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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review

19 August 2022 - Friday

Prix Ivoire finalists | Shanghai Literature Museum
The Night Will Have Its Say review

       Prix Ivoire finalists

       They've announced the six finalists for the prix Ivoire pour la Littérature Africaine d’Expression Francophone, selected from 37 submissions from 12 countries; see, for example, the report at ActuaLitté.
       The winner will be announced 26 November.

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       Shanghai Literature Museum

       They've begun work on an ambitious new Shanghai Literature Museum; see, for example, Yang Jian's report at Shine, Literature museum to highlight city's proud art heritage.
       Looks like they'll have quite a lot of space.
       The museum is scheduled to open in 2024.

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       The Night Will Have Its Say review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ibrahim al-Koni's The Night Will Have Its Say, just out from Hoopoe Fiction.

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18 August 2022 - Thursday

Online fiction in ... China | Grove Atlantic Q & A

       Online fiction in ... China

       At SupChina Jin Zhao looks, at some length, at China's sprawling world of web fiction, as: "China is producing and consuming the largest amount of web fiction in the world".
       Zhao suggests:
Governed by the rule of the market, supported by the largest pool of human resources in the world as well as data-driven digital technologies, web fiction has become a gigantic content laboratory in China, where stories and elements of stories are created and tested by hundreds of millions of humans again and again for years on end. The result ? Some of the most pleasurable, commercially successful, and/or addictive texts we have ever seen in the Chinese language.
       See also my reviews of Michel Hockx's Internet Literature in China and Megan Walsh's The Subplot.

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       Grove Atlantic Q & A

       At Edelweiss Gabriella Costa has an Interview with a Publisher: Grove Atlantic on Publishing Literature in Translation, with responses from Peter Blackstock, Amy Hundley, and Katie Raissian.
       Grove Atlantic of course publishes a wide variety of interesting literature in translation.

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17 August 2022 - Wednesday

International Booker Prize judges | The future of literary festivals ?

       International Booker Prize judges

       They've announced the judges for the 2023 International Booker Prize, the leading English-language prize for a work of fiction in translation by a living author (and translator); see also the official press release (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       The judges are:        The prize is now also open for submissions.
       The longlist will be announced next March.

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       The future of literary festivals ?

       In The Guardian Sarah Shaffi considers: Are literary festivals doomed ? Why book events need to change.
       Certainly the suggestion of having weekend or day passes rather than only individually ticketed events sounds like a good idea.

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16 August 2022 - Tuesday

Reading suggestions | Three Assassins reviews

       Reading suggestions

       At The Guardian they: "asked 14 writers, editors and publishers to tell us their current favourites from around the world", in Page turners: the most exciting new fiction from Africa, Latin America and south Asia.

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       Three Assassins reviews

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Isaka Kotaro's Three Assassins, now also out in a US edition.

       The big-budget movie version of Isaka's Bullet Train recently came out; this novel is an earlier one.

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15 August 2022 - Monday

Partition literature | Salman Rushdie recovering | The Backstreets review

       Partition literature

       At The Wire they have a useful list of books, in The Pain of Partition, as Seen in the Literature of Many Languages.

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       Salman Rushdie recovering

       It's good to hear that author Salman Rushdie is recovering from the recent assault on him.
       There continues to be lots of coverage and commentary; see now also:        And, from a while back, see my review of Kenan Malik's From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy.

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       The Backstreets review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Novel from Xinjiang by Perhat Tursun, The Backstreets -- a rare translation from Uyghur.

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14 August 2022 - Sunday

The Cabinet review

       The Cabinet review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kim Un-su's The Cabinet.

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13 August 2022 - Saturday

Salman Rushdie assaulted | Murakami in ... Yoruba

       Salman Rushdie assaulted

       As widely reported and condemned, some piece of shit assaulted and seriously injured author Salman Rushdie yesterday at an event at the Chautauqua Institution.
       There's a great deal of coverage of this -- see, for example, live updates at The New York Times and The Guardian, or Nitish Pahwa's Q & A with Nader Hashemi at Slate, Why the Attack on Salman Rushdie Is So Shocking.
       Leaving aside his significance as an author, Rushdie has long been a leading torchbearer for free speech, and I have great respect and admiration for his words and actions in support of it over all these years.

       (Several Rushdie titles are under review at complete review -- though none from his most formidable period (the decade that saw Midnight's Children, Shame, and, yes, The Satanic Verse) --; see, for example, his memoir, Joseph Anton.)

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       Murakami in ... Yoruba

       At Leadership they have a piece on Translating Murakami To Yoruba: Challenges And Place of African Languages In Global Translation Literature – Tubosun.
       Somewhat disappointing that the translation appears to be of the English translation, but still .....
       And good to hear from translator Kola Tubosun:
     Many Nigerian writers works are published in English only, which is kind of crazy. Chimamanda Adichie, Helon Habila and many others, have their works translated to many languages but they don’t have them translated in their own indigenous languages. Part of my task is to make sure it changes going forward. We can expand their readership and empower our own languages to survive into the next generation.
       Sounds good.

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12 August 2022 - Friday

The dictator novel | American war on books ?

       The dictator novel

       With a new translation of Miguel Ángel Asturias' El Señor Presidente just out -- as Mr. President, by David Unger; see the Penguin Classics publicity page -- Graciela Mochkofsky writes on The Timely Return of a Dictator Novel at The New Yorker.
       She quotes A Thousand Deaths Plus One-author Sergio Ramírez:
A new batch of dictator novels is coming, he told me. These days, “We all have our ‘Señor Presidente.’ ”
       I haven't seen this translation of the novel yet, but I hope to; meanwhile, get your copy at, or

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       American war on books ?

       At Salon Amanda Marcotte sums up the current sad state of affairs, in Republican war on books: They don't just want to control your body — next up, your mind.
       Not exactly a new story in the US, but still worth noting.

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11 August 2022 - Thursday

Houshang Ebtehaj (1928-2022) | The Oxford Brotherhood review
Two decades of the Literary Saloon

       Houshang Ebtehaj (1928-2022)

       Iranian poet Houshang Ebtehaj has passed away; see, for example the reports at AP news and the Tehran Times.
       He published under the name of 'Sayeh' -- so also the one collection available in English, The Art of Stepping Through Time; get your copy at or

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       The Oxford Brotherhood review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Guillermo Martínez's The Oxford Brotherhood.

       This novel has a Lewis Carroll sub-plot -- the brotherhood of the title is the (fictional) Lewis Carroll Brotherhood, a variation on the Lewis Carroll Society -- as the original Spanish title, Los crímenes de Alicia, suggests. Other translations also opted for the more direct Carroll-connection -- Der Fall Alice im Wunderland; I delitti di Alice -- but apparently the thinking was that 'Oxford' plays better in the US/UK market. The UK edition at least puts a Carroll photograph on the cover; the US edition is all Oxford .....

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       Two decades of the Literary Saloon

       The complete review was started in 1999, and this Literary Saloon opened in 2002 -- on this date, as a matter of fact, making it twenty years old today.
       The bigger site-anniversary will follow in a couple of weeks -- probably around the beginning of October, when the complete review reaches 5000 titles under review, but two decades of this is something too, isn't it ?
       Good to see that even after all this time there are still some readers interested in what gets posted here. It still seems to serve a purpose, so you can expect things to continue much the same at least a while longer.

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10 August 2022 - Wednesday

Georg-Büchner-Preis | Biyi Bandele (1967-2022) | Reading in ... Kenya


       They've announced the winner of this year's Georg Büchner Prize, the leading German-language author prize, and it is Emine Sevgi Özadmar.
       Not much of her work is available in English, but see, for example, The Bridge of the Golden Horn; get your copy at or

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       Biyi Bandele (1967-2022)

       Biyi Bandele has passed away; see, for example, the Premium Times report, Nigerian novelist Biyi Bandele is dead.
       Several of his novels are under review at the complete review:
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       Reading in ... Kenya

       In The East African Tony Mochama finds Kenyans are reading, who is writing ?

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9 August 2022 - Tuesday

David McCullough (1933-2022) | The Book and the Sword review

       David McCullough (1933-2022)

       Two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough has passed away; see, for example, the obituaries in The New York Times and The Washington Post..

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       The Book and the Sword review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Louis Cha's -- also known as Jin Yong -- 1955 novel, The Book and the Sword -- a martial arts novel published by ... Oxford University Press.

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8 August 2022 - Monday

Furukawa Hideo Q & A | Mass Market Paperbacks | Nigeria Prize for Literature

       Furukawa Hideo Q & A

       At Japan Forward Stefania Viti has a Q & A with Furukawa Hideo -- see parts one and two.
       Several Furukawa titles are available in English, including Slow Boat and Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure, but not, alas, the one discussed at greatest length here, サウンドトラック ('Soundtrack').

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       Mass Market Paperbacks

       At Publishers Weekly Jim Milliot considers Where Are Mass Market Paperbacks Headed ?
       The format has been faring poorly in the US, with sales collapsing, down 31.5 per cent in terms of units sold between 2017 and 2021.
       Among the interesting points:
All mass market publishers are aware of the price sensitivity around the format, and even as a few publishers have increased the trim size of mass market paperbacks, they are reluctant to go beyond the $9.99 price point.
To keep retailers carrying mass market paperbacks, HC conducted extensive research on the format. [CEO of HarperCollins’s Harlequin subsidiary and CEO of HC Canada] Swinwood said it found that 74% of print book buyers prefer mass market and that it’s the cornerstone of any retailers’ book offering.
       Also of interest: at the end of the article they list the top-selling mass market paperback titles this year, to date (according to NPD Bookscan) -- with actual sales numbers !

       As longtime readers know, mass-market paperback-sized is -- by far -- my favorite book format; if it were possible, I would want to read practically everything in that format. I do not understand why it isn't more popular.

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       Nigeria Prize for Literature

       In The Guardian (Nigeria) Gregory Austin Nwakunor looks at the Nigeria Prize for Literature and makes the case that 18 years after, writers declare literature prize generative, transformative, economic-saver.

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7 August 2022 - Sunday

David Hare Q & A

       David Hare Q & A

       At The Guardian Matthew Reisz has a Q & A with David Hare: ‘There is an awful lot of pious theatre at the moment’.

       I haven't reviewed any of Hare's work in quite a while, but several of his plays are under review at the complete review; see, for example, Stuff Happens.

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6 August 2022 - Saturday

SAGE India | New The Washington Post books editor

       SAGE India

       As The Wire reports As SAGE India Shuts Books Publishing Wing, Cloud Over Future of Laid-Off Staff, Volumes on Anvil, as the Indian books arm of SAGE is being shut down.

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       New The Washington Post books editor

       Just a week after The New York Times announced the appointment of a new books editor, The Washington Post has followed suit, naming John Williams -- most recently of The New York Times ... - as their new books editor.

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5 August 2022 - Friday

PEN Translates winners | Max Lawton Q & A

       PEN Translates winners

       English PEN has announced the most recent batch of their awards (which are actually grants ...) -- 21 titles from 19 countries and 18 languages.
       The mix includes several familiar authors -- Yan Lianke, Juan Gabriel Vasquez, and Hassan Blasim, among others -- and a nice variety of promising-sounding titles.

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       Max Lawton Q & A

       Biblioklept has An interview with Max Lawton about translating Vladimir Sorokin's brilliant novel Telluria.
       Telluria is due out from New York Review Books shortly -- see their publicity page --; I have my copy and should be getting to it soon.
       Lawton is very ambitious, and has both promising translations forthcoming -- a pile of more Sorokin; Jonathan Littell's An Old Story -- and hopes to get to much more (not least; "the three insanely fucked volumes" of Régis Jauffret's Microfictions).

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4 August 2022 - Thursday

Gordon Burn Prize shortlist | The Galton Case review

       Gordon Burn Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Gordon Burn Prize, for which works of both fiction and non are eligible.
       The winner will be announced 13 October .

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       The Galton Case review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ross Macdonald's 1959 novel, The Galton Case.

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3 August 2022 - Wednesday

St. Louis Literary Award | Diary of a Void review

       St. Louis Literary Award

       They've announced that Neil Gaiman will receive the 2023 St. Louis Literary Award, a leading American author prize that: "recognizes 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".
       It's been awarded since 1967 -- as the Messing Award through 1981 -- and has a solid list of previous winners.
       Gaiman gets to pick up the prize on 13 April 2023.

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       Diary of a Void review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yagi Emi's Diary of a Void, just (about) out in English (from Viking in the US and Harvill Secker in the UK).

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2 August 2022 - Tuesday

Wales Book of the Year | Lambda review

       Wales Book of the Year

       They've announced the Wales Book of the Year, and it is Nadifa Mohamed's The Fortune Men.
       They announced the Welsh-language category and book of the year winners over a week ago, with the fiction category winner, Mori by Ffion Dafis, winning the book of the year prize.

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       Lambda review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of David Musgrave's Lambda, recently from Europa Editions.

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1 August 2022 - Monday

Crime fiction favorites | David Ireland (1927-2022)
The Gate of Angels review

       Crime fiction favorites

       The Observer has The joy of crime fiction: authors from Lee Child to Paula Hawkins pick their favourite books, asking each: What makes a great thriller/crime novel ? What's your favourite thriller of all time ? and: What's the best one you've read recently ?

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       David Ireland (1927-2022)

       Australian author David Ireland -- a three-time Miles Franklin Award-winner in the 1970s -- has passed away; see, for example, Jason Steger's obituary in The Age.
       Text Publishing has four of his titles in print, but you don't see much by him outside Australia.

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       The Gate of Angels review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Penelope Fitzgerald's 1990 novel, The Gate of Angels -- shortlisted for the Booker Prize, back in the day.

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31 July 2022 - Sunday

Tomb of Sand complaint | Bullet Train - the movie

       Tomb of Sand complaint

       So, as for example the PTI report has it, Booker winner Geetanjali Shree's event cancelled in Agra after complaint against her, as some self-important bozo: "has filed the complaint against the writer. In the complaint, he has blamed Geetanjali Shree for alleged objectionable comments on Lord Shiva and mother Parvati" in her novel, Tomb of Sand .
       Apparently even just a complaint -- very late in the day, no less; the novel has been out in Hindi since 2018 ... -- is enough to scare everyone into silence. Frustrating.
       Abhik Deb's report reports:
The police said that they will read the book before deciding on whether to file a FIR [first information report].
       So at least more people will be reading the novel.

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       Bullet Train - the movie

       The movie version of Isaka Kōtarō's Bullet Train will be out (in the US) later this week -- see, for example, the official site -- and in The New York Times Motoko Rich profiles The Japanese Author Behind ‘Bullet Train’ Is OK That the Film Isn’t So Japanese. (I'm not sure why he wouldn't be; I assume he was remunerated well and, hey, they got Brad Pitt to be in it; yes, "the movie bears little resemblance to real life" but, come on, neither does the book.)
       Among the interesting bits from the piece:
With Isaka’s work all but unknown to English-language readers, Yuma Terada and Ryosuke Saegusa, the founders of CTB, a film production and literary agency that represents Isaka, consolidated the copyrights to his novels and commissioned translations of a handful of them, hoping to pitch him as a literary cousin to Murakami
       (All but unknown, maybe -- but readers of the complete review have been aware of his Remote Control since 2011, when I reviewed it .....)
       I'm looking forward to seeing his Three Assassins, already out in the UK and coming to the US later this year.

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30 July 2022 - Saturday

New Asymptote | New Hungarian books

       New Asymptote

       The July issue of Asymptote is now online -- more than enough reading material for the weekend.

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       New Hungarian books

       At hlo they've now posted the second of their two summer round-ups, so with both New Books in Hungarian - Summer 2022 I. and now New Books in Hungarian - Summer 2022 II. online you've got a nice overview of major new publications.
       Let's hope we eventually get to see some of these in translation.

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29 July 2022 - Friday

The New York Times names new Books editor
Armory Square Prize | Witness to the Future review

       The New York Times names new Books editor

       It took quite a few months, but The New York Times has finally filled the position vacated by Pamela Paul, naming a new Books editor, now announcing: Gilbert Cruz Is Our Next Books Editor.
Now he’ll move to Books to focus his energies on three important pillars of coverage. The first is to reimagine The New York Times Book Review, the nation’s last stand-alone newspaper book-review section, for the digital age. The second is to increase and embolden our reporting on and criticism of ideas and intellectual life, the publishing world and all that lives within it. And the third is to build new muscles in service journalism that will help our readers choose their next books with ease and joy.
       Not sure about some of this language -- "build new muscles in service journalism" ? really ? -- and, of course, I am always concerned when I hear about reïmagining-efforts (of any sort ...), but I guess we will see .....

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       Armory Square Prize

       They've announced a new prize, the Armory Square Prize for South Asian Literature in Translation.-- open to:
Any previously unpublished book-length work of narrative prose, fiction or nonfiction, including story collections, written by a South Asian author (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, or part of the diaspora), living or dead.
       Open Letter will publish the winning title.
       Among the judging-criteria is the: "Relative degree of underrepresentation of the original language" !
       The jury is about as impressive as pone could wish for, so this is certainly a prize to keep an eye on.

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       Witness to the Future review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Klaus Rifbjerg's 1981 novel, Witness to the Future, in Steven T. Murray's 1987 translation, published by his and his wife Tiina Nunnally's Fjord Press.

       Despite Rifbjerg's popularity in Denmark, not much of his work has been translated into English -- though Norvik Press did bring out his Terminal Innocence in 2015; see their publicity page.

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28 July 2022 - Thursday

Literature from ... Taiwan | AI translation | Yoga review

       Literature from ... Taiwan

       In the Taiwan News Casey Ho reports on how Taiwan literature faces different publishing climates in Europe.

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       AI translation

       The University of Massachusetts Amherst reports on US$822,365 grant awarded to Mohit Iyyer for work on AI translation "especially when the original versions were published in a non-Romance language and written with a high-literary sensibility", in Lost In Translation: A New Approach to AI Navigates World Literature, as:
Over the next two years, Iyyer and his team will build an online platform that hosts a wide range of previously untranslated novels, which will be available in English thanks to an AI model that his team will develop. These translations will be interactive, and readers will be able to highlight sections of text that they think are incorrect and propose alternatives that read more smoothly. Another AI model -- a post-editing model -- will collect these user-generated corrections and update the AI translational model with them. It’s a way for the AI translation model to “learn.”
       I look forward to hearing how this works out.

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       Yoga review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the latest by Emmanuel Carrère, Yoga, now also out in the US.

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27 July 2022 - Wednesday

Booker Prize longlist | Rathbones Folio Prize format change
Yuri Andrukhovych Q & A | Julian Barnes on ... books

       Booker Prize longlist

       They've announced the thirteen-title-strong longlist for this year's Booker Prize, the leading English-language novel prize, selected from 169 (unfortunately not revealed ...) titles.
       I've only seen (and read) one of these; I did not take to it and did not review it.
       There are several titles I am curious about -- notably The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka, which just narrowly slipped in the previously-published-outside-the-UK grace period for eligibility, having come out in India in January 2020. It originally came out under a different title: Chats with the Dead -- but then his Chinaman was published under a different title in the US as well, The Legend of Pradeep Mathew. (Have I mentioned how much I dislike this re-titling practice is, and how baffled I am that this kind of thing still goes on ?)
       (Updated): Publisher Sort of Books alerts us that The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is, in fact, not identical to Chats with the Dead, but rather a revised, (re-)edited version of the text. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

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       Rathbones Folio Prize format change

       With rather poor timing, the Rathbones Folio Prize has announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) a change in its format: picking up where the recently retired Whitbread Costa Book Awards left off. they will now be naming a four-title shortlist in three categories -- fiction, non, and poetry -- with the category winners then pitted against each other for the big prize.
       Quite a wait until the first shortlists are announced: expect them in early 2023.

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       Yuri Andrukhovych Q & A

       At the Los Angeles Review of Books Kate Tsurkan has a Q & A with the Perverzion-author, in “Writers Are the Middlemen Between the Human Race and Immortality”: A Conversation with Yuri Andrukhovych.
       They mainly talk about Radio Nights -- not yet available in English, but see, for example, the Suhrkamp foreign rights page.

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       Julian Barnes on ... books

       PEN Transmissions now has a version of a speech Julian Barnes gave at the recent Christie's auction, First Editions, Second Thoughts,: "on reading books, collecting books, and annotating books" -- Books, Books, Books.
       Barnes admits that:
I have been a book reader, a book buyer, a book sniffer, a book collector and, in recent times, a regretful book discarder
       The piece is also noteworthy in that it uses the word: 'especial' ("I wouldn't take especial umbrage if you started one of my books, decided it wasn't for you, and transferred your attention to someone else's book"); that's not a term you see used much any more.

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26 July 2022 - Tuesday

Gerald Murnane profile | Literary estates
Invasion of the Spirit People review

       Gerald Murnane profile

       In The New Yorker Merve Emre profiles The Reclusive Giant of Australian Fiction -- Gerald Murnane.
       Several Murnane titles are under review at the complete review:        I also have several more, and expect to get to some of them soon.
       Meanwhile: read Barley Patch !

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       Literary estates

       At The Bookseller Rod Smith writes on one of my favorite subjects -- literary estates and executors --, in Whose legacy is it anyway ?
       Not sure I agree that:
The candidate for the role of literary executor must understand your wishes in the form of the guidelines. They should positively challenge you on them where necessary. Most of all they need to be alive to the opportunities and be prepared where necessary to interpret your wishes in the light of the prevailing circumstances, circumstances which might not have been in your contemplation at the time of setting down the guidelines.
       I worry a great deal when executors (or pretty much anyone ...) start 'interpreting' -- but, certainly, authors should make as clear as possible how they want their (literary) legacies handled.
       (See also me on Weighing Words Over Last Wishes, from way back when.)

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

       Invasion of the Spirit People review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the latest by Juan Pablo Villalobos, Invasion of the Spirit People, just out from And Other Stories.

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

25 July 2022 - Monday

PEN America at 100 exhibit | Shishkin on Russian culture | Running Blind review

       PEN America at 100 exhibit

       The exhibit PEN America at 100: A Century of Defending the Written Word has opened at the New York Historical Society, and runs through 9 October; see also Ed Nawotka's report in Publishers Weekly, PEN America Marks 100 Years.
       And see, of course, the PEN America site.

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

       Shishkin on Russian culture

       Maidenhair-author Mikhail Shishkin makes the case for Russian culture -- despite current circumstances -- in Don't Blame Dostoyevsky.
       He notes:
The Russian state has no use for Russian culture unless it can be made to serve the state.
       (Which can probably be said for most states .....)

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

       Running Blind review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lee Child's Running Blind -- published in the UK as The Visitor --, the fourth Jack Reacher novel (from way back in 2000).

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

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