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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 December 2018

1 December: Bad Sex in Fiction finalists | Litprom-Bestenliste | Scenes from a Childhood review
2 December: Olga Tokarczuk profile | Open Letter Q & A | The Guardian's best books lists
3 December: Jerry Pinto Q & A | Posthomerica review
4 December: More best-of-the-year selections | Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award
5 December: Andrei Bitov (1937-2018) | More books coverage ? | The New York Times' critics favorites | Solovyov and Larionov review
6 December: Prime Minister's Literary Awards | Thanks review
7 December: Justin Cartwright (1945-2018) | Cambodia Book Fair | Hide and Seek review
8 December: Sahitya Akademi Awards | Prabda Yoon Q & A | The Act of Roger Murgatroyd review
9 December: Writing in ... Kenya | Dror Burstein Q & A
10 December: Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards | Enrique Vila-Matas Q & A | Portrait of a Man Known as Il Condottiere review

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10 December 2018 - Monday

Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards | Enrique Vila-Matas Q & A
Portrait of a Man Known as Il Condottiere review

       Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards

       They've announced the winners of the Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards, one of the leading Iranian literary prizes.
       Reza Amirkhani's رهش won for best novel; see also the Afeg publicity page.
       As to the other categories ... the Tehran Times report notes the jury declined to select any winners, leaving only honorable mentions (with those mentioned getting only one-third of what a prize-winner payout would have been).
       The prize payout is usually 30 Bahar Azadi gold coins, but this year they paid out cash -- 1 billion (!) rial. That's about US$24,000 at the official rate -- but the black market rate is considerably worse; I suspect that is the reason the payout is in cash rather gold ..... (Admirably, whatever the amount, Amirkhani donated his entire winnings to a good cause.)

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



       Enrique Vila-Matas Q & A

       At Tin House Veronica Scott Esposito has The Literature of No: An Interview with Enrique Vila-Matas.
       A lengthy Q & A -- including a bit on Vila-Matas' wonderful Because She Never Asked.
       (And Vila-Matas is right to boast about his author site, by the way -- it is exemplary.)

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



       Portrait of a Man Known as Il Condottiere review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Georges Perec's Portrait of a Man Known as Il Condottiere (published in the UK simply as: Portrait of a Man), as I finally got my hands on a copy.

       Perec wrote this in 1960 but it wasn't published then and was long thought lost; it was only first published in 2012, and then in an English translation by Perec-expert David Bellos in 2014.
       The UK (MacLehose Press) edition of this seems to have gotten considerably more attention than the University of Chicago Press edition did in the United States; I wonder why. A commercial press has an edge on a university one ? Are UK readers (or at least book review-assigning editors) more open to and interested in Perec/Oulipo ? The shorter title ? (Interesting, too, that this was commercially published in the UK, but that the US edition came from a university press.)

       Meanwhile, Perec's even earlier (1957) L'attentat de Sarajevo has now also been published in French -- see the Seuil publicity page -- so I hope we see an English translation of that soon, too. (I note that there's already a Chinese translation of this ... (really: 萨拉热窝谋杀案; see the Nanjing University Press publicity page).)

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



9 December 2018 - Sunday

Writing in ... Kenya | Dror Burstein Q & A

       Writing in ... Kenya

       In the Daily Nation Godwin Siundu makes the case that Kenya's literature is ailing but our local languages can save it
       His starting point is pretty harsh:
At a time when communicative incompetence in both spoken and written mother tongues has become the norm, how can Kenyan writers imbue cultural originality in the literary works that they hope to create ?
       He finds:
I fear that currently, Kenya's literature is in the sick bay -- and the prognosis is shifty -- because upcoming writers are deprived of the analytical depth and nuance that could be easily acquired through mastery of their mother tongues.
       I'm not sure about that 'easily', but still .....

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



       Dror Burstein Q & A

       At the Los Angeles Review of Books Ian Dreiblatt has a Q & A with Netanya-author Dror Burstein about his new-in-translation Muck.
       See also the Farrar, Straus and Giroux publicity page and the ITHL information page for Muck, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



8 December 2018 - Saturday

Sahitya Akademi Awards | Prabda Yoon Q & A
The Act of Roger Murgatroyd review

       Sahitya Akademi Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's Sahitya Akademi Awards -- a leading Indian literary award that honors writing in 24 (!) Indian languages; see the official press release (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       This year's awards cover books first published in the past five years (1 January 2012 to 31 December 2016); winners get a plaque, a shawl, and ₹100,000. Seven winning titles were poetry collections, while six each were novels and short story collections.
       The Blind Lady's Descendants by Anees Salim won the English language category; see the Penguin India publicity page. Rama Kant Shukla's मम जननी won the Sanskrit category, while Chitra Mudgal's novel, 203-नाला सोपारा, won the Hindi category.
       Hopefully we'll see some of these in English translation at some point .....

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



       Prabda Yoon Q & A

       In The Navhind Times Christine Machado has a Q & A with Thai author, filmmaker, and artist Prabda Yoon, A man of many arts.
       Regarding the general absence of Thai literature on too much of the world stage he notes:
Good translators of Thai literature are also hard to come by. That may be the biggest obstacle. But things are starting to change a bit. In 2019 two books by the same Thai female author, Duanwad Pimwana, will be published in the US by two different publishing houses. That is a really big deal because, amazing as it may seem, it will be the first time that a contemporary Thai author who writes in Thai gets published and distributed commercially in the US.
       That is, indeed, a big deal -- and I look forward to seeing these titles (Bright, coming from Two Lines Press, and Arid Dreams, from The Feminist Press).
       Prabda's The Sad Part Was is under review at the complete review, but I completely missed that Tilted Axis has brought out a second book by him -- Moving Parts; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. Now that I know, I should be getting to this soon.

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



       The Act of Roger Murgatroyd review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Gilbert Adair's The Act of Roger Murgatroyd, the first in his Evadne Mount trilogy, an amusing homage-cum-satire of Golden Age mysteries.

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



7 December 2018 - Friday

Justin Cartwright (1945-2018) | Cambodia Book Fair | Hide and Seek review

       Justin Cartwright (1945-2018)

       Justin Cartwright has passed away; see, for example, Heloise Wood's report in The Bookseller.
       I've enjoyed his work -- and two of his novels are under review at the complete review: Leading the Cheers and The Promise of Happiness.

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



       Cambodia Book Fair

       The Cambodia Book Fair runs through 9 December; see also Chhum Chaivathanak's report, Celebrate literature at the 7th Cambodia Book Fair in the Khmer Times.
       Of course, what I'd really like to see is more (any !) Cambodian fiction available in English .....

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



       Hide and Seek review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Dennis Potter's Hide and Seek.

       I reviewed quite a few of his TV works in the early days of the site, as well as some books about him, but this is the first of his novels I've covered; I have the other two (Ticket to Ride and Blackeyes) and expect to get to them too.
       It's certainly ... very Potter. So also with a lot that's really sharp and bitter -- such as:
Honesty is in short supply within the putrefying corpse of the poisoned octopus which slimily tentacles the London literary scene.

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



6 December 2018 - Thursday

Prime Minister's Literary Awards | Thanks review

       Prime Minister's Literary Awards

       They've announced this year's (Australian) Prime Minister's Literary Awards -- six titles in six categories, including Gerald Murnane's Border Districts for fiction, and Blindness and Rage by Brian Castro for poetry.
       The Castro -- A novel in thirty-four cantos -- sounds great -- see the Giramondo publicity page -- but doesn't appear to be out in the US (yet ... ?).

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



       Thanks review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pablo Katchadjian's Thanks, just out from Dalkey Archive Press.

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



5 December 2018 - Wednesday

Andrei Bitov (1937-2018) | More books coverage ?
The New York Times' critics favorites | Solovyov and Larionov review

       Andrei Bitov (1937-2018)

       Sad to hear the great Andrei Bitov has passed away; see, for example, The Moscow Times' report, Writer Andrei Bitov is Dead.
       Two of his books are under review at the complete review: Pushkin House and The Symmetry Teacher.

       (Updated - 8 December): See now also Neil Genzlinger's Bitov-obituary in The New York Times.

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



       More books coverage ?

       In the Columbia Journalism Review Sam Eichner considers What's behind a recent rise in books coverage ? as there's apparently been an increase in prominent-outlet book coverage.
       'Coverage' extends way beyond mere reviews -- as, sigh:
But the best format for them to do so is likely no longer the traditional, single-book, literary review. To break through the noise, editors must translate old-fashioned book coverage to the lingua francas of today’s impossibly paced media climate: shareable lists, essays, digestible Q&As, podcasts, scannable email newsletters, hashtags, Instagrams, even book trailers.
       Of course, there's long been a lot of this sort of book coverage -- hell, some of this is exactly what you've gotten at this Literary Saloon for close to twenty years -- but I still think reviews are the most useful form of book-information to provide readers.

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



       The New York Times' critics favorites

       At The New York Times staff critics Dwight Garner, Parul Sehgal and Jennifer Szalai present their Times Critics' Top Books of 2018 (with Janet Maslin getting a separate column for her Favorite Books of 2018).
       Helpfully, the Times Critics Discuss the Year in Books, From Triumphs to Disappointments, talking: "with each other about the wide variety of reading they did in 2018"

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



       Solovyov and Larionov review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Eugene Vodolazkin's Solovyov and Larionov -- the third of his novels to appear in English (all from Oneworld, all translated by Lisa C. Hayden), but this was actually his debut.

       It's out in the UK, but American reader will have to wait until ... May.

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



4 December 2018 - Tuesday

More best-of-the-year selections | Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award

       More best-of-the-year selections

       The Guardian has their: "favourite authors on the most outstanding books they read this year" -- personal choices by the likes of Jonathan Franzen, Hilary Mantel, and Ian Rankin, among others -- in Best books of 2018: Hilary Mantel, Yuval Noah Harari and more pick their favourites

       Meanwhile, at the Open Letters Review Steve Donoghue continues his listing of the best (and worst ...) of the year in various categories -- including now The Best Books of 2018: Works in Translation !
       Lots of re-translations here -- only three of these books are entirely new --, and classical works -- and missing Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries .....
       Only one of these titles is under review at the complete review: Vuillard's The Order of the Day.

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



       Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award

       They've announced the winner of this year's Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award -- not yet at the official site, last I checked, but see, for example, Sian Cain's report in The Guardian on how James Frey wins bad sex in fiction award for 'dubious' Katerina, which sounds about right.

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



3 December 2018 - Monday

Jerry Pinto Q & A | Posthomerica review

       Jerry Pinto Q & A

       Via I'm pointed to Kanika Katyal's Q & A at Indian Cultural Forum, "Time for polyphony": Jerry Pinto on the Task of a Translator.
       I haven't seen any of Pinto's translations yet, but two of his works are under review at the complete review: Em and the Big Hoom and Helen.

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



       Posthomerica review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Quintus Smyrnaeus' Posthomerica -- the story of the Trojan war, from where the Iliad leaves off !

       This is the new-this-year Loeb Classical Library edition and translation (by Neil Hopkinson) that replaces, after more than a hundred years, the old A.S.Way translation.

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



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2 December 2018 - Sunday

Olga Tokarczuk profile | Open Letter Q & A | The Guardian's best books lists

       Olga Tokarczuk profile

       In The National Malcolm Forbes profiles Olga Tokarczuk: winner of the Man Booker International Prize says she has six novels left in her.
       Forbes notes:
For years she has been widely read and lauded in Europe. The Anglophone world has been slow to recognise her talent, but with luck her Booker win will raise her profile. In her native land, Tokarczuk enjoys commercial and critical success. Moreover, she has emerged as a notable feminist, an environmental activist, and a prominent critic of Poland's right-wing politics.

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



       Open Letter Q & A

       At BookMarks Heather Cleary inaugurates a new periodic feature, Publishers Spotlight: Open Letter Books with a Q & A with head man at Open Letter, Chad Post.

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



       The Guardian's best books lists

       The Guardian now has its Guardian best books of 2018: across fiction, politics, food and more.

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



1 December 2018 - Saturday

Bad Sex in Fiction finalists | Litprom-Bestenliste | Scenes from a Childhood review

       Bad Sex in Fiction finalists

       The Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award will announce a winner on Monday, and at The Guardian you can now see what's in the running, in Bad sex award 2018: the contenders in quotes.

       The only one of these titles under review at the complete review is Murakami Haruki's Killing Commendatore.

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



       Litprom-Bestenliste

       The German Litprom organization was founded to promote African, Asian, and Latin American literature, and several times a year they publish a 'best-list' of recommended titles -- and the 41st, the Winter 2018 list, is now up.
       Always interesting to see the foreign litertaure available in other languages -- and some of these are available in English, with more to follow (e.g. Wang Ting-Kuo's My Enemy's Cherry Tree is apparently due out from Portobello Books next April).

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



       Scenes from a Childhood review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of a collection of prose by Jon Fosse, Scenes from a Childhood, now also out in the US, from Fitzcarraldo Editions.

       The collection was selected and translated by Damion Searls -- yes, the translator of Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries (among much else).
       Fosse -- one of the most highly-regarded Scandinavian authors, and one of Europe's leading playwrights -- continues to be quite inexplicably underappreciated in the US/UK; for those who haven't given his work a try, this is a good introductory volume -- representative, but also with quite a bit of variety.

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



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