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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review


The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 March 2018

11 March: Wilson Harris (1921-2018) | Kid's lit in ... India
12 March: Literary executors/dying wishes | Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o Q & A | Peter Temple (1946-2018)
13 March: Man Booker International Prize longlist | Fox review
14 March: London Book Fair Awards shortlists | Czech Authors in Persian
15 March: French-American Foundation Translation Prize finalists | (American) National Book Award judges revealed | The Bird Tribunal review
16 March: Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse | National Book Critics Circle Awards | Chinese Indonesian Literature Museum
17 March: Sergio Ramírez Q & A | Bookselling in ... France | The Queen of the Night review
18 March: Q & As: Dag Solstad - David Albahari - Will Self
19 March: OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature longlists | ST/EFG Short Story Award shortlist | Congo Inc. review
20 March: Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award | Wellcome Book Prize shortlist | Writing in ... Pakistan | China Literature 2017 results

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20 March 2018 - Tuesday

Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award | Wellcome Book Prize shortlist
Writing in ... Pakistan | China Literature 2017 results

       Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award

       I missed this when they announced it a couple of weeks ago, but Irish/Gaelic-writing Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill has been named the winner of this year's Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award (which she'll pick up on 10 May).
       The award recognizes: "outstanding artistic and intellectual literary achievements on the world stage which have a bearing on the world of values towards which Zbigniew Herbert's work gravitated", and previous winners include Breyten Breytenbach (2017), Lars Gustafsson (2016), and W.S.Merwin (the inaugural prize, in 2013).
       See also, for example, her bilingual collection Selected Poems: Rogha Dánta; see the New Island publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Wellcome Book Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Wellcome Book Prize -- open to works of fiction and non that: "have a central theme that engages with some aspect of medicine, health or illness".
       The winner will be announced 30 April; none of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review (and I don't expect any to be before then, either).

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



       Writing in ... Pakistan

       At Scroll.in Maniza Naqvi finds: 'The number of writers and books is increasingly exponentially', in In Pakistan, English fiction is gathering pace in its search for approval and recognition -- even as Sneha Bhura wonders, in The Week, Will contemporary Urdu novelists please stand up ?

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



       China Literature 2017 results

       One of last year's big IPOs was that of China Literature Limited, the online behemoth, and they've just released their annual results [(dreaded) pdf; (identical) PR newswire release)].
       While the stock has under-performed (it closed yesterday at 82.05, still below the opening 90.05 last November, and far off the closing high of 104 (9 November, in the early euphoria)).
       With 6.9 million writers on the platform, they certainly are huge -- and looking to expand with Thai, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese versions.
       The money isn't insignificant, either: US$523.5 million of online reading revenue (!) in 2017 (though revenue from 'physical books and others' were down about 10 per cent from the previous year ...).

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



19 March 2018 - Monday

OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature longlists
ST/EFG Short Story Award shortlist | Congo Inc. review

       OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature longlists

       They've announced the longlists for the 2018 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature -- though these are more less the finalists, three each in the poetry and fiction categories (with: "an unprecedented decision to name no titles to the longlist" in the non-fiction category).
       Impressively -- if also a bit worryingly -- all three fiction finalists were published by Peepal Tree Press (as was one of the poetry finalists ...).
       The category winners will be announced 2 April, the overall winner on 28 April.

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



       ST/EFG Short Story Award shortlist

       They've announced the six-title shortlist for this year's Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award -- an all-American line-up.
       The winning story will be announced 26 April.

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



       Congo Inc. review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of In Koli Jean Bofane's novel, Congo Inc.: Bismarck's Testament, just out in English from Indiana University Press in their Global African Voices-series.

       It includes a small Laure Adler-cameo -- she of, for example, the Q & A volume with George Steiner, A Long Saturday.

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



18 March 2018 - Sunday

Q & As: Dag Solstad - David Albahari - Will Self

       Q & A: Dag Solstad

       With Dag Solstad's T Singer and Armand V coming out soon in English translation, both in the US and UK, it's good to see some prominent early attention, such as Adam Dalva's Q & A in Publishers Weekly, The Process of No Process: PW Talks with Dag Solstad.
       Good also to see the first English-language reviews, at PW and Kirkus Reviews -- the latter summing up in the review of T Singer:
Knut Hamsun remains the king of Nordic gloom, but Solstad gives him a run for the money in a story at once traditional and postmodern.
       And in the review of Armand V:
If Knausgaard is too cheery for you, then this is just your cup of lutefisk.
       (I think both of these novels are contenders for next year's Best Translated Book Award and the Man Booker International Prize .....)

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



       Q & A: David Albahari

       David Albahari turned seventy last week, and in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung Andreas Breitenstein has a (German) Q & A with him.
       Albahari is reasonably well represented in English translation, but certainly deserves more attention.
       Several of his titles are under review at the complete review:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Q & A: Will Self

       In The Guardian Alex Clark has a Q & A with Will Self: 'The novel is absolutely doomed'.
       Among the interesting titbits: Self professes:
I'm completely digital. I barely read on hard copy any more.
       I can't recall many writers who have made that transition; it's far more common to hear them clinging to paper/print. (And it's amusing to see that as far as writing goes he thinks: "writing on computers is a bit of disaster" and instead relies on a manual typewriter .....)
       Also good to hear:
For pleasure, Iím rereading Paul Theroux, who I think is a vastly underrated writer.
       I agree.
       (Ten of Theroux's books are under review at the complete review, most recently Mother Land. A few by Self are also under review, though nothing recent; see, for example, Dorian.)

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



17 March 2018 - Saturday

Sergio Ramírez Q & A | Bookselling in ... France
The Queen of the Night review

       Sergio Ramírez Q & A

       At the Asymptote weblog José García Escobar has a Q & A In Conversation with Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramírez, and while they may be setting the bar a bit too high with the claim: "Sergio is arguably the most important Central American writer today", he certainly is a very good and important author -- and woefully under-appreciated in the English-speaking world.
       Several of his works are under review at the complete review:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Bookselling in ... France

       GFK now report on the numbers, in France in 2017 -- and find that book sales were down 1 per cent by volume and 1.2 per cent by sales.
       They also found that 28,6 million French(wo)men were book-buyers -- a disappointing/shameful only-52-per-cent of the 10+ population. But at least the average book buyer purchased almost 11 books a year.
       Note, however, that the most popular title counted was, as reported, for example, in Les Echos, Astérix et la Transitalique, with 1.6 million copies sold .....

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



       The Queen of the Night review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Marc Behm's 1977 novel, The Queen of the Night.

       It's a wild and weird one -- and comes with a great opening line/paragraph:
I hate furniture and clowns.

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



16 March 2018 - Friday

Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse | National Book Critics Circle Awards
Chinese Indonesian Literature Museum

       Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse

       The Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair is the big German spring book prize (with the German Book Prize the big(ger) one in the fall) -- and is actually three prizes, awarding one for a work of fiction, one for non, and one for best translation.
       They've now announced this year's prize winners, with Esther Kinsky's Hain. Geländeroman winning the fiction prize; see also the Suhrkamp foreign rights page -- and note that English-language rights have been bought by Fitzcarraldo, who recently brought out her River; see their publicity page.
       Sabine Stöhr and Juri Durkot's translation of Serhiy Zhadan's Інтернат was named the best translation; see the Suhrkamp foreign rights page.
       Ukrainian author Zhadan's Voroshilovgrad is available in English -- and Mesopotamia is due out shortly from Yale University Press, in their Margellos World Republic of Letters-series; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. (Meanwhile, his Depeche Mode is also under review at the complete review.)

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



       National Book Critics Circle Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's (American) National Book Critics Circle Awards.
       None of these works are under review at the complete review -- though at least two other titles by one of the winning authors, Xiaolu Guo, are (A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers and Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth).

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



       Chinese Indonesian Literature Museum

       In the South China Morning Post Randy Mulyanto writes about the Chinese Indonesian Literature Museum, in Fighting prejudice against Indonesia's ethnic Chinese, museum uses literature to show their role in country's history.
       Great to see this -- and it looks pretty impressive, with a collection of: "more than 30,000 books, newspapers, comics and other documents".

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



15 March 2018 - Thursday

French-American Foundation Translation Prize finalists
(American) National Book Award judges revealed | The Bird Tribunal review

       French-American Foundation Translation Prize finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the 2018 French-American Foundation Translation Prize.
       The five fiction finalists are:
  • Melville, by Jean Giono; translated by Paul Eprile
  • Moving the Palace, by Charif Majdalani; translated by Edward Gauvin
  • Not One Day, by Anne Garréta; translated by Emma Ramadan
  • The Principle, by Jérôme Ferrari; translated by Howard Curtis
  • The Seventh Function of Language, by Laurent Binet; translated by Sam Taylor
       There are also five finalists in the non-fiction category -- including the book that towers over all these, The Years, by Annie Ernaux, in Alison L. Strayer's translation.
       The winners will be announced in May.

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



       (American) National Book Award judges revealed

       The (American) National Book Awards are now open for submissions (through 29 June), and they've also revealed who will be judging each of the five categories.
       After some three decades, there's a prize for Translated Literature again (though this time: only by living authors ...), and the five judges for that category are: Harold Augenbraum (chair), Karen Maeda Allman, Sinan Antoon, Susan Bernofsky, and Álvaro Enrigue.
       The longlists will be announced in mid-September.

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



       The Bird Tribunal review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Agnes Ravatn's The Bird Tribunal -- yet another Norwegian novel.
       Orenda Books brought this out, and while they couldn't get much press coverage, they did wrangle a very impressive number of weblog-reviews for it.

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



14 March 2018 - Wednesday

London Book Fair Awards shortlists | Czech Authors in Persian

       London Book Fair Awards shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for the London Book Fair International Excellence Awards, which includes a variety of interesting categories -- including, notably, the Literary Translation Initiative Award.
       This year's finalists for that one are a fine trio:        The Lontar Foundation promotes: "Indonesian literature and culture through the translation of Indonesian literary works" -- and several of their works are under review at the complete review -- while Serbian publisher Geopoetika also publishes some titles in English translation (some of which have also since been picked up/(re)published by US/UK publishers).

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



       Czech Authors in Persian

       At the Czech National Library an exhibit on Czech Authors in Persian Translations: Literary Art and Professional Works, Translated and Published in Iran runs from tomorrow through 28 April.
       Always interesting to see how literature moves outside the usual dominant routes and languages; wish I could see this.

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



13 March 2018 - Tuesday

Man Booker International Prize longlist | Fox review

       Man Booker International Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize (for works of fiction in translation by living authors, published in the UK), and the thirteen tiles, selected from 108 entries, are:
  • Die, My Love, by Ariana Harwicz; tr. Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff
  • The Dinner Guest, by Gabriela Ybarra; tr. Natasha Wimmer
  • Flights, by Olga Tokarczuk; tr. Jennifer Croft
  • The Flying Mountain, by Christoph Ransmayr; tr. Simon Pare
  • Frankenstein in Baghdad, by Ahmed Saadawi; tr. Jonathan Wright
  • Go, Went, Gone, by Jenny Erpenbeck; tr. Susan Bernofsky
  • The Impostor, by Javier Cercas; tr. Frank Wynne
  • Like a Fading Shadow, by Antonio Muñoz Molina; tr. Camilo A. Ramirez
  • The 7th Function of Language, by Laurent Binet; tr. Sam Taylor
  • The Stolen Bicycle, by Wu Ming-Yi; tr. Darryl Sterk
  • Vernon Subutex 1, by Virginie Despentes; tr. Frank Wynne
  • The White Book, by Han Kang; tr. Deborah Smith
  • The World Goes On, by Krasznahorkai László; tr. John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet, and George Szirtes
       Only books published in the UK are eligible, and I'm a bit surprised by how many are not (yet ?) available in the US -- aside from the two I've reviewed, I believe only the Saadawi, Erpenbeck, and Krasznahorkai (and possibly the Tokarczuk ?) are out in the US at this time (which is kind of frustrating)
       Among the interesting odds and ends about this year's (semi-)finalists: translator Frank Wynne is not only nominated for two different translations, but these are from two different languages, which is pretty impressive. And The Flying Mountain is the first novel-in-verse I've seen on one of these major translation-awards list -- something I've long been waiting for (and now I can keep my fingers crossed that it will be the first book that is nominated for the Best Translated Book Award in both the fiction and poetry categories -- though I'll have to wait a year, since it is only eligible for next year's BTBA). (I have the German original of this, but will probably wait until I get the English translation (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) to post a review; it does have a great opening verse: (in my translation) "I died / 6840 meters above sea level / on the fourth of May in the year of the horse.")

       I would also like to reïterate my continuing annoyance at this, and most English-language prizes refusing to reveal what books were actually considered for the prize -- all they tell us is that 108 were. The Man Booker International Prize is already a confusing one because instead of being a calendar-year prize -- that would apparently be much too simple and straightforward -- "titles eligible for submission must be published between 1 May 2017 and 30 April 2018".
       Just to show how difficult it is to try to figure out what might have been submitted, the Goodreads list of Man Booker International Prize: Eligible Books 2018, with numerous contributors working on it, could (to date) only come up with 80 titles -- which are actually no more than 75 (the Cercas and Binet are listed twice; ineligible (because dead) authors include Antonio Tabucchi, Pascal Garnier, and Michel Déon ), and while all the books that made the longlist are listed here, at least 33 titles that were considered aren't.

       The shortlist (of six books) will be announced 12 April; the winning title, 22 May.

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



       Fox review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Dubravka Ugrešić's new novel, Fox, forthcoming shortly from Open Letter.

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



12 March 2018 - Monday

Literary executors/dying wishes
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o Q & A | Peter Temple (1946-2018)

       Literary executors/dying wishes

       With almost every posthumous publication and/or revelation of testamentary wishes (and demands) there's a debate about whether or not the right thing was (or will be) done -- especially when the wishes/demands involve the destruction of unpublished work, stuff that's then gone for good (or bad ...). Max Brod's refusal to follow Kafka's explicit instructions about the disposition of his work is probably the most famous (and debated) instance, but hardly the first or only, and recent cases include Terry Pratchett's (see, for example, Stuart Kelly writing about Pratchett, Kafka, Virgil: Difficult final demands at the TLS site) or Edward Albee's left-over instructions (see, for example, Michael Paulson on Edward Albee's Final Wish: Destroy My Unfinished Work in The New York Times).
       Blake Morrison has now written a novel in which this question is central, The Executor --see the Chatto & Windus publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- and in The Guardian he writes at some length on the subject, in Up in smoke: should an author's dying wishes be obeyed ?.
       This is a subject (and legal/moral dilemma) of particular interest to me -- hey, I was writing about it in Poets & Writers fifteen years ago ...), and I've been meaning to respond to the most significant recent contribution to the literature: Eva E. Subotnik's fascinating Washington Law Review-piece, Artistic Control After Death (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) (since, of course, I disagree ... largely, let's say, with her (oversimplified:) screw-the-author's wishes conclusion ("federal copyright policy should weigh in favor of access to, use of, and preservation of works for the benefit of the living", etc.) ...). I still haven't found the time to give it the proper attention -- but do have a look.
       It remains a fascinating issue.

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



       Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o Q & A

       At Scroll.in Devapriya Roy has: 'An interview with the great African writer, thinker and activist', in 'My work on language and power was an elaboration of a Tagorean sentiment': Ngugi wa Thiong'o.
       Several Ngũgĩ-titles are under review at the complete review -- including his "cult classic", Decolonising the Mind, discussed here.

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



       Peter Temple (1946-2018)

       South African-born Australian author Peter Temple has passed away; see, for example, Acclaimed crime writer Peter Temple dies, aged 71 (Jason Steger, in the Sydney Morning Herald) and Crime writer Peter Temple dies of cancer, aged 71 (Stephen Romei, in The Australian).
       The only one of Temple's books under review at the complete review is his Miles Franklin Award-winning Truth.

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



11 March 2018 - Sunday

Wilson Harris (1921-2018) | Kid's lit in ... India

       Wilson Harris (1921-2018)

       Wilson Harris has passed away; see, for example, the Sir Wilson Harris obituary by Michael Mitchell in The Guardian and World famous Guyanese author Wilson Harris passes away at 96 at Stabroek News.

       None of his work is under review at the complete review -- I've read quite a bit by him, but it's been a very long time since I picked anything of his up ... -- but his work is definitely worth a look; see what Faber & Faber has to offer; The Guyana Quartet is perhaps the obvious starting point; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Kid's lit in ... India

       At Scroll.in Neha Bhatt has a Q & A with publishers Sudeshna Shome Ghosh and Tina Narang about their newly launched imprints (at Speaking Tiger and HarperCollins India), in Two new imprints have been launched. Things must be looking up for children's publishing in India.

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



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