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18 August 2017 - Friday

Q & As: Georgi Gospodinov - Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès - Karl Ove Knausgaard

       Q & A: Georgi Gospodinov

       At Music & Literature Maria Dimitrova has A Conversation with Georgi Gospodinov -- the author of The Physics of Sorrow (etc.).
       He discusses an interesting variety of work -- from his latest in the Cahiers Series to a graphic novel to a libretto.
       He's a Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library 2017-8, and before that was in Vienna and Berlin:
     Vienna didn't suit ?

     I couldn't really write in Vienna, it was a little too leisurely, too melancholic. I need something opposite to my melancholy.

     Something to create friction.

     Yes, and Berlin is like that, a hard, raw city. In Vienna, you could just let the time pass ...

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

       Q & A: Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès

       Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès' enjoyable Island of Point Nemo is just out from Open Letter, and at Three Percent Hannah Chute has an Interview with Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès.

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       Q & A: Karl Ove Knausgaard

       This week(end)'s The New York Times Book Review has Karl Ove Knausgaard: By the Book
       Some good responses from the My Struggle author -- including:
Tarjei Vesaas has written the best Norwegian novel ever, The Birds -- it is absolutely wonderful, the prose is so simple and so subtle, and the story is so moving that it would have been counted amongst the great classics from the last century if it had been written in one of the major languages.
       (I think it counts, regardless ... and good to see Archipelago recently reissue it in the US; it has long been UK available from Peter Owen; get your copy at or But you really can't go wrong with Vesaas -- try The Ice Palace , too !)
       Knausgaard also found Thomas Bernhard's My Prizes laugh-out-loud funny -- and as to who he would want to write his life story, he suggests Krasznahorkai (!) -- or Lydia Davis.

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

17 August 2017 - Thursday

Pessoa-translation Q & A | Amit Chaudhuri on (well, against) literary prizes
The Book of Emma Reyes review

       Pessoa-translation Q & A

       New Directions is bringing out a new translation, by Margaret Jull Costa, of Fernando Pessoa's The Book Of Disquiet (see their publicity page, or get your copy at or It's hard to imagine there ever being a definitive edition of this classic work, but this surely is the strongest challenger to Richard Zenith's 2001 translation (see the Penguin Modern Classics publicity page, or get your copy at or -- the one I've long relied on.
       At his Conversational Reading weblog Scott Esposito now has Ten Questions for Margaret Jull Costa on Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet.
       Among her most tantalizing responses:
And there is a possibility that I might translate some of his detective fiction
       Please, someone, make this happen !

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       Amit Chaudhuri on (well, against) literary prizes

       In The Guardian Amit Chaudhuri complains that My fellow authors are too busy chasing prizes to write about what matters -- specifically targeting the Man Booker Prize, "the only one that has a real commercial impact", as he argues:
The Booker now has a stranglehold on how people think of, read, and value books in Britain. It has no serious critics.
       'People' ? Many, certainly -- and the publishing industry, of course (but that's just business) -- but I still come across many people thinking of, reading, and valuing books by rather different criteria

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       The Book of Emma Reyes review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Emma Reyes' The Book of Emma Reyes -- subtitled, in its UK edition, A Memoir in Correspondence.
       This recent -- the Spanish original came out in 2012 -- posthumous discovery has been making the international rounds, and its discovery, the book itself, and Reyes' interesting life (beyond what she covers in this childhood memoir) certainly make for a good story. Hey, even The New York Times couldn't resist covering it a few days ago .....

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

16 August 2017 - Wednesday

German Book Prize longlist | Boris Kachka on Michiko Kakutani
The Part of Me That Isn't Broken Inside review

       German Book Prize longlist

       They've announced the 20-title-strong longlist for the German Book Prize, selected from 200 entries (which, regrettably and outrageously, are not revealed) -- 174 submitted novels, and 26 called-in titles.
       Quite a few of these authors have had work translated into English; Ingo Schulze's Peter Holtz is apparently an early favorite.
       The shortlist will be announced 12 September, the winner on 9 October (at the Frankfurt Book Fair).

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       Boris Kachka on Michiko Kakutani

       As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Michiko Kakutani has given up her book reviewing gig at The New York Times, and at New York's Intelligencer Boris Kachka now looks at What the Departure of the Times' Michiko Kakutani Means for Books Coverage (and some of the behind-the-scenes goings-on that might have played a role in her departure).

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       The Part of Me That Isnít Broken Inside review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Shiraishi Kazufumi's The Part of Me That Isnít Broken Inside, due out shortly from Dalkey Archive Press.

       I was a bit leery of this -- his Me Against the World didn't work very well for me, and the title of this one doesn't help -- but I can see why it was such a big success in Japan. Still heavy on the introspective philosophizing, the narrative foundation here is just much better than in Me Against the World; it's the most satisfying novel I've read in quite some time.

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15 August 2017 - Tuesday

70 'iconic' Indian books | Simenon out of print in German ?!??
James Tait Black Prizes

       70 'iconic' Indian books

       A reader points me to Chiki Sarkar's compilation of the 70 greatest books written in English post Independence at the Hindustan Times.
       Semi-admirably, 'written in English' includes several translations -- but these are:
A few extraordinary translations from Indian languages to English -- where we are recognising the translation, not the work itself. In these books the translator rather than the author's name are mentioned front up.
       The English-language focus -- and the: "Only one book per author"-limitation (surely an odd one, when you're making a best-book list) -- are pretty ... limiting, but there are certainly many works of interest on the list (and a few that are under review at the complete review).

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       Simenon out of print in German ?!??

       Georges Simenon always -- well, for the past 40 or so years -- seemed to be well-served by (Swiss-based) German-language publisher Diogenes; they published over two hundred of his titles, from the Maigrets to the romans durs to things like the Mémoires intimes (in a complete translation, not like the abomination that is the US/UK edition, Intimate Memoirs); see also the bibliography at Quai des Orfèvres. But, as already noted in a tweet from December, Diogenes lost the German-language rights last August, and have simply been emptying stock for the past year: the official site now doesn't list a single of their Simenon titles in print or available. has now taken note; apparently Simenon-heir John, and estate representatives Peters Frasers + Dunlop ditched Diogenes -- leaving Simenon's work in a German-language limbo. (It is my understanding that New York Review Books, publishers of a fine little Simenon-collection, has also been de-righted.)
       I thought Diogenes did a fine job, and I find it hard to imagine any publisher would do markedly better, but of course literary heirs are free to screw with estates and success however they please. Still, there's screwing and there's screwing, and I note that a search on suggests the works of Georges Simenon are entirely out of print in German. Let that sink in for a moment: the works of one of the best selling and most popular authors ever (Wikipedia has him ranked sixth all-time) are currently completely out of print in one of the languages in which he has been the most successful .....
       WTF ? indeed.
       No doubt, Simenon jr. and PFD have someone lined up, or eventually will, or hope to, who will let them squeeze more money out of the backlist (because, as noted, Simenon is popular in German(y)). But he's apparently been out of print for a year now, and if there's been a big (or any) announcement of a/the new German-language publisher I've missed it .....
       Sure, Diogenes churned out enough of these over the decades that readers can hunt down old copies of more or less everything. But this is an ugly page out of the Wylie school of literary (mis)representation, in which the interests of readers come dead last (or rather, aren't considered at all): better to hold out -- no matter how long -- for the (potentially) 'better' deal than actually ensure the books are available to interested readers.
       Simenon is a more or less unkillable brand -- but I still think they're doing him (and, more importantly: his work) a disservice. And they're certainly showing how little they care about actual readers.

       (Updated - 17 August): As now reported by Philipp Haibach in Die Welt, Simenon's new German-language publisher will be Kampa Verlag. Who ? you ask -- noticing also that I don't link to a publisher's website ... well, that's because they don't have one yet. Kampa is a start-up that isn't publishing anything yet -- they hope to start next year.
       The pedigree is impressive -- founder Daniel Kampa was publisher at bona fide publisher Hoffmann & Campe -- and with Simenon as a foundation they should do just fine. Still .....

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

       James Tait Black Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's James Tait Black Prizes: The Lesser Bohemians, by Eimear McBride -- out in paperback in the US today; get your copy at or -- , took the fiction prize, and The Vanishing Man, by Laura Cumming, took the biography prize.

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

14 August 2017 - Monday

Translation and resistance | Dubravka Ugrešić Q & A | Killing Floor review

       Translation and resistance

       At Parvathy Raveendran looks back at a panel at "Lekhana, Bangaloreís 'literary weekend'" about translation, in Can translations become a vehicle of cultural resistance ? No, because they always were -- an interesting overview (of the issue, and of such panel discussions).

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

       Dubravka Ugrešić Q & A

       At Political Critique Michal Špína and Strahnija Bućan offer I am a Literary Smuggler: An Interview with Dubravka Ugrešić
       Always interesting to hear from Ugrešić -- and great that Open Letter has some new works in the works !

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

       Killing Floor review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lee Child's first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor.

       Lee Child, you say ? Huh ?
       Well, John Lanchester admitted to being a fan in The New Yorker, and while on his European tour last year César Aira (How I became a Nun, etc.) repeatedly mentioned in interviews that he was gobbling up Child-books on the way -- and he even mentioned him in his opening speech (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) at the literature festival berlin last year:
And when I like something too much, as has recently happened with Lee Child, I have to ask myself seriously: is it really as good as it seems to me ?
       Elsewhere, Aira has said: "Lee Child is a genius."
       So, yeah, I was curious.
       (After reading this, I'm not entirely convinced. Borderline -- I might try one more, just to see (Persuader, probably -- Lanchester says it's the best of the lot).)

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

13 August 2017 - Sunday

DSC Prize for South Asian Literature longlist | Malayalam translation

       DSC Prize for South Asian Literature longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, 13 novels selected from "more than 60 eligible entries" (regrettably unrevealed).
       Several of the books are US/UK available -- and some have even gotten decent attention abroad (Aravind Adiga's Selection Day and Karan Mahajan's The Association of Small Bombs, for example). Only two are translations -- The Poison of Love, by K.R.Meera, and Pyre, by Perumal Murugan.
       The shortlist will be announced on 27 September, the winner on 18 November.

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

       Malayalam translation

       At his Original copy weblog Sudhakaran finds Writers in Kerala are only now waking up to what translation demands, as translations from Malayalam don't seem to attract the hoped-for attention -- even a classic such as O.V.Vijayan's The Legends of Khasak.
       He wonders:
Is it that our language not 'translation ready' ? Or is it that our literature revolves around a 'Malayali space' not palatable to others ?
       (Only five translated-from-the-Malayalam titles are under review at the complete review -- but, as with books translated from most Indian languages, the issue for me is mainly being able to get my hands on any.)

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

12 August 2017 - Saturday

Israeli literature | Kundera (not) in Slovak
From the Berlin Journal review

       Israeli literature

       Reporting on a recent session at the World Congress of Jewish Studies, Aviya Kushner considers Why There's More To Israeli Literature Than Just Hebrew in Forward.

       See also the Index of Israeli and Hebrew literature under review at the complete review.

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

       Kundera (not) in Slovak

       Milan Kundera famously not only moved from Czechoslovakia (as it was still then) to France, but also from writing in Czech to writing in French (e.g. The Festival of Insignificance), and at Eurozine Samuel Abrahám now recounts getting Kundera in Slovak, almost, as Kundera's linguistic shift has had the consequence that:
Kundera wrote in French an additional three books of essays and his last four novels. As he explained to me, he alone can translate his own text into Czech, for he cannot imagine someone else doing it. He added with some regret that translation costs him plenty of energy, and time is getting short ... so his books were translated from French into many languages, but not into his native Czech.
       So the chances of seeing (reading) him in Slovak .....

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

       From the Berlin Journal review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Max Frisch's long-sealed (for twenty years after his death, per his instructions) From the Berlin Journal, now also out in English, from Seagull Books.

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

11 August 2017 - Friday

Rheingau Literatur Preis | Fifteen years of the Literary Saloon

       Rheingau Literatur Preis

       They've announced that the 2017 Rheingau Literatur Preis will be awarded (on 24 September) to popular German author Ingo Schulze.
       This is one of these gimmicky prizes that tries to stand out with a little twist to the actual prize -- here both in the amount (€11,111) and the bonus (111 bottles of premium Rheingau riesling). (Hey, it works -- that's why you're reading about this here, now .....)
       Still, as far as gimmicks go, a couple of cases of decent white wine isn't the worst.
       Schulze is quite well-represented in English -- translated by Arno Schmidt-translator John E. Woods, no less -- and though none of his books are under review at the complete review at this time, he did of course rate a mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction. Get your copy of, for example, his novel New Lives at or

       (Gratuitous observation: it's nice of the Châteaux Hotel Burg Schwarzenstein to throw in some of the prize-money and host the bash, but, damn, that is not a happy mix of architectures classical and new. I realize it's hard to build around Middle Ages stone, but .....)

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

       Fifteen years of the Literary Saloon

       The complete review -- the site, the review stuff -- has been around since 1999, but this Literary Saloon weblog was a relatively late addition, the first post only coming 11 August 2002.
       Still, that's fifteen years ago today, for those of you keeping track of these anniversaries (and, hey, on the internet fifteen years is several lifetimes -- just look at all the book-blogs that have come and gone in the meantime .....). I'm not really sure how (or why ?) I manage to keep going, but somehow I do, apparently without stop (I don't know the last time I even just skipped a day, but it has been a couple of years). Even in these very slow (literary-news-wise) summer months.
       For those of you still reading along -- many thanks for the continued interest and support !

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10 August 2017 - Thursday

Kingdom Cons review

       Kingdom Cons review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yuri Herrera's Kingdom Cons, just out from And Other Stories.
       This is the third of Herrera's short novels to be translated into English, all part of a loose trilogy, but it's actually his first -- and started out as his MFA thesis at the University of Texas at El Paso in 2003.

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

9 August 2017 - Wednesday

'The Global Anthology' | New(ly officially approved) German words

       'The Global Anthology'

       A neat project at the Culture Trip, where they offer a Global Anthology, a world-spanning sampler-anthology of literature from ... everywhere. Or at least 220 nations, territories, and assorted not-quite-state locales. (Even so, there are places and (significant) languages that get short shrift -- notably regional Indian literature.)
       Still, an impressive collection, and obviously a great variety.

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

       New(ly officially approved) German words

       The new Duden -- the standard German dictionary -- is out, with 5000 new words (quite an increase, given that the total wordcount is only 145,000); at Deutsche Welle they have a decent overview, German language officially gets 5,000 new words.
       'Emoji' is now a ... (German) word, for example.
       But almost disappointing to hear that:
(T)he Germanized spellings of some words -- "Majonäse," "Ketschup" and "Anschovis" -- have been done away with.

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

8 August 2017 - Tuesday

Literary swearing | (American) National Translation Awards shortlists
US sales numbers, 2016 | Life of a Bishop's Assistant review

       Literary swearing

       Who doesn't love some word-counting literary data-analysis ? And I'm almost surprised it took this long for someone to do this -- but now Jean M. Twenge, Hannah VanLandingham, and W. Keith Campbell have, looking into: The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television: Increases in the Use of Swear Words in American Books, 1950-2008.
       Unsurprisingly, they find:
American books contained dramatically more swear words in the late 2000s than they did in the early 1950s. Readers of books in the late 2000s were 28 times more likely than those in the early 1950s to come across one of the "seven words you can never say on television."
       I especially appreciate the helpful graphing:

Literary swearing

       There's some discussion -- but obviously also a lot of room for follow-up studies ...; I look forward to seeing them.

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

       (American) National Translation Awards shortlists

       The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) has announced the shortlists for the 2017 National Translation Awards, in poetry and fiction.
       Only one of the titles is under review at the complete review -- Zama by Antonio Di Benedetto, in Esther Allen's translation.
       The winners will be announced at the ALTA conference in early October.

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

       US sales numbers, 2016

       The Association of American Publishers released their 2016 numbers a few days ago, and at Publishers Weekly Jim Milliot sums things up in his report.
       Revenue was down 5.1 per cent -- but unit sales were up by 1.2 per cent.
       Disappointingly (worryingly ?):
Books with religious and inspirational themes from religious presses and trade publishers were among the best-selling books.
       E-book sales continue to slump, down 16.9% (revenue) and 14.7% (unit sales) compared to 2015 -- though presumably that comes with caveats regarding the counting of Kindle-editions and whatnot (it's apparently harder to keep track of e-sales, in all the e-formats, than it is print books).
       While: "publishers saw increased revenue from trade book sales at physical retail stores":
Most of the books purchased in 2016 were bought from an online retailer; about 814 million units were sold into online channels in 2016. About 672 million books were sold to physical bookstores.

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

       Life of a Bishop's Assistant review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Viktor Shklovsky's 1931 novel, Life of a Bishop's Assistant, Dalkey Archive Press' latest Shklovsky translation.

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

7 August 2017 - Monday

Indian-language literature | Murakami's Polish translator

       Indian-language literature

       No money writing in Indian languages, say poets they report at the Times of India -- surely about as unsurprising a claim as one could make. (You could leave out the: 'in Indian languages' and already gets nods of universal agreement; include them and, well, come on ...)
       As Suryasnata Tripathy notes:
"There is no money in regional language writing. One of the major hurdles as a regional poet and upcoming writer is to convince the publishing house. Publishers are not so keen on taking risk in regional poetry, unless the poet is well known," said the 26-year-old poet, who is currently pursuing his PhD in microelectronics at IIT-Hyderabad.
       (A PhD in microelectronics definitely sounds like a good career back-up plan.)

       Meanwhile, The Hindu reports on the recent Bengaluru Poetry Festival, in English fails to capture cultural essence of regional work in translation: Gulzar.
       This also includes the new-to-me 'translation is like'-variation:
Translation is like transferring perfume from one bottle to another. In the process, some of the fragrance will be lost.
       Begging the question: why is anyone transferring perfume from one bottle to another. But maybe something got lost in translation .....

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

       Murakami's Polish translator

       In the Christian Science Monitor Jingnan Peng invites you to Meet the woman who brings Haruki Murakami works to an enthusiastic Poland -- Boston University lecturer Anna Zielińska-Elliott, who has lived in the US since 1993 and translates Murakami into Polish.
       Some fascinating titbits -- none more so than:
To preserve the feel of the Japanese original, Zielińska-Elliott has to race against another “deadline” – the publication date of the English translation.

Her editor, who does not speak Japanese, would judge her work’s quality based on the published English translation, Zielińska-Elliott explained. This phenomenon, called “the hegemony of English,” is a frustration for many European translators of Murakami.

“English versions are often heavily edited. And generally, they tend to domesticate, so all the foreignness is taken out,” Zielińska-Elliott said. “My editor would compare my version to the English and say: ‘This is not in the original.’ And I’d say: ‘Yeah, it was cut from your ‘original,’ but it is in the ‘original original.’”
       Makes you wonder how different US/UK appreciation of Murakami is .....
       (I continue to be amazed by the extent (and acceptance-with-a-shrug ...) of editorial interference -- generally in the form of radical and extensive cuts -- in the English translations of Murakami's work. Yes, he's had the commercial success that one can argue these are 'successful'. And yet .....)

       Zielińska-Elliott has also translated Mishima's Temple of the Golden Pavilion and Yoshimoto Banana's Kitchen into Polish.

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

6 August 2017 - Sunday

Editing in ... South Africa | Writers on partition
My Heart Hemmed In review

       Editing in ... South Africa

       At Books Live they have a report on Six local authors and publishers on decolonising editing in South Africa: a panel discussion, a panel recently held at the University of the Witwatersrand, hosted by Jacana Media.
       Interesting to see how much of the discussion -- as discussed here -- is about questions of language
       There's a livestream of (much ?) of the discussion at (sigh) Facebook.

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

       Writers on partition

       In The Guardian they collect the thoughts of a number of writers on Partition, 70 years on: Salman Rushdie, Kamila Shamsie and other writers reflect -- some interesting thoughts and opinions.

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

       My Heart Hemmed In review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Marie NDiaye's My Heart Hemmed In, recently out in English from Two Lines Press.

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

5 August 2017 - Saturday

NEH Grants

       NEH Grants

       The possibly-Trump-endangered American National Endowment for the Humanities has announced its most recent batch of grants -- "$39.3 Million for 245 Humanities Projects Nationwide".
       Twenty-eight of the grants were in the 'Public Scholar Program' -- supporting: "well-researched books in the humanities aimed at a broad public audience" -- and The Washington Post conveniently collects them here.
       Twenty-two grants, totaling US$$5.87 million, were for 'Scholarly Editions and Translations'; no convenient listing at the official page yet, but you can find them (arduously) in the (geographically (!) arranged) complete list (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of this year's grants. They include the: "Preparation of a print and digital edition and translation of the Way of the Poet-King, a seminal literary treatise from 9th-century India written in the regional language Kannada", and: "The Ancient Graffiti Project: An Open-Access Critical Edition of First Century Pompeian Wall Inscriptions".

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

4 August 2017 - Friday

Neustadt Prize jurors | Royal Society prize shortlist
Three Drops of Blood and a Cloud of Cocaine review

       Neustadt Prize jurors

       They've announced the nine jurors for the 2018 Neustadt International Prize, a biennial author prize.
       The jurors play an even more significant role here than with most literary prizes, as they individually pre-select the finalists: each juror gets to pick one favored author (who will all be announced 5 September). Then they all get together and vote for the winner, who will be announced 9 November.
       In the official press release they somewhat misleadingly note:
First given in 1970 to Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti, the Neustadt since has included Nobel Prize in Literature recipients Gabriel García Márquez, Czesław Miłosz, Octavio Paz, and Bob Dylan, as well as many well-known novelists, poets, and playwrights.
       García Márquez, Miłosz, and Paz all actually won the Neustadt; Dylan did not -- he was only a finalist (in 2012), and it speaks well for the prize that when he was nominated (sillily, by Andrea De Carlo) the rest of the jurors decided on someone -- anyone ! -- else (Rohinton Mistry). Unlike the misguided Swedish Academy, who will never live down their awful misstep .....

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       Royal Society prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize.
       The winner will be announced 19 September.

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

       Three Drops of Blood and a Cloud of Cocaine review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Quentin Mouron's Three Drops of Blood and a Cloud of Cocaine, recently out in English from Bitter Lemon Press.

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

3 August 2017 - Thursday

NZ PM's Awards for Literary Achievement | GST issues in India
The Magus review

       NZ PM's Awards for Literary Achievement

       They've announced this year's winners of the New Zealand Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement (worth a tidy NZ$60,000), with Witi Ihimaera taking the fiction prize
       (Yes, Ihimaera is best known as the author of the book-that-was-made-into-the-film The Whale Rider (get your copy at or but I would have included him in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction even without that ...; see also the New Zealand Book Council page on the author.)

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

       GST issues in India

       India has introduced a 'Goods and Services Tax' (GST) -- a sort of super-VAT -- and books are in the 'zero-tax category' (alongside, among other things ... human hair, many foodstuffs, bones (also in grist and meal form), stamps, and newspapers) but, as Aditi Maheshwari Goyal notes at, that doesn't mean publishers and booksellers are unaffected -- indeed, Booksellers and publishers are feeling the heat of GST. Will they pass on the burden to the reader ?
the cost of book-making will go up by 10%-28% (excluding the overheads) and this will have to be paid directly by the publisher unless it is passed on to the reader, because there is no provision to claim Input Tax Credits (ITC) -- taxes paid by suppliers -- like in the erstwhile Value Added Tax (VAT).

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

       The Magus review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of John Fowles' classic, The Magus.
       It's a strange one .....

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

2 August 2017 - Wednesday

Nabokov's Lolita inspired by ... Dalí's Dullita ? | Etisalat Prize re-branding

       Nabokov's Lolita inspired by ... Dalí's Dullita ?

       At PBS's Newshour Elizabeth Flock considers: Was Nabokov's 'Lolita' inspired by a little-known story by Salvador Dali ?
       Yes, after Michael Maar's speculations in (his about to be re-issued) The Two Lolitas, Delia Ungureanu offers another theory in her forthcoming From Paris to Tlön (see the Bloomsbury publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or that Nabokov's Lolita had a precursor in Salvador Dalí's 'Dullita'.
       The girl-character is mentioned both in his story 'Reverie' and his memoir, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí .....
       And there's even a drawing:

Dullita by Dali

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

       Etisalat Prize re-branding

       The Etisalat Prize for Literature is a leading African literary prize -- but one of the difficulties with corporate sponsorship is that corporate stability is often ... unstable. Etisalat Nigeria has been wobbling of late, and -- for now -- the result has been a re-branding/structuring: they now call themselves '9mobile'.
       For now, as Ozolua Uhakheme reports in The Nation Etisalat Prize for Literature must live -- and it does, albeit re-branded as the 9mobile Prize for Literature; still, the official press release suggests everything is set for the 2018 prize.
       We'll see how that goes .....

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

1 August 2017 - Tuesday

Translation in ... Georgia | Ós Pressan profile
Used book-selling in ... South Africa | Black Run review

       Translation in ... Georgia

       At Tamar Khurtsia reports on Literature across borders: translating culture to build connections between Georgia and Europe, as Creative Europe support now allows Georgian publishers Agora and Elfi to: "translate, publish, and promote 20 books in two years" -- useful in a market dominated by translations-from-the-English.

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

       Ós Pressan profile

       At Grapevine Björn Halldórsson writes about The Outsiders: Ós Press Tackles The Icelandic Publishing Industry, profiling nonprofit writing collective Ós Pressan -- who, in their journals: "will accept and publish work in any language, which gives rise to some interesting connotations".

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

       Used book-selling in ... South Africa

       At VOA Darren Taylor reports that Used Book Sales Boom in S. Africa as Economic Recession Bites -- as, for example:
Dealers across Johannesburg put the number of second hand book stores at about 50, up from about 25 just a few years ago.
       Presumably, a lot of the used-book success comes at the cost of lower new-book sales, so the overall positives for the economy are likely limited. But at least folks are buying books !

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

       Black Run review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the first Rocco Schiavone Mystery by Antonio Manzini, Black Run.

       (I've had this lying around for a while but picked it up now because I saw that the follow-up, A Cold Death (published in the US as Adam's Rib, because ... publishers ... ?) is one of the six finalists for this year's CWA International Dagger and, as I've mentioned, three of the other finalists are under review at the complete review, so I was curious.)

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

31 July 2017 - Monday

ZIBF | Late Fame review


       The Zimbabwe International Book Fair runs through 5 August, with the theme this year (a threatening ?) 'Making the Book Pay'.
       In The Herald Stanely Mushava reports on the fair, in ZIBF wants the book to pay -- noting that:
One of the main problems with ZIBF is lukewarm public participation as the fair compares unfavourably to other flagship events in the culture economy.
       Hard to make the book pay when you can't get an audience .....
       Still, focusing on the business side of the business isn't a bad idea.

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

       Late Fame review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Arthur Schnitzler's Late Fame, a novella he wrote in the 1890s but that was first published only a few years ago.
       Pushkin Press brought out the English translation in the UK two years ago, and now New York Review Books have a US edition out.
       Leo Carey's 2002 review/profile of Schnitzler in The New Yorker, The Dream Master, is a good introduction to the author.

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

30 July 2017 - Sunday

Liao Yiwu Q & A | Meja Mwangi in ... German

       Liao Yiwu Q & A

       Peace Prize of the German Book Trade-winning author Liao Yiwu's Die Wiedergeburt der Ameisen -- apparently only available in German, for now -- is among the titles longlisted for the 2017 Jan Michalski Prize (see also the S.Fischer publicity page) -- and in the Tages-Anzeiger Bernhard Ott has a (German) Q & A with the author (and close friend of recently deceased Liu Xiaobo).
       Asked about returning to China (he lives in German exile) Liao says that if he returns someday, he hopes it is to an "independent nation of Sichuan" (Szechuan); given Chinese attitudes about, say, Tibetan or Uyghur secession (both certainly realistic and eventually likely, if not in the near future, but unthinkable/unspeakable in the PRC), or the status of Taiwan (completely independent in everything but (mainland) Chinese name), the very idea of an independent Sichuan must make them apoplectic.

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

       Meja Mwangi in ... German

       Kenyan author Meja Mwangi's Christmas Without Tusker came out in English a few years ago (get your copy at or, but barely registered in the US or UK (as an 'Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,830,206' suggests ...) -- yet a translation has now appeared in German (see the Peter Hammer publicity page) and it's now even been reviewed, by Almut Seiler-Dietrich, in nothing less than the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
       Mwangi is a very popular author -- the best-known Kenyan author beside Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Seiler-Dietrich suggests -- and he certainly rated a mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction -- but is apparently too 'popular' to make any inroads in the US/UK, his books not conforming to the expected view of what an 'African' author should be writing .....

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

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