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The Literary Saloon Archive

23 - 31 July 2007

23 July: Three Percent ! | Prix Cévennes | Man 'Asian' Literary Prize longlist | Saudi boom ? | Isolarion review
24 July: New Pamuk ? | Moravia eclipse ? | Sinan Antoon profile | Olaudah Equiano Prize for Fiction | Hong Kong festival and prize fun | The Crimson Labyrinth review
25 July: George Tabori (1914-2007) | 29 October - Handke-day | Chinese literature abroad
26 July: Burmese literature | Top Norwegian novel ?
27 July: Swedish Academy opening | Borges/Bioy Casares | Dutch multiculturalism | Jergovic on Balkan identity | Améry chutzpah | Bookselling in Egypt | More on Faint Praise
28 July: Harry Mulisch turns 80 ! | Delhi book market | Book programmes on TV ? | Elias Khoury profile | Vie Française review -- and title questions
29 July: Yan Lianke profile | Janet Frame's new agent | Malcolm Jones on Apollo’s Song
30 July: Birkerts opinion piece | god is not Great review
31 July: Borges index | Review aggregators | Walser Walser Walser | New Kharms | LBC summer selection | New Context | Douglas Coupland's book art

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31 July 2007 - Tuesday

Borges index | Review aggregators | Walser Walser Walser | New Kharms
LBC summer selection | New Context | Douglas Coupland's book art

       Borges index

       One of the complaints in the reviews of Adolfo Bioy Casares' Borges is that the mammoth (1664 page) book comes without an index. Now a reader alerts us that there is indeed an index -- albeit only available online (warning ! dreaded pdf format !), at the official site for the book. At 132 pages one understands that they might not want to add that much more to an already overweight book, and while it is a bit cumbersome to use an online index with an off-line text it's certainly a lot better than no index at all.
       For those, like us, who don't actually have a copy of the book, it's also yet another tantalizing peek at what we're missing -- a meagre substitute, but a suggestive one.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Review aggregators

       Metacritic does a great job of collecting reviews of movies, DVDs, etc., and we were thrilled a few years ago when they added Metacritic Books. But now comes the disappointing news that:
Metacritic's regular coverage of Books has concluded with the final Harry Potter installment.
       They note that they "may highlight individual books in the future", but gone are the days when they'd add a few titles every week. (Fortunately, the archives remain, so at least for the titles they did get to it remains a valuable resource.)
       They -- very kindly -- point readers in our direction for continuing review-coverage, but they'll still be sorely missed. There are a lot of books out there, and with our quirky tastes (and refusal to focus just on the brand new) we don't cover near enough of what surely is of interest. There's still, thank god, ("Your one stop for finding multiple professional reviews of recently released books"), but the truth is, there's room for a lot more sites that aggregate and link to reviews the way we and they do (and Metacritic did).
       Some other sites do link to other reviews (notably Mostly Fiction), and literary weblogs will often link to a number of reviews when discussing a book, but we're still surprised that there aren't more sites that do ... well, what we do. It seems sort of an obvious thing to do, given this medium, but for some reason it hasn't caught on. Yes, the labour-intensity is off-putting (and the seemingly constantly changing URLs of so many, many review-links make for more work and annoyance than seems reasonable), but still .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Walser Walser Walser

       It is good to see that Robert Walser's newly-translated The Assistant is attracting so much attention; if we don't seem as excited as most it's only because Walser is like an old shoe for us, one we comfortably broke in twenty-five years ago and is so well-worn and familiar that it's hard to see what the fuss is about (though that first encounter, far back though it was, was damn exciting).
       Anyway, after Giles Harvey's review in The Village Voice Benjamin Kunkel offers a broader look at "The fiction of Robert Walser" in Still Small Voice in The New Yorker.
       And don't forget Golden Rule Jones' "project dedicated to Swiss author Robert Walser", Wandering with Robert Walser.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       New Kharms

       The New Yorker offers some never-published-in-English texts by Daniil Kharms in So it is in Life (with one great, no-nonsense (despite his being Mr.Nonsense) author-picture).
       We'll be getting to his Incidences eventually (get your copy at or -- and don't forget Dubravka Ugresic's 'The Kharms Case', available in In the Jaws of Life, and in the revised version recently brought out by Dalkey Archive Press, Lend Me Your Character (see their publicity page, or get your copy at or .

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       LBC summer selection

       The Litblog Co-op has announced its Summer 2007 Read This ! title, and it is: Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       New Context

       Just a few days ago Conversational Reading was worried (last item) that Context (the "triquarterly publication intended to create an international and historical context in which to read modern and contemporary literature") hadn't been updated recently.
       Context 20 isn't available online yet, but the main Context-page lists the contents, and we can hardly wait .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Douglas Coupland's book art

       Douglas Coupland's book art is/will be on display in two Canadian galleries: The Penguins are on display at the Monte Clark Gallery in Toronto (see also the punky images) through 16 September, while starting 8 September the Simon Fraser University Gallery in Vancouver will show Fifty Books I Have Read More Than Once.
       For some of the press coverage, see the CBC's Coupland art exhibit gives Penguins a punk twist.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

30 July 2007 - Monday

Birkerts opinion piece | god is not Great review

       Birkerts opinion piece

       Presumably something that will be much commented on in the days to come: Ed points to (and comments on, at some length) Sven Birkerts' arguing "Why literary blogging won't save our literary culture" in Lost in the blogosphere at the Boston Globe. (See also the reaction at A Progressive on the Prairie.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       god is not Great review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Christopher Hitchens arguing How Religion Poisons Everything (or, as the UK subtitle has it, making The Case against Religion) in god is not Great.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

29 July 2007 - Sunday

Yan Lianke profile | Janet Frame's new agent | Malcolm Jones on Apollo’s Song

       Yan Lianke profile

       In A pen for the people in The Age Mary-Anne Toy profiles Chinese author Yan Lianke.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Janet Frame's new agent

       Janet Frame died a couple of years ago, but her literary career is still going strong. A posthumous poetry-collection, The Goose Bath, won a Montana New Zealand Book Award (see, for example, the report that Versatile Frame wins award for collection of verse), and a posthumous novel, Towards Another Summer, will be published in her native New Zealand in October.
       And maybe she'll get a higher profile, now that her estate has hired Andrew Wylie to handle her books; see Top US agent hired to new Frame book in The Dominion Post. Her niece and literary executor, Pamela Gordon, is quoted:
She had been told Mr Wylie was the best agent in the business. "You don't have to aggressively sell Janet Frame. He's a high-quality agent and he only deals with high-quality people, but he does try to get the best publishing contracts for them."
       (We're not quite sure what she means by 'high quality', but maybe that's just us .....)
       Wylie has apparently managed to sell Towards Another Summer in Australia and the UK, but we wonder whether his big-money demands for her will fly in the US where, best we can tell, she never sold particularly well.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Malcolm Jones on Apollo’s Song

       It's 'Web-Exclusive Commentary' -- i.e. not in the print magazine -- but Newsweek's Malcolm Jones does go on (very positively) at some length about Tezuka Osamu's 'graphic novel', Apollo’s Song (which we've had a look at and could be reviewing some time soon) in Manga's Homer and Walt Disney All in One.
       See also the Vertical publicity page, or get your copy at or

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

28 July 2007 - Saturday

Harry Mulisch turns 80 ! | Delhi book market | Book programmes on TV ?
Elias Khoury profile | Vie Française review -- and title questions

       Harry Mulisch turns 80 !

       We admire quite a few authors, but there are only a handful we venerate. One of them -- perhaps top of that very short list, as far as living authors goes -- is the great, great Harry Mulisch.
       He celebrates his 80th birthday tomorrow -- and at least in Australia somebody noticed, as Ben Naparstek presents a pretty decent profile of the author in The Age, Honouring literary voice of troubled conscience. (Unfortunately, similar tributes are unlikely to be found in US papers -- and we're guessing foreign-language-fiction-phobic Sam Tanenhaus barely recognises the name.)
       Naparstek reports that: "The event is cause for nationwide celebration in Holland" -- as well it should be. But he also notes the sad fact that:
Dutch writing is far less internationally famous than Dutch painting; even Mulisch has seen only one-third of his work translated into English.
       (See what Dutch literature we have under review -- which includes a few not-yet-translated Mulischs .....)
       Among the interesting personal titbits, he reveals:
A sculptor of words rather than a reader, Mulisch hasn't read a novel for two decades. He enthuses about his close friend of five decades, fellow Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom, but admits unabashedly that he isn't familiar with his books.
       But the real exciting news is that:
To flag his birthday, Mulisch's Dutch publisher commissioned six novellas from noted Dutch authors, taking Mulisch's novels as their departure points. It's an unlikely homage to a writer whose exuberantly inventive, philosophical works depart from the understated realism of most Dutch literary fiction. "Dutch writers and painters are naturalists, describing normal life. That tradition is not mine."
       Weak in the knees already, they buckle under us when we look at the De Bezige Bij-page devoted to the Zes novellen in homage to the master. What a great idea -- and what a line-up:
  • De eeuwigheidskunstenaar by Abdelkader Benali
  • Een vrouw by Marcel Möring
  • De eerste jaren by Doeschka Meijsing
  • Maak jezelf maar klaar by Elsbeth Etty
  • Wat gebeurde er met Cathy M ? by Jessica Durlacher
  • Mim by A.F.Th. van der Heijden
       We have books by A.F.Th.van der Heijden and Marcel Möring under review (with a pile more van der Heijdens on the way) -- and we'll try to get our hands on this lot.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Delhi book market

       In The Times Stephen McClarence looks at: "the Great Indian Book Bazaar, often described as the world’s biggest weekly book market", in The tale of Mr Dass and the worlds biggest book bazaar.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Book programmes on TV ?

       In The Guardian Melvyn Bragg wonders why are there so few serious book programmes on television, in Think inside the box.
       In the US there are those 48 hours of BookTV every weekend -- but given that it is devoted essentially entirely to non-fiction it, too, is of very limited value.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Elias Khoury profile

       In 'A circle of madness' in The Guardian Maya Jaggi profiles Elias Khoury.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Vie Française review -- and title questions

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Jean-Paul Dubois' Prix Femina-winning novel, originally published in France as Une vie française.
       In the US it's been published as: Vie Française, while the British publisher is looking for a larger audience by calling it: A French Life.
       Normally these variations on the title would be cause for complaint and derision from us, but in this case it's not the English-language publishers that have caused the most confusion for readers. That honour goes to the Germans, who brought this out in hardcover as Die Jahre des Paul Blick (get your copy at and then changed the title for the paperback edition, to Ein französisches Leben (get your copy at Yes, they kept the cover-image the same (it's also the one used for the French and UK editions), but that still seems like a major no-no to us.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

27 July 2007 - Friday

Swedish Academy opening | Borges/Bioy Casares | Dutch multiculturalism
Jergovic on Balkan identity | Améry chutzpah
Bookselling in Egypt | More on Faint Praise

       Swedish Academy opening

       Okay, it's pretty cold to focus on this when what we should presumably be doing is mourning the passing of Swedish poet Lars Forssell (1928-2007). He passed away yesterday -- see, for example the obituary in the The Local -- but the big news is, of course, the consequence: it frees up chair no. 4 at the Swedish Academy (lots of Forssell-information on that page, by the way -- for now).
       The Swedish Academy is that nominally 18-member strong group that decides who gets the Nobel Prize for Literature every year. Forssell's death thus has long-term ramifications. Yes, even aside from him there are seven (!) other members born before 1930 (though one of those is Knut Ahnlund, who is still upset about the Jelinek-award and apparently continues to refuse to play along in the annual game). Still, the average age should go down considerably ......
       They replaced a member last year -- Lars Gyllensten, from chair 14 died just over a year ago -- but that was only half as influential a change, as Gyllensten was one of the two academicians boycotting the whole group since they refused to take a stand against Rushdie's fatwa (yes, these folk seem to have a hard time moving on ...). (The other boycotter is Kerstin Ekman, leaving chair 15 more or less vacant -- as you may recall from the Ahnlund-fuss: there is no escaping the Swedish Academy except by dying: you can quit all you want and they'll still pretend you're part of the gang .....) Depending on who gets elected to chair 4 there might be some real change in the air -- depending on how influential Forssell was, as well as how much of an impact his successor can have.
       It's already pretty late in the Nobel-season -- the award is handed out in October, and they must be down to a fairly short list by now -- and it's unclear whether they'll even have a replacement seated by the time they vote on things (or that the replacement will feel comfortable immediately being part of the decision). Still, we're very curious to hear who gets the nod -- and the seat they might then occupy for many decades.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Borges/Bioy Casares

       We thinks Adolfo Bioy Casares’s Borges (see our review-overview) sounds absolutely fascinating, but apparently not everyone is taken by it. In a scathing letter to the editor Daniel Waissbein responds to David Gallagher's recent TLS-review.
       He argues, for example, that:
David Gallagher is blinded, by his own feelings of sympathy for Bioy Casares, to the many visible imperfections of this extremely long (over 1,600 pages), incompetently edited and mediocre book. He fails to point out that what we have here is not Borges as he was, but a diminished, malevolent, repetitive, silly and arrogant Borges, as seen through Bioy Casares’s capricious perception of humanity in general, and, in this instance, Borges in particular.
What we are presented with -- where all the (very few) good passages seem to have been fished by Gallagher with devoted but misplaced fidelity, in his two-page review -- is a very long, boring and negative portrait, mostly of Bioy, and incidentally of Borges. The main sin is one of omission. It is not that Borges did not say, with some latitude for the simplifications of Bioy’s recollection, the (mostly repulsive) things that Bioy keeps him repeating interminably. It is that they were said -- in all likelihood -- in a wider context, that attenuated, nuanced, diluted, abrogated, modified the crude points. Of this context we get nothing. We must also remember that Borges knew who his audience was, and fitted his words for Bioy’s ears.
       We're not sure what exactly he was expecting, and no doubt Bioy Casares' record is a subjective one, but surely this is still better than nothing. (As for Borges coming off looking less than perfect ... surely we've all heard of some or many of his imperfections before; his perfection is in his writing, after all -- and that doesn't mean that he can't have been, in some respects, a mediocre human being.)
       We'd be more convinced if Waissbein made less of an emotional argument -- and backed up some of what he says. The book is "incompetently edited" ? Sounds possible (they didn't even bother to provide an index !), but he has to suggest some of the reasons why. (Letters to the editor do get edited, so maybe he did offer a lengthy explanation, but still .....)
       Of course, his target isn't the editor but Bioy Casares, whom he clearly has no liking or respect for. Here, too, we'd be more readily convinced if the attacks were a bit better founded. When he chooses to emphasise that Bioy was someone "with no formal education" -- and, in case you missed that, reminds readers that Bioy was someone "who had never studied in any university" -- then it all begins to sound much too petty-personal (and completely beside the point).
       (We also like that he finds the book "extremely long (over 1,600 pages)" and then complains that the: "main sin is one of omission" .....)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Dutch multiculturalism

       In the New Statesman Andrew Hussey writes "on Holland's struggles with multiculturalism" in Immigrant stories.
       He describes one of the "must-read books in Holland in recent months":
Het Marokkanendrama (The Moroccan Drama), is a polemical essay by the young sociologist Fleur Jurgens (she's 35 years old). Most dramatically, Jurgens places the responsibility for criminality, and by extension Islamist violence, on the shoulders of the immigrant families themselves.
       Also of interest:
Abdelkader Benali, one of the children of the Rif who is also the award-winning author of works such as De langverwachte (The Long-Awaited) and Laat het morgen mooi weer zijn (May the Sun Shine Tomorrow). Benali is bored with being tagged as a "Muslim author" and insists that his work points out the obvious -- that without work or structures, immigrants will turn to crime or the mosque, or both, to replace the familiar world that they have lost. This is also a central theme for other Dutch Moroccan writers of Benali's generation -- such as Hafid Bouazza or Fouad Laroui. Most interestingly, these writers are being translated into French or Arabic in Casablanca and starting to form opinion back in Morocco about the grim realities of European exile.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Jergovic on Balkan identity

       As also noted at Three Percent, offer Miljenko Jergovic's The ideal Yugoslavian (originally published in Literaturen) .
       We will, eventually, get around to reviewing his Sarajevo Marlboro (see the Archipelago Books publicity page, or get your copy at or -- as well as some of his other books.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Améry chutzpah

       We previously mentioned that they've just brought out Jean Améry's (then still Hans Mayer) first novel, written over seventy years ago, Die Schiffbrüchigen, in Germany.
       Die Zeit now has a review (in German), and they also recount some of the history of the almost-lost novel. Particularly amusing: the young author, then in his twenties, wanted a writer's opinion on his work, so he sent the manuscript off to Thomas Mann. It apparently took Mann a while to get back to him, and even then the old master apologised that he didn't have enough time to properly look at the manuscript -- but he did suggest Mayer send it off to a colleague, Robert Musil (who then actually read the thing and did offer some comments).
       Aside from Améry's chutzpah in approaching these literary titans we're amused by the actions and reactions. Was Thomas Mann serious when he suggested Musil, or did he just want to annoy Musil ? And what on earth was Musil doing taking the time to read this kid's manuscript ?

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Bookselling in Egypt

       In A novel idea in Al-Ahram Weekly Dina Ezzat "takes note of the new book markets in Cairo and whether they can encourage the public to once again read".
       Among the (unsurprising) observations:
The one thing that those who work in traditional bookstores and café-bookstores agree on is that in general reading is on the decline. In fact, in many ways they tend to also agree on the reasons behind the unimpressive statistics that report that in Egypt the reading consumption of every 85 individuals is one book a year while in Israel every individual consumes close to 30 books a year, not much less than the 35 books per person for Western countries.
But it is not only education that is blamed by these bookstore mangers for the dismaying interest in reading and acquiring books. "We are largely a consumption oriented society. This is what we have become since the late 1970s [with the introduction of the open door policy of former President Anwar El-Sadat]. In the 1950s and 1960s people used to read with passion, at least the educated. But now it is almost out of fashion to read," Hassan said.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       More on Faint Praise

       We assume there will be more blog-reactions to Gail Pool's Faint Praise, but at least book/daddy now offers a fairly thorough look.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

26 July 2007 - Thursday

Burmese literature | Top Norwegian novel ?

       Burmese literature

       In Asia Times Kyi May Kaung finds Burmese literature off the map (first printed as Out of Burma at Foreign Policy in Focus) .
       Noting that there have been quite a few well-received books set in Burma (Myanmar) recently (and in the past) -- such as Amitav Ghosh's The Glass Palace --, Kyi May Kaung wonders why there has been no international break-through for any Burmese authors:
Soviet samizdat (distribution of government-suppressed literature or other media in Soviet-bloc countries) and East European novels attracted much attention from Western intellectuals in the 1970s and 1980s. Burmese literature has not acquired a similar reputation.

One reason is the Eurocentrism that still inhabits literature in the English language. Also, Burma is a very small country without the vast oil reserves of Middle Eastern countries. The United States is not embroiled in a bitter and losing war there (as in Iraq and Afghanistan) or in an ongoing conflict (as in Iran). There is still relatively little interest in Southeast Asian literature, and this may be a holdover from the bitter US experience in Vietnam.
       Not exactly the explanations we would have given, but it's certainly true that Burmese literature is almost impossible to find. Kyi May Kaung does describe some authors and works of possible interest -- and Planet Burma has reviews of some Burma-related literature -- including a review of Mya Than Tint's On the Road to Mandalay.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Top Norwegian novel ?

       The poll itself is a couple of weeks old, but we just read about it at Boersenblatt: a poll asked readers to choose the best Norwegian novel, and while there were three Knut Hamsun titles to choose from in the final ten the best he could manage was runner-up. Better than Sigrid Undset, whose Kristin Lavransdatter only placed third. Or the highest-rated title we have under review, Lars Saabye Christensen's Beatles, which came in fourth. And Ibsen's Peer Gynt only came in seventh !
       So what was voted the best Norwegian novel ? Gert Nygårdshaug's Mengele Zoo.
        Who ? What ?
       No, you're not the only one who never heard of him or this book: barely translated (certainly not into English), Nygårdshaug hasn't made that much of an international impression yet. Still, his 1989 mystery novel (!) took top honours, so maybe he is worth a look.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

25 July 2007 - Wednesday

George Tabori (1914-2007) | 29 October - Handke-day | Chinese literature abroad

       George Tabori (1914-2007)

       George Tabori (1914-2007) has passed away; see, for example, Adam Williams' Reuters-obit.
       Hungarian-born, for the most part English-writing, he's probably best known in Germany, where he spent the last few decades. He wrote screenplays for Hitchcock, Litvak, and Losey, worked with Brecht, had his first play (Flight into Egypt) -- directed by Elia Kazan -- flop on Broadway, worked with Lee Strasberg at the Actor's Studio, got blacklisted by McCarthy, etc. etc.
       See also German obituaries in, for example, the FAZ and NZZ -- with more English-language notices sure to follow.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       29 October - Handke-day

       The new Suhrkamp catalogues arrived here yesterday, and there's lots to look forward to.
       English-reading Handke-fans, in particular, will likely turn green with envy, as the pace of translations falls ever further behind: Crossing the Sierra de Gredos just came out in translation (see our review-overview) and that's already several books behind what's currently available (the most recent publication being Kali).
       Handke turns 65 in December, but the biggest day of the year for him (or at least his fans) should be 29 October, when Suhrkamp throw three works onto the market:
  • Samara (see their publicity page), his new novel, described as 'a story that goes through the night'
  • Meine Ortstafeln - Meine Zeittafeln (see their publicity page), which collects his essays from 1967 to 2007, an overdue collection
  • Gedichte (see their publicity page), collecting his poetry; Handke isn't primarily known as a poet, but the occasional pieces we've come across often aren't half-bad, and it'll be interesting to see how they stand up on their own.
       That's over a thousand pages of material, and even if only the novel is entirely new it all looks worth a look; we hope to get our copies soon .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Chinese literature abroad

       We've been meaning to link to this Telegraph-article, where Helen Brown reports on fiction Made in China, read worldwide (though, in fact, some of the literature under discussion is made elsewhere -- and in English, no less).
       It seems quite a bit of an exaggeration to suggest that: "A new generation of Chinese novelists is creating a publishing sensation abroad", but certainly there is more available (and more interest), and Brown does offer a decent overview -- and some interesting quotes and information, including:
"Two years ago," he goes on, "English publishers went to the Beijing book fair for the first time. They bought blind without translators lined up. It was a piece of PR or corporate politics. A few years ago I was asked to speak to most of the major publishers about China and I said they had to respect its culture -- publish quality in good translation, not tone-deaf translation. Next year there will be a lot published."

Eady sees the linguistic problem as "the great wall" and draws a clear distinction between those novels written in Chinese and translated (such as his wife Xinran's first novel, Miss Chopsticks) and those written in English by Chinese authors (such as Liu Hong's Wives of the East Wind).
       The translation-issue is obviously a huge one :
Esther Tyldesley, Xinran's English translator, compares translating Chinese into English to putting clouds in boxes. She stresses the nearly untranslatable subtlety of Chinese puns.
       And, unfortunately:
"There's a whole group of Chinese writers that I don't think will ever see the light of day here," says Tyldesley.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

24 July 2007 - Tuesday

New Pamuk ? | Moravia eclipse ?
Sinan Antoon profile | Olaudah Equiano Prize for Fiction
Hong Kong festival and prize fun | The Crimson Labyrinth review

       New Pamuk ?

       It's not exactly news that Orhan Pamuk's next novel is Masumiyet Müzesi ('The Museum of Innocence'): he's been working on it for ages, and way back in 2004 Erdag Goknar already got an NEA grant of $10,000 to support the translation .....
       No word about the English translation -- or whether or not Goknar will be translating -- but Today's Zaman reports on a L'espresso interview (not freely available online) in which the author reveals: New Orhan Pamuk novel ‘might hit’ bookstores in January.
       There are also some additional details about the contents, such as:
Set in Pamuk's hometown, Istanbul, the story in the novel is told over a timeline that stretches from the 1970s to the present. The focus of the story is an obsessive love affair, Pamuk said. He also said the novel delved into the big question of what love really is. Underlining that the theme of the novel was a timeless subject, Pamuk said he had long been planning to delve into this area.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Moravia eclipse ?

       In Il velino they consider Moravia: The reasons for an eclipse, noting that:
Celebrations for the centenary of the birth of Alberto Moravia (November 28 1907 - September 26 1990) have already begun and many more are planned throughout the country for the coming months. Yet in recent years the Roman novelist seems to have lost his claim to the title of most important Italian story-teller of the late 20th century, which had been attributed to him for almost 50 years. What is the reason for Moravia’s decline in the pantheon of contemporary Italian literature ?
       Anyway, they ask a couple of experts, with predictable results (i.e. no clear answer).
       (The only Moravia-title we have under review is his Conjugal Love. That novel has recently been newly translated, too, but otherwise there's not that much of his still in print in English.)

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       Sinan Antoon profile

       In A ruined manuscript, a broken country and the cryptic missives of a young man from Baghdad in the Daily Star Kaelen Wilson-Goldie profiles Sinan Antoon, author of I'jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody, which City Lights recently brought out (see their publicity page, or get your copy at or, and which we should be reviewing fairly soon.
       Antoon is quoted as saying:
The discourse about the culture of the Arab world in the US is horrendous. One can make a career and become an expert without mastering the region's language or even quoting its own intellectuals, except for the token native ... The situation after 9/11 is that there is interest in Arab culture for what I like to call forensic reasons. Texts are read only [to unlock] the mysteries of the Arab mind. It is disastrous ... Readers in the West need to realize that despite everything, there is significant cultural production and a discourse around it ... Had the American public known that Iraq had a dynamic secular society and a vibrant culture with poetry, visual arts and theater, perhaps they wouldn't have been herded to war so quickly.
       Spot on -- until the end: it takes a lot of wishful thinking to believe that 'the American public' would have cared if they had known (or ever cared to know), much less the American comander in chief and his advisers .....

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       Olaudah Equiano Prize for Fiction

       They've announced the winner of the second Olaudah Equiano Prize for Fiction, and the $1,000 goes to Chibo Onyeji for "Escapegoat".
       The Olaudah Equiano Prize is an interesting one because, as Benjamin Njoku noted in his preview-article at Vanguard:
Olaudah Equiano Prize for Fiction is an annual prize open to Africans living abroad. The first prize of $1000 is awarded to an original and unpublished short story between 3,000 and 10,000 words that centres on the experience of Africans living abroad
       We'd like to see more prize-attention given to writers in Africa itself (and to full-length works of fiction), but there's probably some value to these criteria as well.

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       Hong Kong festival and prize fun

       Yesterday we mentioned that they'd announced the Man 'Asian' Literary Prize longlist, but apparently there's considerable tumult behind the scenes, as the Asia Sentinel now reports in Hong Kong’s Literary Follies.
       They re-cap the whole confusing history fairly well, and note that things seem to be coming to (another) head, as:
Earlier this year, local author Nury Vittachi was spectacularly ousted from the organizing team of the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival, which he helped found and which has struggled for years to carve out a name for itself in a town more famous for real estate deals and greed than high art.

After having been consigned to Stygian oblivion, Vittachi now appears to have ousted his arch-nemesis, bookseller Peter Gordon. Gordon, another of Hong Kong’s flickering literary lights, has resigned from the governing board and catapulted Vittachi back onto it.
       The most intriguing titbit:
One of the most intriguing rumors is that Vittachi has been offered funds to set up a prize more akin to the original idea he sold to Man Group.
       I.e. something that is more convincingly Asian than the would-be Man 'Asian' Literary Prize.

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       The Crimson Labyrinth review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Kishi Yusuke's The Crimson Labyrinth.

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23 July 2007 - Monday

Three Percent ! | Prix Cévennes | Man 'Asian' Literary Prize longlist
Saudi boom ? | Isolarion review

       Three Percent !

       The University of Rochester's ambitious Three Percent-programme, under the auspices of tireless international-fiction fan -- the exact opposite of, say, Sam Tanenhaus -- Chad Post (formerly of Dalkey Archive Press, which fortunately has the resources and has a solid enough foundation in international literature to stomach even such a loss) is up and running, and boy does it look promising.
       What's it about ?
Three Percent launched in the summer of 2007 with the lofty goal of becoming a destination for readers, editors, and translators interested in finding out about modern and contemporary international literature.
       There's a weblog (an automatic addition to the local blogroll, since we're sure to visit daily), book reviews, -- and the promise of wonders to come, as:
Open Letter is the University of Rochester's new publishing house. A trade-oriented press, Open Letter will publish twelve works of international literature every year, beginning in the fall of 2008.
       Among our few complaints: we have to wait until the fall of 2008 ??!?!?!
       Certainly the early reviews on site show they're looking in the right places (yes, we happen to have these authors under review ...), and especially the fact that they offer a peek at a book by the great and woefully under-translated Augusto Monterroso makes our hearts beat faster. Still, there's some concern when we find in the review of Monterroso's Lo demás es silencio the awful claim that:
To the discerning reader, Monterroso is a witty author, writing a book that is perfectly matched with his style.
       Is there a worse way of covering your ass -- and putting down the average reader -- than claiming only "the discerning reader" will get it ? It's foolproof: if you disagree with the claim, then it's obviously because you're not a discerning reader ... (while if you agree you can take pride in the fact that you 'get it' and qualify as a discerning reader). A good book's qualities should be self-evident, and not require discernment (and suggesting only discerning readers will find this Monterroso witty does the author no favours either).

       Still, the site looks well worth following closely; we certainly will.

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       Prix Cévennes

       There's a new prize for the best European novel ("prix du roman européen") on the block, the Prix Cévennes, and they've awarded it for the first time.
       With only a dozen nominees that included books by Nobelists Jelinek and Saramago (and Ian McEwan's Saturday), and finalists that included Per Petterson's multiple-award-winning Out Stealing Horses and Javier Cercas' The Speed of Light, it has to be taken a bit seriously. So we pay attention when they announce that Szabó Magda won for Katalin utca. (Szabó's The Door, you'll recall, picked up both the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize; 'Katalin Street' is not yet available in English translation (surprise, surprise ...).)
       Okay, the prize is limited to books translated into French; more bizarrely, as reported at hlo, the novel was first published in Hungary in 1969 (!) -- and in French translation in 1974 (!!!). (Recall that The Door was also an old book that had previously been translated into English more than a decade before Len Rix's translation took the prizes .....)
       So: not exactly what you might expect to call the 'European novel of the year'. Still, we 're glad to see some more cross-border prizes .....

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       Man 'Asian' Literary Prize longlist

       So they've announced the longlist for the Man 'Asian' Literary Prize. (Because writers for so many Asian countries are ineligible for the prize we find it impossible to call this -- as the promoters would like -- a truly Asian prize.)
       Some big names, and one very big book are on the list: Jiang Rong's mega-bestselling Wolf Totem has already been sold to Western publishers (for huge sums), so we have no idea what it's doing here. Other big-name authors include Mo Yan, Xu Xi, and Kanehara Hitomi (for Autofiction; see also our review of her Snakes and Earrings).
       The restrictive eligibility-limitations (no Arab-writing, Iranian, Mongolian, etc. authors need apply) lead to misleading headlines such as the CBC's Many Indian writers on long list of Asian Booker literary prize, but it seems the quality of what writers they did deign to consider was high enough that the prize won't be completely meaningless.

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       Saudi boom ?

       We've mentioned all the fuss about the English-language publication of Rajaa Alsanea's Girls of Riyadh before, but now Andrew Hammond reports for Reuters that 'Girls in Riyadh' spurs rush of Saudi novels.
Around 50 novels were published in 2006 compared with 26 in 2005, al-Neimy said. Exact figures are hard to establish since some were published outside Saudi Arabia and are hard to obtain
       And, as he notes:
The increase is telling in Saudi Arabia, where modern literature itself has been viewed as suspect by a powerful clerical establishment in an austere religious society that practices strict gender segregation.
       It is, indeed, a rare move in some sort of right direction in that nation. And it's good to hear more may be translated into English as well.

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       Isolarion review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of A Different Oxford Journey by James Attlee, Isolarion.

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