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25 September 2016 - Sunday

Prix Sade | Cundill Prize in Historical Literature longlist

       Prix Sade

       They've announced the winner of this year's prix Sade. French literary prizes generally have a poor-to-non-existent web presence, but even here the prix Sade stands out in taking the worst approach imaginable: solely having a 'Facebook' page -- which is, alas, apparently currently the only place you can find a mention of who won (here -- and my apologies for linking to a page at that cesspit of a site).
       The winning title is Un désir d'humain: Les «love doll» au Japon, by Agnès Giard; see the Les Belles Lettres publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.fr.
       Looking at the author's official site, it certainly looks like she knows her stuff -- and she's certainly written extensively on the subject matter(s).

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



       Cundill Prize in Historical Literature longlist

       I'm a few days late with this, but they've announced the longlist for the Cundill Prize in Historical Literature, a Canadian prize that nevertheless pays out in US dollars -- a tidy 75,000 to the winning author.
       A manageable longlist of only six titles -- that will be cut in half in short order, with the finalist announcement already coming 3 October.
       The 'literature' the prize honors is limited to non-fiction, but within those limitations they get to a pretty interesting variety of books; I haven't read or reviewed any of these, but could see myself getting to several.

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



24 September 2016 - Saturday

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o wins Pak Kyong Ni Prize | The Brother review

       Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o wins Pak Kyong Ni Prize

       Previous winners of the relatively new South Korean author prize, the Pak Kyong Ni Prize, include Amos Oz (last year), Marilynne Robinson (2013), and Lyudmila Ulitskaya (2012), and they've now announced that this year's winner of the 100 million won (ca. US$90,000) prize is the great and certainly deserving Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o.
       No word yet at the official site, last I checked, but see, for example, the Dong-A Ilbo report.

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



       The Brother review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Estonian author Rein Raud's The Brother, just out in English from Open Letter.
       A nice little novel that deserves some/more attention.

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



23 September 2016 - Friday

Bottom's Dream publication day | Geronimo review

       Bottom's Dream publication day

       It's actually been more or less available for a few weeks already -- and selling well, if the Amazon.com sales rank is anything to go by -- but today is apparently the official publication date for Dalkey Archive Press' edition of John E. Woods' translation of Arno Schmidt's magnum opus (emphasis on the magnum ...), Bottom's Dream, and so you should readily be able to get a copy. Just don't expect to finish it over the weekend .....
       No (print) press coverage of note yet, and certainly no reviews (somehow Publishers Weekly (etc.) don't seem to have gotten through the near-1500 pages yet ...), but this hard-to-overlook volume, and this historic publication (it is a big, big deal) should get some coverage sooner rather than later (indeed, I understand the Wall Street Journal is due to have something on it this weekend [Updated - 24 September]: and here we have it: see now Steven Norton's report).

       (Meanwhile, of course, I remind you many of his other (generally more accessible -- and all considerably shorter) works are available in John E Woods' translation from Dalkey Archive Press and Green Integer -- and if you want a general Arno Schmidt introduction you can turn to my litttle monograph, Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, or on Kindle: get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).)

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



       Geronimo review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Leon de Winter's recent thriller, Geronimo, in which he suggests the killing of Osama bin Laden went down very differently than we think.

       This is the eighth de Winter title under review at the complete review, and I've often expressed surprise that so few of these have been translated into English. A longtime former US resident, de Winter would seem well-positioned to break into the American market, but has had very limited success. As to this one -- not yet translated into English -- I can see how its politics (Obama is painted in a ... bad light) might be problematic; on the other hand, there are surely some publishers who might be interested in it just for that reason ..... (More problematic, of course, is that, politics aside, it just isn't that good .....)

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



22 September 2016 - Thursday

Literary prizes: Swiss Book Prize shortlist - French American Prize longlist
Nordisk Books

       Literary prize: Swiss Book Prize shortlist

       The Schweizer Buchpreis -- which isn't really the Swiss Book Prize, but rather the Swiss Book Prize for books written in German ... -- has announced its five-title shortlist, selected from 83 (unrevealed) submissions. It includes a book by Imperium-author Christian Kracht, as well as just one title that had also made the German Book Prize longlist, Michelle Steinbeck's Mein Vater war ein Mann an Land und im Wasser ein Walfisch.
       The winner of the CHF 30,000 prize will be announced on 13 November.

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



       Literary prize: French American Prize longlist

       I can't really fathom why the French see the need for a Grand prix de littérature américaine -- like American fiction doesn't get enough attention in France ... -- but, hey, they do, and they've now announced their longlist.
       At least it's one of those rare foreign-language prizes where everything is familiar and available in the US/UK.
       The shortlist will be announced 11 October, and the winner on 4 November.

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



       Nordisk Books

       In The Bookseller Natasha Onwuemezi reports that Scandi-literary indie preps launch title, profiling new publisher Nordisk Books.
       They are:
An independent publishing house founded in London in 2016 with a focus on modern and contemporary Scandinavian literature.
       Sounds sort of like what Norvik Press has been doing for a while, but it's always good to have more publishers covering this territory -- there's certainly room (i.e. enough deserving titles that should be published in English), for them and more .....
       Their first book will apparently be Havoc, by Tom Kristensen -- nothing new (the University of Wisconsin Press brought this out almost half a century ago), but long out of print. (And New York Review of Books is apparently coming out with this in the US -- which on the one hand speaks for the quality of the book, on the other hand makes it a bit disappointing that they didn't choose something with which to make their first mark in both the US and UK markets all their own.)

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



21 September 2016 - Wednesday

Watanabe Junichi Museum changes hands
Shortlists: German Book Prize - Australian Medal for Excellence in Translation
Longlist: The Samuel Johnson Prize Baillie Gifford Prize

       Watanabe Junichi Museum changes hands

       In one of the more bizarre literary-related headlines I have come across recently, Nikkei reports: Daio Paper sells literary museum to Chinese publisher, as:
Daio Paper has sold a museum dedicated to renowned Japanese author Junichi Watanabe to China's Qingdao Publishing Group
       See also the (Chinese) Qingdao press release (with lots of pictures from the hand-/take-over ceremony).
       The Ando Tadao-designed Watanabe Junichi Museum of Literature actually looks pretty impressive -- but:
Traffic had been slow, with only about 3,000 visitors in 2015. But many of those who did come were Chinese, as Watanabe's works are popular in China.
       Meanwhile, Watanabe isn't quite so well-remembered (or at least in print) in the US/UK -- but A Lost Paradise made at least a bit of an impression; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       Shortlist: German Book Prize

       The imitation-Man-Booker German Book Prize has announced its six finalists; at DeutscheWelle Sabine Peschel has brief summaries of the shortlisted titles.
       The winner will be announced 17 October.

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



       Shortlist: Australian Medal for Excellence in Translation

       They've announced the shortlist for the biennial Australian Academy of the Humanities Medal for Excellence in Translation, with three impressive if very different titles: two old classics -- the I Ching and The Old Javanese Rāmāyana, as well as a Patrick Modiano (Paris Nocturne).
       I actually have two of these -- the I Ching and the Modiano -- and they both look quite impressive (in very different ways).

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



       Longlist: The Samuel Johnson Prize Baillie Gifford Prize

       What used to be The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, from 1999 through last year, is now apparently something called the 'Baillie Gifford Prize' (this Baillie Gifford apparently able to pony up enough sponsorship money to displace the long dead (and presumably, for all intents and purposes, destitute) Samuel Johnson as headliner).
       They're announcing their longlist today -- and while the information isn't yet up at the official site, as I write this, the papers have the scoop: see, for example, Alison Flood's report in The Guardian, Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich heads longlist for UK''s top nonfiction award.
       The shortlist will be announced 17 October, and the winner on 15 November.

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



20 September 2016 - Tuesday

Literary prizes: Saba Literary Prizes - Royal Society Science Book Prize
Jonathan Swift-Preis | John Aubrey, My Own Life review

       Literary prize: Saba Literary Prizes

       They've announced the 2016 (Georgian) Saba (საბა) Literary Prizes in ten categories; see also the Agenda,ge report, 2016 Saba Literary Prize winners revealed.
       The interesting ones are of course the fiction winners, and one hopes that eventually one or the other will make it into English; meanwhile, the translation prizes went to Tamar Japaridze, for his translation of John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman into Georgian, and to Lyn Coffin, for her translation of Shota Rustaveli's The Knight in the Panther Skin from the Georgian (into English); see also the Troubador publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com.

       There are some -- but of course far too few -- Georgian titles under review at the complete review.

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



       Literary prize: Royal Society Science Book Prize

       The Royal Society 'Insight Investment' Science Book Prize has announced that this year's £25,000 prize goes to The Invention of Nature, Andrea Wulf's Alexander von Humboldt-biography; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       Alexander von Humboldt was a fascinating guy (as was brother Wilhelm), so the subject-matter is certainly of interest.

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



       Literary prize: Jonathan Swift-Preis

       The Jonathan Swift-Preis is, somewhat surprisingly, a Swiss author prize. (Well, on the other hand ... what Swiss author could they have named an 'international literary prize for satire and humor' after ?)
       They've now announced (scroll down) that The Weather Fifteen Years Ago-author Wolf Haas will be getting this year's CHF 20,000 prize on 20 November -- mainly for his Brenner-novels, several of which Melville House has brought out in English.

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



       John Aubrey, My Own Life review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ruth Scurr's much-praised biography (of (unusual) sorts), John Aubrey, My Own Life, now also out in a US edition, from New York Review Books (in a rare hardcover-edition).

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



19 September 2016 - Monday

Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 - preview

       Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 - preview

       They will begin announcing the Nobel Prizes the week of 3 October, and while the Nobel Prize in Literature waits before announcing when they will announce the prize-winner (the winner of that prize is always announced on a Thursday in October, but they only reveal which Thursday on the Monday of that week, while the schedule for the rest is already set [the 'at the earliest'-caveat listed next to each prize for now refers only to the time, not the date; sometimes these things get delayed a bit]), in recent years the Swedish Academy has faithfully taken that Thursday-spot during the big Nobel-announcement-week. I.e. we can expect this year's winner to be announced on 6 October (and we will know on 3 October if that is actually the case, or if we have to wait another week).
       [Having grown almost boringly predictable, I think the chances are very good -- say, upward of 85 per cent -- that the winner will be announced on 6 October. This is fairly early in October, however, and there is a chance that they won't have enough deliberation-time until then, and will choose to take a few more days. With the Frankfurt Book Fair scheduled very late this year -- 19 to 23 October --, while the Nobel announcement has often come in Frankfurt-week in recent years, there's a bit less pressure than usual to get the name out quickly too; 13 October would be well in time for Frankfurt too (and the 20th would do, too).]
       In any case, by now the Swedish Academy is presumably in the final stages of choosing the winner (while probably not actually having settled on a name yet).
       At the beginning of the summer they traditionally narrow down the list of contenders to five or so -- but don't reveal who these are. Sometimes rumors float, but this year there's been very little information -- nothing credible that I've come across. (Disappointingly, they haven't even revealed how many names were submitted and originally considered (information Peter Englund occasionally revealed).) So there's very little to go on.

       Everyone's favorite first point of reference are the betting sites, which give you odds on any number of authors -- which sometimes provides some insight or clues into who the Swedish Academy might be considering. So, for example, last year's winner Svetlana Alexievich popped up on the betting lists out of nowhere in 2013, suggesting she had made the shortlist, and she was a betting favorite all last year -- and actually won.
       For the most part, however, the betting lists include more or less the same authors, at similar odds, from year to year.
       This year, you can find and compare odds at:
  • Ladbrokes - the leader in the Nobel-betting field -- and offering the biggest field

  • Unibet - the (more or less) local (Swedish) shop

  • And there's NicerOdds, which collects and compares odds from these two sites and not-available-in-the-US paf
       So Murakami Haruki is the betting front-runner at 5/1 -- but the sites already diverge regarding the next strongest candidates: Adonis' odds range from 13/2 to 25/1, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o's from 7/1 to 10/1 (so, depending on who you favor, watch where you place your bet to maximize your potential winnings).
       The two things to look out for on the betting lists are big changes in the odds -- suggesting, possibly, that someone has some insider information, that a certain name is on the shortlist (remember: at this point in time, it is unlikely they have actually selected the winning author yet, so the best you can hope for is guessing one of the finalists) -- and new names that pop up on the list.
       So, for example, Doris Kareva, at a healthy 33/1 on the Ladbrokes list, is someone who hasn't previously figured on these lists. Is she a contender ? I'd suggest a poet from Estonia is unlikely to bag the prize the year after an author who also grew up in the Soviet Union did. (I would also imagine there's some regional competition from (unlisted but surely nominated by someone) Finnish author Sofi Oksanen -- though for now she's probably simply too young (she'd be the youngest ever to get the prize if she did).)
       Note also that there are some names on the lists that are entirely implausible: Ladbrokes continues to list Bob Dylan because people like betting on Bob Dylan, and there is simply no way they'll give the prize to Jussi Adler-Olsen (nor can I imagine that anyone has ever nominated him -- which I can't say for Dylan).

       You can also find discussion board discussions at:        Discussion elsewhere seems rather limited; e.g. Words without Borders' Our 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature Office Pool remains empty as I write this ......

       I haven't seen much media/personal/blog speculation so far, but shigekuni. does offer Nobel Prize 2016: My picks. [updated:] and The Birdcage has a Nobel Prize for Literature 2016 Speculation list, considering an impressively extensive list (with useful desciptions/explanations) of possible contenders (though, despite including four from (South) Korea -- the most from any country -- she doesn't include the one I'd put as local favorite, Yi Mun-yol).

       So what do I think ?
       Well, without much to go on it's pretty hard to say much. There are some contenders (betting odds- or other-wise) that I think can be counted out -- say, Olga Tokarczuk, who has been tipped as high as 20/1 (in 2012) and is definitely a sometime prospect but too close to recent winners (geographically; subject matter) to have a strong chance this year. And some perennials seem really long in the tooth -- retired Philip Roth, especially, but there's quite a list.
       It's hard to get much of a sense of what the Swedish Academy is looking for (and I think they're enjoying that unpredictability). So the best I can do, at least for now (there are still a couple of weeks to go -- time enough for rumors to spread and odds to change) is go with the authors I think are most likely/deserving:

        - Jon Fosse's name popped up at the same time as Alexievich's, and it seems pretty clear that he's somewhere in the running; sure, if they're going Scandinavian, I'd prefer someone like Dag Solstad, but Fosse's output is very solid and he seems the top (near-)local candidate.
       [Current Ladbrokes odds: 20/1]

        - I can't see them not at least considering Juan Goytislo; getting on in years, but with a most impressive and Nobel-worthy output.
       [Current Ladbrokes odds: 66/1]

        - I've been saying Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is a top contender for years, and I suspect he's come close; I hope they're still considering him.
       [Current Ladbrokes odds: 7/1]

        - There are quite a few deserving Arabic authors, including perennial favorite Adonis, but I'd have to go with Ibrahim al-Koni.
       [Current Ladbrokes odds: not listed]

        - I still think Mahmoud Dowlatabadi should be seriously considered -- eminently deserving, and from the underappreciated (by the Swedish Academy ...) periphery. (And if they do look to Iran, then Shahrnush Parsipur is, of course, also to be considered).
       [Current Ladbrokes odds: not listed]

        - At some point they won't be able to look beyond Man Booker International Prize-winner Krasznahorkai László -- I'm just not sure they're ready yet.
       [Current Ladbrokes odds: 50/1]

        - Does one of the longtime Australians -- Les Murray and Gerald Murnane -- have a chance ?
       [Current Ladbrokes odds: both at 50/1]

       I figure/hope other names will come into play too, as speculation (and gossip) heat up; I'll certainly be posting more as the announcement-date approaches.

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



18 September 2016 - Sunday

(Re)packaging classics | Children's literature in ... India
Super Extra Grande review

       (Re)packaging classics

       In The Guardian John Walsh considers Old book, new look: why the classics are flying off the shelves, as: "British publishers are putting lots of money and energy into guessing what the new generation of classics buyers wants".
       I'm generally for very simple, more-or-less uniform covers, but those new Penguins, in their hideous colors, achieve something I hadn't thought possible, being possibly too basic. Still, interesting to hear about the various strategies and approaches -- and some of the numbers ("the bestselling classic this year is War and Peace, with 54,000 copies sold by 10 publishing houses, compared with 12,000 last year").
       I'm not sure about some of this -- "Some people are intimidated by covers with oil paintings" ? -- but it's kind of fun to learn that, for example: "We tried film tie-in covers, but it was a disaster"
       (Interesting also that the focus is so much on appearance, with practically no mention of, for example, the question of what translations are selected for the out-of-copyright classics.)

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



       Children's literature in ... India

       At What's Missing from This Picture they have a post by Jaya Bhattacharji Rose on Indian Children’s Literatures: 'Translations Are a Must'.
       What goes for adult fiction certainly also goes for kids' stuff too.

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



       Super Extra Grande review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yoss' Super Extra Grande, another Cuban science fiction from Restless Books.

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



17 September 2016 - Saturday

Edward Albee (1928-2016)
ECI Literatuurprijs shortlist | Blood Crime review

       Edward Albee (1928-2016)

       Leading American playwright, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner (etc. etc.) Edward Albee has passed away; see, for example, obituaries in The New York Times (Bruce Weber's) and The Washington Post (Nelson Pressley's).
       See also, for example, The Paris Review's Q & A with him, or the Edward Albee Society.

       The Overlook Press has a three-volume collected plays edition -- and the first, covering 1958 to 1965, is as good a place as any to start; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

       Only one work by Albee is under review at the complete review, his adaptation of Lolita. It is not very good.
       (I actually saw this when I was sixteen, during its very short Broadway run -- the parents were Albee fans, and, hey, Donald Sutherland ! Ian Richardson ! Lolita ! But, yes, it was not very good. See, for example, Frank Rich's take-down in The New York Times ("This show is the kind of embarrassment that audiences do not quickly forget or forgive", etc.).)

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



       ECI Literatuurprijs shortlist

       The Dutch AKO ECI Literatuurprijs has announced its six-title shortlist, which includes Connie Palmen's Ted Hughes/Sylvia Plath book (see the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page) -- with translations available/coming in Danish, German, French, and Italian already ... -- as well as Arnon Grunberg's latest, Moedervlekken (see the Lebowski foreign rights page) -- rights sold in Germany and ... Brazil. (Palmen and Grunberg are, of course, both authors that found place in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction.)
       (The Netherlands and Flanders are guests of honour at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, and will be presenting themselves in New York next week; apparently: "Scharpé and Schiferli will use their time in New York to visit several publishers and editors", and hopefully some will be paying attention: while the Germans are churning out Dutch translations this year (even more so than usual), the US/UK lag badly -- and are missing lots of very good stuff.)
       The winner of the AKO ECI Literatuurprijs will be announced 10 November.

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



       Blood Crime review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Catalan writer Sebastià Alzamora's Spanish Civil War novel (with a vampire ...), Blood Crime, just out from Soho Crime.

       Despite considerable promise, it ultimately fell pretty flat for me; it hasn't been widely reviewed in the US/UK yet, but it's amusing to see that Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review, while Kirkus was ... less enthusiastic (e.g. "If you've ever wondered what it's like to feel simultaneously bored and nauseous, this is the book for you").

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



16 September 2016 - Friday

(American) National Book Awards longlists
R.K.Narayan museum | Aragon's Anicet

       (American) National Book Awards finalists

       They've been announcing the longlists for the (American) National Book Awards all week -- one category per day -- and with yesterday's announcement of the fiction titles now have them all covered; you can find them all here.
       Not much additional information available -- like how many titles were submitted (and god forbid they'd actually reveal what they were ...) -- as the NBF 'press room' apparently stopped issuing press releases in the fall of 2013 .....
       The finalists are due to be announced 12 October; the winners 16 November.

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



       R.K.Narayan museum

       They saved R.K.Narayan's house from being razed and recently opened a museum honoring the author there, but early reactions have been ... mixed, and with an estimated twenty to thirty visitors daily it's not proving to be a huge draw yet.
       At Scroll.in Hema Ramaprasad found The RK Narayan museum is sparse on exhibits, and almost a Narayanesque tragicomedy, noting that:
Exhibits include books, stills from the TV show of Malgudi Days, a few pieces of furniture, and the author's personal effects -- spectacles, frayed shirts, embroidered shawls, woollen coats, and moth-eaten pullovers. It isn't much as a writer's museum goes and it takes under 15 minutes to see, even if you were to linger at every award plaque and sepia-tinted photo frame there is.
       In Frontline, in A museum for the master, Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed is also under-whelmed, finding: "The museum itself, sadly, is not remarkable and has nothing to offer a casual visitor".
       In The Hindu Mahesh Rao is a bit more enthusiastic -- but also reports:
It was a quiet Sunday when I visited and the museum was empty. The security guard quickly took charge, pointed out the new plasterwork, and then marched me to the bathroom.
       I think for now I'll stick to (re)visiting his books -- a nice omnibus starter-collection, anyone ? (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).

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



       Aragon's Anicet

       Atlas Press recently brought out Louis Aragon's 1921 Dada novel, Anicet, or the Panorama, in Antony Melville's translation -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk -- and it certainly sounds ... intriguing.
       Caroline Moore just reviewed it in The Spectator -- suggesting:
How do you describe 'ennui' without becoming boring ? Aragon manages it: this semi-novel is never dull; but it is certainly exhausting.
       Looks like it should be of some interest.
       (See/read also, for example, the original French edition at the International Dada Archive.)

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



15 September 2016 - Thursday

Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalists | Book-burning RPG - 'Quote'
Richard Posner review

       Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalists

       Each year the Dayton Literary Peace Prize honors a work of fiction and one of non which: "address the theme of peace on a variety of levels, such as between individuals, among families and communities, or between nations, religions, or ethnic groups", and they've now announced this year's finalists in both categories.
       While the prize is open to works in translation, none of this year's finalists is .....
       The awards ceremony will be on 20 November.

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



       Book-burning RPG - 'Quote'

       Vindit is bringing out a 'role-playing game' (RPG) called Quote, which they sum up on their press kit page as:
Burn every book. Kill every author. Save the world from the taint of knowledge for the God of Ignorance.
       Presumably this is meant as a clever riff on the idea of knowledge-destruction, since they do claim that:
Darkly charming, Quote is inspired by games such as Little Big Adventure, as well as the works of revered authors such as Vonnegut, Carter, Bradbury, Eco and Huxley.
       Still, I'm not quite sure what to make of it, or whether this is a good idea.
       (Unfortunately, I do not find myself with the time to play any RPGs -- and I'm not sure this would be first choice if I did.)

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



       Richard Posner review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of William Domnarski's biography of Richard Posner, just out from Oxford University Press.

       With a dozen Posner-titles under review, of course I was eager to see this !
       Among the titbits that particularly amused me:
In a letter to University of Chicago Law School colleague Martha Nussbaum, Posner added that "in my childhood and teens I was drawn to the grandiose -- Homer, Dante, Milton -- and to the adventure books -- Bulwer-Lytton, Haggard, etc."
       As longtime readers know, I'm a big Bulwer-Lytton fan -- he's among the few people with more than one biography under review at the site: see those by Leslie Mitchell and T.H.S.Escott -- and, hey, Arno Schmidt was a fan too.

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



14 September 2016 - Wednesday

Literary prizes: Man Booker Prize shortlist
Prix Médicis longlists - Prix Sade finalists

       Literary prize: Man Booker Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Man Booker Prize, the final six, from 155 submitted (but, alas, not revealed) titles originally in the running.
       None of the remaining six titles are under review at the complete review; I could see myself getting to some of them -- but not soon, I suspect.
       The winner will be announced 25 October.

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       Literary prize: Prix Médicis longlists

       The prix Médicis is one of the French prizes that is awarded both for a best French work of fiction as well as for a best foreign (translated) work, and they've now announced their longlists.
       The fourteen-title French longlist includes some Goncourt/Renaudot overlap, while the eleven-title foreign longlist is European-language-heavy and includes several translated-from-the-English titles, including works by Edna O’Brien and Nell Zink. Nice to see a Christoph Hein, too, but the US entry that impresses is James E. McTeer II's Minnow, which got good notices in the US but, published by ... Hub City didn't really seem to get the recognition/readership it deserved; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
       Of course the one I'm really curious about is Antônio Xerxenesky's F -- see the original Rocco publicity page (good cover, too !), or the Asphalte one. He's been getting some English-language attention -- a Granta spot, a 2015 residency at the Iowa International Writing Program -- and surely someone has already signed this and A página assombrada por fantasmas (Thomas Pynchon ! Anna Kournikova ? see the Rocco publicity page) ... haven't they ?

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       Literary prize: Prix Sade finalists

       The prix Sade -- which can safely be assumed to honor exactly what you would expect -- has announced its five finalists, which includes a Dennis Cooper novel, works titled: Des petites filles modèles and Scènes du plaisir, as well as works with extended-/sub-titles that include: Introduction à la viragophilie and les love doll au Japon -- all of which is clear enough without translation, isn't it ?
       The winner will be announced 24 September.

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13 September 2016 - Tuesday

Han Kang Q & A | Lionel Shriver and 'cultural appropriation'
New Quarterly Conversation | Nocilla Dream review

       Han Kang Q & A

       Han Kang's Man Booker International Prize-winning novel, The Vegetarian, has now also come out in German translation, and is getting lots of attention from the local press -- and at DeutscheWelle they have Sabine Peschel's Q & A with the author -- with the no-pressure headline: Korea's Kafka ? Man Booker winner Han Kang on why she turns a woman into a plant.
       Interesting to note that:
DW: You originally published 'The Vegetarian' in 2007. Why was it translated so many years later ?

Han Kang: The license for the English translation was only sold in 2013, I believe. Before that, the book had been translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Polish, Spanish and Portuguese.
       But it was the English-language publication that made for the ... Korean-language break-through. Well, that Man Booker International Prize win:
Has your book been a bestseller in Korea ?

Now it is. But not nine years ago when it appeared. It has been a steady seller, but it was not broadly accepted by the ordinary audience. Since this year -- after the prize -- it has become a bestseller.
       (And, yes, it's a bit sad that it takes foreign approval to get the locals really interested .....)

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



       Lionel Shriver and 'cultural appropriation'

       The Brisbane Writers Festival ran 7 to 11 September, and The Mandibles-author Lionel Shriver gave the keynote speech.
       In a preparatory 'Artist Highlight' they quote her as saying: "I like saying things you’re not supposed to say" and, hey, guess what, she apparently did.
       The program page suggested:
Lionel opens this year’s Festival with her reflections on why we identify with each other in communities, and how belonging to one group shouldn’t preclude us from exploring another. As a writer who inhabits unfamiliar and sometimes unlikeable characters, Lionel is a firm believer in branching out beyond the world she inhabits.

With her trademark candour and dry wit, Lionel discusses breaking boundaries, and how writing about the unknown is a form of connection in itself.
       Apparently, they got more than they bargained for -- or in a different form, in any case. Disappointingly, her remarks are apparently not available at the official site, in video, audio, or text form, but I hope they surface at some point [updated: Good to see that it is now available in full at The Guardian]; for now, one has to rely on media reports, such as Rod Nordland's piece in The New York Times, Lionel Shriver's Address on Cultural Appropriation Roils a Writers Festival.
       Among those taking offence was Yassmin Abdel-Magied, who wrote in The Guardian that As Lionel Shriver made light of identity, I had no choice but to walk out on her, arguing that: "Shriver's real targets were cultural appropriation, identity politics and political correctness". As she saw it:
It became about mocking those who ask people to seek permission to use their stories. It became a celebration of the unfettered exploitation of the experiences of others, under the guise of fiction.
       This is, of course, problematic territory -- centered, yet again, around this question of 'authenticity' (problematic as that always is, regarding fiction ...). (Ian McEwan's latest isn't an example of cultural appropriation, but what of his entirely inauthentic fœtus-narrator ?)
       This is yet another reason why I prefer my fiction dis-associated from authorship, and treated entirely on its own. But I can see the problem -- of cultural (mis)appropriation -- too, and obviously it's an issue, in an enormous amount of contemporary fiction (cutting all ways, I'd maintain -- very few authors have the personal experience entitling them, as it were, to draw and employ the characters they do; of course the question remains: to what extent, and in what cases, is that relevant ? and in what ways?).
       I'd love to see more discussion of this issue.

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



       New Quarterly Conversation

       Issue 45 - Fall 2016 of the Quarterly Conversation is now available online and that, as always, is worth a look and your time.

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



       Nocilla Dream review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Agustín Fernández Mallo's influential 2006 novel, Nocilla Dream, recently published in English by Fitzcarraldo Editions.

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12 September 2016 - Monday

Read Russia Prizes | The last 100 reviews

       Read Russia Prizes

       They've announced the winners of the Read Russia Prizes (though not yet at the official site, last I checked), awarded in a variety of categories for the best translations of Russian literary works into foreign languages (and, yes, I still have no idea how they compare translations of, say, Turgenev into English with translations of Dostoevsky in Hungarian (to give two shortlisted examples that competed against each other this year)). Alexandra Guzeva has the news at Russia Beyond the Headlines.
       Lisa Hayden's translation of Eugene Vodolazkin's Laurus took the prize in the 'Contemporary literature (post-1990)'-category, while a translation of Turgenev into Spanish took the 'Classic literature of the 19th century'-category prize.

       (Updated - 13 September): See now also Guzeva's follow-up report at RBTH, Translation 'Oscar' goes to Lizok's Bookshelf author.

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



       The last 100 reviews

       There are now 3800 books under review at the complete review, so it's time for another overview of the past 100 reviewed titles.

       - The 100 reviews were posted over 188 days (a considerably more leisurely pace than the previous hundred's 165), total 89,425 words (closer to the average, but down considerably from the previous hundred's 102,849), and the reviewed books had a total of 24,570 pages (previous hundred: 25,441) -- though fourteen were over 400 pages long, compared to only four in the previous hundred..

       - Reviewed books were originally written in 30 different languages (including English; previous hundred: 29), with French yet again the top language, with 16 titles, followed by Spanish (11) and Japanese (10), and English lagging in fourth place with 8 (which is really too few -- I should be getting to more written-in-English titles). (See also the updated full breakdown of all the languages books under review were originally written in.)

       - Reviewed books were by authors from 40 countries (previous 100: also 40), led by France (13), Japan (10), and Italy (7); the US coming in fourth, with 6..

       - Male-written books yet again dominated, though slightly less than usual -- 80 of the reviewed books were written by men (nudging the horribly sexist average of written-by-women titles under review up to ... 15.62 per cent).

       - No books received a grade of 'A' (three had in the previous hundred), but 15 rated 'A-'. The lowest rating for a book was a single 'C-' -- for David Foenkinos' Charlotte -- though there were also six graded 'B-'.

       - As always, fiction dominated: among reviewed titles 86 were novels (previous hundred: 87) and 2 were story-collections. I finally did get around to some poetry again -- three titles -- but once again failed to review a single play.

       - Contemporary works dominated, with books originally published (in their original language, not, where applicable, the English translation) in:
  • 2016: 6
  • 2015: 6
  • 2014: 7
  • 2013: 13
  • 2012: 5
  • 2011: 8
       Beyond that, four titles each were reviewed from each of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s -- and five from the 1960s. Pleasingly, I managed to get to a few more classical works, with six titles originally published before 1900.

       (I try not to cocncern myself overly with the numbers, because if I do all I can think is how I should be reading more X. Y, Z (etc. etc. etc.) books -- though at least the linguistic and geographic diversity seems pretty solid (but even there, there are so many languages and places that could be better-represented ...). It's pretty hopeless, as there's no way to get it 'right' (because, of course, there is no 'right'.))

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11 September 2016 - Sunday

(Literary) film adaptations | A Hundred and One Nights review

       (Literary) film adaptations

       Literary material has always been popular as a basis for films, and so for example one of the CBC's Toronto International Film Festival preview articles considers 8 literary TIFF films we can't wait to see -- which includes the films Neruda (as in/about Pablo), Nelly (as in/about Nelly Arcan), and the Emily Dickinson-flick, A Quiet Passion.

       Among recent/new movies with literary connections that I am more curious about:

        - the just-released Swedish A Serious Game, based on the classic Hjalmar Söderberg novel of (more or less) the same name; see also the Trust Nordisk information ppage, a profile of the director in Variety, or the IMDb page.

        - Die Geträumten ('The Dreamed Ones'), about the relationship between Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan (!) -- "Their dramatic postal exchange creates the textual basis of the film" (not 'correspondence', mind you -- their 'postal exchange'); see also the official site and the IMDb page.

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



       A Hundred and One Nights review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the 12th (or so) century collection, A Hundred and One Nights, just out in a bilingual edition -- and the first English translation, by Bruce Fudge -- from NYU Press' Library of Arabic Literature
       Not to be confused with the 1001 Nights -- but, even if not quite in the same league (length- and other-wise) still worth a look.

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



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