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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 29 April 2017

21 April: Man Booker International Prize shortlist | César Aira Q & A | The Life of Harishchandra review
22 April: European Union Prize for Literature | Cullman Center fellows
23 April: Reading in ... Iran | Eduardo Mendoza receives picks up Cervantes Prize | The Snow Kimono review
24 April: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o Q & A | Three Envelopes review
25 April: Austrian State Prize for European Literature | Wellcome Book Prize
26 April: International Prize for Arabic Fiction | The Gray House review-overview
27 April: Granta's Best of Young American Novelists | The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award | Enigmas of Spring review
28 April: Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize shortlist | Blue Metropolis Literary Grand Prix | Not One Day review
29 April: Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize | Murakami on translation

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29 April 2017 - Saturday

Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize | Murakami on translation

       Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize

       They've announced that this year's Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize will go (on 8 June) to Charlotte Collins, for her translation of A Whole Life, by Robert Seethaler; see also the Picador and Farrar, Straus and Giroux publicity pages, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

       As with all recent translation-prizes (except the Man Booker International, for which it isn't eligible (dead author)), I just can't believe it didn't go to John E. Woods' translation of Arno Schmidt's Bottom's Dream.
       (The book apparently wasn't submitted -- but for god's sake, it's the translation of ... recent times, you call the damn thing in, you give it the prize, every prize, regardless ....)

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



       Murakami on translation

       I mentioned last month that Murakami Haruki had a new book out (in Japanese) about his translating-experiences (since, unlike US/UK novelists, he had devoted significant time to translating), 村上春樹 翻訳(ほとんど)全仕事; see also the publisher's publicity page
       On Thursday he also gave a talk about that, and in the Asahi Shimbun Kan Kashiwazaki now reports on how Murakami cites benefits of his translation work to rapt audience. (Yes, disappointingly -- but obligatorily ? -- the article describes Murakami as: "reclusive", and claims that he: "seldom makes public appearances" (yes, in a report on yet another of his public appearances. Stop already with the (fake-)image-making.))

       Choice quote:
Yet, when translating, I always feel like I want to kill my own ego, respect the various constraints and be humble.
       Somebody please tell me they are translating this book into English.

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



28 April 2017 - Friday

Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize shortlist
Blue Metropolis Literary Grand Prix | Not One Day review

       Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize -- the prestigious prize: "for book-length literary translations into English from any living European language".
       Several of these are not US-available yet (the Salvayre, the Sebastian); the only one under review at the complete review is Lisa C. Hayden's translation of Vadim Levental's Masha Regina -- though I should get to the Sebastian and the Šarotar sooner rather than later.
       The eight finalists were selected from 127 titles, translated from 26 different languages; since we don't get to see the list of entries we have no way of knowing whether John E. Woods' translation of Arno Schmidt's Bottom's Dream was submitted, but one has to assume not -- how else could it fail to be a finalist ?
       Beggaring all belief, it now appears the Woods/Schmidt will not be honored by any translation or literary prize. Suggesting something is very wrong in the world of literary prize-giving ....

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



       Blue Metropolis Literary Grand Prix

       Anita Desai will pick up the Blue Metropolis Literary Grand Prix on Saturday; see also the nice overview/profile by Ian McGillis in the Montreal Gazette, Blue Metropolis honours Anita Desai with Literary Grand Prix.

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



       Not One Day review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Oulipo-author Anne Garréta's 2002 prix Médicis-winning Not One Day, just (about) out in English from Deep Vellum.

       Choice quote from the book:
For life is too short to resign ourselves to reading poorly written books and sleeping with women we don't love.
       Though with the PEN World Voices Festival looming ahead -- next week, in NYC -- this one sticks out too:
As a rule, it's not a good idea to line writers up in a room and entice them to talk. It's enough to turn you off of literature.

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



27 April 2017 - Thursday

Granta's Best of Young American Novelists
The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award | Enigmas of Spring review

       Granta's Best of Young American Novelists

       Another decade, another Granta 'Best of Young American Novelists'-list.
       Sigrid Rausing introduces the issue/list (with a couple of good titbits, such as: "NoViolet Bulawayo, a marvellous writer, unfortunately turned out not to be eligible, but she was part of our original selection" (too old ? too un-American ? she doesn't say)), but surely they're not doing it entirely right if I have to go to another source to simply find a list of the authors (such as, fortunately, The Guardian provides).
       Notably many are foreign-born and -rooted; relatively few (Joshua Cohen, Karan Mahajan) have any titles under review at the complete review (I'm definitely behind on my keeping-up-with-US-writing, especially by the younger guard).

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



       The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award

       The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award is given for an unpublished manuscript by a young Australian writer, and this year, as Stephen Romei reports, Vogel prize goes to novel reimagining Kafka's relationship with friend.
       Yes, Marija Pericic's The Lost Pages was inspired by the Kafka-Brod relationship -- and the legal battle over Kafka's papers that Brod mis- and man-handled. Yes, this sounds a bit dubious; still, I have to admit, I am curious, and hope that it eventually makes it to the US/UK. For now there's just the Australian Allen & Unwin edition; see their publisity page.

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



       Enigmas of Spring review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of João Almino's recent novel, Enigmas of Spring.

       Wide-ranging, it does include the nice quote:
The world has too many images, words, and too much information, don't you think ? I want to sell silence.

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



26 April 2017 - Wednesday

International Prize for Arabic Fiction | The Gray House review-overview

       International Prize for Arabic Fiction

       They've announced that this year's International Prize for Arabic Fiction went to موتٌ صغير ('A Small Death'), a: "fictional account of the life of Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi", by Saudi (but now living in Canada ...) author Mohammed Hasan Alwan; see also the Dar Al Saqi publicity page
       The work was selected from 186 novels, by authors from 19 countries. The prize pays out US$50,000, and "funding will be provided for the English translation of A Small Death".

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



       The Gray House review-overview

       The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of Mariam Petrosyan's The Gray House, just out in English from AmazonCrossing.
       Russian prize-winning, this is an impressive, big read -- though with its disabled adolescent cast of characters it teeters near earnest YA-territory. I could see eventually getting itno it -- it's well done -- but lack the patience for it at this time.
       Still, this is one of those more serious AmazonCrossing offerings, and there's no question it will at least be in the Best Translated Book Award discussions next year; I'd put the odds at an even 50:50 that it gets longlisted.

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



25 April 2017 - Tuesday

Austrian State Prize for European Literature | Wellcome Book Prize

       Austrian State Prize for European Literature

       It is limited to European authors, but the Österreichischer Staatspreis für Europäische Literatur does have one of the more impressive winners-lists for a literary award -- and they've now announced (though not yet at the official site, last I checked ...) that My Struggle-author Karl Ove Knausgård will get this year's prize; see, for example, the APA report.
       (Meanwhile, the Österreichischer Kunstpreis für Literatur -- the domestic author prize -- went to The Weather Fifteen Years Ago-author Wolf Haas.)

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



       Wellcome Book Prize

       They've announced that The Heart (UK title: Mend the Living), by Maylis de Kerangal, has won this year's Wellcome Book Prize, "which celebrates exceptional works of fiction and non-fiction that engage with the topics of health and medicine and the many ways they touch our lives".

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



24 April 2017 - Monday

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o Q & A | Three Envelopes review

       Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o Q & A

       At the Los Angeles Review of Books Nanda Dyssou has An Interview with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o.
       Among Ngũgĩ's observations:
Getting published is one of the most infuriating challenges of writing in African languages. There are hardly any publishing houses devoted to African languages. So writers in African languages are writing against great odds: no publishing houses, no state support, and with national and international forces aligned against them. Prizes are often given to promote African literature but on the condition that the writers don't write in African languages.

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



       Three Envelopes review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nir Hezroni's recent thriller, Three Envelopes, just out in English.

       For those not interested in the book/review itself, I nevertheless offer the Google/author/editor-fail description noted in my review:
       The US edition does offer an amusing/annoying example of the dangers of relying on (and not fully understanding) some now-basic technology (and basics of how language and translation function).
       Wanting to add a bit of a local flavor and color, there's a scene where a character orders a beer:
     "Ein Glas Weizentrumpf, bitte." Carmit smiled at the bartender and placed a ten-franc note on the countertop. The bartender nodded and poured her drink. He offered her change but she waved it away. "Halten die Änderung." He nodded again and put the coins in the tip jar on the bar.
       What Carmit is supposed to be saying is the simple: 'Keep the change'. That's not what: 'Halten die Änderung' means -- or rather, 'Halten die Änderung' is a very literal (and grammatically not quite correct) word-for-word translation that translates 'keep' as 'hold' and 'change' not as the loose-coin-kind, but rather the alteration sort.
       What happened here ? Hezroni put 'keep the change' through Google Translate -- or rather, he put the Hebrew (equivalent (?)) through.
       If you Google Translate the English 'keep the change' into German you actually get a reasonable result -- 'behalte das Wechselgeld'.
       If you Google Translate the English 'keep the change' into Hebrew, you get 'שמור את העודף' -- and if you Google Translate that into German ... voilà, 'Halten Sie die Änderung'.
       Hezroni apparently felt it was safe to assume the English expression was similar in German -- and that a limited/strictly literal translation, even via a second language, was safe to use. (In Google he trusts !) But while 'behalte das Wechselgeld' is actually even closer, literally, than what he wound up with, his roundabout way of trying to find the right expression confused the terms.
       (Ironically, a simple Google search, for say: 'keep the change German' would have also yielded better results than what he wound up with.)
       What's surprising is that he didn't do any other checks to see if he had gotten it right -- the obvious one being to Google, in quotes: "Halten die Änderung". You don't have to know German to realize from the results that something is off with that particular phrasing/expression.
       Truly shocking, however, is that neither the translator nor the English-language editors bothered to check, or to ask anyone, either. Again: a simple Google search should have alerted everyone that something was not right here.
       But maybe all they cared about was the spelling ?
       Come on, folks -- Google (and Google Translate) is a wonderful tool, but you have to put a little effort into using/getting it right.
       (Updated): Ah, but the author offers a clarification/explanation -- noting that the slip is in fact an intentional one ! That certainly is some comfort -- and there is something to be said for using the on-purpose-mistake (though I think this falls close to being too-clever-by-half ...).

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



23 April 2017 - Sunday

Reading in ... Iran | Eduardo Mendoza receives picks up Cervantes Prize
The Snow Kimono review

       Reading in ... Iran

       An interesting piece at the TLS' weblog, as Pardis Mahdavi writes about Iran's literary sexual revolution, focusing on how:
a different genre occupies today’s literary love landscape: the romance novel-cum-self-help book.
       But Mahdavi isn't quite right when she wonders: "why none of these powerful and beautifully written books has made its way outside of Iran". In fact, the first one she mentions, Fattaneh Haj Seyed Javadi's Bamdad-e-Khomar has been published in 'the West' (albeit not yet in English ...) and is even under review at the complete review .....

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



       Eduardo Mendoza receives picks up Cervantes Prize

       The awards ceremony for the Cervantes Prize, the leading Spanish-language author prize, was a couple of days ago, with Eduardo Mendoza (An Englishman in Madrid, etc.) finally able to pick up his prize; see, for example, the Deutsche Welle report.
       His acceptance speech is now up (in Spanish), too.

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



       The Snow Kimono review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mark Henshaw's The Snow Kimono.

       This is one of those rejected-then-acclaimed works -- Rejected 32 times, The Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw wins NSW Premier's Literary Award, Susan Wyndham reported in the Sydney Morning Herald -- a second novel (more or less -- there was some co-written stuff in between) more than a quarter of a century after the author's debut. But it doesn't seem to have really taken off or made that much of an impact outside Australia.

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



22 April 2017 - Saturday

European Union Prize for Literature | Cullman Center fellows

       European Union Prize for Literature

       They've announced the 'winners' of this year's European Union Prize for Literature -- the very peculiar EU 'prize' that rotates through all the member states, twelve or thirteen each year (including, for the last time ever this year, the brexiting United Kingdom).
       Alas, it is not Europeanly decided, but rather the winners are named by national juries -- admittedly better-positioned, at least language-wise, to assess the local talent, but coming with a host of other problems and baggage. (See the prize jury lists (warning ! dreaded pdf format ! -- and surely it tells you everything that they can make the official winners-announcement readily internet-accessible but offer this only in the ridiculous pdf format ...): my favorite is the Maltese jury, consisting of three 'Dr.'s (i.e. PhDs), a 'Prof.' and a 'Fr.')
       I don't doubt that there are some fine authors and works here; I do doubt that this is a good way of doing ... anything.

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



       Cullman Center fellows

       The New York Public Library has announced the fifteen fellows (selected from 357 applicants from 38 countries) who will be Cullman Center Fellows from September 2017 through May 2018.
       Among them are The Physics of Sorrow-author Georgi Gospodinov, who will be working on a (so far untitled) "novel about the childhood fears of different generations", and Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism-author Joan Acocella, who is working on a biography of Mikhail Baryshnikov.

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



21 April 2017 - Friday

Man Booker International Prize shortlist | César Aira Q & A
The Life of Harishchandra review

       Man Booker International Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize, and the six remaining titles are:
  • Compass by Mathias Énard, tr. Charlotte Mandell
  • Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, tr. Megan McDowell
  • A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman, tr. Jessica Cohen
  • Judas by Amos Oz, tr. Nicholas de Lange
  • Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors, tr. Misha Hoekstra
  • The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen, tr. Don Bartlett and Don Shaw
       The winner will be announced on 14 June.

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



       César Aira Q & A

       I recently reviewed César Aira's The Little Buddhist Monk and The Proof, and in The Skinny Alan Bett now has a Q & A with the author.
       Among Aira's observations:
I have a provocative (but sincere) definition for my books: ‘Dadaist fairy tales’. I recently found a much better one: ‘Literary Toys for Adults’.
       Sound about right.

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



       The Life of Harishchandra review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Raghavanka's The Life of Harishchandra, another volume in Harvard University Press' Murty Classical Library of India series.

       With the NYRB re-issue of U.R.Ananthamurthy's Samskara and the recent US and UK publication of Vivek Shanbhag's Ghachar Ghochar Kannada literature has already done pretty well in 2017 -- and this classical work shows yet another facet .....
       It also offers at least one frame-worthy quote:

Raghavanka quote

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



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