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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review

29 November 2022 - Tuesday

Merve Emre Q & A on Murnane | '100 notable African books of 2022'
'Ghana and the Literary Industry' | Clouds review

       Merve Emre Q & A on Murnane

       In the Sydney Review of Books Joseph Steinberg has a Q & A with Merve Emre on Gerald Murnane's Signposts.

       I have a pile of Murnanes to get to, but several are already under review at the complete review, including my favorite, Barley Patch.

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       '100 notable African books of 2022'

       At Brittle Paper they list 100 notable African books of 2022 -- a useful overview.
       I'm disappointed by how few of these I've seen. Two of them are, however, under review at the complete review: Casablanca Story, by In Koli Jean Bofane, and The Night Will Have Its Say, by Ibrahim Al-Koni.

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       'Ghana and the Literary Industry'

       At PEN Transmissions Elizabeth Johnson writes: "on the literary scene in Ghana, who's building it, and the value of publishing on the continent", in Ghana and the Literary Industry.

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       Clouds review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Aristophanes' Socratic comedy, Clouds.

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28 November 2022 - Monday

Shehan Karunatilaka Q & A | Miss Lizzie review

       Shehan Karunatilaka Q & A

       At Sayari Debnath has a lengthy Q & A with the Booker Prize-winning author of The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, in ‘I guess now I finally have a writing career’: Shehan Karunatilaka on winning the 2022 Booker Prize.
       Karunatilaka also discusses his earlier novel, Chinaman -- and he muses:
I still have half a mind to continue my copywriting career. I enjoy it and it’s a good break. I’m eager to get away from the publicity trail and go back home, start typing again, and inhabiting another world.

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       Miss Lizzie review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Walter Satterthwait's 1989 Lizzie Borden novel, Miss Lizzie.

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27 November 2022 - Sunday

Will Self Q & A | Classic recommendations

       Will Self Q & A

       At The Guardian Anthony Cummins has a Q & A with Will Self: ‘I’m seen as a still-walking dead white man’, as Self has a new book coming out, Why Read: Selected Writings 2001-2021.
       Self notes:
Until fairly recently, certainly since 2001, I probably wrote an average of 150,000 words of journalism every year, so there’s a vast amount to choose from.
       He also acknowledges:
With the possible exception of Umbrella, which lost the Booker to Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies by a short nose, almost all my books have been Marmite.
       See also the publicity pages for Why Read from Grove and Grove Press UK.

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       Classic recommendations

       Antigone has now reached 250 articles published, and they have a nice piece celebrating that milestone, asking their writers and readers: "what their favourite Greek or Latin text is", in The Classic Classic ? Antigone Hits 250.
       Lots of good suggestions -- including Alexander Andrée's:
Frenetic, disgusting, and iconoclastic, Lucan’s Pharsalia has been a nail in the eye to Classicists of purist tastes. Mockingly dedicated to Nero and disguised in the tragedy of the Civil War between Caesar and Pompey, the amputated epic offers a twisted parody of Vergil’s Aeneid and the government it hails, the Principate. Through its morbid illustrations of power expressed in its most violent and perverted forms, Pharsalia works on every reader in the right mind as an effective inoculation against tyranny. A much neglected must-read.

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26 November 2022 - Saturday

Hans Magnus Enzensberger (1929-2022) | HWA Crown Awards | Ice review

       Hans Magnus Enzensberger (1929-2022)

       German author Hans Magnus Enzensberger -- who was awarded the leading German author prize, the Georg Büchner Prize, way back in 1963 -- has passed away; see, for example, the report by Heike Mund and Verena Greb at DeutscheWelle, German author Hans Magnus Enzensberger dies, or the notice from his German publisher, Suhrkamp.
       Several of his works -- though a very unrepresentative selection -- are under review at the complete review:        Seagull Books publish quite a few of his books in English translation.
       Enzensberger was also the co-founder and longtime publisher of the excellent Die Andere Bibliothek

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       HWA Crown Awards

       The Historical Writers' Association has announced the winners of this year's HWA Crown Awards, with the Gold Crown Award going to The Fortune Men, by Nadifa Mohamed.

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       Ice review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Anna Kavan's 1967 classic, Ice.

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25 November 2022 - Friday

Warwick Prize | The Egg and I in the Czech Republic

       Warwick Prize

       They've announced the winners of this year's Warwick Prize for Women in Translation and there are two of them this year, Daisy Rockwell's translation of Geetanjali Shree's Tomb of Sand and Peter Graves' translation of Marit Kapla's Osebol; see also Sian Bayley's report in The Bookseller.

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       The Egg and I in the Czech Republic

       At Radio Prague International Ruth Fraňková reports on literary theorist Jiří Trávníček's new book, Betty a my, exploring: The Egg and I: Why is 1945 US bestseller topping Czech readers' lists ?
       The enduring popularity of Betty MacDonald's book -- Trávníček notes that repeated studies have found her to be: "the most popular and most read author in Czechia" -- is indeed something of a headscratcher. But it's apparently been the case for a while -- a phenomenon that even found mention in Philip Roth's The Prague Orgy, as noted in the piece.
       See also the Host publicity page for Trávníček's book -- and I hope we'll get to see this in English at some point; it sounds like a fascinating local-reading/publishing study.

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24 November 2022 - Thursday

Jan Michalski Prize | Prix de la littérature arabe
Irish Book Awards | PEN Presents winners

       Jan Michalski Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Jan Michalski Prize for Literature, a CHF 50,000 prize for a work of world literature, regardless of what language it is written in, and it is Les fossoyeuses, by Taina Tervonen.
       See also the French Publishers' Agency information page and the Éditions Marchialy publicity page.

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       Prix de la littérature arabe

       They've announced the winner of this year's prix de la littérature arabe, a leading fiction prize for a work by an Arab author written or translated into French, and it is Bel abîme, by Yamen Manaï; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.
       See also the elyzad publicity page.
       Manaï's The Ardent Swarm has been translated into English (get your copy at or, and we should be seeing this one In English too, eventually.

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       Irish Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's An Post Irish Book Awards, with winners in eighteen categories (which include Bookshop of the Year).
       Trespasses Louise Kennedy was named Novel of the Year -- see also the publicity pages from Bloomsbury and Riverhead Books -- while EL, by Thaddeus Ó Buachalla, was named Irish Language Book of the Year -- see also the Coiscéim publicity page.

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       PEN Presents winners

       PEN Presents is a new English PEN award for sample translations from underrepresented languages and regions, and they've now announced the first batch of winners, six translators representing four of the languages of India.
       This sounds like a very promising prize -- and hopefully it will lead to complete and published translations.

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23 November 2022 - Wednesday

The NY Times' 100 Notable Books of 2022
Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize | Nights of Plague review

       The NY Times' 100 Notable Books of 2022

       The New York Times Book Review has announced their 100 Notable Books of 2022
       Unfortunately, they don't simply list the titles, but as best I can tell five of them are under review at the complete review:
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       Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, and it is The Trees, by Percival Everett; see also Sian Bayley's report in The Bookseller.
       See also the publicity pages for The Trees from Graywolf Press and Influx Press, or get your copy at, or

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       Nights of Plague review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk's latest novel, Nights of Plague.

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22 November 2022 - Tuesday

Österreichischer Buchpreis | John Dos Passos Prize finalists

       Österreichischer Buchpreis

       On Sunday they announced the Swiss Book Prize -- see my mention -- and then yesterday they announced the winner of this year's Austrian Book Prize, the leading Austrian fiction prize, and it is Mon Chéri und unsere demolierten Seelen, by Verena Roßbacher; see also the Kiepenheuer & Witsch foreign rights page.

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       John Dos Passos Prize finalists

       I missed this a few days ago, but they've announced the four finalists for this year's John Dos Passos Prize, awarded to: "an underappreciated writer whose work offers incisive, original commentary on American themes" (and which is: "the oldest literary award given by a Virginia college or university").
       The four finalists are: Bibliolepsy-author Gina Apostol, Carolina De Robertis, Jaime Manrique, and The Lost Time Accidents-author John Wray.
       The winner will be announced "in the coming weeks".

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21 November 2022 - Monday

Schweizer Buchpreis | Tractatus Logico-Suicidalis review

       Schweizer Buchpreis

       They've announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the winner of this year's Swiss Book Prize, and it is ... the winner of this year's German Book Prize, Blutbuch, by Kim de l'Horizon; see also the report.
       See also the DuMont foreign rights page; unsurprisingly, English rights have already sold -- apparently to Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

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       Tractatus Logico-Suicidalis review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hermann Burger's manifesto On Killing Oneself, Tractatus Logico-Suicidalis.
       This is just (about) out from Wakefield Press -- yet another one of the remarkable titles they have brought out.
       The translation is by Adrian Nathan West, whose translation of Burger's Brenner came out, from Archipelago Books, earlier this year; see their publicity page; I should be getting to that too.

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20 November 2022 - Sunday

JCB Prize for Literature | Mori Ōgai meals

       JCB Prize for Literature

       They've announced the winner of this year's JCB Prize for Literature, a leading Indian fiction prize, and it is The Paradise of Food, by Khalid Jawed, translated from the Urdu by Baran Farooqi; see, for example, the report.
       Get your copy at, Flipkart, or

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       Mori Ōgai meals

       In The Asahi Shinbun Takashi Konishi reports that Literary giant Mori Ogai's favorite dishes recreated, served, as:
Now, a ryokan inn association in his hometown here is trying to capitalize on his fame by serving his favorite dishes recreated on the basis of recollections of his daughters and others close to the writer.
       Apparently: "They offer a tantalizing glimpse into his obsession with cleanliness" -- and:
While some dishes are suggestive of what today might be diagnosed as a compulsive cleanliness disorder, others are downright eccentric.
       The only one of his works under review at the complete review is The Wild Geese.

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19 November 2022 - Saturday

PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants | Ann Goldstein Q & A

       PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants

       PEN America has announced their 2023 literary grant winners for literary works-in-progress, including the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants; scroll down for the winning projects. They include translations from the Filipino, Swahili, Urdu, and Bulgarian, among other languages.

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       Ann Goldstein Q & A

       At Public Books Saskia Ziolkowski and host Aarthi Vadde have a Q & A with (Elena Ferrante-)translator Ann Goldstein; 'Translation is the closest way to read:'; you can listen to it, or read the transcript (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) .

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18 November 2022 - Friday

Baillie Gifford Prize | Murakami 'By the Book' | Carnap reviews

       Baillie Gifford Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's £50,000 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, and it is Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne, by Katherine Rundell.
       See also the publicity pages from Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Faber, or get your copy at, or

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       Murakami 'By the Book'

       This weekend's By the Book-column in The New York Times Book Review features the Novelist as a Vocation-author, in What Books Does Haruki Murakami Find Disappointing ? His Own.
       Among his responses:
While I’m writing a novel, I often translate fiction. It’s a nice change of pace, an excellent way to make a mental switch. Translating uses a different part of the brain from composing a novel, so it keeps one side of my brain from wearing out.
       And I can certainly appreciate this attitude:
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite ?

My apologies, but I’m not big on dinner parties.

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       Carnap reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of the first two volumes of Rudolf Carnap's diaries:        These are both from the remarkable Meiner Verlag -- see, for example, Peter Laudenbach's profile in brand eins Kant kann warten.

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17 November 2022 - Thursday

National Book Awards | Governor General's Literary Awards
TLS Books of the Year

       National Book Awards

       The (American) National Book Foundation has announced the winners of this year's National Book Awards.
       The award for Translated Literature goes to Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell; see also the Riverhead publicity page.
       The award for fiction goes to The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty; see also the Knopf publicity page.
       I haven't seen either of these (or any of the other winners).

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       Governor General's Literary Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's Governor General's Literary Awards, a leading Canadian literary prize.
       Winners were announced in each of seven categories in each of the two languages represented, French and English.
       The English-language fiction winner is Pure Colour by Sheila Heti; the French-language fiction winner is Mille secrets mille dangers by Alain Farah.

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       TLS Books of the Year

       The Times Literary Supplement has their: "contributors select their favourite books of 2022", in Books of the Year 2022, generally one of the more interesting of these kinds of list (though it seems disappointingly non-fiction-heavy this year).

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16 November 2022 - Wednesday

KLWave | Jenny Bhatt Q & A | Punishment of a Hunter review


       The Literature Translation Institute of Korea has announced a new online platform, KLWave, which includes a database of some 1,088 authors, 4,735 book titles, and 39 translators.
       See also Park Ga-young's report in The Korea Herald on how New online platform KLWave aims to lead literature's Hallyu.

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       Jenny Bhatt Q & A

       In The Dallas Morning News Joyce Sáenz Harris has a Q & A with the translator of Dhumketu's The Shehnai Virtuoso, Jenny Bhatt, in This Dallas author is shining a light on Desi authors from around the globe.
       Among her responses:
The New York Times has a series called “Read Your Way Around the World.” How significant is it that American journalism is becoming more open to international literature ?

I love that series. That said, I check it regularly and see barely a couple of South Asian works featured and they’re typically from languages at the top of the South Asian translation pyramid: Bangla, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, etc. For robust international literature coverage, we need to look to, again, independent venues like Words Without Borders, World Literature Today, Asymptote Journal and, of course, Desi Books.

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       Punishment of a Hunter review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Leningrad Confidential by Yulia Yakovleva, Punishment of a Hunter, the first in the series.

       Crime fiction has exploded in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but relatively little beyond Boris Akunin has been translated into English so I was curious about this. A second instalment in the series is due out next year.

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15 November 2022 - Tuesday

Warwick Prize shortlist | Time's 100 Must-Read Books of 2022
Prix du Meilleur livre étranger

       Warwick Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Warwick Prize for Women in Translation.
       Two of the seven titles remaining in the running are under review at the complete review -- Karen Van Dyck's translation of Margarita Liberaki's Three Summers and Daisy Rockwell's translation of Geetanjali Shree's Tomb of Sand.
       The winner will be announced on 24 November.

       (And don't forget that this prize admirably reveals all the books (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) that were considered for the prize -- like every literary prize should.)

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       Time's 100 Must-Read Books of 2022

       Yet another very early best-of-the-year list, as Time has released its list of The 100 Must-Read Books of 2022.
       (I've read and reviewed all of four of these .....)

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       Prix du Meilleur livre étranger

       They've announced the winners of this year's prix du Meilleur livre étranger, a leading French foreign book prize, with Juan Gabriel Vásquez's Retrospective winning in the novel category, and Maria Stepanova's In Memory of Memory winning in the non-fiction category; see also the Livres Hebdo report.

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14 November 2022 - Monday

Jon Fosse Q & A | Boekenbon Literatuurprijs

       Jon Fosse Q & A

       At The New Yorker Merve Emre has a Q & A with the author, in Jon Fosse's Search for Peace.
       Lots of interesting stuff here -- including the news that Fosse is translating Gerald Murnane's The Plains into Norwegian (and that he has previously translated Kafka and Trakl).
       I fully agree with Emre's wish, that: "more novelists would work as translators" -- but, of course, many of them do, outside the English-speaking world. (In the US/UK ... not so much.) In any case it's good to see that Fosse does this as well -- and that he recognizes:
I really like to translate. It's like reading, in a way, but you get very deep. It's very deep reading.
       Embarrassingly, I haven't gotten to his Septology yet (I don't have the full set ...), but several Fosse-works are under review at the complete review, e.g. Scenes from a Childhood.

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       Boekenbon Literatuurprijs

       They've announced the winner of this year's Boekenbon Literature Prize, the leading Dutch book prize (which you might remember from its days as the AKO Literatuurprijs), and it is Het lied van ooievaar en dromedaris, by Anjet Daanje; see also the Uitgeverij Passage publicity page and the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page.
       This is another prize that does it right: they publish a list of all the titles entered (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) and hence in the running for the prize -- something that all literary prizes should do. They considered 565 titles -- remember that, too, next time the Booker Prize judges yammer about how many books they have to consider .....

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13 November 2022 - Sunday

Boye's Crisis | John Banville Q & A

       Boye's Crisis

       Karin Boye's most famous novel is Kallocain, but recently my review of her Crisis has been among the most popular at the site.
       Only now have I learned why: apparently the book gets mentioned in something called 'Young Royals', which can be seen on Netflix; with McKinley Franklin explaining that The Book Featured In ‘Young Royals’ Season 2 Has So Many Parallels With The Show at Her Campus.
       Hey, whatever the reason, it's great to see the book get some attention -- and I hope it helps Norvik Press, who published this, shift a few more copies.

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       John Banville Q & A

       At The Guardian Anthony Cummins has a Q & A with John Banville: ‘There’s been a creeping retreat into infantilism’.
       But sad to hear:
I’m an old man and I don’t read much fiction; whatever fiction gives you, I don’t seem to need it any more.
       I can't imagine ever reaching that point ......

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12 November 2022 - Saturday

Rixdorf Editions | Hungarian Speculative Fiction
Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas review

       Rixdorf Editions

       Via I'm alerted to the sad news that Rixdorf Editions is closing shop; see publisher James J. Conway on five years of Rixdorf Editions, wondering What am I doing here ?
       This was a worthwhile endeavor, impressively carried through -- and aside from being an interesting selection of titles, the Rixdorf books are physically things of beauty. I have two -- and am ashamed that I haven't yet gotten around to covering them, since they definitely deserve the coverage and attention, and readers. I'm disappointed to hear there won't be more.

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       Hungarian Speculative Fiction

       At hlo Austin Wagner offers an introduction and overview of Hungarian Speculative Fiction: Forceful, Vicious, Viscous -- far too little of which is, of course, available in English translation.

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       Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jules Verne's classic, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas.

       I read huge piles of Verne in my youth, but mostly (especially the better-known titles like this one) in German and English translations -- and I suspect quite a few of these were of the inferior variety, so it seems worthwhile to return to some of these in the newer, more reliable (and nicely annotated) editions. William Butcher has also done Around the World in Eighty Days and Journey to the Centre of the Earth in the Oxford World's Classics-series, and I think I'll try to seek those out as well.

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11 November 2022 - Friday

Premio Cervantes | Goldsmiths Prize | Bayerischer Buchpreis

       Premio Cervantes

       They've announced the winner of this year's Premio de Literatura en Lengua Castellana Miguel de Cervantes, the leading Spanish-language author prize (which also pays out €125,000), and it is Rafael Cadenas -- the first ever Venezuelan winner of this prize which they've been awarding since 1976.
       Not much of his work is available in English -- but you can get the collection The Land of Mild Light; see the Arrowsmith Press publicity page, or get your copy at
       See also a Q & A by Claudia Sierich with Cadenas at Latin American Literature Today.

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       Goldsmiths Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Goldsmiths Prize, and it is Diego Garcia, by Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams.
       Diego Garcia was published by Semiotext(e) in the US and Fitzcarraldo Editions in the UK; get your copy at, or

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       Bayerischer Buchpreis

       They've announced the winners of this year's Bavarian Book Prize in the two categories, fiction and non, with Wilderer by Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker taking the fiction prize; see also the S.Fischer foreign rights page.

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10 November 2022 - Thursday

NIF Book Prize shortlist | Geetanjali Shree profile

       NIF Book Prize shortlist

       The New India Foundation has announced the shortlist for this year's Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize, awarded for: "the best non-fiction book on modern / contemporary India"; see, for example, the report.
       There are five titles left in the running; the winner will be announced on 1 December.

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       Geetanjali Shree profile

       In The Korea Times Park Han-sol profiles Tomb of Sand-author Geetanjali Shree, in International Booker Prize-winning 'Tomb of Sand' breaks down borders, celebrates plurality

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9 November 2022 - Wednesday

Scotiabank Giller Prize | Constantijn Huygens-prijs
Grand prix de littérature américaine | The Last Samurai reviews

       Scotiabank Giller Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize, a leading Canadian fiction prize, and it is The Sleeping Car Porter, by Suzette Mayr; see also the Coach House Books publicity page.

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       Constantijn Huygens-prijs

       They've announced the winner of this year's Constantijn Huygens Prize, a leading Dutch author prize, and it is Marion Bloem.
       Only one of her books -- The Cockatoo's Lie -- appears to have been translated into English; see also the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page.

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       Grand prix de littérature américaine

       They've announced the winner of this year's Grand prix de littérature américaine, a French prize for the best book by an American author translated into French, and it is Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.

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       The Last Samurai reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of Helen DeWitt's 2000 novel The Last Samurai -- and Lee Konstantinou's The Last Samurai Reread, just out from Columbia University Press.

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8 November 2022 - Tuesday

Reading in the ... GDR | European book locales

       Reading in the ... GDR

       The Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung has a new exhibit, Leseland DDR, about reading in the German Democratic Republic -- and at Deutsche Welle Rayna Breuer discusses it, in: Disney was immoral: What was read in the GDR.

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

       European book locales

       Via I'm pointed to this new *study* of Die beliebtesten Buch-Schauplätze in Europa -- the most popular settings for books in Europe.
       They apparently went nation by nation, determining which locale in each was the most popular, with London the most popular city-setting among books set in England (18.78 per cent), Rome the most popular in Italy (15.48 per cent), etc.
       Yes, capitals dominate ..... But in some countries fiction apparently isn't that capital-centric -- only 4.89 per cent of books set in Hungary are apparently set in Budapest.
       A bit -- or rather, a lot -- more information about the data sets here would be very helpful, but still: of some interest.

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

7 November 2022 - Monday

Georg-Büchner-Preis acceptance speech
Prime Minister's Literary Awards shortlists

       Georg-Büchner-Preis acceptance speech

       Over the weekend Emine Sevgi Özdamar picked up this year's Georg Büchner Prize, the leading German-language author prize, and her acceptance speech is now also available online.

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

       Prime Minister's Literary Awards shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for this year's Prime Minister's Literary Awards, a leading Australian literary prize.
       There are thirty shortlisted titles, five in each of six categories, selected from a total of 545 entries.

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

6 November 2022 - Sunday

Q & A: s: Irene Vallejo - Joshua Cohen - Pedro Almeida Maia

       Q & A: Irene Vallejo

       In The Guardian John Self has a Q & A: with the author of Papyrus, Philologist Irene Vallejo: ‘Alexander the Great’s library was the first step towards the internet’.

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

       Q & A: Joshua Cohen

       At The New York Review of Books Daniel Drake has a Q & A with The Netanyahus-author Joshua Cohen, in The Gods of Chaos and Stupidity.

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

       Q & A: Pedro Almeida Maia

       In the Portuguese American Journal Carolina Matos has a Q & A with Almeida Maia: One of the most compelling Azorean writers of his generation.
       Matos suggests: "Never before so many books have been published in the Azores, about the Azores by Azorean authors", but very little of it has made it into English so far.

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

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