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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 March 2015

11 March: De Inktaap 2015 | Best book year ?
12 March: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist | One of Us review
13 March: National Book Critics Circle winners | Holbergprisen to Marina Warner | Preis(e) der Leipziger Buchmesse | Hans Mayer on Arno Schmidt | All Days are Night review
14 March: Publishing Indonesia | Abbas Khider Q & A
15 March: Post-Nobel sales success | Cărtărescu prize speech
16 March: Sahitya Akademi awards | Spring Quarterly Conversation | Etisalat Prize for Literature | Zorba the Greek review
17 March: French bestseller get-together | Nowhere to Be Found review
18 March: PEN Literary Awards longlists | The Black Sheep review
19 March: Translation into ... French
20 March: Ariadne Press Q & A | Grace Ogot (1930-2015) | Torture Garden review

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20 March 2015 - Friday

Ariadne Press Q & A | Grace Ogot (1930-2015) | Torture Garden review

       Ariadne Press Q & A

       At the Asymptote weblog Eva Richter has a Q & A with Karl Johns and Jorun Johns about their Ariadne Press -- a publisher dedicated to publishing Austrian literature in translation, some 260 titles since 1988.
       Can't really agree with the idea that:
Peter Handke ended his career when he endorsed the Serbs in the war. That was basically his retirement.
       He still seems to be churning out the books -- and doing reasonably well with them ....
       But otherwise some interesting observations and information -- and their catalogue definitely has quite a few titles of interest (including Wolf Haas' The Weather Fifteen Years Ago ...).

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

       Grace Ogot (1930-2015)

       Kenyan author Grace Ogot has passed away; see, for example, the report in the Daily Nation.
       None of her work is under review at the complete review, but see, for example, the African Books Collective publicity page for The Promised Land, or get your copy at or

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

       Torture Garden review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Octave Mirbeau's notorious 1899 novel, Torture Garden.

       Dalkey Archive Press is bringing out his 21 Days of a Neurasthenic later this year -- see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or -- so I figured I might as well dip into some of this decadent stuff. (Next up: The Diary of a Chambermaid ....)
       Interesting, too, to find that Auguste Rodin (!) illustrated an edition of the novel. The colors on that page don't seem quite right -- compare individual images here and here -- but some of those are damn good.

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

19 March 2015 - Thursday

Translation into ... French

       Translation into ... French

       Livres Hebdo/Electre have gathered the numbers on translations into French in 2014, and they total 11,859 -- 17.4 per cent of all publications.
       Alas, only summary findings are freely accessible online -- but these show that after English (59.5 per cent of all translations), Japanese was the second most translated-from language at 11.8 per cent -- way ahead of number three, German, at 5.4 per cent. Unfortunately, there's no breakdown of the titles/genres etc. -- which might help offer an explanation. (The only one I can think of: they're counting manga-translations -- which they might well be: 11.8 per cent of 11,859 titles would be roughly 1400 (!) titles translated from the Japanese (suggesting more than three translated-from-the-Japanese titles appeared in France each and every day); by comparison the Three Percent database, counting US publication of translations (admittedly only first-time translations, only fiction and poetry, and excluding re-issues) counts all of 19 translations into English from the Japanese (and, indeed, only a total of 587 translations from all languages combined) in 2014. As is so often the case with these tallies: without the details (i.e. exact listing of what titles are counted) the numbers and especially the percentages have to be treated with extreme caution -- and probably shouldn't be spouted about.)
       Not much information elsewhere yet, either, though the Enfin Livre ! weblog at Le Monde does note that 33 per cent of the translations were novels, and that as far as 'literary' (presumably all adult fiction, plus poetry, etc.) translations go three-quarters were from the English.

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

18 March 2015 - Wednesday

PEN Literary Awards longlists | The Black Sheep review

       PEN Literary Awards longlists

       They've announced the longlists for the (many) PEN Literary Awards (with the finalists to be announced 15 April, and the winners on 13 May).

       Among the prizes is the US$3,000 PEN Translation Prize, awarded: "For a book-length translation of prose into English published in 2014".
       The longlisted titles are:
  • Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt (tr. Denise Newman)
  • The Gray Notebook by Josep Pla (tr. Peter Bush)
  • I Ching (tr. John Minford)
  • The Man Who Loved Dogs by Leonardo Padura (tr. Anna Kushner)
  • The Master of Confessions by Thierry Cruvellier (tr. Alex Gilly)
  • Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye (tr. Jordan Stump)
  • The Symmetry Teacher by Andrei Bitov (tr. Polly Gannon)
  • Texas: The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa ((tr. Samantha Schnee)
  • Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz (tr. Danuta Borchardt)
  • The Woman Who Borrowed Memories by Tove Jansson (tr. Thomas Teal and Silvester Mazzarella)
       It'll be interesting to see what overlap there is with the Best Translated Book Award (which will announce its 25-title longlist on 7 April). Several of these titles are not eligible for the BTBA -- non-fiction (The Master of Confessions) or re-translations such as the 'alternate translation' of the Gombrowicz -- but most are.
       By comparison: none of the PEN titles are among the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlisted ones. Again, there are eligibility-criteria differences (none of the dead authors are IFFP eligible, for example), but it's still surprising .....
       (Note also that, unlike the BTBA and the IFFP, the PEN prize is pay-to-play: there's a submission fee (US$50) and it's no stretch to believe that some notable omissions on the longlist can be attributed to the books not having been entered.)

       (As to all those other PEN awards: to my embarrassment, I haven't read a one of the many, many titles longlisted in any of the other categories.)

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

       The Black Sheep review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Honoré de Balzac 1842 novel, The Black Sheep (La Rabouilleuse).

       Always fun to jump back into some Balzac.

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

17 March 2015 - Tuesday

French bestseller get-together | Nowhere to Be Found review

       French bestseller get-together

       In L'Express they report on a gathering of bestselling-in-2014 French authors, Best-sellers 2014: menu "people" au Bristol -- complete with list of the thirty-two top-selling titles (by French-writing authors, in France) of 2014 -- scroll down. The new Modiano made it to number four (but he was a no-show -- as was number ten, Goncourt-winning Lydie Salvayre).
       Amélie Nothomb did make it -- even if her Pétronille only came in twenty-fifth -- a spot behind the new Kundera (another no-show). One big reveal (complete with Simenon-comparison): her forthcoming novel is titled: Les Meurtres de Neuville. (In other Nothomb news: she's apparently been elected to the Académie royale de Belgique.)

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

       Nowhere to Be Found review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Bae Suah's Nowhere to Be Found -- forthcoming from AmazonCrossing, one of America's leading publishers-in-translation, who prove with a title like this yet again that they can't be ignored.

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

16 March 2015 - Monday

Sahitya Akademi awards | Spring Quarterly Conversation
Etisalat Prize for Literature | Zorba the Greek review

       Sahitya Akademi awards

       At Devapriya Roy suggests: 'The Sahitya Akademi awards are a handy way to discover fine literature from all the major Indian languages, and not just English', in Twenty-four Indian languages, 24 literary prizes that more people should know about -- listing this year's winners.
       Of course, most people won't have even heard of many of these languages -- Bodo ? Dogri ? -- and unfortunately most of these titles are not available in English, but still, it's good to see they find at least some recognition and one hopes it might help at least get some of these translated.
       (The Sahitya Akademi is the Indian National Academy of Letters.)

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

       Spring Quarterly Conversation

       The Spring 2015 issue of the Quarterly Conversation is now available, so that's a lot of good content to keep you busy at the beginning of the week.
       Lots of good stuff covered -- including Ágnes Orzóy on Reading Prae -- the monumental Szentkuthy (Marginalia on Casanova, etc.) work (which I will be covering soon, too); see the Contra Mundum Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Etisalat Prize for Literature

       They've announced the winner of the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature -- a prize for a best first book by an African author writing in English -- and it went to Penumbra, by Songeziwe Mahlangu; see, for example, the report at the Books Live weblog.
       See also the Kwela publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Zorba the Greek review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Peter Bien's new translation of Nikos Kazantzakis' Zorba the Greek -- noteworthy because it's the first English translation from the original Greek.
       Yes, you might have thought that what is perhaps the most famous modern Greek novel (admittedly thanks in no small part to the very successful movie-adaptation) would long have been available in a translation done from the language it was written in, but, no, US/UK publishers have long played fast and loose with translations, and they certainly did with this one. Now, at least, Simon & Schuster have belatedly tried to set things right (Faber, with their UK edition ... apparently not so much yet ...). Still, that took a while.

       Note also that in the back-cover information about the author Simon & Schuster say Kazantzakis was: "nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in Literature", but actually they're selling him (or the Nobel-nominators) short: he was nominated a total of fourteen times (and apparently came very close to winning it in 1957 -- inconvenient though that would have been, what with him dying between the announcement of the prize and the actually ceremony).

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

15 March 2015 - Sunday

Post-Nobel sales success | Cărtărescu prize speech

       Post-Nobel sales success

       In Publishers Weekly Judith Rosen reports that Modiano's Nobel Win is a Boon to David R. Godine, as Godine has: "shipped 30,000 copies of the three Modiano novels on its list" -- two-thirds of them Missing Persons (get your copy at or (Meanwhile, the excellent Honeymoon doesn't seem to have done quite as well.)
       Intersting to hear that:
By contrast, when Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio won the Nobel in 2008, DRG saw sales of Le Clézio's novel The Prospector rise 8,000 copies and then drop off.
       In any case good to see the publisher -- of lots of Georges Perec as well -- doing well.

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

       Cărtărescu prize speech

       Mircea Cărtărescu (Nostalgia, etc.) picked up the Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding a couple of days ago, and in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung they print (in German) his acceptance speech -- wherein he emphasizes that he sees himself as a European (rather than just Romanian, for example) author.

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

14 March 2015 - Saturday

Publishing Indonesia | Abbas Khider Q & A

       Publishing Indonesia

       With Indonesia as guest of honour at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair there's been a much greater effort to get works translated , and it's good to see sites like Publishing Indonesia up, providing foreign publishers information about possible titles of interest, etc.

       Early dividends on the greater interest in Indonesia include a coming double-dose of Eka Kurniawan in English this fall: Man Tiger, coming from Verso (see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy from, and Beauty is a Wound from New Directions (pre-order your copy from

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

       Abbas Khider Q & A

       At Abderrahmane Ammar has a Q & A with Iraqi author Abbas Khider (The Village Indian, etc.), "German is my new language"

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

13 March 2015 - Friday

National Book Critics Circle winners | Holbergprisen to Marina Warner
Preis(e) der Leipziger Buchmesse | Hans Mayer on Arno Schmidt
All Days are Night review

       National Book Critics Circle winners

       They've announced the winners of the (American) National Book Critics Circle awards (for the 'publishing year 2014').
       (I'm an NBCC member (I just sent in my dues-check yesterday !) but the judging is done by the board members.)
       Marilynne Robinson's Lila won the fiction prize -- a book I actually have (but haven't gotten to yet ...).

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

       Holbergprisen to Marina Warner

       They've announced that the Holberg Prize -- named after Niels Klim-author Ludvig Holberg, and: "awarded annually to scholars who have made outstanding contributions to research within the arts and humanities, social sciences, law or theology" (and worth 4.5 million NOK (ca. €538,000 or US$735,000) this year) -- has been awarded to the surely deserving Marina Warner.
       None of her books are under review at the complete review, but I have several and will definitely get to them at some point.

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

       Preis(e) der Leipziger Buchmesse

       The German Book Prize, awarded at the (fall) Frankfurt Book Fair is the biggest German book award, but the Preis(e) der Leipziger Buchmesse, awarded at the (spring) Leipzig Book Fair -- in three categories: fiction, non, and translation -- are the runners-up, and they've now announced this year's winners.
       In fact the 'fiction' prize isn't exclusively a fiction prize, but rather one for 'Belletristik' -- a more all-encompassing 'popular literature' sort of thing -- and this year's winner is actually a poetry-volume, Jan Wagner's Regentonnenvariationen -- 'Variations on a Rain Barrel', as the Hanser foreign rights page has it .....

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

       Hans Mayer on Arno Schmidt

       Fifty-one years ago today the great Hans Mayer -- about as influential (and well/widely-read) a non-fiction writer on me as George Steiner -- wrote in Die Zeit on Die Bücherwelt und Arno Schmidt -- noting:
Schade, daß man nicht lesen kann, wie ein künftiger Arno Schmidt in hundert Jahren über Arno Schmidt urteilen wird.

[Too bad that one can't read how a future Arno Schmidt will judge Arno Schmidt a hundred years from now.]
       Just over half way there, I'm afraid my own effort falls well short of Schmidtian levels of assessment -- but it's good fun, and a good starting point on the too-overlooked author: Schmidt is certainly worth starting on (so get your copy at or, etc. ...).

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

       All Days are Night review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Peter Stamm's All Days are Night.

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

12 March 2015 - Thursday

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist | One of Us review

       Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
       Four of the titles are under review at the complete review:        Among the other titles which are also eligible for the Best Translated Book Award (for which I am judge), whose 25-title-longlist will be announced 7 April (two days before the IFFP shortlist ...), are: the books by Ávila Laurel, Can Xue, Erpenbeck, and Knausgaard (while the Tomás González will, like several other titles, actually only be BTBA-eligible next year, as it has a 2015 US publication date).
       (The IFFP and BTBA differ slightly in their criteria: aside from domestic publication (UK for the IFFP and US for the BTBA), IFFP eligible authors (but not necessarily translators) have to be living (BTBA authors don't), and BTBA titles have to be first-time translations, i.e. not new translations of previously translated works (IFFP titles apparently don't -- though it's rare (though not unheard of) for work by living authors to be re-translated)).
       Alas, we don't know what books were considered for the IFFP, though apparently the selection was made from 111 entries, translated from 28 languages; Booktrust has a tantalizing picture of the books, but, disappointingly and inexplicably, refuses to release the list of titles. (The BTBA is entirely transparent: anything meeting the criteria -- pretty much anything listed on the Three Percent 2014 Translation Database (except the anthologies -- we don't consider anthologies, but they're on the database) -- is considered, and this year we've managed very, very well at considering practically all the (ca. 500) titles.)
       With only seven possibly overlapping titles this year it'll be interesting to see how many also make the BTBA longlist. And regardless of overlap, you'll see a lot of new/other titles on the BTBA list -- at least eighteen.

       Judge Boyd Tonkin writes about the IFFP longlist at The Independent, suggesting: 'The prize can often signpost change in the literary balance of power' in Independent Foreign Fiction Prize: Some tales are truly found in translation -- noting that fully a third of the list, five titles, is translated from the German; quite a striking showing.

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

       One of Us review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Åsne Seierstad, One of Us.

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

11 March 2015 - Wednesday

De Inktaap 2015 | Best book year ?

       De Inktaap 2015

       The Dutch literary prize decided by 15-18 year-old students, De Inktaap (see also the EU Read explanation) has announced the 2015 winner: La Superba, Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer -- -which Deep Vellum will be bringing out in English; meanwhile, see the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page. (Open Letter brought out his Rupert: A Confession a couple of years ago.)
       This sounds like a pretty neat prize -- and two of the previous winners are under review at the complete review: A.F.Th. van der Heijden's massive Het schervengericht (2009) -- not really a book you'd expect the kids to have the patience for ... except, of course, there's that subject matter ... -- and the great Harry Mulisch's Siegfried (2003)

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

       Best book year ?

       At BBC Culture Jane Ciabattari wonders what was: The greatest year for books ever ? -- and suggests it was ... 1925.
       She notes:
The year 1925 was a golden moment in literary history. Ernest Hemingway's first book, In Our Times, Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby were all published that year. As were Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans, John Dos Passos' Manhattan Transfer, Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy and Sinclair Lewis's Arrowsmith, among others. In fact, 1925 may well be literature's greatest year.
       Some good stuff, indeed -- but, as you no doubt noticed: all written in English. Which makes it a bit suspect -- you'd figure a truly great literary year would extend beyond English-language writing. (In fact, several foreign works were first published in 1925 that would surely just strengthen her argument: Kafka's The Trial (though, yes, that was written years earlier) and André Gide's The Counterfeiters, among others).
       An amusing exercise, but there are strong cases to be made for a lot of other years -- stronger too than, for example, her case for 1950 (again all English-language works ...). Wikipedia does a decent year in literature-series (click on the year for many of the major publications (and other literary events) of that year (e.g. 1925), and while you should use with caution (and note that it too is a bit English-writing-centric), it's a decent starting point.

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

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