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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review

The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 16 September 2019

11 September: Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis shortlist | Grand prix de littérature américaine longlist
12 September: New Asymptote | Prix Femina longlists | Serotonin review
13 September: 'Francis Bacon: Books and Painting' | Baillie Gifford Prize longlist
14 September: György Konrád (1933-2019) | Syrian Book Fair | Dhahan Prize | Translation: Chinese → Arabic
15 September: Prix Sade | The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin review
16 September: Writing (and translation) in ... Burma | MoLI preview | Tulu

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16 September 2019 - Monday

Writing (and translation) in ... Burma | MoLI preview | Tulu

       Writing (and translation) in ... Burma

       The Myanmar Times offers a top-ten list of local (Burmese) authors and translators.
       Very little Burmese fiction is available in translation (hence also very little under review at the complete review), but maybe some US/UK publishers will take a look at some of these .....
       And neat to see translators considered such a significant part of the local literary culture to be (such a big) part of a list like this.

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

       MoLI preview

       The Museum of Literature Ireland opens its doors on Friday, and in the Irish Times Gemma Tipton offers a First look inside the new Museum of Literature Ireland.
       It certainly sounds like it will be worth a visit.

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


       The Deccan Herald reports on B A Viveka Rai's call that 'Novels, stories should be translated to Tulu', as he noted:
Tulu has all qualities to be included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, however, lack of interest in taking up the issue has left the language get unnoticed
       There are a lot official languages in India -- and a lot of others -- but Tulu seems an interesting case. Not a huge number of speakers (readers ...), but Deepa Bhasthi's article in ArtReview Asia, Lost in Translation, suggests it (and its literature/orature) are worth a closer look (and is also a fascinating piece on the script which is used to write a language).

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

15 September 2019 - Sunday

Prix Sade | The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin review

       Prix Sade

       They've announced the winners of this year's prix Sade -- there's no official site, just, ugh. a ... Facebook page, but fortunately also a Twitter-mention from the chair of the jury, Emmanuel Pierrat, who reports that Querelle by Kevin Lambert (see also the Le Nouvel Attila publicity page) and Métaphysique de la viande by Christophe Siébert (see also the Au Diable Vauvert publicity page) shared the prize.

       (Updated - 16 September): See now also the Livres Hebdo report.

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

       The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Geoffrey Hill's posthumous collection, The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin, recently from Oxford University Press.

       Nice to see this getting some serious coverage elsewhere too -- including now a more than 6000-word review by Seamus Perry in the current London Review of Books.

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

14 September 2019 - Saturday

György Konrád (1933-2019) | Syrian Book Fair | Dhahan Prize
Translation: Chinese → Arabic

       György Konrád (1933-2019)

       Hungarian author György (George) Konrád has passed away; see, for example, the Pablo Gorondi/AP obituary in The Washington Post
       Best-known for his first novel, The Case Worker -- is that really out of print in English ? -- quite a few of his works have been translated into English; The City Builder, which first came out in English in the Philip Roth-edited 'Writers from the Other Europe'-series from Penguin and was reïssued by Dalkey Archive Press about a decade ago, might be your best bet; see the Dalkey publicity page, or get your copy at or
       See also the official Konrád site.

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

       Syrian Book Fair

       Syria may be war-torn, bombed to pieces, and with a majority of its population internally and externally displaced, but that hasn't stopped the regime from trying to maintain a semblance of behind the head-/front-lines normalcy -- and so, for example, they're currently holding the 31st Syrian Book Fair.
       The Syrian Times reports that 31st Book Fair Witnesses Notable Arab and Foreign Participation (publishing houses representing ... all of ten countries are apparently on hand, from: "Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Oman, Jordan, Sudan, Iran, Russia, Indonesia and Denmark") -- with the (to me) most surprising titbit being that: "237 publishing houses, including 150 Syrian ones are taking part" -- i.e. there are 150 functioning Syrian publishing houses ?!??
       SANA (the Syrian Arab News Agency) reports how 31st edition of Book Fair kicks off at al-Assad Library -- counting only six foreign participants, but noting that this year's theme is: "the book is a creation for brain". (SANA also have an Arabic report on what appears to have been one of the poetry festival events, with the ... welcoming title 'Greetings to the Resistance' (yeah, I think they mean that differently there ...); this article does not appear to be available in an English version .....)

       Maybe I shouldn't be surprised -- I've mentioned Somalia's thriving book fairs several times in recent years, for example -- but I have to admit I'm still shaking my head. And yes, sure, books, good -- but .....

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

       Dhahan Prize

       They've announced the winners of this year's Dhahan Prize, the Canada-based prize: "awarded for excellence in Punjabi literature" which awards: "$25,000 annually to the best book of fiction published in either Gurmukhi or Shahmukhi scripts, along with two additional finalist prizes of $10,000 CDN"
       A short story collection by Jatinder Singh Haans took the top award this year.
       See also the Vancouver Sun report.

       I think this is wonderful -- with the odd Canadian locale actually seeming help get some cross-border attention for Punjabi fiction -- desperately needed, apparently, because how many books translated from the Punjabi into English do you think are listed at the entire (2008-2020) Translation Database at Publishers Weekly ? (Clue: they don't even bother/need to list 'Punjabi' among the long list of languages from which works have been translated into English .....)

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

       Translation: Chinese → Arabic

       At Xinhua, in Interview: Translation main way to narrow gap between Arabic and Chinese cultures: Egyptian translator, Marwa Yahya and Maryam Kadry speak with Ahmed al-Saeed, who says: "Translation of Chinese books is the main gate to narrow the gap between Arabic and Chinese cultures".
       Hey, it's not the worst idea -- and more translation between these languages is surely welcome.

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

13 September 2019 - Friday

'Francis Bacon: Books and Painting' | Baillie Gifford Prize longlist

       'Francis Bacon: Books and Painting'

       At the Centre Pompidou the exhibition Bacon en toutes lettres ('Francis Bacon: Books and Painting' they're calling it in English) is on through 20 January.
       It's inspired by his reading -- relying also on Bacon's Books: Francis Bacon's library and its role in his art, where they also inventoried his personal library of about one thousand books; eventually they plan to to digitally catalogue the texts (including: "the digital scanning of book covers, and those pages in the texts that are marked with the artist's notations, paint accretions, and heavy usage/wear"); for now you can at least download the list of books (warning ! .xls file !).
       In The New York Times Cody Delistraty introduces the exhibition, in Francis Bacon Read Just as He Painted: Deep, Dark and Bleak.

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

       Baillie Gifford Prize longlist

       They've announced the twelve-title longlist for this year's Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction (yes, what used to be known as the Samuel Johnson Prize and then the BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize).
       I haven't seen any of these -- but I am curious about Julia Lovell's Maoism: A Global History; her The Politics of Cultural Capital: China's Quest for a Nobel Prize in Literature was certainly interesting.
       The shortlist will be announced on 22 October, the winner on 19 November

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

12 September 2019 - Thursday

New Asymptote | Prix Femina longlists | Serotonin review

       New Asymptote

       The September issue of Asymptote is now up -- and it's an all-Catalan issue (though there aren't quite as many pieces as in the usual issue).

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

       Prix Femina longlists

       They've announced the longlists for this year's prix Femina, another French literary prize that awards a prize both for the best work of French fiction and the best foreign work; translations from the English in the running include novels by Maggie Nelson, Sigrid Nunez, and Edna O'Brien (the Chris Kraus is the German one, not the American one); see the Livres Hebdo report.
       This is also a four-round prize, with the short lists to be announced 8 October, shorter lists on the 23rd, and the winners on 5 November.

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

       Serotonin review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Michel Houellebecq's Serotonin, due out in a couple of weeks in the UK from William Heinemann and in November in the US from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

       There are already quite a lot English-language reviews of it -- but I'm a bit surprised the translation hasn't gotten more anticipation buzz yet. Come on -- it's Houellebecq !

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

11 September 2019 - Wednesday

Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis shortlist
Grand prix de littérature américaine longlist

       Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Wilhelm Raabe Literature Prize; see, for example, the BuchMarkt report.
       There is some overlap -- two titles -- with the recently announced German Book Prize longlist -- the novels by Norbert Scheuer and Saša Stanišić.
       The Wilhelm Raabe actually pays out more than the German Book Prize -- €30,000 vs. €25,000 -- and has also been around longer, but between 2000 and 2010 it was only awarded biennially; it is also a sort of successor to the Wilhelm Raabe-Preis der Stadt Braunschweig, awarded between 1944 and 1990 (triennially, from 1954 on), but a sometime book, sometime author prize (which did go to some great authors and books, however, including,in 1975, Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries).
       Winners of the more recent iteration under review at the complete review are: Wolf Haas' The Weather Fifteen Years Ago (2006), Sibylle Lewitscharoff's Blumenberg (2011), and Christian Kracht's Imperium (2012).

       This year's winner will be announced 3 November.

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

       Grand prix de littérature américaine longlist

       They've announced the longlist Grand prix de littérature américaine -- a French prize for the best American work; see the Livres Hebdo report.
       The winner will be announced 11 November.

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

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