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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 30 April 2013

21 April: The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes | Oral literature in ... Kenya | E.L.Konigsburg (1930-2013)
22 April: Tehran International Book Fair | Messud-Wood profile | Fiction France
23 April: Prizes: Javier Marías awarded Premio Formentor - John Banville wins Austrian State Prize for European Literature
24 April: Prizes: International Prize for Arabic Fiction - Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize | Murakami reactions | Le voyage d'hiver review
25 April: Prize-winning workshop | Electronic literature | Reading in ... Bulgaria | Prospect's World Thinkers 2013 | New Estonian Literary Magazine
26 April: 2x new Review of Contemporary Fiction | Monsieur Teste à l'école | Andrei Kurkov profile
27 April: May-June issue of World Literature Today | Bookselling in ... Libya | My Struggle: Book Two (A Man in Love) review
28 April: Buenos Aires Book Fair | Italo Svevo Preis to Giwi Margwelaschwili
29 April: Literary canonization | Third Congress of Caribbean Writers | The Girl with the Golden Parasol review
30 April: Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist | Winding down the NYTBR ? | Where There's Love, There's Hate review

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30 April 2013 - Tuesday

Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist | Winding down the NYTBR ?
Where There's Love, There's Hate review

       Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist

       Recently they inaugurated a new Australian literary prize, The Stella Prize, "celebrating Australian womenís writing" -- a women-only prize like that British it-used-to-be-called-the-Orange-but-I've-forgotten-what-it's-called-this-week prize. Maybe they needn't have: they've now announced the shortlist for the Miles Franklin Literary Award -- one of Australia's leading literary prizes -- and it's a female-authored sweep.
       The winner will be announced 19 June.

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

       Winding down the NYTBR ?

       As I've noted, The New York Times Book Review now has a new editor, Pamela Paul having replaced Sam Tanenhaus. It's still early days, but things certainly don't look much different (see also my recent mention -- and note that yesterday's issue was, yet again, translation-coverageless ...), and now Michael Wolff offers an intriguing reading of why things have played out as they have, in an opinion piece at The Guardian, The New York Times Book Review's retirement plan.
       He suggests that the elevation of Paul -- someone with: "pretty much, no writerly or literary credentials" -- is an indicator that:
Not too long ago, the Times converted its Sunday "Week in Review" section, a hoary idea in a real-time age, into something called the "Sunday Review", a showcase of health-focused and sociological trend opinion pieces. I'd bet good money that, in an epochal passing that few will really notice, the NYTBR will soon be merged into this new, all-encompassing, flattened section.
       I can't really imagine that happening -- the NYTBR is a prestige-object that would be hard to kill off as easily as that -- but I have to admit the Paul promotion remains a head-scratcher. Again: it's still early days, and maybe she has a vision for it, but .....

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

       Where There's Love, There's Hate review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo's Where There's Love, There's Hate, a 1946 novel by the husband-and-wife team now available in English from Melville House.
       Bioy Casares is, of course, best known for his friendship and collaboration with Jorge Luis Borges, but he also wrote several interesting works on his own -- as did Ocampo.

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

29 April 2013 - Monday

Literary canonization | Third Congress of Caribbean Writers
The Girl with the Golden Parasol review

       Literary canonization

       In the Daily Nebraskan Jordan Bates argues the rather obvious, that Literary canons exclude works no matter how selective canon makers are.
       Still, always a useful reminder, that contemporary list-mania etc. is ... problematic, to say the least.

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

       Third Congress of Caribbean Writers

       They recently held the Third Congress of Caribbean Writers, and in The Gleaner they have a report, noting also that Haitian-American Writer Gets Prestigious Caribbean Literature Award, as Edwidge Danticat was awarded the Association of Caribbean Writers Grand Prize for Literature.

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

       The Girl with the Golden Parasol review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Uday Prakash's The Girl with the Golden Parasol, a 2001 Hindi novel that Penguin Books India brought out in translation in 2008 (and came out in a German translation in 2009 ...), but is now also available in an international edition from Yale University Press in their admirable Margellos World Republic of Letters series.
       If only bookstores arranged their books by title ... then it might be able to piggy-back off of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo .....

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

28 April 2013 - Sunday

Buenos Aires Book Fair | Italo Svevo Preis to Giwi Margwelaschwili

       Buenos Aires Book Fair

       La Feria Internacional del Libro de Buenos Aires started a few days ago -- with a keynote speech on censorship by J.M.Coetzee (which I hope will available somewhere soon).
       Unlike the book fairs which have a foreign country as guest of honor, this book fair has a 'Ciudad Invitada de Honor' -- Amsterdam -- and among the authors in attendance are: Cees Nooteboom, Tirza-author Arnon Grunberg, The Dinner-author Herman Koch, Julia en het balkon-author Maarten Asscher, and The Twin-author Gerbrand Bakker.
       See also the Buenos Aires Herald preview by Pablo Toledo, Three weeks in book heaven.

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

       Italo Svevo Preis to Giwi Margwelaschwili

       The Italo Svevo Preis is, somewhat surprisingly, a German-language prize. Worth €15,000, until recently its winner was apparently decided by a single juror; this year it was apparently a three-person panel -- and they decided to give the award to German-writing Georgian octogenarian author Giwi Margwelaschwili -- author of, for example, Officer Pembry; see, for example, the report, Ein weiser Anarchist.

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

27 April 2013 - Saturday

May-June issue of World Literature Today | Bookselling in ... Libya
My Struggle: Book Two (A Man in Love) review

       May-June issue of World Literature Today

       The May-June issue of World Literature Today is now available, with a decent selection of material also freely accessible online -- most significantly and importantly the entire review section, World Literature in Review, which is always worth closer perusal.

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

       Bookselling in ... Libya

       In the Daily Star Ghaith Shennib reports that Libyans find old treasures at Tripoli book sale,
       Always good to see this kind of literary enthusiasm:
After a busy first day, they had to cancel the fairís morning session to make sure there were enough books in the busier evening hours.

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

       My Struggle: Book Two (A Man in Love) review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle: Book Two, published in the UK as A Man in Love.
       An endless amount to say about this (but then there are four more volumes to put all those thoughts together about ...); among Knausgaard's own observations of interest:
The last good Norwegian novel was Fire and Flame by Kjartan Fløgstad, and that was published in 1985, twenty-five years ago. The last good one before that was The Birds by Vesaas, which appeared in 1957
       I don't think Knausgaard quite means that -- there's some nice Dag Solstad-love early on, for example (he says Solstad: "has always been the chronicler of his age"), and I think it's hard to deny Shyness and Dignity is a truly great novel -- still, I'm pleased to note that I do have both the only one of Fløgstad's novels to be translated into English (yeah, sorry, it wasn't Fyr og flamme), as well as The Birds -- I'll try and get reviews up.
       Meanwhile, I'm curious how the Knausgaard-in-English experiment will go. Volume one got some nice critical attention (including from James Wood), and Farrar, Straus & Giroux have teamed up with Archipelago in the US to bring out the whole six-volume work (FSG taking care of the paperbacks, Archipelago the hardcover editions). I wonder if the domestic detail -- especially at the beginning -- will scare off folks here. I still find this stuff great -- this was a real nice drawn-out reading pleasure which I took my time with and thoroughly enjoyed.

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

26 April 2013 - Friday

2x new Review of Contemporary Fiction
Monsieur Teste à l'école | Andrei Kurkov profile

       2x new Review of Contemporary Fiction

       Two new issues of the Review of Contemporary Fiction are now available online -- not the bulk of the issues, but at least the always welcome review-sections: Gert Jonke's "Individual and Metamorphosis" and The Future of British Fiction.
       They always cover a very interesting selection of titles in the reviews-section, and they don't disappoint here -- a lot that's of interest (with quite a few titles already under review at the complete review).

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

       Monsieur Teste à l'école

       Paul Valéry's 'Monsieur Teste' is one of the great literary inventions -- see, for example, the Princeton University Press publicity page for their volume of Teste-work, or get your copy at
       Jean Louis Schefer has now published the slim volume of Monsieur Teste à l'école; see the P.O.L. publicity page, or get your copy at; see also Pierre Assouline's discussion at his La république des livres weblog.
       Sounds promising -- I wonder who will take it on in English.

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

       Andrei Kurkov profile

       At Publishing Perspectives Edward Nawotka profiles Death and the Penguin-author Ukraine's Andrei Kurkov on Self-publishing and Surrealism.

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

25 April 2013 - Thursday

Prize-winning workshop | Electronic literature | Reading in ... Bulgaria
Prospect's World Thinkers 2013 | New Estonian Literary Magazine

       Prize-winning workshop

       Well, this certainly suggests a wrong point of emphasis: Abuja Writers' Forum provides recipe for literary laurels reports Balarabe Oshiafi in the Nigerian Tribune, as apparently:
It is not enough to just publish novels, writers must also work towards winning laurels, and this is why the Abuja Writers' Forum (AWF) recently organised a workshop which focused on how writers could pen award-winning books.
       In all fairness, it sounds like the workshops were nevertheless pretty much focused on the usual basics -- with a special emphasis on proper editing (which really seems to be an issue in Nigeria).
       Still, there are also curious claims such as:
The workshop really opened the eyes of participants to the opportunities in the literary sector. Nigeria terribly needs to diversify her economy as a strategy for solving crude oil-induced multifarious socio-cultural problems, reduce unemployment, and boost foreign exchange earnings. In America, entertainment grosses over 600 million dollars annually for the economy. The emerging entertainment industry in Nigeria is a waiting goldmine.
       I've never heard anyone suggest that getting more people to churn out novels and poetry is a great way to diversify the economy (or to suggest that it might somehow be part of a goldmine ...); still: gotta like that enthusiasm !
       "Opportunities in the literary sector" ! when was the last time you heard someone make that claim !

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

       Electronic literature

       Via Illya Szilak's Books That Nobody Reads: E-lit at the Library of Congress at The Huffington Post -- itself worth a look -- I find the Electronic Literature & Its Emerging Forms-site, put up in conjunction with the recent Library of Congress exhibit.
       The featured works page links to some of these e-texts -- always interesting to see how the form has (and hasn't) evolved.
       As someone who can barely bring himself to read a traditional text on his e-reader, I'm probably not the ideal audience for this -- but I am curious about the possibilities of the form, and it seems obvious that there's a future here. (It also seems obvious that that future is not here yet; among the few things I find more painful than reading a traditional work in e-form is reading a non-traditional e-text .....)

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

       Reading in ... Bulgaria

       At Radio Bulgaria Diana Hristakieva considers What and how much do Bulgarians read ? as some numbers are now in -- including that:
In 2011 alone, the National Statistical Institute reports, more than 5000 books were released in Bulgaria. 3500 of them are by Bulgarian authors, and 1500 are translations
       ((Of course, 'books' isn't very precise. Does that cover everything ? Cookbooks, dictionaries ? Or are we just talking trade fiction ? Or what ?)
       Regardless, it's good to hear that:
In 2012 the book sales in Bulgaria grew by 10 percent, and about 12 million copes were sold for the whole year.
       (Well, that growth-figure is impressive -- twelve million copies sold in a country with a population just shy of seven million ... not so much.)

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

       Prospect's World Thinkers 2013

       An internet poll asking who the world's leading thinkers are sounds like the ultimate in dubious exercises, but that's what Prospect did, and "more than 10,000 votes from over 100 countries" later the results are now in.
       Not many creative writers rate, but among those who do are:
  • 15. Arundhati Roy
  • 33. Hilary Mantel
  • 35. Zadie Smith
  • 42. David Grossman
       And, in 64th position: The New York Review of Books editor Robert Silvers.

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

       New Estonian Literary Magazine

       The Spring 2013 issue (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of the Estonian Literary Magazine is now available in full online.
       The usual national-book-office type stuff, but a nice variety of it (and I would love it if a lot more countries did this kind of thing).
       Particularly useful/interesting also the list of 2012 translations into other languages (noteworthy, among other things, for the fact that more Estonian literature was translated into Hindi in 2012 than into German; okay, it's just one book (the Germans didn't manage any), but still ...).
       One of the translated-into-English titles has actually been reviewed at the complete review (An Unending Landscape by Toomas Vint) but, alas, I still haven't seen a copy of Sailing Against the Wind by Jaan Kross.

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

24 April 2013 - Wednesday

Prizes: International Prize for Arabic Fiction - Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize
Murakami reactions | Le voyage d'hiver review

       Prize: International Prize for Arabic Fiction

       They've announced that ساق البامبو ['The Bamboo Stalk'] by Saud Alsanousi has been awarded the International Prize for Arabic Fiction; see also, for example, M. Lynx Qualey's coverage at her Arabic Literature (in English) weblog, Page-turning Novel by Young Kuwaiti Author Wins 2013 'Arabic Booker' (though how I wish everyone would stop calling this or any prize the x-Booker; the embarrassment of the officially named (but no longer funded by them) Russian Booker is shame and bad enough ...).
       The official synopsis isn't too helpful (the first paragraph of detailed description concludes ... "It is at this point that the novel begins"), but I'm sure there will be more English-language coverage of it soon enough.

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

       Prize: Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize

       They've announced that this year's winner of the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize -- "awarded each spring to honor an outstanding literary translation from German into English published in the USA the previous year" -- is Philip Boehm, for his translation of Gregor von Rezzori's An Ermine in Czernopol, published by New York Review Books Classics; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or
       So why, you ask, was such a fine translation not on the Best Translated Book shortlist, or even the longlist ? It's an eligibility issue: the BTBA only considers first-time translations, and Ein Hermelin in Tschernopol was published as The Hussar in Catherine Hutter's translation in 1960.
       ( A re-translation ? A book in translation by a dead author ? You know what that means ! it's the rare kind of book in translation that stood a reasonable chance of getting coverage in The New York Times Book Review under Sam Tanenhaus' watch ! (New translations, and books by living authors in translation stood, at very best, a very unreasonable chance .....) And look here ! -- they did review it !) [Sorry, no: despite Tanenhaus' departure I'm not going to let them forget their failings at the NYTBR any time soon -- especially not if nothing changes; see my last mention.]

       As to the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize: a reminder that this is how you do it: they publish a full list of all the submissions -- i.,e. the titles that are in the running -- so we all know what the winning translation beat out. (As I frequently complain, far too few literary prizes do this -- not the Pulitzers or National Book Awards, not the Man Booker, etc. -- though the National Book Critics Circle Award is more or less receptive to anything (but unfortunately don't publish any sort of list of what they've actually looked at); the BTBA, too, covers all eligible translations from the previous year -- the Translation Database pretty much lists the contenders (but hasn't been updated in a while, and doesn't exactly correlate to the actual BTBA-eligible list).)
       The submissions list also yields some interesting facts -- such as that almost a third of the entries are from ... AmazonCrossing (eleven out of the thrity-seven entries). Behind them is Seagull Books with four. So much for any commitment to translation from the big US publishers .....

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

       Murakami reactions

       Murakami Haruki's recently published 色彩を持たない多崎つくると、彼の巡礼の年 has done pretty well -- topping a million sold by now, which is impressive in a moribund Japanese market that, as reported in Mystery, loss fuel Murakami sales in The Japan Times, saw only one title selling "more than 1 million copies last year".
       The Asahi Shimbun had Atsushi Sasaki's review, and now offers a Literary Looking Glass: 4 Murakami fans - 4 perspectives on latest novel.
       Meanwhile, Daniel Morales liveblogged his reading of the beginning of the novel at his weblog, How to Japanese, and in The Japan Times weighs in on the first fifty pages.

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

       Le voyage d'hiver review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Amélie Nothomb's Le voyage d'hiver.
       I'm trying to fill in the few remaining not-yet-reviewed (or translated ...) Nothomb titles; the current backlog is only five.
       As to this one, you can sort of see why the US publishers might have been a bit squeamish about taking it on (the narrator plans to hijack a 747 and crash it into a Paris landmark ...).

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

23 April 2013 - Tuesday

Prizes: Javier Marías awarded Premio Formentor
John Banville wins Austrian State Prize for European Literature

       Prize: Javier Marías awarded Premio Formentor

       They've announced that Javier Marías has been awarded the 2013 Premio Formentor de las Letras -- the prestigious but long dormant (1968-2010) and recently revived (at €50,000) -- literary prize; see, for example the El País report, El Formentor rinde homenaje a la literatura de Javier Marías.
       The last two winners were Carlos Fuentes and Juan Goytisolo.

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

       Prize: John Banville wins Austrian State Prize for European Literature

       They've announced that John Banville erhält den Österreichischen Staatspreis für Europäische Literatur 2013, the €25,000 Austrian State Prize for European Literature that he'll pick up at the 25 July ceremony at the Salzburg Festival.
       The prize has a pretty awesome list of winners -- Premio Formentor winner Javier Marías got his in 2011, and other winners include Per Olov Enquist (2009), António Lobo Antunes (2000), Dubravka Ugrešić (1998), Giorgio Manganelli (1986), Stanisław Lem (1985), and Harold Pinter (1973) -- as well as folks like Kundera, Rushdie, Eco, Miroslav Krleža, and W.H.Auden.
       Limited to European authors, the prize is only limitedly international -- but, damn, for that it has a great track record, with a lot more hits than misses. One thing stands out, however: it's a miserable predictor for the Nobel Prize in Literature, even taking into account that it must miss a lot of winners (all those non-European ones): as best I can tell, only Pinter and 1981 winner Doris Lessing went on to win the Nobel. (All the more remarkable because they catch a lot of these authors pretty early on -- and, indeed, honored both Pinter and Lessing more than a quarter of a century before the Swedish Academy got around to it.)

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

22 April 2013 - Monday

Tehran International Book Fair | Messud-Wood profile | Fiction France

       Tehran International Book Fair

       They're getting ready for the Tehran International Book Fair, which runs 1 through 11 May 2013 -- and they're hoping for good things: IBNA reports that Firooz Zenozi Jalali:
believes that Tehran International Book Fair is an opportunity for introducing the top works of Iranian fiction to the world.
       I'm not really sure how much the world will be paying attention, but one can hope ..... Still, introductions outside of Iran might stand a better chance of attracting more attention.
       Meanwhile, IBNA also reports that New bookselling website launched in Iran --, their very own Amazon-type online retailer.
       As they note:
Publishers may freely sign up for the website, he further added, underlining that it took over two years to receive the required permissions from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to run the website.
       Finally: it's always interesting to hear what gets published in Iran (a wider selection of unlikely literature than one might imagine, given that interfering Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance) and here's another surprise: the Tehran Times reports that Another Persian translation of Désirée hits bookstores. Yes, not only is Annemarie Selinko's novel being published, this edition is apparently far from the first translation of this ... classic.

       (Updated - 23 April): Like I say: every day they surprise -- now reporting that Peter Handke's A Sorrow Beyond Dreams has just come out in Persian translation .....

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

       Messud-Wood profile

       In New York Boris Kachka is At Home With Claire Messud and James Wood, the First Couple of American Fiction, in a very puffy piece.

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

       Fiction France

       The new edition of the twice-a-year publication Fiction France (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) is out -- "A selection of French contemporary fiction to be read and translated".
       With book information and sample translations of a couple of pages for twenty titles, it makes for a nice survey of a slice of the recent crop of French fiction.
       A few other national book offices do similar things; I'd certainly love to see it be more common (and, generally, better publicized).

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

21 April 2013 - Sunday

The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes | Oral literature in ... Kenya
E.L.Konigsburg (1930-2013)

       The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes

       The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were announced on Friday; lots of categories, none of the winners under review at the complete review .....

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

       Oral literature in ... Kenya

       In the Sunday Nation Mbugua Mungai reports that From the bars to the dump sites, oral literature is alive in Kenya.

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

       E.L.Konigsburg (1930-2013)

       E.L.Konigsburg, best known for her classic children's novel, the Newbery Medal-winning From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, has passed away; see, for example, Shannon Maughan's obituary in Publishers Weekly.

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

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