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23 August 2016 - Tuesday

Preparing for Bottom's Dream | Ignacio Padilla (1968-2016)
Don't Leave Me review

       Preparing for Bottom's Dream

       Okay, folks, time to get serious: the publication of John E. Woods' long-awaited, career-culminating translation of Arno Schmidt's magnum (and we are talking magnum !) opus, Bottom's Dream is only a month away. There's work to do ! Preparatory work, especially for you literary editors, critics, and reporters ! So let's get to it ! I'm here to help .....
       Sure, Hillel Italie might try to convince you, in reporting that a Rich season of fiction expected this fall that: "For the weightiest novel this fall, or most any season, Alan Moore has the grandest ambition", and, yes, Jerusalem is big (1266 pages) and a big deal (pre-order your copy at or, but let's get real: Bottom's Dream is the (literary-)book- and translation-event of the year, hands down. (Yes, AP has missed that part of the story , sigh. But I'm here to remind/tell you !)
       [Look: to date, there are practically no books I've seen that are more or less guaranteed to make the Best Translated Book Award longlist for 2016 publications; the Man Booker International Prize-winning Han Kang novel The Vegetarian is one, but this one is an even more un-overlookable translation; the recent (multi-person) translation of Leopardi's Zibaldone is the only possibly comparable book, in scale and madness, of recent years.]
       Dalkey Archive Press, who are bringing out the impressive looking-edition (scroll down on the page (where you can pre-order the book -- at a nice discount already, no less) for some pictures) now have pdfs available, so if you're a literary 'professional' -- reach out, and grab for one.
       (I've got my copy, and dreaded though the pdf format is, I've got to say -- you can work with this. Maybe, some of you, even better than with the thirteen pound oversize print volume in your lap ..... Because of the nature of the text, this is extremely unlikely ever to appear in Kindle or ePub format, but the rigid pdf can handle it, and while your tablet screen is a bit small to deal with it (turning it on its side helps), it's a decent fall-back and introduction. Take a look, just to get a sense of what the thing is about.)

       So what's the big deal ? Well, first of all, it's just plain big. Coffee-table-crushing big. Unwieldy, to put it mildly. Three columns of text on the page, and almost 1500 of those pages ..... (Kudos to Woods not only for the translation but for the typesetting, which he took responsibility for too -- the edition beautifully mirrors the typeset-revised German standard issue.)
       In his 1995 The New York Times Book Review review of some other Woods Schmidt-translations Jeremy Adler hopes Woods:
will have an opportunity to attempt the impossible and give us an English Bottom's Dream too. Then Arno Schmidt will assume his rightful place in modern literature.
       Well, it's happened -- Woods has tackled, and completed what Adler called: "the ultimate but untranslatable challenge to any translator". So let's see that Schmidt does indeed: "assume his rightful place in modern literature".
       This is Woods going out with the biggest of bangs -- "When I'm done with Bottom's Dream, I've done my work", he's said -- and what a career it's been. The standard translations of the biggest Thomas Mann novels, including Joseph and His Brothers and Buddenbrooks. Popular stuff, like Patrick Süskind's Perfume. And piles of Arno Schmidt -- pretty much everything that's (been) available in English !

       Even if the book itself is too much for you, it makes for a great story, so I'm hoping there's adequate literary coverage of it. (So far, disappointingly (and actually rather shockingly): none.)
       Come on, reviewers, critics, reporters, booksellers, librarians -- check it out ! Have a peek ! Let yourself be seduced !

       To ease the path, I also recommend:

        - Check out my Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy (get your copy at or; it's also available on Kindle (get your copy at or Not so much pure Bottom's Dream-prep, but surely the best introduction to Schmidt and what the hell he was about you'll find in English. Essential background-reading, I'd suggest.
       (Booksellers: I hope you're stocking up, to prepare readers for Bottom's Dream; it should be readily via-Ingram-obtainable -- but if you have any problems/special needs etc., let me know !)

        - Check out The School for Atheists, another of Schmidt's 'typoscript' novels, and also translated by Woods, but more manageable, in every form. Amazon lists it as out of print (and hence ridiculously expensive at either or, but publisher Green Integer lists it [when, sigh, the site is working] as available for US$16.95, and surely they've gone for a reprint to take advantage of Bottom's Dream-fever !

       In addition, mark your calendars for the upcoming John E. Woods events.
       As far as I can tell, so far:        And, all you editors/critics/reporters/journalists, I'm sure if you get in touch with Dalkey Archive Press they'll be more than happy to try to set up an interview with Woods for you .

        - The Untranslated has suspended their project of Reading Zettel's Traum, but they got a few hundred pages in and given how little other introductory material is available this is well worth checking out.

       So let's go ! Editors, commission those profile articles -- and, if you're feeling really brave, actual reviews !
       This is not a book that can be ignored -- not by the standard-bearers of literary coverage ! (And not by all you wannabes .....)
       If your publication has Literary or Review of Books on the masthead, you have to be covering this. (But you know that -- and let's hope some of the other, smaller publications, brave it too !)

       (If you're having trouble finding someone to read the damn thing, and write something up, I am open to commissions -- for a price. You know where to find me.)

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

       Ignacio Padilla (1968-2016)

       Mexican author Ignacio Padilla was killed in a car crash; see, for example, the Latin American Herald Tribune report.
       Two of his books are under review at the complete review: Shadow without a Name and Antipodes, and he impressed me enough to rate a mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction.
       I have to say, I was shocked to only find out about this days after it happened -- and that while there have been some English-language reprts (like the LAHT one), and it has been widely reported internationally, his death seems to have been completely overlooked in the US and UK so far.

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

       Don't Leave Me review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Stig Sæterbakken's reverse-chronological novel, Don't Leave Me.

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

22 August 2016 - Monday

Upcoming conversation | Dear Mr. M review

       Upcoming conversation

       Next Sunday, on 28 August, at 17:00, I have the great honor of being in conversation with Simon Winchester, talking about my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction at The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts -- a great venue, a great conversation-partner, and the promise of lots of international literature talk, so if you're in the neighborhood .....

       (The Mount -- Edith Wharton's old place -- is having an impressive summer season, with a great Lecture Series -- with Ruth Franklin speaking about her new Shirley Jackson biography today at 16:00 (and again tomorrow at 11:00, if you don't have tickets for today's already sold-out event ...), and Simon Winchester speaking about his Pacific next Monday at 16:00 (and, in a repeat performance, next Tuesday at 11:00) And the gardens are always worth checking out.)

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

       Dear Mr. M review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Herman Koch's Dear Mr. M, due out in both the UK and US in the coming weeks.

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

21 August 2016 - Sunday

Post-Arab Spring writing | Coming up in ... Germany

       Post-Arab Spring writing

       In The National Tarek Ghanem has a brief look at How the Arab Spring has altered the direction of regional literature.

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

       Coming up in ... Germany

       The soon-upon-us fall season is big all around the world, and in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Andreas Platthaus runs down what he thinks are the 'Wichtigste Romane des Herbstes' (the most important novels of the fall) set to appear in Germany -- with Atlas of an Anxious Man Christoph Ransmayr's promising-sounding Cox (see the S.Fischer publicity page) leading the way.

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

20 August 2016 - Saturday

Book awards | Youssef Rakha Q & A

       Book awards

       At The Conversation Jason Potts makes the case Why we need more book awards -- pointing to Erwin Dekker and Marielle de Jong's recently published study on 'What Do Book Awards Signal ? An Analysis of Book Awards in Three Countries' (abstract; full article (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) ).
       The Dekker/de Jong piece looks at book awards in the US, France, and the Netherlands, between 1981 and 2015 (though the spans vary by country).
       Among the interesting findings:
  • "very few books win multiple awards"
  • "Out of the books in the American data-set only five out of the 398 books nominated or awarded are also in the fiction best-seller lists of 10 most sold books of the year" (!)
  • In the Netherlands "14 books out of 214 (6.5%) are also on the best-seller list"; in France: "42% of the books (77 out of 184) make it to the best-seller list of 50 best books sold"
       Among the conclusions: there's some consensus in the US -- but:
In the French and Dutch language market there are also clear sings that stakeholders in the market resist the common-opinion regime and the associated standard of quality. The resistance to the publication of best-seller-lists, which would take away attention from 'good' books, was substantial in the both countries
       Too bad they didn't include more countries in the study -- the UK would have been an obvious choice, Germany an interesting one as well. Still, certainly of some interest.

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

       Youssef Rakha Q & A

       At Susanne Schanda has a Q & A with Egyptian author Youssef Rakha.
       Several of his works have been translated into English, but apparently he is now making the leap to reach US/UK audiences without a middleman: he's writing his new novel directly in English:
I felt a need for distance and change. I wanted to get away from the familiar with all its implications, overtones and undertones. English helps me to do that, it feels more neutral and doesn't have the same weight for me, the same burden as Arabic. I need distance from all the things that have happened in Egypt over the past five years since the revolution.
       It'll be interesting to see what results.

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

19 August 2016 - Friday

Kids' lit (not) in translation | On U.R.Ananthamurthy | The Miner review

       Kids' lit (not) in translation

       Just how little is translated into English has gotten lots of attention in recent years, but the focus tends to be on adult fiction, and in fact there are many other areas in which translation-into-English lags (far) behind translation into other languages. So, for example, at Slate Daniel Hahn notes We've Stopped Translating Children's Books Into English. Where Will We Get the Next Tintin ?
       I am impressed by what must have been a fairly arduous counting-exercise:
I recently went to a major London bookshop, a good one, and did some counting. I found 2,047 children's books, of which 2,018 were by English-language writers and 29 were translations. Of those 29, the number of living writers represented was ... 6.
       Those are some pretty shocking and damning numbers. No 'three per cent' here .....

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

       On U.R.Ananthamurthy

       In The Caravan Anjum Hasan writes at considerable length on 'U.R.Ananthamurthy's contrarian wisdom', in The Ambivalent Indian.

       Two of Ananthamurthy's books are under review at the complete review: Bharathipura and Samskara.

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

       The Miner review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Natsume Sōseki's The Miner, in a new edition from Aardvark Bureau, a revised translation by Jay Rubin of his 1988 version; there's also an Introduction by Murakami Haruki.

       (Reviewing a Sōseki also gives me opportunity/reason to remind you of one of the most disturbing stories I have come across in the past few months -- Android Sōseki !)

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

18 August 2016 - Thursday

Read Russia Translation Prize shortlists
The New York Times consolidates book coverage
'Sex literature' in Ugandan school | Harry Potter in translation

       Read Russia Translation Prize shortlists

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Alexandra Guzeva reveals the shortlists for the Read Russia Translation Prize(s), awarded in a variety of categories and for translations into any language (which, come to think of it, must be very hard to judge -- I can't fathom what system they would use to compare translations (of different works !) into, say, Spanish and Hungarian (as is the case in the 'Classic literature of the 19th century'-category)).
       (Meanwhile, the Read Russia site itself seems rather/way behind in trying to keep up with the latest prize happenings -- you would think that, given the generous prize money on offer they could pay someone a few rubles to keep this vaguely up to date, too .....)
       One of the shortlisted titles is actually under review at the complete review -- Lisa Hayden's, of Eugene Vodolazkin's Laurus.

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

       The New York Times consolidates book coverage

       I always liked the fact that The New York Times Book Review was editorially (at least nominally) independent, with book coverage in the (week-)daily edition of The New York Times under another purview; no longer, alas: Dean Baquet has announced that they're consolidating all the paper's book coverage, and that Pamela Paul to Oversee Daily and Sunday Book Coverage. (Pamela Paul has run the NYTBR since 2013.)
       This certainly appears to be a big vote of confidence in what Paul has been doing -- though note that The New York Times seems to have a recent history of thinking NYTBR-editors don't have enough to do: her predecessor, Sam Tanenhaus, was named editor of (the then still existing) "Week in Review'-section in 2007, while continuing in his NYTBR job at the same time .....
       Obviously, it's easy to argue this is a sensible consolidation -- book coverage is book coverage, right ? On the other hand: the separation of daily and Sunday coverage sure lasted a long time without anyone daring to mess with it, and there's more than a whiff of belt-tightening desperation to this too.
       My book-coverage preference is certainly for more variety, while putting a single person in charge surely makes for a tendency towards sameness. Obviously, if you like what Paul has done with the NYTBR, then more of the same sounds good; if you don't ... tough.

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

       'Sex literature' in Ugandan school

       Every year there are fun stories about over-protective American parents demanding the banning or removal-from-school-libraries of books their kids would be much better off exposed to. This happens elsewhere, too, though generally not on the same hysterical and grand scale -- but a recent Ugandan episode shows adult/parental (and governmental) over-reactions are not limited to the United States.
       In New Vision Paul Kiwuuwa reports that Parliament probes Greenhill Academy over sex literature, with the national Ethics Minister rooting around in the school library, and MPs (!) impounding: "over 100 copies for further scrutiny".
       The prestigious school's motto appears to be: 'Expand your horizons', but apparently these are not horizons meant to be expanded on .....
       So what was this offending porn that has everyone shocked and upset ? Well, with titles like Love Lessons and Girls in Love you have to expect the worst right ? Never mind that they're titles by Jacqueline Wilson, and that the Scholastic publicity page for Girls in Love suggests a 'Grades 6-8' interest for sensitive American audiences (and that there's a TV series based on it ...).
When the MPs probed and scrutinized the library cards, Girls In Love was the most borrowed book by both female and male pupils.
       OMG ! A book both girls and boys like -- and that they actually read ! Can't get that off the shelves soon enough !
       Other offending porn-titles include Daisy Meadows' Juliet the Valentine Fairy -- and you can tell from the Scholastic publicity page just how dangerous that would be for impressionable young minds (and bodies ...) !
       (It does sound/look like all they did with most of these books was look at the titles before deciding they were inappropriate.)
       Amazingly, there doesn't seem to have been much backlash at this ridiculous over-reach, with the school already apologizing and the books apparently gone for good. Disappointing, all around.

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

       Harry Potter in translation

       I recently mentioned that J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (co-written by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany) has enjoyed spectacular sales-success, including in Germany and France, where the original English version has topped bestseller lists. With the translations only due out in five weeks in Germany (see the Carlsen publicity page) and in two months in France (see the Gallimard publicity page), readers apparently haven't been able to wait.
       The rush-to-translation apparently was (mistakenly) not seen as quite so urgent with this one (previous Harry Potters have come out at the same time as the English original) -- but one place they thought otherwise was ... Iran. Yes, as the Tehran Times reports, Iranian Pottermaniacs to roll out red carpet for Cursed Child, as the Persian version (unauthorized, I think it is safe to say) has now been published; see also the Tandis publicity page.

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

17 August 2016 - Wednesday

Trojanow's Olympics | German translation subsidies

       Trojanow's Olympics

       Ilija Trojanow's novel, The Lamentations of Zeno, recently came out in English from Verso -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at or -- but I'm even more intrigued by the book he's just published in German, Meine Olympiade ('My Olympics'), subtitled 'One amateur, four years, eighty disciplines' (see the S.Fischer foreign rights page).
       Apparently he decided after the 2012 Olympics in London to train in all eighty individual Summer Olympic disciplines (i.e. excluding only the team or partnered ones), "with the goal of doing at least half as well as the gold medalist of London". (I'm not quite sure how he measured that in those sports that aren't ... measured (badminton, judo, etc. etc.).) A nice twist, too: he traveled around the world to train with leaders in the various sports -- wrestling in Iran, running in Kenya, boxing in Brooklyn, etc.
       Sounds fun -- too bad no one thought to translate it in time for these Olympics .....

       (Meanwhile, I'm also glad to see that Verso have gone with 'Ilija Trojanow' -- rather than, as Faber foolishly had it when they gave him a go, 'Ilya Troyanov'; see my post (from more than eight years ago !) about that (not-quite-)transliteration problem.)

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

       German translation subsidies

       Litprom is the German 'Society for the Promotion of African, Asian and Latin American Literature', and among their activities is subsidizing translations-into-German from those areas (and the Arab world), and they've just announced the latest batch of nine titles that will get translation-support (scroll down for the convenient list).
       Two of these are actually already under review at the complete review -- and available in English --: Juan Pablo Villalobos' I'll Sell You a Dog and Imraan Coovadia's Tales of the Metric System, while two more are also translations-from-the English; indeed, while the geographic diversity is impressive, the linguistic one is less so -- a translation from the Vietnamese is the only one not from a more or less major European language .....
       Still, always interesting to see what is being translated -- and subsidized -- elsewhere.

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

16 August 2016 - Tuesday

James Tait Black Prizes | The Story of My Wife review

       James Tait Black Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's £10,000 James Tait Black Prizes (which apparently get a lot of mileage out of calling themselves 'Britain's oldest literary awards').
       You Don't Have to Live Like This (by Benjamin Markovits) took the fiction prize; see the publicity pages from Harper Perennial and Faber & Faber, or get your copy at or
       (There's apparently also a non-fiction prize, and that went to a Shakespeare-book by James Shapiro.)

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

       The Story of My Wife review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Füst Milán's 1942 novel, The Story of My Wife: The Reminiscences of Captain Störr.
       After the 1987 PAJ Publications hardcover this was published in paperback in 1989 in the Vintage International series; you still find some decent books in that series, but this one is long out of print (and instead you find the likes of ... Paulo Coelho's (no doubt well-selling, sigh ...) Adultery).

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

15 August 2016 - Monday

Hermann Kant (1926-2016) | US presidential reading

       Hermann Kant (1926-2016)

       Leading East German author Hermann Kant has passed away; see, for example, (German) reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Die Zeit.
       The latter reports that his best-known work, Die Aula, was translated into fifteen languages -- but English was apparently not one of them; it seems none of his work made it into English. That's somewhat surprising -- if not a top-tier author, he was certainly high second tier, and deserved at least some attention even from English-language readers.

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

       US presidential reading

       The American White House has released The President's Summer Reading List -- five books President Obama is apparently reading this summer.
       The only one of the five titles under review at the complete review is Neal Stephenson's Seveneves -- noteworthy because it was also recommended by former Microsoft man Bill Gates earlier this year.
       A solid little list -- but only five books for summer reading ? Come on !

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

14 August 2016 - Sunday

Françoise Mallet-Joris (1930-2016) | Dante review

       Françoise Mallet-Joris (1930-2016)

       Belgian author Françoise Mallet-Joris has passed away; see, for example, Josyane Savigneau and Jean-Luc Drouin on Mort de la romancière Françoise Mallet-Joris in Le Monde.
       Mallet-Joris was of that generation of French authors that were translated into English as a matter of course from the late 1950s through the early 1980s; now, of course, she is largely forgotten and, in English, apparently entirely out of print. But it's fairly easy to find used copies of her old books -- cheap, too. Get your copy of her fairly recently re-translated-- now as The Illusionist -- controversial debut from or

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

       Dante review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Marco Santagata's Dante: The Story of His Life, recently published by Harvard University Press.
       Santagata is also a well-known author of fiction -- and his Dante-themed novel, Come donna innamorata, was a finalist for the Premio Strega last year; I wonder if it will get translated into English.

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

13 August 2016 - Saturday

Success (not) in translation | Writers on Trump

       Success (not) in translation

       It doesn't come as much of a surprise that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K.Rowling (and Jack Thorne and John Tiffany) has sold phenomenally well. Well, perhaps the fact that it is a play-script makes this a bit surprising -- but, as Clarisse Loughrey reported in The Independent, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child becomes biggest selling play script since records began, having sold an amazing 847,886 copies in the UK alone. Meanwhile, as Jennifer Maloney reports in the Wall Street Journal, 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' Debuts at No. 1 With More Than 4 Million in Sales, as it has also sold some 3.3 million times in North America. (Get your copy at or -- and, yes, it's the top seller at both sites.)
       Perhaps even more impressive: the original English edition tops the current bestseller lists in both Germany and France. Yes, while in the US or UK it's rare to see a book in translation on the bestseller list, here we have a book in a different language that makes it -- essentially unheard of in the US/UK ! (The rather impressive exception: Winnie ille Pu in the US in 1961 .....)
       This is why the Europeans generally try to get translations of the biggest English-language books to appear concurrently with the US/UK release -- or ahead of them, as, for example, the Dutch have done with the latest, Man Booker Prize longlisted, J.M.Coetzee (see the Cossee publicity page).

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

       Writers on Trump

       In The Guardian they have get Richard Ford, Joyce Carol Oates, David Hare and more ... leading writers on Donald Trump -- in case you were hoping they could shed some light on this peculiar American ... phenomenon.

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

12 August 2016 - Friday

PEN/Nabokov Award | Ernst Neizvestny (1925-2016)
Arthur Goldhammer profile

       PEN/Nabokov Award

       There used to be a biennial PEN/Nabokov Award for Fiction (2000-2008) -- awarded to Mavis Gallant, William H. Gass, Mario Vargas Llosa, Cynthia Ozick, and Philip Roth -- and now they've upped the prize money (from US$20,000 to US$50,000) and revived it as the: 'PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature'. A nice spin on who qualifies: it's for authors: "born or residing outside the United States for an outstanding body of work over a sustained career". So Ozick, Roth, and Gass couldn't have won this version of the prize !
       Apparently, the prize will be "administered by PEN America", and funded (?) by "the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation -- headed by eminent literary agent Andrew Wylie". (The VNLF 2015 990-PF list all of US$197.00 in disbursements (US$168.00 in legal fees, US$25.00 in taxes, and US$4.00 for 'other expenses', so they're certainly upping their ante.)
       This bears some resemblance to what the Man Booker International Prize used to be -- but the not-born-in/resident-of-the-US qualification is a nice twist that pushes it to being more international. Of course, the Wylie connection is ... something to keep an eye on; the 'VNLF' address is that of the Wylie Agency, and that agency does 'handle' a lot of prominent international authors -- let's hope the "panel of five [not yet named] internationally recognized writers who will serve as judges" can tear themselves away from just considering authors on this list.

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

       Ernst Neizvestny (1925-2016)

       Sculptor Ernst Neizvestny has passed away; see, for example, Ernst Neizvestny, Russian sculptor who stood up to Khrushchev, dies at 91 at DeutscheWelle, or Ernst Neizvestny: A Principled and Uniquely Talented Artist by Ruth Morse in The Moscow Times.
       My introduction to Neizvestny was John Berger's classic, Art and Revolution -- a book that made a tremendous impression on me (ca. anno 1983). (See the Vintage publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Arthur Goldhammer profile

       A nice (French) profile of prolific translator ("de plus de 120 livres") Arthur Goldhammer, la French connection by Marc-Olivier Bherer in Le Monde.

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

11 August 2016 - Thursday

Angelus Award semi-finalists | Johanne, Johanne review
Fourteen years of the Literary Saloon

       Angelus Award semi-finalists

       They've announced the 14 semi-finalists (selected out of: "70 good applications" -- admirably also all revealed and listed) for the Polish Angelus Central European Literature Award, which is awarded to a book published in Polish (original or translation) from: Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Germany, Poland, Russia, or Ukraine; see also the report.
       Not many (any ?) names that will strike much of a US/UK chord -- but a good overview of current Central European fiction. So, for example, Varujan Vosganian might not have made it into English yet, but the shortlisted book, Cartea soaptelor, has been translated into French, and German, and Italian, etc. ... So expect to see some of these in English .... someday.
       The seven finalists will be announced in early September; the winner on 15 October.

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

       Johanne, Johanne review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lars Sidenius' Johanne, Johanne, a text-message novel just out in English from Dalkey Archive Press.

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

       Fourteen years of the Literary Saloon

       The complete review was started in 1999, and this Literary Saloon weblog added just over three years later; today marks the fourteenth anniversary of the first post.
       Fourteen years !
       Anyway, many thanks to the longtime (and new) readers -- hope you continue to enjoy the site, or find it useful, or at least invigoratingly aggravating.
       Cheers !
       (I daren't say: to fourteen more .....)

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

10 August 2016 - Wednesday

Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize entries | A Quiet Place review

       Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize entries

       The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation is a prize:
made to the translator(s) of a published translation in English of a full-length imaginative and creative Arabic work of literary merit published after, or during, the year 1967 and first published in English translation in the year prior to the award
       Admirably, and usefully, they publish a list of all the eligible entries that are considered for the prize -- transparency that every prize should offer but few do (good luck trying to find out what was submitted for the Man Booker Prize (etc. etc.)) -- and they've now announced the 19 eligible entries for the 2016 Prize.
       Nineteen titles -- seventeen fiction and two poetry -- is down from 2015's 29, but up from 2014's 17; in any case, the list provides a good overview of what contemporary Arabic literature has recently been translated into English.

       Only three of the titles are under review at the complete review:
  • The Televangelist by Ibrahim Essa, translated by Jonathan Wright
  • 32 by Sahar Mandour, translated by Nicole Fares
  • Whitefly by Abdelilah Hamdouchi, translated by Jonathan Smolin
       I have three -- but only three -- more of these titles; I do hope to see more eventually.

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

       A Quiet Place review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Matsumoto Seichō's A Quiet Place, recently published in English by Bitter Lemon Press.

       It's been a while since any Matsumoto has been translated into English (though several volumes have) -- and James Kirkup's 1992 obituary in The Independent suggests one stumbling point:
Reading these works in English is rather hard-going, even though (or perhaps because) the drastically condensed Inspector Imanishi Investigates is re-edited, re-arranged and sharply condensed from the 766 pages of the original paperback to 300 large-print pages of American English. The fiction serial tradition in Japan is largely to blame, because it forces authors to overwrite. So plots are over-contrived, characters too many and too wooden; too many coincidences and rigid plot-structure leave no room for inspired shock endings or psychological subtlety, while the jog-trot dialogue is often just desultory Japanese-style conversation saying nothing and leading nowhere.
       Hmmm ... personally (as you well know ...) I'd much prefer the complete, 'overwritten' version, rather than the maybe-not-so-helpfully edited English version. (I did, in fact, read Inspector Imanishi Investigates long, long ago (Points and Lines too) -- but now I'm holding out for the unedited translation before I consider reviewing it .....)

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

9 August 2016 - Tuesday

Brod estate/Kafka papers decision
FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices shortlists

       Brod estate/Kafka papers decision

       A story that has dragged on for years, and which I've mentioned numerous times, has reached a final resolution, as the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled [sorry, judgment currently only available in Hebrew -- but they're pretty good about translating these into English in a timely fashion] that the Max Brod estate -- basically of interest (and extremely high monetary value) only because of the Kafka-papers (manuscripts and letters) it includes -- should go to National Library of Israel; see also their press release.
       As readers may recall, Brod left his hoard to Esther Hoffe, and she and her heirs (she died in 2007) did all they could to claim it was theirs to do with as they pleased. They had good reason to hold on: the dollar (or shekel, or euro) value of this stuff is ... great: in 1988 the German Literary Archive in Marbach apparently paid Hoffe close to US$ 2,000,000 for the manuscript of Der Proceß ('The Trial').
       While not up-to-date with the last years' legal wranglings, Elif Batuman's Kafka's Last Trial for The New York Times Magazine offers a good introductory overview of the whole mess.

       A few observations:

        - The Supreme Court decision does make note of Kafka's explicit instructions to Max Brod that his papers were to be destroyed upon Kafka's death -- and Brod's excuse that 'he didn't really mean it'. The irony that the Hoffe-heirs' claims that Brod didn't mean it the way everyone likes/wants to see it -- donate it for the public good, not to the highest bidder -- aren't given equal deference continues to go largely unmentioned. What's good for the goose apparently doesn't apply to the ganders ..... (You know what I mean .....)
       (My ideal outcome: make digital copies of the lot, and then put a match to it -- legacy preserved (without all this silly fuss about the originals, and taking financial considerations (the $-'value' of the papers) out of the equation), justice and Kafka's memory served .....)

        - I still haven't seen/read anything resembling an accounting of what the haul of papers actually consists of.
       The library press release suggests it includes:
correspondences in Kafka's handwriting to Max Brod, Kafka's Paris journals, drawings, and many of Max Brod's works and the letters to Kafka
       It's unclear whether there is any unpublished writing by Kafka, or whether all of this has been previously published, like that manuscript of The Trial they sold off.

        - Brod really did manage to hitch his wagon to Kafka exceptionally well; a not-uninteresting if decidedly second rate author in his own right, he'd be a literary footnote, his works largely unread if it weren't for his controlling association with the master. Just yesterday Andreas Kilcher wrote about Brod and the 'Prague Circle' in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, in Der Kampf um die Deutungshoheit -- which includes the smug Brod certainty: "dass schliesslich meine Kafka-Darstellung sich durchsetzen wird" ('that in the end my Kafka-view will prevail'). He certainly tried his best to make sure no other outcome was possible (though fortunately Kafka -- and his work -- are bigger than even Brod could control completely).
       Brod did a lot for Kafka -- but, man, has he proven to be a millstone too.

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

       FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices shortlists

       The bizarre FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Awards -- note that the categories are geographically limited: artists had to be 'a national or passport holder of one of the eligible Africa and the Middle East countries'; fiction authors had to have their work available in English and be from: 'one of the eligible Asia-Pacific countries', etc. -- have now announced this year's shortlists.
       The three works left in the fiction category are:        The winners will be announced 26 September.

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

8 August 2016 - Monday

(American) National Translation Award longlists | Little Jewel review

       (American) National Translation Award longlists

       The American Literary Translators Association has announced the longlists for this year's (American) National Translation Awards.
       One of the poetry titles is under review at the complete review -- Frédéric Forte's Minute-Operas -- and several of the prose titles are, too:        Many of the longlisted titles in both categories are familiar from Best Translated Book Award and PEN Translation prize longlists; no question as to my favorite in the prose category -- one title (you know which one ...) stands out, considerably, from the rest.

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

       Little Jewel review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano's Little Jewel.
       Australian publisher Text brought this out last year, and now the US edition is forthcoming from Yale University Press.
       Noteworthy, also:
  • Yes, the typical Modiano narrator/protagonist, with a focus on the just-turning-adult time, absent and inadequate parents, etc. etc. -- except that for once the narrator/protagonist is female !

  • Peter Handke translated this into German. Peter Handke, folks. Enough said ?

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

7 August 2016 - Sunday

Authors on the Olympics | I'll Sell You a Dog review

       Authors on the Olympics

       A nice feature at the Literary Hub, where they have 20 Writers From Around the World on the Olympics.
       Greatly varying levels of sports-enthusiasm and awareness/knowledge, but still quite interesting.

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

       I'll Sell You a Dog review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Juan Pablo Villalobos' I'll Sell You a Dog, just (about) out from And Other Stories.

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

6 August 2016 - Saturday

Jan Michalski Prize shortlist | Writing in ... Cambodia

       Jan Michalski Prize shortlist

       They've announced -- very quietly, as is their wont (god forbid anyone should notice !) -- the 'Second selection of the Jury' for this year's Jan Michalski Prize for Literature (where they also list the first selection -- which is the first I've seen of that too ...).
       The Jan Michalski Prize is an impressive (and, at CHF 50,000, remunerative) -- if also exceptionally (indeed, exemplarily !) poorly publicized -- book-prize, awarded annually to: "a work of world literature" -- fiction, non, and, apparently, 'illustrated' titles competing head-on. Better yet: it's awarded "irrespective of the language in which it is written" (though as best I can tell it had better be available in English, German, or French to be considered ... (though this does not appear to be an official requirement)). The only official restrictions are that it: "published and printed by [a] publishing house", and the book must originally have been published within the past five years.
       Anyway, among this year's finalists are a Julian Barnes work (Levels of Life), as well as Georgi Gospodinov's The Physics of Sorrow and Aatish Taseer's The Way Things Were.
       Some interesting-looking titles on the first-selection-list, too -- always worth checking these out.

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

       Writing in ... Cambodia

       In the Financial Times Harriet Fitch Little reports that Cambodia authors forge Khmer language literary revival.
       Among the interesting information:
"Cambodian writing has a lot of Pali and Sanskrit aesthetic influence," she says. Traditionally there are no paragraphs, no sentence breaks and no quoted dialogue. "[Traditional writing] has lots of adjectives, it's extremely descriptive, it tends to not have so much of a plot oftentimes," says Yamada. And, critically for writers dreaming of international acclaim, "It is extremely challenging to translate that writing into English."
       Sounds good to me ... indeed, I worry some about writers: "taking outside influences and fusing them, transposing them, into something new". There's a future there, no doubt -- but I'd really love to see more of this un(der)influenced 'traditional writing' first.

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

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