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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 October 2006

11 October: Translation Prizes and Sebald lecture | The Inheritance of Loss takes Man Booker | Hamid Dabashi takes on Reading Lolita in Tehran | Slate's Fall Fiction 'Week' | Fall RainTaxi | Shaikh Zayed Book Prize
12 October: And the Nobel Prize for literature goes to ... Orhan Pamuk | The Mystery Guest ventures | (American) National Book Award finalists | Rushdie says: Veils suck | The Quills ! | The Pendragon Legend review
13 October: Pamuk reactions | 2006 Nike | Doulatabadi on Nobel Prize | Sony Labou Tansi praise
14 October: Amis and the Man Booker | Gordon Brown's reading | The Discomfort Zone review
15 October: NLNG Prize for Literature | Agota Kristof interview | Blue Aubergine review
16 October: Ugly books ? | 'Literature You Can See' exhibit | LBC Read This ! selection
17 October: Book titles | Premio Planeta for La Fortuna de Matilda Turpin | Book Review Coverage | Assad's 'literary adviser' | Stalking review
18 October: Pamuk 'postpones' lecture | Ko Un tribute | An Inexplicable Story review
19 October: Juan Rulfo Prize | Japanese literary prizes | New Korean writing | Stothard on Translation Prizes | The Village Voice says Best Local Literary Blog is ...
20 October: Madame Bovary online | Translation and poetry | Measuring the World success | Pelevin novel leaked ? | The Price of Water in Finistère review

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20 October 2006 - Friday

Madame Bovary online | Translation and poetry | Measuring the World success
Pelevin novel leaked ? | The Price of Water in Finistère review

       Madame Bovary online

       In 'Madame Bovary' dans tous ses états in Le Monde Josyane Savigneau writes about the very impressive project at the University of Rouen's Flaubert-site, where they offer the transcription intégrale du manuscrit de Madame Bovary -- not just the final version, but all the stages it went through. (see also the overview of the project -- and our review of Madame Bovary.)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Translation and poetry

       The New Statesman is running a 'Poetry special' in their book section this week, and among the pieces of interest is Don Paterson's Brilliant disguise, about translation and poetry:
Translating a complex, visionary poem leaves you with two choices. Either you translate something you don't understand in German into something you understand even less in English, or you make a single reading of it, knowing that this denies many others. In translating Rilke's Sonnets, I took the latter course, which is to say I made a travesty of sorts -- as any single interpretation must be.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Measuring the World success

       Daniel Kehlmann's Measuring the World (due out in the US in early November) has been on the German fiction bestseller list for an impressive 55 weeks now -- spending most of the time atop it. Börsenblatt reports that it has now been nudged from the nr.1 position by Katharina Hacker's German Book Prize-winning Die Habenichtse -- apparently the Germans do take this prize pretty seriously (will Kiran Desai's Man Booker win propel her to number one on the UK charts ?).
       But the Measuring the World-success continues to astound. Die Welt reported a few weeks ago that the publisher now acknowledged sales of 704,000 copies -- pretty stunning for the German-speaking area, and for a book that isn't exactly a pop thriller. And even if it has slid down on the bestseller list, the number two position suggests sales are still strong.
       So are his American publishers getting their hopes up ? They've at least organised it that he'll be in the States -- he's going to be a Writer-in-Residence at the Deutsche Haus at NYU , November through January (which means the publishers don't have to foot the bill of getting him over the Atlantic or putting him up in New York).
       The only author-appearance we've heard of to date is the 28 November reading and book signing at the Goethe Institut. No doubt, there will be some more (and a couple of media appearances as well -- and they already got an op-ed by him in The New York Times a while back), but they don't seem to be pulling out all (or even many) of the stops .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Pelevin novel leaked ?

       In his Salon-column in The Moscow Times this week Victor Sonkin writes about the quick and widespread dissemination of what is apparently Victor Pelevin's new novel on the Internet.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       The Price of Water in Finistère review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Bodil Malmsten's The Price of Water in Finistère.
       It's one of those first-person narratives so popular in Europe, which one can't categorise as straightforward memoir -- or novel (think everything from The Mystery Guest to everything Annie Ernaux (and half of what Amélie Nothomb) does). Focussed on her re-location from her native Sweden to Finistère, there's no doubt she has really taken to the place: her official site and weblog has the URL: (which, appropriately enough, keeps the Swedish root, to go along with the new domicile).

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

19 October 2006 - Thursday

Juan Rulfo Prize | Japanese literary prizes | New Korean writing
Stothard on Translation Prizes | The Village Voice says Best Local Literary Blog is ...

       Juan Rulfo Prize

       Okay, there is a problem with the name -- el Premio de Literatura Latinoamericana y del Caribe Juan Rulfo is too long to be catchy -- but the Juan Rulfo Prize, first awarded in 1991, looks pretty decent to us. With a US$ 100,000 payout and prizewinners that include local favourites Augusto Monterroso (1996; see our review of, for example, his Complete Works and Other Stories), Juan José Arreola (1992; see our review of his Confabulario), and Juan Goytisolo (2004) it sure looks like one of the leading Spanish-language literary prizes.
       So why, as Prensa Latina now report, is Mexico to Rename Literature Award ? Yes, the 'Juan Rulfo Prize' is dropping the 'Juan Rulfo' .....
Friday, Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI), notified the association that it should stop using Rulfo's name, as the writer family considered that the recognition had became the plunder of a minority.
       Yes, it's the Rulfo family that's against the use of the name. (It seems to have taken them a while to get worked up about it .....)
       What now ? Well:
Although the new name has not yet been determined, it will not be another writer's name, official sources indicated.
       We look forward to hearing more about this bizarre turn of events.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Japanese literary prizes

       We try to keep you posted whenever we hear about one of these being awarded, but JLPP have a nice Literary Prize News-column, here offering good summary information about the winners of the Japanese 'Major Literary Prizes decided in first half of 2006'.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       New Korean writing

       Articles about foreign authors whose works aren't available in English are often of relatively limited interest and use, but Yang Sung-jin's introduction to Korean writers Kim Do-eon and Lee Gi-ho in The Korea Herald, Two writers pursue new styles, does offer some odds and ends of interest. So, for example:
They do not belong to the so-called "386-generation" writers -- who are in their 30s (when the term was coined in the late 1990s), attended college in the 1980s and were born in the 1960s. Nor do they follow the outdated literary formulas established by the post-Korean War generation writers who focused largely on ideological issues.
       Who the hell would come up with a designation as convoluted as this "386-generation" ... ?

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Stothard on Translation Prizes

       Last week we mentioned the TLS Translation Prizes and Sebald lecture, lamenting the absence of media coverage -- and hoping that TLS editor Peter Stothard would share some of his impressions at his weblog. We're pleased to see that he has now done so -- though we hope there are still some other reports forthcoming from others who were in attendance ..... (We can hope, can't we ?)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       The Village Voice says Best Local Literary Blog is ...

       Ed Park has been ousted from The Village Voice, but his choice for Best Local Literary Blog made it into the paper: as Light Reading points out, the choice is ... Jenny Davidson's Light Reading -- which is, indeed, well worth your while.
       And we can agree with Park's summing-up, too:
Add it to your bookmarks: Light Reading is the perfect complement to NYC-based mainstays Maud Newton and the Literary Saloon.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

18 October 2006 - Wednesday

Pamuk 'postpones' lecture | Ko Un tribute | An Inexplicable Story review

       Pamuk 'postpones' lecture

       When Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize last week we noted that his first public appearance afterwards was to be the 2006 Ohanessian lecture at the University of Minnesota, which he was scheduled to deliver on Monday -- but he was a no-show.
       The university released a statement saying that Orhan Pamuk talk to be rescheduled:
Acclaimed Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk was scheduled to give the 2006 Ohanessian lecture on Monday, October 16. On October 12, he was announced as the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. As a result of this richly deserved honor, unusually high demands have been placed on his schedule and his talk at the University has been postponed. Mr. Pamuk has promised that he will reschedule this appearance very soon; we will post the new event information on this site as soon as it is known.
       High demands on his schedule ? Well, sure, no doubt there are lots of media demands, and he probably got invited to some fancy dinners ... and it was snowing in Minnesota a couple of days ago ..... Still, it seems bad form to us .....
       But is it just bad form, or is there more to it ?
       As you may have guessed from the name, (in full it's the: Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Lecture) there's an Armenian connexion to the invitation. Pamuk's talk was called: 'On Making the Other Talk', but last year's lecture, for example, was by Paul Boghossian and titled: 'A Philosopher Looks at Genocide':
As the Fourth Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Lecturer, Professor Boghossian will draw upon his expertise as a philosopher to discuss the major conceptual issues connected with the topic of the Armenian Genocide.
       Guess where that sort of talk doesn't go over big ......
       And while in the US Pamuk's lecture-postponement seems only to have been noticed by the local Minnesota press, guess who else has been keeping tabs (and putting their particular spin on things) ? Yes, the coverage looks a bit different there -- see, for example, Pamuk postpones Armenian conference at Sabah:
After learning he won a Nobel Prize, Pamuk's first act was to postpone his conference about the so-called Armenian genocide.
       So was/is Pamuk being 'diplomatic' ? Was he trying not to stir things up even more (as his appearance there would no doubt have -- at least back home in Turkey --, even if he uttered not a word about the Armenian genocide in his talk) ?
       We'd prefer the focus to be on Pamuk's art, rather than his politics (not that noting that the Turks were responsible for atrocities against the Armenian population a century ago is (or should be) very political; it's simply historical fact), and maybe avoiding this particular venue, at least for the time-being, is a way to try to limit the extent to which he's seen as a political laureate, rather than a literary one.
       Still, we're disappointed he didn't go through with it.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Ko Un tribute

       In The Korea Times Brother Anthony of Taize writes about Ko Un, Korean Poet, Universal Voice (though we wonder if this sort of thing isn't slowly going to get him labelled, like Adonis, a perennial Nobel-loser .....)
       Brother Anthony has done tremendous work making Korean literature accessible to English-speaking readers. Among the interesting observations here:
With the exception of a handful of people, there is virtually no one in the world who is not of Korean origin who can read a poem by Ko in Korean. That filtering process has been the key to the high reputation enjoyed by almost all the winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature whose language is not English, French or Spanish. Translators always, naturally, select works that they believe to be the most interesting and rewarding, and set aside all the rest for later, or never. One part of the art of literary translation is knowing what not to translate.
       See also our reviews of Ko's The Three Way Tavern and Traveler Maps -- as well as his (very fancy) official site.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       An Inexplicable Story review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Josef Skvorecky imagining The Narrative of Questus Firmus Siculus in An Inexplicable Story.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

17 October 2006 - Tuesday

Book titles | Premio Planeta for La Fortuna de Matilda Turpin
Book Review Coverage | Assad's 'literary adviser' | Stalking review

       Book titles

       In Whatís in a Name ? in New York Boris Kachka finds out what writers almost called their books.
       Most interesting: Kate Atkinson on One Good Turn:
The original title was Jolly Murder Mystery. I didnít decide to nix it, the publishers did. It didnít work for the Americans, and my British publishers decided it would be less confusing if they followed the U.S. I was very aggrieved when the Brits changed it. I donít like it as much as the original, obviously. At least itís more straightforward than the French: Les choses síarrangent mais ça ne va pas mieux
       On the one hand, it's good to see publishers on both sides of the Atlantic at least agree on a title (it's incredibly annoying when there are different titles in the US and UK -- which is more common than one would imagine), on the other .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Premio Planeta for La Fortuna de Matilda Turpin

       The Premio Planeta de Novela -- a literary prize with a winner's-payout of €601,000 (over US $750,000), making the Man Booker look like chump change -- has been awarded to La Fortuna de Matilda Turpin by Alvaro Pombo; see the AP report (here at the IHT).
       It was selected from 442 entered titles (they found four time as many books to consider as the Man Booker folk did ...); the official site has no details yet (apparently they spent all the money on the prize, and can't afford to update the website in a timely fashion ...).
       The only Pombo title we could find available in English is The Hero of the Big House (translated by Margaret Jull Costa). See also some biographical information (in English) at Ediorial Anagrama.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Book Review Coverage

       Romenesko points us to Edward Nawotka's Publishers Weekly article on Reviewing the State of Book Review Coverage.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Assad's 'literary adviser'

       The Daily Star runs an AFP report that Top Syrian writer appointed 'literary adviser' to Assad.
Renowned Syrian writer Colette Khoury, who shocked the Arab world with a 1959 novel about love, has been named 'literary adviser' to President Bashar Assad, an official said Monday.
       But no one seems to know exactly what that might mean or entail:
The official did not elaborate on what would be her exact task as literary adviser to the president.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Stalking review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Bran Nicol's look at Stalking.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

16 October 2006 - Monday

Ugly books ? | 'Literature You Can See' exhibit | LBC Read This ! selection

       Ugly books ?

       In his World of books-column this week in the Daily Telegraph A.N.Wilson wonders:
Do books have to be ugly ? It is a question that poses itself almost every time one walks through one of the huge American-style bookshops that are now the norm in this country, gazing with dismay at the heaps of ugly dust-wrappers and book covers.
       We're not so sure -- covers from previous decades are often pretty hideous -- but we agree with him about one thing: the size of books !
Apart from anything else, the new Longman books are too big. Allen Lane's Penguins and the old World's Classics slipped easily into pocket or haversack.

New books -- like modern proles fed on junk food -- are twice the size of their forebears. The new Buildings of England series is bigger than the old Pevsners, so it won't fit on the same small shelf. The old Penguin Don Quixote, translated by J. M. Cohen, fits into the pocket; the new family bible-sized translation would not fit anywhere.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       'Literature You Can See' exhibit

       The 23rd Literaturtage Baden-Württemberg Schwäbisch Hall (catchy name, eh ?) run from 6 October through 30 November ('literature months' it should be, not 'literature days' ...) with 70 events. Probably worthwhile: the Literature You Can See exhibit:
In "Literature You Can See," the Kunsthalle Würth is presenting works by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Günter Grass and Hermann Hesse. Compiled largely from our own stocks, the three shows will run in parallel and focus on the authors' visual oeuvres.
       (No pictures of what's being shown, unfortunately .....)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       LBC Read This ! selection

       The LBC Autumn 2006 Read This ! selection will be announced today; check out the site today and in the coming weeks for extensive coverage.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

15 October 2006 - Sunday

NLNG Prize for Literature | Agota Kristof interview | Blue Aubergine review

       NLNG Prize for Literature

       The NLNG Prize for Literature -- this year it was for a drama (last year it was poetry) -- has been awarded to Hard Ground by Ahmed Yerima.
       In the Daily Sun Henry Akubuiro reports that How YERIMA upstaged Osofisan & Egwuda:
According to Banjo, this yearís entries (seventy-seven) showed an improvement in production standard, describing the response to the prize by Nigeria writers as enthusiastic, though this yearís entries failed short of last yearís one hundred and thirty entries for poetry, he acknowledged it was a remarkable number for a genre that has fewer writers in Nigeria.

The judges of the Nigeria Prize for Literature, he said, were only interested in the literary aspect of the plays submitted to them, and not their performance quality. He pointed out that majority of the entries showed a tendency for going back to the African tradition in an uncritical manner. The judges, therefore, regretted that modern themes do not feature strongly in these entries. Although some of the playwrights, address contemporary problems, the judges said they tend to solve such problems by going back to the traditional rules.
       See also Benjamin Njoku's report, Ahmed Yerimahís Hard Ground breaks NLNG jinx, in Vanguard, and Funke Adetutu's report, NLNG sets a new milestone in Nigerian literary prize, in Business Day

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Agota Kristof interview

       Hungarian Literature Online consistently has interesting English-language coverage, such as now their interview with Swiss-Hungarian author Agota Kristof.
       (A trilogy of her books has been published in translation; get your copy at or

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Blue Aubergine review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Miral al-Tahawy's Blue Aubergine.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

14 October 2006 - Saturday

Amis and the Man Booker | Gordon Brown's reading | The Discomfort Zone review

       Amis and the Man Booker

       Back when the longlist for this year's Man Booker prize came out we mentioned that Martin Amis' House of Meetings hadn't made it -- and hypothesised that it had not even been in the running, ineligible because perhaps it fell short of the prize-requirements of being a "full-length novel". But it turns out we were mistaken in believing it to be a novella plus two stories (as, possibly, the US version, scheduled for January publication, will be ?). At about 200 pages it seems to pass the "unified and substantial work"-requirement, making its non-appearance on at least the longlist -- especially given quite a few very positive reviews -- more mysterious again.
       Now comes a very enthusiastic review in The Economist (issue of 14 October, not (yet) freely accessible online), which concludes:
     House of Meetings is a singular, unimpeachable triumph, as powerful as J.M.Coetzee's Disgrace and the small list of novels that have unanimously carried off the Man Booker prize for fiction. In the week that a divided jury awarded the 2006 prize to Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss, what is astonishing is that Mr.Amis's publishers did not even submit this book for consideration.
       We have long railed against the ridiculous Man Booker submission procedure, limiting publishers to two submissions (with a variety of additional ways for a book to slip into consideration), as well as the secrecy surrounding the process (the entered titles -- a mere 112 this year -- are not revealed to the public). Is it possible that Jonathan Cape really didn't give the Amis book one of their two spots ? Were they counting on it getting called in ? (Seventeen titles were called in this year.)
       The Economist sounds very sure of itself; previously we hadn't heard any such certainty about the matter. At the TLS J.C. interpreted that:
John Ezard of the Guardian had a half-hearted go, when he noted that Martin Amis was "left off the list . . . for his 17th book House of Meetings", but conceded that the explanation lay in Amisís novella not having been entered for the prize.
       Though Ezard's own words don't seem quite so explicit:
left off the list. So was Martin Amis for his novella and 17th book House of Meetings, debarred even from the starting gate of a literary contest he was once expected to win.
       (We figured the longlist could count as the 'starting gate', not being put up for the prize in the first place).
       Certainly, nobody else seemed to have caught on. In The Times Tom Gatti hypothesised:
Left off the Man Booker longlist, perhaps too short to qualify
       Meanwhile, in The Independent Louise Jury noted:
House of Meetings, the new title from Martin Amis, was thought not to be eligible as it is not a full-length novel.
       Cape did get two titles on the longlist: Howard Jacobson's Kalooki Nights and James Lasdun's Seven Lies. Were those the two they put up, or did they already constitute called-up titles ? Alas, the public is not told ..... (Hamish Hamilton got three on the longlist, but even there it's not clear that any of the titles was called-in: as Barry Unsworth's books (The Ruby in her Navel this year) are -- because he has won the Booker previously (1992) -- automatically qualified .....)
       Hermione Lee, this year's chair of the judges, writes about the judging-experience today in The Guardian, in 'A bunch of terriers'. Some interesting stuff -- but nothing about Amis. But she does note:
The first lists were organised by publishers, and I asked for them to be re-done so that we would be less aware -- and, if possible, try to forget -- who the publishers were. We tried to read each novel for itself, not in the light of earlier work or of the author's fame or status or previous prizes. Naively, I suppose, I was rather startled by the amount of extra-literary white noise there was, getting in between us and our books.
       We still haven't read Amis' book -- and the praise has not been universal (see Jonathan Derbyshire's review in the Financial Times ("House of Meetings feels inauthentic")) -- but it's hard for us to believe that it should not even have been considered for the Man Booker prize. It would be outrageous if it were not one of the books originally under consideration (though we grant that it's perfectly possible that it wasn't longlist-worthy). But this looks suspiciously like yet another reason why they make this whole process so opaque, of course -- if people really saw how these things work (or don't) they surely would take the prize even less seriously than they do now. (We hope one of the judges leaks the list of submitted and called in books to the media (or us, if they prefer) -- it's silly to keep it secret, and a disservice both to the winners and those who didn't even get to play along in this particular literary game.)

       (You can get your copy of House of Meetings from or pre-order it from from

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Gordon Brown's reading

       In The Times Ben Macintyre offers another version of that popular column-topic, politicians and their reading, focussing on British PM-apparent (though less and less so) Gordon Brown, in When Brown opens up about books, it speaks volumes about his character.
       He believes:
On the whole, one should not judge a politician by his book covers, but in the case of Brown the books are so integral to his personality that browsing his library may be the only way to read the famously inscrutable Chancellor.
       And he claims:
Brown has a genuine love of literature, and the books that he loves speak volumes about him. In many ways, he seems more comfortable with books than with people.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       The Discomfort Zone review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of A Personal History by Jonathan Franzen, The Discomfort Zone.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

13 October 2006 - Friday

Pamuk reactions | 2006 Nike
Doulatabadi on Nobel Prize | Sony Labou Tansi praise

       Pamuk reactions

       Early reactions to Orhan Pamuk's winning the Nobel Prize (see also yesterday's coverage) are fairly summary, but here some of the reports (we tried to avoid the agency stuff), commentary, and other coverage:        There are also discussions going on at, for example, MetaFilter and Culture Vulture (The Guardian's blog)

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       2006 Nike

       The big Polish book award, the Nike, was awarded last week, and Dorota Maslowska won for Paw królowej. Worth considering: among the finalists she beat out was Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska, and among the longlisted authors were such heavyweights as Andrzej Stasiuk and Adam Zagajewski.
       There's good English coverage at Polish Culture, as well as the Polskie Radio article, Nike literary prize for Maslowska.
       Not everyone was thrilled:
Journalist Artur Gorski is among those who remain shocked at Maslowskaís success:

I think Dorota Maslowska literature is a disaster for Polish literature, disaster for Polish culture. Itís for me, itís not a literature, itís a jabber, a gibber pretending literature. This is a novel about, well, about nothing, which was created only from a so-called street language.
       Maslowska has already had some success in English translation as well: her White and Red (US title: Snow White and Russian Red) got quite a bit of attention (get your copy at or

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Doulatabadi on Nobel Prize

       IranMania report that writer Mahmoud Doulatabadi thinks Iranian literary works deserve acclaim. No surprise that he's been nominated for the Nobel Prize (both because of the way the nomination procedure works, as well as his talent -- see our reviews of his Safar and Kelidar, here and here).
       There's certainly an argument to be made for some Iranian writers being worthy of more international acclaim -- but Mohammad Ali Sepanlou also puts his finger on a major hurdle:
The main reason that Persian works are not read abroad is the weak translations of those works, he observed.
       To which we'd add: the absence of translations doesn't help, either.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Sony Labou Tansi praise

       How nice to see a newspaper make some mention of Sony Labou Tansi (and Dambudzo Marechera): in the Mail & Guardian Percy Zvomuya talks with Flora Veit-Wild in A post-colonial carnival:
"Both writers represented the avant-garde of a new generation in their respective countries and regions; their writing was a departure from narrative forms, a breaking of new ground. They converted the absurd realities of the societies in which they lived into texts with an absurd, a grotesque, a mad quality," says Veit-Wild.
       We have three Sony Labou Tansi titles under review: The Seven Solitudes of Lorsa Lopez, The Antipeople, and Parentheses of Blood.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

12 October 2006 - Thursday

And the Nobel Prize for literature goes to ... Orhan Pamuk
The Mystery Guest ventures | (American) National Book Award finalists
Rushdie say: Veils suck | The Quills ! | The Pendragon Legend review

       And the Nobel Prize for literature goes to ... Orhan Pamuk

       It's official: Orhan Pamuk (somewhat to our surprise) takes the Nobel Prize for literature. It's going to be harder to complain about this one than recent winners -- we certainly can't.
       As always, the Nobel site offers decent information. Especially recommended: the telephone interview with him (how did they ever get through ?) Apparently he's in New York -- but somehow we doubt any of the morning shows rushed over a limousine to get him on air this morning .....
       We have several of his titles under review:        And there's a very happy editor/publisher out there who made what was surely a hard sell to the beancounters, but now looks like a birilliant call: commissioning a new translation (by Maureen Freely) of Pamuk's The Black Book (which came out earlier this year and which we should get to eventually). (See the publicity pages at Faber and Vintage, or get your copy at or

       As noted, Pamuk is currently in the US -- The Columbia Spectator now reports he is currently affiliated with the university, offering a celebratory letter from University President Lee C. Bollinger, who reveals:
A Fellow with the University's Committee on Global Thought, Mr. Pamuk will also hold an appointment in Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures and the School of the Arts.
       (We haven't been able to find out much about this 'Committee on Global Thought', but New York explains a bit more about what he has and will be up to in Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Laureate, Lies Low at Columbia.)

       Among the public speaking engagements Pamuk is scheduled to make in the near future are:
       (There was quite a bit of late movement of the Ladbrokes-odds. Most notably, front-runner Orhan Pamuk has fallen a bit out of favour (up to 7/1), leaving Adonis as the clear (betting) favourite (a late surge improving his odds to 3/1). The big mover remains Murakami Haruki, who has gone from 33/1 to 12/1 to 8/1 -- though he's now dropped back to 9/1. But also noteworthy: they've halved Mahmoud Darwish's odds, to 50/1.)

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       The Mystery Guest ventures

       The Elegant Variation points us to the fascinating Translator's Notes on The Mystery Guest, where Lorin Stein reveals and considers all about the translation of The Mystery Guest by Grégoire Bouillier.
       It's useful additional information about the book -- and not the first creative supplemental material on offer on the Internet: as widely noted, there's also The Mystery Guest Trailer (here at (The trailer -- both in theory and in practice -- isn't our kind of thing, but if nothing else it certainly garnered more attention for the book.)
       Presumably not coincidentally, The Mystery Guest is one of the first titles in the Projects Portfolio of the Literary Ventures Fund with its "philanthropic venture-capital-investment model". Certainly, these creative efforts should be applauded (well, we have trouble applauding the trailer, but at least it was ... an idea).

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       (American) National Book Award finalists

       The 2006 (American) National Book Award finalists have been announced. No surprise, we don't have any of the titles under review .....

       We're also not really thrilled by the prize-tie-ins on offer at the NBA site:
Make the National Book Award books in your collection immediately recognizable by using the handsome, official seals now available to libraries and collectors, as well as, retailers. These seals are not only important for present Award Winner and Finalist books but can be used to highlight classic titles from an author's backlist.
       Do any readers buy these ? And what's the deal with making booksellers pay for the honour ? The German Book Prize offered similar stickers to retailers on their website -- but for free.

       (Suggestion for authors: buy a couple of packets of stickers, go to bookstores that stock your book and stick them on the covers. Yes, you too can pretend your book was an NBA finalist -- and you can convince book-buyers (and sellers, probably) too, since no one ever remembers which books were finalists and which weren't. It's probably not what the NBA wants you to do, but sounds like a fun marketing idea to us !)

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       Rushdie says: Veils suck

       Salman Rushdie has weighed in on the Jack Straw-veil controversy that's apparently all the rage in Britain, as Riazat Butt reports in Rushdie backs Straw in row over Muslim veils in The Guardian. You'd figure a literary figure would express himself and formulate his arguments ... well, more impressively than the average guy on the street. But this is Rushdie, and:
Mr Rushdie said: "He was expressing an important opinion which is that veils suck -- which they do.
       All right, he also tried to explain himself better ("Speaking as somebody with three sisters and a very largely female Muslim family, there is not a single woman I know in my family or in their friends who would have accepted the wearing of a veil"), but even that doesn't really address the issue (there's no question of imposing 'the veil', but rather of permitting (or accepting) it).
       In his Notebook-column Clement Freud judges him pretty harshly for his choice of words:
If you write as beautifully as the author of Midnight's Children does, you should, in my opinion, keep your gob shut on radio rather than comment on Jack Straw's reluctance to talk to women wearing veils that hide all but their eyes. On this subject, with pertinent argument to be made for both sides, Rushdie said: "Veils suck."

The word "suck" probably owes its popularity to the fact that it is an accepted four-letter word ending with the letters "uck". But, even according to this strange usage, veils don't suck: bad plays, excruciating opera -- and, in this instance, Salman Rushdie -- suck.
       Freud's complaint, about the use of age-inappropriate language, is fair enough -- but he gives Rushdie far too much credit. In fact, Rushdie has long had this problem, and has proven particularly tin-eared regarding American speech -- recall the painfully awkward The Ground beneath her Feet

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       The Quills !

       So they apparently handed out the Quill Book Awards at a fancy gala at the American Museum of Natural History on Monday; eventually they'll show it on TV, too, -- though we're guessing no one will notice. (Sarah of GalleyCat reports on the ceremony itself, and we sigh again with relief that we don't get invited to these things.)
       See the list of winners (and finalists) here. We had two of the 'General Fiction'-finalists under review -- Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française and David Mitchell's Black Swan Green --, but they were beaten out by Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job. What can we say ?

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       The Pendragon Legend review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of a new translation of Szerb Antal's The Pendragon Legend, which we had been very much looking forward to (and which proved quite as enjoyable as expected).

       The marvelous Pushkin Press brought it out, and we'll be covering several more of their great titles in the near future.

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11 October 2006 - Wednesday

Translation Prizes and Sebald lecture | The Inheritance of Loss takes Man Booker
Hamid Dabashi takes on Reading Lolita in Tehran | Slate's Fall Fiction 'Week'
Fall RainTaxi | Shaikh Zayed Book Prize

       Translation Prizes and Sebald lecture

       In the 6 October TLS Elizabeth Winter runs down this year's Translation Prizes, which were handed out on 9 October. Sorry, we missed the boat on this one -- but they don't exactly do a great job of publicizing these things, see e.g. the not very useful Translators Association Prizes page ..... (We do hope award-presenter (and TLS-editor) Peter Stothard will offer a report about the event at his weblog.)
       Centrepiece of the awards ceremony is the Sebald lecture on the Art of Literary Translation, which this year was: The Peregrinations of Poetry: Hans Magnus Enzensberger in conversation with David Constantine. (There were also Readings from the Translation Prizes).
       A new translation prize this year was the Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, which went to Humphrey Davies for his translation of Elias Khoury's Gate of the Sun.
       We have two of the prize-winning translations under review: A Time for Machetes (published as Machete Season in the US) by Jean Hatzfeld, translated by Linda Coverdale (Scott Moncrieff Prize for translation from French), and Your Face Tomorrow: 1. Fever and Spear by Javier Marías, translated by Margaret Jull Costa (Premio Valle Inclán for translation from Spanish).
       The remaining prizes handed out were the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for translation from German (Philip Boehm's translation of the anonymous A Woman in Berlin), the John Florio Prize for translation from Italian (Carol O'Sullivan and Martin Thom for their translation of Silvia Di Natale's Kuraj), and the Bernard Shaw Prize for translation from Swedish for Sarah Death's translation of Ellen Mattson's Snow).

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       The Inheritance of Loss takes Man Booker

       As you've no doubt heard, The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai has been named this year's winner of the Man Booker Prize.
       For first press reactions, see:
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       Hamid Dabashi takes on Reading Lolita in Tehran

       Arts & Letters Daily points to two articles by Richard Byrne on Hamid Dabashi taking on Azar Nafisi's immensely popular Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Collision of Prose and Politics and Peeking Under the Cover (the latter -- about the book's cover photograph -- certainly suggests a closer examination is warranted ...). See also Foaad Khosmood's interview with Dabashi at Znet, in Lolita and Beyond

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       Slate's Fall Fiction 'Week'

       It's Fall Fiction Week at Slate, and maybe they'll have something interesting. Bizarrely however, they define 'week' as a three-day period here .....

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       Fall RainTaxi

       The Fall online issue of RainTaxi is now available.

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       Shaikh Zayed Book Prize

       At Gulfnews Rania Habib reports that Dh7m Shaikh Zayed Book Prize to recognise creative minds:
Nine different prizes will be awarded annually in April, throughout the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Eight winners will receive Dh750,000, a gold coin and an appreciation certificate, while the winner of the Personality of the Year in the Culture Field will receive Dh1 million.
       ('Personality of the Year' ? Please let that be a mistranslation .....)
       Noteworthy, because 750,000 dirham amount to -- at current exchange rates -- just over US$200,000. So even without the gold coin they toss in, that's a hell of a lot more than even the Man Booker ......
       Will it help foster Arab creativity ? Well, it probably can't hurt .....

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