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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review


The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 30 April 2022

21 April: Joyce Carol Oates Prize | Wolfson History Prize shortlist | RSL Ondaatje Prize shortlist | Palace of Flies review
22 April: The New York Times Book Review | New issue of Asymptote | Book sales in ... the US | Valerio Evangelisti (1952-2022)
23 April: European Union Prize for Literature | Shen Dali profile
24 April: L.A. Times Book Prizes | CWA Daggers longlists | All the Lovers in the Night review
25 April: Gender disparity in pre-modern English fiction | Arundhati Roy Q & A
26 April: Helen & Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize shortlist | Journey to Italy review
27 April: Sami Rohr Prize shortlist | Translation in ... South Asia
28 April: Women's Prize shortlist
29 April: Céline exhibit | Stella Prize
30 April: New World Literature Today | Jhumpa Lahiri Q & A | Edgar Awards | M: Son of the Century review

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30 April 2022 - Saturday

New World Literature Today | Jhumpa Lahiri Q & A
Edgar Awards | M: Son of the Century review

       New World Literature Today

       The May-June issue of World Literature Today is now out, with a focus on: 'Muses: Writers, Artists, and Their Inspirations'.
       Certainly enough good material to keep you covered for the weekend -- and don't forget the always interesting book review section.

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



       Jhumpa Lahiri Q & A

       In The Daily Princetonian Maria Khartchenko has a Q & A with the author, in On the record with Jhumpa Lahiri: translation, transformation, love for Italian, and a move to Barnard.
       Lahiri's Translating Myself and Others is due out shortly -- see the Princeton University Press publicity page -- and I will be getting to it soon.
       Among her observations:
I’ve been translating my entire life. I was born to two people who never spoke English to me but who lived in the United States, so I was constantly translating things for them, and they were translating things for me. I was translating my life. That’s what I say in my book: that I’ve always been a translator and that I know no monolingual reality. The need to translate everything has been a constant need in my life.
       And I hadn't heard that she is bolting from Princeton and, as they've now announced, Jhumpa Lahiri '89 Returns to Barnard College as the Millicent C. McIntosh Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing.

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



       Edgar Awards

       Mystery Writers of America has announced the winners of their Edgar Allan Poe Awards, with James Kestrel's Five Decembers winning the best novel award.
       I haven't seen any of these.

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



       M: Son of the Century review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Antonio Scurati's Mussolini-novel, M: Son of the Century, -- the first in a planned quartet.
       This came out in the UK last year, and now the US edition is also available, from Harper.
       An international bestseller which also won the leading Italian fiction prize, the Premio Strega, and which The New York Times already took note of when it came out in Italian -- see Emma Johanningsmeier's article from 2018 --, it hasn't really gotten the attention I expected it would, first in the UK and now in the US. All the more surprising, given that in this time of rising populism and concerns about the decline of democracy it seems particularly relevant.

       (This is also the second recent Premio Strega-winning novel I've reviewed just this month -- having gotten to Sandro Veronesi's The Hummingbird just a few weeks ago.)

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



29 April 2022 - Friday

Céline exhibit | Stella Prize

       Céline exhibit

       The trove of manuscripts by Journey to the End of the Night-author Louis-Ferdinand Céline that surfaced last year -- see, for example, Lara Marlowe's report in the Irish Times -- of course also means that a whole lot of this material will appear in print, sooner or later.
       Guerre looks to be the first volume out -- see the Gallimard publicity page -- and in conjunction with the publication of that they're having an exhibit at the Galerie Gallimard on Céline: manuscrits retrouvés; it runs 6 May through 16 July.

       Also: why doesn't absolutely every publishing house have an affiliated gallery like the Galerie Gallimard ?

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



       Stella Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Stella Prize -- awarded to an Australian (citizen or permanent resident) woman (cis, trans, and non-binary inclusive) --, and it is Dropbear by Evelyn Araluen; see also the University of Queensland Press publicity page.

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



28 April 2022 - Thursday

Women's Prize shortlist

       Women's Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Women's Prize for Fiction.
       The only one of the shortlisted titles under review at the complete review is The Sentence by Louise Erdrich.
       The winner will be announced 15 June.

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



27 April 2022 - Wednesday

Sami Rohr Prize shortlist | Translation in ... South Asia

       Sami Rohr Prize shortlist

       The Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature has announced the three finalists for this year's prize.
       This US$100,000 prize alternates between fiction and non; this is a non-fiction year.

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



       Translation in ... South Asia

       In Dawn Moazzam Sheikh considers The translator and her place.
       I like the ambition:
A conversation should be initiated in South Asian literary magazines and newspapers’ literature columns, TV, radio and electronic media about the historical importance of translations.
       (But, yeah, I'm not holding my breath.)

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



26 April 2022 - Tuesday

Helen & Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize shortlist | Journey to Italy review

       Helen & Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Helen & Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize , honoring: "an outstanding literary translation from German into English published in the USA the previous year"
       This prize admirably reveals all the titles in the running -- thirty-two, this year -- like every literary prize should. The submissions-list also makes for a convenient overview of much of what's been translated from the German in the past year.
       (Surprisingly, only two of the submitted titles are under review complete review (though I should be getting to at least a few more); they're both from Wakefield Press: Potsdamer Platz and Munchausen and Clarissa.)

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



       Journey to Italy review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the Marquis de Sade's Journey to Italy, out in a splendid volume from the University of Toronto Press, in their Lorenzo Da Ponte Italian Library series.
       De Sade has been getting some good attention in recent years, what with the re-translation of The 120 Days of Sodom, as well as new translations such as The Marquise de Gange, Aline and Valcour, and this. As the title suggests, this isn't your typical Sadean fare -- but it's a fascinating part of his voluminous output, and this edition is a truly impressive piece of scholarship.
       Yes, it qualifies as among the more obscure titles under review -- but being able to review this kind of work is one of the best things about running this site.

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



25 April 2022 - Monday

Gender disparity in pre-modern English fiction | Arundhati Roy Q & A

       Gender disparity in pre-modern English fiction

       Maya Abu-Zahra sums (some of) it up in the USC Viterbi press release -- AI study finds that males are represented four times more than females in literature -- but the actual paper by Akarsh Nagaraj and Mayank Kejriwal, Robust Quantification of Gender Disparity in Pre-Modern English Literature using Natural Language Processing (warning ! dreaded pdf format !), is also worth reading.
       While it should be emphasized that the study was limited to books from between 1700 and 1950 (2426 in all), the results are still striking -- notably that:
The largest difference, on average, is observed when using the Character Count measure (78% for male character prevalence), while the smallest difference is observed when using the Pronoun Count measure (74% for male character prevalence).
       The mean was: 32 unique male characters per book, and 9 unique female character (median: 22 and 6) ! The discrepancy isn't nearly as bad in books authored by women, but still ...:
On average, there are 32 (unique) male and 8 female characters per male-authored book compared to 38 male and 21 female characters in female-authored books.
       Discouragingly: "the male proportion of characters does not seem to change significantly over the years" -- those being the years 1700 to 1950; one hopes that the anecdotal evidence that things have improved somewhat in the past few decades does prove supported by the numbers (and it would be great to see those numbers too ...).

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



       Arundhati Roy Q & A

       Later this week, Arundhati Roy will be picking up this year's St. Louis Literary Award -- awarded to: "a living writer with a substantial body of work that has enriched our literary heritage by deepening our insight into the human condition and by expanding the scope of our compassion" -- and leading up to that Tobeya Ibitayo has A conversation with the 2022 St. Louis Literary Award recipient Arundhati Roy at St. Louis Magazine.
       She admits to having never heard of the prize before they let her know that she had won it; I wonder how often that happens with literary prizes.
       (This one has been around since 1967, and though not exactly high-profile it has a very solid list of winners, including many of the American standard-bearers (Philip Roth is a notable exception, perhaps having fallen short in the compassion-scope-expanding area ...) and several Nobel laureates (Saul Bellow, Seamus Heaney, Mario Vargas Llosa).)

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



24 April 2022 - Sunday

L.A. Times Book Prizes | CWA Daggers longlists
All the Lovers in the Night review

       L.A. Times Book Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's L.A. Times Book Prizes.
       The fiction prize went to In the Company of Men, by Véronique Tadjo, and the biography prize went to Paul Auster's Stephen Crane-biography, Burning Boy.

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



       CWA Daggers longlists

       The British Crime Writers' Association has announced the longlists for this years CWA Daggers; see also the official press release (warning ! dreaded pdf format !)..
       The only longlisted title under review at the complete review is in the Dagger for Crime Fiction in Translation category -- Isaka Kōtarō's Bullet Train.
       The shortlists will be announced on 13 May.

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



       All the Lovers in the Night review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kawakami Mieko's All the Lovers in the Night, due out shortly from Europa Editions (in the US) and Picador (in the UK).

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



23 April 2022 - Saturday

European Union Prize for Literature | Shen Dali profile

       European Union Prize for Literature

       They've announced the winner of this year's revamped European Union Prize for Literature, and it is ბუნკერი, by Iva Pezuashvili; see also the Intelekti foreign rights page.
       In previous years, every country with a finalist -- thirteen or fourteen every year - got to name a winner; now there's only one prize-winner -- the Georgian finalist, this year.
       Hopefully we'll be able to see this in translation soon.

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



       Shen Dali profile

       At Ecns.cn they profile author and translator Shen Dali, in 'Traduttore, traditore' ? How can Chinese literature cross the barrier to East-West communication ?

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



22 April 2022 - Friday

The New York Times Book Review | New issue of Asymptote
Book sales in ... the US | Valerio Evangelisti (1952-2022)

       The New York Times Book Review

       With The New York Times Book Review (still) looking for a new editor, Kyle Paoletta wonders at some length: 'What does the future hold for one of United States' oldest literary institutions ?' in The Nation, in The New York Times Book Review at a Crossroads.
       Paoletta offers a useful overview of the NYTBR and the editorial changes over the years -- noting also:
For such a durable institution, it is striking that The New York Times Book Review has mostly remained devoted to the template for book reviewing it adopted in the early 20th century.
       But surely part of the reason for its durability is that stick-to-the-formula conservatism. (I speak, of course, as someone who has changed basically nothing about this site over the past twenty-three years .....)
       He also notes:
While claiming to be a political Switzerland, the Book Review has seemed to skew to the center-right, with conservatives reviewing conservatives, centrists reviewing centrists, and very few leftists to be found.
       And
When it comes to fiction and literary culture, the contemporary Book Review has often seemed less concerned with reviewing books that might challenge readers in exciting ways than with minting stars.

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



       New issue of Asymptote

       The April issue of Asymptote is now up, with a ton of material -- good reading for the weekend.

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



       Book sales in ... the US

       In Publishers Weekly Kristen McLean reports that Book Sales in the U.S. Are Stronger Than Ever, as:
Led by growth in adult fiction, annual print volume in the U.S. reached 826.6 million units, rising 9% over the prior year. It’s the first time annual sales volume exceeded 800 million units.
       The most interesting statistic is the continuing shift from front- to back-list: in 2004 51 per cent of books sold were backlist (published more than twelve months before they are purchased), but the percentage has grown consistently since then and now stands at an astonishing 68 per cent.
       Backlist is also big in the UK, as David Barnett reports in The Guardian in UK publishers take £6.7bn in sales as TikTok crazes fuel purchases.

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



       Valerio Evangelisti (1952-2022)

       Italian author Valerio Evangelisti has passed away; see, for example, the reports in il manifesto and il Fatto Quotidiano.
       As Mauro Trotta puts it in il manifesto, with the 1994 publication of Evangelisti's Nicolas Eymerich, inquisitore: "Si può dire che in quel momento era nata la fantascienza italiana" (pretty late in the day ...). Disappointingly, none of his work appears to be available in English translation.

       (Updated - 15 May 2022): See now also Luca Cangianti on how Valerio Evangelisti Used Literature to Point the Way to Communism at Jacobin.

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



21 April 2022 - Thursday

Joyce Carol Oates Prize | Wolfson History Prize shortlist
RSL Ondaatje Prize shortlist | Palace of Flies review

       Joyce Carol Oates Prize

       The Joyce Carol Oates Prize is a prize that: "honors a mid-career author of fiction who has earned a distinguished reputation and the widespread praise of readers and reviewers" and this year's longlist had thirty-seven authors. (Yes, that's a big number -- but (considerably) fewer than the number of novels Joyce Carol Oates has published.) They've now announced this year's winner, and it is Lauren Groff.

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



       Wolfson History Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Wolfson History Prize, "the UK's most prestigious history writing prize".
       Only one of the shortlisted titles is under review at the complete review: God: An Anatomy, by Francesca Stavrakopoulou.
       The winner will be announced on 22 June.

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



       RSL Ondaatje Prize shortlist

       The Royal Society of Literature has announced the shortlist for this year's RSL Ondaatje Prize, awarded: "to an outstanding work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry that best evokes the spirit of a place".
       The winner will be announced 4 May.

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



       Palace of Flies review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Walter Kappacher's Hugo von Hofmannsthal-novel, Palace of Flies, just about out from New Vessel Press, in Georg Bauer's 2020/21 ACFNY Translation Prize-winning translation

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



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