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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 June 2013

11 June: Summer 2013 Quarterly Conversation | The Spectator archive | Walter Jens (1923-2013) | More Kawabata finds | Publishing in ... Russia
12 June: Faulkner's Nobel medal auction | Writing in dialect in ... China | Q & As: Shahrnush Parsipur - Frank Wynne
13 June: Romanian literature abroad | Solidaridad Bookshop | Huid en haar review
14 June: Hans Christian Andersen Litteraturpris to Salman Rushdie | My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain review
15 June: Literary elitism | Szentkuthy renaissance ! | Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction | The African review
16 June: Translation from the ... Arabic | More books up for auction
17 June: 'Saving' Hindi through literature ? | Libraries of the future ? | Redemption (A Conspiracy of Faith) review
18 June: Premio Gregor von Rezzori | Michael Krüger Q & A | Eléctrico W review
19 June: Neustadt International Prize for Literature jurors | Translations from the ... French | Sa'edi reviews
20 June: Miles Franklin Literary Award | Warwick Prize for Writing longlist | When the Edelweiss Flowers Flourish review

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20 June 2013 - Thursday

Miles Franklin Literary Award | Warwick Prize for Writing longlist
When the Edelweiss Flowers Flourish review

       Miles Franklin Literary Award

       They've announced that Questions of Travel (by Michelle de Kretser) has won the Miles Franklin Literary Award, probably the leading Australian literary award, and worth A$60,000.
       Questions of Travel is not under review at the complete review, but you can get your copy at or

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

       Warwick Prize for Writing

       They've announced the longlist for the Warwick Prize for Writing; in previous years this all-genre biennial prize had a 'theme' (complexity in 2009; colo(u)r in 2011) but for the life of me I can't determine what this year's theme might have been or whether they have simply done away with that (begging the question what the hell this is a prize for).
       Two of the longlisted books are under review at the complete review:        Good also to see that works in translation are eligible -- and two did make the longlist (works by Etgar Keret and Nidaa Khoury).
       The shortlist will apparently be announced sometime in August.

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

       When the Edelweiss Flowers Flourish review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Begenas Sartov's When the Edelweiss Flowers Flourish.
       Yes, the title alone would have piqued my interest, but the fact that this is Soviet-era science fiction, translated from the Kyrgyz -- Kyrgyz ! fiction from Central Asia ! -- well, rarely I have been this eager to see a book. The Modern Novel -- a site which I hope you have bookmarked -- kindly made a copy available to me (and has also reviewed it) and though it is not (certainly in this edition) quite ready for prime time, I'm still thrilled to have been able to cover it.
       And, yes, it immediately vaulted to the top of the site's index of most obscure books under review.
       I do hope to cover more Kyrgyz fiction, but somehow I don't see that happening very soon.

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19 June 2013 - Wednesday

Neustadt International Prize for Literature jurors
Translations from the ... French | Sa'edi reviews

       Neustadt International Prize for Literature jurors

       The Nobel Prize in Literature is in a league of its own as far as international author-prizes go, but in the tier below that the biennial Neustadt International Prize for Literature is one of the few that has really made its mark (unlike, say, the Man Booker International Prize, which is still on a somewhat wobbly footing). They've now announced the jurors for the 2014 prize -- significant, since the way this prize works is that each juror names a candidate for the prize -- making for nine shortlisted authors (to be announced mid-July) -- and they then all get together and debate and select a winner from among the nine.
       This has worked out pretty well in the past, and it'll be interesting to see what happens this time around.

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

       Translations from the ... French

       French Culture "are delighted to release a list of over 500 fantastic titles translated from French since January 2012", in their (post titled) 2013 Translated Titles List.
       Whoa, you may think -- didn't we just hear about the Translation Database at Three Percent, and aren't there far fewer titles listed there ?
       The discrepancy can be explained by a number of factors -- notably that French Culture include many titles the Translation Database doesn't, including whole genres (the Translation Database only counts fiction and poetry; French Culture also count comics, children's books, and non-fiction (though not, surprisingly, drama)). French Culture also include reprints (not just new translations of previously translated works -- which they also count, and are also excluded from the Translation Database, but actual reprints).
       There are also some ... questionable titles ? The whole Papercutz Garfield & Co. series, for example -- yes, those are all translations from the French .....
       Still, a very useful resource for what's been published (and re-published ...) in translation from the French in the US.

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

       Sa'edi reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two plays from the 1980s by Iranian author Gholamhoseyn Sa'edi:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

18 June 2013 - Tuesday

Premio Gregor von Rezzori | Michael Krüger Q & A | Eléctrico W review

       Premio Gregor von Rezzori

       They've announced that El ruido de las cosas al caer, Juan Gabriel Vásquez's 2011 Premio Alfaguara-winning novel, has now, as Il rumore delle cose che cadono, also won the Premio Gregor von Rezzori-Città di Firenze for best foreign novel (in Italy); in addition, Alessandro Fo's translation of ... The Aeneid won for best translation.
       Translated as The Sound of Things Falling, Vásquez's novel is also available in English -- in the UK (get your copy at, with a US edition to follow in a few months (pre-order your copy at
       Spanish-language literature seems to be doing well in Italy: last year, a book by Enrique Vila-Matas won.

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

       Michael Krüger Q & A

       At Publishing Perspectives Amanda DeMarco has a Q & A with soon-to-retire (from Hanser Verlag) publisher Michael Krüger -- brief, but covering a lot of territory.

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

       Eléctrico W review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hervé Le Tellier's Eléctrico W, out today from Other Press.
       I'm now also really curious about Le Tellier's (French) translation of the (fictional author) Jaime Montestrela's Contos aquosos -- a translation the narrator of Eléctrico W was working on and claims to have completed ("but haven't found a publisher"); Le Tellier did find a publisher -- see the Éditions de l'attente publicity page.

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

17 June 2013 - Monday

'Saving' Hindi through literature ? | Libraries of the future ?
Redemption (A Conspiracy of Faith) review

       'Saving' Hindi through literature ?

       I hadn't realized Hindi -- one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world -- needed saving but in this IANS report (here at the Business Standard) some apparently are concerned:
Influence of English has sabotaged Hindi so much that the language is in extreme danger, says writer-poet Ashok Vajpeyi but he believes literature is the key to keep it alive.
       Well, if it helps get more Hindi literature in circulation, that wouldn't be all bad.
       Still, some of these folks are clearly a bit misguided -- so poet Sylvanus Lamare, who argues:
If we had not copied the software in English and instead followed China and used native language to create the software in native language, we would have been a super power by now. The language won't have been obscure as it is today
       Yeah .....
       (I do also have to wonder how the speakers of India's many other languages -- Wikipedia lists four others with more than sixty million native speakers, and a total of twelve with more than ten million -- have to say about all this, too.)

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

       Libraries of the future ?

       In the Boston Globe Anne Gray Fischer profiles The Library Test Kitchen at Harvard --:
Dedicated to rescuing physical, book-dense libraries from obsolescence, the team of students and instructors dream up designs that, as Schnapp says, "create a hybrid space where analog and digital coexist."
       Some interesting ideas (and some terrible ones: "the Welch Medical Library did away with public workspace altogether, closing its doors to users and moving its resources online. Books are requested online and delivered to offices and mailboxes around campus a few days later" ...).

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

       Redemption (A Conspiracy of Faith) review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jussi Adler-Olsen third 'Department Q'-thriller, Redemption, now published in the US as A Conspiracy of Faith.

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

16 June 2013 - Sunday

Translation from the ... Arabic | More books up for auction

       Translation from the ... Arabic

       Via I'm pointed to Ursula Lindsey's recent piece on A Potential Renaissance for Arabic Translation at Al Fanar.
       Among the titbits of interest:
For the Library of Arabic Literature, Davies is almost done translating the multi-volume Leg Over Leg by the 19th century Lebanese writer Ahmad Faris al-Shadyaq, which he describes as a "sumptuous, sui generis book… post-modern before post-modernism." The work, which is anti-clerical, proto-feminist, sexually explicit and full of bizarre lexical lists, subverts any stereotype a reader might have about what an "Arab" book is.
       Sounds promising. (See also the LoAL publicity page.)

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

       More books up for auction

       In New York Swann has an auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature scheduled for Thursday 20 June -- which is currently on view.
       They also have the usual catalogue and a "3D catalogue" (which looks pretty 2D to me, but then maybe I don't have the proper glasses; anyway, you can 'leaf' through the pages here), and it is always fun to see all the old jackets and covers.
       (Also some interesting odds and ends to be learned, such as that Faber apparently pulped more than a quarter of the first trade edition of Finnegans Wake; see lot 166.)

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

15 June 2013 - Saturday

Literary elitism | Szentkuthy renaissance !
Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction | The African review

       Literary elitism

       It's 'Bloomsday' tomorrow, and in the Irish Times Donald Clarke takes this occasion to complain Who ever decided that James Joyce was 'fun' ? as he finds the embrace of Joyce and all things Joycean has gone a bit far for his ... refined standards:
Democracy and inclusivity are, in theory, wonderful concepts. Spread them around too liberally, however, and you risk encouraging the riff-raff to get above themselves.
       Oh, dear -- even the "riff-raff" dare having fun with Joyce ... we can't have that.
       Yes, for Clarke:
The problem with inclusivity is that it rather inhibits the joys of exclusivity
       Ah, yes, it can't be fun if everyone else gets just as much out of it. We can't have that.
       Indeed, apparently:
A small part of the pleasure felt when reaching the last page of Ulysses, Moby Dick, Tristram Shandy or The Man Without Qualities stems from the awareness that one is now part of a relatively small club.
       I had no idea ! I guess I never learnt the secret club-handshake .....
       And, yes, so:
The sad fact is that the public acceptance of Joyce -- and the Bloomsday furore in particular -- has stripped the author of some once-treasured mystique.
       Oh, no -- poor Joyce ! Mystiqueless ! I guess we shouldn't even bother with him any longer and should instead seek out some other not-widely-read (and preferably 'difficult') author to lord over all the common folk.
       As Clarke explains:
I don't want my high art to be accessible. We've got filthy Dan Brown for that.
       His 'high art' ? But then I don't even get the argument -- I find Dan Brown entirely unreadable, and thus far less 'accessible' than Joyce (well, maybe excepting Finnegans Wake ...).
       I understand the use of 'exclusivity' as a selling point in certain areas -- a nightclub, or a meal or whiskey or wine -- giving people the illusion (generally in exchange for an exorbitant cash premium) of being somehow special, but surely it's clear to everyone that that's just a marketing con, right ? Literature, indeed all art, has to be above that, surely.

       Much as I love the work of Peter Handke, he also once wrote, in The Weight of the World (okay, okay, the title, and Handke's well-deserved and -honed reputation, should have been a tip-off as to what to expect ...):
Der Nachteil bei großer Literatur ist, daß jedes Arschloch sich damit identifizieren kann.

[The trouble with great literature is that any asshole can identify with it.]
       Why on earth is that the trouble, or problem (or, literally: drawback) with great literature ?
       Isn't that what's so great about great literature, that even the assholes get it ?
       Forget about exclusivity and mystiques: the joy is all in the text; if you're looking for it or demanding it elsewhere ... yeah, I don't really get that.

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

       Szentkuthy renaissance !

       hlo reports on (what I hope really is) A Szentkuthy renaissance -- that being Szentkuthy Miklós, of Marginalia on Casanova-fame (or at least moving-towards-fame ...).
       Great to hear that:
Contra Mundum Press has chosen Szentkuthy as its featured and primary author, and intends on publishing one book of Szentkuthy's every year. Additionally, in July 2013 they will devote a special issue of their art journal, Hyperion: On the Future of Aesthetics, to Szentkuthy. The issue will include not only review-essays by literary historians but translations of new material as well as other work. Furthermore, the publisher intends on staging various events around Szentkuthy's work, including readings at bookstores, as well as conferences, symposiums, and collaborations with other artists
       I'm thrilled they're putting this much effort into this, but he's certainly an author worth it.
       Good to hear also:
As Hanshe says, "the development of the readership of Szentkuthy, as with every writer, is a slow and patient process, one which occurs gradually over time, with patient, diligent, and concerted efforts. Yet there already seems to be a compelling interest in his work.
       And it sounds like he's in good hands, too.

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

       Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction

       They've announced that The Garden of Evening Mists (by Tan Twan Eng) has won the £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.
       The prize was founded in 2009, and:
For the purposes of the Prize, a historical novel means that the majority of the events described take place at least 60 years before the publication of the novel, and therefore stand outside any mature personal experience of the author.
       See also this year's shortlist; unfortunately there does not appear to be a list of all the entries.

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

       The African review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of 2008 Nobel laureate J.M.G. Le Clézio's autobiographical The African, just out from David R. Godine.

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

14 June 2013 - Friday

Hans Christian Andersen Litteraturpris to Salman Rushdie
My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain review

       Hans Christian Andersen Litteraturpris to Salman Rushdie

       They've announced that Salman Rushdie will be getting the 2014 (yes, they like a lot of lead-up time -- presumably to make sure the honoree will actually show) Hans Christian Andersen Litteraturpris (not to be confused with the also-biennial Hans Christian Andersen Awards (for children's literature) -- though you have to wonder why they couldn't have at least organized these sound-alike prizes on an alternating years schedule ...)
       At DK 500,000 the H.C. Andersen Litteraturpris is nothing to sneeze at; with previous winners J.K. Rowling and Isabel Allende it has, however, not exactly established itself as a leading heavyweight international author-prize alongside the Nobel, Man Booker International, Neustadt International, etc. But yet another high-profile winner should certainly help get them lots of media attention.

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

       My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Patricio Pron's My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain.
       Pron -- born in 1975 -- was one of Granta's Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists (2010); see their David Guterson-commentary plus Q&A.
       The Granta-nod surely helped get this published in the US and UK (though it's already been translated into a number of other European languages), though it seems to have gotten ... limited attention so far, especially in the US. (The first I heard or saw of it was when I picked it up at the local library .....)

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

13 June 2013 - Thursday

Romanian literature abroad | Solidaridad Bookshop | Huid en haar review

       Romanian literature abroad

       The Romanians are fairly active in trying to get attention for local literature abroad, and they've tried some creative approaches -- I'm disappointed that The Observer's Translation Project fizzled out, but Contemporary Romanian Writers (even if dominated by two local publishers ...) is certainly a useful resource.
       Now they have a new idea: as reports, Romania's Cultural Institute to open Romanian literature bookshops in major cities, London, Paris, New York on the list, as:
"ICR has spent around EUR 900,000 attending book fairs this year. Certainly, bookstores cost less. Costs will vary depending on the solution chosen, but it is clear they will be approximately EUR 40,000 euro / unit / year," ICR representatives told Mediafax. As well as New York, Paris and London, ICR hopes to set up bookstores or concessions in larger bookshops in Madrid, Rome, Tel Aviv, Vienna and Berlin.
       The New York ICR facilities could surely support some bookshop-space, and overall this is a really intriguing way of trying to get attention abroad. Given how little Romanian literature is, for example, translated into English (Chad Post recently posted the preliminary 2013 translation database of all new translations into English published in the US this year (you can download it here), and of the 300 listed titles exactly one is translated from the Romanian1 ...), these might be rather ... spare bookshops; still, if actual profit isn't a requirement then such a shop might serve a useful purpose. (I remember when visiting London in 1980s always stopping by the Albanian bookstore that still existed back then -- mainly yards and yards of Enver Hoxha's greatest (and less great, and all his other) works, but with some fiction in translation available too).
       1: Gotta hope there's more coming, too, because while Squaring the Circle: A Pseudotreatise of Urbogony is one hell of a great title -- and sounds pretty intriguing -- this collection of Gheorghe Săsărman stories, published by Aqueduct Press, was translated from Romanian into Spanish by Mariano Martin Rodriguez and then translated from the Spanish into English by Ursula K. Le Guin (and, yes, that anguished wail you must have heard was my despairing cry ... great that Le Guin lends her name and services, but twice-removed translations ... no ... no ... no...). But if you're curious: see their publicity page, the Publishers Weekly review, or get your copy at or

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

       Solidaridad Bookshop

       I had no idea Filipino author F. Sionil José has a bookstore in Manila, but apparently Solidaridad Bookshop has been around since 1965, and at Rappler Pia Ranada has a nice profile (with lots of pictures), Solidaridad Bookshop gives PH lit a chance.
       As with bookselling elsewhere:
Though they get a healthy amount of visitors, Tonet says the bookshop does not make a lot of money. Philippine publishing in general is in need of a boost with many publishing houses closing down because of lack of funds and a decreasing number of patrons.
       (See also the limited Index of South East Asian Literature at the complete review; some Filipino authors, but nothing by F. Sionil José yet.)

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

       Huid en haar review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Arnon Grunberg's 2010 novel, Huid en haar.

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

12 June 2013 - Wednesday

Faulkner's Nobel medal auction | Writing in dialect in ... China
Q & As: Shahrnush Parsipur - Frank Wynne

       Faulkner's Nobel medal auction

       Sotheby's held an auction of 'Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Americana' yesterday, but only realized US$3,697,134, as the top-estimate lot, 259, which offered William Faulkner's Nobel Prize for Literature medal as well as his acceptance speech -- with a $500,000 to 1,000,000 estimate -- apparently failed to sell (as did a set of his books with a $300,000-400,000 estimate).
       While a lot of items did go roughly in their estimate range the number of unsold items and a few outliers raise questions about what the hell they were thinking: lot 10, in particular, -- a 16th century Louise Labé first edition -- may have been hard to price ("No copy of this edition has appeared at auction since 1975") but the fact that they were off by a factor of about 100 to 1 (the estimate was $3,000-5,000, and it went for a staggering $485,000) suggests something went woefully wrong. Another item that went far beyond the estimate ('only' by a factor of 10 to 1 ...) was the David Foster Wallace lot -- some letters and a story manuscript from the mid-1980s (estimated at $10,000-15,000, it sold for $125,000).

       The background information about the Faulkner Nobel stuff is pretty interesting -- including the fact that he apparently nearly lost (or tossed ?) the medal, as:
On the day Faulkner and Jill were to leave Stockholm, the Nobel medal was nowhere to be found. Bags were unpacked and re-packed. After a search of the Ambassador's residence, the resourceful Button at last found the medal buried in the dirt of a potted palm.

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

       Writing in dialect in ... China

       In China Daily Wu Ni reports that New novel sparks interest in dialect literature, as:
Jin Yucheng [金宇澄], 61, a senior editor of Shanghai Literature, saturated his 300,000-word novel Blossoms [繁花] with Shanghai flavor by writing it in the local dialect.
In the novel, Jin creates his unique narration by using dialogue to reveal the plot and portray characters. The sentences are short, the language clear and the dialogue written without quotation marks.

"These are actually the traditional narration characteristics of Chinese literature," Jin said. "They are rarely used today, which makes them special.
       This sort of stuff is, of course, hard to convey in translation.

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

       Q & A: Shahrnush Parsipur

       In advance of the upcoming Iranian elections, Shaun Randol has a Q & A with Shahrnush Parsipur at Bloomberg, Jailed at Home, Tailed Abroad, Iran Writer on Sex, Voting.
       I haven't seen the new prison-memoir yet (and am generally not a fan of the genre), but I've been very impressed by both Women without Men and Touba and the Meaning of Night.

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

       Q & A: Frank Wynne

       English PEN offers A Word from the Translator - Frank Wynne, a Q & A with him about his translation of Tomás Eloy Martínez's Purgatory.

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

11 June 2013 - Tuesday

Summer 2013 Quarterly Conversation | The Spectator archive
Walter Jens (1923-2013) | More Kawabata finds | Publishing in ... Russia

       Summer 2013 Quarterly Conversation

       The Summer/2013 issue of the Quarterly Conversation is now available online, covering the usual interesting selection authors and books.

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

       The Spectator archive

       The Spectator has put its 1828 to 2008 archive online -- a spectacular trove of material, where:
Every page has been scanned and digitised, each article tagged and extracted, so that you can search the whole archive by content, keyword, topic, location, and date.
       See also Sebastian Payne's Welcome to The Spectator Archive: 180 years of history now online at The Spectator weblog.

       There's endless material of interest here -- a quick, fairly random look around already yielding nuggets like this from a 23 July 1971 'Bookend" piece, where Marion Boyars explains: "translations don't sell very strongly in England", and Peter Owen is quoted:
"Ten years ago," he says, "the British were xenophobic about translations. Now it seems to me that books are judged much more on their merit, and that younger people in particular are more discriminating. When we first brought out Cocteau's Opium we were lucky if it sold twenty copies a year. Now we would be selling 150 in hardback, and in paperback with Icon Books it's selling rather more. It all depends on the writer's obscurity. Hermann Hesse is a runaway best-seller, but with Miguel Asturias, another Nobel prizewinner, we haven't needed to print more than 1,200 of each of his two novels."

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

       Walter Jens (1923-2013)

       Walter Jens has passed away; see, for example, the DeutscheWelle report German writer and intellectual Walter Jens dies.
       More essayist than fiction-writer, I nevertheless enjoyed his novels Nein (which Der Spiegel reported sold much better in French (22,000 copies by 1952) than the German original (3000 copies)) and Herr Meister (see (German) reviews in Der Spiegel and Die Zeit).

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

       More Kawabata finds

       In Asahi Shimbun Yuka Orii reports that 41 rare pieces by Nobel laureate Kawabata turn up.

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

       Publishing in ... Russia

       At Publishing Perpectives Eugene Gerden reports that Russian Government Targets $100m at Book Industry in Crisis.
       Among the disturbing data:
According to data of the Russian Book Chamber, last year 116,888 books and brochures were produced by domestic publishers with the total circulation of 540.5 million copies. This is nearly 5% and 12% lower respectively, compared with 2011.
       And while it's great to see that beyond just throwing money at the problem (welcome though that always is) there is talk of: "other measures of support being considered" I worry that the emphasis there remains on 'being considered' rather than being put into practice.

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

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