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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 July 2017

1 July: Seagull Books profile | CanLit heydays ?
2 July: Dream of the Red Chamber Research Collection | Poetic statesmen | Rapture review
3 July: Rentrée littéraire prep | Chinese literature abroad | Harry Potter and Hindi publishing
4 July: Caine Prize for African Writing | Island of Point Nemo review
5 July: Philip Larkin exhibit | Szerb Antal reminiscences
6 July: Daniil Granin (1919-2017) | Elle review
7 July: Ingeborg Bachmann Prize | Q & As: Lydie Salvayre - Fiston Mwanza Mujila
8 July: Diagram Prize shortlist | The Zoo review
9 July: Murakami Q & A book | Summer-read suggestions
10 July: Coetzee's computer-poetry | Irina Ratushinskaya (1954-2017) | Translations from ... Russian (2017) | Deborah Smith Q & A

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10 July 2017 - Monday

Coetzee's computer-poetry | Irina Ratushinskaya (1954-2017)
Translations from ... Russian (2017) | Deborah Smith Q & A

       Coetzee's computer-poetry

       Tantalizing stuff from the Harry Ransom Center, where they have Nobel laureate and Slow Man- (etc.) author J.M.Coetzee's archive and where Rebecca Roach reports on The computer poetry of J. M. Coetzee's early programming career -- with a picture of some "computer code poetry, dated May 30, 1965". Somebody collect and publish this !
       Peter Johnston's PhD thesis, on 'Presences of the Infinite': J.M.Coetzee and Mathematics (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) includes a significant section discussing Coetzee's computer poetry -- and reprints the two (very different from the HRC stuff) published ones in an Appendix: 'Computer Poem' (p. 309) and 'Hero and Bad Mother in Epic' (pp. 310-311) -- but see the discussion in the text proper as well. (The Appendix includes other poems by Coetzee, so it's worth it just for that, too -- not stuff that's easy to find elsewhere.)

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

       Irina Ratushinskaya (1954-2017)

       Irina Ratushinskaya, a writer sent to the camps very late in the Soviet day (1983 !), has passed away; see Michael Bourdeaux's obituary in The Guardian and Harrison Smith's in The Washington Post.
       She is best known for her camp-account, Grey is the Colour of Hope, recently re-issued (along with several of her other works) in the UK (get your copy at or
       No surprise that my preference is for her novel, Fictions and Lies -- get your copy at or -- because ... well, obviously. (I still have my copy at hand; maybe I'll get a review up.)

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

       Translations from ... Russian (2017)

       The Three Percent databases are obviously the most useful resource for seeing what gets translated into English every year, but they do have their limitations -- they only cover US published/distributed titles, are limited to fiction and poetry, and exclude new translations of previously translated works -- and so it's good to see they're not the only game in town.
       Other databases/listings tend to be even more limited -- generally by language -- but do provide valuable additional information -- such as the just-posted Russian-to-English Translations for 2017 at Lizok's Bookshelf. (Several of these are already under review at the complete review.)

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

       Deborah Smith Q & A

       The most recent 'The PEN Ten' is a Q & A with Deborah Smith -- translator-from-the-Korean (of Bandi's The Accusation, and Han Kang's The Vegetarian, for example), and Tilted Axis Press founder.

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

9 July 2017 - Sunday

Murakami Q & A book | Summer-read suggestions

       Murakami Q & A book

       I missed this a couple of weeks back, but in The Asahi Shimbun Kan Kashiwazaki reported on how Haruki Murakami talks of how he goes with the flow, as there's a new book out (only in Japanese, alas), subtitled: 'Haruki Murakami: A Long, Long Interview by Mieko Kawakami', みみずくは黄昏に飛びたつ; see the Shinchosha publicity page.
Ten hours of intimate interviews with Haruki Murakami that reveal unique insights into the popular novelist's elusive methodology, or eccentric lack of it, have been compiled into a book.
       Kawakami herself is an up-and-comer -- with her Ms Ice Sandwich due out from Pushkin Press in a couple months; pre-order your copy at or; it's certainly something I expect to get to.
       Sounds like the Murakami-interview volume would be of interest to US/UK readers as well, so maybe there will be a translation ? Or are the questions too 'Japanese' for publishers to take a chance on it ... ?

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

       Summer-read suggestions

       Yes, it's summer, so lots of newspaper (and weblog ...) filler of the 'best summer reads' sort.
       At least The Guardian has writers give their suggestions, in their 'Best holiday reads 2017, picked by writers', parts one [updated:] and two. (And Geoff Dyer gets it right in the latter, selecting Reve's The Evenings and Solstad's Novel 11, Book 18.)
       I've only read/reviewed a few of these, but it is a decent variety.

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

8 July 2017 - Saturday

Diagram Prize shortlist | The Zoo review

       Diagram Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year -- with readers apparently able to vote for their favorite, and the winner to be announced on 28 July.
       The five titles in the running are:
  • An Ape's View of Human Evolution

  • The Commuter Pig-Keeper: A Comprehensive Guide to Keeping Pigs when Time is your Most Precious Commodity

  • Nipples on My Knee

  • Love Your Lady Landscape: Trust Your Gut, Care for "Down There" and Reclaim Your Fierce and Feminine SHE Power

  • Renniks Australian Pre-Decimal & Decimal Coin Errors: The Premier Guide for Australian Pre-Decimal & Decimal Coin Errors
       And, no, none of them are under review at the complete review.

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

       The Zoo review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Christopher Wilson's new novel, The Zoo, just out (in the UK).

       Several other Wilson titles are under review at the complete review -- though I haven't revisited old favorites such as Baa and Fou yet -- but I'm surprised his backlist is largely out of print (though available in his own e-book line).
       But good to see he's not entirely overlooked: Moonstone-author Sjón, for example, listed Gallimauf's Gospel among his top 10 island stories at The Guardian a couple of years ago.

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

7 July 2017 - Friday

Ingeborg Bachmann Prize
Q & As: Lydie Salvayre - Fiston Mwanza Mujila

       Ingeborg Bachmann Prize

       The 41st 'Days of German-Language Literature' have started, and, as always, the centerpiece is the read-aloud literary competition, the Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis -- and among the competing authors is one who is quite well-known in the US, The Lost Time Accidents-author John Wray. His text, Madrigal (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) apparently impressed, making him an early prize-favorite.
       Shigekuni has a first-day recap (in English).

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

       Q & A: Lydie Salvayre

       At Music & Literature Adrian Nathan West has A Conversation with Lydie Salvayre -- mainly about her Cry, Mother Spain (which doesn't seem to have a US publisher yet ...?); get your copy at or

       I haven't seen that one yet, but I'm a big admirer and six other Salvayre titles are under review at the complete review -- see, for example, The Award.

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

       Q & A: Fiston Mwanza Mujila

       At DeutscheWelle Sabine Kieselbach has a Q & A with Tram 83-author Fiston Mwanza Mujila.
       Among his responses:
French is a colonial language. To me, it's a fictional language, a fake language. But it's also an intimate language, if I succeed to reinvent it as a new language for myself.

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

6 July 2017 - Thursday

Daniil Granin (1919-2017) | Elle review

       Daniil Granin (1919-2017)

       Soviet/Russian author Daniil Granin has passed away; see, for example, the AP report (here at CBC).
       Much of his fiction was of the very documentary kind, and several of his works were published in English translation; The Bison (published by Doubleday in 1990; get your copy at or even got a(n 'In Short') review in The New York Times Book Review.
       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Anna Sorokina offers a list of 5 must-read novels by Soviet docufiction writer Daniil Granin.

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

       Elle review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Philippe Djian's Elle -- recently out in English (from Other Press, in the US), but better-known as the basis for the widely acclaimed Paul Verhoeven film, starring Isabelle Huppert.
       I am a bit surprised that this hasn't gotten more review-coverage -- though that's also been the case for Djian's other recent books to appear in translation. Still, a stark contrast to how huge he is in continental Europe. (Sometimes I think it's all because US/UK publishers and readers simply can't take seriously an author who wrote a six-volume series that he called: Doggy bag (see the Julliard publicity page for the one-volume collected edition). Of course, the original French title of Elle was ... "Oh ...")

       This is the second book that Paul Verhoeven adapted for the screen that I've reviewed this year -- the other being the (also woefully under-covered) new translation of Jan Wolkers' Turkish Delight (which was filmed more than forty years before Elle). Heinlein's Starship Troopers next ?

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

5 July 2017 - Wednesday

Philip Larkin exhibit | Szerb Antal reminiscences

       Philip Larkin exhibit

       A Philip Larkin exhibit, Larkin: New Eyes Each Year opens in Hull today, and with curator Anna Farthing saying: "We've tried to piece together a life from objects rather than from words", it looks ... interesting:
There is his lawnmower, typewriter, stationery, camera, photographs and briefcase. There are 33 souvenir tea towels, some of which bear comic verses, and a "tree" made of 119 ties.
       In The Guardian Hannah Ellis-Petersen also previews it, in Philip Larkin exhibition in Hull offers fresh insights into poet's life -- and notes that:
Also on display are the empty spines of the diaries that Larkin ordered to be shredded after he died

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

       Szerb Antal reminiscences

       They held a Szerb Antal-conference last month -- celebrating also the publication of his Reflections in the Library: Selected Literary Essays 1926-1944; see the Legenda publicity page, or get your copy at or
       At hlo they now publish György Gömöri: Growing up with Antal Szerb, which was first read at the conference.

       Several Szerb titles are under review at the complete review, including The Pendragon Legend.

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

4 July 2017 - Tuesday

Caine Prize for African Writing | Island of Point Nemo review

       Caine Prize for African Writing

       The Caine Prize for African Writing -- "described as Africa's leading literary award" (so they say, on their site ...) -- is only a short story prize (this year's winning work is all of 3301 words long), but does showcase some fine writing, and they've now announced this year's winning piece, The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away, by Bushra al-Fadil -- which you can read here (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       The Caine Prize tends to be Anglophone-writing-heavy -- very heavy -- but this is actually a work in translation, and admirably the translator -- Max Shmookler -- gets a piece of the prize-pie: £3,000, with £7,000 going to the author.

       While you can read the story online, it was originally published in The Book of Khartoum -- and surely you want the whole thing, right ? (Hey, I would -- I haven't seen a copy yet .....) See the Comma Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Island of Point Nemo review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès' Island of Point Nemo, forthcoming (next month) from Open Letter.

       Blas de Roblès' Where Tigers are at Home was woefully under-appreciated when it came out in English, and there's quite a backlist waiting to be translated .....

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

3 July 2017 - Monday

Rentrée littéraire prep | Chinese literature abroad
Harry Potter and Hindi publishing

       Rentrée littéraire prep

       The French unleash almost all their major fiction during the 'rentrée littéraire', a month starting in about late August, and the first reports of what's coming are coming out.
       The Livres Hebdo special isn't freely accessible online, but their brief overview-introduction is, with the main numbers: there will be 581 novels (up from last year's 560), with 81 debuts (up from 66 last year), and 191 works in translation -- down from last year's 196.
       Not much information about the coming titles yet -- but there will be the obligatory annual Amélie Nothomb offering (Frappe-toi le cœur; see the Albin Michel publicity page), while Jean-Philippe Toussaint (another local favorite) is offering Made in China; see the Minuit publicity page.

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

       Chinese literature abroad

       Yet another article -- this one by Li Jingjing and Zhang Ni, in the Global Times -- finding Chinese literature still facing challenges reaching broader audience overseas.
       Among the points of interest: Mai Jias's Decoded is now available in Arabic ! And they quote Mai:
The author said that he believes the US is full of "pride and prejudice" which leads to only a small fraction of foreign literature being published each year.
       Interesting -- but perhaps not entirely surprising -- to hear, from the director of the International Cooperation Department at China Intercontinental Press:
Jiang pointed out that sales in Spanish-speaking countries like Argentina and Chile are much higher than in English-speaking countries
       ('Much higher' ? Really ? I'd love to see some numbers .....)
       They also mention the Chinese Literature Translation Archive at the Bizzell Memorial Library at the University of Oklahoma, which looks pretty cool.

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

       Harry Potter and Hindi publishing

       As the Harry Potter-series turns twenty there's been lots of coverage -- and Vikram Doctor's explanation of How Harry Potter revolutionized the Hindi publishing scenario in The Economic Times is an interesting piece.
       The Hindi publisher is Manjul -- and interesting to hear that:
They also released the Harry Potter series in Marathi, which did well. (But translations in Tamil and Telugu will not go beyond the first few books, perhaps because the series now seems a bit old).

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

2 July 2017 - Sunday

Dream of the Red Chamber Research Collection
Poetic statesmen | Rapture review

       Dream of the Red Chamber Research Collection

       Cao Xueqin's The Story of the Stone, also known and translated as Dream of the Red Chamber, is one of the undisputed classics of world literature -- and a local favorite.
       The University of Malaya Library has a Dream of the Red Chamber Research Collection and, as for example Tho Xin Yi reports in The Star, this is now being enriched by Precious gifts of love from Chan to all as:
(T)he former Transport Minister and ex-MCA deputy president [Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy] feels that the time has come for his collection to have a greater impact on society instead of just satisfying his personal pleasure.

He decided to donate over 6,000 works -- with the oldest aged more than 200 years -- to his alma mater.
       As Chan explains:
This great masterpiece touches on all aspects of life, including religion, literature, linguistics, inter-personal ties, management and others. Its substance is boundless
       I agree wholeheartedly.

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

       Poetic statesmen

       Some world leaders are known to 'tweet' in order to get their word out, but a few are also still old school, opting for verse instead. So, for example, Thai prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha: as The Nation (Thailand) reports, Literary PM makes his point poetically.
       You can read his poem, 'ประเทศไทย 4.0' ('Thailand 4.0') here, for example.
       He does admit:
PM Prayut acknowledged that his poem was not perfect in terms of rhyming. But he said it was written with the pure intention to "improve" public understanding of the government's performance.
       Hey, whatever works, right ?

       Still, as far as local literary statesman go, he's still got nothing on Kukrit Pramoj -- who was Thai PM in the mid-1970's, author of numerous novels, including some that have even been translated into English (e.g. Four Reigns) -- and starred (well, appeared ...) opposite Marlon Brando in the film The Ugly American (in which he plays a ... prime minister !).

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

       Rapture review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Iliazd's 1930 novel, Rapture, just out in English from Columbia University Press in their new Russian Library-series.

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

1 July 2017 - Saturday

Seagull Books profile | CanLit heydays ?

       Seagull Books profile

       At Quartz India Maria Thomas profiles the remarkable Seagull Books, explaining that A tiny Indian publisher is translating hidden gems of world literature for global readers.
       As far as leading publishers of works in English translation go, they're right up there with Dalkey Archive Press quality/quantity-wise (AmazonCrossing leads quantity-wise, and you can debate quality across several publishers, but as far as the combination goes, Dalkey and Seagull definitely stand out).

       They have an amazing list -- the University of Chicago Press distribution page page might make for an easier overview of what's coming, and what's available -- and quite a few of their titles are under review at the complete review; indeed, I just got to another one a couple of days ago.

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

       CanLit heydays ?

       In The Globe and Mail Mark Medley wonders -- at considerably length -- Will the world get fired up about CanLit ?
       With Canada the 'guest of honour' at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2020 and the upcoming 141st issue of Granta a Canada-special -- nothing up yet at the official site, but you can pre-order your copy at or -- there's more attention to be had, and maybe it's Canada's time to shine.
       In the US, US authors obviously still overshadow most CanLit -- though some authors (Atwood and Munro, among others) are obviously huge -- and French-Canadian literature is almost entirely unknown. It would be great if that would change .....
       But maybe (apparently ?) CanLit is too: "literary upmarket" ? (Sigh.)

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

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