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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review


The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 September 2018

11 September: Grand Prix de littérature américaine longlist | Pretty Things review
12 September: German Book Prize shortlist | Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize shortlist | Another Life review
13 September: (American) National Book Award for Translated Literature longlist | Reading in ... the US | Inhuman Resources review
14 September: Self-published French prize contender | Prix Médicis longlists | Walpurgis Night review
15 September: (American) National Book Award for Fiction longlist | Will Self on the decline of print-culture | Les Guérillères review
16 September: Top post-Soviet Russian fiction ?
17 September: No 'New Academy Prize in Literature' for Murakami | Second round selection for the prix Sade
18 September: The 21st century canon ? | Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist | Prix Femina longlists | An Accidental Man review
19 September: Swiss Book Prize finalists | Dayton Literary Peace Prize winners | -ky (Horst Bosetzky) 1938-2018
20 September: Marlon James in Norwegian | New Quarterly Conversation | The Cold Summer review

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20 September 2018 - Thursday

Marlon James in Norwegian | New Quarterly Conversation
The Cold Summer review

       Marlon James in Norwegian

       Marlon James' A Brief History of Seven Killings recently came out in Norwegian, from Mime -- see their publicity page -- and what's really impressive here is that they had twelve translators tackle it -- not to get it done fast; instead, as James explains:
they didn't divide the book by section, they divided it by CHARACTER. And EACH translator a different role. They literally casted for the book with leading novelists, playwrights, philosophers, and performers.
       How awesome is that ? (And I'd love to hear more about this .....)
       (The Afternposten article is paywalled, but you get some of the idea from the title: 1401 «fuck» på 700 sider var langt fra den største utfordringen da romanen skulle oversettes.)

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



       New Quarterly Conversation

       The Fall/2018 issue of the Quarterly Conversation -- always worth your time.

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



       The Cold Summer review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Gianrico Carofiglio's The Cold Summer, just out from Bitter Lemon Press.

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



19 September 2018 - Wednesday

Swiss Book Prize finalists | Dayton Literary Peace Prize winners
-ky (Horst Bosetzky) 1938-2018

       Swiss Book Prize finalists

       They've announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the five finalists for this year's (German-language) Swiss Book Prize, selected from 85 titles.
       They include works by Peter Stamm and Heinz Helle; the winner will be announced 11 November.

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



       Dayton Literary Peace Prize winners

       They've announced the winners of this year's Dayton Literary Peace Prizes, celebrating: "the power of literature to promote peace, social justice, and global understanding" -- Salt Houses by Hala Alyan winning the fiction prize (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates winning the non-fiction prize.
       They get to pick up the prizes on 28 October.

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



       -ky (Horst Bosetzky) 1938-2018

       Popular German mystery-author (and sociologist) Horst Bosetzky, who published much of his work under the pseudonym "-ky", has passed away; see, for example, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung report.

       "-ky" was certainly among the more unusual pseudonyms -- French crime writers DOA and San-Antonio are others -- but it couldn't last into the internet age (though he revealed his identity quite a while ago anyway): it is literally impossible to search for on Google (see), for example.
       Very popular in Germany, he doesn't seem to have made much of an impression abroad, certainly not in English; Cold Angel appears to be the only work available; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

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



18 September 2018 - Tuesday

The 21st century canon ? | Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist
Prix Femina longlists | An Accidental Man review

       The 21st century canon ?

       Apparently, eighteen years in, we're deep enough into the twenty-first century that the question of what a twenty-first century canon might look like is in the air: Czech magazine A2 devoted its most recent issue to the Literární kánon 21. století -- complete with a contribution from yours truly, Co přetrvá ? (okay, okay -- there's an English version too) -- and now at New York's Vulture they offer A Premature Attempt at the 21st Century Canon, as: 'A panel of critics tells us what belongs on a list of the 100 most important books of the 2000s ... so far'.
       Apparently, 31 critics were asked, and The Last Samurai, by Helen DeWitt, topped the field, with seven nods; Christian Lorentzen devotes a separate piece to it, explaining that Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai Is the Best Book of the Century (for Now).
       (I do note that I wish they'd be clearer on their terms: I would argue that 'the best' is not necessarily 'canonical' (and vice versa); similarly, 'important' is a very different quality than 'best'. So, for example, I do believe Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle -- the whole damn thing, from volume one to six is -- and likely will remain -- canonical; I think it is very good, but not among the best books of the twenty-first century -- and I'm split over the question of its importance .....)
       The twelve 'new classics' -- the top vote-getters -- definitely skews too English-language for my tastes, but certainly a case can be made for some of these; after that the list gets really hit and miss.
       'The canon' is a high, high bar, and I think very few books come close to clearing it -- and not nearly most of these.

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



       Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's (Canadian) Scotiabank Giller Prize, twelve titles chosen from 104 submissions.
       Two of the titles are translations (from the French) -- and quite a few of these have also (or will soon) appear south of the border (not that I've seen any of them yet ...).

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



       Prix Femina longlists

       The French Prix Femina has announced its longlists; see, for example the Livres Hebdo report.
       The Femina has two categories -- French novels and translated novels. Quite a few of the authors on the translated longlist have had titles translated into English -- but not (yet) these, as translation-into-English continues to lag behind the French.
       The Femina is yet another of these French prizes that now goes through four rounds -- longlist, shorter list (coming 5 October), shortlist (24 October), and winner (5 November). (I'm wondering which will be the first prize to go for five rounds .....)

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



       An Accidental Man review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Iris Murdoch's 1971 novel, An Accidental Man.

       Murdoch is one of those writers -- like Philip Roth -- that I have to carefully dose; there's an insistent intensity to her work that makes it hard for me to digest several in a row -- but what a pleasure to return to her writing after a while away from it.
       An Accidental Man is jaw-droppingly good -- near-perfect, really. I can see readers being put off by some of the unpleasantness -- it is astonishingly grimy, for example (as Murdoch often is) -- but it is so well-done -- layers of story, a variety of forms, all fitting together in a wonderful huge heap. Absolutely remarkable -- and a great reading pleasure, from the first page to the last.

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



17 September 2018 - Monday

No 'New Academy Prize in Literature' for Murakami
Second round selection for the prix Sade

       No 'New Academy Prize in Literature' for Murakami

       The one-off Nobel Prize-substitute (because they've postponed the 2018 literature prize for the real thing until (at least) next year) 'New Academy Prize in Literature' announced their four finalists a couple of weeks ago -- but now they're down to three, as Murakami Haruki has begged off; see, for example, the Kyodo report at The Mainichi, Murakami withdraws from alternative literature award for Nobel prize.
       Ostensibly, the reason is that: "his preference is to concentrate on his writing, away from media attention". Given that he's never been shy about picking up prizes before -- most recently, the 2016 H.C.Andersen Literature Award -- this sounds ... suspect. More likely, surely, is that he recognized that this is kind of an iffy award -- and that the Nobel deciding Swedish Academy, in whatever form it eventually reconstitutes, can not look kindly on this upstart elbowing in on its space. I.e. he's trying to keep himself in the picture for the only literary author-prize that really matters.
       Aside from that, I really see no reason why this 'New Academy' pays any attention to his wishes: he doesn't have to accept the prize, after all -- or he could accept it à la Dylan, making complete fools of the prize-givers -- but surely it shouldn't be a consideration in giving out any literary prize whether or not the honoree actually wants it. (Not to mention that he probably gets more of that media attention he claims to want to avoid by withdrawing from the prize than he would if he actually won this silly thing.)

       Look forward also to a flood of Murakami-coverage -- including interviews with the supposedly so interview-averse author -- with the forthcoming US/UK release of his Killing Commendatore.

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



       Second round selection for the prix Sade

       The French prix Sade has announced its second round, a longlist of ten titles -- see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.
       As always an interesting range of titles, including the latest DOA novel and Apollonia Saintclair's Ink is my blood.
       Also: some great publisher names: Mania Press, Le Murmure, Humus, Puf, and Encre sympathique (which is the nice French term for 'invisible ink').

       The winner will be announced 6 October.

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



16 September 2018 - Sunday

Top post-Soviet Russian fiction ?

       Top post-Soviet Russian fiction ?

       At Год Литературы they asked 24 experts for their top five Russian works of fiction of the past thirty years (so a few Soviet titles slip in); see the complete (Russian) list here (and scroll down for each of the experts' individual choices).
       Two of the top three titles are by Victor Pelevin -- 1990s works by him, the top title being his Generation П, published in English as both Babylon and Homo Zapiens (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
       Only a few of the titles on this list are under review at the complete review, though quite a few more are available in translation (of which I have several, some of which I should be getting to, eventually):
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



15 September 2018 - Saturday

(American) National Book Award for Fiction longlist
Will Self on the decline of print-culture | Les Guérillères review

       (American) National Book Award for Fiction longlist

       They've now announced all the longlists for this year's (American) National Book Awards, with yesterday's announcement (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of the fiction longlist.
       Ten titles, selected from 368 submissions, and dear lord I haven't seen any of these. (I really maybe should start paying more attention to contemporary American fiction .....)
       The finalists, in all the categories, will be announced 10 October.

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



       Will Self on the decline of print-culture

       In the October issue of Harper's Will Self goes on at considerable length about The Printed Word in Peril.
       Self writes:
What I do feel isolated in -- if not entirely alone in -- is my determination, as a novelist, essayist, and journalist, not to rage against the dying of literature's light, although it's surprising how little of this there is, but merely to examine the great technological discontinuity of our era, as we pivot from the wave to the particle, the fractal to the fungible, and the mechanical to the computable.
       He's also really trying to make this term, 'bidirectional digital media' -- now with a handy acronym, BDDM ! -- catch on. No one else seems to have embraced it yet, but he's been pushing it for years -- and really heaps the BDDM on here.

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



       Les Guérillères review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Monique Wittig's 1969 classic, Les Guérillères.

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



14 September 2018 - Friday

Self-published French prize contender | Prix Médicis longlists
Walpurgis Night review

       Self-published French prize contender

       The American National Book Awards -- the longlists are being announced this week -- specifically exclude: "Books published through self-publishing services, including CreateSpace"; the French prix Renaudot -- the second most prestigious (after the Goncourt) -- apparently doesn't, and its recently-announced longlist includes a title -- Bande de Français, by Marco Koskas -- published on ... Amazon-owned CreateSpace.
       French booksellers and authors are not pleased. As France 24 reports, French book prize kicks up storm with Amazon selection.
       Koskas is no out-of-nowhere author: he's published quite few works, with some of France's best-known publishers (including Fayard, Grasset, and JC Lattès) -- and even been profiled in Forward. But when he couldn't find a publisher for this work he decided to do it himself -- on Amazon's platform; get your copy at Amazon.fr.
       An interesting debate -- with the fact that Amazon is involved of course a nice added twist.

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



       Prix Médicis longlists

       Another day, another French literary prize longlist -- this time it's the Médicis; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.
       The Médicis is of interest because, aside from honoring a work of French fiction (12 titles longlisted), they also have a foreign-literature category (10 titles longlisted). Quite a few titles from the English in the running -- by Zadie Smith, Rachel Kushner, and Yiyun Li, among others -- but also a few other languages represented.

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



       Walpurgis Night review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Tragicomedy in Five Acts by Venedikt Erofeev, his late Soviet-era play, Walpurgis Night, or the Steps of the Commander, out a couple of years ago in Yale University Press' Margellos World Republic of Letters.

       I do have to admit my patience with (psychiatric) asylum-dramas is wearing ever-thinner. (I've never liked fool-characters, either, from King Lear on .....) Throw in alcohol and ... enough already.

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



13 September 2018 - Thursday

(American) National Book Award for Translated Literature longlist
Reading in ... the US | Inhuman Resources review

       (American) National Book Award for Translated Literature longlist

       The (American) National Book Awards are announcing their longlists this week, and yesterday they announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the longlist for the Translated Literature-award -- a category added this year, honoring translation for the first time since the 1967 to 1982 run of their previous translation award.
       Unlike the old incarnation, which considered translation in all genres (including drama and poetry), the new version is limited to works of fiction and non -- and the authors must be alive. (The old award was dominated by the dead: 17 of the 23 winning works were by authors deceased at the time they were nominated.)

       The ten-title strong longlist, selected from 142 submissions, is:
  • Aetherial Worlds, by Tatyana Tolstaya, tr. by Anya Migdal

  • The Beekeeper, by Dunya Mikhail, tr. by Max Weiss and Dunya Mikhail

  • Comemadre, by Roque Larraquy, tr. by Heather Cleary

  • Disoriental, by Négar Djavadi, tr. by Tina Kover

  • The Emissary, by Tawada Yoko, tr. by Margaret Mitsutani

  • Flights, by Olga Tokarczuk, tr. by Jennifer Croft

  • Love, by Hanne Ørstavik, tr. by Martin Aitken

  • One Part Woman, by Perumal Murugan, tr. by Aniruddhan Vasudevan

  • Trick, by Domenico Starnone, tr. by Jhumpa Lahiri

  • Wait, Blink, by Gunnhild Øyehaug, tr. by Kari Dickson
       It would be interesting to know how many works of non-fiction were submitted; surprisingly (?) only one made the final ten.
       Having already won the Man Booker International Prize, Flights is presumably the early favorite.
       Lots of notable big -- especially big ... -- translations didn't make the cut, most notably Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle: Book Six and Killing Commendatore by Murakami Haruki. Two Norwegian titles made the cut -- the only language represented by more than one title -- but neither Knausgaard nor either of the eligible Dag Solstad works (T Singer and Armand V.) were among them ..... Among big-name authors, works by Ismail Kadare, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Patrick Modiano also didn't make the cut.
       The Best Translated Book Award, which covers books from almost the exact same span (BTBA: published any time in 2018; NBAs: published between 1 December 2017 and 30 November 2018), only announces its longlists (25 titles in the fiction category) 10 April 2019; it'll be interesting to see how much overlap there is.
       The finalists for the National Book Awards will be announced 10 October, the winners on 14 November.

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



       Reading in ... the US

       The (American) National Endowment for the Arts offers 'A First Look at Results from the 2017 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts', in U.S. Trends in Arts Attendance and Literary Reading: 2002-2017 (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       Among the good news: the percent of adults reading poetry has increased from 6.7% in 2012 to 11.7% in 2017 (though that's still less than the 12.1% in 2002 ...). The percent of adults reading plays has also increased dramatically, from 2.9% in 2012 to 3.7% in 2017 (though that's just a shade more than 2002's 3.6%).
       Among the more disappointing findings; "the share of those reading novels or short stories is now lower than in any prior survey period" -- a shocking mere 41.8%.

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



       Inhuman Resources review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pierre Lemaitre's Inhuman Resources, just out in English.

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



12 September 2018 - Wednesday

German Book Prize shortlist | Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize shortlist
Another Life review

       German Book Prize shortlist

       They've announced the six-title shortlist for the German Book Prize.
       The only one of these titles I have is Der Vogelgott by Susanne Röckel; maybe I'll get to it before the winner is announced (8 October).

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



       Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize shortlist

       They've announced the six-title shortlist for the British Academy's Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, a £25,000 prize for a work of non-fiction that: 'contributes to global cultural understanding and illuminates the interconnections and divisions that shape cultural identity worldwide'.
       The winner will be announced 30 October.

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



       Another Life review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Theodor Kallifatides On Memory, Language, Love, and the Passage of Time, Another Life.

       Greek-born Kallifatides emigrated to Sweden when he was in his twenties, and this is an interesting work from someone between two cultures, and the choice of what language to write in -- a good complement to Jhumpa Lahiri's In Other Words.

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



11 September 2018 - Tuesday

Grand Prix de littérature américaine longlist | Pretty Things review

       Grand Prix de littérature américaine longlist

       The (American) National Book Foundation will be announcing the longlists for this year's National Book Awards in the coming days, beginning with those for 'Young People's Literature' and 'Translated Literature' tomorrow, but if you don't trust the Americans to judge their own books you can always defer to the French, who have a Grand Prix de littérature américaine whose nine-title longlist has just been announced.
       Sure, it's limited to American fiction that has been translated into French -- but that's still a lot of books to choose from.

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



       Pretty Things review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Virginie Despentes' Pretty Things, just out in English from Feminist Press.
       In the UK they already have the first two volumes of her Vernon Subutex-trilogy out (and in German and Spanish they're all caught up with all three already ...); in the US we get a translation of her 1998 novel ..... Which is, of course, also nice to see -- but that twenty-years-behind-the-times-lag seems all too symptomatic of translation into English in the US .....

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



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