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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 31 October 2010

21 October: More on Jáchym Topol | Lu Xun Literature Prizes | More on Granta 112
22 October: Neustadt Festival | New Literature from Europe | Prizes: Athens Prize for Literature - Royal Society Prize for Science Books | Ron Charles Q & A | Amazon support for Best Translated Book Awards | The King of Kahel review
23 October: Fiction Uncovered | John Irving's forthcoming In One Person
24 October: Writing in ... Pakistan | Dolly City review
25 October: SEA Write 2010 | Publishing porn in Turkey ? | Another Shahnama exhibit | Amazon links | Of Kids & Parents review
26 October: DSC Prize for South Asian Literature shortlist | Canada-Japan Literary Awards | Contemporary German fiction overview | Electric literature | Literature in ... Pakistan
27 October: Q & A with Murakami-translator Jay Rubin | Sheikh Zayed Book Award retraction | Egypt (not) at International Book Fair of Algiers | All This Belongs to Me takes ALTA National Translation Award | Spike Magazine: The Book | Virtual Words review
28 October: Prizes: FT&GSBBotY 2010 - Tarabya Translation Prize | Hungarian samizdat | Read Japan | Gush review
29 October: English language fiction in ... Pakistan | Estate management | New World Literature Today and Daniel Simon interview | Guardian first book award shortlist | (Luxembourg) National Literary Competition
30 October: Hebrew translation of The Yacoubian Building | Melville House and the Best Translated Book Award | Professor Vargas Llosa | Ozick on innocents | Fireflies in the Mist review
31 October: Plagiarism in ... South Korea | Horror publishing | German critics' best-list for November

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31 October 2010 - Sunday

Plagiarism in ... South Korea | Horror publishing | German critics' best-list for November

       Plagiarism in ... South Korea

       As Claire Lee reports in The Korea Herald, Novelist Hwang accused of plagiarism, as:
Hwang Sok-yong, one of Korea's most acclaimed authors of modern times, is accused of plagiarism with his latest published novel, Gangnam-Mong. Hwang has denied the accusations, while admitting he should have cited the referred sources.
       The Korean papers have given this a lot of coverage; Hwang's novel -- 강남몽 -- has "sold over 180,000 copies and has been a best-seller since its release in June".

       (See also the complete review review of Hwang's The Guest.)

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

       Horror publishing

       In the Chicago Tribune Courtney Crowder reports that Small horror presses fill niche gaps left by big publishers:
As book publishers struggle to succeed in this economy, horror writers have to find alternatives to large publishing houses that, according to some authors, are accepting less material from niche genres. These writers are turning to small presses, where they might not receive a large advance but will get hands-on help from editors.
       Cemetery Dance Publications publisher Richard Chizmar is quoted:
"No major New York publisher has a line dedicated to horror, so those writers are going to niche publishers," Chizmar said. "I don't think it is a reach to say that as the New York publishing scene tightens its belts, we continue to have a bigger audience, because horror readers have to come somewhere."

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

       German critics' best-list for November

       The SWR-Bestenliste -- where thirty German critics vote for their favorite recent titles -- for November is out. Particularly noteworthy: it's very German top-heavy -- and there's little consensus: the new Peter Handke ranks second with a mere 62 points, an average of just over two per judge (when their top choice gets fifteen points !). Hell, even Tolstoy's War and Peace (in a new translation) musters only a point per judge, coming in ninth with a mere 30 points.

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

30 October 2010 - Saturday

Hebrew translation of The Yacoubian Building
Melville House and the Best Translated Book Award
Professor Vargas Llosa | Ozick on innocents | Fireflies in the Mist review

       Hebrew translation of The Yacoubian Building

       As, for example, noted at Arabic Literature (in English):
best-selling Egyptian author Alaa Al Aswany has lashed out at an unauthorized Hebrew translation of his most popular novel. He has called it, unsurprisingly, intellectual theft.
       The novel is The Yacoubian Building and the outfit that published the translation is the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information; unfortunately they did it without his permission.
       As AFP reports in Israeli translation of Egyptian novel infuriates author, the organization:
said Aswany had refused to have the book translated and published in Israel, but that a volunteer had translated it and the centre would be offering it for free to "expand cultural awareness and understanding in the region."
       So not only are they publishing his words without his permission, they aren't even collecting any royalties for him .....
       I'm all for their wanting to "expand cultural awareness and understanding" and I think publishing Al Aswany's book in Hebrew would be a great way to do it -- but an author's rights do trump good intentions and stealing someone's work like this (which is what this amounts to) is unacceptable.
       That said, I'm deeply disappointed that Al Aswany himself hasn't authorized a Hebrew translation (and is so adamantly opposed to one) -- I fail to see how this could be a bad thing and it seems obvious to me that in several respects it could be a very good thing.
       AFP quotes him as saying: "My position has not changed regarding normalisation with Israel. I reject it completely". Because the current absolutely abnormal situation is working out so well for everyone, I suppose .....

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

       Melville House and the Best Translated Book Award

       As widely noted, publisher Dennis Johnson withdrew Melville House "from any future involvement with the Best Translated Book award" in a post at their Moby Lives blog, In support of translation. (A reminder: I am one of the judges for that prize.) The reason for his stand is the recent announcement that was going to underwrite the 2011 Best Translated Book Award (to the tune of $25,000). BTBA organizer Chad Post has now responded at Three Percent, in Melville House Discourages Translators from Trying to Win Cash Prize, Recognition.
       Johnson's carefully phrased withdrawal has, of course, led to much confusion -- such as Benedicte Page's Publisher boycotts prize in protest at Amazon sponsorship, where she claims:
The BTB prize judging process is about to begin again, with the 25-title fiction longlist set to be announced in January, and the shortlisted books due to be celebrated at a special reception during the PEN World Voices festival at the end of April. But unless Dennis Johnson changes his mind, Melville House titles will not be among them
       As Chad notes in his post (and Dennis had already pointed out in a comment to his own post), Melville House's decision in no way affects what titles are considered for the BTBA. All titles published that fit the eligibility requirements (first translation of a work of fiction/poetry, published in the US in a specific timespan, etc.) will, to the best of our ability, be actively considered for the prize. (Readers of Literary Saloon know full well that I'd have nothing to do with a prize where submissions are restricted to what publishers deign to submit (like the Man Booker, etc. etc.).) In practice that means: if we can get our hands on a copy, we'll consider it. It helps a lot if publishers submit titles, but they certainly don't have to (and believe me, a lot of them don't bother); I'm pretty sure I'm well over the 100-book mark of eligible titles for this year's prize that I have read, and I'd be surprised if half of them were provided to me by publishers. (I'm hoping -- really, really hoping -- that things pick up in the coming weeks .....)
       As to what happens if a Melville House book makes the long or shortlist (and given the sheer numbers involved -- as Dennis points out, Melville House published more translations in the last year than even several of the most renowned big houses -- at least one longlist placing seems pretty likely) -- how actively uninvolved they want to be -- that remains to be seen. But I am confident we'll still be able to select the 'best translated book' (after all, quite a few other publishers -- many majors among them -- have maintained what sure look to me like similar levels of uninvolvement these past few years as that promised by Dennis).

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

       Professor Vargas Llosa

       A nice piece about Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa by Julie Bosman in The New York Times finds that Prize in Hand, He Keeps His Eye on Teaching, as:
Five days after the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize in Literature, he walked into a Princeton classroom where 25 students awaited their weekly seminar on the magical realism of the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges.
       But he will presumably have to cancel a few classes and take a few days off in December to pick up the prize and his check ......

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

       Ozick on innocents

       In the Wall Street Journal Cynthia Ozick offers a list of 'the five best books on innocence lost', On Innocents and Innocence Lost.
       Her Foreign Bodies just came out (get your copy at or; I have my copy and will post a review once I've gotten through Henry James' The Ambassadors .....

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

       Fireflies in the Mist review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Qurratulain Hyder's Fireflies in the Mist, now out in a US edition (from New Directions).

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

29 October 2010 - Friday

English language fiction in ... Pakistan | Estate management
New World Literature Today and Daniel Simon interview
Guardian first book award shortlist | (Luxembourg) National Literary Competition

       English language fiction in ... Pakistan

       In Dawn Huma Imtiaz takes a look at Encouraging English language fiction in Pakistan, writing about a The Lifeís Too Short Literary Review-event (see also their weblog).

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

       Estate management

       In Slate Craig Fehrman looks at Mark Twain's Amazing Embargo as he spells out: 'The brilliant brand management behind the handling of his autobiography', as he correctly points out about all the fuss around Twain's 'new' (and supposedly long-embargoed) autobiography:
It's all very exciting. It's also nonsense. There have been three previous editions of Twain's autobiography -- published in 1924, 1940, and 1959 -- and each of them has selectively ignored Twain's 100-year embargo.
       Get your copy of Twain's book from (and check out that sales rank !) or

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

       New World Literature Today

       The November/December issue of World Literature Today -- 'Writing from Modern India' -- is now out, with some of the content available online (no separate page for this issue this time; click through the links on the main page).

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

       Daniel Simon interview

       At her Isak-weblog Anna Clark interviews World Literature Today editor-in-chief Daniel Simon; lots of interesting magazine information.

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

       Guardian first book award shortlist

       Benedicte Page reports that 'Three novels and two non-fiction works vying for £10,000 Guardian first book award' as Guardian first book award shortlist revealed.

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

       (Luxembourg) National Literary Competition

       So apparently they held the 2010 National Literary Competition in Luxembourg; impressively, the top three prizes went to books written in four different lanaguages (with French and Luxembourgish efforts sharing third prize): a German novel won, and an English placed second; see the report in 352 Lux Mag.
       Can't be easy judging a multi-lingual prize like this .....

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

28 October 2010 - Thursday

Prizes: FT&GSBBotY 2010 - Tarabya Translation Prize
Hungarian samizdat | Read Japan | Gush review

       Prizes: FT&GSBBotY 2010

       They've announced that Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy, by Raghuram G. Rajan, has won the 2010 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.
       See also the Princeton University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Prizes: Tarabya Translation Prize

       I like the concept here: the Tarabya Translation Prize is a kind of reciprocal translation prize:
The dual prize consists of one main prize and one newcomer achievement prize for the best translations of German literature into Turkish as well as Turkish literature into German.
       They've handed out the first set, and Today's Zaman reports that:
German translator Ingrid Iren and Turkish translator Ahmet Cemal have won the first ever Tarabya Translation Prize.
       While this wouldn't work too well with English -- the competition would be too one-sided (because so much gets translated from English, and so little into it ...) -- this seems a great way of helping foster literary exchange between other languages.

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

       Hungarian samizdat

       Eurozine prints an interesting piece by Béla Nóvé on Hungarian samizdat, Talking about censorship and the lost world of samizdat (originally published in the 9/2010 issue of Kultūros barai.

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

       Read Japan

       In Publishers Weekly Teri Tan reports that Roundtable Launches the Read Japan Project, as:
The event, held at The Nippon Foundation headquarters, marked the launch of the non-profit organization's Read Japan project, an initiative aimed at promoting translation of Japanese originals into English. More than 200 attended. Editors from 16 publishing houses -- including Japan's big four (Kodansha, Shinchosha, Bungei Shunju and Shueisha) -- as well as writers, foreign rights agents, translators, academics, journalists, literary critics and booksellers made up the crowd.
The majority of the audience "wants to know how to replicate Murakami's international success," said president Yurika Yoshida of Japan Foreign-Rights Centre (JFC). "We are curious to know how Japanese authors, books and culture are being evaluated especially by the Americans and Europeans. At the same time, this symposium highlighted the importance of qualified Japanese-English translators and the role of literary agents. In reality, there is no 'literary agents' in the Japanese publishing world. Almost all Japanese agents -- JFC included -- function like foreign rights divisions found in most American and European houses."
       A few observations:
       First off, what happened to the Japanese Literature Publishing Project, which has a similar mandate (except that it extends to other languages, too) ? As noted below (see next post), I've been ... underwhelmed by how and what the JLPP do -- and Read Japan will do better how ?
       Second, I can't help but weigh in on the 'literary' agent question/role. Not a middleman-role I'm a big fan of (of course, I disapprove of most intermediary roles, but various types of agents especially), and I'd suggest they can do well without it -- and should be very wary of embracing it. And I have a good example that should be all the proof they need.
       One thing über-agent Andrew Wylie has managed to do is assemble an awesome client list -- and will you look at that, who is it that seems to handle most of the major Japanese talent of the past hundred years ? Yes, Andrew Wylie handles the estates of the big four -- Abe, Kawabata, Mishima, and Tanizaki -- as well as those of Endo Shusaku, Inoue Yasushi, Nagai Kafu, and Nakagami Kenji .
       Now I ask you: how are their profiles currently in the US and UK ? Not too hot, are they ? Top drawer talent, and they seem to be relegated to bottom drawer obscurity.
       Then there are the living authors -- he handles a lot of those as well --: Itoyama Akiko, Kawakami Hiromi, Tsushima Yuko, Miyamoto Teru. Whose books are flying off the shelves, right ? If they're on the shelves ..... Oh, wait, Itoyama, he hasn't even had a book translated into English yet, has he ?
       Okay, Wylie has had a few successes (of sorts) -- Ōe Kenzaburō (though let's be honest: selling a Nobel-laureate's rights isn't rocket science), Miyabe Miyuki, and the other Murakami, Ryu.
       Still, the guy handles an inordinate amount of recent Japanese literature -- the only really big names (on the vaguely international scene) missing I could think of were Murakami Haruki, Yoshimoto Banana, Ogawa Yoko, and Kirino Natsuo. And, I would argue, he doesn't exactly handle the wonderful talent he controls brilliantly -- at least not from a reader's perspective, in making certain these writers' works are accessible. Even Ōe isn't presented particularly well in English -- there are many works that remain untranslated -- and he's a Nobel Prize winner .....
       In part it's obviously a cultural thing: the French publish tons more stuff by the authors mentioned above (even Itoyama !), for example. (And since Wylie is such a world-rights guy maybe his offices are responsible for that -- funny how they don't seem able to translate that success to the US/UK, however .....)
       Still, after the Japanese heydays in the US of a few decades ago it sure as hell looks to me like Andrew Wylie is the worst thing ever to happen to Japanese-literature-in-English. Sure, maybe publishers haven't been very eager and intrepid either -- but then look who they have to deal with for so much of the top-flight talent. I'm not surprised that terms are hard to reach with a man whose bottom-line mentality is surely at odds with what's best for both readers and (most of these) writers.
       So my advice to the Read Japan (and JLPP) folk is: keep the 'literary' agents out of it: rather than one more intermediary Read Japan/JLPP might find themselves with one more barrier to ever getting a reasonable flow of Japanese fiction into English.

       (See also the Japanese literature under review at the complete review, which includes reviews of titles by many of these authors.)

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

       Gush review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hemmi Yo's Gush.

       I'd love to be supportive of translation-promoting undertakings but this is something like the fourth book subsidized by the Japanese Literature Publishing Project that is practically a case study in how not to do it (see the index of reviews of all the JLPP titles under review at the complete review).
       First, there's the choice of books: Hemmi is a fine writer, and Gush is a perfectly fine book, but it's a 1992 collection and I can't imagine it's his most interesting work; it's certainly not a high priority given how much else published in the past twenty years hasn't been translated.
       More importantly, it's received practically no attention (had you heard of it ?) and even publisher Counterpoint apparently couldn't be bothered to put up any mention of it at their website. (They did kindly send me a copy, but only at my request.) Maybe there's a marketing plan here, but with too many of these JLPP-supported titles it looks like the publisher took the money, printed the book, and never wanted to hear anything about it again.
       Finally, there's the JLPP internet presence: it seems to me they change their URL every six months, and currently I can't find any information about English titles (they used to have a description of each of their projects, as well as of books they hoped to get translated). This stands in contrast to the French JLPP site and the German JLPP site, which are ... actually useful (well, except that "Site anglais du JLPP"-link on the French page) if not entirely up to date.
       For god's sake, it's like Andrew Wylie is running this organization !

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

27 October 2010 - Wednesday

Q & A with Murakami-translator Jay Rubin | Sheikh Zayed Book Award retraction
Egypt (not) at International Book Fair of Algiers
All This Belongs to Me takes ALTA National Translation Award
Spike Magazine: The Book | Virtual Words review

       Q & A with Murakami-translator Jay Rubin

       At Asahi Weekly Akiro Wada has a Q & A with Murakami Haruki-translator Jay Rubin, Translator sees U.S. influence in Murakami's humor and writing style.
       Among the noteworthy responses: some indication of the status of the 1Q84-translations:
Question: You're in the middle of translating 1Q84. How is it going ?
Answer: I sent in Book 1 in January and am now on page 423 of Book 2 (as of Sept. 20). My deadline is Nov. 15, and I believe that is also (translator) Philip Gabriel's deadline for Book 3.
       Great to hear that (well, be able to convince oneself that possibly) book three might appear together with books one and two in one big, happy volume (a two-thousand page mass market-sized paperback, in my dreams ...) -- or at least at roughly the same time -- and possibly relatively (in publishing -- i.e. a completely different time-zone -- terms ...) soon, if the manuscript is due by the 15th of next month. [I'm afraid, however, that my own patience has run out: I just ordered a copy of the German translation .....]
Q: John Irving and Raymond Carver are Murakami's favorite American writers. Do you feel the influence of them in Murakami's works ?
A: Yes, in the humor and the simple style.
Q: When you have questions on your translation, how do you approach him ? Could you give us a recent example of questions ?
A: I e-mail him or his editor at Shinchosha Publishing Co. He is a good e-mail correspondent. Many passages of 1Q84 could be translated into either first or third person, and I have asked him which he prefers in certain cases. He usually advises me to do whatever works best in English.
       Either first or third person ? Ah, yes, the wonder and possibilities of translation .....

       See also the complete review review of Jay Rubin's Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words.

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

       Sheikh Zayed Book Award retraction

       The Sheikh Zayed Book Awards have announced that last year's winner in the Literature Category Award went too far with his unattributed borrowings and so: Zayed Book Award Withdraws Literature Award. (Good for them for posting that immediately at the official site, by the way.)
       The winner was Hafnaoui Baali, his book Comparative Cultural Criticism: An Introduction -- yes, that's what won the Literature Category Award (giving me yet more ammunition to say: focus on fiction) -- and the prize worth a tidy Dh750,000 (US$200,000, by my reckoning -- yes, in the international arena the Man Booker and IMPAC are definitely also-rans in cash terms).
       Anna Seaman offers a good overview in Judges take back Dh750,000 Zayed literary prize in The National -- including noting that:
The copied passages came from a book called Cultural Criticism: A Look at Arab Cultural Patterns by the Saudi Arabian author Dr Abdullah al Ghathami, himself one of the 2010 judging panel. He recused himself from discussions about the matter.
       Submitting a book for a prize in which you've plagiarized from someone on the judging panel -- not a brilliant career move.

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

       Egypt (not) at International Book Fair of Algiers

       A month ago Ennahar Online reported that Algiers' Book Fair: Egyptians will be present, as:
The Egyptian books will be present at the next International Book Fair of Algiers (Sila), scheduled from October 27 to November 6, said Saturday the commissioner of this event Smaïn Ameziane.
       Well, the book fair has opened, and guess what ... yes, Ennahar Online now report, in Official opening of Algiers International Book Fair, that:
"The Egyptian publishers did not come," told AFP the Communication Officer of Sila Benadouda Abdallah.
       Apparently this is all still about the football (soccer)-induced enmity between the two countries after their World Cup qualifying debacles last year. Pathetic.

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

       All This Belongs to Me takes ALTA National Translation Award

       Alex Zucker 's translation of Petra Hulová's All This Belongs to Me has been awarded the 2010 National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA); see, for example, the University of Texas at Dallas press release, ALTA Honors Translations of Czech, Chinese Works, where they write:
The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), which is housed at The University of Texas at Dallas, presented two prestigious awards at its annual conference in Philadelphia on Oct. 21.

Alex Zucker received the 2010 National Translation Award for his translation of Petra Hulová's All This Belongs to Me (Northwestern University Press, 2009). The $5,000 prize is given annually to the translator whose work, by virtue of both its quality and significance, has made the most valuable contribution to literary translation.
The final jury for this yearís National Translation Award called All This Belongs to Me "beautifully fluent translation that portrays each character in convincingly idiomatic English, and yet still manages to distinguish the five closely related main characters according to their individual temperaments. The story is compelling on personal and broader, political levels, the characters are deeply human, and their difficult choices are portrayed with great dignity. All in all, this is a book to be savored and treasured."
       See also the Northwestern University Press publicity page, or get your copy from or (I have not seen a copy of this book yet.)

       (See also Stephan Delbos' three-part interview with translator Alex Zucker at The Prague Post's Colophon weblog -- one, two, and three (recently mentioned by me here) .)

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

       Spike Magazine: The Book

       Spike Magazine has been around for a very long time now, and Chris Mitchell has now put together a collection of "Spike's best interviews, features and reviews", in the 600-page free pdf, Spike Magazine: The Book.
       As Mitchell notes:
There's interviews with JG Ballard, Douglas Coupland, William Gibson, Will Self, Jeff Noon and many more, along with features on Maurice Blanchot, E M Cioran, Derek Jarman, Bruce Chatwin, WG Sebald, Thomas Bernhard and a host of others, plus stacks of book reviews.
       Sounds good.

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

       Virtual Words review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jonathon Keats' look at Language on the Edge of Science and Technology, Virtual Words.

       (One observation: this book, with a 15 October publication date and available now, comes with a 2011 copyright date (displayed not only on the copyright page but also, more prominently, on the secondary title page -- and it's not the only Oxford University Press title published well within 2010 that claims a 2011 copyright date. What's the deal here ? Is this just very sloppy timing, or is something else going on here ?
       More intriguingly: can this title actually be considered fully under copyright -- and is it protected as such -- for the next two months since its declared copyright apparently only begins in 2011 .... ?)

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

26 October 2010 - Tuesday

DSC Prize for South Asian Literature shortlist
Canada-Japan Literary Awards | Contemporary German fiction overview
Electric literature | Literature in ... Pakistan

       DSC Prize for South Asian Literature shortlist

       They've announced the six-title strong shortlist for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature (but -- need I even say it ? -- not yet at the official site, last I checked ...), the new and well-endowed prize where: "Authors could belong to this region through birth or be of any ethnicity but the writing should pertain to the South Asian region in terms of content and theme".
       Asia Writes has a good run-down of the books; none of them are currently under review at the complete review.

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

       Canada-Japan Literary Awards

       The Canada-Japan Literary Awards have been announced.
       The awards: "recognize literary excellence by Canadian authors writing on Japan, Japanese themes or themes that promote mutual understanding between Japan and Canada", and I'm impressed they've lasted this long (and have this much cash at their disposal -- and that more Canadian writers don't tailor their writing to this prize for which there can't be an enormous amount of competition ...).

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

       Contemporary German fiction overview offers an English translation of a piece by Ina Hartwig on contemporary German literature, Sceptically, lyrically, buoyantly now, offering an overview of the current scene and concluding: "Contemporary German literature is at the height of its powers."
       (The article was originally published in Die Zeit, with a more restrained title, Bilder für jetzt.)

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

       Electric literature

       In Literature, Plugged In in Publishers Weekly Andy Hunter offers considerable interesting background and explanation behind the venture he co-founded, Electric Literature, beginning with:
Encouraged by reports of the popularity of cellphone reading in Japan and the introduction of e-readers in the U.S. marketplace, we conceived of Electric Literature with this mission: to use new production and distribution channels to help establish a vibrant market for literature.
       They certainly seem to have met with some success, attracting a great deal of attention and putting out an interesting product.
       Electric Literature also gets a mention in another article about new ways of presenting content and engaging with readers, as Noam Cohen looks at Blurring the Line Between Apps and Books in The New York Times.

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

       Literature in ... Pakistan

       Associated Press of Pakistan reports that:
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira said on Monday that we have distanced ourselves from literature and art which has resulted in the predicament of our society and recent wave of extremism.
       I'm not sure about that theory, but I certainly like the idea of their putting some effort into closing the gap again -- I certainly can't see any harm coming from the attempt.

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

25 October 2010 - Monday

SEA Write 2010 | Publishing porn in Turkey ? | Another Shahnama exhibit
Amazon links | Of Kids & Parents review

       SEA Write 2010

       The South East Asian Writers Awards 2010 -- SEA Write -- meant to "honour leading poets and writers in the ASEAN region", will be presented 5 November in Bangkok. No information at that official site (big surprise ...), but at least in the Bangkok Post they report on The outstanding eight -- the prizewinners.
       Willam Dalrymple will be the keynote speaker (last year it was Paul Theroux) and "HRH Crown Prince" Maha Vajiralongkorn will preside.

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

       Publishing porn in Turkey ?

       In Hürriyet Vercihan Ziflioğlu reports that Turkish publisher to face trial before picking up award, as:
The Geneva-based International Publishing Association, or IPA, will award its freedom prize to İrfan Sancı on Nov. 2. Before he receives the award, however, Sancı must appear in an Istanbul court on allegations that one of the books he has published has inappropriate sexual content. 'This is potential political censorship,' says the IPA's chair
       At the official site (hey ! up-to-date news at an official site ! what a concept !) IPA focus on the fact that:
On 2 November 2010, IPA President Herman P. Spruijt will formally award the 2010 IPA Freedom to Publish Prize to Israpil Shovkhalov and Viktor Kogan-Yasny, respectively editor-in-chief and publisher of Chechen magazine Dosh, for their exemplary courage in upholding freedom to publish.
       But if you open up the press release (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) you'll see that, indeed, the 2010 IPA Freedom Prize (as opposed to that Freedom to Publish Prize) - Special Award does go to İrfan Sancı.
        Sancı is apparently: "on trial for publishing a book with sexual content by French writer Guilliame Apollinare [sic]", and while I'm basically supportive of his position and situation, I'm not sure he's doing himself great favors with his commentary:
"I love erotic literature. This is why I started this series," said Sancı, adding that his main aim was to encourage young women on this issue.
Sancı said he deeply believed literature had such power to present pornography in an aesthetic way. "Pornography loses its effect in literature. It is already necessary at a certain culture level."
       Anyway, it sounds like it will be a fun trial.

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

       Another Shahnama exhibit

       Yes, another Shahnama exhibit has opened: this time it's at the Sackler/Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., where they're showing Shahnama: 1000 Years of the Persian Book of Kings; see also Richard Solash's report at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Exhibition Of Famed Persian Epic Opens At Washington's Smithsonian Institution.

       Get your copy of Dick Davis' translation of the Shahnameh at or; as I've said before (and I do mean it), I will be reviewing it, one of these days.

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       Amazon links

       At The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander worries that Post's Amazon links in stories raise ethical questions, as:
When you're reading a Post review online, click on a highlighted book title and you'll likely be directed to, where you can purchase it instantly. It's convenient for readers. But is it costly to credibility ?
       As I've often noted, I find these sorts of direct Amazon-links very obnoxious: if I click on a title-link, I expect to be led to some other webpage providing information about that title (by which I mean something more than an Amazon page -- a local review, or at the very least the official book/author site); if the link leads to an Amazon page (which, after all, everyone can find easily enough on their very own) it should be identified as such. That's the way I've always done it at the complete review and this Literary Saloon (see, for example, above), and I don't see what the difficulty is in writing something along the lines of 'get your copy at' and putting the link there, rather than on the title of the book.
       Alexander notes:
Executive Editor Marcus W. Brauchli said it was concluded that the safeguard policies could protect editorial standards while "simplifying the user experience."

He said putting links in reviews or stories made it more "simple and direct" for readers to click to the product. And, he said, the newsroom last month assumed the task of inserting links in stories because it is more efficient for editors to do it at the same time they are preparing content to be posted on The Post's Web site.
       Hey, I'm all for "simple and direct" -- but identify the link as such. Getting waylaid by these sorts of unidentified and/or misleadingly placed links -- and it happens all the time (not just with Amazon links, by the way) -- is among my least favorite forms of getting laid, and an enormous waste of my time. (For more than a year now I haven't been too pleased with Amazon links generally, either: the site has become far too slow-loading, with its pages packed with useless (and s l o w loading) frills.)
       Alexander suggests:
The Internet is changing media consumption habits, along with accepted ethical norms. Digital readers are increasingly accustomed to receiving advertising based on their online viewing patterns. To many, links to Amazon are unobjectionable (no reader has complained to me).
       My concern is less the ethics than the simple (in)convenience; of course, The Washington Post's ridiculous registration requirement means it's a site I avoid like the plague in the first place.

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

       Of Kids & Parents review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Emil Hakl's Of Kids & Parents.

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24 October 2010 - Sunday

Writing in ... Pakistan | Dolly City review

       Writing in ... Pakistan

       The Hindustan Times takes a closer look at the current interest in writing from Pakistan, in The Pak Pack:
But is all of this talk of a "cultural renaissance" and a "corona burst of talent" an accurate description of a current literary trend, or media hype created to shore up book sales in a time of uncertainty in the publishing world ? After all, we still havenít seen a plethora of Pakistani writers on the international publishing scene.

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

       Dolly City review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Orly Castel-Bloom's Dolly City, now out in a new edition from Dalkey Archive Press.

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

23 October 2010 - Saturday

Fiction Uncovered | John Irving's forthcoming In One Person

       Fiction Uncovered

       As widely reported, Fiction Uncovered is an effort to spotlight some overlooked (British) talent, and looks quite promising -- both the endeavor as a whole, and the site. While the goal is to "uncover our best fiction writers and find wider audiences for their writing", as they select "eight UK-based fiction writers " in spring 2011, the site offers a bit more leading up to that, with some nice suggestions about other overlooked authors and books. If they can keep this up, it'll be quite useful and the site well worth visiting.

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

       John Irving's forthcoming In One Person

       John Irving is apparently doing the north-east (US) college lecture circuit, reading from (and revealing bits and pieces about) his forthcoming In One Person.
       One can piece together a few odds and ends about the novel from the press reports:
       In The Daily Free Press Sarah Payne reports on his Boston University appearance, and that Irving delves deeper into his novels, writing process, as:
Irving's 13th novel, In One Person, is written in the form of a first person narrative, he said.

The protagonist, William, is a bisexual boy who falls in love with a transgender, female librarian. William, however, does not initially realize she is transgender.
       In Middlebury Magazine, in The World According to Irving Blair Kloman explains what's behind that (working) title:
The unfinished novel's working title, In One Person is a reference to Shakespeare's Richard II, when in Act V, Scene V, the protagonist says, "Thus play I in one person many people/And none contented."
       And in The Harvard Crimson Clio C. Smurro, in Novelist Irving Brings Humor to Morris Gray Lecture, reports that:
Irving then turned to a preview of his current project: a novel written from the viewpoint of a bisexual boy who recalls his experiences growing up during the 1950s and 1960s. The selection he chose to read tells of the narrator's junior year spent studying abroad in Vienna, during which time he worked as a waiter and shared a relationship with an American girl trying to become a professional opera singer.
       Hmmmm, Vienna in the 1960s ... looks like Irving is treading very familiar territory. On the other hand, that's where he situated some of his best stuff .....
       I'll probably have a look at this when it comes out -- I've read almost all his stuff; see, for example, the most recent complete review review of one of his works (it's been a while), of Until I Find You.

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

22 October 2010 - Friday

Neustadt Festival | New Literature from Europe
Prizes: Athens Prize for Literature - Royal Society Prize for Science Books
Ron Charles Q & A | Amazon support for Best Translated Book Awards
The King of Kahel review

       Neustadt Festival

       Sorry to only mention this now, but they're holding the Neustadt Festival of International Literature and Culture right now (it ran/runs 20 October to today), where Duo Duo (多多 !) gets to pick up his prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature.
       (They really should publicize this more/better -- it's a significant prize, and deserves more attention.)

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

       New Literature from Europe

       From 16 to 18 November they're holding the seventh annual festival of European literature, New Literature from Europe, in New York:
The past and present are never far away from each other, and this year's New Literature from Europe festival explores this proximity by presenting some of the most powerful recent works of fiction by eight of the most important contemporary European authors.
       (And I'll be moderating the 16 November reading at McNally-Jackson Books.)

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

       Prizes: Athens Prize for Literature

       A bit delayed, but they've now finally awarded the 2009 Athens Prizes for Literature, and juror Theodoros Grigoriadis has the details at his weblog (yes, in Greek).
       Θαύμα της αναπνοής, by Dimitris Sotakis (Δημήτρης Σωτάκης) took the Greek-language prize (see also his official site, as well as the Kedros publicity page), while Ma Jian's Beijing Coma won the best translated fiction prize (get your copy at or

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

       Prizes: Royal Society Prize for Science Books

       They've announced (at the official site ! well done !) that the Royal Society Prize for Science Books has gone to Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, by Nick Lane.
       See also his official site, the Profile publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Ron Charles Q & A

       At The Huffington Post Catherine McKenzie has a Q & A with The Washington Post's Ron Charles, both about his video 'Totally Hip Book Reviews' and book reviewing more generally.
       Among the points of interest:
CM: How many books do you receive each week ? How many do you review ?
RC: We receive about 150 books a day; we review about 15 a week.
       (As a point of comparison: here at the complete review I've received all of 18 books in all of October ..... (And -- it's been a relatively slow month -- reviewed eleven (though only six of those were publisher-submitted).) In fact, I've borrowed more books from the library in each of the past four weeks than I've received review copies, and bought more books (all used, of course) in three out of the four .....)
CM: Is timeliness of the review a factor ?
RC: I think it was Calvin Trilling [sic] who said that a book's shelf life is between milk and yogurt. We certainly go to a lot of effort to make sure reviews are out within forty-five minutes of when the book is released. This puts us into the cloud of discussion that takes place around the book until the next one is released. If we run a review six weeks later, we look on it as a failure.
       I understand that newspapers want to be entirely up-to-date -- still, this seems pretty sad to me. (And supports a bookselling-model that surely isn't good for the health of the industry.) And I'm not sure how great the value of being part of the discussion-cloud is if every other newspaper is having its say at the same time -- makes it pretty hard to stand out in any way. Still I suppose the dailies don't have much of an option. (Though you'll note how well they're doing with that model .....)
       Charles also mentions that there's only been one "book I did not finish" -- which is pretty remarkable.

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

       Amazon support for Best Translated Book Awards

       As announced at, for example, the University of Rochester, to Underwrite Open Letter's Best Translated Book Awards, as: has awarded the University of Rochester/Three Percent website a $25,000 grant in support of the 2011 Best Translated Book Awards. This grant will support $5,000 cash prizes for both the winning translators and authors.
       (A reminder: I have been a judge for the BTBA since the beginning, and will be judging again this year.)
       The prize seemed to do pretty well even when all the winners got was the recognition and a trophy, but the cash will presumably help raise its profile further. (And maybe publishers will see this as an (added ?) incentive to submit books to us .....)
       And, given the cash infusion, maybe the official site could finally get that annual update ("original translations published between December 1, 2008 and November 30, 2009 are eligible" it still says, but we're actually well into the 1 December 2009 to 30 November 2010 period -- hmmmm, maybe that's why I've gotten so few submissions from publishers ...). [Updated - 23 October: glad to see the official site is now entirely up-to-date.]

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

       The King of Kahel review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tierno Monénembo's prix Renaudot-winning The King of Kahel -- the first volume in yet another literature-in-translation project supported by, their AmazonCrossing -series.
       (I'm only one of the judges, but I suspect there won't be any conflict of interest issues with this and this year's Best Translated Book Awards .....)

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

21 October 2010 - Thursday

More on Jáchym Topol | Lu Xun Literature Prizes | More on Granta 112

       More on Jáchym Topol

       As I mentioned last month, Jáchym Topol recently won the Czech Jaroslav Seifert Prize for his Chladnou zemí (which will apparently be available in English ... eventually).
       In The Prague Post Stephan Delbos follows up with a profile, Author is hemmed in by history, as well as a two-part interview with Topol at The Prague Post Book Blog, Colophon: see parts one and two. (Aside: surely the only thing more obnoxious than stretching an article over more than a single web-page is spreading it over several days as well .....)
       Among the points of interest: Topol reveals:
I would also like to write a novel set in Greenland.

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

       Lu Xun Literature Prizes

       In the Global Times Xing Daiqi reports that Lu Xun winners announced, as:
Winners of the Lu Xun Literature Prize, one of China's most prestigious literary accolades, were announced Tuesday night with 30 works taking top honors.
       That's a lot of prizes ...... Among the recognizable names: Su Tong picked up yet another literary prize.
       Interesting, however, that:
The biggest shock of the evening was the lack of any winners for the National Outstanding Literary Translation Award. Considered as one of the few influential translation awards in China, five works were nominated from 40 entries, but none were named a winner.

Gao Hongbo, deputy director of the Chinese Writers' Association attributes the lack of a winner to a decline in the quality of translated works, which he said represents the flippant atmosphere of the publishing industry and the stagnant situation of Chinese literature translation.
       Pretty amazing.

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

       More on Granta 112

       In The National Ben East reports at some length that Granta editor: 'no expectations' with Pakistan issue, as:
When John Freeman, the editor of the well-regarded British literary quarterly Granta, planned a themed issue on Pakistan, he did so without any expectations as to what the finished product would contain.

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

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