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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review


The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 April 2017

1 April: Global Humanities Translation Prize | Prix Le Point du Polar européen | Swedish Academy go all in, fan-girl/boy-wise
2 April: Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933-2017) | Nobel handover (?) | Murakami review
3 April: Üç Tutku Kitap Kahve Çikolata Festivali | Radiant Terminus review
4 April: Publishing in ... Nigeria | Shortlists: Wolfson History Prize - Womenís Prize for Fiction | Learn 'How to get the Nobel Prize in Literature' at Duke
5 April: German Book Prize submission numbers | Turkish Delight review | Eighteen years
6 April: New translation of The Conference of the Birds | A Long Saturday review
7 April: Folio Prize shortlist | Chad Post Q & A | Morocco at the Paris Book Fair
8 April: Poetry in ... South Korea | Guggenheim Fellowships
9 April: Magnesia Litera 2017 | Endgame review
10 April: 'Cómo develar los misterios de la ficción' | The Disappearance of Signora Giulia review

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10 April 2017 - Monday

'Cómo develar los misterios de la ficción'
The Disappearance of Signora Giulia review

       'Cómo develar los misterios de la ficción'

       In La Nacion Andrés Hax considers Cómo develar los misterios de la ficción, looking at some ways of looking at the world of (world) fiction, comparing a recent translation of James Wood's How Fiction Works and ... yours truly's The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction (out almost exactly a year now ! you've got your copy, right ? (if not: Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, etc.) and the larger complete review-project.

       (I particularly enjoy being pitted against Wood: while I do always find his criticism of some interest, by and large I also find it baffling; there's little to it that corresponds to my reading, or ways of reading. Predictably, the only Wood book under review at the complete review is his novel-attempt, The Book Against God.)

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



       The Disappearance of Signora Giulia review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Piero Chiara's The Disappearance of Signora Giulia, one of the earlier Pushkin Vertigo volumes that I've just caught up with.

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



9 April 2017 - Sunday

Magnesia Litera 2017 | Endgame review

       Magnesia Litera 2017

       The winners of the big Czech literary prize(s), the Magnesia Litera, were announced a few days ago, with the novel Jezero, by Bianca Bellová, winning book of the year; see also the information page at Czech Lit, or the (Czech) Host publicity page. It is cheerfully described in the Prague Daily Monitor report as: "a post-apocalyptic parable of environmental destruction followed by the destruction of human relations and individual souls", so that sounds fun.
       In fact, all the winners sound real ... upbeat: 'best Czech prose of the year' went to a novel about: "immigrants who come Europe to seek a better life and lose their illusions", the journalism category was won by a book: "focused on everyday life in the district of the Brno city called Bronx, inhabited by Romanies and poor people in general", while 'the prize for the discovery of the year' went to an autor: "presenting his own experience from hospitals and hospices and from his conversations with the dying and their close relatives".
       Still, the prize seems to be very successful: in a preview article at Radio Praha David Vaughan has a Q & A with 'Magnesia Litera's media-savvy founder, Pavel Mandys', about Milking the Magnesia Litera Awards to the Maximum.

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



       Endgame review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Turkish author Ahmet Altan's novel, Endgame.

       An English translation came out from Canongate in the UK in 2015, and now Europa Editions are having a go at it with a new US edition.

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



8 April 2017 - Saturday

Poetry in ... South Korea | Guggenheim Fellowships

       Poetry in ... South Korea

       In The Korea Herald Joel Lee talks with Literature Translation Institute of Korea-president Kim Seong-kon about their push to get South Korean poetry better known abroad, in 'Korean poems delight global sense and sensibility' -- as also the current issue of Modern Poetry in Translation, The Blue Vein, "focuses on a new wave of Korean poetry".
       Among the (depressing) observations:
One of the key challenges in promoting Korean culture is that the country lacks distinct icons relative to China and Japan, the scholar said. He added such absence renders it difficult for those abroad to differentiate Korea from China and Japan.
       If that's what they're debating ... oh, my.

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



       Guggenheim Fellowships

       They've announced the most recent batch of Guggenheim Fellowships -- 173, "chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants".
       You can find the full list of current fellows here -- and you can click through their names to more information about them and their projects.
       Perhaps of interest: nobody got nothing for translation (same last year, though there were two each in 2015 and 2014), and there are more photography fellowships (or, for example, music composition ones) than fiction ones. Make of that what you will.

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



7 April 2017 - Friday

Folio Prize shortlist | Chad Post Q & A | Morocco at the Paris Book Fair

       Folio Prize shortlist

       The Folio Prize apparently has a new sponsor -- apparently a ... frugal one, as its prize has been halved (to £20,000) -- and a still very much in-the-works website (while Booker-like half-clinging onto the name of its previous sponsor (honestly, these UK prizes and their sponsorship nonsense make my head spin; that's at least one area where the Americans (Pulitzers, National Book Awards, NBCC Awards) are way ahead of them)) and they have now announced their shortlist.
       The prize is for an English language book, "regardless of form" -- i.e. they actually consider non along with fiction ... -- with 'Folio Academy' members selecting the titles for consideration.
       The Guardian reports the shortlisted titles were selected from 62 nominated titles -- though god forbid anyone would let us know what those were .....

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



       Chad Post Q & A

       At the Asymptote weblog Sarah Moses has a Q & A to Meet the Publisher: Open Letter's Chad Post on the Industry's Progress and Future. -- about Open Letter Books and Three Percent and publishing translations.

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



       Morocco at the Paris Book Fair

       Morocco was the guest of honor at the recent Salon du livre de Paris, and at Al-Ahram Weekly David Tresilian has a run-down of the goings-on, in Books on a Moroccan breeze.

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



6 April 2017 - Thursday

New translation of The Conference of the Birds | A Long Saturday review

       New translation of The Conference of the Birds

       Farid ud-Din Attar's The Conference of the Birds is one of the classic Persian poems, and there's a new translation out, by Sholeh Wolpé, from W.W.Norton; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       At the Words without Borders weblog Wolpé consider: Can Literature Save the World ? On Translating Attar's "The Conference of the Birds", while at metroactive there is an (enthusiastic) portrait, Poet, Translator Sholeh Wolpe Gives Epic Persian Allegory New Life ("the book is easy to read, yet mind-blowing in its profundity").
       There's a Penguin Classics translation (by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis), but the comparison-volume is probably Peter Avery's translation (as The Speech of the Birds); get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       I am curious to see this one.

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



       A Long Saturday review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Laure Adler's Conversations with George Steiner, A Long Saturday.

       This just came out, from the University of Chicago Press, and so it's still early days, but it is surprising how little coverage there has been -- none of the usual (well, occasional ...) pre-publication coverage, etc.; a short mention at Marginal Revolution looks like the extent of it [and, wow, is that a weird comment-thread to go with it]; compare that with the reviews of the foreign editions .....

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



5 April 2017 - Wednesday

German Book Prize submission numbers
Turkish Delight review | Eighteen years

       German Book Prize submission numbers

       Like the Man Booker, they won't tell you what titles were submitted (because that would be ... well, sensible), but the German Book Prize has announced that a record (by one title, over the previous (2011) high) 174 novels were submitted for this year's prize; you can download the press release from the official site (since simply posting the information at the site is apparently too ... well, who knows ...) but at least at Boersenblatt.net they have a run-down of the numbers.
       As also with the Man Booker, there is a restriction on the number of titles any publisher can submit -- and they haven't adopted the Man Booker's bonus system (essentially: get long/shortlisted, get more entries the next year) yet. So it's a mere two per publisher (with a call-in possibility: publishers are able to suggest up to five additional titles for consideration: a total of 118 titles were recommended via this route and some of these might (and probably will) be called in, inflating the total further). 106 publishers are represented -- 69 German ones, 20 Austrian ones, and 17 Swiss ones.
       The longlist -- 20 titles ! -- will be announced 15 August, and the shortlist on 12 September.

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



       Turkish Delight review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the new translation of Jan Wolkers' notorious Turkish Delight, just out from Tin House.

       Sam Garrett translated this -- the second major, major Dutch classic he has out this year (the other being Gerard Reve's The Evenings (which, let's be honest, is just in a different league than the Wolkers)).
       Amusing also to see that this was made into a film by Paul Verhoeven (in 1973), and that I should soon be getting around to Philippe Djian's Elle (due out from Other Press (US) and Point Blank (UK); pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) -- also, more recently, filmed by Verhoeven.
       I don't think this will be enough to kick off a Wolkers-revival, but there are other works out there: indeed, I was surprised to find that, for example, his A Rose of Flesh seems to have been much more widely reviewed in the US/UK when it came out than this one.

       Finally, in classic review-quotes: gotta say I was ... impressed by the 1974 Kirkus Reviews review (of the previous translation), where someone actually wrote:
This could easily stick in your throat unless it's deep enough to accommodate just about anything.
       Yes, they went there. (The reference was ... quite obvious back in 1974 (au courant, even); it's still pretty obvious, but I wonder if you could get away with it nowadays.)

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



       Eighteen years

       The first reviews at the complete review were posted eighteen years ago today.
       Eighteen years ago.
       Eighteen years, and the 3920th review should go up sometime today.
       Don't really know what to say about this kind of anniversary. Except for that I have obviously wasted way, way too much time doing this.
       But, man, the books .....

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



4 April 2017 - Tuesday

Publishing in ... Nigeria
Shortlists: Wolfson History Prize - Womenís Prize for Fiction
Learn 'How to get the Nobel Prize in Literature' at Duke

       Publishing in ... Nigeria

       In the Sunday Guardian Anote Ajeluorou reports that in Nigeria Book industry reels in debt as publishers, booksellers bicker.
       An interesting overview -- and a reminder of the importance of publishing/distribution/book-selling infrastructure for a functioning literary market and culture (specifically also in terms of supporting authors).

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



       Shortlist: Wolfson History Prize

       They've announced the six-title strong shortlist for the Wolfson History Prize -- with Yale University Press taking half the slots.
       The prize-winner will get £40,000 -- but, impressively, each finalist gets a very tidy £4,000, which is very high on the also-ran scale.

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



       Shortlist: Womenís Prize for Fiction

       They've now announced the six-title shortlist for this year's 'Women's Prize for Fiction' -- insert name of sponsor wherever you'd like, I can't keep track any longer .....

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



       Learn 'How to get the Nobel Prize in Literature' at Duke

       Nobel Prize in Literature-discussion continues to be inescapable: I had hoped that with the covert meeting where a couple Swedish Academy members allegedly ooohed and aaahed over the gold medal with Dylan at his hotel (see my previous mention) the nonsense would have come to an end.
       But, no: Swedish Academy woman-in-charge Sara Danius is taking the show on the road, and she'll be delivering a talk oh so cleverly titled ... How to get the Nobel Prize in Literature (really !) at Duke University (well, at its Nasher Museum, in Durham, North Carolina) tomorrow, 5 April, at 17:30.
       See also the DukeToday press release (which includes such helpful observations as:
[James B. Duke Professor of Literature and Romance Studies, and Professor of English and Theater Studies] Moi noted that [Danius] also is known in Sweden for her "stunning fashion sense"
       So presumably she'll have some really neat outfit on. Or maybe that Dylan T-shirt (see yet another of my mentions ...). Though sadly apparently not a signed one .....
       Perhaps more interesting: Danius is already giving a talk today, at 17:00, on Balzac and Fashion: The Question of Realism.

       (Updated - 7 April): See now Luke Hicks' report on the Nobel-talk at DukeToday -- as Danius apparently gave the helpful answer: "What do I know ? I donít know". (No real surprise there; they gave the prize to Dylan, so any criteria are ... fuzzy, at best.)

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



3 April 2017 - Monday

Üç Tutku Kitap Kahve Çikolata Festivali | Radiant Terminus review

       Üç Tutku Kitap Kahve Çikolata Festivali

       Hands down, this has to be the most inviting book festival concept, the ongoing (through 9 April) Turkish Üç Tutku Kitap Kahve Çikolata Festivali.
       Three passions indeed: books, coffee, and chocolate -- Turkish coffee, presumably, at that ! That's a pretty good combination -- enough to keep me going ... well, longer than you might think.
       I mean, sure, there's also the National Book Fair in Bangkok -- but the best they can offer is revisiting one of; "Thailand's unique publishing traditions: funeral books" ? (See Om Jotikasthira's Bangkok Post article, Beyond the grave .....)
       (Okay, I admit I have some qualms about it being situated at the Askerî Müze ve Kültür Sitesi Komutanlığı (seriously ? there's a 'military museum cum cultural site' ?), but ... books, coffee, chocolate .....)

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



       Radiant Terminus review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Antoine Volodine's Radiant Terminus, recently out from Open Letter.

       Though a lot about Volodine has appealed to me theoretically for a long time -- post-exoticism, and all his heteronyms, among other things -- none of his previous works really worked for me, and I didn't even review the last two or three I've read (Open Letter published two of them) -- but, damn, it all came together here. Obviously, I am a novel-person, and so the sustained effort here helps, but even so.
       This is a very good book -- and the first serious contender beside The Evenings for the 2018 Best Translated Book Award (says the person who still can't fathom that they might actually not give the 2017 prize to Bottom's Dream, the translation of the year/decade/millennium (so far) ...).

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



2 April 2017 - Sunday

Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933-2017)
Nobel handover (?) | Murakami review

       Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933-2017)

       Russian poet-superstar Yevgeny Yevtushenko has passed away; see, for example, the obituaries in The New York Times and The Guardian.
       I hadn't realized that the poet -- who thrived in the Soviet Union -- had decamped to ... Oklahoma long ago (man, if that doesn't tell you everything you need to know about Putin ...); also kind of sad that The New York Times reports:
His death, in a hospital, was confirmed by a close friend, Mikhail Morgulis, with the TASS news agency, Radio Free Europe reported.
       Which seems a rather circuitous way of finding out what happened in an Oklahoma hospital .....
       See also The Paris Review's Q & A with him.
       None of his work is under review at the complete review, but the Selected Poems should do as a start; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Nobel handover (?)

       Members of the Swedish Academy apparently bustled over to Bob Dylan's hotel yesterday to prostrate themselves before their idol ! hallelujah ! hallelujah ! hand-deliver the Nobel medal and diploma; so, anyway, Sara Danius claims at her weblog.
       With no independent verification -- apparently they weren't allowed to take pictures with their iPhones ? and none of the Academy members supposedly in attendance have published selfies with Dylan, or pictures of any signed paraphernalia (LPs; T-shirts; chests; etc.), and there were no witnesses from the press -- I am not entirely convinced. Dylan apparently made no mention of the get-together at his concert that night -- nor did he wear, wave around, or throw into the crowd the Nobel medal (hey, supposedly: "Quite a bit of time was spent looking closely at the gold medal" at the hand-over, as apparently they had trouble making small-talk). But, hey, there are press pictures of Danius going to the concert (christ, she didn't even get a backstage pass ...).
       Unfortunately, this Nobel saga still isn't over -- there's still that looming Nobel lecture question. Will he ? Won't he ? Does anyone still care ?
       They're trying to spin this this that they're expecting a video-tape from Dylan in the mail before the deadline (presumably 10 June) runs out, but that seems as much wishful thinking as anything else: Dylan certainly doesn't seem to have committed himself (though for nearly a million dollar payout maybe his manager can convince him to gurgle a few words in front of a camera and sell that as his 'Nobel lecture').
       The debacle seems never-ending. I can't wait to see how they plan to top this this October.

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



       Murakami review

       In The Japan Times Daniel Morales finds 'Killing Commendatore': Murakami's latest lacks inspired touch of earlier works, as he reviews Murakami's latest (and not yet translated) novel, 騎士団長殺し.
       See also Morales' comments at his How To Japanese weblog.

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



1 April 2017 - Saturday

Global Humanities Translation Prize | Prix Le Point du Polar européen
Swedish Academy go all in, fan-girl/boy-wise

       Global Humanities Translation Prize

       Via I learn that they've handed out the US$5,000 Global Humanities Translation Prize for the first time, announcing that this prize: "for a translation-in-progress of a non-Western literary or scholarly text" will be shared by:
Jason Grunebaum and Ulrike Stark (both from the University of Chicago) will translate Manzoor Ahtesham's The Tale of the Missing Man from modern Hindi, and Carl Ernst (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) will translate and annotate the classical Arabic poems of Persian mystic Mansur al-Hallaj.
       Both will be published by Northwestern University Press in Spring, 2018.
       Support for the translation of: "non-Western literary or scholarly" texts is certainly very welcome -- there's far too little of it. (Though I can't help but note that with Hindi and Arabic the initial selections are of big, big (if still under-represented in English translation ...) languages.)

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



       Prix Le Point du Polar européen

       They've announced the winner of this year's prix Le Point du Polar européen -- a prize for the best European crime novel (if it ain't 'noir' -- it's 'polar' ...) published in French (original or translation), which conveniently excludes all the overwhelming American competition.
       Le Point only had the run-down of the finalists, last I checked, but Livres Hebdo conveniently reveal that La daronne, by Hannelore Cayre, takes this year's prize; see also the Métailié publicity page. It does not appear that any of her works have been translated into English yet.

       (Two previous winners of this award are under review at the complete review: The One from the Other, by Philip Kerr, (2009) and The Truth and Other Lies, by Sascha Arango (2015).)

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



       Swedish Academy go all in, fan-girl/boy-wise

       Well, why not ? Embrace the ridiculity ! Good for them.
       At her blog Sara Danius notes -- and shows ! -- she's ready for the Bob Dylan concert(s):

Danius dressed to the Dylan-T


       I just hope the whole Academy shows up wearing these -- I would love to see that group photo.
       (As to the whole Dylan-'getting'-his-Nobel to-do, see my previous mention.)

       (I am deluding myself in thinking that this has all been building up to an elaborate (and really well-planned) April Fool's Day joke, and that they'll join Dylan on stage tonight -- wearing those T-shirts -- and have a laugh and then announce who really got the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, right ?)

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



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