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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 March 2012

11 March: Q & As: Ephrem Seyoum - Jo Nesbø | Turkish literature | Reading in ... Bulgaria | Ondjaki on: 'History and War in Angolan Literature'
12 March: Ivan Klíma Q & A | Reading in ... Pakistan | Edwin Thumboo profile
13 March: Kevin Jackson on Poe | Riyadh Book Fair | Chinaman (The Legend of Pradeep Mathew) review
14 March: Premio Formentor de las Letras to Juan Goytisolo | Kim Chi-young on translation | Fixing the 'Muslim literary canon' ? | Martin Walser Q & A | Finland prepares for 2014 | Wieser Verlag bankruptcy
15 March: Rushdie at India Today Conclave | Publishing Hungary | Amsterdam Stories review
16 March: 50 bestselling classical authors in France | Literary prizes: Man Asian Literary Prize - Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse | PEN World Voices Festival schedule | Reticence review
17 March: Amélie Nothomb | Kiran Nagarkar on intolerance | Censorship in Australia | Translating from the ... Tamil
18 March: Nordiska pris to Einar Már Guðmundsson | Q & As: Amos Oz - Michael Ondaatje | Literary festivals in ... Nigeria | 'Literary' agents in ... India
19 March: Writing in ... Azerbaijan | Bookselling in ... Thailand | Ivan Vladislaviċ reviews
20 March: Maison de l'Ecriture | 'World Republic of Letters' site | Elif Shafak profile

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20 March 2012 - Tuesday

Maison de l'Ecriture | 'World Republic of Letters' site | Elif Shafak profile

       Maison de l'Ecriture

       Here's something for writers to look forward to: the Fondation Jan Michalski -- who also run the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature, which is: "open to authors from the world over and is intended to contribute to their international recognition" -- are working on a pretty decent-looking writers' retreat/residence, the Maison de l'Ecriture in Montricher, Switzerland.
       Friedrich Schmidt has a (German) preview in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

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

       'World Republic of Letters' site

       Yale University Press' excellent Margellos World Republic of Letters-series -- see the titles from it under review at the complete review -- now has its own official site. Nice !
       Publishing Perspectives prints the apparently official press release (though I couldn't find it at either Yale University Press' or the university's website ...) -- and among the plans for the site is 'The Margellos WRL blog', which I look forward to. But I'm looking forward to the forthcoming titles more ... Manea ! Gombrowicz !

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

       Elif Shafak profile

       In The Telegraph, 'Head of Books' Gaby Wood has a profile of sometimes Turkish-, sometimes English-writing Elif Shafak.
       Among the wild stories:
"It's funny," she goes on, "because this past week, I was reading in the Turkish papers, four trucks full of pirated copies of two of my novels have been confiscated by the police. Four trucks -- 150,000 copies ! That's why we never know the real numbers."
       Amazing that book piracy could be such a big business.

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

19 March 2012 - Monday

Writing in ... Azerbaijan | Bookselling in ... Thailand | Ivan Vladislaviċ reviews

       Writing in ... Azerbaijan

       Hurriyet Daily News reports that Literary production of Azerbaijan decrease, as:
After Azerbaijan's independence literary production decreased and the production of literary novels is on the verge of stopping, according to the president of the Azerbaijani writers' community.

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

       Bookselling in ... Thailand

       In the Bangkok Post Steve Rhodes reports that: 'Chiang Mai boasts some iconic second-hand bookshops' as he profiles Backstreet Books, A bibliophile's paradise.

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

       Ivan Vladislaviċ reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two books by Ivan Vladislaviċ:        Great to see these -- in beautiful editions from Seagull Books and The Cahiers Series, respectively -- but it's about time his fiction became readily available in the US/UK. (The Restless Supermarket came out over a decade ago in South Africa and still hasn't appeared in a US or UK edition !)

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

18 March 2012 - Sunday

Nordiska pris to Einar Már Guðmundsson | Q & As: Amos Oz - Michael Ondaatje
Literary festivals in ... Nigeria | 'Literary' agents in ... India

       Nordiska pris to Einar Már Guðmundsson

       The Swedish Academy selects who gets the Nobel Prize in literature each fall, but in the spring they award their other literary prize, the nordiska pris (the Nordic Prize, reserved for Scandinavian authors) -- and they've announced that Einar Már Guðmundsson will get it this year. (It has a solid list of previous winners, including Tomas Tranströmer, who picked it up in 1991, and, for example, Per Olov Enquist, who got it in 2010.)
       transcript claims he: "is the most widely translated Icelandic author born in the post-war period" and, indeed, several Einar Már Guðmundsson titles have even been translated into English -- but they're not exactly readily available; but try, for example, to get Angels of the Universe from or

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

       Q & A: Amos Oz

       In Haaretz Niva Lanir has a Q & A/profile with/of Amos Oz: 'I get up in the morning and ask: What if ?', mainly about Oz's new book, בין חברים ('Between Friends'); see also the Keter publicity page.

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

       Q & A: Michael Ondaatje

       At Guernica they have a Q & A adapted from a conversation between Amitava Kumar and Michael Ondaatje at the recent Jaipur Literature Festival.

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

       Literary festivals in ... Nigeria

       In This Day Okechukwu Uwaezuoke reports that: 'Despite the waning reading culture, a few landmark literary festivals have kept the literary mills turning', in Feasts for Nigeria's Literati.

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

       'Literary' agents in ... India

       The rise of 'literary' agents in India continues to be in the (local) news (see also my recent mention), in what's beginning to look like a desperate concerted PR campaign, as now Jaya Bhattacharji Rose reports on their role in How to sell, and buy a book in the Hindustan Times.
       So, for example:
"It's healthy for an author to have an agent," says Shruti Debi, head of the Indian office of Aitken Alexander. "A book is a durable item and writers usually have no parameters of the quality or nature of the deal that they are getting into. An agent is a sounding board for the author and publisher."

And a sounding board is necessary in an industry that is getting extremely competitive, as author Hari Kunzru notes.
       I'm still keeping my fingers unrealistically crossed that the Indian publishing industry manages without them .....

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

17 March 2012 - Saturday

Amélie Nothomb | Kiran Nagarkar on intolerance
Censorship in Australia | Translating from the ... Tamil

       Amélie Nothomb

       The Daily PEN American prints Where We Belong: A Conversation with Buket Uzuner and Amélie Nothomb (from the 2011 PEN World Voices Festival).
       Meanwhile, in Le Monde Nothomb reports that she is visiting Japan (where she was born) for the first time since 1996, in L'appel du Japon.

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

       Kiran Nagarkar on intolerance

       At Teheleka Kiran Nagarkar warns that in India: "National and regional political parties have exploited and honed the business of intolerance into a fine art", in The fine art of Intolerance.
       He notes:
A few decades into Independence, we began to realise the political potential in becoming highly over-sensitive people with extra-thin skins. Everybody is on the lookout for slights, innuendoes, real or imagined slurs and everybody takes offence if there is a suggestion of malpractice or abuse of power in his or her select field or group.

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

       Censorship in Australia

       In the Sydney Morning Herald Craig Munro reviews Nicole Moore's The Censor's Library: Uncovering the Lost History of Australia's Banned Books, which sounds pretty interesting.
       See also the University of Queensland Press publicity page; it doesn't appear to be available at the US or UK Amazons yet.

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

       Translating from the ... Tamil

       At Livemint Rajni George has a Q&A - Lakshmi Holmström - The Norwich Tamilian.

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

16 March 2012 - Friday

50 bestselling classical authors in France
Literary prizes: Man Asian Literary Prize - Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse
PEN World Voices Festival schedule | Reticence review

       50 bestselling classical authors in France

       In Le Figaro Mohammed Aissaoui lists Le top 50 des auteurs classiques les plus vendus -- the fifty bestselling classical authors in France between January 2004 and January 2012 (with actual sales numbers !).
       The top five are:
  1. Guy de Maupassant (3,790,000 copies sold)
  2. Molière (3,400,000)
  3. Émile Zola (2,900,000)
  4. Albert Camus (2,810,000)
  5. Victor Hugo (2,710,000)
       I wouldn't have guessed that Maupassant leads the way -- or that, for example, Georges Simenon only ranks 26th (with 990,000 copies sold -- spread out over some 200 books, that's not a great per-book average ...). Impressive, on the otehr hand, that Stefan Zweig sells so well (he's 7th).
       Almost all these authors are also well-established in English, or at least have a few books in print; René Barjavel (33rd) looks to be the major exception; time for a revival ?

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

       Literary prize: Man Asian Literary Prize

       They've announced that Shin Kyung-sook's Please Look After Mom (UK title, sigh: Please Look After Mother) has won the Man Asian Literary Prize.
       It wouldn't have been my choice, but at least it will help get more of her fiction translated into English, which I look forward to (pretty much everything that she's written sounds more interesting than this one). Good timing with the paperback releases, too: the UK edition is just out, the US edition due in two weeks.

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

       Literary prize: Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse

       They've announced the winners of the Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse 2012 -- the prize(s) of the Leipzig Book Fair, the second most important German book-prize, after the German Book Prize (awarded in the fall, at that other book fair).
       Sand by Wolfgang Herrndorf took the fiction prize; see also the Rowohlt foreign rights page.
       The translation prize went to Christina Viragh, for her translation of Nádas Péter's Parallel Stories.

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

       PEN World Voices Festival schedule

       They've now released the full schedule of the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature (click on each day for that day's events).

       Among the highlights:        I think the Best Translated Book Award is also scheduled to be announced at the festival, but it doesn't seem to appear on the official calendar (yet ?) .....

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

       Reticence review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jean-Philippe Toussaint's Reticence, his 1991 novel that's now finally available in English, from Dalkey Archive Press.
       (This is the ninth Toussaint title under review at the complete review.)

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

15 March 2012 - Thursday

Rushdie at India Today Conclave | Publishing Hungary
Amsterdam Stories review

       Rushdie at India Today Conclave

       So they're holding the India Today Conclave 16 - 17 March -- theme: 'Ideate Debate Celebrate The Asian Century' ('ideate' ? seriously ?) -- and among those invited is Salman Rushdie, whose talk is titled: I am What I am and That's All That I am.
       As you may recall, Rushdie was also recently invited to the Jaipur Literature Festival but then stayed away -- because of all sorts of threats (some real, some not) and protests; see, for example, one of my previous mentions. So now he's headed back to India -- and of course it's way too much to hope for that he'd actually be welcomed by one and all and that those who take issue with him and his writing would simply engage in debate with him about these matters. No, one-time cricket great and now political panderer Imran Khan -- scheduled to give the closing gala keynote address, Captain Pakistan: The Ultimate Test -- feels he can't even attend an event at which Rushdie is present. See, for example, Andrew Buncombe's report in The Independent, Imran Khan cancels Delhi appearance after learning Salman Rushdie was also invited (apparently Khan: "could not even think of participating in any programme that included Salman Rushdie, who has caused immeasurable hurt to Muslims across the globe").
       Mind you, we're talking about an event at which Henry Kissinger is speaking -- he's giving the opening gala keynote address, The Making of an Asian Century -- and no one seems to have a problem with that .....
       I say: the more the merrier, be they war-criminals or sportsmen-turned-politicians. Talk it up ! Talk it out ! Hell, ideate, if you have to (or know what that involves ...).
       Clearly, Rushdie remains a hot-button issue -- but surely the fact that someone like Kissinger can show up to something like this and no one bats an eye, but Rushdie's presence is enough to lead a supposedly leading national statesman to scurry off claiming hurt and outrage is a sign of just how badly off the rails this debate has gone. (Which is why everyone should get together and talk things out, rather than posture .....)

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

       Publishing Hungary

       hlo reports that:
Publishing Hungary, a government programme aimed at popularizing Hungarian literature and publishing works in foreign languages, has been launched.
       They also note that the defunct Hungarian Book Foundation has now been replaced by an Office for the Support of Books and Translations -- which: "will probably be able to announce their first round of applications for translation grants in April 2012 (15 million forints -- 51 thousand euros), followed by a second round in the second part of the year".

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

       Amsterdam Stories review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Dutch author Nescio's Amsterdam Stories, a slim volume from New York Review Books that introduces the author to English-speaking readers (not that there's too much else of his left to translate ...).

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

14 March 2012 - Wednesday

Premio Formentor de las Letras to Juan Goytisolo | Kim Chi-young on translation
Fixing the 'Muslim literary canon' ? | Martin Walser Q & A
Finland prepares for 2014 | Wieser Verlag bankruptcy

       Premio Formentor de las Letras to Juan Goytisolo

       Juan Goytisolo has apparently been awarded the resurrected Premio Formentor de las Letras; see, for example, the Latin American Herald Tribune report, Goytisolo Wins Formentor Literature Prize.
       As they note:
Created by publisher Seix Barral in 1961, the awarding of the Formentor was interrupted in 1967 and resumed only last year.
       It certainly had a good track record for its short initial run: Prix Formentor winners included Jorge Luis Borges, Samuel Beckett, Saul Bellow, Jorge Semprum, and Witold Gombrowicz. (Last year Carlos Fuentes got it.)

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

       Kim Chi-young on translation

       Translator-from-the-Korean Kim Chi-young writes about her Journey to translated fiction -- including the amusing admission that:
In all honesty, I turned to translation to make an extra buck. Publishing, especially the independent nonprofit kind, is notorious for its low salaries. I astutely chose to supplement my income by diving into a field that is even less lucrative. My strengths never did lie in math.

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

       Fixing the 'Muslim literary canon' ?

       The National has a piece by Maryam Ismail on Muslim literary characters, in which she suggests:
The crisis is really with the Muslim literary canon. I know there will be some who will say: "We don't do literature, it's lying". Of course, lying should not be a priority, but I won't blame Jacqueline Wilson, JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer for misguiding Muslim youth. It's not their fault. It's mine. I don't mind the responsibility.

I -- and you, fellow writers or would-be writers -- should be turning out books instead of fewer-than-a-thousand-word quips.
       Sounds good.

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

       Martin Walser Q & A

       In The European Alexander Görlach has a Q & A with Martin Walser, in which they discuss 'the role of faith, the false promise of atheism, and the writings of Franz Kafka', "We Cannot Retreat To Atheism" [via].

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

       Finland prepares for 2014

       Finland will be the 'guest of honour' at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2014, and they are already starting to prepare, as Jukka Petäjä reports in Helsingin Sanomat, in Finnish books to be showcased at Frankfurt Fair in 2014.
       FILI-head Iris Schwanck reports:
One aim is to get more than 100 Finnish books translated into German in 2014, and thereafter to put out about 70 books a year in German, which is nearly 50 per cent more than is happening now.
       Interesting also that:
The threshold for Finland was not very high, because Finnish literature has already achieved a considerable foothold in Germany. At present Germany is the most important country of export for Finnish literature, and having a book translated into German leads to translations into other languages as well.
       (One would expect/hope English to be the language of choice, but given US/UK attitudes towards writing in translation ... maybe not.)

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

       Wieser Verlag bankruptcy

       Sad to hear that Austrian publisher Wieser Verlag has had to declare bankruptcy; see, for example, the (German) report by Bernhard Fliehe in the Salzburger Nachrichten, Wieser Verlag ist pleite.
       In their 24-year-history they published about 1000 titles, with total sales of 1,300,000 copies. A very impressive list, too -- check out that official site -- and especially strong in eastern European fiction.

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

13 March 2012 - Tuesday

Kevin Jackson on Poe | Riyadh Book Fair
Chinaman (The Legend of Pradeep Mathew) review

       Kevin Jackson on Poe

       In Prospect Kevin Jackson makes the case that: 'Self-indulgent, vulgar, borderline insane -- Edgar Allan Poe was the most influential American author of the 19th century', in The great bad writer.

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

       Riyadh Book Fair

       The Riyadh Book Fair is currently on -- and apparently quite successful: the Saudi Gazette reports that: 706,000 visitors, 2m book sales in 5 days at Book Fair.
       In other reports from the fair, all at Arab News:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Chinaman (The Legend of Pradeep Mathew) review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Shehan Karunatilaka's prize-winning Chinaman -- due out in the US in May from Graywolf, under the title The Legend of Pradeep Mathew.

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

12 March 2012 - Monday

Ivan Klíma Q & A | Reading in ... Pakistan | Edwin Thumboo profile

       Ivan Klíma Q & A

       I missed this when it came out a couple of weeks back, but in The Prague Post Stephan Delbos has an Interview: Ivan Klíma.
       Fairly informative -- though it's disappointing to hear:
TPP: Do you read the work of younger Czech writers?

IK: I'm not so interested in younger writers. My colleagues are in their fifties, and I mostly read their work in manuscripts. When I read something written by younger writers, I don't find it's on the highest level. Often it's very well written but more or less about nothing. It lacks a great subject.
       (The only Klíma-title under review at the complete review is the completely unrepresentative Between Security and Insecurity, though I am a fan of his fiction -- and would love to see Moje šílené století ('My Crazy Century') get translated, the book about which he notes: " I've signed contracts for Spanish translations and Chinese translations, but the most important is English, which hasn't happened yet"; see also the Nakladatelství Academia publicity page for the first volume (there's now also a second).)

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

       Reading in ... Pakistan

       Dawn has an editorial expressing concern about A literary dilemma in Pakistan, as:
Seldom does a book appear today in Urdu, arguably the most widely read language in Pakistan, with a count exceeding 500 copies.
       They do note, however, that:
However, literature produced in Sindhi, a much older language in its written form, is thriving when compared to Urdu, Pushto, Balochi or Punjabi.
       Which is at least something.

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

       Edwin Thumboo profile

       At asia one Manote Tripathi profiles Singaporean poet Edwin Thumboo, in Words with the poet.

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

11 March 2012 - Sunday

Q & As: Ephrem Seyoum - Jo Nesbø | Turkish literature
Reading in ... Bulgaria | Ondjaki on: 'History and War in Angolan Literature'

       Q & A: Ephrem Seyoum

       In The Reporter Tibebeselassie Tigabu has a Q & A with Ethiopian poet Ephrem Seyoum, discussing When poetry meets the digital age.
       In this case 'digital' mainly refers to sound recordings of the poetry being performed (with musical accompaniment).
       This appears to be an example of an older work (poetry-music video !):

       Gotta love that pulsing-heart frame, even if you don't understand the words .....

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

       Q & A: Jo Nesbø

       In The Observer Andrew Anthony has a Q & A with Jo Nesbø: 'I am a vulture'.
       Among his responses:
Your novel Headhunters, which doesn't feature Harry Hole, has been turned into a film. What do you think of it ?

Well, that's difficult. That's like asking a gynaecologist, after he's examined a woman, whether he thinks she is sexy
       (Headhunters is apparently due for US and UK release on 27 and 6 April, respectively. See also the Trust Nordisk information page.)

       (Updated - 13 March): See now also the profile of Nesbø by John Preston in The Independent.

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

       Turkish literature

       In Sunday's Zaman Latifa Akay reports that 'International readers need to discover Turkish literature,' say publishers -- with a look at various current issues surrounding Turkish literature, domestically and abroad.

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

       Reading in ... Bulgaria

       At Radio Bulgaria Veneta Pavlova wonders What books do Bulgarians buy ?

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

       Ondjaki on: 'History and War in Angolan Literature'

       A reminder that tomorrow, 12 March, at 17:30, author Ondjaki will deliver a lecture on History and War in Angolan Literature at Stanford University. Sounds interesting.

       See also reviews of Ondjaki's Good Morning Comrades and The Whistler.

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

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