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

The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 August 2021

1 August: Taiwan Literature Awards | Age Book of the Year shortlist
2 August: Women in Translation site | The Final Days of Immanuel Kant review
3 August: Svetlana Alexievich Q & A | Chinese literary criticism guidelines | We Who Are About To ... review
4 August: Daisy Rockwell Q & A
5 August: Yeshe | The Tale of Princess Fatima, Warrior Woman review
6 August: Céline manuscripts | Antonio Pennacchi (1950-2021) | Bangla translation
7 August: Mario Levrero Q & A
8 August: Martin Amis Q & A | Authors on what they've been reading
9 August: Ludwig-Börne-Preis | Booker boost
10 August: Jaan Kaplinski (1941-2021) | Fum d'Estampa Press Q & A | Pessoa review

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10 August 2021 - Tuesday

Jaan Kaplinski (1941-2021) | Fum d'Estampa Press Q & A | Pessoa review

       Jaan Kaplinski (1941-2021)

       Estonian author Jaan Kaplinski has passed away; see, for example, Silver Tambur reporting at estonian world that Estonian author and Nobel prize nominee Jaan Kaplinski has died. He was 80, or the note at one of his UK publishers, Bloodaxe.
       Quite a bit of his poetry has been translated into English, and a few years ago Peter Owen brought out his novel The Same River; get your copy at or
       See also the Estonian Literature site for more on Kaplinski.

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

       Fum d'Estampa Press Q & A

       At BookBlast® Diary they have a Q & A with Douglas Suttle, founder, Fum d'Estampa Press.
       Fum d'Estampa Press specializes in Catalan literature in English translation; I haven't seen any of their titles, but it looks like a great list.

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

       Pessoa review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Richard Zenith's Pessoa: A Biography, just out -- from Liveright in the US, and Allen Lane in the UK (where they subtitle the book: An Experimental Life).

       I'm not a big fan of biographies but this is very good -- like David Bellos was on Georges Perec. Not surprising, either, that here too the biographer has also translated the subject's work extensively (along with editing a great deal of it, as well).
       This one will certainly be on some of the biography-prize shortlists over the next year.

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

9 August 2021 - Monday

Ludwig-Börne-Preis | Booker boost


       They announced that Atlas of an Anxious Man-author Christoph Ransmayr was getting the 2020 Ludwig Börne Prize at the end of last year, and now, slightly delayed, he finally got to pick up the €20,000 prize -- yesterday.
       I mention it because this is yet another prize where every year a single juror decides who gets the prize -- a way of running literary prizes I mentioned last month, following on David Free's piece on Judge a literary prize ? No thanks, they're all a giant waste of time. (Yes, it's another example that is both German and an author- (as opposed to book-)prize.)
       What's particularly interesting about this one is that the judges are not necessarily literary figures -- and the man who selected Ransmayr was ... the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier ! Sure, the German president isn't the head of state, but how many literary prizes involve politicians to this extent ?
       It isn't even the first time a German president judged the prize -- Horst Köhler did in 2006 -- but they've also had literary figures judge: Monika Maron, Jorge Semprun, Michael Krüger, and Michael Naumann, among others. The prize-winners are also all over the place, but aside from this last, certainly worthy winner, they've honored George Steiner, Hans-Magnus Enzensberger, and Joachim Fest.

       (Updated - 11 August): See now also Ransmayr's acceptance speech, Nachrichten von einem tapferen Mann, in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

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

       Booker boost

       One can debate the value of literary prizes, but they can certainly help lift a book out of near-oblivion, as this year's feel-good example of Karen Jennings' An Island getting longlisted for this year's Booker Prize shows.
       In The Bookseller Ruth Comerford reports that Thousands more Jennings copies printed after indie's first Booker nomination -- by publisher Holland House. A profile in The Guardian by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett offers more background, in another example of the vagaries of publishing, in ‘I’ve been poor for a long time’: after many rejections, Karen Jennings is up for the Booker

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

8 August 2021 - Sunday

Martin Amis Q & A | Authors on what they've been reading

       Martin Amis Q & A

       In The Observer Anthony Cummins has a Q & A with Martin Amis: ‘Style isn’t something you apply later’.
       Amis mentions some of what he's been working on, noting: "I’ve almost finished two longish stories, one about lynching, and one about slavery just before the civil war" .....
       And interesting to hear:
Are you planning stories about the present ?

I don’t think I would. As you get older, you do resort to historical fiction, because you become more tremulous as you try to get hold of the present mood. I wouldn’t venture to say what it feels like for black people in 2021. I like that historical reality is hermetically sealed – although as Faulkner said, the past is never dead, it’s not even past
       The publicity-push comes with the UK paperback publication of Amis' Inside Story; I only have an e-copy of this, which has so far, like most e-books, defeated me, but I hope to eventually get to it, when I get a copy in paper form.

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

       Authors on what they've been reading

       Always interesting to see: in the Irish Independent they have: '15 of our best-loved authors reveal the best books they discovered under Covid', in Literary finds that helped our writers conquer the lockdowns.

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

7 August 2021 - Saturday

Mario Levrero Q & A

       Mario Levrero Q & A

       Mario Levrero's The Luminous Novel is just out in English, and at The Believer they have a Q & A with -- and by -- the author, Mario Levrero in Conversation with Mario Levrero -- always a fun exercise.

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

6 August 2021 - Friday

Céline manuscripts | Antonio Pennacchi (1950-2021) | Bangla translation

       Céline manuscripts

       At Le Monde Jérôme Dupuis has the (unfortunately paywalled ...) scoop: the existence of a huge haul of Journey to the End of the Night-author Louis-Ferdinand Céline's writings, misappropriated from his apartment in 1944 and long believed lost; see also, for example, the (French) overview at
       Most recently, the papers had been held by Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, theater critic at Libération, who received them from a reader more than fifteen years ago -- with the only condition that person made that the existence of the papers not be revealed before the death of Céline's widow, Lucette Destouches. She lived a long, long time -- only passing away in 2019, at the age of 107.
       The manuscripts apparently include the rest of Cannon-Fodder, as well as the unpublished Londres -- apparently a prequel to Guignol's Band.
       So it looks like quite a bit more of Céline will be coming out in the next few years -- the larger works no doubt also in English translation. (As controversial as the author is, there are a lot of people very eager to see this work -- myself included.)

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

       Antonio Pennacchi (1950-2021)

       Italian author Antonio Pennacchi has passed away; see, for example, the (Italian) report at Roma Today.

       Two of his novels have been translated into English: My Brother is an Only Child (which was made into a movie with that title; the original Italian title was the also nice: Il fasciocomunista) and the 2010 Strega Prize-winning The Mussolini Canal; see also the Dedalus publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Bangla translation

       In the Financial Express Shihab Sarkar considers Why a nation remains 'lost in translation'.

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

5 August 2021 - Thursday

Yeshe | The Tale of Princess Fatima, Warrior Woman review


       Via, I'm pointed to the new publication Yeshe: A Journal of Tibetan Literature, Arts and Humanities.
       This looks very promising -- and includes book reviews.

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

       The Tale of Princess Fatima, Warrior Woman review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the early Arabic The Tale of Princess Fatima, Warrior Woman: The Arabic Epic of Dhat al-Himma, just out from Penguin Classics.

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

4 August 2021 - Wednesday

Daisy Rockwell Q & A

       Daisy Rockwell Q & A

       At Business Line P Anima has a Q & A with Daisy Rockwell about her translations -- most recently of Usha Priyamvada's Fifty-Five Pillars, Red Walls -- in ‘I make a conscious effort to seek out women’s stories... men’s voices are easily heard’.
       Rockwell notes:
Publishers in the US and UK are reluctant to publish translations in general, and South Asian literature in translation rarely appears in print there. Luckily, with the internet, it is easier to get Indian books all around the world now, so readers can access them even if they’re not being published there.
       Still, it would be great if more were published in the US/UK .....

       See also the Speaking Tiger publicity page for Fifty-Five Pillars, Red Walls.

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

3 August 2021 - Tuesday

Svetlana Alexievich Q & A | Chinese literary criticism guidelines
We Who Are About To ... review

       Svetlana Alexievich Q & A

       In The Nation Nadezhda Azhgikhina speaks with the Nobel laureate 'on a new wave of repressions in Belarus, the role of women in revolution, and life after the pandemic', in “We Will Live in a Completely Different World”: A Conversation With Svetlana Alexievich.
       Alexievich notes:
If we were one-on-one with Lukashenko, it would be different. But Lukashenko has Putin’s support, which changes everything. I watch anxiously as Russia Russifies Belarus. We need the support of the West.

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

       Chinese literary criticism guidelines

       Xinhua reports that China issues guideline to strengthen literary criticism -- "to promote the healthy and prosperous development of socialist literature and art"
       Apparently: "the guideline stresses prioritizing social benefits and values instead of online traffic", so, yeah, that's sure to produce results .....

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

       We Who Are About To ... review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Joanna Russ' 1977 novel, We Who Are About To ....

       I'm not sure this is the absolute bleakest novel I've ever read, but it's right up there.

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

2 August 2021 - Monday

Women in Translation site | The Final Days of Immanuel Kant review

       Women in Translation site

       Women in Translation has been online, in various forms (notably on Twitter), for a while now but now has its own dedicated website -- just in time for this year's 'Women in Translation month'.
       It's certainly an admirable project and endeavor, given the still low percentage of literature in English translation that was originally written by women, a situation that has improved somewhat in recent years (in no small part because of increasing awareness of the issue) but still has quite a ways to go.

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

       The Final Days of Immanuel Kant review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Odd Nerdrum's play, The Final Days of Immanuel Kant.

       Yes, after recently reviewing Thomas De Quincey's The Last Days of Immanuel Kant I couldn't resist taking a look at another take.
       Thomas Bernhard next ? Or reviews of some of Kant's own writing ?

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

1 August 2021 - Sunday

Taiwan Literature Awards | Age Book of the Year shortlist

       Taiwan Literature Awards

       They've announced and now handed out this year's Taiwan Literature Awards; see, for example, Wendy Wu's report in the Taiwan News, Nine authors win Taiwan Literature Awards.
       The nine winners were selected from 34 nominated for the awards, selected from 171 works.
       The best novel award went to 斑甲市 ('Banjia City') by Wang Yung-cheng

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

       Age Book of the Year shortlist

       The Australian Age Book of the Year has been 'on hiatus' for nine years, but it's back this year, and they've now announced the shortlist -- and, as Jason Steger (one of the judges) reports in The Age, Tasmanian authors dominate line up for Age Book of the Year award.
       The winner will be announced 3 September.

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

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