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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 January 2013

11 January: Genre in translation | 'The age of the trade publisher is over' | The literary year 2012 in ... India
12 January: Nele Neuhaus profile | French bookstore in New York ?
13 January: Socialist realism ... lives ? | Garden City Literary Festival panel | Literary security in ... Pakistan
14 January: Sandalwood Death review | Ramayana-variations
15 January: More 2013 previews | NBCC awards finalists | Veliki rat wins NIN-ova nagrada | Seduction of the Innocent review
16 January: Jaipur Literature Festival preview | (US) National Jewish Book Awards | MM9 review
17 January: Best-selling French novelists, 2012 | Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize | New Asymptote | Pale Blue Ink in a Lady's Hand review
18 January: EKEBI shut down | Jakob Arjouni (1964-2013) | Japanese literary prizes | 2012 in ... Urdu literature
19 January: On the African Writers Series | Sci-fi shortlists | Philippe Claudel Q & A
20 January: Q & As: David Hare - Ogochukwu Promise | Second Person Singular review

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20 January 2013 - Sunday

Q & As: David Hare - Ogochukwu Promise | Second Person Singular review

       Q & A: David Hare

       In The Observer Tim Lewis has a Q & A with David Hare: 'Working in theatre, you're less at the whim of stupid people'.
       Among the Hare's observations:
Playwrighting ? You wouldn't choose it as a style of life.

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

       Q & A: Ogochukwu Promise

       In Vanguard Prisca Sam-Duru has a Q & A with Ogochukwu Promise, 'the founder and coordinator of The Lumina Foundation which instituted the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa', about the literary situation in Nigeria Good books generate constructive criticisms.

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

       Second Person Singular review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sayed Kashua's Second Person Singular.

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

19 January 2013 - Saturday

On the African Writers Series | Sci-fi shortlists | Philippe Claudel Q & A

       On the African Writers Series

       Via I learn of A.K.Kaiza's The Legacy of the African Writers Series, 50 Years On at Kwani! -- which is actually 'an extract from a longer essay' published in Transition, But Why, Father ? (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) (where it is printed under the name 'David Kaiza').
       See also the index of African Writers Series titles under review at the complete review

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

       Sci-fi shortlists

       The British Science Fiction Association has announced the shortlists for the 2012 BSFA Awards, and The Kitschies -- rewarding 'the year's most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic' -- have announced theirs.

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

       Philippe Claudel Q & A

       In the Financial Times Anna Metcalfe's 'Small Talk' Q & A this week is with Philippe Claudel -- whose The Investigation is just out in the UK.

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

18 January 2013 - Friday

EKEBI shut down | Jakob Arjouni (1964-2013)
Japanese literary prizes | 2012 in ... Urdu literature

       EKEBI shut down

       Far too little is translated into English from Greek, and now one of the main sources of support for what little there is has collapsed, as EKEBI -- the National Book Centre of Greece -- has been shuttered by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports (yeah, there's a good bureaucratic mix ... ), the latest casualty in Greece's f(l)ailing austerity ambitions (though the 35 employees apparently haven't been paid for moths in any case ...). Surely, another case of being penny-wise/pound-foolish (as they suggest: "Το Εθνικό Κέντρο Βιβλίου είναι ένας φορέας που κοστίζει ελάχιστα στο δημόσιο και φέρνει πίσω πολλαπλάσια") -- but at least there's a bit of a backlash and protest, including an online petition.

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

       Jakob Arjouni (1964-2013)

       Jakob Arjouni, German author of the Kemal Kayankaya-mysteries (published in English by No Exit and Melville House) has passed away; see the (German) report from his German-language publisher, Diogenes, or Melville House's Dennis Johnson's Hail & Farewell.

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

       Japanese literary prizes

       They've announced the winners of two of the leading Japanese literary prizes, the Akutagawa and the Naoki, and, as The Japan Times has it, Top literature awards split by oldest, youngest novelists.
       Kuroda Natsuko (黒田夏子) -- at 75 almost as old as the Akutagawa itself -- won for abさんご, noteworthy also because:
Without using individual names or pronouns, ab Sango depicts the memories of a child whose life with a parent gradually crumbles. It is written horizontally instead of vertically as Japanese is conventionally written.
       And you have to like her reaction:
"Thank you for discovering me while I am still alive," Kuroda said after the Akutagawa award was announced.
       Meanwhile, Asai Ryo (朝井リョウ), just 23 years old, shares the Naoki for his novel 何者. (He shares the prize with middle-aged Abe Ryutaro (安部龍太郎), who I suspect is not going to be getting much of the attention .....)

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

       2012 in ... Urdu literature

       'The sun shone brightly on Urdu and its literature last year and literary circles were abuzz with a flurry of activities', writes Rauf Parekh in Dawn, in Smooth sailing for Urdu literature in 2012.

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

17 January 2013 - Thursday

Best-selling French novelists, 2012 | Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize
New Asymptote | Pale Blue Ink in a Lady's Hand review

       Best-selling French novelists, 2012

       An annual favorite: Le Figaro lists the top ten bestselling French novelists of 2012 -- counting sales of all their books.
       In 2012 the top three were:
  1. Guillaume Musso - 1,710,500 copies sold
  2. Marc Levy - 1,433,000
  3. Katherine Pancol - 705,000
       That's the same three, in the same order, as last year -- see my discussion of the 2011 list -- but while the top two had similar sales totals in both 2011 and 2012 Pancol was down over half a million copies sold. Last year 967,000 copies sold was only good for 4th place, and 790,500 copies sold for fifth .....
       A surprise this year was Joël Dicker, who came in fifth with 496,000, largely on the basis of La Vérité sur l'affaire Harry Quebert, while the winner of the biggest prize of the year, prix Goncourt winner Jérôme Ferrari, flopped mightily, his 321,000 copies shifted only good for a pathetic seventeenth place. Meanwhile, local favorite Amélie Nothomb slipped down one place but still (just) made the top ten with 405,000 copies sold.
       The 7,000,000 copies of titles sold by the top ten nevertheless apparently accounted for 23 per cent of all sales of contemporary French fiction.

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

       Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize

       The winner of the Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation has been announced, and Roger Allen won for his translation of A Muslim Suicide by Bensalem Himmich (beating out Humphrey Davies for his translation of I Was Born There, I Was Born Here by Mourid Barghouti).
       I have a copy of A Muslim Suicide and should be getting to it; meanwhile, see the Syracuse University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       New Asymptote

       The January 2013 issue of Asymptote is now available online, with lots of great content, from an excerpt from Amélie Nothomb's Life Form to a review of the new Mo Yan novels and a great deal more.

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

       Pale Blue Ink in a Lady's Hand review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Franz Werfel's Pale Blue Ink in a Lady's Hand.

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

16 January 2013 - Wednesday

Jaipur Literature Festival preview
(US) National Jewish Book Awards | MM9 review

       Jaipur Literature Festival preview

       The DSC Jaipur Literature Festival starts next week, and in the Times of India Arunima Mazumdar previews it, in DSC JLF 2013 to focus on 'serious literature'.

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

       (US) National Jewish Book Awards

       The (American) 2012 National Jewish Book Award Winners have been announced -- in all the many, many categories, including: 'Holocaust', 'Sephardic Culture', and 'Writing Based on Archival Material'.
       None of the titles are under review at the complete review.

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

       MM9 review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yamamoto Hiroshi's MM9.

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

15 January 2013 - Tuesday

More 2013 previews | NBCC awards finalists | Veliki rat wins NIN-ova nagrada
Seduction of the Innocent review

       More 2013 previews

       I've already linked to quite few 2013 book preview lists (most recently here), but here are two with a higher percentage of titles-of-interest (to me -- and, since you're reading this, perhaps you):

        - Writers No One Reads has The WNOR First Half of 2013 Book Preview (January-July), with a focus on: "translations, works published by small presses, and reprints of out-of-print book". Lots of good stuff here (and several of the titles are already under review at the complete review, including Christa Wolf's City of Angels, Alejandro Zambra's Ways of Going Home, Elfriede Jelinek's Her Not All Her, Jacob Slauerhoff's The Forbidden Kingdom, Kertész Imre's Dossier K, and, of course, Arnon Grunberg's Tirza).

        - At English PEN's Pen Atlas Tasja Dorkofikis collects (UK) Publishers' highlights for 2013 -- "the translated books they are excited about publishing in 2013". Good stuff.

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

       NBCC awards finalists

       Yes, the National Book Critics Circle Announces Its Finalists for Publishing Year 2012 in its six categories. In addition, they announced that William Deresiewicz took the Nona A. Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing (beating out Abigail Deutsch, Lev Grossman, Garth Risk Hallberg, and Kathryn Harrison), while Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar get the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.
       The only book-finalist under review at the complete review is Laurent Binet's HHhH, which, as you can guess, I'm ... surprised rates so high.
       The winners will be announced 28 February.

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

       Veliki rat wins NIN-ova nagrada

       Aleksandar Gatalica's Veliki rat has been named the winner of the NIN-ova nagrada/НИН-ова награда, the leading Serbian literary prize; see, for example, the report in The Balkans Daily.
       For some information about the book, see the (English) information at his official site.

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

       Seduction of the Innocent review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Max Allan Collins' Seduction of the Innocent, coming out from Hard Case Crime.

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

14 January 2013 - Monday

Sandalwood Death review | Ramayana-variations

       Sandalwood Death review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Mo Yan's Sandalwood Death.
       Just out in English from the University of Oklahoma Press, this is a pretty damn impressive work.

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


       This sounds pretty interesting: Breaking the Bow: Speculative Fiction Inspired by the Ramayana; see the Zubaan publicity page, or get your copy at, or Flipkart.
       See, for example, review coverage in the Business Standard or DNA; sounds like an interesting exercise.

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

13 January 2013 - Sunday

Socialist realism ... lives ? | Garden City Literary Festival panel
Literary security in ... Pakistan

       Socialist realism ... lives ?

       I'm not the biggest fan of socialist realism, but I have to say I do find it heartening that there are still flag-bearers somewhere out there: in Frontline S. Dorairaj has a Q & A with 'D. Selvaraj, winner of the Sahitya Akademi award', 'Socialist realism is still relevant'.
       Yes, Selvaraj maintains:
I don’t think that socialist realism has become obsolete. Thol is living proof of the relevance of socialist realism, which cannot be replaced by any other 'ism'. Magical realism may be relevant to Latin America, which was under the oppression of the United States.

Post-modernism is only a perverted understanding of life. But socialist realism is dialectical, which sees the transformation in individuals, society and nature. It is a scientific approach.
       Okay, he kind of lost me claiming that it's 'a scientific approach', which is pretty much the last thing I want to see in my fiction, but still.

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

       Garden City Literary Festival panel

       Vanguard has a transcript of a recent Garden City Literary Festival panel
       Kind of all over the place but with interesting titbits -- such as:
Electricity is my biggest challenge in Nigeria, particularly at night. There are also the challenges of the publishing industry. But I also see a kind of renaissance in African fiction. Nigeria/ Africa are reading again. This is one of the continents to watch.
       Or, for example, Doreen Baingana observes: "I find that it is more difficult for me to make a living as a writer in Uganda than it would be in USA."
       And one participant suggests:
young people should be encouraged to read, not by just preaching to them, but by making the books available and having functional school libraries.

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

       Literary security in ... Pakistan

       In Dawn Ikram Junaidi reports that Unlettered security irks literary figures, as 'Over 100 literary figures boycotted the inaugural ceremony of an international writers' conference after waiting for security clearance for over two hours outside the Prime Minister Secretariat on Thursday'.
       So, for example:
Saadullah Shah, a poet and author of 35 books, said literary personalities were not eager to meet the prime minister. "In fact, most of us do not want to meet him but still we have been brought to the PM Secretariat. The government officials are humiliating us," he said.
       'Columnist and poet Ataul Haq Qasmi' meanwhile opined:
Although I am in favour of democracy, most of the things on the credit of the government are negative,
       Nevertheless, a few titbits of interest are buried in here as well -- such as that Prime Minister Ashraf: "raised the stipend for literary persons from Rs5,000 to Rs7,000".
       Okay, Rs7,000 is only about US $72.00 -- but still ... they give 'literary persons' (no definition offered) a stipend in Pakistan ?

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

12 January 2013 - Saturday

Nele Neuhaus profile | French bookstore in New York ?

       Nele Neuhaus profile

       In the Wall Street Journal Alexandra Alter profiles Nele Neuhaus, in Germany's Top Crime Writer Aims at the U.S.. (I don't know her definition of 'top', but as best I've heard Neuhaus neither leads the pack in sales nor in critical acclaim, so .....)
       A one-two punch of Neuhaus books is appearing in English this year, beginning with Snow White Must Die; see the Minotaur publicity page, or get your copy from or
       Typically, of course, this is not the first in her Oliver von Bodenstein/Pia Kirchhoff series, but rather the fourth ... god forbid English-speaking readers should be introduced to a foreign crime series in proper order ..... (I'm certain there's a special circle of hell reserved for the US/UK publishers who decide this is the way to publish translated crime series (i.e. out of series), but to expect anything less of them (like simply publishing the damn books in order) is obviously beyond the sensible, well-functioning, and of course enormously successful industry that is modern-day trade book publishing.)
       (Interestingly too, better-known-for-his-translations-from-Scandinavian-languages Steven T. Murray translated it.)
       I'm more curious about the stand-alone Swimming with Sharks, coming out in June from AmazonCrossing; pre-order your copy from or

       The Alter profile is also interesting for the stray bits of sales data on offer -- so, for example:
Last fall, Hyperion Books released The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, an international best seller by Swedish author Jonas Jonasson that sold four million copies in 34 countries. The U.S. print edition sold just 13,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, while the digital edition sold more than 30,000 copies. "Publishing an unknown author who’s not based here is a challenge," says SallyAnne McCartin, a Hyperion publicist.
       Note, however, that at Futurebook Philip Jones offers a glimpse of some UK numbers, in E-book sales data, the truth is out there -- including the UK sales for Jonasson's book: 175,531 copies sold in print, 145,000 as ebooks. Maybe it was the added 'of' in the way they wrote the title that convinced UK book-buyers ?
       (I'm actually surprised by the relative success of this one: it is truly not a good book -- though the lack of US marketing probably didn't help any.)
       Another example Alter offers:
In 2009, Minotaur published Therapy, a psychological thriller from German suspense writer Sebastian Fitzek. The novel had dominated the German best-seller lists, selling millions of copies, but sold fewer than 1,000 hardcover copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen. Ms. Rapp, who acquired the book, says she has no clue why the book failed. "I couldn’t give it away," she says. "I honestly couldn’t tell you why."
       Although reviewed in, for example, The Washington Post I can't even recall hearing about this title (and for all of Rapp's failed efforts to give it away, I also didn't ever see a copy).

       Well, I hope to get my hands on both of the Neuhaus titles eventually, and judge for myself; I'll let you know what I think.

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

       French bookstore in New York ?

       The Rockefeller Center Librairie de France closed a few years back, but perhaps all is not lost ... they've announced that:
The Cultural Services of the French Embassy is currently working on a project to open a new French bookstore to be located on the Upper East Side of New York City
       Respond to their survey -- which presumably will give them a better idea of whether or not this is a viable idea. (I have my doubts but am keeping my fingers crossed.)

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

11 January 2013 - Friday

Genre in translation | 'The age of the trade publisher is over'
The literary year 2012 in ... India

       Genre in translation

       The Kitschies are literary awards that: "reward the year's most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic" -- and with prizes in 2010, for example, going to, among others, Zoo City by Lauren Beukes and Memory by Donald Westlake, they seem to have pretty decent standards.
       There were 221 submissions for the 2012 prizes, and at Pornokitsch they now have a post, The Kitschies: 2012 Submissions by the Numbers [via].
       Among their findings:
There's a shocking lack of fiction in translation -- statistically, a UK genre title is twice as likely to have a zombie than be first published in a non-English language. Sadly, I suspect this is probably true across the genre, and not just in our submissions pile.
       Sadly, yes -- and not just across this genre.

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

       'The age of the trade publisher is over'

       At The Bookseller's Futurebook weblog they argue that The age of the trade publisher is over, as:
The only way to make that work in the resource shy cottage industry that is publishing is to be an expert. Know your market sector. And the simple fact of the matter is that publishers do not because publishers still expect to shift between celeb auto's, swords and sandals, chick lit, reading group fiction etc. etc. in any given month. A few averagely paid marketing people cannot possibly make that work.
       I don't need much convincing -- indeed, I've long held that there's a great opportunity for niche independents (like those specializing in fiction in translation ...) or, as they have it:
Publishers need to become experts again and to do that they need to specialise.
       I have my doubts as to whether the big houses can adjust quickly enough -- they've certainly been lumbering in their efforts thus far.

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

       The literary year 2012 in ... India

       Outlook India has two pieces looking back at the literary year 2012 in India: Zafri Mudasser Nofil offers A Look Back at the Literary Scene of 2012, while in Mint, Cracked, Dog-Eared ... "Personages from across the spectrum tell Outlook about the books in 2012 that helped pass time, or enriched its passage", with even the prime minister weighing in.

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

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