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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review


The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 19 March 2019

11 March: Bernard Binlin Dadié (1916-2018) | Bright Young Things review
12 March: Alex Zucker Q & A | Article 353 review
13 March: Man Booker International Prize longlist | HarperVia | 'Too strange for an Anglo-Saxon audience' ?
14 March: 2019 Windham-Campbell Prizes | NBA judging panels | Biblical translation reviews
15 March: NBCC Awards | The Tale of Genji exhibit
16 March: W.S.Merwin (1927-2019) | 'The fate of the book review' | Little Zinnobers review
17 March: Literary criticism in ... India | Proper-sized books
18 March: Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award | The Enlightened Army review
19 March: Folio Prize longlist | Libris Literatuur Prijs shortlist | Snapshots review

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19 March 2019 - Tuesday

Folio Prize longlist | Libris Literatuur Prijs shortlist | Snapshots review

       Folio Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's Rathbones Folio Prize, for which: "All genres and all forms of literature are eligible, except work written primarily for children", as long as they're written in English and published in the UK -- which is why there are works of fiction, non, and poetry in the running.
       It is UK-focused, but I'm still surprised I've seen ... all of one of these (Will Eaves' Murmur, which I hope to get to).
       The shortlist will be announced 4 April; the winner 20 May.

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



       Libris Literatuur Prijs shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Libris Literatuur Prijs, one of the leading Dutch book prizes.
       Finalists who have had books translated into English include Rupert: A Confession-author Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer (see also the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page for his shortlisted Grand Hotel Europa) and Esther Gerritsen (see also the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page for her shortlisted De trooster).
       The winner will be announced 6 May.

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



       Snapshots review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Claudio Magris' Snapshots, just out from Yale University Press in their Margellos World Republic of Letters.

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



18 March 2019 - Monday

Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award | The Enlightened Army review

       Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award

       Israeli poet Agi Mishol was awarded this year's Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award; previous winners include W.S.Merwin (the first winner of the prize, in 2013), Lars Gustafsson (2016), and Breyten Breytenbach (2017).
       Some Mishol is available in English, including Less Like a Dove from a few years ago; see the Shearsman publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       And, of course, returning to master Zbigniew Herbert's own work is always worthwhile !

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



       The Enlightened Army review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of David Toscana's The Enlightened Army, recently out from the University of Texas Press.
       Part of the story: a group of Mexicans aim to reconquer Texas !

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



17 March 2019 - Sunday

Literary criticism in ... India | Proper-sized books

       Literary criticism in ... India

       Scroll.in has a Q & A with an author and literary editor, 'We have an assembly line approach to writing about books': Anjum Hasan on literary criticism.
       She notes that in India: "We have an inchoate book reviewing culture on the whole"
       A good historical perspective too, and interesting re. the changing concept/significance of 'Indianness'.

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



       Proper-sized books

       At PopMatters Hans Rollmann reviews the new Red Circle Minis (two of which are also under review at the complete review, Hanawa Kanji's Backlight and Shiraishi Kazufumi's Stand-in Companion), but what I really appreciate about the piece, Small Books for Big Brains: Red Circle Minis' Pocket-sized Japanese Fiction, is the spirited case Rollmann makes for properly (i.e. pocket-) sized books:
Every time I return to Japan I'm reminded of the moment I enter a bookstore. I gaze at the sea of compact, gorgeously miniaturized books, and enviously wonder why we North Americans can't enjoy such sensibly-sized reads. [...] The neat compactness of the Japanese book -- the fact that it fits easily into the palm of one's hand; the fact that it slips unobtrusively into the pocket of a trenchcoat or even a blazer -- all of this speaks to the delight of the Japanese book.
       And I too wonder:
The 'trade paperback' -- whoever invented such an affront to basic aesthetics ?
       How much better the world would be -- and how much more space I'd have on my bookshelves ! -- if all books were the size of the traditional Japanese paperback ! (Green Integer is among the few who do it right -- though even they had to go oversize for Arno Schmidt's The School for Atheists.)

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



16 March 2019 - Saturday

W.S.Merwin (1927-2019) | 'The fate of the book review'
Little Zinnobers review

       W.S.Merwin (1927-2019)

       Leading American poet and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner W.S.Merwin has passed away; see, for example, Margalit Fox's obituary in The New York Times.

       None of his books (or translations) are under review at the complete review, but most of his work is available -- get, for example, the Library of America collections Collected Poems 1952-1993 (publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and Collected Poems 1996-2011 (publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).

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



       'The fate of the book review'

       Apparently it was time for another of these pieces: in the April Harper's Christian Lorentzen expounds on: 'The fate of the book review in the age of the algorithm' in Like This or Die.
       Lorentzen mentions that, not long after New York announced it was: "greatly expanding and reimagining its books coverage" his: "contract to review books at New York magazine was dropped". 'Expanded coverage' apparently does not include reviews; instead he finds (and argues): "Books coverage now rises or falls in the slipstream of social media".
       Among much else, he offers an overview of book-reviewing -- including the apparently brief blog-flourishing:
The early book bloggers -- typically amateurs, many of whom have gone on to become authors and critics for mainstream outlets, among them Mark Athitakis, Maud Newton, Mark Sarvas, Levi Stahl, Tao Lin -- were an anarchic bunch, pursuing their own idiosyncratic enthusiasms and antagonisms (Sam Tanenhaus, then editor of The New York Times Book Review, was a frequent target of their ire, envy, and, occasionally, awe). Constricted neither by convention nor by editors, the bloggers, at their best, popularized worthy but obscure writers, circulated the most interesting criticism that caught their eyes, and devoted tremendous energy to indexing the literary scene. They were passionate. At their worst, they aired uninformed opinions about books they hadn't read, but mostly their work was a tonic. Group blogs such as The Millions (recently purchased by Publishers Weekly), Electric Literature, and HTMLGIANT became forums for recent MFA graduates and geographically isolated aspiring writers to work out their ideas in public and form their own communities. As with blogs generally, book blogs entered a decline as social media became the zone where people ventured their considered or (increasingly) stray thoughts.
       Oh, well -- I'm still enjoying the ride on the way down .....

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



       Little Zinnobers review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Elena Chizhova's 2000 novel, Little Zinnobers, recently out in English, from Glagoslav.
       Lots of Shakespeare-in-(still-Soviet-)Russia, among other things.

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



15 March 2019 - Friday

NBCC Awards | The Tale of Genji exhibit

       NBCC Awards

       They've announced the 2018 (American) National Book Critics Circle Awards.
       Winners include Milkman by Anna Burns -- which also won the Man Booker Prize -- for fiction, and Zadie Smith's Feel Free for criticism. Maureen Corrigan won the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

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



       The Tale of Genji exhibit

       There's a The Tale of Genji exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in New York through 16 June
       See also the report at The Japan Times -- and if you're in the Genji-mood, check out Michael Emmerich's fascinating study, The Tale of Genji: Translation, Canonization, and World Literature

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



14 March 2019 - Thursday

2019 Windham-Campbell Prizes | NBA judging panels
Biblical translation reviews

       2019 Windham-Campbell Prizes

       They've announced the 2019 Windham-Campbell Prize winners, two each in the categories of fiction (Danielle McLaughlin and David Chariandy), non ( Raghu Karnad and Rebecca Solnit), drama (Young Jean Lee and Patricia Cornelius ), and poetry (Ishion Hutchinson and Kwame Dawes); each receives a tidy US$165,000.

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



       NBA judging panels

       They've announced that this year's (American) National Book Awards are now open for submissions -- and who the twenty-five judges will be.
       The Translated Literature panel is made up of: Keith Gessen, Elisabeth Jaquette, Katie Kitamura, Idra Novey, and Shuchi Saraswat.
       The Fiction panel is made up of: Dorothy Allison, Ruth Dickey, Javier Ramirez, Danzy Senna, and Jeff VanderMeer.
       The longlists will be announced sometime in September, and the finalists on 8 October.

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



       Biblical translation reviews

       I'm not sure that I'm up to tackling Robert Alter's new translation of The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary (see the W.W.Norton publicity page or get your copy at Amazon or Amazon.co.uk), but the most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two works dealing with translating the Bible:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



13 March 2019 - Wednesday

Man Booker International Prize longlist | HarperVia
'Too strange for an Anglo-Saxon audience' ?

       Man Booker International Prize longlist

       They've announced the thirteen-title-strong longlist for this year's Man Booker International Prize:
  • At Dusk, by Hwang Sok-yong; tr. Sora Kim-Russell
  • Celestial Bodies, by Jokha Alharthi; tr. Marilyn Booth
  • The Death of Murat Idrissi, by Tommy Wieringa; tr. Sam Garrett
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk; tr. Antonia Lloyd-Jones
  • The Faculty of Dreams, by Sara Stridsberg; tr. Deborah Bragan-Turner
  • Four Soldiers, by Hubert Mingarelli; tr. Sam Taylor
  • Jokes for the Gunmen, by Mazen Maarouf; tr. Jonathan Wright
  • Love in the New Millennium, by Can Xue; tr. Annelise Finegan Wasmoen
  • Mouthful of Birds, by Samanta Schweblin; tr. Megan McDowell
  • The Pine Islands, by Marion Poschmann; tr. Jen Calleja
  • The Remainder, by Alia Trabucco Zerán; tr. Sophie Hughes
  • The Shape Of The Ruins, by Juan Gabriel Vásquez; tr. Anne McLean
  • The Years, by Annie Ernaux; tr. Alison Strayer
       There's very little overlap with the Best Translated Book Award-eligible titles his year -- including the two titles under review at the complete review, neither of which is eligible for this year's (2018-covering) BTBA (the Ernaux came out in the US in 2017, the Hwang is coming out later this year). As best I can tell, only the Mingarelli, Can Xue, and Vásquez are eligible for this year's BTBA (though several more of these have come out/will be coming out this year, and so will be in the running for the 2020 BTBA).
       Since the Can Xue is the only other one of these titles I have actually seen, I can hardly hazard a guess as to what the contenders are -- though I'm thrilled to see the Ernaux qualified, and I would imagine it would be tough to beat.
       Interesting also to note the complete dominance of small and independent publishers .....

       The shortlist will be announced 9 April.

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



       HarperVia

       HarperCollins has announced the launch of a new imprint, HarperVia, "focused on acquiring international titles for World English publication".
       As I've repeatedly noted -- and as, for example, the make-up of the just announced Man Booker International Prize longlist (see above) would seem to confirm, the translation-into-English field is dominated by independent and small publishers, so it's good to see one of the majors make a more dedicated effort. Still, this looks more ... AmazonCrossing-like, playing it fairly safe and popular, at least to judge by the first few titles and authors they have up.
       Still, great to see an international/translation focus, and it will be interesting to see how this goes.

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



       'Too strange for an Anglo-Saxon audience' ?

       At The New York Review of Books' weblog Tim Parks wonders Does Talking About Books Make Us More Cosmopolitan ? -- which includes this depressing titbit:
I recall a discussion on the jury of an international prize in which it was felt that the work of the great Indian writer U.R. Ananthamurthy would simply be too strange for an Anglo-Saxon audience. Which tells us volumes about what we mean by "international prize": foreign writers who make sense to us.
       (The prize in question was the 2013 Man Booker International Prize (when it was still a (biennial) author-prize, rather than the (annual) book-prize it has since been turned into); the judges that year, beside Parks, were Christopher Ricks, Elif Batuman, Aminatta Forna, and Yiyun Li; they gave Lydia Davis the prize .....)
       If Bharathipura and Samskara-author Ananthamurthy can be considered too strange for an Anglo-Saxon audience .....

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



12 March 2019 - Tuesday

Alex Zucker Q & A | Article 353 review

       Alex Zucker Q & A

       At Radio Praha Ian Willoughby has a Q & A with translator-from-the-Czech Alex Zucker: I don't want to translate books, I want to translate authors.

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



       Article 353 review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tanguy Viel's Article 353 -- out today, from Other Press.

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



11 March 2019 - Monday

Bernard Binlin Dadié (1916-2018) | Bright Young Things review

       Bernard Binlin Dadié (1916-2018)

       Bernard Binlin Dadié has passed away, aged 103; see, for example, the Jeune Afrique report.
       A leading author, he was also Minister of Culture in Côte d'Ivoire 1977 to 1986.
       Several of his works are available in translation, including One Way: Bernard Dadié Observes America from the University of Illinois Press; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Bright Young Things review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Scarlett Thomas' 2001 novel, Bright Young Things.

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



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