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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 February 2013

11 February: The Kwani? debates ? | Writing in ... the Philippines | 'The Tarantino of Russian literature' | The Voyage review
12 February: Əkrəm Əylisli's Daş yuxular | Boris Akunin's Sebald Lecture | E-books in ... Japan | Journal d'Hirondelle review
13 February: Writing in ... Burma | Hatchet Job of the Year Award | Writing in ... India | To Each his Stranger review
14 February: Scotiabank Giller Prize judges | Mister Blue review
15 February: Suhrkamp continuance | Harvard University Press centennial | Ronald Dworkin (1931-2013) | Caine Prize judging panel
16 February: Translation efforts | Translation success | Pewas Perghyryn Lyenyeth Kernewek | A Very Profitable War review
17 February: Romanian Book Review | McEwan on believing in fiction
18 February: The Hindu Literary Prize | פרס ספיר לספרות | The Rainbow Troops review
19 February: Glagoslav profile | Hilary Mantel takes on the (modern) royals | The Last of the Vostyachs review
20 February: Festivals: Festival Neue Literatur - PEN World Voices Festival | Most beautiful Austrian books, 2012

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20 February 2013 - Wednesday

Festivals: Festival Neue Literatur - PEN World Voices Festival
Most beautiful Austrian books, 2012

       Festival: Festival Neue Literatur

       The Festival Neue Literatur, presenting: "New Writing from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and the U.S." (with two author each) runs 22 to 24 February in New York city.
       Things start off tomorrow already, as Carol Brown Janeway will be honored with the first Friedrich Ulfers Prize, awarded: "for exemplary work in the promotion of German-language literature in the U.S.". Given her work both as an editor/publisher and translator, she certainly seems a deserving winner.

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

       Festival: PEN World Voices Festival

       The PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature is still a ways away -- it runs 29 April to 5 May in New York -- but the first details and participants are now available at their site. Among those coming: Claudio Magris and Pierre Michon.

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

       Most beautiful Austrian books, 2012

       They've announced the 15 schönsten Bücher Österreichs 2012 -- the fifteen most beautiful Austrian books, 2012; click on the picture and then on the titles to see the fifteen winning titles.
       They were selected from 224 submissions.

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

19 February 2013 - Tuesday

Glagoslav profile | Hilary Mantel takes on the (modern) royals
The Last of the Vostyachs review

       Glagoslav profile

       At Publishers Perspective Daniel Kalder profiles publisher Glagoslav, in Bringing the Best of Russian and Other Slavic Literature to the West.
       None of their books are under review at the complete review yet, but I have several and you can bet there will be coverage in the future -- it's a fascinating list.

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

       Hilary Mantel takes on the (modern) royals

       Not a very literary story, but there are few things as silly as the continued existence of monarchies -- with the bloated British House of Windsor at the top of the list of disposable entities -- and so when Hilary Mantel attacks 'bland, plastic, machine-made' Duchess of Cambridge, as Adam Sherwin reports in The Independent, I'm happy to spread the word.
       As Mantel notes:
Female Royals are "persons but they are supra-personal, carriers of a blood line: at the most basic, they are breeding stock, collections of organs."
       And one has to appreciate this comparison:
The author compared the Royals to pandas. "Our current royal family doesn't have the difficulties in breeding that pandas do, but pandas and royal persons alike are expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment.

"But aren't they interesting ? Aren't they nice to look at ? Some people find them endearing; some pity them for their precarious situation; everybody stares at them, and however airy the enclosure they inhabit, it's still a cage."
       I am all for releasing them into the wild, de-titled and de-loused .....

       (Updated): And you can read (or listen to !) Mantel's entire lecture, Royal Bodies, here.

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

       The Last of the Vostyachs review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Diego Marani's The Last of the Vostyachs -- another winner from Dedalus.

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

18 February 2013 - Monday

The Hindu Literary Prize | פרס ספיר לספרות | The Rainbow Troops review

       The Hindu Literary Prize

       They've announced that The Hindu Literary Prize goes to Jerry Pinto -- meaning that his novel, Em and the Big Hoom, won.
       See also the Aleph Book Co. publicity page -- and while your best bet is probably to get it from Flipkart, it is also listed at or

       Curiously, I happened to pick up a copy of his Helen: The Life & Times Of An H-Bomb at a used bookstore a few weeks back.

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

       פרס ספיר לספרות

       They've announced that מוקס נוקס, by Shimon Adaf has won this year's Sapir Prize for Literature (yes, it's run by a lottery -- insert your own joke); see, for example, the Haaretz report, Israel's top literary award, Sapir Prize, goes to Shimon Adaf.

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

       The Rainbow Troops review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Andrea Hirata's Indonesian bestseller, The Rainbow Troops.
       This 2005 novel has actually been available in English for quite a while -- just not very readily available (i.e. hardly at all outside the South East Asian area). But Farrar, Straus & Giroux picked up the American rights and now it is readily available -- though it will be a tall order for English-language sales to equal Indonesian ones.
       This is the biggest big-publisher translation-from-the-Indonesian to get published in the US since the works of Pramoedya Ananta Toer, and it'll be interesting to see how it does (and whether it does well enough for them to commit to the next volumes in the tetralogy).
       I do remind you that the estimable Modern Library of Indonesia from Lontar makes quite a few other works of Indonesian literature available (several are under review at the complete review, and I'm slowly making my way through more).

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

17 February 2013 - Sunday

Romanian Book Review | McEwan on believing in fiction

       Romanian Book Review

       I'm looking forward to seeing this: they've announced that Cultural Institute launches English-language Romanian literary review for worldwide audiences, as the: "Romanian Book Review will be launched at the ICR headquarters in Bucharest on Tuesday, February 19".
       A sort of preview-page is available (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) at the ICR site, and it looks fairly promising -- lots of coverage of lots of Romanian titles. Whether they can keep it up at a monthly pace ... well, we'll see; I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but then I still check in at The Observer Translation Project which seems to have fizzled out after twelve installments .....

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

       McEwan on believing in fiction

       In The Guardian they have Ian McEwan: when faith in fiction falters -- and how it is restored (also sold to and made available at The New Republic, where it's more succinctly titled: When I Stop Believing in Fiction).
       The comparison to religious belief makes me uneasy -- fiction and the fiction that is religion are two entirely different things, as is 'belief' in them -- and I'm always amazed that anyone (much less a fiction-writer) could harbor the slightest doubt about the primacy and validity of fiction, but it's good to see that, after toying a bit with his readers, McEwan does acknowledge it as "the one true faith".

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

16 February 2013 - Saturday

Translation efforts | Translation success
Pewas Perghyryn Lyenyeth Kernewek | A Very Profitable War review

       Translation efforts

       At Publishing Perspectives Joanna Zgadzaj and Nancy Roberts of Stork Press make the argument for Books in Translation: It's Time for Others to Join the Fight.
       They report that, for example:
During a publicity meeting we attended with one of the largest papers in the UK, we were told that it's the books by British and US authors they were interested in, not books in translation.
The level of ignorance and unjustified fear among book reviewers towards literature and non-fiction in translation is staggering. By comparison, bloggers are far more welcoming and open to accepting books in translation for reviews or features.
       Meanwhile, in the National Post Mark Medley writes on ... Found in translation, describing the interesting-sounding Canada Council for the Arts Translation Rights Fair.

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

       Translation success

       In The Bookseller Felicity Wood has a Business profile: Hesperus Press -- and reports that signing Jonas Jonasson's The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared worked out really, really, really well for them, as it was:
Hesperus Press that had the lucky foresight to acquire it. Lucky because the success of THYOM, which has sold close to £1.5m through the tills since its publication in July, helped Hesperus see a 900% rise in sales in 2012.
       I'm not a huge fan of the book, but, hey, if it subsidizes their other good work, I'm all for it .....

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

       Pewas Perghyryn Lyenyeth Kernewek

       They've announced the Michael Palmer Award for Cornish Language Literature, and:
The closing date for entries is 1st October 2013 and any work of more than 2000 words written or published during the previous 12 months is eligible. Entries must be original or translations into Cornish.
       Wikipedia has Cornish at 3,500 total speakers, so your odds look pretty good.

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

       A Very Profitable War review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Didier Daeninckx's A Very Profitable War, now out in the US from Melville House.
       I think it's great that they've brought this out -- but Daeninckx is a prolific author, and it would be great if some of his more recent stuff (he's written dozens of books since this 1984 (!) novel) got translated .....

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

15 February 2013 - Friday

Suhrkamp continuance | Harvard University Press centennial
Ronald Dworkin (1931-2013) | Caine Prize judging panel

       Suhrkamp continuance

       I mentioned the turmoil at leading German literary publishing house Suhrkamp a couple of months ago, and the case came to court of Wednesday.
       The verdict ?
       A continuance, until September -- just the kind of non-resolution this case doesn't need.
       At DeutscheWelle Sonya Angelica Diehn and Petra Lambeck summarize things, in Legal battle threatens cultural institution.
       I don't think they're quite right -- though this is the way it's being portrayed in the German press, too -- when they claim:
The conflict, on some level, boils down to whether book publishing as a cultural institution can survive in today's market-driven economy.
       Unfortunately, under the ... leadership of Ulla Unseld-Berkéwicz, Suhrkamp isn't quite the Suhrkamp of old (of Peter Suhrkamp and Siegfried Unseld), the exodus of authors and editors over the past decade (and an oddly handled move from longtime headquarters in Frankfurt to Berlin) hollowing out the hallowed institution. Nevertheless, Barlach is seen as the bad guy here by authors and cultural commentators alike, in what seems to boil down to a choice between bad and worse.
       For some German reports about the recent court (non-)decision, see, for example, Nichts ist vorbei am Aschermittwoch by Sandra Kegel in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Gericht vertagt Entscheidung über Suhrkamp-Verlag in Die Zeit.

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

       Harvard University Press centennial

       Harvard University Press is celebrating its centennial, and in Harvard Magazine Christopher Reed profiles the venerable press, in As Many Books as Possible Short of Bankruptcy (which sounds like a great motto).

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

       Ronald Dworkin (1931-2013)

       Legal scholar and philosopher Ronald Dworkin has passed away; see, for example, Godfrey Hodgson's obituary in The Guardian, and see some of his pieces at The New York Review of Books, for which he often wrote.
       The only Dworkin title under review at the complete review is Is Democracy Possible Here ? -- though I should be getting to Justice for Hedgehogs eventually.

       (Some two decades ago -- in the pre-Internet age -- I wrote to him, disagreeing with the arguments in one of his books; I appreciated that he took the time to reply (thoughtfully).)

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

       Caine Prize judging panel

       They've announced the 2013 Caine Prize judging panel -- and, at the same time, also revealed that:
This year 96 qualifying stories have been submitted to the judges from 16 African countries.
       While restricted to stories (of between ca. 3000 and 10,000 words) published in English, they do accept stories in translation -- and so it's a bit disappointing that there were only entries from 16 countries (I remind you that Wikipedia reports there are "54 fully recognized sovereign states ("countries")" in Africa ...).

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

14 February 2013 - Thursday

Scotiabank Giller Prize judges | Mister Blue review

       Scotiabank Giller Prize judges

       They've announced that Margaret Atwood, Esi Edugyan, and Jonathan Lethem will be judging this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize -- sounds like a pretty decent panel.

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

       Mister Blue review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jacques Poulin's Mister Blue, which Archipelago Books brought out a while back.

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

13 February 2013 - Wednesday

Writing in ... Burma | Hatchet Job of the Year Award
Writing in ... India | To Each his Stranger review

       Writing in ... Burma

       They recently held the Irrawaddy Literary Festival, and the post-mortems and post-festival reflections keep coming, as now in The Myanmar Times Zon Pann Pwint finds Lit fest step in right direction, despite missed connections.
       It's a bit disappointing to hear:
that much of the blame for missed connections between participants lay with the local writers, who were not well prepared for the festival.
       But hopefully there will be future opportunities.

       Meanwhile, also in The Myanmar Times, Bill O’Toole reports that Writers discuss the changing face of Myanmar poetry, as, for example, U Zeyar Lynn notes:
In the past 20 years or so, we only had two kind of poems: the traditional kind and the modern kind. Now we have a lot poems written in new styles and new forms. ... We have prose poems, conceptual; our current poetry scene is very vibrant and diverse.

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

       Hatchet Job of the Year Award

       The Hatchet Job of the Year Award -- awarded for: "the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review of the past twelve months" -- has been announced (though not at the official site, last I checked); see, for example, Alison Flood's report in The Guardian, Hatchet Job of the Year goes to assault on Rachel Cusk.
       You can read Camilla Long's winning review of Rachel Cusk's Aftermath -- originally published in the Sunday Times -- here.

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

       Writing in ... India

       The Hindustan Times has the IANS report, Indian-language literature is thriving, and apparently:
Literature in Indian languages is vibrant, thriving and more interlinked than is evident, say literary figures.
       Interesting also that some are willing to go this far:
Like the case of Benyamin, a popular writer settled in Bahrain, who said at a session that if his books in Malayalam sold thousands of copies, why should he bother about getting them published in English.
       (Though it should be noted that his work has not gone untranslated .....)
       Meanwhile Maorama online reports that New federal map of literature needed in India: Satchidanandan, as the author argues:
reducing Indian literature to one language and one religion is "extremely dangerous" politically socially and culturally

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

       To Each his Stranger review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ajneya (Sachchidananda Hirananda Vatsyayan's) 1961 Hindi novel, To Each his Stranger.

       I recently bought this, used (for $6.00) -- and was a bit shocked to find a personal dedication in it, Ajneya having signed the book for another author (whose name I recognized, too). I know people have to cull their book collections (I know I should ...), but to deaccession a work with a personal dedication .....
       (Also: surely they could have done better, too -- if I picked it up for $6.00, I'd be surprised it they got $1.00 for it, and it is a first edition (of the revised 1982 second edition) in good condition (and, as noted, signed) -- surely worth something (more) to someone.)

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

12 February 2013 - Tuesday

Əkrəm Əylisli's Daş yuxular | Boris Akunin's Sebald Lecture
E-books in ... Japan | Journal d'Hirondelle review

       Əkrəm Əylisli's Daş yuxular

       Nationalism rears its always ugly head again, as Azerbaijani author Əkrəm Əylisli (Akram Aylisli) published a novel -- Daş yuxular ('Stone Dreams') -- that some locals have taken (great) offense to because they think he's way too soft on/forgiving of their favorite neighborhood and historical arch-enemy/convenient whipping-boy, Armenia. Published in Russian translation -- read it for yourself -- in Дружба народов (yes, 'Friendship of the People'-magazine ...) in December, the ugliness has been stirred up for a while now, and now has begun to come to a boil.
       At this point, Əylisli has been deprived -- by presidential decree ! -- of his honorary title of People's Writer of Azerbaijan ("as a person, staining this title") and the writer's pension he's been getting from the government since 2002 has been cancelled. Əylisli's son, a customs official, has apparently been 'asked' to resign. A production of one of Əylisli's plays has been cancelled. A parliamentarian has suggested stripping him of his citizenship. And now they've started burning his novels in protest. (Yeah, it's always a great sign -- constructive dialogue in its purest form ! -- when they start with the book-bonfires .....)
       Oh, yes: and it's been reported that a ... generous offer has been made by Hafiz Hajiyev: 10,000 AZN to anyone who would cut off Akram Aylisli's ear.
       Hafiz who ? Apparently he's the head of the: "pro-government party Modern Musavat" ..... (And, no, he apparently hasn't been arrested or charged for his illegal-even-in-Azerbaijan offer.)
       At Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Daisy Sindelar offers a good overview, noting that In Azerbaijan, Anger At An Author, But Not Necessarily At His Argument
       In CRS, at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting Maharram Zeynalov also has a good overview, in Azerbaijani Writer Accused Over "Disloyal" Novel -- with hair-raising observations such as that his wife has also been fired from her job:
"They sacked my wife in a very strange way -- they accused her of having books by Armenian authors in her library. Where else should they have been ? And anyway, they were talking about books that weren't by Armenian authors," he said.
       For an example of the official 'arguments' contra Daş yuxular, see, for example, the head of the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration's Social and Political Department Ali Hasanov's remarks, asking vital questions such as:
How can one flatter other people and slander his own people to present himself as the bearer of human values ?
       There's been limited international outrage about this to date, but that can't last long (I hope).

       (Updated): See now also Human Rights Watch's call, Azerbaijan: Stop Harassing Writer.

       (Updated - 13 February): See now also the PEN International call to action.

       (Updated - 15 February): At Shahin Abbasov now disappointingly reports that Azerbaijan: Writer Buckling Under Strain of Literary Controversy.

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

       Boris Akunin's Sebald Lecture

       Boris Akunin gave the Sebald Lecture last week at the translation awards (see my previous mention), and a transcript is now available online, Paradise Lost: Confessions Of An Apostate Translator.
       Lots of good stuff -- including this observation:
When I was translating Kinkakuji (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion as it is known in the West), I had at hand the English translation -- very meticulous, authorized by Mishima himself. Everything was impeccably correct -- and yet still something was amiss.

You see, Mishima is not a clever author, most of his ideas about life and society would leave you uninterested. Neither is he an especially gifted builder of plots. The story isn't his forte. With Mishima, the nuances are more important than the ideas he advances; Shade means so much more than Light. But his narration is so elegant, his style so powerful, that it makes up for the banalities and showing-off. There is plenty of shallowness in Mishima's works, but strangely it only increases the impression of genuineness and beauty. It turns into a melody that I can always hear when I am reading Mishima.

In the English translation this melody was silent.
       (For those of you keeping track, that's Ivan Morris who fell flat -- and I note that in his 1959 review of the translation in The New York Times Book Review Donald Keene seems to go out of his way not to address questions of the quality of the translation (not least by completely ignoring Morris' contribution -- but noting: "A fine introduction by Nancy Wilson Ross adds much to an American's enjoyment of the book" .....))

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

       E-books in ... Japan

       An odd little piece at Fortune, where Michael Fitzpatrick tries to explain Why Japanese readers don't like e-books, as:
Japanese consumers still seem dead set against adopting e-books, showing less interest in them than even the print-worshipping French
       Given that Japan is the country where the ケータイ小説 -- the cell-phone novel -- first took off, it doesn't seem like the issue is e-reading per se: they appear more than happy to read certain kinds of texts on certain kinds of electronic devices. Indeed, maybe the success of cell-phone novels -- which pre-date dedicated e-readers and the explosion of e-books in the US and elsewhere -- is one of the reasons development has followed a different arc in Japan.
       Fitzpatrick also suggests:
Japan has also been slow in getting the machinery of Japanese e-books whirring. There are just 40,000 titles available in most digital bookstores. "Publishers are indifferent to, or even hate, digital things. Mainly because of excessive commitment to traditional print book distribution," explains Mr. Kamata.
       But surely one of the great and amazing things about e-books is that the format allows writers (and readers) to circumvent traditional (i.e. hide- (and paper-)bound) publishing -- consider just the explosion of available-in-electronic-form texts in China, Viet Nam, the Arabic world, and elsewhere.
       I.e., I think it's a bit more complicated .....

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

       Journal d'Hirondelle review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Amélie Nothomb's Journal d'Hirondelle.
       I'm trying to fill in the gaps in the Nothomb-coverage at the complete review; this is the fifteenth of her works under review, but I still have a few more to get to.

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

11 February 2013 - Monday

The Kwani? debates ? | Writing in ... the Philippines
'The Tarantino of Russian literature' | The Voyage review

       The Kwani? debates ?

       Apparently the debates surrounding Kwani? continue, as Stephen Derwent Partington now weighs in, arguing that the War on Kwani? marks the death of literary engagement and rise of spite in the Daily Nation.

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

       Writing in ... the Philippines

       In The Philippine Star Butch Dalisay writes about being At the literary table at this year's Taboan -- the Philippine Literary Festival.
       Among much else, he notes:
Small as it is, Philippine literary society is indeed ruled in a way by cliques, barkadas, orthodoxies, and prescriptions. In some cases, these institutions and conventions may have made it difficult for new, alternative, and dissident voices to emerge and be heard.

I myself will indefensibly admit to being part of this ruling elite -- I suppose by default, being the director of an institute of creative writing, a professor of literature, and a member of an NCCA committee that gives out grants. I’ve done well by the system (Silliman workshop, CW degree and MFA, Palancas, etc.) and the system, I think, has also done well by me.
       (Two of his books are under review at the complete review: Killing Time in a Warm Place and Soledad's Sister.)

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

       'The Tarantino of Russian literature'

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Alexander Genis and Nora FitzGerald make the case for Vladimir Sorokin -- arguing The Tarantino of Russian literature writes 'hard' novels.
       I note that The Queue was first published in English way back in 1988 (and remains his most enjoyable work); I wasn't quite so taken by Day of the Oprichnik.

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

       The Voyage review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Murray Bail's The Voyage.
       First published in Australia last year, it is now out in the UK too, from MacLehose Press -- and is due out in French translation, from Actes Sud, in April. As to a US publication date -- or even publisher -- I haven't heard of any.
       I would have thought that Bail deserved better -- and he's not entirely unknown in the US, after all. And this is a book about which, for example, Peter Craven wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald: "We won't see a finer piece of fiction in the longest while."

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

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