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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 July 2016

1 July: Prix Jean Monnet de Littérature Européenne | Questions ? | My Secret Book review
2 July: Geoffrey Hill (1932-2016) | Yves Bonnefoy (1923-2016)
3 July: Great/essential US book ? | Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)
4 July: Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis | Mr. Zed's Reflections review
5 July: Caine Prize for African Writing | Markus Werner (1944-2016)
6 July: Fiction in translation | Perumal Murugan ruling | Cynthia Ozick Q & A | The Other Side review
7 July: Rest-of-2016 book preview | African SFF
8 July: 2017 Man Booker International Prize judges | Europese Literatuurprijs | Tim Parks Q & A | For All the Gold in the World review
9 July: Books are back ... in Japan ? | Getting ready for the rentrée littéraire
10 July: Translations from the ... French | Summer reading suggestions | The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules review

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10 July 2016 - Sunday

Translations from the ... French | Summer reading suggestions
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules review

       Translations from the ... French

       At French Culture they have their now annual round-up of 'French Books in the US: The 2016 Edition', in summary-overview and (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) full detail.
       Counting all French translations into English published in the US, this is the best overview of translations from a foreign language going -- and that from the one from which there are the translations, "418 titles inventoried so far". While Three Percent's invaluable Translation Database offers the broadest overview of what's been newly published in translation in fiction and poetry, the French count everything on their list -- including 62 'graphic novels'. (There are also a lot of 'graphic biographies' -- and not necessarily of Francophone celebrities: Agatha Christie, Henry Thoreau, Glenn Gould, Elvis, and John Lennon are among those getting this treatment.)
       As far as fiction -- i.e. what really matters -- goes, they count 145 titles, of which 89 are 'contemporary' (first published in France 2000-2016).
       In any case, a useful reference list !

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

       Summer reading suggestions

       In The Guardian they have 'leading writers reveal which books they will be taking to the beach', in one of the better summer reading suggestion lists, The best books for summer 2016.

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

       The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg's The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules.
       The English translation of this came out in the UK -- and Canada -- in 2014, but it's taken until now for a US edition of this 'international bestseller' to come out. And note also the differences between the Canadian and US covers .....

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

9 July 2016 - Saturday

Books are back ... in Japan ? | Getting ready for the rentrée littéraire

       Books are back ... in Japan ?

       Kyodo News report that Books outsell mags at major Japan distributor for 1st time in 32 yrs -- in no small part due to the success of Matayoshi Naoki's Akutagawa Prize-winner, 火花 (see also the J'Lit information page) -- as predicted back when the prize was announced; see, for example, The Japan Times' piece, Comedian Matayoshi's literary win offers hope for sagging publishing industry.
       Of course, a different reading of the numbers doesn't so much find resurgent success for books, but the collapse of the magazine market: "Magazine sales dropped a sizable 9.9 percent" might be seen as burying the lede in this particular story ....

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

       Getting ready for the rentrée littéraire

       The French now also allow for a mini-rentrée in the winter, at the beginning of the year, but the real flood of books comes late August, with the traditional 'rentrée littéraire', when publishers bring out all their biggest fiction titles -- and Livres Hebdo gets the coverage-ball rolling with an overview of the numbers. (The not freely accessible current issue also digs a lot deeper, into the actual titles, but coverage will be picking up all over (in the French press) in the coming weeks.)
       So this year 560 titles are due to come out -- down from 589 last year. The cut is entirely domestic: French titles are down to 363, from 393 last year, while translation-numbers have basically remained unchanged, with this year's 197 one more than last year.

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

8 July 2016 - Friday

2017 Man Booker International Prize judges
Europese Literatuurprijs | Tim Parks Q & A
For All the Gold in the World review

       2017 Man Booker International Prize judges

       They've announced the judges for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize-successor Man Booker International Prize, 2017, and it looks like a decent mix: the director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival (Nick Barley) is chair, and joining him are translator Daniel Hahn, Elif Shafak, Chika Unigwe, and poet Helen Mort.
       Since the prize covers translations: 'published in the UK between 1 May 2016 and 30 April 2017' there's still a long way to go before they an really get down to judging -- a lot of the (future) entries presumably aren't even available in any form yet.

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

       Europese Literatuurprijs

       They've announced that this year's Europese Literatuurprijs -- a Dutch prize for the best novel originally written in a European language published in Dutch translation -- goes to the translation of Terre rare, by Sandro Veronesi -- the follow-up to his Quiet Chaos.
       See also the Bompiani publicity page; it seems likely this will eventually make it's way into English, too -- but it may be a bit.

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

       Tim Parks Q & A

       At the Los Angeles Review of Books Jonathan J. Clarke has a Q & A with translator and novelist Tim Parks.
       Lots of interesting observations -- including the differing receptions of his own work:
The reception does vary country by country. In Germany and Holland, I'm seen first and foremost as a serious novelist, and that's where the fiction is most appreciated, whereas in the United Kingdom or the United States and Italy I'm probably better known for my nonfiction writing about Italy. I think there may be an extent to which, after the long years reading mainly European fiction, my writing itself has taken on a feel that puts it outside the Anglo-Saxon mainstream.
       Ah, yes, that Anglo-Saxon mainstream .....

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

       For All the Gold in the World review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Massimo Carlotto's For All the Gold in the World, just about out from Europa Editions.

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

7 July 2016 - Thursday

Rest-of-2016 book preview | African SFF

       Rest-of-2016 book preview

       At The Millions they have their Second-Half 2016 Book Preview -- 92 up-coming titles presented in some 9,000 words.
       A decent range, though leaning towards the 'big'(-publisher) titles; I'd strongly urge you to also check out lists such as Scott Esposito's Interesting New Books - 2016 to expand your reach.

       Any number of important books are missing from The Millions list, but if there's one that stands out, it is John E. Woods' translation of Arno Schmidt's Bottom's Dream which, one way or another (or more), can not but be monumental. (I can't believe the press-coverage on this hasn't started up yet. Come on, folks, this isn't just an event, this is ... epochal.)

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

       African SFF

       This looks promising: at Geoff Ryman is introducing (roughly) '100 African Writers of SFF' (science fiction and fantasy, "in its broadest sense"), and starts things off with an introductory post and Part One: Nairobi.

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

6 July 2016 - Wednesday

Fiction in translation | Perumal Murugan ruling
Cynthia Ozick Q & A | The Other Side review

       Fiction in translation

       The Man Booker International Prize site has posted a fascinating piece by 2016 judge David Bellos, in which he: 'examines the geographic distribution of submissions for this year's prize, revealing the predominance of European entries'.
       While the prize -- for best published-in-the-UK-translation of a work of fiction by a living author, selected from, apparently, 156 submissions (elsewhere they've said it was 155 (and for unfathomable reasons they won't actually reveal what the titles were ...)) -- went to South Korean author Han Kang's The Vegetarian, the predominance of European titles, and specifically "the languages of western and northern Europe" is, to put it mildly, shocking.
       Books originally written in a mere 26 languages were submitted -- "fourteen of which are official languages of the European Union". As Bellos notes, "in all probability the submitted novels constitute a large fraction of the entire production of foreign literature in the UK" -- sad enough already -- and he notes the great missing areas, which include some European ones too: nothing translated from the Polish, Romanian, or Bulgarian either -- but that's nothing compared to the empty spaces in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere .....
       A lot of it has to do with money -- translation-funding -- but, man, publishers really have to do better.

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

       Perumal Murugan ruling

       Good to see that, as for example the BBC reports, Perumal Murugan:Indian court drops charges against author, as the: "high court in Chennai (Madras) threw out a slew of petitions demanding that Perumal Murugan be prosecuted". At they have extensive excerpts from the ruling -- which sounds very sensible.

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

       Cynthia Ozick Q & A

       Another day, another Cynthia Ozick Q & A -- this time with Boris Kachka, at New York's Vulture site.
       While I think it's fine for writers to just stop writing -- far too many people don't, after all -- I do like her reaction to the question of retirement:
It's appalling. How can a writer retire ? You have to have an extreme disability, or lose your mind. What the hell else are you going to do ?
       (Updated - 8 July): Ozick als now does the By the Book Q & A in this week(end)'s The New York Times Book Review.

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

       The Other Side review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alfred Kubin's classic, The Other Side.

       Interesting aside: in 1965 the Italian translation of this was the first volume in the grand -- and still going strong, fifty years later -- Biblioteca Adelphi -- about which you can also read in publisher Roberto Calasso's The Art of the Publisher.

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

5 July 2016 - Tuesday

Caine Prize for African Writing | Markus Werner (1944-2016)

       Caine Prize for African Writing

       They've announced that this year's Caine Prize for African Writing -- "a literature prize awarded to an African writer of a short story published in English" -- goes to Memories We Lost (warning ! dreaded pdf format !), by South African author Lidudumalingani.
       While it's just a short story prize, it has a solid list of previous winners, many of whom have gone on to bigger things (like novels !).

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

       Markus Werner (1944-2016)

       Dalkey Archive recently brought out his Zündel's Exit, and his Cold Shoulder is due out shortly, but German-writing Swiss author Markus Werner has passed away; see, for example, the (German) NZZ obituary.

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

4 July 2016 - Monday

Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis | Mr. Zed's Reflections review


       This weekend they held the 40th (!) 'Tage der deutschsprachigen Literatur' ('days of German-language literature'), the centerpiece of which is the Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis, the (in)famous/notorious read-a-text aloud competition where writers are publicly judged.
       Over the years, they've attracted some top-flight talent early in their careers -- with a winners list that includes Wolfgang Hilbig (whose English-language breakthrough had to wait until ... last year), Gert Hofmann (yup, translator Michael's dad), Ulrich Plenzdorf (author of the recently re-translated East German classic, The New Sorrows of Young W.), Sibylle Lewitscharoff, and Inka Parei, among many other notables -- and they've now announced that British (!) author Sharon Dodua Otoo has won this year's prize, for her piece, Herr Gröttrup setzt sich hin (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       So for all the best efforts of the British to isolate themselves, at least some are still doing well on the continent (and in other languages, no less ...). She notes on her ... sigh, page: "I typically describe myself as a Black British mother, activist, author and editor". Now: Bachmann-Prize-winner, too -- not too bad.

       (Updated - 7 July): See now also this (English) Q & A at DeutscheWelle.

       (Updated - 13 July): Well, it took a while, but now Philip Oltermann reports in The Guardian, at appropriate length, that Black British writer wins major German-language fiction award.

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

       Mr. Zed's Reflections review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hans Magnus Enzensberger's Mr. Zed's Reflections: or Breadcrumbs He Dropped, Gathered Up by His Listeners, which came out recently from Seagull Books.
       I'm not quite sure why Enzensberger has never really caught on in the US/UK -- there's some awareness, and a fair amount of his work gets translated, but most of the time he passes fairly unnoticed (as, for example, this book has gone essentially unreviewed). The fact that he's a bit hard to pin down -- a leading German poet; an essayist; plays around with varieties of non/fiction ... -- doesn't seem an adequate explanation.
       (Speaking of which: come on, somebody -- republish Mausoleum ! Get your used copy at or -- or just click through to see that sad cover-picture, where they couldn't even get a clean jacket-image ..... I only read it in German, but, hey, I bet that Joachim Neugroschel translation holds up well enough ....)

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

3 July 2016 - Sunday

Great/essential US book ? | Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)

       Great/essential US book ?

       With the 4th of July around the corner variations on picking the great American (i.e. US) novel apparently are popular summer-filler-material: in The Los Angeles Times they ask a couple of authors for their choice of What is the Great American Novel ? while at Time they have 12 Great Authors Pick Their Essential American Book (which here means: "What book by an American author should everyone read ?" -- and includes one of the questioned authors selecting a title by one of the others ...). (I do appreciate that, although Time just ask for a 'book', the great majority of the respondents went with novels -- which are, after all, what really matter.)
       Hey, it's a fun topic to debate ... but I'm sorry, you won't rope me in .....

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

       Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)

       As widely noted, Elie Wiesel has passed away; see, for example, The New York Times' report.
       Wiesel's 1986 Nobel Prize was, of course, in the peace-category, not literature, but he is well-known for his writing -- most notably for Night; get your copy at or

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

2 July 2016 - Saturday

Geoffrey Hill (1932-2016) | Yves Bonnefoy (1923-2016)

       Geoffrey Hill (1932-2016)

       The great English poet Geoffrey Hill has passed away; see, for example, obituaries in The Guardian (by Robert Potts) and The Telegraph, as well as The Paris Review's The Art of Poetry Q & A with him.
       As the number of his books under review at the complete review should suggest, I found him the most interesting contemporary English poet and certainly recommend his work to you; just get your hands on Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952-2012 and work your way through ..... (See the Oxford University Press publicity page, and get your copy at or )

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

       Yves Bonnefoy (1923-2016)

       Leading French poet Yves Bonnefoy has passed away; see, for example, reports in Le Figaro and Le Monde (because there's essentially nothing yet in the English-language press ...).
       Seagull Books have brought out a couple of his works in recent years, and The Arrière-pays is as good a place to start as any; see their publicity page, and get your copy at or I have that and several of the others, but none are under review at the complete review yet; I've found it hard to do justice to them.
       See also The Paris Review's The Art of Poetry Q & A with him

       (Losing Hill and Bonnefoy on the same day -- that is about as tough a one-two punch as poetry has had to absorb in a very long time.)

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

1 July 2016 - Friday

Prix Jean Monnet de Littérature Européenne
Questions ? | My Secret Book review

       Prix Jean Monnet de Littérature Européenne

       No surprise that this year's prix Jean Monnet de Littérature Européenne does not go to a UK author ..... I mean, none whatsoever -- Jean Monnet is spinning even more wildly in that grave 'Brexiters' have dug than the rest of us .... (Nice touch: the last UK author on the solid winners list for this prize was J.G.Ballard (2005) !)
       No, they've announced that this year's prize will go to Matéi Vișniec, for his novel Le marchand de premières phrases; see also the Actes Sud publicity page, or get your copy at
       Vișniec is better-known for his dramas -- and Seagull Books recently brought out a really nice-looking collection of his plays, How to Explain the History of Communism to Mental Patients; I have a copy, and expect to get to it -- this is good stuff. See their publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Questions ?

       I'm looking forward to my to-be-podcast conversation with Tyler Cowen, and at his Marginal Revolution weblog he invites readers to tell him What should I ask Michael Orthofer ? So if you have questions .....
       (35 responses so far, last I checked -- though I haven't read them, yet. Should I ? Don't want to be over-prepped. (Oh, who am I kidding, of course I am going to peek ....))

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

       My Secret Book review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Francesco Petrarca's (yes, Petrarch's) My Secret Book: The Private Conflict of my Thoughts, just out in a new translation -- and bilingual edition - in Harvard University Press' I Tatti Renaissance Library.
       Hard to resist: Petrarch -- in full mid-life/purpose-of-life crisis mode -- imagines himself in conversation with St.Augustine !
       And can you imagine, Petrarch has St.Augustine ask him: "Lectio autem ista quid profuit ?" ('What use was all that reading ?'). Oh, St. Augustine, you don't get it all, do you ? Sillily afterlife obsessed .....

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

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