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1 August 2015 - Saturday

Reading in ... Russia | Another translation of The Story of The Stone
Wind/Pinball reviews

       Reading in ... Russia

       In The Moscow Times Anastasia Bazenkova reports that Russia's Book Industry Shrinks as Russians Stop Reading.
       It's not that they've stopped reading entirely, but apparently there has been quite a decline (with the ever-popular explanations as supplied by experts, such as: "Young people see books as pure entertainment, and in that category they cannot compete with modern gadgets"). A real problem is certainly the decline in bookstores -- and, astonishing if true, Moscow apparently only has six used book stores.
       Among the consequences: "The effect of bookstore closures has been to reduce the quantity of printed words"
       And while there's no data to back up the claim, it's still an eye-catching one:
There are currently 10-12 people in the whole country that can earn their living only by writing books, and there will be even fewer of them in the future, Filimonov said

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

       Another translation of The Story of The Stone

       As longtime readers know, I hold Cao Xueqin's The Story of The Stone, in David Hawkes and John Minford's translation, to be one of the peaks of literature. Interesting to learn now that, as Tang Yue reports in China Daily, in Lost in translation for more than 40 years, that the manuscript of an unpublished translation into English by Lin Yutang has been found in Japan.
       Lin published widely in both Chinese and English, and was a widely-read popularizer of Chinese literature in English -- it would be interesting to know what kind of impact his translation of this towering work might have had.

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

       Wind/Pinball reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of Murakami Haruki's two earliest novels, now published together in one volume, in a new translation by Ted Goossen, as Wind/Pinball:        This is yet another example of US/UK publishers opting to publish multiple works by an author in one volume -- several works by Patrick Modiano, whose works tend to come in at around a hundred pages, are getting the treatment now. It's more justifiable here than in most cases (even as the title, Wind/Pinball, really isn't) but I reviewed them separately -- among other reasons: because there are already so many separate reviews of one or the other title to link to.
       However, it's been annoying to see so much coverage which has dismissed the previous translations (by Alfred Birnbaum, published by Kodansha International) as if no one had ever seen them. The Knopf jacket-copy has it about right -- "Widely available in English for the first time, newly translated" -- but much of the review coverage does not (as I have also repeatedly noted on Twitter (e.g.)).

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

31 July 2015 - Friday

Caine Prize follow-up | Juan Gabriel Vásquez 'By the Book'

       Caine Prize follow-up

       The Caine Prize for African Writing is the leading African short story prize, with a solid track record.
       In the Daily Trust Nathaniel Bivan now looks at the Literary Journey of 5 Nigerian Caine Prize Winners.

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

       Juan Gabriel Vásquez 'By the Book'

       The New York Times Book Review has Juan Gabriel Vásquez (The Informers, etc.) answer this week's 'By the Book' Q & A.
       Like so many prominent foreinh-language-writing authors, he has also translated works into his mother tongue -- and one of the questions they ask him is: "Has translating changed your approach to reading fiction in translation ?" I realize the column is about reading, but of course the really interesting question is how it's affected his writing. (As longtime readers know, I'm a big proponent of writers at least dabbling in translation -- as far too few US/UK authors of fiction do ...).)
       Some interesting answers, though -- worth a look.

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

30 July 2015 - Thursday

Man Booker Prize longlist | Open Letter profile
Reading in ... Zimbabwe | Cruel Tales from the Thirteenth Floor review

       Man Booker Prize longlist

       As reported everywhere, they've now announced the thirteen-title-strong longlist for this year's Man Booker Prize.
       They were selected from 156 submissions -- though, alas, the Man Booker folk don't reveal which titles were actually in the running. (Publishers are limited as to how many titles they can submit, a complex formula determining how many each is allowed to submit, so it is likely prominent and promising titles were never even considered for the prize -- but they won't tell us which ones. People should find this more disturbing than they seem to (most of you don't seem to mind at all).)
       The Telegraph has the main points covered in various articles: American dominance of Man Booker Prize longlist 'confirms worst fears' and Men and women take equal share in the Man Booker Prize longlist pretty much sum things up.
       Prominent authors whose books missed the cut (but, after all, may not have even been submitted ....) include those by Kazuo Ishiguro, Jonathan Franzen, Salman Rushdie, and Pat Barker.
       Unsurprisingly, none of the longlisted titles are under review at the complete review -- sorry.

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

       Open Letter profile

       A nice long profile of publisher Open Letter Books by Rebecca Rafferty in the Rochester CITY Newspaper, Found in translation (arghh ...).
       Lots of interesting background, so check it out.

       (See also the Open Letter titles under review at the complete review.)

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

       Reading in ... Zimbabwe

       In The Herald Stanely Mushava writes about the situation in Zimbabwe, in Cry our beloved reading culture.
       The lament is common enough -- though rarely is the fault ascribed as here:
Writers, publishers and literary academics that attended the ZIBF Indaba blamed schools for the country's love-hate relationship with books.
[V]eteran author Aaron Chiundura Moyo said it was clear that schools had destroyed the reading culture.
       Harsh. (And, yeah, there may a few more issues locally .....)

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

       Cruel Tales from the Thirteenth Floor review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Luc Lang's Cruel Tales from the Thirteenth Floor, just out in English from the University of Nebraska Press.

       This was translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith -- who won this year's (well, the 2014, awarded this year) French-American Foundation and Florence Gould Foundation Translation Prize for his translation of Jean-Patrick Manchette's The Mad and the Bad, and also translated, among other titles, the similarly cruel Mygale (also published as Tarantula, and as the film tie-in The Skin I Live In) by Thierry Jonquet -- so, yeah, the right man for the job.

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

29 July 2015 - Wednesday

Série Noire profile | ZIBF
What ʻĪsā Ibn Hishām told us review

       Série Noire profile

       Via I'm pointed to Russell Williams' The Série Noire and Social Intervention at the Los Angeles Review of Books, a nice introduction/overview of Gallimard's 'grande collection de romans policiers', their Série Noire.
       And, of course, it would be great to see more of the French works they publish in English translation.

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


       The Zimbabwe International Book Fair began Monday -- and in The Herald Stanely Mushava reports that Book Fair begins on high note.
       He notes:
Keynote speaker Walter Bgoya, of Mkuki na Nyota Publishers from Tanzania, said there was a lot of nostalgia for the heydays of the book fair outside Zimbabwe.
       No doubt -- but, damn, they certainly managed to spoil a good thing. Here's hoping things are improving again.

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

       What ʻĪsā Ibn Hishām told us review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Muḥammad al-Muwayliḥī's turn of the (last) century What ʻĪsā Ibn Hishām told us, just out in a two-volume edition in Roger Allen's translation from the Library of Arabic Literature.

       Yes, yes, I know; you already have your copy, why would you even need my review .....

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

28 July 2015 - Tuesday

Seagull Books profile | Writing in ... Indonesia

       Seagull Books profile

       In Flight of the Seagull in The Caravan Anjum Hasan looks at: 'How an Indian publisher brought Europe home', profiling Seagull Books, the Naveen Kishore-led, India-based publisher that is one of the leading publishers of literature-in-translation (especially French and German) in English. (A lot of other publishers have great lists, but as far as number-of-(important-)titles go, it's really Dalkey Archive Press and Seagull way at the head of the pack.)
       A fascinating story -- and a wonderful success story.

       Lots of Seagull titles are under review at the complete review -- I wouldn't even know where to start -- and I hope you too are familiar with much of what they've published.

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

       Writing in ... Indonesia

       At DeutscheWelle Monika Griebeler has a Q & A with Indonesian author Feby Indirani, Indonesian literature 'needs exposure to be noticed internationally'.
       Among her observations:
The infrastructure of the Indonesian publishing industry isn't yet fully developed. A potential market is there but the industry is still in a poor condition.
       She also notes:
But regardless of that, we still see gems of literature and popular writings that have both market success and good intellectual reception such as the works of Ayu Utami, Seno Gumira Ajidarma or Eka Kurniawan.
       As I've mentioned previously, this fall is seeing a double-dose of Eka Kurniawan in English, as two of his novels are being published in translation: Man Tiger, coming from Verso (see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy from, and Beauty is a Wound from New Directions (pre-order your copy from Publishers Weekly has the early reviews -- here and here -- and they're both starred; fully on board the Kurniawan-bandwagon, they also have a Writers to Watch: Fall 2015 profile of him.

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

27 July 2015 - Monday

Reading in ... Bangladesh | E-books at independent bookstores
Writing in ... India

       Reading in ... Bangladesh

       At Ulka Anjaria finds: 'Choosing what to read is playing a crucial role in the uneasy conflict between the mother-tongue and English', in Reading Chetan Bhagat in Dhaka: the anxiety of English literature.
       (Chetan Bhagat is of course the immensely popular (writing-in-English-)Indian author -- whose success hasn't quite ... translated to the US/UK (several of his titles are under review at the complete review; see, for example, One night @ the call center, which was actually published in US/UK editions as well).)
       An interesting (beginning of a) discussion -- as is also the notion, re. Bhagat, that:
Without explicitly saying so, his works shift attention from the traumas of South Asiaís past to the shared anxieties of its future.
       The shift in attention may be welcome, but I'm not sure his works are best suited for leading the way .....

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

       E-books at independent bookstores

       In the Denver Post Jessica Iannetta reports that E-books for sale, but not selling, at independent booksellers, as:
Eight years after Amazon released the first Kindle, surviving independent bookstores are now selling e-books -- and finding that no one really wants the ones they're offering.
       Of course, part of the convenience of buying e-books is that you don't actually have to go to a bookstore to do it. But, as someone who will only suffer an e-book in extremis, I'm probably not the right person to speculate about e-book purchasing patterns.

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

       Writing in ... India

       In the Hindustan Times Aneesha Bedi looks at the phenomenon of 'young Indian authors whose writing is vibrant, personal and clicks instantly', in Literature in a hurry.
       A nice touch at the end is having two established, older authors comment on the phenomenon -- the section introduced: 'What Seniors Say' ....

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

26 July 2015 - Sunday

Arabic literature in English | Indian literature
All You Need is Kill review

       Arabic literature in English

       As part of the Shubbak Literature Festival in London they held a panel on The Rise of Arabic Literature in English yesterday.
       M. Lynx Qualey (of Arabic Literature (in English)) was one of the panelists, and she previewed the discussion with a piece asking Can Arabic literature ever be fully understood in English ? in The National.
       The situation has certainly improved in recent years -- "itís almost something of a small stream" she writes, about the flow of translations in recent years. And she's right that "literature builds on literature", and as more (finally) becomes available to English-speaking readers, more will also more readily be understood and appreciated, with the Library of Arabic Literature invaluable in bringing foundational texts into English.

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

       Indian literature

       In The Hindu Mini Krishnan writes on literature in and from India -- especially in local languages --, in More than one life.
       She suggests:
Well, the selfie of us with our Indian-language writers shows that the rest of the globe is fairly safe from us: our writers have not penetrated any other culture's consciousness deeply.
       A major part of the problem seems (to me) that they haven't penetrated the markets yet -- paving the way for consciousness-entering. I'm always on the lookout for translated-from-the-Indian-languages fiction here in the US, but there's essentially none to be found.
       As she notes:
Both serious studies and hastily cobbled articles based on interviews with writers and publishers over the last two years reveal that outside India, very little of our huge literary output -- contemporary or otherwise -- is being read anywhere in the world. We are a literary supercontinent but as dark as Krishna and as difficult to reach.
       Again: a major part of the problem is that it's simply not (readily) available. I'd read it if I could get my hands on it; I rarely can. Which really shouldn't be quite this difficult, in this day and age. (In just the past few days I have gotten review copies of a Malay novel from Singapore (e-version) and four paperbacks translated from the Galician (these from a publisher based in Sofia, Bulgaria, of all places -- check out Small Stations). But she suggests that even within India -- where availability is less of a problem -- there hasn't been nearly enough engagement with literatures from other local languages/regions.

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

       All You Need is Kill review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sakurazaka Hiroshi's All You Need is Kill.

       This was the first title brought out by Haikasoru, in 2009; it is also the book on which the recent Tom Cruise movie, Edge of Tomorrow, is based.

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

25 July 2015 - Saturday

Wind/Pinball goes global | Mésopotamie, carrefour des cultures exhibit

       Wind/Pinball goes global

       Murakami Haruki's early novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 are being published in new translations (by Ted Goossen) in the US/UK -- in one volume titled, sigh, Wind/Pinball -- at the beginning of August; see the publicity pages from Alfred A. Knopf and Harvill Secker, or pre-order your copy at or
       Early reviews are already out -- Arifa Akbar's in The Independent and Matthew Adams' in The National (both notable also for being dismissive of Alfred Birnbaum's earlier translations, which were hardly anywhere near as obscure as they suggest; I can remember stumbling over them at New York bookstores frequently in the late 1980s and 1990s).
       What I hadn't realized is that the Wind/Pinball phenomenon is apparently a global one: the novels aren't just being resurrected for English-reading audiences: this summer and fall also sees editions in, at least, German (see the DuMont publicity page for Wenn der Wind singt / Pinball 1973), Spanish (pre-order your copy of Tusquets' Escucha la canción del viento y Pinball 1973 at, and Catalan (see the Editorial Empúries publicity page for Escolta la cançó del vent i Pinball, 1973).
       Why the concerted push to bring these to (all these) markets now ? Surely not a cash-flow issue for Murakami. But maybe a setting the (literary) record straight/on the table for posterity (and Nobel-angling) purposes ?

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

       Mésopotamie, carrefour des cultures exhibit

       The Archives nationales exhibit Mésopotamie, carrefour des cultures: Grandes Heures des manuscrits irakiens runs through 24 August in Paris, and in Al-Ahram Weekly David Tresilian writes about it as a Refuge for Iraq's manuscripts -- given that many of the objects are on loan from the library of the Dominican mission in Mosul.

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

24 July 2015 - Friday

Books to look forward to in ... South Africa | Kalidasa redux
William T. Vollmann 'By the Book' | Memory Theatre review

       Books to look forward to in ... South Africa

       At BooksLive they have an overview of The Local Books to Look Forward to in 2015 (July-December), suggesting some of the more interesting publications forthcoming in South Africa in the coming months. Some of this will make it to the US/UK sooner rather than later (the Deon Meyer, hurrah -- pre-order your copy at or, some not quite so soon (the Zakes Mda ?).
       Anyway, always interesting to see what is of local interest/prominence. (And nice to see a re-issue of Thomas Mofolo's classic Chaka.)

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

       Kalidasa redux

       I haven't seen Mani Rao's Kalidasa for the 21st Century Reader (see the Aleph Book Company publicity page, or get your copy at or, but Vijay Nambisan's review in The Caravan is now (finally) fully freely accessible online, in which he considers: 'Revisiting Kalidasa in the modern age'.
       (With several reviews at the complete review of both Sakuntala (four, including this one) and the Meghaduta (three, including this one), both of which are also translated anew in the Rao volume, I'm always curious about new takes on this Sanskrit master.)

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

       William T. Vollmann 'By the Book'

       The New York Times Book Review's 'By the Book'-column continues to be ... uneven, but this week's respondent is William T. Vollmann, and though I've never really taken to his work he offers up a pretty interesting set of answers.

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

       Memory Theatre review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Simon Critchley's novella Memory Theatre -- which came out last year from Fitzcarraldo Editions in the UK, and is due out in the US (as Memory Theater ...) from Other Press in November (quite a while after the French translation was published, I can't help but note ...).

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

23 July 2015 - Thursday

Prix du Roman Fnac longlist | Kranichsteiner Literaturpreis
Dexter is Dead review

       Prix du Roman Fnac longlist

       With the French 'rentrée littéraire' about to be unleashed -- 589 titles published over the course of just a couple of weeks -- any guidance is helpful; the prix du Roman Fnac offers a just-announced longlist of thirty top titles (see them, for example, at BibliObs; for some reason the Fnac site doesn't have a convenient overview) and, given their track record -- mixed, but local favorite Where Tigers are at Home won in 2008, and widely acclaimed (if locally less appreciated) Purge (2010) as well as Vie Française (2004) have also taken the prize -- looks worth at least a closer look..
       The presence of Marisha Pessl's Night Film would seem to be a big red flag, but new works by Claro (Crash-test; see the Actes Sud publicity page), Mathias Enard, and -- maybe -- Laurent Binet, among others, are certainly intriguing.

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

       Kranichsteiner Literaturpreis

       This week's German author prize is ... the Kranichsteiner Literaturpreis, the €20,000 prize that's gone to Rainald Goetz (this year's just-announced (see my mention) Georg-Büchner-Preis winner), in 1983, Wolfgang Hilbig (1987), Nobel laureate Herta Müller (1991), and Sibylle Lewitscharoff (2006).
       No word yet at the official site, last I checked, but they've announced that Esther Kinsky will get to pick up this year's prize on 6 November; see, for example, the report at boersenblatt.
       Her Summer Report is available in English (from Seagull Books, of course); get your copy at or (ridiculously cheaply, at this moment) at

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

       Dexter is Dead review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the final volume in Jeff Lindsay's serial-killer series, the just published Dexter is Dead.
       Okay, not exactly my proudest reviewing accomplishment, but at some point my tidy, completist side kicks in -- hence you can find coverage of all eight Dexter-books at the site.

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

22 July 2015 - Wednesday

E.L.Doctorow (1931-2015) | Reading in ... Bulgaria | Writing in ... Cambodia

       E.L.Doctorow (1931-2015)

       You probably don't need me to tell you, but, as widely reported, E.L.Doctorow has passed away; see, for example, Bruce Weber's obituary in The New York Times.
       None of his work is under review at the complete review; among the best-known is, of course, Ragtime; get your copy at or

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

       Reading in ... Bulgaria

       At Radio Bulgaria Desislava Ivanova briefly writes Of Bulgarians and books.
       We are treated to not-quite-up-to-date 'statistics':
In figures from the National Statistical Institute, in 2011 fifty-one percent of Bulgarians did not read even a single book and only 19% of the population read more than 10 books.
       Newer writers have made half an impression:
As to contemporary Bulgarian writers, more than half of respondents say they love to read books by them as well. 27% however claim present-day Bulgarian writers fail to offer worthy reads, and others believe reading their books is a fad. The polled mentioned the names of Georgi Gospodinov, Donka Petrunova and Ivan Trenev.
       (Of these, Gospodinov has been reasonably well translated into English -- see, for example, The Physics of Sorrow or And Other Stories.)
       Interestingly, one bookseller notes:
There is no big demand for contemporary Bulgarian writers for adults. One notable exception is Stefan Tsanev from the older generation whose books are quite successful on the market. As to children though, they most often prefer Bulgarian authors. Adolescents read mostly fantasy and historical novels. Among children's writers, one of the most popular is Yulka.
       (Nothing by either Tsanev (Стефан Цанев) or Yulka (Юлка; actually Julia Spiridonova) seems to be available in English, but see, for example, some (Bulgarian) samples by Yulka at LiterNet.)

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

       Writing in ... Cambodia

       In The Phnom Penh Post Harriet Fitch Little profiles the Nou Hach Literary Journal, in Literary journal rewards talent in a still small field.
"Writing is kind of considered to be somewhat secondary to art at this point, maybe largely because things have become so visual with new media," she said, adding that the visual arts were also far easier to sponsor:

"It's sexier." Yamada said that when offers of funding did come in, they were often tied in ways that were unacceptable.
"Cambodia has been heavily influenced by Sanskrit," she said. "And unlike Thai, they haven't separated their words. When we started out, a whole page would have no paragraph breaks, no stops, no phrases."

Today, Yamada said, that's changing -- work is presented in a more legible form, and language is less repetitious.
       Ah, well .....
       But, yes, one hopes that they get over this 'development literature'-phase soon .....

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

21 July 2015 - Tuesday

Premio Strega | Mirages of the Mind review

       Premio Strega

       Rather shamefacedly I note the awarding of the Premio Strega ... a full two weeks after they announced the winner. (It's summer, news travels slowly ? But seriously, where's the English-language coverage of this, the best-known of the Italian literary prizes.)
       No doubt you would have heard if finalist Elena Ferrante had won with The Story of the Lost Child -- forthcoming from Europa editions; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or -- but in the second and final round of voting it came a rather distant third, with 59 of the 368 votes cast. The winner was: La ferocia by Nicola Lagioia; see the Einaudi publicity page. (His Bringing It All Back Home is apparently available in English -- electronically; get you Kindle copy at or

       They also award a Premio Strega Europeo -- a best foreign book prize -- and German-Ukrainian author Katja Petrowskaja's Maybe Esther (the 2013 Ingeborg-Bachmann-Prize-winning title, forthcoming from Fourth Estate in English; see the Suhrkamp foreign rights page) beat out hot favorite Rafael Chirbes (and Alain Mabanckou, among others).

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

       Mirages of the Mind review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi's 1990 novel Mirages of the Mind; Random House India brought this translation out last year, and now New Directions has brought it stateside.
       Good (though unusual -- really, it's not what you're used to reading) fun -- and lots of great observations and sentences. I think my favorite is still the pithy:
There is no real harm in swimming against a river's current. I mean, none for the river.

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

20 July 2015 - Monday

Maj Sjöwall profile | Premio Dashiell Hammett
The Novella Award shortlist

       Maj Sjöwall profile

       In The Telegraph Jake Kerridge profiles Maj Sjöwall, in The couple who invented Nordic Noir (the other half being long-dead Per Wahlöö, with whom she co-authored the classic Martin Beck-series (Roseanna, The Man who went up in Smoke, etc.)).
       Nice to see her/them get the attention -- though surely they always get their due, as no one can doubt they weren't: "the begetters of what we now know as Nordic Noir"

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

       Premio Dashiell Hammett

       So they just handed out a bunch of literary prizes at the Semana Negra 2015, and the Premio Dashiell Hammett went to Yo fui Johnny Thunders by Carlos Zanón; see, for example, Carlos Zanón gana el premio Dashiell Hammett 2015 in El País.
       I have to admit that I thought it was kind of sad that a prize for the best Spanish-language crime novel (well, 'novela negra') was named after a non-Spanish-writing author. It has an impressive track-record, with winning titles by Paco Ignacio Taibo II (again and again), Leonardo Padura, Jorge Franco, Ricardo Piglia -- even Sergio Ramírez's Divine Punishment (just recently out in English translation) -- but still .....
       Looking at what the body behind the prize is -- the Asociación Internacional de Escritores Policiacos/International Association of Crime Writers -- both clears up and muddies the question further: founded in 1986 in Havana, the founding authors consisting of: "Paco Ignacio Taibo II of Mexico, Julian Semionov of the then U.S.S.R., Jiri Prochazka (Czechoslovakia), Rafael Ramírez Heredia (Mexico), Daniel Chavarría (Uruguay), Alberto Molina and Rodolfo Perez (Cuba)", this looks very much to have been set up as a counter-weight to 'Western' mystery-writers organizations -- and so you can see why they'd go with Hammett (if they had to go with an English-writing author).
       Yet its (few) international branches look pretty local-mainstream, and among them is the North American one -- which hands out its own Hammett Prize (also with a reasonably solid list of winners (though Alice Hoffman beating out Walter Mosley and Donald E. Westlake in 1992 is ... striking)). (The German branch -- Das Syndikat -- sensibly went local-language: theirs is the Friedrich Glauser Preis.)
       A bit confusing and murky ... but maybe appropriate for a noirish organization/prizes.

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

       The Novella Award shortlist

       So there's something called The Novella Award -- "a writing competition that celebrates new fiction in the novella form" -- and they've now announced their shortlist, with the winner to be announced 7 October.
       As the report by Katy Guest in the Independent on Sunday observes, it does at least answer that burning literary question of what the hell is a novella (or at least how long should it be) -- which they then manage to get wrong in the headline (Novella Award organisers have defined a novel as being a piece of fiction between 20,000 and 40,000 words).
       Yes, apparently it's 'the Richard Ford solution'/definition:
"When a writer approaches the 20,000-word mark," Ford wrote in The Granta Book of the American Long Story, "he knows he's edging out of the country of the short story; likewise when he passes the 40,000-word mark, he's edging into the country of the novel."

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

19 July 2015 - Sunday

Prix Littéraire de La Mamounia | Modiano coverage

       Prix Littéraire de La Mamounia

       They've announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the five finalists for the prix Littéraire de La Mamounia, one of the leading hotel-sponsored literary prizes, a MAD 200,000 prize for French-Moroccan literature -- and whose seven-person judging panel includes Alain Mabanckou and ... Douglas Kennedy this year.
       The winner will be announced 19 September.

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

       Modiano coverage

       A flurry of Patrick Modiano-translations (and updated translations ...) are due out in the US/UK in the coming months, with Pedigree due out soon, and the three-pack of The Occupation Trilogy -- a first-time translation his debut, plus revised translations of two early works that were published in English some forty years ago -- also soon available (pre-order your copy at or
       Hence we can also expect lots of Modiano-coverage -- but I hope we can soon move beyond the Patrick Modiano: the Nobel Prize-winner nobody had read-sort (so Duncan White in The Telegraph). I know a lot of this is tempting -- but Modiano was neither that obscure nor that undertranslated, even in English (and especially not elsewhere, even outside France).

       (Meanwhile, for an amusing Modiano cameo in someone else's novel -- which I'm afraid plays very differently, post-Nobel --, check out Antoine Laurain's The Red Notebook.)

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

18 July 2015 - Saturday

Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes | Nigerians in Space review

       Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes

       They've announced the winners of the (153rd) Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes, with 火花 by 又吉直樹 (Matayoshi Naoki) and スクラップ・アンド・ビルド by 羽田圭介 (Keisuke Haneda) sharing the Akutagawa and 流 by 東山彰良 (Higashiyama Akira) winning the Naoki; see, for example, reports such as Comedian Matayoshi, Hada win Akutagawa Prize (Yomiuri Shimbun) amd Taiwan-born novelist wins Japan's popular literature award (Want China Times).
       Apparently, the Matayoshi-win is a big deal -- he's a popular comedian, and the book has been selling very well (640,000 copies already in print). Indeed, apparently Publisher to print 1 mil. copies of Akutagawa Prize-winning Hibana (Kyodo News) -- or, as The Japan Times summarizes, Comedian Matayoshi's literary win offers hope for sagging publishing industry.

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

       Nigerians in Space review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Deji Bryce Olukotun's Nigerians in Space.
       It's taken me a while to get around to this; I've been curious/interested -- Nigerians in space ! -- but also leery. But what a pleasant surprise -- and, overall, what a surprise, because it turns out to be nothing like what I expected. (Among the nice surprises: lots of abalone -- which, aside from making my mouth water (and breaking my heart a bit), is actually also really well done/utilized (no baloney -- abalone !).)
       What really impresses is that this is an 'African' novel that isn't -- like practically everything else brought out by US/UK presses (well, excluding some South African stuff, as well as everything from the whole north African stretch) -- self-consciously and overly-emphatically 'African'. It's comparable to something like Okey Ndibe's Foreign Gods, Inc. -- but Olukotun hits it on the nose, while Ndibe (pressured by his editor ?) tries way, way too hard.
       This was brought out by Unnamed Press -- and good for them -- but it's incomprehensible that this wasn't brought out by a major publisher; it's bigger- (if not mass-)audience appealing, and it's damn good. (The one reason one wishes a major had published it: maybe it would have gotten the attention it deserves -- because it deserves a hell of a lot more than it got.)

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

17 July 2015 - Friday

Reviewing issues | Translating Persian literature into ... Arabic
Bangkok Book Festival

       Reviewing issues

       In the Irish Times Martin Doyle considers Reviewing Irish books: the good, the bad and the ugly truth -- and asks a a variety of local reviewers and critic for their opinions on the matter.
       Since practically everyone know everyone the small market/literary field exacerbates the usual problems -- and it's interesting to hear what the reviewers think about this.

       Meanwhile, in the US (well, on the Internet -- indeed billed as '' Online Only') at n + 1 Nell Zink (a hot new thing on the literary scene -- and often sold/advertised as Discovered by Franzen) (p)reviewd Jonathan Franzen's new upcoming novel, Purity, offering Early thoughts on Purity by Jonathan Franzen. Except that after a couple of hours they pulled that content, 'explaining', as you can now read there:
Update: this page is temporarily unavailable. Bowing to publishing convention, we are going to hold this pre-review until closer to the book's release date.
       I have no idea what this 'publishing convention' is, or why they're bowing to it: reviews of Purity have been up at Publishers Weekly (posted 18 May) and Kirkus Reviews (posted 6 May) for months; the title is fair game, and I'm disappointed I haven't seen more coverage elsewhere yet.
       Jezebel suggests: "In all likelihood, Zink's post was taken down because of an embargo" -- but given the PW and Kirkus coverage, it was broken long ago , if it ever existed .....
       I know publishers like to (think they can) manage, if not control how coverage of their books plays out, but I wish they wouldn't try so hard. (Apparently the Kakutani's early review last week of some widely anticipated (in some circles) title that was 'embargoed' rankled, too; see, for example, coverage here.)
       (Given that the focus at the complete review is on fiction in translation, books I cover tend to have been reviewed elsewhere (like in their original language ...) earlier anyway. And the really big titles -- like Houellebecq's Submission -- have often been widely reviewed even in English long before their US/UK publication dates ..... (No Publishers Weekly review for that one yet, however.))

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

       Translating Persian literature into ... Arabic

       In Al Monitor they have a wide-ranging Q & A with Ghassan Hamdan, Iraqi writer brings Persian literature to Arab world.
       Interesting to hear about what he translates, and the conditions -- including that not all that long ago:
The reason I chose Syria's Ministry of Culture was because it was a government organization and had a budget allocated for translating and publishing world literature. The private publishers, however, were not interested.
       Also interesting (if less surprising):
As far as publications are concerned, yes, there are publications everywhere, even in the poorest Arab countries, such as Yemen, Mauritania and Sudan. Publication is not the problem. Distribution is.

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

       Bangkok Book Festival

       The Bangkok Book Festival starts today, and runs through Sunday.
       See also Anchalee Kongrut's preview, The Reading Feast, in the Bangkok Post.

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

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