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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 January 2024

11 January: Sapir Prize for Literature shortlist
12 January: 2024 translations from ... Japanese | Burma Sahib review
13 January: Kawakami Mieko Q & A | 'Books at Berlinale'
14 January: Vivek Shanbhag Q & A | New Singapore Literature Prize categories | The Informer review
15 January: Lev Rubinstein (1947-2024) | 10 best new UK novelists ?
16 January: T.S.Eliot Prize | Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize shortlists | Ædnan review
17 January: Dublin Literary Award longlist | Translating ... Nepali literature | Creative Europe translation support
18 January: Japanese literary prizes | Wingate Prize finalists | Termush review
19 January: Edgar Award finalists | New Asymptote | AI and creative writing
20 January: US bestseller publishers | Bookselling in ... Afghanistan

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20 January 2024 - Saturday

US bestseller publishers | Bookselling in ... Afghanistan

       US bestseller publishers

       At Publishers Weekly Jim Milliot reports that Big Five Domination of Adult Bestseller Lists Slipped in 2023 -- though at 84.8% (in the hardcover market) they were still pretty dominant.

       There's also a depressing note at the end:
Of course, mass market sales have been on a steady decline in recent years. According to Circana BookScan, the format accounted for only 3.4% of unit sales in 2023.

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

       Bookselling in ... Afghanistan

       At RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty Abubakar Siddique reports in his The Azadi Briefing on The Taliban's War On Books, as: "The Taliban confiscated at least 50,000 books from publishing houses and bookshops in the Afghan capital this week".
       He suggests:
The Taliban's ban on and confiscation of books suggests the extremist group is intensifying its censorship drive in Afghanistan.
       Intensifying, sigh .....

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

19 January 2024 - Friday

Edgar Award finalists | New Asymptote | AI and creative writing

       Edgar Award finalists

       Mystery Writers of America has announced the nominees for this year's Edgar Allan Poe Awards, "honoring the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television published or produced in 2023".

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

       New Asymptote

       The latest issue of Asymptote -- their 50th ! -- is now out.
       As always, a ton of material of interest.

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

       AI and creative writing

       I mentioned yesterday that they'd announced the winner of the first of this year's Akutagawa Prizes (the bi-annual award will announce another winner in July), and Kudan Rie 's win, for 東京都同情塔 ('Sympathy Tower Tokyo') has now attracted a lot of more press attention abroad than most Akutagawa winners -- because, as, for example, the AFP report has it: Japan literary laureate unashamed about using ChatGPT.
       We learn:
"I made active use of generative AI like ChatGPT in writing this book," she told a ceremony following the winner's announcement.

"I would say about five percent of the book quoted verbatim the sentences generated by AI."
       (See also Sean Michaels' Do You Remember Being Born ?)
       Meanwhile, at Nautilus Nick Holden reports that Creative AIs Depend on Creative Humans, reporting on Murray Shanahan and Catherine Clarke's paper, Evaluating Large Language Model Creativity from a Literary Perspective (warning ! dreaded pdf format !), which finds that:
In the literary sphere, therefore, LLMs fulfil many of the aims of the field of computational creativity, especially when the concept of creativity is historically contextualised. In the hands of a skilful writer who is also adept at prompting, an LLM might be thought of as a tool for playfully investigating regions of their imagination that would otherwise remain unexplored.
       I suspect that a significant percentage of *real* books (not the mass-generated dreck being uploaded to Amazon in the hopes of suckering unwary buyers) -- much of it fiction -- will soon (much sooner than most seem to think ...) be co-authored, so to speak, to varying but significant degrees, by AI.

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

18 January 2024 - Thursday

Japanese literary prizes | Wingate Prize finalists | Termush review

       Japanese literary prizes

       They've announced the most recent batch of winners for the leading Japanese literary prizes, the bi-annual Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes -- the 170th of each. No English-language coverage yet that I can find, but see for example the Bunshun Online report -- which helpfully includes all the finalists for both prizes.
       (Updated): See now also, for example, the Asahi Shimbun report, Ex-shepherd from Hokkaido wins prestigious Naoki Prize.

       東京都同情塔, by Kudan Rie won the Akutagawa Prize; see also the Shinchosha publicity page.

       The Naoki Prize was shared by ともぐい, by Kawasaki Akiko -- see the Shinchosha publicity page -- and 八月の御所グラウンド, by Manjome Manabu; see also the Bungeishunju publicity page.

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

       Wingate Prize finalists

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Wingate Literary Prize, "given to the best book, fiction or non-fiction, to translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader".
       Two works of fiction and four of non are left in the running.

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

       Termush review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sven Holm's Termush.

       Faber & Faber brought out this English translation of this 1967 novel in 1969, and re-issued it last year; Farrar, Straus and Giroux has now just brought out a US edition -- apparently the first American edition.

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

17 January 2024 - Wednesday

Dublin Literary Award longlist | Translating ... Nepali literature
Creative Europe translation support

       Dublin Literary Award longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's Dublin Literary Award, with libraries from around (some of) the world -- 70 of them this year -- nominating the 80 titles.
       Frustratingly, they do not have a simple, one-page list of the longlisted titles available at the site; all of the various options that they do have on offer are ... less than ideal: the four-page version; the two-page 'List of nominating libraries'-list (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) that includes which books which library nominated; and the seventeen-page longlist-brochure (warning ! dreaded pdf format !). The latter would be great to see in printed form but is, of course, ridiculous as a web-page.
       I am amazed that only one of the longlisted titles is under review at the complete review -- The Birthday Party, by Laurent Mauvignier. (I do have a few more of these, and should be getting to some of them -- Praiseworthy ! Solenoid ! -- but there are a lot here I haven't seen.)
       The shortlist will be announced on 26 March; the winner on 23 May.

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

       Translating ... Nepali literature

       At Global Voices Sangita Swechcha looks at: Establishing Nepal in the international literature scene: An interview with translator Jayant Sharma

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

       Creative Europe translation support

       They've announced that Creative Europe to support 40 projects in 2024 to boost literary translations -- and it's good money: 40 projects are to receive €5 million.
       Organizations have until 16 April to apply.

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

16 January 2024 - Tuesday

T.S.Eliot Prize | Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize shortlists | Ædnan review

       T.S.Eliot Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's T.S.Eliot Prize for Poetry, and it is Self-Portrait as Othello, by Jason Allen-Paisant -- which had already won the Forward Prize for Best Collection.
       See also the Carcanet publicity page.

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

       Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for this year's Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature; see, for example, this report.
       The winners will be announced on 9 February.

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

       Ædnan review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of An Epic by Linnea Axelsson, her August Prize-winning novel in verse, Ædnan.

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

15 January 2024 - Monday

Lev Rubinstein (1947-2024) | 10 best new UK novelists ?

       Lev Rubinstein (1947-2024)

       Russian poet Lev Rubinstein has passed away; see, for example, the BBC report.
       (Updated - 17 January): See now also Benjamin Ivry reporting Russian authorities are calling the death of a prominent Jewish poet an ‘accident’ — his compatriots say it was an assassination at Forward.

       Ugly Duckling Presse have brought out several of his works in English translation.

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

       10 best new UK novelists ?

       At The Observer Anthony Cummins offers their 'annual pick of the most exciting debut fiction', in Meet the 10 best new novelists for 2024 -- with short Q & As with each of the ten.

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

14 January 2024 - Sunday

Vivek Shanbhag Q & A | New Singapore Literature Prize categories
The Informer review

       Vivek Shanbhag Q & A

       At The Wire Jahnavi Sen has a Q & A with the Ghachar Ghochar-author, in I Refuse to Give Readers Everything on a Platter: Vivek Shanbhag.
       His most recent book available in translation is Sakina's Kiss; see also the Vintage India publicity page.

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

       New Singapore Literature Prize categories

       As Shawn Hoo reports in The Straits Times Singapore Literature Prize announces new categories for translation, comics, debut books; see also the Singapore Literature Prize 2024 page.
       Good to see they've added a translation prize -- even if it is limited to translations into English ..... (One of the neat things about many of the Singapore Literature Prizes is that they are awarded in each of four languages.)
       The deadline for entries for this year's prize in all categories is 15 February.

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

       The Informer review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Takagi Akimitsu's 1965 novel, The Informer.

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

13 January 2024 - Saturday

Kawakami Mieko Q & A | 'Books at Berlinale'

       Kawakami Mieko Q & A

       The most recent instalment of 'The books of my life'-column at The Guardian features the All the Lovers in the Night-author, in Mieko Kawakami: ‘Franz Kafka is my comfort read’.
       Why is Kafka her comfort read ?
[B]ecause his works contain the truth that despair is neither something to be detested and shunned nor a sudden misfortune, but a natural condition for human life.

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

       'Books at Berlinale'

       Each year the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Berlinale select ten titles to be pitched as promising screen adaptions, and they've now announced this year's ten selections, chosen from almost 100 submissions; see the press release (it's the same one) at the FBF site or the Berlinale site.
       They note that: "This year's selection again reflects on trends in the book market" -- and that nine of the ten works are authored by women .....

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

12 January 2024 - Friday

2024 translations from ... Japanese | Burma Sahib review

       2024 translations from ... Japanese

       At The Japan Times Iain Maloney collects Anticipated translations and books about Japan to brighten your 2024 -- as: "2024 promises to be another bumper year for Japanese literature in translation and books about Japan".
       Quite a few books to look forward to -- but my most anticipated title didn't make the cut: Stephen Snyder's translation of Ogawa Yōko's Mina's Matchbox, coming in August in both the US and the UK; see also the publicity pages from Pantheon and Harvill Secker, or pre-order your copy from,, or

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

       Burma Sahib review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Paul Theroux's latest, his George Orwell novel, Burma Sahib.

       Interesting to see this not long after Tan Twan Eng's W. Somerset Maugham novel, The House of Doors ......

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

11 January 2024 - Thursday

Sapir Prize for Literature shortlist

       Sapir Prize for Literature shortlist

       The Israeli national lottery has announced the five finalists for this year's Sapir Prize for Literature, a leading Israeli literary prize; I haven't been able to access the lottery site page, but see, for example, Neria Barr's report in The Jerusalem Post Mifal Hapayis names five finalists for prestigious literature award.
       Among the finalists are Dolly City-author Orly Castel-Bloom and The Confessions of Noa Weber-author Gail Hareven.
       The Orly Castel-Bloom, ביוטופ, has a neat cover; Ofra Offer Oren's ?מה קרה להגר באילת has a pretty good one, too -- and is the most intriguing, a novel in the form of 336 sonnets; see the publisher's publicity page.

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

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