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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 30 June 2014

21 June: Biblioasis anniversary | Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature enthusiasm | 'The Siggi' ? | I'll Be Right There review
22 June: 'A Thousand Years of the Persian Book' | Buying local (down under) | South African short stories
23 June: (54) Greatest Indian novels ? | Alessandro Baricco reviews
24 June: Internationaler Literaturpreis - HKW 2014 | Soviet erotica
25 June: J.P.Clark profile | 'South Asian novel' basics | Buzz review
26 June: Ana María Matute (1925-2014) | Natural Histories review
27 June: Rentrée littéraire preview | Miles Franklin Literary Award
28 June: Jane Gardam profile | George Orwell's birthplace | The Search review
29 June: Sunday Times Literary Awards | Soviet kid-lit | Graham Swift profile
30 June: Bookselling in ... Thailand | Froth on the Daydream review

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30 June 2014 - Monday

Bookselling in ... Thailand | Froth on the Daydream review

       Bookselling in ... Thailand

       In the Bangkok Post Anchalee Kongrut reports that Thai independent bookstores are Punching above their weight, in a Q & A with Pichet Yimthin, secretary of the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand.

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

       Froth on the Daydream review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Boris Vian's 1947 novel in Oulipo-man Stanley Chapman's translation, Froth on the Daydream, now re-issued -- for movie tie-in purposes (that would be Michel Gondry's film version, starring Audrey Tautou) as Mood Indigo.
       Multiple translations ! Multiple titles ! What fun !

       Let me see if I can draw up a timetable to give you an idea of the odd overlaps here:
  • John Sturrock reviews L'écume des jours in the Times Literary Supplement (1964)
  • Stanley Chapman's translation of L'écume des jours is published, as Froth on the Daydream (1967)
  • John Sturrock reviews Froth on the Daydream in the TLS (1967)
  • John Sturrock's translation of L'écume des jours is published, as Mood Indigo (1968)
  • Stanley Chapman's translation is re-issued as ... Mood Indigo (UK/Serpent's Tail, 2013; US/FSG 2014)
       (And if that isn't enough, Tam Tam Books published Brian Harper's translation, as Foam of the Daze, in 2003.)
       (And, yes, I am disappointed the TLS didn't get Stanley Chapman to review John Sturrock's translation .....)
       None of which should stop you from taking a look at the book -- a head-spinning trip, in any case, so what's a little more head-spinning confusion ?

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

29 June 2014 - Sunday

Sunday Times Literary Awards | Soviet kid-lit | Graham Swift profile

       Sunday Times Literary Awards

       They've announced the winners of one of the big South African literary awards, and as the BooksLive weblog reports, Claire Robertson and Max du Preez Win the 2014 Sunday Times Literary Awards.
       The Fiction Prize, worth R75,000, went to The Spiral House, by Claire Robertson; see the Umuzi publicity page; it only appears to be (readily) available in the US in e-book form (get your Kindle-version at, but you can get the hardback in the UK at

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

       Soviet kid-lit

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Alena Tveritina has a quick look at Soviet children's literature: The struggle between ideology and creativity.
       (Russian literature generally still isn't getting enough attention (again) in the US/UK, but Russian children's literature is even more overlooked.)

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

       Graham Swift profile

       In The Herald Jackie McGlone meets the author and finds Graham Swift, the quiet man of UK literature, speaks up.
       Only one Swift title is under review at the complete review -- The Light of Day -- but I've enjoyed a lot of his work.

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

28 June 2014 - Saturday

Jane Gardam profile | George Orwell's birthplace | The Search review

       Jane Gardam profile

       Everybody seems to be talking to Old Filth-author Jane Gardam: the current issue of The New Yorker has a nice little (paywalled) Talk of the Town-piece by Lauren Collins, and now in The New York Times Roslyn Sulcas also meets the author, in Days of Imperial Pleasures and Regrets.
       I still have a small pile of Gardam books to get to, including the new The Stories of Jane Gardam (see the Europa editions publicity page, or get your copy at or -- the kind of books I like keeping in reserve, reliably good reads that I can always turn to when all else fails.

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

       George Orwell's birthplace

       George Orwell was, as you no doubt well know, born in Motihari, in Bihar, India. Okay, maybe you don't remember -- you wouldn't be alone, and that might be one of the reasons his birthplace has fallen into ... disrepair over the years. Still, they've been working on doing something with it, and the Times of India now reports that Renovation of George Orwell's house in Bihar begins. (A good thing, too, as apparently in the meantime: "Orwell's birthplace was mainly targeted by encroachers".)
       For more background -- and well worth watching in any case: the documentary Orwell ... ! but why ... ? on YouTube.

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

       The Search review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Geoff Dyer's 1993 novel, The Search, finally brought to the US, by Graywolf.
       (They also just brought out his first novel, The Colour of Memory, and while my review of that went up fifteen years ago I did take this occasion to add/update lots of other-review information and links.)

       Preferring and valuing fiction much and always over non, I've always been rather disappointed that Dyer shifted most of his attention away from fiction. I can understand that a book like his recent Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush can be an easier sell (though I can't imagine anything less interesting -- except the other thousand 'hot' non-fiction titles of the summer ...), and I admire writers who don't force the issue, turning away from churning out books just because that's what they've done previously or recognizing that they don't have another story in them, but I still wonder what would have become of Dyer if he had gone all in with fiction-writing .....

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

27 June 2014 - Friday

Rentrée littéraire preview | Miles Franklin Literary Award

       Rentrée littéraire preview

       The French 'rentrée littéraire' -- when they flood the market with the biggest books of the year -- is less than two months away, and the first previews and overviews have started to appear.
       At Livres Hebdo Vincy Thomas has the numbers, in 607 romans pour la rentrée littéraire 2014, as the total number of releases is up again (though still below the heady 2005-2012 period). French novels are up (404, 47 more than last year), first novels down (75, -11), translations about steady (203, +5).
       For overviews, see Magazine Littéraire's La rentrée littéraire de A à X and Le Point's Une rentrée littéraire alléchante pour remonter la pente.

       Titles of note and interest:
  • Amélie Nothomb's twenty-second straight rentrée appearance, this year with Pétronille

  • Windows on the World-author Frédéric Beigbeder returns to US-territory, with Oona & Salinger -- Oona being, of course, Nobel laureate Eugene O'Neill's kid, who went on to marry Charlie Chaplin (but not before dating, yes, that Salinger, J.D. himself); see the Grasset publicity page. I assume someone has already bought the US rights ... oh, what am I saying ? Gilles Leroy's Zelda Fitzgerald-novel Alabama song even won the prix Goncourt (2007) and doesn't seem to have been translated yet; Americans don't seem to trust French authors all that much with fictional depictions of well-known American figures .....

  • Maybe Patrick Deville -- whose Plague and Cholera at least made it to the UK ... -- will have more luck with his Viva, intersecting lives of Trotsky and Malcolm Lowry in his novel.

  • I don't know what the hell Emmanuel Carrère is up to with Le Royaume -- 640 pages on ... the early days (30-80 A.D.) of Christianity.

  • Other authors with works to look forward to: Dany Laferrière, Pascal Quignard, and Lydie Salvayre
       I look forward to hearing more.

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

       Miles Franklin Literary Award

       They've announced the winner of this year's Australian Miles Franklin Literary Award, and it is All The Birds, Singing, bringing in another A$50,000 for author Evie Wyld (who, as I mentioned just a week ago, just won the Encore Award, too).
       Get your copy at or

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

26 June 2014 - Thursday

Ana María Matute (1925-2014) | Natural Histories review

       Ana María Matute (1925-2014)

       Cervantes-Prize-winning author Ana María Matute has passed away; see, for example, the obituaries in The Washington Post and at the BBC.
       Some of her work has been translated into English, but most does not appear very readily available; you might want to try for Celebration in the Northwest -- see also the University of Nebraska Press publicity page, or get your copy at or
       In the short review in (the pre-Tanenhaus) The New York Times Book Review William Ferguson wrote:
Ana Maria Matute belongs to the generation of Spanish writers who began to publish around 1950, when the repressive atmosphere of Franco's Spain joined with the fatalism of Old Castile to produce some truly merciless fiction.
       Kirkus Reviews was also impressed.

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

       Natural Histories review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Bogotá39-author Guadalupe Nettel's debut-in-English collection, Natural Histories.

       (It's a perfectly fine, even good book, but I find yet again that the appeal of the short story form remains very limited to me. I have few genre-issues -- I'll read most anything (though maybe romance novels could put that to the test) -- but as far as form goes, I'm all long, long form. I can appreciate a well-turned story (Borges, Ozick, Monterroso, Krzhizhanovsky, Lydia Davis etc. etc. ...) or collection, but novels remain what feels like infinitely more satisfying. Give me a choice and I'll pick the novel over the story/collection ninety-nine times out of a hundred. A story in a magazine ? I almost never bother, even if it's an author I otherwise greatly admire.
       I really should look into the reasons for that at some point; it's certainly central to how I 'see' (and hence review) books.)

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

25 June 2014 - Wednesday

J.P.Clark profile | 'South Asian novel' basics | Buzz review

       J.P.Clark profile

       In the Nigerian Tribune Akintayo Abodunrin reports on a recent panel at the Port Harcourt World Book Capital, focusing on poet J.P.Clark and his comments.
       Good to hear that:
Professor Clark wished that more Nigerians will write in their indigenous languages.
       But, on the other hand, Clark has no illusions about writing generally:
There are those of your age who believe that poetry is magic, it solves all problems of society. I am of the other school that poetry does not change a politician. Today, politics is for winning elections. You win the seat and instead of sitting down and providing service for the people, the politicians are just about elections. They waste time instead of applying themselves to the task of serving the people. You can write all the poetry, they [politicians] won't read you anywhere. Probably because they didn't go to these great Government Colleges we are talking about. You can write all the poetry you want to write, it won't change the establishment. It won't change Nigeria, I'm afraid.
       (I'd kind of like to meet some of those folks: "who believe that poetry is magic, it solves all problems of society" .....)

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

       'South Asian novel' basics

       Via I'm pointed to Jabeen Akhtar suggesting The 17 Elements of a (Bad) South Asian Novel at Publishing Perspectives -- an amusing look at the herd mentality of publishers.
       (I think this is one of the reasons I am more drawn to fiction in translation from region X than to diasporic fiction written in English -- it tends to be much less formulaic. (Yes, I can understand the appeal/comfort of the formulaic, but .....))

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

       Buzz review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the second in Anders de la Motte's Game-trilogy, Buzz.
       The first installment was a pleasant surprise -- simple thriller fun, but well done -- but it didn't quite carry over.

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

24 June 2014 - Tuesday

Internationaler Literaturpreis - HKW 2014 | Soviet erotica

       Internationaler Literaturpreis - HKW 2014

       The Internationaler Literaturpreis - Haus der Kulturen der Welt is the leading German book award for a work-in-translation (and, at €25,000 for the author of the winning title, and €10,000 for its translator, more remunerative than any of the translation-only English language prizes (Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, Best Translated Book Award)), and this year's prize had a pretty impressive shortlist.
       They've now announced the winner -- and it is Beate Thill's translation of Dany Laferrière's L'énigme du retour (which has already done well in the prize-winning department elsewhere, including picking up the 2009 prix Médicis).
       This has been published in English translation -- as The Return by Douglas & Mcintyre in Canada (see their publicity page, or get your copy at and as The Enigma of the Return by MacLehose Press in the UK (see their publicity page, or get your copy at
       In the US ? Not so much ..... (One reason I haven't seen a copy yet -- though several Laferrière-titles are under review at the complete review, including I am a Japanese Writer.)

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

       Soviet erotica

       Well, less Soviet erotica than the erotica the Soviets officially collected, as Joy Neumeyer goes Inside the Soviet Union's Secret Erotica Collection, the "pornographic treasure trove" across from the Kremlin.
       (Okay, "treasure trove" also seems a bit of an exaggeration, at least from the photographic evidence on offer here. Still, J.G.Ballard's Crash (albeit in some dubious company) .....)

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

23 June 2014 - Monday

(54) Greatest Indian novels ? | Alessandro Baricco reviews

       (54) Greatest Indian novels ?

       Via I learn of Saudamini Jain collecting the (fifty-four) 'Greatest Indian Novels ever' at the Hindustan Times -- see part I and part II. A jury of eight each selected their top ten (click on the names at the Hindustan Times for each judge's top ten -- interesting different approaches): Amitava Kumar, Chiki Sarkar, David Davidar, Harish Trivedi, Jeet Thayil, Jerry Pinto, Ravi Singh, and Sunil Sethi.
       It's a decent, if slightly contemporary- and written-in-English-heavy, selection, but you could do worse for an Indian-starter-list.
       Several of the titles are under review at the complete review (as are other titles by quite a few of the authors whose books make the list); see the Index of Indian literature under review, as well as, specifically:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Alessandro Baricco reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two Alessandro Baricco-titles, now being published together in a single volume by McSweeney's as Mr. Gwyn:        (While connected/related -- and Three Times at Dawn barely novella length -- separate review-coverage seems warranted, since they were originally published separately, and have also been published (and widely reviewed) separately in several translations.)

       Mr. Gwyn also contains two of my favorite sentences from this year's reading.
       First, there's the wonderful:
Then they went into the park together, to take Martha Argerich to shit.
       (Yes, I admire any author that can work a sentence like that into a novel -- as Baricco does very well here.)
       And then there's this, which I like for very different (but, I assume, understandable) reasons:
Maybe reading thousands of books isn't so useless, she thought.
       One can hope.

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

22 June 2014 - Sunday

'A Thousand Years of the Persian Book'
Buying local (down under) | South African short stories

       'A Thousand Years of the Persian Book'

       The American Library of Congress has an exhibit on A Thousand Years of the Persian Book 27 March through 20 September, and that looks pretty good. Not much American media coverage, however -- no major-paper reviews I could find.
       Some decent information at the Library of Congress exhibit site, at least, with quite a few separate pages; see, for example, the one on Modern and Contemporary Literature -- though here, for example, you have to wonder how well anyone will connect 'Maḥmūd Dawlat‘ābādī' with the author of, say, The Colonel (though the Kelidar mention is, of course, good to see).
       Books by quite a few of the modern and women writers exhibited here are under review at the complete review; see the index of Persian and Iranian literature under review.

       (Updated - 24 June): Okay, that's pretty good timing: in the Wall Street Journal Lee Lawrence now has a look at the show, in The World As Scripted in Persia (that link may be paywalled; if so, just click on this search result, which should get you in).

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

       Buying local (down under)

       In The Age Jane Sullivan reports on efforts to Support Australian authors, trying to drum up support (as government funding dries up ...) for local authors.
       She suggests:
There is a lingering cultural cringe that claims we don't do these things as well as the Americans, or the British, or the Europeans. With a handful of exceptions, a country with a small population will probably produce fewer great writers. But Australian writers in the main are better than the cultural cringers think, and that expectation of inferiority might be dissipated if enough people actually read our books.
       I've got to wonder ... if that "expectation of inferiority" hasn't dissipated by now ... well....
       And while the call to purchase more books by Australian authors seems reasonable (hell, I'd love to be able to get my hands on more books by Australian (and New Zealand, etc.) authors), it really seems state action here would be more helpful -- support for local publishers and authors, purchases for libraries, etc.

       See also the index of Australian literature under review at the complete review, if you need some suggestions.

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

       South African short stories

       South Africa is celebrating 20 Years of Freedom, and some of the celebrations are also literary. So, for example, they're trying to determine: "the best South African short stories published in English during the past two decades of democracy" (yes, disappointingly with that 'published-in-English' caveat (as South Africa is apparently such a monoglot country that any other languages are easy to ignore ... sigh)).
       At BooksLIVE they now announce the fifty stories from which the 'Twenty in 20' best will be selected (to be announced 21 July).
       Several of the longlisted authors have books under review at the complete review, but only one of the stories is: the title piece from Ivan Vladislavić's The Loss Library.

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

21 June 2014 - Saturday

Biblioasis anniversary | Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature enthusiasm
'The Siggi' ? | I'll Be Right There review

       Biblioasis anniversary

       In The Windsor Star Ted Shaw reports that Biblioasis celebrates 10 years of literary independence, as Biblioasis hits the decade mark as publisher -- including of some interesting international fiction (most recently reviewed at the complete review: Ondjaki's Granma Nineteen and the Soviet's Secret)
       Love the quote from Daniel Wells:
We've always had an international focus, and part of that was just ignorance. We didn't realize hardly anybody else was doing this kind of thing.

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

       Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature enthusiasm

       Sounds good: in The Sun Ijeoma Opone and Christiana Eke report that Three African presidents to attend Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature, which is a better turn-out than you get for most literary prizes.
       Indeed, the shindig looks to be particularly well-attended this year -- it being Soyinka's 80th probably helps. Still, the prize goes to a dramatist this year ... not the highest-profile writers.

       (Updated - 22 June): As, for example, Akintayo Abodunrin now reports in the Nigerian Tribune, Three Nigerian playwrights shortlisted for Soyinka Prize for Literature, as they've now announced the finalists for the prize.

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

       'The Siggi' ?

       Siegfried Lenz is still with us, but at 89 is thinking about his legacy, and so he's forming a Siegfried Lenz foundation -- and they've now announced that one of the things they'll be doing is awarding an annual prize; see, for example, Armgard Seegers and Thomas Andre's report in Die Welt. An author prize (this being Germany, where author prizes are much more popular that book prizes), worth a tidy €50,000 (which puts it in the top tier of German literary prizes, financially speaking), it is apparently open to all authors (German- and other-writing), as long as the writing is consistent with the spirit of Lenz's own writing. Something like that, anyway -- we should see soon enough: the first winner will collect the prize in November
       My great hope is that this prize will quickly become known as 'the Siggi'. (Okay: 'der Siggi'.)

       Lenz's work has been translated, on and off, into English -- the most (and only) recent work being A Minute's Silence (published in the US as Stella, because ... well ...).

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

       I'll Be Right There review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the second Shin Kyung-Sook novel to make it into English, I'll Be Right There.

       Knopf brought out Please Look After Mom in the US (in the UK, it was published as Please Look After Mother, because ...), but despite it being touted as the first from-the-Korean break-out title, Other Press nabbed the follow-up. I.e. Knopf's enthusiasm/commitment seems to have been ... limited.
       Interesting also that while (somewhat understandably) avoiding the Korean title, the English title shifts completely from the almost anticipatory original (어디선가 나를 찾는 전화벨이 울리고, which is pretty much where the story starts) to the very end (as, in fact, the English title is the sentence with which the book concludes).

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

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