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


The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 September 2021

11 September: Translation credit | New Hungarian works | Thomas-Mann-Preis
12 September: Stanisław Lem at 100 | Happening - the movie | When We Cease to Understand the World review
13 September: Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis shortlist | Seven Brothers
14 September: Grand Prix de Littérature américaine longlist | Hot Maroc review
15 September: Booker Prize shortlist | Windham-Campbell Prizes Virtual Festival | Chi Ta-wei Q & A | The N'Gustro Affair review
16 September: National Book Awards Translated Literature shortlist | Sunday Times CNA Literary Awards | PEN America literary grant winners | Swiss Book Prize finalists
17 September: Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay Prize longlist | Last Words on Earth review
18 September: National Book Award for Fiction longlist | Biodiversity in literature
19 September: Draupadi Verlag profile | Neal Stephenson profile
20 September: Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth review

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20 September 2021 - Monday

Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth review

       Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka's new novel, Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth.

       This is only Soyinka's third novel -- and the first he's published since 1973. Not that he hasn't kept busy writing a whole lot else -- see also the useful overview by Ernest O. Ògúnyẹmí at Open Country, 52 Books in 64 Years: Your Guide to Wole Soyinka's Body of Work.

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



19 September 2021 - Sunday

Draupadi Verlag profile | Neal Stephenson profile

       Draupadi Verlag profile

       At Scroll.in Rima Datta Holland profiles Christian Weiss, German publishing's champion of the literatures of India.
       Weiss is the founder of Draupadi Verlag. Germany still lags greatly in the publication of translations from Indian languages (other than English), so it's great that there is a publisher specializing in the area.

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



       Neal Stephenson profile

       Neal Stephenson has a new novel coming out in November -- Termination Shock -- and in Publishers Weekly Alyssa Ages profiles him, in Neal Stephenson's 'Shock' Doctrine.

       I haven't seen Termination Shock yet but am looking forward to it and will probably cover it -- most of Stephenson's work is under review at the complete review; see, for example, Cryptonomicon --; meanwhile, see the William Morrow publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



18 September 2021 - Saturday

National Book Award for Fiction longlist | Biodiversity in literature

       National Book Award for Fiction longlist

       The (American) National Book Foundation has now announced the longlists for all the National Book Awards, including the one for Fiction.
       The ten longlisted titles were selected from 415 submitted (but unfortunately not revealed to the public ...) titles; I haven't seen any of these.
       The shortlists in all the categories will be announced on 5 October.

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



       Biodiversity in literature

       In People and Nature they've published a paper on The rise and fall of biodiversity in literature: A comprehensive quantification of historical changes in the use of vernacular labels for biological taxa in Western creative literature.
       Yes, apparently there is not just a decline in actual biodiversity, but also biodiversity in literature:
We show that richness, abundance and Shannon diversity peak in the 1830s, followed by a consistent decline over more than 100 years until the middle of the 20th century.
       Among the possible explanations, in part:
We point out though that as we lack information on important driver variables quantifying, for example, the change in the percentage of authors being raised and living in cities or historical changes in the social function of creative literature, we cannot claim a causal relationship, but nevertheless we can observe a historic co-occurrence between decreasing BiL and increasing industrialisation/urbanisation.
       And interesting to know:
The author with the highest biodiversity vocabulary within our corpus is the 19th-century English novelist Charlotte Mary Yonge with 903 taxon labels.
       Lots of caveats to this study but still quite interesting.

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



17 September 2021 - Friday

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay Prize longlist | Last Words on Earth review

       Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay Prize longlist

       The New India Foundation has announced the longlist for this year's Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize, a prize for: "the best non-fiction book on modern / contemporary India".
       There are twelve titles on the longlist; several are even readily US/UK available, with two titles each published by Harvard University Press and Stanford University Press.
       A shortlist will be announced in the last week of October.

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



       Last Words on Earth review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Javier Serena's Roberto Bolaño-novel, Last Words on Earth, coming out from Open Letter.

       This is the first in a three-book project, to be followed by Serena's Atila, about Aliocha Coll, and then Coll's novel, also called Atila (see also the Agencia Literaria Carmen Balcells information page).

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



16 September 2021 - Thursday

National Book Awards Translated Literature shortlist
Sunday Times CNA Literary Awards | PEN America literary grant winners
Swiss Book Prize finalists

       National Book Awards Translated Literature shortlist

       The (American) National Book Foundation has announced the ten finalists for the Translated Literature category of this year's National Book Awards.
       Three of the titles are under review at the complete review:        The finalists will be announced 5 October.

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



       Sunday Times CNA Literary Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's (South African) Sunday Times CNA Literary Awards in the two categories, fiction and non.
       The fiction prize went to A Sin of Omission, by Marguerite Poland; see also the Penguin Random House South Africa publicity page.

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



       PEN America literary grant winners

       They've announced the 2022 PEN America literary grant winners, including the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants.
       Some fascinating-sounding titles here, including translations from the Filipino, Kazakh, Swahili, and Castrapo.
       The "deeply literate experimental science fiction novel with poetic verve", A Brief Investigation to a Long Melancholia by Edel Garcellano, translated by Bernard Capinpin, looks particularly promising; see also an excerpt.

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



       Swiss Book Prize finalists

       They've announced the five finalists for this year's Swiss Book Prize, a German-language national best book award for which works of both fiction and non are eligible; see also the official press release (warning ! dreaded pdf format !)
       The five titles were selected from 92 eligible titles; only one of them is also on the German Book Prize longlist, Eurotrash, by Christian Kracht.
       The winner will be announced 7 November.

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



15 September 2021 - Wednesday

Booker Prize shortlist | Windham-Campbell Prizes Virtual Festival
Chi Ta-wei Q & A | The N'Gustro Affair review

       Booker Prize shortlist

       They've announced the six-title shortlist for this year's Booker Prize for Fiction:
  • A Passage North, by Anuk Arudpragasam
  • Bewilderment, by Richard Powers
  • The Fortune Men, by Nadifa Mohamed
  • Great Circle, by Maggie Shipstead
  • No One is Talking About This, by Patricia Lockwood
  • The Promise, by Damon Galgut
       I haven't seen any of these.
       The winner will be announced 3 November.

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



       Windham-Campbell Prizes Virtual Festival

       The Windham-Campbell Prizes Festival, which begins today, is virtual this year, and you can watch -- though you have to sign up to do so
       Apparently every Wednesday, through 10 November, at 12:00 EST, one of the nine prize winners will be featured; unfortunately, the programme-listing at the official site is relatively limited. Still, it should be interesting.

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



       Chi Ta-wei Q & A

       At the Columbia University Press blog translator Ari Larissa Heinrich has a Q & A with The Membranes-author Chi Ta-wei, in Q&A: Ari Larissa Heinrich and Chi Ta-wei on The Membranes.
       It is a very good novel, well worth a look.

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



       The N'Gustro Affair review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jean-Patrick Manchette's first novel, The N'Gustro Affair, now out in English from New York Review Books.

       Great to see yet more Manchette in English -- only a few more titles to go !

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



14 September 2021 - Tuesday

Grand Prix de Littérature américaine longlist | Hot Maroc review

       Grand Prix de Littérature américaine longlist

       Yes, the French have a literary prize honoring the best American novel (that's been translated into French) -- the Grand Prix de Littérature américaine -- and they've now announced the longlist for this year's prize; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.
       The winner will be announced 5 November.

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



       Hot Maroc review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yassin Adnan's Hot Maroc, just out in English from Syracuse University Press.

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



13 September 2021 - Monday

Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis shortlist | Seven Brothers

       Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis shortlist

       They've announced the five-title shortlist for this year's Wilhelm Raabe Literary Przie -- with only one title overlapping with the longlist for this year's German Book Prize, Gert Loschütz's Besichtigung eines Unglücks.
       Paying out €30,000, the Wilhelm Raabe prize is actually richer than the German Book Prize -- and it's had a solid list of winners that includes Wolf Haas' The Weather Fifteen Years Ago (2006), Sibylle Lewitscharoff's Blumenberg (2011), and Christian Kracht's Imperium (2012) -- but remains much lower-profile. The limited website-information and general (lack of) publicity efforts no doubt are part of the reason .....
       Apparently they're deciding on the winner later this month -- though I could not find any date specified .....

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



       Seven Brothers

       At the BBC Lizzie Enfield writes at some length about Aleksis Kivi's Seven Brothers: The book that shaped a Nordic identity -- noting, for example:
Like many novels that would later become classics, at the time of its publication Seven Brothers was not so well received. It was ahead of its time. Literary critics described the book as disgraceful and ridiculous. August Ahlqvist, a Finnish poet and professor of language and literature, wrote the first review of the book and highlighted its vulgarities and rudeness -- cursing, lewd language, the parodying of priests and violence. Two years later, the Finnish Literature Society started to sell the original novel with a preface containing an apology for the uncultivated content of the novel.
       See also my review.

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



12 September 2021 - Sunday

Stanisław Lem at 100 | Happening - the movie
When We Cease to Understand the World review

       Stanisław Lem at 100

       The great Polish writer Stanisław Lem was born a hundred years ago today (more or less: as Culture.pl report: "According to his own account, he was born on 13 September, but the date was changed to the 12th on his birth certificate because of superstition regarding the 'unlucky' number 13").
       They're making an appropriately big deal about it in Poland -- see, for example, the Lem 2021 site -- but there's also been some attention even in English -- see, for example, Roisin Kiberd on A Century in Stanislaw Lem's Cosmos in The New York Times -- and MIT Press admirably continues to bring out many of his titles, including some not previously available in English.

       As I've mentioned before, I read basically all of his work -- mostly in German -- before I started the site, which is why essentially none is under review at the complete review beyond A Stanislaw Lem Reader, but I am certainly a great, great admirer; if I get my hands on some of these MIT editions I might revisit the work (as I probably should).

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



       Happening - the movie

       They've made a movie out of Annie Ernaux's Happening, directed by Audrey Diwan and starring Anamaria Vartolomei, and the film has now been shown at the Venice Film Festival -- and been awarded the Golden Lion.

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



       When We Cease to Understand the World review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Benjamín Labatut's When We Cease to Understand the World.

       This came out from Pushkin Press in the UK last year, and was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize, and it is now (almost) available in the US, from New York Review Books.

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



11 September 2021 - Saturday

Translation credit | New Hungarian works | Thomas-Mann-Preis

       Translation credit

       In The Guardian Jennifer Croft explains Why translators should be named on book covers.
       As she notes, they often aren't -- offering also this striking example:
Since the 2016 launch of the redesigned [International Booker Prize], not one of the six winning works of fiction has displayed the translator’s name on the front. Granta didn’t name Deborah Smith there; Jonathan Cape didn’t name Jessica Cohen; Fitzcarraldo didn’t name me; Sandstone Press didn’t name Marilyn Booth; Faber & Faber didn’t name Michele Hutchison. At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, 2021’s winner from Pushkin Press, doesn’t name Anna Moschovakis on its cover, although its cover does display quotes from three named sources.
       There are publishers that do name the translator on the cover -- though only a few do so as a matter of course. Meanwhile, many still bury the name in small print on the copyright page .....

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



       New Hungarian works

       At hlo they offer an overview of some of the New Releases in Hungarian -- Fall 2021.
       Always interesting to see what the current scene is locally in foreign markets -- and maybe we will eventually see some of these in English too.

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



       Thomas-Mann-Preis

       They've announced the winner of this year's Thomas Mann Prize, and it is Norbert Gstrein; see, for example, the Börsenblatt report.
       This (and its predecessor-prizes) has an impressive list of previous winners, including future Nobel laureates Elias Canetti (1969), Günter Grass (1994), and Peter Handke (2008).
       Several of Gstrein's works have been translated into English, including two, not so long ago, by Quercus.
       He gets to pick the prize up on 14 December.

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



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