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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review


The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 March 2017

1 March: Royal Society of Literature opinion poll | Prix de la page 112 shortlist | Brechtian comics ? | The last 100 reviews
2 March: Nicholas Mosley (1923-2017) | Windham-Campbell Prizes | Festival Neue Literatur | The Certificate review
3 March: Litprom 'Weltempfänger' recommendations | Rewriting the classics in ... India
4 March: Paula Fox (1923-2017) | The Kingdom review
5 March: Raspail's The Camp of the Saints | Eliot Weinberger profile
6 March: Literature in ... Nigeria | The Shanghai Intrigue review
7 March: Salim Barakat (not) in English | RBC Taylor Prize | Elizabeth Kostova Q & A
8 March: Women's prize long- and shortlists | Aslı Erdoğan profile | The Nakano Thrift Shop review
9 March: Science fiction in ... Arabic | You Should Have Left review
10 March: Nordic Council Literature Prize finalists | Frédéric Dard | Dragomán György profile

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10 March 2017 - Friday

Nordic Council Literature Prize finalists | Frédéric Dard
Dragomán György profile

       Nordic Council Literature Prize finalists

       I missed this a couple of weeks ago, but they've announced the Nominations for the Nordic Council Literature Prize 2017, the twelve finalists for the most prestigious prize for Scandinavian literature. (A surprising number of winners of this prize are under review at the complete review.)
       The larger countries each have two books -- one fiction, one poetry -- in the pot, with individual titles from some of the outliers (Faroe Islands; Åland) as well.
       Not many very familiar names -- but you might recognize Oneiron, by Laura Lindstedt; I mentioned this when it won the Finlandia Prize in 2015 -- and it's good to hear that in the meantime Oneworld has acquired World English rights (but no word yet on a publication date). See also the Elina Ahlback Literary Agency information page, or the Teos publicity page.

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



       Frédéric Dard

       Nice to see some Frédéric Dard-coverage at the Literary Hub -- though how I wish they wouldn't use that awful, awful headline, The Greatest French Crime Writer You've Never Heard Of, for the Paul French article. (I understand that my having heard of a writer doesn't qualify as the general standard, but there are degrees of obscurity and by any measure Dard's isn't ... well, unheard of, even in the English-speaking world, even before the latest translations started coming out.)
       The first four of Pushkin Press' Dard-titles are under review at the complete review -- and I look forward to seeing more:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Dragomán György profile

       At hlo Owen Good offers György Dragomán - a portrait, as the Hungarian author is enjoying considerable success -- with the film version of his novel, The White King recently released, and The Bone Fire due out in English ... well, in a year (but you can already pre-order it at Amazon.com).
       Among the interesting titbits: "Dragomán wrote his PhD on Samuel Beckett".

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



9 March 2017 - Thursday

Science fiction in ... Arabic | You Should Have Left review

       Science fiction in ... Arabic

       In The National Hala Khalaf reports on Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Towfik on the dissemination of Arabic science fiction, as the Utopia-author argues that:
We have the imagination as a reader, but it's just not yet developed enough to embrace science fiction and fantasy, or a plot that is weighted in gloom and horror.
       He does also argue that it is a generational thing -- "The older generation is too concerned with their own problems" -- and assumes that tastes (and understanding) will shift.

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



       You Should Have Left review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Daniel Kehlmann's slim horror novel, You Should Have Left -- due out in English in June.

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



8 March 2017 - Wednesday

Women's prize long- and shortlists | Aslı Erdoğan profile
The Nakano Thrift Shop review

       Women's prize long- and shortlists

       Today is International Women's Day, so, appropriately enough two literary prizes open only to female authors have announced their long/shortlists: in Australia, the Stella Prize has announced its six-title shortlist (the winner to be revealed on on 18 April), while the UK-based Women's Prize for Fiction that was formerly known as the Orange Prize has announced its sixteen-title-strong longlist (the winner to be revealed on 7 June).

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



       Aslı Erdoğan profile

       The City in Crimson Cloak-author Aslı Erdoğan, one of the many Turkish intellectuals targeted under the other Erdoğan's ongoing crackdown, was profiled in The New York Times by Tim Arango, in Torn Ballet Shoes, and a Life Upended.

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



       The Nakano Thrift Shop review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kawakami Hiromi's The Nakano Thrift Shop.

       This came out in the UK last fall, from Portobello Books, but is only due out in the US (from Europa Editions) in June.

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



7 March 2017 - Tuesday

Salim Barakat (not) in English | RBC Taylor Prize | Elizabeth Kostova Q & A

       Salim Barakat (not) in English

       A few months ago Arabic Literature (in English) interviewed Swedish translator Jonathan Morén about How Is It Possible Salim Barakat's Books Haven't Been Translated Into English ? and now Mahmoud Hosny follows up at Qantara.de, explaining What English is missing in not making any complete Barakat works accessible to English-speaking readers.
       With forty-six works, including twenty-one collections of poetry and twenty-two novels, it's not like there isn't enough to choose from. And it's not like he hasn't been translated into other languages.
       And, if you need more convincing, Hosny quotes at length from the enthusiastic introduction the great Juan Goytisolo wrote for the Spanish translation of one of his works.

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



       RBC Taylor Prize

       They've announced that this year's C$25,000 RBC Taylor Prize -- with a mandate to: "enhance public appreciation for the genre known as literary non-fiction" -- goes to Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies
       See the Bloomsbury publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

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



       Elizabeth Kostova Q & A

       The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation has been instrumental in, among other things, facilitating the translation of contemporary Bulgarian fiction into English (since US/UK publishers essentially need to be bribed -- what they call: 'subsidized' -- to publish most books in translation ...), and at Words without Borders' Daily weblog Jessie Chaffee has An Interview with Elizabeth Kostova.

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



6 March 2017 - Monday

Literature in ... Nigeria | The Shanghai Intrigue review

       Literature in ... Nigeria

       In The Guardian (Nigeria) J.O.J. Nwachukwu-Agbada offers part one of his overview of Nigerian written literature since 1914.
       Among his observations: "Literature in indigenous languages is a literary afflatus that is hardly given attention" -- so good to see some discussion of it here.

       (Updated - 13 March): See now also Nigerian written literature since 1914 -- Part 2 for the rest of the story.

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



       The Shanghai Intrigue review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Michael S. Koyama's financial thriller, The Shanghai Intrigue.
       This is an unusual fit for the otherwise translation-focused Seagull Books, which is one of the reasons why I was curious about it. Also interesting: the author was an academic, specializing in economics, so I was curious as to the professional/academic insight that might be on offer (broad strokes, but simplified for the masses, I'm afraid ...).
       Sadly, co-author (with his wife, Susan Hanley) Kozo Yamamura -- the Ko-Yama behind the pseudonym -- passed away just a few weeks ago; see the Henry M. Jackson School's obituary.

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



5 March 2017 - Sunday

Raspail's The Camp of the Saints | Eliot Weinberger profile

       Raspail's The Camp of the Saints

       I reviewed Jean Raspail's The Camp of the Saints a couple of years ago and, to my relief, there hasn't been much audience-interest in the review or the book from visitors to the site: it's never a good sign when this book -- graded a rare, lowly 'D' -- gets much attention.
       Alas, in the bizarro world of the current American administration ... well, as Paul Blumenthal and J.M.Rieger explain in The Huffington Post (yeah, sorry ... hate linking there, but occasionally one makes exceptions ...) This Stunningly Racist French Novel Is How Steve Bannon Explains The World.
       Yeah, not a good thing.

       The copyright-sequence on the copyright page of my edition of the book pretty much sums it up too:

Raspail copyright page


       As great a value as I ascribe to literature, there's little I fear more than those who blindly follow the book ... any book (the Bible, Plato, Marx, Ayn Rand, etc. etc. etc.). Of course, this is very far away from what could even be considered 'literature' in the first place .....

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



       Eliot Weinberger profile

       Ratik Asokan goes about: 'Unwrapping the renegade erudition of Eliot Weinberger, essayist and literary editor of the Murty Classical Library' in a profile in The Hindu.
       Among the titbits:
He has published nine essay collections in the past three decades, but till date has received only three reviews in major American newspapers. On the international literary circuit, by contrast, hes something of a celebrity.
       (I'm pleased to note that there are seven Weinberger titles under review at the complete review, most recently 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei.)
       And I hadn't realized he was a Murty-man -- "the closest thing to a day-job that he's ever had".

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



4 March 2017 - Saturday

Paula Fox (1923-2017) | The Kingdom review

       Paula Fox (1923-2017)

       American author Paula Fox has passed away; see, for example, Margalit Fox's obituary in The New York Times.
       She wrote both adult and children's fiction; see also her Q & A at The Paris Review. She is perhaps best known for the also filmed Desperate Characters; see the W.W.Norton publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       The Kingdom review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Emmanuel Carrère's just-coming-out-in-English The Kingdom.

       Helpfully, there's a big profile in this weekend's The New York Times Magazine, by Wyatt Mason, How Emmanuel Carrère Reinvented Nonfiction.

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



3 March 2017 - Friday

Litprom 'Weltempfänger' recommendations | Rewriting the classics in ... India

       Litprom 'Weltempfänger' recommendations

       Litprom -- the German: 'Society for the Promotion of African, Asian and Latin American Literature' -- regularly recommend translations (into German), and they've now come out with their 34th such Weltempfänger-list (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       A new translation of Sōseki's Kokoro tops the list, and a complete translation of the classic Journey to the West is third; even a James McClure slips in, at number six.

       Meanwhile, this month's SWR Bestenliste, where German literary critics are polled as to the top new books also offers quite a few in translation -- though not from the same areas of the world ..... Still, some good stuff -- including Zbigniew Herbert's collected poems.

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



       Rewriting the classics in ... India

       In 'Once, we accepted the right to question mythology. Now, we are intolerant': Telugu writer Volga Malini Nair reports at Scroll.in how: 'Threatened for rewriting one of the narratives of the 'Ramayana', Volga details the rise of intolerance against a feminist perspective in literature'.
       As Volga notes, the times are a'changing, her experiences suggesting: "It is obvious that intolerance has been growing over the past few years".
       Her The Liberation of Sita recently came out in translation; see the HarperCollins India publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



2 March 2017 - Thursday

Nicholas Mosley (1923-2017) | Windham-Campbell Prizes
Festival Neue Literatur | The Certificate review

       Nicholas Mosley (1923-2017)

       British author Nicholas Mosley has passed away; see, for example, Ion Trewin's obituary in The Guardian.
       Dalkey Archive Press have admirably published a huge amount of his work -- see also publisher John O'Brien's official statement on the author's passing -- and I have piles of his work, which I do hope/plan to get to; he's an always-intriguing author.
       Four of his titles are under review at the complete review:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Windham-Campbell Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's Windham-Campbell Prizes -- each getting $165,000 'to support their writing'.
       The only winner with a work under review at the complete review is Fifteen Dogs-author André Alexis (whose The Hidden Keys I should be getting to soon, too).

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



       Festival Neue Literatur

       They're holding this year's Festival Neue Literatur -- "the first and only festival to spotlight German-language and American fiction" -- this weekend.
       The theme is 'Queer as Volk' (yes, with lots of fun German-English wordplay: 'Queerdenken' is my favorite ...), and the impressive line-up includes Tupolew 134-author Antje Rávic Strubel and The Story of My Teeth-author Valeria Luiselli.
       To whet your appetite, see also:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       The Certificate review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer's The Certificate.

       This is, somewhat surprisingly, the first work translated from the Yiddish under review at the complete review.

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



1 March 2017 - Wednesday

Royal Society of Literature opinion poll | Prix de la page 112 shortlist
Brechtian comics ? | The last 100 reviews

       Royal Society of Literature opinion poll

       The (UK) Royal Society of Literature commissioned 'an Ipsos MORI poll of public opinion' which is now available online, Literature in Britain today (warning ! dreaded pdf format ! because god forbid you would actually want to make it readily accessible to interested readers).
       The poll is based on: "a nationally representative sample of 1,998 adults aged 15+ in Great Britain (excluding Northern Ireland)"
       Among the titbits on offer
  • 26 per cent of respondents had 'read' a 'Cookery book' in the past six months -- second behind only 'Novel' in the books category -- and 23 per cent of respondents considered 'Cookery books' a: 'Type of reading material considered to be literature' .....

  • The 'Top 20 named writers of literature' included J.K.Rowling (number 3), Stephen King (6), Dan Brown (!) (11), and Danielle Steel (18). (So, yes, we're talking a very, very loose interpretation of the concept of 'literary'. Bring on the cookbooks ......)
       And my favorite 'Key finding' is that:
Over half (56%) of people who do not currently read literature would definitely or probably like to read it in the future
       Sigh.

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



       Prix de la page 112 shortlist

       The prix de la page 112 -- which is pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be -- has announced its 2017 shortlist (which is kind of a long list ...).
       Kind of silly ? Maybe -- but it makes me aware of Gaspard Delanoë's Autoportrait (remake) -- see the Plein Jour publicity page -- , which apparently does for/with Édouard Levé's Autoportrait what Georges Perec's I Remember did to Joe Brainard's classic, and what more could you ask for ?

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



       Brechtian comics ?

       At the TLS weblog Logicomix-author Apostolos Doxiadis has a go at explaining What comic books have in common with Brecht.
       Unsurprisingly, Brecht only finds mention in the concluding two paragraphs (but, hey, good company in conclusion: "What Brecht and Godard were striving to do in theatre and film finds its natural home in comics") -- but, yes, Doxiadis offers some decent insights. And yet .....
       Sure, there's some neat compression-capabilities -- he offers an example that: "combines fact, narrative, symbol and irony in a way that would need hundreds of words of text and be all but impossible in film" -- but isn't that the panel-exception ?
       Yeah, sorry, I'm (still) not won over. I do try to occasionally review this cartoon stuff, but, as I recently mentioned in my review of Peter Mendelsund's What We See When We Read, the graphic version appears to me, inevitably, as a diminishment compared to pure text.
       Pure text ! That's where the magic is.

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



       The last 100 reviews

       There are now 3900 books under review at the complete review, so it's time for another overview of the past 100 reviewed titles.

       - The last 100 reviews were posted over 169 days, totaling 98,458 words (a lot more words in considerably less time than the last 100, which took 188 days but only added up to 89,425 review-words).
       The reviewed books had a total of 25,034 pages (previous hundred: 24,570 ), with eighteen over 400 pages long (previous hundred: fourteen), but the longest only 869 pages. The trend of short books in translation continues, with eight reviewed titles under 100 pages.

       - Reviewed books were originally written in 28 different languages (including English; previous hundred: 30), with English tying with French as top language, with 19 titles apiece, followed by Spanish (14) and Japanese (8). The only new language was Turkmen. (See also the updated full breakdown of all the languages books under review were originally written in.)

       - Reviewed books were by authors from 38 countries (and one unattributable one; previous 100: 40), led by France (13), Japan and Spain (9 each), and the US coming in fourth, with 8.

       - Male-written books were yet again shamefully dominant -- 82.5 of the reviewed books were written by men (which was nevertheless sufficient to 'improve' the horribly sexist average of written-by-women titles under review ever so slightly, up to ... 15.67 per cent).

       - There were quite a few very good books in the mix: four books received a grade of 'A' (compared to none in the previous hundred), though almost half (49) were straight-out 'B's Two books were rated 'C'.

       - Fiction dominated, as usual, but the 76 reviewed novels were considerably fewer than the previous 86 (although there were also three story-collections and a novella). One play, one screenplay, one poetry collection -- only general non-fiction (8) and biographies (5) managed significant increases.

       - Somewhat disappointingly, the classics coverage was limited: the twentieth century was fairly well covered, and there were three titles from the 1890s -- but only two from earlier than that.

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



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