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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 October 2014

11 October: Translation (not) in the US | '100 best Christian books' ? | Nigeria Prize for Literature | Rosamund Bartlett Q & A
12 October: Bookselling in ... Saudi Arabia | New Swedish Book Review | Last Winter, We Parted review
13 October: The other Min kamp | Русский Букер finalists | 'K-fiction' | Zombies and Calculus review
14 October: Translations from ... Greek | Prize for Catholic literature | Man Booker shortlist sales figures | The Book of Sins review
15 October: Man Booker Prize | (Australian) Prime Minister's Literary Awards ? | 'World Editions' | Victoria review
16 October: Fall issue of Asypmtote | (American) National Book Awards finalists | Donna Leon, not in Italian
17 October: Sergei Dovlatov profile | Mikita Brottman Q & A | Cobra review
18 October: Handke: abolish the Nobel Prize ! | De Sade exhibit
19 October: Writing in ... China | Toni Morrison's papers to Princeton | Marilynne Robinson profile
20 October: (German) art-in-literature database | Judging the Man Booker | Limonov review

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20 October 2014 - Monday

(German) art-in-literature database | Judging the Man Booker | Limonov review

       (German) art-in-literature database

       The University of Vienna has put up an online Datenbank literarischer Bildzitate, a database of some 1,500 references to works of art in modern German literature, searchable by author, artwork, artist, and text. (See the search page, which makes it reasonably obvious what's on offer.)
       I'm not sure how comprehensive this is (yet) -- Bernhard referenced specific works of art in only one of his novels ? -- but it's still fairly interesting and even somewhat useful.

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



       Judging the Man Booker

       The obligatory 'judging the Man Booker Prize'-piece comes from Sarah Churchwell at The Guardian's book blog, where she writes about The joys of judging the Man Booker prize.
       (I enjoy these, but I'd love it if one year they did get the judge who just hated the experience to spill all the ugly beans about the process.)

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



       Limonov review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Emmanuel Carrère pseudo(?)-biographical 2011 prix Renaudot-winning Limonov -- rather desperately subtitled in the US edition: The Outrageous Adventures of the Radical Soviet Poet Who Became a Bum in New York, a Sensation in France, and a Political Antihero in Russia.
       As longtime readers know, I'm not a big fan of biography in any form, and I note with some amusement that my review barely even mentions any of these supposedly 'Outrageous Adventures' Limonov had -- I found and consider them completely uninteresting (and Limonov -- despite some obvious talents -- a vacuous poseur: I can't imagine a less interesting person or subject matter, all noise and affectation). I didn't even notice until after I finished writing the review, but it didn't even occur to me -- though of course it should have: presumably a not insignificant percentage of readers are curious about the book because they want to know about Limonov. But, yeah, I really shouldn't be reviewing biographies -- even if this can also be considered something else entirely (and is much more interesting when considered as such).
       (This is also the second recent prix Renaudot-winner that I've reviewed in less than two months -- Our Lady of the Nile is the other.)

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



19 October 2014 - Sunday

Writing in ... China | Toni Morrison's papers to Princeton
Marilynne Robinson profile

       Writing in ... China

       While on the one hand, as reported at Livemint, Publishers aim to take Chinese literature to the world, the local authorities haven't all gotten the memo -- or rather: they're sticking with an old script. Yes, as Xinhua reports in China Voice: Boom of arts, a must for Chinese dream Chinese president and general secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping:
addressed another forum on literature and arts, again calling for artworks to "embody socialist core values in a lively and vivid way", to "uphold Chinese spirit" and "rally Chinese strength".
       Apparently the concern is that:
Although China has already had a Nobel Prize winner in Literature and a number of Chinese films have won international awards, there are plenty of vulgar, repetitive and fast-food art works. They lack insight and artistic values and do not meet the needs of the people.
       Always good to see when the state (or any other pseudo-authority) decides what exactly meets the "needs of the people" .....
       But maybe here is finally an explanation why Chinese literature (which seems to be thriving in China ...) hasn't done particularly well abroad yet ?
The current weakness of Chinese literature and art may derive from the pervasion of consumerism and money worship. These trends prevent artists from reaching deep into society to find the most vivid materials -- the method that Xi called for in the meeting.
       Down with such pervasion ! (?)

       Though I have to admit Xi's speech did give me the giggles -- the thought that he could take himself seriously (much less believe any 'artist' might) .....

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



       Toni Morrison's papers to Princeton

       Princeton University has announced that Nobel laureate Toni Morrison's papers will join their library-collection -- about 180 linear feet worth (and counting, presumably). No word, alas, how much they shelled out for the collection.
       Recall that a 1993 Christmas Day fire at one of Morrison's houses fortunately apparently did not badly damage what was at hand there at the time. Already then, then Schomburg Center chief Howard Dodson said: "The whole world wants her papers".
       (He also said:
he and Ms. Morrison, friends for about seven years, have discussed the possibility that some of her papers would be left to the Schomburg Center, which she has long supported, but no formal agreement has been reached.
       Guess that didn't work out.)

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



       Marilynne Robinson profile

       In The Telegraph Jane Mulkerrins profiles Marilynne Robinson: the Pulitzer Prize winning author on her new book.

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



18 October 2014 - Saturday

Handke: abolish the Nobel Prize ! | De Sade exhibit

       Handke: abolish the Nobel Prize !

       Sore loser ? Annoyed by the annual distraction ? Whatever the case, Peter Handke thinks it's time to abolish the damn thing -- the Nobel Prize in Literature: that's what he said Thursday, Die Presse reports.
       He argues: it brings a brief bit of attention, 'six [!] pages in the newspaper', but that's about it. (Americans meanwhile shake their heads even more -- what newspaper would have six pages of laureate coverage ?)
       It can't all be sour grapes: he thinks this year's selection an excellent one -- and you can take his word for it: he's translated two of Modiano's books into German, Une jeunesse (see the Suhrkamp publicity page) and La Petite Bijou.
       (A pretty decent stamp of approval, to have been translated by Handke -- and a reminder, yet again, how few prominent English-writing authors also translate, while a world-class author like Handke thinks it's important enough to occupy himself with ....)
       I wonder whether he'll take up a petition among his prominent-author-buddies. And whether the Swedish Academy will hold this against him .....

       (Updated - 19 October): Okay, so it's not probably not just sour grapes that he didn't get it: see the Nouvel Observateur profile of 7 May, "Donner le Nobel à des écrivains est une farce grotesque", in which he already says it's a farce to give authors such a prize -- and proposes sending it off with one final award ... to Adonis (in a not very nice two-birds-with-one-stone-suggestion).

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



       De Sade exhibit

       A Marquis de Sade exhibit, 'Sade, attaquer le soleil', has opened at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris -- complete with supplementary website and near-X-rated video trailer, Une exposition, un regard.
       See also the AFP article -- here at the Daily Star --, High art or vile pornography ? Marquis de Sade explored in Paris exhibit. (And while I admire his monomaniacal writing, I'm not so sure about the news that: "Next month in France Ubisoft will release a video game based on Sade".)

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



17 October 2014 - Friday

Sergei Dovlatov profile | Mikita Brottman Q & A | Cobra review

       Sergei Dovlatov profile

       Eurozine reprints Vladimir Yermakov's look at Sergei Dovlatov, dissident sans idea, considering the dichotomy that 'All but invisible in his home country, Sergei Dovlatov became something of a mythical figure among the Russian diaspora of New York'.
       Dovlatov's Pushkin Hills was recently published, complete with James Wood Afterword (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), but I'm afraid I don't see, for example, -- as Wood does -- that it: "is funny on every page", etc.
       But, hey, they named a street after him .....

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



       Mikita Brottman Q & A

       At boingboing they have a Q & A with The Solitary Vice-author Mikita Brottman, Solitary Vices: Mikita Brottman on the Books in Her Life.

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



       Cobra review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Deon Meyer's latest thriller, Cobra.

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



16 October 2014 - Thursday

Fall issue of Asypmtote | (American) National Book Awards finalists
Donna Leon, not in Italian

       Fall issue of Asypmtote

       The October 2014 issue of Asypmtote is now available online, with a theme of: 'mythology'.
       Lots of great material, so just work your way through.

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



       (American) National Book Awards finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the (American) National Book Awards.
       As usual: I haven't reviewed or read any of these (though at least I have a copy of the Marilynne Robinson, and am intrigued by the Rabih Alameddine).

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



       Donna Leon, not in Italian

       In The Guardian Lizzy Davies explores Who is the real Italian novelist writing as Elena Ferrante ? as the identity-hiding author (of The Days of Abandonment, etc.) has really taken off as of late -- but what I found most interesting in the article was something I hadn't realized: that:
Donna Leon, an American writer based at the other end of Italy from Naples, in Venice, has seen her Commissario Brunetti detective novels published around the world -- but she refuses to let them be published in Italian for fear it will spoil her relative invisibility.
       Surely they'd sell pretty well there, too, so she's a writer who is actually leaving a decent pot of cash on the table; quite remarkable.

       (As to Elena Ferrante's identity: who cares ? As with practically all fiction my advice is: ignore the author, read the books.)

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



15 October 2014 - Wednesday

Man Booker Prize | (Australian) Prime Minister's Literary Awards ?
'World Editions' | Victoria review

       Man Booker Prize

       They've announced that The Narrow Road to the Deep North (by Richard Flanagan) has been awarded the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
       See also Flanagan's acceptance speech, as well as a fairly recent Q & A Dwyer Murphy has at Guernica with Richard Flanagan: More Corpses Than Words.
       Two Flanagan titles are under review at the complete review -- Gould's Book of Fish and Wanting -- but I can't see myself getting to this one: POWs, forced labor, etc.: all not realy subject-matter I want to read at any length about (in a work of fiction).
       But see the publicity pages for the book at Chatto & Windus and Alfred A. Knopf, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       (Australian) Prime Minister's Literary Awards ?

       Another prize for which Richard Flanagan's Man Booker-winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North is presumably a favorite is the 2014 (Australian) Prime Minister's Literary Awards -- but that prize seems to be MIA (or rather: missing in inaction).
       Last year, they announced the shortlists on 17 June and the winners on 15 August; this year ... they haven't even announced the shortlists (though apparently the judging panels submitted them weeks ago). In The Australian Stephen Romei now reports on this odd Long wait for Prime Minister's Literary Awards shortlist.

       (Updated - 19 October): Well, maybe that shook some life into them: they've now announced the shortlists -- and no surprise that Flanagan's book is one of the fiction-finalists.

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



       'World Editions'

       In The Bookseller Anna James reports that Visser of De Geus launches English language publisher -- which is to be called World Editions. (The current World Editions site doesn't quite capture the English-language-publication version that's coming.)
       They kindly sent me ARCs of their forthcoming (in early 2015) first four volumes and it's a promising start. The most notable title is Linda Boström Knausgård's The Helios Disaster (see, for example, the review in the Swedish Book Review) -- yes, she is the wife of that struggling Norwegian author .....
       I'm very excited to see their ambitious program (twenty titles in 2015 !) -- and am very pleased that they are already working towards translating 25 Dutch and Flemish authors in time for the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair (when the Netherlands and Flanders are guests of honour at the book fair).

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



       Victoria review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of 1920 Nobel laureate Knut Hamsun's Victoria.

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



14 October 2014 - Tuesday

Translations from ... Greek | Prize for Catholic literature
Man Booker shortlist sales figures | The Book of Sins review

       Translations from ... Greek

       In the Irish Times Richard Pine worries that: 'Bureaucratic and fitful support for translators risks hampering authors', as Greek literature risks getting lost in translation.
       As long as I can remember, Greek fiction has always fared poorly in translation -- only a couple of big names (i.e. Kazantzakis and Vassilis Vassilikos) getting some attention, while a small number of other authors have work occasionally (and in tiny print-runs) appearing in translation.
       I'm actually surprised by some of these numbers -- especially given current Greek economic conditions:
In Greece, the Frasis project, managed by the national book centre, funds the translation of books published outside Greece. In its two years of existence, with a budget of €189,000, out of a total of 100 applications it has subsidised the translation of 28 books (at an average cost of €6,500), only four of them into English.
       Well, the 'only four of them into English' is hardly surprising .....
       See also the (limited amount of) Greek literature under review at the complete review.

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



       Prize for Catholic literature

       At The Washington Post's 'Style Blog' (?) Ron Charles writes about a New $25,000 prize for Catholic literary arts, the George W. Hunt Prize. (There doesn't seem to be any dedicated website or the like yet, or information at the sponsoring sites (indeed, sponsor America can't be bothered to do much more than link to Charles' piece.)
       Apparently, the prize: "seeks to recognize the finest literary work of Roman Catholic intelligence and imagination", and "will consider works in a variety of genres, including journalism, fiction, poetry, drama, music, memoir, biography, history, art criticism and academic scholarship" -- i.e. it is, alas, not merely a fiction prize.
       Among the nuttier requirements:
The Hunt Prize guidelines state that each entrant "should be familiar with the Roman Catholic tradition" and "should be a person of sound moral character and reputation and must not have published works that are manifestly atheistic or morally offensive."
       I.e. works presumably will have to be submitted with a good-conduct note from the author's parish priest .....
       Somehow I don't think I'll be keeping a close eye on this one.

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



       Man Booker shortlist sales figures

       The winner of this year's Man Booker Prize will be announced today, and in The Telegraph Anita Singh notes that one title towers above the others -- at least as far as UK sales figures goes, as American short-listed novel outsells rivals.
       Yes:
Karen Joy Fowler's novel, We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves, has sold more than three times the rest of the Booker shortlist combined.
It has shifted 55,664 copies so far, more than 20,000 of those since the shortlist was announced. Her rivals have sold a combined 16,710 copies, according to latest figures.
       Amazingly:
Her nearest sales rival is Ali Smith's How To Be Both, available only in hardback and released more recently, with a mere 4,669 copies sold.
       And previous winner Howard Jacobson's J has been an impressive dud, with only 3,263 copies sold.
       I can't imagine ever getting to this, but you can get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



       The Book of Sins review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Chen Xiwo's The Book of Sins, just out in English.

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



13 October 2014 - Monday

The other Min kamp | Русский Букер finalists
'K-fiction' | Zombies and Calculus review

       The other Min kamp

       I'm looking forward to the day when a mention of the title is naturally assumed to refer to the Knausgaard-book(s), but for now the original Mein Kampf remains the contentious work of reference -- all the more so this year, at least in Germany, as copyright protection is running out very soon and free-for-all potential hovers in the air.
       Eurozine now print an e-mail exchange from the Index on Censorship between German PEN vice president Sascha Feuchert and former World Jewish Congress vice president Charlotte Knobloch, debating Should Hitler's Mein Kampf be republished?

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



       Русский Букер finalists

       One more among the literary laureates and finalists announced last week: they've announced the shortlist for the Russian 'Booker' prize.
       Lizok's Bookshelf has an English overview -- and, yet again, I note that that Sharov is something I really want to see .....

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



       'K-fiction'

       In The Korea Herald Ahn Sung-mi reports that Young writers debut on global literary scene, as the latest series of bilingual stories published by ASIA Publishers presents five books by younger South Korean writers (including one by Park Min-gyu, whose Pavane for a Dead Princess I recently reviewed), as:
this time, we selected outstanding contemporary works that can resonate with both Korean readers and international readers today.
       I haven't seen any of these, but they sound (and look) pretty good; first choice would be Oh Han-ki's My Clint Eastwood; get your copy at Amazon.com.

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



       Zombies and Calculus review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Colin Adams' Zombies and Calculus.
       Not exactly my usual fare, but I have a soft spot (one of many ...) for mathematical fiction, and this novel was brought out by Princeton University Press, of all places, so even/despite with zombies: pretty hard to resist.

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



12 October 2014 - Sunday

Bookselling in ... Saudi Arabia | New Swedish Book Review
Last Winter, We Parted review

       Bookselling in ... Saudi Arabia

       Via I'm pointed to Rodolfo C. Estimo Jr.'s Arab News report, Bookstores urged to rethink strategies, as the number of bookstores selling secondhand books in the Saudi capital is apparently declining -- indeed: "bookstores for secondhand books along Makkah Road are gone".
       A literature professor is quoted:
There are only a few bookstores remaining in the Saudi capital and they will also close down if the owners don't make the right moves competition-wise to stay in business
       Options would seem to be limited for used bookstores -- which have been on the decline all over the world in recent years (or have shifted much of their selling online ...).

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



       New Swedish Book Review

       The 2014:2 Issue of the Swedish Book Review is now (partially) available online. Not the book reviews, alas, but Karin Boye's Linköping Cathedral February 1938, introduced and translated by Bruce Phenix, so that's something .....

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



       Last Winter, We Parted review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nakamura Fuminori's Last Winter, We Parted.
       This is the third Nakamura thriller translated into English (by Soho Press), and it seems clear to me that he's the most interesting Japanese thriller writer currently being translated, ahead of the likes of Miyabe Miyuki and Kirino Natsuo (Kitakata Kenzo's work seems to stretch too far beyond the genre for comparison ...).

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



11 October 2014 - Saturday

Translation (not) in the US | '100 best Christian books' ?
Nigeria Prize for Literature | Rosamund Bartlett Q & A

       Translation (not) in the US

       At The New Yorker Vauhini Vara wonders Do You Have to Win a Nobel Prize to Be Translated ?
       While the situation isn't quite so dire, big prize-wins tend to help a lot -- but perhaps only for so long: Modiano (and Le Clézio) publisher David Godine is quoted:
My takeaway thought to this is that itís really sad that the only way that these people get any attention is when they win the Nobel Prize -- and then, five years from now, no oneís going to remember it, no oneís going to remember that Modiano won it
       As seems inevitable in any piece on how much gets translated, Vara muddies some of the numbers in writing:
Last year, traditional publishers put out about sixty thousand print titles in fiction, poetry, or drama; only five hundred and twenty-four of those were translated books of fiction or poetry, according to the Three Percent Web site
       The 60K number includes new editions, paperback editions of previously published translations, new translations of previously translated works, etc., while the Three Percent database is limited to works of fiction and poetry appearing in English for the first time (i.e. the two new translations of Anna Karenina (see below) count among the 60K, but not among the translations tracked at Three Percent ...).
       Still, quite a few interesting points and observations here -- including regarding the American phenomenon of small and independent publishers having taken the translation-lead, while the biggest publishers seem willing to only take the smallest risks (Knopf's Bogaards' comments may be half-joking, but sure sound half-serious, too ...)

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



       '100 best Christian books' ?

       The (Anglican) Church Times has put together a list of the 100 best Christian books; at the TLS weblog one of the judges, Rupert Shortt, comments on the making of this list, in 100 good godly reads.
       While there is some religious fare under review at the complete review, it is obviously a subject matter I have little affinity or sympathy for, so I'm probably the last person to be able to assess how right or wrong these selections are. Still, good to see a reasonable amount of actual (as opposed to just theological) literature included, such as: Pascal, T.S.Eliot's Four Quartets, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Donne, Kierkegaard, Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, and Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory.

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



       Nigeria Prize for Literature

       The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates through four genres -- this was a year for drama -- so my interest rather ebbs between the fiction-announcements; still, worth noting -- even as they don't seem to have yet at the official site -- that Iredi War by Sam Ukala took this year's $100,000 prize, selected from 124 submissions.
       See, for example, Nigeria Prize for Literature winner emerges in The Nation.

       (Updated - 16 October): See now also a Q & A with Ukala in Vanguard.

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



       Rosamund Bartlett Q & A

       Two new translations of Anna Karenina are coming out this fall, by Rosamund Bartlett and Marian Schwartz, respectively -- see my previous mention -- and at Russia Beyond the Headlines Alexandra Guzeva now has a Q & A with Bartlett.
       See also the Oxford University Press publicity page for her translation, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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



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