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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 November 2010

1 November: Harry Mulisch (1927-2010) | Korean Literature Translation Awards | La traducción review
2 November: The Complete Review - the book | Serious Men takes The Hindu Best Fiction Award 2010 | November issues | Four Drunk Beauties review
3 November: Sofi Oksanen | Wang Meng | Translation from the ... Czech | What Ever Happened to Modernism ? review
4 November: İstanbul Tanpınar Literature Festival | The Blind Owl review
5 November: Best of year lists ... | Prix Goncourt's final four | John Banville Q & A | The Box review
6 November: Translations of ... Irish books | A Pasternak on the new Pasternak translation | Looking for the great European novel ?
7 November: Prize roles | Sunday Times Literary Awards | The Time-Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets review
8 November: Defamation in ... Thailand | Stories from ... Uganda | Jalal-Al-Ahmad Prize shortlist | Aboriginal Literary Awards | Mozart's Third Brain review
9 November: Prizes: Goncourt, Renaudot - AKO Literatuurprijs | Book-selling in ... Iraq | The Lake review
10 November: The Sentimentalists wins Scotiabank Giller Prize | Celebration of Contemporary African Fiction | Mourning Diary review

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10 November 2010 - Wednesday

The Sentimentalists wins Scotiabank Giller Prize
Celebration of Contemporary African Fiction | Mourning Diary review

       The Sentimentalists wins Scotiabank Giller Prize

       They've announced that Johanna Skibsrud Wins The 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize -- by which they mean, of course, that her novel, The Sentimentalists, won.
       As, for example, John Barber notes in Johanna Skibsrud wins Giller Prize for The Sentimentalists in The Globe and Mail:
Undoubtedly the most obscure book ever to win a major literary award in Canada, The Sentimentalists was hand-printed more than a year ago by tiny Gaspereau Press in Kentville, N.S., in an edition of 800 copies, most of which had disappeared by the time the three Giller judges announced their short lists.
       While it's great that there will now be a surge in demand, I'd be rather impressed if they didn't print any more copies and just left it at this limited edition .....
       Meanwhile, you can try to get your copy at; see also the Gaspereau publicity page.

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

       Celebration of Contemporary African Fiction

       At Boston University they're holding A Celebration of Contemporary African Fiction today; it sounds fairly promising.
       See also the BU Today piece by Susan Seligson, BU Celebrates African Fiction Tomorrow, which includes an extensive Q & A with Helon Habila.

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

       Mourning Diary review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Roland Barthes' recently (i.e. very posthumously) pieced together and published Mourning Diary.

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

9 November 2010 - Tuesday

Prizes: Goncourt, Renaudot - AKO Literatuurprijs
Book-selling in ... Iraq | The Lake review

       Prizes: Goncourt, Renaudot

       As widely reported, the top French book prizes were awarded yesterday, and with La carte et le territoire Michel Houellebecq finally got his Goncourt. His novel easily beat out Apocalypse bébé by Virginie Despentes, seven votes to two, but in true runner-up fashion Despentes' book took the consolation prix Renaudot (though in a much tighter vote).
       See for example RFI's report, Michel Houellebecq wins France's Goncourt literary award, or Ruadhán Mac Cormaic's France's leading literary prize finally comes to Houellebecq in the Irish Times -- or, as always, get your French prize information at the invaluable Prix-Litteraires: Le blog (leading me also to wonder why no one has set up an English-language equivalent yet, tracking all the English-language literary prizes ...).

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

       Prizes: AKO Literatuurprijs

       They've also announced the winner of the €50,000 Dutch AKO Literatuurprijs 2010, which went to Congo, een geschiedenis, by Congo-obsessed David van Reybrouck; see, also, the English page on his official site, or the De Bezige Bij publicity page for the book.
       It wouldn't surprise me if this was eventually translated into English: Congo-lit, from Joseph Conrad through The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver to non-fiction like Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost (a perennially popular review at the complete review) or Michela Wrong's In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz, seems to fare pretty well, and this sounds like a pretty interesting (if massive) take on it.

       (Updated): No surprise: a reader alerts me that English-language rights were already sold before it took this prize, going to HarperCollins; it will appear under the Ecco imprint in the US (see, for example, this mention).

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

       Book-selling in ... Iraq

       At Publishing Perspectives Chip Rossetti reports (briefly) that Iraqi Books Hit the International Market for First Time Since the War, describing the efforts of publisher and distributor al-Muthanna Library, as:
Relaunching its distribution arm, al-Muthanna has just released a new catalogue of over 600 recent Iraqi titles, all published in Iraq in the last two years.
       Whether there will be anything like a return to Baghdad's former literary glory days remains to be seen, but at least it's a good step in the right direction.

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

       The Lake review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kawabata Yasunari's The Lake.

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

8 November 2010 - Monday

Defamation in ... Thailand | Stories from ... Uganda | Jalal-Al-Ahmad Prize shortlist
Aboriginal Literary Awards | Mozart's Third Brain review

       Defamation in ... Thailand

       This sounds like an interesting book: in the Bangkok Post Chris Baker reviews David Streckfuss' Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason, and Lèse-Majesté, in Defamation vs Democracy, and finds:
This big, brave and important book argues that defamation laws are the cornerstone of Thailand's authoritarian political culture. They have strangled the media, wrecked public debate, undermined artistic and intellectual work, and ensured impunity for a long litany of state crimes. They underpin an authoritarian control of thought and expression that is extraordinary in a country that likes to think of itself as a democracy.
       I'm biased -- I find defamation highly problematic to begin with, and the concept of lèse-majesté simply ridiculous (indeed, I would argue there's almost an obligation to ridicule anyone styling themself a monarch) -- but I'm curious about this argument.
       See also the Routledge publicity page, or get your (obscenely expensive) copy at or

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

       Stories from ... Uganda

       In Children of Lawino in Next Kangsen Feka Wakai reviews the new CCC Press publication, Butterfly Dreams and other new short stories from Uganda, which might be worth a look; get your copy at or

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

       Jalal-Al-Ahmad Prize shortlist

       IBNA report that Fiction nominees' shortlist revealed for the Iranian Jalal-Al-Ahmad Prize, as:
13 works are introduced to the next evaluation stage. First winners in each field will be awarded a literary statuette plus 110 gold coins.
       I'm curious what sorts of works these are, as:
The goal of this prize is to elevate national religious language and literature by commemorating creators of fine, innovative and avant-garde works in line with the production of literary-artistic Islamist thought and reinforcement of critical tolerance among creative works.
       Seems to me they're asking for a lot .....

       (There are several works by Jalal Al-e Ahmad under review at the complete review; see, for example, By the Pen.)

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

       Aboriginal Literary Awards

       The Taipei Times reports that Aboriginal literature celebrated, as the Aboriginal Literary Awards were recently held -- as:
The Council of Indigenous Peoples decided the award should be reinstated this year, after it was abolished several years ago.
       A few translation issues, obviously -- "Aborigines do not swim in a sea of letters", one winner said -- but overall probably a good idea.

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

       Mozart's Third Brain review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Göran Sonnevi's Mozart's Third Brain, a recent volume in Yale University Press' The Margellos World Republic of Letters-series.

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

7 November 2010 - Sunday

Prize roles | Sunday Times Literary Awards
The Time-Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets review

       Prize roles

       The Hindu prints Gopalkrishna Gandhi's speech from the recent inaugural The Hindu Best Fiction Award, as he wonders Where do awards come in ?

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

       Sunday Times Literary Awards

       The Sunday Times announces that Literary awards entries awaited, as: "Entries are now open for the Sunday Times Literary Awards 2011" -- the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award (for non-fiction) and the Sunday Times Fiction Prize.
       One hopes that those with eligible books already know about this, but I bring it to your attention because of one of the changes in the rules, for which they deserve high praise (and which I hope will be much-copied):
The limit on the number of titles that publishers can enter for consideration has been removed, but books that do not meet the criteria for the award will not be accepted.
       See also the full Rules and Procedures.
       I'm also pleased to see that works in translation are eligible (though required to have been translated into English "within five years of the original"). But maybe they're setting the bar/hopes a bit high when they specify that, for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize:
     3. The criteria set for the work are:
     It should be a novel of rare imagination and style, evocative, textured and a tale so compelling as to become an enduring landmark of contemporary fiction.

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

       The Time-Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Khairy Shalaby's The Time-Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets.

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

6 November 2010 - Saturday

Translations of ... Irish books | A Pasternak on the new Pasternak translation
Looking for the great European novel ?

       Translations of ... Irish books

       In the Loose leaves column in the Irish Times Caroline Walsh reports on "In Other Words ..., a month-long free exhibition of more than 100 Irish books translated into 33 languages".
       Organized by the Ireland Literature Exchange -- "the national organisation for the international promotion of Irish literature, in English and Irish" --, see also their information page, as well as this one.
       Sounds like a good idea -- and between exhibit and various talks it should be pretty interesting, too.

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

       A Pasternak on the new Pasternak translation

       In The Guardian Boris Pasternak's niece, Ann Pasternak Slater, considers the new Larissa Volokhonsky and Richard Pevear translation of Doctor Zhivago -- and finds it really literal and really wanting:
It is quickly apparent that Volokhonsky-Pevear follow the Russian very closely, without attempting to reconfigure its syntax or vocabulary into a more English form.

This misguided literalism is disastrous in dialogue.
       She also finds:
It's instructive to check Volokhonsky-Pevear's English against the Russian. Its painful ineptitudes can regularly be defended by a Russian source. Yet the original isn't inept. It's simply been badly translated.
       Also interesting: her description of the first translation:
Doctor Zhivago was first translated, at great speed, by Max Hayward and Manya Harari in 1958. I remember Max saying he would read a page in Russian, and then write it down in English, without looking back.
       She thinks here's a clear-cut case that:
The translator needs distance. His main pitfall is to drift unconsciously into the linguistic aura of his original -- in this case, to write a kind of Russified English. This is the danger besetting Volokhonsky and Pevear.
       Get your copy of the Volokhonsky-Pevear translation at or (or, I guess, maybe not ...).

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

       Looking for the great European novel ?

       Not much of a piece, but maybe some discussion-fodder: at The Guardian's book blog James Hopkin wonders about going In search of the Great European Novel.

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

5 November 2010 - Friday

Best of year lists ... | Prix Goncourt's final four
John Banville Q & A | The Box review

       Best of year lists ...

       Despite nearly two months to actually go in the year the 'best of year' lists-flood seems to have begun: a major entry is's Best Books of 2010 - Top 100 Editors' Picks (and admittedly they presumably have actually seen most of the books that are still slated to appear in the rest of 2010). Only eight are under review at the complete review (plus one review-overview) -- and I'm not sure that any would make my top ten (which I will wait another ... two months or so before announcing ...):        Meanwhile, Library Journal has gotten in on this game as well, as Library Journal Announces Inaugural Top Ten Best Books List.

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

       Prix Goncourt's final four

       The Prix Goncourt has gone into its third and penultimate round, winnowing down the contenders to a mere four: along with Virginie Despentes' Apocalypse bébé and Mathias Enard's Parle-leur de batailles, de rois et d'éléphants, as well as Maylis de Kerangal's Naissance d'un pont -- which just picked up the prix Médicis -- Michel Houellebecq is also still in the running with his La carte et le territoire.
       Only a few more days until the prize-winner is announced -- 8 November

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

       John Banville Q & A

       In The Independent there's a Q & A with John Banville.

       (See also, for example, the complete review review of The Infinities.)

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

       The Box review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Günter Grass' Tales from the Darkroom, The Box, just out in English.

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

4 November 2010 - Thursday

İstanbul Tanpınar Literature Festival | The Blind Owl review

       İstanbul Tanpınar Literature Festival

       The İstanbul Tanpınar Literature Festival -- which had a very solid line-up of guest-authors -- just concluded.
       In Today's Zaman Musa İğrek looks at part of the goings-on, and finds that Appreciation for Tanpınar crosses Turkey's borders, as the festival namesake -- Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar (see the complete review review of his A Mind at Peace) -- is apparently catching on:
However belatedly, this 20th century author's appeal is expanding day by day; so much so that there is a sort of "literary rush" -- both from academic circles and from bookworms -- to the oeuvre of Tanpınar, who used to say he was subjected to "assassination through neglect."

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

       The Blind Owl review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sadegh Hedayat's classic, The Blind Owl.
       Grove has just reissued this, still in the same 1957 translation but now with an introduction by Porochista Khakpour. I read the old edition (god forbid anyone would have actually sent me the new one ...), which came without any supporting material -- notes, introduction, afterword, etc. -- whatsoever, a rather brave way of publishing a text like this which can really use some context and explanation. But I like it when texts, even of this foreign sort, are left to fend entirely for themselves; given the many different possible readings of this one any attempt at explanation will likely fail anyway. (Khakpour's introduction offers enthusiasm but little else that I find useful.)

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

3 November 2010 - Wednesday

Sofi Oksanen | Wang Meng | Translation from the ... Czech
What Ever Happened to Modernism ? review

       Sofi Oksanen

       Sofi Oksanen's Purge has taken yet another literary prize, the prix Femina étranger; see, for example, the RFI report, Novel about love triangle wins Prix Femina French literary prize or the page on the prize.

       Helsingin Sanomat have also published Sofi's diary 2010, a newspaper-article-length chronicle of her year ("when she lost a publisher, but gained many more").
       Among the most interesting titbits:
The wildest ride was with the Spanish, as the publisher in Spain sacked its entire editorial department, causing the publication of Purge to be delayed just enough that the publication rights expired, and we had no need to continue the contract. It was not a disappointment -- on the contrary, my editor was great, as were the other people in the publishing house, and because of them we had sold Purge to this fairly small company. But an author can vote with her feet, if nothing else. Nearly all of Spain's publishers submitted offers, and after some intense discussions, Szilvia made a deal with Salamander.

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

       Wang Meng

       In the current issue of The New Yorker -- but, alas, not freely accessible online -- Jianying Zha profiles 'China’s most eminent writer', in 'Servant of the State'.
       The author ? Wang Meng -- hardly high-profile in the US but, as Zha writes, "perhaps the most famous living writer in China"; you may recall that in my Nobel speculation a month ago I suggested he was one of the few Chinese authors with a real chance (for the Literature, not the Peace prize ...).
       I'm curious whether this will do anything for his US profile; he's been widely translated into English, but not in very readily available editions. Bolshevik Salute is a good place to start; see the University of Washington Press publicity page, or get your copy at or -- and see The New York Times Book Review (long before you-know-who took over and abdicated foreign fiction coverage, especially anything as obscure as this ....) review by Marsha Wagner.

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

       Translation from the ... Czech

       In the Prague Daily Monitor they report that State grants for translation of Czech literature on the rise, as:
The Culture Ministry now subsidises three times more translations of Czech books than in 1998 but agents representing Czech writers abroad say the ministry seems to have no rules for subsidising foreign language versions of Czech literature.

"The criteria are not clear and publishers (applying for subsidies) are rejected without proper explanation," Magda de Bruin told CTK.
According to a study that the ministry published recently, 63 translations of Czech authors were subsidised this year compared to 21 in 1998. From 1998 to July 2010, 389 books were subsidised within this programme.

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

       What Ever Happened to Modernism ? review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Gabriel Josipovici's much-discussed What Ever Happened to Modernism ?

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

2 November 2010 - Tuesday

The Complete Review - the book
Serious Men takes The Hindu Best Fiction Award 2010
November issues | Four Drunk Beauties review

       The Complete Review - the book

       Yes, The Complete Review: Eleven Years, 2500 Reviews - A Site History is now available -- currently only at (in print ($16.95) and download ($ 9.95)), but it should also be available at, etc. in a couple of weeks (I'll let you know ...).
       The ultimate in vanity publishing ? Well, sort of. Curious about self-publishing/print on demand, I wanted to try it out for myself; this seems like an ideal sort of book to experiment with -- of possible interest to a small audience, but presumably not sufficient to attract 'real'-publisher interest.
       What's on offer ? Some 54,000 words (184 pages), 225 footnotes (you expected less ?), and 7 appendices. The volume offers a descriptive site history, a longer essay On reviewing in general, twelve representative reviews (one from each year the site has been in operation), a Literary Saloon dialogue, and diverse other odds and ends; half the material is entirely new (i.e. not available at the site itself), and half documentary.
       (Again: this is a sort of test case for me, and I was interested in how and what material can be presented in on-demand printing -- hence the surfeit of footnotes, a few tables and the like, and the mix of familiar and new material; the print quality exceeds my expectations.)
       'Publishing' via Lulu has proven remarkably simple, straightforward, and fast; I just received a bound copy of the book yesterday (and waited to check that it looked passable before introducing it to the world -- though one keen-eyed reader already got to it), and am very pleased with all aspects of it. If not a hundred per cent professional -- hey, it's my first try at this ! -- it's about 95%, which is actually rather more than I expected; I'm not ashamed to be charging $16.95 for this product.
       Given that the cost of the exercise was nil -- I didn't pay myself an enormous (or any) advance, so the only costs involved so far have been those of printing copies for my personal use/distribution -- I'm quite impressed, and will take a more serious look at the possibilities of publishing in this form. It is obviously economical to publish in this way; whether it is -- in broader or narrower senses -- profitable to do so remains to be seen.
       The second part of the exercise is, of course, to see whether anyone will actually purchase a copy. (Someone already has, so at least that initial hurdle has been passed, but whether it can attract more interest .....) I believe there is an audience for this; I am curious as to how large that audience is.
       At this time, I am not sending out review-copies (or, for that matter, distributing more than a handful of copies to 'friends and family'), and certainly not advertising (beyond the mentions at this site) -- whatever 'marketing plan' there is will develop as I see how sales do (or don't) go.
       As you can see from the official book page, I'll keep you up-to-date with the exact sales-figures (and cash-flow); I find it enormously frustrating that more authors don't share this information and see no reason not to.

       (Updated - 3 November): I appreciate -- and am a bit surprised -- by the interest (which extended to: six seven copies sold on the first day !).

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

       Serious Men takes The Hindu Best Fiction Award 2010

       The Hindu offers the front page headline, Manu Joseph bags The Hindu Best Fiction Award 2010, but of course it's his book, Serious Men (get your copy at or that took the prize. (I have a copy -- not that I got it from the publisher ... -- and should get around to reviewing it eventually.)
       The prize-ceremonies also sound like a distinctly odd affair, with another book bizarrely taking center-stage, as reported in Nehru not a woolly-headed idealist: Sahgal:
A spirited defence of the Nehruvian legacy, some magic on the sarod and liberal humour combined to make The Hindu Best Fiction Award 2010 ceremony on Monday a versatile experience.

Writer and historian Nayantara Sahgal gave readings from her soon-to-be-launched book Jawaharlal Nehru: Civilizing a Savage World (Penguin India), during which she argued for an evaluation of the man in his times.
       Versatile, maybe, but not good form -- or a good idea, I'd suggest -- to give a text that's neither fiction nor prize-winning such prominence here (though I suspect anything Sahgal writes could easily compete with any of the shortlisted titles).

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

       November issues

       Among November issues now available online is the November issue of Open Letters Monthly, as well as that of Words without Borders, Tablet and Pen: Writing from the Modern Middle East, as they "celebrate the publication of our fifth WWB anthology", Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, edited by Reza Aslan (get your copy at or

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

       Four Drunk Beauties review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of South African author Alex Smith's Iranian fantasia, Four Drunk Beauties.

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

1 November 2010 - Monday

Harry Mulisch (1927-2010)
Korean Literature Translation Awards | La traducción review

       Harry Mulisch (1927-2010)

       As reported by his publisher, De Bezige Bij, Harry Mulisch overleden -- the great Harry Mulisch has passed away.
       As longtime readers know, I am a great admirer of Mulisch's work (and there are thirteen of his titles -- several still untranslated -- under review at the complete review; see the Mulisch-page for links to them all) and though he hasn't published much in recent years this is a great loss.
       As De Tijd have it, Mulisch, laatste van 'grote 3', gestorven (the others of the Dutch 'great three' being the even more under-appreciated-in-English Willem Frederik Hermans (see, for example, the complete review review of Beyond Sleep) and Gerard Reve), or as Het Parool have it, Mulisch: een van grootste naoorlogse schrijvers ('Mulisch: one of the greatest postwar writers').
       The Dutch papers have tons of coverage; among the many useful piece are:        A couple of good initial German reactions, too:        English language coverage has been shamefully limited; there should be a full slate of articles up later today, but as I post this Marlise Simons' Harry Mulisch, Dutch Novelist, Dies at 83 in The New York Times is about as good as it gets.

       (Updated - 2 November): Amazingly, English-language coverage remains ... superficial and limited. Come on people, Mulisch was one of the greats (worldwide) of the past fifty years ! Give him his due !

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

       Korean Literature Translation Awards

       The Korea Times' Korean Literature Translation Awards have been handed out, and in that paper they have several articles about this, most notably the Judges' report.
       They report:
There were many competent translations of Korean fiction this year. Many of them were eminently readable. And yet we felt that they often struck an odd tone as in a song being sung out of tune.
So we were happy to find one translation that we unanimously agreed deserved the Grand Prize for Fiction, being satisfactory in the literary quality and style, and in the faithfulness of the translation and the negotiation by which the translator found English solutions for "untranslatable" elements in the Korean.
       That winner was Kim Yoon-kyung; see also Han Sang-hee's profile, Translation: discovering one's identity (and see also the profile of Commendation Award winner Jamie Chang, 'Don't do it unless you truly love it,' says winner).
       The judges also noted:
There were only five entries in the poetry category this time, a disappointing number.

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

       La traducción review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pablo De Santis' La traducción.
       (This older work is not yet available in translation, but Voltaire's Calligrapher did just come out in English.)

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

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