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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 31 January 2012

21 January: French literary prizes: Le prix Mémorable - Pharmaceutical prize | We Always Treat Women Too Well review
22 January: National Book Critics Circle Awards finalists | DSC prize for South Asian Literature | The Rushdie-(not-)in-India mess | National Literature Awards - Cyprus | Yasmina Reza profile
23 January: Angela Carter in postcards | Nigerian thrillers | The Australian canon | The Flowers of War review | 'A World of International Literature'
24 January: Cairo International Book Fair | Chetan Bhagat profile | Editing poetry
25 January: Salman Rushdie Q & A | Pure takes Whitbread Costa Book of the Year
26 January: Stig Sæterbakken (1966-2012) | Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature finalists | E-books in: Africa - Arabic | The Cyclist Conspiracy review | 'A World of International Literature'
27 January: Nigerian writers abroad | New Review of Contemporary Fiction | Dalrymple on the Rushdie-fiasco | Armenian literature | Publishing in ... Finland | 'Europe's narrative bias' ?
28 January: Literature in ... India | Icelandic Literature Awards | African writers Q & A | Kenan Malik on Rushdie-(not)-in-Jaipur | Profiles: Adonis - Roger Scruton | All Our Worldly Goods review
29 January: Peter Carey profile | Indian literature abroad | Banned books in ... Viet Nam
30 January: E-books in ... the Philippines | Jonathan Franzen on e-books | Ragnarok review
31 January: Publishing in ... Burma | Writing in ... Tunisia | Finalists for Iranian Book of the Year - foreign category | The Script Road | Self-epublishing bubble ? | Death as a Side Effect review

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31 January 2012 - Tuesday

Publishing in ... Burma | Writing in ... Tunisia
Finalists for Iranian Book of the Year - foreign category | The Script Road
Self-epublishing bubble ? | Death as a Side Effect review

       Publishing in ... Burma

       Are things really moving in the right direction in Burma ? Among the many signals that the regime is lightening up: in The Myanmar Times Zon Pann Pwint reports that publishers and writers are Seeking freedom from fear of selling sensitive books -- and meeting with success.
       Among the books recently permitted: Thant Myint-U's The River of Lost Footsteps (currently just in English, but a Burmese translation is in the works).
"I was surprised to get approval for my novel Tha Ya Aw Than (Shout of Vowels) without having even a single word removed," said writer Nyi Min Nyo.

The book, which was published earlier this month, features a story in which vowels are the main characters. It contains a message about the importance of dialogue.

"A year ago it would not have been possible to get permission to publish this type of novel,”" he said.
       (Sunds like it might be interesting .....)
       Of course, they do have to still write 'Myanmar' rather than 'Burma' .....

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

       Writing in ... Tunisia

       At ahramonline Mary Mourad reports on three writers who: "discuss their novels portraying Tunisia's modern history and ponder the future of literature in the post-Ben Ali era at the Cairo Book Fair", in Tunisian novelists caught between sadness and optimism.

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       Finalists for Iranian Book of the Year - foreign category

       IBNA reports that Nominees of Book of the Year Award announced -- not the domestic stuff, but in the 'other languages'-category, among others.
       Among the finalists: Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow and The Plague by Albert Camus ..... (They're competing against crime fiction by Boileau-Narcejac and Simenon.)

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       The Script Road

       The Script Road -- running 29 January through 4 February -- is: "the first ever Literary Festival organized in the Special Administrative Region of Macau".
       And, promisingly, among the panels is one asking; 'Can writing still be political ?'
       See also Kate O'Keeffe's report, In Macau, a Literary Fest Blooms Among the Casinos, at the Wall Street Journal's Scene Asia weblog.

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       Self-epublishing bubble ?

       In The Guardian Ewan Morrison argues that we are at the start of an epublishing bubble, in The self-epublishing bubble.
       I think he places way too much emphasis on writers (in the broadest sense of the word) looking to actually make real money by self-e-publishing -- and while I do see a bubble forming, I think we're still really, really early in the game, and this is going to get a lot bigger before it messily (but also rather harmlessly) bursts.

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

       Death as a Side Effect review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review Ana María Shua's Death as a Side Effect.

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

30 January 2012 - Monday

E-books in ... the Philippines | Jonathan Franzen on e-books | Ragnarok review

       E-books in ... the Philippines

       "Flipreads is your premiere source of electronic books (e-books) from and about the Philippines and Asia", they say -- though the number of available titles is still pretty limited. But it's a start
       At CNet's Asia Blogs Joseph F. Nacino reports on Bringing classic Filipino literature forward this way.

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

       Jonathan Franzen on e-books

       Anita Singh -- The Telegraph's 'Showbusiness Editor' -- reports from the Hay Festival in Cartagena, Colombia that Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society.
       One imagines (or likes to) that his actual statements were a bit more coherent, but regardless, no doubt the man who threw out his TV (and didn't he write blindfolded too, to keep out the distractions ?) is nobody's go-to guy on matters of technological change and the like.
       Still, it's fun to hear him spout stuff like:
"The technicians of finance are making the decisions there. It has very little to do with democracy or the will of the people. And we are hostage to that because we like our iPhones."

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       Ragnarok review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review A.S.Byatt's Ragnarok: The End of the Gods, her contribution to The Myths.-series.

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

29 January 2012 - Sunday

Peter Carey profile | Indian literature abroad | Banned books in ... Viet Nam

       Peter Carey profile

       In The Age Simon Mann profiles Peter Carey, whose new novel, The Chemistry of Tears, is just out -- in Australia.
       See also the publicity pages from Penguin Books Australia and Faber, or pre-order your copy from (US release date: May) or (UK release date: April).

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

       Indian literature abroad

       In the Economic Times Narayani Ganesh has a Q & A with the head of foreign literature at French publisher Buchet-Chastel, Marc Parent, Indian literature is riding a very powerful economic wave.

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       Banned books in ... Viet Nam

       Kelly Macnamara finds that Banned books hot property in censored Vietnam for AFP, as:
Vietnam's pop culture is attracting the attention of print censors who experts say are struggling to accept an increasingly brash literary scene.

After years spent keeping political texts off the printing presses, authorities are setting their sights on the growing market of publishing for young people, with several books prohibited in recent months.

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

28 January 2012 - Saturday

Literature in ... India | Icelandic Literature Awards | African writers Q & A
Kenan Malik on Rushdie-(not)-in-Jaipur | Profiles: Adonis - Roger Scruton
All Our Worldly Goods review

       Literature in ... India

       At Tehelka Nisha Susan speculates -- in the wonderfully titled Is That a Fish in Your Indian Ear ? -- "What would India be if we were reading each other more? "
       Indeed, sadly:
At this year's JLF, there are 260 Indian writers of which over 40 write in Indian languages other than English, and not one of them have the glamorous aura of those who write in English.
       Interestingly, even in India:
At the heart of the sluggishness in the bhasha book trade is the shocking but everyday assumption that translation is second-hand and second-rate.

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       Icelandic Literature Awards

       In the Iceland Review they announce that Icelandic Literature Awards Announced -- with Allt með kossi vekur by Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir winning in the fiction category.

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       African writers Q & A

       Theleka has a triple-Q&A, with African writers Ben Okri, Taiye Selasi, and Teju Cole, making for An Africa That Talks Back.

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

       Kenan Malik on Rushdie-(not)-in-Jaipur

       Eurozine prints Kenan Malik's piece from Pandaemonium, To name the unnameable, in which he takes on the recent Salman Rushdie non-appearance at the Jaipur Literature Festival (see also my most recent mention, etc.).
       Malik notes:
But if it is not the role of literary festivals to stand up for writers, and to defend their right to speak, especially in these circumstances, it is difficult to know what is. The festival's decision not just to distance itself from Kunzru and Kumar but to threaten others who might be thinking of following suit was nothing less than cowardly.

Contrast the pusillanimity of the Jaipur festival organizers with the response of writers, publishers, editors, translators and booksellers faced with Ayotalloh Khomeini's fatwa in 1989.
       Indeed .....

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       Profile: Adonis

       In The Guardian Maya Jaggi has an extensive profile of the Syrian poet, Adonis: a life in writing.
       One impressive fact: mom is still around -- at age 107 !
       And quote of interest:
What's really absurd is that the Arab opposition to dictators refuses any critique; it's a vicious circle. So someone who is against despotism in all its forms can't be either with the regime or with those who call themselves its opponents. The opposition is a regime avant la lettre." He adds: "In our tradition, unfortunately, everything is based on unity -- the oneness of God, of politics, of the people. We can't ever arrive at democracy with this mentality, because democracy is based on understanding the other as different. You can't think you hold the truth, and that nobody else has it.

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

       Profile: Roger Scruton

       In The Telegraph Georgia Dehn looks at the World of Roger Scruton, writer and philosopher.
       I'm not a huge fan -- see, for example, my review of his The Uses of Pessimism -- but I do like this format for an author-profile.

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

       All Our Worldly Goods review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Irène Némirovsky's All Our Worldly Goods.

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

27 January 2012 - Friday

Nigerian writers abroad | New Review of Contemporary Fiction
Dalrymple on the Rushdie-fiasco | Armenian literature
Publishing in ... Finland | 'Europe's narrative bias' ?

       Nigerian writers abroad

       AP has an article on how Nigerian authors, both home and abroad, need international fame to sell back home, as:
While Nigeria serves as a muse, many of these new authors must live abroad or tap into Western networks to earn a living from their writing. The international attention helps them secure a reputation in Nigeria and allows their books to be published here too.
       Also worth noting:
Western publishing also overlooks a vast body of non-English writing in a country where more than 150 languages are spoken. Hausa-language literature that is self-published, for instance, has thrived in Nigeria’s north, but is unheard of by non-Hausa speakers
       I hope someone looks into that .....

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

       New Review of Contemporary Fiction

       A new issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction is out, and while the Flann O'Brien-content is not freely accessible online, the reviews are; scroll down to the review section and click away !

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

       Dalrymple on the Rushdie-fiasco

       William Dalrymple tries to explain Why Salman Rushdie's voice was silenced in Jaipur, as he gives a run-down of what unfolded at the Jaipur Literature Festival; see also my previous mention, etc.

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

       Armenian literature

       At ArmeniaNow Gohar Abrahamyan reports on Granish: Spreading Armenian literary word, as:
Armenian literature enthusiasts on Wednesday unveiled an upgraded version of their literary website that appears popular among reading aficionados and authors.
       Check out the ԳՐԱՆԻՇ-site -- but, yes, the content is practically all in Armenian.

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

       Publishing in ... Finland

       Helsingin Sanomat report that WSOY regains number one spot in publishers’ quality comparison -- for what that's worth.
       More interesting, the note that:
The sales of fiction even went up a little bit, despite the fact that the total sales edged down by a couple of percentage points.
       (They report that overall book sales declined 6.7 per cent, so the fiction-plus is significant.)

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

       'Europe's narrative bias' ?

       At Eurozine Erik Hammar complains about Europe's narrative bias -- and he may have a point, given that:
Grants for literary translation showed a similar bias. Half of the nearly 500 projects were for translations of texts originally written in English, French or German; Estonian was the source language in 2.

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

26 January 2012 - Thursday

Stig Sæterbakken (1966-2012) | Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature finalists
E-books in: Africa - Arabic | The Cyclist Conspiracy review
'A World of International Literature'

       Stig Sæterbakken (1966-2012)

       Norwegian author Stig Sæterbakken has passed away; see, for example, (Norwegian) reports in Aftenposten and Dagbladet. (His US publisher, Dalkey Archive Press, report it as a suicide; the Scandinavian press has been more circumspect.)
       See also the complete review review of his Siamese, as well as the information page at Norwegian publisher Cappelen Damm.

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

       Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.
       They alternate between non and fiction, and this year it is, regrettably, again a non year. The prize is also noteworthy for being one of the richest in the US, the $100,000 prize putting the 'big' literary prizes -- Pulitzer, National Book Award, NBCC, etc. -- to (remunerative) shame.

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

       E-books in: Africa

       In the Business Daily Wangui Maina reports that African publishers lag in shift to electronic books, as:
Electronic readers are transforming the way people enjoy their books. However, there is very little African published content on the online stores.
       Look for that to change fast.

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

       E-books in: Arabic

       In The National Neil Parmar finds that slowly E-books put the accent on Arabic -- another as yet under-developed market that is showing signs of growth.

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

       The Cyclist Conspiracy review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Svetislav Basara's novel, The Cyclist Conspiracy.

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

       'A World of International Literature'

       A reminder that I will be speaking on 'A World of International Literature: Bringing Foreign Fiction Home' at the Bushnell-Sage Library in Sheffield, Massachusetts at 19:00 tomorrow !

       (Updated): See now also Kate Abbott's profile, One site finds the wide world's tales, in the Berkshire Eagle.

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

25 January 2012 - Wednesday

Salman Rushdie Q & A | Pure takes Whitbread Costa Book of the Year

       Salman Rushdie Q & A

       The Salman-Rushdie-(not-)in-Jaipur (as in: (not) at the Jaipur Literature Festival) continues, as even just a video-appearance by the author was deemed as too provocative; see, for example, Salman Rushdie video cancellation: How the events unfolded at IBN Live.
       Fortunately, NDTV had a lengthy Q & A with him -- and the transcript is available. Highly recommended !

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

       Pure takes Whitbread Costa Book of the Year

       They've announced that Pure, by Andrew Miller, has been named the Whitbread Costa Book of the Year.
       Europa Editions will be bringing this out in the US this fall; meanwhile, see the Sceptre publicity page, or get your copy at
       See also reports such as Nick Clark's Literary feud lies behind novel choice for Costa book of the year in The Independent, or Andrew Miller novel Pure wins Costa Book of the Year 2012 in The Telegraph.

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

24 January 2012 - Tuesday

Cairo International Book Fair | Chetan Bhagat profile | Editing poetry

       Cairo International Book Fair

       Good to see that the Cairo International Book Fair is back again (after not being held last year); Tunisia is the guest of honour, and it runs through 7 February.
       Mary Mourad reports on the fair at ahramonline, in Finally here: Cairo International Book Fair opens with cautious optimism -- and notes that the fact that: "make-shift tents were used instead of the traditional display halls" seems to be posing a bit of a problem:
Terrible weather in one of the windiest spots in the city invaded the tents: sand and dust flooded the halls and affected books. Some shelves looked like they've been standing there for ages when it's only this morning they were set up and the books put on display. This was the most disturbing to visitors, who had to handle battered books and survive the unpaved roads piled with sand on their way to the halls.
       So maybe not the ideal conditions this year, but at least the fair is on !

       (Updated - 27 January): See now also Nevine El-Aref's report in Al-Ahram Weekly, Cairo Book Fair breezes in.

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

       Chetan Bhagat profile

       The Economist's Prospero thinks: "Chetan Bhagat is a sensation", and profiles the author in Pile 'em high.
       He suggests:
So far his fiction writing has not travelled much beyond India. Yet he believes foreign readers, who are increasingly eager to get a glimpse of ordinary Indian society, are turning to his stories as an easy-to-digest introduction to a bewildering place. He makes reference to other writers with mass appeal ("a little bit Dickens, a little bit Orwell") who inspired him by raising contemporary social concerns through simple, popular writing, with the suggestion that outsiders may warm to such themes in his writing too.
       Well, there are three of his titles under review at the complete review -- Five Point Someone, One night @ the call center, and The Three Mistakes of my Life -- and while he has a certain ... flair ... well, still, most of this is pretty godawful stuff. But, yes, there's nothing like it coming out of India, and one does wish there was. Well, better stuff, but along these more popular and accessible lines.

       Bhagat was also at the Jaipur Literature Festival, and apparently got in a bit of hot water for his take on the Rushdie-mess (see my previous mention); now in the Times of India they report that Bhagat vexed at being misrepresented for his comment.
       However, I'm not sure he's really helping his cause when:
Clarifying his stand, Bhagat said, "I have a balanced viewpoint on the issue. I think sentiments of the author as well as those who were opposing his visit should be taken into consideration."
       A 'balanced viewpoint' may be the way to go when the two sides are both reasonable and rational; that was not the case here. Bhagat's 'balanced' position seems simply evasive (and not exactly daring ...).

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

       Editing poetry

       In The Telegraph Sameer Rahim 'investigates the unseen hands behind that most personal and mysterious of literary forms', in The mystery of poetry editing: from TS Eliot to John Burnside.

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

23 January 2012 - Monday

Angela Carter in postcards | Nigerian thrillers | The Australian canon
The Flowers of War review | 'A World of International Literature'

       Angela Carter in postcards

       The Observer has an extract from Susannah Clapp's forthcoming A Card From Angela Carter, Angela Carter: a portrait in postcards, which sounds pretty interesting.
       See also the Bloomsbury publicity page, or get your copy from

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

       Nigerian thrillers

       In Vanguard Toni Kan offers part one of his look at The Thriller Tradition in Nigerian Literature.
       How I'd love to get my hands on some of this stuff !

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

       The Australian canon

       In the Sydney Morning Herald Michael Heyward finds Australian Classics going to waste, as he thinks local academia is not paying proper attention to Australian literature -- as, for example:
If I tell you that Patrick White's The Tree of Man was prescribed on two courses last year, or The Man Who Loved Children, which MUP recently put back into print, on just one, you start to see the extent of the problem.

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

       The Flowers of War review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yan Geling's novel of the Nanjing Massacre, The Flowers of War.
       The movie version is also just out -- which also means that readers have to endure Christian Bale on the cover of the US paperback tie-in .....

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

       'A World of International Literature'

       If you're in the western Massachusetts neighborhood on Friday you can find me giving a talk on: 'A World of International Literature: Bringing Foreign Fiction Home' at the illustrious Bushnell-Sage Library in Sheffield, at 19:00

       (Yes, I'm known as Mitja in that neighborhood. Come, and maybe I'll tell you why.)

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

22 January 2012 - Sunday

National Book Critics Circle Awards finalists
DSC prize for South Asian Literature | The Rushdie-(not-)in-India mess
National Literature Awards - Cyprus | Yasmina Reza profile

       National Book Critics Circle Awards finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards -- and surprisingly many (well, a handful) are under review at the complete review:        Members can write-in suggestions, and books hitting the 20% threshold get nominated too; it's unclear (to me, at this time) whether any of this year's finalists made the list via that route [updated - 24 January: the NBCC confirms no titles made the 20% threshold this year], but I was pleased to see that two of my write-in votes -- the Bellos and the Ugrešić -- were named finalists. I am a bit disappointed that no translated fiction titles -- which the NBCC is willing to consider, unlike the other major US literary prizes -- made it -- especially since the disappointing Eugenides did.

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

       DSC prize for South Asian Literature

       They've announced that Shehan Karunatilaka awarded the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2012 -- i.e. his Chinaman (to be published in the politically apparently hopelessly correct US as The Legend of Pradeep Mathew in May ...) did. Or, as Archana Khare Ghose puts it nicely in the Times of India about this cricket-focused novel: 'Chinaman' hits a sixer.
       See also the Graywolf publicity page, or get your copy at, or pre-order your copy from
       I've been enjoying this; a review should be up eventually.

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

       The Rushdie-(not-)in-India mess

       Last week I mentioned how it looked like Salman Rushdie would not be attending the Jaipur Literature Festival because some locals were stirring The Satanic Verses-pot yet again and toadying local politicians did everything they could to help them make their case. There was some back and forth -- will he/won't he come, will he skip the opening and just attend one of the sessions, etc. -- but with apparently to-be-taken-seriously murderous threats conveyed to Rushdie he decided it wasn't worth the risk.
       Outrageously, it now turns out that, as Praveen Swami now reports in The Hindu, 'Rajasthan police invented plot to keep away Rushdie', as:
Local intelligence officials in Rajasthan invented information that hit men were preparing to assassinate eminent author Salman Rushdie in a successful plot to deter him from attending the Jaipur Literature Festival, highly placed police sources have told The Hindu.
Intelligence sources in New Delhi said no threat to Mr. Rushdie's life had been reported to the Multi-Agency Centre, the Intelligence Bureau's hub at which all terrorism-related threats are discussed at high-level afternoon meetings.
       This is a pretty shocking development -- and the black eyes all around that India and these local governments have suffered have gotten blacker still.
       Meanwhile, several authors read from The Satanic Verses at the festival in protest -- and quickly found themsleves in both legal trouble and, even more outrageously, shooed from the stages and silenced by the festival organizers. As, for example, Vaiju Naravane reports in The Hindu, Four writers who read from The Satanic Verses leave Jaipur to avoid arrest, as:
The four writers who read extracts from Salman Rushdie's banned novel The Satanic Verses -- Hari Kunzru, Ruchir Joshi, Amitava Kumar and Jeet Thayil have all left the Rajasthan capital on the advice of a lawyer, William Dalrymple, the co-Director of the Jaipur Literature Festival told The Hindu here. They would otherwise have risked arrest in the State.
       Disappointing, too, the reaction, by the festival organizers:
Defending himself against charges of weakness and failing to adequately defend Mr. Rushdie, Mr. Dalrymple said: "We stand for the freedom of expression. We support Salman and we will protest, send a petition around, hold a video-conference with him but all that has to be done within the law.
       Oooh, a petition ! A video conference ! But god forbid anyone reads from a banned book (as The Satanic Verses still is in India) -- they can't have that .....
       I understand that Dalrymple & Co. have a strong interest in preserving their cash-cow fiefdom and staying on the good side of the authorities -- regardless of how nutty they are -- but sometimes you have to take a stand; not letting those four continue to read -- indeed, not encouraging them to do so -- is a poor, poor show. (And surely there will be consequences: what author is going to accept an invitation to a 'literary' festival that tramples on ideals of free speech (even where they are 'illegal', as here) like this ? Of course, with the presence of the Oprah at the festival this year one has to wonder whether it hasn't already jumped the shark, completing the transition from literary festival to celeb-fest.)
       (I note also that I can't find any official sort of statement at the official site -- god forbid they'd keep folks informed -- and that the press page is entirely blank .....)

       Meanwhile, in a further show of local nutcase-pandering NDTV reports that Police demand tapes of reading from Rushdie's 'Satanic Verses'; some authors leave LitFest, as:
"We asked organisers today to provide us details and video footage of a session in which the book was allegedly read," Jaipur Police Additional Commissioner Biju George Joseph said.

"We will examine whether the alleged reading from the banned book was done. It is a suo motu action. After examining the matter, appropriate action would be taken against those who were found guilty," he said.
       Suo moto, indeed -- meaning that the police are acting on their own (i.e. they haven't been instructed to investigate), simply because they think this is apparently a good idea .....

       There is, of course, a lot more to all this -- and it continues to unfold; there are press reports galore, too, if you're interested .....

       (Updated): The flood of articles -- especially in the Indian press -- continues; much is of interest and worthwhile, and I direct you in particular to:
  • Hari Kunzru's detailed post on Reading from the Satanic Verses in Jaipur (2012) and what exactly happened; among the amusing notes: to get the (very short) passages from The Satanic Verses they read they turned to a pirated text on the Internet. Kunzru also notes: "I believed (and continue to believe) that I was not breaking the law" and also that he: "had no interest in causing gratuitous offense". (Unfortunately, the ones making the fuss about all this seem to be able to find offense very, very easily .....)

  • Sandip Roy's Q & A with William Dalrymple, I had no idea reading from The Satanic Verses is a crime: Dalrymple (from which some of the quotes in my post above are taken)

  • Praveen Swami's leader in The Hindu, Salman Rushdie & India's new theocracy -- who suggests: "India cannot undo this harm until god and god's will are ejected from our public life" (amen to that !) and concludes: "The time has come for Indian secular-democrats to assert the case for a better universe: a universe built around citizenship and rights, not the pernicious identity politics the state and its holy allies encourage."
       Well, if there's some proper discussion of all these issues, maybe some good can come of all this; on the other hand the cowering claims: "We cannot read the text of a banned book. If we read the text of a banned book, we are the mercy of the law" are not a great start: there's no need to apologize for being unaware and then also breaking certain laws, and any law that makes it a crime to read from a work of fiction like The Satanic Verses is certainly one that should be undermined at every turn and in every possible way -- and doing so at a high-profile literary festival is a great place to start. Let's hope they're soon reading it aloud on streetcorners !

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

       National Literature Awards - Cyprus

       They've taken their time, but, hey, there's no need for rush in recognizing literary excellence, and now, as the Famagusta Gazette reports:
The results of the competition for the 2010 Literature State Awards were announced today by the Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture.
       Among the winners: the National Fiction Award went to Δέκα χιλιάδες μέλισσες ('Ten thousand bees') by Antis Rodites (Άντης Ροδίτης):
which according to the announcement recreates memories from Cyprus' recent history, having as its main basis the betrayal of the national visions through ideological clashes that have injured the island's Hellenism.
       (And, yes, as that description may also suggest, these awards, while 'national' are surely a bit ... how shall one put it ? one-sided.)

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

       Yasmina Reza profile

       In The Observer Elizabeth Day profiles Yasmina Reza, about her recently made-into-a-film (by Roman Polanski !) The God of Carnage and more.

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

21 January 2012 - Saturday

French literary prizes: Le prix Mémorable - Pharmaceutical prize
We Always Treat Women Too Well review

       Le prix Mémorable

       They've announced the winner of Le prix Mémorable Initiales -- "un prix qui salue la réédition d’un auteur malheureusement oublié, d’un auteur étranger décédé encore jamais traduit en français, ou d’un inédit ou d’une traduction révisée, complète d’un auteur" (i.e. basically for an overlooked book) -- and it goes to the French translation of John Williams' Stoner (which New York Review Books reissued a few years back; see their publicity page, or get your copy at
       What's particularly noteworthy: the prize-winning French translation is by Anna Gavalda -- yet another instance of a foreign author who also dabbles in translation. While it's true she wasn't one of the top ten bestselling French authors last year -- see my previous mention -- she remains (rather inexplicably, to my mind ...) among the most successful French authors, and -- by American standards -- it's astonishing that someone of her stature would spend her time doing something like this. (No comparable American author would.)

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

       Pharmaceutical prize

       Everybody wants a literary prize ! Now also the French Académie nationale de Pharmacie, who have set up Le Grand prix littéraire de l’Académie nationale de Pharmacie (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- "destiné à écompenser une œuvre littéraire de type «nouvelles» ou «roman» évoquant le médicament, la pharmacie ou d’autres aspects du domaine de la santé". Okay .....
       Oh, yes: Clément Caliari's Retrait de marché took the prize.

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

       We Always Treat Women Too Well review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Raymond Queneau's 1947 novel, We Always Treat Women Too Well.

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

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