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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 October 2013

1 October: Nobel countdown: Jon Fosse fever ? | Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction shortlist | Personae review
2 October: Ilija Trojanow denied entry to US | Zimbabwe International Book Fair | Goldsmiths Prize shortlist | Comics in ... India | The Village Indian review
3 October: October issues | SWR-Bestenliste | French prizes, second round | A Handbook for the Perfect Adventurer review
4 October: Publishing fiction in translation | Kertész colloque | Mohsin Hamid Q & A
5 October: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize judging panel | Sami Rohr Prize finalists | Beats, counterculture, avant-garde auction
6 October: Welt-Literaturpreis to Jonathan Franzen | The Vagina review
7 October: Translation in ... India | Rimbaud the Son review
8 October: Nobel week: Countdown/overview - Svetlana Alexievich - Odds and picks | German Book Prize | The Black Spider review
9 October: Last pre-Nobel day: Final (not quite) frenzy - Predictions ? | Iran opening up ? | Andrew Wylie Q & A | Christian Gailly (1943-2013)
10 October: And the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature goes to ... Alice Munro | French literary prizes | NLNG Nigerian Prize for Literature

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10 October 2013 - Thursday

And the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature goes to ... Alice Munro
French literary prizes | NLNG Nigerian Prize for Literature

       And the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature goes to ... Alice Munro

       The 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature goes to ... Alice Munro, as "master of the contemporary short story".

       First thoughts: a surprise to me -- an English-writing octogenarian, and one who reportedly has retired from writing (that's what Charles McGrath reported in Alice Munro Puts Down Her Pen to Let the World In in The New York Times just a couple of months ago). Always considered to be in the mix (and with closing odds of 8/1 at Ladbrokes, after getting as high as 4/1), but certainly not who I would have expected.
       Interesting also to recall/note that she was the 2009 Man Booker International Prize winner -- a prize that sees itself very much in competition with the Nobel that can now boast of having picked her years earlier .....

       Early odds and ends: they couldn't contact her before the announcement (it was very early there) and her daughter was the one to break the news. And the Nobel twitter-feed spilled the beans about a minute before the actual announcement with their announcement-tweet.

       Early newspaper reports (the full profiles, etc. will come tomorrow:
       Some first linkage: the Nobel Prize's Bio-bibliography is always a good place to start, and then there are some Q & As with her available online:        For once, there shouldn't be any difficulty in obtaining her books (in their original English, at least -- though she also appears to be well-translated) -- get her latest (last ?), Dear Life at (or, in the UK, for example her Selected Stories at
       There are too many reviews for it to serve much purpose to link to them here, but Christian Lorentzen's take on Dear Life in the London Review of Books offers an interesting overview/assesment of her work [updated: but see also the lengthy reaction/response by Kyle Minor at Salon].
       None of her work is under review at the complete review at this time.

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

       French literary prizes

       There's lots of French literary prize action these days.
       First off, they've announced that Jean Rolin will receive this year's Prix de la langue française -- next month, at the La Foire du livre de Brive; see, for example, the report at Le Parisien.
       Then there are the various shortlists that have been announced for all the major prizes -- and Evene has a good overview of who is still in the running for what.
       And there's the Prix Littéraire Prince Pierre de Monaco, which this year goes to Alain Mabanckou.

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

       NLNG Nigerian Prize for Literature

       They've announced this year's winner of the $100,000 NLNG Nigerian Prize for Literature; the category this year was 'poetry', and The Sahara Testament by Tade Ipadeola took the prize; see, for example, the report Tade Ipadeola wins 2013 Nigeria Prize for Literature by Japhet Alakam and Prisca Sam-Duru at Vanguard.
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

9 October 2013 - Wednesday

Last pre-Nobel day: Final (not quite) frenzy - Predictions ?
Iran opening up ? | Andrew Wylie Q & A | Christian Gailly (1943-2013)

       Last pre-Nobel day: Final (not quite) frenzy

       One more day until they announce who will get this year's Nobel Prize in Literature !

       So, there are, of course, a few more articles, from the boringly summary such as And the 2013 Nobel in Literature Goes to ... Anybody's Guess by Jens Hansegard at the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy to Ian Crouch considering Why Don't More Americans Win The Nobel Prize ? at The New Yorker's Page-Turner weblog.
       An AFP piece by Camille Bas-Wohlert reports Murakami seen leading Nobel literature race but also gets a few on-site opinions -- including some more arguments in favor of Svetlana Alexievich (see my discussion yesterday) -- "a documentary author who writes polyphonic reportage at a very high level of accomplishment", as one culture pages editor puts it.
       (Updated): Now also at Time Radhika Jones makes the case that No American Author Should Win the Nobel Prize, while at The Daily Beast Jimmy So offers Nobel Literature Prize Favorites for Dummies, According to the Bookies, giving brief intros to the betting-favorites (which includes insights such as that maybe Alexievich is: "perhaps the premier investigative journalist in Belarus").

       In odds movement yesterday, Alexievich did predictably move up at Ladbrokes, to 6/1 -- while somewhat surprisingly falling back at Unibet to 8/1. Alice Munro moved up to 4/1 at Ladbrokes -- but her remaining at 20/1 at Unibet suggests that shouldn't be taken too seriously.
       Murakami has solidified his (betting)-favorite-position everywhere, but otherwise there hasn't been too much movement -- but now is the time to check in frequently and see where things are going.

       Good to see some more predictions/wishlists (see a few more here), in particular Aftonbaldet's Hen får Nobelpriset i litteratur. Lots of Alexievich-love, but good to see mentions of local favorites Durs Grünbein and Dag Solstad, too. The many Joyce Carol Oates mentions are also worth noting.
       (Updated): Svenska Dagbladet now also has a round-up, of international literary critics/editors/experts give their top picks (in an annoying gallery-presentation), Vem bör få årets Nobelpriset i litteratur ?

       It should be a fun last day or day and a half, especially if there's some good movement at Ladbrokes or Unibet, but twitter and the various discussion boards should also offer good last-minute gossip, theories, hopes, and complaints.

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

       Last pre-Nobel day: Predictions ?

       As usual, it's almost impossible to divine what the hell the Swedish Academy was thinking in arriving at a winner. What little incontrovertible evidence there is doesn't get us too far:
  • They gave it to someone from China last year; it seems safe to presume that no Chinese author was seriously considered this year (though I have to admit, I'd love it if they didn't think this pseudo-evenhanded way and doubled down with another Chinese writer !)

  • Peter Englund noted -- way back in February, when they were just at the longlist-stage -- that they had gone out of their way to solicit African expertise this year, which one hopes led to a few additional African authors getting a closer look
       As far as gossip and rumors go, I haven't heard too much buzzing, leaving only a bit of odds-movement at the betting parlors sending (weak) signals -- though at least with regards to both Jon Fosse and Svetlana Alexievich one can imagine there's something behind them.

       So first off: the five authors I figure were the five finalists:
  • Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o: As noted, I'd be surprised if an African didn't figure in the final five, and Ngũgĩ still strikes me as the strongest candidate -- his writing in Gikuyu enough to separate him from, say Nuruddin Farah. Alternatives include Assia Djebar, but the francophone author surely is too comfortable a fit in the institutional Western mainstream (she's a member of the Académie Française, for god's sake !), and I'm not sure any of the deserving north African Arabic writers have enough of an international presence to get the necessary attention (Ibrahim al-Koni would seem the most likely candidate there). As far as a younger sub-Saharan generation goes, I don't think anyone is there yet. So: Ngũgĩ.

  • Svetlana Alexievich: as discussed yesterday, she's a convincing candidate -- and what noise there's been suggests fairly strongly that she made it to the final five. From a US perspective it can be hard to see what everyone sees in her, but that list of prizes -- and the recent press coverage (in Europe) for her most recent book -- suggests an author widely considered Nobel-worthy.

  • Joyce Carol Oates: With Roth claiming retirement I don't see the Swedish Academy tempted to give him the prize any longer, and Oates' European reputation seems a bit higher than in the possibly slightly-overwhelmed-by-the-sheer-mass-of-her-work US (Les superpouvoirs de Joyce Carol Oates Le Monde titles a piece from last week ...). I think she's the American in the running -- and the only one in the final five.

  • Jon Fosse: I'm basing this purely on the betting-noise from last week -- but it was damn suspicious noise. His popularity, age, and the range of his work (fiction and drama) suggest Nobel worthiness, and while I'd rather see Dag Solstad as their Scandinavian candidate (if they're leaning that way), Fosse seems entirely plausible, too.

  • Murakami Haruki: Yeah, I can see how he'd make it to the top five. 1Q84 has settled in by now, and he even has a new book out, and even if he skews more popular than the Swedish Academy usually likes, there's enough substance there that he, Pamuk-like, fits into the Nobel fold. (The Japanese might complain he's a bit too western -- but recall also that most of the English translations you read are butchered 'edited', so that we've rarely gotten the full/true Murakami-experience.) (Alternate for this spot: Javier Marías -- or Nádas Péter, the likeliest in a strong Central European bunch.)
       Authors I'd like to see in the mix (and who might be) ? Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Shahrnush Parsipur, Mikhail Shishkin, a few of the Arabic-writing authors (al-Koni, Gamal al-Ghitani, Bensalem Himmich). Ismail Kadare. I always pull for Juan Goytisolo, but that ship might have sailed (he's 82, so it's getting pretty late in the day to honor him). Others, like Krasznahorkai and Gonçalo M. Tavares, are still a book/bit of exposure away from serious consideration.
       Who I don't think will win: any North American other than Oates (sorry, no Munro or Atwood; sorry, no Roth, Pynchon, Auster, or DeLillo (or Dylan ...)); the eternal poet candidates Adonis and Ko Un; Kundera, Rushdie, or Eco; William Trevor.

       So who do I expect is the laureate ? I'd say Ngũgĩ is the most deserving, while recognizing that my fiction-bias blinds me to the strong case for Alexievich ... and it wouldn't surprise me if surprise-American-winner Oates came out on top .....
       Yeah, sorry, that's about as definitive as I can get, I think.

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

       Iran opening up ?

       It's hard to know how to take this without seeing whether policy changes, but it sure sounds good: IBNA reports that:
Iran's Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati has said that filtering of books in Iran has been too strict and many of the cases have been unfairly expurgated.
       If this is just an observation ... well, yes: everybody agrees. But if it leads to actual change ... man, that would be something.

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

       Andrew Wylie Q & A

       It's been very widely linked to, but it's certainly worth your while: in The New Republic Laura Bennett has a Q & A, The Andrew Wylie Rules: How the literary agent still makes millions off highbrow.

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

       Christian Gailly (1943-2013)

       Christian Gailly has passed away; see, for example, the report in L'Express or his author-page at L'Éditions de Minuit.
       Three of his titles are under review at the complete review:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

8 October 2013 - Tuesday

Nobel week: Countdown/overview - Svetlana Alexievich - Odds and picks
German Book Prize | The Black Spider review

       Nobel week: Countdown/overview

       So the Swedish Academy announced yesterday:
The Swedish Academy will announce this year’s Nobel Laureate in literature at 1 p.m. on Thursday, October 10 in the Grand Hall in the Exchange.
       So they've settled on a laureate. The fact they didn't need another week to agree on a winner isn't particularly revealing -- winners which at least some Academy members were not pleased about have been announced early on, too (Jelinek, 7 October 2004) -- though I would think that quick agreement suggests a less, rather than more divisive candidate won.

       The Swedish Academy remains mum until Thursday, of course. At his weblog, Nobel point-man Peter Englund confirmed that they had settled on a winner -- "Ja, vi har bestämt oss" -- and shared what he'll be wearing Thursday (what the hell is that about ?) but that's all he (and the whole Swedish Academy) will have to say until Thursday.

       Meanwhile, the betting frenzy -- rather tepid, to date -- has now turned up a notch or two. After last week's Jon Fosse-fever (see my previous mention), Svetlana Alexievich suddenly seems to be the name on all the punters' tongues; see my discussion below. There has been some other movement in the odds of other candidates, too; see more about that below.

       Nobel week also brings with it pieces such as Hephzibah Anderson's Nobel Jury Out of Touch as Booker Embraces Americans at Bloomberg -- with the choice quote:
The Nobel Prize for Literature is supposed to be bigger than that, a recognition of greatness that knows no boundaries. But until it can see its way to a more complete inclusiveness, the Swedish Academy damages the prize’s legacy and does its winners no favors, either.
       Ah, yes, the elusive 'complete inclusiveness' we all strive for ..... (In defense of the Swedish Academy: that's a tall order for a once-a-year prize. And given that Anderson's biggest beef isn't about some under-represented literature being left out but rather, yet again, a complaint about how American authors are being overlooked ... well, I'm not exactly sympathetic to her argument.)

       And at the Three Percent weblog all of us Best Translated Book Award-judges are blogging about the BTBA prize in the months leading up to it (still many months to go -- though sadly we don't have a neat countdown-clock like on the Nobel Prize page), and this week I wrote about the Nobel-BTBA overlaps in offering some Nobel considerations.

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

       Nobel week: Svetlana Alexievich

       Svetlana Alexievich has led to some nice confusion in these last days leading up to the Nobel Prize in Literature -- beginning with the transliteration of her name. Светлана Алексиевич is Aleksijevitj in Swedish, for example, Alexijewitsch in German, Alexievitch in French .....
       More significantly, she's suddenly figuring prominently in the Nobel-betting scene: the last day or two Ladbrokes had her coming -- out of nowhere -- and by yesterday late evening GMT she was up to 12/1 (tied for seventh-favorite) [updated: her odds have now moved up to 6/1, putting her third-favorite], while Unibet had her as second-favorite at 5/1.
       What's going on here ?
       Well, first off: she is a plausible candidate. Her documentary works are rather different than the usual Nobel-winning fare, but highly regarded (and there's a good argument to be made for a non-fiction-focused prose writer to get serious consideration for the prize -- it's been a while). Yes, Alexievich is not well-known in the US, but her Voices from Chernobyl won a National Book Critics Circle Award and was well-received. (By the way: what does it say about US publishing that that book -- the US edition came out in 2005 -- is the most recent of her works to appear in translation ? Even winning an NBCC didn't lead publishers to seek out more of her work.) And she's won a ton of national (even back in the Soviet days !) and international prizes already -- see the list at her official site.
       So she's a plausible candidate (unlike, say Bob Dylan or, to pick some more names from the Ladbrokes list, Jeffrey Eugenides or Sofi Oksanen (fine authors who haven't written nearly enough to be considered Nobel-worthy)) -- and, equally significantly, she a candidate that someone might have nominated. [Updated: I have since received what seems like reliable information that she was nominated this year (and also in previous years); I can't confirm it (the Swedish Academy is hush-hush about these things ...) but, again, it seems likely.] (The nomination procedure is an oft-forgotten hurdle in the whole Nobel process, but recall that Joyce, Proust, Kafka, and Strindberg (among many others) never even made it past it -- and some otherwise serious contenders might also be thwarted by that (Krasznahorkai László seems one of those that might, for now, be in that limbo of not having quite enough international recognition to make it yet (his likely only chance, since I think the national nominators would select others ahead of him)). Alexievich is internationally widely enough respected and admired -- see all those prizes -- that likely someone put her up; whoever nominated her (if anyone ....), it was not the local Belarusian or Russian powers-that-be.

       A couple of things have probably also helped put her a bit more in the limelight:
        - They announced a while back that she'll receive this year's Peace Prize of the German Book Trade; that's a big prize, and since she gets to pick it up next week a lot of folks have been reminded of it and her very recently.

        - The final volume in her five-book epic survey just came out this year (and, as best I can tell, the Swedish edition was the first to be published); Время сэконд-хэнд ('Time second-hand'; see the Время publicity page) has been a big and critically celebrated title in several major European countries. (Of course with essentially no notice in English.) Significantly, reviews such as Per Svensson's in the Göteborgs-Posten (19 August), in which he argues that it's just a matter of time before she gets a Nobel, probably helped put that idea in a lot of minds.
       Beyond that: Russian writing hasn't received much Nobel attention in a while -- and Alexievich comes with the bonus of being from Belarus (two birds with one stone).
       Her sudden appearance as a betting-favorite is striking, and suggests something more than just the coincidence of her name and book being in recent news. On the other hand, it's very rare for a real contender's name to be bandied about at this late stage without having been somewhere in the mix in previous years -- suggesting maybe Alexievich is a first-time finalist, one of the final five but (as a first-timer) unlikely to actually get the nod.
       The fact that, like Fosse, her name seems to have come up from the Scandinavian area suggests closer-to-the-source-knowledge, which is why these sudden betting favorites need to be taken a bit more seriously than when predictable Anglophone authors' or international megastars like Murakami's odds improve. It's noteworthy that Stockholm-based Unibet -- who had betting on Mo Yan in 2011, when Ladbrokes didn't even acknowledge him -- already has her as second-favorite (though the betting spread between the two betting shops is suspicious -- why bet at 5/1 when you can still get 12/1 ?).

       My opinion: I'd be surprised by the choice -- but then I'm strongly fiction-biased -- but she is a plausible candidate. The circumstances suggest she may be one of the final five, but as to her actually being the laureate ..... Still, if the odds continue to move (by which I mean past 5/1 -- I wouldn't be surprised for the Ladbrokes odds to level with those at Unibet [updated: as they pretty much have by midday today, when she's at 6/1]) then it might be time to reassess.

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

       Nobel week: Odds and picks

       The Nobel-betting seems to have picked up -- as it should -- now that a winner has been picked.
       Ladbrokes leads the way with the deepest list (and, I assume, the most action). Murakami has moved up to 5/2 odds, and Alice Munro a surprising 4/1; Oates has slipped to 8/1 while Jon Fosse (9/1) and Svetlana Alexievich (12/1) are the new kids on the block shaking things up.
       It's always useful comparing odds -- divergent ones suggest a punt-on-a-whim rather than serious betting. So, for example, Unibet was still offering Munro at 16/1 last night -- i.e. four times the payout of Ladbrokes. If someone were putting serious money on her they'd spread the wealth and target the higher odds -- so I think it's safe to dismiss her much higher Ladbrokes odds as an aberration.
       On the other hand, Unibet has Alexievich at 5/1 -- much better than at Ladbrokes -- but here it may be a case of Ladbrokes playing catch-up: look for those odds to even out in the next day or two. (On the other hand, Unibet have the absurd Dylan bet at 20/1, while Ladbrokes only rips its punters off to a tune of 50/1 .....)
       The betting action should heat up more in the days to come; it's worth paying attention to, but unless there are really wild swings -- or big moves close to the wire -- don't get too excited.

       Meanwhile, various Nobel predictions/wishful thinking can be found all over -- for example:        And there are of course ongoing Nobel discussions, including at:        Oh, and my thoughts and speculation ?
       Tune in tomorrow.

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

       German Book Prize

       They've announced that Terézia Mora wins the German Book Prize 2013 for her novel Das Ungeheuer.
       Her Day in Day Out was published in English a few years ago (get your copy at or, and this prize should be enough to get this one into English, too; see also the information page at New Books in German.

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

       The Black Spider review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jeremias Gotthelf's The Black Spider, out in a new translation by Susan Bernofsky from New York Review Books.

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

7 October 2013 - Monday

Translation in ... India | Rimbaud the Son review

       Translation in ... India

       In The Hindu Olympia Shilpa Gerald reports on Gains in translation, noting that at the Puducherry book fair: "it's not uncommon to see an English book sitting cheek by jowl with its Tamil translation".
       Okay, those on display in the accompanying picture aren't exactly what one might be hoping for, but nevertheless, it's encouraging to learn that:
Going by what booksellers say, the Tamil publishing industry is gung-ho about translating any bestseller into the vernacular.
       The focus of the piece is more on the career-opportunities this new fad might offer (with the warning: "One hitch is that translation as a full-time career is not highly lucrative"), but it still seems like a good sign that a lot of translation is going on -- and one hopes for a trickle-down (or up ?) effect, with more interesting (but not necessarily best-selling) literary works also being offered in local languages.

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

       Rimbaud the Son review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pierre Michon's Rimbaud the Son, due out shortly from Yale University Press in their generally excellent Margellos World Republic of Letters-series.

       (I feel a bit reassured regarding my review by reactions I have gotten to it, suggesting I am not alone in not ... appreciating Michon's ... talents; I note also the fact that this 1991 work only appears in English translation now (despite, for example, Wyatt Mason (not the translator of this edition) saying in an interview over a decade ago that Michon: "has written a super little book called Rimbaud the Son that I'm doing into English right now") suggests considerable hesitance on the part of American publishers to print this (for once: for good reason).)

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

6 October 2013 - Sunday

Welt-Literaturpreis to Jonathan Franzen | The Vagina review

       Welt-Literaturpreis to Jonathan Franzen

       They've announced that Jonathan Franzen will receive this year's Welt-Literaturpreis (he gets to pick it up 8 November, with his buddy Daniel Kehlmann delivering the laudatio).
       Franzen is the fifteenth recipient of this €10,000 prize, which has a somewhat uneven list of winners -- Jeffrey Eugenides, for example, got it back in 2003 (i.e. before he'd published much of anything), while Philip Roth only got it in 2009. Kehlmann has also won it, as have Amos Oz and Kertész Imre.

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

       The Vagina review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Emma L.E. Rees' The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History.

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

5 October 2013 - Saturday

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize judging panel | Sami Rohr Prize finalists
Beats, counterculture, avant-garde auction

       Independent Foreign Fiction Prize judging panel

       The official site of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize still only says that the 2014 judging panel: "will be announced in due course", but in The Independent judge Boyd Tonkin spills the beans, revealing that he will be joined by: Shaun Whiteside, Nadifa Mohamed, Natalie Haynes, and Alev Adil. [Updated: There's now an official press release too.]
       (I am a bit surprised to hear that: "The deadline for submissions was 5pm GMT, Friday 20 September 2013 and has now closed" -- even as any book published in 2013 (that meets the other criteria ...) is eligible. Since the prize-winner will only be announced in May, that seems to be a bit early to draw the line. (The Best Translated Book Award, for which I am a judge, will announce its winner 29 April, and considering how few of the eligible-for-that prize titles I've received -- probably only about a third, as best I can tell -- I'd be annoyed if our submission-cut-off date were this early; I'm hoping we'll be able to cajole submissions well into the new year (even after the BTBA's only rather semi-official cut-off date).))

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

       Sami Rohr Prize finalists

       The finalists for the 2014 Sami Rohr Prize have been announced.
       This $100,000 prize, awarded to: "a book of literary merit that stimulates an interest in themes of Jewish concern", alternates between rewarding fiction titles and no; this is a non year, so not nearly as interesting.

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

       Beats, counterculture, avant-garde auction

       In The Guardian Liz Bury reports that William Burroughs and Tom Wolfe headline beat literature auction, reporting on the forthcoming PBA Galleries Sale 517, to be held 10 October.
       Lots of nice books, but items also include lot 65: "Bottle from William S. Burroughs' methadone prescription with stones from his gravesite and .45 caliber shell fired from Burroughs' gun" (estimate: $600-900) and lot 66, described as: "Manuscript grocery list" (but which is, in fact, simply a grocery list), with an estimate of $500-800.
       I hope all budding writers are taking note(s): save your prescription bottles and every last damn grocery list -- your heirs may someday be grateful, cashing in handsomely.

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

4 October 2013 - Friday

Publishing fiction in translation | Kertész colloque | Mohsin Hamid Q & A

       Publishing fiction in translation

       And Other Stories-publisher Stefan Tobler reflects on being: Three Years Old: the reality of publishing translated fiction at English PEN, offering a good, brief look at the difficulties of publishing fiction in translation in English in the UK and US. (And Other Stories recently expanded US distribution, and it will be interesting to see how that works out -- so far their list has really impressed, both in translation and the original-in-English work (with those forthcoming Ivan Vladislavićs -- finally The Restless Supermarket gets a US/UK publisher ! (see their publicity page) -- just one (well, two) highlights).

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

       Kertész colloque

       ENS is holding a Colloque International Imre Kertész today and tomorrow, and hlo write a bit about this International conference on Imre Kertész in Paris.

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

       Mohsin Hamid Q & A

       At Claudia Kramatschek has a Q & A with Mohsin Hamid -- author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and now How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.

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

3 October 2013 - Thursday

October issues | SWR-Bestenliste | French prizes, second round
A Handbook for the Perfect Adventurer review

       October issues

       Among October issues of online periodicals now available is Words without Borders', with a focus on African Women, Indigenous Languages -- and an 'Odes by Pablo Neruda' bonus -- as well as the October issue of Open Letters Monthly.

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


       The October SWR-Bestenliste -- where German literary critics vote for their top picks among new publications -- is now out. Clemens Meyer's Im Stein tops the list, followed by Daniel Kehlmann's F. (tied with Terézia Mora's Das Ungeheuer). (I got the Meyer a couple of weeks ago, and the Kehlmann just came in the mail yesterday; I hope to get reviews of both up in the coming weeks.)
       Four of the German Book Prize finalists make the top ten -- and that doesn't even include the Handke ..... And there's also Kertész Imre's diary, which I hope someone picks up English-translation-rights to soon (see the Rowohlt foreign rights page).
       So, all in all, a pretty solid-looking list this month (as is to be expected, in the run-up to the Frankfurt Book Fair).

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       French prizes, second round

       Some more French literary prizes have announced their second round selections -- including the prix Goncourt (though that's only one step -- they haven't yet reached the final shortlist stage, as there is another cull to get there ...).
       Le Monde lists the Goncourt (semi-)finalists, as well as those in three prix Médicis categories (including translated titles -- while the non-fiction category still hasn't been narrowed down beyond thirteen titles yet ...), in Prix littéraires: les deuxièmes sélections du Goncourt et du Médicis.
       Among the authors of note still in the running for the Goncourt: Sylvie Germain, Chantal Thomas, and Jean-Philippe Toussaint (with Pierre Lemaître's star apparently in the ascendant); the only title to make both Goncourt and Médicis is Arden (Frédéric Verger).

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       A Handbook for the Perfect Adventurer review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pierre Mac Orlan's 1920 A Handbook for the Perfect Adventurer, now available in a neat pocket-sized edition from Wakefield Press.

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2 October 2013 - Wednesday

Ilija Trojanow denied entry to US | Zimbabwe International Book Fair
Goldsmiths Prize shortlist | Comics in ... India | The Village Indian review

       Ilija Trojanow denied entry to US

       With the current Republican Party-sponsored hissy-fit paralyzing the American federal government there likely won't be answers too soon (and, let's face it, this is something the US authorities like doing in the best of times), but another prominent author has been turned away from American borders (without explanation).
       German-Bulgarian author Ilija Trojanow (and/or Ilija Trojanov, in the apparently preferred English spelling ...) tells the story in Willkür und Freiheit in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [updated: Eurozine now offer an English translation, The net is tightening], and PEN America is on the case too, having now sent a PEN Letter Protesting Exclusion of Ilija Trojanov from the U.S., which sums up what happened too.
       Maybe it's the NSA criticism, maybe it's that he's travelled ... Mumbai to Mecca. What possible threat or danger he posed -- he was scheduled to go here (where he was supposed to: "present EisTau: A One-Act Performance, based on his recent novel" (oooh ! national security threat !); see also their mention of the situation -- is hard to imagine .....

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       Zimbabwe International Book Fair

       Originally meant to take place more than a month ago, the Zimbabwe International Book Fair was re-scheduled to accomodate the snap national 'election' held in Zimbabwe at that time, and now the show is finally going on (through 5 October).
       Once the leading books fair in sub-Saharan Africa, it now hardly matters when they hold it -- but it's still good to see them go through the motions and try to do something.
       As Stanely Mushava reports in The Herald, ZIBF celebrates 30th anniversary -- but of course that means that the politicians also want to play along on the big stage, leading to pronouncements along the lines of:
Minister Dokora encouraged writers to adopt a boldly Pan-Africanist outlook and counter the onslaught against indigenous values through foreign texts. "The call therefore is not just for texts but more appropriate literature and more appropriate interventions. You could consider appropriateness in terms of age, orientation, preponderance of Afroscapes in subject matter, the ethos of unhuism present in text, and of course readability scores including the product's flexibility for inclusion under our e-learning," Minister Dokora said.
       ('Unhuism' is apparently the Zimbabwean version of 'ubuntuism'.)
       But at least there's some interest in what authors are doing. As to how widespread "e-learning" currently is in Zimbabwe, I wouldn't even want to hazard a guess

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       Goldsmiths Prize shortlist

       The Goldsmiths Prize is a new prize that hopes to: "to reward fiction that breaks the mould or opens up new possibilities for the novel form", and they've now announced their first shortlist, six titles selected from the 123 entries (which are, regrettably, not identified ...).
       It certainly has one of the more interesting shortlists in recent memory -- this might be a prize worth keeping an eye on.

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       Comics in ... India

       "English-language graphic fiction aimed at adult Indian readers is still a small scene", notes Rakesh Khanna in Cross Border Kathas, as he looks at: 'Retelling history through graphic fiction' in this month's issue of The Caravan.

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       The Village Indian review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of German-writing Iraqi author Abbas Khider's The Village Indian, just out from Seagull Books.
       As I mentioned recently, Khider was just awarded the prestigious Nelly-Sachs-Prize

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1 October 2013 - Tuesday

Nobel countdown: Jon Fosse fever ?
Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction shortlist | Personae review

       Nobel countdown: Jon Fosse fever ?

       As expected, the Swedish Academy made no announcement yesterday that they would be announcing the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature this Thursday (they always give a heads-up a few days before the big day), so we have (at least) another week to speculate, with the likely announcement(-of-the-winner)-date pushed back to next Thursday, 10 October. This is significant insofar as it likely means they have not yet (or had not yet, as of yesterday) settled on a winner, and are still discussing who to pick from what are likely five finalists.
       The latest name to splash into the fray is, as I mentioned yesterday, that of Jon Fosse, whose odds at Ladbrokes jumped from 100/1 to first 25/1 and now 14/1 (even as most odds remain unchanged). As I mentioned yesterday, this is not a name that a British punter likely would bet so heavily on to move these odds that much: either Fosse has a lot of friends back home who want to show their support, or someone (or a few people) have a very good reason for betting on him -- having perhaps spied several Swedish Academy members toting around some Fosse-books .....
       It's important to note that it's unlikely that a winner has been chosen yet -- but this strongly suggests that Fosse is one among the few remaining names (probably five) still in play.

       Fosse really does seem to be a largely unknown quantity to English-speaking audiences, though Dalkey Archive Press have brought out his Aliss at the Fire and Melancholy, with Melancholy II due out later this fall (what good timing that might be ...). But in Europe he's better known for his theater-work -- even as, for example, Brian Logan wrote in the Independent on Sunday two years ago, Jon Fosse: All the world loves his plays. Why don't we ? -- noting that with: "900 productions staged in more than 40 languages" Fosse is apparently: "the most performed European playwright alive". Not that you'd know it in the US, either, where his plays seem about as popular as those of continental Nobelists Dario Fo and Elfriede Jelinek (i.e. not very). On the other hand, Oberon Books is up to volume five of his collected plays (see their Fosse page), so a lot is at least available in English (on paper, if not your local stage ...).
       A younger candidate -- he turned fifty-four two days ago (maybe the change in odds can be attributed to a big bet someone placed as a sort of birthday present to him, to give him a few days in the gossip-sunshine on minor literary weblogs and on Twitter ?) -- he already has a body of work that easily puts him in the Nobel-class. With a history of embarrassingly overlooking the greatest Scandinavian dramatists -- Ibsen and Strindberg -- (yes, yes, who doesn't love Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson ? but let's face it, his reputation hasn't held up quite as well), the Swedish Academy is probably willing to give him a closer look. The fact that he's sprinkled some fiction (and poetry, too) in the mix can't hurt his chances either.

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       Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction shortlist

       Yes, Shortlist announced for the 2013 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction -- a fairly interesting-looking selection (though I haven't seen any of them up close ...).

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       Personae review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sergio De La Pava's Personae.
       Pava made quite a splash with A Naked Singularity -- the self-published work gone big-time -- and Personae, too, was originally self-published (in 2011), but now the University of Chicago Press has brought it out in a trade edition too.

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