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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review

The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 17 August 2018

11 August: SingLit | Buddhadeva Bose and ... Henry Miller | The Literary Saloon turns 16
12 August: V.S.Naipaul (1932-2018) | Rein Raud Q & A | People in the Room review
13 August: Getting ready for Anniversaries | Lu Xun Literature Awards | Strike Your Heart review
14 August: Complete Dialogue with Death found | Bookselling in ... Iceland | FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year longlist | The Tears of the Black Man review
15 August: German Book Prize longlist | Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalists
16 August: John Calder (1927-2018) | My Struggle: Book Six (The End) review
17 August: Poetry in ... Germany | Book tracking

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17 August 2018 - Friday

Poetry in ... Germany | Book tracking

       Poetry in ... Germany

       At boersenblatt they have a list (you probably have to click 'Lyrik' ...) of the 25 bestselling volumes of poetry in Germany for the first half (actually through 29 July, so just short of seven full months) of the year -- and, as the accompanying article notes, it is dominated by the classics (or at least dead poets).
       A 1936 Erich Kästner collection tops the list (the publisher noting it consistently sells 7500-10,000 copies a year), but it's Mascha Kaléko who dominates the list with six (!) titles. Collections by Rilke and Ringelnatz, both also long dead, take spots three and four, while Jan Wagner, with a collection in tenth place (!) is the first living author to appear on the list. Eugen Roth, Pablo Neruda, Hilde Domin -- and Homer ! -- are all dead authors who also make the list -- though a few other living ones do too.
       Clearly, contemporary poetry is not hitting the spot in contemporary Germany .....
       As far as Kaléko goes, note that Fomite Press has recently brought out some of her work in translations; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or

       Meanwhile, since we're on the topic: twentieth century German poetry was very good indeed -- and, as longtime readers know, I'd argue the peak was the trio of Rilke, Celan, and the underrated-as-poet Brecht. Which I mention because Liveright is admirably bringing out: "the most extensive English translation of Brecht's poetry to date" this December (which still gives them time to design a new cover ?), David Constantine and Tom Kuhn's translations of The Collected Poems of Bertolt Brecht; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or -- surely one the most significant poetry-in-translation events of the year.

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

       Book tracking

       At the PowellsBooks.Blog Dear Committee Members-author Julie Schumacher posts Five Reasons to Keep Track of Every Single Book You Read, and as someone who has long kept track of all his book purchases as well as reads (and, for a couple of years now, all the books received/acquired hereabouts) I can certainly endorse her suggestion (if not all these particular reasons).
       I've found it helpful -- and interesting -- and if you go through a lot of books you probably would(/do ?) too.

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

16 August 2018 - Thursday

John Calder (1927-2018) | My Struggle: Book Six (The End) review

       John Calder (1927-2018)

       Sad to hear that another of the grand old men of UK publishing has passed away; see, for example, Heloise Wood's 'Towering' opponent of censorship John Calder dies aged 91 at The Bookseller and Alasdair Steven's Obituary -- John Calder, ground-breaking publisher, co-founder of the Traverse and leading figure at the Edinburgh festival in The Herald.

       I accumulated a fair number of the old Calder titles over the years, as he published an eclectic, impressive selection of authors.
       Alma took over the imprint, and they've been re-issuing some of the titles in a new look.

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

       My Struggle: Book Six (The End) review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the final volume in Karl Ove Knausgaard's grand epic, My Struggle: Book Six -- or, more succinctly, The End (so the UK edition).

       At 1152 pages this is one of the longer titles under review at the complete review -- the longest reviewed this year, in fact, though it is not even the longest major translation appearing this year (Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries has several hundred pages on it). It is also the longest review I've posted in ages -- and that's just for this volume; while books one and two are under review I still have to get to three through five -- and the series-as-a-whole probably also deserves a separate review .....
       Is it worthwhile ? I'd say yes. But, yes, it is a lot -- and, yes, it's a bit (okay, a lot) self-indulgent.

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

15 August 2018 - Wednesday

German Book Prize longlist | Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalists

       German Book Prize longlist

       They've announced the twenty-title strong longlist for this year's German Book Prize, selected from 199 titles (165 submitted, with an additional 34 called in by the judges).
       Quite a few of the longlisted authors have had titles translated into English, including Maxim Biller, Arno Geiger, and Gert Loschütz, and it's nice to see Adolf Muschg's latest make it.
       In his overview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Andreas Platthaus suggests that among the arguably overlooked titles were the big works by Michael Lentz (over 1000 pages ...) and Steffen Mensching (820pp), as well as Robert Seethaler's Das Feld.
       The shortlist will be announced 11 September, and the winner on 8 October.

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

       Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalists

       They've announced the finalists for this year's Dayton Literary Peace Prize -- an award honoring books that treat: "the theme of peace on a variety of levels, such as between individuals, among families and communities, or between nations, religions, or ethnic groups" -- six titles each in the fiction and non categories.
       The fiction list, in particular, looks strong -- though none of these titles are under review at the complete review.
       The winners will be announced 18 September, and honored on 28 October.

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

14 August 2018 - Tuesday

Complete Dialogue with Death found | Bookselling in ... Iceland
FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year longlist
The Tears of the Black Man review

       Complete Dialogue with Death found

       Rozmowy Mistrza Polikarpa ze Śmiercią -- 'Master Polikarp's Dialogue with Death' -- is apparently: "widely recognised as the first masterpiece of Polish literature", but until now:
only 498 verses of the original dialogue were known from a fifteenth-century manuscript.

The ending of the piece had to be (partially) reconstructed from a translation into a Ruthenian, a forerunner of today's Russian, Ukrainian and Belarussian languages.
       But now someone found: "a complete Polish text of 918 verses", and a critical edition will be published soon; see Aleksander Nowacki's report at The First News, Full text of Polish literature's oldest masterpiece found, as well as the (Polish) Życie Uniwersyteckie press release.
       For the fragmentary text -- i.e. all that was previously available -- in its fragmentary (Polish) entirety, see here (my favorite part being the concluding: "(Końca brak)").

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

       Bookselling in ... Iceland

       Iceland is widely hailed as a nation of readers and a wonderful literary environment in all respects -- great publishing scene, etc. etc. -- but apparently the situation is not quite as rosy as we've been led to believe: as the Morgunblaðið/iceland monitor report has it, local Book sales continue to drop.
       Down another five per cent last year, and:
Book sales have plummeted in recent years, dropping by 11 percent in 2016 alone, and by 36 percent from 2008 till 2017.
       The title-totals apparently haven't changed that much, nor has book pricing. No, it seems people are just not as into reading any longer.

       Check out for yourself what they consider the most interesting titles of the past few years, as the excellent Icelandic Literature Center site has 'Books from Iceland'-catalogues for the past couple of years that you can browse.

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

       FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year -- fifteen titles, selected from some 500 (unnamed) entries, in the running for the £30,000 prize, with only one (Adam Tooze's Crashed) under review at the complete review.
       I kind of like that they also list five books which were: "near-misses for the longlist" -- or is it cruel to name those ? (I would love to see publishers of these add a sticker announcing 'Just missed making the FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year longlist' on the covers .....)

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

       The Tears of the Black Man review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alain Mabanckou's slim essay-collection, The Tears of the Black Man, just out in English from Indiana University Press.

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

13 August 2018 - Monday

Getting ready for Anniversaries
Lu Xun Literature Awards | Strike Your Heart review

       Getting ready for Anniversaries

       Uwe Johnson's great novel Anniversaries has long been under review at the complete review, but that 2007 review was based on the original German; until now, English-language readers only had access to a radically abridged translation -- but in October New York Review Books is bringing out a complete translation, by Damion Searls, one of the biggest publishing events of the year, and not just of fiction in translation.
       In Publishers Weekly John Maher now reports on some of the prep-work for the unleashing of this tome (or set of tomes, in a nice boxed edition), in how With Anniversaries, NYRB Brings Behemoth of a German Novel Into English
       Among the observations:
The big trick was marketing such a monster of a tome -- and, in the U.S., an obscure one at that -- to booksellers. That's where NYRB's reputation in the business came in handy. "At some level, booksellers who know and like NYRB Classics and are already interested in what we do will hear when we say, 'This is, literally, the biggest book we've ever done,'?" said NYRB publicity manager Nick During. And yet, he added, "We wanted to give people time to get going."
       You've pre-ordered your copy, right ? (At your local bookseller -- or at or You know you need that nice boxed set on your bookshelves ..... And it is a damned good book, well worth your time.

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

       Lu Xun Literature Awards

       They've announced the winners of the latest set of Lu Xun Literature Awards [鲁迅文学奖], which covers work published 2014-2017, in seven categories.
       There were thirty-four winners; Mei Jia has an overview in China Daily, Lu Xun Literature Prize names 2014-17 winners, while you can find all the winning titles and authors (in Chinese) here.
       Among the winners in the novella-category is a work by Alai, who has had several novels translated into English.
       Four works won the translation awards, including translations of Eduardo Galeano's Genesis: Memory of Fire, a novel by Christophe Ono-dit-Biot, and the complete poetry of Horace -- but the one I'm really curious about is the translation of: "Italian Renaissance poet Ludouico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso in the style of traditional Chinese opera" !

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

       Strike Your Heart review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Amélie Nothomb's Strike Your Heart, just about out in English from Europa Editions (and only a year after it appeared in French -- though US/UK publishers haven't otherwise been keeping up with her book-a-year rate; the last of her books to appear in translation came out three years ago).
       Appropriate, too: today is Nothomb's birthday -- her fifty-first !

       (Updated - 14 August): More accurately, it was the day she claims for her birthday: she's always given it as 13 August 1967, and that she was born in Kobe, Japan; the more prosaic reality is that she was apparently actually born 9 July 1966, in Etterbeek, Belgium.

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

12 August 2018 - Sunday

V.S.Naipaul (1932-2018) | Rein Raud Q & A
People in the Room review

       V.S.Naipaul (1932-2018)

       The great writer and 2001 Nobel laureate V.S.Naipaul has passed away; see, for example, Rachel Donadio's V.S. Naipaul, Who Explored Colonialism Through Unsparing Books, Dies at 85 in The New York Times and Richard Lea's VS Naipaul, Nobel prize-winning British author, dies aged 85 in The Guardian.
       Several of his works are under review at the complete review:        But I had already read practically all of his work before I started the site, which is why there aren't more under review. His most famous work remains A House for Mr. Biswas -- get your copy at or -- while among the reviewed titles I think Magic Seeds, in particular, is underrated.
       And don't forget Paul Theroux's wonderful Sir Vidia's Shadow.

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

       Rein Raud Q & A

       At estonian world Edith Soosaar has a Q & A with Rein Raud, How can Estonian writers reach the English-speaking market ?
       Among his responses:
Is it plausible to make your living as a full time author ?
       Two of his works are under review at the complete review: The Brother and The Reconstruction.

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

       People in the Room review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Norah Lange's 1950 novel, People in the Room, just out in English from And Other Stories.

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

11 August 2018 - Saturday

SingLit | Buddhadeva Bose and ... Henry Miller | The Literary Saloon turns 16


       In The Business Times Megan Tan reports on A new chapter for singlit, as: "Singapore literature, affectionately termed "SingLit", is on the rise"; she talks to Edmund Wee of Epigram and Kenny Leck of Math Paper Press.

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

       Buddhadeva Bose and ... Henry Miller

       One doesn't see much Buddhadeva Bose in the US, but Archipelago did bring out his My Kind of Girl a few years ago, and Oxford University Press now has a collection of 'English Writings of Buddhadeva Bose', An Acre of Green Grass (see their publicity page, or get your copy at or -- and Granta has an excerpt, with an introduction by Amit Chaudhuri, To Remember is to Live Again, describing a visit Bose took to ... Henry Miller at Big Sur.
       Not exactly a meeting of authors I would have expected, but fun to learn about.

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

       The Literary Saloon turns 16

       The complete review is already in its twentieth year, but this Literary Saloon weblog was a later addition, only added in the summer of 2002 -- 11 August, to be exact.
       The lit-blog scene has changed dramatically over these years, from a relatively small community to a much more far-flung one. There seem to be more 'book blogs' -- often review-focused -- than ever, with more niches covered, along with a few juggernaut multi-purpose literary sites that also provide a variety of literary news and coverage, but there still also seems a place for a (part of a site) like this, with its peculiar foci (and, in particular, its international outlook).
       While the site's/my Twitter presence has become a substitute-outlet for some of the smaller bits of news and observation that in the earlier days would have found a place here, the format still has its uses; it'll be interesting to see how/if it holds up (and I can hold it up ...) for another sixteen years (or six ...).
       The weblog also continues to have a surprisingly dedicated audience -- I appreciate the continued interest, and am pleased you continue to find what you find here of some interest/use/entertainment.

       And, of course:

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

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