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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 30 April 2012

21 April: Going online, in Saudi Arabia | Australian literary magazines | Los Angeles Times Book Prizes | Walaschek's Dream review
22 April: Writing in (and on) ... India | Robert Weil Q & A | Atlas review
23 April: Literary prizes in ... Africa | Agrippa Q & A | The Fiend with Twenty Faces review
24 April: PEN World Voices Festival book bag | Translating from ... Tamil | Among the Creationists review
25 April: Commonwealth Writers Prize shortlists | New issue of World Literature Today | Publishing in ... India | César Vallejo interview | Novella praise | The Secret of Evil review
26 April: Walden, the ... video game ? | Book reviewing observations | German literature in translation | I Burn Paris review
27 April: Alain Mabanckou profile | Plainsong review
28 April: Museum of Innocence | 'The Taeback Mountains' in English ?
29 April: Spring list | Google Translate | Australian canon
30 April: Salon National du Livre in Haïti | Kehlmann's Gödel-play | In One Person review

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30 April 2012 - Monday

Salon National du Livre in Haïti | Kehlmann's Gödel-play | In One Person review

       Salon National du Livre in Haïti

       As Haiti Libre reports, there's a 1st edition of National Book Fair in Haïti which runs through tomorrow; they're also inaugurating a Grand Prix National des lettres "with a budget of one million gourdes" (with which they'll be rewarding: "an author, chosen according to objective criteria").

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

       Kehlmann's Gödel-play

       There will be a staged reading of Daniel Kehlmann's Kurt Gödel-play, Ghosts in Princeton, at the Center for Jewish History in New York tomorrow at 18:00.
       There's something of an introduction/profile in The Jewish Week by Eric Herschthal, Waiting For The Right Holocaust Angle; see also the publicity pages for German productions at the Schauspielhaus Graz (the world premiere) and the Renaissance Theater Berlin (the German premiere, which is currently still running).

       A big Gödel fan, I'm very curious about this and plan to attend; see also reviews of several Gödel-related titles at the complete review:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       In One Person review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of John Irving's new novel, In One Person, which will, no doubt, be getting a lot of publicity in the coming weeks.

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

29 April 2012 - Sunday

Spring list | Google Translate | Australian canon

       Spring list

       The spring 2012 issue of list - Books from Korea is now available online, with a 'Spotlight on 17 Illustrators'; see the full table of contents.
       From reviews to articles finding Great Promise for Korean Literature in Argentina lots of material of interest.

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

       Google Translate

       At the Google™ - official blog Franz Och looks at Breaking down the language barrier -- six years in, describing some of the evolution and success of Google Translate.
       Among the interesting statistics:
92 percent of our traffic comes from outside the United States
       Among the less interesting statistics:
In a given day we translate roughly as much text as you’d find in 1 million books.
       (I don't find "books" a useful unit of measurement of ... almost anything. Books can contain a lot of text, or almost no text. Why not just say how many words they translate -- surely that's the appropriate and useful way to put it .....)

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

       Australian canon

       In The Age Amanda Dunn reports on A loss for words: winning books hit the dust, as:
Of the 53 books that have been awarded the Miles Franklin since its inception in 1957, 20 are no longer in print in this country, feeding into a growing debate about how Australia values its literary history and the cultural contribution of its finest writers.
       In a separate article, "the first of a series, we ask whether we need to establish a canon of our greatest authors", Losing our local flavour. And they also have a editorial, lamenting that The nation's literary heritage is gathering dust

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

28 April 2012 - Saturday

Museum of Innocence | 'The Taeback Mountains' in English ?

       Museum of Innocence

       Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence -- an actual museum, based on his novel, The Museum of Innocence -- opens to the public today, and it sounds pretty damn impressive.
       The Guardian offers a glimpse of Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence -- in pictures, while in The Hindu Vaiju Naravane profiles it, in A story, a book and a living, throbbing museum.

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

       'The Taeback Mountains' in English ?

       In The Korea Times Kwaak Je-yup reports that Literary masterpiece translated into English, Russian, as:
The Taeback Mountains, Jo Jung-rae's 1995 masterpiece and one of the classics of contemporary Korean literature is going to be published in English and Russian.
       That's 태백산맥 (太白山脈), the ten-volume work by 조정래 -- which reportedly went into its 200th (!) printing in 2009, and has sold over seven million copies.
       I'm not quite sure about the 'publishing' company that's planning on undertaking this -- Knowledge Pen -- but, hey, if traditional publishers weren't willing to tackle it, then good for them.
       [Updated - 29 April: The publisher points us to this newer version of their website -- as well as their weblog, where there's more information about this particular project; see, for example, this post.]
       Compare, however, the situation in France, where L'Harmattan brought out all ten volumes of La chaîne des monts Taebaek years ago (see, for example, their publicity page for volume one, with links to all the other), as well as another, even more-multi-volume epic by Jo (whose name is, of course, transliterated differently here: they know him not as Jo Jung-rae, but rather as Jo Jong-nae ...).
       See also French translator Georges Ziegelmeyer on Jo Jung-rae's Taebaek Mountain Range: The Saga of the Korean People, as well as the (Korean) Hainaim publicity page for the book.

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

27 April 2012 - Friday

Alain Mabanckou profile | Plainsong review

       Alain Mabanckou profile

       In The Los Angeles Times Reed Johnson reports that For Alain Mabanckou, breakthrough translates well.
       Johnson finds:
Colloquial and entertaining, Mabanckou's novels fuse an erudite sensibility with the slangy cadences of the African diaspora, yoked to a suitably jaundiced view of life in the modern global village.
       See also reviews of Mabanckou's African Psycho and Broken Glass at the complete review

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

       Plainsong review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hosaka Kazushi's Plainsong.
       Good to see this 1990 title available in English (Dalkey Archive Press brought it out last year), but like so many of the books brought out under the auspices of the Japanese Literature Publishing Project (see those under review at the complete review) it isn't exactly the most current of titles, or even of the author's books .....

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

26 April 2012 - Thursday

Walden, the ... video game ? | Book reviewing observations
German literature in translation | I Burn Paris review

       Walden, the ... video game ?

       Via Galleycat I learn that:
The University of Southern California has received a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to produce a video game based on the work of Henry David Thoreau.
       (See also the full list of Arts in Media grants.)
       The USC Cinematic Arts department actually has an information page on 'Walden, A Game' -- complete with trailer.
       I'm not really sure about this -- I suppose it has potential, but it sounds pretty exceptionally boring to me -- but then I'm not really much of a video game player (and, quite honestly, I never really got Walden, either), so obviously not the target audience; maybe this is what the kids are into .....
       Still, I think they might make things more interesting -- and have considerably greater chances of commercial (and even educational) success -- if they joined forces (and projects) with, say, the MobZombies group ...... (Given recent mash-up trends, I'm surprised they didn't go with that in the first place.)

       (Of course, they could also combine it with The Cat and the Coup, where you role-play ... Mohammed Mossadegh's cat, coaxing: "Mossadegh back through significant events of his life by knocking objects off of shelves, scattering his papers, jumping on his lap and scratching him" (though here, too, I think the odds of success would be greatly improved by adding MobZombies to the mix ...).)

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

       Book reviewing observations

       At his weblog, American Fiction Notes, Mark Athitakis offers Seven Things I Think I Think About Book Reviews, while at The Atlantic Sarah Fay considers Book Reviews: A Tortured History.

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

       German literature in translation

       In Die Zeit they have a (German) Q & A with New Books in German editor in chief Charlotte Ryland about German fiction in (English) translation (specifically in the UK market) -- why there's so (relatively) little of it, what (apparently) appeals to English-reading audiences, etc. (Even if you can't read the German, there's lots of name-dropping, offering a decent overview.)

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

       I Burn Paris review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Bruno Jasieński's I Burn Paris -- yet another interesting work dug up by estimable Czech publisher Twisted Spoon.

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

25 April 2012 - Wednesday

Commonwealth Writers Prize shortlists | New issue of World Literature Today
Publishing in ... India | César Vallejo interview
Novella praise | The Secret of Evil review

       Commonwealth Writers Prize shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize -- reduced, now, to a mere first-book prize -- and the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
       The only shortlisted title under review at the complete review is Chinaman (now published as The Legend of Pradeep Mathew in the US) by Shehan Karunatilaka.

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

       New issue of World Literature Today

       The May/June issue of World Literature Today -- their 350th issue ! -- is now available online -- including a decent number of the reviews from the World Literature in Review-section.

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

       Publishing in ... India

       At The New York Times' India Ink weblog Neha Thirani finds that As Book Sales Grow, Publishers Flock to India.
       Among the ... insights:
"The publication of Chetan Bhagat's novel was a watershed moment for the Indian publishing industry," Mr. Gupta said. "He spawned a new breed of writers who wanted to write books that connected to the average Indian reader and didn't care about literary merit and acclaim. Publishing houses committed to publishing such books sprang up all over the country and big multinationals had to shed their elitism and enter this space."
       (See, for example, my review of Bhagat's Five Point Someone.)

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

       César Vallejo interview

       Pretty neat -- now available online: the first full English translation of a 1931 interview with César Vallejo [via]

       See also the complete review review of Vallejo's The Complete Poetry.

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

       Novella praise

       At The Atlantic Joe Fassler writes about The Return of the Novella, the Original #Longread, with a focus on Melville House's The Art of the Novella-series.

       (Several of those titles are under review at the complete review; if I had to choose one, I'd go with the Contemporary Art of the Novella title, The Death of the Author, by Gilbert Adair.)

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

       The Secret of Evil review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Roberto Bolaño's The Secret of Evil, a collection of his posthumous pieces just out from New Directions.

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

24 April 2012 - Tuesday

PEN World Voices Festival book bag | Translating from ... Tamil
Among the Creationists review

       PEN World Voices Festival book bag

       The PEN World Voices Festival starts next Monday, and one of the things they're doing is offering American Classics Take Two (scroll down), where:
Our American Classics series returns with Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan, curating her top ten list of literary works which will be placed inside each room of The Standard Hotel.
       They don't seem to have the list of titles on the site, but at The Daily Beast they now have Pulitzer Winner Jennifer Egan's PEN Festival Book Bag, with a brief explanation for each selection. Instead of just a top ten they count a dozen -- though only about half of them qualify as 'American Classics' (but then for a world voices festival a more international selection does seem appropriate).
       (Of her selections, only Middlemarch by George Elliot is under review at the complete review).

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

       Translating from ... Tamil

       In The Hindu D. Karthikeyan talks to "Puducherry-born writer, translator and art critic, Indran", in Tamil works must be translated into European languages as well.
       Indran notes:
In the area of translation with particular reference to Tamil, I think we are always conditioned to think of translating works of other languages into native Tamil. Sparingly we think of translating Tamil works of literature in languages other than English because of our colonial legacy. We never think of translating works in Tamil to French, German, Danish and Spanish languages. This trend should be reversed.

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

       Among the Creationists review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jason Rosenhouse's Dispatches From the Anti-Evolutionist Frontline, Among the Creationists, just out from Oxford University Press.

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

23 April 2012 - Monday

Literary prizes in ... Africa | Agrippa Q & A
The Fiend with Twenty Faces review

       Literary prizes in ... Africa

       In Vanguard Obi Nwakanma writes On the integrity of Nigerian literary prizes -- beginning with the observation that:
There is no innocent literary prize just as no writing is innocent and free of value. Every piece of writing is a political act, and every prize made to a writer is an act of validation and an expression of a given value -- the specific and subjective value of the awarding institution.
       And just to make clear to readers where he's coming from (despite where he's landed -- UCF) -- i.e. that he isn't exactly on board with America's Oprah-take on African lit --, he argues
Such prizes out of London and New York continue to validate and sustain a view of Africa defiantly constructed by such highly acclaimed but trashy novels like Uzo Iweala's Beast of No Nation or Uwem Akpan's unreadable and utterly reprobate stories
       Reprobate ! Utterly ! (That would presumably be the much-hailed collection Say You're One of Them, by the way.)

       Meanwhile, Kwami? has announced:
To celebrate the African novel and its adaptability and resilience, Kwani Trust announces a one-off new literary prize for African writing. The Kwani? Manuscript Project calls for the submission of unpublished fiction manuscripts from African writers across the continent and in the Diaspora.
       Maybe the winning manuscript will be something even Obi Nwakanma can approve of ..... (I certainly encourage you to submit your manuscript !)
       See also Christine Mungai's report on Kwani? one-off literary prize for Africa writing in The East African.

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

       Agrippa Q & A

       An interesting Q & A at The Oxonian Review, where Courtney Traub has An Interview with Kevin Begos, Jr about this archival question:
Last autumn, the Bodleian Library's Special Collections Department faced an intriguing dilemma when it acquired a rare copy of Agrippa, a Book of the Dead, a hybrid print-digital work featuring a digitally encrypted poem by William Gibson that can only be read once before the data destroys itself. With artwork from noted American artist Dennis Ashbaugh, and referencing everything from genetic code to the Gutenberg Bible and Kodak scrapbook nostalgia, the book's digital element was designed to self-efface after a single "transmission". Chris Fletcher, head curator at the Special Collections, asked, "Do we conserve the book and vandalise the poem, or read the poem and lose the book ?"
       For more about Agrippa, a Book of the Dead, see also the official site.

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

       The Fiend with Twenty Faces review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Edogawa Rampo's The Fiend with Twenty Faces.

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

22 April 2012 - Sunday

Writing in (and on) ... India | Robert Weil Q & A | Atlas review

       Writing in (and on) ... India

       In the Hindustan Times V.S.Naipaul-biographer Patrick French writes at some length on Writings on India [via].
       He finds, for example:
A rough hierarchy of respectability has formed among Indian critics. At the top of the heap come writers in vernacular languages, who are deemed to be authentic: they are the aam aadmi of Indian literature, to whom lip service is paid. Next come Indian writers in English who live in India, followed by those who live abroad, followed by foreigners who have the temerity to write about India. At the bottom of the pile are the high-selling purveyors of the new economy, with their embarrassing locutions. There is also a subsection -- a sort of hell realm -- inhabited by second or third-generation authors of Indian origin who return to the land of their ancestors with a view to writing about it. V S Naipaul was the founding father of this genre with An Area of Darkness in 1964. Suketu Mehta pulled it off with Maximum City, but since then most of the carpet-bagging NRIs have been eviscerated by didactic Indian reviewers.
       Also on offer: some fascinating incidental titbits:
While there are millions of Indians in Canada, Europe and the USA, comparatively few foreigners live in India. Immigration is nearly impossible. Under post-26/11 visa regulations, many old-school "Indophiles" have been chased out of the country. The home ministry gives citizenship to about 1,000 people a year, whereas Britain, for example, gives it to around 250,000.
       I look forward to the Indian reactions to this.

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

       Robert Weil Q & A

       In The Los Angeles Times Irene Lacher has The Sunday Conversation: Robert Weil, the former W.W.Norton publisher now: "at the helm of the company's recently revived imprint, Liveright & Co".
       Among his observations:
I think we have to encourage places to train editors how to edit. I think we're losing touch with the craft of editing.
       Amen to that (though I'm not sure it's a realistic goal ...).
       But then he also says:
I think books can often be shorter, and they have to be snappier.
       They have to be snappier ? (Please, no; I don't need the slightest bit of snappiness.)

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

       Atlas review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Dung Kai-Cheung's Hong Kong-novel, Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City, forthcoming from Columbia University Press.

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

21 April 2012 - Saturday

Going online, in Saudi Arabia | Australian literary magazines
Los Angeles Times Book Prizes | Walaschek's Dream review

       Going online, in Saudi Arabia

       In the Saudi Gazette Laura Bashraheel reports that Youth shun 'ineffective' literary club, go online -- surely just a variation on an essentially global phenomenon, though it's probably no surprise that a Saudi institution -- in this case the Jeddah Literary and Cultural Club -- proves particularly sclerotic and off-putting:
He said there was too much "centralized" decision-making. This has resulted in young people remaining uninformed and struggling to discover themselves.

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

       Australian literary magazines

       In The Australian Christopher Bantick looks at a couple of Australian literary magazines and argues New views crucial to Australia's literary culture.
       He points out:
Would any of them survive without government funding ? Perhaps not, yet their role remains critical to the health of the Australian literary culture, for no other reason than that small magazines sometimes offer an alternative view, let alone opportunities for new writers.

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

       Los Angeles Times Book Prizes

       The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were announced yesterday -- though not before I posted this, so I don't even know if they awarded the fiction prize this year ..... (Results should be up by the time most of you read this. [Updated: Indeed, they are -- and a fiction prize was handed out.])

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

       Walaschek's Dream review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Giovanni Orelli's Paul Klee- (and football- (soccer-))inspired Walaschek's Dream.

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

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