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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review


The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 July 2012

1 July: The Hindu Literary Prize | Writing at a rate of 35 words a day ? | Prize winners under review | Popular in ... India
2 July: Mahmoud Dowlatabadi profile | Writing in ... Sri Lanka | Paul Theroux Q & A | July issues | The Neruda Case review
3 July: Caine Prize for African Writing | Bookselling in ... India | Shimmer Chinodya profile
4 July: Festival of German Language Literature | Premio Internacional Carlos Fuentes | The President review
5 July: 'Will Self Club' | German 'Hotlist 30' | The Tyrant review
6 July: Rentrée littéraire preview | Bookselling in ... Yemen
7 July: Premio Strega | Summer reading | Andrea Camilleri profile | 'Best of Young Brazilian Novelists' | Manual of Painting and Calligraphy review
8 July: World Book Capital City 2014 bids | John Banville profile
9 July: Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis | Czech-Korean connections | Not Exactly review
10 July: Poetic politicians in Korea | 'Bengal Lights'

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10 July 2012 - Tuesday

Poetic politicians in Korea | 'Bengal Lights'

       Poetic politicians in Korea

       Apparently poetry -- at least of the textbook variety -- and politics aren't reconcilable in South Korea: as, for example, Lee Sun-young reports in The Korea Herald in Poet-turned-politicianís work may be cut from textbooks, as:
It was disclosed Monday that the state-run Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation recommended late last month that publishers of middle school textbooks take out or modify poems and essays written by Do Jong-hwan in their revised editions.
       See also Na Jeong-ju's report in The Korea Times, Row erupts over lawmaker's poetry.
       Not a problem that crops up very often in most countries.

       (Updated - 11 July): See now also The Korea Herald report, Textbook review board relents on poetry row. Poetry wins ! (Until, of course, all the politicians start dabbling in it, and expect to get their verse printed in textbooks .....)

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



       'Bengal Lights'

       There's a new Bangladeshi literary journal, Bengal Lights, and at the Wall Street Journal's India Realtime Tripti Lahiri talks with editor Khademul Islam, in Q & A: Bengal Lights, Bangladesh's New Literary Journal.

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



9 July 2012 - Monday

Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis | Czech-Korean connections | Not Exactly review

       Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis

       Okay, how can you not love a literary prize where an article about it notes:
But since the case of Weiss, "everyone is just waiting for someone to at least eat their manuscript again," said Doris Moser.
       That's from The scandalous history of the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize by Marlis Schaum and Dirk Ulrich Kaufmann at Deutsche Welle -- who note that:
The list of controversies at the literary competition in Klagenfurt is long and bizarre. From the indigestible to the unspeakable, nothing is too unappetizing to be omitted. Following one reading, the author Philipp Weiss ate his manuscript. During his presentation, young author Rainald Goetz cut open his forehead with a razorblade, and continued to read while covered in blood. And the Swiss author Urs Allemann ventured to read a text entitled Baby Fucker.
       But, alas, audiences waited in vain for anyone to pull out a knife and fork (or razorblade) this year again. Indeed. as they note:
This year's reading competition for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize has been unusually trouble-free. There's been no cursing or spilling of blood.
       And they've now announced (only in German so far, last I checked) that Olga Martynova's text, Ich werde sagen Hi ('I'll say 'Hi''; not available at the site in English translation this year, unfortunately) took this year's prize; see also some of the (German) jury discussion.
       (For limited English-language mention, see the AFP report, Austrian literary award goes to Russian author.)

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



       Czech-Korean connections

       In Czech diplomat's literary diplomacy in The Korea Times Kim Se-jeong profiles admirably activist Czech ambassador to South Korea Jaroslav Olša, jr..
       Apparently:
Since 2010, 10 new Czech books have been published in Korea. And "Three more are on their way," he said.
       Hey, can we get this guy posted to the US (or UK) ?
       Impressively, too:
One of his books, Modern Arti of Zimbabwe was even published in Korean in 2010.
       (Yes, he spent six years as ambassador to Zimbabwe.)

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



       Not Exactly review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kees van Deemter writing In Praise of Vagueness, in Not Exactly.

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



8 July 2012 - Sunday

World Book Capital City 2014 bids | John Banville profile

       World Book Capital City 2014 bids

       So apparently UNESCO will be deciding what will be the World Book Capital City 2014 soon. (The current one is Yerevan, of course; in 2013 it will be Bangkok, Thailand.)
       There are eleven cities in the running -- two with official websites that I've found:        And see also, for example, McPhilips Nwachukwu writing on Port Harcourt: The bidding for World Book Capital, for example.

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



       John Banville profile

       In The Scotsman David Robinson profiles John Banville, author of Ancient Light
       Ancient Light is just out in the UK (get your copy at Amazon.co.uk), but only due out in the US in October (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com).

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



7 July 2012 - Saturday

Premio Strega | Summer reading | Andrea Camilleri profile
'Best of Young Brazilian Novelists' | Manual of Painting and Calligraphy review

       Premio Strega

       They've announced that the 2012 Premio Strega -- the leading Italian book prize -- goes to Inseparabili, by Alessandro Piperno. (Amazingly, they manage to misspell the winning title at the official site -- but, hey, at least they announce it there.)
       Some 400 voters get to vote on this and, boy, was it close: Inseparabili got 126 votes to 124 for Qualcosa di scritto by Emanuele Trevi, and 119 for Il silenzio dell'onda by Gianrico Carofiglio; interestingly, in the voting for the five finalists the Piperno only came in third.
       I'm more of a Carofiglio- than Piperno-fan, but I haven't seen either of these; get your copy of Inseparabili at Amazon.it.

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



       Summer reading

       The Telegraph offers its Summer Reading Special, where various writers and others reveal: "what they're taking for their beach-side reading".

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



       Andrea Camilleri profile

       In The Guardian Mark Lawson profiles Andrea Camilleri: a life in writing -- and you have to like his approach to finishing off his Montalbano-series:
I finished him off five years ago. That's to say, the final novel in the series of Montalbano is already written and deposited at the publishing house. When I get fed up with him or am not able to write any more, I'll tell the publisher: publish that book.

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



       'Best of Young Brazilian Novelists'

       Granta has announced their Best of Young Brazilian Novelists-list.
       Not exactly familiar names, but maybe we'll see some translations now .....

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



       Manual of Painting and Calligraphy review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of José Saramago's early novel, Manual of Painting and Calligraphy, now out in a US edition.

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



6 July 2012 - Friday

Rentrée littéraire preview | Bookselling in ... Yemen

       Rentrée littéraire

       The French 'rentrée littéraire' -- the fall season, when the year's biggest titles are all thrown on the market in a relatively short period -- begins next month, and the first previews are out; see, for example, those in Libération and Le Figaro.
       This year it will feature 646 novels, down from 654 in 2011 (and 701 in 2010). More worryingly, there are only 69 first-timers -- down from 74 last year (and 121 in 2004 ...).
       Both previews list a number of the most anticipated titles, which include new books by Jean Echenoz, Florian Zeller, Laurent Binet, Amélie Nothomb (Barbe Bleue), and Eric Chevillard (L'auteur et moi). The foreign offerings don't impress quite so much -- The new J.K.Rowling ? soemthing by Chuck Palahniuk ?
       France TV also offers a list of les sept romans les plus ... -- pointing also to the longest novel on offer, Sylvie Taussig's massive (1752 page) Dans les plis sinueux des vielles capitales (see also the Galaade publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.fr).

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



       Bookselling in ... Yemen

       In the Yemen Observer Fares Anam reports that Erotic Literature makes its way to Yemen, as:
"There are three kinds of book that spread on the sidewalks of the streets of Sana'a and got popular among Yemenis -- books related to religion, sorcery and sex"said al-Sharjabi.
       No word whether 50 Shades of Crap or whatever it's called has hit those sidewalks yet ..... And I'm not too sure what to make of the success of those sorcery titles ... though I suppose that's preferable to the spread of religious literature (properly derided as: "very shallow and loaded with wrong mobilization").

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



5 July 2012 - Thursday

'Will Self Club' | German 'Hotlist 30' | The Tyrant review

       'Will Self Club'

       In the New Humanist Sam Mills gets to explain about her Self worship, as she's founded the Will Self Club -- which, she assures readers, isn't just a publicity stunt for her novel, The Quiddity of Will Self but rather a bona fide "religion for our secular times". (I'd be a bit more impressed if she didn't refer to the "Edgar Allen Poe Faith" at the official site -- concept fine, spelling not -- surely enough to bring upon her the wrath of the master himSelf .....)
       See also the official site for the book, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk; there doesn't appear to be a US edition yet.
       (Several Self titles are under review at the complete review; see, for example, Dorian.)

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



       German 'Hotlist 30'

       They've announced the German Hotlist 30 -- the longlist for the prize which honors the best books by independent/small German-language publishers. Readers get to vote for three of the finalists, with the remaining seven places being filled by the official jury (I guess they don't have much faith in readers' opinions ...).
       A very mixed bag, which includes Killing the Black Dog by Les Murray, გათვლა by Tamta Melaschwili, and Oil on Water by Helon Habila. Also inexplicably in the running: some piece of crap by that piece of crap James Frey, which I can't believe they even published in German (or in English, for that matter).

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



       The Tyrant review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jacques Chessex's The Tyrant -- his 1973 novel that won the prix Goncourt but has only now been published in English translation, by Bitter Lemon Press [As a reader points out, this transation first came out in 1975, as A Father's Love].

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



4 July 2012 - Wednesday

Festival of German Language Literature
Premio Internacional Carlos Fuentes | The President review

       Festival of German Language Literature

       The Tage der deutschsprachigen Literatur -- the Festival of German Language Literature -- has started.
       The centerpiece is, of course, the Bachmann Preis -- where authors read their entries aloud and are immediately criticized by the judges -- though disappointingly the entries won't be available in translation this year, as they have in recent years (as explained here (sort of)), but there are also quite a few other events and prizes, including the awarding of the Austrian State Prize for Literary Translation.

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



       Premio Internacional Carlos Fuentes

       Conaculta -- the Mexican National Council for Culture and the Arts -- has announced the endowment of a new prize in honor of the recently deceased Mexican great, the Premio Internacional Carlos Fuentes a la Creación Literaria en el Idioma Españo -- with a payout of US $250,000.
       It's for a writer: "de habla hispana que por el conjunto de su obra hayan contribuido a enriquecer el legado literario de la humanidad".
       See also, for example, the report in the Latin American Herald Tribune, Carlos Fuentes Literary Prize Created.

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



       The President review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Georges Simenon's 1958 novel, The President, recently re-issued by Melville House.

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



3 July 2012 - Tuesday

Caine Prize for African Writing | Bookselling in ... India | Shimmer Chinodya profile

       Caine Prize for African Writing

       They've announced that the Caine Prize for African Writing -- the leading African short story prize -- goes to 'Bombay's Republic', by Rotimi Babatunde (not yet at the official site, last I checked ... but see, for example the report and press release at BooksLive).
       The story is available -- in the dreaded pdf format -- at the official site (as are all the shortlisted stories).

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



       Bookselling in ... India

       In The Hindu S.Anandan reports on the rapidly changing Indian retail market, speaking with Harper Collins India publisher and chief editor, V.K.Karthika, in 'Retail bookstores need to reinvent themselves'.
       Interesting to learn that already now.
Ms. Karthika said almost 25 per cent of Harper Collinsí revenue came from online sale of books through Flipkart, Infibeam, Indiaplaza and Amazon.
       Karthika also says:
"Retailers have never really supported us," she said. In comparison, online stores were really forthcoming to take on books that were relegated by conventional stores to 'special categories'.

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



       Shimmer Chinodya profile

       In The Herald they profile Zimbabwean author Shimmer Chinodya.
       He explains:
My fiction seeks to explore and extend the borders of reality, to question and tease matters of identity, class and culture, the past and the present; to explore the human condition in the most interesting and sensitive way possible.
       Two Chinodya books are under review at the complete review, Chairman of Fools and Strife.

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



2 July 2012 - Monday

Mahmoud Dowlatabadi profile | Writing in ... Sri Lanka | Paul Theroux Q & A
July issues | The Neruda Case review

       Mahmoud Dowlatabadi profile

       I've long been telling readers that Mahmoud Dowlatabadi is an author worth seeking out, and it's great that he's been getting a bit more English-language attention. Today he gets a lot more well-deserved attention, as The New York Times has a profile of this leading Iranian author, An Iranian Storyteller's Personal Revolution, by Larry Rohter.
       Dowlatabadi was in New York in May, for the PEN World Voices Festival and the US launch of his novel, The Colonel.
       One of the events with him was taped by C-SPAN's Book TV, and is now available online -- A Discussion on Publishing and Censorship in Iran with Author Mahmoud Dowlatabadi. I was lucky enough to be there -- and also got my very own signed copy of The Colonel while I was there.
       I'm not a huge fan of signed copies, but I do treasure a few (a personalized Alasdair Gray among them), and I consider this pretty special too:

My signed copy of Mahmoud Dowlatabadi's The Colonel


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



       Writing in ... Sri Lanka

       In the new issue of The Caravan Anjum Hasan wonders: 'How do Sri Lankan writers recreate their country in their fiction ?' in What We Talk About When We Talk About Sri Lanka.
       Among the novels discussed: Shehan Karunatilaka's Chinaman (now also available in the US, as The Legend of Pradeep Mathew).

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



       Paul Theroux Q & A

       At Reuters Nick Olivari talks with Paul Theroux about his new novel, The Lower River, in Book Talk: Former Peace Corp volunteer finds Africa changed.

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



       July issues

       Among the July issues of online periodicals now available are those from Words without Borders, July 2012: New Writing from Japan (with some pieces 'On the Crisis in Greece' as well), and the July issue of Open Letters Monthly.

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



       The Neruda Case review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Roberto Ampuero's The Neruda Case.
       Amazing (and yet not ...) that this is the first of longtime US-resident (and University of Iowa teacher) Ampuero's novels to be published in English. Born in Chile in 1953 -- like that other Roberto, Bolaño -- he too left Chile at an early age -- but his stations were rather different: Cuba, the Germanys (first East, then West), eventually the US. And now he's the Ambassador to Mexico !

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



1 July 2012 - Sunday

The Hindu Literary Prize | Writing at a rate of 35 words a day ?
Prize winners under review | Popular in ... India

       The Hindu Literary Prize

       They're inviting submissions for the third annual The Hindu Literary Prize; see the pdf for the eligibility requirements; it appears you have until 15 August to submit.
       The Hindu Literary Prize "recognises and encourages Indian writing in English" and so, as I've mentioned previously, disappointingly: "Works in Indian languages and translations are not eligible" .....
       Okay, there are reasons to stick to one language -- and they seemed to be aware of the issue after last year's prize: see my mention, and recall these words:
The Selection Committee would also like to request The Hindu to have, from next year onwards at least, separate awards of equal value for fiction written in English and that translated from the languages of India so that both receive equal attention
       So I look forward to the announcement very soon of that separate award of equal value. Because they didn't forget or anything, did they ?
       Did they ?

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



       Writing at a rate of 35 words a day ?

       China Daily note that Wang Wen-hsing [王文興] is giving a Literary lecture -- in which he's going to discuss his unusual approach to writing:
He locks himself in his house, reading and thinking, for 22 hours in a day and then uses two hours polishing the 35 words to perfection, he says.
       Yes:
While some writers work out a thousand words in a day, Wang insists on writing only 35 every day. He spent 25 years writing his famous book, The Man Against the Sea.
       (The Man Against the Sea has been translated into English -- and is under review at the complete review -- as Backed Against the Sea.)

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



       Prize winners under review

       I've added a new index, of prize-winning fiction under review at the complete review, for a few of the major international and national literary prizes.

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



       Popular in ... India

       Sure, the complete review has a decent amount of Indian literature under review -- but in June five of the six most popular reviews were Indian novels.
       Yes, the site gets a lot of traffic from the sub-continent, but still .....

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



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