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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 October 2016

1 October: Nobel Prize in Literature to be announced 13 October (?) | Books in translation in ... the UK | Literary prizes in ... Kenya
2 October: Kashmiri literature | Ivan Klíma Q & A | GraveLarks review
3 October: Křesadlo's Άστροναυτιλíα | Elena Ferrante unmasked ? | Chika Unigwe Q & A | Blood Wedding review
4 October: Nagroda Nike 2016 | Translations from the German, French, and Dutch
5 October: NBF Translation Study | Literary prizes: French long/shortlists - GGs shortlists | Literary fiction, not so improving after all ... | A Greater Music review
6 October: 'About the Author' - Elena Ferrante | Reading in ... Russia | Anton Wachterprijs
7 October: Literary prizes: Nobel Prize previews - Русский Букер shortlist - (American) National Book Award finalists
8 October: Frankfurt Book Fair - Guest of honour, 2020 | Robert Chandler Q & A | A Zero-Sum Game review
9 October: Publishing in ... Scots | Littattafan soyayya
10 October: Welt-Literaturpreis to Zadie Smith | Colonel Lágrimas review

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10 October 2016 - Monday

Welt-Literaturpreis to Zadie Smith | Colonel Lágrimas review

       Welt-Literaturpreis to Zadie Smith

       Winners of the €10,000 German author-prize, the Welt-Literaturpreis, range from Kertész Imre, two years before he won the Nobel Prize, Amos Oz, and Philip Roth to Jonathan Franzen, Daniel Kehlmann, Murakami Haruki, and, last year, Karl Ove Knausgaard.
       Now they've announced that this year's prize will go to Zadie Smith; she'll get to pick it up on 10 November.

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



       Colonel Lágrimas review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Carlos Fonseca's Colonel Lágrimas, just out from Restless Books.

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



9 October 2016 - Sunday

Publishing in ... Scots | Littattafan soyayya

       Publishing in ... Scots

       Itchy Coo has apparently been around since 2002 , publishing children's and YA literature in Scots -- including now some Roald Dahl, such as Chairlie and the Chocolate Works; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
       Seems like a nice idea -- and from the looks of it, if you could make it through Trainspotting you can manage this as well. (Hmm, maybe not the right comparison-novel for the youngsters .....)
       See also this recent piece in The Scotsman about the translation and publisher.

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



       Littattafan soyayya

       Hausa littattafan soyayya ('love literature') has gotten some decent (media) attention recently, and now The Economist offers a (brief) look at Fifty Shades, Sahel-style.
       I wonder when the first US/UK-anthology -- à la Kurt Thometz's Life Turns Man Up and Down -- will appear .....

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



8 October 2016 - Saturday

Frankfurt Book Fair - Guest of honour, 2020
Robert Chandler Q & A | A Zero-Sum Game review

       Frankfurt Book Fair - Guest of honour, 2020

       This year's 'Guest of honour' at the Frankfurt Book Fair will be the Netherlands and Flanders, and we've known for a while that in the coming years it will be: France (2017), Georgia (2018), and Norway (2019).
       Looking ahead, they've now announced that Canada to be Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2020.
       Canada has never been guest of honour, and it's nice to see them get the international attention -- and one hopes that especially Canadian French-language literature, which tends to get a bit overlooked internationally, gets a boost from this. They have four years to prepare, so that's good, too.

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



       Robert Chandler Q & A

       At Russia beyond the Headlines Alexandra Guzeva has a (short) Q & A with translator Robert Chandler

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



       A Zero-Sum Game review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Eduardo Rabasa's A Zero-Sum Game, forthcoming from Deep Vellum.

       Political fiction -- abstract, rather than based on actual events -- is hard to do, but I think this is the most successful example I've come across since Juan Goytisolo's The Marx Family Saga. Unusual in how the narrative moves -- with three very distinct parts to it -- readers do have to be willing to go along for the whole ride -- but it's definitely worthwhile.
       No question that it is among the more important works in translation appearing in the US this year.

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



7 October 2016 - Friday

Literary prizes: Nobel Prize previews
Русский Букер shortlist - (American) National Book Award finalists

       Literary prize: Nobel Prize previews

       They could have announced the Nobel Prize in Literature yesterday, but they decided to take their time this year; Swedish Academy permanent secretary Sara Danius (who will be doing the official announcing) explained that now it's likely the announcement will be made next Thursday, the 13th -- but note that that's not a sure thing yet: we'll only get confirmation (or not) on Monday, when they'll announce that they'll announce the winner on the 13th (or stay silent, in which case we get to wait and speculate for another week, and are looking at a 20th October announcement -- in which case, too, it would be safe to assume that there's a major disagreement among the Swedish academicians about who is deserving ...).
       Still, now is when it gets interesting: if they do announce next week, then they probably decided on the winning name at their meeting yesterday. So now there might actually be a winner to guess (until now speculation has been entirely hypothetical, with some foundation only in the possible shortlisted-authors (also unknown)) ... meaning also that there might be leaks and the like. Until now, any movement on the betting-boards -- more or less everyone's starting-point for speculation -- might at best have been due to shortlist speculation (as happened when Svetlana Alexievich first appeared on the betting-sheets a couple of years ago) -- but now movement will be even more closely scrutinized.

       Ah, yes, the unavoidable betting sheets: Ladbrokes' and Unibet's are the major players; enjoy at your own peril. (Peruse -- and bet -- with caution: many of the names are those of serious/actual contenders. but there's a lot of nonsense here too: Unibet gives you only 20/1 odds on Umberto Eco, and he is ineligible for the prize (on account of having died); they're also offering 33/1 odds on ridiculous bets such as Bob Dylan (okay, that's kind of an obligatory listing by now -- people like giving these shops their money by wagering on him) and E.L.James.)

       As always, a good/fun place to start: the discussion-boards -- those at The Fictional Woods and the World Literature Forum certainly take you through many of the possible candidates (though the discussions do occasionally get a bit sidetracked -- still, always worth keeping up with).

       Magazine/newspaper/website articles are appearing as well -- including:        In other possibly Nobel-related news: Syrian poet and perennial favorite Adonis just picked up the prix littéraire Prince Pierre de Monaco -- and the Swedish Academy might not like following in another prize's footsteps so soon ..... On the other hand: no one has ever heard of this prize, and maybe they didn't hear about it in Stockholm, so ......
       Meanwhile, the sometimes Nobel-predicting (Jelinek, Pinter) Franz Kafka Prize -- announced in the spring, but only handed over post-Nobel announcement -- has been notably low- (or even no-)key with its announcement of another perennial Nobel hopeful as this year's winner, Claudio Magris (this is about as much acknowledging as they've done) -- did they not want to spoil his chances ?

       More to come in the coming days.

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



       Literary prize: Русский Букер shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for one of the bigger Russian book awards, the 'Russian Booker' (no relation).
       Lizok's Bookshelf has an English run-down of the titles in the running, and at Год Литературы 2016 they report on the traffic-delayed announcement.

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



       Literary prize: (American) National Book Award finalists

       With the five fiction titles announced yesterday, they've now revealed all the finalists for this year's (American) National Book Awards.
       The winners will be announced on 16 November.
       Ladbrokes is not offering an over/under on whether or not I will get around to reviewing any one of these by then, but, hey, it's possible.

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



6 October 2016 - Thursday

'About the Author' - Elena Ferrante | Reading in ... Russia | Anton Wachterprijs

       'About the Author' - Elena Ferrante

       I mentioned and discussed (as, it seems, did everyone else ...) the 'unmasking' of Elena Ferrante a few days ago.
       Yesterday, I got my copy of the forthcoming (1 November) 'Ferrante'-collection Frantumaglia -- see the Europa Editions publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- and, for a moment, I thought they had hit on the absolute best 'About the Author'-page imaginable, given the circumstances (and generally):

About the Author - Frantumaglia

       Alas, it turned out that on the next page they have a short paragraph about 'Elena Ferrante' and the books she's published .....
       Too bad; this would have been perfect. (This is perfect. This is what all 'About the Author' pages should consist of, in their entirety.)

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



       Reading in ... Russia

       At Russia beyond the Headlines Marina Obrazkova looks at What do Russians read ?
       Unsurprisingly, prolific Darya Dontsova continues to sell phenomenally well -- though Boris Akunin, Tatyana Ustinova, Alexandra Marinina top the list of bestselling-authors.
       (Sorry, I couldn't find any of the original reports she refers to at the official sites .....)

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



       Anton Wachterprijs

       The winner of the tweejaarlijkse biennial Anton Wachterprijs, for best Dutch debut, has been announced -- and it's Onheilig, by Roos van Rijswijk; see, for example, the Querido publicity page.
       This is a rare foreign debut prize that has a solid English-language track record: previous winners include the translated Blue Mondays (Arnon Grunberg, 1994), The Story of My Baldness (Marek van der Jagt (i.e. Grunberg again ... yeah, he pulled a Romain Gary), 2000), Rupert: A Confession (Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer, 2002), and Bonita Avenue (Peter Buwalda, 2012).

       (Also: how can you not love a prize that is run by a 'Centraal Comité 1945' ?)

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



5 October 2016 - Wednesday

NBF Translation Study | Literary prizes: French long/shortlists - GGs shortlists
Literary fiction, not so improving after all ... | A Greater Music review

       NBF Translation Study

       The Three Percent translation databases are wonderful resources, and Literature across Frontiers has a solid UK/Ireland statistical report about translations-into-English, but both have their limitations and there's a lot more to look into. Now John Maher reports at Publishers Weekly that NBF to Conduct Translation Study -- and one hopes this will result in more useful and revealing data.
       The 'NBF' -- that's the (American) National Book Foundation (and, somewhat very troublingly, there seems to be no mention of this at the official site, the announcement/information instead only (?) appearing in trade publication Publishers Weekly ...).
       The ambitions sound good:
The study will count and analyze the number, and diversity, of translated works published in the United States, focusing on factors including the languages and countries from which the works originate and the characteristics of the publishers publishing them.
       I assume/hope they've consulted with Three Percent/Open Letter man Chad Post, who can no doubt tell them that this is not an easy undertaking ......
       It would certainly be worthwhile, however, so I hope they do it, and get it, right.

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



       Literary prizes: French long/shortlists

       Another batch of big French literary prize short/longlist announcements:

        - the prix Goncourt has announced its '2° sélection' (out of four -- they squeeze in an extra round)

        - the prix Renaudot has announced its shortlists, in its various categories (fiction and non)

        - the prix Femina has announced its shortlists in its three categories (fiction, non, and foreign)

       Interesting overlaps, but no dominant (French fiction) titles. And always interesting to see the foreign fiction that is considered possibly prize-worthy.

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



       Literary prize: GGs shortlists

       The shortlists for the (Canadian) Governor General's Literary Awards have been announced.
       The winners will be announced on 25 October.

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



       Literary fiction, not so improving after all ...

       'Scientific' studies purporting ... well, lots of things ... anything ... tend to be reported rather breathlessly (and pretty much uncritically) in the popular press and online (well, the latter is pretty much a given: everything gets 'reported' uncritically online ...). One reason I don't often report these is because, even where there is 'proof' ... well, it seems better to wait for more proof.
       So, for example, there was much reporting of a relatively recent study suggesting Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind. From which The New York Times extrapolated For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov ("'It's a really important result,' said Nicholas Humphrey, an evolutionary psychologist"), while in The Guardian they reported Reading literary fiction improves empathy, study finds.
       Of course, this is the kind of thing we like to believe, giving readers yet another excuse (to rub in others' faces ...) for why reading is such a wonderful thing !
       Alas, it seems: Failed replication shows literary fiction doesn't boost social cognition.
       ('Failed replication' is proving to be applicable to a worryingly large number of 'significant' findings, in many fields .....)

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



       A Greater Music review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Bae Suah's A Greater Music, just (about) out from Open Letter.

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



4 October 2016 - Tuesday

Nagroda Nike 2016 | Translations from the German, French, and Dutch

       Nagroda Nike 2016

       The Nike Literary Prize is the big Polish book prize, and they've announced that this year's award goes to Nakarmić kamień, by Bronka Nowicka; see also, for example, the Biuro Literackie publicity page.
       This is apparently her debut, so nothing of hers is available in English yet, but the Nike has a good track record -- though this year's finalists are all pretty unknown-to-the-US/UK.

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



       Translations from the German, French, and Dutch

       Some recent pieces with overviews of recent translations (and books-that-should-be-translated) of interest:

        - At Publishing Perspectives Riky Stock looks at 12 Books Translated from Dutch and Flemish to Know Before Frankfurt (since the Netherlands and Flanders are the 'guests of honour' at this year's book fair).
       Several of these are under review at the complete review -- and note also that several are ... not likely to be that readily available in the US, notably the (many) World Editions titles.

        - At the British Council Literature website The Dumb House-author John Burnside "makes the case for literature in translation and recommends contemporary literature in French and German that UK publishers have, so far, neglected", in Translating More, Translating Better.
       A pretty decent line-up -- and, besides lots of Echenoz, Kehlmann, and Glavinic books, there are even two (translated) Régis Jauffret titles under review at the site (Lacrimosa and Severe) -- though I'm not quite as enthusiastic as Burnside is.

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



3 October 2016 - Monday

Křesadlo's Άστροναυτιλíα | Elena Ferrante unmasked ?
Chika Unigwe Q & A | Blood Wedding review

       Křesadlo's Άστροναυτιλíα

       As I mentioned yesterday, I just reviewed Jan Křesadlo's GraveLarks -- central to which is an 'Ode to Stalin', written in ... Homeric Greek (see it here), which the author was apparently quite adept at.
       How adept ? Well, he wrote an entire novel-in-verse in it: Άστροναυτιλíα, published in a bilingual (classical Greek/Czech) edition. Not only is this, as the Wikipedia page explains, a 6575-verse poem, it is a: "postmodern science fiction story" !
       See an excerpt (with English translation, too) here (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       This is the most bizarre/amazing thing I've come across in quite a while -- yes, this makes Bottom's Dream look ... almost normal.
       Please, someone: publish a trilingual (i.e. with the English) edition of this ! Please !

       (Updated - 4 October): Apparently a German translation (of the Greek version) has been completed and is good to go -- and Jantar is intrigued by the possibility of a multilingual (including English) edition, so let's keep our fingers crossed .....

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



       Elena Ferrante unmasked ?

       'Elena Ferrante' is, famously, a pseudonym, but Claudio Gatti thinks he's identified who is behind it, and in a report co-published by Il Sole 24 Ore, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Mediapart, and The New York Review of Books' NYRDaily weblog (there as Elena Ferrante: An Answer ?) he makes a solid case. (It is a person that has frequently been mentioned as among the most likely candidates, and his evidence -- cleverly following the money -- is fairly convincing.)
       While this guessing-game has been going on for a long time, it's interesting to see the reactions to this story -- much of which (at least on my Twitter-feed) was of extreme outrage at this unmasking.
       I find it fascinating that ... anyone cares. It's hard to believe that anyone's reading or view of the works of 'Elena Ferrante' is in any way changed by attaching a different name or identity to it: the person Gatti names is no closer or more real to the vast, vast majority of readers than the previously pseudonymous 'Elena Ferrante' was. So what does this change or matter -- to readers ?
       (The only information I found of interest is that the author is a translator: this has nothing to do with how I read or see the Ferrante works, but is yet another example of a major foreign author who has also done significant work in translation -- a lesson I always think US/UK authors would do well to learn .....)
       What surprises me even more is the heated reactions and outrage being voiced -- one assumes on 'Ferrante''s behalf: she expressed a desire to remain essentially anonymous (well, to be known simply as the abstraction that was 'Elena Ferrante') and now someone has come and spoiled that by revealing the person behind that (fake) name. Many see this as a gross violation, and an invasion of privacy.
       I find it hard to get quite so worked up about this. 'Elena Ferrante' published her works; that makes her something of a public figure; surely she must have been aware, in taking that step, of what the public expects -- at the very least, that there would be curiosity about her identity, that people would try to learn who she 'really' is (surely a futile undertaking, regardless of the author, but a game readers nevertheless insist on playing).
       And while Gatti's poorly-expressed pseudo-justification for unmasking the author -- that: "by announcing that she would lie on occasion, Ferrante has in a way relinquished her right to disappear behind her books" -- doesn't seem very convincing (as expressed, anyway ...), I have to admit that I have long been bothered by the willingness of the author to essentially 'appear' in public, in the form of the many -- and often lengthy -- interviews 'Elena Ferrante' has given. It suggests 'Elena Ferrante' isn't merely a convenient label behind which an author wanted to protect their anonymity and privacy, but rather a construct, presented to the world to shape the writings attributed to her, and their reception. That, it seems to me, puts things in a considerably more complicated light -- not quite J.T. LeRoy territory, but certainly far beyond just the leave-me-alone-I-just-want-to-write-in-peace claim.
       I would respect 'Elena Ferrante''s privacy much more if the author had chosen to be entirely private as 'Elena Ferrante', i.e. if the books were all there was to her. But with the fake author identifying publicly -- in all those interviews and profiles -- as 'Elena Ferrante' ... that's more problematic.
       (Updated - 5 October): With the (generally outraged/indignant) reactions still flooding in, I can't help but add: much of the outrage seems to be not because 'Elena Ferrante''s anonymity has been violated, but because her identity has been essentially changed.
       At Slate Michelle Goldberg writes:
In the reaction to Ferranteís unmasking, we have a spontaneous, impassioned affirmation that the value of fiction is independent of the identity of its creator.
       But from what I can see, what people seem most upset about is that this revelation disturbs/upsets/shifts the image they had of 'Elena Ferrante'. Far from seeing only the work, they also created and are deeply invested in an image of the writer-behind-the-works -- and 'Elena Ferrante' was a wonderfully malleable (non-)identity they could shape to exactly what they wanted/needed. Hence the many reactions that are upset not so much for the unmasked author, but for themselves: the journalist has upset their image of the writer.
       Deborah Orr's piece in The Guardian is representative -- titled: The unmasking of Elena Ferrante has violated my right not to know.
       Orr claims:
But hereís the thing. I do not give a stuff who Ferrante "really" is. If I have a right to know, as Gatti argues, I donít wish to exercise it. Gatti, as far as Iím concerned, has violated my right not to know, while Ferrante protected it.
       That is a defensible position -- but what Orr seems to want to have protected is not 'Ferrante''s anonymity, but rather the image of 'Ferrante' she had built up for herself. As she tellingly puts it: "I daresay there are bigger fans of Ferrante than me. " -- a formulation that suggests that she admires/is more focused on 'Ferrante', the author, than the works. So too far from merely engaging with the works -- as one might expect from someone who cares just about the books -- Orr has even engaged directly with author, having interviewed her. Obviously she has always had some interest in the identity of the author -- even if that is on very different-than-usual terms (i.e. she was always willing to buy into however 'Elena Ferrante' wanted to present herself, rather than whatever the reality behind the name might be).
       I am a bit surprised that so many readers think 'Elena Ferrante' has in some way been spoiled by this revelation. Sure, one can argue that it is an outrageous invasion of privacy, and maybe it will cause the unmasked author some annoying inconvenience in Italy, but surely to English-speaking readers it makes about as much difference as knowing that 'Mark Twain' was actually someone named Samuel Clemens.
       Once can argue that knowing who 'Elena Ferrante' is changes how we read the books -- but only if you admit that the identity of the author matters. Maybe it does (though, as longtime readers know, my preference is for entirely ignoring authors, and authors' identity and image). But for those claiming what matters are the works themselves, regardless of how or by whom they were created -- sorry, I don't see how you can be bothered or affected in the slightest by this 'revelation', and I'm a bit confused why so many are so very bothered and upset about it.

       The other aspect I find fascinating about these reactions -- indignant and passionate and outraged, arguing that this was an unacceptable invasion of privacy -- is that they seem limited to this unusual case. As it happens, this weekend also saw another invasion of privacy: the release of a few pages of American presidential candidate Donald Trump's tax returns. No doubt, my Twitter feed, with its literary focus, tends towards the so-called liberal end of the American political spectrum, and there were dozens, if not hundreds of posts expressing disappointment and outrage at the release of the 'Elena Ferrante' information -- but not a one suggesting that Donald Trump had in any way been treated unfairly, despite the fact that this information was released without his permission and presumably entirely against his personal wishes.
       This seems problematic to me. While the release of personal tax return information is something we have come to expect from candidates for the US presidency, it is not legally required. Many apparently think we 'deserve' to see Trump's tax filings (while we don't deserve to know who 'Elena Ferrante' actually is), and it would certainly be useful information to have in assessing the candidate -- but surely the fact that the candidate is unwilling to reveal the information provides us with all the information we need (automatically disqualifying him, since he obviously has something/so much to hide -- but then this particular candidate has so much that one would think would automatically disqualify him from being seriously considered as a viable candidate ...).
       Trump is an enormously unsympathetic figure, and it's hard not to feel great Schadenfreude at this damning proof of what an incompetent businessman and free-loader he is (albeit with great admiration for the lawyers, advisers, and accountants who have nevertheless managed to keep him and his 'business' afloat) but surely there is no question that he has every right to keep this information to himself and that it is unacceptable that it be shared in this way. One can argue whether or not tax information should be private, but in the US (most of) it is, and, like personal medical information, is considered close to inviolate: not to be shared without the permission of the person in question.
       It seems to me both these cases should be considered for the principles involved, not the principals. Almost everyone seems terribly sympathetic to 'Elena Ferrante' while shrugging off the other case, as though Trump just got what he deserves. It shouldn't work that way.

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



       Chika Unigwe Q & A

       In the Premium Times Chiedu Ezeanah has a Q & A with Chika Unigwe: When Trepidation Hones the Imagination Into Literary Gems.
       Really sad to hear:
Have you ever thought about writing and publishing in Igbo ?

No. Apart from the very practical reason that there are no Igbo publishers making offers to me, it would be a pointless exercise. Who would I be writing for ? How many Igbo newspapers are there ? Go to any of our Igbo cities and tell me how many Igbo children you hear speaking Igbo.

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



       Blood Wedding review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pierre Lemaitre's Blood Wedding, just out in English.

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



2 October 2016 - Sunday

Kashmiri literature | Ivan Klíma Q & A | GraveLarks review

       Kashmiri literature

       In the Sunday Guardian Akshay Sharma considers Kashmiri literature and some of its great moments.
       A decent overview/introduction -- though of course it's disappointing to hear:
One area where Kashmiri literature has lagged behind, according to [Dr Gauri Shankar] Raina, is the genre of novels. He feels there are only around a dozen worthwhile novels that have been written in Kashmiri.

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



       Ivan Klíma Q & A

       At the Los Angeles Review of Books they have Defying Death in Absurdistan: An Interview with Ivan Klíma by Stephan Delbos.
       Klíma of course figures in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction, but only one of his works is under review at the complete review, the relatively minor essay Between Security and Insecurity; I read most of his work before I started the site.
       I was very much looking forward to his memoir My Crazy Century, but was devastated when I realized how much had been cut in translation.

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



       GraveLarks review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jan Křesadlo's GraveLarks, another impressive find from Czech-based Jantar Publishing. (The Czech original was published in 1984, by Josef Škvorecký's legendary Toronto-based Sixty Eight Publishers (see, for example, this overview).)

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



1 October 2016 - Saturday

Nobel Prize in Literature to be announced 13 October (?)
Books in translation in ... the UK | Literary prizes in ... Kenya

       Nobel Prize in Literature to be announced 13 October (?)

       In my first preview of this year's Nobel Prize in Literature I figured that the Swedish Academy was pretty likely to continue the trend of recent years, of announcing the winner in the same week as those in most of the other Nobels -- i.e. next week, when the Medicine prize will be announced Monday, the Physics prize Tuesday, the Chemistry prize Wednesday, and the Peace prize on Friday.
       I thought:
the chances are very good -- say, upward of 85 per cent -- that the winner will be announced on 6 October
       Normally, we would have had confirmation (or not) of that on Monday: the Swedish Academy traditionally announces that they will announce the winner (always revealed on a Thursday) on the Monday preceding the announcement; so, for example, last year they announced on 5 October that they would reveal the winner on 8 October.
       But this year they've done things differently: Swedish academician Per Wästberg (and, surprisingly, not permanent secretary Sara Danius, whom one would expect to make all Nobel-related announcements) has given an interview in which he has stated that the prize will be announced on the second possible date (it's always a Thursday in October -- but it can be any Thursday): 13 October. (Note that there is no press release at the Swedish Academy to that effect, and the official Nobel site still maintains: "Literature: The date will be set later"; presumably they didn't get the memo -- or are so shocked by this un-traditional way of spreading the word that they can't bring themselves to confirm it -- since it's unlikely that Wästberg went completely rogue and is just making things up.)
       Wästberg maintains it's business as usual, and the calendar just plays out this way -- "Det är en rent matematisk ritual".
       Let's be clear: that's bullshit. It's unclear what exactly is up, but this definitely isn't business as usual.
       Consider:
  • The last time the first Thursday in October fell on the 6th (and hence when the schedule should have been exactly the same as Wästberg lays out for this year ...) was as recently as 2011; the Swedish Academy had no difficulty -- mathematical or otherwise -- announcing on that day that Tomas Tranströmer was the Nobel laureate

  • The last time the Swedish Academy did not award the Nobel prize on 6 October when they could have (and when the other major Nobel prizes were announced in that week) was 2005 -- but on that occasion they saw no reason no announce any delays or anything: Monday 3 October came and went without them announcing-they-would-be-announcing on Thursday the 6th (so everyone knew we would have to wait at least another week); on Monday 10 October (and not a moment earlier) they announced that they would announce the winner on Thursday 13 October, as they then did

  • [Updated:] Most damning of all: in 2003 they had no problem announcing the winner all the way back on 2 October (!) -- actually announcing it the week before all the other Nobel's were announced (which is very unusual). On the other hand, Coetzee was probably an easy choice (i.e. there wasn't much need for much discussion).
       Clearly, they have not reached an agreement on this year's winner -- but one has to wonder why they didn't just let us all stew until Monday and then let us realize that for ourselves with their non-announcement. Odd, too, is Wästberg's certainty -- how can they be sure of reaching agreement next week ? (Indeed, I assume there's at least a low-level possibility -- say, 1 to 3 per cent -- that the announcement gets delayed another week, to 20 October. (And, hey, if they want or feel the need to, they're still doing their job if they only announce on the 27th.))
       The Swedish Academy has managed to be pretty hush-hush about this year's proceedings -- last year, for example, they at least revealed, very early on, how many authors were in the running -- so this is an odd sort of slip.
       I don't think there's much more of a takeaway here than that there isn't a clear frontrunner among the (presumably) four or five finalists they're considering. (The only alternative explanation I can think of is that they really didn't want the announcement to be so much earlier than the Frankfurt Book Fair which itself is being held considerably later than usual (19 to 23 October).)
       But more speculation/gossip time is always welcome .....

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



       Books in translation in ... the UK

       In The Guardian Paula Erizanu finds that Translated book sales are up, but Britain is still cut off from foreign literature.

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



       Literary prizes in ... Kenya

       They announced the winners of the Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize 2016 last week, and in the Daily Nation Joseph Ngunjiri suggests these Prizes a glimpse into sorry state of Kenyan literature.
       The problem ? The same authors keep winning, over and over. Not that they aren't deserving -- but are three-time winners Ng'ang'a Mbugua and John Habwe really such dominant figures ?
       (And even though they are the leading literary-prize-winners ... well, well-read as my audience is -- and with its large Kenyan contingent -- many of you are actually familiar with their work -- but, let's face it, not that many of you .....)
       Interesting that a lot of the blame is heaped on publishers, and a lack of a proper editing culture.

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



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