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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 January 2011

1 January: Publishers look back | Most re-publish-worthy | UK bestsellers 2010 | German critics' recommendations | Tun-Huang review
2 January: Iliya Troyanov Q & A | January issues | The year in reviews
3 January: Helon Habila Q & A | Naguib Mahfouz page | Most-read reviews, 2010
4 January: 2011 books to look forward (?) to | Library of America sales-numbers | Translating from ... Polish into Vietnamese | Onze oom review
5 January: Why they write | Whitbread Costa Book Awards category winners | E-books sales | The long modern novel ...
6 January: Top ten Chinese books of 2010 ? | UK book sales decline in 2010 | Most popular titles at the New York Public Library | Jaipur Literature Festival preparation | Shobhaa Dé profile
7 January: The year in translation(s) | Publishing optimism ? | P.O.L. enthusiasm ! | Charlotte Mandell interview | The Book of Madness review
8 January: Theroux on autobiography | The past 100 reviews | Pulse review-overview
9 January: Naguib Mahfouz and Arabic Literature | Donde nadie te encuentre takes Premio Nadal | Buying books down under | Lionel Asbo | 'Viscount' Lascano Tegui reviews
10 January: Korean royal classics | Kalder on Russian literature | Mobile phone fiction in China | Vikram Seth profile | New Transcript


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10 January 2011 - Monday

Korean royal classics | Kalder on Russian literature
Mobile phone fiction in China | Vikram Seth profile | New Transcript

       Korean royal classics

       Chung Ah-young asks that burning question: "What did royal families and court ladies of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) do for fun ?" -- and finds Royal classic novels under new spotlight.
        The answer ? Apparently:
There was not much entertainment at that time but they are believed to have enjoyed their leisure time by reading novels that dealt with diverse themes and subjects .
       And:
Recently, ancient novels read in the court are coming under the spotlight as the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS) has published three classic novels -- Taewonji, Nyeongirok and Nakcheondeungwun.
       Not much classical Korean literature available in English translation either -- but maybe there is hope .....

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



       Kalder on Russian literature

       In his weekly column at RIA Novosti Daniel Kalder offers Transmissions from a Lone Star: Parallel Lives. Russian literature at home and abroad.
       A pretty lazy effort, by his usually good standards -- with Kalder making claims such as:
After Stalin's depredations became undeniable, it wasn't so easy for a soviet author to secure a wide readership in America or Europe. Indeed one of the most famous of all soviet novels, Ilf and Petrov's The Twelve Chairs, is practically unknown in the West. It doesn't help that The Twelve Chairs is a comedy either: Westerners like their Russian authors bearded and serious.
       What 'West' is he talking about ? Surely few Soviet-Russian novels have enjoyed more popularity (and editions) abroad over as many decades as this one (and The Golden Calf, too).
       Kalder also notes:
Since 1991, the situation has changed again. Dissident writers once banned in Russia are now widely read at home and forgotten in the West. Vasily Aksyonov, for years a professor at Georgetown University, couldn't even find an American publisher for his last few novels. Eduard Limonov, the notorious leader of the National Bolshevik party now deemed illegal in Russia, hasn't been published in English since 1990.
       (And I'm jealous to read that: "Recently I received a review copy of an English translation of The Ice Trilogy by Vladimir Sorokin" -- which I'm looking forward to (only the middle volume, Ice, is under review at the complete review; see also the New York Review Classic publicity page for the trilogy, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).)

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



       Mobile phone fiction in China

       In the Irish Times Clifford Coonan finds China's mobile phones lead a reading revolution, as:
Millions of Chinese have abandoned traditional books for mobile phone novels, and as smartphones start to become more popular in China, the genre is getting ever more popular. The novels are punchy and pacy, the whole process is wildly interactive and itís transformed reading in China.
       The most interesting -- if true -- quote:
We found that novels of between 100,000 and 300,000 words are the most popular, since it costs the same to subscribe to one novel with 10,000 words as it does to subscribe to one with 100,000 words
       (Interesting pricing policy too, if true .....)

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



       Vikram Seth profile

       In The National Anita Sethi profiles the author, in Vikram Seth admits to literary obsession.
       (The only Seth title under review at the complete review is An Equal Music (though I liked both A Suitable Boy and The Golden Gate considerably more).)

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



       New Transcript

       Transcript 36: Literature from Stateless Nations is now available online, with poetry in Sami, Galician, Catalan, and Irish Gaelic, and prose translated from Catalan, Welsh, Kurdish, Basque, and Romany.

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



9 January 2011 - Sunday

Naguib Mahfouz and Arabic Literature | Donde nadie te encuentre takes Premio Nadal
Buying books down under | Lionel Asbo | 'Viscount' Lascano Tegui reviews

       Naguib Mahfouz and Arabic Literature

       It's the Naguib Mahfouz-centenary year, and so there should be lots of coverage of the master; here's some, at Qantara.de: Samir Grees looks at 'Naguib Mahfouz's influence on Arabic Literature', in In the Shadow of the Master.

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



       Donde nadie te encuentre takes Premio Nadal

       Donde nadie te encuentre, by Alicia Giménez-Bartlett, has won the Premio Nadal (yeah, no mention yet at the official Ediciones Destino page ...); see, for example, Alicia Gimenez Bartlett Wins Prestigious Spanish Novel Prize in the Latin American Herald Tribune.
       There were 284 works in the running for the prize (just a reminder for those UK and US literary prize judges (especially those Man Booker judges ...), when they're tempted to start whingeing about having to consider 100 or a 110 titles ...).
       Europa editions has actually brought out several of her works; see here -- and see also her official site.

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



       Buying books down under

       In The Age Michelle Griffin reports that in Australia Online shoppers forced go pirate, as:
Australians are still third class citizens in the worlds of book, DVD and film distribution but now, we know it.
       Yes:
Australians still languish as a minor distribution zone in copyright empires carved up back when everything we wanted arrived in boats. It's tyranny of distance compounded by the tyranny of scale. If 80 per cent of purchases come from 20 per cent of the stock, most retailers in Australia will only import that mass-market 20 per cent. The challenge for them is that the customers now realise what we've been missing all this time.

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



       Lionel Asbo

       In the Independent on Sunday Andrew Johnson has some information about Martin Amis' forthcoming novel -- Lionel Asbo -- and Amis fleeing England moving to Brooklyn, in Amis says au revoir to all that.
       As to the novel:
The novel tells the story of Lionel Asbo, a skinhead lout who wins the lottery while in prison. Amis has revealed that one of the characters, "Threnody", is loosely based on Katie Price, whom he has previously described as little more than "two bags of silicone". Other objects of Amis's satire include the British press and a society obsessed with sex and money.
       (Hey, I wonder if the British press has ever been the object of any author's satire ..... Or Katie Price.)
       As to his flight move:
Yesterday Amis confirmed his planned move for the first time. "We probably are moving to Brooklyn for family reasons, in the summer, but we'll keep a flat here," he said.

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



       'Viscount' Lascano Tegui reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two novels by the self-styled 'Viscount' Lascano Tegui:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



8 January 2011 - Saturday

Theroux on autobiography | The past 100 reviews | Pulse review-overview

       Theroux on autobiography

       Mark Athitakis' American Fiction Notes points me to Paul Theroux's Smithsonian-piece, The Trouble With Autobiography.
       Theroux concludes:
The more I reflect on my life, the greater the appeal of the autobiographical novel.
       Of course, here's a man much of whose travel-writing includes a good deal of very personal material -- and whose fiction has already often been very autobiographical (most obviously, perhaps, in the interesting autobiographical exercise of My Other Life; get your copy at Amazon.com, or pre-order the soon-to-be-available re-issue at Amazon.co.uk).

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



       The past 100 reviews

       So, there are now 2600 reviews at the complete review, leading to the usual statistical survey of the past 100 books (not quite as interesting as even just the preliminary look at The year in reviews, but more useful for some comparisons).
       I updated the (shameful) list showing just how sexist we are/I am (and remain): a mere 15.5 of the past 100 books reviewed were by women ... hey, at least that raises the site-average (to ... all of 14.69 per cent ...).
       I also updated the more impressive pages looking at How international are we ? and the exact break-down by language. The past 100 titles were originally written in 27 languages -- including English -- though there were no new ones (the Dari titles get listed under Persian ...). There were 14 French titles reviewed, 9.5 German, and 8 each in Japanese and Spanish.
       The 100 books were written by authors from 37 different countries, led by the US (12), followed by France (9) and Japan (8).
       I reviewed: 70 novels, 4 story-collections, 16 volumes of 'non-fiction', 4 of poetry, 2 dramas, 1 autobiography, and 3 'various'.
       Two books received a grade of "A", 7 an "A-", 29 a "B+", 50 a "B", and 10 a "B-".

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



       Pulse review-overview

       The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of Julian Barnes' new story collection, Pulse.

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



7 January 2011 - Friday

The year in translation(s) | Publishing optimism ? | P.O.L. enthusiasm !
Charlotte Mandell interview | The Book of Madness review

       The year in translation(s)

       At Three Percent Chad Post has a post on the New Year, New Databases, New Numbers [Translation Decimation], as he's gone over the numbers -- and they're not pretty:
Unless I went blind, or missed two months worth of releases, total number of new translations was way down. Like down by 40 titles, or 11%. This is not cool.

And this is the trend from 2008 to 2010 is a pretty steady decline, in spite of all the media attention paid to Bolano, to translation as a whole, etc., etc. Despite all the best efforts of all the best people who are out there championing international literature. This scares me.
       The databases [find them here] probably do undercount the actual number of new translations -- the most recent book reviewed at the complete review is a 2009 title that passed by unnoticed until now -- but that really shouldn't make a difference: at worst the undercounting has been more or less consistent, and it's more likely that the extent of it has decreased from year to year (as Chad gets more practice at doing this, and more people become aware of the databases to help fill in the blanks) so this trend -- of fewer and fewer translations -- looks to be very real.
       What's going on here ? Isn't translation hip and in again ?
       Well, for one thing, a lot of the attention goes to books that have been available in some form or another previously, and Chad (rightly) only counts new translations: yeah, that new translation of Doctor Zhivago -- or whatever Pevear and Volokhonsky have tackled this month -- may be a major (or some sort of) achievement, but it's in a different category from previously unknown work. And all those re-issues are nice, and welcome, too, but let's face it: it's new translations that are needed. (Yes, yes, re-translations and re-issues, too, but surely what's going on now -- or what's previously been unavailable in any form -- should be a priority and of greater interest.)
       I'm baffled, I have to admit. For god's sake: I recently mentioned the tally of books reviewed at the complete review last year -- and I reviewed books originally written in more different foreign languages (40) than are listed in the 2010 database (39 (plus "various", which I suspect is covered by the 39)). That is not just not good, that is just pathetic.
       [I apparently reviewed more works of Japanese fiction last year -- 15 -- than were translated into English -- 13 (though admittedly I did review fewer works of Japanese poetry (0) than were translated (2).]
       With 248 fiction titles 'found in translation' last year it's not only feasible but actually fairly easy for a dedicated reader to read all of them in the same time-span (hey, if I could get publishers to actually send me these I would ...). Again: pathetic.
       So much for a golden age of translation. So much for all this attention (and there has been a lot of attention and enthusiasm) doing much good .....

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



       Publishing optimism ?

       In The Independent Boyd Tonkin asks a variety of prominent (UK) publishing professionals "What are you optimistic about ?" in Reasons to be cheerful: Leaders in the business of books reveal what they are optimistic about.
       Okay .....

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



       P.O.L. enthusiasm !

       The latest issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction is The Éditions P.O.L. number, dedicated to the wonderful French publisher, P.O.L..
       Of the content only the book reviews (always worthwhile !) are freely accessible online, so you'll be wanting to get your own copy -- at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, for example (go ahead, it's a good deal) -- and it certainly sounds worthwhile, with pieces including Warren Motte explaining 'Why P.O.L. Matters', and John O'Brien in conversation with P.O.L.-man Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens himself.

       Two reasons I love P.O.L.:
  • They don't accept submissions from agents
  • Their (nearly) uniform simple white covers -- the way books should be published (okay, a lot of French publishers do that right; still ....)
       Check out their catalog -- yeah, this is what a publisher's list should look like .....
       (I have a couple of dozen of their clean white editions; among my favorites: the copy of Le Bébé Marie Darrieussecq inscribed for André Schiffrin -- picked up for $5.00 at the Strand bookstore ...).

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



       Charlotte Mandell interview

       At his Conversational Reading Scott Esposito has Six Questions for Charlotte Mandell, Translator of Zone by Mathias Enard, focusing on her translation of that book (which I will be getting to sooner rather than later; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).

       As might be expected, given how much she's translated, quite a few Mandell-translations are under review at the complete review:        Quite the variety.

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



       The Book of Madness review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Levent Şenyürek's The Book of Madness.
       Turkish science fiction -- how could I pass this up ? Yes, it immediately gets listed among the most obscure books under review -- but I did (only) come across it at my local library, and have now been introduced to a new publisher (and distributor) .....

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



6 January 2011 - Thursday

Top ten Chinese books of 2010 ? | UK book sales decline in 2010
Most popular titles at the New York Public Library
Jaipur Literature Festival preparation | Shobhaa Dé profile

       Top ten Chinese books of 2010 ?

       China Daily offers a Chinese top-10 (five fiction, five non) for 2010, 'as compiled by Mei Jia and Yang Guang, after talking with some of the country's best-known critics and experts in the publishing industry', The write stuff. (I.e. it's sort of an 'editors' choice' list; I hope a true bestseller list appears sometime soon, too.)
       Not exactly household names in the US/UK -- top fiction pick Chi Pang-yuan, anyone ? But Zhang Wei's You Are on the High Land (你在高原) -- "Arguably the longest Chinese novel of all time, Zhang Wei's 10-volume magnum opus" (that's quite a claim, and sounds like a stretch to me ...) -- sounds intriguing. (Zhang's The Ancient Ship is available in English -- get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- though that's a much older work.)
       I'm also curious about Wang Meng's Zhuang Tze's Pleasures :
The book is a duet of two intellectuals' minds meeting. Established writer Wang Meng interprets the ancient wisdom of Zhuang Tze, who combines the beauty of words and the charm of philosophy in his books. This is mixed with Wang's own humor and insights.
       (Wang was profiled in The New Yorker a few months ago (issue of 8 November 2010; not freely accessible online).)

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



       UK book sales decline in 2010

       In The Bookseller Philip Stone reports that Book sales in 2010 fall by more than 3%, as:
Sales during the 52 weeks to 25th December 2010 totalled £1.696bn, down 3.2% on 2009, with volume sales falling 4.3% to 225.5m. Average selling prices increased slightly, by 1.1% (eight pence) to £7.52.
       That's the lowest total since 2006.
       As far as specific titles:
The bestselling book in a difficult year for the trade was Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Quercus), which sold 1,225,465 copies across all editions, taking £6.6m through bookshop tills. However, as the majority of its sales were split between two editions of the book (the original mass-market edition sold 783,864 copies to the film tie-in edition's 437,245), the best-selling single edition book was Jamie Oliver's Jamie's 30-minute Meals (Michael Joseph) with sales of 1,167,457 copies.

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



       Most popular titles at the New York Public Library

       The NYPL lists the top-five most checked-out titles in several categories in 2010, in The Girl Who Got Checked Out A Lot, and:
The top three adult titles at NYPL in 2010 were all by Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo took the top spot, followed by The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest and The Girl Who Played With Fire.
       Jonathan Franzen's Freedom was also popular.

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



       Jaipur Literature Festival preparation

       The Jaipur Literature Festival doesn't start for another couple of weeks -- it runs 21-25 January -- but anticipation is already running high; among other things, they'll be announcing the winner of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. See, for example, Nilanjana S. Roy's The Jaipur festival primer.

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



       Shobhaa Dé profile

       In The National Anita Sethi profiles "internationally best-selling writer" (internationally ? really ?) Shobhaa Dé, in Author shares her insights into ageing gracefully, energetically.
       She is a fascinating literary (literary ? really ?) figure -- and I will eventually cover some of her books .....

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



5 January 2011 - Wednesday

Why they write | Whitbread Costa Book Awards category winners
E-books sales | The long modern novel ...

       Why they write

       In El País fifty authors explain Por qué escribo.
       While many of the answers are predictable (and some recycled), it's still a fun exercise, and a solid line-up that includes John Banville, Carlos Fuentes, Javier Marías, Amélie Nothomb, Jorge Semprún, Wole Soyinka, Antonio Tabucchi, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Enrique Vila-Matas.

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



       Whitbread Costa Book Awards category winners

       They've announced the category award winners for the Whitbread Costa Book Awards.

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



       E-books sales

       In USA Today Bob Minzesheimer and Carol Memmott report that Week after holidays, e-book sales outdo print (via), as:
USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list, to be published Thursday, will show digital's new popularity: E-book versions of the top six books outsold the print versions last week. And of the top 50, 19 had higher e-book than print sales.
       Those are very impressive statistics.
       As they point out, this might be due in part to people who got e-readers for Christmas, and it'll be interesting to see whether the trend holds once the novelty has worn off. Nevertheless: wow !

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



       The long modern novel ...

       In The Independent Arifa Akbar argues Modern novels: They're big, but they're not always clever, wondering: 'When did the modern novel get so long and unwieldy ?'
        Franzen's Freedom is, of course, exhibit A.
       As best I can tell, there's always been a significant percentage of arguably oversized novels -- from Don Quixote to the Victorians (who surely were, on average, far more excessively wordy than their modern counterparts), the Chinese classics, The Tale of Genji, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Balzac, Proust, Musil, etc. etc. Okay, there are many, many, many exceptions; still, when you're reduced to using Somerset Maugham and Daphne du Maurier to make your argument .....

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



4 January 2011 - Tuesday

2011 books to look forward (?) to | Library of America sales-numbers
Translating from ... Polish into Vietnamese | Onze oom review

       2011 books to look forward (?) to

       Quite a few lists of '2011 books to look forward to' and the like have popped up recently, and some do provide some helpful information as to what titles to look out for.
       For example:

       ● The Millions' Most Anticipated: The Great 2011 Book Preview doesn't necessarily offer the cream of the crop, but it looks to be the most extensive list. They focus on big-name authors rather than necessarily interesting titles (there may be some overlap; given this list, I'm not all that convinced); among the titles mentioned that are already under review at the complete review are Vladimir Sorokin's Day of the Oprichnik (a disappointment) and Murakami Haruki's 1Q84 (anything but -- definitely one of the books to look most forward to).

       ● The 'Book Beast' (at The Daily Beast) offers 2011's Most Anticipated Books, with the obligatory David Foster Wallace mention (yeah, I can see how that one is unavoidable, though I don't see myself getting to it before I've handled his backlist ...). A lot of duds here -- Kissinger ? Rumsfeld ?!? any Reagan ? -- and the Jonathan Coe is the only one I'm looking forward to (though, if I can get my hands on them, I'll probably have a look at the Fuentes and Obreht, too).

       ● Melissa Katsoulis 'selects some of the most promising books of the next 12 months' in The Telegraph, in The Literary Year 2011 -- more of a UK focus (i.e. a lot of these won't be available in the US in 2011 ...), but some titles of interest.

       ● Conversational Reading usefully continues to update their Interesting New Books - 2011, so it's worth checking in there occasionally. This is probably is also the list that is most in tune with my interests. Still a little spare, but filling in nicely; among the titles already under review at the complete review are I Am a Japanese Writer by Dany Laferrière and Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas -- both definitely worthwhile.

       ● Finally, in The Guardian Alison Flood 'anticipates the literary delights of the coming year' in a piece titled 'The best books of 2011' -- though I'm wondering if this is some sort of completely over-the-top joke. I refuse to link to it -- not because she suggests a Jeffrey Deaver book is one of the (few) delights of the coming year (though that's surely reason enough to ignore the list) but because she gives undue (i.e. any) notice to someone who surely can't be considered to qualify as an 'author' and deserves, at best, to be completely ignored.

       (Updated - 5 January): See also what they can look forward to in Spain, in Marsé, Bolaño, Murakami y Saramago, novedades editoriales en el inicio de 2011 in ABC (via).
       For other US and UK previews, see Wallander's last stand: Katy Guest's essential literary look-ahead in The Independent, and 20 Books We're Waiting For by James Mustich at the B&N Review.

       (Updated - 7 January): In the New Statesman Jonathan Derbyshire offers The books to look out for in 2011, another UK list.
       And, in a useful if far too short compilation, Mark Medley lists some of The Least Anticipated Books of 2011 at the National Post's The Afterword.
       Meanwhile, in USA Today Bob Minzesheimer collects (American) bookseller-recommendations in an early-season Winter Books Preview: Good reads tend to snowball, conveniently divided into categories such as: 'Novels for reading groups', 'Blockbuster fiction', and 'Sequels'. (Yes, they have three titles under 'Literary fiction', too.)

       (Updated - 8 January): Mark Medley now offers The Most Anticipated Books of 2011 from a Canadian perspective, at the National Post's The Afterword.
       And I forgot about William Skidelsky's look at the year ahead in The Observer, which has been up for a while -- another useful UK list.

       (Updated - 9 January): Mark Broatch looks ahead at The year ahead in books in the Sunday Star Times (here at Stuff), with a New Zealand focus.

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



       Library of America sales-numbers

       At their Reader's Almanac weblog The Library of America posts a list of The Best-Selling Titles in The Library of America's First Three Decades -- with actual sales-numbers !
       They seem to be doing pretty well, sales-wise -- and most of these top-ten sellers aren't too surprising.

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



       Translating from ... Polish into Vietnamese

       At Viet Nam News Minh Thu has a Q & A with Le Ba Thu, Translator has passion for Polish literature.
       Always good to see translations between ... unexpected languages -- though given that Vietnamese has some 80 million speakers, and Polish about 40 (putting them both among the top twenty-five most widely-spoken languages) they're not exactly obscure .....

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



       Onze oom review

       So I've finished off the second of the Arnon Grunberg-novels that readers voted to be my holiday-reading, and so the most recent addition to the complete review is my review of his Onze oom.
       The two turned out to be a bit heavy -- in the melancholic way -- but certainly help confirm (to me) Grunberg as one of the leading talents around. Not yet forty, he already has an enormous output (thousands of pages), and Onze oom ranks with Tirza as a very impressive -- i.e. world-class -- effort.
       (It's unfortunate that most recent US translation was of the ultimately very flawed The Jewish Messiah, but he'll catch on here eventually.)
       Meanwhile -- where can I get a copy of Huid en haar ?

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



3 January 2011 - Monday

Helon Habila Q & A | Naguib Mahfouz page | Most-read reviews, 2010

       Helon Habila Q & A

       In the Daily Independent Yemi Adebisi has a Q & A with Nigerian author Helon Habila -- in part also about his (relatively) new work, Oil on Water (already published in the UK (get your copy at Amazon.co.uk), forthcoming in the US in May (pre-order at Amazon.com)). See also the publicity pages from W.W.Norton and Hamish Hamilton.

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



       Naguib Mahfouz page

       Naguib Mahfouz is the most-reviewed author at the complete review and in this, his centenary year, I've finally added an author-page for him.
       The bibliography -- 46 titles (meaning I haven't even reviewed half of them ...) -- is actually pretty useful; I figure it's the most comprehensive one covering the English translations -- better than the Wikipedia or Nobel pages, at any rate.
       What did strike me: the number of translators involved -- I didn't count, but it's something like thirty (which is simply ridiculous). (Also pretty shocking: the number of translations that were "edited" and/or "revised": when publishers are willing to own up to that (because they do it quietly all the time) I figure it means they really did a number on the translation .....)

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



       Most-read reviews, 2010

       Aside from the usual monthly listing of the most popular reviews at the complete review (i.e. the ones which get the most page-views) I finally put together an annual list again, for 2010; see all fifty there, but the top fifteen were:
  1. The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
  2. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
  3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
  4. Disgrace, J.M.Coetzee
  5. The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  6. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
  7. Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
  8. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
  9. Atonement, Ian McEwan
  10. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
  11. The Children's Book, A.S.Byatt
  12. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  13. Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones
  14. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell
  15. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi

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



2 January 2011 - Sunday

Iliya Troyanov Q & A | January issues | The year in reviews

       Iliya Troyanov Q & A

       In the Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) they have a Q & A with The Collector of Worlds-author Iliya Troyanov, In the footsteps of Sir Burton.
       He reveals his favourite writer is Antonio Lobo Antunes -- and:
Which book do you think should be talked about more or be given more recognition ?

Multitudes, but in general in the English-speaking world the non-English literature is sadly under-represented. There is great literature coming out of East Europe at the moment: Karahasan, Albhari, Dragoman, Cartarescu, Zhadan or Deresh
       Note how few works by those have been translated into English: a fair amount of Albahari, of course (he lives in Canada ...; see, for example, the complete review review of Götz and Meyer), and one each by Dragoman, Cărtărescu, and Karahasan (which don't seem to have had much ... resonance) but nothing by the Ukrainians.

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



       January issues

       Among the January issues of periodicals now available online of interest:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       The year in reviews

       It'll still be a while before I complete my annual 'State of the Site'-overview for 2010, but here some of the preliminary data as far as how much and what got reviewed at the complete review in 2010:
  • 221 books were reviewed, in a total of 179,843 words (making for an average of 814 words per review -- with the final review of the year clocking in at a very average 815)
    • Longest review: 2931 words
    • Shortest review: 211 words

  • Books originally written in 41 different languages were reviewed, the top five being:
    1. English (51 books)
    2. French (42)
    3. Spanish (20)
    4. Japanese (15)
    5. German (12)

  • Books by authors from 51 different nations were reviewed, the top ten (well, twelve) being:
    • 1. France (29 books)
    • 2. US (23)
    • 3. UK (17)
    • 4. Japan (15)
    • 5. Argentina (13)
    • 6. India (11)
    • 7. Egypt (9)
    • 8. Germany (7)
    • 9. Sweden (6)
    • 10. Austria (5)
    • -. China (5)
    • -. Netherlands (5)

  • 82.81% of the books reviewed were written by men, a mere 17.19% by women

  • Almost half -- 105 books -- were first published between 2006-2010, and 204 were first published after 1946; only 11 were written in 1900-1945, and only six before the twentieth century

  • Only one out of eleven books reviewed (20 in all) were graded "A" or "A-" (and none "A+"), while half (110) received a grade of "B"; 4 received a "C+" or "C"

  • Some 75% of all books reviewed were fiction (novels or short story collections), while only 35 books were non-fiction, 6 volumes were poetry, and there were a mere 3 dramas
       Among the interesting numbers:
  • The twenty Spanish titles were written by authors from a mere four countries -- and 13 of the titles were by Argentine writers (that Frankfurt Book Fair guest of honor influence ?)

  • Books originally written in French were by authors from 10 different countries, books in English by authors from 8

  • Authors from India were represented by 7 different languages !

  • Among the 153 novels reviewed the top nations the authors who had written them were from were:
    1. France (22 novels)
    2. Japan (13)
    3. UK (10)

  • Only five novels by American authors were reviewed; add in short stories and France and Japan pad their fiction leads, adding two titles each

  • The US easily led the non-fiction category:
    • 1. US (16 books)
    • 2. UK (5)
    • 3. France (2)
    • -. Germany (2)
       The statistics for the most part merely confirm long-familiar patterns and strengths (translated fiction coverage !) and weaknesses (coverage of books authored by women !) at the site.
       Among the numbers I did find somewhat surprising were how recent-heavy the books were (i.e. that the majority were very recent -- and that despite the often lengthy time-lag until works get translated ... -- and that only six pre-twentieth century books got reviewed).

       And I suppose I really should take a look at more American fiction.
       Someday.

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



1 January 2011 - Saturday

Publishers look back | Most re-publish-worthy | UK bestsellers 2010
German critics' recommendations | Tun-Huang review

       Publishers look back

       Kate Figes offers the popular annual round-up in The Guardian where she asks 'publishers which books deserved a better reception, and which book they wish they'd bagged', in The publishing year: the ones that got away.

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



       Most re-publish-worthy

       At the National Book Critics Circle weblog, Critical Mass, Eric Banks rounds up responses to this season's 'NBCC reads' question, Which work of fiction or nonfiction would you most like to see republished ?
       Among the responses: Valerie Trueblood chose the novels of Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz (see, for example, the complete review review of The Young Man from Savoy), while Tess Lewis makes the case for Yury Dombrovsky's The Faculty of Useless Knowledge.

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



       UK bestsellers 2010

       In The Guardian 'John Dugdale assesses the winners and losers of 2010', as he takes a look at The year's bestsellers (in the UK). (The link to the full top-100 list was not functioning, last I checked; his article was all I could rely on.)
       Among the interesting observations:
Also giving grounds for concern are the signs that the worlds of high-volume bookselling, on the one hand, and of literary awards and broadsheet books coverage, on the other, appear increasingly estranged.
       Even more ... estranged than in previous years ? Wow .....

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



       German critics' recommendations

       The January SWR-Bestenliste, where thirty German literary critics recommend the best new publications, is now out -- and a John Ashbery collection tops the list (albeit with a pathetically low point-total), followed by the 4,556-page (!) first complete German translation of Pepys' diaries, 1660-1669. Meanwhile, Hans Magnus Enzensberger actually manages to place two titles in the top ten (well, tied-for-eleven ...).

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



       Tun-Huang review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Inoue Yasushi's Tun-Huang.

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



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