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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 March 2016

11 March: Olga Tokarczuk | Stella Prize shortlist
12 March: French-American Foundation Translation Prize finalists | Holberg Prize 2016 | Mass-market format
13 March: 'Schönste Bücher aus aller Welt' | La Superba review
14 March: Hilary Putnam (1926-2016) | Elif Shafak Q & A | Bangkok library plans
15 March: Anita Brookner (1928-2016) | Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize | New Quarterly Conversation | Tokyo Decadence review
16 March: Francophone literature in Wolof | Wellcome shortlist | (Not ?) reading in Singapore
17 March: Dalkey Archive Press profile | Spring issue of _list | Whitefly review
18 March: Prizes: of the Leipzig Book Fair - NBCC - Diagram Prize | The Shameful State review
19 March: Kitap Zamanı seizure | Julian Barnes on Anita Brookner | Korean literature abroad
20 March: Etisalat Prize | Translation in ... India

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20 March 2016 - Sunday

Etisalat Prize | Translation in ... India

       Etisalat Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Etisalat Prize for Literature (though not yet at that official site, last I checked ...) -- "the first ever pan-African prize celebrating first time writers of published fiction books" -- , and it's Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila; see, for example, the BooksLive report.
       He gets £15,000 and a book tour to three African cities -- a nice promotional tour.

       I'm pleased to note that I was pushing Tram 83 when the French edition first appeared -- "Who will take a stab at Fiston Mwanza Mujila's Tram 83 ? Because seriously -- someone has to" I asked back in November, 2013. (I'm pleased to note Deep Vellum, Jacaranda (and in Australia, Scribe) were up to the challenge.)

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

       Translation in ... India

       In The Hindu publisher Kannan Sundaram considers The travel of Indian writing, and proposes 'I.Lit: Indian Literatures in Translation', an organization dedicated to promoting translation from Indian regional languages.
       As he notes:
Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, Canada, Wales and Scotland, they all have agencies to promote their literature. India is probably the only economically powerful nation of the world not to have a dedicated agency or an aggressive translation programme. So much for India being a soft power !
       Well worth a look.

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

19 March 2016 - Saturday

Kitap Zamanı seizure | Julian Barnes on Anita Brookner
Korean literature abroad

       Kitap Zamanı seizure

       'On 4 March 2016, Kitap Zamanı, the popular monthly literary supplement of Turkey's largest newspaper Zaman, was shut down by the Turkish government', and at PEN Atlas its longtime editor Can Bahadır Yüce now reports on The seizure of a book review.
       This troubling story deserves more attention.

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

       Julian Barnes on Anita Brookner

       In The Guardian Julian Barnes remembers his friend Anita Brookner: -- a nice piece.

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

       Korean literature abroad

       (South) Korea is the guest of honor at the current big Paris book fair, Salon du livre de Paris, and in The Korea Herald they report: Universality and marketability matter for Korean books to work in foreign market.
       They highlight French publisher Philippe Picquier [without managing to spell the company's name correctly in two tries] -- "Over the three decades, the company has published some 80 Koreans books -- the biggest number by any French publisher" (and beating even Dalkey Archive Press ...), whose Korean list is, indeed, impressive.
       Agent Im Young-hee adds: "the role of an agent like herself was also crucial" (sigh, arghh, FFS ...) -- "adding that a small talent pool of book agents was partly to be blamed for the lack of interest by foreign publishers in Korean books". (I know, I know ... of course middle(wo/)men help. Of course, they do .....)

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

18 March 2016 - Friday

Prizes: of the Leipzig Book Fair - NBCC - Diagram Prize
The Shameful State review

       Prizes: of the Leipzig Book Fair

       They've announced the Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse -- which is actually three prizes, for best works of fiction, non, and translation -- and Schoeffling & Co. cleaned up, winning with Guntram Vesper's Frohburg (see their foreign rights page -- and yes, it comes in at 320,000 words) as well as Brigitte Döbert's translation of Bora Ćosić's Tutori (see their foreign rights page -- and, yes, it's a mere 246,700 words ... and please tell me some enterprising US/UK publisher is having a go at this ...). (I have this prize-winning translation, and will be posting a review.)
       See also the Deutsche Welle report, Leipzig Book Fair Prize rewards three epic works.

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

       Prizes: National Book Critics Circle

       Yes, National Book Critics Circle Announces Award Winners for Publishing Year 2015, as they announced the six category awards yesterday (none of which, I'm afraid, are under review at the complete review).

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

       Prize: Diagram Prize

       They've announced the winner of The Bookseller's Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year, with Too Naked for the Nazis narrowly (24.8% to 24.3%) edging out Reading from Behind: A Cultural History of the Anus

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

       The Shameful State review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sony Labou Tansi's 1981 novel, The Shameful State, finally out in English, from Indiana University Press (as Sony appears to be enjoying a bit of a global revival).

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

17 March 2016 - Thursday

Dalkey Archive Press profile | Spring issue of _list | Whitefly review

       Dalkey Archive Press profile

       At Arts and Culture Texas Benjamin Rybeck profiles Literary Settlers: Dalkey Archive Press Moves to Victoria, Texas, a nice behind-the-scenes look at the venerable publisher in its new (somewhat out of the way) digs.
       (A ... fair number of Dalkey titles are under review at the complete review .....)

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

       Spring issue of _list

       Well-hidden at their website, the Spring, 2016 issue of _list: Books from Korea is now up, with Hwang Sok-yong the 'featured writer'.
       Not many book reviews this time, unfortunately, but a special section on (short) poetry, and a good helping of excerpts.

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

       Whitefly review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Abdelilah Hamdouchi's Whitefly -- a Moroccan police procedural that's also one of the first titles from the American University in Cairo Press' new Hoopoe imprint.
       Hoopoe will apparently also be re-issuing Hamdouchi's The Final Bet later this year.

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

16 March 2016 - Wednesday

Francophone literature in Wolof | Wellcome shortlist
(Not ?) reading in Singapore

       Francophone literature in Wolof

       Here's a neat new publishing venture: Céytu, which: "aims to publish major works of francophone literature in Wolof". (For those unfamiliar with Wolof: it is widely spoken in Senegal, with pockets of speakers in several other countries.)
       Directed by The Knight and His Shadow-author Boubacar Boris Diop and created by Éditions Zulma and Mémoire d’encrier, it has quite the pedigree. (Éditions Zulma publish many local favorites, from many of the Pascal Garnier novels (e.g. The Panda Theory) to Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès' wonderful and still under-appreciated Where Tigers are at Home.)
       The first trio of Céytu-titles look like a good start, too, with Nobel laureate J.M.G. Le Clézio's The African and Mariama Bâ's So Long a Letter among them.
       Meanwhile, at Le Monde (In the United States of Africa-author) Abdourahman Waberi makes the case for: Mettez du wolof dans vos bibliothèques !

       (Of course, what I'd really love to see is also some Wolof literature in English translation ..... But getting significant work published in Wolof, and fostering a local translation culture surely will also help the local literary culture more generally, with dividends to follow eventually.)

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

       Wellcome shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for the Wellcome Book Prize -- an award that celebrates: "the best new books that engage with any aspect of medicine, health or illness". (Gotta love that floating/flying-books picture to go with the press release .....)
       Worth a tidy £30,000, the winner will be announced 25 April.

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

       (Not ?) reading in Singapore

       Less than 50% read one literary book a year: Poll they report at The Straits Times, summing up the 2015 National Literary Reading and Writing Survey (and how awesome is it that they footnote-annotate the survey-title !). (Click on the link to download the whole huge pdf survey.)
       Noteworthy too: the complete dominance of English-language reading (92%).
       And sad: only 1 in 4 have: "read literary books by Singaporean writers".

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

15 March 2016 - Tuesday

Anita Brookner (1928-2016) | Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize
New Quarterly Conversation | Tokyo Decadence review

       Anita Brookner (1928-2016)

       English author Anita Brookner has passed away; see, for example, The Guardian's obituary. See also her The Art of Fiction Q & A with Shusha Guppy in The Paris Review.
       I read and enjoyed quite a few of her novels, but read them ages ago (long before starting the complete review).
       She won the (then still Man-less) Booker Prize for the fine Hotel du Lac; get your copy at or

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

       Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize

       They've announced that KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps (by Nikolaus Wachsmann) has won the 2016 Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize, "awarded to the best book -- fiction or non fiction -- of Jewish interest for the general reader" (and worth £4,000).
       See, for example, the Farrar, Straus and Giroux publicity page, and get your copy at or

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

       New Quarterly Conversation

       The Spring 2016 issue Quarterly Conversation is now up, with the usual interesting range of book- and author-coverage (including two review of Álvaro Enrigue's new(-in-English) novel, Sudden Death).

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

       Tokyo Decadence review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Murakami Ryu's Tokyo Decadence: 15 Stories by Ryu Murakami, just (about) out from Kurodahan Press.

       For those keeping count, the break-down of the number of Murakami-titles under review at the complete review now stands at:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

14 March 2016 - Monday

Hilary Putnam (1926-2016) | Elif Shafak Q & A | Bangkok library plans

       Hilary Putnam (1926-2016)

       American philosopher Hilary Putnam -- surely one of the American greats of the past half century -- has passed away -- to surprisingly little notice so far (but see, for example, the mention at Daily Nous).
       [(Updated - 15 March): Good to see some solid coverage popping up: loath though I am ever to link to The Huffington Post, well, when it's Martha C. Nussbaum writing on Putnam .... And see also Jane O'Grady's obituary in The Guardian.]
       None of his books are under review at the complete review yet, but he's certainly a writer/thinker whose work has long accompanied me; I've also been working through his collection Philosophy in an Age of Science for a while now, and maybe this will push me to get a review up ..... (Meanwhile, see the Harvard University Press publicity page, and get your copy at or

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

       Elif Shafak Q & A

       In the Express Tribune Naveed Ahmad has a Q & A with French-born, Turkish- and English-writing author Elif Shafak.
       Among her observations:
If you are a writer from Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Nigeria -- places with wobbly democracies -- you do not have the luxury of being apolitical.
       She also explains:
Three languages accompany me to this day: Turkish, English and Spanish. I write fiction in English, then my books are translated into Turkish and I rewrite the Turkish translation. So I write each book twice. It is insane.

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

       Bangkok library plans

       In the Bangkok Post Supoj Wancharoen suggests Bookworms in the capital rejoice, as there are big plans to: 'turn a building in the old town into a modern library -- Bangkok City Library'.
       It does sound both ambitious and promising -- though some of the explanations seem to lose something in translation:
The library's theme is "Wisdom of Light", Ms Pranee said, explaining that "light" refers to knowledge.
       Lots of literature-related ambitions -- but apparently politics has a way of creeping into these things too, and so there will be a:
Bangkok governors Hall of Fame, one of the most striking features of the library. It will feature governors' biographies, career highlights and achievements.
       One can certainly see the need for that ... (sigh).
       (On the other hand, focusing on 'career highlights and achievements' -- maybe that won't take up very much (any ?) room ?)
       Also somewhat troubling:
The governor wants to urge people, particularly the younger generation, to read more, Ms Pranee said, adding that 1.6% of young Thais regularly read books.
       If only 1.6 per cent of young Thais regularly read books then a whole lot of urging is called for. Urgent urging.
       In any case, it sounds like it will be a very welcome addition to the city.

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

13 March 2016 - Sunday

'Schönste Bücher aus aller Welt' | La Superba review

       'Schönste Bücher aus aller Welt'

       The 'Schönste Bücher aus aller Welt'-competition -- perhaps a bit too ... carefully translated as the Best Book Design from all over the World -- is a nice little competition they've been holding for ages. The awards are a bit confusing: yes, there's a 'Gold Medal' -- but that goes to the runner-up; the top award is the 'Goldene Letter'. Then there are two silver medals, and five bronze medals .....
       But, anyway: it's a nice idea, and they do showcase some neat books, and they've announced this year's prizes.

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

       La Superba review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer's 2014 Libris Literatuurprijs-winning La Superba, coming out next week in Michele Hutchison's English translation from Deep Vellum.

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

12 March 2016 - Saturday

French-American Foundation Translation Prize finalists
Holberg Prize 2016 | Mass-market format

       French-American Foundation Translation Prize finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the 2015 French-American Foundation Translation Prizes.
       None of the non-fiction finalists are under review at the complete review, but three of the five fiction finalists are:
  • The Foundling's War by Michel Déon, by Julian Evans
  • The Great Swindle by Pierre Lemaitre, tr. Frank Wynne
  • The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud, tr. John Cullen
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, tr. Christine Donougher
  • Nagasaki by Eric Faye, tr. Emily Boyce
       (Of the recently announced Man Booker International Prize finalists (see my previous mention) Maylis de Kerangal's Mend the Living (US title: The Heart) -- in either translation -- wasn't eligible (it will be next year) -- but Fiston Mwanza Mujila's Tram 83 was, and I am kind of surprised not to see it here. As far as the (American) Best Translated Book Award (longlist to be announced 29 March) goes, Les Miserables isn't eligible (it's a re-translation -- it also wasn't Man Booker eligible, on account of its dead author), and I think the Daoud is the only likely bet, with outside chances for the Lemaitre.)

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

       Holberg Prize 2016

       They've announced that Stephen Greenblatt will get the 2016 Holberg Prize, a NOK 4.5 million (ca. US$735,000) prize, awarded to: "a scholar who [has] made outstanding contributions to research in the arts and humanities, social science, law or theology, either within one of these fields or through interdisciplinary work".

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

       Mass-market format

       At The New Republic Alex Shephard reports that The Mass-Market Edition of To Kill a Mockingbird Is Dead, as the Harper Lee literary estate has wasted little time in showing their lowly money-grubbing intentions -- cash in, readers be damned.
       As longtime readers know, my loathing for the 'trade paperback'-format (book size) knows no bounds; so too my love for the pocket book (ah, the true pocket book !) and, failing that, the mass-market paperback. But publishers (and greedy literary estates), more concerned with revenue today than fostering an actual readership, are apparently phasing them out: "many publishers are moving away from the format", Shephard notes.

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

11 March 2016 - Friday

Olga Tokarczuk | Stella Prize shortlist

       Olga Tokarczuk

       Olga Tokarczuk, whose Księgi Jakubowe won the 2015 Nike Award (see my previous mention), was recently at Cambridge, and it's nice to see her get some more prominent attention -- such as The Economist's Prospero-piece, Olga Tokarczuk's Polish narrative.
       Regarding Księgi Jakubowe, J.H. writes:
Should it ever make it into English meanwhile, it will be more than worth the wait: Ms Tokarczuk is one among a very few signal European novelists of the past quarter-century.
       'Should it ...', sigh ......
       [(Updated - 12 March): Ah, good news: Jennifer Croft tweets: "I'm translating it into English ! Patience, patience ...".]
       Meanwhile, consider, for example, her Primeval and Other Times; see the Twisted Spoon publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Stella Prize shortlist

       They've announced the six-title strong shortlist for the Stella Prize -- a prize: "celebrating Australian women's writing, and championing diversity and cultural change" (for which only works by Australian women are eligible -- but they can be either fiction or non).
       Most of these have not appeared in the US yet; I haven't seen any.
       The winning title will be announced 19 April.

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

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