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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 February 2017

1 February: Latin American Literature Today | Whitbread Costa Book Award | Chad Post Q & A | Singularity Sky review
2 February: (Not bestselling) Hebrew literature in Israel | Bharati Mukherjee (1940-2017)
3 February: #BuySingLit | Yokoyama Hideo profile | Fever review
4 February: German translation subsidies | Bangkok City Library | Bookselling success
5 February: Translation in ... India | Alasdair Gray art | Human Rites review
6 February: A Tale of Four Dervishes enthusiasm | Dritëro Agolli (1931-2017) | The Last of the Empire review
7 February: PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants | (More) Murakami in Korean | The Executioner Weeps review
8 February: The world's most ridiculous library ? | Tzvetan Todorov (1939-2017) | Stella Prize longlist
9 February: Iran's Book of the Year Awards | Nocilla Experience review
10 February: Íslensku bókmenntaverðlaunin | Dylan Thomas Prize longlist

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10 February 2017 - Friday

Íslensku bókmenntaverðlaunin | Dylan Thomas Prize longlist

       Íslensku bókmenntaverðlaunin

       They handed out the 2016 Icelandic Literature Prizes on Wednesday, with The Greenhouse-author Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir winning the fiction prize, for Ör; see, for example, the Benedikt publicity page.
       See also the Félag íslenskra bókaútgefenda press release, which includes the other shortlisted titles, as well as Vala Hafstað's report in Icelandic Review, Icelandic Literary Awards Presented.
       The winners each receive ISK 1 million -- though that's only the equivalent of US$8,800.

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

       Dylan Thomas Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the 2017 International Dylan Thomas Prize, "Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under" (so maybe 'English-language' (rather than 'International') Dylan Thomas Prize would be more appropriate ...).
       The twelve-title strong longlist consists of: "six novels, four short story collections, and two volumes of poetry".
       None of the titles are under review at the complete review at this time.
       The shortlist will be announced "at the end of March", and the winner on 10 May.

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

9 February 2017 - Thursday

Iran's Book of the Year Awards | Nocilla Experience review

       Iran's Book of the Year Awards

       On the one hand: yay, translation ! on the other: you have to wonder about a report on a national literary award headlined: Turkish translation of Shahnameh wins Iran's Book of the Year Award, as the Tehran Times has it, slightly misleadingly, in covering one of the major Iranian literary awards (President Hassan Rouhani was there, so, yeah, it's a pretty big deal).
       There are, of course, many category winners, of which this translation was one -- it's not like it was the winner. But it's interesting to see how this is highlighted.
       And only way down the line do they mention what won novel of the year -- surely one of the major categories. And that does get two (short paragraphs); still, it certainly feels ... relegated, despite being (yet another ...) novel set "during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war" (they also usually have a more dramatic name for that conflict).
       But the novel-winner seems worth noting: the prize went to Mohammad Reza Bayrami, for his لم یزرع ('Barren'; see also the publisher's publicity page). Sound familiar ? It should: I mentioned it winning a prestigious Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Award just over a month ago, and that's a pretty impressive double. Maybe an author -- and book -- worth looking out for ?
       It's not like he's entirely unknown unpublished in English: Mazda have brought out two volumes, The Tales of Sabalan (see their publicity page, or get your copy at or and The Eagles of Hill 60 (see their publicity page, or get your copy at or And he's apparently represented by Gazelle International, if publishers are interested .....

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

       Nocilla Experience review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Agustín Fernández Mallo's Nocilla Experience, the second in his 'Nocilla'-trilogy, recently out in English from Fitzcarraldo Editions.

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

8 February 2017 - Wednesday

The world's most ridiculous library ?
Tzvetan Todorov (1939-2017) | Stella Prize longlist

       The world's most ridiculous library ?

       Книжная Капелла, newly opened in St. Petersburg, is certainly an ...impressive-looking private library, a cathedral (of some sorts) of books.
       It's also one that charges an entrance fee: 'Стоимость разового посещения — 7 000 рублей'. Yes, 7,000 rubles for a single (four-hour) visit -- that's almost US$120. Sure, cheaper than a visit to the local bordello, but right up there with a first-rate meal. (By comparison, an annual Апостола Книги-card is a bargain 230,000 rubles -- not even US$4,000.)
       There are corporate packages available too !
       Yes, it's run by a publishing house (Альфарет), for whom it's apparently also a showroom (they specialize in: "reprints and facsimiles of Russian and international masterpieces"), but still, you have to wonder about the business model here.
       (While it's kind of fun to imagine they mean and do all this for the love of books -- and believe that there are actually readers out there willing (and able ...) to pay for the privilege --, I'm afraid there's a distinct whiff of something rather different to this set-up.)
       See also Alexandra Guzeva's report at RBTH, 5 million for a book: Russia's most expensive library opens in Petersburg.

       (Updated - 15 February): The Guardian now has a look, too, as Paula Erizanu reports The most expensive library in the world ? Book Capella opens for Russian elite (though I don't know why they don't translate 'Капелла' as 'chapel').

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

       Tzvetan Todorov (1939-2017)

       Tzvetan Todorov has passed away; see, for example, Sewell Chan's obituary in The New York Times.
       None of his work is under review at the complete review yet, but The Conquest of America (get your copy at certainly impressed me, back in the day. And maybe The Inner Enemies of Democracy is something to look at now ? (See the Polity publicity page, or get your copy at or
       For a time he was also half of one of the more impressive literary/intellectual power-couples, married to novelist Nancy Huston (Fault Lines, etc.).

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

       Stella Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the 2017 Stella Prize -- the A$50,000 "literary award that celebrates Australian women's writing".
       I haven't seen any of these, and most don't seem to have been published in the US yet; one hopes this will help bring them to the attention of publishers (and readers) abroad as well.
       The shortlist will be announced 8 March, the winner on 18 April.

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

7 February 2017 - Tuesday

PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants | (More) Murakami in Korean
The Executioner Weeps review

       PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants

       They've announced the 2017 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants -- for 15 projects, in 13 different languages, each one subsidized to the tune of US$3,870.
       Quite a few of these don't have publishers yet, but one hopes this will help a few more find their way into print -- certainly some interesting-sounding stuff.
       Among the works of greatest interest to me: Ithaca Forever by Luigi Malerba (tr. Douglas Grant Heise), There's a Carnival Today by Indra Bahadur Rai (tr. Manjushree Thapa), and Felix Austria by Sophia Andrukhovych (tr. Vitaly Chernetsky) -- which I told you more than a year ago: "looks like the sort of thing that might eventually get translated into English"; see also the book's official site.

       Recall also that this fund was founded by Michael Henry Heim and Priscilla Heim -- and that you can read more about the translator in the very nice (and under-appreciated) Open Letter volume on Michael Henry Heim & A Life in Translation: The Man Between.

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

       (More) Murakami in Korean

       An interesting piece by Colin Marshall at the Los Angeles Review of Books' BLARB weblog, noting that Haruki Murakami Has More Books Out In Korean Than He Ever Will In English.
       The main reason for the disparity ?
"Murakami Industries" (...) has always had an interest in cultivating and protecting his reputation in the West as carefully as possible. This has meant a consistent presentation as a capital-N Novelist, which has meant a de-emphasis, not to say suppression, of the less literary side of his work: travel books about countries like Greece, Turkey, Australia, Laos, Scotland, and Ireland (those last two toured specifically to pursue his interest in whisky), anthology after anthology of columns on various everyday subjects, and a collection of his recollections from the 1980s
       And all that jazz.
       Kind of disappointing -- as is the constant cutting of his work in English translation (most egregiously in one of the few translated non-fiction works, Underground) -- but not entirely surprising. Maybe eventually .....

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

       The Executioner Weeps review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of another dark Frédéric Dard novel, The Executioner Weeps, forthcoming from Pushkin Press (and bless them for bringing these Dards out at a steady clip !).

       One of the recent French re-issues of this had one of the worst cover-images I've ever come across -- though it touches on some of what's in the novel (tears; a violin -- though not one that gets played with a knife ...):

Terrible Dard cover

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

6 February 2017 - Monday

A Tale of Four Dervishes enthusiasm | Dritëro Agolli (1931-2017)
The Last of the Empire review

       A Tale of Four Dervishes enthusiasm

       There's an IANS report (here at the Business Standard) about The fairytale that launched India's literary renaissance -- Mir Amman's classic that is actually also available as a Penguin Classic (and that I reviewed) as A Tale of Four Dervishes. Well worth a look, indeed.

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

       Dritëro Agolli (1931-2017)

       Albanian author Dritëro Agolli has passed away; see, for example, the Xinhua report at the Global Times (yeah, English-language coverage has been ... limited).

       For those of you wondering how darn complete my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction (get your copy at or actually is: it's so complete that Dritëro Agolli got a mention ! (Now if only his work were easier to find/in print in English .....)
       Meanwhile, keep yourself entertained with 50 fakte nga jeta e Dritëro Agollit.

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

       The Last of the Empire review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Senegalese Novel by Sembene Ousmane, The Last of the Empire.

       I can see that this is a book of (and past) its time, but I'm still surprised by how unmentioned/discussed it goes; if I was surprised yesterday at how many reviews I found for Amélie Nothomb's play, Human Rites, I was disappointed by how little I found for this. Come on people -- it was Sembene Ousmane ! Or do folks only care about his movies ? (Or was it too topically-hot, and too obvious in its attack on a (then still-)living legend ?)
       (Of course that cover didn't help; I like simple covers, but .....)

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

5 February 2017 - Sunday

Translation in ... India | Alasdair Gray art | Human Rites review

       Translation in ... India

       In the Sunday Guardian Nirmala Govindarajan writes about Speaking in tongues: Literary translation as a work of art.
       Something I haven't heard much discussions of is:
"One bit that needs more exploring," adds writer, columnist, translator and head of Amnesty International India, Aakar Patel, "is the publishing of Indian languages in the Roman script.
       I'm not so sure about this, but I suppose there are some obvious advantages.

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

       Alasdair Gray art

       The great Alasdair Gray is featured in the Winter 2016 issue of The Paris Review, with a (not yet fully freely available) 'The Art of Fiction ' Q & A, and at The Paris Review's the Daily Caitlin Love also offers a brief look -- with examples ! -- at his paintings, in Drawing and Imagining -- always worth a look.

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

       Human Rites review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Amélie Nothomb's play, Human Rites.

       That's the twentieth Nothomb title under review at the complete review, as I am getting close to plugging the (older) backlist holes (Attentat next !). It's also one with surprisingly many English-language reviews -- albeit for the stage-production, rather than the print version.

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

4 February 2017 - Saturday

German translation subsidies | Bangkok City Library | Bookselling success

       German translation subsidies

       Always interesting to see what foreign literature is subsidized elsewhere, and in Germany Litprom -- supporting African, Asian, Latin American, and Arabic literature -- have announced their most recent subsidies -- though it's a poor show of a press release, tucked away at the official site. Boersenblatt has the same (limited) news: Zuschüsse für zehn Titel -- subsidies for ten translations.
       No titles are mentioned, so it's not clear what the subsidized titles are, but the authors are noted (because apparently it matters who wrote it, rather than what they wrote ...), and three Syrian works are being subsidized, along with an Alejandro Zambra story-collection, a 'rediscovered' Samuel Selvon novel, and novels by Meja Mwangi (nice !), Mia Couto, and 'an Indian novel' by Karan Mahajan.
       A decent spread of titles.

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

       Bangkok City Library

       The Bangkok City Library (no official site ?) is, amazingly, apparently opening early, the big project due to be finished two months early and opening next month; see Supoj Wancharoen's Bangkok Post report, Ambitious library to carry capital's literary ambitions.
       Sounds/looks promising ("The library could potentially be kept open 24 hours a day if there is enough demand for it" !).
       At least for the most part - I'm not sure about some of the priorities ...:
Entering the first floor, visitors will be greeted with a large portrait of the late King. There are sculptures containing Rama IX's remarks about the importance of reading and curiosity in pursuit of knowledge.

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

       Bookselling success

       In The Guardian Claire Armitstead looks at Balancing the books: how Waterstones came back from the dead, describing how the chain changed its fortunes.
       No surprise that thinking -- and empowering -- local seems to have been a major factor.

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

3 February 2017 - Friday

#BuySingLit | Yokoyama Hideo profile | Fever review


       As, for example, Olivia Ho reports in the Straits Times, there's a New movement to get Singaporeans to buy local books -- a campaign that: "will feature a weekend of islandwide literary activities" from 24 to 26 February, #BuySingLit.
       I'm not really sure why they need/use the 'hashtag' abbreviation, but this effort to get readers to 'Buy Local, Read Our World' seems like a decent idea.

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

       Yokoyama Hideo profile

       Yokoyama Hideo's Six Four, already out in the UK, is due out in the US next week, and in The New York Times Motoko Rich profiles the author, in A Japanese Crime Thriller in Which Crime Is the Least of It.
       Among the titbits of interest: Farrar, Straus and Giroux: "is planning an initial print run of 11,000 hardcover copies" (hey ! that sounds almost ... believable !).
       And for those who think writing is an easy life:
He rented a 110-square-foot studio apartment and wrote for more than 20 hours a day, imbibing energy drinks to keep awake and popping sleeping pills when he needed to nap. "I just stayed in that apartment, writing on three hours of sleep a night," he said. "It was a big science experiment." [...] The punishing schedule caught up with him, and in 2003, Mr. Yokoyama had a heart attack. As he gradually recovered and returned to writing, he could not even remember Mikami's name. But long bouts tending his garden helped refresh him, and three years later, he finished the novel.
       Ah, yes, those helpful garden-tending bouts !

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

       Fever review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Samaresh Basu's Fever.

       The English translation of this 1977 novel came out in India in 2011, but Seagull Books have now brought out a US/UK edition.

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

2 February 2017 - Thursday

(Not bestselling) Hebrew literature in Israel | Bharati Mukherjee (1940-2017)

       (Not bestselling) Hebrew literature in Israel

       In the Forward Aviya Kushner explains Why Israel's Bestseller List Is a Threat to Hebrew Literature, arguing:
Books in translation increasingly dominate Israel's best-seller list, and some see a serious threat to Hebrew-language writers in the trend.
       Books in translation dominating US/UK bestseller lists is hard to imagine -- it's a story if/when any break into the top ten -- but in many countries translations do often dominate them. With only one out of this week's top ten fiction titles an originally-written-in-Hebrew title, one can see that they might be concerned locally -- though I'm not sure one can go so far as to say:
But the very survival of Israeli literature and the Hebrew language itself, is under threat if Israeli book buyers do not buy Hebrew books written in Hebrew, a category known in Israel as sifrut makor, and instead flock to international titles.
       (Well, obviously book buyers have to buy some -- but do they have to be the most popular (i.e. make the bestseller lists) ?)
       Good to hear that they'll be exploring this more closely in the coming weeks:
In coming months, The Forward will speak to players in Israel's literary scene for ideas on how both Israeli and diaspora readers can support the continued vibrancy of Hebrew literature at this critical moment, in Israel and abroad.
       (Ironically, of course, translations-from-Hebrew -- at least into the major European languages -- remain very popular; I suspect that, on a per capita basis, Hebrew is second only to Icelandic as far as translations into English go.)

       See also the index of Israeli and Hebrew literature under review at the complete review.

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

       Bharati Mukherjee (1940-2017)

       Indian-American author Bharati Mukherjee has passed away; see, for example, the obituary by William Grimes in The New York Times.
       Her The Middleman won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction; see the Grove Press publicity page, or get your copy at

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

1 February 2017 - Wednesday

Latin American Literature Today | Whitbread Costa Book Award
Chad Post Q & A | Singularity Sky review

       Latin American Literature Today

       World Literature Today has announced that they've launched a: "fully bilingual, quarterly online publication", Latin American Literature Today, and the first issue looks great: check it out in either the English or Spanish version.
       (And wouldn't it be cool if they kept launching other local Literature Todays ... ?)

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

       Whitbread Costa Book Award

       They announced the category winners a couple of weeks ago, and now they've announced the overall winner, the Whitbread Costa Book of the Year -- and it goes to Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, which had been the 'Novel'-category winner; see also the official press release (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) .
       The win is well-timed for the US release of the book -- last week. See also the Faber publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Chad Post Q & A

       With Three Percent closing in on its tenth anniversary (this is the oldest post I could dig up, dated 14 June 2007, at the not easily reconstructable archives ...) Maria Eliades offers The Three Percent 10 Years Later: An Interview with Chad Post at the Ploughshares weblog, where he discusses this vital institution along with the affiliated (and very useful) Translation Database and Open Letter Books.

       (See also the Open Letter books under review at the complete review.)

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

       Singularity Sky review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Charles Stross' Singularity Sky.

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

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