Literary Saloon

the literary
weblog at the
complete review

about the saloon

support the site





The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction by M.A.Orthofer
The CR Guide

the Complete Review: the book - A Site History
The CR:the book

to e-mail us:

literary weblogs:

  Books, Inq.
  Critical Mass
  Guardian Books
  The Millions
  NewPages Weblog
  Three Percent

  Rép. des livres

  Arts & Letters Daily
  The Millions
  The Rumpus
  Two Words

  See also: links page

saloon statistics

the Literary Saloon at the Complete Review
opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review

21 April 2019 - Sunday

Translation from the ... Latvian | Literary camping prize

       Translation from the ... Latvian

       The Latvian Ministry of Culture has announced ten translation projects "for publishing literary works of Latvian authors abroad", subsidized to the tune of a total of €24,552.90.
       Only one of the translations is into English -- but Nora Ikstena's Soviet Milk, translations of which are being supported into Ukrainian and Croatian, is already available in English.

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

       Literary camping prize

       Somewhat disappointingly, the new Prix Littéraire des campings is apparently not limited to books about camping, but rather more generally for a best holiday read .....
       At least they have a dedicated site for the prize -- unusual for a French literary prize -- but they hadn't posted the announcement of the four finalists, last I checked -- but you can find them at ActuaLitté.
       The winner will be announced 2 July.

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

20 April 2019 - Saturday

Wodehouse Prize shortlist | Make Me review

       Wodehouse Prize shortlist

       Last year there apparently weren't any funny (enough) books, so they just didn't bother, but this year they've come up with six titles for the shortlist for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, selected from 71 submissions; see, for example, Mark Chandler's report at The Bookseller, Stibbe and Doyle make female-dominated Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize shortlist.
       The winner of this prize gets champagne (Bollinger), books (a complete set of the Everyman Wodehouse), and a pig.
       A surprising number of previous winning titles -- nine of the eleven awarded between 2000 and 2010 alone -- are under review at the complete review; I don't review that much English-language fiction, but apparently I review the funny stuff ? (Ian McEwan's Solar (2010) is among them, as is the terrible Vernon God Little (2003), so their notions of 'comic' are certainly ... expansive.)
       The winner will be announced at the Hay Festival, which starts 23 May.

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

       Make Me review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of another of Lee Child's Jack Reacher thrillers, Make Me -- the fifth of these under review.
       Not sure how many more of these I'll bother with, but they've proven decent pass-time reads.

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

19 April 2019 - Friday

Magnesia Litera awards | Translation in ... the US
New Asymptote | Renaten tarina review

       Magnesia Litera awards

       Last week, they announced the winners of the Magnesia Litera awards, the leading Czech literary prize; see also Brian Kenety's Radio Praha report, Radio Prague alumna Pavla Horáková wins Magnesia Litera award for novel 'A Theory of Strangeness.
       Hodiny z olova, by Radka Denemarková, was named book of the year; Denemarková is already a three-time Magnesia Litera winner -- amazingly, in three different categories: prose, non-fiction, and translation; see also her literary agency's author information page.
       Teorie podivnosti by Pavla Horáková took the prose award.

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

       Translation in ... the US

       'U.S. readers want books from around the world, so why can't publishers deliver them ?' Terena Bell wonders in her piece on Lost translations at The Outline, and while I'm not sure about American readers wanting books from around the world (sure, many do, but I'm not sure how many ...) she does address some of the problems regarding how, and from what languages, translations get published in the US.
       (I also take issue with the idea that: "some countries' books get over-translated for the U.S. market": no country or language gets 'over-translated' -- not even close.)

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

       New Asymptote

       The April issue of Asymptote is now up, with, as usual, a great deal and variety of content -- including some 'Creative Reflections on Translation'.
       Well worth setting aside some time for.

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

       Renaten tarina review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Johanna Sinisalo's Renaten tarina -- a novelization of the first of the Iron Sky movies, for which Sinisalo was one of the screenwriters.

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

18 April 2019 - Thursday

Swedish Academy annual report | French Voices Grand Prizes
Die Außerirdischen review

       Swedish Academy annual report

       In an effort to make a show of greater transparency, the Nobel Prize in Literature-deciding Swedish Academy has, for the first time, published its (Ernst & Young audited) annual report -- only in Swedish (warning ! dreaded pdf format !), but still.
       Not sure how revealing this is, but I look forward to taking a closer look. And certainly interesting to see some of the numbers, including the personalkostnader, even if many of the categories are way too broad ("böcker, tidskrifter, databas och datasystem" all in one, for example) to provide great insight.

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

       French Voices Grand Prizes

       "The Cultural Services of the French Embassy and FACE Foundation have announced the recipients for the 2018 fiction and nonfiction French Voices Grand Prizes", with Lara Vergnaud's (still-looking-for-a-US-publisher-)translation of Sciences de la vie by Joy Sorman taking the fiction grand prize; see also the Seuil publicity page.
       The press release lists all thirteen selected titles -- and while the Grand Prize winners get US$10,000, the others get a still-impressive US$6,000 each (distributed between translator and publisher).

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

       Die Außerirdischen review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Doron Rabinovici's Die Außerirdischen.

       I'm a bit surprised this doesn't seem to have any Western foreign publishers yet (Suhrkamp just lists rights sales to Hungary and Bulgaria); it certainly seems like a book that could attract some attention.

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

16 April 2019 - Tuesday

Pulitzer Prizes | Wolfson History Prize shortlist | Lucky Per

       Pulitzer Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's Pulitzer Prizes, a leading American journalism and arts prize.
       The Fiction prize -- probably still the most prestigious American book award -- went to The Overstory by Richard Powers; the other finalists were The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai and There There by Tommy Orange.
       The Criticism prize went to Carlos Lozada of The Washington Post -- a book critic ! (links to his work at the winner's page); the other finalists were Jill Lepore and Manohla Dargis

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

       Wolfson History Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Wolfson History Prize (at their brand new dedicated prize-site), the £40,000 prize that celebrates: "the best new historical non-fiction books in the UK".
       The winner will be announced 11 June.

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

       Lucky Per

       Nobel laureate (1917) Henrik Pontoppidan's Lucky Per is out today in an Everyman's Library edition.
       This translation actually came out almost a decade ago, from Peter Lang, but that probably didn't make it to too many bookstore bookshelves, so it's great to see a more commercial edition out that should attract a bit more attention. (In fact, there's a second recent translation, by Paul Larkin, A Fortunate Man, out from Museum Tusculanum Press -- but it's probably the Everyman's Library edition that is most likely to be found at your local bookstore.)
       Maybe it's the recently released film version -- directed by Pelle the Conqueror-director Bille August; see the IMDb page -- that helped pave the way for this new edition, but introduction-writing Garth Risk Hallberg (who pointed me to the original edition, back in the day) surely also helped it along a great deal.

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

15 April 2019 - Monday

Book-buying Netflix | NLNG Literature Prize submissions
Knights of Arabia review

       Book-buying Netflix

       In Publishers Weekly Jason Boog reports on The Netflix Literary Connection, as: 'The streaming service is on a book-buying spree as it seeks more content for its ever-growing global subscriber base'.
       Apparently some fifty "literary properties are being turned into series projects, while the screening service has announced plans to adapt only a handful into features"; among the most notable of the projects is a series based on Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Many of Netflix's deals begin with Maria Campbell Literary Associates. In 2017, Netflix exclusively retained that agency for its book-scouting efforts to find English- and foreign-language titles to adapt from around the world, including from the U.S.

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

       NLNG Literature Prize submissions

       The Nigerian NLNG Literature Prize rotates through four genres (fiction, poetry, drama, children's books), and this year is a kids' book year -- and this year's submissions have now been tallied up and, with 173 entries, are way up over the last batch four years ago (though it's likely not all will ultimately be found eligible); see, for example, The Nation report by Evelyn Osagie, 2019 NLNG's Literature Prize gets 59% increase Inb.
       The large increase suggests something of a boom in local children's literature -- certainly welcome !
       It's also particularly good to see that there were ten entries for the Literary Criticism Prize; this one -- admittedly not nearly as remunerative as the (at US$100,000) very well-endowed main prize -- has struggled to get even a handful of entries in previous years. Hopefully, this is a sign of a general increase in interest in and availability of literary criticism, surely a vital part of any literary culture.

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

       Knights of Arabia review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of another of (Frédéric Dard-writing-as-)San Antonio's 1960s thrillers, Knights of Arabia.

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

14 April 2019 - Sunday

Michel Houellebecq to get légion d'honneur | Roberto Calasso Q & A
The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes

       Michel Houellebecq to get légion d'honneur

       Submission-author Michel Houellebecq will get the French légion d'honneur from Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, in a ceremony at the palais de l'Elysée; see, for example, the RFI report, Enfant terrible of French literature to receive Legion of Honour as well as the Paris Match report.
       Among those invited are the Sarkozys, Alain Finkielkraut, and -- so Paris Match -- several representatives from Valeurs Actuelles, who recently published an exchange between Houellebecq and Geoffroy Lejeune which is now available in English translation at First Things as Restoration: An Exchange of Views on Religion.

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

       Roberto Calasso Q & A

       In The Guardian Anita Sethi has a Q & A with The Art of the Publisher-author Roberto Calasso.
       Regrettably, he refuses to answer the question: "What writers working today do you most admire ?"
       And of all the problems to have, this is one I'm jealous of:
I have about 50,000 books in five different places. It's a drama every day trying to find a book.

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

       The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes.
       The fiction prize went to The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai; the only title under review at the complete review is the mystery/thriller winner, My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.

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

13 April 2019 - Saturday

(English) writing in ... Bangladesh | Science fiction from ... China
Machines Like Me review

       (English) writing in ... Bangladesh

       In the Dhaka Tribune Mir Arif finds, at quite some length: English fiction from Bangladesh: A vibrant prospect.
       Certainly a useful overview.

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

       Science fiction from ... China

       In China Daily Mei Jia again finds an international Appetite for fantasy, sci-fi from China.
       Not sure that Jia Pingwa's Broken Wings really fits in, but it is good to see so much greater variety being translated from the Chinese now.

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

       Machines Like Me review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ian McEwan's latest, Machines Like Me, which is just out and will, of course, be getting a lot of review- and other coverage.

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

12 April 2019 - Friday

Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize shortlist
Gordon Graham Prize for Naga Literature
本屋大賞 | KL Management profile

       Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize shortlist

       The Goethe Institut has announced the shortlist for this year's Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize, "awarded each spring to honor an outstanding literary translation from German into English published in the USA the previous year", covering all genres -- with the official page also helpfully listing all twenty-eight submitted titles, which makes for a good (if not quite complete) overview of German translations published in the US in the past year (including re-translations, which aren't included on the other main resource to check what's recently been translated, the Translation Database at Publishers Weekly).
       Two of the six finalists are under review at the complete review: Tim Mohr's translation of Wolfgang Herrndorf's Sand and Damion Searl's translation of Uwe Johnson's monumental Anniversaries (not eligible for the Best Translated Book Award (or the Man Booker International Prize, or the National Book Award for Translated Literature), but surely the odds-on favorite here).

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

       Gordon Graham Prize for Naga Literature

       The Gordon Graham Prize for Naga Literature has been awarded for the first time and, as the Nagaland Post reports, Easterine, Kethoser bag Naga literature award.
       The fiction prize, worth ₹100,000, went to When the River Sleeps, by Easterine Kire -- which already won The Hindu Prize for Best Fiction (for 2015); see also the Zubaan publicity page, or get your copy at or

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


       The Japanese Booksellers' Award is a more popular-fiction prize than the better-known Japanese literary ones (Akutagawa and Naoki, for example), and Tsundoku Reader has a good English Round-up of the 2019 Booksellers Award Nominees, with a look at the books (and winner) -- an interesting glimpse of some contemporary popular fiction we haven't (won't ?) see in English yet.

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

       KL Management profile

       In The Korea Herald Lee Sun-young profiles The agent behind Korea's global literary growth, Joseph Lee and his boutique agency KL Management.
       His first breakthrough in the US market was Kim Young-ha's I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, followed by Jo Kyung-ran's Tongue, and then the first big success, Shin Kyung-sook's Please Look After Mom -- the latter now having; "racked up total overseas sales of around 2.1 million copies and has been published in nearly 40 countries".
       (Pyun Hye-young's The Hole is also under review at the complete review -- and see the other Korean fiction under review.)

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

11 April 2019 - Thursday

Best Translated Book Award longlists | Guggenheim Fellowships
Dee Lestari Q & A | Early Riser review

       Best Translated Book Award longlists

       They've announced (at The Millions) the longlists for this year's (American) Best Translated Book Award -- 25 fiction titles, and 10 in the poetry category.
       A surprising 9 of the 25 fiction titles are under review at the complete review (though none of the poetry titles are):        I am surprised by many of the omissions -- including all of those I hoped would make the list but worried wouldn't, as well as quite a few that I was fairly certain would (notably at least one Dag Solstad !); more good books -- and some great ones -- than usual seem to have slipped through the process (especially considering some of the titles that made it ...).
       One fun oddity: three one-name authors ! Frankétienne, Ondjaki, and Sjón.

       For discussion of the list see, for example, The Mookse and the Gripes thread.

       The shortlists are scheduled to be announced 15 May, the winners 31 May.

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

       Guggenheim Fellowships

       They've announced this year's Guggenheim Fellowships -- 168 of them.
       The fiction fellows are: Edward Carey, Patricia Engel, Michael Helm, Catherine Lacey, Carmen Maria Machado, Helen Schulman, and Luis Alberto Urrea.

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

       Dee Lestari Q & A

       At Five Books Cal Flyn has a Q & A with Supernova-author Dee Lestari on the best of Contemporary Indonesian Literature
       Embarrassingly, of the five books discussed only Eka Kurniawan's Man Tiger is under review at the complete review -- though of course Ayu Utami's Saman does get a mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction.

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

       Early Riser review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jasper Fforde's new novel, Early Riser.

       I've enjoyed Fforde's novels -- this is the tenth under review at the site -- but I did burn out on them a few years ago; this one doesn't really burn me back in, as it were.

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

10 April 2019 - Wednesday

Man Booker International Prize shortlist | Stella Prize
Griffin Poetry Prize shortlists | Rachel Cusk archive | Nádas Péter Q & A

       Man Booker International Prize shortlist

       They've announced the six-title shortlist for this year's Man Booker International Prize, and the titles left in the running are:
  • Celestial Bodies, by Jokha Alharthi; tr. Marilyn Booth
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk; tr. Antonia Lloyd-Jones
  • The Pine Islands, by Marion Poschmann; tr. Jen Calleja
  • The Remainder, by Alia Trabucco Zerán; tr. Sophie Hughes
  • The Shape Of The Ruins, by Juan Gabriel Vásquez; tr. Anne McLean
  • The Years, by Annie Ernaux; tr. Alison Strayer
       Good to see The Years make the list; I haven't seen any of the other titles.
       The winner will be announced 21 May.

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

       Stella Prize

       They've announced the winner of the 2019 Stella Prize -- the A$50,000 Australian prize that considers both fiction and non -- and it is The Erratics, a memoir by Vicki Laveau-Harvie; see also her acceptance speech -- where she notes:
The Erratics, which is my first book, has had an unusual publishing story. It won the Finch Memoir Prize in 2018, and then found itself out of print six months later, last December, when that publisher closed.
       This does not appear to be readily available in the US/UK; in Australia, it was picked up by Harper Collins after the demise of her original publisher; see also the Fourth Estate publicity page.

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

       Griffin Poetry Prize shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for this year's Griffin Poetry Prize, a Canadian poertry prize that has an international and a Canadian category, each paying out C$65,000 to the winner.
       The judges apparently: "each read 510 books of poetry, from 32 countries, including 37 translations", and two of the four international finalists are in translation -- collections by Luljeta Lleshanaku (translated by Ani Gjika) and Kim Hyesoon (translated by Don Mee Choi).
       The winners will be announced 6 June.

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

       Rachel Cusk archive

       The Harry Ransom Center has announced the acquisition of Rachel Cusk's papers (without revealing what they paid for them ...).
       As Alison Flood notes in her report in The Guardian -- though it's not mentioned in the Ransom Center press release --:
The cache, however, contains none of her draft manuscripts, which she admitted had been used to light fires, drawn on by her children, or lost.

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

       Nádas Péter Q & A

       At hlo they've started a new series, asking: "21st century thinkers for their intellectual strategies", and first up is the Q & A with Nádas Péter (see also the Hungarian original).
       Cheery morning reading:
Regression, repetition, rehashed ideas, empty words and pestilential, petit-bourgeois pontificating all have bright futures ahead of them, as does everything in literature and the arts which has been done once, twice, five times already. Rehashed belches with genteel mannerisms. What will thrive in popular culture, meanwhile, is everything which the modern world once knew belonged in its past: mysticism, magic, tattooed bodies and tribal dances, the voluntary abandonment of an individual self, dissolving without a trace into the multitude.

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

9 April 2019 - Tuesday

New Asia Literary Review | Frankfurt International Translators Programme
BTBA judges details

       New Asia Literary Review

       Issue 36 of the Asia Literary Review is now out, summed up as 'Era Reformasi -- Indonesian Stories', with a great batch of writing from Indonesia from the past twenty years -- and it appears to all be readily accessible online !
       See Zen Hae's Introduction - Indonesian Stories -- and dig through those stories !

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

       Frankfurt International Translators Programme

       You have until 30 April to apply for this, and if you're a translator-from-German (with at least three published translations) it really sounds like you should: The Frankfurt International Translators Programme for Translators of Literature and Non-Fiction.
       The programme takes place around the Frankfurt Book Fair, 14 to 17 October, and it's a very generous pretty-much-all-expenses-paid deal (flight and up to four nights in a hotel in Frankfurt; trade visitor ticket to the Book Fair). They're selecting up to thirty translators from the German language to go.
       I look forward to hearing some of the reports from the participants in the fall.

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

       BTBA judges details

       The (US) Best Translated Book Award will announce its mammoth (25 title) longlist tomorrow, and leading up to that they've been offering a few clues at the Three Percent weblog about what will be found there.
       Today's fun feature may be the most helpful, since personal taste figures so greatly in what gets selected, and in Meet the BTBA Judges ! the judges introduce themselves and give some insight into their literary preferences -- naming: 'What is your favorite non-BTBA book that you fit into your reading these past few months ?' and, even more helpfully, their: 'Top five favorite international authors ?' (with several judges naming authors have books that are eligible for this year's list (three name Fleur Jaeggy !) ...).

       For more speculation as we come down to the wire, see also (and participate in !) the ongoing discussion at The Mookse and the Gripes' 2019 BTBA Speculation thread at Goodreads. And there's also my Translation prize anticipation-post from a month ago, for a few of my thoughts.

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

8 April 2019 - Monday

Annie Ernaux Q & A | Writing in ... Kashmir | Follower review

       Annie Ernaux Q & A

       In The Observer Kim Willsher has a Q & A with Annie Ernaux, whose The Years looks to easily be the cream of the Man Booker International Prize longlist this year.

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

       Writing in ... Kashmir

       At The Wire Mir Zeeshan reports how Amid Conflict, Young Kashmiri Writers Are Finding Solace in Literature.

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

       Follower review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Eugen Ruge's recent novel, Follower: Vierzehn Sätze über einen fiktiven Enkel.
       This is apparently due out from Graywolf in English, eventually.

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

7 April 2019 - Sunday

Independent publishing in ... Germany
'Authors and translators on their unique relationship'
Forgotten alternative translations | Thugs and Bottles review

       Independent publishing in ... Germany

       At Deutsche Welle Sabine Peschel wonders How do independent publishers in Germany survive ? -- especially after the recent bankruptcy of Germany's largest book wholesaler, KNV.
       She notes that:
Around 7 percent of publishers account for 95 percent of the total turnover of more than €5 billion ($5.62 billion). The remaining 93 percent are small and medium-sized independent publishers. These are often companies that are run with a lot of commitment and little money by one, two or a small group of people and that publish less than 10 books a year.
       The bankruptcy obviously hit the small publishers particularly hard; hopefully, the pain/damage will be limited.

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

       'Authors and translators on their unique relationship'

       In The Guardian Claire Armitstead looks, at some length, at 'It's a silent conversation': authors and translators on their unique relationship, with a number of examples -- an interesting overview.

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

       Forgotten alternative translations

       At the OUPblog Stuart Gillespie makes the case for Why the forgotten alternative translations of classical literature matter.
       An interesting piece -- noting also that:
the low profile of translation in English literary history (for a long time thought of as inferior to original writing) has made for slow progress here.
       And fascinating to think there is still a lot out there that should and could be made more accessible.

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

       Thugs and Bottles review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of San Antonio's Thugs and Bottles.

       'San-Antonio' (usually with the hyphen, but not on the cover of this one) is, of course, the pseudonym under which Frédéric Dard wrote his wildly popular (in French ...) series. Only a handful of these have been translated into English, and they're long out of print (while more recently Pushkin Press has published a nice little selection of his non-San-Antonio work, like Crush) -- and this one probably isn't the one to start with, since the publishers seem to have ... fallen a bit short in the English version. Still, I have a few more of these and will try to put up reviews of others -- they're really out there, and certainly not without appeal.
       These translations are about fifty years old, and I wonder if some publisher (or translator) might not be tempted to have a go at some other San-Antonio titles now -- the wordplay must be enormously tempting (while also being incredibly challenging), and they could have a lot of fun with these.

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

5 April 2019 - Friday

The Complete Review at twenty
Prix de la BNF | Rathbones Folio Prize shortlist
The Resurrection of Maltravers review

       The Complete Review at twenty

       The site went live 31 March 1999, but the first reviews (i.e. actual content) were posted at the complete review on 5 April 1999, which makes that the official start date/anniversary of the site -- yes, twenty years ago today. A relic from the previous millennium, the site has puttered along steadily ever since, with over 4300 titles now under review and (more or less -- sorry, not tomorrow) daily coverage at this Literary Saloon (that since August 2002 -- the weblog was a later addition).
       I suppose I should note and comment on the occasion -- though it's hard for me to think of it as an occasion: not much changes hereabouts, and hitting twenty doesn't come with a new batch of grand insights (even as the internet, and the literary scene and literary coverage on it, have of course been transformed over the course of these two decades). Part of what I like about the site, and what I do, is that it's more or less exactly like it always was (just with evermore reviews ...).
       The fundamentals of the site remain unchanged: aggregating and providing links to as many available book reviews, as well collecting representative quotes (as opposed to what winds up getting used for back-cover blurbs) from various review-sources; my own reviews; as well as (at this Literary Saloon), pointers to and occasional commentary about the literary news of the day.
       For a while I also maintained the complete review Quarterly, but that was impossible to sustain in any meaningful form. In particular, I soon found that that I had little interest in functioning in any sort of editorial capacity -- hence also the site has become even more 'my' site: my reviews, my interests, my voice. I believe (in other words: tell myself) the site has benefitted from the narrower (and, I suppose, more personal) focus.
       The greatest frustration I've found is the impermanence of the internet, which I have to admit took me by surprise. I had expected to essentially be able to simply build up a library of pages and links, with curation of posted pages limited to going back to add links to new reviews and coverage, or new editions or translations of a title, as they appeared; instead, links need constant revision. I did not expect to have to spend as much of my time updating and weeding out links, and continue to be shocked and disappointed by the vast amount of information -- reviews and other material -- that is no longer readily available (i.e. is/was only temporarily available). (Some lingers on at the invaluable Internet Archive / waybackmachine, but rooting through that is also arduous.) I suspect that less than 10 per cent of the original links to pages I linked to in 1999 still work -- and that the percentage of pages I link to now that will still be accessible at the same URL twenty years from now will only be slightly higher. Updating links remains a Sisyphean task (all the more frustrating because the top of that mountain (indeed, mountain range) is never even visible ...). Even where sites maintain information -- i.e. the pages continue to exist online -- it remains bafflingly popular to change URLs, far too often still without forwarding capacity, leaving links to nowhere (i.e. 404) pages. I continue to curse (daily) all site re-designs that fail to take inbound links into account (i.e. most of them) -- and publishers' constant fiddling with their sites has been a constant source of aggravation.
       When I started the site, it seemed to me that coverage of and interest in fiction in translation had diminished to ridiculously low levels in the US (and probably the UK, too), and I did shift the original, more general focus of the site more in that direction; I note with relief that ca. 2000 was probably the nadir, and it's nice to see how things have improved and that there's so much more interest and activity (and sites and pages to link to) in that area now. Books in translation are perhaps still a bit of a niche-area, but at least it's a much, much larger one now.
       It's gratifying to see continuing great interest, from around the world, in the site and what's on offer here, and I'm glad to see that the complete review continues to be of interest and use to a large and very diverse readership.
       As to the future -- well, I daren't look ahead twenty more years, but for now see no reason why it shouldn't ... putter along as usual for the foreseeable future.
       Onward to the 5000th review !

If you want to support the site,
consider becoming a patron:

Become a patron via Patreon

Or donate via PayPal:

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

       Prix de la BNF

       The Bibliothèque nationale de France has announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) that their prix de la BNF -- a €10,000 French author- (as opposed to book-)prize -- this year goes to Apocalypse Baby-author Virginie Despentes; see also the LivresHebdo report.
       The prize has been awarded since 2009 and has a solid (if rather male-dominated) list of winners that includes Patrick Modiano, Milan Kundera, and Michel Houellebecq.

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

       Rathbones Folio Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Rathbones Folio Prize, the £30,000 sort of Man Booker alternative prize (for which, however, works of non-fiction are also eligible).
       Anna Burns' Milkman is in the running for this, too, and the winner will be announced 20 May.

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

       The Resurrection of Maltravers review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alexander Lernet-Holenia's 1936 novel The Resurrection of Maltravers, which came out in English in a nice Eridanos Library-edition in the late 1980s.

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

4 April 2019 - Thursday

International DUBLIN Literary Award shortlist | (E-)book ownership

       International DUBLIN Literary Award shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's International DUBLIN Literary Award -- an award that considers books available in English, whether originally written in it or translated, with libraries from around (parts of ...) the world nominating the titles to be considered; the prize pays out an impressive €100,000.
       The ten finalists are:
  • A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert
  • Compass by Mathias Énard, tr. Charlotte Mandell
  • Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
  • Idaho by Emily Ruskovich
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
  • Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty
  • Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
       (The way the prize works means it generally lags a season or two behind what's current on the US/UK market (hence, for example, books familiar from the 2017 Man Booker Prize longlist (the McGregor, Fridlund, Hamid, and winner Saunders) only now are in the running for this one).)
       Usually dependably including quite a few books in translation -- last year it was 6 out of 10 -- somehow only one title in translation made it (while 39 of the 141 longlisted titles were translations). Kind of disappointing -- and with three Man Booker Prize 2017 finalists among the final ten (as well as one more title that made the longlist that year) the prize certainly doesn't have its usual distinctive look this year (and instead has quite pronounced retread feel).
       The winner will be announced 12 June.

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

       (E-)book ownership

       As has been widely noted, Microsoft closed down its ebooks 'category' a few days ago: they no longer sell or support ebooks at the Microsoft Store. That, itself isn't much of an issue -- but some of the consequences are.
       As far too many readers seem unaware, when you 'purchase' an ebook, you're almost never actually buying it in any physical-electronic form, but rather you're paying for a use-license, with the seller still having ultimate control -- forever. And so, as Microsoft helpfully explains to consumers who relied on the company and its products:
What happens to books I've already purchased ?

You can continue to read books you've purchased until July 2019 when they will no longer be available, and you will receive a full refund of the original purchase price.
       Yes, you get your money back -- but your books are all gone .....
       This is the reason I have never -- and can't imagine ever -- 'purchasing' an ebook on Amazon (on Kindle) or on any of the other usual platforms. (Same with music downloads, which generally operate under a similar principle.)
       Ownership may arguably be overrated, but I like to have control over these kinds of things -- I like them to be mine. I do (reluctantly) read etexts -- and do occasionally download free temporary ones (library ebooks, or, in extremis, from one of the book-industry book preview providers such as the abomination that is Edelweiss) -- but would never pay for access that isn't mine for ever and always.
       Not everyone seems to think this is a big deal (Alex Cranz reports that Microsoft Nukes Its Ebooks Store, and That's Probably for the Best and thinks: "that's great" (because it means Microsoft is: "is focusing and recognizing that even an enormous tech company with billions of devices in the wild cannot be everywhere and cannot touch every facet of your life" -- collateral consumer damage apparently be damned)). Me, I still like the idea that when a company sells you something it'll stand behind that -- though of course in the software world that's always been anything but the case. But boing boing gets it.

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

go to archive

- return to top of the page -

© 2019 the complete review

the Complete Review
Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links