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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 May 2009

1 May: Cioran book | Negative reviews | Lebanese censorship ? | May books -- in the UK
2 May: Bookselling in ... Korea | May Open Letters | Youssef Rakha on Arabic fiction
3 May: Translation double-bill at PEN festival | Reading in ... Kenya | Jonathan Littell interview | Sagan and translation-commentary review
4 May: Kelman's career ruined by Man Booker ? | Julia Otxoa and Eugenio Fuentes interview | May Literary Review at The Hindu | The Children's Book review-overview
5 May: Posner's A Failure of Capitalism-blog | No more Wexfords for Rendell ? | TIBF | Wolf Hall review-overview
6 May: PEN literary awards | PEN World Voices round-ups | The Manual of Detection review-overview
7 May: NBCC Reads: Spring 2009 | May Words without Borders | Kindle DX
8 May: Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize shortlist | NEA Int'l Literary Exchange Award | Kazuo Ishiguro profile
9 May: Celebrating The Two Cultures | Winterson on Calvino's Cosmicomics | Kiko Amat on Spanish literature | Reason, Faith and Revolution review
10 May: Emerging English-language publishing markets | Tash Aw profile | Nocturnes review-overview

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10 May 2009 - Sunday

Emerging English-language publishing markets | Tash Aw profile
Nocturnes review-overview

       Emerging English-language publishing markets

       In the Mail & Guardian Chris Tryhorn and Richard Wray find that 'Publishers look to emerging markets, including South Africa, while the UK and US markets hibernate through the recession', in Fuelled from the periphery.
overseas English language markets are booming. India is the world's third largest English language book market and has been growing at about 10% a year for several years. Research by UK Trade & Investment (UKT&I), which is using the Book Fair to encourage British publishers to export more, and the Publishers Association estimates that the market was worth about £1.25-billion in 2007, with publishers estimating that about half that amount was English language.
The South African book market was worth about £260-million in 2007, with three-quarters of those sales going to English language books, and has doubled in value in four years, while the enormous ex-pat community has helped fuel growth in the book market in the United Arab Emirates, with UKT&I estimating that book exports have doubled in the past six years.

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

       Tash Aw profile

       In The Australian Kevin Rabalais profiles Tash Aw in No place like home.
       His new novel, Map of the Invisible World, is out in the UK (get your copy from but is only due out in January (!) in the US (pre-order your copy at
       (See also the complete review review of his The Harmony Silk Factory.)

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

       Nocturnes review-overview

       The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro, Nocturnes.

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

9 May 2009 - Saturday

Celebrating The Two Cultures | Winterson on Calvino's Cosmicomics
Kiko Amat on Spanish literature | Reason, Faith and Revolution review

       Celebrating The Two Cultures

       The articles noting the fiftieth anniversary of C.P.Snow's The Two Cultures-lecture continue to appear, with Sam Leith now writing about The split between scientists and writers in the Financial Times.
       He also mentions Alan Sokal and his (in)famous hoax; see Sokal's Beyond the Hoax.
       And see also the Cambridge University Press publicity page for The Two Cultures, or get your own copy at or

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       Winterson on Calvino's Cosmicomics

       Jeanette Winterson reviews the new edition of The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino in The Times, in An exploration of seminal novelist Italo Calvino, through his writing.
       See also the Penguin Classics publicity page, or get your copy at (no US edition available).

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

       Kiko Amat on Spanish literature

       It's the usual way for a young author to draw attention to him or herself: complain that everybody else just doesn't get it: as the Latin American Herald Tribune reports, Writer Kiko Amat Says Spainís Literature Doesnít Reflect Reality, as:
Spanish literature has "a truly alarming disconnection with the street" and authors have "no idea what goes on inside the heads of ordinary people," Spanish writer Kiko Amat said in an interview with Efe in Caracas.

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

       Reason, Faith, and Revolution review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Terry Eagleton's Reflections on the God Debate, Reason, Faith, and Revolution.

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

8 May 2009 - Friday

Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize shortlist | NEA Int'l Literary Exchange Award
Kazuo Ishiguro profile

       Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize shortlist

       No information that I could find at the official site, but apparently they've announced the shortlist for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize; The Book Depository reports that the finalists are:
  • Anthea Bell for Sasa Stanisic's How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone
  • David Colmer for Gerbrand Bakker's The Twin
  • Sarah Death for Alexander Ahndoril's The Director
  • Christine Donougher for Sylvie Germain's Magnus
  • Michael Hofmann for Fred Wander's The Seventh Well
  • Marek Tomin for Emil Hakl's Of Kids and Parents

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

       NEA International Literary Exchange Award

       National Endowment for the Arts Announces International Literary Exchange Award to Copper Canyon Press, as:
Copper Canyon will receive $117,000 to support the translation, publication, and promotion of a bilingual anthology of work by 30-40 Chinese poets born after 1945.

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

       Kazuo Ishiguro profile

       In The Independent Boyd Tonkin profiles Kazuo Ishiguro, whose Nocturnes is just out -- in the UK (it won't be arriving in the US until the end of September ...).
       See also the Faber publicity page, or get your copy from or pre-order your copy from; I'll probably have a review-overview up soon.

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

7 May 2009 - Thursday

NBCC Reads: Spring 2009 | May Words without Borders | Kindle DX

       NBCC Reads: Spring 2009

       At Critical Mass James Marcus collects responses from National Book Critics Circle members to their NBCC Reads: Spring 2009 question: "which work in translation has had the most effect on your reading and writing ?"

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

       May Words without Borders

       The May issue of Words without Borders, 'Corridor of Dreams: Writing from Japan' is now available online.
       Of particular interest: translator Michael Emmerich going Beyond Between: Translation, Ghosts, Metaphors.

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

       Kindle DX

       As widely reported, has introduced their Kindle DX 'Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation)'.
       Priced at a staggering $489.00, it is bigger than the previous Kindles, and has an impressive 3.3GB available storage; it also (finally) supports the dreaded but widely used pdf format -- as someone reading (or trying to) way too many books in pdf on my crap computer (which admittedly cost less that the Kindle DX does) I'm beginning to see at least some uses for the Amazon-device.
       (Despite its supposed/apparent popularity, I still haven't seen any of the Kindle-variations in real life .....)

       I was amused to see that among the 'Tags Customers Associate with This Product' listed on the Amazon-page for the Kindle DX "overpriced" is the most popular -- and "swindle" and "harbinger of doom" are in the top ten.

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

6 May 2009 - Wednesday

PEN literary awards | PEN World Voices round-ups
The Manual of Detection review-overview

       PEN literary awards

       The PEN American Center announced a whole bunch of literary awards, including several for translation:

       - Michael Henry Heim won the awarded-every-three-years PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation career award.

       - Natasha Wimmer won the PEN Translation Prize for her translation of Roberto Bolaño's 2666, beating out Jordan Stump (for his translation of Dominique Fabre's The Waitress Was New) and Joel Rotenberg (for his translation of Stefan Zweig's The Post-Office Girl).

       - Marilyn Hacker took the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation for her translation of Marie Étienne's King of a Hundred Horsemen.

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

       PEN World Voices round-ups

       Lots of reports of events from the PEN World Voices festival are popping up all over the place; at the Words without Borders weblog David Varno has a Round-up of PEN World Voices Thus Far, and at Conversational Reading Scott Esposito has a PEN World Voices Coverage Roundup; there's more, no doubt, to follow.
       At Three Percent Chad Post also offers his Recommendation for Next Year's PEN World Voices -- "opportunities to talk informally with the authors and a better system for being able to buy their books."
       In the comments section Omega Minor-author Paul Verhaeghen chimes in and sums things up nicely:
To me this festival was a bit like Monterey 1969, except that instead of hearing Jimi Hendrix play, we got to hear him debate Pete Townsend in a panel on alternative tunings, and then he had a five minute deejay spot.

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

       The Manual of Detection review-overview

       The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of Jedediah Berry's The Manual of Detection.

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

5 May 2009 - Tuesday

Posner's A Failure of Capitalism-blog | No more Wexfords for Rendell ?
TIBF | Wolf Hall review-overview

       Posner's A Failure of Capitalism-blog

       Richard Posner has started blogging at The Atlantic about his new book on A Failure of Capitalism. Curious to see how this develops.

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

       No more Wexfords for Rendell ?

       'Mandrake' reports in The Telegraph that Ruth Rendell closes the book on Wexford but new drama beckons:
Speaking at a party in Piccadilly, Baroness Rendell tells me: "I don't want to do any more Wexfords. This is the last one. I have other interests now."

       (Updated): But, as is so often the case when there are reports that an author has stopped writing, Rendell has now denied it -- at least indirectly: The Guardian reports that Rendell denies killing off Inspector Wexford, though it's her (presumably desperate) editor who actually does the denying.

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


       The Tehran International Book Fair runs 6 to 16 May; MNA report that Over 3600 publishers to participate in Tehran Intl. Book Fair, as: "A total of 1700 foreign companies from 78 countries will be presenting their latest publications".

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

       Wolf Hall review-overview

       The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall.

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

4 May 2009 - Monday

Kelman's career ruined by Man Booker ? | Julia Otxoa and Eugenio Fuentes interview
May Literary Review at The Hindu | The Children's Book review-overview

       Kelman's career ruined by Man Booker ?

       Most writers can only dream of winning a major prize like the Man Booker, but in the Sunday Times Joan McAlpine writes that James Kelman rues Booker prize win.
       Yes, as if the usual moaning about the writer's hard lot weren't enough:
Scotland's most influential living writer says winning the Booker prize damaged his career by making his work harder to sell.

James Kelman collected Britainís most prestigious fiction prize in 1994 for his novel How Late It Was, How Late. The award normally lifts a writerís sales and status but Kelman, 62, says the controversy that followed deterred publishers from promoting subsequent books.
       Apparently so:
Kelmanís new novel, Keiron Smith, Boy, contains few obscenities because it is written in the voice of a child. It has earned him only £1,400 in sales, though it has won two major literary prizes and has been hailed by critics as his best novel to date.
       But, in an obvious reaction to all the fuss around Ian Rankin (and Ian Rankin's own moaning about how genre-writers aren't taken seriously when it comes to prizes like the Man Booker):
In a rare interview, he also told The Sunday Times that serious writers were neglected in Scotland while "detective novelists" were lauded. He joked that if the Nobel prize originated in Scotland, it would probably be given to a crime writer.
       (I've enjoyed much of Kelman's work, though none is under review at the complete review yet.)

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

       Julia Otxoa and Eugenio Fuentes interview

       Julia Otxoa and Eugenio Fuentes were guests at the Budapest Book Fair, Márta Pávai Patak speaks with them at hlo.

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

       May Literary Review at The Hindu

       The May issue of the Literary Review at The Hindu is now available.
       Among the articles of interest: Janhavi Acharekar on 'How Indian publishers sold their wares at the London Book Fair', in We're going to the fair -- where it's good to hear that:
The emphasis on the various Indian languages at the Book Fair this year shows a serious attempt to increase awareness of literature in translation.

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

       The Children's Book review-overview

       The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of A.S.Byatt's The Children's Book.

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

3 May 2009 - Sunday

Translation double-bill at PEN festival | Reading in ... Kenya
Jonathan Littell interview | Sagan and translation-commentary review

       Translation double-bill at PEN festival

       I caught two of the translation panels at the PEN World Voices festival yesterday. They actually found some American writers to fill most of the spots on the Writers Who Are Translators -panel -- surprising, given how few American writers seem to translate. Of course, two (Forrest Gander and Cole Swensen) were poets, among whom translation seems to be much more popular than fiction writers. Then there was self-translator Paul Verhaeghen (who translated his own Omega Minor), as well as Brian Evenson.
       Martin Riker moderated, and began by giving each author the floor for about ten minutes. All were well-prepared, with Verhaeghen beginning with a polished text, 'In walks the translator' [Updated: see now text online]. He noted the different loyalties, depending on one's role: a writer must be loyal to truth, a translator to accuracy -- and he noted that the translator must pretend to believe in another's truth.
       Cole Swensen came out strongly against any insistence on literalism, arguing for sound over sense, and complaining of what she perceives as the bias towards conveying information rather the actual feeling of the piece being translated.
       Brian Evenson made the interesting argument of how translations take on a life of their own and how he was, for example, influenced by the via-the-French(-and-German) translation of Gombrowicz's Ferdydurke that he first came across, and less touched by the later direct-from-the-Polish translation.
       The whole panel -- most obviously the poets -- came out against literal fidelity to the text, arguing that what was important was how the piece worked in English. Fortunately, someone from the audience asked why, if there was this panel-consensus, so many critics complained about translations that stray (and slip) from the original.
       [As an almost militantly strict-literalist I accept their arguments but can't agree -- though I actually mind poetic license less in poetry translations, especially when presented in bilingual editions, allowing for easy comparison of the text (in which case more liberal translations plus the original version can, in fact, be more revealing). With fiction, especially, I can't agree (and the doubly-translated Ferdydurke may make an impression -- it did on me, too -- , but it is also an abomination).]

       The second panel was simply On Translation, as moderator Michael F. Moore got Morten Ramsland, Santiago Roncagliolo, and Joseph Boyden to talk about what it meant to be translated. (Antje Rávic Strubel was, unfortunately, a swine-flu-spooked no-show.)
       Roncagliolo had also done a few translation of his own, including of two Joyce Carol Oates novellas, and admitted he: "always took for granted that I was betraying her"; he also noted that he wanted the reader to feel the same as readers of the original would (i.e. he would have been in agreement with those on the previous panel).
       Morten Ramsland had the most issues with the first version of the English translation of his novel, Doghead, from a chapter that was split in two to the italicization of portions of the text to give them an added emphasis not found in the original, to the fact that he thought some of the things that he left 'between the lines' were made more prominent. And he also was bothered by the often three or four additional full stops per page (though he seems to have come to understand that that's what English-speaking audiences expect; Moore noted that while the run-on sentence is all the rage in many European languages, it hasn't caught on in English (yet)). Ramsland did note that many of his concerns were addressed before the book came out.
       Both panels were interesting and could easily have gone on longer, with all the panelists contributing informative (and often amusing) anecdotes about all aspects of the world of translation.

       Quite off point, one audience-member at the second panel did raise the question of why there were so few Asian representatives at the festival. It is off-point, but worth noting: 160 writers and, as best I can tell, not a one from China, one from Japan (comics-man Tatsumi Yoshihiro), one from Korea, Salman Rushdie as the closest thing to a representative of India ..... Yes, a few 'obscurer' nations were represented -- Burma, the Philippines -- but, come on, what gives ? There are many difficulties in organizing an event like this, and it's always desirable to have books by the authors readily available in English, but the geographic skew is hard to overlook.

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

       Reading in ... Kenya

       In The Standard Abenea Ndago writes about how in Kenya Scholars out to reignite the literary flame. Apparently, it's hardly even flickering .....
       University of Nairobi lecturer Chris Wanjala notes:
In our libraries today, it is easy to come across students who give more attention to their mobile phones than to the books they pretend to read.
       Sounds like ... well, you know -- everywhere.

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

       Jonathan Littell interview

       The Kindly Ones-author Jonathan Littell offers his usual spiel, this time in an 'exclusive interview' in the Globe & Mail with Peter Scowen, letting everyone know that Reluctant literary star would rather not play. Yes somehow, there he repeatedly is, creeping yet again out of the woodwork .....
       Hey, it's worked pretty well for those 'reclusive' authors like Murakami Haruki and J.M.Coetzee who pop up all over the place.

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

       Sagan and translation-commentary review

       The novel is mediocre, at best, the translation-commentary espouses an approach to the craft that I find completely wrongheaded -- but this is definitely a volume I would recommend to anyone interested in translation: the most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of:
  • Françoise Sagan's That Mad Ache -- Douglas Hofstadter's new translation of her La chamade (made into a movie starring Catherine Deneuve and Michel Piccoli, no less)
  • An Essay on the Pleasantly Pervasive Paradoxes of Translation by Douglas Hofstadter, that uses his translation of That Mad Ache as a case-study, Translator, Trader
       They're published together in one volume, but presented as separate texts, each with its own cover (i.e. you flip the book to start the other text). While the separate piece get only middling grades, together this definitely in the A- range, and one of the best books dealing with translation I've come across in a while. In many ways, the use of such a mediocre text makes the case-study all the more interesting.
       I do strongly disapprove of Hofstadter's approach to translation -- though I can accept it put into practice when it comes packaged with this hundred-page explanation. Would that all translators were afforded similar opportunities !
       And I'm looking forward to the debates about this ! (Indeed, both in the reviews and here I'm tempted to go on and on about all the things I find wrong with Hofstadter's approach -- and at some point I probably will .....)

       (Updated): See now also Pardon My French: You Suck At This by Tony Dokoupil in Newsweek.

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2 May 2009 - Saturday

Bookselling in ... Korea | May Open Letters | Youssef Rakha on Arabic fiction

       Bookselling in ... Korea

       In The Korea Times Chung Ah-young reports that Korean Literature Braves Economic Woes.
       Thrives, is more like it, as:
Korean literature is booming more than ever despite the economic downturn that has dealt a serious blow to the local publishing industry.
       The numbers are impressive:
According to the Kyobo Bookstore, sales of Korean literature publications including poems, essays and novels dramatically increased by 35.7 percent in the first quarter over the same period last year. The number of Korean literature books sold in the same period rose 36.2 percent.
       Interesting that it is local literature that is doing so well, and translated literature less so.

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

       May Open Letters

       The May issue of Open Letters is now available online.

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

       Youssef Rakha on Arabic fiction

       Youssef Rakha gets a lot of space in print this week: at The National Rakha looks at the 'vexed legacy of a generation' (of Egyptian writers coming out of the 1960s) in reviewing Mohamed el Bisatie's Hunger, while in Al-Ahram Weekly he 'courts sedition' in discussing Youssef Zeidan's Azazeel in The Quixote Code.

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

1 May 2009 - Friday

Cioran book | Negative reviews
Lebanese censorship ? | May books -- in the UK

       Cioran book

       In The trouble with being Cioran in The National Sam Munson reviews Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston's Searching for Cioran (see the Indiana University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or
       Probably something I'd like to take a look at eventually.

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

       Negative reviews

       In the Wall Street Journal Cynthia Crossen responds to a reader's question, and tries to explain Why Book Critics Go On for Inches (when they hate a book).
       Her quick answer -- "Once you kill the beast, you may as well make hamburger." -- sums it up well enough.

       (And, yes, the cr-mention is much appreciated.)

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

       Lebanese censorship ?

       I'd prefer to look into this more closely before linking, but I'll throw it out there for now: in the Wall Street Journal William Marning finds 'Anti-Semitism leads to startling censorship in Lebanon', in Why Jane Fonda is Banned in Beirut.
       As even he notes, e.g. Waltz with Bashir is both banned and widely available -- so there's a bit more to all this. Still, never good to see any sort of banning -- especially in what is often considered one of the most progressive and tolerant nations in the Middle East.

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

       May books -- in the UK

       In his weekly column Boyd Tonkin finds it is Time to gather the daring books of May, and he lists the fairly impressive list of titles due out in the next few weeks -- due out in the UK, that is. There's very little overlap with US publication dates (Iain Pears' Stone's Fall is a rare exception), as American publishers are waiting until the fall with a lot of these.

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

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