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11 February 2016 - Thursday

Íslensku bókmenntaverðlaunanna | Book reviews in ... German(y)
Natasha Wimmer Q & A | The Absolute at Large review

       Íslensku bókmenntaverðlaunanna

       As Vala Hafstad reports at Icelandic Review, Icelandic Literature Prizes Presented, as the country's major literary awards have been handed out, with Hundadagar, by Einar Már Guðmundsson (several of whose works have been translated into English) taking the fiction prize -- beating out, among other finalists, Hallgrímur Helgason and Jón Kalman Stefánsson. See also the Forlagið publicity page for the book.
       The prize is worth an impressive(-sounding) ISK 1 million -- though apparently that's now only the equivalent of ca. US$7,800.

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

       Book reviews in ... German(y)

       At the German Perlentaucher site they've long been collecting book review coverage from the major German-language dailies of books appearing in German(y), and Thierry Chervel now looks over the numbers and some other analyses in Kritische Zahlen, to see whether --or rather just how much -- book review coverage in German newspapers (plus the Swiss NZZ) has declined since 2001.
       Short -- and disturbing -- answer: a lot.

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

       Natasha Wimmer Q & A

       Alicia Kennedy has a(n awfully-titled) Q & A with translator Natasha Wimmer at Broadly.
       (I just picked up a copy of the Wimmer-translated Enrigue, Sudden Death, at the library, and look forward to getting to it soon. (Get your copy at or pre-order it at

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

       The Absolute at Large review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Karel Čapek's 1922 The Absolute at Large.

       I actually received my review copy of this book 3815 days before the review went up -- so, yes, sometimes it takes me a while .....
       (This is actually the third from this University of Nebraska Press Bison Frontiers of Imagination-series that I had previously read (all in German, all decades ago) and eventually got around to re-reading and then reviewing, in each case 2000 or more days after getting the UNP edition of the book. I guess they just have to be lying around long enough until I finally can't resist any longer .....)

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

10 February 2016 - Wednesday

International Prize for Arabic Fiction shortlist | Stella Prize longlist
The Case of the Girl in Grey review

       International Prize for Arabic Fiction shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (and revealed the names of the judges -- kept secret until now).
       The winner will be announced 26 April.

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

       Stella Prize longlist

       The Stella Prize is an Australian prize for the best book -- fiction or non -- by an Australian author who is a woman, and they've now announced the sixteen-title-strong longlist, selected from 170 entries (which, unfortunately, they apparently do not make public).
       The shortlist will be announced 10 March, and the winner on 19 April.

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

       The Case of the Girl in Grey review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the second in Jordan Stratford's The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency-series, The Case of the Girl in Grey -- yes, juvenile fiction (though what I still have the most trouble getting over with are the liberties Stratford takes with historical dates/figures).

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

9 February 2016 - Tuesday

African literature | Book of the Year Awards in Iran
The Boy Who Stole Attila's Horse review

       African literature

       At okayafrica Siyanda Mohutsiwa writes that I'm Done With African Immigrant Literature -- fed up with the so widespread African writing (and writers) that are (and emphasize the) beyond-continental. (Note, however, that, as is sadly almost needless to say, Mohutsiwa's 'Africa' is only the sub-Saharan sort; the Arabic- (and occasionally French- and some other languages) writing northern part not really figuring in this (or most) discussion.)
       She's exaggerating slightly for effect, but has a point -- and for all the African literature under review at the complete review, I would love to see more local(ized) stuff too (but that goes for most regions, as it's often not the most (locally) popular stuff that gets translated, even from places such as France, Germany, Spain, etc.).
       If nothing else, the article is a nice reminder of the Pacesetter novels, and even if they're no longer on the shelves at Botswana Book Store, you can find them at that online site -- or at what should always be your first online destination for African books, the Africa Book Centre.

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

       Book of the Year Awards in Iran

       I can't seem to be able to find any mention of local fiction winners, but in the Theran Times they report Asghar Farhadi's collection wins Iran's Book of the Year Award (that would be in the screenplay category), where they also mention some other category-winners -- including best literary translation, which was for Borges' correspondence-collection, Cartas del fervor (which, oddly (?), doesn't appear to have been translated into English yet ...).
       And in the bibliography category: "the first award went to List of Published Translated Books" -- which actually sounds like fascinating reading (at least to me -- what gets translated (and published) is enormously revealing, and even more fun in Iran, where there is no inhibiting adherence to copyright convention(s), so multiple translations of the most popular titles are not uncommon).

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

       The Boy Who Stole Attila's Horse review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Iván Repila's The Boy Who Stole Attila's Horse -- available in a lovely little pocket-sized Pushkin Press edition, but packing considerably more of a punch than its size (and title) might suggest.

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

8 February 2016 - Monday

Helon Habila Q & A | 'Literature that takes a peek into the forbidden world'
The Heart review

       Helon Habila Q & A

       In The Sun Henry Akubuiro has a Q & A with Helon Habila: Every writer must grapple with big subjects of his generation.

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

       'Literature that takes a peek into the forbidden world'

       In the Times of India Priyanka Dasgupta considers the burning issue: Does regional erotic literature have takers when online offers free adult content ?
       But no worries:
The rise of the popularity of e-books will not wipe away the trend of reading printed books. Similarly, craze for MMS and adult movies will not take away the charm of adult literature. There is nostalgia in holding a book, browsing through the pages. People won't get over this habit in a hurry.
       Good to hear, right ?

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

       The Heart review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Maylis de Kerangal's highly acclaimed novel, coming out as The Heart (translated by Sam Taylor) in the US -- and as Mend the Living (translated by Jessica Moore) in the UK.
       I've mentioned how ... odd I find that the US/UK publishers couldn't agree, if not on the same translator at least on the same title, and I wonder whether this will impact the reception/success of the book. On the other hand, it would be kind of neat to see the two translations compete for the major translation prizes in their respective territories (say, the Best Translated Book Award and the (new incarnation of the) Man Booker International Prize).

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

7 February 2016 - Sunday

UK library lending numbers

       UK library lending numbers

       The Public Lending Right is the neat system in the UK whereby authors are remunerated (up to a point) each time their books are checked out of a library, and they've now released their most recent statistics as to UK library borrowing.
       In The Guardian PLR chair Tom Holland has a useful overview of Library lending figures: which books were most popular in 2014/15 ? -- including the list of the 100 most borrowed titles.
       Despite being (completely) fiction-dominated, none of the top 100 are under review at the complete review; indeed, few other books by any of the authors to crack the top 100 are.

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

6 February 2016 - Saturday

Translating Journey to the West | The Lost Time Accidents review

       Translating Journey to the West

       An interesting piece about translating from the Chinese in the Los Angeles Review of Books, as W.J.F.Jenner writes about Journeys to the East, "Journey to the West"
       He translated the classic Journey to the West -- get the four-volume edition at or -- and notes:
Because this was a book written for entertainment and pleasure I did not want it cluttered with footnotes. I reckoned that as long as readers were being carried along by the story, they did not want to be distracted by an annotator plucking at their sleeves, and explaining the countless Buddhist, Daoist and other references. Those who do want the scholarly paraphernalia can always turn to Anthony C. Yu's version.
       (As you know, I can never get enough scholarly paraphernalia, so, yeah, I do lean towards the Yu-translation.)

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

       The Lost Time Accidents review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of John Wray's new novel, The Lost Time Accidents.

       I was very much looking forward to this, and it has a lot of elements/aspects that appeal to me, but I found it fell surprisingly flat. Wray seems to have taken his time writing it (his last novel came out in 2009) and I wonder if he just spent too much time on it -- not so much in polishing it (though the writing certainly feels very worked-over) but in playing with it, resulting in (among very much else) things like that piece ascribed to Joan Didion. (I am still desperately hoping that's some kind of inside joke between Wray and Didion, but I'm thinking ... probably not so much. (Among those he mentions in the Acknowledgements are Ursula LeGuin and Murakami Haruki -- but not Didion.))

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

5 February 2016 - Friday

Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse finalists | 'Must-Reads of Georgian Literature' ?

       Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse finalists

       The biggest of the German book prizes -- the German Book Prize -- is announced in the fall, at the Frankfurt Book Fair, but the spring Leipzig Book Fair (17 to 20 March) also has big book prize -- which is, in fact, a trio of prizes, as they honor not just a best work of fiction (like the German Book Fair) -- well, 'Belletristik' -- but also prize a work of non-fiction, and a translation.
       They've now announced the three sets of five finalists, selected from 401 submissions.
       Among the Belletristik finalists: Guntram Vesper's 1000-pager, Frohburg
       Also interesting from a foreign perspective: the translations in the running. The five titles are from five different languages -- the English one a Richard Ford, the French an Emmanuel Carrère. The one title I have, and which I will be reviewing, is the most impressive Tutori by Bora Ćosić, which has got to be the betting favorite (see also the dedicated website publisher Schöffling & Co. set up, or their foreign rights page).

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

       'Must-Reads of Georgian Literature' ?

       So what does a "world-famous Georgian writer" think are the Top 5 Must-Reads of Georgian Literature ? Dato Turashvili lists his at Georgia Today -- and goes way back. Unfortunately, too, practically none of this is available/accessible in English.
       And what about Turashvili ? Well, it so happens that Mosaic Press is about to bring out his Flight from the U.S.S.R.; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or (The book's 'Amazon Best Sellers Rank' of 16,598,047 (as I write this) suggests the title hasn't quite caught on yet ... but then the release date is only a couple of weeks from now.)
       Meanwhile, see also the Index of Georgian literature under review at complete review -- not very much yet, but I am always looking/hoping for more .....

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

4 February 2016 - Thursday

European Prize for Literature | Hispabooks profile

       European Prize for Literature

       They've announced that this year's European Prize for Literature goes to Estonian author Jaan Kaplinski.
       It's the eleventh time they've awarded the prize -- Jon Fosse won last time -- but they're still working on really establishing themselves. But, they assure us:
The award is based on criteria of quality and of exemplarity, which are as demanding as those for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
       Quite a bit of Kaplinski's work has been translated into English -- including the novel The Same River; see the Peter Owen publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Hispabooks profile

       Spanish publisher of Spanish-books-in-English-translation Hispabooks do a really nice job -- and I wish there were similar publishers for any number of other languages ... -- and at the Asymptote weblog Frances Riddle now has a Q & A, Publisher Profile: Ana Pérez Galván of Hispabooks.

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

3 February 2016 - Wednesday

Intizar Hussain (1923-2016) | 2016 PEN Literary Awards Shortlists
Aleš Debeljak (1961-2016) | Disagreeable Tales review

       Intizar Hussain (1923-2016)

       Urdu-writing great Intizar Hussain has passed away; see, for example, Martin Chilton's obituary in The Telegraph.
       It was good to see him get shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize (in its former incarnation) in 2013.
       Two of his books are under review at the complete review: Basti and A Chronicle of the Peacocks.

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

       2016 PEN Literary Awards Shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for the 2016 PEN Literary Awards.
       Nothing under review at the complete review outside the fiction-translation prize -- though I do have a couple of these, and should get to some.
       The fiction-translation finalists are:
  • The Blizzard by Vladimir Sorokin, translated by Jamey Gambrell
  • The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector, translated by Katrina Dodson
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, translated by Oliver Ready
  • Hollow Heart by Viola Di Grado, translated by Antony Shugaar
  • The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov, translated by Angela Rodel
       There's still a while until the Best Translated Book Award longlist is announced, but I'm curious how much overlap there will be: leaving aside the BTBA-ineligible (as a re-translation) Dostoyevsky, the Lispector seems a gimme, and I expect the Gospodinov is more or less guaranteed a longlist-place -- but I would never have figured these other two titles to rate so highly.
       The PEN winners will be announced 1 March.

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

       Aleš Debeljak (1961-2016)

       Leading Slovenian poet Aleš Debeljak has passed away -- without much English-language notice, despite being fairly extensively translated into English; see, for example, The Slovenia Times' report, Eminent Slovenian author Aleš Debeljak dies.
       The most recent of his titles to appear in English was Smugglers, out from BOA Editions last year; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or (And, hey, it was even reviewed in Publishers Weekly -- "Debeljak’s engaging, accessible, eye-opening poems turn cultural dislocation into its own strange pleasure.", they said.)

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

       Disagreeable Tales review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Léon Bloy's 1894 collection of Disagreeable Tales, now out in English from Wakefield Press.

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

2 February 2016 - Tuesday

Mein Kampf in Germany -- and beyond | Bangla literature abroad
February Words without Borders

       Mein Kampf in Germany -- and beyond

       The two-volume annotated Institut für Zeitgeschichte München edition of Adolf Hitler's now-out-of-copyright Mein Kampf (see their publicity page) has understandably gotten a lot of attention (see also my previous mention), and at Deutsche Welle Heike Mund now reports the unsurprising news that Critical edition of Hitler's "Mein Kampf" in great demand.
       The most interesting titbit in the piece:
Meanwhile, the IfZ has received 35 to 40 requests for translation rights. The institute isn't disinclined, the director confirmed, adding, however, that no contracts have yet been signed for translations of Hitler, Mein Kampf.
       Well, better the scholarly/critical edition than just the plain old text by itself (which is, after all, -- being out of copyright -- now up for grabs for anyone who can be bothered to translate it).

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

       Bangla literature abroad

       In Take Bangla literature to the world the Daily Star reports that:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday reiterated her call for extensive and quality translation of classical and popular books of Bengali literature into other languages to reach out to world readers.
       Bonus points for not setting any Nobel-winning goals (with 1913 winner Rabindranath Tagore they can sort of lay claim to a previous winner -- but the temptation to say that after a hundred years they're due again must have been hard to resist ...).

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

       February Words without Borders

       The February issue of Words without Borders is now out, with a theme of: 'International Graphic Novels: Volume X', plus a bonus-section of 'The Reverberations of History: Contemporary Austrian Literature', curated by Tess Lewis.

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

1 February 2016 - Monday

Nepal Literature Festival | Bliss Was it in Bohemia review

       Nepal Literature Festival

       The Nepal Literature Festival runs through 18 Magh (2072) -- i.e. today -- and it's good to some reports at, for example, the Kathmandu Post; I hope there is more forthcoming elsewhere, too.

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

       Bliss Was it in Bohemia review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Michal Viewegh's 1992 Czech classic, Bliss Was it in Bohemia, finally out in English, from Jantar (whose books I've recently (and repeatedly) mentioned being very excited about).

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

31 January 2016 - Sunday

Pinter estate reviewing ban | The Last Weynfeldt review

       Pinter estate reviewing ban

       Literary estates can be so much fun, wielding their power in ... well, who knows whose interest, but surprisingly often neither in that of the now-dead creator nor his/her audience.
       Here another example of some odd muscle-flexing, as for example David Ng reports in The Los Angeles Times: The Wooster Group runs into problems with Harold Pinter production, as the theatre group's new production of Nobel laureate Harold Pinter's The Room faces some odd restrictions:
Samuel French instructed the New York-based Wooster Group that all promotion and reviews of the production would be forbidden.

The Wooster Group subsequently appealed this decision, and Samuel French later lifted the restriction on promoting the production, but told the theater company that the blackout on reviews will remain in place.
       I am intrigued by the idea of reviews being forbidden -- surely something entirely out of the control of the theater group (and not achievable by other means either).
       I'm curious to see how this plays out.

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

       The Last Weynfeldt review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Martin Suter's The Last Weynfeldt, coming out from New Vessel Press.

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

30 January 2016 - Saturday

'Blooks' | Victorian Premier's Literary Awards
Singapore Literature Prize submissions


       Much as I dislike the term (and prefer the real thing), I can see the appeal of 'blooks' -- objects that look like books but aren't -- and Jennifer Schuessler's well-illustrated piece in The New York Times on an exhibit of them at the Grolier Club (through 12 March), 'Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren't' Explores the World of Fake Books certainly makes me more curious.
       I look forward to checking out the exhibit.

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

       Victorian Premier's Literary Awards

       The Victorian Premier's Literary Awards are yet another (local-)government-supported Australian literary prize and they've announced this year's category-prize-winners (fiction, non, poetry, drama, and YA) -- each of whom get A$25,000 -- and the 'grand prize' (officially: the Victorian Prize for Literature) winner, which this year went to the dramatist, Mary Anne Butler's Broken taking the (A$100,000) prize.
       See, for example, the Browns Mart Theatre publicity page, or for more about all the awards, Jason Steger's report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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

       Singapore Literature Prize submissions

       The biennial Singapore Literature Prize awards prizes in three genres (fiction, non, and poetry) in each of Singapore's four official languages (English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil), and it's great to see the growth of interest (at least as measured by submissions), first when the number of categories was tripled between 2012 (57 entries) and 2014 (182 entries), but even now, as the Straits Times reports: Record 235 submissions for the Singapore Literature Prize 2016:
The number of entries in English came tops again: 95, the same as 2014. Works in Chinese this time around saw a significant bump, from 30 to 56, and works in Tamil were up from 32 to 54. There were 30 Malay-language entires submitted, up from 25 in 2014.
       The shortlist will be announced in May, and the winners on 14 July.

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

29 January 2016 - Friday

Korean (Nobel and other) literary ambitions
Wajdi al-Ahdal on Günter Grass | Garaczi László

       Korean (Nobel and other) literary ambitions

       Ah, the validation of a Nobel Prize in Literature ! As I've often noted, (South) Korea is among the countries that most often fall back on the why-haven't-we-won-one-yet lament, and at The New Yorker's Page-Turner weblog Mythili G. Rao considers: Can a Big Government Push Bring the Nobel Prize in Literature to South Korea ?
       The Literature Translation Institute of Korea has done admirable work in pushing Korean literature abroad (albeit with too strong an emphasis on translation-into-English (one of the harder markets to crack, as we know too well) rather than other languages, and with a ... not exactly first-rate web presence with their list - Books from Korea periodical (click on current issue to ... not find the current issue, something I've complained about for ages and which no one has bothered to notice/fix)).
       Interesting also to hear of the idea of the "opening of an L.T.I. Korea Publishing House in the U.S." -- Rao suggesting:
In theory, opening a U.S.-based L.T.I.-run publishing house would help remove one of biggest hurdles for the agency: getting exposure for its translations.
       There are actually many foreign publishing houses that publish national literature in English translation (the Soviet and Chinese governments were the large-scale pioneers in the area, decades ago, but a lot of countries have followed suit), and while it's possible basing such a publishing house in the US would help slightly with exposure, I can't imagine it would really accomplish much.
       As Rao notes about Dalkey's wonderful (and very generously supported) Library of Korean Literature:
Yet the books' release has largely been ignored in the U.S. In the three years since the series launched, with seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars in support from L.T.I. Korea, The New Yorker and Harper's have been the only major publications to attempt to review any of the twenty volumes released so far.
       That is disappointing, to say the least -- especially since there is some major fiction among these volumes (in the most recent batch: Yi Mun-yol's Son of Man -- a book deserving a great deal of critical- and reader-attention (none of which it seems to have gotten to date)).
       (Quite a few of the Dalkey -- and other -- Korean titles are under review at the complete review; among weblogs, Tony's Reading List also has covered a wide variety of Korean titles in translation.)

       Amusing also to hear that:
[W]inning a Nobel Prize could actually have a downside for the country's literary culture. "I'm afraid, if Ko Un wins the Nobel, that the Korean government, the L.T.I., will just declare victory and shut down," Charles Montgomery said. Charles La Shure expressed a similar sentiment. "It will happen at some point: Korea will win the Nobel Prize in Literature," he said. "I hope it doesn't happen too soon."
       (And of course we can all dream that the Nobel goes to a ... North Korean author, which would throw everyone into a wonderful tizzy.)

       (Updated - 30 January): See now also at the TLS-weblog Toby Lichtig on A glittering Korea.

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

       Wajdi al-Ahdal on Günter Grass

       At Yemeni A Land without Jasmine-author Wajdi al-Ahdal recalls The intervention of a Nobel Laureate, when Günter Grass admirably stood up for him (and more).
       Not exactly a happy ending, but still .....

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

       Garaczi László

       In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung Ilma Rakusa reviews Garaczi László's latest to be translated into German, the 2006 MetaXa, now out from Droschl -- and, yeah, she kind of likes it ("ein Glanzstück").
       So where are the English translations of his stuff ? I thought Hungarians were hot -- or is he too far out, even compared to Krasznahorkai, Nádas, etc. ?
       See, for example, the Publishing Hungary Author's Page.
       I do hope he's on at least some publishers' radar .....

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

28 January 2016 - Thursday

Zaw Zaw Aung (1937-2016) | The Rose of Cikembang review

       Zaw Zaw Aung (1937-2016)

       As, for example, The Irrawady reports, Zaw Zaw Aung, Writer Famed for Ushering in Modernism, Dies at 79.
       None of this Burmese writers' work appears to be available in English translation, but he was an important figure, especially in introducing post-modernist theory to Burma.
       Still, what I fond most intriguing:
he also became popular among young readers for his spy novels in the 1980s
       Man, would I love to see those in translation .....

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

       The Rose of Cikembang review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kwee Tek Hoay's 1927 novel, The Rose of Cikembang, another volume in Lontar's Modern Library of Indonesia-series.

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

27 January 2016 - Wednesday

Whitbread Costa Book of the Year | Premio Rómulo Gallegos can't pay
On the Edge review

       Whitbread Costa Book of the Year

       They've announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the winner of this year's Whitbread Costa Book of the Year -- and it is The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge.
       The winner of this prize is selected from the category-winners, and it's the first time in a while that the kids-category winner has come out on top.
       The book isn't out in the US yet (it's due in May) -- pre-order at -- but see the Macmillan Children's Books publicity page, or get your copy at

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

       Premio Rómulo Gallegos can't pay

       The Premio Internacional de Novela Rómulo Gallegos is one of the most illustrious Spanish-language novel prizes, with a list of winners to rival pretty much any other book prize; it also comes with good money attached (though there's some confusion about the denomination -- most sources have given US$100,000, but some say euros, some say bolívares; as it turns out the latter -- abbreviated: BS -- might be the most appropriate).
       As I mentioned last June, the 2015 prize went to Pablo Montoya, and he got to pick up the prize in August. Pick up the prize, and give a speech -- everything except pick up the cash.
       Hey, at least the check didn't bounce -- but apparently the cash-strapped Venezuelan government didn't even cut him one, and they still haven't paid up; see, for example, the EFE report at Fox New Latino, Venezuela apologizes for delay in paying winner of literary prize.
       Montoya -- still hoping for the moeny, apparently -- generously says it's no big deal:
"What the Romulo Gallegos Prize represents is so much more important than the economic amount. It's an award that puts you in the literary arena," said Montoya, adding that he is "aware of the situation" of economic crisis besetting Venezuela.
       All true -- and yet: poor show.
       I hope they're adding interest to the amount, whenever they finally get around to paying him.

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

       On the Edge review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Rafael Chirbes' On the Edge, just out from New Directions (with a UK edition from Harvill Secker due out in a couple of months).
       As I mentioned ... years ago, this was pretty convincingly the Spanish book of the year, 2013, and calling it Chirbes' magnum opus (in a pretty impressive and solid opus, by the way) is surely right. I actually went through a Chirbes-phase a while back, reviewing (cursorily) three of his novels back in ... 2000, but I didn't entirely take to him, and this is the first I've read of his since then (helped by the fact that nothing of his has been translated into English in some two decades ...). I still have similar issues with him, but this is an undeniably impressive work -- though, yeah, it is a bit hard to really like.
       Still: worth it, ultimately.

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

26 January 2016 - Tuesday

Ibrahim al-Koni | Ottaway Award nominations | Jantar books

       Ibrahim al-Koni

       At Marcia Lynx Qualey (of the invaluable Arabic Literature (in English)) reviews Ibrahim al-Koni's National Translation Award (in William Hutchins' translation) prize-winning New Waw, Saharan Oasis (see also the University of Texas Press publicity page, or get your copy at or
       I actually haven't seen this one yet -- somehow I haven't got my hands on a copy, and the New York Public Library doesn't even have a circulating copy ... -- but I've long been touting al-Koni as a Nobel contender, and it's good to see that his profile is rising, especially with his recent Man Booker International Prize (in its previous incarnation/format, sigh) longlisting. As Qualey notes:
This is the fourth of al-Koni's novels that Hutchins has translated. The prolific US-based translator says that he's generally "wary of 'global' novels that seem to have been written expressly to appeal to Westerners." The New Waw: Saharan Oasis is decidedly not that. It follows neither conventional characterisations nor timelines and seems to expand in multiple directions as it follows the group.
       Among the interesting mentions here, too:
Currently, Hutchins says, he is at work on another novel by al-Koni.

"I have to date translated 450 of the 700 pages of 'Al-Majus', which I am translating as 'The Fetishists' for various reasons. He [al-Koni] says it is his masterpiece and I agree."
       That's surely المجوس -- and that's great news. But I am curious whatever happened to American University in Cairo Press' The Animists -- Elliott Colla's translation of this same novel, which made it to an Amazon (etc.) listing -- complete with cover picture and everything -- but then never seems to have seen the light of day.
       (Still, I have to believe The Fetishists is the more attention-grabbing title-variation .....)

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

       Ottaway Award nominations

       At Words without Borders they've put out their Call for Nominations: The 2016 Ottaway Award -- that's the 'Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature', recognizing: "individuals who have taken extraordinary steps to advance literature in translation into English" (previously recognized: Drenka Willen, Carol Brown Janeway, and Sara Bershtel).
       You have until 15 February to get your nominations in (via online form) -- and it's nice to see that nowadays there are so many folks doing so much that there are actually any number of worthies to nominate.

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

       Jantar books

       I mentioned Czech Republic-based Jantar Publishing a couple of weeks ago, and they've now kindly sent me a couple of their books, and while I should be getting to these sooner rather than later, hot damn, they deserve a mention just at first sight.
       If you've gotten your hands on some Twisted Spoon Press titles you've probably admired not just the content but the physical books as well; well, apparently it's something in the local water (or at least the local printing presses), because Jantar's volumes are just lovely physical objects as well. (And for someone like me -- basically solely concerned with content -- to be impressed by the look and the feel of a book is already saying something.)
       As I noted last time, it's great to see -- finally ! -- some more Michal Viewegh in English. But there are also those two volumes by Daniela Hodrová -- the 2012 Franz Kafka Prize-winning author, a prize that Jelinek and Pinter won the same year they picked up their Nobels, and that has also gone to the likes of Handke, Amost Oz, and Yan Lianke -- and it's great to finally get a closer look at her work. And there's GraveLarks, by Jan Křesadlo -- a book originally published in Czech by Josef Škvorecký's '68 Publishers in 1984.
       I can't wait to dig in -- and while I'll let you know what I think, title by title, you might want to get started already, too .....

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

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