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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review

21 October 2020 - Wednesday

Cundill History Prize finalists | New look for The New York Review of Books site
The Constant Rabbit review

       Cundill History Prize finalists

       They've announced the three finalists for this year's Cundill History Prize, US$75,000 prize for a: "book that embodies historical scholarship, originality, literary quality and broad appeal".
       The winner will be announced on 3 December.

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

       New look for The New York Review of Books site

       The New York Review of Books site has launched with a new design; see also the Introducing the new from the editors.
       I don't deal particularly well with change -- if it ain't broke, etc. etc. -- but it seems more or less functional. I do find it rather annoying that the link to the current issue isn't front and center -- you have to scroll down to find it. And they've replaced the NYR Daily weblog with what they're now calling The Latest; it seems to be the same the thing -- but, also, no immediately obvious link on the main page .....

       The best thing about the re-launch, however, is that they've opened up the entire archive: through 3 November you can freely access all the content they have -- some 20,000 articles ! Honestly, I'm tempted to spend the next two weeks doing nothing else but working my way through all this ..... Take advantage while you can !

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       The Constant Rabbit review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jasper Fforde's latest, The Constant Rabbit.

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

20 October 2020 - Tuesday

Pia Juul (1962-2020) | Translation from the ... Chinese | Philip Roth's library

       Pia Juul (1962-2020)

       I missed this three weeks ago, but Danish author Pia Juul has passed away; see, for example, the (Danish) report at DR by Sidsel Finderup Trap-Jensens, Forfatter Pia Juul er død: 'Der var ingen som hende i dansk litteratur'.
       Though better-known as a poet, her novel The Murder of Halland appears to be the only one of her books translated into English.

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       Translation from the ... Chinese

       At RADII Dylan Levi King wonders What's Going Wrong with Chinese Literature in Translation ?
       He notes:
What makes it into English translation is often shaped by the idea that Chinese fiction's main function is to explain China, and by two sides wrangling over what story Chinese literature should tell.
       Certainly it would be great to see (many) more -- and a greater variety of -- translations from the Chinese.

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       Philip Roth's library

       Philip Roth left his 7,000 book personal library to the Newark public library.
       They're setting up the Philip Roth Personal Library, but note:
So far, only a portion of Philip Roth's books have been transferred to the Newark Public Library, and they have not yet been catalogued.
       At Rebecca Panico now reports that: Newark library's Philip Roth collection will give intimate glimpse into his research and writing process. Apparently, Roth liked to jot notes in the books; I very much hope they publish (at least online, but preferably in print ...) a complete catalogue of all the titles -- and then maybe a volume cataloguing all the annotations .....

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19 October 2020 - Monday

Don DeLillo profile | On Human Worth and Excellence review

       Don DeLillo profile

       Highly-regarded American author Don DeLillo has a new short novel out, The Silence; see the publicity pages from Scribner and Picador, or get your copy at or
       As part of the publicity blast surrounding publication there have been a variety of profiles and the like; see now Rachel Cooke's profile in The Observer, Don DeLillo: 'I wondered what would happen if power failed everywhere', while last week David Marchese had a Q & A with him in The New York Times, We All Live in Don DeLillo's World. He's Confused by It Too.

       I've never really warmed to DeLillo's work; I haven't seen this one yet, but I can probably live with that.

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       On Human Worth and Excellence review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Giannozzo Manetti's fifteenth-century On Human Worth and Excellence, another volume in the I Tatti Renaissance Library.

       I've been meaning to get to David Marsh's biography, Giannozzo Manetti: The Life of a Florentine Humanist -- see the Harvard University Press publicity page -- but figured I might as well tackle this one first.

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18 October 2020 - Sunday

Q & As: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o - Michiko Kakutani - David Karashima - James Wood

       Q & A: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

       At Brittle Paper Billy Kahora has Literature, Language, and Empowerment: An Interview with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o.
       Among the exchanges:
Billy Kahora
Have you ever thought of writing a novel based in either the U.S. and England where you've spent a significant amount of time ?
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
Not yet. But I hope I can do so one day: one novel based in UK and another based in the USA.
       Nice to hear (he is 82, after all); great to hear he still has such ambitions.
       And he reminds us:
For me the big divide is really between Europhone African writers, that is those Africans who write in European languages, and African writers, that is Africans who write in African languages. And I am not talking about quality. Remember there has been a lot of genius in Europhone African literature. What I want is to see more of this genius exploring the possibilities in African languages. It is African languages that need us not European languages.
       I just got my copy of Ngũgĩ's The Perfect Nine yesterday, and should be getting to it soon. Meanwhile, see the publicity pages from The New Press and Harvill, or get your copy from or

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       Q & A: Michiko Kakutani

       In The Guardian Rachel Cooke has a Q & A with former The New York Times-lead reviewer, Michiko Kakutani: 'It is more rewarding to debate than hit delete'.

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       Q & A: David Karashima

       At the Asymptote blog David Boyd has a Q & A with the author of Who We're Reading When We're Reading Murakami, in The Making of the Murakami Industry: An Interview with David Karashima.
       They address the fact that: "Jay Rubin is in the process of doing a new English translation of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" -- unabridged -- and Karashima adds:
I also imagine it won't be long before an unabridged version of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle will be made available in English. Again, I hope the author and publisher will choose to keep both versions in print.
       Sure, it would be neat if both versions were kept in print, but I'd be happy to ditch the old translation for a complete one.

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       Q & A: James Wood

       At Aesthetics for Birds Becca Rothfeld has a Q & A with the literary critic James Wood on how criticism works.
       Good to see him point out that: "I think reviewing a book is somewhat different from “doing criticism” as most academics perform it, either in class or in an academic journal".

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17 October 2020 - Saturday

Science fiction -- the last 10 years | October Asymptote
The Bell in the Lake review

       Science fiction -- the last 10 years

       At Polygon they have a roundtable: "with a group of gatekeepers and tastemakers in science fiction literature to talk about the biggest changes they've seen in the books field over the last decade", in Science fiction has been radically reimagined over the last 10 years.

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       October Asymptote

       The October issue of Asymptote is now available online, with the usual large amount and variety of material -- more than enough to keep you busy over the weekend.

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       The Bell in the Lake review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lars Mytting's international bestseller, The Bell in the Lake, now also out in the US from The Overlook Press.

       Mytting achieved considerable success with his (non-fiction) Norwegian Wood -- which is, in fact, about Norwegian wood -- and a previous novel, The Sixteen Trees of the Somme, was published in the UK a few years ago but apparently didn't make it to the US. This one is certainly also a crowd-pleaser, but doesn't seem to have attracted too much US-attention yet.

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16 October 2020 - Friday

(American) National Translation Awards | Baillie Gifford Prize shortlist
Philip Roth v. Philip Roth

       (American) National Translation Awards

       The American Literary Translators Association has announced the winners of the 2020 National Translation Awards in poetry and prose.
       The prose award went to Jordan Stump's translation of Marie NDiaye's The Cheffe; I haven't seen this one, but see the Alfred A. Knopf publicity page, or get your copy at or
       The poetry award went to Jake Levine, Soeun Seo, and Hedgie Choi's translation of Kim Yideum's Hysteria. (I haven't seen that one either.)

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       Baillie Gifford Prize shortlist

       They've announced the six-title shortlist for this year's Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, a £50,000 prize.
       The winner will be announced on 24 November.

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

       Philip Roth v. Philip Roth

       On 29 March 2021 Ira Nadel's biography Philip Roth is coming out; see the Oxford University Press publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or

       On 6 April 2021 Blake Bailey's biography Philip Roth is coming out; see the publicity pages from W.W.Norton and Jonathan Cape, or pre-order your copy from or

       Yes, we're well set up for the battle of the Roth-biographies next spring !

Roth v. Roth

       While they share the same title, the sub-titles tell a different story: Bailey stakes a claim to definitiveness by insisting his is: The Biography. Nadel takes the obvious alternative tack, positioning his version as: A Counterlife.
       Bailey has also pointed out that: "I was given complete access; Nadel was given none."
       This should be fun !

       I assume that, for those who actually enjoy biographies -- count me out --, two perspectives are better than one. Indeed, the very difference Bailey points out -- Bailey apparently had an actual contract, a "collaboration agreement", with his subject, while Nadel was clearly kept at more than arm's length -- might well make for complementary life-stories. Two times the Roth !
       (Personally, I think people would be better off reading or re-reading Roth's -- often very autobiographical -- fiction (see, for example, The Ghost Writer). But, hey, whatever works for you .....)

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15 October 2020 - Thursday

Goldsmiths Prize shortlist | Albertine Prize finalists
Full complement at the Swedish Academy

       Goldsmiths Prize shortlist

       They've announced the six-title shortlist for this year's Goldsmiths Prize, a £10,000 prize rewarding: "fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form"; see also Ellen Peirson-Hagger's overview in the New Statesman.
       I haven't seen any of these, but it's good to see a book by M. John Harrison on the list (The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again) -- one of two septuagenarians on the list. There's also a book by DBC Pierre on the shortlist (Meanwhile in Dopamine City); I'm still reeling from his 2003 Man Booker-winning Vernon God Little, but maybe I should give something by him a try again .....
       The winner will be announced on 11 November.

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       Albertine Prize finalists

       They've announced the finalists for this year's Albertine Prize, which recognizes: "American readers' favorite work of contemporary Francophone fiction" -- five titles selected by a selection committee, with the public (in the US) now able to vote for who should get the prize (through 25 November).
       Two of the finalists are under review at the complete review: Hold Fast Your Crown by Yannick Haenel and Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes; I haven't seen Animalia or Kannjawou.
       The winner will be announced 9 December.

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

       Full complement at the Swedish Academy

       The Nobel Prize in Literature-deciding Swedish Academy has been in considerable turmoil and has had considerable turnover in recent years, but they finally filled the last two still-vacant chairs, 5 and 14, and are now at full-strength again.
       The new academicians are Ingrid Carlberg and Steve Sem-Sandberg -- both of whom have written books that have been translated into English.
       Carlberg's most recent work -- not yet available in English -- is, coïncidentally (?), a biography of ... Alfred Nobel; see also the Norstedts publicity page and the Hedlund Literary Agency information page. Are they hoping for insider insights in handling the Nobel Foundation (which has been none too pleased with the Academy in recent years) ?

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

14 October 2020 - Wednesday

John Dos Passos Prize | Prix de la Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco
A Dandy in Aspic review

       John Dos Passos Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's John Dos Passos Prize for Literature, and it is Aleksandar Hemon.
       The award: "honors an underappreciated writer whose work offers incisive, original commentary on American themes, experiments with form and encompasses a range of human experiences" -- quite a lot to ask for. I don't know about the underappreciated, but, hey .....

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

       Prix de la Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco

       They've announced the winner of this year's prix de la Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco, a €25,000 prize for: "a well-known French speaking writer for his entire work, on the occasion of the publication of one of his books", and it is Christian Bobin; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.
       Several Bobin titles have been translated into English; the only one under review at the complete review is The Lady in White.

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       A Dandy in Aspic review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Derek Marlowe's 1966 double-agent thriller, A Dandy in Aspic.

       Marlowe wrote this when he shared a flat with Tom Stoppard and Piers Paul Read -- and was the first of the trio to hit it big, with this. See also Stoppard's introduction to the recent re-issue of the novel.
       It was also made into a film in 1968, the last directed by Anthony Mann, starring Laurence Harvey, Mia Farrow, Peter Cook, and Tom Courtenay. The costume designer on the film was Pierre Cardin.

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

13 October 2020 - Tuesday

Deutscher Buchpreis | Frankfurt Book Fair | Pushkin House Prize shortlist

       Deutscher Buchpreis

       They've announced the winner of this year's German Book Prize, the best-known German novel prize, and it is Annette, ein Heldinnenepos, Anne Weber's novel in verse on the life of Anne Beaumanoir, the neurophysiologist famous both for her heroic actions during the Occupation, and then for having been sentenced to 10 years in prison for her support of the FLN during the Algerian war (she is also still alive, set to turn 97 at the end of the month).
       See also the Matthes & Seitz Berlin publicity page, the New Books in German information page, and a sample translation (warning ! dreaded pdf format !), by Damion Searls (where they suggest an English title of: 'Epic Annette' ...).
       See also the Deutsche Welle report, Anne Weber wins the German Book Prize 2020.

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       Frankfurt Book Fair

       This year's Frankfurt Book Fair runs -- in pretty much all-digital form -- from tomorrow through the 18th.
       And at Deutsche Welle Sabine Kieselbach has a Q & A with the fair's president and CEO, Juergen Boos, wondering: Can the Frankfurt Book Fair inspire digitally ?

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       Pushkin House Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Pushkin House Russian Book Prize, a £10,000 prize for: "the very best non-fiction writing on Russia".
       There's more information on each of the six titles at the official site -- click on the titles -- but see also Jennifer Eremeeva's piece on how the Pushkin House Shortlisted Books Tackle Authoritarianism in The Moscow Times, which also has more information about all the titles.

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12 October 2020 - Monday

Reviewing science fiction | Variations on Night and Day review

       Reviewing science fiction

       At Strange Horizons they have A Twentieth-Anniversary Round Table with: "a group of reviewers past and present" where they: "discuss what reviewing is, why it matters -- and why they bother with it".
       Always a subject of interest -- at least hereabouts .....

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       Variations on Night and Day review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the third volume in ʻAbd al-Raḥmān Munif's City of Salt-series, Variations on Night and Day.

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

11 October 2020 - Sunday

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o Q & A | Philip Pullman

       Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o Q & A

       At npr Scott Simon has a Q & A with the author, as Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong'o Says Prison Formed Him As A Writer.
       Ngũgĩ has a new book out -- The Perfect Nine -- which I've been eagerly anticipating and hope to get to soon. Meanwhile, see the publicity pages from The New Press and Harvill, or get your copy from or

       You can also get more Ngũgĩ tomorrow, as the German Litprom are having a symposium, African Perspectives: Writers and Literary Experts in Conversation, which you can watch on YouTube.
       Ngũgĩ starts things off with the keynote lecture that sounds like a can't miss: "End Literary Identity Theft: The Future of African Literatures in the World" Then there are panel discussions, with panelists including: José Eduardo Agualusa, Nii Parkes, Maaza Mengiste, and Petina Gappah.

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       Philip Pullman

       At The Guardian Philip Pullman offers 25 years of His Dark Materials: Philip Pullman on the journey of a lifetime, as his new novella Serpentine -- apparently: "set in the world of His Dark Materials and The Book of Dust" -- is now out.
       See also the publicity pages at Penguin and Knopf Books for Young Readers, or get your copy at or

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

10 October 2020 - Saturday

Murata Sayaka profile | New New Books in German
At Night All Blood Is Black review

       Murata Sayaka profile

       In The Guardian David McNeill profiles Sayaka Murata: 'I acted how I thought a cute woman should act -- it was horrible'.
Even after becoming a bestselling author (Konbini Ningen, or Convenience Store Woman, sold 1.4m copies and has been translated into 30 languages), she continued to work behind the counter until the attentions of an obsessive fan forced her to stop.
       Her Earthlings is just out in English.

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       New New Books in German

       New Books in German has a new look -- see their announcement.
       Mainly just a different look -- but always good to have an occasion to remind you of the useful site.

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       At Night All Blood Is Black review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of David Diop's At Night All Blood Is Black, coming out in English from Farrar, Straus and Giroux (in the US) and Pushkin Press (in the UK).

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9 October 2020 - Friday

Günter de Bruyn (1926-2020) | Rights to Kertész Imre's books
HWA Crown Award shortlists

       Günter de Bruyn (1926-2020)

       Günter de Bruyn, one of the last of the major East German authors, has passed away; see, for example, Tilman Spreckelsen on Vom Beharren auf dem Freiraum in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
       Though he remained in the GDR until its dissolution, his work was widely published and popular in the West as well. Not much is available in English, however -- but New Glory was published by Northwestern University Press; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or

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       Rights to Kertész Imre's books

       Ah, writers' estates .....
       Nobel laureate Kertész Imre has long been published in his native Hungary by leading publisher Magvető -- see their Kertész-page -- but apparently they didn't have the rights tied up long-term. As hlo reports, Magvető’s Royalties for Kertész Legacy Expire -- whereby by royalties they mean the rights to publish the books.
       Yes, Kertész's widow left the rights to the Kertész Imre Intézet and, while her son sued to get them, he failed, and the institute has different plans:
2020. szeptember 15. után az Intézethez kerül valamennyi Kertész-mű magyarországi megjelentetésének joga. Szintén a Közalapítványt illeti meg valamennyi, az író életében meg nem jelent mű nemzetközi publikálásra vonatkozó joga, és a fordítások engedélyezése.
       Yes, after September 15th they will control the rights -- including the foreign ones. So maybe we'll see more in English ? (Or less ?)
       At hlo they note: "Magvető Press hopes the rights will soon be retrieved to continue publishing Kertész’s works". Good luck with that .....

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       HWA Crown Award shortlists

       The Historical Writers Association has announced the shortlists for this year's HWA Crown Awards, which awards prizes in fiction, non, and debut categories.
       The winners will be announced 25 November.

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

8 October 2020 - Thursday

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature goes to ... Louise Glück
Österreichischer Buchpreis shortlist | Earthlings review

       The 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature goes to ... Louise Glück

       They've announced that the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature goes to American poet Louise Glück, "for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal".

       Nice to see a poet take the prize (if a bit disappointing that it is, yet again, an English-writing author, and an American at that), and Glück doesn't seem to have been on too many radars this year -- though apparently there was a late run on her at the betting-shops as the announcement neared. (In previous years she's often made a token appearance on the Ladbrokes betting lists when those were very long -- always at 100/1 odds.)
       Amusingly, she was awarded the Tranströmerpriset -- named after and in honor of the 2011 Nobel laureate, the last poet to win the prize -- earlier this year; see, for example, the report at Expressen. She's also been widely honored otherwise: she has a Pulitzer, a National Book Award, a National Book Critics Circle Award, and a Bollingen, among many others.
       For basic biographical information, check out:        Her English-language publishers seem to be mainly:        For early reactions to the announcement, see, for example:        (New) overviews/introductions include:        Early foreign press reaction includes:        See now also Alexandra Alter's Q & A with Glück, ‘I Was Unprepared’: Louise Glück on Poetry, Aging and a Surprise Nobel Prize.
       See now also Sabine Peschel's Q & A with Glück's German translator, Ulrike Draesner, Poetry by Nobel laureate Louise Glück 'simple only on the surface' at Deutsche Welle.

       The handiest collections of her work would appear to be: in the US, her Poems 1962-2012, covering five decades worth of work (get your copy at, and in the UK the collection of The First Five Books of Poems (get your copy at Presumably, however, most of her work will be hard to obtain in the near future: poetry collections tend to get printed in relatively small runs, and it'll probably be a bit before the publishers catch up with the new-found demand.

       None of her work is under review at the complete review at this time.

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       Österreichischer Buchpreis shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Austrian Book Prize.
       The winner will be announced 9 November.

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       Earthlings review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Murata Sayaka's Earthlings, just out from Grove Press (US) and Granta (UK).

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

7 October 2020 - Wednesday

Approaching the Nobel announcement ...
(American) National Book Awards finalists | Prix Goncourt shortlist
2020 MacArthur Fellows | Foreign translation prizes | The Clerk review

       Approaching the Nobel announcement ...

       The Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced tomorrow; you can watch the announcement live at the official site or on YouTube. The doors open at 13:00 CEST (7:00 EST), and they do get to the point quickly; we should know a few minutes later.

       Not much last-minute action or news: Betsson has now joined Ladbrokes offering (very similar names and) odds. Not much movement here -- but I still say betting-favorite Maryse Condé won't get it because the Swedish Academy wouldn't want to be seen as validating the substitute-Nobel she got in 2018; I can't see them doing that.

       As far as news coverage goes, Alex Shephard offers his annual Who Will Win the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature ?-piece in The New Republic, with some entertaining speculation and a bucketful of names.
       But that's about the extent of it for now.

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       (American) National Book Awards finalists

       The (American) National Book Foundation has announced the finalists for this year's National Book Awards.
       The finalists for Translated Literature are:
  • The Bitch, by Pilar Quintana, tr. Lisa Dillman
  • The Family Clause by Jonas Hassen Khemiri, tr. Alice Menzies
  • High as the Waters Rise by Anja Kampmann, tr. Anne Posten
  • Minor Detail by Adania Shibli, tr. Elisabeth Jaquette
  • Tokyo Ueno Station, by Yu Miri, tr. Morgan Giles
       I've only seen two of these (and one only in e-form, which doesn't really count), and none of the finalists in the other categories.
       The winners will be announced 18 November.

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       Prix Goncourt shortlist

       The Academie Goncourt has announced the (first) shortlist for this year's prix Goncourt (with a shorter shortlist to follow 27 October).
       The big surprise is that Emmanuel Carrère's Yoga -- widely tipped as one of the favorites -- didn't make the cut. (There's been some controversy about the book -- see e.g. -- but I find it hard to believe the jurors would have been too bothered or influence by that.)

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       2020 MacArthur Fellows

       They've announced the most recent batch of MacArthur Fellows -- who will now receive US$625,000, paid out in quarterly installments over five years.
       They include the writers N.K.Jemisin, Cristina Rivera Garza, and Jacqueline Woodson.

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       Foreign translation prizes

       They've recently announced some foreign translation prizes:

        - in France they've announced the prix de la traduction Inalco, Chloé Billon winning for her translation of the Robert Perišić novel that was published in English as No-Signal Area (see also the Seven Stories Press publicity page).

        - in Finland they've announced that Annemarie Raas receives Finnish State Award for Foreign Translators -- the first time the €15,000 prize has gone to a translator-into-the-Dutch.

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       The Clerk review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Guillermo Saccomanno's The Clerk, recently out from Open Letter.

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

6 October 2020 - Tuesday

Nobel Prize countdown | Giller Prize shortlist
Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalists

       Nobel Prize countdown

       Two more days until the Nobel Prize in Literature is announced, but there's not much additional information or speculation to report
       The Ladbrokes odds list has added a few names -- endearingly continuing their why-bother-to-look-up-the-proper-spelling policy ("Both Strauss") -- and some of them are certainly contenders, but overall it doesn't look like there's too much enthusiasm behind it this time around.
       At the Västerbottens-Kuriren they suggest it will be a 'lex Wästberg'-year -- i.e. Per Wästberg will put his foot down and get his candidate through, foreign and female, they suggest, with Jamaica Kincaid and Anne Carson the hot tickets; some others also mention Dubravka Ugrešić (though I think another Central/East European author might be a stretch this year).

       As I wonder about what surprise the Nobel-deciding Swedish Academy can unleash this year -- to prove it's their show, and that they'll do whatever they feel like doing (Dylan, Handke, etc.) -- I have come across one Nobel-oddity: it seems that there's nothing in the statutes that says the award can't be awarded twice to the same author.
       We think of the Nobel as a lifetime-achievement award, so it seems unlikely that they'd want to give the award to the same author twice but, unlike, say, the prix Goncourt (which has, of course, been awarded twice to the same author, as Romain Gary found his way around their one-and-done rule), it's apparently not unthinkable.
       The Swedish Academy limits who can nominate an author for the prize -- and one of their rules is that you can't nominate yourself -- but, oddly, they don't seem to prohibit an author who has previously been awarded the prize being nominated again. In fact, the one time we know it happened -- and we only know who has been nominated through 1969, since the archives are sealed for fifty years after the prize deliberations -- it was two members of the Swedish Academy, i.e. the ultimate insiders, that were the nominators: in 1948 Hjalmar Gullberg and Einar Löfstedt suggested that Thomas Mann -- the 1929 laureate -- deserved the prize -- again. (Interestingly, the year Mann won the prize -- and the two previous times he was nominated -- only a single person nominated him each time.)
       Mann is an interesting case, because he's one of the rare laureates where the Academy went out of their way to highlight a single one of his works when he got the Nobel, noting he was getting the prize: "principally for his great novel, Buddenbrooks, which has won steadily increased recognition as one of the classic works of contemporary literature" -- so arguably if there was an author who also deserved to get the prize for his other work, it was Mann. Indeed, an argument could be made that his body of work after he received the prize alone -- which includes the Joseph-tetralogy, Doktor Faustus, and some solid shorter and non-fiction work -- is, by itself, strong enough to be Nobel-worthy.
       It seems the Nobel committee didn't take the suggestion very seriously -- an article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the only one I could find reporting on the archive-findings, suggests the Academy was: 'opposed in principle' to re-rewarding a laureate and dismissed the idea pretty much out of hand. (In another odd coïncidence, the man giving the official thumbs-down was Anders Österling, who headed the Nobel committee that year; he had been the (lone) person to nominate Mann in 1929, when Mann got the prize; he had also nominated him in 1928.)
       Still, if the Academy really wants to shake things up, this would be an amusing way of doing so.
       So who would be the possible contenders ? There aren't that many to choose from (authors do have to be living to be eligible for the prize) -- and obviously the more recent ones haven't written enough work after they got the prize. Still, a few have published a reasonable number of new works -- and a few have published Nobel-worthy work; J.M.Coetzee would seem the obvious contender here.
       Okay, so a re-awarding is an unlikely scenario, but I like throwing the idea out there, to further muddy the Nobel waters .....

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

       Giller Prize shortlist

       They've announced the five-title shortlist for this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize, a leading Canadian prize for a work of fiction, paying out C$100,000. Three novels and two story-collections remain in the running; the winner will be announced 9 November.

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

       Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalists

       They've announced the finalists for this year's Dayton Literary Peace Prize; see also the official press release (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       The fiction finalists include award-winning titles such as Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli, and The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead.
       One has to think Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century by George Packer is on the inside track to the non-fiction award: this is a prize that also awards a Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, so ..... (Margaret Atwood is picking that up this year.)
       The winners will be announced 28 October.

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

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