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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review


The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 February 2019

11 February: Murakami Q & A | Same Same review
12 February: Prix Jean Freustié longlist | Compact review
13 February: Prix Anaïs Nin | And Then There Was No One review
14 February: Society of Authors Translation Prizes | Aegon Prize shortlist
15 February: Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse finalists | 52 Books/52 Places | Shahnama-related reviews
16 February: PEN World Voices Festival | Tibor Fischer Q & A
17 February: Charles Mungoshi (1947-2019) | 'Iran through literature' | Waves review
18 February: Translation Q & A | Star review
19 February: EBRD Literature Prize finalists | Iran's best (since 1979) ? | Seaside review
20 February: Translation in ... Bangladesh | Women review

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20 February 2019 - Wednesday

Translation in ... Bangladesh | Women review

       Translation in ... Bangladesh

       At New Age Arifur Rahman reports that at the Amar Ekushey Book Fair Poor translation works let down bookworms.
       Among the surprising facts:
A total of 2687 new books hit the fair till the 18th day of the fair, of them only 19 are translation works, according to the Bangla Academy authorities.
       Among the observations:
The lack of institutional initiatives is behind the dearth of translations while most of which are carried out individuals, but these efforts need to be brought under an institutional framework, they said.
       (Institutional support would certainly be welcome, but I would imagine 'institutional frameworks' can easily get constricting, too.)

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



       Women review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mihail Sebastian's 1933 work Women, now in English, from Other Press (well, it's coming out in a couple of weeks).
       This is the third Sebastian I've reviewed, and strikes me as the most successful one.

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



19 February 2019 - Tuesday

EBRD Literature Prize finalists | Iran's best (since 1979) ?
Seaside review

       EBRD Literature Prize finalists

       They've announced the three finalists for the EBRD Literature Prize -- the €20,000 prize that celebrates: "the very best in translated literature from the almost 40 economies where the Bank invests".
       Only one of the final three is under review at the complete review -- The Devils' Dance by Hamid Ismailov.
       It surely says something about the state of translation-into-English that all three finalists -- for a translation prize that essentially excludes the biggest and most popular languages for translations-into-English (French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, the Scandinavian languages, etc.) -- were published by relatively small independents; the majors largely won't touch this stuff.
       The winner will be announced on 7 March 2019.

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



       Iran's best (since 1979) ?

       The Shahrestan Adab Cultural Institute polled '50 Iranian literati' to determine the best Iranian novels and authors of the past 40 years (i.e. since 1979, i.e. since the last major regime change ...); the Tehran Times has the (author-poll) overview, in Aminpur, Bairami best Iranian writers of past 40 years: poll.
       The novel receiving the most votes was بی‌کتابی by Mohammad Reza Sharafi Khaboshan. Among the novels in the second tier is Abbas Maroufi's Symphony of the Dead; the third tier also includes several available-in-English titles -- Chess with the Doomsday Machine by Habib Ahmadzadeh and Missing Soluch by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (both of which I have, and should get to ...), while Dowlatabadi's Kelidar (surprisingly and suspiciously) only made the fourth tier; Shahrnush Parsipur's Touba and the Meaning of Night at least got a vote, but her even better Women without Men apparently didn't.
       Mohammad Reza Bayrami was voted best Iranian (prose) author, ahead of Mohammad Reza Sharafi Khaboshan; Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (and Zoya Pirzad) were (only) fourth tier (the Tehran Times seems to have gotten that wrong, putting them in the third) .....

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



       Seaside review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the last in Scarlett Thomas' trio of Lily Pascale-mysteries, the 1999 Seaside.

       (This is one of those filling-in-the-author's-backlist reviews; this isn't a book you see/hear much of, twenty years on, and while it's fine if you stumble across it, it's certainly not something you have to seek out. Unless, of course, like me, you can't help yourself .....)

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



18 February 2019 - Monday

Translation Q & A | Star review

       Translation Q & A

       At Scroll.in Mohini Gupta has: 'A mash-up of conversations with the renowned international translators Ros Schwartz and Daniel Hahn during their visits to the Jaipur Literature Festival', in What we talk about when we talk about translation (and its joys): Views from translators in the UK.

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



       Star review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mishima Yukio's 1961 novella Star, forthcoming in English in April, from New Direction in the US and Penguin Classics in the UK

       Always good to see more Mishima in translation -- but it's amazing how much there's left that still hasn't been translated .....

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



17 February 2019 - Sunday

Charles Mungoshi (1947-2019) | 'Iran through literature' | Waves review

       Charles Mungoshi (1947-2019)

       Leading Zimbabwean author Charles Mungoshi has passed away; see, for example, the ANA report in The Citizen.
       See also the overview at the African Books Collective, or get your copy of, for example, Waiting for the Rain at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       'Iran through literature'

       In The Hindu's Literary Review Mini Kapoor finds: 'The literature of, and on, post-1979 Iran provides the signposts essential to understanding the country', in 'These are strange times, my dear': Iran through literature -- though unfortunately not looking at much fiction.
       (See the Iranian fiction under review at the complete review for a few relevant titles.)

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



       Waves review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Eduard von Keyserling's 1911 novel Waves, just out in a new translation from Dedalus -- and it is a very, very good book.
       Good to see the underappreciated-in-English (and arguably even in German) Keyserling getting some renewed attention -- and translator Gary Miller's Introduction is also a good one to the quite unusual author.

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



16 February 2019 - Saturday

PEN World Voices Festival | Tibor Fischer Q & A

       PEN World Voices Festival

       This year's PEN World Voices Festival runs 6 to 12 May in New York City this year, with a theme of 'Open Secrets', with 125 writers at over 60 events; the usual impressive line-up, so it should be good.

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



       Tibor Fischer Q & A

       The Guardian's 'Books that made me' Q & A series features Tibor Fischer this week: Tibor Fischer: 'The book that changed my life ? Hasn't happened yet'.

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



15 February 2019 - Friday

Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse finalists | 52 Books/52 Places
Shahnama-related reviews

       Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse finalists

       The German Book Prize is the big German prize for a work of fiction, awarded each fall at the Frankfurt Book Fair; Germany's other big book fair, the spring Leipzig Book Fair, also has a set of prizes -- and differentiates itself from the German Book Prize by awarding a prize in three categories: fiction, non, and translation; they've now announced this year's fifteen finalists, five per category, selected from 359 submissions.
       I don't think any of the five fiction finalists have had earlier work translated into English. Meanwhile, the translation category is something of a surprise, not having any translated-from-the-English works -- but two from the Romanian.
       The winners will be announced on 21 March.

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



       52 Books/52 Places

       The New York Times recently had a feature on 52 Places to Go in 2019, and they now cleverly have an accompanying piece of 52 Books for 52 Places.
       I would have preferred more fiction, and more local fiction at that, but it's still a pretty decent variety.

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



       Shahnama-related reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of:        Of course, now I really have to finally get to the actual Shahnama -- I have a copy of the Dick Davis translation (readily available in a Penguin Classic edition), but now I'm kind of also tempted by the nine-volume, 3500+pp Warner (Arthur George and Edmond) version .....

       (Meanwhile, the review of the Dabashi is one of the longest yet ...... Discussions of 'world literature' -- hard to resist.)

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



14 February 2019 - Thursday

Society of Authors Translation Prizes | Aegon Prize shortlist

       Society of Authors Translation Prizes

       The Society of Authors handed out their Translation Prizes yesterday -- a first translation prize, as well prizes for translations from Arabic, French (a graphic novel !), German, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish.
       I'm a bit surprised that none of the winning titles are under review at the complete review -- though I might still get to one or the other --, the closest being the Schlegel-Tieck Prize runner-up, Tess Lewis for her translation of Lutz Seiler's Kruso.

       (Updated - 16 February): See now also Adrian Tahourdin celebrating the 'prizewinners in the field of translation' in Globish lit. at the TLS.

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



       Aegon Prize shortlist

       They've announced the ten-title shortlist for this year's Aegon Prize, the leading Hungarian literary prize; see also the hlo report, Shortlist for the 2019 Aegon Prize Announced, which also offers brief summaries of the titles.
       The last two winners were Nádas Péter and Krasznahorkai László, so they seem to have a pretty good track record; the only winnng title under review at the complete review is Spiró György's Captivity (2006).

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



13 February 2019 - Wednesday

Prix Anaïs Nin | And Then There Was No One review

       Prix Anaïs Nin

       The prix Anaïs Nin is a prize for French fiction that's "orienté vers le monde anglo-saxon", with the winner getting their book translated into English 'to faciltate foreign-rights sales through Britsh and American literary agents'; it worked last year, the winner -- Catherine Cusset's Life of David Hockney -- due out from Other Press later this spring; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       They've now announced this year's winner, Lionel Duroy's Eugenia -- which was inspired by Mihail Sebastian's journal, the same Mihail Sebastian whose Women Other Press is also bringing out this spring (see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk). At over 500 pages the Duroy is a considerably bigger book than the Cusset; he's published quite a bit, but none of his work seems to have been translated into English, so it'll be interesting to see if this will finally be his breakthrough into the English-speaking markets.

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



       And Then There Was No One review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Gilbert Adair's And Then There Was No One, the satisfying concluding volume in his Evadne Mount trilogy

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



12 February 2019 - Tuesday

Prix Jean Freustié longlist | Compact review

       Prix Jean Freustié longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the prix Jean Freustié -- noteworthy because, in a literary culture where the most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt, only awards a symbolic €10, it leads the pack: it has the highest pay-out of any French literary prize, raised this year from €20,000 to €25,000. (Apparently they went as high as €50,000 one year -- 2012, after a two year hiatus when the prize wasn't awarded -- but that was a one-off.)
       The prize has been awarded since 1987 (with that two-year break) and has had some notable winners but the only winning title under review at the complete review is Philippe Djian's Unforgivable.
       Despite the generous payout, the prize does resemble the vast majority of French prizes in apparently not springing for a dedicated website -- so also for the longlist see the Livres Hebdo report.

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



       Compact review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Maurice Roche's 1966 novel, Compact, which Dalkey Archive Press brought out some thirty years ago.

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



11 February 2019 - Monday

Murakami Q & A | Same Same review

       Murakami Q & A

       At The New Yorker they adapt the staged conversations Deborah Treisman and Murakami Haruki had at the New Yorker Festival in 2008 and 2018, presenting now all together: 'The writer on his style, his process, and the strange, dark places he encounters on the page' in The Underground Worlds of Haruki Murakami
       The best question -- with Murakami saying his taxes, ex-girlfriends, and the Nobel Prize were off limits -- is:
Did you ever try going down a well ?

No, no, no. It's dangerous, you know. Only in my imagination. But I like caves, too. When I am travelling around the world and I see a cave, I enter the cave.

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



       Same Same review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Peter Mendelsund's novel, Same Same, which just came out.
       (And, yes, noted book-cover designer Mendelsund got to design the cover for his book.)

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



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