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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 March 2014

1 March: Israeli-Arab literature | Christoph Hein on Sara Bershtel | Middlemarch enthusiasm | Françoise Sagan profile
2 March: Frankfurt Book Fair Guest of Honour - 2018: Georgia | Chimamanda Adichie Q & A | March online issues | Skyscraper review
3 March: Philip Roth Q & A | Jay Rubin on Murakami | Shortlists: Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award - Rossica Translation Prize | Hunting Season review
4 March: Writing in (and away from) ... Zimbabwe | Creative writing courses | Sergei Dovlatov revival ?
5 March: Prix Goncourt du premier roman | Okey Ndibe Q & A | The Good Life Elsewhere review
6 March: Finalists: French-American Foundation translation prizes - PEN/Faulkner Award | Literary criticism in ... India | Wendy Doniger op-ed | Viviane review
7 March: Longlists: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize - Orange Prize | Wish they'd written ... | Julian Evans Q & A
8 March: Windham Campbell Prizes | Philip Gabriel Q & A | Snow Country review
9 March: London Review of Books profile | "'The novel' is overrated" ?
10 March: Translation discussions | Spring Quarterly Conversation | Simenon reviews

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10 March 2014 - Monday

Translation discussions | Spring Quarterly Conversation | Simenon reviews

       Translation discussions

       At the Asian Review of Books they have a roundtable: In Other Words: a discussion about translation and translators, with Julia Lovell, Lucas Klein, Arunava Sinha, Sophie Lewis, and M.Lynx Qualey offering a variety of perspectives.

       And Bwog has a recap of Friday's panel discussion (with heavyweights Edith Grossman, Richard Pevear, Larissa Volokhonsky, Wyatt Mason, and Susan Bernofsky) at Columbia University, Retranslating Literary Classics: A Panel on Cervantes, Montaigne, and Dostoevsky.

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

       Spring Quarterly Conversation

       Issue 35 of the Quarterly Conversation is now up -- so that should keep you busy for the rest of the week.
       First off, there's a 'Lydia Davis Symposium' -- eight pieces on the Man Booker International Prize-winning author (and translator), including Dan Gunn's interview with the master herself.
       Other authors getting attention: Giraffe- (and now also Submergence-)author J.M.Ledgard, W.G.Sebald, Josef Winkler, Ann Quin, and Christa Wolf, and there are also reviews and more.

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

       Simenon reviews

       Penguin Classics announced last fall that they were publishing all 75 of Georges Simenon's Inspector Maigret-novels in new translations.
       I finally got my hands on the first two of these, and these are the most recent additions to the complete review:        I'm looking forward to the next ones.

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

9 March 2014 - Sunday

London Review of Books profile | "'The novel' is overrated" ?

       London Review of Books profile

       The London Review of Books is certainly among the more interesting literary periodicals appearing in print in English -- certainly always worth a look (I have been an occasional subscriber, though I am not currently one) -- but Elizabeth Day's rather fawning profile in The Observer seems to be reaching in asking Is the LRB one of the best magazines in the world ?
       For all the impressive writing they've published, it's still hard to overlook one of the basic bottom lines; Day decorously notes: "For all its success, the London Review of Books struggles to make money", which is a rather strong bit of English understatement: as she then admits: "in January 2010, the magazine was estimated to be £27m in debt" (to the trust which generously supports it -- though if it: "never has to worry about paying back its loans" I would/imagine hope the tax authorities have something to say about what sounds like a bit too dodgy a tax dodge).
       LRB publisher Nicholas Spice is also quoted:
"It loses a lot of money," he continues cheerfully. The most important thing is that it has always had very generous support from its shareholders.
       Generous, indeed.
       There is, of course, nothing wrong with such vanity-publishing: any number of fine publications -- especially those with a focus on the arts -- are generously subsidized and supported (though admittedly few have anywhere near this cushy an arrangement) and admirably, in the case of the LRB, that benefits their writers (paid: "at a base-rate of 30p a word (rising by a considerable margin if the article is longer than average")) and, to some extent, subscribers (cheap subscription rates). Still, given this very uneven playing field, one wonders how the unsubsidized The New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement manage what the LRB can't .....

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

       "'The novel' is overrated" ?

       This weekend's The New York Times Book Review-Q & A features Teju Cole: By the Book.
       Among the questions he's asked is: "What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet ?" to which he responds:
I have not read most of the big 19th-century novels that people consider "essential," nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter. But this does not embarrass me.
       He's right not to be embarrassed by that of course -- life is, indeed, too short, and time is easily filled with any number of worthwhile things; not having read book X or Y is hardly shameful.
       On the other hand, it does throw into a different light an earlier statement he makes, claiming that:
"the novel" is overrated, and the writers I find most interesting find ways to escape it
       Since he goes on to admit he's actually not engaged with what are considered the exemplary novels of the 19th and 20th century, surely his dismissal comes far too rashly ..... Maybe it's a good idea to read what are considered the 'essential' novels, to see what all the fuss is about, and only then make a grand pronouncement as to whether or not the form as a whole is over-rated .....

       (As someone who considers 'the novel' -- in all its many forms -- the be-all and end-all of literature, art, human thought, and human experience, I am, of course, biased. But even I am careful about dismissing any specific (other) form as over-rated.)

       And at least he does give a shout-out to what is a very fine novel indeed (though, yes, one for which he wrote the Introduction): Ivan Vladislavić's Double Negative.

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

8 March 2014 - Saturday

Windham Campbell Prizes | Philip Gabriel Q & A | Snow Country review

       Windham Campbell Prizes

       They've announced this year's recipients of the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes -- who each receive: "an unrestricted grant of $150,000 to support their writing".
       They are: Nadeem Aslam, Kia Corthron, Jim Crace, Aminatta Forna, Sam Holcroft, Noëlle Janaczewska, Pankaj Mishra, and John Vaillant.

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

       Philip Gabriel Q & A

       Via I'm pointed to the Ipshita Mitra's Q & A in the Times of India with Philip Gabriel on translating Haruki Murakami.

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

       Snow Country review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Kawabata Yasunari's early classic, Snow Country.

       My copy is an ancient Berkley Medallion mass-market paperback -- anything to avoid the trade-paperback size, and to be able to carry the book around in my pocket -- but I must say I was disappointed to find in my copy -- the eighth printing ! -- the misprint:
     "It makes me very said," she murmured to herself.
       It makes me very said, too, when such an important sentence is left with the misspelling intact across so many printings and years (it's a 1972 printing, of a version first published in 1960).

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

7 March 2014 - Friday

Longlists: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize - Orange Prize
Wish they'd written ... | Julian Evans Q & A

       Longlist: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

       The e-mail I got on Wednesday said that the information was "embargoed until Saturday 8 March" -- without asking me beforehand whether or not I agreed to those terms; as it turns out, even one of the prize's judges and sponsors couldn't be bothered to hold out, as Boyd Tonkin already offers his overview in The Independent, Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014: Our long-list reveals a fictional eco-system of staggering diversity. [Good luck enforcing that embargo next year, if they again send the information out early to bloggers, literary editors, etc.; all credibility has gone by the wayside.]
       The fifteen-title strong longlist was selected from 126 entries translated from 30 different languages. (By comparison: the Best Translated Book Award -- whose longlist will be announced next Tuesday -- considered about three times as many titles (indeed, entrants from just the top three countries -- France (54), Germany (40), and Italy (27) -- come close to the IFFP total ...), written in thirty-nine languages.)
       The IFFP longlisted titles are:
  • Back to Back by Julia Franck
  • Brief Loves that Live Forever by Andreï Makine
  • Butterflies in November by Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir
  • The Corpse Washer by Sinan Antoon
  • The Dark Road by Ma Jian
  • Exposure by Sayed Kashua
  • The Infatuations by Javier Marías
  • The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim
  • A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard
  • A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli
  • The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke
  • Revenge by Ogawa Yoko
  • The Sorrow of Angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson
  • Strange Weather in Tokyo by Kawakami Hiromi
  • Ten by Andrej Longo
       Aside from the five under review at the complete review (linked), only the Julia Franck and the Ma Jian were also eligible for the Best Translated Book Award (differing US/UK publication dates ...), and the overlap in longlists will be a very, very small one.
       It's certainly a solid and nicely varied list -- no more than two titles in any language, but two in both Icelandic and Arabic, as well as some Far Eastern representation (including the attention-deserving Revenge). Still, I have to say from my biased position as Best Translated Book Award judge -- and noting that the two prizes and longlists aren't entirely comparable (for one, the BTBA longlists a ridiculous (awesome !) twenty-five titles -- the BTBA longlist looks to be shaping up considerably more heavy-weight and more impressive (adding that I think this is probably the strongest longlist (and pool from which we selected) in my time as BTBA judge; as noted, the IFFP longlist is drawn from a somewhat different pool of books).
       The IFFP shortlist -- the final six -- is "due to be announced at the London Book Fair on 8 April" (so look for Tonkin to leak it a few days before that ...).
       See also commentary on the longlist at The Mookse and the Gripes.

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

       Longlist: Orange Prize

       The Orange Prize for Fiction -- this week, or year, apparently going by 'BWPFF', or the 'Baileys Womenís Prize for Fiction' (sorry, but it'll take a while to convince me that that will take; I'll hang on to the old name for now) -- has announced its 2014 longlist -- twenty books selected from 158 submissions.
       Only one of these is under review at the complete review -- the only of these titles that's even made it to my desk: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (though there are certainly a couple more that I'd love to get my hands on, including the Catton and the McBride).
       The winner will be announced 4 June (though there will be a shortlist-announcement before then -- not that I've been able to figure out when that might be expected).

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

       Wish they'd written ...

       It always seems like a bit of a silly exercise, asking authors what books "they wish they'd written" (The Da Vinci Code, I always assume -- funding any- and every-thing they'd care to write after that ...), but when The Telegraph asks The Folio Prize finalists -- i.e. Anne Carson and Jane Gardam, among others -- that question it seems at least worth a look.
       The only one of the named works under review at the complete review is Gardam's mention, Le Grand Meaulnes.

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

       Julian Evans Q & A

       At Wordhorse Monica Patiño Pérez offers The art of translating fiction: Q&A with Julian Evans.
       See also his translation bibliography at his official site -- and while I'm thrilled to see the Michel Déon attention, it's his forthcoming (from Gallic Books) re-translation of Gide's Les caves du Vatican that I'm really looking forward to.

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

6 March 2014 - Thursday

Finalists: French-American Foundation translation prizes - PEN/Faulkner Award
Literary criticism in ... India | Wendy Doniger op-ed | Viviane review

       Finalists: French-American Foundation translation prizes

       They've announced the finalists for the 27th Annual Translation Prizes of the French-American Foundation and the Florence Gould Foundation, awarded: "for superior English translations of French works published in 2013" (in the US). The winner of the $10,000 prize will be announced 22 May.
       'Tis the season for longlist-announcements for translation prizes -- the 15 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize finalists will be announced on Saturday (though for some reason they've already let me know -- sorry, I'm not spilling the beans (though I do note that I suspect none of the five FAF Translation Prize finalists were submitted for the IFFP ...)), and the Best Translated Book Award (for which I am a judge) will be announcing its 25-book-strong longlist on 11 March.
       All five FAF Translation Prize fiction finalists were eligible for the BTBA, and four of them are under review at the complete review:        Obviously, I've been rooting for the vastly under-appreciated Where Tigers Are at Home from day one and am very pleased to see it getting this attention (though that goes for several of the other titles here too) -- but whether it and/or any of the other four finalists made the BTBA list ... well, you'll just have to wait until next Tuesday to see.

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

       Finalists: PEN/Faulkner

       They've announced the finalists for the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, with the winner to be announced 2 April.
       None of these titles are under review at the complete review; indeed, I haven't seen a one of them. (I really should start looking into more local (i.e. US) fiction, shouldn't I ?)

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

       Literary criticism in ... India

       In Frontline K.Satchidanandan writes at length about the Dilemmas of Indian literary criticism.

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

       Wendy Doniger op-ed

       I've mentioned the outrageous events around Wendy Doniger's The Hindus, most recently here, and in The New York Times she now has an opinion piece, Banned in Bangalore.
       Good to hear that:
If Mr. Batra's intention was to keep people from reading the book, it certainly backfired: In India, not a single copy was destroyed (the publisher had only a few copies in stock, and those in bookstores quickly sold out), and e-books circulate freely. You cannot ban a book in the age of the Internet. Its sales rank on Amazon has been in single-digit heaven.
       It's good to hear she is in high spirits, but I worry that she puts entirely too positive a spin on all of this: surely she understands that Mr. Batra's intention was not (primarily) to keep people from reading the book, but rather using that as a vehicle for his own agenda -- which seems to be carrying the day. And while she finds the: "dormant liberal conscience of India was awakened" by what happened ... well, sure, it's early in the day, but that hasn't really seemed to make much of a difference yet.

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

       Viviane review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Julia Deck's Viviane -- in the running for quite a few prizes when it came out in France in 2012, and now coming out in English from The New Press.

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

5 March 2014 - Wednesday

Prix Goncourt du premier roman | Okey Ndibe Q & A
The Good Life Elsewhere review

       Prix Goncourt du premier roman

       There's the prix Goncourt -- the biggest of the French literary prizes -- and then there are a whole lot of secondary Goncourt-prizes -- le Goncourt des Lycéens; le choix de l'Orient; le choix serbe; etc. -- but runner-up in importance is surely the first-novel-Goncourt, the 'Goncourt du premier roman'.
       Previous winners include Laurent Binet's HHhH and Françoise Dorner's The Woman in the Row Behind, as well as first novels by authors such as Jean-Christophe Rufin and Shan Sa -- and they've now announced this year's winner, Arden, by Frédéric Verger, which was actually a finalist for last year's big prize, the prix Goncourt itself.
       See, for example, Françoise Dargent's report in Le Figaro, Frédéric Verger, Goncourt du premier roman.

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

       Okey Ndibe Q & A

       In the Brown Daily Herald Emily Passarelli has a Q & A with Foreign Gods, Inc.-author Okey Ndibe.

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

       The Good Life Elsewhere review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Vladimir Lorchenkov's novel from Moldova, The Good Life Elsewhere, just out from New Vessel Press (who continue to impress with their selection of titles).

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

4 March 2014 - Tuesday

Writing in (and away from) ... Zimbabwe | Creative writing courses
Sergei Dovlatov revival ?

       Writing in (and away from) ... Zimbabwe

       In The Standard they consider the Diaspora influence on Zim literature, including in such works as Brian Chikwava's Harare North.
       They note:
But what is also uniquely apparent is that the diaspora novel is becoming the dominant genre of contemporary Zimbabwean writing. Those writers who are giving a global face to Zimbabwean literature are ensconced outside, far from the madding crowds of Harare or Bulawayo, not witness to the buzz, the gossip, the scandals. Perhaps it doesn't mean anything.
       Or perhaps it does -- and while I wouldn't worry too much about who is: "giving a global face to Zimbabwean literature", surely the question of why domestic writing (and publishing, and the literary scene in general) are not the vanguard is worth considering more closely.

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

       Creative writing courses

       In The Independent Alice Jones and Nick Clark report that Creative writing courses are a waste of time, says Hanif Kureishi (who teaches one).
       So, for example, Kureishi acknowledges:
A lot of my students just can't tell a story. They can write sentences but they don't know how to make a story go from there all the way through to the end without people dying of boredom in between. It's a difficult thing to do and it's a great skill to have. Can you teach that ? I don't think you can.
       Nice to see him being so forthright -- but I imagine few will be dissuaded.

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

       Sergei Dovlatov revival ?

       Sergei Dovlatov -- the Soviet writer who emigrated to the US in 1979 and died, aged just forty-eight, in 1990 -- has been getting more attention recently, with several of his books recently being published and re-published, including Pushkin Hills, published last year in the UK and coming soon from Counterpoint in the US (get your copy at or and a re-issue of The Invisible Book forthcoming from Overlook (see their publicity page, or get your copy at or
       In The Moscow Times Grace Cuddihy now reports that Dovlatov Revival Hits the Streets of New York City.

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

3 March 2014 - Monday

Philip Roth Q & A | Jay Rubin on Murakami
Shortlists: Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award | Rossica Translation Prize
Hunting Season review

       Philip Roth Q & A

       The New York Times Book Review has a solid Q & A that Daniel Sandstrom conducted with Philip Roth (The Plot Against America, etc.) for Svenska Dagbladet, My Life as a Writer.

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

       Jay Rubin on Murakami

       Via I'm pointed to Louis Templado's profile of Jay Rubin: Translator offers a peek into his life -- and Haruki Murakami's as well in The Asahi Shimbun.

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

       Shortlist: Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award

       They've announced the shortlist for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award (amazingly managing not to mention the titles of the shortlisted stories in the official announcement ... see them at the main Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award page, or click on the names of the shortlisted authors for brief Q & As and additional information).
       They've also bundled the six shortlisted stories into: "a specially produced ebook, SixShorts 2014", though it appears to only be available in the 'Kindle' format (get your copy from or

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

       Shortlist: Rossica Translation Prize

       They've announced the shortlist for the Rossica Translation Prize for translations from the Russian -- and on the same page they also list the longlisted titles, a great resource for those interested in recently translated-from-the Russian literature.
       None of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review, but quite a few of the longlisted ones are; see the Index of Russian literature under review.

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

       Hunting Season review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Andrea Camilleri's pre-Inspector Montalbano-series novel from 1992, Hunting Season, finally coming out in English, too.

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

2 March 2014 - Sunday

Frankfurt Book Fair Guest of Honour - 2018: Georgia
Chimamanda Adichie Q & A | March online issues | Skyscraper review

       Frankfurt Book Fair Guest of Honour - 2018: Georgia

       This year's 'Guest of Honour' at the Frankfurt Book Fair will be Finland, in 2015 it will be Indonesia, and while 2016 and 2017 are apparently still up for grabs, they announced a few days ago that Guest of Honour 2018: contract signed with Georgia. They may well need that extra time to prepare -- it's a pretty small country and market -- but they've already been doing an impressive job of increasing the visibility of Georgian literature abroad and with, for example, Dalkey Archive Press' Georgian Literature Series, the number of Georgian titles available in English has increased to ... well, at least a trickle.
       Several Georgian books are under review at the complete review (including the three written-in-Georgian Dalkey titles):        Meanwhile, the Program in Support of Georgian Book and Literature is a a pretty decent small-country book office site, and the Georgian Publishers and Booksellers Association also offers some local information.
       There's also good information about many Georgian authors at 'literary agent for Georgian literature' Rachel Gratzfeld's site; she seems to have pretty much cornered that market .....

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

       Chimamanda Adichie Q & A

       In The Sun Abanobi Chika and Odogwu Obinna have a Q & A with Chimamanda Adichie
       Among her comments:
That's why I donít like granting interviews, because whatever you say, in 20 years, youíll still be quoted.
       But good also to see her strongly urge the use of Igbo (and Yoruba, etc.) -- and express her annoyance with: "The same Igbo parents, who don't teach their children Igbo, teach them French".

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

       March online issues

       The March issues of several online periodicals are now up, including Words without Borders' Writing from Venezuela-themed issue, as well as the March issue of Open Letters Monthly.

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

       Skyscraper review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tahsin Yücel's Skyscraper, a novel set in Istanbul, in 2073.

       I bought my copy of this book (used, at the Strand) -- and it came with a printout of the e-mail from those who had originally requested it as a review copy from publisher Talisman House: The New York Review of Books. Must have made the publisher's day to get that review copy request (their books don't seem to be ... widely reviewed) -- though I regret to be the bearer of bad news and note that less than a month later the NYRB had ... deaccessioned it (and cashed in on the deal, no less, though I can't imagine they got more than a dollar for it). I realize that a review at the complete review is a pretty sorry substitute, but at least some good came of the copy being in circulation (though it's the Strand bookstore that profited most, financially speaking, from the circuituous route the book took) .....

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

1 March 2014 - Saturday

Israeli-Arab literature | Christoph Hein on Sara Bershtel
Middlemarch enthusiasm | Françoise Sagan profile

       Israeli-Arab literature

       In Haartez Chassia Chomsky Porat and Azar Dakwar try to make the case that Israeli-Arab literature is part of the nation's canon too -- though they admit that currently essentially:
Arabic literature written in Israel simply does not exist in the cultural world of Hebrew readers
       So also in the 14 years the Sapir Prize -- a leading Israeli literary prize -- has been awarded:
168 authors have participated in the competition. But since the prize's inauguration, in 2000, only one Arab author has ever been short-listed: Sayed Kashua, who writes in Hebrew.
       Among their suggestions: "add to the Sapir Prize a special category for a work in Arabic, named for an Arab writer citizen of Israel".

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

       Christoph Hein on Sara Bershtel

       Thursday evening Sara Bershtel received the Friedrich Ulfers Prize (awarded to someone: "who has championed the advancement of German-language literature in the United States").
       Christoph Hein (Willenbrock, etc.) was to have given the laudatio, but was indisposed, and so Philip Boehm read his translation of Hein's prepared speech -- and Publishing Perspectives now prints it.

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

       Middlemarch enthusiasm

       Rebecca Mead's My Life in Middlemarch (get your copy at or has certainly gotten a lot of attention -- but if it gets them talking about (and possibly reading ...) Middlemarch one can't really complain.
       Now The Guardian has Martin Amis, AS Byatt, Kathyrn Hughes, and John Mullan 'reflect on how Middlemarch has changed for them as they have got older', in What Middlemarch means to me.

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

       Françoise Sagan profile

       In The Guardian Richard Williams profiles the Bonjour Tristesse-author, in François Sagan: 'She did what she wanted' (yeah, you figure they'd have tried to get her name right in the headline, but, well ...).

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

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