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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 28 February 2015

21 February: Nordic Council Literature Prize finalists | He Who Kills the Dragon review
22 February: Adolf Muschg wins Grand Prix | Horcynus Orca, in German
23 February: (Hindi) literature in ... India | โมบี-ดิ๊ก: Moby-Dick (finally) complete in ... Thai | Jalāl Āl-e Ahmad reviews
24 February: Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature | 'Library of Bangladesh' | Typographical Translation Award | Reading in ... Thailand
25 February: Windham-Campbell Prizes | Forthcoming German edition of Mein Kampf | Walter Scott Prize longlist | Who is Martha ? review
26 February: Society of Authors' Translation Prizes | New issue of World Literature Today | The Blood of Angels review
27 February: Jiang Rong Q & A | David Cohen Prize for Literature
28 February: Diagram Prize shortlist | The Physics of Sorrow review | Blurb ethics

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28 February 2015 - Saturday

Diagram Prize shortlist
The Physics of Sorrow review | Blurb ethics

       Diagram Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year.
       A fairly entertaining selection -- and readers have until 21 March to vote for the winner.

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

       The Physics of Sorrow review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Georgi Gospodinov's The Physics of Sorrow, coming out soon from Open Letter
       Internationally acclaimed, this is definitely one of the most anticipated translations of the year.

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

       Blurb ethics

       Much as I love Open Letter's books, and thrilled as I was to see Georgi Gospodinov's The Physics of Sorrow, I do have to wonder about the prominent placement of this blurb on the (front) cover of the book:

The Physics of Sorrow blurb

       'Well, how could you resist putting a blurb like that on the cover ?' you might ask. What great praise for a book to get !
       The problem is that surely anyone who sees the blurb assumes the obvious: that it refers to the book in hand -- after all, there are no indications otherwise. Alas, it does not: the blurb comes from a review in The New York Times Book Review from ten years ago -- long before The Physics of Sorrow was even written -- of Gospodinov's earlier novel, Natural Novel.
       Is it just me, or does this go way, way beyond even the usual ridiculously loose lines of blurbing-ethics ? Surely, this blurb could not be more misleading -- yes, the praise and description may apply equally well to The Physics of Sorrow, but ... it doesn't: as presented, this is just classic bait-and-switch.
       Mind you, I'm tempted to think maybe consumers should be baited in this way in this case -- Gospodinov, and this book, deserve the readers ..... But, no, that really is playing too fast and loose with readers' trust.
       I realize we don't, and can't, expect blurbs to be very reliable, or representative of what whoever is quoted actually wrote and meant, but this stretches things beyond breaking. The appropriate place for this blurb would have been on the inside-page of praise where other blurbs are collected -- there's a whole page of more general: 'Praise for Georgi Gospodinov', with a mix of blurbs taken from reviews of his earlier work as well as (foreign) reviews of this work. As is, however -- beyond dubious indeed.

       [Incidental observation: Among the 'Praise for Georgi Gospodinov'-quotes is one ascribed to the: "New Journal of Zurich"; it is taken from this review in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Okay, maybe the NZZ isn't as English-familiar as, say Le Monde ('The World'), Pravda ('Truth'), or Die Zeit ('Time' (but not Time ...)), but I'm still surprised the publication-name is translated -- especially when another quote is simply ascribed to the far less well-known and prestigious "Berliner Zeitung".
       Also: 'New Journal of Zurich' ? Huh ? Oh, wait, I see: that's what Wikipedia says ! Yeah, no, not the way to go/translate it.]

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

27 February 2015 - Friday

Jiang Rong Q & A | David Cohen Prize for Literature

       Jiang Rong Q & A

       At The New York Times' Sinosphere weblog Amy Qin has a Q & A with Jiang Rong on Wolf Totem, the Novel and Now the Film.
       The author's Wolf Totem -- get your copy at or -- has indeed now been made into film, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud; see the IMDb page, or the Mars distribution page.

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

       David Cohen Prize for Literature

       At £40,000 the biennial David Cohen Prize for Literature is one of the leading British author prizes (they're not that big on author-prizes in the UK, preferring to honor specific titles (with book prizes)), and they've announced that Tony Harrison is the winner of the 2015 prize; see also, for example, Jonathan McAloon's report in The Telegraph, 'Obscene' poet Tony Harrison wins David Cohen Prize for Literature 2015 -- focusing on his thirty-year-old poem, v. (get your copy at or

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

26 February 2015 - Thursday

Society of Authors' Translation Prizes | New issue of World Literature Today
The Blood of Angels review

       Society of Authors' Translation Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's Society of Authors' Translation Prizes -- five of them, this year (it varies), for translations from the Arabic, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
       Two of the prize-winning titles are under review at the complete review: the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for translation from the Arabic-winning The Corpse Washer, for Sinan Antoon's own translation of his work, and the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for translation from the German-winning The Mussel Feast, for Jamie Bulloch's traslation of the Birgit Vanderbeke novel.
       Meanwhile, neither the John Florio Prize (Italian) winner -- Patrick Creagh's translation of Memory of the Abyss by Marcello Fois -- nor the Premio Valle Inclán (Spanish) winner -- Nick Caistor's translation of An Englishman in Madrid by Eduardo Mendoza -- seems to be out in the US yet.

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

       New issue of World Literature Today

       The March/April issue of World Literature Today is now available, with much of the content accessible online. Among other things, there's: "a special section featuring four writers from the Persian diaspora".
       Best of all, as always: the extensive book review section, World Literature in Review, is fully online-accessible.

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

       The Blood of Angels review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Johanna Sinisalo's The Blood of Angels.
       Although published by UK publisher Peter Owen, and despite her two previously translated works having gotten good critical attention there, this title seems to have been largely overlooked in the UK, surprisingly getting more review coverage in the US. I wonder why.

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

25 February 2015 - Wednesday

Windham-Campbell Prizes | Forthcoming German edition of Mein Kampf
Walter Scott Prize longlist | Who is Martha ? review

       Windham-Campbell Prizes

       They've announced the 2015 recipients of the Windham-Campbell Prizes, three each in fiction, non, and drama, each winner receiving US$150,000 unrestricted grants.
       Among the winners are Ivan Vladislavić (Double Negative, etc.), Helon Habila (Oil on Water, etc.), Teju Cole, and Geoff Dyer.

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

       Forthcoming German edition of Mein Kampf

       The copyright on Hitler's infamous Mein Kampf is running out in Germany, and so they've been debating for quite a while now what the hell to do about that. Apparently they've settled on a scholarly edition being made available -- an unannotated/explicated plain-text version apparently remains out of bounds (prohibitable not on copyright but potential-incitement grounds).
       The Institut für Zeitgeschichte got the call, and apparently their critical edition should be available already shortly after the copyright runs out, in January 2016. In Die Zeit they report on some of the details -- including that the two-volume edition might extend to 2000 pages, some 780 of actual text and the rest taken up largely by the up to 5000 explanatory notes.
       It'll be interesting to see whether annotation blunts the symbolic power of this ridiculous but far from harmless tome.

       (Updated): See also Anthony Faiola's report in The Washington Post, 'Mein Kampf': A historical tool, or Hitler's voice from beyond the grave ?

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

       Walter Scott Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction -- fifteen titles, including ones by authors such as Martin Amis and Damon Galgut.
       They note that:
In a change to prize protocol this year, the longlist is made public for the first time.
       Alas, they don't reveal the pool of 124 entries the longlisted titles were selected from (as they really should).

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

       Who is Martha ? review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of German-writing Ukrainian-born Marjana Gaponenko's Who is Martha ? recently published by New Vessel Press.

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

24 February 2015 - Tuesday

Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature | 'Library of Bangladesh'
Typographical Translation Award | Reading in ... Thailand

       Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature

       The Jewish Book Council has announced the winner of this year's (US$100,000) Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature -- and it goes to The Best Place on Earth, by Ayelet Tsabari.
       This HarperCollins Canada publication doesn't seem to have been published in the US or UK yet; presumably the price for the rights just went up. See their publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       'Library of Bangladesh'

       Sounds good: the Dhaka Tribune reports that Dhaka Translation Centre to create 'Library of Bangladesh' [via].
       Having Arunava Sinha as the series editor makes it sound promising; the official DTC site -- where they are still offering information about Potential Programs for 2014 -- suggests some reasons for concern.

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

       Typographical Translation Award

       Typographical Era has its own 'Typographical Translation Award' and they've now announced the winner for best 2014 translation -- Texas: The Great Theft, by Carmen Boullosa, in Samantha Schnee's translation, the first offering from promising new publisher Deep Vellum (get your copy at or
       No doubt, some of the long- and short-listed titles will also be on the 25-title-strong longlist for the Best Translated Book Award (for which I am a judge) -- spoiler: Summer House With Swimming Pool ... probably not (like: bet the summer house probably not ...) -- and I am curious to see how much overlap there will be. Does this make Texas: The Great Theft an early BTBA favorite ? Hmmmm .....

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

       Reading in ... Thailand

       In the Bangkok Post Saengwit Kewaleewongsatorn reports that Thais read books for 28 minutes a day, says Pubat -- shockingly down from 37 minutes in 2013.
       Okay, this is all anecdotal, self-reported stuff (reliability: close to none), but then so was the last survey, so .....
       Not much more heartening:
Cartoons and illustrated fiction are the most popular content, followed by health and cuisine, history, Thai novels and tourism.
       Interesting, if true:
Some 99% of buyers make their purchases from physical bookstores, with only 1% buying online.

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

23 February 2015 - Monday

(Hindi) literature in ... India | โมบี-ดิ๊ก: Moby-Dick (finally) complete in ... Thai
Jalāl Āl-e Ahmad reviews

       (Hindi) literature in ... India

       In the Hindu Business Line Kalyani Prasher wonders: Is Hindi literature back in fashion ? finding:
The new Hindi reader is someone who reads in both English and Hindi, because she cares (or thinks it's cool to care) about the language, and her roots.
Translation is a double-edged sword -- in catering to the semi-urban reader's need for reading English fiction translated into a language she is comfortable in, it can remove her need to read original fiction in that language. This way, you lose more and more readers of original writing in Hindi.
       Meanwhile, in the Business Standard Shilpa Raina's IANS report finds that Hindi publishers adopt technology, new strategies to revamp business, noting:
(T)here was a big void in the Hindi publishing industry. Either we had pulp fiction or literary writings, so we decided to fill this gap and started publishing novels that are contemporary, which youngsters can relate to.
       Both articles note -- as Raina quotes:
The readers are there, but they are not always willing to spend a lot of money on Hindi books.
       Good to see the attention paid to this market, which seems to be paying off, here and there.

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

       โมบี-ดิ๊ก: Moby-Dick (finally) complete in ... Thai

       In The Bangkok Post Kong Rithdee reports on The crowdsourced hunt for the great Thai whale.
       Apparently there's never been a complete translation of Melville's Moby-Dick, so they (successfully) crowd-sourced Kwanduang Sae-tia's translation, via Readery.
       I'm not sure: "We're not translating the book in order to sell it" is entirely the way to go, but it seems like an admirable undertaking -- and it's good to see the (long-overdue) complete translation will soon be available.

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

       Jalāl Āl-e Ahmad reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two of Jalāl Āl-e Ahmad's travel-inspired works from the 1960s:
  • His hajj-account, Lost in the Crowd (a Three Continents Press volume that you'll be hard-pressed to find nowadays but got a full-length review in The New York Times Book Review, back in a very different day (1986))

  • The Israeli Republic -- one of the first releases from new publisher Restless Books, who are certainly doing some interesting things
       Somehow, I've now managed to review four of Āl-e Ahmad's works without getting (back) to his most famous one, the seminal غرب زدگی (which is available in English in several translations). But I suspect that even among the well-read visitors to the complete review -- at least outside Iran -- he's at best known as Simin Daneshvar's husband.
       (Worth noting, also: aside from his own writing, he translated quite a bit, including Camus' L'Étranger, Sartre's Dirty Hands, and short works by Albert Cossery, Ernst Jünger, and Dostoevsky.)

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

22 February 2015 - Sunday

Adolf Muschg wins Grand Prix | Horcynus Orca, in German

       Adolf Muschg wins Grand Prix

       They announced the winners of the Swiss literary prizes a few weeks ago (see my previous mention), but waited before announcing who gets the big 'Swiss Grand Prix in Literature' (or, as it is for example in Romansch, the 'Gron premi svizzer da litteratura').
       They've only handed this out three times: in 2013 it was divided between three people; in 2014 between two (Paul Nizon und Philippe Jaccotte); now, in 2015, the prize -- and the entire (and meanwhile much increased in conversion-value) CHF40,000 -- goes to Adolf Muschg for his life's work. See also, for example, the swissinfo report, Adolf Muschg wins Swiss literature's top prize
       Hard to complain about the choice; it seems a pretty obvious one -- and I've always enjoyed his work. Easier to complain about: is it really possible that The Blue Man and other stories (get your long out of print copy at or is the only Muschg title ever translated into English ? That's ridiculous.
       So maybe this prize will help get him a bit more of the recognition he deserves in the US/UK -- surely an obvious choice for, say Seagull, or Dalkey Archive Press, with their Swiss series. How about it ?
       Also of interest, though it's thirty years old (and in the dreaded pdf format ...): An Interview with Adolf Muschg by Judith Ricker-Abderhalden in Studies in 20th Century Literature.

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

       Horcynus Orca, in German

       I mentioned Stefano D'Arrigo's Horcynus Orca a couple of weeks ago, because the German translation of the nearly 1500-page work, by Moshe Kahn, is a finalist for the translation award of the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair (and I also mentioned it previously, more than five years ago, when it was still very much in the works ...), and the translation has now come out from S.Fischer, just a few days ago (get your copy at
       Good (and impressive) to see some English-language coverage about this: at Books in Italy Andrea Tarabbia talks with the translator, in Translating Horcynus Orca: An interview with Moshe Kahn
       Always good to hear from a translator:
I spared the German reader nothing.
       In addition, Vittore Armanni takes the occasion to write about: Fifteen Torturous Years: Stefano D'Arrigo and foreign publishers -- covering more than fifteen years, and apparently finding the book is still stuck along great parts of that path.
       Here's hoping US/UK interest is further stirred and spurred -- hey, the books seems to be doing quite well in Germany already.

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

21 February 2015 - Saturday

Nordic Council Literature Prize finalists | He Who Kills the Dragon review

       Nordic Council Literature Prize finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the 2015 Nordic Council Literature Prize.
       Each country/territory gets to nominate a fiction and a poetry title (though some only put up one or another); among this year's entries are Karin Erlandsson's novel Minkriket ('Mink Kingdom') representing Åland and the Sami language area representative poetry collection amas amas amasmuvvat (apparently translating as: 'not to the strange alien shall be made') by Niillas Holmberg.
       Click on each title for a description of the works in the running.

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

       He Who Kills the Dragon review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Leif GW Persson's He Who Kills the Dragon.
       This came out in the UK in 2013 but has just been published in the US -- as Bäckström: He Who Kills the Dragon. Why ? Because the series -- it's part of a series -- is the (very, very loose) basis for the new Fox Television series, Backstrom. Which, however, doesn't quite explain why the US publishers went with the second in the series to introduce it to American audiences.
       I suspect American editors have been trained to refuse to publish series-in-translation in their proper sequence unless it is really, really unavoidable -- Stieg Larsson's The Girl ...-trilogy, or Persson's earlier Olof Palme-trilogy.

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

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