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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 February 2015

11 February: (Translation) copyright "rustling" | Chris Andrews Q & A
12 February: De Avonden (finally) coming out in English | PEN World Voices Festival programme | Woman in Darkness review
13 February: Cairo International Book Fair | Alice Kaplan on Meursault, contre-enquête
14 February: IPAF shortlist | Jonathan Franzen Q & A | Slaves in their Chains review
15 February: UK library lending | Submission mega-success
16 February: Haïlji profile | Philip Levine (1928-2015) | Words Onscreen review
17 February: BTBA (re)scheduling | The A26 review
18 February: Modern Library of Indonesia profile | NAMA literary awards | Black market in books in ... Mauritania | Semmelweis review
19 February: Mishra on Murty Classical Library of India | Publishing in ... Zimbabwe
20 February: Nobel nomination numbers | Festival Neue Literatur | Bolaño literary criticism criticism

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20 February 2015 - Friday

Nobel nomination numbers | Festival Neue Literatur
Bolaño literary criticism criticism

       Nobel nomination numbers

       Nominations for the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature were due before 1 February, and at his weblog the still-in-charge-of-Nobel-matters (until the end of May) permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Peter Englund, now reports on the final numbers (but not, alas, the names).
       259 names were suggested (2014: 271), resulting in 198 candidates (2014: 210) -- duplicate nominations, as well as ineligible suggestions (such as, say, now-deceased Assia Djebar) presumably accounting for the differential -- with 36 first-time nominations (2014: also 36).
       They're looking to quickly cut the 198 down to 20 to 25 contenders, and then reach a shortlist of five by the end of May (when Englund steps down from this position, and Sara Danius takes over permanent-secretary- (and the associated Nobel-) duties).

       Englund also takes this occasion to express his irritation at nominators and nominating bodies who reveal/leak the names they've submitted -- and even suggests that in future such nominations might be removed from consideration.
       The rules do state: "Nominations are subject to complete secrecy" -- which I find unfortunate. As always, I'm for openness, and think it's far more troubling that nominations (and who made them) are kept secret. True, the Nobel Prize hardly needs the additional publicity, and the betting shops do a good job of stirring up a speculation-frenzy for it, but it'd also be a lot more fun if we knew who was -- at least at the outset -- in the running for each year's prize.

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

       Festival Neue Literatur

       The Festival Neue Literatur has started -- bringing some: "of the best emerging and established writers from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland to New York City for a long winter weekend".
       A solid program which you might want to check out, if you're in the area.
       Yesterday was the opening reception, where they also awarded the Friedrich Ulfers Prize -- given to: "a leading publisher, writer, critic, translator, or scholar who has championed the advancement of German-language literature in the United States" -- to Robert Weil.
       (Updated): At Publishing Perspectives you can now also read Weil's acceptance speech, Norton's Robert Weil on His Career Promoting German Literature.

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

       Bolaño literary criticism criticism

       Cuban author Leonardo Padura (The Man Who Loved Dogs, etc.) isn't impressed by Roberto Bolaño as literary critic, calling him: "the worst literary critic of recent years", as Prensa Latina reports in Bolaño: Good Writer, Bad Literary Critic, says Padura.
       In particular, Padura seems to doubt that Bolaño read anywhere near as much or widely as he claimed, suggesting: "if he had read all the books he said he read, he would not have been able to write not even one of his own".
       I don't really think it's that hard to believe Bolaño was such a great reader. And while I don't think much of what he wrote is truly 'literary criticism', I also think he was a very good reader, and he wrote well about what he read -- see, for example, Between Parentheses. Yes, some of his judgments were off, but a lot were spot-on.

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

19 February 2015 - Thursday

Mishra on Murty Classical Library of India | Publishing in ... Zimbabwe

       Mishra on Murty Classical Library of India

       In the Wall Street Journal Pankaj Mishra finds: 'An ambitious new library of Indian literature shows the cultural riches ignored by today's Hindu nationalists' in The Many Strands of Indian Identity, profiling the promising-sounding Murty Classical Library of India (which I've previously mentioned quite a few times).
       As he notes:
This elite's fossilized notions of India's Sanskritic past came to obscure the vitality of the country's many other old and still existing cultures.
The Murty Library doesn't only repair a devastating breach in India's cultural memory -- one akin to the disappearance of Greek learning from Europe in the Middle Ages. It also facilitates a continuing and potentially revolutionary reassessment of how we understand the world's political as well as literary history.
       I haven't seen these volumes yet, but I am very much looking forward to them.

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

       Publishing in ... Zimbabwe

       In The Herald, in Tawanda Marwizi's ‘Cry my beloved literature’, Aaron Chiundura Moyo complains that in Zimbabwe:
Literature is now dead not because we don't have good writers but because of piracy. It's not only in music but it has killed our literature,
       It's not digital piracy that's the problem, but rather an older technology: photocopying.

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

18 February 2015 - Wednesday

Modern Library of Indonesia profile | NAMA literary awards
Black market in books in ... Mauritania | Semmelweis review

       Modern Library of Indonesia profile

       In Clove Cigarettes and Indonesian Books: An Armchair Traveler's Pleasure at PopMatters William Gibson (no, not that one) profiles the Lontar Foundation and its wonderful Modern Library of Indonesia (several volumes of which are under review at the complete review, with more to follow), including a Q & A with founder John McGlynn.
       Lots of information here -- and with Indonesia the 'Guest of Honour' at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year -- see their official site -- they should be getting more of the attention they deserve.

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

       NAMA literary awards

       They've handed out the (Zimbabwean) National Arts Merit Awards -- see all the winners here -- and in The Herald they take A look at NAMA literary awards, focusing on the literary winners.

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

       Black market in books in ... Mauritania

       At Al-Fanar Media Rajel Oumar Hell Beilil reports that In Mauritania, a Black Market in Books Plagues Education.
       It's mainly the textbook market, but disturbing nonetheless:
Since last year, books in Mauritania have, for reasons that are not always clear, been steered from legal distributors into the black market, and they have become difficult to find and overpriced.
       Distribution has long held back African markets, and it's frustrating that these sorts of situations are still so widespread. It's heartening to see that folks are willing to spend their ouguiya on (text)books -- and disheartening that they're getting screwed like this. Would that books -- especially, but not only, school-books-- were readily and cheaply accessible !

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

       Semmelweis review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Louis-Ferdinand Céline's dissertation (for his medical degree !), the very surprising Semmelweis.
       It's a neat little edition from Atlas -- though the exhortation the publisher prints on the back cover ("File under: Fiction") is ... well, what it is.

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

17 February 2015 - Tuesday

BTBA (re)scheduling | The A26 review

       BTBA (re)scheduling

       The judges for the Best Translated Book Awards (I'm one of them, in the fiction category) continue to sift and select (and, yes, are still welcoming incoming books -- it's (almost) never too late, and thanks, publishers, for sending in titles !) but, for those waiting with bated breath for the announced 2 March longlist announcement ... it's going to be a while longer.
       While the announcement-calendar at the official site (promising also announcements of the finalists on 13 April and the winners on 27 April) has still not been updated (Chad will surely get to it shortly ...), the new schedule is:
  • Longlist (25 fiction titles): announced 7 April
  • Finalists (10 fiction titles): announced 5 May
  • Winners: announced 27 May
       Aside from giving us a chance to consider more books (and we're doing a pretty impressive job of getting at almost every last one of the about 500 eligible fiction titles, if I do say so myself), this also allows for the winners-announcement to be made in conjunction with this year's Book Expo America (details no doubt to follow soon(er or later)).

       Consider it an opportunity to debate about which titles are deserving of making the longlist for another few weeks -- as they are at The Mookse and the Gripes Forum, for example.

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

       The A26 review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pascal Garnier's The A26 -- out for a while already in the UK, from Gallic Books, but now finally also making it to the US.

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

16 February 2015 - Monday

Haïlji profile | Philip Levine (1928-2015) | Words Onscreen review

       Haïlji profile

       In The Korea Herald Joel Lee profiles the The Republic of Užupis-author, in Seoul Literary Society hosts novelist Ha Il-ji (or, as Dalkey Archive Press transliterated the name, Haïlji).
       Among the information of interest:
When writing a novel, he has to finish it within 40 days due to his limited time off from teaching at a university, Ha said. "I finish a bottle of whiskey every two or three days to keep total concentration on my work."
       Well, sure .....

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

       Philip Levine (1928-2015)

       Yet another of the old(est) guard of American poets has passed away; Philip Levine. See, for example, the obituary in The New York Times, and Philip Levine at Poetry (lots of information, as well as samples of his work).

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

       Words Onscreen review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Naomi S. Baron's book on The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, Words Onscreen.

       Certainly an interesting topic -- and I'll have to write at greater length at some point about my own struggles handling (I barely dare say 'reading' ...) texts in digital formats.

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

15 February 2015 - Sunday

UK library lending | Submission mega-success

       UK library lending

       They've released the latest Public Lending Right numbers, where they reveal the most-borrowed titles by UK library users -- since authors get a small amount for each time their books find a taker (up to a maximum of £6,600).
       In The Guardian John Dugdale sums things up, in Library users firmly focused on fiction -- focusing on the fact that there is only one non-fiction title among the top 100 (which sounds about right, ratio-wise, to fiction-favoring me ...).

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

       Submission mega-success

       The English translation of Michel Houellebecq's Submission is now available for pre-order at -- but the book itself is only due 10 September.
       Meanwhile, it is doing very well not only in France, but also Italy and Germany (where, as I've previously mentioned, they were able to get the translation out much faster). As reported at, for example, Le Figaro, Houellebecq, superstar des ventes en Europe: 345,000 copies sold in France alone, 270,000 copies in print in Germany, more than 200,000 copies sold in Italy.
       But good the US and UK publishers are taking their time, right ? Wouldn't want to get caught up in any of this excitement around the book and that cheap free publicity. Can't expect a book in translation to sell anyway -- not six figures, surely -- so why rush things ?

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

14 February 2015 - Saturday

IPAF shortlist | Jonathan Franzen Q & A | Slaves in their Chains review

       IPAF shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
       At her Arabic Literature (in English) M.Lynx Qualey has an overview and useful additional links.
       The winner will be announced 6 May.

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

       Jonathan Franzen Q & A

       At Booth Susan Lerner has A Conversation with Jonathan Franzen.
       At least one interesting reveal -- less about him than about authentication-processes at social media sites:
It's tedious every six months to have to send a photograph of myself holding my passport in order to get Twitter to take down the latest impersonator of me.
       (Though of course it's also interesting to learn that he's aware of impersonators -- and can be bothered (or, apparently, is so bothered that he's willing) to go through this absurd trouble to silence them. But also: who in his right mind would send Twitter a picture with their passport ? Maybe holding up their social security card in their other hand ?)
       Interesting also that he doesn't see himself as a polarizing figure -- and says:
If I am indeed a polarizing figure here, it is certainly true that I am not a polarizing figure in Europe. [...] People don't ask me that question in France or Germany, so something weird is going on here.
       Of course, it would be helpful differentiating between person and work -- though surely it's both the case Franzen is a polarizing figure (separate from his work), and that his work itself is polarizing.
       In any case, good to see him not shy away from some Jennifer Weiner-commentary.

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

       Slaves in their Chains review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Konstantinos Theotokis' Slaves in their Chains.
       Good to see this 1922 Greek novel made available in English -- from Angel Classics, in a nice volume with Introduction and translation by J.M.Q.Davies.

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

13 February 2015 - Friday

Cairo International Book Fair | Alice Kaplan on Meursault, contre-enquête

       Cairo International Book Fair

       The Cairo International Book Fair, which ran the past two weeks, seems to have been quite the success.
       At Arabic Literature (in English) Yasmin El-Beih reports on the Record Attendance at 2015 Cairo International Book Fair and more, while at Amira El Ahl writes about Navigating the jungle.

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

       Alice Kaplan on Meursault, contre-enquête

       I've mentioned Kamel Daoud's multiple-prize-winning take on Camus' The Stranger, Meursault, contre-enquête, several times already. Along with Houellebecq's Soumission, it is among the most anticipated coming translations from the French (in Daoud's case: from Other Press) -- and now Alice Kaplan's review/discussion of it in The Nation is also freely accessible -- an interesting read.
       She notes that the novel: "has created a commotion that shows no signs of subsiding", and that:
When Meursault, contre-enquête first appeared, readers in France thought that Daoud was settling scores with Camus, whereas Algerians worried that he had gone over to the other side. French and Algerian readers alike had trouble distinguishing between Daoud, the author, and Haroun, the character.
       And she wonders:
Will Daoud's novel be received in the United States as an Algerian Portnoy's Complaint; a postmodern romp à la Pynchon; or a political novel, read through the lens of September 11 ?
       I'm curious to see as well.

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

12 February 2015 - Thursday

De Avonden (finally) coming out in English
PEN World Voices Festival programme | Woman in Darkness review

       De Avonden (finally) coming out in English

       There are, unfortunately, no end of books written in foreign languages that, while deserving, haven't yet been translated into English, but some do stand out more than others: the case of Dutch great Gerard Reve's 1947 classic, De Avonden -- widely acclaimed as one of the greatest post-war Dutch novels -- has been a particularly baffling one. Reve -- one of the four leading Dutch-writing post-war authors, along with Harry Mulisch, Hugo Claus (e.g. The Sorrow of Belgium), and Willem Frederik Hermans (e.g. Beyond Sleep) -- is the least-translated-into-English of the quartet -- despite even having written one of his books in English (The Acrobat).
       Well, finally someone is getting around to at least translating this one: Pushkin Press has signed it up, with Sam Garrett doing the translation.
       In the Netherlands, this is big news: Eerste Engelse vertaling 'De Avonden' op komst they excitedly report. In the UK/US media ... well, maybe word hasn't gotten around yet.
       It is a big deal -- look forward to it. Meanwhile, see, for example, the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page about the book.

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

       PEN World Voices Festival programme

       The PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature runs 4 to 10 May in New York City this year, and the schedule has now been posted.
       The theme of the festival is: 'On Africa', and there are certainly quite a few events that should be of interest.
       Pretty neat, too: Opening Night: The Future is Now, where: "a diverse group of writers presents scenarios for where the world may be in the year 2050". Diverse and heavy-weight, beginning with Tom Stoppard and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
       I'll be on a panel, too -- Who We Talk About When We Talk About Translation: The Bloggers (please note: this is the first I heard of the title ...).

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

       Woman in Darkness review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Luisgé Martín's Woman in Darkness, another intriguing title from Hispabooks.

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

11 February 2015 - Wednesday

(Translation) copyright "rustling" | Chris Andrews Q & A

       (Translation) copyright "rustling"

       A fascinating piece of work by Wendell Ricketts can now be downloaded from his site, his detailed study of Copyright "Rustling" in English-Language Translation: How Translators Keep (and Lose) Rights to Their Work: Data from Translations Published in 2014 (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       I've mentioned the problem of publishers not allowing translators to retain the translation-copyright to their work quite frequently (most recently just a few days ago), but this study really shows the extent of the awful situation. Really awful: Ricketts finds:
More than one-third of the time in trade and commercial publishing and just under 80% of the time in university-press publishing, translators do not retain copyright to their own work.
       These are just incredible numbers -- and helpfully Ricketts breaks them down, using not just the very useful Three Percent database but also looking beyond it. As you'll recall, the Three Percent database is limited to previously untranslated works of fiction and poetry, and Ricketts also includes non-fiction -- finding scholarly and nonfiction works wound up representing: "roughly 42% of the published 2014 translations I surveyed". Given the difficulty in finding copyright information about some titles not all could be included, but covering 913 titles published in 2014 this is a very comprehensive and up-to-date survey indeed.
       University presses are the worst offenders -- but surprisingly many commercial publishers are, to very varying degrees, also culprits.
       All of this is should be of interest, but also pay particular attention to the phenomenon of US/UK publishers taking on "pre-copyrighted" translations (as, for example, Open Letter did with its forthcoming Lies, First Person by Gail Hareven, as I note disapprovingly at the end of my review) -- a particularly insidious end-run around translators' rights that looks to be on the rise (and which isn't of any particular benefit to publishers, either).
       This is a very useful overview of what is a big problem -- bigger than most folks imagine, I would think (I certainly didn't think the percentages where this bad) -- and thoughtfully addresses the issues at issue here.
       One hopes that it helps effect the necessary changes in the business; it should certainly start a lot of discussions (and quite a few contract-negotiations).

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

       Chris Andrews Q & A

       At his Conversational Reading weblog Scott Esposito has a Q & A with Chris Andrews about his soon-forthcoming translation of a César Aira story collection, The Musical Brain -- see the New Directions publicity page, or pre-order your copy from
       Ironically, given how slim almost all of Aira's novels are, this is the biggest volume of Aira going -- 351 pages in the ARC I have (the Amazon page gives a smaller page-total -- perhaps so as not scare off Aira-readers used to those slimmer volumes ?).

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

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