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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 January 2015

1 January: Chip Kidd's Murakami-The Strange Library | The year in reviews at the complete review | 2015
2 January: Russian 'Year of Literature' | Publishers Weekly's top reviews - 2014 | 2014 at the complete review - site statistics | The Fall of Language in the Age of English review
3 January: Nobel Prize in Literature, 1964 - the contenders | Murty Classical Library of India | Michel Houellebecq Q & A | The year ahead in books | Minute-Operas review
4 January: A century of literature in ... Nigeria | '100 books that can change your life' | Translation in ... India | Bestselling titles of 2014 in ... the US
5 January: Chinese 'Writers Rich List' 2014 | Intizar Husain Q & A | Preparing for Arno Schmidt's 101st | Irène review
6 January: Whitbread Costa Book Award category winners | The Millions 2015 Book Preview | 'New Ways of Publishing Translations' | PEN report on surveillance-consequences | Christ's Entry into Brussels review
7 January: Charlie Hebdo | Submitting to Soumission | García Márquez archive cost questions | 2014 in literature in ... Sri Lanka
8 January: Ludmila Ulitskaya Q & A | Premio Nadal de Novela | Wieseltier on disruption
9 January: Tadeusz Konwicki (1926-2015) | January issue of The White Review | Adam Buenosayres review
10 January: Translation in ... India | Friedrich Ulfers Prize | Covering the Russian classics

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10 January 2015 - Saturday

Translation in ... India | Friedrich Ulfers Prize
Covering the Russian classics

       Translation in ... India

       In the Times of India they report on Translations: A shortcut into different worlds profiling Mini Krishnan, publishing consultant and editor, translations, Oxford University Press. (OUP publishes quite a bit of Indian literature -- though it takes a bit of effort to get at it outside India.)

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

       Friedrich Ulfers Prize

       The Festival Neue Literatur -- 'New Writing from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and the U.S.' -- is apparently due to run 19 through 22 February (so you'd kind of think they'd have some information about that up at the official site ...), and that's when they'll also be awarding the Friedrich Ulfers Prize for the third time, honoring: 'a leading publisher, writer, critic, translator, or scholar who has championed the advancement of German-language literature in the United States' -- and they've now announced that Liveright editor in chief and publishing director, Bob Weil, will get the prize this year:
Bob Weil was chosen as the prize winner for his contribution to the dissemination of German-language literature in the United States. Weil has edited many literary translations of German writers, ranging from Joseph Roth to Bertolt Brecht to Franz Kafka to Clemens Setz (a former Festival Neue Literatur author).
       Sounds like a good choice.

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

       Covering the Russian classics

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Tatyana Trofimova reports on how Classic literature gets a facelift in Russian bookstores, as 'publishers are experimenting with new cover designs in the hope of attracting buyers'.
       Somehow, I'm not surprised that:
Despite reader reviews showing that young people bought the books with the manga-style covers, Eksmo recently decided to discontinue the series.
       (Scroll down for an example to shudder over .....)
       And the concluding point is also worth noting:
According to Russian state publishing agency Rospechat, the pirate book market in Russia has more than 100,000 titles on offer, while only 60,000 titles are available legally. Combating a problem on that scale will need much more than innovative cover design.

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

9 January 2015 - Friday

Tadeusz Konwicki (1926-2015) | January issue of The White Review
Adam Buenosayres review

       Tadeusz Konwicki (1926-2015)

       Yet another significant eastern European author has passed away, Tadeusz Konwicki; see, for example, the Radio Poland report.
       Trusty Dalkey Archive Press reissued some of his major work, including A Minor Apocalypse; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       January issue of The White Review

       There are now quite a few online periodicals that provide a variety of superior coverage of international literature, Words without Borders, Asymptote, and Music & Literature among them. Now we have the January issue of The White Review -- and, wow, the bar just keeps getting set higher and higher.
       I just reviewed Mizumura Minae's The Fall of Language in the Age of English a few days ago, and mentioned how eager I am to see her 私小説 from left to right in English -- and, boom ! they have an excerpt of Juliet Winters Carpenter's translation. But there are also translations of pieces by Max Blecher, Herta Müller, Enrique Vila-Matas, Uday Prakash, Clemens Setz, Han Kang, Daniel Sada, and Tove Jansson, as well as Q & As with Magdalena Tulli and Rodrigo Rey Rosa.
       The mind reels. The weekend online reading is set. Enjoy.

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

       Adam Buenosayres review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Leopoldo Marechal's 1948 classic, Adam Buenosayres, finally available in English, from ... McGill-Queen's University Press.
       I admit a certain big-book bias, but have to say that I'd be surprised if this didn't make the Best Translated Book Award shortlist. This is great stuff, and this is a great translation/edition.
       Shocking, on the other hand, how under-the-radar its reception has been. Admirably, the Times Literary Supplement reviewed it last summer, but otherwise it seems to have attracted little notice. Very disappointing -- this is a book (and an edition) that deserves a great deal more attention.

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

8 January 2015 - Thursday

Ludmila Ulitskaya Q & A | Premio Nadal de Novela
Wieseltier on disruption

       Ludmila Ulitskaya Q & A

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Alexandra Guzeva has a Q & A with Ludmila Ulitskaya: Culture is above politics and public life.
       Her The Big Green Tent is certainly among the most anticipated translations of the year; see the Farrar, Straus & Giroux publicity page; oddly, you don't seem to be able to pre-order it at yet, but you can (despite it being the US edition ...) at
       See also the complete review review of her Daniel Stein, Interpreter.

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

       Premio Nadal de Novela

       Unlike some of the Spanish book prizes, the Premio Nadal de Novela doesn't offer an insane amount of prize money -- but, as for example noted in the announcement of this year's prize:
Con sus 18.000 euros de dotación, el Premio Nadal de Novela está muy lejos de los galardones más cuantiosos a obra inédita, pero sin duda es el más antiguo y uno de los más prestigiosos.
       So it is a fairly big deal -- and Cabaret Biarritz by José C. Vales has taken this year's prize.
       (Yet another (foreign-language-writing) author who has honed his craft translating -- including Frankenstein and Pride and Prejudice. American writers, take note ?)

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

       Wieseltier on disruption

       In the upcoming issue of The New York Times Book Review -- apparently the cover-review -- former The New Republic-literary editor Leon Wieseltier writes, very much, from Among the Disrupted.
       Despite being sympathetic to what he's arguing for/about, this still sounds to me more like sour grapes than a winning argument:
Aside from issues of life and death, there is no more urgent task for American intellectuals and writers than to think critically about the salience, even the tyranny, of technology in individual and collective life. All revolutions exaggerate, and the digital revolution is no different. We are still in the middle of the great transformation, but it is not too early to begin to expose the exaggerations, and to sort out the continuities from the discontinuities. The burden of proof falls on the revolutionaries, and their success in the marketplace is not sufficient proof. Presumptions of obsolescence, which are often nothing more than the marketing techniques of corporate behemoths, need to be scrupulously examined.

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

7 January 2015 - Wednesday

Charlie Hebdo
Submitting to Soumission | García Márquez archive cost questions
2014 in literature in ... Sri Lanka

       Charlie Hebdo

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

       Submitting to Soumission
       [Updated: This was posted before today's events at the offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo (which featured Michel Houellebecq on the cover of this week's issue).]
       As I've now repeatedly mentioned, Michel Houellebecq's new novel Soumission -- out today in France; get your copy at -- is the big French book-release of the season. And it's turning out to be even bigger than (I) expected.
       After the embarrassment of French Minister of Culture Fleur Pellerin admitting she couldn't be bothered to actually read anything vaguely literary -- like a book -- last fall (see, e.g. Scorn as French culture minister admits 'no time for books') it comes as a somewhat pleasant (if still peculiar) surprise that François Hollande: "Je lirai le livre de Michel Houellebecq parce qu'il fait débat". Yes, le président de la République has taken up Soumission.
       I'm not sure this particular book actually merits his (or our) attention -- but given the discussion it's already generated, maybe. And it's hard to imagine an American president or a British PM admitting to picking up a new novel that's so controversial -- especially before they know which way the wind is blowing (re. public opinion). So, yeah: way to go, monsieur Hollande.

       Meanwhile, still no word re. a US publication date that I've seen, but in The Bookseller Sarah Shaffi reports that it's: "set to be published in the UK by Cornerstone imprint William Heinemann in autumn this year"; presumably a US edition will follow not too much later (sooner rather than later if the heat and media coverage keeps up). Meanwhile, the German translation is due out ... next Friday (see the DuMont publicity page, or get your copy at

       (Updated - 8 January): At The Los Angeles Times Carolyn Kellogg now reports that Michel Houellebecq's book to be published in U.S. by FSG:
Michel Houellebecq's Soumission ("Submission") will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the U.S., confirms Jeff Seroy, senior vice president, publicity and marketing. The recently-acquired book does not yet have an American publication date.
       Houellebecq's longtime US publisher has been Alfred A. Knopf, so it's a big question what happened here -- did they dump him (because of poor sales) ? were they scared off ? Quite the coup for FSG, since the free publicity will be huge for this. Of course, I remind you again: the Germans are getting their translation out next week, the Americans apparently haven't even settled on a translator ("it's possible it will be published in 2016, although Farrar Straus and Giroux will not say for sure") ......

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

       García Márquez archive cost questions

       It was widely reported last fall that García Márquez's archive was bought by the University of Texas at Austin's Harry Ransom Center -- see, for example, the official press release.
       Less widely reported -- indeed, nowhere reported -- was just how much they shelled out for the archive. Admirably, the Associated Press and the American-Statesman requested the information; disturbingly, the University of Texas "refused to release the contract and purchase price for the archive", and is seeking: "a supporting opinion from the state attorney general's office" -- cover to keep the information secret; see, for example, Jim Vertuno's report.
       This might not be a good thing:
Joe Larsen, an attorney for the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and public records law expert, said a ruling siding with the university would cripple a major portion of the open records law.

"If it stands, it will blow a hole in public records law so wide it will hobble any oversight of government spending," Larsen said.
       The university claims, in its letter to the Texas AG:
that the release of the purchase price of the recently acquired archive of Latin American literary giant Gabriel Garcia Marquez should be kept secret because its disclosure would put the university’s Harry Ransom Center "at a disadvantage in negotiating advantageous prices on future acquisitions."

"This is particularly true when the Center acquires the archive of a major figure for a substantial sum," the letter says. "The release of that price information becomes a new benchmark by which future archives are valued."
       Understandably, they want to be able to screw the widows etc. of writers -- and, indeed, writers themselves, who often sell their archives while they're still alive -- but I'm not sure anyone's interests are being served by this secrecy (including theirs: surely the next would-be archive-seller is going to find this behavior very fishy and not be enthusiastic about getting an offer at an: "advantageous price" ...). What have they got to hide ? (especially given since past practice has been to (quietly) reveal the amounts paid). Surely, the only possibilities are that they either massively underpaid, or massively overpaid.
       An imbalance in information between buyer and seller makes killings possible in capitalism; I'm not sure it's appropriate behavior from a public institution whose remit is scholarly. (Yes, the less they have to pay for an archive, the more they can spend on other things; still, not really very sporting, among other things.)

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

       2014 in literature in ... Sri Lanka

       In the Daily News Sunanda Mahendra reports on 2014's literary scene: in retrospect in Sri Lanka.
       All in all pretty positive-sounding -- including: "I observed that more and more schoolchildren turning out to be poets" -- and actually promising: "The translation process too showed a remarkable increase in the literary scene".

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

6 January 2015 - Tuesday

Whitbread Costa Book Award category winners
The Millions 2015 Book Preview | 'New Ways of Publishing Translations'
PEN report on surveillance-consequences | Christ's Entry into Brussels review

       Whitbread Costa Book Award category winners

       They've announced the category winners of the Whitbread Costa Book Award -- oddly, only in the dreaded pdf format at the official site (still, better than nothing ...); for more convenient viewing see, for example, Alice Vincent's report in The Telegraph.
       How to be Both -- a book I have, and will be getting to --, by Ali Smith, won in the novel category; other categories include first novel, poetry, biography, and children's book.
       The 'book of the year'-award -- selected from these five category-winning titles -- will be announced 27 January.

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

       The Millions 2015 Book Preview

       The Millions has published their always useful Most Anticipated: The Great 2015 Book Preview -- "9,000 words strong and encompassing 91 titles"
       I do wish, however, they'd stop claiming it was: "the only 2015 book preview you will ever need" -- true, who the hell needs a 2015 book preview anyway, but if you do like referring to them (I do) you would certainly hope for a more extensive (and ... adventurous ?) selection. It's a good but very basic starting point, nothing more. Please do be more abitious in seeking out new titles (and information about them ...).
       (Also: more careful editing would also be welcome: yes, we're all thrilled to see Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano's Suspended Sentences, and, yes, it was originally slated to be a 2015 release -- but with his Nobel win Yale University Press got it out admirably fast and it's been available for some two months already.)
       As is, it's still necessary to consult a variety of upcoming-books-lists to get a decent overview; as I've noted, The Guardian's Books in 2015: the essential literary calendar is a decent starter-guide, and the past few years Scott Esposito has put up a solid list of 'Interesting New Books' (see, for example, his Interesting New Books -- 2014), so here's hoping that he gets around to doing that this year as well.
       Meanwhile, just among books I have copies of that aren't on The Millions list, might I suggest:        But that's just the tip of the iceberg (and, as noted, includes just books I already have physical copies of). Consider: New Directions is bringing out two Enrique Vila-Matas titles (salivate here and here), Deep Vellum goes into its first, oh-so-promising season, Dalkey Archive Press is bringing out their usual incredible variety (books by Levé, Tsepeneag, another batch of Georgian stuff, among much else) etc. etc. etc.

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

       'New Ways of Publishing Translations'

       At Publishing Perspectives Rebecca Carter looks at New Ways of Publishing Translations (yet aother article that originally appeared in In Other Words, where it's not freely accessible online ...).
       A decent overview of, especially, small publishers with a variety of approaches to publishing literature in translation, and some of the possibilities. More bottom-line discussion would be helpful -- is anyone other than Graywolf actually not bleeding money ? (and even Graywolf is, sigh, a non-profit) -- but at least different models are getting some attention.

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

       PEN report on surveillance-consequences

       PEN has announced the release of a report on 'Global Chilling: The Impact of Mass Surveillance on International Writers'; the report itself is also available in full (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) .
       Troubling to hear that there's so much self-censorship (though of course if I spewed everything I'm tempted to spew on these pages ...).

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

       Christ's Entry into Brussels review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Dimitri Verhulst's Christ's Entry into Brussels.
       I profoundly disliked Verhulst's alcohol-soaked The Misfortunates -- I couldn't even bring myself to write a review -- but this one really impressed me. He strikes the perfect tone for this story -- very impressive.

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

5 January 2015 - Monday

Chinese 'Writers Rich List' 2014 | Intizar Husain Q & A
Preparing for Arno Schmidt's 101st | Irène review

       Chinese 'Writers Rich List' 2014

       They actually announced this a couple of weeks ago: the Chinese 作家富豪榜, the writers who earned the most from their books in 2014; see also Mei Jia's China Daily report, List of richest Chinese writers revealed.
       Mo Yan only came in 13th, Yu Hua 33rd, and Jia Pingwa a lowly 47th (with 1.5 million yuan).
       The top three were:
  • Chinese:
    1. Zhang Jiajia
    2. Zheng Yuanjie
    3. Yang Hongying
  • Foreign:
    1. Khaled Hosseini
    2. Higashino Keigo
    3. Joanna Cole

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

       Intizar Husain Q & A

       In the Indian Express Seema Chishti has a Q & A -- As extremists do not read literature, we are safe: Pakistani writer Intizar Husain. (I'm not really sure that's good advice, but .....)
       See also reviews of Husain's Basti and A Chronicle of the Peacocks at the complete review.

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

       Preparing for Arno Schmidt's 101st

       Last year I excitedly prepared you for the centenary of Arno Schmidt's birth, only to be grievously disappointed by the complete lack of English-language coverage of the occasion -- so grievously that I wrote a little monograph extolling the author and his work: Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy.
       I'm not going to write another one if you (and the media in general) ignore the anniversary of his 101st birthday, but do suggest that you still have time -- his birthday is 18 January -- to get this book (which is a fun read -- in Schmidt-inspired dialogue !) and check out for yourself why you should pay attention, and maybe (definitely !) even read his books (and look forward -- though perhaps with a bit of trepidation/anxiety (it's a whale of a book) -- to the forthcoming publication of the English translation of his Bottom's Dream)
       So: get your copy at or -- or at your favorite other retailer, online or off, who should have no trouble getting it for you now either (though I suspect they won't have it in stock ...); it's also available on Kindle (get your copy at or
       (And, of course, if you want to gift it to someone on the 18th -- you want to convert new readers to the amazing work that is Schmidt's, right ? -- you should probably order now, just to make sure you get it in time.)

       (Updated - 6 January): In a post at the Times Literary Supplement weblog Michael Caines considers the coming (and past) Literary centenaries and other signs of the (old) times -- and suggests that in 2014: "Three centenarians stood out". Arno Schmidt was not among them .....

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

       Irène review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pierre Lemaitre's literary-inspired thriller Irène.

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

4 January 2015 - Sunday

A century of literature in ... Nigeria | '100 books that can change your life'
Translation in ... India | Bestselling titles of 2014 in ... the US

       A century of literature in ... Nigeria

       In The Sun J.O.J.Nwachukwu-Agbada wonders Literature, Languages and Diversities: How has Nigeria fared since 1914 ? a decent introductory overview of Nigerian literatures over the decades, with a good focus on the use of a variety of languages.

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

       '100 books that can change your life'

       The title story in this week's Outlook (India) is: '100 books that can change your life', as Mukul Kesavan, Mani Shankar Aiyar, David Davidar, Nilanjana Roy, and Sunil Sethi (not a bad line-up) selected A hundred essential books [...] and the reasons they should be read -- and reread.
       In Word Psmiths In The City they also talk about making the selection -- noting: "This list is not about the greatest books or the most popular ones".
       (This is long, and offers some decent entertainment value, e.g. this exchange re. Anna Karenina
Sunil Sethi: But did you know it was going to be on the rail tracks ?

Mukul Kesavan: Oh, that's a bonus, yes. She was perishable from the start.
       And, helpfully, they also list The Almosts: 50 Not Out -- the fifty titles that almost made the list .....

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

       Translation in ... India

       At Arunava Sinha wonders Why aren't translations the big story of Indian publishing ?. [This apparently originally appeared in In Other Words but that's not freely accessible online.]
       A valid and good question. But at least it seems to be getting some attention and is being discussed, which is something.

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

       Bestselling titles of 2014 in ... the US

       Publishers Weekly has the numbers on The Bestselling Books of 2014 in the US -- sort of.
       Annoyingly (lazily ? and bafflingly), they count separate editions separately, so, for example, three editions of Gone Girl make the top six of the 'Nielsen BookScan Adult Fiction Top 20' (trade paper: 962,797 units; movie tie-in: 458,245 units; mass market: 415,253 units -- all from the same publisher) and true totals are a bit hard to determine.
       As usual: the only one of these titles under review at the complete review is Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch.

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

3 January 2015 - Saturday

Nobel Prize in Literature, 1964 - the contenders
Murty Classical Library of India | Michel Houellebecq Q & A
The year ahead in books | Minute-Operas review

       Nobel Prize in Literature, 1964 - the contenders

       The nomination and deliberations for the Nobel Prizes are kept secret for fifty years -- but then the archives are opened up, and so one of the enjoyable beginning-of-the-year news stories every year is the behind-the-scenes revelations from the Nobel(s -- though really the only one that attracts much attention is the Literature prize) fifty years ago.
       The Nobel Prize in Literature 1964 went to Jean-Paul Sartre -- who declined the prize. He had been a contender before: nominated fourteen times in previous years, starting in 1957, and with four nominations in 1963.
       Disappointingly, the Nobel site has not (yet) updated their Nomination Archive database to include 1964, but they have now revealed that 76 candidates were in the running that year, including 19 first timers -- and at Svenska Dagbladet Kaj Schueler has the first overview of what the archives reveal:
  • Apparently 1965 laureate Mikhail Sholokhov was Sartre's biggest competition. (They made the right choice.)

  • Others in the running included a large Swedish contingent, with several future Nobel laureates among them: Eyvind Johnson, Harry Martinson, Gunnar Ekelöf, Vilhelm Moberg, and Nelly Sachs

  • First-time nominees in 1964 included one great miss -- Paul Celan -- and future laureates Miguel Ángel Asturias (1967) and Camilo José Cela (1989)
       Cela's quarter-of-a-century delay between first nomination and win stands out too -- I haven't checked the archives thoroughly, but that must have been one of the longest waits .....

       (Updated - 4 January): The Japan Times now reports that Four Japanese were nominees for '64 Nobel literature prize: documents: Tanizaki Jun'ichirō -- who apparently made it into the final six, suggesting he was on his way to becoming the first Japanese laureate (but, since he died the next summer, could no longer be considered for the prize); Mishima Yukio, Kawabata Yasunari (who wound up being the first Japanese laureate, in 1968), and poet Nishiwaki Junzaburō.

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

       Murty Classical Library of India

       As longtime readers know, I've been very excited about the long-planned Murty Classical Library of India, which is coming out from Harvard University Press -- the first mention of the project at the Literary Saloon dates to 20 April 2010, after all ....
       Well, the time has almost come: the first volumes are to be released shortly, and in The New York Times there's a nice write-up by Jennifer Schuessler, Literature of India, Enshrined in a Series.
       As she points out (leaving me swooning, dizzy with anticipation ...):
The Murty Classical Library of India, whose first five dual-language volumes will be released next week, will include not only Sanskrit texts but also works in Bangla, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Persian, Prakrit, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and other languages. Projected to reach some 500 books over the next century, the series is to encompass poetry and prose, history and philosophy, Buddhist and Muslim texts as well as Hindu ones, and familiar works alongside those that have been all but unavailable to nonspecialists.
       So, yeah, exciting times indeed, and something very much to look forward to -- the best new series since NYU Press' Library of Arabic Literature (which has certainly not disappointed) started up.

       (I fantasize already: which volume to read first ? Obviously Abu'l-Fazl's Akbarnāma is the one that gets my immediate attention -- but one of the great things about this series is that it includes translations from less-available languages, and so maybe a Persian text isn't the one to start with ..... (In case you do want to, however: see the Harvard University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or
       So maybe something a bit more out of my usual range ? Maybe ... Therigatha: Poems of the First Buddhist Women, translated from the Pali by Charles Hallisey ? (See the Harvard University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Michel Houellebecq Q & A

       As I've noted, French author Michel Houellebecq has a new -- and, of course, already controversial -- novel coming out in France any day now, Soumission (pre-order your (French) copy at
       At The Paris Review's Daily weblog Sylvain Bourmeau now has an extended Q & A with the author, Scare Tactics: Michel Houellebecq on His New Book -- well worth a look.
       It is indeed a dark vision he has:
I think there is a real need for God and that the return of religion is not a slogan but a reality, and that it is very much on the rise.
       Still, I am curious about the book -- and, of course, the Huysmans-angle really intrigues me.

       (Updated - 4 January): See now an early review of Soumission at The Modern Novel, as well as Rory Mulholland's piece, Enfant terrible's literary vision of an Islamic France in The Telegraph.

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

       The year ahead in books

       So far the 2015 book-previews have been pretty limited, but The Guardian's Books in 2015: the essential literary calendar is a decent starter-guide.

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

       Minute-Operas review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Frédéric Forte's Minute-Operas -- Oulipo poetry, translated by, among others, fellow Oulipians Daniel Levin Becker and Ian Monk and published by Burning Deck Press.
       Neat stuff. Really neat.

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

2 January 2015 - Friday

Russian 'Year of Literature' | Publishers Weekly's top reviews - 2014
2014 at the complete review - site statistics
The Fall of Language in the Age of English review

       Russian 'Year of Literature'

       Yes, 2015 is Год литературы в России (yeah, they're not quite ready for action yet ...) -- the 'Year of Literature' in Russia.
       Yes, sure, every year should be the year of literature, but still, nice of them to try to do things up this way. At Russia Beyond the Headlines Oleg Krasnov gives an overview of some of what they have planned, in Pushkin, Gogol and Akhmatova to be symbols of Russia's Year of Literature.
       It'll be interesting to see how things work out.

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

       Publishers Weekly's top reviews - 2014

       It's always interesting to see what the most popular reviews are at review-sites (see also below ...), and at Publishers Weekly they report on PW's Top Book Reviews of 2014, "an intriguing mix of backlist titles and contemporary hits".

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

       2014 at the complete review - site statistics

       After yesterday's look at The year in reviews at the complete review, now some user-statistics:

       The 50 Most Popular Reviews - 2014 look much like those in 2013: mainly backlist reviews, and dominated (even more so in 2014) by titles by African and Indian authors -- a stunning nine of the top ten:
  1. Five Point Someone, Chetan Bhagat
  2. The Dilemma of a Ghost, Ama Ata Aidoo
  3. The Gift of a Cow, Premchand
  4. One night @ the call center, Chetan Bhagat
  5. The Three Mistakes of my Life, Chetan Bhagat
  6. Decolonising the Mind, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
  7. A Play of Giants, Wole Soyinka
  8. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
  9. Ways of Dying, Zakes Mda
  10. Samskara, U.R.Ananthamurthy
       Of the top 50, 38 made the 2013 top-50 -- and the top ones, especially, continued to have staying power: only one title not on last year's list cracked the top 24 (Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, at number 8), and only a single 2014 title/review made the top 50: Zia Haider Rahman's In the Light of What We Know, at 49. (The next best positioned 2014 title/review was Ian McEwan's The Children Act, at 70.)

       As far as visitors went:
  • Site traffic as a whole was down 6.77% (page views: down 9.67%), though the long term declining trend began to reverse itself in late summer and year-on-year traffic improved in the last months of 2014

  • There were visitors from 228 countries (2013: 219); the top countries were (percentage of all visitors):
    1. United States 39.5%
    2. United Kingdom 10.00%
    3. India 8.14%
    4. Canada 4.49%
    5. Australia 3.17%
    6. Germany 2.24%
    7. Netherlands 2.07%
    8. Philippines 1.92%
    9. France 1.56%
    10. Spain 1.49%

  • Among the top ten countries the ones with the biggest decline in visitors were Germany (-19.5%), France (-16.11%), the UK (-9.24%), and the US (-8.97%). The biggest increases in traffic were in Spain (+28.87%), the Netherlands (+14.26%), and India (+13.61%).

  • Traffic dropped 9.19% in North America, but increased 39.26% in Africa

  • Among other countries with significant daily traffic, increases were greatest in: Indonesia (+142.6%), Kenya (+137.74%), Nigeria (+118.56%), and South Africa (+36.61%). Declines were greatest in Japan (-25.39%).

  • Among countries with limited daily traffic, increases were greatest in: Bolivia (a stunning +622.64%), Cameroon (+113.24%), and Bangladesh (+70.78%).

  • Among countries with minimal daily traffic, increases were greatest in: Somalia (+138.46%). Decreases were greatest in Djibouti (-83.87%) and the Isle of Man (-61.9%)

  • There were nine countries/territories that registered a single visitor, including Equatorial Guinea, the Falkland Islands, Svalbard & Jan Mayen, and 'British Indian Ocean Territory'.

  • Two nations/territories went entirely off the map: the Netherland Antilles registered 25 visitors in 2013, and not a one in 2014 [updated: as a reader clarifies, the Netherlands Antilles in fact officially disbanded a couple of years back; it took Google Analytics a couple of years to catch up and replace them with their constituent parts]; Vanuatu registered 13 in 2013, and also zero in 2014.

  • The cities from which the most visitors came were:
    1. New York 3.63%
    2. London 3.13%
    3. New Delhi 1.35%
    4. Melbourne 1.29%
    5. Mumbai 1.15%
    6. Los Angeles 1.00%
    7. Toronto 0.98%
    8. Chicago 0.92%
    9. Sydney 0.84%
    10. Bengaluru 0.82%

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

       The Fall of Language in the Age of English review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mizumura Minae's The Fall of Language in the Age of English, just (about) out from Columbia University Press.
       Her A True Novel impressed greatly, and while I'd of course prefer to see her other fiction translated (especially 私小説 from left to right !), it's great to see this work of non-fiction also available in English -- and one hopes English-speaking readers beyond just those with an interest in Japan(ese) will have a look.

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

1 January 2015 - Thursday

Chip Kidd's Murakami-The Strange Library
The year in reviews at the complete review | 2015

       Chip Kidd's Murakami-The Strange Library

       At The New Yorker Roland Kelts has a piece on Illustrating Murakami -- profiling The Strange Library's US-edition illustrator Chip Kidd. It's interesting, but there's no mention of the different approaches for the UK (and German and Japanese) editions, a full comparative discussion of which I'm still waiting for.

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

       The year in reviews at the complete review

       In 2014, 196 books were reviewed at the complete review, down slightly from the 203 in 2013, and just short of the soft target of 200.
       I received 540 review copies -- considerably more than in 2013 (490) but fewer than in 2012 (579).
       I often don't get to titles immediately -- three reviews were of titles received at least 2500 days before the review finally appeared .....

       Books originally written in 36 languages (2013: 35) were reviewed, with books written in French again taking the top spot, ahead of books written in English.
       The top ten languages were:
  • 1. French 43 (21.94% of all books) (2013: 43)
  • 2. English 32 (16.33%) (2013: 35)
  • 3. Spanish 14
  • 4. Italian 13
  • 5. Japanese 12
  • 6. German 10.5
  • 7. Chinese 8
  • 8. Russian 7
  • 9. Dutch 5
  • -. Portuguese 5
       Books by authors from 49 countries were reviewed (2013: 51), the top five being:
  • 1. France 33 (2013: 39)
  • 2. Italy 13 (2013: 10)
  • -. UK 13 (2013: 7)
  • -. US 13 (2013: 17)
  • 5. Japan 12 (2013: 20)
       Fiction, and especially novels, again dominated, with 166 reviews of novels (84.69% of all books; 2013: 161). Only two works of poetry were reviewed, and not a single drama.

       The terrible sexist bias continues, as men were the authors of 82.91% of the books reviewed (2013: 85.37%).

       Only one title was graded 'A' -- Julio Cortázar's Fantomas versus the Multinational Vampires -- and none were graded lower than 'B-' (8). An even hundred titles were graded 'B'.

       The average length of all books reviewed was 242.31 pages, with only two books of more than 1000 pages reviewed, and five more that were over 500 pages long.

       Stunningly, the average review-length was identical to last year's: 888 words. One review was over 3000 words, three more over 2000 words.

       21 books first published in 2014 were reviewed, tied for the most of any year with 2012 (but only 14 2013 titles were reviewed). 15 books first published in the 1990s were reviewed, 7 from the 1980s, 8 from the 1970s, 14 (!) from the 1960s -- and none from the 1950s. 7 titles from the 1930s were reviewed; 5 nineteenth century titles, and three from before 1800.
       (Recall that for our purposes we record date of first publication as the date it was first published anywhere -- i.e. in the case of translations, the date when the original came out, not the English translation.)

       Looking over the statistics it's tempting to 'correct' future reading-trends and consciously try to review more ... X. In some case this seems obvious -- clearly I should be reviewing more books authored by women, right ? -- but such efforts, or the contemplation thereof, quickly devolves into foolishness: I want to read more novels (which hardly seems possible) ! more different languages ! more classical literature ! more poetry/drama/non-fiction (yeah, no, I'll never want to read more non-fiction, though, of course, I should, my anti-non-fiction bias is far worse than my sexist one ...) ! more English-language books ! more foreign books ! more long books ! more short books ! more ! more ! more !
       Instead, I fear, I will just stay the course that comes naturally to me -- the one I convince myself is more or less random, fortuitous, unplanned. So look for more of the same in 2015. As always.

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


       As usual, the transition to a new year doesn't mark any special demarcation point at the complete review. As always, there are humble ambitions to clean up this or that at the site in the coming year, though major (or even noticeable, by all but the most sharp-eyed) overhauls continue to be unlikely and for the most part, you're likely to find everything puttering on as usual.
       In any case, your patronage is much appreciated, and I hope you continue to enjoy your time here -- and that perhaps in the new year you'll be rewarded for your patience and interest by learning of at least a couple of books of interest that you might have otherwise missed or overlooked.
       Wishing you a good reading year ahead !

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

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