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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review


The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 31 March 2019

21 March: Leipzig Book Fair | Prix Jean d'Ormesson finalists
22 March: Preis(e) der Leipziger Buchmesse | Red Girls review
23 March: 'Reading and Re-Translation' colloquium | Prix Méditerranée finalists
24 March: Personal libraries | All Happy Families review
25 March: Q & As: 'Vietnam-US literary bridge' - Morgan Giles
26 March: New World Literature Today | Hamid Ismailov Q & A | The Lonesome Bodybuilder review | Programming note
28 March: Gabriel Okara (1921-2019) | Aegon Művészeti Díj | RSL Ondaatje Prize longlist
29 March: Republic of Consciousness Prize | Prix «Le Point» du Polar européen | Prix Françoise Sagan longlist | Diary of a Murderer review
30 March: neue deutsche literatur 8·91 | La disparition at 50
31 March: Bunkitsu profile | OCM Bocas Prize longlist | The Polyglot Lovers review

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31 March 2019 - Sunday

Bunkitsu profile | OCM Bocas Prize longlist | The Polyglot Lovers review

       Bunkitsu profile

       In The Japan Times, in Enter Bunkitsu, more like a gallery than a bookstore, Mariko Tamura profiles the Tokyo bookstore that charges a pay-to-browse admission fee (¥1,500 (apparently about US$14)) Bunkitsu.
       The fee does cover free coffee or tea -- and while:
There were some initial concerns among the bookstore’s concept team that a fee would discourage potential customers. But the price seemed reasonable considering the fact that a coffee in Tokyo usually costs between ¥400 and ¥500 and that customers would be able to sip from a bottomless cup while reading for two or three hours
       They have interesting shelving/display ideas, too:
Lined up next to a history book on Lenin is a series of comic books set during the Russian Revolution. Books are piled haphazardly on tables: a comic book on top of a philosophy book on top of a novel, but they are all linked somehow — the color black, movies, food. Here, calculated disorder creates happenstance.

“We recognize that if you have a particular book in mind, it is difficult to find it quickly here. But finding a new book is a once in a lifetime encounter. We want that surprise to bring customers back again and again,” says Yoshino.

Each book and magazine is the only copy in the store. Miss the chance to buy it and you might never get another
       It all looks and sounds quite impressive, and between the careful curation and elaborate/attractive design of the store certainly is an interesting variation on the usual retail space and experience. (But just one copy of any given book ?!??)
       I'm curious whether it will catch on in any other markets. As the store's public relations officer notes: "While it works in Roppongi, another approach might be needed in a rural area" -- or, say, the US/UK. But between something like this and Amazon's brick-and-mortar shops the choice would be pretty clear.

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



       OCM Bocas Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the 2019 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature -- three titles each in the three categories, fiction, non, and poetry.
       Four of the six fiction and poetry titles are published by Peepal Tree Press, and all the non-fiction titles are published by university presses.
       The fiction trio sounds great -- I'd love to see all of these, but especially Cut Guavas by Robert Antoni, 'a novel in the form of a screenplay' (!); see the Peepal Tree Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

       Meanwhile, at the press launch for this year's NGC Bocas Lit Fest (running 1 to 5 May): "founder Marina Salandy-Brown said while there are state agencies supporting music, film and fashion, there was no official literature agency" in Trinidad and Tobago, as reported by Melissa Doughty in Newsday, in What about literature ? -- with the festival itself having had to take on that role: "Over the past nine years, we have had to grow into a national and regional literature development agency, to make sure the potential of our writers does not go to waste".

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



       The Polyglot Lovers review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lina Wolff's August Prize-winning novel, The Polyglot Lovers, due out soon in English from And Other Stories.

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



30 March 2019 - Saturday

neue deutsche literatur 8·91 | La disparition at 50

       neue deutsche literatur 8·91

       I'm finally getting to some proper bookstore-browsing after much too long an absence, but my first really satisfying find isn't a book but copies of two issues of neue deutsche literatur, long the official publication of the Schriftstellerverband der DDR -- the East German writers' association -- which then managed to hang on for over a decade after German reunification before ceasing publication. (For some (German) background this literaturkritik.de piece gives a good quick overview.)
       Both the issues I picked up are from 1991, but it's the August issue that is just amazing.

neue deutsche literatur 891


       Not just the first publication of parts of Peter Weiss' Rekonvaleszenz (granted, soon later published by Suhrkamp; see their publicity page) but a story by Wilhelm Genazino with the great title 'Kleine sterbende Romane' ('Small Dying Novels'), prose by Uwe Kolbe and Kerstin Hensel, and verse by Oskar Pastior, among much else.
       Then there's a great book review section, which leads with a review of Karl Mickel's Lachmunds Freunde -- a book I will be getting to (as longtime readers may have noticed, I think Mickel is a much-underappreciated and -recognized author with an impressive and fascinating body of work (poetry, drama, and prose (both fiction and non)) -- see, for example, the Wallstein Verlag publicity page.
       Finally, there's a whole extra section with the contributions to the 1991 Symposion der Deutschen Literaturkonferenz (the very first one), with a focus on the position of the formerly East German authors in the newly reunified Germany, beginning with a long piece by Robert Musil-biographer (yes, that 2032-page biography) Karl Corino on the reception of GDR-literature in the Federal Republic ('and the problem of a unified German literature')
       I have a big soft spot for/fascination with East German literature, so obviously this is of particular interest to me (a goldmine, actually), but this is fascinating and impressive stuff regardless. A very nice find indeed.

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



       La disparition at 50

       At the LRB blog Anna Aslanyan noted (yesterday) that "La Disparition, a lipogrammatic classic, turns 50 today", in A Common Policy, writing about Georges Perec's e-less classic (and Gilbert Adair's translation, the only commercially available English one; see the Vintage publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
       Among the interesting observations: some of the other translations changed which vowel is done without: a for the Spanish (El secuestro; see also the Anagrama publicity page) and o in the Russian (Исчезание); I'm particularly curious how they did the Japanese translation (煙滅; cover).
       Though a great deal of Perec's work is under review at the complete review, this one isn't (yet) -- one of those got-to-it-before-I-started-the-site titles I haven't returned to. I do have both the French original and Adair's re-working, so I do hope to get (back) to it eventually.

       (Good to also see Aslanyan note that: "Adair's passing away in 2011 was a loss to his fans"; aside from this translation, his own work is also well-worthwhile and good fun -- and lots of that is under review at the complete review, e.g. The Death of the Author and,, most recently, And Then There Was No One .)

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



29 March 2019 - Friday

Republic of Consciousness Prize | Prix «Le Point» du Polar européen
Prix Françoise Sagan longlist | Diary of a Murderer review

       Republic of Consciousness Prize

       They've announced who gets this year's this year's Republic of Consciousness Prize -- which: "rewards the best fiction published by publishers with fewer than 5 full-time employees" -- and there are two winners: Murmur, by Will Eaves, and Lucia, by Alex Pheby.
       No word yet at the official site, last I checked, but Alison Flood reports that Book prize names two winners as it criticises 'false hierarchy' of awards in The Guardian.

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



       Prix «Le Point» du Polar européen

       They've announced that this year's prix «Le Point» du Polar européen, a French prize for the best European thriller/crime novel, goes to Memo From Turner by Tim Willocks; see also the Jonathan Cape publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk (yes, while this is out in French translation, it appears it is not yet published in the US ...).

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



       Prix Françoise Sagan longlist

       In the TLS NB-columnist J.C. regularly notes the proliferation of literary prizes -- see e.g. Michael Caines' overview -- and a strong contender for his 'All Must Have Prizes Prize' would surely be the prix Françoise Sagan, which is specifically for worthy books that were overlooked and unrewarded in the previous season's batch of literary prizes: basically, if it didn't get a prize last year then it's eligible for this -- a sort of last-chance award.
       Given how many French literary prizes there are it might seem that it is actually pretty hard for a book not to have picked up one or another over the course of the year (which is presumably why the no-previous-prize qualification is in fact a qualified one ("dans la mesure du possible")), but they've now announced this year's finalists, and it looks like they've still managed to find some interesting and worthy titles to consider.
       (Kudos also to them actually having a dedicated web presence and pages for the prize -- a rarity for French literary prizes.)

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



       Diary of a Murderer review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kim Young-ha's Diary of a Murderer and Other Stories, due out shortly from Mariner.

       (Another story-collection with a novella-length piece in it. But I think that does it for story collections for me for a while -- back to the much more satisfying novel-form !)

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



28 March 2019 - Thursday

Gabriel Okara (1921-2019) | Aegon Művészeti Díj
RSL Ondaatje Prize longlist

       Gabriel Okara (1921-2019)

       Sad to hear that Nigerian author Gabriel Okara has passed away; see, for example, the report at okayafrica.
       The University of Nebraska Press actually just recently brought out a volume of his Collected Poems -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- but I'd also commend the (sadly out of print, but originally published in the great African Writers Series) novel, The Voice; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Aegon Művészeti Díj

       They've announced that this year's Aegon Prize, the leading Hungarian literary prize, goes to Takács Zsuzsa's massive career-spanning collection of poetry, A Vak Remény; see, for example, the hlo report, Zsuzsa Takács Wins The Aegon Prize 2019, or the Magvető publicity page for the book.

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



       RSL Ondaatje Prize longlist

       The Royal Society of Literature has announced the twenty-title strong longlist for this year's RSL Ondaatje Prize, a £10,000 prize awarded: "for a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, best evoking the spirit of a place" -- yet another prize that is open to both fiction and non (and more).
       I haven't seen any of these, though I'm looking forward to Jonathan Coe's Middle England, which is finally coming to the US later this year.
       The shortlist will be announced 16 April, the winner on 13 May.

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



26 March 2019 - Tuesday

New World Literature Today | Hamid Ismailov Q & A
The Lonesome Bodybuilder review | Programming note

       New World Literature Today

       The Spring issue of (now only quarterly ?) World Literature Today is now online, with a focus on Hong Kong.
       Lots of interesting content beyond that too, of course -- and, as always, an extensive book review section.

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



       Hamid Ismailov Q & A

       At British Council Voices they have a Q & A with Novelist Hamid Ismailov on storytelling, social media and censorship -- and specifically his novel The Devils' Dance.

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



       The Lonesome Bodybuilder review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Motoya Yukiko's collection of stories, The Lonesome Bodybuilder -- published in the UK as Picnic in the Storm. (American and British publishers really seem to be having trouble agreeing on English titles for Japanese books (e.g. The Emissary / The Last Children of Tokyo, The Briefcase / Strange Weather in Tokyo).)
       It includes her Akutagawa Prize-winning story.

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



       Programming note

       Posting here at the Literary Saloon will be more sporadic through mid-April, with occasional post-less days (like tomorrow) -- but ultimately I do still expect to get to as much news, and as many reviews, as usual.
       Sorry for any inconvenience.

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



25 March 2019 - Monday

Q & As: 'Vietnam-US literary bridge' - Morgan Giles

       Q & A: 'Vietnam-US literary bridge'

       Vietnamnet has a Q & A with "Thomas Kane, the William Joiner Institute's Director, about the Institute's activities and future plans for promoting Vietnamese literature in the US".

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



       Q & A: Morgan Giles

       At Scroll.in Sana Goyal has a Q & A with Morgan Giles about Yu Miri's Tokyo Ueno Station, Why is everyone suddenly reading this Japanese novel ? The translator tries to explain
       I have an (e-)copy of this and hope to get to it soon; meanwhile, see the Tilted Axis publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.

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



24 March 2019 - Sunday

Personal libraries | All Happy Families review

       Personal libraries

       Via I'm pointed to Our Personal Libraries: A Symposium, where the: "National Review asked some writers and collectors to describe their personal libraries" -- including Richard Brookhiser, Joseph Epstein, Otto Penzler, and Terry Teachout.
       Always fun to see what kind of libraries people have .....

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



       All Happy Families review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hervé Le Tellier's All Happy Families: A Memoir, just (about) out in English from Other Press.
       Le Tellier is an Oulipo author, but this isn't a constraint-dominated book -- but five more of his titles are also under review at the site, some of them very Oulipian.

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



23 March 2019 - Saturday

'Reading and Re-Translation' colloquium | Prix Méditerranée finalists

       'Reading and Re-Translation' colloquium

       They're holding an "international and interdisciplinary colloquium dedicated to the theorization and practice of reading" at the University of Iowa 28 to 30 March, Reading and Re-Translation, and at that official site they have the schedule and links to (pdfs of ...) some of the papers that will be presented; worth a look.
       See also the preview/opinion piece by Sabine Golz and Adrienne Rose, in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Translation and re-translation in the age of Big Data.

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



       Prix Méditerranée finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the various Prix Méditerranée categories -- quite a few different ones for this region-focused prize.
       They do have that official site -- unusual for a French literary prize ! -- but this information doesn't seem to be available there yet, so see the convenient lists in the Livres Hebdo report.
       The winners will be announced 17 April.

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



22 March 2019 - Friday

Preis(e) der Leipziger Buchmesse | Red Girls review

       Preis(e) der Leipziger Buchmesse

       The German Book Prize, awarded at the Frankfurt Book Fair every fall, is for the best novel, while the spring Leipzig Book Fair's prize(s) are awarded in three categories: fiction, non, and translation -- and they've now announced this year's winners.
       The translation prize went to Eva Ruth Wemme, for her translation of Gabriela Adameșteanu's Dimineață pierdută; impressively, an English translation of this already came out several years ago, Patrick Camiller's, as Wasted Morning, from Northwestern University Press; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       The fiction prize went to Schäfchen im Trockenen by Anke Stelling; see also the Verbrecher Verlag publicity page.

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



       Red Girls review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sakuraba Kazuki's Red Girls: The Legend of the Akakuchibas, which Haikasoru brought out a couple of years ago.
       This is a very satisfying read; it certainly deserved more attention than it received when it came out.

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



21 March 2019 - Thursday

Leipzig Book Fair | Prix Jean d'Ormesson finalists

       Leipzig Book Fair

       The fall belongs to the Frankfurt Book Fair, but the big German spring book fair is the Leipzig Book Fair, which runs today through the 24th.
       The Czech Republic is the Guest of Honor this year; see their official site or the Radio Praha piece, where Ruth Fraňková reports that Czech Republic to be guest of honour at Leipzig Book Fair; meanwhile, at Deutsche Welle Silke Bartlick offers: Leipzig Book Fair: Spotlight on 4 contemporary Czech novels (with the depressing footnote: "The above mentioned books are not yet available in English. Their titles have been translated from the German").

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



       Prix Jean d'Ormesson finalists

       They've announced the finalists for my new favorite book prize, the prix Jean d'Ormesson, which basically lets the jurors pick any books they want, published whenever -- which is why it includes the likes of Juan Rulfo's Pedro Paramo and Ivo Andrić's The Bridge on the Drina, as well as Frédéric Dard(-writing-as-San-Antonio)'s 1984 novel, Faut-il tuer les petits garçons qui ont les mains sur les hanches ?
       They even added a new book that wasn't on their longlist, a Nancy Mitford-biography.
       But like (too) many French literary prizes, they don't have their own web-presence, so you have to rely on, for example, the report at LivresHebdo.
       The winner will be announced 5 June.

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



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