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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 June 2014

1 June: Book festival economics | Writing (or not) in ... Bhutan | Half of a Yellow Sun, the film | 100 best 20th century non-fiction books (in translation) ?
2 June: Novel-writing pro and contra: Javier Marías | June issues | The Elusive Moth review
3 June: Prizes: Prémio Camões - Lindgren takes Lindgren award | Nonsense writing (in translation)
4 June: Top 25 Spanish novels 1989-2014 ? | The state of African literature ? | Andrey Kurkov Q & A
5 June: Prizes: Prince of Asturias Award (for Literature) - Orange Prize | M&L Q & A | The Man with the Compound Eyes review
6 June: The Museum of Innocence named 'Museum of the Year' | Ottaway Award | The Professor and the Siren review
7 June: PalFest 2014 | Perec's I Remember in English
8 June: Michael Emmerich Q & A | Profiles: Shin Kyung-Sook - Javier Cercas | Granma Nineteen and the Soviet's Secret review
9 June: Coffeehouse literature (not) in Nepal | Running Through Beijing review
10 June: Murphy for a day | Absinthe goes to Michigan | Mahmoud revival ? | English in India

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10 June 2014 - Tuesday

Murphy for a day | Absinthe goes to Michigan
Mahmoud revival ? | English in India

       Murphy for a day

       The University of Reading bought the Manuscript of Murphy by Samuel Beckett last year -- but: "access to the manuscript, and to facsimile copies, is restricted until 1 October 2014".
       Restricted -- but they do offer a one-day (well, six-and-a-half hour) window tomorrow when, as part of Universities Week 2014 it will be on display tomorrow.
       Kirsty Blake Knox writes about it in the Irish Independent, in Doodles of a literary genius ... €1.2m Beckett notebooks go on show -- and it does sound pretty neat:
"With its revisions, different colour inks, dated pages and doodles, it is an extraordinarily rich manifestation of Beckett's writing practices," said Dr Mark Nixon, director of the Beckett International Foundation at the University of Reading.
       (Still, the facsimile-edition is probably the one to look/wait for.)

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

       Absinthe goes to Michigan

       Absinthe: New European Writing -- not to be confused with The Absinthe Literary Review (or, god forbid, has announced they're moving to Ann Arbor, as the the department of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan "will assume editorial leadership" of the periodical.
       Sounds like a great match, with benefits for all concerned (including readers !).

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

       Mahmoud revival ?

       The University of Texas Press came out with a translation of Iranian author Ahmad Mahmoud's The Neighbors last year -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at or -- and it's great to hear that now, as IBNA reports, in Iran Three works by Mahmoud to be reprinted after 50 years.
       (It's still not clear how the publishing-in-Iran situation is doing, but this seems like another decent sign that things might be moving in the right direction.)

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

       English in India

       At the New York Review blog Samanth Subramanian writes about India After English ? -- noting that newly-elected Indian prime minister Narendra Modi tends to speak publically in Hindi and Gujarati, rather than in his "serviceable" English, and that the seemingly inexorable rise of English as the language to aspire to has been cut rather short. The focus here is on the newspaper/media scene, as Subramanian notes that regional-language newspapers have grown quickly, as:
The new middle class is increasingly found in smaller towns, and prefers to read in its own regional language, rather than English. Meanwhile, major media houses have discovered that English readership is declining or stagnant
       I'm curious whether this will also play out similarly in book-publishing -- on the one hand, it would be great to see regional-language publishers grow, on the other hand ... what does that mean for translations-into-English ?

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

9 June 2014 - Monday

Coffeehouse literature (not) in Nepal | Running Through Beijing review

       Coffeehouse literature (not) in Nepal

       At Ishwor Kadel complains that: 'In Nepal, and especially Kathmandu, coffeehouses are too expensive to foster intellectual creativity', in Literature in a cup.
       Yes, apparently:
Nepali coffeehouses are hardly a suitable environment for intellectual creativity because of the high cost. And debating issues get drowned out by blaring loud music. Distraction multiplies when a good Wi-Fi signal is found and Facebook is beckoning. Yes, it is quite rare to see a group debating academic issues or current politics, unless forced to by school assignment.
       The coffeehouse-culture of yore becomes ever-harder to find even in the Himalayas.

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

       Running Through Beijing review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Xu Zechen's Running Through Beijing, just out from Two Lines Press.
       Pretty interesting that this only appears in English now -- and from relative small newcomer Two Lines Press: recall that five years ago, as China was 'guest of honour' at the Frankfurt Book Fair this was mentioned in some pretty prominent company, Steven Erlanger and Jonathan Ansfield writing in The New York Times how At Book Fair, a Subplot About Chinese Rights, mentioning it in one breath with:
Jiang Rong's Wolf Totem, Yu Hua's Brothers, and Xu Zechen's Running Through Zhongguancun.
       Wolf Totem and Brothers both got pretty big US/UK publishing deals; Xu's book did not. It did get published in German translation -- but Berlin Verlag also seem to have let it fall out of print pretty (very ...) quickly. Now, finally, Xu's novel shows up in English.

       Two Lines Press, with only a few titles under their belt, are definitely punching above their weight with a pretty impressive list of authors, as they have books by two prix Goncourt winners (Marie NDiaye, Jonathan Littell), and a forthcoming Nordic Council Literature Prize-winning title, Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt -- along with the Xu Zechen, hardly small potatoes either.

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

8 June 2014 - Sunday

Michael Emmerich Q & A | Profiles: Shin Kyung-Sook - Javier Cercas
Granma Nineteen and the Soviet's Secret review

       Michael Emmerich Q & A

       At Critical Margins Hope Leman has an Interview with Michael Emmerich, Author of "The Tale of Genji" (meaning his study of the Japanese classic, The Tale of Genji: Translation, Canonization, and World Literature, which I commend to you).
       A good introduction to what Emmerich covers in his excellent book.

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

       Profile: Shin Kyung-Sook

       In The Guardian Maya Jaggi profiles Kyung-Sook Shin: 'In my 20s I lived through an era of terrible political events and suspicious deaths'.
       Her Please Look After Mom got a lot of attention, and now her new novel, I'll Be Right There, is out; I should be getting to it fairly soon; meanwhile, get your copy at or

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

       Profile: Javier Cercas

       In the Independent on Sunday Boyd Tonkin profiles Javier Cercas (Soldiers of Salamis, etc.).
       His novel Outlaws is now out in the UK, and due in the US in August; pre-order your copy at or get it at

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

       Granma Nineteen and the Soviet's Secret review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Angolan author Ondjaki's Granma Nineteen and the Soviet's Secret, just out from Biblioasis (who continue to bring out an interesting selection of books in translation).

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

7 June 2014 - Saturday

PalFest 2014 | Perec's I Remember in English

       PalFest 2014

       The Palestine Festival of Literature (PalFest) ran 31 May through 5 June, but there's been relatively little coverage from or about it.
       In the Financial Times Teju Cole offers a diary of his experiences -- noting:
How does one write about this place ? Every sentence is open to dispute.
       Unfortunately, he doesn't have much to say about the literary side of the whole event.
       In The National Khaled Diab reported that Palestinian literature festival shows the pen can intimidate the sword; there was also a paywalled Haaretz piece by Ilene Prusher, finding 'Palfest isn't just about celebrating the written word. It comes with an agenda', A literature festival for Palestine -- on both sides of the Green Line.

       (Updated - 9 June): See now also Palfest: Who represents whom in literature ? as Jamil Khader finds: 'This year's Palfest raises important questions of the politics of literary representation' at Al Jazeera.

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

       Perec's I Remember in English

       A review of Georges Perec's classic, Joe Brainard-inspired Je me souviens was posted at the complete review more than a decade ago -- and now, finally, an English translation of this work is appearing, as I Remember.
       I haven't seen it yet, but it's being published by Godine (see their publicity page) -- a translation by Philip Terry (The Book of Bachelors, etc.) with an introduction and notes by Perec-biographer (Georges Perec) David Bellos.
       A pretty major translation-event, I'd say -- and a book that's definitely worth seeking out.

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

6 June 2014 - Friday

The Museum of Innocence named 'Museum of the Year'
Ottaway Award | The Professor and the Siren review

       The Museum of Innocence named 'Museum of the Year'

       I'm a bit late on this, but cool to hear that Orhan Pamuk's 'Museum of Innocence' -- based on his novel, The Museum of Innocence -- has been named the European Museum of the Year 2014.

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

       Ottaway Award

       They've announced who will receive this year's Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature (at the Words without Borders gala on 28 October), and it's the same person who won last year's (inaugural) Friedrich Ulfers Prize for the promotion of German-language literature.
       Yes, there seems little doubt: editor (at Alfred A. Knopf) and translator Carol Brown Janeway is the current superstar of the promotion of literature in translation.

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

       The Professor and the Siren review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of a new translation of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's The Professor and the Siren, brought out by New York Review Books.

       This translation is by Stephen Twilley -- and just last year Alma Classics brought out a volume covering similar territory in the UK, translated by Stephen Parkin, titled Childhood Memories and Other Stories (see their publicity page). The NYRB Classics volume uses quotes from two recent reviews (Joseph Farrell's in the TLS; Nicholas Blincoe's in The Telegraph) of the Alma Classics/Parkin edition/translation as 'blurbs' on the back cover -- which strikes me as a bit ... misleading. Yes, it's sort of clear that they refer to Tomasi di Lampedusa's work as opposed to this specific edition -- in fact, both quotes refer specifically (if not necessarily obviously) to what is the title piece in the NYRB Classics collection -- but .....
       On the other hand, the NYRB Classics back cover also has quotes from reviews/commentary by E.M.Forster and Edmund Wilson (unattributed to any periodical), both specifically (i.e. by name) mentioning the story 'The Professor and the Siren', which surely refer to yet another, earlier translation; oddly (or not ?) those don't bother me as much -- it's obvious they don't refer to the translation/edition at hand (or is it ? unlike the two other blurbs, they include the name of the title-piece -- which happens also to be the title of this collection ...).
       Obviously, in choosing blurbs for translations, new ones or first ones, publishers will often use quotes that don't refer to the specific translation and edition being published -- historic commentary, foreign-press commentary (of the foreign versions, etc.) all are widely used. How far can/should one go here ? At what point does it seem too much of a stretch ? (These are blurbs we're talking about, so obviously there's a lot of ... elasticity .....)
       I know pretty much all reviewers (and publishing professionals) and perhaps most readers are pretty jaded about blurbs; still, this seems to me perhaps pushing the use-in-good-conscience envelope a bit far. Thoughts ?

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

5 June 2014 - Thursday

Prizes: Prince of Asturias Award (for Literature) - Orange Prize
M&L Q & A | The Man with the Compound Eyes review

       Prize: Prince of Asturias Award (for Literature)

       The Prince of Asturias Awards come in a variety of fields -- arts, sports, international coöperation, social sciences -- and, while the prize ceremony for all of the winners is held at one time ("in the second fortnight of October"), they shrewdly spread out the announcements of who will actually be getting them -- sort of like the Nobels, except that instead of a matter of a few days they take their time and make most of the announcements over a period of many weeks. They've already named a few of this year's laureates, and yesterday they announced that John Banville (and his alter ego, Benjamin Black ...) is the winner in the literature category -- selected from:
24 candidatures from Argentina, Cuba, Chile, China, Egypt, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mozambique, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and Spain
       Regrettably, they don't reveal the names of the other candidates ..... [Updated: a reader alerts me that some (but alas not all) of the other candidates are mentioned in the Spanish press; see, for example, here. Other contenders apparently included James Salter and Murakami Haruki, while Ian McEwan and Juan Goytisolo were also up for the prize.]
       (It's unclear what happens to the name of the prizes now, since this prince guy -- H.R.H. Felipe, who founded them -- will shortly be installed as the new king of Spain, since his dad just abdicated (and apparently just closing shop on the sad chapter that is monarchy everywhere is not seriously being considered as an option).)

       The €50,000 prize is yet another big international literary prize for the Man Booker-winner Banville -- he picked up the prestigious Austrian State Prize for European Literature last year, and the Franz Kafka Prize in 2011.

       (Several of his works are under review at the complete review, including The Sea.)

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

       Prize: Orange Prize

       The prize that used to be called the Orange Prize for Fiction and then was called something else and now is called something else yet again -- but you know what I mean, that prize for: "the best, eligible full-length novel in English" written by a woman -- has announced that A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, by Eimear McBride, takes this year's prize.
       A US edition is only due out in September (pre-order your copy at but the UK edition has been out for a while (get your copy at
       Impressively, it was small publisher Galley Beggar Press that picked this up -- and it's also gotten good attention (see, for example, the TLS review) and had already gotten some other prize-attention, too (such as winning the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize).
       (Updated): See now also Galley Beggar Press co-director Sam Jordison on how they came to publish it (and how he understands others missed it) in Eimear McBride: a genius easily missed at The Guardian.

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

       M&L Q & A

       At the New Directions weblog ('Now That it's Now') editor and director of publicity Michael Barron has An Interview with Music & Literature -- or rather with editor in chief Taylor Davis-Van Atta and European editor Daniel Medin of the impressive, relatively new periodical, Music & Literature ("devoted to publishing excellent new literature on and by underrepresented artists from around the world").
       A nice thorough conversation about this publication that you really should be familiar with -- a lot you can sample online, but the print issues are also well worth getting your hands on.

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

       The Man with the Compound Eyes review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Wu Ming-Yi's The Man with the Compound Eyes.
       The UK publicity tag-line -- "A Taiwanese Life of Pi" -- was almost enough to scare me off, but fortunately that's (as expected) not really a description that does the novel justice.
       But don't confuse the author with the (Italian) Wu Ming collective either .....

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

4 June 2014 - Wednesday

Top 25 Spanish novels 1989-2014 ?
The state of African literature ? | Andrey Kurkov Q & A

       Top 25 Spanish novels 1989-2014 ?

       In El Mundo they selected 1989-2014: las 25 mejores novelas -- the top 25 Spanish-Spanish (by authors from Spain, written in Spanish (not Catalan, Basque, etc.)) novels of the past quarter century -- not quite one for every year, but trying to cover the whole period
       With two of the top three novels, and another at number eight, Rafael Chirbes looks like the leading author of his times -- perhaps surprising to US/UK audiences, who haven't seen anything of his translated in ages. En la orilla is coming out in English (presumably as 'On the Shore') from New Directions in the US and Harvill Secker in the UK, but as the Anagrama foreign rights page shows, Chirbes is definitely appreciated more elsewhere. (Three of his books are under review at the complete review -- including one available in English, Mimoun --, but he never really won me over -- but then I haven't looked at any of his books in close to fifteen years, so maybe the newer stuff is much stronger .....)
       Several of the top twenty-five are under review at the complete review:        Hey, they picked the right Goytisolo title -- though they could well have picked more -- (there's one by his brother, too), so it might serve as a reasonably reliable guide to some of the best Spanish fiction of the past twenty-five years.

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

       The state of African literature ?

       Tejumola Olaniyan was elected the new president of the African Literature Association at it's recent 40th Annual Conference and PM News now print what I assume were his closing remarks at the conference, African Literature Is Doing Well, an overview of the state of continental literature, scholarship, and the ALA's role.

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

       Andrey Kurkov Q & A

       At Sampsonia Way Rachel Bullen has a Q & A with 'Ukrainian Journalist Andrey Kurkov' -- i.e. the Russian-writing novelist, author of Death and the Penguin and much else.
       He notes the differences between the Russian and Ukrainian literary scenes and establishments:
Russian literature is just a continuation of classical Russian literature and Soviet literature. There was no gap between Soviet literature and Post-Soviet literature. The same writers who became famous in the 1980s are still classics. Russian literature is also an important part of the establishment. In Ukraine, nobody cares about literature.
       Kurkov also notes:
The main problem for Ukrainian writers is getting their books published in English. Apart from me, there's probably a few books published in America and Canada by other Ukrainian writers.
       (He also mentions Yuri Andrukhovych, several of whose works are under review at the complete review, such as Perverzion.)

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

3 June 2014 - Tuesday

Prizes: Prémio Camões - Lindgren takes Lindgren award
Nonsense writing (in translation)

       Prize: Prémio Camões

       The Prémio Camões is to the Lusophone world what the Premio Cervantes is to the Spanish-speaking one -- the biggest author prize they have. Last year Brazilian writer Alberto da Costa e Silva was on the jury that awarded Mia Couto the prize; this year the favor is returned and it's the 83-year-old writer who takes the €100,000 prize; see, for example, Cláudia Carvalho reporting O Prémio Camões 2014 é o brasileiro Alberto da Costa e Silva in Publico.
       As best I can tell, none of his work is available in English.

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

       Prize: Lindgren takes Lindgren award

       They announced that Barbro Lindgren was this year's Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in March, but she finally got to pick up the SEK 5 million (just shy of US$750,000) prize -- "the largest international children's and young adult literature award in the world" -- yesterday.
       Lindgren -- no relation -- actually already won a Lindgren -- albeit the lesser Astrid Lindgren-priset -- way back in 1973.
       A report by Kristina Reymann at DeutscheWelle notes that:
Barbro Lindgren's texts have since been translated into 30 languages. Still, her work is better known in Scandinavia than in Germany, for example, where many of her books have been forgotten since the 1970s and are difficult to find these days.
       Same goes for the US: only the Harper Collins volumes Sam's Ball (see their publicity page, or get your copy at and Sam's Cookie (see their publicity page, or get your copy at seem to be in print (and they came out in the early 1980s !).
       See also her agent's information page -- and the letter Astrid Lindgren wrote to her in 1964 !

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

       Nonsense writing (in translation)

       At Words without Borders' Dispatches-weblog Michael Heyman writes about The Perils and Nonpereils of Literary Nonsense Translation, with Bengali writer Sukumar Ray a prime example.
       There have been several translations of Sukumar Ray's work, with Abol Tabol: The Nonsense World of Sukumar Ray reprinted in 2008 as Wordygurdyboom !; see the Puffin publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

2 June 2014 - Monday

Novel-writing pro and contra: Javier Marías | June issues
The Elusive Moth review

       Novel-writing pro and contra: Javier Marías

       In the summer issue of The Threepenny Review Javier Marías (The Infatuations, etc.) offers Seven Reasons Not to Write Novels and Only One Reason to Write Them.
       The reasons against can seem a bit strained -- are the possibilities of fame, riches, or immortality really determinative factors why people write novels ? -- but I can appreciate what he's getting at. And I'm always for any bashing of what he calls the 'real novelist' (who: "has confused his role with that of the historian or journalist or documentary-maker", i.e. pretty much misses the whole point of fiction-writing) .....

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

       June issues

       A couple of June issues of online periodicals are now up, including Words without Borders' June 2014: The Queer Issue Volume V (with some 'New Writing from Equatorial Guinea' thrown in for good measure); the new issue of Open Letters Monthly; and a selection of articles from the new issue of the Literary Review.

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

       The Elusive Moth review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Afrikaans-writing author Ingrid Winterbach's The Elusive Moth, now available in a US-edition from Open Letter.

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

1 June 2014 - Sunday

Book festival economics | Writing (or not) in ... Bhutan
Half of a Yellow Sun, the film
100 best 20th century non-fiction books (in translation) ?

       Book festival economics

       Via I'm pointed to Carl Wilkinson's piece in the Financial Times considering The economics of book festivals.
       A definite growth industry -- though one wonders who is benefitting from the growth.
       Author-exposure (of this sort) has definitely increased many times over in recent decades -- has that really translated into similarly increased book dissemination ?
       (As always, I'd prefer the focus to be on the texts, rather than the personalities/performers .....)

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

       Writing (or not) in ... Bhutan

       Two Circles has Shilpa Raina's IANS report, Bhutanese literature: Rich oral tradition, but few writers, a rare, small peek into the small nations literary scene.

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

       Half of a Yellow Sun, the film

       Good to see that the film version of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun has now been released in Nigeria (there were some ... issues holding it back -- see my previous mention), and in The Telegraph she writes about her reaction to it.

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

       100 best 20th century non-fiction books (in translation) ?

       At Counterpunch Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair offer their list of the 100 Best Non-Fiction Books (in Translation) of the 20th Century ... and Beyond.
       Always fun to debate and discuss -- and not a bad start. (But, yeah, it's non-fiction, so basically ... who cares ? I mean, sure, it's worth considering what the top 100 in this (minor) category might be, too -- but, come on, it's fiction that really matters and counts .....)

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

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