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28 August 2016 - Sunday

Ian McEwan profile | In conversation today
The Papyrus Trilogy review

       Ian McEwan profile

       Ian McEwan's new novel, Nutshell, with its in utero-narrator, is due out shortly -- see the Nan A. Talese publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or -- and in The Guardian Decca Aitkenhead now has a long profile of the author.
       As to McEwan's review-expectations:
He expects reviews of Nutshell to be "wildly varied", but says he's so used to no critical consensus that he no longer reads reviews. Annalena provides edited summaries instead, but the wild divergence of opinion can be "hilarious". Solar, for example, enjoyed "fairly good" reviews in the UK, but "In the States it was disastrous. It was just unbelievable. I remember sitting on the edge of a hotel bed with Annalena, and she said, 'Well, I advise you not to read the Boston Globe, or the New York Times, or the Washington Post. And don't go anywhere near the Chicago Tribune, and stay away from the LA Times and the San Francisco Chronicle'."

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

       In conversation today

       A reminder that today at 17:00 I'll be in conversation with Simon Winchester, talking about my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction at The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts.

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

       The Papyrus Trilogy review

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of the three novels of Zoran Živković's The Papyrus Trilogy:
  1. The Last Book
  2. The Grand Manuscript
  3. Compendium of the Dead
       The trio is now available in a single nice hardback volume, just out from Cadmus Press.

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

27 August 2016 - Saturday

Miles Franklin Literary Award | Dmitry Bykov's top 100
'Google Translate' and literary translation

       Miles Franklin Literary Award

       The AS$60,000 Miles Franklin Literary Award -- arguably the leading Australian literary prize -- has been awarded to Black Rock White City, by A.S.Patrić.
       The only print US or UK-available edition seems to be, bizarrely, the large-print one -- get your copy at or -- but see also the Transit Lounge publicity page.

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

       Dmitry Bykov's top 100

       Living Souls-author Dmitry Bykov posted his 100 лучших книг мировой литературы on his 'Facebook' page a while back, and now Russia Beyond the Headlines publishes the list in English, too, as The best 100 works of world literature, according to Russian writer Bykov.
       Always interesting to see what folks select -- though his list is very classics-oriented, with very little that's even remotely contemporary.
       Meanwhile, his own Living Souls did make it into English (and into my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction)-- but apparently didn't make it too far otherwise: it looks like it's already out of print; see the Alma publicity page, or get your copy at or

       (Also/gratuitous aside: this is the first time I've had occasion to visit/link to a Facebook page in a while -- and I have to scratch my head and ask again: why the hell is anyone using this site/platform ?)

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

       'Google Translate' and literary translation

       Esther Allen's translation of Antonio Di Benedetto's classic novel, Zama, just came out -- see the New York Review Books publicity page, or get your copy at or; I should be getting to it shortly -- and at Publishers Weekly she (sort of) wonders: Can Google Translate Help Translate a Classic Novel ?
       Okay, she doesn't really wonder -- the opening line is: "No, Google Translate was in no way useful to my translation of the 1956 Argentine novel Zama: let's get that out of the way first thing" -- but she nevertheless has some interesting observations about Google Translate (and its limitations, and evolution).

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

26 August 2016 - Friday

(American) NEA translation grants | New issue of World Literature Today

       (American) NEA translation grants

       The American National Endowment for the Arts has announced its 2016 translation grants (which, for some reason, are called 'fellowships'), disbursing US$325,000 to 23 translators; see also here (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) for the full list of the recipients and a description of their projects.
       There are some great-sounding projects here -- including (but not limited to) a previously untranslated novel by Alfred Döblin, and a new translation of one by Halldór Laxness previously translated from the Danish translation; 1000-page novels by Miljenko Jergović and Bernard Ollivier; and a translation of " the longest extant Arabic epic poem" (7000 pages !), "the 12th century folk epic The Tale of Lady Dhat al-Himma".

       One observation: among the criteria for grant support is taking into account whether projects are from: "languages that are often underrepresented". So how did that go ?
       The language break-down of the projects is as follows:
  • French: 5 projects
  • German: 3
  • Russian: 3
  • Spanish: 3
  • Arabic: 1
  • 'Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian': 1
  • Chinese: 1
  • Czech: 1
  • Danish: 1
  • Icelandic: 1
  • Norwegian: 1
  • Romanian: 1
  • Portuguese: 1
       French has long been the language from which the most literature has been translated into English, with Spanish and German the usual runners-up -- so maybe it's not surprising that these are the likeliest to be best-represented. Still, it is noteworthy that the languages that did best here tend to be those which come from languages where there are official bodies that are already among the most supportive of translation (i.e. there are national organizations that offer at least some financial subsidy for translations into English and other languages). (Mind you, there's never enough financial support for translation, and many French and German and Nordic books don't get official support from the local book authorities, but relatively speaking, they do very, very well.)
       So the NEA is supporting twenty-one projects translated from European languages, with Arabic and Chinese the two nons that slip in -- two languages that have done fairly well, in terms of getting books translated into English in recent years.
       Look, I'd argue every language is 'underrepresented' in translation into English, but let's get serious.
       The Translation Database at Three Percent isn't a perfect proxy, but does give a reasonable idea of what got translated -- and of the 569 titles in 50 languages (plus some that were 'various') the 2015 totals and, in parentheses, ranks for the NEA grant languages were:
  • French: 113 (1)
  • German: 74 (2)
  • Russian: 16 (8)
  • Spanish: 71 (3)
  • Arabic: 22 (6)
  • 'Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian': 3+2 (=21)
  • Chinese: 23 (5)
  • Czech: 6 (18)
  • Danish: 16 (8)
  • Icelandic: 3 (25)
  • Norwegian: 14 (11)
  • Romanian: 1 (37)
  • Portuguese: 15 (10)
       Okay, Romanian is properly underrepresented -- but only four of these languages had less than double-digit numbers of translations. While dozens of major languages -- all non-European, many with tens or even hundreds of millions of native speakers -- had none. Something these grants will not, alas, rectify.
       There are some (sort of) valid reasons for this -- too few translators from these languages, for example, and limited publisher interest in / awareness of them. But, just like the problem of too few works by women being translated into English, it is a big and obvious one, and one where steps can (relatively easily) be taken to rectify it.
       For example, fellowships that want to support "languages that are often underrepresented" might ... actually do so. (I know, I know, the NEA probably got 100 French applications for every Bengali/Hindi/Thai/Hausa/etc./etc. one. But still .....)

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

       New issue of World Literature Today

       The September-October issue of World Literature Today is now up, and as always there's a lot material of interest. Especially, of course, the book reviews !

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

25 August 2016 - Thursday

Michel Butor (1926-2016) | AKO ECI Literatuurprijs | Lydia Davis Q & A

       Michel Butor (1926-2016)

       French author Michel Butor has passed away; see, for example, Le Monde's (French) report (there hasn't been any noteworthy English-language coverage yet, as I write this).
       None of his books are under review at the complete review -- what I read of his (quite a bit) I read before I started the site -- but he does get half a page in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction.
       Dalkey Archive Press have several of his title in print; Degrees is certainly something -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at or -- though for a quick(er) dip, maybe Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ape ?
       The University of Edinburgh DELC Michel Butor pages are fairly useful -- though there's apparently no bibliography of works-translated-into-English. At the Dalkey Archive Press site you can find Anna Otten's 1995 Review of Contemporary Fiction Q & A with the author.

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

       AKO ECI Literatuurprijs

       They've announced the 25-title-strong (!) longlist for the €50,000 AKO ECI Literatuurprijs, the leading Dutch literary prize.
       The longlist was selected from 450 (!) titles -- putting both the recently announced longlists for the German Book Prize (20/178) and especially the Man Booker Prize (12/155) to shame.
       Quite a few of the authors with nominated books have been (previously) translated into English, including Arnon Grunberg and Connie Palmen (both of whom have aleready won this prize in its previous AKO incarnation), as well as, for example, Frank Westerman and Tommy Wieringa.
       The shortlist will be announced 16 September, the winner on 10 November.

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

       Lydia Davis Q & A

       At the Asymptote blog Allegra Rosenbaum has a Q & A with Lydia Davis.
       Good to hear:
What is the best translated book you've read recently ?

As for the best translated book I've read recently, it was the Norwegian Dag Solstad's Professor Andersen's Night, translated by Agnes Scott Langeland. I've been told that the translation flattens it a bit, that it is wittier and sharper in the original, but it is a very well done book.
       And I can't complain about her answer to this either -- though it did make me laugh:
What author would you like to see more popular/translated in the first place ?

In answer to this question, I'll mention one novel that I read a bit of and actually wanted to translate and that is now being translated into English, and that is a Dutch classic from 1947 called De Avonden (The Evenings) by Gerard van het Reve. It portrays just ten days in the tedious life of a clerk who lives with his parents. It is very funny and strange -- the clerk arguing with his mother over such things as the spoiled herrings she keeps trying to serve for dinner, or her absurd attempts to smoke a cigarette. Reve is a writer who may yet "catch on" in the Anglophone world.
       In the Netherlands De Avonden has always been highly regarded -- a standard on any top-ten modern Dutch novel list -- and it's among the (many) puzzles of modern English-language publishing why it's taken this long to get this into English. On top of that, one of Reve's early books was actually written and published in English -- but he decided to (re)turn to Dutch for the rest of his career. (Maybe UK/US readers have never forgiven him ?)
       As to his chances of (finally) 'catching on in the Anglophone world' ... well, I wouldn't hold my breath.
       (Both Reve and Solstad of course figure in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction. Davis, too, albeit only incidentally.)

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

24 August 2016 - Wednesday

German Book Prize longlist | International Writing Program residents
Korean Literature Now | Sorokin denounced for promoting cannibalism

       German Book Prize longlist

       They've announced the twenty-title-strong longlist for this year's German Book Prize, selected from 178 titles (outdoing the Man Booker Prize longlist (12/155) in both categories -- but, sadly, like the Man Booker, refusing to reveal what titles were actually in the running).
       Quite a few familiar names, and S.Fischer is the big publisher-winner (five finalists) -- with Suhrkamp (one sad finalist) arguably the big loser.
       The shortlist will be announced 20 September, and the winner on 17 October.

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

       International Writing Program residents

       The 2016 Fall residency at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa has now started, with its usual interesting group of authors.
       A book by one of them -- Khaled Al-Khamissi's Taxi (first published, back in the day, by much-missed Aflame) -- is even under review at the complete review.

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

       Korean Literature Now

       What used to be the quarterly publication _list: Books from Korea is now Korean Literature Now, complete with new URL and everything, and the semi-inaugural new issue is now up -- sort of.
       The varied and informative content appears to be more of the same, but, alas, you now apparently have to 'sign in' (with your Facebook, Twitter, or other privacy-invading account, if you want) to read beyond a mere teaser -- not something I can accept or deal with, so I expect I won't be visiting or pointing you to this site any longer. Too bad -- there's always material of interest here.

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

       Sorokin denounced for promoting cannibalism

       The Moscow Times reports that Dissident Author Sorokin Accused of 'Promoting Cannibalism' in Work.
       (Among the sigh reasons: it's his 2001 (!) story настя that stands accused; given that Russia hasn't been overwhelmed by cases of cannibalism in the past fifteen years you have to figure and admit that it hasn't done a very good job of promoting cannibalism .....)
       This is the kind of silly story barely worth mentioning, but this did strike me as worth pointing out:
As well as reporting the book to police, Vasina also employed a linguist to analyze the book's content.

"The expert concluded that the book degrades people's Russian Orthodox heritage and their sense of nationhood"
       And people wonder why there's so little faith in 'experts' and expertise nowadays ..... (Also: I did not know linguists were so well-trained nowadays that they could ascertain threats to things like 'sense of nationhood' .....)

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

23 August 2016 - Tuesday

Preparing for Bottom's Dream | Ignacio Padilla (1968-2016)
Don't Leave Me review

       Preparing for Bottom's Dream

       Okay, folks, time to get serious: the publication of John E. Woods' long-awaited, career-culminating translation of Arno Schmidt's magnum (and we are talking magnum !) opus, Bottom's Dream is only a month away. There's work to do ! Preparatory work, especially for you literary editors, critics, and reporters ! So let's get to it ! I'm here to help .....
       Sure, Hillel Italie might try to convince you, in reporting that a Rich season of fiction expected this fall that: "For the weightiest novel this fall, or most any season, Alan Moore has the grandest ambition", and, yes, Jerusalem is big (1266 pages) and a big deal (pre-order your copy at or, but let's get real: Bottom's Dream is the (literary-)book- and translation-event of the year, hands down. (Yes, AP has missed that part of the story , sigh. But I'm here to remind/tell you !)
       [Look: to date, there are practically no books I've seen that are more or less guaranteed to make the Best Translated Book Award longlist for 2016 publications; the Man Booker International Prize-winning Han Kang novel The Vegetarian is one, but this one is an even more un-overlookable translation; the recent (multi-person) translation of Leopardi's Zibaldone is the only possibly comparable book, in scale and madness, of recent years.]
       Dalkey Archive Press, who are bringing out the impressive looking-edition (scroll down on the page (where you can pre-order the book -- at a nice discount already, no less) for some pictures) now have pdfs available, so if you're a literary 'professional' -- reach out, and grab for one.
       (I've got my copy, and dreaded though the pdf format is, I've got to say -- you can work with this. Maybe, some of you, even better than with the thirteen pound oversize print volume in your lap ..... Because of the nature of the text, this is extremely unlikely ever to appear in Kindle or ePub format, but the rigid pdf can handle it, and while your tablet screen is a bit small to deal with it (turning it on its side helps), it's a decent fall-back and introduction. Take a look, just to get a sense of what the thing is about.)

       So what's the big deal ? Well, first of all, it's just plain big. Coffee-table-crushing big. Unwieldy, to put it mildly. Three columns of text on the page, and almost 1500 of those pages ..... (Kudos to Woods not only for the translation but for the typesetting, which he took responsibility for too -- the edition beautifully mirrors the typeset-revised German standard issue.)
       In his 1995 The New York Times Book Review review of some other Woods Schmidt-translations Jeremy Adler hopes Woods:
will have an opportunity to attempt the impossible and give us an English Bottom's Dream too. Then Arno Schmidt will assume his rightful place in modern literature.
       Well, it's happened -- Woods has tackled, and completed what Adler called: "the ultimate but untranslatable challenge to any translator". So let's see that Schmidt does indeed: "assume his rightful place in modern literature".
       This is Woods going out with the biggest of bangs -- "When I'm done with Bottom's Dream, I've done my work", he's said -- and what a career it's been. The standard translations of the biggest Thomas Mann novels, including Joseph and His Brothers and Buddenbrooks. Popular stuff, like Patrick Süskind's Perfume. And piles of Arno Schmidt -- pretty much everything that's (been) available in English !

       Even if the book itself is too much for you, it makes for a great story, so I'm hoping there's adequate literary coverage of it. (So far, disappointingly (and actually rather shockingly): none.)
       Come on, reviewers, critics, reporters, booksellers, librarians -- check it out ! Have a peek ! Let yourself be seduced !

       To ease the path, I also recommend:

        - Check out my Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy (get your copy at or; it's also available on Kindle (get your copy at or Not so much pure Bottom's Dream-prep, but surely the best introduction to Schmidt and what the hell he was about you'll find in English. Essential background-reading, I'd suggest.
       (Booksellers: I hope you're stocking up, to prepare readers for Bottom's Dream; it should be readily via-Ingram-obtainable -- but if you have any problems/special needs etc., let me know !)

        - Check out The School for Atheists, another of Schmidt's 'typoscript' novels, and also translated by Woods, but more manageable, in every form. Amazon lists it as out of print (and hence ridiculously expensive at either or, but publisher Green Integer lists it [when, sigh, the site is working] as available for US$16.95, and surely they've gone for a reprint to take advantage of Bottom's Dream-fever !

       In addition, mark your calendars for the upcoming John E. Woods events.
       As far as I can tell, so far:        And, all you editors/critics/reporters/journalists, I'm sure if you get in touch with Dalkey Archive Press they'll be more than happy to try to set up an interview with Woods for you .

        - The Untranslated has suspended their project of Reading Zettel's Traum, but they got a few hundred pages in and given how little other introductory material is available this is well worth checking out.

       So let's go ! Editors, commission those profile articles -- and, if you're feeling really brave, actual reviews !
       This is not a book that can be ignored -- not by the standard-bearers of literary coverage ! (And not by all you wannabes .....)
       If your publication has Literary or Review of Books on the masthead, you have to be covering this. (But you know that -- and let's hope some of the other, smaller publications, brave it too !)

       (If you're having trouble finding someone to read the damn thing, and write something up, I am open to commissions -- for a price. You know where to find me.)

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

       Ignacio Padilla (1968-2016)

       Mexican author Ignacio Padilla was killed in a car crash; see, for example, the Latin American Herald Tribune report.
       Two of his books are under review at the complete review: Shadow without a Name and Antipodes, and he impressed me enough to rate a mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction.
       I have to say, I was shocked to only find out about this days after it happened -- and that while there have been some English-language reprts (like the LAHT one), and it has been widely reported internationally, his death seems to have been completely overlooked in the US and UK so far.

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

       Don't Leave Me review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Stig Sæterbakken's reverse-chronological novel, Don't Leave Me.

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

22 August 2016 - Monday

Upcoming conversation | Dear Mr. M review

       Upcoming conversation

       Next Sunday, on 28 August, at 17:00, I have the great honor of being in conversation with Simon Winchester, talking about my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction at The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts -- a great venue, a great conversation-partner, and the promise of lots of international literature talk, so if you're in the neighborhood .....

       (The Mount -- Edith Wharton's old place -- is having an impressive summer season, with a great Lecture Series -- with Ruth Franklin speaking about her new Shirley Jackson biography today at 16:00 (and again tomorrow at 11:00, if you don't have tickets for today's already sold-out event ...), and Simon Winchester speaking about his Pacific next Monday at 16:00 (and, in a repeat performance, next Tuesday at 11:00) And the gardens are always worth checking out.)

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

       Dear Mr. M review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Herman Koch's Dear Mr. M, due out in both the UK and US in the coming weeks.

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

21 August 2016 - Sunday

Post-Arab Spring writing | Coming up in ... Germany

       Post-Arab Spring writing

       In The National Tarek Ghanem has a brief look at How the Arab Spring has altered the direction of regional literature.

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

       Coming up in ... Germany

       The soon-upon-us fall season is big all around the world, and in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Andreas Platthaus runs down what he thinks are the 'Wichtigste Romane des Herbstes' (the most important novels of the fall) set to appear in Germany -- with Atlas of an Anxious Man Christoph Ransmayr's promising-sounding Cox (see the S.Fischer publicity page) leading the way.

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

20 August 2016 - Saturday

Book awards | Youssef Rakha Q & A

       Book awards

       At The Conversation Jason Potts makes the case Why we need more book awards -- pointing to Erwin Dekker and Marielle de Jong's recently published study on 'What Do Book Awards Signal ? An Analysis of Book Awards in Three Countries' (abstract; full article (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) ).
       The Dekker/de Jong piece looks at book awards in the US, France, and the Netherlands, between 1981 and 2015 (though the spans vary by country).
       Among the interesting findings:
  • "very few books win multiple awards"
  • "Out of the books in the American data-set only five out of the 398 books nominated or awarded are also in the fiction best-seller lists of 10 most sold books of the year" (!)
  • In the Netherlands "14 books out of 214 (6.5%) are also on the best-seller list"; in France: "42% of the books (77 out of 184) make it to the best-seller list of 50 best books sold"
       Among the conclusions: there's some consensus in the US -- but:
In the French and Dutch language market there are also clear sings that stakeholders in the market resist the common-opinion regime and the associated standard of quality. The resistance to the publication of best-seller-lists, which would take away attention from 'good' books, was substantial in the both countries
       Too bad they didn't include more countries in the study -- the UK would have been an obvious choice, Germany an interesting one as well. Still, certainly of some interest.

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

       Youssef Rakha Q & A

       At Susanne Schanda has a Q & A with Egyptian author Youssef Rakha.
       Several of his works have been translated into English, but apparently he is now making the leap to reach US/UK audiences without a middleman: he's writing his new novel directly in English:
I felt a need for distance and change. I wanted to get away from the familiar with all its implications, overtones and undertones. English helps me to do that, it feels more neutral and doesn't have the same weight for me, the same burden as Arabic. I need distance from all the things that have happened in Egypt over the past five years since the revolution.
       It'll be interesting to see what results.

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

19 August 2016 - Friday

Kids' lit (not) in translation | On U.R.Ananthamurthy | The Miner review

       Kids' lit (not) in translation

       Just how little is translated into English has gotten lots of attention in recent years, but the focus tends to be on adult fiction, and in fact there are many other areas in which translation-into-English lags (far) behind translation into other languages. So, for example, at Slate Daniel Hahn notes We've Stopped Translating Children's Books Into English. Where Will We Get the Next Tintin ?
       I am impressed by what must have been a fairly arduous counting-exercise:
I recently went to a major London bookshop, a good one, and did some counting. I found 2,047 children's books, of which 2,018 were by English-language writers and 29 were translations. Of those 29, the number of living writers represented was ... 6.
       Those are some pretty shocking and damning numbers. No 'three per cent' here .....

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

       On U.R.Ananthamurthy

       In The Caravan Anjum Hasan writes at considerable length on 'U.R.Ananthamurthy's contrarian wisdom', in The Ambivalent Indian.

       Two of Ananthamurthy's books are under review at the complete review: Bharathipura and Samskara.

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

       The Miner review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Natsume Sōseki's The Miner, in a new edition from Aardvark Bureau, a revised translation by Jay Rubin of his 1988 version; there's also an Introduction by Murakami Haruki.

       (Reviewing a Sōseki also gives me opportunity/reason to remind you of one of the most disturbing stories I have come across in the past few months -- Android Sōseki !)

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

18 August 2016 - Thursday

Read Russia Translation Prize shortlists
The New York Times consolidates book coverage
'Sex literature' in Ugandan school | Harry Potter in translation

       Read Russia Translation Prize shortlists

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Alexandra Guzeva reveals the shortlists for the Read Russia Translation Prize(s), awarded in a variety of categories and for translations into any language (which, come to think of it, must be very hard to judge -- I can't fathom what system they would use to compare translations (of different works !) into, say, Spanish and Hungarian (as is the case in the 'Classic literature of the 19th century'-category)).
       (Meanwhile, the Read Russia site itself seems rather/way behind in trying to keep up with the latest prize happenings -- you would think that, given the generous prize money on offer they could pay someone a few rubles to keep this vaguely up to date, too .....)
       One of the shortlisted titles is actually under review at the complete review -- Lisa Hayden's, of Eugene Vodolazkin's Laurus.

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

       The New York Times consolidates book coverage

       I always liked the fact that The New York Times Book Review was editorially (at least nominally) independent, with book coverage in the (week-)daily edition of The New York Times under another purview; no longer, alas: Dean Baquet has announced that they're consolidating all the paper's book coverage, and that Pamela Paul to Oversee Daily and Sunday Book Coverage. (Pamela Paul has run the NYTBR since 2013.)
       This certainly appears to be a big vote of confidence in what Paul has been doing -- though note that The New York Times seems to have a recent history of thinking NYTBR-editors don't have enough to do: her predecessor, Sam Tanenhaus, was named editor of (the then still existing) "Week in Review'-section in 2007, while continuing in his NYTBR job at the same time .....
       Obviously, it's easy to argue this is a sensible consolidation -- book coverage is book coverage, right ? On the other hand: the separation of daily and Sunday coverage sure lasted a long time without anyone daring to mess with it, and there's more than a whiff of belt-tightening desperation to this too.
       My book-coverage preference is certainly for more variety, while putting a single person in charge surely makes for a tendency towards sameness. Obviously, if you like what Paul has done with the NYTBR, then more of the same sounds good; if you don't ... tough.

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

       'Sex literature' in Ugandan school

       Every year there are fun stories about over-protective American parents demanding the banning or removal-from-school-libraries of books their kids would be much better off exposed to. This happens elsewhere, too, though generally not on the same hysterical and grand scale -- but a recent Ugandan episode shows adult/parental (and governmental) over-reactions are not limited to the United States.
       In New Vision Paul Kiwuuwa reports that Parliament probes Greenhill Academy over sex literature, with the national Ethics Minister rooting around in the school library, and MPs (!) impounding: "over 100 copies for further scrutiny".
       The prestigious school's motto appears to be: 'Expand your horizons', but apparently these are not horizons meant to be expanded on .....
       So what was this offending porn that has everyone shocked and upset ? Well, with titles like Love Lessons and Girls in Love you have to expect the worst right ? Never mind that they're titles by Jacqueline Wilson, and that the Scholastic publicity page for Girls in Love suggests a 'Grades 6-8' interest for sensitive American audiences (and that there's a TV series based on it ...).
When the MPs probed and scrutinized the library cards, Girls In Love was the most borrowed book by both female and male pupils.
       OMG ! A book both girls and boys like -- and that they actually read ! Can't get that off the shelves soon enough !
       Other offending porn-titles include Daisy Meadows' Juliet the Valentine Fairy -- and you can tell from the Scholastic publicity page just how dangerous that would be for impressionable young minds (and bodies ...) !
       (It does sound/look like all they did with most of these books was look at the titles before deciding they were inappropriate.)
       Amazingly, there doesn't seem to have been much backlash at this ridiculous over-reach, with the school already apologizing and the books apparently gone for good. Disappointing, all around.

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

       Harry Potter in translation

       I recently mentioned that J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (co-written by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany) has enjoyed spectacular sales-success, including in Germany and France, where the original English version has topped bestseller lists. With the translations only due out in five weeks in Germany (see the Carlsen publicity page) and in two months in France (see the Gallimard publicity page), readers apparently haven't been able to wait.
       The rush-to-translation apparently was (mistakenly) not seen as quite so urgent with this one (previous Harry Potters have come out at the same time as the English original) -- but one place they thought otherwise was ... Iran. Yes, as the Tehran Times reports, Iranian Pottermaniacs to roll out red carpet for Cursed Child, as the Persian version (unauthorized, I think it is safe to say) has now been published; see also the Tandis publicity page.

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

17 August 2016 - Wednesday

Trojanow's Olympics | German translation subsidies

       Trojanow's Olympics

       Ilija Trojanow's novel, The Lamentations of Zeno, recently came out in English from Verso -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at or -- but I'm even more intrigued by the book he's just published in German, Meine Olympiade ('My Olympics'), subtitled 'One amateur, four years, eighty disciplines' (see the S.Fischer foreign rights page).
       Apparently he decided after the 2012 Olympics in London to train in all eighty individual Summer Olympic disciplines (i.e. excluding only the team or partnered ones), "with the goal of doing at least half as well as the gold medalist of London". (I'm not quite sure how he measured that in those sports that aren't ... measured (badminton, judo, etc. etc.).) A nice twist, too: he traveled around the world to train with leaders in the various sports -- wrestling in Iran, running in Kenya, boxing in Brooklyn, etc.
       Sounds fun -- too bad no one thought to translate it in time for these Olympics .....

       (Meanwhile, I'm also glad to see that Verso have gone with 'Ilija Trojanow' -- rather than, as Faber foolishly had it when they gave him a go, 'Ilya Troyanov'; see my post (from more than eight years ago !) about that (not-quite-)transliteration problem.)

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

       German translation subsidies

       Litprom is the German 'Society for the Promotion of African, Asian and Latin American Literature', and among their activities is subsidizing translations-into-German from those areas (and the Arab world), and they've just announced the latest batch of nine titles that will get translation-support (scroll down for the convenient list).
       Two of these are actually already under review at the complete review -- and available in English --: Juan Pablo Villalobos' I'll Sell You a Dog and Imraan Coovadia's Tales of the Metric System, while two more are also translations-from-the English; indeed, while the geographic diversity is impressive, the linguistic one is less so -- a translation from the Vietnamese is the only one not from a more or less major European language .....
       Still, always interesting to see what is being translated -- and subsidized -- elsewhere.

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

16 August 2016 - Tuesday

James Tait Black Prizes | The Story of My Wife review

       James Tait Black Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's £10,000 James Tait Black Prizes (which apparently get a lot of mileage out of calling themselves 'Britain's oldest literary awards').
       You Don't Have to Live Like This (by Benjamin Markovits) took the fiction prize; see the publicity pages from Harper Perennial and Faber & Faber, or get your copy at or
       (There's apparently also a non-fiction prize, and that went to a Shakespeare-book by James Shapiro.)

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

       The Story of My Wife review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Füst Milán's 1942 novel, The Story of My Wife: The Reminiscences of Captain Störr.
       After the 1987 PAJ Publications hardcover this was published in paperback in 1989 in the Vintage International series; you still find some decent books in that series, but this one is long out of print (and instead you find the likes of ... Paulo Coelho's (no doubt well-selling, sigh ...) Adultery).

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

15 August 2016 - Monday

Hermann Kant (1926-2016) | US presidential reading

       Hermann Kant (1926-2016)

       Leading East German author Hermann Kant has passed away; see, for example, (German) reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Die Zeit.
       The latter reports that his best-known work, Die Aula, was translated into fifteen languages -- but English was apparently not one of them; it seems none of his work made it into English. That's somewhat surprising -- if not a top-tier author, he was certainly high second tier, and deserved at least some attention even from English-language readers.

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

       US presidential reading

       The American White House has released The President's Summer Reading List -- five books President Obama is apparently reading this summer.
       The only one of the five titles under review at the complete review is Neal Stephenson's Seveneves -- noteworthy because it was also recommended by former Microsoft man Bill Gates earlier this year.
       A solid little list -- but only five books for summer reading ? Come on !

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

14 August 2016 - Sunday

Françoise Mallet-Joris (1930-2016) | Dante review

       Françoise Mallet-Joris (1930-2016)

       Belgian author Françoise Mallet-Joris has passed away; see, for example, Josyane Savigneau and Jean-Luc Drouin on Mort de la romancière Françoise Mallet-Joris in Le Monde.
       Mallet-Joris was of that generation of French authors that were translated into English as a matter of course from the late 1950s through the early 1980s; now, of course, she is largely forgotten and, in English, apparently entirely out of print. But it's fairly easy to find used copies of her old books -- cheap, too. Get your copy of her fairly recently re-translated-- now as The Illusionist -- controversial debut from or

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

       Dante review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Marco Santagata's Dante: The Story of His Life, recently published by Harvard University Press.
       Santagata is also a well-known author of fiction -- and his Dante-themed novel, Come donna innamorata, was a finalist for the Premio Strega last year; I wonder if it will get translated into English.

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

13 August 2016 - Saturday

Success (not) in translation | Writers on Trump

       Success (not) in translation

       It doesn't come as much of a surprise that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K.Rowling (and Jack Thorne and John Tiffany) has sold phenomenally well. Well, perhaps the fact that it is a play-script makes this a bit surprising -- but, as Clarisse Loughrey reported in The Independent, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child becomes biggest selling play script since records began, having sold an amazing 847,886 copies in the UK alone. Meanwhile, as Jennifer Maloney reports in the Wall Street Journal, 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' Debuts at No. 1 With More Than 4 Million in Sales, as it has also sold some 3.3 million times in North America. (Get your copy at or -- and, yes, it's the top seller at both sites.)
       Perhaps even more impressive: the original English edition tops the current bestseller lists in both Germany and France. Yes, while in the US or UK it's rare to see a book in translation on the bestseller list, here we have a book in a different language that makes it -- essentially unheard of in the US/UK ! (The rather impressive exception: Winnie ille Pu in the US in 1961 .....)
       This is why the Europeans generally try to get translations of the biggest English-language books to appear concurrently with the US/UK release -- or ahead of them, as, for example, the Dutch have done with the latest, Man Booker Prize longlisted, J.M.Coetzee (see the Cossee publicity page).

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

       Writers on Trump

       In The Guardian they have get Richard Ford, Joyce Carol Oates, David Hare and more ... leading writers on Donald Trump -- in case you were hoping they could shed some light on this peculiar American ... phenomenon.

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

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