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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review


The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 February 2012

1 February: Étonnants Voyageurs | Oxford University Press India at 100 | Reading in ... Indonesia
2 February: Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012) | Amazon.com enters the Indian market | February issues | The Fat Years review
3 February: Q & As: Susan Bernofsky - Vikram Seth | Le prix Soroptimist | Fermina Márquez review | In conversation with ... Monika Fagerholm
4 February: UK library lending | Geoff Dyer and Anna Baddeley on critical reviewing | Belarusian candidates for the Nobel Prize in Literature | CIBF reports
5 February: Tom Stoppard Q & A | Taiwanese fiction abroad | Bulgarian Literature exhibit
6 February: Urdu fiction in translation | Coach House Books profile | The Adventures of Sumiyakist Q review | Fagerholm talk
7 February: Prizes: Translation Prizes - Calwer Hermann-Hesse-Prize | The Inscrutable Americans review
8 February: Festival Neue Literatur 2012 | Hatchet Job of the Year Award | Telegram Books' Lynn Gaspard profiled
9 February: Adonis profile, and more | Kids Lit 101 | A Certain Smile review
10 February: Korean literature abroad | Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse shortlists | Kertész Imre Q & A | Dickens sales chart | Foreign literature in ... Japan | On Rereading review

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10 February 2012 - Friday

Korean literature abroad | Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse shortlists
Kertész Imre Q & A | Dickens sales chart
Foreign literature in ... Japan | On Rereading review

       Korean literature abroad

       In The Korea Herald Claire Lee reports that KLTI reaches out to global literary market, as she talks to new Korea Literature Translation Institute-head Kim Seong-kon.
       He suggests:
Each and every foreign country has different tastes and interests. I'd like to interact with literary critics and publishers overseas more often, and take their opinions into account. We'd like to be more 'foreigner-friendly.'
       A bit of foreigner-friendliness is certainly welcome -- in helping with the contacts, etc. -- but a lot often seems to get lost in translation in these attempts to take foreign "opinions into account".

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



       Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse shortlists

       They've announced the fifteen finalists in the three categories (fiction, non, and translation) for this year's Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse, with 147 publishers having submitted 470 titles for consideration for this, the big German book prize of the spring.
       The only one under review -- well, the original of the translation that's up for that prize -- at the complete review is The Tunnel by William H. Gass.
       The winners will be announced 15 March, at the Leipzig book fair.

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



       Kertész Imre Q & A

       Le Monde has a (French) Q & A with Kertész Imre, "La Hongrie est une fatalité".

       (Updated - 13 February): See now also an English version in The Guardian.

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



       Dickens sales chart

       This looks pretty iffy, but maybe gives some idea of how well Charles Dickens' books did in his day, as The Economist offers a chart of the Sales of Charles Dickens's books in his lifetime (well, part of his lifetime ...).

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



       Foreign literature in ... Japan

       At Publishing Perspectives Robin Birtle thinks he can explain Why Foreign Bestsellers Often Fail in Japan.
       Among the reasons:
The Japanese equivalents of mass market paperbacks, bunko, are not arranged by author name, but instead are grouped by publisher. This peculiar arrangement is in place to ease the process of book returns to the distributor and certainly does not benefit Japanese consumers who, just like book civilians worldwide, think author name and not publisher when looking for a specific book.
       Actually, this arrangement isn't nearly that unusual -- even in the US one can find certain series/publishers grouped together in some bookstores (the Loeb classical library volumes, Penguin Classics, etc.) and in many European countries it's a widespread practice. In places where publishers actually still serve as gatekeepers I find it very useful, since I know what kind of publishers publish what kinds of books, and can zero in on their offerings, rather than browse alphabetically-by-author (which is useful if you know what author you're looking for, otherwise ... not so much).
       Still, it's interesting to learn that:
Each publishing market has an effective limit on the number of foreign-language books translated and sold in print domestically. In Japan, the figure is around 8% of annual book sales

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



       On Rereading review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Patricia Meyer Spacks On Rereading.

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



9 February 2012 - Thursday

Adonis profile, and more | Kids Lit 101 | A Certain Smile review

       Adonis profile, and more

       In The National Ben East doubles up with Adonis coverage, reporting first that Adonis's translator shares details of his own nuanced art (that would be recent Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation-winning Khaled Mattawa), and then showing how Adonis offers his poetic view.
       Meanwhile, at The Mosaic Rooms there's A Tribute to Adonis, which runs through 30 March -- and includes an exhibit of Adonis' art, which actually looks pretty cool.

       Of course, not everyone has caught Adonis fever -- as the Tehran Times reports:
Certain Syrian literati have not been invited to the International Congress on Islamic Awakening Literature, which opened in Tehran on Sunday.

They were bypassed for the event due to a lack of Islamic elements in their works, the organizers said in a press conference on Saturday.

Asked about the absence of Nouri al-Jarrah, Ghada al-Samman and Ali Ahmad Said Asbar (Adunis) at the congress, the congress secretary said, "Not only are they not categorized as Islamic awakening poets but also they are very distant from Islamic views."
       (The 'Islamic Awakening' is how the Iranian government officially likes to think of what has become known elsewhere as the 'Arab Spring'; obviously part of the 'problem' with these -- not coincidentally all expatriate -- Syrian poets has less to do with their "Islamic views" than with their stand (soft though it arguably is in some cases) on the current Syrian situation.)

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



       Kids Lit 101

       Yes, it's always nice to see college kids actually take some literature courses and read some books, but I can't help but feel a bit disappointed that at Princeton -- an institution of higher learning with a decent reputation --:
ENG 385: Children's Literature was one of the fastest courses to fill up this year and has been extremely popular with students across different class years.
       So reports Prerna Ramachandra in With 'swish and flick,' Children's Lit fills, again in The Daily Princetonian.
       And filling up here really means pretty full:
the class, which was initially uncapped in 2010, was forced to restrict the number of students to 450 after the department realized that there wasn't a room big enough on campus to accommodate any more students. The department retained the cap this year, and the class is currently full with a large wait list.
       Sure, maybe this has something to do with the no doubt great teaching -- but it sure also feels like a sign o' the times: yet another opportunity to try to hang on to childhood just a bit longer (and avoid facing anything truly adult). Something an increasing number of students seem to crave:
in 2006, it drew 218 students. In 2010, when Gleason took over the reins, it attracted 370 students. This year the course filled to capacity within the first few minutes of sophomore enrollment, which meant many sophomores and all freshmen were unable to enroll.

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



       A Certain Smile review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Françoise Sagan's 1956 novel (published in English translation the same year), A Certain Smile, which the University of Chicago Press recently re-issued.
       (Weird times we live in, that it's an academic press that re-publishes an early work by the then still barely out of her teens Sagan .....)

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



8 February 2012 - Wednesday

Festival Neue Literatur 2012 | Hatchet Job of the Year Award
Telegram Books' Lynn Gaspard profiled

       Festival Neue Literatur 2012

       The Festival Neue Literatur 2012 -- bringing: "six of the best up-and-coming German-language authors to New York" -- runs 10 through 12 February, moderated by Liesl Schillinger (see her preview of Bringing the Best of German Literature to NYC at Publishing Perspectives) and Daniel Kehlmann, and curated by Susan Bernofsky (see her preview at her Translationista weblog).

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



       Hatchet Job of the Year Award

       They've announced the winner of the first Hatchet Job of the Year Award (though not yet at that official site, last I checked ...), and "the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review of the past twelve months" was found to be Adam Mars-Jones' review of Michael Cunningham's By Nightfall in The Observer (of 23 January 2011 -- i.e. not quite "of the past twelve months", but you know what they meant ...).

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



       Telegram Books' Lynn Gaspard profiled

       At Publishing Perspectives Roger Tagholm profiles Telegram Books publisher Lynn Gaspard, in Publishing as Politics, Publishing with Purpose.

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



7 February 2012 - Tuesday

Prizes: Translation Prizes - Calwer Hermann-Hesse-Prize
The Inscrutable Americans review

       Prizes: Translation Prizes

       They handed out the Translation Prizes yesterday -- a batch of five this year, for translations from the Arabic, Dutch/Flemish, French, German, and Spanish -- and at the TLS Adrian Tahourdin offers the usual annual overview/run-down.

       Two of the titles are under review at the complete review, won by:
  • Damion Searls, who took the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for his translation of Hans Keilson's Comedy in a Minor Key (Searls is on a real translation-prize-roll this year ...)

  • Frank Wynne, who took the Premio Valle Inclán for his translation of Marcelo Figueras' Kamchatka
       (Updated - 8 February): See now also Thea Lenarduzzi's report on the evening at the TLS weblog, Lost in Translation.

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



       Prizes: Calwer Hermann-Hesse-Prize

       They've announced that Susan Bernofsky will receive this year's Calwer Hermann-Hesse-Preis, for her translation of Hesse's Siddharta, and her translation-work in general; the prize is worth €15,000.

       Bernofsky also has a weblog, Translationista; her translation of Siddhartha came out a couple of years ago from Modern Library Classics; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       The Inscrutable Americans review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Anurag Mathur's Indian innocent-abroad classic from 1991, The Inscrutable Americans.
       In a 2005 interview he noted that he still got: "about Rs 2 lakh a year in royalty for it" -- but that:
It was also published in the US but didn't do terribly well.

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



6 February 2012 - Monday

Urdu fiction in translation | Coach House Books profile
The Adventures of Sumiyakist Q review | Fagerholm talk

       Urdu fiction in translation

       In The Express Tribune Mavra Bari argues: 'Before making sweeping statements such as "there arenít enough Urdu to English translations of Pakistani literary works", one should try understanding the market', in 'Low readership behind limited translation of Urdu fiction'
       Apparently:
Dr Memon pointed out that the knowledge about scarce readership of Urdu literature can be answered by analysing the number of literate people who are interested in fiction.
       Can it now ?
       And I note that I, for example, am interested in reading Urdu fiction in translation -- but have the damnedest time getting my hands on any.

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



       Coach House Books profile

       In The Varsity Brigit Katz offers: 'A history of book design through the eyes of Coach House Books', in the art of the book -- noting that: "Coach House has been at the forefront of technological innovations in publishing and printing since its foundation in 1965".

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



       The Adventures of Sumiyakist Q review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kurahashi Yumiko's 1969 novel, The Adventures of Sumiyakist Q.
       Yes, this does immediately qualify as one of the most obscure books under review: published in the impressive but apparently not very long-lived 'Asian and Pacific Writing'-series from the University of Queensland Press, this isn't a very easy to find title any more (and little else by Kurahashi has been translated -- though I expect to get to The Woman with the Flying Head and Other Stories soon, too (get your copy at Amazon.com).) (I'd love to see more from the series too -- the first volume was Achdiat K. Mihardja's Atheis, and that's obviously of particular interest.)
       By the way: Kurahashi was an early -- indeed one of the very first -- foreign writers to attend the University of Iowa's International Writing Program, back in 1966. Speaks well for both the program, and her.

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



       Fagerholm talk

       A reminder that tomorrow (Tuesday) at 18:30 I'll be in conversation with Swedish-writing Finnish author Monika Fagerholm at Scandinavia House in New York.

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



5 February 2012 - Sunday

Tom Stoppard Q & A | Taiwanese fiction abroad | Bulgarian Literature exhibit

       Tom Stoppard Q & A

       GMA has a Reuters Q & A with Tom Stoppard, beneficiary of the subconscious by Henry Foy.
       Among his responses:
I am exorbitantly unobservant, and hence disinterested in theater as a culture... I do enjoy writing plays and watching plays and thinking about the possibilities they have. But I don't think of theater as a text. I think of it as an event.
       (Updated - 6 February): See also Stoppard's Q & A with Mukund Padmanabhan and Swati Daftuar in The Hindu.

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



       Taiwanese fiction abroad

       In Taiwan Today June Tsai reports that CCA beefs up support for Taiwan literary translation.
       That would be the Council for Cultural Affairs -- and:
Under the councilís subsidy program, a total of 272 works of Taiwan literature were translated into foreign languages and published between 1990 and 2011, the CCA said.
       A good and unfortunately necessary thing (these things don't translate themselves -- and without 'subsidies' even less would get published).
       But also:
Meanwhile, 10 titles were granted subsidies at the end of 2011. They include a Japanese translation of the biography of Chi Pang-yuan, co-founder of the The Taipei Chinese Pen, French translation of Les Survivants by Wu He, one of the most eccentric novelists in Taiwan, and the translation of Taichung-based poet Bai Qiuís works into German.
       And translations into English ? English ? Anybody ?

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



       Bulgarian Literature exhibit

       At Radio Bulgaria Maria Peeva reports on Bulgarian Literature -- Meetings and Dialogues with the World, as:
The National Gallery for Foreign Art in Sofia is hosting an exhibition under the motto "Literature -- Meetings and Dialogues with the World"

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



4 February 2012 - Saturday

UK library lending | Geoff Dyer and Anna Baddeley on critical reviewing
Belarusian candidates for the Nobel Prize in Literature | CIBF reports

       UK library lending

       The UK gives eligible authors some money for their books being borrowed from the library -- the Public Lending Right (PLR) system -- and so each year they tally the most borrowed titles, etc. -- always interesting statistics.
       James Patterson is in a league of his own -- 17 books in the top 100, 2.3 million total borrowings, and five of the top ten most-borrowed titles. Presumably it does him little good -- only UK and European Economic Area resident authors are eligible -- but then he's probably doing o.k., and the extra couple of thousand pounds aren't going to be too missed.
       See also, for example, John Dugdale's look at the numbers and titles in The Guardian, Crime gives library loan beating to other genres -- where he notes, among other things, that there is no non-fiction at all in the top 100.

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



       Geoff Dyer and Anna Baddeley on critical reviewing

       At The Guardian's Comment is free Emine Saner has Geoff Dyer and Anna Baddeley discuss Should we celebrate scathing book reviews ?
       Baddeley is behind the Hatchet Job of the Year prize -- to be awarded next week -- and Dyer is one of the shortlisted reviewers.

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



       Belarusian candidates for the Nobel Prize in Literature

       National literary organizations and the like are among those who suggest authors to the Swedish Academy's Nobel selection committee, and occasionally these names are revealed -- or loudly announced by the locals. So this year in Belarus, where the Belarusian PEN Center apparently submitted the name of Uladzimir Niakliaeu (Уладзімір Някляеў), while the Union of Writers of Belarus nominated Georgi Marchuk (Георгій Марчук) -- and leading to somewhat over-sensational newspaper headlines, such as Two Belarusians to Fight for Nobel Prize in Literature.
       (Sorry to disappoint, but while the Swedish Academy will no doubt ... consider these writers, they will not figure in anywhere near the final deliberations.)

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



       CIBF reports

       Al-Ahram Weekly has two reports on the Cairo International Book Fair:

        - Youssef Rakha reports on Slumdog bookfair
        - Nevine El-Aref finds: 'The odds were stacked against the 43rd Cairo International Book Fair', in Book fair set on a revolutionary course.

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



3 February 2012 - Friday

Q & As: Susan Bernofsky - Vikram Seth | Le prix Soroptimist
Fermina Márquez review | In conversation with ... Monika Fagerholm

       Q & A: Susan Bernofsky

       At the Daily American PEN weblog, Betsy Ribble has Journey of the Sentence: A Conversation with Susan Bernofsky.

       Susan Bernofsky's most recent translation is Berlin Stories by Robert Walser; see the New York Review Books Classics publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Q & A: Vikram Seth

       The Telegraph (Calcutta) has a Q & A with Vikram Seth.
       Among his responses:
Do you ever get tired of answering questions on A Suitable Boy ?

Ha ha ha ha ha ! Well, it's been 20 years since I wrote that thing. What I do is I change my answers !

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



       Le prix Soroptimist

       Here's an interesting idea for a literary prize: Le prix Soroptimist de la Romancière Francophone -- restricted to women authors who write in French but aren't French nationals; see this year's finalists.

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



       Fermina Márquez review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Valery Larbaud's 1911 novel, Fermina Márquez.

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



       In conversation with ... Monika Fagerholm

       On Tuesday, 7 February, at 18:30 I'll be in conversation with Swedish-writing Finnish author Monika Fagerholm at Scandinavia House in New York.

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



2 February 2012 - Thursday

Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012) | Amazon.com enters the Indian market
February issues | The Fat Years review

       Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012)

       The 1996 Nobel laureate, Polish poet Wisława Szymborska, has passed away; see, for example, Raymond H. Anderson's obituary in The New York Times.
       For some of her poetry, click on the links on her pages at Poets.org and the Poetry Foundation (and see also her 'advice for blocked writers and aspiring poets', How To (and How Not To) Write Poetry).

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



       Amazon.com enters the Indian market

       The only surprise is that it took this long, but Amazon.com now also has an Indian presence -- Junglee.com -- which they describe as:
an online shopping service by Amazon which enables customers to find and discover products from online and offline retailers in India and from Amazon.com. Junglee organizes massive selection and multiple buying options from hundreds of sellers, and leverages Amazon's proven technologies and millions of customer reviews to help customers make smart purchase decisions.
       It's unlike the usual Amazon-model, however -- in fact, it's practically the inverse of how Amazon.com works in the US and elsewhere:
You cannot buy directly from Junglee. Junglee puts you in touch with sellers by directing you to their websites, displaying their customer service phone numbers and providing their physical store locations to help you buy the products directly from sellers.
       That, presumably, is not the long-term plan .....

       (The Indian market is obviously a promising one; the complete review links to Flipkart (which Junglee pointedly does not link to in offering users purchasing options ...) for Indian readers who wish to purchase books locally -- and there are days when there are a similar number of click-throughs as there are to Amazon.co.uk (and far more than to all the other Amazon variations, aside from Amazon.com proper).)

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



       February issues

       Among February issues of online periodicals now available is the February issue of Open Letters Monthly, and the new issue of Words without Borders -- 'International Graphic Novels: Volume VI'.

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



       The Fat Years review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Chan Koonchung's The Fat Years.
       One can see why this was a much-discussed recent Chinese novel -- but unfortunately it falls rather far short as a novel.

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



1 February 2012 - Wednesday

Étonnants Voyageurs | Oxford University Press India at 100
Reading in ... Indonesia

       Étonnants Voyageurs

       The literary festival Étonnants Voyageurs runs today through the 4th in Haiti. See also the preview in Haiti Libre.

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



       Oxford University Press India at 100

       Oxford University Press India turns 100 this year, and in Caravan Ramachandra Guha offers 'A personal history of the Oxford University Press India at 100', in Shelf Life.

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



       Reading in ... Indonesia

       In the Jakarta Globe Grace Susetyo finds Read a Good Book Lately ? Too Many Indonesians Answer 'No', as:
Reading seems less than fashionable among Indonesians, especially when it comes to fine literature. People searching for a good book, often complain that there isn't much choice in a market dominated by romance, cheap humor or life in the fast lane
       But Windy Ariestanty, editor-in-chief of GagasMedia argues:
Saying that young people don't like "good reads" is an excuse, said Windy. "Publishers and writers refuse to admit to their inability to produce good work that people will actually read and pay for.

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



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