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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 August 2018

1 August: Children's literature in ... Nepal(i)
2 August: New Words without Borders | Kruso review
3 August: Sara Danius' book on Dylan | Royal Society Science Book Prize shortlist | Desirable Body review
4 August: Cossery comic in Arabic | Ricarda-Huch-Preis
5 August: MT Vasudevan Nair profile | Taiwan Literature Awards for Migrants | Nirmal Verma's The World Elsewhere
6 August: Tagore and the US | Johannes Mario Simmel reviews
7 August: Singapore Literature Prize(s) | Deutscher Science-Fiction-Preis
8 August: Hermann Kesten-Preis | Trilogy review
9 August: Khoury on Al Aswany | Visa issues at Edinburgh International Book Festival
10 August: Shanghai Translation Publishing House at 40 | Translation in ... Malta | Crashed review

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10 August 2018 - Friday

Shanghai Translation Publishing House at 40
Translation in ... Malta | Crashed review

       Shanghai Translation Publishing House at 40

       The Shanghai Translation Publishing House, the leading publisher of foreign literature in translation in China, is celebrating its fortieth anniversary, including with an exhibition at the Sinan Mansions through 28 August.
       At Shine Xu Qin writes about the Shanghai publisher's 40th birthday book bash.

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

       Translation in ... Malta

       So, in Malta they're trying really hard to make the works of Dun Karm Psaila (1871-1961; author of the Maltese national anthem, and with his own room at the Mdina Metropolitan Cathedral Museum) accessible to readers in other languages -- a matter of such significance to them that:
The pledge to have Psaila translated in five different languages was made in the Labour Party's electoral manifesto.
       In the electoral manifesto ! Politics really is different in some places .....
       James Debono reports on this -- and the difficulties the project faces -- in the fascinating Situation vacant: Mandarin translator for Dun Karm, as, unsurprisingly;
The biggest challenge for the National Book Council with regards to translations is that excluding the English language, there are "very few qualified translators who can translate from Maltese to other languages," [council chairman Mark] Camilleri said.
       Indeed, they realize that:
If we fail to find people who can translate from Maltese to other languages, we will have to unfortunately resort to translating from the English bridge translation, however, this is an option which I am trying to avoid
       Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

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

       Crashed review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Adam Tooze on How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World, Crashed -- a rare non-translated work, of non-fiction no less, under review, and a book that's actually already (it's just out) getting a whole lot of review-attention.

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

9 August 2018 - Thursday

Khoury on Al Aswany | Visa issues at Edinburgh International Book Festival

       Khoury on Al Aswany

       At Elias Khoury salutes Al Aswany's courage, as he: 'pays tribute to Alaa Al Aswany's new novel as the only comprehensive literary chronicle of the January 2011 Egyptian revolution'.
       The The Yacoubian Building-author's new novel is جمهورية كأن‎ ('The So-called Republic'), which has been out in Arabic for a couple of months -- see also the Dar Al Adab publicity page --, but is not (yet) available in English.
       "Al-Aswany's success is a positive reflection on our narrative literature", Khoury finds.

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

       Visa issues at Edinburgh International Book Festival

       The Edinburgh International Book Festival runs 11 through 27 August and expects over 900 authors to appear -- but some of them apparently are having a harder time than others getting there, thanks to British Home Office issues, as, as for example Sian Cain reports in The Guardian, Home Office refuses visas for authors invited to Edinburgh book festival.
       No names, alas, and it's unclear whether any or how many authors would actually be prevented from appearing at the festival, but it's still disturbing.
       Still, admirable of the Home Office to provide a means of festivals avoiding much of this hassle by getting themselves designated a permit free festival -- which, for some reason (?) the EIBF has not applied for ("Barley said that while the festival could apply to be added to the permit-free list, he hoped other festivals across the UK would come together to campaign for a new system" -- fair enough, but why not work the system that's in place currently while trying to change it ?).

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

8 August 2018 - Wednesday

Hermann Kesten-Preis | Trilogy review

       Hermann Kesten-Preis

       They've announced that the €10,000 Hermann Kesten Award, presented by PEN Germany "for outstanding efforts in support of persecuted writers according to the principles of the Charter of PEN International", will go (on 15 November) to Gioconda Belli this year.
       Several of her works have been translated into English; check out, for example, The Scroll of Seduction (even Entertainment Weekly reviewed this, back in the day ("While the setup is a smidge hokey, once the alternating narratives are established the novel gallops along")) -- see the Harper Collins publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Trilogy review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jon Fosse's Nordic Council Literature Prize-winning Trilogy -- and the three separate volumes that make up the trilogy:        Given that the whole trilogy fits in and is published in one thin (147 page) volume in the English translation, even I would normally have just posted the one review -- but the three novellas were published separately, over quite a span (2007, 2012, and 2014), both in the original Norwegian as well as in other Scandinavian languages, and the French also published all three volumes separately, so there are actually a lot of reviews specific to each volume, so it seemed sensible and worthwhile to also offer separate review pages for each (as well as one for the whole thing ...).

       Dalkey Archive Press brought this out in late 2016, and I'm pretty shocked and disappointed at how little coverage it has gotten in the US/UK (essentially none). Fosse has been touted as a Nobel front-runner for a couple of years now, and he is one of the most widely performed living playwrights in the world (yeah, not in the US -- but come on, they're up to volume six of his plays in the Oberon Modern Playwrights series ...), and he's a truly significant author -- also (though this is obviously one of the problems with popularizing his work) because his work is so distinctive: there isn't much fiction like this being written nowadays. Dalkey have done an incredible job bringing out quite a bit of his major work in recent years -- though that too may be part of the problem, too much available at once ...? But maybe/hopefully it is just a question of a critical mass of his work being available and circulating before he finally really takes off in English .....
       With Fitzcarraldo Editions now also jumping on board -- they published Scenes from a Childhood in the UK in May and it's coming to the US in November (see their publicity page, or get your copy at or and they're committed to his larger-scale in-the-works Septology (see the Books from Norway information page), which could be his break-out work (?) -- maybe he'll actually catch on. (Then again, Scenes from a Childhood hasn't exactly been showered with press coverage in the UK so far either .....)
       He's certainly an author that should be more widely read and better known -- and from the sounds of it, given the (re-)use of names and places familiar from Trilogy in Septology, you probably want to check this one out before plunging into that one.

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

7 August 2018 - Tuesday

Singapore Literature Prize(s) | Deutscher Science-Fiction-Preis

       Singapore Literature Prize(s)

       They've announced the winners of this year's Singapore Literature Prize(s), and while the official site only has all the shortlisted titles-information at this time, Toh Wen Li's piece in The Straits Times, Jeremy Tiang wins Singapore Literature Prize in English fiction category for novel on leftist movements, has an overview, and lists all the winners (scroll down) -- as the prize admirably has multiple language and form categories. (Some categories did not have 'top winners', however -- no stand-outs in fiction in Malay and fiction in Tamil, for example.)
       Jeremy Tiang's State of Emergency took the English-language fiction prize; see also the Epigram publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Deutscher Science-Fiction-Preis

       The Science Fiction Club Deutschland has announced this year's winners of the German Science Fiction Prize -- to be awarded 22 September -- and the award for best German science fiction novel will go to Marc-Uwe Kling's QualityLand.
       This books has its own website, and there's also some English-language information about both author and book at his agent's site -- where the most interesting thing is where foreign rights to this have been sold to so far (though that 335,000 copies sold so far is also impressive). No English language edition on the horizon yet (though the site notes, in bold type: "Complete English translation available") -- but publishers in Japan, Kuwait (!), and Turkey have it forthcoming; hardly the three languages I would have expected to be first up, translation-wise.

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

6 August 2018 - Monday

Tagore and the US | Johannes Mario Simmel reviews

       Tagore and the US

       A fascinating piece -- with lots of great pictures -- at, as Tisha Mondal and Judy Luis-Watson report on Why the US government maintained records on Rabindranath Tagore -- and what they say (originally published at the National Archives' weblog).
       Among the pictures: a 'Draft of President Kennedy's letter for the centenary celebration of Tagore's birth', and a: 'Memo concerning the need for the United States to position itself prominently in Tagore's centenary celebration'.
       Those were the days .....

       A decent but confusing variety of Tagore works are readily available in the US/UK -- a nice collected edition, or at least more uniform editions would be welcome/helpful. Still, there are even a few Penguin Classics volumes -- get, for example, the Selected Short Stories at or
       The only Tagore under review at the complete review is Farewell my Friend, though I do hope to get to more.

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

       Johannes Mario Simmel reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two early novels by bestselling author Johannes Mario Simmel:        These two 1950 books weren't his first published works, but the only earlier ones -- Mich wundert, daß ich so fröhlich bin and Das geheime Brot have been a bit more lasting; these two seem never to have been reprinted and are barely known. Volumes in the Bären-Bücher novel-series (19 and 21), Worldcat doesn't even list any American library having a copy in their holdings (though an Australian library does have one of them ...); they're among the obscurest/rarest books I've reviewed at the site .....
       Yet Simmel is one of the best selling German-writing authors of all times. His books sold tens of millions, and topped the bestseller lists for months on end; I can recall in 1970s Austria it seemed every household had books of his lying around.
       He was also reasonably well translated into English in the 1960s and 70s, though he never seemed to really break through (though several were reviewed in, for example, The New York Times Book Review). The US editions are now all long out of print, but there are still a lot of copies floating around (get, for example, Double Agent - Triple Cross at
       He's no must-read great author, but he wrote a lot of very entertaining books -- higher caliber pop fiction, including some solid treatment of more serious themes, usually very capably dressed up as thrillers --, and I've read practically everything of his -- which is why I also have now gotten to these two hard to find apprentice works, and I'm not sorry I did. (But, yes, you're not missing too much with these two.)

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

5 August 2018 - Sunday

MT Vasudevan Nair profile | Taiwan Literature Awards for Migrants
Nirmal Verma's The World Elsewhere

       MT Vasudevan Nair profile

       In the New Indian Express Anil S profiles MT Vasudevan Nair, as The legend turns 85
       The only one of his books I've been able to get my hands on is Bhima.

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

       Taiwan Literature Awards for Migrants

       This seems like a pretty neat idea, and this is already the fifth time they've done this, as, as the Taiwan News reports, Winners of Taiwan Literature Awards for Migrants announced, with eight winning pieces chosen from 553 (!) entries.

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

       Nirmal Verma's The World Elsewhere

       Nice to see some coverage of how Hindi writer Nirmal Verma's stories from the 1960s give us people in love with loneliness, in Oindrila Mukherjee's piece continuing a 'series on all-but-forgotten books with a journey through Verma's The World Elsewhere and Other Stories'.
       This came out in a Readers International edition -- and even got a review in The New York Times Book Review (though Carolyn See had issues with the: "inept translations from several different persons, caught in the swinging doors of several national idioms, so that finally the language balks" ...) -- but Verma is definitely one of those significant authors that have slipped a bit through the cracks.

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

4 August 2018 - Saturday

Cossery comic in Arabic | Ricarda-Huch-Preis

       Cossery comic in Arabic

       At Mada Sherif Abdel Samad writes about how a New Arabic translation gives Golo’s adaptation of Albert Cossery's Proud Beggars more layers of life.
       While Cossery was born in Cairo and later moved to France, Frenchman Golo moved to Egypt in his 20s and lived there for an extended period of time -- making him particularly well-suited, one assumes, to tackle Cossery's work.
       I still prefer the straight prose version -- Cossery's own Proud Beggars -- of course, but see also the Futuropolis publicity page for the original French graphic version.

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


       The triennial Ricarda Huch Prize has a decent winners list -- including Nobel laureates Herta Müller, way back in 1987, and Orhan Pamuk the year before he got the Nobel -- and they've now announced that this year's prize will go (on 3 October) to Ferdinand von Schirach.
       Two of his books are under review at the complete review: The Collini Case and The Girl Who Wasn't There.

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

3 August 2018 - Friday

Sara Danius' book on Dylan | Royal Society Science Book Prize shortlist
Desirable Body review

       Sara Danius' book on Dylan

       The Swedish Academy is currently embroiled in a far bigger and more institution-threatening crisis (see e.g. Andrew Brown's overview in The Guardian), but as far as their Nobel Prize-picking credibility goes (and let's face it, the fact that they pick the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature is pretty much all anyone cares about) I still think they did the prize and themselves near irreparable harm with their ridiculous 2016 selection. (Not that they haven't shown poor judgment on previous occasions -- including picking two of their own (though that was at least literarily more defensible), not to mention all the authors they've overlooked .....)
       Sara Danius was permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy at the time -- running the Nobel show, and the one who got to make the (jaw-dropping) announcement -- and while she has since left the position and the Academy (as part of the institution's ongoing ex- and implosion), she played a major part in the whole Dylan-spectacular (and was the public face of the Academy while Dylan played them for fools). Presumably in an attempt to defend, justify, and try to explain some of what happened, she's now gotten the jump on the journalists and scholars who want to write the definitive account of the farce that was -- not necessarily setting the record straight, but at least getting her spin out there first -- and written her very own book about it, Om Bob Dylan.
       Apparently originally published in a private Swedish Academy edition this winter, a Christmas present handout they prepare but which was not publicly available, today the commercial edition is coming out, from prestigious Swedish publisher Albert Bonniers; see also their publicity page.
       I'm guessing she treated the Academy deliberations as sacrosanctly inviolable (until the archives are opened, as is tradition, fifty years after the fact) -- it would have been (yet another) scandal if she hadn't -- , so there's probably little insight why they even started down this road (into the abyss ...) by making such a ridiculous selection, but apparently she does get into the whole comedy of errors that ensued (notably Dylan's ... recalcitrance about pretty much everything to do with the prize), as well as the media reactions, and she does try to make a case for why Dylan was deserving. (One almost has to admire her and them for sticking to their guns, and not admitting they made a howler of a mistake -- almost ... if it weren't for just how terrible that mistake was.)
       I do hope she mentions and reveals what she thought of this Dylan-cash-in (where they've now removed the part about charging US$2,500 a copy ...).
       I hope the book does get picked up abroad -- I am rather curious about it (to the extent that I am almost tempted to seek out the Swedish version and bumble through that ...).

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

       Royal Society Science Book Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize
       All six titles are or will be US-available (the Daniel M. Davis and Hannah Fry are only due out in the fall, the Mark Miodownik only next February) -- but god forbid they'd be published under the same titles: Lucy Cooke's The Unexpected Truth About Animals is simply The Truth About Animals (don't want to throw anything unexpected at American readers !), Mark Miodownik's Liquid will be puffed up to Liquid Rules, and Simon Winchester's Exactly is The Perfectionists.
       The winner will be announced 1 October.

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

       Desirable Body review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hubert Haddad's Desirable Body, just about out in English in the Yale University Press' Margellos World Republic of Letters-series.
       Fun premise: a man gets his head transplanted onto a new body.

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

2 August 2018 - Thursday

New Words without Borders | Kruso review

       New Words without Borders

       The August issue of Words without Borders is now up, with a focus on the: 'Crucible of Languages and Cultures: Writing from Macau', plus some: 'Short Stories from Panama'.

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

       Kruso review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lutz Seiler's Kruso, now out in a US edition too.

       This came out from Australian publisher Scribe -- yet another instance of an Australian publisher taking the lead in translation, as has been happening more often in recent years -- but they've had a UK presence for a while, and now also some US distribution. But this book, which has been out for a couple of weeks in the US now, has gotten terribly little attention here (and not that much in the UK either). This despite it having won the German Book Prize !
       Okay, the German Book Prize winners don't seem to have the greatest in-English track record, but still, it was widely praised and a great success in Germany, and it's a good and fairly significant book. What gives ?
       (When I posted the review yesterday, the German edition actually had a better sales rank (1,445,088) than the English US edition (1,756,479) .....)
       For all the apparent greater interest in works in translation, I'm still astonished how many of the significant works that I cover (and the many more that I too can't get to ...) get little or no American print-media notice, with the online community only picking up some of the slack. Disappointing.

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

1 August 2018 - Wednesday

Children's literature in ... Nepal(i)

       Children's literature in ... Nepal(i)

       This is pretty neat: The Kathmandu Post reports on World children's literature now in Nepali, as they held an event where:
The 80 participants at the event consisted of academics, authors, editors, librarians, teachers, volunteers and students who over the two days translated 60 children's books.
       They will now be available at the impressive Let's Read ! site, a: 'Digital library of children's books from around the world', available in a variety of languages.
       See also the Asia Foundation information page.

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

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