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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 30 June

21 June: Beauty and the Book exhibit | Shakespeare and Co. (not) in Moscow | Copyright v. patents | Choman Hardi Interview | El mal de Montano review
22 June: Handke and Slobo | Kevin Jackson on Sartre | Rimbaud in Persian | Windows on the World review
23 June: Cool ! | Swedish Book Review | Centuria attention | Pamuk wins Book Trade Peace Prize | Neri's 'The Writer' | RALPH on Wilson and Mat(t)hews
24 June: Hard-sell translations | Makine profile | French 1001 Nights | French readers' prizes | Russian NatsBest prize
25 June: More on Kadare (and Bellos) | One City, three authors | Grossman interview | Хороший Сталин review
26 June: George Bush book on Mohammed passes Egyptian censor | Reading statistics | Kunzru profiles | Translation panel
27 June: Man Booker International Prize festivities | Ingeborg Bachmann Preis | Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch review
28 June: MBI Prize coverage: Carey speech - Kadare acceptance - General | French literary prizes | Istanbul review
29 June: Literature (not) in translation in the UK | The Book That Changed My Life
30 June: The Guardian's foreign recommendations | Iranian woman writers | TLS on Kadare | Debating Patrick White | Soseki reviews

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30 June 2005 - Thursday

The Guardian's foreign recommendations | Iranian woman writers | TLS on Kadare
Debating Patrick White | Soseki reviews

       The Guardian's foreign recommendations

       It's nice to see that the fuss about the Man Booker International Prize (and specifically John Carey's speech at the ceremony; see also our previous mention) has led to some soul-searching regarding the dearth of literature in translation that's available in the UK.
       Among the more interesting contributions to the debate: as already widely linked to elsewhere, The Guardian "asked some experts to select 10 overseas writers we should be reading", in Lost in translation.
       An interesting mix of authors, including Harry Mulisch, Cees Nooteboom, Juan Goytisolo, and Dubravka Ugresic (authors we have a total of 31 titles by under review -- with two more Mulischs to be added shortly). Other recommended authors we have titles under review by are Marcel Benabou and Marie Darrieussecq, but the most interesting choice is Stefan Heym -- not exactly an exemplary foreign-language-using author, since his first novel, Hostages, was written in English.
       Rounding out the list are Halldor Laxness (whom we hope to have a couple of titles by under review in the next few months), Jaan Kross, and Shen Congwen.
       Not a bad selection, though we would have liked to see some lesser-known folk -- or even some as yet unavailable in English authors tossed in the mix.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Iranian woman writers

       In yesterday's issue of The New York Times Nazila Fathi writes that: "Women Writing Novels Emerge as Stars in Iran" (grudgingly linked to at that registration-requiring site).
       Among the books they cite is the trend-setting Fattaneh Haj Seyed Javadi's Bamdad-e Khomar ('Drunkard Morning'), which -- what a surprise ! -- we've had under review for quite a while.
       There's apparently an English translation floating around, but it doesn't seem to have found a publisher yet; it was a surprise success in Germany when it appeared in translation a couple of years back.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       TLS on Kadare

       We just got our copy of the 24 June TLS, which includes both the 'new' Sappho poem and Robert Elsie's fairly in-depth two-page spread on 'The life and works of Ismail Kadare'.
       As is to be expected, Elsie's piece is a good career-and-works overview, but it's fascinating to see how he dances around the translation issue. (As we've mentioned and discussed ad nauseam, most of Kadare's work is available in English only second-hand, via the French; see our discussion and David Bellos' The Englishing of Ismaïl Kadare: Notes of a retranslator).)
       Elsie manages to never come out and directly state that most of Kadare's work is available only second-hand. Instead, he, for example, suggests:
it was the French-language edition, Le Général de l'armée morte (1970), which laid the foundations for Kadare's renown abroad.
       That this 'foundation' means that translations were based on this edition (rather than the original) is perhaps implied but certainly not made clear.
       Elsewhere he does suggest direct translation may be the exception rather than the rule -- "Ura me tri harqe (1978; The Three-Arched Bridge, 1998), set in the Middle Ages and translated directly from the Albanian by John Hodgson" -- but again doesn't go any further.
       As Bellos' piece makes clear, the Kadare translation-situation is a complicated and messy one. Nevertheless, it seems worth a mention in any discussion of Kadare's books (for English-reading audiences) -- yet everybody seems to be treating it as though it were a taboo subject. Odd.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Debating Patrick White

       Matilda alerts us to a Sydney Morning Herald article, The White verdict, where they actually debate "whether Patrick White was ever worth reading"
       Our jaws drop in disbelief (White is one of the greats !) -- though we're a bit thrown off by their focus on The Tree of Man, the one major White work we actually don't have under review. But it makes us wonder whether we are growing ever more out of tune with the times -- in the US, after all, White has long been out of fashion, with only a single of his novels still (or rather: again) in print.
       For what it's worth, our continuing ringing endorsement: we can't vouch for The Tree of Man, but otherwise we're convinced White is very much worth reading -- more than almost anyone else, in fact.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Soseki reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are our reviews of a brand-new translation of Natsume Soseki's classic Botchan, and the autobiographical collection, Inside my Glass Doors.

       (Here is an author-name that causes even more confusion than most: born Natsume Kinnosuke, he changed his name to Natsume Soseki, and while his family name is 'Natsume' (i.e. his works should be filed under 'N' at your local bookstore), he's popularly known as 'Soseki'.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

29 June 2005 - Wednesday

Literature (not) in translation in the UK | The Book That Changed My Life

       Literature (not) in translation in the UK

       More reactions to Ismail Kadare taking the Man Booker International Prize and the various complaints about how little literature is available in translation in the UK (see also our run-down yesterday), as Magnus Linklater wonders: Ismail Kadaré: lost in translation ?
       He mentions Carey's Tabucchi-mention:
He spoke of a novel by Antonio Tabucchi -- Pereira Declares -- as one which, in the view of all the judges, "came close to being a perfect novel -- brief, tragic, inspiring. Do read it if you haven’t yet," he begged. I called Waterstone’s next day. The book has been out of print in Britain since 1995. No other Tabucchi titles are currently available.
       (Which leads us to wonder how Tabucchi made the cut when so many writers didn't because their books were (supposedly) no longer in print, including Antonio Lobo Antunes, Peter Handke, and Christa Wolf, books by all of whom we can find (if we try really, really hard) -- admittedly in the US).
       Linklater also wonders:
How did we become so culturally insular ? Why, unlike every other country in Europe, do we turn our backs on books by foreign writers ?
       And suggests:
There is, however, another, more worrying explanation, and it has to do with what one publisher described to me as "the rigid incuriosity of the English reader". Despite globalisation, we have become more rather than less parochial when it comes to literature. Because we assume that English is now universally spoken and understood, we have ceased to believe that anything written in any other language is either interesting or important. Writers have lost touch with the literary cross-references that were the lifeblood of a previous generation.
       Scary thought.

       Meanwhile note that they are apparently still having trouble getting out Kadare books, as Joanna Vallely reports: Author's win sparks battle to find books:
Matthew Perren, manager of Ottakar’s on George St, said said: "We had to order Kadere’s books in second hand as they were still waiting on stocks from his UK publishers."
       (At least he doesn't blame the readers .....)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       The Book That Changed My Life

       There's an AP report (here at the Houston Chronicle) on a forthcoming book, The Book That Changed My Life: A Hundred Reasons to Read, From a Hundred People Worth Reading ("to be published in the summer of 2006 by Gotham Books"). The "Hundred People Worth Reading" offering their book-memories include Goldie Hawn, historian David McCullough and cook Jacques Pepin. (These are the ones that went into the press report; we shudder to think who the other 97 that they preferred not to mention might be .....)
       If this project sounds familiar, it should -- though an earlier go-round, under the auspices of the National Book Foundation, sounded considerably more literary (or at least involved more people who seem worth reading). See publicity pages for that The Book That Changed My Life at the National Book Foundation site and Random House -- and see also the supplementary (and available online) books-lists by a few dozen more worthies at the NBF site.
       (Note, however, that the NBF-volume does come with the terrible Steve Martin blurb, "Everyone should read this book, especially the illiterate", which is certainly enough to prevent us from ever purchasing a copy.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

28 June 2005 - Tuesday

MBI Prize coverage: Carey speech - Kadare acceptance - General
French literary prizes | Istanbul review

       Man Booker International Prize coverage: Carey speech

       The Man Booker International Prize ceremony was held yesterday. Admirably, the official site has promptly made the night's speeches available online.
       'Chair of the Judges' John Carey was up first. Among the points of note: he references Alberto Manguel's article in The Spectator (now available as Worthy winner despite language restrictions in The Weekend Australian), and also mentions:
When we checked through our original list of 120 contestants, we found that we had to disqualify writer after writer, not on grounds of quality or stature, but because they were not generally available in English translation.
       And he manages to remain politer than we would:
No doubt publishers have difficulties of their own to struggle with. But to an outsider the British publishing industry can seem like a conspiracy intent on depriving English-speaking readers of the majority of the good books written in languages other than their own.
       (Hey, he forgets the co-conspiratorial Americans !)
       But he also describes some of the judging, and offers asides such as:
I must not give the impression that we disagreed about everything. There were some books that captivated us all. Antonio Tabucchi's Pereira Declares, we all felt, came close to being a perfect novel -- brief, tragic, inspiring. Do read it if you haven't yet.
       Charlotte Higgins' report in The Guardian, UK readers deprived of world literature, sums things up, and gets a few reactions -- including:
But Jamie Byng, of the publishing house Canongate, which is putting out Kadare's new novels as well as some of his back catalogue, said: "To level those charges entirely at publishers shows a real naivety about what it takes to get books published; it is not fair or right. [The lack of literature in translation] is also partly to do with booksellers, and partly with a resistance among readers ... We've published books translated from at least 20 languages and it's not easy. The act of translation itself is very difficult: it is almost as demanding as writing a book from scratch."
       Come on -- Carey admitted: "No doubt publishers have difficulties of their own to struggle with", and shows more sympathy than we can muster. (Not that Canongate doesn't do a decent job -- for a British publisher. Funny, however, how the continental Europeans seem to manage to bring out translated literature (and not just from English) by the wagon-load.)
       Higgins' also notes:
Peter Ayrton, publisher at Serpent's Tail, which has also published novels by Kadare, pointed to a "cultural chauvinism" throughout British culture and said that literary editors commissioned few reviews of translated books.
       And he doesn't even have to deal with Sam Tanenhaus .....
       (We've clearly gone overboard in the other direction for the past two months or so, but we note that 29 of the last 37 titles we've reviewed were not written in English (and five of the last fourteen aren't even available in English translation yet ...).)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Man Booker International Prize coverage: Kadare acceptance

       Ismail Kadaré's acceptance speech is also available (in David Bellos' translation -- and the French original).
       Worth a look -- and:
Believing in literature means believing in a reality above that which is. Believing in literature means saying that the ghastly regime holding sway over your country is altogether insipid, compared to literature in all its funereal majesty. Believing in that art means being convinced that the regime to which you are subjected, with its policemen who spy on you, its top leaders and its functionaries -- in sum, that the entire edifice of tyranny is but a passing nightmare, something dead in comparison to the Supreme order whose disciple you now are.
       See also reports on the speech:
(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Man Booker International Prize coverage: General

       General coverage of the Man Booker International Prize includes Tim Cornwell's Inspiration bubbles over for winning wordsmith in The Scotsman

       Also of interest: Adam Kirsch writes Mystery of Man: Just Who Is Ismail Kadare ? in The NY Sun. A decent introduction to prize and man (that also makes mention of David Bellos' The Englishing of Ismaïl Kadaré (well on its way to becoming the most-cited crQuarterly-article to date)) he occasionally is a bit off base, including when he hilariously claims:
The International Man Booker (...) expands the field still further: Awarded every two years and worth £60,000, it can be given to any "living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language." The definition covers just about all of the world's important writers
       This after all the judges had complained about how many authors couldn't be considered because they hadn't been translated, or the translations had been allowed to fall out of print ! (Carey: "we had to disqualify writer after writer", etc. etc.)

       And for those who prefer to listen rather than read, hear Misha Glenny profile Kadare on this week's Open Book at the BBC.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       French literary prizes

       Apparently the cosy French literary prize-arrangement is coming in for some serious criticism. In The Guardian Jon Henley reports Watchdog savages Paris's literary lions:
The Paris literary scene was shaken yesterday when the government's anti-corruption watchdog warned that France's most prestigious book prizes were wide open to corruption.
       This is news ? As one unnamed editor comments:
"French publishing, and particularly the whole prize charade, is all about mutual back-scratching. It's scandalous really, and if it gets cleaned up that can only be a good thing."
       But, hey ! at least they publish literature in translation !
       See also Henry Samuel's report, French book prizes accused of fix, in the Daily Telegraph
       (We'll try to find out more about this -- including, we hope, some French coverage -- in the days to come.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Istanbul review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Orhan Pamuk's book of Memories and the City, Istanbul.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

27 June 2005 - Monday

Man Booker International Prize festivities | Ingeborg Bachmann Preis
Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch review

       Man Booker International Prize festivities

       Today is the day Ismail Kadare gets honoured in Edinburgh (and picks up his check and trophy) as winner of the first Man Booker International Prize.
       At 12:30 the judges will discuss How Do You Choose The Best Writer In The World ?, and then in the evening is the big awards ceremony (held at the Royal Museum). We hope there will be extensive reports tomorrow !

       Meanwhile, Jennie Erdal (whose Ghosting didn't receive nearly the attention in the US it deserved ...) offers another Kadare-tribute, Finesse without frontiers, in The Scotsman. She doesn't mention the publisher she worked (and published Kadare) for -- Quartet -- but we're pleased to see her make note of David Bellos' "illuminating (and reassuring) essay, 'The Englishing of Ismaïl Kadaré' " (published in our very own crQuarterly).

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Ingeborg Bachmann Preis

       The past couple of days they held the Ingeborg Bachmann Preis in Klagenfurt, the very public competition-prize unlike almost any other; signandsight offer a decent, up-to-date (English) introduction (though they exaggerate when they call it Austria's most prestigious literary award -- the Staatspreis counts for considerably more).
       Thomas Lang emerged victorious, but overall press reports suggest it wasn't the most exciting of competitions this year: see (German) reports in:
(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Dai Sijie's newly translated Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

26 June 2005 - Sunday

George Bush book on Mohammed passes Egyptian censor | Reading statistics
Kunzru profiles | Translation panel

       George Bush book on Mohammed passes Egyptian censor

       No, not that George Bush -- though the possible family connexion has certainly added to the fun.
       Way back in the 1830s a Reverend George Bush penned a biography of the Prophet Mohammad (available, in PDF format, at this site), recently revived as a print-on-demand title -- and promptly banned by the Egyptian censors over at al-Azhar. But, lo ! they've changed their minds: as reported in, for example, Egypt Election Daily News and Middle East Online they've decided that, despite the inaccuracies, it's harmless after all.
       Part of the problem has, apparently, been the supposed link to the current American president -- leading the US State Department to actually issue a press release trying to clear up the matter .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Reading statistics

       The Sunday Times reports Indians get by with a little help from their books, looking at a recent NOP World Culture Score™ Index that suggests people spend more time reading in India than anywhere else. The survey covers all (and not just book) reading, and they do go so far as to note:
Reading for pleasure is considered less useful and a novel is a bestseller if it sells 2,000-3,000 copies -- a tiny number in a country of one billion people.
       Meanwhile, Weekend Stubble discusses a recent Gallup poll about American reading habits, suggesting a more widespread interest in books than commonly assumed. As summed up in the Christian Science Monitor:
A Gallup poll taken in May found that 47 percent of Americans on any given day are reading a book. This is up from 37 percent in 1990, and 23 percent in 1957. The median number of books read in a year is five.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Kunzru profiles

       Hari Kunzru's Transmission is coming out in paperback in the UK, which explains why the Financial Times has a (briefly accessible) profile of him. Why Die Welt has one too isn't clear, but they're both fairly extensive.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Translation panel

       A couple of weeks back local barkeep Michael Orthofer appeared on a panel with MobyLives' (and Melville House's) Dennis Loy Johnson, Dalkey Archive Press' Chad Post, and St.Marks Bookshop's Margarrita Shalina. C-SPAN will be airing the Discussion on Publishing and Selling Books in Translation at midnight tonight -- but if you miss it or can't stay up that late, don't worry: they're sure to show it again (possibly even at a more viewer-friendly hour) in the weeks (or rather: on the weekends) to come.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

25 June 2005 - Saturday

More on Kadare (and Bellos) | One City, three authors
Grossman interview | Хороший Сталин review

       More on Kadare (and Bellos)

       Only a few more days until the Man Booker International Prize ceremony honouring Ismail Kadare (27 June).
       Kadare has now decided who is to get the translator's prize that goes with it: David Bellos. Yes, he's translating them second-hand (from the French versions, not the Albanian originals -- see Bellos' The Englishing of Ismail Kadare: Notes of a retranslator), but he's the one making them accessible in English so this seems like the right choice.
       Meanwhile, Bellos has also written a nice introductory overview in The Independent, Adventures in Kadaria -- as we wonder: where are all the other British newspaper reports ? (The lack of American reports is, of course, entirely expected -- though there will presumably be one or two by next week.) Is everybody waiting until Monday or Tuesday ? (We figured today's issue of The Guardian would give him some space, but no .....)

       Also: two weeks ago we mentioned (and quoted extensively and emphatically from) MBIP judge Alberto Manguel's article on judging the prize in The Spectator. It's not freely accessible there, but fortunately is now reprinted in the more user-friendly The Weekend Australian as Worthy winner despite language restrictions.
       Read it ! Bookmark it !
       And we can't resist quoting again:
Today, if you speak Spanish or French or Italian or German or any of a dozen other languages and walk into your local bookshop, you are likely to find a fair sampling of most of the important books written anywhere in the world. (...) If you speak nothing but English, your choice is limited to a handful of publications brought out by a few resilient publishers still eager to make discoveries beyond the frontiers of their language.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       One City, three authors

       In The Scotsman David Robinson reports on a Chance to book a place in literary history
Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith are joining forces for the first time to write a book of interlinking stories about Edinburgh in a project which is setting the literary world alight.

The book, One City, which will raise money for a charity fighting social exclusion in the city, is already being talked about as the Scottish publishing event of the year. And next week, The Scotsman, which is sponsoring the project in association with Ottakar's bookstores, will reveal details of a competition for a fourth story that will also be included in the book.
       No yet -- and no information at the OneCity Trust-site. But it sounds like a good publicity stunt.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Grossman interview

       In The Nation Mark Sorkin interviews David Grossman in Reflections on the Body Politic.
       Unsurprisingly, the first question is:
What is the role of politics in your fiction ?
Like most writers who work in a traumatized area, Israeli writers are judged according to how political we are in our writing. But I can't accept that. Sometimes I write a book that has a strong relevance to the political reality of everyday life in Israel, and sometimes I write about the lives of people who do not have any straight relationship to politics but who, by being Israelis, are affected by what happens here.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Хороший Сталин review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Victor Erofeyev's new novel, Хороший Сталин.
       Yeah, yeah, we know -- it's in Russian. But Erofeyev has been published in English -- hell, an early version/excerpt of this autobiographical fiction was published as The Good Stalin in The New Yorker in 1998/9 ! -- and we can't imagine this won't get translated in the next couple of years (though we haven't heard of any plans yet ...). And we're not even the first-on-the-(English-)block: the TLS reviewed it a couple of months back. (Needless to say, it's already available in French, German, etc.)
       On the off chance that all US/UK publishers have inexplicably passed on it for now, here's some free advice: jump, now. It's a great read, and can't be that hard to market -- about as accessible and entertaining a contemporary translated work as you'll be able to find.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

24 June 2005 - Friday

Hard-sell translations | Makine profile | French 1001 Nights
French readers' prizes | Russian NatsBest prize

       Hard-sell translations

       This is what it's come to: in the US publishers can't even be bribed to publish translations.
       A couple of months ago we (and quite few other literary webloggers) were all excited by a novel effort to get some contemporary Iranian literature published in English translation: the International Freedom to Publish committee (IFTP) selected three titles to present to publishers, and a subsidy of $10,000 would be made available per title to help defray the costs of bringing it out. Conversational Reading now points us to Joe Woodward's piece in Poets & Writers, which unfortunately reveals that there were No Translation Takers
       A major reason unfortunately remains: money. Recall that Dalkey Archive Press' John O’Brien recently did the math, explaining that, for translations -- practically by definition poor-selling -- quite a bit more cash is needed to make any sort of a go at it.
       We're still stunned and shocked and disappointed. Two of the titles -- The Drowned by Moniru Ravanipur and Christine and Kid by Houshang Golshiri -- are by authors some of whose works have been translated and made available in English (albeit without great success and by small, specialist presses).
       The third is The Empty Palace of Soluch by Mahmoud Dawlatabadi (also: Mahmud Doulatabadi), which has actually been on our to-review pile for a while (it is available in German, making it accessible). We already have some of his books under review -- parts one and two of his epic Kelidar, as well as Safar -- and can't believe he hasn't been translated into English yet.

       So, sure, there's an 'explanation' -- it doesn't make sound business sense to risk bringing out these titles -- but what must the rest of the world be thinking about conditions in America if this is the result ? (And how the hell do those European publishers, with their much smaller domestic markets, manage to make so much literature in translation (even from obscure languages and regions) available ? Or are their markets -- readers of literary fiction -- actually larger than in the US ? (And how pathetic would that be .....))

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Makine profile

       In the New Statesman there's a (note: read rest of post before clicking on link) profile of Andreï Makine by Sebastian Harcombe.
       Makine is one of those authors people keep telling us we really should cover, and we do plan to (indeed, we recently picked up The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme (but, being the last volume of a trilogy, that's obviously not the place to start ...)). And so we also keep our eyes open for profiles, etc. -- like this one.
       Fairly unexceptional, it nevertheless gives us an opportunity to comment on the New Statesman-site. Admirably, they have once again made their book-reviews freely accessible, which is pretty much all we care about -- but they now also allow visitors one look at one other article (such as the Makine-profile) per day (hence our warning not to click on it immediately, since that would be your one article for today ...). A bit cumbersome -- especially if more than one article tempts -- but not the worst solution out there.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       French 1001 Nights

       Gallimard is bringing out a new (French) translation of the Arabian Nights / One Thousand and One Nights / les Mille et Une Nuits; the first volume is now available (see their useful publicity page, or get your own copy from
       In Paris Match Tahar Ben Jelloun (!) writes:
La nouvelle traduction de Jamel Eddine Bencheikh et d’André Miquel est somptueuse, précise, moderne et surtout facile à lire.

(The new translation by Jamel Eddine Bencheikh and André Miquel is sumptuous, precise, modern and, above all, easy to read.)
       See also Natalie Levisalles' review in Libération -- who also run down the previous versions.

       (We own copies of the Lane and the Madrus-Mathers editions, and hope eventually to get our hands on a (complete) Burton edition, but this is a classic that really deserves (and needs) a modern English translation.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       French readers' prizes

       In Le Monde Bénédicte Mathieu writes Du lecteur au juré littéraire, describing some of the (second-tier) French literary prizes, many of which rely on juries that include common readers (as opposed to celebrity judges).
       Includes useful short descriptions of le Grand Prix des lectrices de Elle, le prix du Livre Inter, le prix RTL-Lire, etc.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Russian NatsBest prize

       In The Moscow Times Victor Sonkin reports on Mikhail Shishkin's Maidenhair, which recently won the Russian 'National Bestseller' (Национальный бестселлер) prize -- which he finds surprising, since, among Russian literary prizes, it is supposedly: "the least literary and the most oriented toward popular tastes":
Maidenhair is a difficult book, unlikely to become a bestseller. But because of its victory, the book will be given a print run of 50,000 copies. Right now, one of the burning questions surrounding the prize is what to do with the future unsold books.
       The awards-ceremony sounds entertaining too:
The National Bestseller jury reaches its decision in public. Each member casts his or her vote, and the result becomes known when one nominee has earned more votes than the rest.
       Shishkin also won the (more 'literary' ?) 'Russian Booker' a few years back; for additional (Russian) information see this article at Polit.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

23 June 2005 - Thursday

Cool ! | Swedish Book Review | Centuria attention | Pamuk wins Book Trade Peace Prize
Neri's 'The Writer' | RALPH on Wilson and Mat(t)hews

       Cool !

       They call us "well-organized" and "easy-to-search", and most generously Time names the complete review one of the 50 Coolest Websites 2005 (in the Arts and Entertainment category). We can live with that.

       Our many -- "easy-to-search" ! -- indices directing you to all the books we have under review can be found here -- and see also the most recent additions.
       Newcomers who have found their way here because of the Time mention (welcome !) have found the Literary Saloon weblog part of the site. For links to (many, many) other literary weblogs (well worth exploring), see our literary weblogs links page.

       Look around; we hope you like what you see.

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       Swedish Book Review

       After an eternity without any updates the Swedish Book Review promises issue 2005:1 will be available soon -- and they have, meanwhile, put up issue 2004:2 as well as a Supplement devoted to Per Olov Enquist. (In each case, only some of the journal-articles are accessible online.)

       The Enquist-issue is particularly welcome, as there's surprisingly little about him available in English on the Internet. We've reviewed a couple of his books (most recently Lewi's Journey), and even the limited information available here provides welcome additional information and background. From Ross Shideler's Introduction to the Selected Bibliography, and Critical Resources in English, a convenient overview.
       An essay by Enquist-translator Tiina Nunnally "about working with Enquist during the process of translating his most recent novels" is regrettably not freely accessible, but at least we learn that Overlook continues to be committed to publishing his recent work, and that she is working on a translation of Boken om Blanche och Marie (The Book about Blanche and Marie). (It'll be a while (though translations have already appeared elsewhere in Europe ...), but at least it will appear eventually.)

       Meanwhile, of greatest interest in the 2004:2 issue is Jim Potts' piece on Mutual Interests: Four Years as Director of the British Council Stockholm.
       Somewhat depressing, meanwhile, is Tom Geddes' list of Recent literary translations and books on Sweden -- note how much it is dominated by a few authors with multiple titles translated.

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       Centuria attention

       It's nice to see that Giorgio Manganelli's marvelous Centuria is getting a bit of review-attention -- now also from The Village Voice, where Angela Starita discusses it -- though she apparently doesn't think it was the most necessary book-revival:
McPherson's decision to publish Centuria now must be a story of poor timing, a misplaced sense of irony, or an interest in literature as historical artifact.
       She finds it entertaining enough, but thinks it's an exercise gone wrong (or no longer of interest):
It's not to say that today's fiction is any less self-conscious, but it's not suicidal. The old-fashioned story has survived, albeit tattooed with footnotes and photos. So the obvious, sorry danger: Who will read Centuria as anything more than a record of its time, in which a writer makes a 200-page attempt at self-immolation ?
       We can just say: we were so taken by it we didn't even notice the flames lapping at our hands as we turned the pages.

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       Pamuk wins Book Trade Peace Prize

       The Börsenverein has announced that Orhan Pamuk has been awarded the prestigious Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels ('Peace Prize of the German Book Trade'); see also an English version of the dpa report at Expatica.
       The award will only be handed over on 23 October, at the Frankfurt Book Fair. (Pamuk also picks up the € 25,000 that goes with the prize.)
       (We have two Pamuk titles under review -- Snow and My Name is Red -- and our review of Istanbul will be up by next week.)
       The prize is a pretty big deal -- see the interesting list of previous winners -- but doesn't get much attention in the US (even when, as in 2003, an American -- Susan Sontag, in that case -- wins it -- though we don't recall what the reaction was in 1957 (Thornton Wilder) or 1982 (George Kennan)). Interestingly, Pamuk is the second Turk to win it in the past decade: Yasar Kemal took it in 1997.

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       Neri's 'The Writer'

       In The Guardian Deborah Moggach and Richard Jinman write that Heath's literary tribute makes handy goalposts:
Giancarlo Neri's The Writer was unveiled last night on Hampstead Heath

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       RALPH on Wilson and Mat(t)hews

       The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities -- i.e. RALPH -- is among the more entertaining review-sites out there, and they cover an interesting selection of books. The most recent issue includes reviews of Robert Wilson's The Vanished Hands and (scroll down) Harry Mathews' (yeah, they do misspell his name ...) My Life in CIA -- more or less. The reviewers didn't make it through either one (the Wilson: "Total number of pages in book: 360 / Total number of pages read: 18"). In the case of the Wilson, the quotes on offer pretty much tell the whole story -- nicely devastating. (The Mathews we think they should have given more of break to, but hey .....)

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22 June 2005 - Wednesday

Handke and Slobo | Kevin Jackson on Sartre
Rimbaud in Persian | Windows on the World review

       Handke and Slobo

       Things are heating up again, as Peter Handke has written a twenty-page piece arguing against what's happening to Slobodan Milosevic in the Hague, appearing in Literaturen this Friday (it's unclear how much will be accessible online). Handke actually visited Slobo in prison and discusses their three hour conversation -- though, unfortunately, apparently not at great length. (Recall that Slobo put Handke on his witness list last year, though Handke says he will not testify.)
       Signandsight offer a brief (English) excerpt/overview, while the German-language press has extensive coverage (most of it giving Handke a pretty hard time ...). See, for example:        (Story and some links first seen at Perlentaucher.)

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       Kevin Jackson on Sartre

       Sartre's 100th birthday deserves more attention than we have the patience to give it at this time, but we will point you to Kevin Jackson's entertaining profile in the July Prospect.

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       Rimbaud in Persian

       Mehr News report that Iran’s literati to experience Rimbaud in Persian. Four volumes -- and, for some reason, tri-lingual (Farsi, French, and English).

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       Windows on the World review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Frédéric Beigbeder's Windows on the World.

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21 June 2005 - Tuesday

Beauty and the Book exhibit | Shakespeare and Co. (not) in Moscow
Copyright v. patents | Choman Hardi Interview | El mal de Montano review

       Beauty and the Book exhibit

       There's a Beauty and the Book exhibit at the Israel Museum that focusses: "on the visual aspects of books, and suggests reading them as one 'reads' a work of art"
       Meir Ronnen writes about the exhibit in Unreadable books in The Jerusalem Post. Points of interest include:
The most horrific of them is a book designed by Israel Hadany as a sort of black joke. It has a handle to turn; from an aperture in its cover emerge its contents, shredded.

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       Shakespeare and Co. (not) in Moscow

       In The St.Petersburg Times Mary Duncan recounts her experiences running an English-language bookstore in Moscow, in Shakespeare and Co. Shared the Fate of Yukos. Okay, it wasn't quite that bad -- but the situation certainly doesn't sound conducive to promoting literature (or doing business of any sort).

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       Copyright v. patents

       Concerned about the possibility of the EU legislating patent-protection for software, Richard Stallman tries to explain why patent protection is a different beast from copyright protection and what the consequences might be (at ZDNet News).
       Especially entertaining: his what-if scenario, positing what would happen if there was such a thing as a 'literary patent'.

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       Choman Hardi Interview

       At textualities (itself worth a look) Benjamin Morris offers an interview with Kurdish poet Choman Hardi, conducted at the Debut Authors Festival (where she recently appeared).
       See, for example, also her biography at RAHA -- which led us to the interesting site, Exiled Writers Ink !.

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       El mal de Montano review

       Enrique Vila-Matas' Bartleby & Co. recently came out in English -- the first of his books to be translated into English -- but he's written quite a lot more. We now also have the Bartleby-successor, El mal de Montano, under review -- more very literary fun, if not quite as readily approachable.

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