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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review


The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 March 2019

1 March: Wole Soyinka Q & A | NSW Premier's Literary Awards shortlists | Indonesia as LBF Market Focus
2 March: Translation in the US | New Books in German | My Sister, the Serial Killer review
3 March: Republic of Consciousness Prize finalists | Fostering translation | At Dusk review
4 March: Women's Prize for Fiction longlist | On translation | Aviaries review
5 March: Europese Literatuurprijs longlist | The Club review
6 March: Confirmed: two Nobel Prizes this year | RBC Taylor Prize | New Zealand Book Awards shortlists | Bookselling in ... Germany
7 March: Translation success in the UK | Walter Scott Prize longlist | War Songs review
8 March: EBRD Literature Prize | Stella Prize finalists | Friend of My Youth review
9 March: French-American Foundation Translation Prize finalists | The Handsome Monk review
10 March: Haziq and Mohi | Translation prize anticipation

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10 March 2019 - Sunday

Haziq and Mohi | Translation prize anticipation

       Haziq and Mohi

       At Scroll.in Mallik Thatipalli profiles Haziq and Mohi, explaining Why a tiny Hyderabad store with tattered old books has been attracting scholars for decades.
       The store has gotten quite a few mentions over the years, including The Hindu articles on Death of a book connoisseur and explaining how A year after Awad Bafanna's death, his brothers still sorting books.
       Sounds like a fantastic shop.

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



       Translation prize anticipation

       The longlist for the Man Booker International Prize will be announced on the 13th -- Wednesday -- and the Best Translated Book Award longlist is due on 10 April.
       The Mookse and Gripes Goodreads discussion board has speculation threads for both the MBIP and BTBA, and quite a few weblogs have posted predictions -- see, for example, Tony's Reading List, Beyond the Epilogue, and Knowledge Lost.
       Unfortunately, the Man Booker International Prize does not reveal what titles are in the running for the prize (eligible titles have to be submitted, and they won't tell you wish ones are), so there's some guesswork involved in what is even being considered; since the MBIP relies on UK publication and release dates I have seen fewer of the eligible titles and can't even hazard a guess as to what might be in the running.
       The Best Translated Book Award is at least very open about what titles are being considered: in the fiction category, it's any work of fiction (except anthologies) published or distributed in English translation for the first time in the US in the past calendar year -- and they're all listed on the Translation Database (check '2018' and then 'fiction' under 'Genre' and search ...). Currently, there are 504 fiction titles listed at the Translation Database for 2018; subtract a few dozen anthologies and you more or less have the list of titles the judges are considering (and they do try to consider them all, though a few probably fall between the cracks).
       I've only reviewed a disappointing 81 of the Translation Database-listed titles to date -- of which two aren't actually BTBA eligible (An Untouched House and The Fourth Circle). I rarely guess well as to what might make the longlist -- even when I was a BTBA judge, i.e. has some actual input, I did not get a good percentage of my favorites on the 25-title longlist ..... But, of course, it's fun to play .....
       Of the titles under review at the complete review, I('d like to) think a few stand a very good chance of making the longlist [books marked with asterisks (*) are probably also eligible for the MBIP]:        Reviewed books that I'd like to see on the longlist but that I worry won't make it include:        Reviewed books that I suspect stand a greater chance of making the longlist but which would be a close call for me include:        Reviewed books that I'd be tempted to longlist but seem more like outside shots include:        Books that I haven't reviewed that I suspect stand a good chance of getting longlisted:
  • CoDex 1962* by Sjón
  • The Eight Mountains by Paolo Cognetti
  • Flights by Olga Tokarczuk
  • Madame Victoria by Catherine Leroux
  • One of the Wolfgang Hilbig books
       But there are just way too many factors involved (mainly: the whims of the judges, and the way the longlist is selected) .....
       Anyway, I look forward to the announcements, next week and next month; it's much easier narrowing down the best and worst from those (and complaining about the worthy titles that didn't make the cut).

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



9 March 2019 - Saturday

French-American Foundation Translation Prize finalists
The Handsome Monk review

       French-American Foundation Translation Prize finalists

       The French-American Foundation has announced the finalists for its Translation Prize in the two categories:
  • Fiction:
    • The Hospital by Ahmed Bouanani, tr. Lara Vergnaud
    • Imaginary Lives by Marcel Schwob, tr. Chris Clarke
    • Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau, tr. Linda Coverdale
    • Small Country by Gaël Faye, tr. Sarah Ardizzone
    • Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants by Mathias Énard, tr. Charlotte Mandell

  • Non-fiction
    • The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga, tr. Jordan Stump
    • The Eye by Philippe Costamagna, tr. Mark Polizzotti
    • Good Government by Pierre Rosanvallon, tr. Malcolm Debevoise
    • Nocturne: Night in American Art by Hélène Valance, tr. Jane Marie Todd
    • The Order of the Day by Eric Vuillard, tr. Frank Wynne
       I have quite a few of these and hope to get to some more before they announce the winners -- on 14 May.

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



       The Handsome Monk review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tsering Döndrup's The Handsome Monk and Other Stories, just out from Columbia University Press.

       There's very little Tibetan fiction that's been translated into English, but the last few months have seen a little boom: there's this, the OR Books anthology Old Demons, New Deities (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and the Pema Tseden-collection, Enticement, recently from the State University of New York Press (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk). The latter two include both translations from the Tibetan and Chinese (and some English originals in the case of the anthology), but given that most of what has been available to date has been translated from the Chinese this certainly expands what's on offer.

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



8 March 2019 - Friday

EBRD Literature Prize | Stella Prize finalists
Friend of My Youth review

       EBRD Literature Prize

       They've announced that Hamid Ismailov's The Devils' Dance, in Donald Rayfield's translation, has won this year's EBRD Literature Prize, with author and translator sharing the €20,000 payout.

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



       Stella Prize finalists

       They've announced the six finalists for the 2019 Stella Prize, the Australian prize "celebrating Australian women's writing", open to both fiction and non.
       The winner will be announced 9 April.

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



       Friend of My Youth review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Amit Chaudhuri's Friend of My Youth, now also out in a US edition, from New York Review Books.

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



7 March 2019 - Thursday

Translation success in the UK | Walter Scott Prize longlist
War Songs review

       Translation success in the UK

       The Man Booker International Prize commissioned Nielsen Book to research UK sales of translated fiction, and they found Translated fiction continues to grow.
       Impressively:
the category denoted as 'general/literary fiction' in translation stood out for its extreme growth, of 20% over the course of 2018. This is in marked contrast to the sales of English-language fiction in that category, which have plateaued.
       Among the other interesting findings:
  • the crime and thriller genre, which has historically been a large contributor to the sales of translated fiction, has declined by 19%
  • there has been an extremely substantial growth -- by 90% -- in sales of translated short stories and anthologies between 2017 and 2018
       French continues to be the most popular language -- as in the US -- but Spanish, the American number two is way down the UK list, while: "for new books published in the past five years, Norwegian and Swedish are the most popular languages of origin". (The focus here and throughout seems to be on sales volume, rather than number of titles.)
       They list the top selling translated titles from 2018, with three titles shifting more than 100,000 copies; only four sold enough that they should have made the top-100 of the year (but The Guardian's premature (sales only through 8 December) in fact lists only one). Translations from Scandinavian languages and Japanese dominate, with only one French and one Spanish (at nr. 20) title making the top twenty, and no German titles making it.
       The most amazing sales success remains Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist -- this translation from 1993 (!) still sold 40,322 copies in 2018, good enough to make it the eighth-best-selling translated title.

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



       Walter Scott Prize longlist

       They've announced the twelve-title-strong longlist for this year's Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.
       The shortlist will be announced next month, the winner on 15 June.

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



       War Songs review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of ʿAntarah ibn Shaddād's sixth century War Songs, recently out in NYU Press' Library of Arabic Literature series.

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



6 March 2019 - Wednesday

Confirmed: two Nobel Prizes this year | RBC Taylor Prize
New Zealand Book Awards shortlists | Bookselling in ... Germany

       Confirmed: two Nobel Prizes this year

       The Nobel Foundation has announced that ... it's back: after not being awarded last year, the Nobel Prize in Literature to be awarded again ! And, as expected: "this autumn Laureates for both 2018 and 2019 will be announced"
       Apparently, the Nobel Foundation is convinced the Swedish Academy has gotten its act together sufficiently to be entrusted with selecting the laureates again; no doubt, it's no coïncidence that this announcement comes after they finalized the exit of former permanent secretary (the position in charge of the Nobel duties at the Swedish Academy) Sara Danius (see my previous mention) and, in what was presumably the final obstacle, getting another former permanent secretary, Horace Engdahl, to at least separate himself from the Nobel Committee, as announced today by the Swedish Academy.

       It'll be interesting to see how they handle the selection of two laureates; it seems like it would be difficult to really select them separately, as would have happened had they selected last year's laureate ... last year. Will they select them from two different pools of nominations (presumably nominations were submitted last year as well as this -- though maybe fewer nominators were willing to suggest people this year) or consider everyone nominated over the past two years ? Will they aim for some balance -- novelist/poet; man/woman; old/young; geographic and linguistic ?
       Let the speculation begin .....

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



       RBC Taylor Prize

       They've announced that the RBC Taylor Prize -- a prize: "to enhance public appreciation for the genre known as literary non-fiction" -- goes to Lands of Lost Borders, by Kate Harris.
       See the HarperCollins publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       New Zealand Book Awards shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for this year's Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
       Hopefully the exposure will mean that more of these become available in the US/UK as well .....
       The winning titles will be announced 14 May.

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



       Bookselling in ... Germany

       At Deutsche Welle Sabine Peschel has a Q & A with Alexander Skipis, the CEO of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, about the future of books, Strategies to help bookstores survive reader atrophy.
       The insolvency of Germany's largest book distributor is just one of the current bumps in the trade.
       Interesting also to hear that:
Earlier, a title was called a bestseller if it sold 4, 5, or 600,000 copies. Nowadays, a book is a best-seller if 100,000 copies are sold.

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



5 March 2019 - Tuesday

Europese Literatuurprijs longlist | The Club review

       Europese Literatuurprijs longlist

       They've announced the twenty-title-strong longlist for this year's Europese Literatuurprijs, awarded for the best translated novel from Europe that appeared in Dutch last year.
       Always interesting to see what gets translated -- and acclaimed -- in other countries and languages -- though of course it's a bit of a shame that this is restricted to European fiction.
       Many of the longlisted titles are available in English (indeed, a few are translated from English ...), and two are under review at the complete review: The Order of the Day by Éric Vuillard and Melancholy by Jon Fosse.
       The shortlist will be announced 25 June.

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



       The Club review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Takis Würger's The Club, just about out in English.

       Würger's latest work, Stella, recently came out in German -- and has caused quite a stir; see, for example, the Deutsche Welle report, Novel based on Jew 'catcher' Stella Kübler stirs controversy.

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



4 March 2019 - Monday

Women's Prize for Fiction longlist | On translation | Aviaries review

       Women's Prize for Fiction longlist

       They've announced the sixteen-title longlist for this year's Women's Prize for Fiction, selected from 163 (disappointingly unrevealed) entries.
       Oyinkan Braithwaite's My Sister, the Serial Killer is the only longlisted title under review at the complete review -- indeed, the only one of these titles I've seen.
       The shortlist will be announced 29 April, and the winner on 5 June.

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



       On translation

       In Prospect Miranda France writes on Between worlds: in praise of the literary translator.
       Among her observations:
What makes a translation vitally different from the original text is its impermanence.

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



       Aviaries review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Zuzana Brabcová's Aviaries, just out from Twisted Spoon Press.

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



3 March 2019 - Sunday

Republic of Consciousness Prize finalists
Fostering translation | At Dusk review

       Republic of Consciousness Prize finalists

       They've announced the six finalists for this year's Republic of Consciousness Prize -- awarded for: "the best fiction published by publishers with fewer than 5 full-time employees" -- and they are:
  • Dedalus by Chris McCabe
  • Doppelgänger by Daša Drndić
  • Kitch by Anthony Joseph
  • Lucia by Alex Pheby
  • Murmur by Will Eaves
  • Sweet Home by Wendy Erskine
       (Apparently publishers with few employees are particularly successful with one-word titles .....)
       I recently got the ARC of the US edition of Will Eaves' Murmur (coming from Bellevue Literary Press), so I hope to get to that as well soon.

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



       Fostering translation

       At Scroll.in Mohini Gupta has a Q & A, asking: Do literary translations need financial patronage ? Ask Kalpana Raina, who has been doing just that.
       Among the institutions she is associated with discussed here are Words without Borders and The Yali Project

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



       At Dusk review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hwang Sok-yong's At Dusk, already out in the UK from Scribe, and coming to the US in July.

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



2 March 2019 - Saturday

Translation in the US | New Books in German
My Sister, the Serial Killer review

       Translation in the US

       There seems to be lots of interest and enthusiasm -- but, writing in Publishers Weekly, Chad Post of Open Letter and Three Percent, and the Translation Database, finds: 'Despite the success of translations in 2018, production fell', in considering The Plight of Translation in America.
       A variety of interesting statistics -- including that Spanish has taken over as the most-translated-from language (101 titles, versus 97 from the French in 2018), and that: "Independent presses (including AmazonCrossing) and nonprofit presses published most works in translation: 86%, compared to 14% from the Big Five".

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



       New Books in German

       A new set of reviews of recent German titles is up at New Books in German -- fiction, non, and children's and YA.
       A good variety and overview of titles, a few of which should eventually be available in English translation.

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



       My Sister, the Serial Killer review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Oyinkan Braithwaite's My Sister, the Serial Killer.

       Neat to see this book, first published as an e-novel in Nigeria as Thicker than Water, get picked up, edited, and re-packaged for the US/UK market, and turn into such a smashing success.

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



1 March 2019 - Friday

Wole Soyinka Q & A | NSW Premier's Literary Awards shortlists
Indonesia as LBF Market Focus

       Wole Soyinka Q & A

       The 21 March issue of The New York Review of Books has a conversation between Wole Soyinka and Henry Louis Gates Jr., ‘There’s One Humanity or There Isn’t’: A Conversation.
       More about politics and politicians than literature, but they do get to it as well -- as well as:
Gates: Were you surprised when the Swedish Academy named Bob Dylan a [Nobel] laureate ?

Soyinka: Yes, I was surprised, and at the beginning I had a sort of mixed reaction toward it. Afterward I came down heavily on the side of the negative.
[...]
I considered it one of those gestures: “Let’s break the mold for the sake of breaking the mold.” I wasn’t impressed at all. Even if you’re going to do that, you should proceed as you do normally for literature. You want to take the lyrics out of the music and say this is literature also, in spite of its being in the musical mode ? Then you must apply the same stringent standards, and I do not believe that those standards were applied. I look at the list of poets who’ve been nominated in the past. I compare their work with the lyrics of Bob Dylan, and it is ridiculous.
       Amen to that. Amen.

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



       NSW Premier's Literary Awards shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for the NSW Premier's Literary Awards, one of he leading Australian literary prizes, with awards in eleven categories; unfortunately, the official site does not simply conveniently list the finalists, but at least Readings does list them in seven of the categories (but for, for example, the translation prize, you still have to click through at the official site.
       The Christina Stead Prize for Fiction is the big prize; beside the new Tim Winton, Gerald Murnane's Border Districts is also still in the running.
       The winners will be announced on 29 April.

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



       Indonesia as LBF Market Focus

       Indonesia will be the Market Focus at this year's London Book Fair, which runs 12 to 14 March.
       At The Bookseller Caroline Carpenter offers a good overview of the publishing situation there, and for Indonesian authors abroad, in Indonesia and its 'islands of inspiration' set to star at LBF.

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



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