Dictionary 'will not be printed again', as 'The next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, the world’s most definitive work on the language, will never be printed because of the impact of the internet on book sales.'
       Of course, in the piece itself we read only:
"The print dictionary market is just disappearing, it is falling away by tens of per cent a year," Nigel Portwood, the chief executive of OUP, told the Sunday Times. Asked if he thought the third edition would be printed, he said: "I don’t think so."
       (See also the complete review review of Ammon Shea's Reading the OED (or, as the UK paperback edition now has it, in the worst case of re-titling a book I've ever come across: Satisdiction).)

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

       C review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tom McCarthy's Man Booker Prize longlisted C.

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

29 August 2010 - Sunday

David Grossman profile | Foreign views of Japan | 'The New Egyptian Novel'
J.P.Clark's 'Ibadan' | French literary news

       David Grossman profile

       In The Observer Rachel Cooke has a lengthy profile of David Grossman.
       His To the End of the Land is due out shortly in the UK and in a couple of weeks in the US (pre-order your copy from or; I don't have a copy yet, but I imagine I might be able to get one, and expect to review it once I do.

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

       Foreign views of Japan

       In The Japan Times Roger Pulvers finds Twin tours de force offer insights into Japan not lost in translation, as he maintains:
The year 2010 may come to be seen as a landmark in terms of literature written in English that draws on Japan as a setting.

That's because two books released this year -- one non-fiction, the other fiction -- are each remarkable in the sense of Japanese reality they conjure.
       The fiction title is The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell.

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

       'The New Egyptian Novel'

       Arabic Literature (in English) points me to Sabry Hafez's piece on The New Egyptian Novel: Urban Transformation and Narrative Form in the New Left Review.
       As Hafez explains:
In what follows I will attempt to illustrate both the range and the commonalities of the new Egyptian novel. It has been argued that this work should be understood outside the limits of genre classification, in terms of a free-floating trans-generic textual space. Instead, I will suggest that these new novels do indeed share a set of distinct narrative characteristics; these involve both a rupture with earlier realist and modernist forms, and a transformation of the rules of reference by which the text relates to the extrinsic world. I will suggest that, whatever their actual settings, these works share demonstrable formal homologies with the sprawling slums of Cairo itself.

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

       J.P.Clark's 'Ibadan'

       In Next Tade Ipadeola writes about Rereading Ibadan: A poem, its city and the gauntlet, as he thinks:
No session of modern African poetry is complete without a reading of the poem titled 'Ibadan', by John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo. It is certainly difficult to escape an encounter with this poem, it being one of the most anthologized poems ever to come from Africa. It celebrates a city which is, and was, the champion cradle of literary culture in Nigeria.

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

       French literary news

       I almost never link to video-reports, but these at France24 may be of some interest: in Can French books break into the international market ? 'Eve Jackson explores the international success of French literature', speaking with French Book Department-head Fabrice Gabriel (after a brief segment on Marilyn Monroe).
       And there's also a piece on France's book obsession.

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

28 August 2010 - Saturday

Korean classics | Guardian first book award longlist | You Do Understand review

       Korean classics

       In The Korea Times Chung Ah-young writes about Rediscovering Korean literary classics -- alas, solely in Korean, for now:
Munhakdongne, one of the nation’s largest publishers, has brought out 10 volumes of the Korean Classic Literature Series after five years of collaboration with prominent scholars as part of a long-term project.
       While a decent amount of modern Korean literature is being translated into English (relatively speaking, considering how little of anything is translated into English ...), the Korean classics have really been overlooked -- especially in comparison to the amount of classic Chinese and Japanese literature that is available. (Yes, a slightly different situation: still, there's no excuse for so little of it to be available.)

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

       Guardian first book award longlist

       They've announced the £10,000 Guardian first book award longlist, and in The Guardian Richard Lea has the run-down, in Guardian first book award longlist ranges around the world.
       None of the titles are under review at the complete review yet, but given how often I've mentioned it I'm starting to think it really is high time I reviewed Nadifa Mohamed's Black Mamba Boy (see the Farrar, Straus and Giroux publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       You Do Understand review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Andrej Blatnik's collection of short pieces You Do Understand.
       It's one of three books Dalkey Archive Press are bringing out in the beginning of September, inaugurating their new Slovenian Literature Series, which looks very promising.

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

27 August 2010 - Friday

Profile: David Mitchell | Q & A's: Lydia Davis - Amélie Nothomb
'ABCs of E-Reading'

       Profile: David Mitchell

       In The Independent Arifa Akbar profiles David Mitchell at some length.
       See also the complete review review of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.

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

       Q & A: Lydia Davis

       At The Rumpus Greg Gerke has a lengthy Q & A with Lydia Davis, about both writing fiction and translating; her new translation of Madame Bovary is due out soon -- I just got a copy (pre-order yours at or, and it looks good, but with the book already under review I'm not sure I'll be able to devote separate review-coverage to it.

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

       Q & A: Amélie Nothomb

       The French "rentrée" -- the flood of fall-books -- has begun, and Amélie Nothomb's Une forme de vie (get your copy at -- about an American G.I. (and Nothomb-fan) in Iraq who has some weight-issues (the opposite of Nothomb's usual weight-issues) -- tops the bestseller tables, with AFP reporting that Huit romans de la rentrée au top 20 des ventes, Amélie Nothomb première de la classe (as well it should, with an initial print-run of 220,000, apparently the most optimistic of all the fall book first printings); see also the bestseller list at Livres Hebdo (scroll own).
       Lots of Nothomb coverage in the French press, including now an interview in Le Figaro, Amélie Nothomb parle de ses lecteurs, by Mohammed Aissaoui, and Marianne Payot's interview in L'Express, Amélie Nothomb: "Je suis allergique au mépris".
       Payot asks her whether she is well-known in the US, and Nothomb admits:
Non, pas du tout, j'y fais des tournées plutôt confidentielles, mais qu'un auteur belge soit traduit là-bas est déjà un privilège.
       But maybe with a G.I. as a main character this one will catch on in the States .....
       (Actually, I'd hope that maybe her next book due out in the US -- her debut, finally available in translation -- would do the job, too: Hygiene and the Assassin (and three cheers for Europa editions not messing with the title (as another publisher did with Métaphysique des tubes ...); see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or

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

       'ABCs of E-Reading'

       In the Wall Street Journal Geoffrey A. Fowler and Marie C. Baca find 'New Devices Are Changing Habits. People Are Reading More, Even While in a Kayak', in The ABCs of E-Reading.

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

26 August 2010 - Thursday

Franzen in translation | Lorin Stein on 'literary' attention
Shanda's literary business-model ? | Writing in ... Zimbabwe
The Princess, the King, and the Anarchist review

       Franzen in translation

       At her love german books weblog Katy Derbyshire writes about the rushed German translation of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, in Franzen's Freiheit and the Multiple Translator Phenomenon as:
Jonathan Franzen's previous translator Bettina Abarbanell has been working with Eike Schönfeld on changing Freedom into Freiheit. It's due for release on 17 September, just over two weeks after the official US publication date. As in the case of Foer's book, the German publishers Rowohlt have chosen excellent translators for the job -- but one wonders whether an 800-page novel can be translated excellently by two different people.
       Meanwhile, as she also notes, Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals ('Tiere essen') apparently required three translators (though I can sort of understand that ... who wants to face that alone ?)
       In the English-speaking world -- where, of course, there's almost never a rush (Stieg Larsson being a semi-exception, those books somehow managing to get manhandled and still taking ages to come out in the US ...) -- co-translations seem a much rarer phenomenon -- which is surely for the best.

       (Updated - 27 August): The Germans apparently really like to get a lot of people involved: Sam Savage reports that his Firmin -- which only comes in at 216 pages in the German translation (see also the Ullstein publicity page) -- was tackled by a team of four (!) translators. That apparently didn't work out too well in the first instance, but, admirably, corrections and improvements were made in subsequent printings.

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

       Lorin Stein on 'literary' attention

       New head of The Paris Review and former FSG-man Lorin Stein has a post up at one of The Atlantic's blogs (at Ta-Nehisi Coates', specifically (and quite confusingly ...)) on Franzen and the Future, Redux, where he maintains:
It has become immensely hard to get a "literary" writer the attention he or she deserves. (Here I use the word in its trade sense, the way Amazon does.) The proximate cause is the collapse of book reviewing. Ten years ago, reviews were the publishing strategy at a house like FSG. They maintained a stable market for literary books. We simply filled an existing need.
       Having been at this for more than a decade now I don't see quite the shift that Stein does -- but then I suppose my vantage point is that of (review-)consumer, not publisher; true, the book sections have disappeared in the US, but widespread coverage continues to be available. (And I'm amazed that "reviews were the publishing strategy" a mere ten years ago. Really ? Really ?)
       As far as reviews go I suppose I rely more on online sources than Stein seems to think most people do:
The amazing thing, to me, is how book-lovers banded together to fill the gap. First you had sites like Salon, Slate, and Feed. Their idea was to create an alternate world of book reviews online. (Full disclosure: I've occasionally written for Salon and Feed.) The trouble, as we all learned, is that even the smartest book reviews tend to vanish on the Web. You don't go searching for coverage of a book you haven't read. A book review, to be effective, has to stand there like a billboard (or a Kindle ad) and call out for your attention.
       Again: my experience is a very different one. For one, it doesn't seem to me that reviews "vanish on the web"; indeed, I'm always amazed at the ones of obscure books at the complete review that continue to attract a sizable audience, month in and month out. And there seems to be a steady and very large flow of visitors who come to the site who are very interested in coverage of books they haven't read (yet).
       Finally, Stein also claims:
There was, to an unexamined degree, September 11th. For six months, the media more or less stopped covering literature. The sky didn't fall. Most newspapers realized they could do without it, forever.
       I must have missed something: didn't a little book called The Corrections come out on 11 September 2001 ? Didn't that get great press (and review) coverage all fall long -- especially once the Oprah-fiasco happened ?

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

       Shanda's literary business-model ?

       As regular readers know, I am fascinated by Chinese outfit Shanda's apparent success with its online literary sites, which receive an incredible amount of traffic and suggest a sort of model for online literary ventures. Unfortunately, English-language press coverage hasn't looked at this phenomenon very closely.
       The Forbes-blog Q&A with iResearch senior analyst Xufeng Zhao, China's Online Gaming Industry Faces Demographic Battle, doesn't focus on it, but offers one (scary) way of seeing it: scroll down to the last question:
Q. What will come of efforts by companies such as Shanda to create a literature business ?

A. Whether any literature is successful will depend on how it's ultimately packaged. It's not only the value of any literature itself that involved. If Shanda only generates money from one-at-time sales, then it will be a failure. The greatest value from literature is that it is an invisible asset. The real question is how you can later integrate it into your production chain. How can you create more value from something that starts out as a book ? So for Shanda, what I can say at least for now is that they are trying to do that -- integrate. They are ahead of others.
       Wow -- integrating literature into your production chain .....
       Potentially very scary times ahead, indeed .....

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

       Writing in ... Zimbabwe

       A depressing little piece in The Zimbabwean, where Rejoice Ndlovu writes about a Celebration of acclaimed novelist, Charles Mungoshi:
Last year, Mungoshi received only Z$11,000 (R323,00) in royalties for each book he wrote, and when the writer was recently interviewed he admitted to being close to poverty.

"I have remained a poor man despite writing immensely," he said, attributing it to a lack of transparency in the publishing industry and having no reading culture in Zimbabwe.

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

       The Princess, the King, and the Anarchist review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Robert Pagani's historical novella, The Princess, the King, and the Anarchist.

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

25 August 2010 - Wednesday

Wylie and Random House make e-peace | UK library usage
The need for publishers | Roseanna review

       Wylie and Random House make e-peace

       'Literary' agent Andrew Wylie went rogue a month ago and set up his own e-book publishing house, Odyssey Editions, pissing off publisher Random House to the extent that they announced they'd have nothing to do with any of his clients until the matter had been settled; see my previous mention. Now the parties have apparently kissed and made up, though the press is presenting it as Wylie having bent over and lowered his trousers in complete submission: in The Bookseller Philip Jones claims Random House wins battle over e-rights with Andrew Wylie, while in The New York Times Julie Bosman claims Random House Wins Battle for E-Book Rights.
       The Bookseller piece includes the short 'joint press statement' issued by Random House and Wylie (god forbid they'd post that at either the Odyssey Editions site or Random House's supposed press release page (where the most recent one is from 26 July -- way to keep us up to speed)), but other than noting that they have "resolved our differences over the disputed Random House titles" there's nothing substantive here.
       Without knowing what terms were exacted by each side who fucked whom remains unclear; my experience suggests that wherever Wylie is involved it's the reader that gets fucked. I.e. this is probably no happy end.
       I am amazed that no journalist managed to get any Wylie author to comment on the stand-off while it lasted, and I'm curious whether there was a great deal of behind-the-scenes pressure from them for him to resolve this. But what's really of interest is whether his play paid off: he said he was doing it for the authors -- so did he just give in to Random House or did he get some really good terms from them ? Indeed, the way this whole thing has (un)folded, you (well, I) have to wonder whether or not Dohle and Wylie weren't in it together from the beginning .....

       Open questions now:
  • What happens with Odyssey Editions, now reduced to a feeble seven titles ? (Side question: why didn't Wylie add any titles over the last month if he meant this as some sort of serious enterprise ?)
  • Will Amazon sue for breach of contract, their two-year exclusive on Lolita and the like suddenly up in smoke ? (Astute businessman (if nothing else) that he is, I imagine Wylie planned for this contingency -- or knew it was coming .....)
  • As I write this -- some twelve hours after the announcement, and with the books-in-question removed from the Odyssey Editions site -- all the titles are still available at Did no one send them the memo ? More importantly: what happens to the e-editions that have already been purchased ? Are we looking at another set of mass-deletions from Kindles ?
       I look forward to the follow-up stories; the stories covering/leading up to this have been feeble indeed -- is everyone so terrified of the Jackass' bite ?

       (Updated - 26 August): Some decent follow-up and additional information from Rachel Deahl at Publishers Weekly in The RH/Wylie Showdown Ends, New Digital Royalty Rate Is Born. But there are still a lot of open questions .....

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

       UK library usage

       In The Telegraph Laura Roberts notes that Two thirds of Britons have not been to the library in the last year, offering the -- shocking ? disappointing ? -- most recent data on UK library-usage:
The number of adults using public libraries at least once a year has fallen from 48.2 per cent in 2005/06 to just 39.4 per cent in 2009/10 according to Government statistics.
       The figures come from the government survey, Taking Part: The National Survey of Culture, Leisure and Sport Adult and Child Report 2009/10; click through to all the depressing reports and figures for yourself.

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

       The need for publishers

       As faithful readers know, I'm unimpressed by how publishers conduct their 'business' -- and astounded by, in particular, how unbusiness-like they often are in their conduct of it -- but I acknowledge that publishers could play some role in the future of the book business. But 'defenses' or explanations like Philip Goldberg's Who Needs Publishers ? We All Do ! at The Huffington Post make me think I'm fooling myself.
       Even Goldberg, despite the bold title of the piece, concludes rather feebly:
My bottom line is this: when it comes to serious nonfiction especially, readers, libraries, reporters and everyone else concerned about accuracy and readability should rely only on books that have been competently edited.
       From 'we all need publishers' to the narrow field of 'serious non-fiction' ? Pathetic.
       And all he has to offer is two reasons why publishers are necessary: advances (note: he's an author, who likes to get bankrolled before doing any work -- and doesn't expect to pay it back if he doesn't earn enough with the final product (as is generally the case) -- a sweet deal everyone I know would sign up for in a heartbeat) and quality control.
       Of course, authors love advance -- who wouldn't ? But I'm not sure that it makes the greatest publishing model --and just because it has been around for a while (not that long, by the way) doesn't mean there aren't better alternatives.
       As to quality control -- yeah, I'm all for that too. But I don't always see that from publishers either (indeed, I'm shocked by some of the shoddy stuff I get from well-endowed publishers ...), and there are alternatives for that as well.

       (Updated - 28 August): A much more sensible look at self v. 'traditional' publishing, also at The Huffington Post, now comes from Boyd Morrison, in To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish.

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

       Roseanna review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's Roseanna, the first in the Martin Beck series, which I hope to make my way through.

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

24 August 2010 - Tuesday

September/October World Literature Today
The King of Kahel and AmazonCrossing | Speak, Nabokov review

       September/October World Literature Today

       The September/October issue of World Literature Today, with a centerpiece on International Short Fiction, is now available with some-- though far from all -- of the content available online.
       Among the content that is available is Alan Cheuse's introduction to the short fiction-theme, as well yours truly's interview with Eshkol Nevo.
       Reasons to get the print issue include so that you can sample all the short fiction on offer, as well as the invaluable review-section. And I am also interested in the interview with Charles den Tex -- titled 'This Year's Best Crime Writer'. I have no idea why den Tex has not been translated into English yet -- though European writers specializing in what might be considered more 'international thrillers' do seem to have a harder time getting translated than those that stick to domestic color; for more about den Tex and his books see, for example, this NLPVF page.

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

       The King of Kahel and AmazonCrossing

       I mentioned the interesting-sounding foray into publishing -- translated fiction ! -- at when they announced AmazonCrossing a few months back, and I was very, very pleased yesterday to receive an ARC of the first title, Tierno Monénembo's prix Renaudot-winning (in 2008) The King of Kahel, due out 2 November (pre-order your copy at or (As I noted, Monénembo's The Oldest Orphan is already under review at the complete review; it won't take much for The King of Kahel to get more review- or other attention.)
       This is an interesting experiment and I am very curious to see how it turns out. (I haven't heard, for example, what the second title is to be -- maybe they're waiting to see whether this one was worth their while first .....)
       One right track: despite my constant and grumpy griping about not getting the review copies I ask for, this one came to me without my lifting a finger (which I otherwise eventually would have). So, at least from my vantage point, publicity-wise they're on at least part of the right track (you know I'll review this before the publication date).
       What I liked less: the translation copyright isn't in translator Nicholas Elliott's name, but rather is held by "AmazonCrossing" ..... (Even Dave Stevenson gets to keep his "map illustration copyright", so that one hurts.)
       Interesting, also: the AmazonCrossing address listed on the copyright page is a Las Vegas post office box .....

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       Speak, Nabokov review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Michael Maar's nice little study, Speak, Nabokov (in Ross Benjamin's prize-winning translation).

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23 August 2010 - Monday

Rupa & Co. at 75 | New York's most anticipated fiction (and non)
The B&N shake-up saga | Freedom review-overview

       Rupa & Co. at 75

       Indian publisher Rupa & Co. have been around for 75 years, and in The Hindu Sangeeta Barooh Pisharoty has a look at The reach of Rupa, talking with managing director Kapish Mehra.
       Particularly admirable:
We don't dilly dally much with authors. In just 3-4 weeks, we tell them if we can publish their work.
       There's a motto (and concept): No dilly-dallying with authors !

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       New York's most anticipated fiction (and non)

       In New York magazine's fall preview issue they offer a list of Books: The Twenty: Our most anticipated fiction and nonfiction of fall.
       The only title under review at the complete review is Scarlett Thomas' Our Tragic Universe, though there are several more I'm looking forward to (the Roth, the McCarthy) and hope to get to (if/when I get my hands on them ...).

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       The B&N shake-up saga

       Also in New York, Andrew Rice has a long piece on the current Barnes & Noble shake-up, The Billionaire and the Book Lover.
       I'm very curious what will happen to Barnes & Noble, but don't have clue as to how this might play out (and what the consequences will be -- though the dramatic possibilities are entertaining to consider).

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       Freedom review-overview

       I was holding back coverage of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom in the hopes of being able to post a full-fledged review, but there are already a lot out there and I still haven't gotten a copy of the book, so for now I've posted a review-overview page.

       (And, yes, I continue to feel a bit like a reviewer non grata , certain by now that I have mightily offended the publicist-gods (surely they have their own deity) and wondering what sacrifice will be necessary for symbolic (or actual) atonement. Though I'd guess that anything I do in August, when the publishing industry is ... perhaps not so industrious might well pass unnoticed.)

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22 August 2010 - Sunday

Filipino writing | Guantánamo reading

       Filipino writing

       At the Inquirer's Global Nation Benjamin Pimentel is Celebrating Filipino books & authors, looking ahead to next year's first Filipino American International Book Festival, to be held at the San Francisco Public Library.
       Books and author's that get mentioned include, of course, prominent recent Filipino success Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco, but also Wilfrido Nolledo's But for the Lovers, celebrating the 40th anniversary of its first publication.
       But for the Lovers is the rare Dalkey Archive Press title (they did the paperback re-issue) that I've never even seen (and, for example, the entire New York Public Library stystem doesn't have a copy in its circulating stacks); see the Dalkey publicity page, or get your copy at or

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       Guantánamo reading

       There have been a few variations on this story over the years, but Time revisits it, as Kayla Webley writes about What Prisoners Are Reading at Gitmo.
       There are apparently: "18,000 books, magazines, DVDs and newspapers on offer from the prison library".
The library also bans books that have excessive graphic violence, military topics, travel offers, classified advertisements (which could be used to send coded messages to the detainees) and physical geography, such as maps of buildings or subway systems that could provide targets for potential attacks.

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21 August 2010 - Saturday

Prizes: Vodafone Crossword Book Awards - James Tait Black Memorial Prizes
2010 IWP Participants | Tahar Ben Jelloun interview | The Engagement review

       Prize: Vodafone Crossword Book Awards

       Despite the silly name, the Vodafone Crossword Book Awards are among the premier book prizes in India, and they were handed out yesterday; no news thereof at the official site, of course, but, for example, the Times of India runs down the winners, in Mumbaikar brings home fiction award.
       Venus Crossing by Kalpana Swaminathan took the fiction prize; see, for example, the Penguin (India) publicity page.
       (I actually have two of Kalpana Swaminathan's earlier works on my shelves -- kindly sent to me by the publisher at her behest -- and I really should get to those.)

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       Prize: James Tait Black Memorial Prizes

       They've announced the winners of the James Tait Black Memorial Prizes -- and, yes, you know the drill: not, of course, at the official site (aside: why does anyone bother with an official site if they can't be bothered to take advantage of being able to report this news first ?).
       A.S.Byatt's The Children's Book took the fiction prize (and John Carey took the biography prize, for his William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord Of The Flies); see, for example, the Telegraph report, AS Byatt and John Carey win James Tait Black Memorial Prizes.
       Meanwhile, at The Guardian they take a different approach: Charlotte Higgins and Caroline Davies' report is titled AS Byatt says women who write intellectual books seen as unnatural and it includes some good prize-bashing from Byatt -- though it's another prize that bears the brunt of it:
"The Orange prize is a sexist prize," she said. "You couldn't found a prize for male writers. The Orange prize assumes there is a feminine subject matter -- which I don't believe in. It's honourable to believe that -- there are fine critics and writers who do -- but I don't."

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       2010 IWP Participants

       The University of Iowa International Writing Program has announced who the 2010 IWP Participants are -- worth paying attention to, some of these folk will certainly be heard from (or, better yet: read) sooner or later.
       See also the University of Iowa News Release, IWP convenes 2010 'United Nations of Literature' in the City of Literature, where they note:
The community of 38 writers from 32 countries includes a mix of fiction writers, poets, translators, essayists, filmmakers, playwrights, screenwriters, editors, journalists and critics. The roster includes the first IWP representatives from Mauritius, Belarus and Djibouti.

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       Tahar Ben Jelloun interview

       At Kersten Knipp has an Interview with Tahar Ben Jelloun about his recent book, Au pays -- out now in German translation, and due out in January, 2011 in English, in a translation by Linda Coverdale, as A Palace in the Old Village; pre-order your copy at or

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       The Engagement review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Georges Simenon's The Engagement, reissued in a new translation by NYRB Classics a few years ago.

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