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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 June 2010

11 June: Ferdinand Oyono (1929-2010) | African pilgrimages | Grossman to get Peace Prize | John E. Woods profile | A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of his Arm ... reviews
12 June: IMPAC impact ? | Lu Xun profile | Ballard archive
13 June: Profiles: Jonathan Coe - Sebhat Gebre-egziabher
14 June: Science fiction in ... South Korea | Gamal al-Ghitani Q & A | Uwem Akpan in Abuja | Thirteen Hours review
15 June: Canada's critical culture | Tsitsi Dangarembga profile | Your Republic is Calling You review
16 June: Tagore paintings | Publishing in ... Angola | Literature in ... Colombia | Jean-Patrick Manchette reviews
17 June: Alter national-Ulysses | WSOY ditches Oksanen | Reading in ... India | Book-signings in ... Saudi Arabia | Jim Thompson revival ? | 'France's TV literary chat scene' | A Severed Head review
18 June: Prizes: IMPAC - Cévennes du Roman Européen - JQ-Wingate Literary | German paperback anniversary | Witz review-overview
19 June: José Saramago (1922-2010) | Geoffrey Hill elected Oxford Professor of Poetry | Trans-slam | Lolita edition pulped | UK 'top 20 under 40' ? | The Most Beautiful Book in the World review
20 June: Book review reviews | Tokarczuk Q & A | 'Celebrating Tamil' | (Non-)Indian exotica

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20 June 2010 - Sunday

Book review reviews | Tokarczuk Q & A
'Celebrating Tamil' | (Non-)Indian exotica

       Book review reviews

       Mark Sarvas stopped offering his LATBR thumbnails -- weekly reviews of The Los Angeles Times Book Review -- a couple of years ago, Edward Champion stopped offering (and withholding) brownies to Sam Tanenhaus based on the editor's performance with each week's The New York Times Book Review a while back, and now, after five years, Levi Asher has announced the End of an Experiment: Releasing the Review, as he is ending his weekly review of the NYTBR.
       Levi writes that instead:
I'll reveal more next weekend when I begin, but what I have in mind addresses my longtime wish to write more about philosophy, ethics and practical debate on this site.
       While I'm sure his thoughts on these subjects and books will be of interest, I'll miss the review-reviews -- and this leaves a gaping void in the online world (while, I might add, more than enough people already offer pieces on "philosophy, ethics and practical debate" ...). I hope someone has a go at it -- I'm pretty sure it's a decent traffic-generator.

       [I don't have the heart to review the NYTBR; I can barely even bring myself to mention it any longer; this week's issue is typical, yet again, yet again, yet again: not the slightest bit in translation bothered with (and, yeah, like Levi, I'm disheartened by the sight of what gets cover-coverage).]

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

       Tokarczuk Q & A

       Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has a Q & A with Olga Tokarczuk, Poland's Tokarczuk: 'Literature Is Always Political'.
       Her most recently translated novel is Primeval and Other Times (which I should be getting to fairly soon); see the Twisted Spoon publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       'Celebrating Tamil'

       'On the eve of the World Classical Tamil Conference, Jayanthasri Balakrishnan reflects on the rich legacy of its literature' in The Hindu, in Celebrating Tamil.

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

       (Non-)Indian exotica

       In The Hindu Ashley Tellis rips Meaghan Delahunt's The Red Book to shreds, finding it to be truly Vapid fare -- so vapid, in fact, that:
The book took me months to read and not only because of all this insufferable exotica but because, principally, it is so badly written.
       A big part of the problem:
If you think the 'India as exotica' novel is a thing of the past, think again. If the Brits did it for centuries and if the Indian English novelist took over so admirably, from novels called The Romantics to ones with saris, guavas, arranged marriages and sari shops in their titles, why shouldn't the Australians hop on as well ? So, Meaghan Delahunt writes The Red Book which is a collage of bad photographs as sentences, Buddhist mumbo-jumbo, deaths that are forms of communication with other worlds, hijras with pink hibiscus in their hair and the Bhopal gas tragedy as the framing nightmare and we are asked to be stunned into silence.
       Get your copy at or .....

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

19 June 2010 - Saturday

José Saramago (1922-2010) | Geoffrey Hill elected Oxford Professor of Poetry
Trans-slam | Lolita edition pulped
UK 'top 20 under 40' ? | The Most Beautiful Book in the World review

       José Saramago (1922-2010)

       As widely reported, 1998 Nobel laureate José Saramago has passed away; see, for example Fernanda Eberstadt's obituary in The New York Times or Richard Lea's Nobel laureate José Saramago dies, aged 87 in The Guardian.

       No Saramago titles are under review at the complete review at this time, but I will eventually get around to posting some.

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

       Geoffrey Hill elected Oxford Professor of Poetry

       The great Geoffrey Hill deservedly romped to victory in the election for Oxford Professor of Poetry, where he will succeed Christopher Ricks; see the official press release, Geoffrey Hill triumphs as Professor of Poetry.
       With 1,156 votes he received more than three times as many as the runner-up, Michael Horovitz -- and almost half of the over 2500 total votes cast.

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


       The London Review Bookshop's World Literature Weekend 2010 is this weekend, and among the highlights is the Traduction en Direct - Live Translation 'trans-slam', where Sarah Ardizzone and Frank Wynne face off over an Alain Mabanckou-text.
       Ardizzone previews it at The Guardian's book blog, in Walking the tightrope between translation and interpretation -- and reveals that Daniel Hahn, who has seen both translations, notes:
While conceding there are no whopping discrepancies of meaning in our translations, he has gleefully divulged the following piece of data: "Of the 56 sentences in the story, there is precisely one which is rendered just the same by both translators. That one sentence, incidentally, is the line of dialogue that goes: "Really ?""
       I hope they print both translations (and the original) somewhere .....

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

       Lolita edition pulped

       In The Bookseller Benedicte Page reports that Penguin pulps Lolita after axing fictional foreword:
Penguin is pulping the new Penguin Modern Classics edition of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, published at the end of April, after accidentally excising the novel's fictional foreword.
       Yes, they simply cut 'John Ray, Jr.''s foreword -- presumably figuring a foreword by someone who may have been an authority in his day but whose name no one recognizes nowadays could safely be left out .....
       Great editing work over at Penguin -- but I'm also happy to remind readers that the Nabokov estate is now handled by a 'literary' agent who here yet again proves how little oversight and hands-on care he provides for the authors and estates whose work he 'handles' (any 'literary' agent worth his salt and commission would have vetted the edition and never let it see the light of day in this form).

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

       UK 'top 20 under 40' ?

       The New Yorker's publicity-exercise of selecting '20 under 40' in their current issue (see also my previous mention) has spawned all sorts of alternate lists -- see, for example, The Millions' 20 More Under 40. Now in The Telegraph Lorna Bradbury 'presents 20 writers under 40 to watch', wondering Are these Britain's best 20 novelists under 40 ?
       Consierably more under review from this bunch at the complete review than of The New Yorker's lot ...: Chris Cleave (Incendiary), Mohsin Hamid (The Reluctant Fundamentalist), China Miéville (King Rat, Perdido Street Station, The Scar), Dan Rhodes (Anthropology, The Little White Car), Adam Thirlwell (The Escape, Miss Herbert (a.k.a The Delighted States), Politics), and Scarlett Thomas (Dead Clever, The End of Mr. Y, Going Out, PopCo)

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

       The Most Beautiful Book in the World review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Eight Novellas (well, short stories) by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, The Most Beautiful Book in the World.
       Yeah, this didn't go over really well with me .....

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

18 June 2010 - Friday

Prizes: IMPAC - Cévennes du Roman Européen - JQ-Wingate Literary
German paperback anniversary | Witz review-overview

       Prize: IMPAC

       They've announced that The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker has won the 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; the author will share the €100,000-prize -- in a 75/25 split -- with translator David Colmer.
       Recall that it was also a 'Best Translated Book'-finalist .....
       Pretty disappointing that, under the IMPAC's odd nomination procedure (well, at least publishers don't get to decide what to enter ...) it was nominated by four libraries ... that are all in the Netherlands .....
       See also Eileen Battersby's profile of the winner, The story of a man who never got to live, in the Irish Times.

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

       Prize: Cévennes du Roman Européen

       In The Independent Boyd Tonkin 'reports on a French quest for a prize-winning 'European novel'', in European novels -- Seeking harmony on the hillsides, as he reports on being one of the judges for the Prix Cévennes du Roman Européen .
       The prize went to Daniel Kehlmann's novel, Fame.

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

       Prize: JQ-Wingate Literary

       The Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Literary Prize went to Adina Hoffman's My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness -- but, while they sent out a nice press release, there's no mention yet at the official site, last I checked; see, for example, Alexandra Coghlan's post, Lived resistance, at the New Statesman's Cultural Capital blog.
       See also the Yale University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       German paperback anniversary

       Not quite as storied as the Penguin paperbacks (and a less pleasing, slightly larger size ...) Rowohlt's rororo paperback line is also celebrating an anniversary: as Michael Marek reports at Deutsche Welle, German paperback industry celebrate 60 years of affordable reading -- and:
Today, the light-weight books are as popular as ever with more than 600 million Rowohlt paperbacks issued since 1950

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

       Witz review-overview

       The most recent addition to the complete review is a review-overview of Joshua Cohen's Witz.
       I'll get to this, but it may still be a while -- but since there's been enough solid review-coverage already it seems worthwhile to at least post this information page.

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

17 June 2010 - Thursday

Alter national-Ulysses | WSOY ditches Oksanen | Reading in ... India
Book-signings in ... Saudi Arabia | Jim Thompson revival ?
'France's TV literary chat scene' | A Severed Head review

       Alter national-Ulysses

       In honor of Bloomsday yesterday Joshua Cohen offered up 'the books from Turkey to Argentina that have been called the Ulysses of their own country', in The Heirs of Joyce's Ulysses at The Daily Beast.
       An entertaining list -- and, for the record, I've read the Russian, British, German, Indian, Turkish, Welsh, and Israeli ones.

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

       WSOY ditches Oksanen

       A very surprising move in Finland, where, as Helsingin Sanomat reports, WSOY and star author Sofi Oksanen part ways, as:
A long-simmering conflict between Finland's largest publishing company WSOY and the star author Sofi Oksanen took an unexpected turn on Tuesday, when the publishing company decided that it would not publish any more of Oksanen's books.
       Interesting, too, that it was mega-publisher (a dominant player in the Scandinavian field) WSOY that ditched the bestselling author, rather than her seeking out greener pastures -- despite the fact that:
WSOY has published all four of Oksanen's books so far. The most recent of them is Purge, which has sold 157,000 copies.
       (That's a lot of books in the tiny Finnish market.)
       It doesn't happen often that a publisher wil dump a very successful author (and with her foreign rights sales Oksanen is surely one of the three or four most successful Finnish-writing authors around), so she really must have pissed them off.

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

       Reading in ... India

       Megha Mishra's IANS report (here at the Hindustan Times) finds GenY enamoured by pulp fiction, as:
More and more students may be opting for English literature and media studies in Delhi University, but if you happen to see a GenY girl or boy with a book outside class, chances are it'll be pulp fiction.

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

       Book-signings in ... Saudi Arabia

       K.S.Ramkumar reports on Heralding change in literary scene in Arab News, as:
Four Saudi women writers spent Tuesday evening at the Virgin Megastore in Roshana International Center signing their latest books for book lovers and avid readers.
       Author Amal Shata finds:
"The idea of having a book-signing event, which is not very common in Saudi Arabia, is a good idea to promote a new literary work, especially that book marketing itself is a burgeoning field here," she said.

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

       Jim Thompson revival ?

       In the Wall Street Journal Allen Barra wonders whether it isn't Time for Jim Thompson to Be Famous Again, as the movie version of his The Killer Inside Me is set to open (see my previous mention, and the official site for the film).
       But, as Barry Gifford notes:
"But the movies generally soften or distort Thompson's vision," Mr. Gifford says. "He's just too raw and to graphic for mainstream America."

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

       'France's TV literary chat scene'

       At Publishing Perspectives Vanina Marsot Surveys France's TV Literary Chat Scene -- and makes you wonder why there is so little like this in the US.

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

       A Severed Head review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Iris Murdoch's 1961 novel, A Severed Head -- her "insane how-not-to relationship guide", as one person put it on Twitter.

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

16 June 2010 - Wednesday

Tagore paintings | Publishing in ... Angola
Literature in ... Colombia | Jean-Patrick Manchette reviews

       Tagore paintings

       Lots of famous writers also dabble in painting, but I hadn't realized 1913 Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore was among them. As the BBC reports, Rare Rabindranath Tagore paintings sold in the UK, as 'A collection of rare paintings by the Bengali artist Rabindranath Tagore has sold for more than £1.5m ($2.2m) at an auction in Britain.'
       They were auctioned by Sotheby's; scroll down here for lots 20 through 31 for a closer look.

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

       Publishing in ... Angola

       At Angop they report that Lack of support hinders publication of literary works in Angola, as:
The assistant secretary-general of the Youth Brigade of Literature, Jonh Bella, said Friday in Luanda that the shortage of financial resources, the lack of sponsorship, and the stringency of Angolan publishers hamper the publication of literary works.
       I'm sort of impressed they have a 'Youth Brigade of Literature'. Though once you get secretaries-general involved .....

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

       Literature in ... Colombia

       In the Latin American Herald Tribune Carmen Sigüenza reports that Juan Sebastian Cardenas: "Colombian Literature Is Minor", as:
Colombian writer Juan Sebastian Cardenas, who has just published Zumbido (Buzz) in Spain, a narrative that makes a singular descent into various hells, believes that Colombian literature "is minor. It exudes optimism, and the sooner it accepts that characteristic, the richer and more interesting it will be."
       I figure something may have been lost in translation there; in any case, it looks like little more than a (successful) attempt to get some media attention.
       See also the 451 Editores publicity page for Zumbido.

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

       Jean-Patrick Manchette reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of the two Jean-Patrick Manchette titles that have been translated into English (though New York Review of Books is bringing out another next year):        Three To Kill was also recently published in comic-book-form, as West Coast Blues, adapted by Jacques Tardi; see the Fantagraphics publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

15 June 2010 - Tuesday

Canada's critical culture | Tsitsi Dangarembga profile
Your Republic is Calling You review

       Canada's critical culture

       The Walrus prints The Long Decline, a piece adapted from André Alexis' forthcoming collection, Beauty and Sadness (see the House of Anansi publicity page), in which he wonders: 'Canada used to have a vibrant critical culture. What happened ?'
       He finds:
These days, Canadian literary reviewers are so woefully incompetent, it makes you wonder if there's something in our culture that poisons critics in their cradles.
       And he also writes about how diminished Canadian book review sections have become, noting:
A good book review section gives us a strong picture of a particular agora. In the '80s, the Globe and Mail's book section was an inspiring venue for Canadian intellectual life, one that allowed me to believe in the seriousness of my fellow countrymen.

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

       Tsitsi Dangarembga profile

       The Zimbabwean reports that for Tsitsi Dangarembga Her politics did not end in books, as:
To many ordinary Zimbabweans, her fame starts and ends in writing books and making films. But last month she joined politics becoming one of the few Zimbabwean artists to brave it up and join politics. Tsitsi Dangarembga, a renowned writer, novelist and filmmaker joined the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party led by Professor Arthur Mutambara, immediately assuming the position of National Secretary for Education.
       Dangarembga is best known for her novel, Nervous Conditions; get your copy at or

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

       Your Republic is Calling You review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kim Young-ha's forthcoming Your Republic is Calling You -- definitely one of the more interesting works of contemporary fiction about the two Koreas.

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

14 June 2010 - Monday

Science fiction in ... South Korea | Gamal al-Ghitani Q & A
Uwem Akpan in Abuja | Thirteen Hours review

       Science fiction in ... South Korea

       In The Korea Times Chung Ah-young reports that Sci-fi, fantasy novels gain strong presence in South Korea, as:
Science fiction (sci-fi) and fantasy novels have had a weak foothold on the Korean literature scene, but recently they have been widening their reach thanks to a slew of rising young authors dedicated to the genres.

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

       Gamal al-Ghitani Q & A

       At Magda Luthay has an interview with Gamal al-Ghitani, "The Fanatics Dampen the Enthusiasm".
       Among his perhaps surprising responses:
The last few years have seen highly positive developments in the areas of freedom of speech and media freedom. There are a great many newspapers reporting critically and controversially on a huge spectrum of issues. Journalism here is very dynamic, and even reports that criticise the government are the norm.

There is no censorship, on the contrary: reports that criticise political and social structures are part of Egypt's journalistic culture, in fact they are even welcome. But nevertheless, I would warn against only airing criticism, that fails to convince after a while. If the discussion is to be moved on, you must always offer constructive ideas for a solution.
       See also the complete review reviews of his Zayni Barakat and Pyramid Texts.

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

       Uwem Akpan in Abuja

       In Next Chinelo Onwualu reports that Uwem Akpan reads in Abuja.

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       Thirteen Hours review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Deon Meyer's Thirteen Hours.

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

13 June 2010 - Sunday

Profiles: Jonathan Coe - Sebhat Gebre-egziabher

       Profile: Jonathan Coe

       In The Telegraph Toby Clements profiles Jonathan Coe.

       See also the complete review author-page for Coe.

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

       Profile: Sebhat Gebre-egziabher

       At NewsDire Gubae Gundarta writes about The Legacies of Sebhat Gebre-egziabher.
       Who knew that:
Today Sebhat has more fans, followers, and critics than any other literary writer in the country.
       (That country being Ethiopia.)
       The explanation for his status may not be that hard to find:
The reality, however, is that Sebhat's works are full of sex scenes and accounts and whenever his name is mentioned anywhere, I am sure, sex pops up in minds of whoever happen to around. People have soft spot for sex and sex sells. Apart from that most people argue that his works don't have much to offer than being mere erotica.
       Actes Sud have brought out a translation of his work, as Les Nuits d'Addis-Abeba (get your copy from; the closest to an English translation one can find is a collection "retold by Wendy Kindred", Seed and Other Short Stories, from Addis-based African Sun Publishing (not even Amazon-listed; get your copy from

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

12 June 2010 - Saturday

IMPAC impact ? | Lu Xun profile | Ballard archive

       IMPAC impact ?

       The winner of the €100,000-International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is to be announced on 17 June, and in the Irish Times Sinéad Gleeson wonders: Does IMPAC have an impact ?
       Eoin Purcell, of Irish Publishing News notes:
"The fact that it's selected by libraries is both its strength and its weakness," he says. "No one has any ownership of the prize because it comes from such a broad spectrum. Even the judging panel -- though frequently comprised of big literary names -- are not household names."
       And Louisa Cameron of Raven Books says:
"As a bookseller, the Impac prize is notoriously non-commercial, but this year I'm genuinely able to enthuse about it," she says. "I really respect that about the prize -- there are nominated books that wouldn't have gotten attention here at all."
       It's a fairly solid -- though also quite commercial, it seems to me -- shortlist this year, with quite a few books that have already done very well:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Lu Xun profile

       Julia Lovell's translation of The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China was recently published by Penguin Classics (get your copy at or; I should be getting around to it sooner or later), and now Lovell profiles China's conscience -- 'China's Dickens and Joyce rolled into one' -- in The Guardian.

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

       Ballard archive

       As widely reported, the British Library has announced that Archive of J.G.Ballard saved for the nation, as:
The archive of J G Ballard, one of the most visionary British writers of the twentieth century, has been acquired by the nation through the Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme and allocated to the British Library.
       An interesting scheme ..... In this case, "acceptance of the Ballard archive satisfied £350,000 of tax."

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

11 June 2010 - Friday

Ferdinand Oyono (1929-2010) | African pilgrimages
Grossman to get Peace Prize | John E. Woods profile
A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of his Arm ... reviews

       Ferdinand Oyono (1929-2010)

       Cameroonian writer (and diplomat -- he served as Cameroonian ambassador in many countries) Ferdinand Oyono has passed away; no English-language reports yet, last I checked, but see, for example, Idriss Linge's Cameroun: Décès de Ferdinand Léopold Oyono in Journal du Cameroun.
       No Oyono-titles under review at the complete review yet; he's probably best-known for Houseboy (get your copy at or

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

       African pilgrimages

       Here's a neat idea: Pilgrimages (via):
The Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists has chosen to celebrate Africa’s first world cup by sending 13 African writers to 13 cities for two weeks during the World Cup. Each writer will produce a book of nonfiction prose, Travel Literature, of 30,000 words, for publication in Africa and abroad.
       The line-up includes Kojo Laing, Chris Abani, Alain Mabanckou, Abdourahman A. Waberi, and Binyavanga Wainaina, so I'm looking forward to see what results.

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

       Grossman to get Peace Prize

       They've announced that David Grossman awarded the 2010 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the very prestigious author prize that will be awarded during the Frankfurt Book Fair.

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

       John E. Woods profile

       The great translator John E. Woods is profiled in The Local (Germany), in Bringing German literature to the world -- and he is quoted:
Woods says his is a lonely profession that shouldn't even exist.

"It's dangerous and it should not be allowed. I'm serious," he told The Local over tea at his favourite neighbourhood cafe in Berlin. "Any translator worth his or her salt knows precisely how impossible it is, but it's there. It calls out to be done and has been done since the very beginning."
       And there's great and terrible news all in one:
He plans to retire within a year after finishing Arno Schmidt's 1,330-page opus, Zettel's Traum, which will be titled "Bottom's Dream," in English.
       Great that it's nearing completion; terrible that he's retiring.
       There are several Woods translations under review at the complete review, most notably of Schmidt's The School for Atheists.

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

       A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of his Arm ... reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

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