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the Literary Saloon at the Complete Review
opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review


The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 31 July 2021

21 July: Georg-Büchner-Preis | Sylvia Plath | Bullet Train review
22 July: Κρατικά Λογοτεχνικά Βραβεία 2020 | Arabic literature in translation | The Atom Station review
23 July: Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year | Noah Gordon | Dead Horse review
24 July: Slavenka Drakulić on Irena Vrkljan
25 July: Jabbour Douaihy (1949-2021)
26 July: Jeanette Winterson profile | The Illustrious House of Ramires review
27 July: Booker Prize longlist | Caine Prize | And Other Stories profile | Henri Vernes (1918-2021) | Chitambo review
28 July: Kawakami Mieko Q & A | The Last Days of Immanuel Kant review
29 July: Changó returns | Cairo International Book Fair report
30 July: Roberto Calasso (1941-2021) | Prix Sade longlist | The last 100 reviews
31 July: Litera Prize | The Emperor of the Sorcerers review

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31 July 2021 - Saturday

Litera Prize | The Emperor of the Sorcerers review

       Litera Prize

       At the start of the week they announced The long list of Literary Award Litera, one of the leading Georgian literary prizes -- meaning that submissions were closed and they found themselves with 110 books nominated for the six categories in which prizes are awarded; they didn't actually reveal the titles.
       The plan was to reveal the shortlists in November, and a few days ago they announced The jury of Literary Award Litera has started working -- but that did not last long. One of the new twists this year did not go over well, as:
This year, for the first time, out of 5 jury members, 4 were ed by the Writers’ House and the fifth member was presented by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs of Georgia, pursuant to Paragraph 4, Article 5 of the appendix of the decree N00007864 by the Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs of Georgia “On the conditions and rules of funding for cultural events / projects to be implemented by the Ministry of Culture”.
       It's that government-imposed juror that did not go over well, and the fallout has been fast and disastrous: the four other jurors have resigned and several authors have also withdrawn; numerous other participants have also "addressed an open letter to minister Thea Tsulukiani"; see the Agenda.ge articles, Writers exit Litera Prize nominations in protest of culture minister, appointment of jury member and Litera Prize juries leave panel, authors ask culture ministry to remove its judge.

       (Updated - 3 August): It blew up fast, and no one is willing to put the pieces back together: as Agenda.ge now report, Litera Prize cancelled by organisers following participant, jury team protest. So, no prize this year.

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



       The Emperor of the Sorcerers review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Budha·svamin's The Emperor of the Sorcerers, a volume (well, actually two), in the Clay Sanskrit Library.

       (As with so many books, I was a bit slow getting to this one -- my review copy arrived ... 5721 days ago (yes, over fifteen years ago), but, hey, it's a timeless classic, right ? Still, disappointing to see there hasn't been much other coverage of it over that whole span either .....)

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



30 July 2021 - Friday

Roberto Calasso (1941-2021) | Prix Sade longlist | The last 100 reviews

       Roberto Calasso (1941-2021)

       Adelphi-publisher Roberto Calasso has passed away; see, for example, the Reuters report.

       The author of many works that have been translated into English, he was also one of Europe's great publishers -- and the only one of his works under review at the complete review is The Art of the Publisher.

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



       Prix Sade longlist

       The prix Sade has announced its (shortened) longlist; see, for example, the report at LivresHebdo.
       Garth Greenwell's Cleanness is still in the running, but the most intriguing title is probably Caroline de Mulder's Manger Bambi; see also the Gallimard publicity page.
       The finalists will be announced on 14 September, and the winning title on 2 October.

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



       The last 100 reviews

       I recently reached 4800 books under review at the complete review, so it's time for another overview of the past 100 reviewed titles (4701 through 4800).

       - The last 100 reviews were posted over 194 days -- down from 181 for the previous 100 -- and totaled 156,736 words (also down from the last 100, with 161,356 words). Three reviews were over 3000 words long, and eighteen were over 2000 words long.
       Reviewed books had a total of 27,318 pages, the most ever. The longest reviewed book was 775 pages long, and a surprising 22 titles were over 400 pages long; only two were shorter than 100 pages (and one of those was 99 pages long ...).

       - Reviewed books were originally written in 24 different languages (including English); English was the most popular language, with 22 titles (down from 27 over the last 100 titles), followed by French (15), Spanish (10), and Japanese (9). No new languages were added. (See also the updated full breakdown of all the languages books under review were originally written in.)

       - While male-written books were again in the (super-majority), the 28 out of 100 written by women represented a new high. That raised the historic sexist average of written-by-women titles under review to ... 16.77 per cent.

       - A single book was rated 'A' -- Chi Ta-wei's The Membranes -- and ten did rate 'A-'; the lowest-rated title was a 'C'.

       - As always, fiction -- and especially novels -- dominated, with 81 titles that were works of fiction.

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



29 July 2021 - Thursday

Changó returns | Cairo International Book Fair report

       Changó returns

       At Electric Lit. Keenan Norris offers a list of 11 Afro-Latinx Writers Whose Work Traverses the Americas, and among them is Manuel Zapata Olivella, with his Changó, el gran putas -- with Norris noting that: "Unfortunately, few readers in the English-speaking world have even heard of Zapata Olivella, let alone read his work".
       Among the few, I suspect, would be at least some of the more dedicated followers of this site: Zapata Olivella and this book rated half a page in The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction. Unfortunately, however, as Norris correctly points out:
The basics of publication and reader access are still an issue for many a great book written by Black writers across our diaspora. Despite being every bit as ambitious and as innovative with its use of myth and time as the famed magical realist text One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chango, el gran putas is very difficult to procure as an English-language text.
       It was, in fact, published, as Changó, the Biggest Badass, in Jonathan Tittler's translation just over a decade ago, in Texas Tech University Press' 'The Americas' series; I was excited when I got my copy (and am embarrassed that I haven't posted a review yet ...). Alas, the series is no longer, and that edition already out of print (really out of print, it seems: even used copies seem almost impossible to come by). The good news is that it's apparently been picked up again: Routledge is publishing it -- apparently as Changó, Decolonizing the African Diaspora ? -- this fall; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       Yes, the Routledge edition looks even more like an 'academic' edition -- i.e. less likely to get bookstore-stocked -- but I hope the book (finally) gets the attention (and, especially, the readers) it deserves.
       The Texas Tech University Press edition (and series) was certainly meant to be more casual-reader friendly, but the price-point was already pretty ... challenging -- US$34.95 --; still, that was also for a hardcover; the Routledge paperback has a list price of $44.95 (though generously discounted at the official site) .....

       Anyway, I'm very pleased to see the book will be available again -- and commend it to you -- though it's also a sad reminder that the TTUP 'The Americas'-series was short-lived, and the books from it -- the Wayback Machine gives you a glimpse of what they did manage to publish -- aren't easy to find any longer. A handful of titles from the series are under review at the complete review -- but, yes, I'll try to get to this one as well, now that it will be readily available again (as if I didn't have enough summer-projects to keep me busy ...).
       (For all the success of new publishers focusing on translation in the past ten-plus years, it's worth remembering that quite a few have also gone by the wayside, along with several such translation-dedicated series from larger/academic publishers.)

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



       Cairo International Book Fair report

       At ahramonline Dina Ezzat reports on this year's Cairo International Book Fair, in The appeal of the translated text, Never lost in translation -- discussing many of the titles recently translated into Arabic.

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



28 July 2021 - Wednesday

Kawakami Mieko Q & A | The Last Days of Immanuel Kant review

       Kawakami Mieko Q & A

       At the arts fuse Izzy Smith has 10 Questions for novelist Mieko Kawakami (though, in fact, I count less than ten ...).
       The three titles by Kawakami translated into English are all under review at the complete review: Breasts and Eggs, Heaven, and Ms Ice Sandwich.

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



       The Last Days of Immanuel Kant review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Thomas De Quincey's The Last Days of Immanuel Kant, now also out in a nice pocket-sized edition from Sublunary Editions.

       This was translated into French by Marcel Schwob, and into Italian by Fleur Jaeggy, which certainly speaks for it .....
       There's also a movie-version: at The New Yorker Richard Brody enthused about it -- and you can see it, with English subtitles, at YouTube.

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



27 July 2021 - Tuesday

Booker Prize longlist | Caine Prize | And Other Stories profile
Henri Vernes (1918-2021) | Chitambo review

       Booker Prize longlist

       They've announced the thirteen-title longlist for this year's Booker Prize, selected from 158 (unfortunately not revealed ...) titles:
  • Bewilderment, by Richard Powers
  • China Room, by Sunjeev Sahota
  • The Fortune Men, by Nadifa Mohamed
  • Great Circle, by Maggie Shipstead
  • An Island, by Karen Jennings
  • Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Light Perpetual, by, Francis Spufford
  • No One is Talking About This, by Patricia Lockwood
  • A Passage North, by Anuk Arudpragasam
  • The Promise, by Damon Galgut
  • Second Place, by Rachel Cusk
  • The Sweetness of Water, by Nathan Harris
  • A Town Called Solace, by Mary Lawson
       I actually have two more of these title -- the Sahota and the Cusk -- and suppose I should try to get to them.
       The shortlist will be announced 14 September.

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



       Caine Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, "awarded for a short story by an African writer published in English (indicative length 3,000 to 10,000 words)", and it is 'The Street Sweep', by Meron Hadero
       You can read the story here (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).

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



       And Other Stories profile

       At The Bookseller Caroline Carpenter reports on how And Other Stories celebrates 10th year with revamp and events.
       And Other Stories has certainly had an impressive first decade, and quite a few of their titles are under review at the complete review.

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



       Henri Vernes (1918-2021)

       Belgian author of the popular Bob Morane-books Henri Vernes has passed away; see, for example, the France 24 report.
       Apparently Morane featured in: "200 novels that sold 40 million copies worldwide"; several were translated into English in the 1960s -- The Dinosaur Hunters, for example -- but are hard to come by.

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



       Chitambo review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hagar Olsson;s 1933 novel, Chitambo, out from Norvik Press last year.

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



26 July 2021 - Monday

Jeanette Winterson profile | The Illustrious House of Ramires review

       Jeanette Winterson profile

       Jeanette Winterson has a new book coming out -- 12 Bytes: How We Got Here. Where We Might Go Next -- and in The Observer Claire Armitstead profiles her, in Jeanette Winterson: 'The male push is to discard the planet: all the boys are going off into space'.

       See also the publicity pages for 12 Bytes from Jonathan Cape and Grove, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       The Illustrious House of Ramires review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of José Maria de Eça de Queirós' The Illustrious House of Ramires.

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



25 July 2021 - Sunday

Jabbour Douaihy (1949-2021)

       Jabbour Douaihy (1949-2021)

       Lebanese author Jabbour Douaihy has passed away; see, for example, Saeed Saeed's report in The National, Lebanese novelist Jabbour Douaihy dies at 72: 'The world is dimmer'.

       Two of his novels were shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and another was longlisted.
       Several of his novels have been translated into English, but only one is under review at the complete review -- Printed in Beirut.

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



24 July 2021 - Saturday

Slavenka Drakulić on Irena Vrkljan

       Slavenka Drakulić on Irena Vrkljan

       At Eurozine Slavenka Drakulić offers A personal reflection -- on Irena Vrkljan, the Croatian author who passed away earlier this year.

       Vrkljan's The Silk, the Shears and Marina came out in Northwestern University Press' classic Writings from an Unbound Europe-series; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



23 July 2021 - Friday

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year | Noah Gordon
Dead Horse review

       Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year

       They've announced the winner of this year's Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and it is We Begin At The End, by Chris Whitaker; see also Sian Bayley's report in The Bookseller.
       See also the Henry Holt publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Noah Gordon

       An interesting look by Andrew Silverstein in Forward at The most phenomenally successful Jewish author you've probably never heard of -- Noah Gordon, who is: "a household name, just not in the United States".
       Debuting with a novel that spent 26 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, it's not like he hasn't enjoyed some considerable success in the US -- but that was back in in 1965, and it's true that ever since he's enjoyed much greater success (and sales) abroad.

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



       Dead Horse review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Walter Satterthwait's Raoul Whitfield-mystery, Dead Horse.

       One can see why Satterthwait was attracted to this character and material -- and the colorful (and once very popular and successful) Whitfield certainly seems like a subject deserving a thorough biography.

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



22 July 2021 - Thursday

Κρατικά Λογοτεχνικά Βραβεία 2020 | Arabic literature in translation
The Atom Station review

       Κρατικά Λογοτεχνικά Βραβεία 2020

       The Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports has announced the 2020 State Literary Awards; see also the Athens 9.84 report, The State Literary Awards 2020 have been announced.
       The lifetime-achievement Grand Prize for Letters went to Jenny Mastoraki; the novel award went to Ilias Magklinis, for his Είμαι όσα έχω ξεχάσει; see also the Metaichmio publicity page.

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



       Arabic literature in translation

       At the Middle East Eye AJ Naddaff reports on the recent Bila Hudood literary festival, in From Babel to Berlin: How Arabic literature can unite the world, reporting that:
The three-day festival was packed with raw conversations on writing from an array of experts, leaving this writer at least feeling invigorated and hopeful for the future of Arabic literature in translation.
       Sounds good.

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



       The Atom Station review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness' 1948 novel, The Atom Station.

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



21 July 2021 - Wednesday

Georg-Büchner-Preis | Sylvia Plath | Bullet Train review

       Georg-Büchner-Preis

       They've announced that this year's Georg Büchner Prize -- the leading German-language author prize -- will go to Clemens J. Setz; he gets to pick up the €50,000 prize on 6 November.
       He's still under forty years old -- less than half the age of last year's winner, Elke Erb, when she got the prize -- and the youngest winner since Durs Grünbein got it in 1995.
       His novel Indigo appears to still be the only one of his works available in English; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Sylvia Plath

       At the BBC Lillian Crawford considers, at considerable length, Sylvia Plath: Will the poet always be defined by her death ?
       She focuses on the biographical works about Plath -- but recall that Connie Palmen's Plath-novel Your Story, My Story also came out in English this year.

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



       Bullet Train review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Isaka Kotaro's Bullet Train, now also out in a US edition.

       No doubt the reason this has now appeared in English translation is because the movie version -- starring Brad Pitt -- is coming out next year.
       This is only the second Isaka novel to appear in English -- Remote Control came out a decade ago. Interestingly, while more of his work has been translated into French -- see, for example, the Éditions Picquier page -- apparently this one has not yet been published in French.

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



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