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16 February 2019 - Saturday

PEN World Voices Festival | Tibor Fischer Q & A

       PEN World Voices Festival

       This year's PEN World Voices Festival runs 6 to 12 May in New York City this year, with a theme of 'Open Secrets', with 125 writers at over 60 events; the usual impressive line-up, so it should be good.

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       Tibor Fischer Q & A

       The Guardian's 'Books that made me' Q & A series features Tibor Fischer this week: Tibor Fischer: 'The book that changed my life ? Hasn't happened yet'.

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15 February 2019 - Friday

Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse finalists | 52 Books/52 Places
Shahnama-related reviews

       Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse finalists

       The German Book Prize is the big German prize for a work of fiction, awarded each fall at the Frankfurt Book Fair; Germany's other big book fair, the spring Leipzig Book Fair, also has a set of prizes -- and differentiates itself from the German Book Prize by awarding a prize in three categories: fiction, non, and translation; they've now announced this year's fifteen finalists, five per category, selected from 359 submissions.
       I don't think any of the five fiction finalists have had earlier work translated into English. Meanwhile, the translation category is something of a surprise, not having any translated-from-the-English works -- but two from the Romanian.
       The winners will be announced on 21 March.

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       52 Books/52 Places

       The New York Times recently had a feature on 52 Places to Go in 2019, and they now cleverly have an accompanying piece of 52 Books for 52 Places.
       I would have preferred more fiction, and more local fiction at that, but it's still a pretty decent variety.

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       Shahnama-related reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of:        Of course, now I really have to finally get to the actual Shahnama -- I have a copy of the Dick Davis translation (readily available in a Penguin Classic edition), but now I'm kind of also tempted by the nine-volume, 3500+pp Warner (Arthur George and Edmond) version .....

       (Meanwhile, the review of the Dabashi is one of the longest yet ...... Discussions of 'world literature' -- hard to resist.)

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14 February 2019 - Thursday

Society of Authors Translation Prizes | Aegon Prize shortlist

       Society of Authors Translation Prizes

       The Society of Authors handed out their Translation Prizes yesterday -- a first translation prize, as well prizes for translations from Arabic, French (a graphic novel !), German, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish.
       I'm a bit surprised that none of the winning titles are under review at the complete review -- though I might still get to one or the other --, the closest being the Schlegel-Tieck Prize runner-up, Tess Lewis for her translation of Lutz Seiler's Kruso.

       (Updated - 16 February): See now also Adrian Tahourdin celebrating the 'prizewinners in the field of translation' in Globish lit. at the TLS.

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       Aegon Prize shortlist

       They've announced the ten-title shortlist for this year's Aegon Prize, the leading Hungarian literary prize; see also the hlo report, Shortlist for the 2019 Aegon Prize Announced, which also offers brief summaries of the titles.
       The last two winners were Nádas Péter and Krasznahorkai László, so they seem to have a pretty good track record; the only winnng title under review at the complete review is Spiró György's Captivity (2006).

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13 February 2019 - Wednesday

Prix Anaïs Nin | And Then There Was No One review

       Prix Anaïs Nin

       The prix Anaïs Nin is a prize for French fiction that's "orienté vers le monde anglo-saxon", with the winner getting their book translated into English 'to faciltate foreign-rights sales through Britsh and American literary agents'; it worked last year, the winner -- Catherine Cusset's Life of David Hockney -- due out from Other Press later this spring; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or
       They've now announced this year's winner, Lionel Duroy's Eugenia -- which was inspired by Mihail Sebastian's journal, the same Mihail Sebastian whose Women Other Press is also bringing out this spring (see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or At over 500 pages the Duroy is a considerably bigger book than the Cusset; he's published quite a bit, but none of his work seems to have been translated into English, so it'll be interesting to see if this will finally be his breakthrough into the English-speaking markets.

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       And Then There Was No One review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Gilbert Adair's And Then There Was No One, the satisfying concluding volume in his Evadne Mount trilogy

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12 February 2019 - Tuesday

Prix Jean Freustié longlist | Compact review

       Prix Jean Freustié longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the prix Jean Freustié -- noteworthy because, in a literary culture where the most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt, only awards a symbolic €10, it leads the pack: it has the highest pay-out of any French literary prize, raised this year from €20,000 to €25,000. (Apparently they went as high as €50,000 one year -- 2012, after a two year hiatus when the prize wasn't awarded -- but that was a one-off.)
       The prize has been awarded since 1987 (with that two-year break) and has had some notable winners but the only winning title under review at the complete review is Philippe Djian's Unforgivable.
       Despite the generous payout, the prize does resemble the vast majority of French prizes in apparently not springing for a dedicated website -- so also for the longlist see the Livres Hebdo report.

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       Compact review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Maurice Roche's 1966 novel, Compact, which Dalkey Archive Press brought out some thirty years ago.

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11 February 2019 - Monday

Murakami Q & A | Same Same review

       Murakami Q & A

       At The New Yorker they adapt the staged conversations Deborah Treisman and Murakami Haruki had at the New Yorker Festival in 2008 and 2018, presenting now all together: 'The writer on his style, his process, and the strange, dark places he encounters on the page' in The Underground Worlds of Haruki Murakami
       The best question -- with Murakami saying his taxes, ex-girlfriends, and the Nobel Prize were off limits -- is:
Did you ever try going down a well ?

No, no, no. It's dangerous, you know. Only in my imagination. But I like caves, too. When I am travelling around the world and I see a cave, I enter the cave.

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       Same Same review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Peter Mendelsund's novel, Same Same, which just came out.
       (And, yes, noted book-cover designer Mendelsund got to design the cover for his book.)

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10 February 2019 - Sunday

Stella Prize longlist | Small and independent UK/Ireland press 2019 highlights
Tomi Ungerer (1931-2019)

       Stella Prize longlist

       They've announced the twelve-title longlist for this year's Stella Prize, the prize celebrating: "the best book by an Australian woman, whether fiction or nonfiction".
       The shortlist will be announced 8 March, and the winner on 9 April.

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       Small and independent UK/Ireland press 2019 highlights

       In the Irish Times Deirdre Falvey has: 'Irish and British independent and smaller publishers pick some of their favourites' coming out this year, in 50 books to keep you reading all year long -- a lot of good things to look forward to.

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       Tomi Ungerer (1931-2019)

       French artist and author Tomi Ungerer has passed away; see also his official site or, for example, this Q & A with Natalie Frank at Bomb.
       Among his works his childhood memoir, Tomi: A Childhood Under the Nazis, is certainly recommended (get your copy at or, and while many of his books for kids are wonderful, there's also some great adult stuff -- like The Joy of Frogs (get your copy at or or the even-harder-to-find-in-English Fornicon. As he explained in the Bomb Q & A:
In Fornicon, I was showing the clinical aspect of lovemaking nowadays, which is being mechanized. I was struck at the time -- it was the '60s -- by how in America one book came out after the other about how to do it. So I did The Joy of Frogs, which is a satire. It's the Kama Sutra of Frogs, showing all the different positions -- as if people didn't have enough imagination for how to do it. The Fornicon was just an extension of the same thing -- do people need gadgets and instruments ? It was a rebellion against a mechanization of our lives, not only of sex. We live in a world that's completely ruled by machines. I don't have a computer. I don't have a cell phone. I believe in my freedom. I don't want to be tied up by everything that is imposed upon me.

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9 February 2019 - Saturday

Friedrich Ulfers Prize | Allmen and the Pink Diamond review

       Friedrich Ulfers Prize

       The Friedrich Ulfers Prize is awarded to a: "leading publisher, writer, critic, translator, or scholar who has championed the advancement of German-language literature in the United States", and they've now announced that this year's winner is translator Susan Bernofsky.
       She gets to pick up the prize at this year's Festival Neue Literatur, which runs 28 to 31 March in New York.

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       Allmen and the Pink Diamond review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Martin Suter's Allmen and the Pink Diamond, the second in the series, forthcoming from New Vessel Press

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8 February 2019 - Friday

Wortmeldungen Literaturpreis | Translation collective Q & A
The Man Who Couldn't Die review

       Wortmeldungen Literaturpreis

       The Wortmeldungen Literaturpreis is a relatively new prize -- awarded for the first time last year -- for short German texts, be they fiction or varieties of non, that critically 'engage with the socio-political challenges pf our times'; with a pay-out of €35,000 - a lot for any sort of German literary prize -- this is one of the richest-per-word prizes you'll find anywhere.
       They've announced this year's winner, and it is Die Toten von Zimmer 105 (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- all of ten pages long ! -- by Thomas Stangl; he'll get to pick up the prize on 26 May.
       Last year's winner was Petra Piuk's Toni und Moni oder: Anleitung zum Heimatroman (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- a (twenty-six-page) excerpt of her (two-hundred-plus page) novel, published by Kremayr & Scheriau.

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       Translation collective Q & A

       At the ALTA weblog they've started a new series of Q & As, with translation collectives interviewing other collectives: the first one is now up, with Smoking Tigers (working from Korean into English) being interviewed by Cedilla & Co..

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       The Man Who Couldn't Die review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Olga Slavnikova's 2001 novel, The Man Who Couldn't Die: The Tale of an Authentic Human Being, just out in Columbia University Press' Russian Library-series.

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7 February 2019 - Thursday

Book of the Year Awards - Iran | Homer: Odyssey, Book I review

       Book of the Year Awards - Iran

       They've announced the winners of the 36th Book of the Year Awards in Iran; see, for example, the Tehran Times report, There will be no regression in Iran: Rouhani (yes, kind of overshadowing the literary aspect, President Hassan Rouhani, before handing out the awards: "pointed to the history of relations between Iran and the United States and said, "We shall never regress because we have chosen the right path as is confirmed by the numbers."") or the full run-down of winners (in Persian ...) at IBNA.
       The fiction prize went to Reza Amirkhani's رهش -- which already won the best novel category at the recent Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards; see my previous mention and also the Afeg publicity page.

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       Homer: Odyssey, Book I review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Homer: Odyssey, Book I, edited and with an Introduction, Translation, Commentary, and Glossary by Simon Pulleyn, recently out from Oxford University Press.

       Longtime readers will not be surprised that this is my kind of thing; indeed, that the 1:1:10 (page-)ratio of original text to very literal translation to commentary is pretty much my ideal for works in translation. Would that everything were available like this, even contemporary fiction ! (I exaggerate a bit, but not much .....)
       It's only book one of the Odyssey, but given all the interest in recent translations of the whole maybe there are more readers who are tempted to take a closer look at the original -- and this is a great volume to help you dip into it. (Not that it doesn't remain ... daunting.)

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6 February 2019 - Wednesday

Wellcome Book Prize longlist | IPAF shortlist | Literary boredom

       Wellcome Book Prize longlist

       They've announced the twelve-title strong longlist for the Wellcome Book Prize -- given for: "works of literature that illuminate the many ways that health, medicine and illness touch our lives", both fiction and non.
       The shortlist will be announced on 19 March, and the winner on 1 May.

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       IPAF shortlist

       They've announced the six-title strong shortlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, the leading Arabic novel prize.
       The winner will be announced 23 April.

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       Literary boredom

       At iAi news Ralph Clare finds: '‘Boring’ narratives challenge the way we understand experience and consciousness', in How We Think of Our Lives: Boredom in Contemporary Literature.

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5 February 2019 - Tuesday

NOS Literary Prize | Bookselling in ... Iraq | In Your Face review

       NOS Literary Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Russian NOS Literary Prize, and it's Памяти памяти by Maria Stepanova, which was already awarded the 'Big Book' Award; see, for example, the Meduza report.
       This is apparently a hot property, due out in English from New Directions (in the US) and Fitzcarraldo (UK); see also the Suhrkamp foreign rights page.
       The book I'm curious about, however, is the 'reader's choice'-winner, Viktor Pelevin's latest. The title ? The promising sounding: iPhuck 10.

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       Bookselling in ... Iraq

       At TRT World Lizzie Porter and Leila Molana-Allen report that: 'Demand for books is growing in the city, so is the need for good coffee as Iraq steps out of the shadow of war and discovers a love of reading', in Literature and lattes in Baghdad, looking at the scene beyond the traditional hub of Mutanabbi Street.

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       In Your Face review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the second of Scarlett Thomas' Lily Pascale-mysteries, the 1999 In Your Face.

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4 February 2019 - Monday

Robert Walser complete works editions | Publishing in ... France
The Republic review

       Robert Walser complete works editions

       Lucas Marco Gisi writes about the two complete-works editions of Robert Walser that are in the works, in Robert Walser: «Jedes Buch, das gedruckt wurde, ist doch für den Dichter ein Grab oder etwa nicht ?»
       The Kritische Robert Walser-Ausgabe is set to have 50 (!) volumes (the other one only has thirty ...) -- including twelve of the 'Mikrogramme' alone. (New Directions published a lovely volume of these as Microscripts a few years ago; get your copy at or
       Impressive, too: the Kritische Robert Walser-Ausgabe is budgeted at CHF 18 million, which is a ... tidy sum. (Sure, that's over twenty years, but still .....)

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       Publishing in ... France

       At Jaya Bhattacharji Rose has a Q & A, asking What's brewing between Indian and French publishing ? French Ambassador Alexandre Ziegler explains -- including: 'about plans for translations of French literature into Indian languages and collaborations at books fairs'.
       India will be guest of honor at the 2020 Paris Book Fair.

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       The Republic review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Joost de Vries' The Republic, forthcoming from Other Press in April.

       This (originally) came out before Laurent Binet's The Seventh Function of Language; those who enjoyed the Binet will probably like this one too.

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3 February 2019 - Sunday

Tintin in the Arab world | Piercing -- the movie
Prix des libraires du Québec finalists

       Tintin in the Arab world

       In The National Chris Newbould talks with Louis Blin about his book, Le Monde Arabe dans les Albums de Tintin, in Tintin in the Arab world, a comic book history
       Interesting to learn about the changes to Land of the Black Gold -- and how: "Subsequent French editions have also been based on the English version, and only a few copies of the original, French language, first edition remain".
       See also the L'Harmattan publicity page for the book.

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       Piercing -- the movie

       Murakami Ryu's Piercing has been made into a movie, directed by Nicolas Pesce and starring Christopher Abbott and Mia Wasikowska, which just came out in the US.
       Glenn Kenny's review in The New York Times finds:
Pesce violently divorces Murakami's work from its socioeconomic context in favor of a more generalized war-between-the-sexes dynamic. The movie gains momentum as it indulges in hallucinogenic phantasmagoria. Whatever you make of its intentions, it's certainly exceptional in its visual distinction.
       At Vulture Bilge Ebiri calls it: "A tribute to Italian giallo movies" and: "an unnerving mix of loveliness and lunacy".
       See all the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes.

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       Prix des libraires du Québec finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the prix des libraires du Québec, which has awards both for books from Québec and from those 'hors Québec'.
       Paul Auster's 4321 is among the foreign fiction finalists -- but of course it's the Québecois novels that are of particular interest.

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2 February 2019 - Saturday

Becoming in ... Iran | The Spirit of Science Fiction review

       Becoming in ... Iran

       Former American 'First Lady' Michelle Obama's memoir, Becoming, has been an incredible bestseller, not only in the US, but also abroad; as I mentioned a few weeks ago, it was the top-selling non-fiction title in Germany in 2018, for example, and it was a top ten bestseller in the UK for the year; it was fifth on last week's French bestseller list, etc.
       Now, as the Tehran Times reports, Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” bestseller in Iran, as Mehrandish Publications has announced that: "the book has been republished 17 times within less than a month".
       Of course, this being Iran, where 'copyright' is a ... looser concept, the Mehrandish translation isn't even the only one on the market. They don't seem to have their own site, but see, for example, this bookstore page for Ali Salami's translation -- and compare to the Hurmzad publicity page for Mehri Madabadi's translation.

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       The Spirit of Science Fiction review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Roberto Bolaño's The Spirit of Science Fiction.

       Bolaño wrote this in the mid-1980s, but it was never published during his lifetime and only came out posthumously in Spanish in 2016; now finally the US/UK editions are also available.

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1 February 2019 - Friday

Dylan Thomas Prize longlist | Infinite Jest in ... Russian

       Dylan Thomas Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize, a £30,000 prize awarded: "for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under".
       The shortlist of six finalists will be announced in April, and the winner will be announced 16 May.

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       Infinite Jest in ... Russian

       David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest is one of those big novels where even the translations are news.
       The German version, Unendlicher Spaß, came out in 2009 -- see the Kiepenheuer & Witsch publicity page and, for example, Amanda DeMarco on The Mistake on Page 1,032: On Translating Infinite Jest into German at Publishing Perspectives.
       In 2015, Abby McIntyre explained The French Translation of Infinite Jest Comes Out This Week. Here's Why It Took So Long. at Slate; see also the Éditions de l'Olivier publicity page for L'Infinie Comédie.
       And now there's a Russian translation -- Бесконечная шутка; see the АСТ publicity page -- and in The Calvert Journal Josh Nadeau writes about how Infinite Jest comes to Russia. Why translators finally took on the ‘untranslatable’ novel

       (See also the older Literary Hub piece by (Veronica) Scott Esposito that looked at Infinite Jest Around the World.)

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31 January 2019 - Thursday

Prix Mémorable | Prix Jean d'Ormesson longlist
Two Lines Press profile | Róbert Gál reviews

       Prix Mémorable

       They've announced the winner of the 2018 prix Mémorable, a French literary prize for an overlooked or forgotten-and-resurrected book, or previously untranslated work or author now available in French, or a new translation replacing an outdated one (etc.) -- and the winner is Raymond Guérin's 1948 novel, La peau dure; no word yet at the official site, but see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report; among the other finalists was ... Bernard Malamud's The Magic Barrel.
       Guérin doesn't seem to have ever made much of an impression in English, but quite a few of his works remain in print in French; this one, however, seems to have been out of print for a while, before being revived in 2017, by Éditions Finitude; see also their publicity page.

       Previous winners include Emmanuel Bove's My Friends (2016), John Williams' Stoner (2011), and the recently deceased Edgar Hilsenrath's Fuck America (2009) (now available in English from Owl of Minerva Press).

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       Prix Jean d'Ormesson longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's prix Jean d'Ormesson -- a new prize (it's only the second time they're awarding it) in honor, and the spirit, of Jean d'Ormesson, with a fun, anything goes approach. Really pretty much anything goes here: as his daughter explained in introducing the prize:
Ni l'époque, ni la langue, ni le genre n'entraveront le choix des douze jurés. Seuls leurs goûts, leur complicité et une certaine forme d'affinité élective guideront leur sélection
       It doesn't matter when the book first came out -- whatever the jurors (who include Dany Laferrière, Héloise d’Ormesson, and Erik Orsenna this year) feel like, goes. Which explains why books -- some in ancient translations -- including Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks, Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, Juan Rulfo's Pedro Páramo, Amos Oz's A Tale of Love and Darkness, and a San-Antonio have made the longlist; see the Livres Hebdo report for the full list.
       I have to say, I like this free-for-all, no-constraints idea for a book prize.

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       Two Lines Press profile

       At the American Booksellers Association site Liz Button has a Small Press Profile: Two Lines Press, previewing the line-up of forthcoming titles as well as describing the background of impressive little Two Lines Press at the Center for the Art of Translation.

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       Róbert Gál reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two of Róbert Gál's work, published by Dalkey Archive Press:
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30 January 2019 - Wednesday

Whitbread Costa Book of the Year | Irish Book of the Year 2018
Maigret and the Old People review

       Whitbread Costa Book of the Year

       They've announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) that The Cut Out Girl by Bart van Es has won this year's Whitbread Costa Book of the Year (yes, another UK prize with some sponsor-turnover ...).
       See the Penguin Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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       Irish Book of the Year 2018

       They've announced that Notes to Self by Emilie Pine has been named the An Post Irish Book of the Year 2018.
       See also the Tramp Press publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or get your copy at

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       Maigret and the Old People review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Georges Simenon's Maigret and the Old People, out in a new translation (by Shaun Whiteside) from Penguin Classics.

       Interesting to read this not long after reading Simenon's When I was Old-notebooks, which cover the time when he finished and published this.

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29 January 2019 - Tuesday

Japanese literature abroad | Encouraging authors to translate

       Japanese literature abroad

       In the Nikkei Asian Review Peter Tasker finds: 'China leads international boom in demand for new and old authors', as a Bull market in bungaku highlights Japanese literary revival
       He notes: "there has been a rise in the level of international critical esteem for creative Japanese literature, known as bungaku" -- titles such as Tawada Yoko's The Emissary (published in the UK as The Last Children of Tokyo) and Murata Sayaka's Convenience Store Woman -- and that:
Huge new markets are appearing too. Keigo Higashino, the king of Japanese mystery writing, has ousted J.K. Rowling as the best-selling foreign author of all time in China.
       (Higashino hasn't attained quite the same popularity in the US/UK, but quite a few of his works (though far from all ...) have been translated -- most recently, Newcomer.)
       Tasker also notes that:
Red Circle is an example of an ambitious publishing venture exploring new territory. [Richard] Nathan and partner Koji Chikatani have commissioned original work, unpublished in Japanese, from well-established authors keen to project themselves to a global audience.
       Two of their first three Red Circle Minis offerings are under review at the complete review.

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       Encouraging authors to translate

       In Dawn Sher Alam Shinwari reports how at a recent national conference held in Peshawar Writers urged to improve translation skills.
       Always good to see translation being encouraged -- and, especially, writers being encouraged to translate -- "to understand traditions and cultures of other advanced nations but also to learn creative thought and research methods and inspiring new ideas", among other things.

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28 January 2019 - Monday

Man dumps Booker | Toomas Nipernaadi review

       Man dumps Booker

       The Man Group, the (£1.6 million-)money-Man in the Man Booker Prize, have decided they no longer want to pay for the literary prize(s) and have now announced that this is their last year; see the official press releases from the Man Group (Man Group and the Booker Prize Foundation to end current sponsorship agreement of the Man Booker Prizes) and the Booker Prize Foundation (Statement from the Booker Prize Foundation).
       Press reports note that, as for example the BBC's has it: Man Booker loses £1.6m hedge fund sponsor amid talk of tension. Apparently author-statements such as Sebastian Faulks' that the Man-folk are: "not the sort of people who should be sponsoring literary prizes; they're the kind of people literary prizes ought to be criticising" hit a nerve .....
       So what now ? Well, it's worth remembering that Booker bowed out long ago but somehow kept the branding ..... (Via I'm pointed to this BBC story from when Booker stopped sponsoring, when they were bought by frozen food retailer Iceland; to think that we could have had the Iceland Prize, and since the combined group re-branded as the Big Food Group, this could have been the Big Food Group Prize, which I think would have been a real winning name for a literary prize .....)

       As to who will be willing to throw this much money at these prizes (the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, as well as the Man Booker International Prize) ... well, it will be interesting to see whether there are any takers. Sponsorship has been a big issue for many of the larger British literary prizes in recent years, and the Man Booker is surely the most expensive to run of all of these.
       The obvious underwriter would be Amazon (they have the cash; it connects with (a sliver of) their business), and I'd kind of like to see the storm of outrage that would come if they stepped in ......
       I suspect that whoever does take it over will also insist on some fat-trimming: that £1.6 million-budget will presumably be cut down to size (though not the prize money, a drop in the so much larger bucket).

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

       Toomas Nipernaadi review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of August Gailit's Toomas Nipernaadi.

       This 1928 Estonian classic is now available in English for the first time, from Dedalus.

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

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