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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 June 2017

11 June: Sofia Translation Forum | The Great Passage review
12 June: Czech literature in translation | In Praise of Litigation review
13 June: PEN Translates honorees | Michel Houellebecq Q & A
14 June: Peace Prize of the German Book Trade | Salki review
15 June: Man Booker International Prize | Seoul International Book Fair
16 June: Even creative writing isn't safe from AI (?) | Bookselling in ... Thailand | Suite for Barbara Loden review
17 June: Asian fiction in translation | Unusual translation problem
18 June: 'Academic Books and their Future' (in the UK) | Literary prizes: Premio Gregor von Rezzori - Walter Scott Prize
19 June: Translating from smaller European nations | Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist | The Sacred Era review
20 June: Premio Strega finalists | Copyright (not) in Iran | Kids' lit in ... Russia

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20 June 2017 - Tuesday

Premio Strega finalists | Copyright (not) in Iran | Kids' lit in ... Russia

       Premio Strega finalists

       A few days ago they announced the five finalists for the Premio Strega, the leading Italian literary prize.
       It is unusual among (inter)national literary prizes in not being decided on by a small group of judges but rather a huge (660 strong, this year) pool of voters.
       Paolo Cognetti's Le otto montagne (see the Einaudi publicity page)) took the most first-round votes -- 281 -- while the other four titles were bunched more closely, receiving between 158 and 177 votes.
       The winner will be announced on 6 July.

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

       Copyright (not) in Iran

       Until the Soviet Union finally signed on international copyright treaties books from the Soviet Union were free game for foreign publishers -- which is why you had multiple translations/editions of, for example, many Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn works in English in the 1960s
       Iran still doesn't play by the international rules (but, hey: "The Iranian government submitted a new copyright bill to the Iranian parliament in May 2016 to tackle the chaos ruling the Iranian printing industry"), and while this isn't much of an issue with Persian-works-in-translation (for which there appears to be minimal interest in the US/UK ...), it does mean there's a free-for-all in Iran as far as translations into Persian go. Today's Exhibit A -- yes, there's practically a new one daily -- is Paula Hawkins' Into the Water (get your copy at or, as there are apparently six (!) different translations set to hit the market shortly.
       See the Tehran Times report, where translator Ali Qane' complains that "at least five other of his colleagues are working separately on the novel". And there were only two translations of The Girl on the Train .....

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

       Kids' lit in ... Russia

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Alexandra Guzeva offers a list (of sorts) of the Top 10 most popular children's writers in Russia.
       It's not exactly clear, for example, who qualifies/was counted as a 'children's author' (Pushkin ?), and surprising that, for example, Holly Webb made the sales-cut, but J.K.Rowling didn't.
       Still, useful in providing the names of some Russian kids-lit authors (most of the authors are Russian-writing).

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

19 June 2017 - Monday

Translating from smaller European nations
Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist | The Sacred Era review

       Translating from smaller European nations

       Via I'm pointed to the AHRC Translating Cultures Research Innovations Award Project at the University of Bristol, Translating the Literatures of Small European Nations -- and specifically the project report, Translating the Literatures of Smaller European Nations: A Picture from the UK, 2014-16 (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       An interesting overview -- with some reason for optimism, but also some harsh conclusions, such as:
Translated literature remains a preoccupation of the educated urban middle-class, centred fundamentally on London and almost completely absent from school curricula.
       (I do note that the report appears to be largely anecdotal -- relying on expert (or other) opinions rather than doing the numbers .....)

       (Updated - 27 June): See now also Rajendra Chitnis' piece at the Asymptote weblog on Sustaining Diversity: Translating the Literatures of Smaller European Nations.

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

       Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist

       They've announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the shortlist for this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award, a leading Australian fiction prize.
       ANZ LitLovers LitBlog helpfully has all the titles under review -- and favors Waiting by Philip Salom.
       Of course, the one I'm most curious about is Their Brilliant Careers, by Ryan O'Neill -- "a hilarious novel in the guise of sixteen biographies of (invented) Australian writers", so the Black & Inc. publicity page; get your copy at get your copy at or
       The winning title will apparently be announced on 7 September.

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

       The Sacred Era review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Aramaki Yoshio's 1978 science fiction novel, The Sacred Era, now out in English from the University of Minnesota Press.

       Aramaki is clearly an interesting author and I'd love to see more of his work -- especially ある晴れた日のウイーンは森の中にたたずむ, a title Tatsumi Takayuki translates in his Foreword as 'One fine day in Vienna lingering in the woods', and which he describes as being: "structured around a profound meditation on the writings of the Marquis de Sade". Please, somebody translate and publish this !

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

18 June 2017 - Sunday

'Academic Books and their Future' (in the UK)
Literary prizes: Premio Gregor von Rezzori - Walter Scott Prize

       'Academic Books and their Future' (in the UK)

       Michael Jubb's recent report on (UK) Academic Books and their Future (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- part of the Academic Book of the Future-project -- makes for depressing reading.
       Matthew Reisz's piece in Times Higher Education sums it up pretty well: Worst sellers: warning of existential crisis for academic books, as "the number of individual [academic] titles sold rose by 45 per cent, from 43,000 to 63,000" between 2005 and 2014 -- but (Nielsen BookScan-tracked sales figures): "show a decline for academic books of 13 per cent between 2005 and 2014, from 4.34 million to 3.76 million annually". Add it all up, and: "this meant that average sales per title fell from 100 to 60"
       University presses continue to churn them out:
University presses accounted for 11% of sales in both 2005 and 2014 from all the publishers analysed, and their revenues for 13% of the total in both years, indicating that their average revenues per title were slightly higher than the average for all publishers. But in 2005 they represented 43% of the titles for which sales were recorded, so their sales per title were only a little over a quarter those for other publishers.
       In the 'Literature' category:
The number of titles recorded with sales rose by 37%, to 10.8k [...]. But sales were only around a quarter of those shown in history, and between 2005 and 2014 they fell by nearly half, to 365k. The result was that sales per title fell from 88 to 34
       (As a point of comparison, my essentially self-published monograph, Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy had sold, as of 31 May, 117 copies (72 paperback and 45 e-versions) -- with a few more sold in the past few weeks.)
       Then there's this:
including all the creative writing titles, during the seven years 2008 to 2014, the submitted version of only just over half (54%) of the books submitted in English literature and language had any UK retail sale. Of those, 355 (16%) had sales of more than one hundred, and 128 (6%) of more than a thousand.
       (Emphasis added.)
       Lots of caveats re. the titles that are counted and so on ("Comprehensive and reliable statistical data on sales of academic books is notable mainly by its absence"), but the study is well worth closer perusal -- if you can read through the tears and head-shaking.

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

       Literary prize: Premio Gregor von Rezzori

       The Premio Gregor von Rezzori is an Italian literary prize awarded for the best work of foreign fiction published in Italian, and they've announced (though not yet at the official site, last I checked ...) that this year's prize goes to Compass, by Mathias Énard, while the (separate) prize for best translation goes to Anna D'Elia for her translation of Antoine Volodine's Radiant Terminus (which I could see winning a couple of translation-into-English prizes next year ...); see, for example, the report in Corriere della Sera.

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

       Literary prize: Walter Scott Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction (though not yet at the official site, last I checked ...), and it is Days Without End, by Sebastian Barry; see the ... official tweet.
       It's apparently an (American) Civil War novel, so it's very unlikely I'll get around to covering it; see instead the Faber publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

17 June 2017 - Saturday

Asian fiction in translation | Unusual translation problem

       Asian fiction in translation

       At livemint Sana Goyal wonders: 'Is there increasing space in the UK for Asian fiction in translation ?' suggesting that it's A good time for translations -- based on the success of Vivek Shanbhag's Ghachar Ghochar.
       Still, with apparently only 15 per cent of the 126 titles submitted for the Man Booker International Prize from Asia (including -- indeed, presumably dominated by -- titles from China, Japan, and Korea) -- and a shocking only two from the sub-continent -- there's still a lot of room for improvement. Translations from Indian languages should be well-positioned, especially in the UK, but there's a great deal beyond that too .....

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

       Unusual translation problem

       Here's an unusual translation problem: Carson Ellis' Du Iz Tak ? is a kids' picture book where the dialogue is in a made-up language (see the title ...); see, for example, the Candlewick publicity page, or get your copy at or
       This turns out to have befuddled 'translators' of the foreign edition -- so Ellis has written an English 'translation' to guide them along: see Sue Corbett's piece in Publishers Weekly on Working Out the Bugs: Adventures in Translating Carson Ellis's 'Du Iz Tak ?'.

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

16 June 2017 - Friday

Even creative writing isn't safe from AI (?)
Bookselling in ... Thailand | Suite for Barbara Loden review

       Even creative writing isn't safe from AI (?)

       A paper recently put up at considers When Will AI Exceed Human Performance ? Evidence from AI Experts (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- though they undermine themselves from the get-go by claiming 'evidence' in the title: what they did was ask around, i.e. get opinions -- which doesn't really qualify as any sort of 'evidence' in my book .....
       Still: "352 researchers responded to our survey invitation (21% of the 1634 authors we contacted)", and their opinions as to when machines -- powered by artificial intelligence (AI) -- will perform at the same (or higher) levels than humans is disturbing enough.
       Among the very depressing results: there are experts who think it won't be much more than a decade before AI can: "Write New York Times Bestseller" (defined as being able to: "Write a novel or short story good enough to make it to the New York Times best-seller list"), with the median response a still-depressing 33 years.
       (Perhaps even more depressing: some experts think "Write High School Essay" (defined as: "Write an essay for a high-school history class that would receive high grades and pass plagiarism detectors") is pretty much around the corner -- and the median (!) guess is 9.6 years -- ahead of "Generate Top 40 Pop Song" (11.4 years), which I suspect says more about the standard that the experts thinks American high school learning is at than anything else .....)
       So, you creative types, you can hang on a bit longer -- the outlook is rosier than for retail salespeople (median expectation until AI takes your job: ca. 15 years) -- but apparently there's no long term future in writing The New York Times (or presumably any other kind of) bestsellers ..... (And I suspect if they had asked the experts, the median expectation for literary-artsy novels would have been even lower .....)
       I imagine James Patterson is already looking into collaborating with computers -- his 'books' surely lend themselves to automated writing -- and once he figures it out he'll probably dominate the bestseller lists even more than he already does (the brand-name being the only thing humans will have left going for themselves).

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

       Bookselling in ... Thailand

       In the Bangkok Post Nanat Suchiva reports that: 'Thailand's independent bookstores have shown a remarkable resilience in the face of the rising popularity of digital media', in In the good books.
       Apparently, the independents -- about fifty of them in the entire cuntry -- are having more success in adapting to changed circumstances than the big chains .....

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

       Suite for Barbara Loden review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nathalie Léger's Suite for Barbara Loden, out in nice editions from Les Fugitives (in the UK) and Dorothy (in the US), in a prize-winning (Scott Moncrieff !) translation.

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

15 June 2017 - Thursday

Man Booker International Prize | Seoul International Book Fair

       Man Booker International Prize

       The Man Booker International Prize has been awarded, in this incarnation -- a mash-up of what used to be the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (whose format -- book prize for a work of translated fiction published in the UK -- it took over) and the old-style Man Booker International Prize (which used to be an author-career prize, with them only retaining the name and the big bucks) --, for the second time, and they've announced that A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman Wins The Man Booker International Prize 2017, with translator Jessica Cohen getting half the prize pay-out.
       A Horse Walks Into a Bar isn't (yet) under review at the complete review -- I might get to it, though I haven't seen a copy yet --; meanwhile, see for example the Alfred A. Knopf publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Seoul International Book Fair

       The Seoul International Book Fair runs through Sunday.
       They have both a 'Guest of Honor' (Turkey) and a 'Spotlight Country' (Canada). There are also some Special Exhibitions & Events, including on 'The Era of Bookstores' (apparently small independents are making a comeback in South Korea too) and the promising-sounding 'Reading Clinic' ("It is a one-on-one reading clinic with pre-registered readers and experts of writing, science and genre literature").

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

14 June 2017 - Wednesday

Peace Prize of the German Book Trade | Salki review

       Peace Prize of the German Book Trade

       They've announced that Margaret Atwood to Receive the 2017 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, as she will pick up the prestigious €25,000 prize on 15 October, at the conclusion of the Frankfurt Book Fair.
       As I mentioned two weeks ago, she's also been named the winner of this year's Franz Kafka Prize -- and the prize-ceremony for that is usually around that time of the year too, so that will be convenient for her, she can just hang around Central Europe for a while.

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

       Salki review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Wojciech Nowicki's Salki, just out in English from Open Letter.

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

13 June 2017 - Tuesday

PEN Translates honorees | Michel Houellebecq Q & A

       PEN Translates honorees

       They've announced the winners of the 2017 English PEN Translates 'awards' -- which aren't really prizes, but rather: "made to publishers to cover the English language translation costs" -- though the projects are selected on the basis of: "outstanding literary quality, strength and innovation of the publishing project, and contribution to literary diversity in the UK".
       Some familiar big-name authors (well, relatively speaking, as far as literature in translation goes) in the mix, including César Aira, Javier Cercas, and Jenny Erpenbeck, and some big-name translators, too, but at least there's quite an effort to go beyond the usual, and so we find a translation from Somali (see the Bloodaxe publicity page) -- not fiction, alas -- as well as from the Belarusian, the Прэмію Гедройца-shortlisted A large Czeslaw Milosz with a dash of Elvis Presley (maybe not the final title in English ... ?), forthcoming from Scotland Street Press, among other promising-sounding titles..
       I look forward to seing some of these (though, since this is a UK-based effort, probably not many of these, except the bigger names ...).

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

       Michel Houellebecq Q & A

       At Garage Christian Lorentzen offers Nobody Will Make Us Do Yoga: A Conversation with Michel Houellebecq, as the Submission (etc.)-author's art show recently opened in New York and he's been doing and getting lots of press.
       It's kind of an odd interview, but among the interesting answers is Houellebecq's explanation why he moved back to France, after living in Ireland for eleven years: "To speak French."

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

12 June 2017 - Monday

Czech literature in translation | In Praise of Litigation review

       Czech literature in translation

       At Radio Praha David Vaughan speaks with the Readers International-publisher, in Dorothy Connell and the Challenges of Bringing Czech Writing to the English-speaking World.
       Among their publications which they discuss is Michal Viewegh's Bringing Up Girls in Bohemia; -- and for: "probably the most popular Czech writer of the last quarter of the century", it's sad how little of his work has been translated into English (Bliss Was it in Bohemia is a recent exception).

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

       In Praise of Litigation review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alexandra Lahav's book In Praise of Litigation, recently out from Oxford University Press.

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

11 June 2017 - Sunday

Sofia Translation Forum | The Great Passage review

       Sofia Translation Forum

       At bnr they report that the recently held Sofia Translation Forum addresses literary exchange between the Balkans and the Arab world -- and how great is it to see that there's active work in this area.
       Gotta love the official site and name -- Translation Collider ! -- and would love to see more of this kind of support and exchange.

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

       The Great Passage review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Miura Shion's The Great Passage.

       This just came out from AmazonCrossing -- and the 125 reviews on Amazon suggest it's attracting some attention (though apparently not from reviewers elsewhere ...).
       The translation is by Juliet Winters Carpenter -- whose translation of Mizumura Minae's Inheritance from Mother also just came out (that from Other Press; it's reviewed in today's The New York Times Book Review).

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

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