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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review

The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 August 2023

11 August: Murakami on his recent novel | Romani literature | Twenty-one years of the Literary Saloon
12 August: Bibliotheca Brookeriana up for auction | R.B.Kitaj exhibit
13 August: Reading Sanskrit drama | Graphomania | Sour Grapes review
14 August: Penguin Clothbound Classics | KulturPass | The Specters of Algeria review
15 August: FT Business Book of the Year longlist | Literary tour of Hualien
16 August: Premio Carlos Fuentes | Swastika Night review
17 August: Mao Dun Literature Prize | Arthur C. Clarke Award | And Other Stories' redesign | Marjane Satrapi Q & A
18 August: Internationaler Literaturpreis shortlist | The art of the blurb
19 August: Frankfurt Book Fair Guest of Honour 2025 | This Little Art review
20 August: Jonathan Coe Q & A

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20 August 2023 - Sunday

Jonathan Coe Q & A

       Jonathan Coe Q & A

       In The Observer Hephzibah Anderson has a Q & A with Jonathan Coe: ‘People say, where’s the anger? It’s still there’.
       His Bournville is coming out in paperback in the UK, and will finally get to the US in October; all his other fiction is under review at the complete review and I should be getting to this one soon as well.
       Amusing to hear:
I was slightly horrified when the Granta Best of Young British novelists was announced to realise that I didn’t know a lot of these names [.....] I’d had a little private shortlist of writers I thought were going to be on it and none of them was. Then I went on Wikipedia to find out why and it’s because all these “young” novelists are in their 50s, so that was a wakeup call.

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

19 August 2023 - Saturday

Frankfurt Book Fair Guest of Honour 2025
This Little Art review

       Frankfurt Book Fair Guest of Honour 2025

       The Guest of Honour at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair is Slovenia, and in 2024 it will be Italy -- and they've now announced that: The Philippines will be Guest of Honour at Frankfurter Buchmesse 2025.
       Good to see -- though I hope the featured authors and books won't be too overwhelmingly English-language dominated (FBF director Juergen Boos notes the: "183 different languages spoken on its 7,641 islands", but I'll be thrilled if we see titles translated from half a dozen of those).
       The Guest of Honour-honors seem to have had varying degrees of success, with a few managing to parlay that into longer-term success -- Iceland (2011) comes to mind, and Indonesia (2015) seems to have helped a bit in the short- and medium term. Others don't seem to have had much impact, for different reasons: France (2017) is such a huge international presence anyway that it hardly mattered, while Georgia (2018) did well around the actual Book Fair but doesn't seem to have been able to sustain any sort of momentum.

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

       This Little Art review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kate Briggs' book on translation, This Little Art.

       I am a bit late to this one -- Fitzcarraldo Editions brought it out in 2017 -- but Briggs now has a novel coming out, The Long Form (from Fitzcarraldo Editions in the UK and the Dorothy Project in the US), so I wanted to get to this one first.

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

18 August 2023 - Friday

Internationaler Literaturpreis shortlist | The art of the blurb

       Internationaler Literaturpreis shortlist

       The Haus der Kulturen der Welt has announced the shortlist for this year's Internationaler Literaturpreis, a leading German-language prize for a contemporary work in translation.
       Eight titles are left in the running, selected from 151 submissions.
       Two of the titles are translations from the English; one title -- translated from the French -- is under review at the complete review: the German translation of Mohamed Mbougar Sarr's prix Goncourt-winning The Most Secret Memory of Men (which I suspect will be up for several prizes when it appears in English as well).

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

       The art of the blurb

       In recent days the paperback edition of Jordan Peterson's Beyond Order -- no links; you don't want to be buying this shit -- has been attracting renewed attention, as several reviewers have found their opinions rather misrepresented in the blurbs that publisher Penguin put on the back cover. (This edition has actually been out for over a year, but no one seems to have noticed until recently.)
       At The New Statesman 'The Chatterer' has a good overview/run-down of just how creative the Penguin publicists were, in Jordan Peterson's rules for selective quotation.
       Blurbs scraped from reviews are, of course, always to be considered only with great caution -- one reason I try to provide more representative review-quotes in the review-summaries of books under review at the complete review -- but this really is taking things to impressive extremes.

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

17 August 2023 - Thursday

Mao Dun Literature Prize | Arthur C. Clarke Award
And Other Stories' redesign | Marjane Satrapi Q & A

       Mao Dun Literature Prize

       The Mao Dun Literature Prize, the leading Chinese novel prize, awarded every four years to -- in recent times -- five titles -- has announced this year's winners, selected from 238 eligible titles published between 2019 and 2022:
  • 雪山大地 by Yang Zhijun
  • 宝水 by Qiao Ye
  • 本巴 by Liu Liangcheng
  • 千里江山图 by Sun Ganlu
  • 回响 by Dong Xi
       See also Fang Aiqing's report in China Daily, Mao Dun Literature Prize winners cover a wide range of topics.
       The occasional winning title does get translated into English, so it wouldn't be surprising to see one or more eventually make it into English.

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

       Arthur C. Clarke Award

       They've announced the winner of this year's Arthur C. Clarke Award, awarded: "for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year", and it is Venomous Lumpsucker, by Ned Beauman.
       Amazingly, not only is the winning title under review at the complete review but so is one of the other finalists, Hervé Le Tellier's The Anomaly.

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

       And Other Stories' redesign

       At the venerable publisher, And Other Stories' Series Design Revealed: Putting Words First -- and I have to say, I like it ! (And I am always for putting words first !)

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

       Marjane Satrapi Q & A

       At Publishers Weekly Meg Lemke has a Q & A with the Persepolis-author, revealing that: Marjane Satrapi Is Done with Comics, But Never Art or the Revolution.

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

16 August 2023 - Wednesday

Premio Carlos Fuentes | Swastika Night review

       Premio Carlos Fuentes

       They've announced the winner of this year's Premio Internacional Carlos Fuentes a la Creación Literaria en el Idioma Español, a Spanish-language author prize awarded not quite annually since 2012 -- Mario Vargas Llosa was the first winner -- that pays out US$125,000, and it is Elena Poniatowska (who was already awarded the Premio Cervantes, a decade ago).
       Amusingly, one of her books -- ¡Ay vida, no me mereces!, a study of 'la literatura de la Onda México' -- focuses on three authors, one of whom is ... Carlos Fuentes.
       Several of her works have been translated into English, but rather little seems to be in print; among the books that is is her Massacre in Mexico; see the University of Missouri Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Swastika Night review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Katharine Burdekin's quite remarkable 1937 novel, Swastika Night, originally published under the pseudonym Murray Constantine.

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

15 August 2023 - Tuesday

FT Business Book of the Year longlist | Literary tour of Hualien

       FT Business Book of the Year longlist

       They've announced the longlist for what this year is the Financial Times and Schroders Business Book of the Year Award, as Schroders is the new partner/sponsor for the award, following Goldman Sachs and McKinsey. It still pays out a generous £30,000.
       Fifteen titles are still in the running, selected from "more than 500 entries" (which, alas, remain unrevealed). I'll leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions as to what it might signify that an award for best business book considers more than three times as many titles (!) as the leading English-language fiction prize, the Booker ..... (The Booker Prize jury considered 163 titles for the 2023 prize.)
       The shortlist is to be announced 21 September -- hey ! the same day as the Booker shortlist .....

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

       Literary tour of Hualien

       In Taiwan News they go In the Footsteps of Yang Mu -- A Literary Tour of Hualien, as: "The Eastern Taiwanese county served as an essential metaphor throughout Yang's literary endeavors"
       Columbia University Press has published both a 'Collected Poems'-collection by Yang Mu, Hawk of the Mind -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at, or --, as well as the volume recounting 'The Education of a Young Poet', Memories of Mount Qilai -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at, or

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

14 August 2023 - Monday

Penguin Clothbound Classics | KulturPass | The Specters of Algeria review

       Penguin Clothbound Classics

       Penguin have been doing a nice series of Penguin Clothbound Classics for a while now -- they're up to 94, apparently -- and in the Daily Mail's You-magazine Maddy Fletcher profiles their cover designer, in Meet literature's new cover star: Coralie Bickford- Smith's beautiful illustrated wraps for Penguin's Clothbound Classics are making hardbacks hip again -- and inspiring the next generation of book lovers.

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


       Germany recently followed in the footsteps of several other European countries in offering a 'Culture-Pass' to youths once they hit a certain age: the German KulturPass allows anyone who turns 18 this year to get €200 which they can use for any kind of cultural expenditure they like. Unsurprisingly, as elsewhere, it's proven to be quite a hit.
       At Börsenblatt they sum up the early results, with 130,000 youths having taken up the offer (about a third of those eligible), leading to a turnover of €2.9 million. (There's apparently a more detailed report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, but it's paywalled.)
       The top items the youths went for: books and comics (alas, not broken down how many of each ...), 83,000; movie tickets, 57,000; and theater and concert tickets 25,000. Nice to see that 25 bought sheet music -- and interesting to see that twice as many spent the money on musical instruments (ca. 700) as did on CDs/records/etc. (ca. 350). A bit disappointing to see that museums and parks weren't that popular: only a thousand takers/goers.

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

       The Specters of Algeria review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hwang Yeo Jung's novel, The Specters of Algeria, recently out from Honford Star.

       A bit disappointing that this hasn't attracted a bit more notice.
       I'm also a bit surprised it hasn't been more widely noted that author Hwang is the daughter of Hwang Sok-yong (The Guest, etc.). I'm all for authors not riding parental coattails, but especially in trying to reach a foreign audience I think pretty much any kind of push is justified; it's not like Hwang Sok-yong is a household name in the US/UK, either, but at least there's probably a smattering of name-recognition.

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

13 August 2023 - Sunday

Reading Sanskrit drama | Graphomania | Sour Grapes review

       Reading Sanskrit drama

       At they wonder: 'Why would anyone read Sanskrit literature today ?' as: 'Shashi Deshpande explores how we read these ancient plays now', in In Sanskrit plays, paradise is always lost, but the attempt to regain it never ends.
       I'm not quite on board with this question and explanation:
Whatever their merits, why would anyone read these plays today ? What do they mean to us -- apart from the miracle of their having come down intact through the centuries, apart from the marvel of so many good writers existing at a time when most people did not even know how to read and write ? What do we get out of the plays ? Anthony Trollope wrote a novel The Way We Live Now, a brilliant exposé of the corruption and greed of his times. These Sanskrit plays too give us a whiff of the past and tell us the way we lived then.
       "The way we lived then" ? Isn't part of the point that it wasn't 'we' that lived then ?
       I think there's quite a lot more to these plays than whiffs of the past, and that they have a lot more to offer; quite a few are also under review at the complete review; see the index of all the Sanskrit literature under review.

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


       At The Guardian Politics-author Adam Thirlwell finds ‘We’re gripped by graphomania’: why writing became an online contagion and how we can contain it.
       Writing and disseminating several hundred thousand words a year in reviews and Literary Saloon weblog posts I'm afraid I definitely count/contribute to this graphomanic excess; I suppose one could call what I do "manic reading, which leads to even more graphomania" ..... But maybe what I do is also part of the: "proliferation of small-scale writing" ?

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

       Sour Grapes review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Zakaria Tamer's collection of stories, Sour Grapes, recently out in English, from Syracuse University Press.

       This is the third collection of the Syrian author's stories I've reviewed

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

12 August 2023 - Saturday

Bibliotheca Brookeriana up for auction | R.B.Kitaj exhibit

       Bibliotheca Brookeriana up for auction

       The T. Kimball Brooker Library of Renaissance Books and Bindings -- the 'Bibliotheca Brookeriana', a: " carefully curated, extraordinary library of more than 1,300 sixteenth-century French and Italian books in their original bindings" -- is going up for auction at Sotheby's in October. The collection is so big they're spreading it out over eight auctions; they estimate it will bring in more than US$25,000,000.
       This looks very impressive.

       (And, yes, I will be referring to my own measly little book collection -- yes, (much) more than 1,300 volumes, but mostly cheap modern paperbacks and only a handful of sixteenth century-items ... -- as the 'Bibliotheca Orthoferiana' from now on.)

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

       R.B.Kitaj exhibit

       At The Huntington the exhibit In Our Time: Prints by R.B. Kitaj, showing works that: 'depict hyperrealistic replicas of well-loved book covers exploring the intersection between literary and visual arts', is now on, running through 4 March 2024 (though with: "two installation rotations that will each spotlight 22 screen prints, showing 44 works in total" you'll probably have to go twice).
       In the Pasadena Weekly Leah Schwartz introduces the exhibit, in Judging a Book by its Cover: New exhibit examines literature through Kitaj's eyes -- and I think she's closer to the mark in describing them as "well-worn book covers" rather than, as the publicity copy has it, "well-loved book covers".
       Either way: interesting.

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

11 August 2023 - Friday

Murakami on his recent novel | Romani literature
Twenty-one years of the Literary Saloon

       Murakami on his recent novel

       At Takino Yūsaku reports on a recent lecture, in “Writing Fiction in the Time of Pandemic and War”: Murakami Haruki Discusses His New Novel at Wellesley
       No word yet when the novel -- 街とその不確かな壁; see also the Shinchosha publicity page -- is coming out in English.

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

       Romani literature

       Eurozine has the English translation of an article from A2, Maria Siváková writing 'On the revival in Romani literature', in ‘I’ll be the first Roma woman to write sci-fi’.
       Here's hoping that she does go through with that science-fiction project !

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

       Twenty-one years of the Literary Saloon

       I can finally raise a glass not just to but with the Literary Saloon, which today has reached the legal drinking age in the US -- yes, the first post went up at this weblog-annex to the complete review (itself a twentieth-century relic) exactly twenty-one years ago today !
       Glad to see that there are quite a few regulars who still drop by -- and that many others at least take the occasional look.
       Cheers !

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

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