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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 May 2013

1 May: Susan Bernofsky Q & A(s) | All Those Things We Never Said review
2 May: Dan Brown's translators' inferno | May online issues | Best Translated Book Award ceremony | Library of America's best-selling titles | While the Women are Sleeping review
3 May: 'International Literature Award' shortlist | Edgar® Awards | Dylan and the Nobel
4 May: The Best Translated Book Awards go to ... | Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize shortlist | Murakami-mania in ... South Korea
5 May: BTBA ... 2014 ? | Nigeria Prize for Literature | Paprika review
6 May: Indian authors on the 'terrorism bandwagon' | Children's books in translation | An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris review
7 May: Big Taschen books | Jeanette Schocken Preis | Dossier K. !
8 May: Dutch/Flemish literary prizes | New PEN Germany president Q & A | PEN World Voices coverage | Sweet Tooth review
9 May: Witold Gombrowicz's Kronos | Books about ... Burma | Online reading in ... China
10 May: E-reading in ... Africa | Translation in ... Bangladesh | A Short Tale of Shame review

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10 May 2013 - Friday

E-reading in ... Africa | Translation in ... Bangladesh
A Short Tale of Shame review

       E-reading in ... Africa

       In the Christian Science Monitor Donna Bryson finds that there's A 'novel' idea for spreading literature in Africa: The cellphone, as:
New technology and new thinking are helping African literature leapfrog the high costs of traditional publishing and reach new readers across the continent.
       There's certainly potential here -- and efforts like 3Bute really do seem to add something. I am curious whether authors will adapt to the medium, too .....

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

       Translation in ... Bangladesh

       At they report that Bengali literature needs translation: PM, as: 'Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has laid emphasis on worldwide translation of creative literary work from Bangladesh'.
       Sounds good ... though there's certainly a lot of work to be done.

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

       A Short Tale of Shame review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Bulgarian author Angel Igov's A Short Tale of Shame, coming out from Open Letter.

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

9 May 2013 - Thursday

Witold Gombrowicz's Kronos | Books about ... Burma | Online reading in ... China

       Witold Gombrowicz's Kronos

       Among the books I've slowly been making my way through but which I haven't reviewed yet is Witold Gombrowicz's Diary, recently re-published in a one-volume edition by Yale University Press; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or
       Among the publishing highlights in Poland this year is apparently a new volume of autobiographical work by Gombrowicz, which is being published for the first time 23 May -- as Kronos; see the Wydawnictwo Literackie publicity page -- or the (Polish) book trailer. It's been getting a lot of attention, apparently also because of some of the shocking and salacious detail: as Polska headline a report, it apparently offers: Biseksualizm, przygody erotyczne i nędza imigranta.
       See also the report at Expatica, Gombrowicz diary promises to expose Polish literary icon. I hope it's not all sensationalism and that it turns out to be worth translating, too.

       (Updated - 13 May): See now also Kronos – the Strange New Case of Gombrowicz by Alan Lockwood at, as well as the interview with Rita Gombrowicz about it there.

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       Books about ... Burma

       In The Guardian they have Rory MacLean's top 10 books on Burma; shockingly, not a one is a work of fiction by a Burmese author (no Maurice Collis, for example, either). Several are, however under review at the complete review:        Meanwhile, in The Myanmar Times Douglas Long finds A potent reminder of the bad old days, as he reminds readers of Andrew Marshall's The Trouser People.

       See also the Index of Burmese Literature and Burma (Myanmar)-related Books at the complete review -- not that there's that much more there.

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       Online reading in ... China

       The article is based on ... online survey (by the China Youth Daily), so don't consider the numbers or findings too reliable, but it's still interesting to hear that, as Xinhua reports, Readers find online literature unsatisfactory: survey.
       Online reading -- of longer works of fiction -- is much bigger in China than the US, as readers still seem to be more likely to actually read full texts posted online (rather than reading them on dedicated e-readers). But the experience sounds similar to that of American readers wading through the the many self-published e-books flooding the markets:
However, only 20 percent in the survey said they are satisfied with the quality of books available online and more than 30 percent said they think most online novels are not of top quality but inferior pieces of work.
       (That actually doesn't seem that bad a percentage -- what percentage of print books would the average reader consider to be: "not of top quality", after all .....)
       Also interesting -- though it's unclear if this is a different or the same survey:
According to a recent survey, Chinese people read 4.39 paper books, 77.20 newspapers, 6.56 magazines and 2.35 e-books on average last year. The latter increased by 65.5 percent year on year.

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

8 May 2013 - Wednesday

Dutch/Flemish literary prizes | New PEN Germany president Q & A
PEN World Voices coverage | Sweet Tooth review

       Dutch/Flemish literary prizes

       Two of the biggest Dutch-language literary prizes have been announced -- one in the Netherlands, one in Flanders.
       They've announced that the Libris Literatuur Prijs 2013 voor 'Dit zijn de namen' van Tommy Wieringa; see also the De Bezige Bij publicity page. The €50,000 prize is prestigious (and the cash winnings ain't bad either) -- and recall that Wieringa is also on the shortlist for this year's International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (for Caesarion (published in the US as, sigh, Little Caesar)), so he could be pocketing even more money this year.
       Dit zijn de namen was also shortlisted for this year's Gouden Boekenuil, but lost out to the winner, Pier en oceaan by Oek de Jong (which had, in turn, been shortlisted for the Libris Literatuur Prijs, but lost out to Wieringa there ...). De Jong only takes home €25,000, but that's not bad either.

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

       New PEN Germany president Q & A

       At Deutsche Welle Sarah Judith Hofmann has a Q & A with the new PEN Germany president, Austrian author Josef Haslinger, New PEN president calls for literary freedom.

       One of Haslinger's books is under review at the complete review: Phi Phi Island.

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

       PEN World Voices coverage

       I attended several of the PEN World Voices events last week and have been meaning to organize my thoughts about the various panels I saw -- but keep not quite getting around to it. Fortunately, there has been good coverage elsewhere -- check out, for example, various reports at The Mantle -- and, even better, you can listen to (and maybe soon watch ?) several (and, I hope soon more ...) of the events at the PEN site (including Sonia Sotomayor's Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture).

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       Sweet Tooth review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth.

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

7 May 2013 - Tuesday

Big Taschen books | Jeanette Schocken Preis | Dossier K. !

       Big Taschen books

       In the Wall Street Journal Alexandra Cheney reports that Publisher Bets on Big Collectible Books -- specifically, here, the latest Taschen production, Genesis:
The 704-page two-volume collection of black-and-white photos depicts Mr. Salgado's trek, which included a 47-day journey tracking 7,000 reindeer across Northern Siberia and a roughly 525-mile hike in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia.

The massive art edition retails for $9,000, weighs a combined 130 pounds -- packaging and bookstand included -- and stands nearly four feet tall.
       I can't recall the last time I purchased a book that came with its own bookstand .....
       There are less expensive versions too; see the Taschen publicity page, or get your copy of the bare-bones edition from or

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

       Jeanette Schocken Preis

       They've announced that Esterházy Péter has been awarded the Jeanette Schocken Preis - Bremerhavener Bürgerpreis für Literatur, awarded biennially in memory of the book burning by the Nazis in 1933. It's not a big-bucks prize -- it pays out just €7,500 -- but is quite prestigious; previous winners include Kertész Imre (honored pre-Nobely, in 1997), and Bei Dao (2005).
       Several Esterházy titles are under review at the complete review; see, for example, The Book of Hrabal.

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

       Dossier K. !

       The English translation, by Tim Wilkinson, of Kertész Imre's inspired (and inspiring) Dossier K. is finally out today, from Melville House.
       Just get your copy already.

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

6 May 2013 - Monday

Indian authors on the 'terrorism bandwagon' | Children's books in translation
An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris review

       Indian authors on the 'terrorism bandwagon'

       In The Hindu Reshma S. Kulkarni reports that 'Indian authors have jumped on the Taliban-terrorism bandwagon, but the result is a bit of a mixed bag', in When terror strikes, describing several recent titles like Mainak Dhar's Zombiestan (which is actually available at or

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

       Children's books in translation

       It's not just adult fiction (and non) that is too-little translated into English: as The Scotsman briefly reports, UK children missing out on foreign books, says author, as award-winning author David Almond complains:
There is very little translated children’s fiction published in the UK, and our children are missing out.
       Indeed !

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

       An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Georges Perec's An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, published in a nice little edition by Wakefield Press.

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

5 May 2013 - Sunday

BTBA ... 2014 ? | Nigeria Prize for Literature | Paprika review

       BTBA ... 2014 ?

       As I mentioned yesterday, the winners of the Best Translated Book Awards were announced on Friday. Last year, I looked ahead to the titles I thought would be in the running for this year's fiction prize, and with two shortlisted titles (including the winning one) and two additional longlisted titles among my top five contenders I didn't do too badly -- so I'll try again, and look ahead to the 2014 prize.
       Recall the any first translation (no re-translations !) published in the US in 2013 is eligible. Given that, the early favorites seem to me to be:
  • Tirza by Arnon Grunberg - a longtime favorite hereabouts, it looks like a strong contender

  • Sandalwood Death by Mo Yan - I was really impressed by this one, and I'd be surprised if it didn't make the shortlist

  • Where Tigers are at Home by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès - it hasn't gotten the attention it deserves, but is a really solid and entertaining piece of work

  • Seiobo There Below by Krasznahorkai László - the author of this year's winning title, and even if the translator is a different one (Ottilie Mulzet does the honors with this one), any Krasznahorkai is sure to figure in the prize-conversation. (Caveat: I haven't seen this one yet.)
       Titles that look like solid longlist contenders include:
  • The Light and the Dark by Mikhail Shishkin - his Maidenhair was a very strong contender this year, and it could come down to another Krasznahorkai-Shishkin showdown next year (but: I haven't seen this one yet)

  • The Infatuations by Javier Marías - sounds like a strong possible contender (but I haven't seen it yet ...)

  • City of Angels by Christa Wolf - solid and substantial, should be somewhere in the running

  • The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico García Lorca Ascends to Hell by Carlos Rojas - an impressive text, and an impressive translation; will certainly get some attention

  • My Struggle: Book Two (A Man in Love) by Karl Ove Knausgaard - I'm still amazed My Struggle: Book One didn't make the shortlist this year (it was longlisted), and maybe this, too, is too much part-of-a-bigger-whole, but it's got to be in the discussion

  • Shantytown by César Aira - a longtime BTBA favorite, any book by Aira has got to be considered likely for the longlist (though I haven't seen it yet ...)
       And a few outside chances at the longlist include:
  • Where There's Love, There's Hate by Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo - a stylish little work

  • Revenge by Ogawa Yoko - I think it's cleverly done (and agreeably creepy); short story collections usually don't fare to well with the BTBA -- but then I consider this a novel, so ...

  • The Fall of the Stone City by Ismail Kadare - maybe not the strongest Kadare, which could work against him, but certainly of some interest

  • Life Form by Amélie Nothomb - what appears to be a fairly simple work turns out to be much more clever and nuanced, and I think it deserves serious consideration
       Of course, there are still a lot of 2013 titles I haven't seen (or even heard of, probably), but I think especially the early favorites listed here are very likely to be in the mix a year from now.

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

       Nigeria Prize for Literature

       The Nigeria Prize for Literature -- worth a very reasonable $100,000 -- rotates through four genres year by year, and this time around poetry will be rewarded. Still early days in the process, but as the Premium Times reports, 205 authors vie for Nigeria Prize for Literature, as that's how many authors have submitted entries (slightly less than last year's 214 submissions for what was then the fiction prize).

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

       Paprika review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tsutsui Yasutaka's Paprika -- now out in a US edition, too (but, although eligible, definitely not a contender for the 2014 Best Translated Book Award ...).

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

4 May 2013 - Saturday

The Best Translated Book Awards go to ...
Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize shortlist
Murakami-mania in ... South Korea

       The Best Translated Book Awards go to ...

       They've announced the winner's of this year's Best Translated Book Awards (indeed, I got to announce the fiction winner); no official announcement up yet at Three Percent (though something should be up here soon), but the winners are:

       Fiction: Satantango, by Krasznahorkai László, translated by George Szirtes, published by New Directions.

       Poetry: Wheel With a Single Spoke by Nichita Stănescu, translated by Sean Cotter, published by Archipelago Books; see also their publicity page, or get your copy at or

       Eastern European dominance -- but two very strong shortlists, and clearly worthy winners.

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

       Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize shortlist

       And the international prizes keep coming: now the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize has announced its shortlist.
       One Best Translated Book Award finalist made the cut -- Herta Müller's The Hunger Angel -- as did one other BTBA-eligible (this year) title, Laurent Binet's over-rated HHhH. The finalists were selected from 135 books (rather less than the 320+ the BTBA considered ...). (Amusingly, too, both a BTBA judge -- Tess Lewis, with Lukas Bärfuss' One Hundred Days -- and one of this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize judges, Frank Wynne (for Alonso Cueto's The Blue Hour) have titles in the running.)
       Several of these titles haven't come out in the US yet, but I do have a copy of Jean-Pierre Ohl's The Lairds of Cromarty, which I'm looking forward to.

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

       Murakami-mania in ... South Korea

       No word yet as to the US or UK publishing plans for Murakami Haruki's latest novel, 色彩を持たない多崎つくると、彼の巡礼の年, but in South Korea they're apparently very, very eager to get their hands on this: as Baek Byung-yeul reports in The Korea Times Desperate publishers fight over new Murakami novel.
In a country where book readership is hitting new lows amid a bad economy and explosion of mobile Internet devices, Murakami is one of the few writers capable of moving a large volume of hard copies and paperbacks.
       And so:
The Japanese copyright owners will decide on the company to publish the Korean version on May 20, with the goal of having the book on the shelves by July. It's difficult to project how big of a check the publishers must cut to land the rights for Colorless. One Korean publisher was said to have offered 100 million yen ($1.03 million) in advance royalty payment to Murakami for the right to publish 1Q84 three years ago and still failed to clinch it.
       Presumably US publisher Knopf has his rights more tightly tied up and doesn't have to worry (too much) about a bidding war; still, it'd be nice if they were already planning that translation -- in South Korea they haven't even decided on who gets to publish it and still expect it to appear by July .....

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

3 May 2013 - Friday

'International Literature Award' shortlist | Edgar® Awards | Dylan and the Nobel

       'International Literature Award' shortlist

       The Best Translated Book Awards will be announced today in New York at 17:30 (I will be announcing the fiction winner !) but if you haven't had your fill of international literary prizes the Germans have just announced the shortlist for the 'Internationaler Literaturpreis - Haus der Kulturen der Welt', which awards €25,000 to the author and €10,000 to the translator of a foreign work of literature available in German for the first time (like the BTBA: no re-translations). (Note that the 2011 winner, Maidenhair by Mikhail Shishkin (who happens to be in town for the PEN World Voices festival ...), is a finalist for the BTBA ... (and 2010 winner Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye was also up for this year's BTBA).)
       This year 71 publishers submitted 136 titles, translated from 27 languages (though disappointingly and outrageously, they don't list the titles that were in the running ...). Teju Cole's Open City is one of the shortlisted titles, but two Russian works also are finalists -- and it's great to see Pushkin House-author Andrei Bitov getting some attention too (possibly helping to get some of his more recent stuff translated into English ... ?).
       At Deutsche Welle Silke Bartlick has a Q & A about the shortlist with jury member Claudia Kramatschek, Germany's International Literature Award honors outstanding contributions to global literary art.
       The winner will be announced 12 June.

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

       Edgar® Awards

       They've announced the winners of the 2013 Edgar® Awards, the Mystery Writers of America's awards.
       I haven' t read (or, indeed, seen) a one of the winners (or, indeed, nominees ...).

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

       Dylan and the Nobel

       It's the ridiculous idea that won't die: every year as the announcement of the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature approaches some folks convince themselves that Bob Dylan is in the running for the prize -- his closing odds at Ladbrokes last year were a decent 10/1, barely behind eventual winner Mo Yan's 8/1.
       This year the nuttiness starts earlier, as now some ... well, the temptation is to call it a crackpot institution, but it styles itself the Einstein Forum has set up a 'workshop'/symposium, on Einstein Disguised as Robin Hood. Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize, claiming:
Since 1996, Bob Dylan has been nominated every year for the Nobel Prize in Literature, a nomination roundly seconded by increasing numbers of poets and professors. After President Obama recently presented him with the United States' highest honor, many have hoped the Swedish Academy would follow suit. There are dissenting voices among Dylan admirers, who hold his work to be sufficiently unique as to make a Nobel Prize otiose; others have argued that while Dylan may not need the Nobel Prize, the Nobel Prize needs Dylan.
       Given that the Swedish Academy is secretive about the nomination process (not revealing nominated names until fifty years after the prize has been announced) it's certainly open to debate whether Dylan has actually been in the running all these years. Indeed, unless there's some well-positioned professor who is asked to submit a name each year and can't think of anyone better, or there's a former winner who is an obsessive, die-hard Dylan-fan, I think it's safe to say that it is extraordinarily unlikely that Dylan has been nominated every year since 1996 .....

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

2 May 2013 - Thursday

Dan Brown's translators' inferno | May online issues
Best Translated Book Award ceremony | Library of America's best-selling titles
While the Women are Sleeping review

       Dan Brown's translators' inferno

       Surely it should already be punishment enough for any translator to have to work with Dan Brown's prose, but his publishers have -- appropriately enough, I suppose -- found new circles of hell for them: love german books has the story and the links in reporting on Dan Brown's Translators in Berlusconi's Bunker.
       Yes, there's apparently a new Dan Brown novel coming out, Inferno -- pre-order your copy at or -- and they want it to come out in a lot of languages simultaneously, so eleven translators have frantically been rendering it into a variety of languages. What's ... impressive ? is that they have been working in a bunker, the manuscripts kept in safes there when they're not working on them. They aren't allowed to even bring cellphones in -- and can't even admit what they're working on to anyone else in the building (yes, they all have cover stories for why they're there -- though presumably it's for their own safety, since otherwise they'd presumably be laughed and shamed out of the building). Never mind the rush to finish the translation so quickly .....
       TV Sorrisi e Canzoni has the (Italian) story, as well as Q & As with several of the translators; one of them amsuingly responds to their situation:
Qual è la prima cosa che farai quando tornerai a casa ?

E chi ne è mai uscito ?
       The German buchreport has a German overview, too.

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

       May online issues

       May issues of several publications are now available online:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Best Translated Book Award ceremony

       Tomorrow (Friday) at 17:30 the winner of the Best Translated Book Award will be named; see Chad Post's explanation of the where and when.
       I expect to be there; hope to see you there as well.

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

       Library of America's best-selling titles

       The Library of America updates it's look at The Library of America's Best-Selling Titles.
       Always interesting to see -- and not much change from two years ago (but no updated actual sales-numbers, unfortunately ...).

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

       While the Women are Sleeping review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Javier Marías' While the Women are Sleeping.
       I'm pretty much just trying to fill in some of the blanks here while I wait for The Infatuations (not even an ARC in sight, yet, sigh ...).

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1 May 2013 - Wednesday

Susan Bernofsky Q & A(s) | All Those Things We Never Said review

       Susan Bernofsky Q & A(s)

       Shaun Randol interviewed translator-from-the-German Susan Bernofsky, and the conversation is divided up between Words without Borders -- his Interview with Susan Bernofsky -- and The Mantle, where there's PEN 2013: Susan Bernofsky and Franz Kafka.
       Among the responses of note:
SR: For you is there a Holy Grail book to translate ?

SB: Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries. His prose is extraordinarily difficult, but some of the most beautiful writing I've ever read in my life. On the sentence level it's phenomenal and the story is great.
       As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the previously-available-only-in-English-in-half-its-glory text is being re-translated -- unabridged ! -- by Damion Searls, with publication slated for 2017 from NYRB Classics
       Bernofsky has apparently completed translating another old standard -- Kafka's Die Verwandlung (the title generally translated as, sigh, The Metamorphosis ... (that word has an exact German equivalent -- 'Metamorphose' -- and if that's what Kafka had meant, that's the word he would have used ...)).

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

       All Those Things We Never Said review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Marc Levy's All Those Things We Never Said.
       Year in, year out, Levy is one of the bestselling novelists in France (and this one reportedly quickly sold more than a half a million copies), but like other locally incredibly popular writers (Guillaume Musso, Katherine Pancol) has made little inroads with English-speaking audiences. Curious about his success, I'm glad to have been able to have a look at this; still, you can sort of see why it didn't really take hereabouts.
       Yes, he's a hack -- but not without talent of sorts.

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

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