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6 October 2015 - Tuesday

Nobel Prize countdown
Henning Mankell (1948-2015) | Nagroda Nike
Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis | Giller Prize shortlist

       Nobel Prize countdown

       They've announced that:
The Swedish Academy will announce this year's Nobel Laureate in literature at 1 p.m. on Thursday, October 8 in the Grand Hall in the Exchange.
       It's safe to assume that this announcement signals that they have settled on a winning author (unlike the other Nobels, the literature prize doesn't have a set announcement date; they leave themselves free to announce on any Thursday in October, and so if they had needed more time to deliberate they could have taken it). (Of course, since a new permanent secretary has taken over it's possible she has a different way of doing things and only wants the selection made at the last possible minute, when all the pressure is on .....)

       Media speculation predictably enough focuses on the ready-made bookies' lists -- a good starting point (and movement on them can certainly hint at some of the behind-the-scenes doings), but not something one should rely on too much. Less so this year than most too: there hasn't been that much movement, especially not among authors who didn't feature as favorites last year, and especially not in the time before the final decision (likely) was made. For the most part -- until right near announcement time -- the lists have been probably most useful at the time when the prize had reached the shortlist stage -- not surprisingly, given that that stretches all summer, and when it's more likely that it slips out, one way or another, what authors the academician' are reading -- think Mo Yan a couple of years ago suddenly popping up on the betting-lists, or more recently Jon Fosse and Svetlana Alexievich, who were (and remain) plausible shortlist-candidates. (Of course, it's also worth remembering that the old geezers who seem to be somewhere among the five or ten favorites every year -- think Philip Roth, Adonis, Joyce Carol Oates, Ismail Kadare, and Ko Un this year -- do wind up winning occasionally too: Tomas Tranströmer was a betting-favorite at times in 2010, and in 2011 (when he won it) -- leaving aside the last-hours betting surge obviously due to a leak -- he was among the favorites. (True, 2011 is not a great example, especially regarding the Ladbrokes odds -- Bob Dylan was actually the betting-favorite going into the last days .....)
       Ladbrokes has the most-quoted odds -- but of course that doesn't mean they have the most betting action.
       NicerOdds has a nice odds comparison list, listing odds from various betting shops -- useful because any large discrepancy in odds is highly suspect (why put money down at worse odds when you can get a lot more bang for your bet elsewhere ?). Svetlana Alexievich's consistent range -- 6/1 to 7/1 as I write this -- is reassuring, for example; the Jon Fosse spread 6/1 to 16.5/1 eyebrow-raising, as is John Banville's (11/1 to 29/1). Consistent odds across the board of course don't signal actual odds, but one would expect any author about which there is any inside information to have more consistent odds (since those with that information would surely want to try to maximize their profit from it, spreading their bets and driving the odds to roughly the same level from place to place).

       A dpa (German press agency) Q & A with Nobel-leading Swedish Academy permanent secretary Sara Danius isn't very revealing ('There is really only one criterion: quality') -- though it rubs in that the crack-down of her predecessors on leakage seems to have paid off .....

       I don't have any good sense what the Swedish Academy might be thinking ... but I'll have some final pre-Nobel thoughts tomorrow.

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

       Henning Mankell (1948-2015)

       Leading Swedish crime fiction author Henning Mankell has passed away; see, for example, obituaries in The Guardian (Andrew Brown) and The New York Times (Jonathan Kandell).
       Best known for his Inspector Kurt Wallander series, Mankell was was a major figure in the explosion of Nordic crime fiction worldwide; (somewhat surprisingly) none of his works are under review at the complete review, but start out with the first, Faceless Killers; see the Vintage publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Nagroda Nike

       The Nike prize is the leading Polish literary award, and they've announced that Księgi Jakubowe, by Olga Tokarczuk has won the 2015 prize -- beating out shortlisted works by Magdalena Tulli, among others, and longlisted titles by authors such as Andrzej Stasiuk and Adam Zagajewski. See also Tokarczuk awarded Nike literature award at Radio Poland.
       The 912-page work might be a hard sell for foreign publishers -- see the Wydawnictwo Literackie publicity page -- but several of her works have been translated into English, including Primeval and Other Times; see the Twisted Spoon publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis

       Clemens J. Setz's Die Stunde zwischen Frau und Gitarre -- see the Suhrkamp foreign rights page -- was longlisted for the German Book Prize, but didn't make the shortlist-cut -- but they've now announced that it has won the cash-richer (€30,000, vs the German Book Prize's measlier €25K) Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis.
       Apparently so far only French rights have been sold; at 'ca. 1021 pages' it's a lot for a US/UK publisher to take on -- but Setz is definitely an increasingly up-and-comer. (Though the buying-decision probably depends a lot on how Indigo did .....)

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

       Giller Prize shortlist

       They've now announced the 2015 Shortlist for the (Canadian) Scotiabank Giller Prize -- including one translation, Arvida, by Samuel Archibald, one of two Biblioasis titles to make the final five.

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

5 October 2015 - Monday

French longlists | The Folly review

       French longlists

       If they have reached a decision and are ready to announce the Nobel Prize in Literature this Thursday the Swedish Academy will announce that today; if they remain silent then the prize will be announced, at the earliest, next Thursday. [Updated: They've announced it: the prize winner will be revealed on Thursday 8 October.]

       Meanwhile, the French are keeping busy with various longlist announcements:

       The prix Femina is -- like the Goncourt -- a four- (rather than the usual three-)round prize, with long-, not-quite-so-long-, and short-list before they announce the winner -- well, two-thirds of it is, anyway, the French-fiction and foreign-fiction categories: essays are dealt with in three rounds. A long-winded way of explaining that they've made their second selection in the French- (cutting five titles) and foreign-fiction (cutting seven titles) categories, and their first selection of essays: see here, for example.
       Among the French titles dropped from round one were the novels by Laurent Binet and Mathias Enard; among the foreign novels making the next round were Martin Amis' The Zone of Interest and Jane Gardam's Old Filth.

       The Femina has foreign fiction as one of its categories; the Prix du meilleur livre étranger is devoted entirely to foreign works -- with fiction and non categories, and they've announced their longlists too.

       And then there's the new prize on the block, the 'Grand prix de littérature américaine' -- yes, devoted just to American literature ..... They've also announced their longlist.

       (And, yes, none of these prizes appear to have anything resembling an internet presence of their own (there is this for the prix Femina -- nice URL, but completely uninformative about anything to do with current prize-doings) -- typical for French literary prizes (and their sponsors). Baffling.)

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

       The Folly review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ivan Vladislavić's The Folly, which just came out from Archipelago in the US, and which And Other Stories is bringing out in the UK.
       This was Vladislavić's first novel, and was published in South Africa in 1993 (!). Yes, there was a Serif edition in the UK in 1994 -- but this is its first US appearance (while a German translation came out 1998, a Croatian one in 1999). Amazing.

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

4 October 2015 - Sunday

Archives: Maurice Blanchot - Ian Rankin

       Archive: Maurice Blanchot

       Via I'm pointed to the report at Harvard University's Houghton Library's weblog, Modern Books and Manuscripts, that Maurice Blanchot papers acquired by Harvard -- some twenty cartons worth.
       I suspect not everything is ... revelatory ("Real estate transactions including the sale of 48 rue Madame, 27 rue de Vaugirard. 1 folder" or "Wall calendars: 1965, 1971"), but a lot is intriguing -- including the: "Correspondence including Jacques Derrida, Edmond Jabès, Monique Antelme, Jacques Abeille, René Char, and presidents of France" (presidents ! plural !).

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

       Archive: Ian Rankin

       In the Daily Record they're reporting that Rebus author Ian Rankin aims to leave his literary archive to the National Library of Scotland.
       He kindly wants to donate his archive -- including "his boxes of receipts, bills" -- though it's unclear how much insight his faded faxes will offer scholars:
"I was going through some boxes of stuff recently, stuff from the late 80s when the fax machine was god, and I had all these rolls of shiny fax paper, and they have now faded to blank sheets.

"I have just got boxes full of blank sheets of paper, where faxes once were, probably from my publisher.
       (Quite a few of the Rebus-novels are under review at the complete review, beginning with the first, Knots and Crosses.)

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

3 October 2015 - Saturday

Brian Friel (1929-2015) | Biblioasis profile | Simone review

       Brian Friel (1929-2015)

       Irish playwright Brian Friel has passed away; see, for example, obituaries in The Guardian (Richard Pine) or The New York Times (Benedict Nightingale), as well as a collection of reflections at the BBC.
       None of his work is under review at the complete review -- not even Translations, which I really should get to (get your copy at or

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

       Biblioasis profile

       In The Globe and Mail Mark Medley profiles publisher Biblioasis, in Biblioasis is no mirage.
       It's an impressive and deserved success story -- always great to see a small independent doing so well (and nice to see that works in translation are part of the success-programme ...).

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

       Simone review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Eduardo Lalo's Simone, due out shortly from the University of Chicago Press.

       This book won the 2013 Premio Rómulo Gallegos -- a biennial prize that has one of the most impressive winners-lists of any Spanish- (or, indeed, any-)language book prize, including: One Hundred Years of Solitude, Terra Nostra, Palinuro of Mexico, and The Savage Detectives, as well as books by Mario Vargas Llosa, Javier Marías, Enrique Vila-Matas, and Ricardo Piglia. That's some impressive company .....
       So how will Simone fare in the US -- as the first of Puerto Rican author Lalo's books to appear in English ?
       Lalo doesn't make it easy: the beginning of the book isn't bad or anything, but is a kind of writing that is very familiar -- and that many readers have probably had enough of. Anyone who dips in for the first ten or twenty or however many pages to get a feel for the book might well be inclined not to continue. The thing is: that initial feel is upended, as Lalo goes considerably further -- not quite elsewhere, but certainly not just on the same course -- later in the book.
       It's also interesting for its treatment of a more or less 'marginal' culture, including being about being a Puerto Rican writer in a time where Spanish-writing publishing is dominated by publishers in Spain (and much more regionalized in Latin America), with all the consequences of that.
       It was interesting reading this just as Haruo Shirane's What Global English Means For World Literature -- a review of Mizumura Minae's The Fall of Language in the Age of English -- appeared, discussing some of the issues Lalo raises.

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

2 October 2015 - Friday

Park Kyong-ni prize | Goldsmiths Prize shortlist | Bookselling in ... Nigeria
Vilas Sarang profile | Man Tiger review

       Park Kyong-ni prize

       The Park Kyong-ni prize is the big South Korean international literary award founded five years ago, and they've now announced this year's winner -- selected from five finalists: Isabel Allende, Amitav Ghosh, Milan Kundera, Amos Oz, and Philip Roth.
       Last summer, in the NB column on the back page of the Times Literary Supplement J.C. joked about:
devising a new prize, to be given to an author who has already received all the other prizes. What to call it ? The Amos Oz Prize is one suggestion.
       And, indeed, Amos Oz adds to his All the Prizes Prize (the designation they seem to have settled on, though they might be rethinking that right now ...) tally, taking this prize too (and what is apparently $100,000 in prize-money).
       Previous winners include Marilynne Robinson and Ludmila Ulitskaya -- as well as, last year ... Bernhard Schlink.

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

       Goldsmiths Prize shortlist

       They've announced the six-title strong shortlist for the Goldsmiths Prize -- "awarded to a book that is deemed genuinely novel and which embodies the spirit of invention that characterises the genre at its best".
       It looks like a decent selection -- though I had issues with the two titles from it I have read (Lurid & Cute and Satin Island). I do hope to get to both the Richard Beard and the Magnus Mills, but neither appears to be available in the US yet.

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

       Bookselling in ... Nigeria

       Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani has an interesting piece on the book business in Nigeria, The Secret of Nigerian Book Sales at The New Yorker's Currency-weblog.

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

       Vilas Sarang profile

       Marathi- and English-writing Indian author Vilas Sarang passed away earlier this year (see my mention), and in The Caravan Mantra Mukim's extensive look at 'Vilas Sarang's bilingual modernism', Laughter in the Dark, is now freely accessible -- a good introductory overview.

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

       Man Tiger review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the other Eka Kurniawan novel to appear in English last month, Man Tiger; I reviewed Beauty is a Wound a few weeks ago.

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

1 October 2015 - Thursday

Looking forward to the Nobel Prize in Literature
Not the Folio Prize | Writing in ... Indonesia

       Looking forward to the Nobel Prize in Literature

       It's that time of the year again, and the Nobel Prize in Literature may very well be announced one week from today, on 8 October. (The prize is always announced on a Thursday in October -- but the Swedish Academy only reveals the actual date of the announcement on the Monday prior; in recent years they have been announcing the prize during the big 'Nobel week', when most of the other prizes are announced -- which, this year, is next week.)
       This year saw Sara Danius take over as permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy from Peter Englund -- meaning she's in charge of the Nobel proceedings at the prize-deciding body (and will also be the one announcing the winner to the world) -- albeit only at the end of spring, well into the decision-making process. So far things have been fairly quiet during her tenure -- but then the Academy has spent most of it on their summer vacation. The real arguing and deciding has presumably only started in recent days ..... As to gossip and rumors, it's been astonishingly quiet (so far) this year.
       I've been finding it a bit hard to get into the Nobel spirit of things this year, since there's not really much to add to my discussions from previous years: there really aren't (m)any names that haven't previously -- often long -- been in the mix.
       Internationally, Krasznahorkai Lázsló has been gaining traction (locally too: they just reviewed his Satantango in the Göteborgs-Posten a few days ago ...), but I think it might be a few more years before he's really in the thick of things (having Hungary as the thematic focus at the just-concluded Göteborg Book Fair probably doesn't help either, not for this year). Elena Ferrante is obviously sizzling hot in the US but don't forget that she has made a much more limited European impression -- including, apparently, not even yet being translated into Swedish (not a precondition to win the prize, of course, but it doesn't hurt) -- though at least she's coming: Elena Ferrante ges ut på svenska 2016 as Dagens Nyheter reports; indeed, for what it's worth (again: not that much) the Swedish Academy's Nobel library only has four of her books in its holdings (and only one is checked out ...) (Krasznahorkai: twenty-two).
       Betting at Ladbrokes pretty much just continued where last year left off, with most of the same names at similar odds. As I've often noted, the betting list is unlikely to get the favorite right, but chances are pretty good the eventual winner is on the list, at pretty decent odds. And, once again we have Murakami and Ngũgĩ right up there, as well as still-less-well-known in the US/UK Svetlana Alexievich and Jon Fosse; Philip Roth is among the few whose odds have edged slightly higher over the summer -- one last gasp for the retiree ? Poets Adonis and Ko Un figure, as always. (And, yes, Bob Dylan, at a ridiculous 33/1.)
       Missing from the Ladbrokes list are a few authors I've mentioned previously as plausible candidate -- Iranians Mahmoud Dowlatabadi and Shahrnush Parsipur, for example, or any number of Arabic-writing authors (Ibrahim Al-Koni ?). Yes, overall it's all pretty much the usual suspects once again.
       Discussion has been pretty active at The Fictional Woods and the World Literature Forum -- all over the place, but covering most of the possible or potential contenders too, so certainly worth checking out and keeping up with.

       I'll try to offer more speculation as announcement-day approaches -- and maybe there will be some hot gossip leaking out of Stockholm .....

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

       Not the Folio Prize

       The Folio Prize was to be an alternative-Man Booker Prize. They handed out the prize in 2014 and in 2015, but sponsor Folio ditched them, and they apparently haven't been able to find a new sponsor (and name ...) -- and now they've announced they won't be handing out a 2016 prize (though they: "intend to return with a full-scale Prize in 2017" -- though one suspects that that too is heavily dependent on their finding a sponsor to pay for the thing ...).

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

       Writing in ... Indonesia

       At Wayan Sunarta 'sheds light on the history of modern Indonesian literature', in The island that literature forgot, a useful introductory overview.

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

30 September 2015 - Wednesday

Korean literature abroad | Agustín Fernández Paz reviews

       Korean literature abroad

       In The Korea Herald Literature Translation Institute of Korea-president Kim Seong-kon considers, yet again, ways of Raising the profile of Korean literature overseas.
       He notes: "my immediate concern is translation" -- and that, apparently:
In the case of English translation of Korean literature, there has been a heated debate on who is the better qualified translator between an American or British translator and a Korean translator. Some people insist that American or British translators are much better than Korean translators because the latter are prone to make mistakes in grammar, syntax and wording, not to mention inadvertently using unstylish sentences and awkward expressions. Others strike back, insisting that Korean translators are better because British and American translators almost always make quite a few mistakes in their translation since they are often unable to comprehend Korean words or phrases and their cultural implications correctly.
       What to do ?
In my experience, both arguments are right. Thus collaboration or cotranslation by two nationals can be a good solution.
       Okay .....
       I'm also not sure pinning hopes on a first wave of: "suspense and mystery" titles to pave the way for 'real' literature is the wisest course of action -- much less the advice that:
Indeed, we should produce literary works that would have strong international appeal. Once the door is open, more serious literature can follow
       Once you start trying to 'produce' a specific kind of literary work -- especially one for a foreign audience (i.e. one that by definition authors are likely to be less familiar with) ... well, that's unlikely to work out well.

       At least more is being published in English -- led by Dalkey Archive Press' Library of Korean Literature.

       See also the Korean literature under review at the complete review.

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

       Agustín Fernández Paz reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two of popular Galician-writing author Agustín Fernández Paz's novels just out from Small Stations Press:        These are apparently nominally 'YA' horror novels, but differ from most US/UK YA fiction in that the characters are adult.

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

29 September 2015 - Tuesday

Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature | Writing in ... Indonesia

       Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature

       The winners of the (Kenyan) Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature -- actually several prizes -- have been announced, with Dust (by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor) winning the adult English category (a book that's actually available in US and UK editions; get your copy at or and Pendo la Karaha (by John Habwe) winning the adult Kiswahili category (see the not very useful Moran publicity page).
       See also the Daily Nation report, Owuor wins literature prize at book awards.

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

       Writing in ... Indonesia

       In less than a month Indonesia will be Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and at Inside Indonesia Petia Dimitrova has a Q & A with Lontar's John McGlynn about Bringing Indonesian literature to the world.

       Meanwhile, at Bettina David writes about a part of the Indonesian literary market we're unfortunately not likely to see much of, in Frankfurt or elsewhere: 'Sastra Islami' -- Islamic popular literature -- in "God's gift to Indonesia".
       Interesting, for example, that:
Unlike the rather elitist Western-influenced literary scene, Sastra Islami is ruled by an ethos of shared idealism, community and mutual motivation -- which fits with the Indonesian love of collective fellowship and personal contact.
       And also that:
The "most inspiring" book in this new wave of Indonesian literature has of course been Andrea Hirata's The Rainbow Troops
       And shocking to hear that the German edition of the next volumes (apparently a two-for-one abridgement) takes considerable liberties, as:
Its view of the West also seems naive. In Hirata's The Dreame, Arai receives an EU grant for a research project at the Sorbonne in which he tries to refute the theory of evolution with Harun Yahya's bizarre "theories" -- though cut from the German translation, many of his Indonesian readers like to believe in them.
       Surely these are exactly the parts that shouldn't be cut -- we want to see these things: "his Indonesian readers like to believe in". (Never mind that many Americans seem to be pretty receptive to Harun Yahya-type interpretations of evolution in the first place .....)
       And I remain disappointed that Habiburrahman El Shirazy's Ayat-Ayat Cinta (which I first mentioned quite a while back, when first looking at this phenomenon) apparently still isn't available in English.

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

28 September 2015 - Monday

Blurbs ! | Dalkey's new home | Multiple Personalities review

       Blurbs !

       'Blurbs' remain a fascinating part of the odd business that is publishing, and at NPR Colin Dwyer offers an enjoyable overview, in Forget The Book, Have You Read This Irresistible Story On Blurbs ?
       (I tend not to be much moved by blurbs -- though I have found misleading ones (which are often fairly easy to identify/spot, often smelling of desperation ...) a good indicator of lack of quality in a book.)

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

       Dalkey's new home

       As I previously mentioned Dalkey Archive Press has moved on -- to the University of Houston-Victoria, Texas -- and, as the Victoria Advocate reports they've now settled in, as Dalkey publishes first books since relocating to UHV. No full list, alas -- but given the steady impressive flow it doesn't really matter; check out the full list of new releases.
       Also good to see: the Applied Literary Translation programme they're rolling out.

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

       Multiple Personalities review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tatyana Shcherbina's Multiple Personalities, just out from Glagoslav.

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

27 September 2015 - Sunday

Variations on Shakespeare | The French influence in Viet Nam
Kafka, Angry Poet

       Variations on Shakespeare

       So they're apparently publishing a Hogarth Shakespeare-series -- "Shakespeare’s plays reimagined by some of today’s bestselling and most celebrated writers". Sort of like Canongate's Myths-series (which seems to have sadly petered out; see also the volumes under review at the complete review).
       In The Telegraph Alex Clark has a Q & A with Jeanette Winterson and Howard Jacobson on retelling Shakespeare's plays -- since they're among the first tackling the exercise.
       I'm not so sure about these -- but have to admit some curiosity about the promised Jo Nesbø-Macbeth.
       Get your copy of Winterson's The Gap of Time -- the first of these volumes to appear -- at or

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

       The French influence in Viet Nam

       Via I'm pointed to a Việt Nam News piece on Scholars debate role of French language in Viet Nam -- an interesting look at the colonial legacy.
       Interesting to see them consider the consequences of changed circumstances:
"It makes sense that young students have decided to focus on English due to globalisation," he said. "But I'm now wondering which is better: the former generation that had no choice but to study French literature, or the modern generation that is free to choose any language, rendering their minds like a ‘hotpot'," he said.

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

       Kafka, Angry Poet

       Pascale Casanova's The World Republic of Letters impressed me greatly, and I was very pleased to see and now read a copy of her Kafka, Angry Poet (see the Seagull publicity page, or get your copy at or -- but I found myself stymied in trying to write up a review -- and have, for now, given up.
       I found her take on Kafka informative and interesting, but find it hard to try to write anything about it without falling in the Kafka-rabbit-hole (which, as you may have noticed, I've by and large managed to avoid; I got Kafka in and out of my system long before I started the site, and I have little patience for the mythologized (if not outright deified) depictions of him that are the order of the day (though Casanova, to her credit, does well to avoid a lot of that)). When I get my hands on the third Stach volume (the early years), maybe I'll get to some in-depth Kafka coverage, but for now I can't help but keep a little distance.
       I am disappointed, however, how little critical attention this volume has gotten (which is why I mention this): it really is very good -- interesting, informative and accessible. Baffling that it hasn't been more widely reviewed.

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

26 September 2015 - Saturday

109 entries, no winner | Sigit Susanto Q & A | Sony Labou Tansi, poet

       109 entries, no winner

       The US$100,000 NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates through (four) genres, and this year it was the turn of children's literature. They got 109 entries, but, as Evelyn Osagie reports in The Nation, No winner for 2015 NLNG’s Literature prize.
       As the judge's report [sorry, Facebook link; there isn't an up-to-date official site with this information ...] explains:
This year, 109 entries were received. Eighty-nine (89) entries did not meet the preliminary criteria for assessment. This number represents 81.6% of the total number of entries received for 2015. The percentage by any standard is worrying; especially as there is a paucity of literature for children
       This isn't the first time no prize has been awarded -- 2004 (prose) and 2009 (poetry) also came up empty.
       And admirably:
NLNG is determined to promote excellence by investing the prize money, which would have been won, back into the process for a creative writing workshop for Nigerian writers of children’s literature.
       Which seems a constructive solution.

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

       Sigit Susanto Q & A

       At Birgit Lattenkamp has a Q & A with Indonesian author Sigit Susanto (as Indonesia-as-guest-of-honour-time at the Frankfurt Book Fair approaches, in a couple of weeks).
       He is a bit concerned that Indonesia isn't fully prepared for Frankfurt, and suggests:
Maybe Indonesia will be guest of honour again in 2025, and can be better prepared to present itself then.

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

       Sony Labou Tansi, poet

       Sony Labou Tansi, from what is now the Congo (DRC), died in 1995 but a couple of years ago I hoped the English translation of his Life and a Half would make for a bit of a revival, at least in the English-speaking world. (Several of his works have been translated -- see also reviews of The Antipeople, Parentheses of Blood, and The seven solitudes of Lorsa Lopez.)
       That doesn't seem to have worked out (yet ?) -- but things are looking up in France: his collection Encre, sueur, salive et sang (see the Seuil publicity page) has been longlisted for this year's prix Renaudot (in the non-fiction category) -- and more impressively still, a massive (1260-page !) collected edition of his Poèmes has just come out; see the CNRS publicity page , or get your copy at
       I suppose the best we can eventually hope for in English is a slim selected-edition -- but I sure hope someone goes for the whole thing. No doubt that he's one of the most important African authors of the second half of the twentieth century, and it's great to see he's still such a presence, at least in the French literary scene.

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

25 September 2015 - Friday

Hamid Ismailov Q & A | Royal Society Winton Prize
William Hill Sports Book of the Year longlist | She Who Was No More review

       Hamid Ismailov Q & A

       At Electric Lit Melody Nixon has The Peripheral Writer: An Interview With Hamid Ismailov -- a rare Central Asian author whose works are available in English, including The Underground, just out from Restless Books (see their publicity page, or get your copy at or; I have a copy and should be getting to it.
       His reading-experiences are interesting:
I knew the Soviet life well, to the extent that I was fed up with it, so I was reading more and more Western literature. But gradually, moving to the West, I was more and more carried away by my own literature: Soviet literature, historic literature. The further I moved towards the West, the more I liked the old literature of my own country; and when I say my own country that includes Russian literature as well.
       He also argues that there's a: "hegemony of World Literatures -- by which I mean, the two or three literatures that run the world. English, French, and maybe partly Spanish literature", and that:
I know writers who are extremely powerful that we as human kind should be proud of. But nobody knows them because they belong to small nations: Georgians, Armenians, Tajiks, and so forth. Ion Druţze the Moldavian writer. Otar Chiladze from Georgia. Meša Selimović the Bosniak writer. They are world-class writers.
       I'm pleased to note that two of the three are under review at the complete review (and that they are indeed world-class): Otar Chiladze (Avelum) and Meša Selimović (Death and the Dervish and The Fortress). (Ion Druţă is a more difficult proposition -- that Moldavian Autumn-collection is not easy to find (try to get your copy at or

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       Royal Society Winton Prize

       They've announced that the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books goes to Adventures in the Anthropocene, by Gaia Vince.
       See the publicity pages from Chatto & Windus and Milkweed, or get your copy from (it's conveniently just out in paperback in the US) or

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

       William Hill Sports Book of the Year longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award --:
the world's longest established and most valuable literary sports-writing prize. As well as a £27,000 cash prize, the winning author will receive a free £2,500 William Hill bet, a leather-bound copy of their book, and a day at the races.
       The shortlist will be announced on 27 October, the winner on 26 November.

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

       She Who Was No More review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Boileau-Narcejac's classic She Who Was No More -- on which the Diabolique-films were based -- just re-issued by Pushkin in their new Pushkin Vertigo imprint.
       I've often complained both about publishers changing titles from one edition to the next, as well as US and UK publishers choosing different titles for the same book, and this novel offers examples of both: it's been published under this title, as The Fiends, and was originally published:
  • in the UK as: The Woman who Was
  • in the US as: The Woman who Was No More

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

24 September 2015 - Thursday

Swiss Book Prize shortlist | Arno Schmidt exhibit | Göteborg Book Fair

       Swiss Book Prize shortlist

       The Schweizer Buchpreis -- which is, in fact, only the German-language Swiss Book Prize -- has announced its five-title shortlist, selected from 90 entries.
       The winner will be announced 8 November.

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

       Arno Schmidt exhibit

       The exhibit Arno Schmidt: Eine Ausstellung in 100 Stationen ('an exhibit in 100 stations') opened at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin yesterday (it runs through 10 January), and it sounds pretty awesome -- see early (German) coverage at Deutschlandradio and the Berliner Morgenpost.
       Among the events held in conjunction with the exhibit, Mein erster Schmidt on 8 October will have Dietmar Dath, Reinhard Jirgl, Kathrin Röggla, Ingo Schulze, and Uwe Timm -- quite the line-up -- talk about their first encounters with Arno Schmidt's work.

       And, of course, if you can't make it, or need your own introduction to Schmidt, I commend you yet again my Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy. (Conveniently available at, or on Kindle, or at, etc. etc.)

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

       Göteborg Book Fair

       The Göteborg Book Fair starts today, and runs through the 27th.
       Hungary is the foreign focus, but there's a lot else going on -- 780 writers and lecturers from 31 countries !

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

23 September 2015 - Wednesday

Prizes: "Welt"-Literaturpreis - Constantijn Huygens-prijs
Shortlists: FT & McK Business Book award - Cundill Prize in historical literature
Georgi Gospodinov Q & A | The Camp of the Saints review

       Prize: "Welt"-Literaturpreis

       The €10,000 "Welt"-Literaturpreis is a leading German international author prize, with a decent list of winners (including Murakami Haruki last year and Jonathan Franzen in 2013) -- albeit tending to the more 'popular'/bestselling-part of the literary spectrum.
       They've now announced that "Welt"-Literaturpreis 2015 an Karl Ove Knausgård, as Mr.My Struggle will get to pick the prize up at the awards ceremony on 6 November.

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

       Prize: Constantijn Huygens-prijs

       The €10,000 Constantijn Huygens-prijs is the leading Dutch 'lifetime achievement' author-award, with a solid record (and a few notable misses ...); winners include Cheese-author Willem Elsschot (1951), Louis Paul Boon (1966), Harry Mulisch (1977), The Sorrow of Belgium-author Hugo Claus (1979), Hella S. Haasse (1981), Cees Nooteboom (1992), Tirza-author Arnon Grunberg (2009), and Tonio-author Adri van der Heijden (2011)..
       They've now announced that this year's prize goes to Adriaan van Dis
       Several of his works have been translated into English; see, for example, the New Press publicity page for My Father’s War; see also the Dutch Foundation for Literature author page.

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

       Shortlist: FT & McK Business Book award

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's £30,000 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award; since the page at the site listing the titles is, at this time, registration-requiring see nstead, for example, Sarah Shaffi's report in The Bookseller, Business Book of the Year 2015 shortlist revealed.
       The winner will be announced 17 November.

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

       Shortlist: Cundill Prize in historical literature

       They've announced the shortlist for the Cundill Prize in historical literature, a US$75,000 (!) prize.
       Three finalists will be named 5 October, and the winner will be announced 2 November.

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

       Georgi Gospodinov Q & A

       At Fiction Writers Review Steven Wingate has a Q & A with Georgi Gospodinov, mainly about his recent The Physics of Sorrow.
       And if you're in New York today you can catch Gospodinov in English and Bulgarian conversation with Eric Becker and Milena Deleva at the Consulate General of the Republic of Bulgaria at 19:00 !

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

       The Camp of the Saints review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jean Raspail's infamous collapse-of-Western-civilization novel, The Camp of the Saints.

       I've rarely been so uncomfortable about posting a review, but given how often it has been referenced recently -- now again especially (but hardly only) with the wave of refugees from, in particular, Syria into Europe -- and how often it is brought up in discussions of Michel Houellebecq's just-out-in-the-UK and coming-soon-to-the-US Submission I figured coverage of it serves at least some informational value.
       But, holy shit, this is an unpleasant piece of work, with no redeeming features ... and in some ways particularly hard to review; to say Raspail is misguided doesn't come close to how off the rails he is. The opening of the Kirkus review from four decades ago gives some sense of the struggle to put this thing in any sort of perspective:
The publishers are presenting The Camp of the Saints as a major event, and it probably is, in much the same sense that Mein Kampf was a major event. It takes important and chilling facts that very few people are willing to face, and digs into them like a hyena into carrion.
       Sadly, there are those who hold it up as an exemplary work and warning -- and it's that, and not Raspail's scenario, that can make you despair of mankind and the future.

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

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