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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 October 2006

1 October: Littell's Les Bienveillantes, cont'd. | English footballer books | Achebe Nobel-worthy ? | Amis profile
2 October: Frankfurt Book Fair week | Love of Reading week | More pre-Nobel coverage | 2006 Neustadt Symposium | Satrapi's Chicken With Plums | Der Weltensammler review
3 October: Albanian literature ! | Die Habenichtse takes German Book Prize | Today's Nobel news | Breaking the western literary stranglehold ! | Departure Lounge review
4 October: Frankfurt Book Fair news | Sacred Games in German | Nobel (non-)news | Touba and the Meaning of Night review
5 October: Reviewer quarrel | Australian Literary Review | Vikram Seth interview | Naipaul interview
6 October: Oskar Pastior (1927-2006) | Andrew Wylie interview | Catalonia in Franckfurt, 2007 | Giraffe review
7 October: Hugo Chavez didn't think Chomsky was dead | Indian regional literature | New Words without Borders (and Boldtype) | Jonathan Littell prize watch | Creative reviewing | Nobel update
8 October: Best British/Irish/Commonwealth novel 1980-2005 ? | Rushdie and his papers to Emory U. | Formentor Prize deliberations in the 1960s | No God In Sight review
9 October: The Girls of Riyadh (not) on trial in Saudi Arabia | Auschwitz Report presentation | Ozick on Mamet on anti-Semitism | Time checks out 'street-lit' | Die Arbeit der Nacht review
10 October: Amis annoyed by Muslims who don't fit in | Literary editor roundup ! | Staying in print | Nicholas Mosley reviews

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10 October 2006 - Tuesday

Amis annoyed by Muslims who don't fit in | Literary editor roundup !
Staying in print | Nicholas Mosley reviews

       Amis annoyed by Muslims who don't fit in

       Martin Amis appeared at the on-going The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival and apparently had some choice things to say about multicuturalism in Britain and Muslim participation therein. In The Independent Guy Adams reports that Amis condemns Muslim extremists as 'miserable bastards', while in The Times Ben Hoyle reports that Muslims not trying to fit with society, says Amis.
       Adams reports:
Martin Amis has launched an attack on "miserable bastards" in the British Muslim community, accusing them of trying to destroy multicultural society by failing to "fit in" with other faiths.
"When I come back to Britain I see a pretty good multicultural society," he said. "The only element that is not fitting in is Islam. Who else isn't fitting in ?"
       It's always hard to judge these things from a few newspaper-reported quotes -- and Amis was responding to a question (i.e. speaking off the cuff) -- but the emphasis on conformism -- 'fitting in ' -- isn't very appealing. (Is that really the issue and the problem ? Aren't there asocial -- in the broadest sense of the word -- elements galore in Britain (like everywhere) ? Surely it's the violent approach of a small minority that's the problematic and unacceptable aspect.)
       Also: is this the sort of language he would have employed and complaint he would have registered 10 or 20 years ago referring to IRA-related violence ? (Come to think of it, we don't recall him having too much to say on the matter at the time. What, exactly, is the difference ?)

       (The Times features some podcasts from the festival, but not (yet ?) the Amis-event.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Literary editor roundup !

       GalleyCat points to a nice who's-who of British literary editors in The Independent, Stars of the ultimate book group.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Staying in print

       They'll announce who won the Man Booker later today, and so there's also the obligatory prize-bashing -- yesterday in the form of John Crace wondering Why should Booker winners stay in print ? in The Guardian.
       Why indeed ? -- except, of course, that we like all books always to be available. Still, it's fun to read Crace bash astonishingly many of the previous winners, as when he writes:
Not that sticking in the mind is necessarily any measure of greatness. Keri Hulme's The Bone People and James Kelman's How Late It Was, How Late remain imprinted on my mind, simply because they are by far and away two of the worst books ever to have won the Booker. These two weren't just dull -- as so many winners tend to be -- they were awful.
       But it's hard to argue when he writes:
But winning the Booker is no quality kitemark in itself. Booker juries are notorious both for fudging the result -- choosing a compromise winner that no one really wants -- and for losing all sense of perspective. How else can one explain otherwise reasonable people selecting so many books that have clearly been turned out by authors who appear to have memorised their creative writing classes by numbers ?
       Unfortunately, he loses almost all his credibility with the incredibly naïve statement:
Good books will stay in print regardless of whether they win prizes or not.
       Alas, 'tis not true, not in the least. We cite only our favourite example: in the US there's a single one of the great (and original) Patrick White's works of fiction in print. Alas, there are hundreds ... thousands ... tens of thousands of other examples .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Nicholas Mosley reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are our reviews of two new Dalkey Archive Press editions of Nicholas Mosley's work:
(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

9 October 2006 - Monday

The Girls of Riyadh (not) on trial in Saudi Arabia | Auschwitz Report presentation
Ozick on Mamet on anti-Semitism | Time checks out 'street-lit' | Die Arbeit der Nacht review

       The Girls of Riyadh (not) on trial in Saudi Arabia

       Rajaa Al-Sanea's The Girls of Riyadh continues to be at the centre of various controversies, but as Raid Qusti reports in Arab News, Court Rejects Case Against Rajaa Al-Sanea. Not quite as exciting as Turkey's article-301 trials, a case against the book has now been dismissed -- but:
Arab News has learned that the lawyer of the two Saudis intends to appeal yesterday’s decision. The legal adviser for the Ministry of Information, Mubarak Al-Dosari, requested the Court of Grievances not to accept the lawsuit because it was baseless.
       What's it all about ?
According to the lawsuit, the book is "an outrage to the norms of Saudi society. It encourages vice and also portrays the Kingdom’s female community as women who do not cover their faces and who appear publicly in an immodest way."

Abdul Rahman Al-Qahtani, the lawyer for the two Saudis, said the book generalized the lives of Saudi women. He also alleged that the author had misinterpreted verses from the Holy Qur’an in the book.
       For additional background about the case, see 'Girls of Riyadh’ Faces Saturday Court Verdict from Arab News a few days ago, as well as Roula Khalaf's article on the book, Driven to attraction, in the Financial Times.

       (Updated - 10 October): See now also Brian Whitaker on Victory for the Riyadh girls at The Guardian site.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Auschwitz Report presentation

       In his review of the newly published Auschwitz Report Jonathan Beckman complains that: "The exploitative packaging of Auschwitz Report is misleading." He notes:
When the report was published in 1946 in an Italian medical journal, it was almost certainly as a result of De Benedetti's influence, and named the authors as 'Leonardo De Benedetti and Primo Levi'. But De Benedetti's name does not sell books. So Verso has dolled this up as the work of Levi, blazoning his name on the front of the book, at least five times bigger than the words 'with Leonardo De Benedetti '. Levi alone merits a photo and biographical note on the dust jacket. Unforgivably, the only illustration on the cover is Levi's distinctive bottle-lensed glasses, guaranteeing the reader the 'authentic' experience with an A-list Holocaust survivor.
       Sounds pretty bad to us -- but also pretty typical of the games publishers play. Can any of them be trusted ?

       See also the Verso publicity page (where the De Benedetti-name is printed the same size as Levi's, at least), or get your copy at or

       (Updated - 17 October): See now also Verso editor Robert Gordon's response to Beckman's review at

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Ozick on Mamet on anti-Semitism

       In The Los Angeles Times Cynthia Ozick takes on David Mamet's The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-hatred, and the Jews, finding:
The Wicked Son is a weakly argued work in the service of a pair of powerful indictments.
       See also the Schocken publicity page for The Wicked Son, or get your copy at or

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Time checks out 'street-lit'

       In Time Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates (son of Black Classic Press publisher W. Paul Coates) offers an overview of big publishers picking up 'street-lit' in Hustle and Grow

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Die Arbeit der Nacht review

       Thomas Glavinic's first novel, Carl Haffner's Love of the Draw, was translated into English and seemed to be at least a modest success, but nothing he's written since has been picked up by an American or British publisher. We now have his newest work, the much-praised Die Arbeit der Nacht ('Nightwork') under review (as, indeed, we have all his work under review ...), and it'll be interesting to see whether this one attracts any interest.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

8 October 2006 - Sunday

Best British/Irish/Commonwealth novel 1980-2005 ? | Rushdie and his papers to Emory U.
Formentor Prize deliberations in the 1960s | No God In Sight review

       Best British/Irish/Commonwealth novel 1980-2005 ?

       They saw how much publicity The New York Times Book Review got for their list of the top American novel since 1980, and so now The Observer has done the same for the British/Irish/ Commonwealth area, and Robert McCrum introduces it and presents the results in What's the best novel in the past 25 years ? (conveniently dropping the geographic limitations they set ...).
       They asked "150 writers and 'literary sages'", and 120 participated (a pretty decent list; scroll down to the end of the page). (McCrum notes: "Only one writer voted for himself.")
       If you disagree with the results (pretty easy to do ...) you can join in the discussion-fun at The Observer weblog.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Rushdie and his papers to Emory U.

       Salman Rushdie has sold out his archive to Emory University, as they announce: Salman Rushdie to Teach and Place his Archive at Emory University. ('Place' ? They make it sound like no money changed hands -- though apparently a lot did, though no one is saying how much (why not ?).)
       See, for example, Olivia Cole about Rushdie sells his papers to America in the Sunday Times, noting also that among the papers are two unpublished early novels (dear god ! there's a possibility that there's something worse than Grimus ... ?):
The two unpublished novels -- The Antagonist, influenced by Thomas Pynchon, the American writer, and The Book of Peer -- were written by Rushdie in the 1970s: "The Antagonist was a contemporary London novel, set around Ladbroke Grove where I was living at the time. I think it was embarrassingly Pynchonesque."

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Formentor Prize deliberations in the 1960s

       Donald Keene continues his 'Chronicles of My Life in the 20th Century' in the Daily Yomiuri with chapter 38: Serving on literary prize jury, describing how he was invited: "to be a member of the American jury of the Formentor Prize".
       The what ?
       Apparently, he had the same question:
I had not previously heard of this prize, but it was second only to the Nobel Prize in its influence.
       What does that say about literary prizes if true ? (And, yes, we were familiar with it -- Borges and Beckett shared it in 1961, and did admittedly get a lot of press for that, but we couldn't even find a complete list of all the winners on the Internet .....)
       Anyway, Keene apparently spent his time unsuccessfully lobbying for Mishima Yukio to win the prize, and the chapter closes on this amusing note:
After my failure in Tunis, a senior member of the Swedish publishing company Bonniers, aware of my disappointment, consoled me, "Mishima will win a much more important prize very soon." This could only be the Nobel Prize. I was so pleased by his words that I forgot the sting of defeat. I could hardly wait to reach Japan and tell Mishima the good news. I knew he wanted the Nobel Prize more than anything else in the world.
       We all remember how that worked out, of course .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       No God In Sight review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Altaf Tyrewala's interesting India-novel, No God In Sight.

       (Updated - 9 October): See now also an (English) interview with Tyrewala at Deutsche Welle.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

7 October 2006 - Saturday

Hugo Chavez didn't think Chomsky was dead | Indian regional literature
New Words without Borders (and Boldtype) | Jonathan Littell prize watch
Creative reviewing | Nobel update

       Hugo Chavez didn't think Chomsky was dead

       Reporting on book-fan Hugo Chavez's antics on his recent visit to New York to address the UN we mentioned Helene Cooper's story in the 21 September issue of The New York Times where she claimed that he said he was disappointed not to be able to meet with Noam Chomsky before he had died (with Cooper noting that Chomsky is, of course, still very much alive). The NYT had fun with the story and continued to run with it; unfortunately, it turns out that they got it wrong.
       We only found a summary of the press conference where Chavez was said to have made the remarks at the time, but figured the NYT story was reliable. In the days that followed there were some web-mentions that they might have gotten it wrong, but nothing that seemed particularly convincing -- and we heard of no complaints from the Venezuelans (who surely saw how embarrassing the story was) nor a correction in The New York Times. Until now.
       Now -- in the 6 October issue -- there is finally an 'Editors' Note' that admits they got it completely wrong. (The correction can apparently be found here at that ridiculously registration-requiring site, but see also Book, Inq.'s coverage for the text.) In fact, after much review, they concluded:
In fact, what Mr. Chavez said was, "I am an avid reader of Noam Chomsky, as I am of an American professor who died some time ago." Two sentences later Mr. Chavez named John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist who died last April, calling both him and Mr. Chomsky great intellectual figures.
       Why did it take so long to figure all this out ?
Reporters reviewed the recordings of the news conference in English and Spanish, but not carefully enough to detect the discrepancy, until after the Venezuelan government complained publicly on Wednesday.
       The mistake is bad enough (though it's hard to blame them for running with it once the mistake had been made, because it was a pretty funny story), but given how much they played it up this feeble little Editors' Note is not an adequate correction. There better be more in an upcoming issue of the newspaper .....

       (As to our handling of the story: sorry, it was too good to pass up, and at the time we found no evidence whatsoever to suggest the NYT had made such an enormous mistake. We tried to do due diligence -- looking for the press conference transcript -- but found only the summary, and also found no indication of what Chavez had actually said nor complaints that he was misunderstood from any Venezuelan sources. (And what the hell took them until Wednesday -- some two weeks after the fact -- to complain ?) We try our best not to misinform you, but we do take most published reports more or less on faith, and while we try to get to the exact words wherever we can, it's often not possible. Certainly, you should always consider the sources we cite -- and certainly the extent to which you should trust The New York Times ... well, a couple of more grains of salt are presumably called for.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Indian regional literature

       DeutscheWelle report from the Frankfurt Book Fair that India's Regional Literature a Tough Sell at Frankfurt:
"Indian literature is still largely seen as the literature of authors who write in English. Regional literature hardly makes a dent in the West's consciousness even though it's such a diverse scene," said Peter Ripkin, head of the Frankfurt-based Society for the Promotion of Asian, African and Latin American literature.
Among the 55 Indian works of fiction translated into German for the 2006 book fair, 14 were from regional languages.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       New Words without Borders (and Boldtype)

       The October issue of Words without Borders, 'Latin Labyrinths: the next generation', is now available online.
       For a moment we were really excited that they were offering a Latin-edition, but, alas, they just mean Latin American ..... Still, always worthwhile

       And while you're there, don't forget the links at the bottom, which this month include a truncated version of Zbigniew Mentzel's novel All the Languages in the World, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. The hope is, presumably, that it catches some English-language publisher's eye. (It's already been translated into, for example, German; see the DTV publicity page.)

       And for more online literary coverage, the October issue of Boldtype is now up too -- the 'Scary'-issue.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Jonathan Littell prize watch

       We've been following the Jonathan Littell success-story with his bestselling Les bienveillantes (see, for example, our most recent mention). Not much news on the foreign-rights front (US and UK rights will apparently be auctioned post-Frankfurt), but it continues to rack up places on the French prize-shortlist and longlists (as well as tremendous sales).
       You can follow the fun at Prix-Litteraires: Le blog, where we see that to the six big first cuts Les bienveillantes has made, two more can be added, the Prix Interallié and the Grand Prix du Roman de l'Académie Française. And it has now made the second cut of the Goncourt, Femina, and Médicis.
       But while you're impressed by that showing, note that Alain Fleischer's L'Amant en culottes courtes has done almost as well (though it didn't get an Interallié-nod). Don't hear much about that, though, do you ?

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Creative reviewing

       The review-form wouldn't seem to allow for much creativity, but every now and then reviewers try something completely different. Andrew Bleeker's review of Mikhail Zoshchenko's The Galosh is one example -- and one that also perhaps explains why reviewers generally don't stray too far from the standard review-template: as a warning-note to the review explains:
Andrew Bleeker, a Stranger intern, took it upon himself to write a review of it using Zoshchenko's own words -- the first three words of each story in The Galosh, but rearranged. Needless to say, Bleeker's grand designs collapsed around him. The resulting morass is half Mikhail Zoshchenko, half Gertrude Stein, and all crazy. The book, however, is recommended.
       (We expect to get to the book eventually too -- with a more traditional review. Meanwhile, get your copy at

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Nobel update

       A few days ago we just had Nobel (non-)news to report, but now some hard news: they've announced that they will announce the winner of the Nobel Prize for literature: "on Thursday, October 12, 1:00 p.m. CET (at the earliest)". And, as they remind you, you can catch the announcement live on the Internet !

       Meanwhile the Ladbrokes-odds-watch continues. Since we last checked in only two odds have shifted, Ko Un moving from 12/1 to 10/1 (hey, maybe we do have some influence !) and Murakami Haruki from 33/1 to 12/1. But they have also added six new names:
  • William H. Gass at 20/1
  • Gerald Murnane at 33/1
  • Herta Müller at 50/1
  • Umberto Eco at 50/1
  • Jeanette Winterson at 100/1
  • Salman Rushdie at 100/1
       Winterson is too young, and we can't really see Eco or Rushdie getting it. Müller is too much in the semi-obscure European writer category to convince us (if she were a poet maybe ...), but Murnane and Gass are interesting names to toss in the mix.
       We still wouldn't put down any money, but at this stage probably shift our odds that someone not on the Ladbrokes list will take the prize from 2-1 to 3-1.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

6 October 2006 - Friday

Oskar Pastior (1927-2006) | Andrew Wylie interview
Catalonia in Franckfurt, 2007 | Giraffe review

       Oskar Pastior (1927-2006)

       Romanian-born German writer and Oulipo member Oskar Pastior died Wednesday night -- just a few weeks before he was to pick up the most prestigious German author-award, the Georg-Büchner-Preis.
       Not much English-language coverage yet, except the AP obituary (here at the IHT), but for some additional coverage, see the Burning Deck publicity page for Many Glove Compartments. The only one of his titles we have under review is o du roher iasmin.
       For German coverage, see the obituary in the FAZ, as well as Der Bauplan des Wortkörpers by Stephan Krass in the NZZ, as well as a conversation about Pastior with Denis Scheck at Deutschlandfunk.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Andrew Wylie interview

       In Le Monde Josyane Savigneau interviews mega-agent Andrew Wylie.
       We especially like the last question:
pourquoi n'avez-vous pas d'auteurs français à votre catalogue ? Avez-vous un tel dédain pour la littérature française que pas un seul auteur ne vous semble digne d'intérêt ?

(why don't you have any French authors in your stable ? Do you have such disdain for French literature that there's not a single author who strikes you as worthy of interest ?)
       Ah, but he weasels out of it .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Catalonia in Frankfurt, 2007

       Yes, India is the guest of honour at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair (which is currently going on), but next year it's Catalonia's turn -- and they're getting ready. They have set up something of a web presence, at (okay, it just jumps to some Institut Ramon Llull pages, but still ...), and at the fair itself Catalan programme previewed.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Giraffe review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of J.M.Ledgard's Giraffe.
       It's far from flawless, but we thought it superior (by quite a margin) to, for example, Hisham Matar's Man Booker-shortlisted In the Country of Men. Ledgard's book has gotten considerable attention because of the fairly sensational facts on which it is based, but what makes it worthwhile is how he uses the material: while Matar fumbles around with his, Ledgard takes some creative risks -- and he's more interesting in his failures than Matar in his (limited) successes.

       (Obscure aside: what is it with communist Europe and giraffes ? Bernd Schirmer's charming and remarkable Schlehweins Giraffe, one of the first novels describing life in post-unification Germany for Ossis -- not available in English translation -- used the animals as effectively as Ledgard does .....)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

5 October 2006 - Thursday

Reviewer quarrel | Australian Literary Review
Vikram Seth interview | Naipaul interview

       Reviewer quarrel

       In The New York Observer Ron Rosenbaum writes about a Publishing Mousetrap: Professor Reviews Book That Mauled Him -- Mine, noting that in his review of Rosenbaum's The Shakespeare Wars James Shapiro:
had concealed from Bookforum’s readers the fact that he’d reviewed a book (mine) that subjected Mr. Shapiro’s views to ridicule.
       Bad form, of course -- and regardless of how eager Shapiro was to get back at Rosenbaum, you have to question the wisdom of attacking a man who apparently has vast amounts of column-space completely at his disposal (i.e. can rail on and on against Shapiro -- and mention all those positive reviews his book got).
       Conflict of interest is always a review-problem, but in Shapiro's case it seems to have been more obvious than usual -- mention was certainly warranted. (And while Bookforum will apparently mention the problem in their next issue, last we checked they hadn't added a note to the online-accessible review.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Australian Literary Review

       The Australian's bi-weekly supplement, the Australian Literary Review, has been out a few times now, and it looks pretty decent. Check out, for example, James Bradley and Matthew Kelly offering their discussion-worthy takes on The fuss over super-fine fiction in the current issue.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Vikram Seth interview

       Georgina Prodhan and Rajiv Sekhri interview Vikram Seth at Reuters, where Seth says Indian writing as rich as Europe's.
"Basically, the great thing is that you can't say there's a school of Indian writing," he says. "Because of the width of references that we can select ... that's what makes Indian literature as rich as the literature of Europe."
       Surely the width of references, while helpful, isn't what counts -- it's what's done with them, i.e. the final, written product. But we're always glad to see someone re-emphasise that Indian-writing-in-English isn't the whole story.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Naipaul interview

       In the Berliner Zeitung Arno Widmann talks with V.S.Naipaul. Among the interesting revelations: he's working on a new book:
Keinen Roman. Jetzt nach fünfzehn Monaten sehe ich langsam das Ende vor mir. Ein kleines Buch von etwa 120 Seiten. Es wird interessant sein, glaube ich.
Und worüber ?
Es ist ein Buch über die verschiedenen Arten zu sehen und zu empfinden.

(Not a novel. Now, after fifteen months, the end is in sight. A small book of about 120 pages I think it will be interesting.
And about what ?
It is a book about the different ways of seeing and perceiving.)
       And, always fun, his views on Indian writing:
Wo ist die eigene Sicht der Dinge, die eigene Empfindung ? Das gilt aber nicht nur für die indischen Autoren. Da sind diese chinesischen Schriftsteller, die über die Schrecknisse der Kulturrevolution schrieben und inzwischen sind sie alle durch die amerikanischen "Kreatives Schreiben"-Kurse gegangen, und jetzt schreiben sie alle gleich. Sie lesen einen chinesischen Autor über die chinesische Revolution, aber in Wahrheit lesen sie, was die Amerikaner lesen wollen, was die Chinesen denken. Was und wie die Chinesen sehen, fühlen und denken, erfahren wir so nicht.

(Where is the personal point of view, the personal understanding ? But that doesn't just go for Indian authors. There are all these Chinese authors who wrote about the horrors of the Cultural Revolution and in the meantime they've all been through American 'creative writing'-courses, and now they all write the same. You're reading a Chinese author about the Chinese revolution, but in reality you're reading what the Americans want to read; what the Chinese think, what and how the Chinese see, feel, and think: all that we won't find out this way.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

4 October 2006 - Wednesday

Frankfurt Book Fair news | Sacred Games in German
Nobel (non-)news | Touba and the Meaning of Night review

       Frankfurt Book Fair news

       The Frankfurt Book Fair has started, and they have a useful daily newsletter (in English) at their site.
       Deutsche Welle also has started a dossier -- presumably they'll be adding articles as the fair progresses. But they already have some good stuff on offer, notably an interview with Amit Chaudhuri, "I Wish Indian Writing in English Were Less Triumphant". Interesting to hear what he says when asked, for example:
It's sometimes forgotten, particularly in the West, that English is the language of only a small percentage of Indians. Do you think the current popularity of the Indian novel in English has come at the expense of writing in Indian languages ?
       Also interesting:
Do you think translated works in Indian languages can be accessible to German readers ?

In Germany, somehow there is greater interest in Indian writing in regional languages. So many writers who write in Indian languages, who have not been translated into English, are translated into German. That is an interesting and curious thing because German itself has its own form of regional identity, just to be part of Europe is no longer in the globalized world a passport to being the representative of some sort of universal culture.
       Other DW articles of interest: Indian Writers in English Open New Chapter in Europe and Book Fair Opens With Focus on India, Digital Publishing.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Sacred Games in German

       So what happens when an Indian author writes his magnum opus and there's this wonderful opportunity to publicise it at the world's most prestigious book fair, because India is the guest of honour, but it's just so damn long you can never get the whole thing translated in time for the fair ? That's right, you split it in half, bring half to market in the nick of time for the book fair, and hope to get the second half out by Christmas or thereabouts.
       That is the solution Aufbau has come up with for Vikram Chandra's enormous Sacred Games: the first half (796 pages worth) is being released now as Der Gott von Bombay (see the Aufbau publicity page or get your copy at Part two will be released as Bombay Paradise (at a mere 550 pages) this winter (see the Aufbau publicity page or get your copy at
       It's sort of funny seeing the Germans in such a rush when the Americans couldn't care less: Sacred Games won't be coming out, in part or whole, in the US for a few more months ..... (See also the publicity pages at Faber and HarperCollins, or get your copy at -- or pre-order it at

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Nobel (non-)news

       The Nobel Prize watch will have to continue: the Swedish Academy promises to give a heads-up as to when the announcement of the winner will be made a few days before that announcement (which will be made on a Thursday) -- ; as IOL notes, because the there's been no announcement-announcement this week, the earliest the prize can be announced is next Thursday, 12 October.

       When the announcement comes you can follow the press conference live ! At least that's what they promise at the Nobel site. Sounds like fun.

       Meanwhile, for those who want more speculation-fun, check out the office pool discussion at Words without Borders. (And while you're in that neighbourhood, don't you want to join in their Book Club on Ma Jian's The Noodle Maker ? It doesn't seem to have quite caught on yet .....)

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       Touba and the Meaning of Night review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Shahrnush Parsipur's Touba and the Meaning of Night.

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3 October 2006 - Tuesday

Albanian literature ! | Die Habenichtse takes German Book Prize | Today's Nobel news
Breaking the western literary stranglehold ! | Departure Lounge review

       Albanian literature !

       Transcript goes Albanian in their current issue, focussed on Contemporary Verse from Albania. A good, broad selection -- and see also the introduction by Robert Elsie and Janice Mathie-Heck.
       Aside from the verse on site, they also point to A selection of Albanian poetry recently published in English translation, including one we'll probably try to get our hands on, The condemned apple by Visar Zhiti, a bi-lingual edition (hurrah !) from Green Integer (see their publicity page, or get your copy at or
       Almost needless to say, the translations are by Robert Elsie, who pretty much dominates the Albanian-in-English market: see also his useful site on Albanian authors in translation.
       (A book we do have on our to-cover pile is a new Elsie-edited anthology of Modern Albanian Short Stories, Balkan Beauty, Balkan Blood; see the Northwestern University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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       Die Habenichtse takes German Book Prize

       Die Habenichtse by Katharina Hacker has been awarded the 2006 German Book Prize; see also Katharina Hacker Wins German Book Prize at Deutsche Welle.
       No English translation yet, but you can get your copy of the German version at (where the prize had pushed it up to a sales-rank of 4, last we checked).

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       Today's Nobel news

       Trying to counter the usual (fairly ridiculous) speculation the Swedish Academy let Sarah Edmonds at Reuters know that Nobel literary prize down to merit, not judges' whim.
       Sure, whatever they say .....

       Meanwhile, the Ladbrokes-odds have gotten a lot of attention -- but not too many people are putting down any money (as is evident from the lack of movement of the odds). Since we first mentioned them almost a week ago only three odds have changed:
  • Orhan Pamuk has gone from being a loser's bet at 3/1 to an even more ridiculous 5/2 (he's way too young, people !)
  • Adonis has gone from 4/1 to 5/1 (and we still wouldn't take those odds -- though he's a better bet than Pamuk)
  • And in the most ridiculous shift, Bob Dylan has moved from 500/1 to 50/1 (either way, you're throwing your money away)
       Aside from deleting the ineligible (on account of his demise) Pramoedya Ananta Toer, there have only been two changes to the list, the addition of -- curiously enough -- two authors we've mentioned: Chinua Achebe at 33/1 (see our mention from Sunday) and Harry Mulisch at 50/1 (who we remarked was the biggest oversight missing from the list) ..... But before anyone thinks we have much of an influence, note that we haven't moved the odds on the two authors we said were the 'best bets' (taking into account the likelihood they'd get the prize as well as the odds), Ko Un and Mahmoud Darwish.

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       Breaking the western literary stranglehold !

       Sugita Katyal reports that Asians seek to break western literary stranglehold.
In a world where awareness of eastern culture often stops at Jackie Chan and Zhang Ziyi, a new breed of Asian writer is aiming to turn pages with writing inspired by distinctly Asian issues: such as the repression of women, the politics of the hijab, political dissidence and eastern mythology.
       It might be a bit more convincing if the first big example weren't 18 year old Vira Safitri:
Asked how long it took to write her first novel, Secret Admirer, a giggling Safitri said: "Four days and three nights."

"And in another week's time I had a publisher," she added.
       Of course we might be wrong about not taking her seriously .....

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       Departure Lounge review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Chad Taylor's Departure Lounge.

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2 October 2006 - Monday

Frankfurt Book Fair week | Love of Reading week
More pre-Nobel coverage | 2006 Neustadt Symposium
Satrapi's Chicken With Plums | Der Weltensammler review

       Frankfurt Book Fair week

       Only a few more days to go: the Frankfurt Book Fair begins on the 4th.
       There will be considerably more German coverage, but a few sites already have special sections up -- check out those at hr online and Die Zeit.
       There's also a big blogging-effort under way .....

       (Updated - 3 October): See also the FAZ special section

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       Love of Reading week

       More accessible than the Frankfurt Book Fair is Love of Reading, which runs 3 to 5 October. All sorts of stuff on offer; might be fairly interesting (and, yes, the Literary Saloon is one of the guest-blogger sites).

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       More pre-Nobel coverage

       In The Los Angeles Times Discoveries-lady Susan Salter Reynolds for once gets to write a longer piece, as she wonders What's So Funny About the Nobel Prize for Literature ?
       She takes the Ladbrokes-odds (see also our previous mention) a bit too seriously, but otherwise a decent enough overview of this very tired subject.

       The Los Angeles Times also had a few people make Some last-minute suggestions. The literary ones are uninspired or outright (and not-funny) stupid ("I would award the Nobel Prize for literature to James Frey").

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       2006 Neustadt Symposium

       It's not news that Claribel Alegría took the Neustadt International Prize for Literature -- they announced that a year ago (see our previous mention) -- but she's only now picked up the prize and the cash, as they held the 2006 Neustadt Symposium last week.
       A sad sign that this prestigious (and well-endowed) prize has received so little attention; the only press coverage we've found is Bunmi Ishola's article, Claribel Alegría wins Neustadt Prize, in The Norman Transcript

       (Bi-annual prizes do have this publicity problem, that you tend to forget about them in the off-year -- and announcing winners a year ahead of time probably just confuses people even more. Will the Man Booker International Prize be able to do better ? (They do have a shortlist-announcement, which does get them some extra attention .....))

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       Satrapi's Chicken With Plums

       Marjane Satrapi has a new comic book out, Chicken With Plums, and does well with the press coverage: not too many books get reviews -- however brief -- in both Time (see Andrew Arnold's 5 Gripping Graphic Novels for Grownups) and Newsweek (see Ramin Setoodeh's Snap Judgment) in the same week. (It also got a review in the San Francisco Chronicle.)
       We've grown pretty tired of this stuff, so we're not sure we'll get around to it, but see also excerpts at the Virginia Quarterly Review, the Pantheon publicity page,or get your own copy at or (And see also the recent interview/profile with/of Satrapi in The Independent.

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       Der Weltensammler review

       So at least we got in one title shortlisted for the German Book Prize before they announce the winner this week: the most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Ilija Trojanow's Der Weltensammler.
       Regardless of whether or not it takes the prize this sounds like a sure bet to get translated into English. For one, the book centres on Victorian explorer Richard Francis Burton -- always good subject matter (and Trojanow does a pretty good job with the material). Aside from that, Trojanow has already had one book translated -- and has a pretty good personal story, too: born in Bulgaria, his family moved to Germany when he was a child, but he grew up in Kenya, attended university in Germany, and now lives in South Africa. So maybe it's something (and he's someone) publishers will be checking out at the Frankfurt Book Fair .....
       Amazingly, the Hanser foreign rights information page lists just two sales so far: the Dutch and Arabic rights. Arabic ! before English. And even though there's a Burton-connexion there too -- it's a big surprise that an Arabic publisher would grab it before any American or British publisher dared to.

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1 October 2006 - Sunday

Littell's Les Bienveillantes, cont'd. | English footballer books
Achebe Nobel-worthy ? | Amis profile

       Littell's Les Bienveillantes, cont'd.

       We've mentioned the big French success-story of the season, Jonathan Littell's Les Bienveillantes, before (here and here), and the success story continues. It's still number one on the French bestseller lists, and besides making the first cut for the big three literary prizes (Goncourt, Renaudot, and Médicis) it's now made the cut at at least three more (Flore, Style, and Femina) -- and apparently it's going to be the talk of Frankfurt (at the book fair, that is) next week, as Jason Burke reports Third Reich epic sparks bidding war in The Observer, claiming "there will be only one topic of conversation" in Frankfurt, and Littell's novel will be it .....
       But at least he also finds a bit of (too-scared-to-show-his-face) criticism:
'There are two types of literary success in France, the authentic and the manufactured,' said one reporter at a literary magazine, who did not wish to be named. 'The success of this book is artificial. It is dependent on the whole publishing machine, with critics, journalists, editors and eventually the public building up a "buzz" that is not deserved.'
       Meanwhile, Joshua Cohen reports on France's 900-page Cause Célèbre in Forward (not much new here).

       Some interesting German reactions, however (there's been a lot more discussion of the book there than in the US/UK, although it's not available in German yet either):
       In Die Zeit Michael Mönninger writes about Die Banalisierung des Bösen ('The banalisation of evil'), and finds the book to be in part 'scandalous kitsch' and yet also worth reading, and:
Es ist die Poetik der Grausamkeit, mit der ein hochbegabter Gegenwartsautor zum Gewaltpornografen wird.

(It's a poetics of cruelty that turns a highly talented contemporary author into a pornographer of cruelty.)
       Meanwhile Jürgen Ritte is considerably harsher with his judgement in Die SS auf literarischem Erfolgskurs in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, wondering:
Ist die französische "rentrée littéraire" so schwach besetzt, sind die Leser wirklich so abgestumpft, dass nur noch ein Monster wie Max Aue Aufmerksamkeit erregen kann ?

(Is the French "rentrée littéraire" so feeble this year, have the readers really so been so dulled that only a monster like Max Aue can provoke any sort of attention ?)
       See also Ästhet selbst noch beim Foltern by Jörg von Uthmann in Die Welt.

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       English footballer books

       The Sunday Times beats up on the big-advance and, as it turns out (what a surprise !) low-sales footballer books that have come out in the last few months in the UK. Andrew Holgate observes that Fans giving books the boot
Three months after England’s over-paid and over-hyped footballers skulked out of the World Cup quarter-finals, their cash-in books about the campaign and their careers so far are, with one notable exception, failing spectacularly to score with the book-buying public.
       Meanwhile, Rod Liddle looks at the books themselves in Just read it and weep:
Football literature is an oxymoron. For this reason, I suppose, one shouldn’t expect too much of it.
       But publishers -- 'responsible', as always, -- spent huge amounts of money on this low-expectation crap.

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       Achebe Nobel-worthy ?

       The headline is Chinua Achebe deserves Nobel Prize, but Henry Akubuiro's article in the Daily Sun is basically a profile-interview with Sierra Leonian literary scholar (and current president of the African Literature Association) Eustace Palmer. Worth a look -- and Achebe and his Nobel-potential do get a mention:
Palmer has written extensively on Chinua Achebe, a novelist he has the highest regard for. "I think he’s the doyen of African literature at the moment," he says. "I do hope that, sometime in future, they’ll award him the Nobel Prize for Literature. I honestly don’t know why they haven’t awarded him the prize. Maybe, it has to do with the need to maintain a geographical balance for Nobel Prize winners from one continent to another. Soon it’ll get to Africa’s turn, and I hope he’ll be one of the leading people for the prize."

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       Amis profile

       Martin Amis has a new book out (yes, yes, we'll get to it eventually) and so it's time again for more and more and more profiles: Rachel Cooke starts things off with The Amis papers in The Observer.

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