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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 March 2016

1 March: Murty Classical Library dispute ? | Funny German literature ? | Houses review
2 March: Windham-Campbell Prizes | PEN Literary Award winners | Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure review
3 March: Le prix de la Page 112 finalists | March Words without Borders | The last 100 reviews
4 March: Andreï Makine elected to Académie française | Kobzar Literary Award | Night Prayers review
5 March: Sapir Prize | Großer Österreichische Staatspreis - Literatur | The Kingdom review
6 March: Canada as Frankfurt Book Fair guest of honour ... someday ? | Pat Conroy (1945-2016) | Gabo in the USSR
7 March: Deborah Smith Q & A | A Kingdom of Souls review
8 March: Prizes: RBC Taylor Prize - Women's Prize for Fiction longlist - New Zealand Book Awards finalists - Libris Literatuur Prijs shortlist | Translation-from-the-Chinese wishlist
9 March: Zbigniew Herbert Award | Ottaway Award | A Midsummer's Equation review
10 March: Man Booker International Prize longlist | Bookslut defuncts | Redeeming the Kamasutra review

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10 March 2016 - Thursday

Man Booker International Prize longlist | Bookslut defuncts
Redeeming the Kamasutra review

       Man Booker International Prize longlist

       They've announced the thirteen-title-strong longlist for the Man Booker International Prize.
       A reminder: the Man Booker International Prize is no longer the biennial author prize which was awarded six times between 2005 and 2015; now it is basically the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, awarded 1990 to 1995 and again 2001 to 2015, just that they now want you to call it the 'Man Booker International Prize'.
       It really is pretty much still the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize except for in name (why that ? The Independent can't even afford to print their paper any longer (see, for example); the Man Group mints money), the one difference this year being that they're switching to the Man Prize non-calendar year timetable (why ? well, why make things easy ... ?), with books that were published in January 2015 through April 2016 eligible.
       Other eligibility notes: the book has to be: "published in the UK by an imprint formally established in the UK" (the American Best Translated Book Award requires only US distribution for eligibility) and: "Both the author and the translator of the work must be living at the time it is submitted or called in" (the BTBA welcomes submissions by the dead; it often takes a long time -- long past the author's death -- for works to get translated ...).

       The longlisted titles are:
  • Death by Water by Ōe Kenzaburō, tr. Deborah Boliner Boem

  • The Four Books by Yan LIanke, tr. Carlos Rojas

  • A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa, tr. Daniel Hahn

  • Ladivine by Marie NDiaye, tr. Jordan Stump

  • Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan, tr. Labodalih Sembiring

  • Mend the Living (US title: The Heart) by Maylis de Kerangal, tr. Jessica Moore (a different one than the (US) translation I reviewed)

  • The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante, tr. Ann Goldstein

  • A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk, tr. Ekin Oklap

  • Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, tr. Roland Glasser

  • The Vegetarian by Han Kang, tr. Deborah Smith

  • White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen, tr. Emily and Fleur Jeremiah

  • A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler, tr. Charlotte Collins
       Observations:

        - We are informed: "The judges considered 155 books"; we are inexplicably and outrageously not informed what those titles were, so we have no way of knowing what titles were not submitted/eligible. (We can guess some -- it's hard to believe Beauty is a Wound was considered but took a back seat to Man Tiger, for example -- but it would be nice to know for sure).

        - A surprisingly poor showing by the small independents: Jacaranda (the UK publisher of Tram 83) and Peirene Press are the only minnows in the lot -- amazing at a time when small independents are killing it, in the US and UK, as far as books-in-translation goes. (Again: a submission issue ? But you'd figure they'd all submit anything they could.)

        - Which brings us also to some of the omissions: again, it's impossible to know what was even in the running, and maybe publishers didn't enter titles, but BTBA winner Krasznahorkai László's Seiobo There Below somehow didn't make the cut ? (and this with one of the BTBA jurors from that year on this year's Man Booker International panel ?!??).

        - The chance of different translations of the same books winning the MBIP and the BTBA (albeit in different years -- it will only be BTBA-eligible next year) lives on with the longlisting of the Kerangal

        - As far as expected overlap with the Best Translated Book Award (25-title-strong longlist announcement: 29 March) I expect/hope the Ōe, Ferrante, and Mwanza Mujila (and the other Kurniawan ...) to also get the nod there; the Han Kang and Kerangal (in a different translation) will only be eligible for next year's prize.

       It's a fairly solid - and nicely linguistically / geographically diverse list -- though I would have loved to see at least a bit genre(sque) variety in the mix. Any number of these titles would be worthy winners, though of the ones I've read (and I haven't seen several of these, which haven't made it to the US yet) I think the Ōe is the stand-out.

       There will no doubt be lots of commentary -- and there's a 'shadow panel' of bloggers that will be covering the prize. For starters, see Tony Malone's commentary at his Tony's Reading List weblog.

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



       Bookslut defuncts

       Blogging had become pretty sporadic, and the last two issues were bi- instead of monthly, but now Jessa Crispin has made it official at and about Bookslut: "the May issue will be our last issue. I've decided to cease publication".
       It was a good -- and, at fourteen years, Internet-time, pretty damn long -- run.
       While the complete review started a few years earlier (in 1999) the Bookslut weblog was among the biggest inspirations -- along with the old version of MobyLives, as well as Maud Newton's weblog, and Laila Lalami then-blogging-still-as-Moorish Girl -- for my starting this Literary Saloon weblog part of the site (in August 2002).
       The 'lit blog'-world sure has changed in the past fifteen years .....

       Jessa notes that: "The archives will remain up until the apocalypse comes" -- thank god for that ! -- but I note that the deepest recesses of the weblog already seem lost: that farthest back I can find on the site is June 2003, and while the first (last, on the page) entries claim 'First Blog Entry' and 'Second Blog Entry' that's not quite accurate -- the weblog had been active for months by then. (The Wayback Machine only offers a small glimpse further back, to January 2003 .....)

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



       Redeeming the Kamasutra review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Wendy Doniger's new study, Redeeming the Kamasutra.

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



9 March 2016 - Wednesday

Zbigniew Herbert Award | Ottaway Award | A Midsummer's Equation review

       Zbigniew Herbert Award

       They've announced that Lars Gustafsson will get this year's Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award -- "in recognition of outstanding artistic and intellectual achievements inspired by the values and ideals which Zbigniew Herbert's work exemplifies".
       Great to see Gustafsson get the recognition -- I'm baffled by how he's dropped out of sight in the US (after a decent run -- and years teaching at the University of Texas, Austin); it's been ages since any of his fiction has appeared in English -- though good for Bloodaxe, who recently published a Selected Poems (yes, he does that too); see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

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



       Ottaway Award

       They've announced that Barbara Epler to Receive WWB Ottaway Award, as the New Directions publisher will get -- very deservingly -- this year's Words without Borders Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature, picking up the award at their gala on 1 November.

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



       A Midsummer's Equation review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Higashino Keigo's A Midsummer's Equation, another installment in his 'Detective Galileo'-series (they say number three, though of course that doesn't correspond with the original Japanese number and order ...).

       Higashino may well be the most popular Japanese author abroad (especially in the rest of eastern Asia -- South Korea and China) after Murakami, but he hasn't caught on quite as much in the US/UK. It'll be interesting to see whether that changes as more of his work is translated.

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



8 March 2016 - Tuesday

Prizes: RBC Taylor Prize - Women's Prize for Fiction longlist
New Zealand Book Awards finalists - Libris Literatuur Prijs shortlist
Translation-from-the-Chinese wishlist

       Prize: RBC Taylor Prize

       They've announced the winner of the 2016 RBC Taylor Prize -- a prize meant: "to enhance public appreciation for the genre known as literary non-fiction" and worth C$25,000 ("and a specially commissioned crystal award").
       The prize went to Stalin's Daughter (by Rosemary Sullivan); see the Harper publicity page, and get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Prize: Women's Prize for Fiction longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the Women's Prize for Fiction (once sponsored by 'Orange', now apparently by 'Baileys', for those trying to keep track ...).
       Twenty titles, and some heavyweight stuff here -- The Green Road by Anne Enright, The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie, that big Hanya Yanagihara, among others.
       Embarrassingly but predictably, none are under review at the complete review -- indeed not one of these has made it to my desk -- but I hope to get to a few eventually.
       It's unclear (to me) when the six-title shortlist will be announced; the winner will be announced 8 June.

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



       Prize: New Zealand Book Awards finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the New Zealand Book Awards.
       The most familiar name is probably Patricia Grace, one of four fiction finalists, with Chappy.
       Impressive, meanwhile: Victoria University Press place finalists in three categories: fiction (2x), general non, and poetry.

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



       Prize: Libris Literatuur Prijs shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for the (€50,000) Dutch Libris Literatuur Prijs; Connie Palmen is likely the only author with a book on the six-title strong list familiar to US/UK readers.

       Meanwhile, the 2014 winner, (Rupert: A Confession-author) Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer's La Superba, is due out in English from Deep Vellum next week (!); see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Translation-from-the-Chinese wishlist

       At Paper Republic they have a nice new list of (reader-)recommended-for-translation Chinese titles.
       I hope some publishers will take a closer look and consider some of these .....

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



7 March 2016 - Monday

Deborah Smith Q & A | A Kingdom of Souls review

       Deborah Smith Q & A

       Translator from the Korean Deborah Smith is riding high with her one-two punch of Han Kang-titles, The Vegetarian and the not-yet-available-in-the-US Human Acts, and at The Quietus Jen Callej has a Q & A with her which also touches on new publisher-of-translations Tilted Axis Press -- yeah, not much of a web-presence yet, but sounds very, very promising indeed.

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



       A Kingdom of Souls review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Daniela Hodrová's A Kingdom of Souls, one of two Hodrová titles recently published by Jantar Publishing.

       When Hodrová won the Franz Kafka Prize in 2012 -- the same prize that had been presciently awarded to soon-to-be Nobel laureates Elfriede Jelinek and Harold Pinter in 2004 and 2005, and has also gone to writers such as Murakami Haruki (2006), Peter Handke (2009), Amos Oz (2013) and Yan Lianke (2014) -- I was certainly a bit surprised. A hometown nod ? But now, having seen -- finally being able to see ! -- what she can do ... no, I think it's safe to say they got it right. What's shocking is that more of her work hasn't long been available. (This came out in Czech in 1991; an English translation was already good to go in 1992 .....)

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



6 March 2016 - Sunday

Canada as Frankfurt Book Fair guest of honour ... someday ?
Pat Conroy (1945-2016) | Gabo in the USSR

       Canada as Frankfurt Book Fair guest of honour ... someday ?

       In The Globe and Mail Mark Medley reports that Literary industry hopeful Ottawa will accept Frankfurt Book Fair invitation, as apparently Canada had been the top candidate for the 2017 guest of honour spot but decided not to go for it but are now considering having a stab at the 2020 slot.
       Money is apparently a big issue -- but given that Georgia (g.o.h. 2018) can get together the money, you would figure the Canadians might be able to, too. The pay-off seems to be decent (if there's adequate follow-through) as several recent guest-of-honour nations have definitely improved their international standing, book-wise -- and Canada, quite honestly, could use the push on the international stage .....

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



       Pat Conroy (1945-2016)

       American author Pat Conroy has passed away; see, for example, William Grimes' obituary in The New York Times.
       None of his books are under review at the complete review (and honestly, I don't see myself ever getting to them), but he wrote some very popular ones -- including two that were also the basis of popular films, The Great Santini (get your copy at Amazon.com) and The Prince of Tides (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).

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



       Gabo in the USSR

       More than fifty years ago, Gabriel García Márquez visited the Soviet Union -- and at Russia Beyond the Headlines Oleg Krasnov now helpfully offers: "10 of the writer's most vivid observations about the country", in What did Gabriel Garcia Marquez say after visiting the USSR ?

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



5 March 2016 - Saturday

Sapir Prize | Großer Österreichische Staatspreis - Literatur
The Kingdom review

       Sapir Prize

       They've announced that הרומאן המצרי ('An Egyptian Novel'), by Dolly City-author Orly Castel-Bloom has won the leading Israeli fiction prize, the Sapir Prize; see also Beth Kissileff's Orly Castel-Bloom Scoops Always Controversial Sapir Prize in Forward.
       See also the information page about the novel at ITHL, as well as an (English) review at Tablet by Liel Leibovitz (who calls the novel: "her best yet"). An English translation, by Todd Hasak-Lowy, is apparently in the works, but it doesn't seem to have a US/UK publisher yet (though this prize-win should provide the necessary final nudge) forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press.

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



       Großer Österreichische Staatspreis - Literatur

       They hand out 'große Österreichische Staatspreise' -- the national 'Great Austrian State Prizes' -- in a variety of categories, but not necessarily every year: they haven't awarded one in the literature category since 2012, and indeed only give out one this year for the fourth time since the turn of the century: but, yes, they've announced that Gerhard Roth will get the €30,000 prize this year.
       It's a decent list of previous winners, that includes Peter Handke, Ingeborg Bachmann, and Elias Canetti.
       The only Roth work under review at the complete review is the (fictional) the autobiography of albert einstein.

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



       The Kingdom review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nakamura Fuminori's The Kingdom, forthcoming from Soho (and the fifth Nakamura under review).

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



4 March 2016 - Friday

Andreï Makine elected to Académie française
Kobzar Literary Award | Night Prayers review

       Andreï Makine elected to Académie française

       Andreï Makine has been elected to the illustrious Académie française -- handily beating the competition with fifteen votes (only one of the other seven candidates for the fauteuil (number five, previously held by Assia Djebar) even getting any votes at all (Arnaud-Aaron Upinsky, who got two), though three ballots were entirely blank, and six were marked simply with a cross.
       At 58 he is apparently now the youngest (!) of the 'immortals'.
       Only one Makine-title is under review at the complete review at this time: The Life of an Unknown Man.

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



       Kobzar Literary Award

       The Kobzar Literary Award is a biennial C$25,000 prize that:
recognizes a Canadian writer who most effectively presents a Ukrainian Canadian theme through poetry, drama, fiction, non-fiction or young people's literature
       Actually it seems to recognize a book more than a writer -- specific books are finalists -- but in this personality-focused age .....
       Anyway, they've announced this year's winner -- albeit not yet at the official site, last I checked. But see, for example, Winnipeg author Maurice Mierau wins 2016 Kobzar Literary Award by Mark Medley in The Globe and Mail, as Detachment: An Adoption Memoir took the prize. (See the Freehand Books publicity page, and get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk)

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



       Night Prayers review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Santiago Gamboa's Night Prayers, just out in English from Europa Editions.

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



3 March 2016 - Thursday

Le prix de la Page 112 finalists | March Words without Borders
The last 100 reviews

       Le prix de la Page 112 finalists

       Le prix de la Page 112 -- yes, it has its own website -- is exactly what you'd expect: a (Woody Allen-inspired) prize for the best page 112 in a new French book, and they've now announced the ten 2016 finalists (click on the titles to see the respective page 112s).
       Sounds as reasonable as many a literary prize -- and at least it's easy for the public to compare the entries (no need to read whole books ...).

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



       March Words without Borders

       The March issue of Words without Borders is devoted to 'Crossing Boundaries: Morocco's Many Voices' (with translations from: "from French, classical and Moroccan Arabic, and Tamazight"), as well as offering a sampler of 'Uyghur Modernist Poetry'.

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



       The last 100 reviews

       There are now 3700 books under review at the complete review, so it's time for another overview of the past 100 reviewed titles.

       - The 100 reviews were posted over 165 days (previous hundred: 179), total 102,849 words (the highest average ever, and considerably up over the previous hundred: 91,164), and the reviewed books had a total of 25,441 pages (previous hundred: 24,868) -- though only four were over 400 pages long, and none 500 pages or more (which is very unusual).

       - Reviewed books were originally written in 29 different languages (including English; previous hundred: 22), with French yet again the top language -- even if not so dominant as over the previous hundred: 18 titles (as opposed to 35 of the previous hundred) -- followed by English (15.5), Spanish (11), and German (9.5). (See also the updated full breakdown of all the languages books under review were originally written in.)

       - Reviewed books were by authors from 40 countries (previous 100: 37), led by France (17), Spain (9), and Japan (6).

       - Male-written books yet again dominated -- 83.5 (nudging the horribly sexist average of written-by-women titles under review up to ... 15.50 per cent).

       - Three books received a grade of 'A' (after none had in the previous hundred): After the Circus by Patrick Modiano, Because She Never Asked by Enrique Vila-Matas, and Arcadia by Iain Pears. No book was graded lower than 'B-' (a grade five titles got).

       - As always, fiction dominated: among reviewed titles 87 were novels and 5 were story-collections. No poetry or drama was reviewed.

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



2 March 2016 - Wednesday

Windham-Campbell Prizes | PEN Literary Award winners
Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure review

       Windham-Campbell Prizes

       They've announced the nine recipients of the 2016 Windham-Campbell Prizes (who each get US$150,000) -- three each in the categories of drama, fiction, and non; they include Tessa Hadley, Jerry Pinto, Hilton Als, Stanley Crouch, and Helen Garner
       The only one of the authors with any titles under review at the complete review is Jerry Pinto: Em and the Big Hoom (the only one of his books with a wider US/UK release as far as I can tell -- and not one which seems to have made much of an impact ...) and Helen.

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



       PEN Literary Award winners

       They've announced the 2016 PEN Literary Award winners.
       Among the winners: Katrina Dodson's translation of The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector won the PEN Translation Prize, and Sawako Nakayasu's translation of The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa took the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation.
       Several other category-winners will only be announced at the 2016 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony on 11 April.

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



       Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Tale That Begins with Fukushima by Furukawa Hideo, Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure, just out from Columbia University Press.
       Furukawa is definitely a talent to look out for, and it's surprising that this is only the second of his works translated into English so far. (More should be coming -- it's hard to imagine they won't.)

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



1 March 2016 - Tuesday

Murty Classical Library dispute ? | Funny German literature ? | Houses review

       Murty Classical Library dispute ?

       Regrettably, I still haven't seen a one of the Murty Classical Library of India volumes, but it certainly sounds like an exemplary series, aiming: "to make available the great literary works of India from the past two millennia [...] across a vast array of Indian languages, including Bangla, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Pali, Panjabi, Persian, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu".
       But all it takes is for general editor Sheldon Pollock to sign " two statements condemning government action against students at Delhiís Jawaharlal Nehru University" and, presto, as Mridula Chari reports at Scroll.in, Make in India and remove Sheldon Pollock from Murty Classical Library, demand 132 intellectuals.
       Yes:
A group of 132 scholars and intellectuals have signed a petition requesting the project's funder Rohan Murty to invite critics of Pollock for discussion and to align the ambitious translation project with the goals of the government of India.
       Because 'aligning' scholarly undertakings with "the goals of the government" (any government ...) is, of course, the way to go .....
       Perhaps one shouldn't judge from the selective quotes on offer in the piece, but most of these arguments are anything but convincing:
"The [Murty Classical Library of India] project is very good, but it should be done by someone who knows our civilisation well," said Varadraj Bapat, a signatory of the petition and a professor at the School of Management at IIT Bombay. "Today modern educated people donít know Sanskrit, so the right to translate manuscripts should lie with those who really know Sanskrit. Subsequently people will read only the English interpretation, whereas the actual manuscripts will have much deeper meaning."
       To suggest that Pollock -- who was also general editor of the much-missed Clay Sanskrit Library -- doesn't know his Sanskrit (or Indian culture) is ridiculous. More to the point: the series looks considerably beyond the Hindu-nationalist-favoured Sanskrit and covers classical works in any number of other classical Indian languages -- i.e. has a much broader outlook than the current Indian administration (and its rather too militant supporters ...) tout. (In addition: the volumes in the series are printed with the English translation facing the original text -- sure, most readers will rely on the translation, but at least the original is also there to compare to, and especially with the texts translated from the better-known languages (like Sanskrit ...) there will be no hiding that 'deeper meaning'.)
       Let's hope this to-do fizzles out quickly.

       (Updated - 7 March): If not exactly fizzling out, at least there's been a nice backlash to this silliness: see, for example, Writers hit out at 'ill-motivated' attempt to remove Sheldon Pollock as editor of Sanskrit series at Scroll.in, reporting that writers including Nayantara Sahgal, Shashi Deshpande, Kiran Nagarkar, and Githa Hariharan have voiced their support, as well as Rohan Murty himself weighing in, arguing The classics belong to the world, and no one has exclusive rights.

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



       Funny German literature ?

       The Festival Neue Literatur -- with the theme: 'Seriously Funny' -- was held in New York this weekend, and now at Deutsche Welle Jeffrey Michels explores What's so funny about German literature ?

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



       Houses review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Borislav Pekić's Houses.

       This originally came out -- as The Houses of Belgrade -- in English in 1978; it was re-issued in 1994 by the great (and much-missed) Northwestern University Press 'Writings from an Unbound Europe'-series, and now is out in a new edition (and new title) from New York Review Books. Published in the Writings from an Unbound Europe'-series and by New York Review Books ? Yeah, that's the kind of publishing pedigree where you don't really ask any other questions -- you just get your hands on a copy .....

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



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