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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 June 2009

1 June: Saramago and Berlusconi | Kamala Das (1934-2009) | The Foundation Pit | Spanish-language publishing in the US | Guyanese literature
2 June: Prix de l'Inaperçu | June issues | Margaret Drabble Q&A | A Corner of the Veil review
3 June: Calabash Festival reports | The New York Times' price increase | Menand on McGurl's The Program Era | Translating in ... Ukraine | An Elegy for Easterly review-overview
4 June: Reading in ... Kerala | New Words without Borders | Prémio Camões to Arménio Vieira | Home takes Orange Prize
5 June: Prague Writers' Festival | El país de la canela wins Premio Internacional Rómulo Gallegos | Writing in ... Korea | Carlos Ruiz Zafón profile | Cham review
6 June: Ron Rosenbaum and Salinger | Izlaženje review-overview
7 June: Turkish literature abroad | 'New Eyes on the Arab World' report | 1984 at 60 | Readers and/v. writers
8 June: Literary prizes in ... Zimbabwe | Genesis review
9 June: Anne Brontë: Swedish bestseller | Arcade files Chapter 11 | Rawi Hage profile | Countdown to the new translation of The Tin Drum | Bookselling in ... Israel | (South African) Sunday Times Fiction Prize shortlist | Hemon and Díaz on the 'Great American Novel'
10 June: Nextbook becomes Tablet | Kosztolányi's Anna Édes | Mare Kandre | Philip Pullman's 'Thoughts on Form' | Mahmoud Dowlatabadi interview

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10 June 2009 - Wednesday

Nextbook becomes Tablet | Kosztolányi's Anna Édes | Mare Kandre
Philip Pullman's 'Thoughts on Form' | Mahmoud Dowlatabadi interview

       Nextbook becomes Tablet

       Nextbook seemed like a perfectly fine website and name, but they've gone for some major rebranding and retooling and it has been transformed into Tablet: A New Read on Jewish Life.
       As they explain:
Tablet is a daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture. Launched in June 2009, itís a project of the not-for-profit Nextbook Inc. and the sister organization of Nextbook Press, which publishes a line of Jewish-themed books. Our archive holds all the articles and features that originally appeared on the website
       Why have they done this ? The best answer I can come up with is: why not ?
       (I do wonder about the new name, however -- after all, it's already pretty popular, in one form or another, among the denominational crowd: there's a fairly well-known UK periodical called The Tablet, as well as others, like The Tablet - The Weekly Newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn, etc.)

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       Kosztolányi's Anna Édes

       At hlo Zoltán András Bán reviews the great Kosztolányi Dezső's Anna Édes; see also the complete review review.

       What's also exciting: New Directions will be bringing out his Esti Kornél -- though that will still be a while.

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       Mare Kandre

       It's been a while since they updated the Swedish Book Review site, but now they've put two issues up. Nothing from the 2009:1 Issue is accessible online, but at least you can see what articles are on offer. There's not much more from the 2008:2 Issue available -- but Eric Dickens' look at 'The Work of Mare Kandre', Sensibility, Anguish and Humour, as well as an excerpt from Aliide, Aliide translated by Dickens are accessible.
       See also Kandre's official site -- and note that, as noted at I am the Crime, she fronted the Global Infantilists before turning to writing; have a listen at

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       Philip Pullman's 'Thoughts on Form'

       In an interview with Rebecca Rosen at The Oxonian Review Philip Pullman offers his Thoughts on Form.

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       Mahmoud Dowlatabadi interview

       The Neue Zürcher Zeitung continues to deliver (albeit only in German) with their interviews with international literary notables: Mahmoud Dowlatabadi's (also: Mahmud Doulatabadi) 'The Colonel' hasn't been published in Iran uet, but is now available in German, as Der Colonel (see the Unionsverlag publicity page, or get your copy at, and Susanne Schanda talks to him about it and more, in Das ist der Preis der Unabhängigkeit.
       The author, who was imprisoned under the Shah, hasn't had it particularly easy in the Islamic Republic either, but has remained in Iran. He notes that along with 'The Colonel' two more of his novels are currently at the censors, awaiting permission to be printed, and he complains about the cultural situation in the country (i.e. all the religious-political meddling). In the upcoming (12 June) presidential elections he certainly favours candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi's hands-off (of culture) attitude.
       He's also dedicated to his craft: writing is his destiny, his compulsion, he maintains. 'It means dying and being born again' -- and: 'I've fainted several times while writing, once because I forgot to eat for 36 hours.'
       The only title of his available in English is Missing Soluch -- which I will eventually get to ! --; see the Melville House publicity page, or get your copy at or
       Several of his titles are under review at the complete review; see, for example, the review of Safar.

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9 June 2009 - Tuesday

Anne Brontë: Swedish bestseller | Arcade files Chapter 11
Rawi Hage profile | Countdown to the new translation of The Tin Drum
Bookselling in ... Israel | (South African) Sunday Times Fiction Prize shortlist
Hemon and Díaz on the 'Great American Novel'

       Anne Brontë: Swedish bestseller

       What a very different scene in some corners of the world: as reported at Alma's excellent Bloggerel, Anne Brontë's Agnes Grey storms into the Top Ten Chart .... Yes, they've brought out Brontë's guvernantroman in Swedish -- see the Norstedts publicity page -- and there's been enough interest to propel it onto the bestseller list.
       Agnes Grey, of all titles ?
       And Anne, of all the Brontës ?
       Yes, it's a different world up there in Scandinavia .....
       As Bloggerel also notes:
This surprise entry of a translation of Agnes Grey in a top-ten chart in Sweden 162 years since its first publication, and the number one spot gained by Zweig's Journey into the Past (just released in UK by Pushkin Press) recently in France show us at least two things: first, the incredible power of classics across time and space, their ability to speak to and excite different people of different countries, ages and times; and secondly, that whereas a classic can still get into the bestsellers' charts in Europe, the same is almost an impossibility in UK or US.
       (Keeping things in some perspective, however: I wouldn't be surprised -- in fact, I'm pretty sure -- that sales in the low three figures for the week are easily enough to get a book onto the Swedish bestseller lists.)

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       Arcade files Chapter 11

       Founded just over two decades ago, Arcade always had an interesting list, but unfortunately, as Matthew Flamm reports for Crain's, Literary publisher Arcade files for bankruptcy.

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       Rawi Hage profile

       In The National Ben East profiles Rawi Hage and his recent novel, Cockroach.
       Cockroach is available in the UK (get your copy at, but it is yet another book where the US edition is only coming out in October (pre-order your copy at -- despite the fact that the Canadian edition, out from House of Anansi Press for a quite a while now, is fairly readily available, at least online (get your copy at
       I didn't really take to the much-praised De Niro's Game, but I'll probably have a look at Cockroach.

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       Countdown to the new translation of The Tin Drum

       At Three Percent Chad Post reports on Gunter Grass and the New Translation of The Tin Drum.
       The translation is due out in October; see the publicity pages at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Harvill Secker, or pre-order your copy at or
       Chad writes:
Mitchellís is more in keeping with Grass's original text in terms of rhythm and "semantic effect."

This isnít to say that Manheim's translation is bad -- both Grass and Mitchell go out of their way to say what a great job Manheim did. But he was a young translator under some tight time constraints, and Grassís novel isn't easy for anyone.
       When I heard Grass and Mitchell speak about the new translation two years ago my very distinct impression was that Grass could barely contain his disdain for Manheim's version; he was careful in the choice of his words and didn't put it down directly, but the fact that he's been angling for a new translation for some three decades suggest he was never too pleased with it.

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       Bookselling in ... Israel

       It's time for Hebrew Book Week in Israel, and so there are quite a few book/industry-themed articles appearing, including Ron Friedman's report that Bill would freeze new-book prices for two years in The Jerusalem Post. Apparently:
Hebrew Book Week, which has been an annual event since 1926, is taking place under a cloud of publishers' deep concern over the continued viability of their industry, which has undergone a dramatic upheaval during the last 10 years.

After decades of near-total dominance by bookstore chain Steimatzky, a new chain of book retailers, Tzomet Sfarim, entered the market, and has successfully challenged the 170-store veteran bookseller with an aggressive price-cutting strategy.
       The problem ?
Sadan argues that most publishers can't afford the discounts they are encouraged to offer. This system can't sustain itself over the long term and some publishing houses are already faltering.
       Have I mentioned that I have trouble understanding how publishers go about doing their 'business' ? Yes, it's as mystifying abroad as it is in the US and UK.
       Other 'problems' are similar too, even if the scale there is different:
"In a country where 5,000 new titles were published over the last year, I don't know of a single store that can contain everything that came out, not even half of it," said BPAI director-general Amnon Ben-Shmuel. "The outcome is that the shelf-life of a given new book is measured in days, If it's not an immediate success, after a few days it will be transferred to the back shelves and then, not much later, will be moved to storage.
       (Is he kidding ? 5000 titles is nothing !)

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       (South African) Sunday Times Fiction Prize shortlist

       They've announced the (South African) Sunday Times Fiction Prize shortlist, selected from a longlist of 33 titles.
       Two of the titles are readily available in the US/UK: Damon Galgut's The Impostor (get your copy at or and Anne Landsman's The Rowing Lesson (get your copy at or
       (Landsman -- see her offical site -- has a Columbia MFA, and lives in NY.)

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       Hemon and Díaz on the 'Great American Novel'

       In an (available only in German) interview in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung Thomas David talks to Aleksandar Hemon and Junot Díaz about: Amerika -- auf dem Weg zur postnationalen Literatur ? ('America -- on the way to a post-national literature').
       Interesting stuff, including their thoughts on the idea of a/the 'Great American Novel', which Díaz believes has to do with "an incredible nostalgia for a place that never existed and which will never exist", while Hemon thinks the concept has to be considered in conjunction with "the American longing for great men and leaders".
       Worth a closer look; I hope someone will publish the English version (signandsight ?).

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8 June 2009 - Monday

Literary prizes in ... Zimbabwe | Genesis review

       Literary prizes in ... Zimbabwe

       In The Zimbabwe Standard Beaven Tapureta asks: Do Prizes Play a Role in Arts Development ?, reporting on a local literary discussion.
       But Shimmer Chinodya -- who has won his fair share --:
said prizes can also be dangerous to a young author or artist as he/she may try to outdo him/herself with pride which in turn destroys or displaces an artistís objectives.

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       Genesis review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Bernard Beckett's Genesis.
       This came out a couple of years ago in New Zealand, and has now been published in the UK and US. Marketed as a kid's book in New Zealand (where it picked up a couple of childrens' books prizes), it is apparently being sold as an adult title in the US (see also the fancy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publicity page), while in the UK Quercus is trying to have it both ways, selling it with both an adult and a YA cover ......
       It has also been longlisted for the Guardian children's fiction prize -- though they describe it as: "Bernard Beckett's exploration of a society cut off from the outside world", which doesn't really get anywhere near the gist of the matter.

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7 June 2009 - Sunday

Turkish literature abroad | 'New Eyes on the Arab World' report
1984 at 60 | Readers and/v. writers

       Turkish literature abroad

       In a good overview in Sunday's Zaman Bünyamin Köseli finds World's eyes on Turkish literature, finding:
The selection of Istanbul as a European Capital of Culture for 2010 has helped to facilitate the promotion of Turkey and the project called The Introduction of Turkish Culture, Art and Literature (TEDA) has served as a turning point. As part of the project which is led by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, close to 600 publications have been translated into different languages since 2005, giving foreign readers the opportunity to get to know 150 Turkish authors. The number of books translated within the context of the project in the last four years is almost six times as many as the number of books translated in the history of Turkey.
       Six times as many sounds a bit unlikely, but obviously things have improved greatly.

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       'New Eyes on the Arab World' report

       In Talking books in The National reports on the recent panel discussion, New Eyes on the Arab World held in New York in conjunction with BookExpo America.

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       1984 at 60

       In the Independent on Sunday Andrew Johnson talks to writers about Orwell's 1984 sixty years on -- "and asks them to cite their favourite reads". (I don't really get the connection, but it makes for decent filler-material.)
       1984 isn't under review at the complete review, but get your copy at or

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       Readers and/v. writers

       In Meet the readers? No thanks in The Observer Robert McCrum writes about how writers treat their readers -- and concludes:
It is unfashionable to say so, but having this kind of writer-reader relationship is no bad thing. It keeps your work anchored, gives it veracity and probably saves it from a fatal self-indulgence. Genre writers know this. Increasingly, so will the literary elite who have been allowed to affect a stratospheric elevation above the mundane turbulence of crime and thriller.

Not for much longer, I think. Literary festivals, book clubs and writing groups, and the new technology, have all narrowed the gap between the artist and their audience. It's only a matter of time before this sea change will send a future literary generation back to the ways of the past.
       Even if I were not all for un-anchored works, largely opposed to fictional veracity, and didn't enjoy a good dose of self-overindulgence I'd still rather writers have nothing to do with readers. I'm all for: out of sight, out of mind -- give me the book, spare me the human touch. Let's open up that gap again, not shrink it !

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6 June 2009 - Saturday

Ron Rosenbaum and Salinger | Izlaženje review-overview

       Ron Rosenbaum and Salinger

       At Slate Ron Rosenbaum implores: Save the Salinger Archives ! (apparently: 'Even if we have to save them from Salinger himself').
       Much as I love Salinger's work, and would love to see much more of it, I strongly feel the decision is entirely his (and there are few people I hold in greater contempt than Max Brod, no matter what excuses he made/had ...).
       For his sake, I pray Salinger is wise in the choice of his literary executor(s) and testamentary instructions.

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       Izlaženje review-overview

       The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of Barbi Marković's Izlaženje -- her remix of Thomas Bernhard's Gehen (Walking, included in the volume of Three Novellas; see the University of Chicago Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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5 June 2009 - Friday

Prague Writers' Festival | El país de la canela wins Premio Internacional Rómulo Gallegos
Writing in ... Korea | Carlos Ruiz Zafón profile | Cham review

       Prague Writers' Festival

       The Prague Writers' Festival runs 7 to 11 June, and in The Prague Post Steffen Silvis offers a preview, in A gathering of storytellers.

       They also promise a number of interviews with participants; the first is Silvis' with Iain Banks, On the cusp.
       Among the questions:
TPP: Is there any component in your science-fiction work that might be considered "Scottish" ?

IB: I recall mentioning a kilt in The Player of Games.

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       El país de la canela wins Premio Internacional Rómulo Gallegos

       El país de la canela by Colombian author William Ospina has won prestigious Premio Internacional Rómulo Gallegos, beating out 274 other Spanish titles; see, for example, this report in Los Tiempos.
       El país de la canela is not available in English yet (though some of the other nominated titles are), but you can get the Spanish edition at -- and Ospina's Too Late for Man is available in English from .

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       Writing in ... Korea

       In an editorial in the JoongAng Ilbo Kwon Seok-cheon exhorts Korean writers to be more monomaniacally obsessed, arguing:
If writers lack the determination to focus all their energies on their work, no one will ever be satisfied.
       Among the role-models he cites is Japanese author Maruyama Kenji, Kwon noting approvingly:
He decided against having children. He thought a child would interfere with the structured life he needs for writing.

Maruyama continues to live with such determination and discipline, his head shaven as if he were a monk.
       Not like these apparently lazy-ass and distracted Korean writers who still have all their hair .....

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       Carlos Ruiz Zafón profile

       In The Independent Boyd Tonkin profiles The Angel's Game-author Carlos Ruiz Zafón, in In the shadow of a lost city: The secrets and struggles behind Carlos Ruiz Zafón's success.

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       Cham review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jonathan Trigell's Cham.

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4 June 2009 - Thursday

Reading in ... Kerala | New Words without Borders
Prémio Camões to Arménio Vieira | Home takes Orange Prize

       Reading in ... Kerala

       In Le Monde diplomatique Mridula Koshy writes about Kerala: mad about books, noting that:
Outside the big cities, a very small minority of Indians -- only seven to eight million -- read in English. India has an overall rate of 65% literacy -- measured in people's own mother tongues. But where India drops into the Indian Ocean, in the state of Kerala, home of Malayalam literature, literacy is close to 100%. Not surprisingly, the population of Kerala -- some 31 million -- reads books.

Malayalam writers are in the enviable position of writing for Adiga's rickshaw puller and not just about him.
       (Koshy refers here to Aravind Adiga's Man Booker-winning The White Tiger.)
       Among the local authors is Paul Zacharia, and:
Writers in Kerala locate themselves in the great confluence of world literature. They are powerfully influenced by both Malayalam and world literature. Zacharia, for instance, says of himself: "I have been bilingual in my formative reading". But he adds that once they write, "authors are almost entirely focused on the Malayali audience and not on the world".
In a recent report in The Hindu, Ravi DC, CEO of DC Books, Kerala's leading publishing house, said the sale of Malayalam books has been growing by at least 30% a year.
       The only somewhat troubling news being that:
But the most recent trend in Malayalam literature is the personal narrative.
       And no surprise (well, maybe to some publishing executives):
There is also the matter of affordability. English language books in India are more costly than those in regional languages. A mass-market regional language book normally costs Rs 60 (just over $1), while a mass-market English language book normally costs $5.
       Koshy's conclusion may come as a surprise, given how Indian literature is perceived abroad:
India reads, but it reads overwhelmingly in Indian languages.
       The only Malayalam title under review at the complete review is O.V.Vijayan's The Legends of Khasak, but I do hope to get to more.

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       New Words without Borders

       The June issue of Words without Borders is now available online, and is devoted to: 'Writing from Pakistan'.

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       Prémio Camões to Arménio Vieira

       The Prémio Camões (no official link that I could find) -- the most prestigious Portuguese-language author-prize, worth Ä100,000 -- has been awarded to Cape Verde poet Arménio Vieira.
       Given the impressive list of previous winners -- who include Jorge Amado (1994), José Saramago (1995), Rubem Fonseca (2003), António Lobo Antunes (2004), and João Ubaldo Ribeiro -- it can certainly be taken pretty seriously.

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       Home takes Orange Prize

       They've announced that Home (by Marilynne Robinson) has won the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction.
       None of her work is under review at the complete review; see, for example the FSG and Virago publicity pages for Home, or get your copy at or

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3 June 2009 - Wednesday

Calabash Festival reports | The New York Times' price increase
Menand on McGurl's The Program Era | Translating in ... Ukraine
An Elegy for Easterly review-overview

       Calabash Festival reports

       They held the Calabash Festival in Jamaica a bit more than a week ago, and while there hasn't been much coverage, there are a few reports to be found:
  • Philip Womack reports on it in The Telegraph
  • The Gleaner has a few reports on it; see, for example, Mel Cooke on the Strong first night for Calabash
  • The Poetry Foundation's always interesting Harriet weblog has several reports by Kwame Dawes; this is the final one

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       The New York Times' price increase

       So stealthily did The New York Times increase the cover price for its weekday edition that neither I nor my newsagent noticed on Monday, and I still only paid $1.50 for it; in fact the paper now costs $2.00 (and the Sunday edition is apparently also going to see a price-increase).
       I understand that the newspaper, like many newspapers, has not been doing well as ad revenue has plummeted; I have to wonder, however, whether an exorbitant 33% price increase is any way to plug the gap. In non-inflationary times, where their costs -- other than that of servicing their debt -- have not risen anywhere even near as much a 33% price increase sounds like a hard sell. Especially after it came on top of a 25% hike not too long ago (the price went up from $1.25 to $1.50 last year).
       I was annoyed by the last price increase, but have continued to buy the paper with almost the same frequency as usual -- up to $1.25 I purchased it every day, no matter what; at $1.50 I'd take a pass if I hadn't gotten it by late afternoon and knew I wouldn't find enough time to peruse it in its entirety -- maybe two or three times a month. At $2.00 I'm balking.
       I hate reading newspaper/magazine articles on my computer. The Internet is great for getting the brief bursts of the latest news and the sports scores, but what I read The New York Times for I much prefer to read in hardcopy form. Still, I follow a lot of newspapers (mostly all those foreign ones) online, and at some point I'd make that switch for my dose of The New York Times as well (though I'd no longer read it as devotedly or carefully, i.e. it would also become a less influential part of my daily news- and opinion-gathering). And, yes, $2.00 sure looks like that point. (And if they expected me to pay for the privilege of reading it online -- nothing doing: I'd miss it, but there are enough alternatives for me to get my fill.)
       I might still spring for the Monday edition (weekend sports roundup; my favorite business news coverage day), and maybe occasionally Friday (expanded arts coverage -- and, in one of the few cut-backs I wholeheartedly approve of, no more 'Escapes'-section to deal with, a waste of paper that I viscerally loathed). But otherwise ? I think I'll manage just fine.

       I am also shocked by how The New York Times has handled the price-increase: yes, there was a little box on Monday's front page noting the new rates, but I could find no official press release at The New York Times Company website, and at The New York Times' site managing editor John Geddes' 'Talk to the Newsroom'-mention, About That Price Increase, seems the only place it's been addressed -- and piss-poorly at that, as he's reduced to pseudo-explanations such as:
We're still in what might charitably be called a challenging business environment. The revenue outlook for the media industry is daunting. Advertising is down and no one can quite tell to what extent the decline is a short-term, recession-based episode or the first wave of a longer-term secular change. That leaves circulation as the major revenue source that we can turn to.
       Admittedly, it's harder to increase circulation by 33% than the cover-price, but it might have been an idea to try harder in that area (advertisers seem to like more eyeballs too -- though at $2.00 maybe the argument is that the demographics will be better, even if the audience turns out to be (much) smaller.)
       Among the few articles addressing the price-increase, here and elsewhere, is Greg Bensinger's Bloomberg-piece, Publishers Tap Readers for Revenue With $2 Newspapers.

       Like the publishing 'business' the newspaper industry has long baffled me, and antics like The New York Times' new headquarters (and the accounting contortions they've now gone through with their sale/lease-back -- who the hell thinks up these things ?) make me doubt they have any idea what they're doing; nine-tenths of the industry's woes, at least at this hour, seems simply ascribable to the ridiculous debt-burdens so many publishers assumed. Yes, there are underlying problems with the general business model, especially if no one wants to advertise in newspapers any more, but for now surely most of these papers would be hanging on quite nicely if they weren't being crushed by debt obligations (a billion plus dollars at the NYT ? come on ...). Getting rid of yet more newspaper-consumers by drastically increasing prices -- and 33% is just an insane amount -- does not sound like a very promising road to go down.

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       Menand on McGurl's The Program Era

       I've been intrigued by Mark McGurl's The Program Era for a few weeks now, leafing through it but not taking the plunge (worried about the my reaction, given my antipathy to creative writing programs (or rather what comes out of them)), but after Louis Menand's review-article in The New Yorker, Show or Tell: Should creative writing be taught ? I definitely will.
       For now, see also the Harvard University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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       Translating in ... Ukraine

       In The Day Liudmyla Taran profiles translator-into-the-Ukrainian Olha Seniuk, an interesting foreign perspective (especially given Soviet -- and Russian(-language) -- dominance until recently).

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       An Elegy for Easterly review-overview

       The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of Zimbabwean author Petina Gappah's An Elegy for Easterly.

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2 June 2009 - Tuesday

Prix de l'Inaperçu | June issues
Margaret Drabble Q&A | A Corner of the Veil review

       Prix de l'Inaperçu

       They awarded the Prix de l'Inaperçu in France a couple of days ago -- awards for books that have been overlooked. En espérant la guerre by Dominique Conil won in the French category, and La Chambre solitaire by Shin Kyong-suk in the foreigncatgory; see also The Chosun Ilbo report, Korean Author Wins French Literary Award.
       See also the Munhakdogne foreign rights page -- it's the second book, An Isolated Room. Note that rights have been sold in French, German, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai -- but not English. Indeed, look at the other titles on the foreign rights page -- quite a few of which sound pretty intriguing -- and note that while the French, for example, have picked up quite a few, no US or UK publishers have bothered. Okay, in both the French and German cases it's mainly one dedicated publisher -- the superb Editions Philippe Picquier, with their great East Asian line, and Pendragon Verlag (which has a thing about Korean literature) -- but why is that possible there and not here ?

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

       June issues

       Among the June issues of online publications now available are Bookslut (the new editor off to a good start by getting the month's issue up on the first already) and Open Letters Monthly -- so packed that I don't even mind the space devoted to 'A Fiction Portfolio'.
       As usual, not much of the new (Summer) issue of The Threepenny Review is available online, but at least there's John Berger's Mahmoud Darwish-inspired piece on A Place Weeping.

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

       Margaret Drabble Q&A

       At The Telegraph they try to get creative in their Q&A with Margaret Drabble, Kate Weinberg asking questions such as: If you could have been born in a different century, which would it be ? and If you had to represent your country in international competition, what would it be for ?

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       A Corner of the Veil review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Laurence Cossé's A Corner of the Veil.
       I'd come across mentions of it repeatedly, most recently a couple of weeks ago in the TLS, but it seems to have gone out of print very quickly (despite reviews in both The New York Times and The New York Times Book Review -- an almost unheard of double nowadays for a foreign-language title); sometimes, however, the market has it right: despite the interesting idea, it's a poor piece of work.

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

1 June 2009 - Monday

Saramago and Berlusconi | Kamala Das (1934-2009) | The Foundation Pit
Spanish-language publishing in the US | Guyanese literature

       Saramago and Berlusconi

       The Italian press has had a lot of fun with this the past few days, and now even the English-language press is picking up on it; see, for example, Elizabeth Nash's report in The Independent, Saramago vs Silvio: Nobel laureate rails after Italian publishers axe book, as:
Jose Saramago has launched a blistering assault on Silvio Berlusconi, whose publishing house has dropped the Portuguese Nobel laureate's latest offering because it describes the Italian prime minister as a "delinquent".

The Einaudi publishing house, which is part of Mr Berlusconi's Mondadori empire, has published all Saramagoís works in Italian for 20 years. But it declined to publish El Cuaderno (The Notebook), a compilation of Mr Saramago's blog entries, because it contained "accusations that would be condemned in any court".
       Yes, the Nobel laureate's 'blook' -- taken from his popular weblog, El Cuaderno de Saramago -- won't be brought out by Einaudi.
       What I find odd is that otherwise Einaudi and Saramago seem to have no problem continuing to do business with each other. (Admittedly, it is pretty hard to do any sort of media-related business in Italy without Berlusconi's grubby little fingers being somehow involved.)

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

       Kamala Das (1934-2009)

       Indian author Kamala Surayya Das, who wrote in both English and Malayalam, has passed away; see, for example, The Hindu report, A writer who shocked custodians of conventional values.
       A smattering of her work is available in English: Encountering Kamala seems to be the best introductory volume (get your copy at or ). Publisher Gorgeous Notions Press has some additional information, but since they have a horrific 'Flash' homepage (why ? why ? why ?) you have to seek it out on your own (i.e. it can't be linked to directly).

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

       The Foundation Pit

       In The National Ilya Bernstein reviews the new translation of Andrey Platonov's The Foundation Pit which New York Review Books is bringing out (see their publicity page, or get your copy at or
       Bernstein still has some translation concerns:
The lionís share of this, alas, is inevitably lost in translation. What Platonov is in Russian is known. What he might eventually become in English still remains to be seen. A new translation of The Foundation Pit, published by New York Review Books, gives some compelling indications of what that might be. Considering what translators of Platonovís work are up against, Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler and Olga Meerson have done an admirable job. The screws in their text could be tightened in a thousand places, but at least they are all in the right holes.
       (Robert Chandler already had one go at the book a while back, and the other widely circulated translation is Mirra Ginsburg's.)
       See also David Bezmozgis' Q&A with Chandler in the National Post.

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

       Spanish-language publishing in the US

       In an AP report Hillel Italie considers Lost in translation: The Spanish-language puzzle, as:
The long-rumored e-book boom at last has arrived. But publishers still wait, and wait, for another supposed surge: Spanish-language titles.

Spanish-language sales remained small and sporadic. A handful of books -- translations of such blockbusters as the Harry Potter series and The Da Vinci Code -- might sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Otherwise, a Spanish work is lucky to sell more than 10,000, according to Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy.
       From what I've seen, publishers do a miserable job with Spanish-language titles -- most obviously, for example, in completely missing the Roberto Bolaño-boat (no US edititons whatsoever). Where they make a proper effort they seem to be doing okay -- the US edition of Carlos Ruiz Zafón's El Juego del Ángel, for example, has a decent Amazon sales rank of 5,284 -- sure, that's small compared to the sales rank of the about-to-be-published English version, The Angel's Game (see also the complete review-review-overview), but the Spanish-language edition has been available for ages and seems to be holding up very well.

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

       Guyanese literature

       At Sunday Starbroek Al Creighton offers an historical overview of Guyanese literature in Before and after.

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

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