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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 March 2013

11 March: 'Literary' agents in ... India | Mühlheimer Dramatikerpreis finalists | Last Friends review
12 March: Magris on Blindly | Literature from ... Indonesia
13 March: Bookselling in ... the UK | David Mitchell Q & A | The End of the World in Breslau review
14 March: Prizes: 'The Folio Prize' - Holberg Prize | Orange Women's Prize for Fiction longlist | The Address Book review
15 March: Prizes: Man Asian Literary Prize - Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse | Latvian literature abroad | The Wild Geese review
16 March: The new Murakami novel ! | Gerbrand Bakker Q & A | The Lying Year review
17 March: Amos Oz Q & A | Publishing in ... India | Libris Literatuur Prijs shortlist | How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia review
18 March: Jonathan Franzen Q & A | The Conscript review
19 March: Amish Tripathi Q & As | Richard Nash 'On the business of literature' | Badfellas review
20 March: Sofi Oksanen gets Swedish Academy's Nordic Prize

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20 March 2013 - Wednesday

Sofi Oksanen gets Swedish Academy's Nordic Prize

       Sofi Oksanen gets Swedish Academy's Nordic Prize

       As, for example, YLE reports, Now Swedish Academy's turn to honour author Oksanen as the Nobel Prize-awarding body has awarded the Purge-author the 'mini-/Scandinavian'-Nobel; see also the official announcement. (At 350,000 SEK the prize is currently worth about US $54,000.)

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

19 March 2013 - Tuesday

Amish Tripathi Q & As | Richard Nash 'On the business of literature'
Badfellas review

       Amish Tripathi Q & As

       Amish Tripathi's million-dollar book deal hasn't made that many waves outside India yet, but it's a pretty big deal. Publisher Westland's big bet -- they can afford it; they're: "a subsidiary of Trent Limited, the retail arm of the Tata group, the largest diversified industrial group in India" -- is surely a new chapter in publishing in India; it'll be interesting to see if it pays off.
       Q & As with Tripathi can now be found at, for example, The Hindu, where Gowri Ramnarayan talks to The million-dollar author and at the Wall Street Journal's India RealTime where Preetika Rana suggests: Meet Amish Tripathi, Million Dollar Author.
       Among the stories he repeats: how upwards of twenty publishers rejected the first in his now mega-bestselling series.
       And it is entertaining to hear how he tried to follow writing-self-help books in putting together his story -- before finally realizing:
Did it work ? No way. It was a super flop plan. I wasted so much time figuring out which self-help book to listen to. What finally worked for me was when my wife suggested I stop thinking of the book like an MBA project and instead surrender to the flow of the narrative.
       I'm curious whether there's any foreign rights money in it for Westland -- a UK edition of volume one in the series, The Immortals of Meluha, is out from Jo Fletcher books -- see their publicity page, or get your copy from -- but that can't have brought in big bucks ..... No readily available US edition is listed at the US -- your best (and cheapest) bet is to get a copy of this (and the next volumes) at Flipkart.

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

       Richard Nash 'On the business of literature'

       The Spring 2013 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review will apparently include 'a portfolio focused on the business of literature', and they already now print Richard Nash's contribution, an extensive look: On the business of literature -- well worth a closer look.

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

       Badfellas review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tonino Benacquista's Badfellas -- published in the UK by Bitter Lemon in 2010, and coming out as Malavita from Penguin in the US this summer -- and also coming out in a film version (apparently also titled as Malavita) this summer: directed by Luc Besson, and starring Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, and Michelle Pfeiffer, it should get some decent attention.
       There are three other Benacquista-novels under review at the complete review -- one of a book just published a few months ago, by Europa Editions. The combined number of page-views of all three reviews in the past month was ... four. I'm thinking this book (and probably the review) will get slightly more attention.

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

18 March 2013 - Monday

Jonathan Franzen Q & A | The Conscript review

       Jonathan Franzen Q & A

       At hlo they have a translation of a Q & A Eni Rostás and Dóra Szekeres had with Jonathan Franzen.
       I'm not sure whether he was just sucking up, or whether he has a particularly odd interpretation of what the so-called 'American Dream' is in giving this particular response:
Do you believe in the American Dream ? Or is that an idealized and misunderstood concept like the Great American Novel ?

I sort of have to believe in it, since Iíve been living it. My father's father came to America as a manual laborer. My mother's father was a bartender. And here I'm giving an interview to Hungary's leading literary news magazine.
       Ah, yes, the Horatio Alger story writ large, with happy end of triumphant hero giving interviews to ... Hungary's leading literary news magazine.
       Slightly more interesting: Franzen's explanation that:
If my novels make sense to Eastern European readers, maybe itís because Kafka and Rilke and Kraus and Mann cured me of my American optimism at an early age.

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

       The Conscript review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Novel of Libya's Anticolonial War by Gebreyesus Hailu, The Conscript.
       This novel -- written in 1927, and first published in 1950, and now available in English translation from Ohio University Press in their Modern African Writing series -- is the first work written in Tigrinya under review at the complete review. Somehow I doubt there will be (m)any more -- not for want of trying, but for want of translations: I have hard enough a time finding anything translated from Amharic, much less Tigrinya .....

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

17 March 2013 - Sunday

Amos Oz Q & A | Publishing in ... India
Libris Literatuur Prijs shortlist | How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia review

       Amos Oz Q & A

       At Inge Günther has a kibbutz-heavy Q & A with Amos Oz.

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

       Publishing in ... India

       In Words' worth in the Times of India Dibyajyoti Chaudhuri finds:
With more money flowing in, the Indian publishing scene is being buffeted by winds of change. From marketing to packaging and selling, everything in the process chain is getting a makeover.
       Among the examples: "The man who had first tasted success with commercial fiction, Anurag Mathur, was probably way ahead of his time" -- with The Inscrutable Americans.

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

       Libris Literatuur Prijs shortlist

       I missed this last week, but they've announced the shortlist for the Libris Literatuur Prijs -- one of the leading Dutch literary prizes (and worth a decent €50,000). It includes books by Arnon Grunberg and Tommy Wieringa.
       The winner will be announced on 6 May.

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

       How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mohsin Hamid's new novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.

       (There are now eleven books under review at the complete review whose titles begin: How to ...; not surprisingly, almost none qualifies as a true self- or other sort of help book.)

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

16 March 2013 - Saturday

The new Murakami novel ! | Gerbrand Bakker Q & A
The Lying Year review

       The new Murakami novel !

       That's the title of the forthcoming new Murakami Haruki novel, due out in Japan (and, yes, just in Japanese) next month -- see the Bungei publicity page or pre-order your copy from (where it immediately shot to number one). (Very impressive, by the way, that they were able to keep the title secret until less than a month before publication day.)
       The Asahi Shimbun report translated the title as: 'Tsukuru Tazaki, who does not have Colors, and his Year of Pilgrimage'; I'm thinking his US/UK publishers are going to go with something different.
       No other details are available yet at this time, as best I can tell.

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

       Gerbrand Bakker Q & A

       Winstonsdad's Blog has a Gerbrand Bakker interview -- a Q & A with the author of The Twin and The Detour (now published in the US as Ten White Geese).
       I don't know that Dutch literature is quite so overlooked in English -- see also the Dutch books under review at the complete review -- and while none may have reached Nobel-aided Pamukian heights (as, notoriously, no Dutch author has won the Nobel -- yet) some, like Harry Mulisch, seem to have done reasonably well. (And, hey, Herman Koch's The Dinner just hit The New York Times' Bestsellers List for the fourth week (down to 12th place, from last week's 8th, but still ...) -- though you should all be reading the superior (though in the way it unfolds in some ways strikingly similar) Tirza.)
       Regardless, I'm thrilled to see this shout-out:
What is your favourite Dutch book not written by you ?

Het Bureau (The Office), written by J.J.Voskuil. A book that consists of seven parts, 5000 pages in total, about a man who works in an office for 35 years and is struggling with that. Only recently the first book was translated into German, it has not been translated into English.
       See, for example, the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page on Voskuil. I have long trembled before the Voskuil-volumes, sorely, sorely tempted ..... And while the German translation might prod me to dip my toes -- though that appears to be of the second volume, i.e. not the start of things -- I fear that, like local favorite A.F.Th. van der Heijden's multi-volume epics, we're unlikely to see an English translation anytime soon, or later.

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

       The Lying Year review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Andrei Gelasimov's The Lying Year.
       This is another AmazonCrossing title -- their second by this Russian author, with two more forthcoming -- and I think it's great that they are publishing multiple books by individual authors. A lot of hit and miss, but, hey, I keep picking up the new ones .....

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

15 March 2013 - Friday

Prizes: Man Asian Literary Prize - Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse
Latvian literature abroad | The Wild Geese review

       Man Asian Literary Prize

       They've announced that Tan Twan Eng scoops Asia's top literary prize, as his novel, The Garden of Evening Mists, has been named the ultimate winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize -- at least in its present incarnation (Man is backing out and they're looking for another sponsor ...).

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

       Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse

       The Leipzig Book Fair runs through the 17th, and an early highlight is the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair -- which is actually three prizes, for fiction, non, and translation.
       The translation prize went to Eva Hesse, for her translation of Ezra Pound's Cantos.
       The fiction prize went to Leben ('Life'), by David Wagner; see the Rowohlt foregn rights page for (English) information.

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

       Latvian literature abroad

       Estonian Public Broadcasting reports that Few Latvian Literary Works Make It to Estonian Readers -- but it doesn't seem to be solely an Estonian issue. (So, for example, there are translations from both the Estonian and the Lithuanian under review at the complete review, but none from the Latvian.)
       The not quite up-to-date Latvian Literature Centre site is of some help, but for an introduction you're probably best-served by the (fifteen-year-old ...) New Latvian Fiction issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction; see the Dalkey Archive Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       The Wild Geese review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mori Ogai's century-old classic, The Wild Geese.

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

14 March 2013 - Thursday

Prizes: 'The Folio Prize' - Holberg Prize | Orange Women's Prize for Fiction longlist
The Address Book review

       Prize: 'The Folio Prize'

       It's been in the works for a while, known pre-sponsor simply as the 'Literature Prize', but now all has been revealed, and with The Folio Society providing the cash (hey ! folks who actually deal with books ! unlike the backers of some other UK prizes ...) they've revealed they're calling it ... The Folio Prize.
       The winning title gets £40,000, it's "open to all works of fiction written in English and published in the UK" -- meaning that, unlike the Man Booker, it will also consider US-authored works -- and, in another subtle dig at the Man Booker, they emphasize that: "All genres and all forms of fiction are eligible" (as the Man Booker is, theoretically, too, except somehow genre stuff never seems to get anywhere there ...).
       They've come up with a pretty interesting way of going about the book-selection and judging process. Unlike the Man Booker -- impossible to take seriously because of the two-book-per-publisher entry limitation (with a few limited additional possibilities) -- they've established The Folio Prize Academy, from which the five judges will be selected every year, and whose hundred-plus members nominate sixty of the titles to be considered.
       The Academy is a fairly solid cross-section of literary types -- ranging from the likes of big-name authors J.M.Coetzee (why on earth did he agree to play along ?), A.S.Byatt, John Banville, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, and Michael Ondaatje, all the way down to someone like Bret E. Ellis (a selection which admittedly calls the whole undertaking into question; if they'll stoop to him, why not James Frey ?). (Interestingly, among the academicians is Stuart Kelly -- a 2013 Man Booker judge who, presumably for that reason, has been recused (presumably just for this go-round).) All in all (with a few unfathomable exceptions) a very impressive -- and pretty wide-ranging -- collection of authors and critics.
       So each academician -- save the five judges (not yet named for next year's prize) -- will get to nominate up to three books, and their selections are tallied (three points for each top mention, two for a second, one for a third) and the sixty top points-getters are automatically eligible for the prize. Twenty more titles are selected by the five judges -- with publishers invited to send a letter of support for "up to a maximum of five per publishing imprint" to help sway the judges.
       All in all, it sounds like a far better selection method than the Man Booker's -- largely dependent on publisher-submissions, even as they limit the number any one can submit ... -- but it remains to be seen if it actually works. Do these authors actually read enough contemporary English-language fiction to name three books ? (I assume the critics do.) Will five or ten 'big' titles rack up all the points and something like a hundred titles wind up tied with one or two points apiece ? (I assume they did a test run, asking the academicians to name 2012 titles, to see if the numbers worked out; still, I have my concerns.)
       There is also no word whether or not the 80-title-strong list of titles under consideration will then be made public. I can see no reason why it shouldn't be, but disappointingly there is no indication that it will be; it would be very disappointing if, like the Man Booker, they kept the list of titles under consideration secret.
       Once eighty title have been selected, the five judges read them and select a shortlist of eight titles (which will be made public); then they select a winner.
       Interestingly, while there are no entry costs (excellent !):
In the event of a book being shortlisted for the prize, the publisher in question will be asked to make a contribution of £4,000 towards marketing and promotional costs.
       The amount squares with the 'contribution' of "£5,000 towards general publicity" the Man Booker folk expect/demand/extort -- though admirably the Folio Prize does allow that:
However, this stipulation is subject to appeal by a publisher for whom such expenditure would prove prohibitive and may be adjusted or waived at the discretion of the Foundation.
       (See the full rules and procedures -- the prize constitution (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- here.)

       The big differences between this prize and the Man Booker -- its obvious competition -- is that this prize will also consider American titles (though it should be noted that the selecting academicians are predominantly Commonwealth folk) and that the selection process doesn't rely on publisher submissions (the Man Booker's fatal flaw -- compounded by the fact that there are severe restrictions placed on what publishers are allowed to submit).
       (Just how terrible the Man Booker limitations are is suggested by this in Mark Brown's piece in The Guardian on the new prize:
Kamila Shamsie was among the many novelists supporting the prize. She said she liked that it was not dependent on publishers' nominations, which is largely the case with the Booker. She recalled advice for her to move to a publisher which did not have a big fiction list to get a better chance of being nominated. "That goes to show there is something basically wrong in the idea ... that the stronger your imprint is, the less chance your writers have of getting in there."
       Shamsie, too, is one of the Folio academicians, by the way .....)

       I am looking forward to seeing how this all works out. If they publish the list of the eighty titles under consideration, that will already be a good sign; if not, well .....

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

       Prize: Holberg Prize

       They've announced that Bruno Latour has won the 2013 Holberg Prize -- worth NOK 4.5 million (US$790,000).
       Sorry, none of his work is under review at the complete review.

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

       Prize: Orange Women's Prize for Fiction longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the Orange Women's Prize for Fiction.
       I've seen two, read one (I did not like it), and reviewed none of these.

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

       The Address Book review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sophie Calle's notorious The Address Book, now out in English from Siglio.

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

13 March 2013 - Wednesday

Bookselling in ... the UK | David Mitchell Q & A
The End of the World in Breslau review

       Bookselling in ... the UK

       The Bookseller prints the speech Philip Jones recently gave at the Independent Publishers Guild conference, offering a solid: "overview of bookselling across all sectors", What might be lost.
       Some depressing stuff -- including the observation that:
In five years unless drastic action takes place we won't be here talking about the future of bookshops, we'll be talking about the history.

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

       David Mitchell Q & A

       Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell is interviewed by Conor Dillon at DeutscheWelle, in 'Cloud Atlas' author talks revenge and opera.
       The opera in question is the Michel van der Aa work, Sunken Garden, for which he wrote the libretto. The English National Opera is premiering it next month -- see their publicity page -- and it sounds ... intriguing, promising:
The world première of a groundbreaking occult mystery film-opera, featuring one of opera's first uses of 3D film.
       I'm not really sure I need my opera to include 3D film -- quite honestly, I haven't been won over by cinema using 3D film ... -- but I am a bit curious.

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

       The End of the World in Breslau review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Marek Krajewski's The End of the World in Breslau, now out in a US edition from Melville House.

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

12 March 2013 - Tuesday

Magris on Blindly | Literature from ... Indonesia

       Magris on Blindly

       The Spring issue of The Threepenny Review is now available -- though very litle of it is accessible online, meaning you have to check out the print edition for pieces like Margaret Jull Costa On Saramago (which certainly sounds worthwhile).
       One of the pieces that is available online is Claudio Magris' Reflections on Blindly.
       Blindly is one of the works I was a bit surprised to find not making the Best Translated Book Award longlist; it was certainly one of the heavyweight translations of 2012.

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

       Literature from ... Indonesia

       In The Jakarta Globe C.W. Watson writes about Unlocking Indonesia Through An Exploration of Its Literature -- noting, among other things, that:
Perhaps the best place to start, however, is the accomplished set of translations that are currently being brought out by the Lontar Foundation in Jakarta under the directorship of John McGlynn, who deserves more credit than he has been given so far for his work over the years in promoting Indonesian culture to an international audience.
       (I've mentioned the admirable Lontar Modern Library of Indonesia quite a few times, and several titles from it are under review at the complete review, with more to follow.)

       Meanwhile, I'm curious how the newest Indonesian translation is doing in the US, as Andrea Hirata's The Rainbow Troops was recently published by FSG/Sarah Crichton.

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

11 March 2013 - Monday

'Literary' agents in ... India | Mühlheimer Dramatikerpreis finalists | Last Friends review

       'Literary' agents in ... India

       In the Times of India Atul Sethi brings the terrible news that Literary agents gaining ground in India, as apparently:
For many debutante authors, getting an agent is now becoming almost de rigueur.
"The evolution curve for Indian literary agents is much steeper because agenting in the country picked up late," says Kamat. "But the opportunity is huge for those who mould themselves to the 'new world order' and redefine what they can do for authors that technology can't."
       Oddly -- or perhaps not so ? -- Indian publishing has been enjoying incredible growth, even -- or especially ? -- without these meddling middlemen. One wonders whether their sticking their sticky fingers in the business won't just gum up the works .....

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

       Mühlheimer Dramatikerpreis finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the Mühlheimer Dramatikerpreis -- perhaps the leading German drama prize -- and four-time winner Elfried Jelinek is in the running yet again, for her FaustIn and out (which you can read -- in its German original -- at her official site).
       Always fascinating to compare what plays on the German-language stages, and what translates to the English-language ones, and as these names suggest -- Franz Xaver Kroetz seems to be the only one who has had much of any sort of US/UK exposure -- these remain very different theater-worlds.
       Jelinek's Jackie is now playing in New York -- see the official site, the first five pages of the English text, or now The New York Times' review -- but I'm not sure a steady stream of Broadway productions will follow, even if she takes her fifth Mühlheimer prize .....

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

       Last Friends review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jane Gardam's Last Friends, out soon from Europa editions (in the US) and Little, Brown (in the UK).
       A new Gardam novel is always something to look forward to, and it's great to see she's coming to the US in May to do a book tour (including a Symphony Space appearance 15 May, with Stacy Schiff).

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

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