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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 31 December 2017

21 December: New issue of World Literature Today | PEN America Literary Awards longlists | Man Booker Prize for Fiction judges | 'Worst fiction of 2017'
22 December: Sahitya Akademi awards | Favorite Arabic-author reads | Greek literary prizes
23 December: 2017 in books in ... India | International reads - 2017 and 2018 | Heavens on Earth review
24 December: 'BTBA Gift Guide' | Romain Rolland Book Prize finalists | Best of ... in South Africa
25 December: Translations from the ... Malayalam | Mörikes Schlüsselbein review
26 December: Crossword Book Awards finalists | Time of Desecration review
27 December: Judith Sollosy Q & A | Trends in Pashto literature | Coming in 2018, in the US
28 December: The 120 Days of Sodom recognized as French 'national treasure' | BRICS Literature Forum | Ms Ice Sandwich review
29 December: Céline pamphlets | dtv cover man | Translations from ... Oriya | The Ghost Writer review
30 December: UK independent publisher favourites | Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards fiction finalists
31 December: Bestselling in 2017, in the UK | In Black and White review

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31 December 2017 - Sunday

Bestselling in 2017, in the UK | In Black and White review

       Bestselling in 2017, in the UK

       The Guardian has (slightly prematurely ...) the chart of the 100 bestselling titles in the UK in 2017 -- with, usefully, the actual number of copies sold for each title.
       A Jamie Oliver leads the way, quite handily, with 716,071 copies sold.
       Somewhat surprisingly, a top-ten (well, the tenth ...) title is under review at the complete review -- Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust Vol 1: La Belle Sauvage (261,391 copies sold) -- as is one more title from the top-100, Robert Harris' Conclave (156,243 copies sold).
       John Dugdale also has his annual analysis/overview, in Bestselling books of 2017: the top 100 -- noting, also:
Overall, the list includes 39 children’s books (with Walliams alone scoring 11) and 23 novels categorised as crime or thrillers, meaning kids’n’ crime together contributed 62% of the total.

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

       In Black and White review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tanizaki Jun'ichirō's long overlooked 1928 novel, In Black and White, just (about) out in English from Columbia University Press.

       Published serially, this had a lot of potential; a shame he didn't tidy (and finish ...) it up a bit more neatly.

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

30 December 2017 - Saturday

UK independent publisher favourites
Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards fiction finalists

       UK independent publisher favourites

       In The Guardian Eloise Millar collects Best books of 2017: indie publishers on their favourite books of the year -- the titles that made their year, that deserved to do better, and that they wish they'd published.

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

       Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards fiction finalists

       They've announced the five finalists in the fiction category of the Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards, one of the leading Iranian literary prizes; see, for example, the Tehran Times report, Five novels competing in Jalal Literary Awards, with brief descriptions of the titles.
       The one I'm most curious about is Mohammadreza Sharafi-Khabushan's بی کتابی (translated here as 'Booklessness'); see also the publisher's publicity page.

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

29 December 2017 - Friday

Céline pamphlets | dtv cover man
Translations from ... Oriya | The Ghost Writer review

       Céline pamphlets

       Louis-Ferdinand Céline's notorious anti-Semitic pamphlets have been available on the internet, and Canadian publisher éditions 8 came out with a collected volume, Écrits polémiques, a couple of years ago (see their publicity page), but they haven't been published in France since the war -- but now, in a turn that L'Express rates as 'Une bombe !', the author's 105-year-old (!) widow has given publisher Gallimard the green light to publish. (Apparently the current political climate felt right -- or she figured, given the way things are going, what the hell .....)
       For the past two weeks the debate has been buzzing -- and see now, for example, James McAuley's report in The Washington Post, A beloved French author was also an anti-Semite. Now his most notorious works are being republished.
       No listing for the volume yet at the official Gallimard site -- or at And heated debate will no doubt continue .....

       (Updated - 6 January 2018): See now also Angelique Chrisafis reporting Fierce row over plans to publish antisemitic texts by French writer Céline in The Guardian.

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

       dtv cover man

       German publisher dtv -- 'Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag' ('German paperback editions') -- used to be a paperback imprint that solely published paperback editions of books published in hardcover by some of the leading German houses -- and their covers used to be largely white, the art-work the work of a single individual. Yes, Celestino Piatti did more than 6000 of these covers.
       Felix Graf has a nice (German) overview-article in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (sroll down for some cover-samples), and there's a gallery here.
       And, of course, there's a book: Celestino Piatti und dtv: The Unity of the Programme; see the Lars Müller Publishers publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Translations from ... Oriya

       In the Orissa Post Ramesh Patnaik reports on Translations lifeline of literature: Gayatri -- noting:
Why doesn't Oriya literature get critical appreciation at the national level ? The answer is simple. Although, several regional language books have been translated into Oriya, not many Oriya books are translated or transliterated into English.
       I'm not sure transliteration would help much -- but translation surely would, in India, first of all, but abroad as well.
       (How little is translated into English ? There are works originally written in 70 different languages under review at the complete review -- and not a single one from the Oriya.)

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

       The Ghost Writer review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer, the first of the Nathan Zuckerman-novels.

       Digging through the old reviews, the most entertaining I came across was Bernard Levin's in the Sunday Times -- which includes the summing-up:

Bernard Levin on The Ghost Writer

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

28 December 2017 - Thursday

The 120 Days of Sodom recognized as French 'national treasure'
BRICS Literature Forum | Ms Ice Sandwich review

       The 120 Days of Sodom recognized as French 'national treasure'

       I missed the news last week. but the Marquis de Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom has now been recognized -- by the French Ministry of Culture -- as a 'national treasure' (or, more, prosaically, the original manuscript (the infamous long paper roll) has been refused an export-certificate, meaning it can't be removed from the country; the same now goes for André Breton's 'Manifesto of Surrealism'.)
       The government intervention comes because of the danger that the manuscript was about to be sold off; see, for example, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura's report in The New York Times, Halting Auction, France Designates Marquis de Sade Manuscript a 'National Treasure'.

       It is, of course, a fascinating object -- and literary work as well; my review of the recent Penguin Classics translation is, by quite a bit, the longest I posted in 2017.

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

       BRICS Literature Forum

       Apparently they recently held a 'BRICS Literature Forum', with Mo Yan (Sandalwood Death, etc.), Niq Mhlongo (After Tears, etc.), and Han Shaogong (A Dictionary of Maqiao, etc.) among those participating.
       I haven't found much information about it, but there's a bit at the BRICS Information Portal -- Writers Call for Better Understanding at BRICS Literature Forum -- and a longer overview by Li Wenrui at China Daily, BRICS Literature Forum facilitates more cultural exchanges.
       There was apparently also some laying-it-on-thick for the benefit of the hosts, here courtesy of Indian author Pratishtha Singh:
"In the glorious land of Confucius, with thousands of years of wisdom and knowledge, I feel that great civilizations like the Chinese can show the path of harmonious inclusion to the world," Singh said during her speech.

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

       Ms Ice Sandwich review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kawakami Mieko's Ms Ice Sandwich.

       Kawakami is definitely an author to look out for -- and has been getting great press coverage already as such: the Literary Hub had Haruki Murakami on His Favorite Young Novelist: Mieko Kawakami, for example, while at The Culture Trip Matthew Janney explained Why Mieko Kawakami Is the One Japanese Writer You Should Be Reading. (Of course Amelia Newcomb profiled Mieko Kawakami: From blogger to global novelist in the Christian Science Monitor ... nine years ago, so ... well .....)
       The Murakami-connection -- he's apparently a huge fan -- no doubt helps -- and, indeed, the book I'd most love to see is her recent book-length interview with him, みみずくは黄昏に飛びたつ, which I've mentioned previously; see also the Asahi Shimbun piec on it by Kan Kashiwazaki, Haruki Murakami talks of how he goes with the flow.
       This half-book is the first of hers to appear in English -- but look for quite a bit more coming soon (from Europa Editions, in the US).

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

27 December 2017 - Wednesday

Judith Sollosy Q & A | Trends in Pashto literature
Coming in 2018, in the US

       Judith Sollosy Q & A

       At hlo Owen Good has a Q & A with translator Judith Sollosy: No flotsam and jetsam blowing in the wind.
       She's translated a good deal of Esterházy Péter (e.g. The Book of Hrabal), as well as, for example, Örkény István's One Minute Stories.
       Great to hear that she's working on a translation of Nádas Péter's massive (1200-page) Világló részletek ("English working title, Shimmering Details"; see also the Jelenkor publicity page).
       Her comments about the translation, and comparing Esterházy and Nádas, are interesting:
I thought it would be less exacting than translating Péter Esterházy’s texts. I thought wrong. From the frying pan into the fire. Nádas is every bit as challenging as Esterházy, with whom he was good friends, except the challenge is of a different nature, as so my response as a translator must be different, too. While Esterházy (attention: oversimplification!) strives for non-intellectual effects, Nádas is intellectual to the core; he is internal and introspective, while Esterházy is external, something of an exhibitionist, enjoying his manipulation of language; while Nádas is basically literal and linear, Esterházy is basically suggestive and often seemingly ad hoc. Their communicative drive points in different directions, and it takes extreme caution on my part not to confuse the two languages and intentions and to protect the integrity of the original. So yes, after having translated Esterházy for so long, I find the Nádas text particularly testing.
       And see also the authors and works she'd like to translate and see translated, at the end of the interview -- and, just think:
I also have large chunks of four books by Esterházy on a pen drive, Esti, Revised Edition, Simple Story Comma One Hundred Pages: the Mark Variant, and Pancreatic Diary, a record of his illness and so much more besides.

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

       Trends in Pashto literature

       In Dawn Sher Alam Shinwari reports that 2017 witnesses significant rise in Pashto prose books.
       Yes, after about: "2,500 books had been published in the 2016 with 70 per cent Pashto poetry books" some 3,500 titles came out in 2017 -- and 2,500 of those were prose.
       Poet Amjad Ali Khadim's reaction was:
He said that writing a prose book was not everybody’s cup of tea. He said that similarly reading a prose title needed a high degree of understanding and patience.
       Presumably much of the prose isn't fiction, but rather non -- i.e. not literary (as surely pretty much all the poetry is) -- but an overall increase in titles seems like a positive.

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

       Coming in 2018, in the US

       The 2018 book previews to look for are The Millions' annual 'Most Anticipated: The Great 2018 Book Preview'-feature (for the more commercial stuff) and Scott Esposito's 'Interesting New Books - 2018'-feature at his Conversational Reading weblog (for the more interesting, generally smaller/independent press titles), both of which should be appearing in the coming weeks.
       Meanwhile, however, big (and big-publisher-books-dominated) lists are already appearing all over. Bigger ones include:        Among more targeted lists, see for example R.O. Kwon's of 46 Books By Women of Color to Read in 2018 at Electric Literature.

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

26 December 2017 - Tuesday

Crossword Book Awards finalists | Time of Desecration review

       Crossword Book Awards finalists

       The Indian Crossword Book Awards come as both 'Popular Choice Awards', where readers can vote for their favorites in six categories at the official site, and 'Jury Awards' in four categories.
       The finalists for the 'Jury Awards' -- the more 'serious' prize, presumably, are, oddly, not listed at the official site, but were announced last week; see, for example, the helpful overview.
       Three of the categories are found in both the popular and the jury awards (fiction, non, and kids' stuff) -- and, surprisingly, there is no overlap whatsoever between the finalists: each award has a different set of five in each category.
       The jury prize also has a Translation-category (the popular one doesn't ...), with two translations from the Malayalam, and one each from Marathi, Hindi, and Kannada. Impressively, Jerry Pinto is a jury prize finalist both for a work of fiction (Murder in Mahim), and as translator (of Malika Amar Shaikh's I Want to Destroy Myself).
       See also Harsimran Gill's A reader's guide to the five books on the fiction shortlist of the Crossword Book Jury Awards.

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

       Time of Desecration review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alberto Moravia's 1978 novel, Time of Desecration.

       US/UK critical judgement was pretty harsh when it came out in translation (in 1980) -- for the most part, justifiably so. It is not very good. (It is a novel entirely in dialogue -- a form I have a big weak spot for.)

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

25 December 2017 - Monday

Translations from the ... Malayalam | Mörikes Schlüsselbein review

       Translations from the ... Malayalam

       In Looking for a worldwide impact, in the New Indian Express, Shevlin Sebastian reports on the Malayalam University Translation Initiative.
       Chancellor of the Malayalam University K Jayakumar saw an opportunity:
"Thanks to globalisation, there is an interest in lesser-known literature across the world," he says. "So the plan is to promote Malayalam literature through English translations."
       By guaranteeing: "the university would buy 300 copies of the first edition", he was able to bring publishers on board -- and one hopes that it will meet with continued success. Though, yes: "increasingly, the committee feels that they need more financial resources and support from the state government" .....

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

       Mörikes Schlüsselbein review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Olga Martynova's Mörikes Schlüsselbein.

       Martynova won the 2012 Ingeborg Bachmann-Preis for an excerpt from this work, and has an interesting background -- Russian-born, she moved to Germany, and writes fiction in German and poetry in Russian. I'm a bit surprised this critically very well-received title hasn't been picked up in the US/UK (or, it appears, much elsewhere), but one can see how it can be a hard summary-sell -- the appeal is in the totality of the book, and the writing. Indeed, several of the German reviewers pointed out how inadequate the publisher-copy was, reducing the story -- of a novel that isn't easily reducible.

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

24 December 2017 - Sunday

'BTBA Gift Guide' | Romain Rolland Book Prize finalists
Best of ... in South Africa

       'BTBA Gift Guide'

       The (American) Best Translated Book Award begins its weekly postings by judges with a collective BTBA Gift Guide -- judge P.T.Smith explaining:
These are books that have stood out to each of us, whether for personal reasons or in ways that make them just right for certain types of people and readers. We've also indulged ourselves, including a book that's not eligible for the award, but still so good that some people should be buying or receiving a copy this year.
       So, a fun first hint at what might be in the running for the prize -- and lots of good book recommendations.

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

       Romain Rolland Book Prize finalists

       There was a French-German one a few years ago, the Romain-Rolland-Preis für deutsch-französische Literaturübersetzungen, but that seemed to be a one-and-done effort. But now there's a new Romain Rolland Book Prize -- established by 'Bonjour India', and to: "be given to the best translation of a French work of contemporary and classical fiction into any of the Indian languages including English", which will be awarded for the first time at the upcoming Jaipur Literature Festival.
       They've now announced the shortlist -- though apparently not yet at the official site. But see, for example, the Press Trust of India report
       Good to see translations into a variety of languages, including Patrick Modiano into Hindi and J.M.G. Le Clézio into Tamil.

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

       Best of ... in South Africa

       The Sunday Times (South Africa) offers an extensive list, 'with an emphasis on excellent local authors', in Our guide to the best holiday reads.

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

23 December 2017 - Saturday

2017 in books in ... India | International reads - 2017 and 2018
Heavens on Earth review

       2017 in books in ... India

       2017: The year when fiction returned to the fore in Indian publishing the IANS report has it (here at the New Indian Express), with comments from several publishers.
       Meanwhile, see also critics' and authors' favorites at the Hindustan Times (HT contributors pick their most interesting reads of 2017) and Open (Best Books of 2017: My Choice).

       (Updated - 24 December): See now also The 10 best fiction reads of 2017 in The Hindu, and These are the books that some of India's most acclaimed authors will be reading in 2018 at

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

       International reads - 2017 and 2018

       At Words Without Borders' Dispatches weblog they offer both Our Favorite International Reads from 2017 (and What We'll Be Reading in 2018) -- a nice little overview of some of this year's highlights and preview of some of the international titles to look forward to in the coming months.
       Quite a few of the 2017 titles named are under review at the complete review -- and I'm pleased to see that I already have copies of some of the promising-looking forthcoming ones (and one is already under review: Dag Solstad's Armand V).

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

       Heavens on Earth review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Carmen Boullosa's 1997 novel, Heavens on Earth, recently out in English, from Deep Vellum.

       (And, no, this isn't the Heavens on Earth reviewed in this week(end)'s The New York Times Book Review.)

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

22 December 2017 - Friday

Sahitya Akademi awards | Favorite Arabic-author reads | Greek literary prizes

       Sahitya Akademi awards

       Sahitya Akademi -- the Indian National Academy of Letters -- has announced their prestigious annual literary awards (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) and their translation prizes (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       The literary awards admirably reflect how multi-lingual India (and its authors) are, with prizes for works in each of twenty-four languages -- including Sanskrit.
       The English-language prize went to The Black Hill, by Mamang Dai; see the Aleph publicity page, or get your copy at or
       Good to see that from-English does not completely dominate the translation prizes, with a great deal being translated between other Indian languages.
       The English-translation prize went to Ranjita Biswas, for her translation from the Assamese of Arupa Patangia Kalita's Written in Tears; see the HarperCollins India publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Favorite Arabic-author reads

       Arabic Literature (in English) has gathered 22 Arab Authors on Their Favorite Reads of 2017
       Always interesting to see what writers are reading -- and while Arabic writing dominates, there's quite a bit of international variety mixed in, too (as one would hope).

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

       Greek literary prizes

       They recently announced some of the major Greek literary prizes.
       The Athens Prize for Literature for best Greek novel went to Konstantinos Tzamiotis's Το πέρασμα; see also the Μεταίχμιο publicity page, as well as information about the author at the Iris literary agency.
       The Athens Prize for Literature for for best book translated into Greek went to Confessions, the international bestseller by Jaume Cabré, translated from the Catalan -- beating out works by Elena Ferrante, Amos Oz, Jonathan Franzen, and Julian Barnes, among others.
       Theodoros Grigoriadis has the useful (Greek) run-down of the Athens Prize for Literature at his weblog -- and Theodoros Grigoriadis took the best novel award, for his Ζωή μεθόρια (see also the Πατάκη publicity page), at the State Prize for Literature ! Among the other books and authors honored: Vassilis Vassilikos got the grand prize (Μεγαλο Βραβειο Γραμματων), for his lifetime achievement .

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

21 December 2017 - Thursday

New issue of World Literature Today | PEN America Literary Awards longlists
Man Booker Prize for Fiction judges | 'Worst fiction of 2017'

       New issue of World Literature Today

       The January-February 2018 issue of World Literature Today is now available, with a main theme of: 'Words Matter: Writing as Inspired Resistance'.
       As always, don't forget the extensive WLT Book Reviews.

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

       PEN America Literary Awards longlists

       They've announced the longlists for the 2018 PEN America Literary Awards, in seven categories that range from 'debut fiction' to 'literary sports writing' (both of which pay out more than the PEN Translation Prize does ...).
       Only three of the ten longlisted translation prize titles are under review at the complete review:        The finalists will be announced in January; the winners on 20 February.

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

       Man Booker Prize for Fiction judges

       They've announced the judges for the 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, with the panel to be chaired by Kwame Anthony Appiah and including author Val McDermid and critic Leo Robson. An interesting mix .....

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

       'Worst fiction of 2017'

       Steve Donoghue ends the year with top ten lists in a variety of categories -- including worst of the year -- and has now posted his The Worst Books of 2017: Fiction !
       Sjón's Moonstone is apparently year-transcending in its awfulness -- he had it as the second-worst title last year, and it shares top honors this year .....

       I do wish more people/critics would call out their disappointments of the year and the like like this. (Well, not necessarily like this, but you know what I mean .....)

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

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