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23 July 2018 - Monday

African Writers Series covers | A Spy in Time review

       African Writers Series covers

       I'm a big fan of the old African Writers Series, and have a couple of dozen of them; nineteen of them are under review at the complete review. Now, in Lapham's Quarterly, Josh MacPhee goes: 'Looking back at the design of the African Writers Series', in the interesting Judged by Its Covers.

       (And don't forget James Currey's invaluable companion-guide to the series, Africa Writes Back, a must-have for anyone interested in it (or, indeed, African literature in the second half of the twentieth century).)

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

       A Spy in Time review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Imraan Coovadia's A Spy in Time, due out next month in the US from California Coldblood Books. (It's already out in South Africa.)

       This is kind of a change for him -- honest to goodness science fiction -- but then he's repetedly tried new directions in his fiction. Good to see, in any case, that he has a US publisher for this: The Wedding got a US release and decent attention almost twenty years ago, and Green-Eyed Thieves was/is nominally available (from Seagull Books); High Low In-Between and The Institute for Taxi Poetry didn't make it to these shores, and Tales of the Metric System only after some delay (and then published by not-so-commercial Ohio University Press ...).
       It'll be interesting to see whether the genre-embrace leads to more attention (and leads some new readers back to his backlist)..

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

22 July 2018 - Sunday

Publishing in ... Israel | Ludmilla Petrushevskaya exhibit | Seagull Books profile

       Publishing in ... Israel

       In Haaretz Gili Izikovich reports on BDS in Books: British Author Refuses to Publish in Israel -- and She's Not the Only One -- though noting that:
With all due respect to the BDS organizations, most writers are enthusiastic about being translated into foreign languages.
       An interesting/messy meeting of literature and politics -- though Kinneret Zmora-Bitan's Ziv Lewis claims:
I haven’t come across Western writers who identify with BDS. A writer wants his book to be read by as many people as possible. They may not want to contribute to public relations, won’t agree to be interviewed – but they want to be read. The same is true of writers from the Arab world whom we contact: Unofficially they all want to be published everywhere and in any language, including Hebrew.

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

       Ludmilla Petrushevskaya exhibit

       It closes today, but neat that they had the exhibit Petrushevaskaya Journey in celebration of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s 80th anniversary at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. In The Moscow Times Andrei Muchnik reports on it, in Celebrate a Literary Legend: Writer Lyudmila Petrushevskaya at 80.

       Only one Petrushevskaya title is under review at the complete review, for now -- There Once Lived a Girl who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself -- but she is certainly a major modern Russian author.

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

       Seagull Books profile

       In The Indian Express Paromita Chakrabarti profiles the wonderful Seagull Books, in Writing a New Chapter: Publisher Naveen Kishore on nearly four decades of Seagull Books.

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

21 July 2018 - Saturday

Man Booker International Prize judges | Translation review controversy
Uwe-Johnson-Preis | In Darfur review

       Man Booker International Prize judges

       They've announced who will be judging the 2019 Man Booker International Prize: Bettany Hughes (chair), Maureen Freely, Angie Hobbs, Elnathan John, and Pankaj Mishra.

       The longlist will be announced next March, the shortlist in April, and the winner in May (no exact dates yet given).

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

       Translation review controversy

       In the 1 July issue of The New York Times Book Review Benjamin Moser reviewed Kate Briggs' This Little Art (see the Fitzcarraldo Editions publicity page, or get your copy at or -- and it was iimediately clear that some of what he said would not go over well with (many) translators (though note that Moser is also -- and writes as -- a translator).
       Now comes the first major counter-punch, a letter to the editor signed by an all-star cast of major translators (including Susan Bernofsky, Lydia Davis, John Keene, Lawrence Venuti, and Emily Wilson). (There are also two individual letters responding to the review.) Many other translators have voiced their support/enthusiasm regarding this reaction as well (especially on Twitter).
       I hope this develops into a broader debate, as well -- there's lots to discuss here (but, no, I'm not going to, not here, not right now -- though I do have the book and should be covering it).

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       Yesterday was Uwe Johnson's birthday, so they took the occasion to announce the winner of this year's Uwe Johnson Prize -- Der Gott jenes Sommers, by Ralf Rothmann; see also the Suhrkamp foreign rights page.
       English-language rights have already been sold, so you'll be seeing this -- and, like his previously translated To Die in Spring (get your copy at or, it's a set-in-1945 work .....

       Meanwhile, even if you didn't celebrate Uwe Johnson's birthday by pre-ordering the must-have Anniversaries -- well, it's never too late ..... (And, hey, it's not set in the Nazi-era ! Doesn't late-1960s New York City (with some East German contrast-material) sound more fun ?)

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       In Darfur review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Muḥammad al-Tūnisī's nineteenth-century In Darfur: An Account of the Sultanate and Its People, in the Library of Arabic Literature's two-volume, bilingual edition.

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

20 July 2018 - Friday

Prix littéraire Lucien-Barrière | New Asymptote

       Prix littéraire Lucien-Barrière

       The Prix littéraire Lucien-Barrière is awarded in conjunction with the Festival du Cinéma Américain de Deauville and so you can see how this prize -- which they've been handing out since 1976 ! -- would be both American- and cinematic-heavy. It is also the most brow-indifferent -- as in: high ? low ? no ? whatever ... -- winner's list I've ever seen for a literary prize, ranging from a Nobel (Peace) Prize-winner (Elie Wiesel) and some fairly serious authors (if not always their finest work ...) to ... well, some decidedly (and undeniably) 'popular' authors. William Kennedy, William Styron, Jim Harrison, Colum McCann, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Ford, and Dinaw Mengestu on the one hand, Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steel, Mary Higgins Clark, Michael Crichton on the other.
       This year's winner ? Camino Island, by John Grisham .....
       See the official announcement, and then scroll down through that whole wild winners list.

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       New Asymptote

       The July issue of Asymptote, with the usual very impressive variety of material from so many languages and places, is now available online.
       Definitely worthwhile, and a lot to keep you busy here.

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

19 July 2018 - Thursday

Japanese literary prizes | Swedish Academy mess overview
The Prague Orgy review

       Japanese literary prizes

       They've announced the winners of this half-year's (yes, they're biannual prizes) Akutagawa and Naoki prizes, with 送り火, by Takahashi Hiroki, winning the Akutagawa (see also the 文藝春秋 publicity page) and ファーストラヴ (yes, 'First Love'), by Shimamoto Rio taking the Naoki (see also the 文藝春秋 publicity page, and the brief Books in Japan entry on the author)
       Both authors have apparently been Akutagawa Prize-finalists several times each, while Shimamoto has also previously been up for the Naoki.
       See also The Japan Times' report, Hiroki Takahashi wins Akutagawa literary award, while Rio Shimamoto bags Naoki Prize.

       And see the Index of Akutagawa Prize-winners under review at the complete review.

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

       Swedish Academy mess overview

       A good, lengthy background/overview article in The Guardian by Andrew Brown about the Nobel Prize in Literature-deciding Swedish Academy's recent troubles, and The ugly scandal that cancelled the Nobel prize.
       A good reminder, too, about what a bizarre and hard -to-take-seriously institution this has always been (which is also part of what has always made Nobel Prize-watching and speculating so much fun).

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

       The Prague Orgy review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Philip Roth's The Prague Orgy, the short epilogue to his Zuckerman-trilogy.

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

18 July 2018 - Wednesday

Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award | The Millions' book preview
Sentimental Education review

       Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award

       The Dayton Literary Peace Prize Committee has announced that John Irving will receive this year's Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award. He gets to pick it up at the Dayton Literary Peace Prize awards ceremony, on 28 October.

       Several Irving titles are under review at the complete review:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Millions' book preview

       I mentioned Publishers Weekly's Fall 2018 Adult Announcements issue a few weeks back, and now The Millions has now published their Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2018 Book Preview of upcoming US publications.
       A handful of these are already under review at the complete review -- Bernardo Atxaga's Nevada Days, Thomas Clerc's Interior, Éric Vuillard's prix Goncourt-winning The Order of the Day, and, above all, Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries -- and I expect to get to quite a few more (though there are also many fall titles I'm looking forward to seeing that didn't make this list).

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

       Sentimental Education review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Gustave Flaubert's classic, Sentimental Education, the third major Flaubert work (and, yet again, a very different one) I've gotten to.

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

17 July 2018 - Tuesday

(US) National Translation Awards longlists | Literature in(/from) ... Finland

       (US) National Translation Awards longlists

       The American Literary Translators Association has announced the longlists for its National Translation Awards. This prize impressively: "includes a rigorous examination of both the source text and its relation to the finished English work" -- which should be particularly interesting this year, with a translation of Homer's Odyssey is in the running .....
       None of the poetry titles are under review at the complete review -- though I actually have, and hope to get to, some of these -- but several prose titles are:
  • Affections , by Rodrigo Hasbún, translated by Sophie Hughes
  • Compass, by Mathias Énard, translated by Charlotte Mandell
  • Dandelions, by Kawabata Yasunari, translated by Michael Emmerich
  • Ghachar Ghochar, by Vivek Shanbhag, translated by Srinath Perur
       Also on the longlist: Will Vanderhyden's Best Translated Book Award-winning translation of Rodrigo Fresán's The Invented Part .
       The shortlists will be announced in September, and the winners will be announced at ALTA's annual conference (to be held 31 October to 3 November).

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

       Literature in(/from) ... Finland

       At The Paris Review's Daily weblog Kalle Oskari Mattila explains How Finland Rebranded Itself as a Literary Country.
       He presents Sofi Oksanen's Purge as a break-through work with its international reach -- though I'd argue that The Year of the Hare-(etc.) author Arto Paasilinna has been a bigger brand for much longer -- just not in the English-speaking world (but he's a big hit internationally otherwise). And for every Johanna Sinisalo success, worthy authors such as Kari Hotakainen struggle to get more than one title into English -- while huge-in-Finland works like Laura Lindstedt's Oneiron get translated but lag in attention. (But, yes, at least more is being made available, which is great.)
       FILI, the 'Finnish Literature Exchange ', do do a nice job -- though amazingly: "FILI will be closed for the summer holidays from 25 June to 31 July 2018 inclusive". And see also the site for the Elina Ahlback Literary Agency (which goes un-diacritical at the official site).

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

16 July 2018 - Monday

The Story of The Stone, jr. version | Thomas Bernhard's editor

       The Story of The Stone, jr. version

       I'm not too sure about this (altered, simplified) junior version of The Story of The Stone (a.k.a. Dream of the Red Chamber and A Dream of Red Mansions), as described by Mei Jia in China Daily, in Classical text gets novel treatment.
       The simplifier, Liu Xinwu, at least seems to be an expert on the novel -- among his previous works is even one 'completing' it -- but I still have my doubts. (Let them read the real thing !)
       Still, any excuse to mention this great work and its significance -- and the article has a few interesting observations and quotes, including how big a fan Mao was (not necessarily a selling point ?) -- and that:
"You can talk about it (the novel) only after reading through it at least five times," Mao had said.

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

       Thomas Bernhard's editor

       In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung Paul Jandl has an interesting (German) piece on Thomas Bernhard's first editor at Suhrkamp/Insel, Anneliese Botond, reviewing a collection of her correspondence with the author -- Wer hätte schon Thomas Bernhards Lektorin sein wollen ? Diese Frau war es !
       Worth pointing to because it gives me an opportunity to remind you of the neat Korrektur Verlag publishing house, who brought out this collection, Briefe an Thomas Bernhard (see their publicity page). I've mentioned them before, and they continue to do great Bernhard-inspired and -related stuff.
       But Anneliese Botond is also interesting beyond her Bernhard-work; among the other authors she worked with was Paul Celan, and she translated an impressive array of authors from the French and Spanish, from Foucault and Simenon to Onetti,, Puig, and, above all, Alejo Carpentier. (I happen to be knee-deep in her translation of Carpentier's outrageously not available in English La consagración de la primavera, so it's amusing to come across her in this very different context too.)

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

15 July 2018 - Sunday

Mad Toy review

       Mad Toy review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Roberto Arlt's 1926 novel, Mad Toy.

       My review is based on the 2002 Michele McKay Aynesworth translation (Duke University Press) -- and, yes, I acquired the book in 2002; sometimes it takes me a while to get to a book ... -- but another translation, by James Womack, was published in the UK in 2013 (by Hesperus). Another of his novels, The Seven Madmen, has, oddly enough, also been translated twice -- while the rest of his output has so far mostly been ignored (though a translation The Flamethrowers -- the continuation of The Seven Madmen -- is apparently forthcoming from River Boat Books; see here (scroll down)).

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

14 July 2018 - Saturday

Top French classics ? | „Brücke Berlin“-Preis

       Top French classics ?

       Le HuffPost -- yes, there's a French version of this site -- asked a variety of popular French authors and other "professionnels du milieu littéraire" to name their top twenty French classics, tallying the totals to make a list of ten essential classics (for purposes of a summer reading challenge to entertain/occupy their readers) -- and Lauren Provost now sums up the results in Les 10 plus grands romans français selon les écrivains pour notre défi de l'été.
       The list is definitely old-classics-heavy -- event the least long-dead of the authors died over twenty years ago -- and partially very predictable (Les Misérables, The Red and the Black, Madame Bovary). (Only the Flaubert and Le Grand Meaulnes are under review at the complete review.)
       Interesting to hear that, for example, there were a lot of votes for Zola-titles -- but that they were spread over so many titles that none made the cut.
       More interesting, of course, are the individual selections -- which you can see by clicking on the links. It is a ... curious selection of author-selectors, ranging from Marie Darrieusecq to Marc Levy to Franck Thilliez.

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

       „Brücke Berlin“-Preis

       The „Brücke Berlin“ Prize is a German literature-in-translation award, the winning translation getting a prize of €20,000, shared equally by author and translator(s), and they've now announced that this year's prize goes to the German translation (by Natia Mikeladse-Bachsoliani) of Zaza Burchuladze's novel, ტურისტის საუზმე; see, for example, the Georgia Today report, Zaza Burchuladze Awarded Literary Prize, and the Georgian and German publishers' publicity pages for the book
       Burchuladze's adibas came out in English from Dalkey Archive Press a couple of years ago; no word yet as to whether this will get a US/UK publisher.
       This prize does look like it has a pretty good track record, beginning with the neat double for its opening award in 2002, an Esther Kinsky translation of an Olga Tokarczuk work. Works by David Albahari, Andrei Bitov, Krasznahorkai László, Nádas Péter, and Serhiy Zhadan have also taken the biennial prize since.

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

13 July 2018 - Friday

Frank Wynne profile | 'Hotlist 30' | Hybrid Child review

       Frank Wynne profile

       In the Irish Times Michael Cronin profiles 'Ireland’s most distinguished living literary translator', in From 'La Bamba' to Houellebecq: Frank Wynne's linguistic odyssey.
       Wynne managed the neat feat of placing two translations on the longlist for this year's Man Booker International Prize list -- particularly neat because the translations were from different languages (Spanish and French).
       Quite a few of his translations are under review at the complete review, from several Pierre Lemaitres (including the prix Goncourt-winning The Great Swindle), Houellebecqs (e.g. Platform), and Frédéric Beigbeder's Windows on the World ) to a few Spanish-language works, such as Tomás Eloy Martínez's Purgatory.

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       'Hotlist 30'

       A German prize for the best book published by an independent publisher has now relesed their 30 finalists (more convenient list/overview here), selected from 161 entries; readers can now vote for their favorites.
       Always interesting to see what the smaller presses are bringing out in other countries -- especially also since a lot of these are titles in translation. Among the authors with longlisted books: Marcel Schwob, Judith Kerr, Dennis Cooper, Shelley -- and Arthur Koestler, with Darkness at Noon.

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

       Hybrid Child review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ōhara Mariko's 1990 science fiction novel, Hybrid Child, just out in English from the University of Minnesota Press.
       Wild stuff but certainly of some interest.

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

12 July 2018 - Thursday

Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi (1923-2018)
TLS summer books recommendations | Lee Child enthusiasm

       Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi (1923-2018)

       I'm late to the sad news that Mirages of the Mind-author Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi has passed away.
       See, for example, Celebrated humourist Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi passes away in Karachi in Dawn, and now Mahmood Farooqui's tribute at The Wire, Remembering Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi, Urdu's Greatest Wordsmith.

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

       TLS summer books recommendations

       The Times Literary Supplement has contributors offer their Summer books 2018 recommendations -- usually a pretty good selection.

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

       Lee Child enthusiasm

       In this week's Times Literary Supplement Sam Leith tries to explain Lee Child's success, in Looking up to Jack Reacher.
       As Leith notes, his fans and admirers are many -- not just the book-buying public that propels the books up the bestseller lists, but also those of an ostensibly more serious literary bent. (Among those he doesn't mention are also César Aira, while Man Booker-winning author Eleanor Catton said he was one of her holiday go-to authors in a TLS Twenty Questions, and both John Lanchester and Malcolm Gladwell have enthused about him in The New Yorker (here and here).)
       Only two Reacher novels are under review at the complete review -- Killing Floor and The Affair -- and while I suspect I'll get to a few others, I'm not an entirely won over die-hard fan.

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

11 July 2018 - Wednesday

Rentrée littéraire numbers | A Life Misspent review

       Rentrée littéraire numbers

       The French 'rentrée littéraire' -- the big flooding of the book market with the big (and prize-contending) titles is still more than a month off, but the preview are beginning -- beginning with the numbers.
       As widely reported, 567 novels will hit the market -- down from last year's 581, but more than 2016's 560. One interesting note: fiction in translation continues its slow decline, with only 186 foreign works, the lowest since 1999 (!). (The decline has been slow rather than precipitous -- there were 191 last year, 196 in 2016 -- but it's a steady, continuing decline).
       On the other hand, first novels are better-represented than any time since 2007 -- a sign, perhaps, that the French are looking for something new .....
       Previews of the big titles should be appearing over the next couple of weeks.

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

       A Life Misspent review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Life Misspent, by Suryakant Tripathi, known as Nirala, a 1939 Hindi work that came out in translation a couple of years ago.

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

10 July 2018 - Tuesday

Nominations for wannabe alternate Nobel Prize
Ma Bo’le’s Second Life review

       Nominations for wannabe alternate Nobel Prize

       Last week, I mentioned that some Swedes had set up 'Den Nya Akademien' -- 'The New Academy' -- to do what the Swedish Academy has postponed until (at least) next year: give a big award to the most deserving world author.
       Their not-the-Nobel-Prize ambitions continue apace: whereas last week the official site only had a short explanation in English alongside all the Swedish, they've now gone (international-)media-friendlily all in -- in(to) English, that is.
       They've also completed the first stage of the prize process for this 'New Prize in Literature': as you might recall, they invited Swedish librarians to nominate authors for consideration; the librarians' suggestions form the 'longlist' and the public -- you ! -- then gets to vote (through 14 August) for their favorites; the four top vote-getters are then handed over for the: "final assessment by the expert jury", who will select a winner, to be announced 14 October. (The 'expert jury' consists of: Ann Pålsson, Lisbeth Larsson, Marianne Steinsaphir, Peter Stenson, and Gunilla Sandin,.)
       Well, the longlist is up and the voting open.

       The 47 authors who made the cut are:
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Johannes Anyuru
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Paul Auster
  • Silvia Avallone
  • Nina Bouraoui
  • Anne Carson
  • Maryse Condé
  • Don DeLillo
  • Inger Edelfeldt
  • Kerstin Ekman
  • Elena Ferrante
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Jens Ganman
  • Siri Hustvedt
  • Jenny Jägerfeld
  • Jón Kalman Stefánsson
  • Jonas Hassen Khemiri
  • Jamaica Kincaid
  • David Levithan
  • Édouard Louis
  • Sara Lövestam
  • Ulf Lundell
  • Cormac McCarthy
  • Ian McEwan
  • Murakami Haruki
  • Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
  • Joyce Carol Oates
  • Nnedi Okorafor
  • Sofi Oksanen
  • Amos Oz
  • Sara Paborn
  • Agneta Pleijel
  • Thomas Pynchon
  • Marilynne Robinson
  • Meg Rosoff
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Arundhati Roy
  • Jessica Schiefauer
  • Patti Smith
  • Zadie Smith
  • Peter Stamm
  • Sara Stridsberg
  • Donna Tartt
  • Kim Thúy
  • Olga Tokarczuk
  • Jeanette Winterson
       I'd suggest that the fact that they misspelled at least three of these names (they have "Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche", "Jamaica Kincade", and "David Leviathan") is not a great sign .....
       Swedish librarians also appear to really like hometown authors: just over a quarter of the nominated writers are Swedish. Quite a few are also very young -- in their thirties, with a limited track- (i.e. book) record -- though quite a bit of the old geezer contingent familiar from annual Nobel speculations is also accounted for. Certainly, the list tends fairly strongly to the popular rather than 'serious'; they really seem to be going for a Nobel-lite

       This little game probably doesn't deserve the attention it's getting, but the Nobel-void is obviously keenly felt and the international media needs material to fill it, so even an amateurish second-rate effort like this can attract a ton of coverage .....

       (Updated): Looking over the list more closely, it really is shocking how limited (and overly Swedish -- twelve Swedish authors !) it is. While local authors fare well, the neighbors don't: not a single Norwegian author (though I'd rate Solstad, Espedal, Fosse, Kjærstad, and Per Petterson above all the nominated Swedes, and throw in Knausgård for good measure), nor any Danes. And not a single Spanish-writing author ? (Meaning also -- because there's no Portuguese-writing nominee either --: none from Latin America.) Farther afield is less surprising -- Murakami, the only Asian-language-writing author, the Arabic-writing ones ignored as well -- but still .....
       But at least there is an admirable balance of male/female authors, which is at least something.

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

       Ma Bo’le’s Second Life review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Xiao Hong's 1941 novel, Ma Bo’le’s Second Life, just about out from Open Letter.

       Ma Bo’le’s Second Life is not only translated by longtime-Xiao Hong expert and translator Howard Goldblatt, one of the leading contemporary translators from the Chinese -- it's translated, "edited, and completed by Howard Goldblatt" .....
       And there, of course, is the rub.
       A great case study in how far the role of the translator should go -- and it'll be interesting to see how, for example, judges of translation-awards, like the Best Translated Book Award, deal with it .....

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

9 July 2018 - Monday

'Golden' Man Booker Prize | Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis

       'Golden' Man Booker Prize

       The Man Booker Prize is an annual prize that is for the best written-in-English, published-in-the-UK novel (that's submitted by its publisher for the prize ...), but every couple of years they have a 'best-of' (the previous winners) award -- most recently the so-called 'Golden' Man Booker.
       For this one, judges selected one winner from each of the five decades the award has been handed out, and then opened it up to public vote -- and they've now announced that The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje, has won.
       If this is the sort of thing that makes you want to check it out -- and it is a good book -- you can get your copy at or

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


       The Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis is the famous/notorious German-language prize where authors read in front of a jury and are publicly judged on their texts; it has an impressive list of previous winners, including the most recent Georg-Büchner Prize winner (see my recent mention), Terézia Mora (in 1999).
       They held this year's contest over the past few days -- and they've now announced that Ukrainian author Tanja Maljartschuk has won, with her text, Frösche im Meer (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       If the name seems familiar to readers, that might be because I recently reviewed her A Biography of a Chance Miracle, just out in English from Cadmus Press -- an impressive and good catch for/by them.

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8 July 2018 - Sunday

Writing in ... Hong Kong | Authors pick summer reads

       Writing in ... Hong Kong

       Via, I'm pointed to Sarah Karacs looking into Why is it So Hard to Find Hong Kong Literature in English ? in Zolima.
       (Atlas, the book she begins with, is under review at the complete review -- but, yes, I've had trouble finding more Hong Long fiction, in English or Chinese, to cover .....)

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       Authors pick summer reads

       The Guardian offers part one of their round-up of 'Best summer books 2018, as picked by writers', with a pretty good line-up of authors. Just too bad they have to so annoyingly spread it over more than one part (the second presumably to follow in a day or two ... now also up, here).

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7 July 2018 - Saturday

Premio Strega | Mesopotamia review

       Premio Strega

       They've announced the winner of the Premio Strega, the leading Italian book prize, and it is La ragazza con la Leica by Helena Janeczek -- the first female author to win the prize in fifteen years.
       At The Paris Review's The Daily weblog Francesco Pacifico offers a lot of background, in First Woman Wins the Strega Prize in Fifteen Years.
       One of her novels has been translated into English -- but I'm afraid the New Academia Publishing/Scarith Books title, The Swallows of Monte Cassino, didn't attract much attention; see also their publicity page, or get your copy at or; this one will probably do better; see also the Guanda publicity page, as well as the ANSA report, Janeczek wins 2018 Strega book prize.

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       Mesopotamia review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Serhiy Zhadan's Mesopotamia, just out in English from Yale University Press, in their Margellos World Republic of Letters series.

       Lots of blurbs for this one -- three pages worth at the beginning of the book, while they avoided any review-quotes (though there were quite a few very positive German ones to choose from). Blurbs from Gary Shteyngart (gracing the cover, too), Timothy Snyder, Askold Melnyczuk, and Lara Vapnyar, among others -- twelve in total. Not sure how much weight that carries with potential book-buyers, but we'll see.
       As to English-language reviews so far: very little to be seen, despite the book already being out for two months .....

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6 July 2018 - Friday

Austrian State Prize for European Literature
'Gender and Indian Literary Awards' | PEN Translates awards

       Austrian State Prize for European Literature

       With this year's Nobel Prize in Literature delayed (at least) until next year, and the Man Booker International Prize having transitioned from an author- to a book-prize, there aren't that many international author prizes to look forward to this year. Yes, there's the biennial Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which will be handed out this fall, but they announced the winner (Edwidge Danticat) last year ..... So the Österreichischer Staatspreis für Europäische Literatur -- while limited to European authors -- is among the few major author prizes that consider writers writing in different languages -- and they've announced that this year's prize will go to ... an English-writing author, Zadie Smith.
       The prize has an impressive list of previous winners -- but US/UK readers will hardly need much of an introduction to this year's winner. But, hey, at least her books are available in English .....

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       'Gender and Indian Literary Awards'

       Via I'm pointed to Suraj Jacob and Vanamala Viswanatha's study in the Economic and Political Weekly of Gender and Indian Literary Awards.
       They looked at the distribution of Sahitya Akademi Award winners -- the leading Indian literary awards, which are handed out in almost two dozen Indian languages.
In the 22 languages we consider, there have been 1,129 national Sahitya Akademi awards to date (1955–2016). Of these, a mere 8.1% have gone to women.
       This is an ... incredibly low number.
       The disparity is least-bad in English, and the general trend is towards more balance, but still .....
       Interesting regional/cultural differences here too.

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       PEN Translates awards

       They've announced the most recent batch of 'English PEN Awards' (which are rather confusingly called 'awards' -- and do award cash, covering translation costs -- but are what is usually called grants or subsidies, or something along those lines ...).
       Seventeen projects are recognized this time around, translations from ten different languages -- and it's always interesting to see what we can look forward to in the next year or so (or what they can look forward to in the UK -- not all of these publishers' titles will be readily US available ...).

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5 July 2018 - Thursday

Bookstan | Howard Jacobson defends the novel | Sand review


       I'm not so sure about that name but the International Festival of Literature Bookstan is being held, for the third time, in Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, through the seventh. The Geert Mak-curated festival has a theme of 'Borders and Boundaries', and the list of participants is solid -- regional-heavy, but with a few prominent foreign writers as well (including David Mitchell, Nadifa Mohamed, and Frank Westerman).
       Among the panels: one on the: 'Role and Responsibility of Literature Festivals' (Saturday, at 14:30) .....
       See also the brief Sarajevo Times preview-report.

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       Howard Jacobson defends the novel

       At the TLS Howard Jacobson makes a case for Why the novel matters.
       (As someone for whom the novel is the be-all and end-all, the answer(s) seem self-evident, but yet another spirited defense can't hurt either, right ?)

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       Sand review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Wolfgang Herrndorf's Sand.
       Tim Mohr's translation was published by Pushkin Press in the UK last year, and now New York Review Books have brought it out in the US.
       Despite the Publishers Weekly protestations, this strikes me as an ideal 'summer read' -- a nice fat and meaty quasi-thriller that's a lot of fun.

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4 July 2018 - Wednesday

Georg-Büchner-Preis | Caine Prize for African Writing


       They've announced that this year's Georg-Büchner Prize -- the leading German author prize, and worth €50,000 -- will go (on 27 October) to author -- and translator ! -- Terézia Mora.
       Her Day In Day Out, in a translation by Michael Henry Heim, appears to be the only one her works translated into English; get your copy at or
       She has translated quite a bit into German from the Hungarian, including numerous works by Esterházy Péter, Zilahy Péter's The Last Window-Giraffe, and Örkény István's One Minute Stories.
       See also the Deutsche Welle report, Terezia Mora wins 2018 Georg Büchner Prize for German literature.

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       Caine Prize for African Writing

       They've announced that tis year's Caine Prize for African Writing -- the leading African prize for a short story published in English -- goes to Fanta Blackcurrant (warning ! dreaded pdf format !), by Makena Onjerika.

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