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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 September 2018

1 September: Indian literary prizes | Seagull Books profile | Chaka review
2 September: New Words without Borders | Prix Transfuge | Lucky Per, the movie
3 September: Vernacular literature | Litprom-Bestenliste | The Gravediggers' Bread review
4 September: Premio FIL de Literatura | Reading into North Korean literature ... | Allegories of the Iliad review | The last 100 reviews
5 September: (American) National Translation Awards shortlists | Narrator review
6 September: Longlists: JCB Prize for Literature - Österreichischer Buchpreis | Ottaway Award | The Black Cauldron review
7 September: Literature Translation Institute of Korea profile | Netanya review
8 September: Goncourt and Renaudot longlists | Amit Chaudhuri Q & A
9 September: Restless Books profile | Kafka's Last Trial review
10 September: Solaris on stage | Wang Meng on the (Chinese) classics

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10 September 2018 - Monday

Solaris on stage | Wang Meng on the (Chinese) classics

       Solaris on stage

       Stanisław Lem's Solaris has been filmed twice -- by Andrei Tarkovsky (1972) and Steven Soderbergh (2002) -- and now as, for example Thom Dibdin report in The Stage, David Greig to adapt Solaris for the stage.
       The English version of Lem's novel is, infamously, only available (in print) in the Kilmartin-Cox translation that is from the French translation of the original (get your copy, if you really have to, at or Bill Johnston has translated it directly from the Polish -- but that edition is only available as an audio book, or an e-book (get your Kindle-copy at or .....

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

       Wang Meng on the (Chinese) classics

       I recently reviewed Wang Meng's Bolshevik Salute, and in China Daily Yang Yang reports on a four-pack of books on ancient Chinese philosophers by the author that are being published next month, in Decoding the classics.
       It's apparently an ambitious project:
the plan is to hire 15 Sinologists to work on translating them, and publish the series in 33 countries around the world
       Presumably they'll eventually appear in English too -- it'll be interesting to see whether there's any interest in this sort of thing. (Personally, I'd rather see more of his fiction in translation .....)

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

9 September 2018 - Sunday

Restless Books profile | Kafka's Last Trial review

       Restless Books profile

       In Publishers Weekly Calvin Reid reports on how Brooklyn-based Restless Books Taps a World of Writing.
       Quite a few books from Restless Books are under review at the complete review -- lots that's very good, including Spiró György's Captivity, Ricardo Piglia's The Diaries of Emilio Renzi: Formative Years (with the next volume soon to come), and Alejandro Jodorowsky's Albina and the Dog-Men.

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

       Kafka's Last Trial review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Benjamin Balint's Kafka's Last Trial: The Case of a Literary Legacy.

       This case -- of Max Brod's papers, including lots of Kafka originals, that had been in the estate of Esther Hoffe -- made its way through the Israeli courts over years, and I mentioned it at various stages; great to see a book covering the whole mess (even if it, too, is a bit messy -- but pretty thorough and far-ranging).

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

8 September 2018 - Saturday

Goncourt and Renaudot longlists | Amit Chaudhuri Q & A

       Goncourt and Renaudot longlists

       They announced the longlists for the prix Renaudot earlier this week, and yesterday they announced the (first) longlist for the prix Goncourt (which goes through four rounds -- there will be a shorter longlist, announced 2 October, then a four-title shortlist, announced 30 October, and then the announcement of the winner, on 7 November).
       These are the two leading French book-prizes, and with seventeen novels in the Renaudot-running, and fifteen up for the Goncourt, give a decent overview of what are considered the leading titles this fall season. (Note that the Goncourt is a one-time prize, i.e. no authors who have previously won are eligible, so one can always expect to see a lot of new names there -- and five of the titles are actually first novels.)
       There's fairly little overlap between the Goncourt and Renaudot lists -- just three titles: Adeline Dieudonné's La vraie vie, David Diop's Frère d'âme, and Gilles Martin-Chauffier's L'ère des suspects.
       As best I can tell, none of the prix Goncourt-longlisted authors have had any of their work published in English.

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

       Amit Chaudhuri Q & A

       In this week's 'Books that made me'-column in The Guardian Amit Chaudhuri weighs in -- including with:
The book I think is most underrated
All literatures outside western ones are wilfully underrated, even if they are among the most creative literary traditions in the world. Even when we're aware of them, we see them as part of a history of ethnicity rather than of literature.
       I hope that's a bit of an exaggeration, but certainly there is a lot of literature outside western ones that deserves a lot more attention. (But if you're seeing that solely as 'part of a history of ethnicity' you're doing it wrong.)

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

7 September 2018 - Friday

Literature Translation Institute of Korea profile
Netanya review

       Literature Translation Institute of Korea profile

       In Like BTS, can Korean literature be globally embraced ? in The Korea Herald Im Eun-byel talks with Kim Sa-in, head of the Literature Translation Institute of Korea.
       He suggests:
The overall problem, according to Kim, is the lack of translators. Kim explained that there are not many literary translators who could be given a project with full trust. The situation with English might be better, but for other languages, there are not many choices, he said.
       Interestingly, he is a poet -- "the first person with a background in writing literature to take up the post" -- but:
Having studied Korean literature, he is not proficient in English, today's lingua franca. But he does not think that his lack of English will pose a hurdle in his duties.

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

       Netanya review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Dror Burstein's Netanya.

       Burstein's Muck is due out in November from Farrar, Straus and Giroux -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at or I expect to be getting to that one, too.

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

6 September 2018 - Thursday

Longlists: JCB Prize for Literature - Österreichischer Buchpreis
Ottaway Award | The Black Cauldron review

       JCB Prize for Literature

       The JCB Prize for Literature, a new Indian prize for: "a distinguished work of fiction by an Indian author", written in or translated into English, has announced its inaugural longlist of ten titles.
       A few of the books have been available -- and attracted attention -- in the US/UK, such as The Book of Chocolate Saints by Jeet Thayil and All the Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy, and several of the authors are familiar from earlier work, notably Kiran Nagarkar and (ninety-one-year-old !) Nayantara Sahgal; I haven't seen any of these (though, of course, I'd like to ...).
       Two of the longlisted works are translations: Jasmine Days by Goat Days-author Benyamin, and Poonachi by Perumal Murugan.
       The shortlist will be announced 3 October, and the winner on the 27th.

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

       Österreichischer Buchpreis

       Twenty titles made the longlist for the German Book Prize, but only one of them was by an Austrian author -- Unter der Drachenwand, by Arno Geiger (see the Hanser foreign rights page) -- but since 2016 the Austrians have their own book prize, and they've now announced the ten-title-strong longlist for that, selected from 150 entries.
       The Geiger also makes this cut, as does the latest by Robert Seethaler; among authors who have books translated into English who also made the longlist are Josef Winkler and Milena Michiko Flašar.
       The shortlist will be announce 9 October.

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

       Ottaway Award

       Words without Borders has announced that: "Chad W. Post, director of Open Letter Books and managing editor of Three Percent, will receive the 2018 Words Without Borders Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature"; he gets to pick up the prize on 30 October, at the Words without Borders 15th anniversary gala.
       Certainly deserved -- Chad is incredibly (pro)active in his support for and promotion of literature in translation, and has been for many years now.

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

       The Black Cauldron review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Faroese writer William Heinesen's 1949 novel, The Black Cauldron.
       Dedalus first brought this out in 1992, but have just re-issued it -- and are committed to publishing all seven of Heinesen's novels in W.Glyn Jones' translations, with the final one, Noatun, expected next year.

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

5 September 2018 - Wednesday

(American) National Translation Awards shortlists | Narrator review

       (American) National Translation Awards shortlists

       The American Literary Translators Association has announced the shortlists for its 2018 National Translation Awards, in poetry and fiction.
       The fiction finalists are:
  • Compass, by Mathias Énard, tr. Charlotte Mandell
  • Dandelions, by Kawabata Yasunari, tr. Michael Emmerich
  • Ghachar Ghochar, by Vivek Shanbhag, tr. Srinath Perur
  • The Impossible Fairy Tale, by Han Yujoo, tr. Janet Hong
  • Old Rendering Plant, by Wolfgang Hilbig, tr. Isabel Fargo Cole
  • Swallowing Mercury, by Wioletta Greg, tr. Eliza Marciniak
       Meanwhile, The Odyssey (in Emily Wilson's translation) made the poetry-shortlist ! (Remember: the NTA is the prize that prides itself on its: "rigorous examination of both the source text and its relation to the finished English work".)
       The winners will be announced at ALTA's annual conference this fall.

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

       Narrator review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Bragi Ólafsson's Narrator, just out from Open Letter.
       This is the third Bragi title they've published; always good to see publishers sticking to and building up an author like this over the years.

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

4 September 2018 - Tuesday

Premio FIL de Literatura | Reading into North Korean literature ...
Allegories of the Iliad review | The last 100 reviews

       Premio FIL de Literatura

       The US$150,000 Premio FIL de Literatura en Lenguas Romances is awarded "for lifetime achievement in any literary genre" to an author writing in a Romance language, and it has a solid track record of winners -- the previous five (2013-7), for example, being Yves Bonnefoy, Claudio Magris, Enrique Vila-Matas, Norman Manea, and Emmanuel Carrère -- and they've now announced that this year's prize will go (at the Guadalajara International Book Fair this November) to Uruguayan poet Ida Vitale (who will have just turned 95 when she picks it up ...).
       She's not very well-known in the English-speaking world, but you can sample four of her poems at Bomb, and Salt did publish her Garden of Silica a while back -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at or -- and you can also get the collection Reason Enough; get your copy at or

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

       Reading into North Korean literature ...

       Sonia Ryang's Ethnological Inquiry, Reading North Korea, offers an interesting glimpse of North Korean literature, and the weblog North Korean Literature in English -- "Interpreting North Korean fiction for a foreign audience" -- is well worth following -- and now Peter Ward writes at NK News on How N. Korean literature offers hints at major agricultural reforms taking place.
       Of course, it's a sign of how hard it is to figure out anything about North Korea and its regime's plans (and actions) that foreigners are reduced to trying to read things into the local creative writing -- even agricultural policy ! -- but in the absence of better tea-leaves, why not ? In any case, it's always interesting to read about more North Korean fiction -- though, of course, what I'd really like is to be able to read that North Korean fiction .....

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

       Allegories of the Iliad review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of John Tzetzes' twelfth-century Allegories of the Iliad, a volume in the impressive Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library-series from Harvard University Press.

       The main reason I picked this up is because among the books I've gotten in the past few months that I'm really curious about is the new Loeb-edition translation of Quintus Smyrnaeus' Posthomerica (see their publicity page, or get your copy at or That's the fill-in story covering the events between the Iliad and the Odyssey, so I figured it would be good to prepare with a recap of Iliad, and among the books on my shelves this sounded like an intriguing variation on that. (Yes, of course I should actually go back to the Iliad itself .....) Beyond that, it turns out that Tzetzes was quite the character himself (and he even wrote his own Posthomerica -- though Quintus Smyrnaeus', which is also from much closer to Homer's times, sounds more fun).
       (Verdict: worthwhile, but not nearly as helpful as I hoped in its Iliad-recapping; a lot happens in the Iliad, and there's a large cast of characters, and, honestly, the allegorizing spin on top of all that is more distracting than insightful.)
       Other interesting titbits: it was originally commissioned for or by the Bavarian Bertha von Sulzbach -- when she went to Byzantium to marry, becoming the empress Eirene.

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

       The last 100 reviews

       A few days ago I reached 4200 books under review at the complete review, so it's time for another overview of the past 100 reviewed titles.

       - The last 100 reviews were posted over a 191 days -- a considerably longer period than the previous 100 (163 days) -- but totaling a stunning 113,529 words (more than 14,000 more than the previous hundred -- meaning the average review was a whole 140 words longer); the longest review was 4040 words, and ten reviews were over 1500 words long.
       The reviewed books had a total of 26,080 pages (previous hundred: 25,555).

       - Reviewed books were originally written in 28 different languages (including English; previous hundred: 23), with English (just) topping the field with 17, ahead of French (16) and German (10). One new language was added -- Uzbek -- bringing the total number of languages covered to 74. (See also the updated full breakdown of all the languages books under review were originally written in.)

       - Reviewed books were by authors from 41 countries (previous 100: 34), again led by France (12), followed by Japan (9) and Norway (8).

       - Yet again, male-written books were overwhelmingly dominant -- 82 of the reviewed books were written by men (improving the horribly sexist average of written-by-women titles under review ever so slightly, to ... 15.90 per cent).

       - Only one book received a grade of 'A': Carlos Rojas' The Valley of the Fallen. The lowest rating was a 'C', assigned to one title, while four were ungraded.

       - Fiction dominated, as it always does, with 85 titles that were novels/novellas/stories.

       And, as always, there are all sorts of areas, languages, genres, etc. that I wish I'd read more of/from.

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

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3 September 2018 - Monday

Vernacular literature | Litprom-Bestenliste | The Gravediggers' Bread review

       Vernacular literature

       In the Daily Nation they argue Publishers have a key role in saving vernacular literature, wondering
What is the future of literature in vernacular in Kenya when all the publishers have developed set minds that publishing in vernacular is not worth any commercial effort. Even the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation does not touch publishing in vernacular despite being a national cultural foundation.
       Disappointing to hear:
I have confronted leading publishers in Kenya, asking; "Aren't you even worse than the colonial government in publishing anything worthwhile in our national languages ?" Their answer has been the same; "That is a commercially unviable field."

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


       They've announced the fall 2018 Litprom-Bestenliste, the quarterly list of recommended books from Africa, Asia, and Latin America that have recently been translated into German.
       The top title, Dima Wannous' The Frightened, isn't available in English yet, but is apparently forthcoming; see also the RAYA information page.

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

       The Gravediggers' Bread review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Frédéric Dard's The Gravediggers' Bread.

       This is the latest of the 1950s non-San-Antonio Dards that Pushkin Press has been bringing out the past few years -- great to see these in English.

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

2 September 2018 - Sunday

New Words without Borders | Prix Transfuge | Lucky Per, the movie

       New Words without Borders

       Georgia is the 'Guest of Honour' at the Frankfurt Book Fair this fall -- see also the official Georgia Made by Characters site -- and so it's great to see that the September issue of Words without Borders has a theme of 'The Past in the Present: Writing from Georgia'.
       A few Georgian titles are under review at the complete review, but there's far too little that's readily available in English. Hopefully some US/UK publishers will sign up some titles at the book fair .....

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

       Prix Transfuge

       The French magazine Transfuge awards a 'prix Transfuge' in sixteen categories -- including best novel written in French, as well as best European, American, Israeli, Arabic, African, and Spanish(-language) novel. Always interesting to see what international fiction attracts attention in other languages.
       Nothing about it at the official site, last I checked, but see the full list of winners at Livres Hebdo.

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

       Lucky Per, the movie

       They've apparently made a movie based on Nobel laureate Henrik Pontoppidan's Lucky Per -- directed by Bille August and with an English title of A Fortunate Man, and just released in Denmark; see the Trust Nordisk information page.
       It's apparently one of three films the Danes are considering for their Academy Award-submission; since August previously won best foreign film with another classic-adaptation, Pelle the Conqueror, he probably has the inside track.

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

1 September 2018 - Saturday

Indian literary prizes | Seagull Books profile | Chaka review

       Indian literary prizes

       Several prizes honoring Indian fiction have established themselves over the years, and the Crossword Book Awards have a non-fiction category, among others, but it's good to see there's now a dedicated non-fiction book award, the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize, run by the New India Foundation -- and they've just announced their shortlist.
       Meanwhile, the JCB Prize for Literature is set to announce its longlist next week (5 September) -- and so at livemint Somak Ghoshal and Radhika Iyengar take a closer look at both of these and consider: Can the two new literary prizes give wind to publishing in India ?
       I'm not usually a fan of entry-quotas, such as the Man Booker's, limiting how many books any given publisher can submit (using a complex formula that further complicates matters, in that case), but I do like that the JCB Prize, in setting its quotas, allows each publisher/imprint to submit up to two works originally written in English, and up to two works translated into English (the quotas being non-transferable); see the official rules (warning ! dreaded pdf format !). Apparently, this has worked out really well:
Dasgupta said 22% of the submissions this year are translations and the number is expected to rise to 50-60% in the coming years. “Already we know publishers are focusing on more translations to fulfil their quota for next year.”
       Sounds good !

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

       Seagull Books profile

       At Verve Sholeen Damarwala profiles Naveen Kishore and his Seagull Books, in A Midwife's Tale.
       Certainly a publisher whose books are always worth checking out (and many of them -- though not nearly as many as I'd like -- are under review at the complete review.)

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

       Chaka review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Thomas Mofolo's early-twentieth-century Sesotho classic, Chaka.
       An unusual work of historical/biographical fiction -- but certainly worth a look.

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

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