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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 June 2015

11 June: Europese Literatuurprijs finalists | Premio Strega finalists | Princess of Asturias Award for Literature
12 June: Wolfgang Jeschke (1936-2015) | The Chinese Political Novel review
13 June: FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards longlist | Michael Crichton profile | Barbe bleue review
14 June: Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize | Summer reads
15 June: 'Internet literature' in ... China | Nobel obsession in ... Iran | New Quarterly Conversation | Individuals review
16 June: Prizes: PEN Pinter Prize - Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
17 June: Wikipedia in print | Harry Rowohlt (1945-2015)
18 June: Prémio Camões | International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award | Frankfurt Book Fair Guest of Honour - 2017 | The Self-Propelled Island review
19 June: Jean Vautrin (1933-2015) | Translation in ... India | The Thought House of Philippa review
20 June: Oxford Professor of Poetry | Science fiction (not) in ... Burma | PEN Translates awards

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20 June 2015 - Saturday

Oxford Professor of Poetry | Science fiction (not) in ... Burma
PEN Translates awards

       Oxford Professor of Poetry

       Oxford cleverly has contenders compete for its Professor of Poetry position -- every five years, nowadays -- making for a lot of press coverage and public debate; it makes you wonder why universities don't do this with more positions. (Also impressive: that there's pretty bitter competition for this post -- which pays all of: "£12,000 per annum plus £40 for each Creweian Oration" .....)
       They've now announced the results of the voting (yes, alumni vote for the winner !) for Geoffrey Hill's successor and as, for example, Alison Flood reports in The Guardian, Simon Armitage wins Oxford professor of poetry election -- his 1,221 beating out Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka (920) and A.E.Stallings (918).

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

       Science fiction (not) in ... Burma

       Zon Pann Pwint reports in The Myanmar Times that 'critics agree that finding a good Myanmar writer of science fiction is pretty much a hunt for The Invisible Man', in Ray guns and robots a light-year too far for Myanmar writers.
       The problem doesn't so much seem to be finding a good writer of science fiction as finding any: it doesn't seem to go beyond a bit of dabbling here and there.

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

       PEN Translates award

       English PEN have announced the latest set of 'PEN Translates award' winners; see the full list at PEN Translates spells more support for independent publishers (as they've now upped the turnover threshold, making some larger publishers also eligible); the award is in the form of a grant to help cover translation costs.
       Lots of familiar names here -- hey, a new Daniel Pennac ! Yuri Herrera ! Juan Pablo Villalobos ! -- but the obvious standout is Rafael Chirbes On the Edge, which was very widely hailed when it came out in Spain; see the Anagrama foreign rights page. Also of note: Clemens Meyer's In the Rock -- I've read the German (but haven't managed to write a review yet), and it is an impressive work (but probably also a pretty hard sell); see the S.Fischer foreign rights page.

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

19 June 2015 - Friday

Jean Vautrin (1933-2015) | Translation in ... India
The Thought House of Philippa review

       Jean Vautrin (1933-2015)

       Jean Vautrin (who also worked under his real name, Jean Herman) won the prix Goncourt (1989) and, aside from his fiction -- especially his thrillers -- was also a successful film director (hey, Farewell, Friend (1968) co-starred Alain Delon and Charles Bronson; The Sunday of Life is based on the Raymond Queneau novel). Not accomplishment enough for the English-speaking media (even the news agencies ...) to note his passing, apparently. But he dead; see, for example, the report in Libération.
       The Voice of the People is apparently the only one of his books to make it into English; get your copy at or Surprising -- and those thrillers might be worth another look for some enterprising US/UK publisher .....

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

       Translation in ... India

       Not really a surprising conclusion, but always good to see some awareness and discussion, as IANS reports Translations boosts reach for regional literature.
       And I appreciate the translators' ... forthrightness, even if it sends slightly mixed message:
One almost always fails but must try. Otherwise it means giving in to parochialism and particularism in a world that is in desperate need of more understanding.
       And, sadly, there are also the usual complaints:
The translators, however, lamented at their works not being recognised on a larger scale in the Indian book scene. [...] The translators were also upset with their efforts not being adequately marketed.

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

       The Thought House of Philippa review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Suzanne Leblanc's The Thought House of Philippa, just out in English from BookThug.

       This novel is inspired/framed by the Wittgenstein house; among the surprisingly popular books (as measured by how many people purchase it via the Amazon links) at this site is (or was .... it's now sadly out of print) Bernhard Leitner's beautiful The Wittgenstein House, so I'm curious to see whether this will also attract much interest.

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

18 June 2015 - Thursday

Prémio Camões | International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Frankfurt Book Fair Guest of Honour - 2017
The Self-Propelled Island review

       Prémio Camões

       The Prémio Camões is the biggest Portuguese-language author prize (like the Premio Cervantes for Spanish-writing authors), and they've announced that Hélia Correia has won this year's €100,000 prize; see, for example, the report in Público.
       Apparently none of her work has been translated into English yet .....

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

       International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

       They've announced that Harvest, by Jim Crace, has won this year's International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (also worth €100,000).
       The only Crace title under review at the complete review is Six (published in the US as Genesis); get your copy of Harvest at or

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

       Frankfurt Book Fair Guest of Honour - 2017

       'Guest of Honour'-status at the Frankfurt Book Fair is usually a pretty big deal and, at the least, means a flood of books in translation from the country at the center of things (think Turkey, South Korea, and Iceland, in recent years). This year's guest of honour is Indonesia, and we already knew Netherland/Flanders was set for 2016 and Georgia for 2018. Now finally the 2017 gap has been filled too, with the announcement that: Frankfurt to host La Grande Nation.
       That would be France, apparently of course. And while French literature may not seem to need the additional spotlight as much as some of these other countries -- translations from the French continue to lead the way of all languages into English --, forcing them to strut their stuff on the international stage might well be invigorating.

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

       The Self-Propelled Island review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of a new translation (by Marie-Thérèse Noiset) of Jules Verne's The Self-Propelled Island, just out from the University of Nebraska Press.

       This was long overdue: as Arthur B. Evans noted back in 1992, when someone published the very old version yet again:
To summarize, a revised and more accurate English translation of Verne's L'Ile à hélice would have been genuinely welcome and would have done honor to any publisher. In contrast, this book brings shame: it represents a commercialized resurrection of a translator's travesty, and it aptly demonstrates how an industry's profit motive can sometimes overpower its sense of literary integrity.
       The University of Nebraska Press has now stepped up -- but Noiset isn't entirely true to the Verneian spirit either in her translation, admitting in her Translator's Note: "the narration has been translated into the past tense" (while Verne wrote it in the present tense). You can sort of understand the reasons for the shift -- and yet ..... (Personally, I think there's a lot to be said for the feel of greater immediacy the present tense gives (or would give) this story .....)

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

17 June 2015 - Wednesday

Wikipedia in print | Harry Rowohlt (1945-2015)

       Wikipedia in print

       Wikipedia is apparently a very popular online resource -- and a fairly extensive one ("4,893,476 articles in English" alone, at last count (more by the time you check, no doubt ...)).
       Over the years, there have been many attempts -- or stories about attempts -- to publish print editions of Wikipedia:

        - A "printed work could be ready from mid-2006", founder Jimmy Wales suggested back in 2005 (apparently the idea was to make it: "available in print for readers in the developing world" ...).

        - In 2008 Bertelsmann recognized that printing the whole damn thing was maybe not: "a good project for the German book trade", but they were considering a best-of encyclopaedia: "made up of 50,000 of the most-searched terms on the German language edition of Wikipedia" (without explaining how they expected to fit 50,000 articles in one volume of 992 pages ...)

        - Last year a company tried to crowdfund a full-scale edition; see, for example, Alison Flood on Wikipedia 1,000-volume print edition planned; the project, Printing Wikipedia A to Z doesn't seem to have worked out -- but the company behind it, PediaPress, apparently has gone into the on-demand 'Printed Books from Wiki Content' business ....

       Now Michael Mandiberg's exhibit From Aaaaa! to ZZZap! is to open in New York tomorrow -- another attempt, sort of, to print the entire Wikipedia content; Jennifer Schuessler reports on it in The New York Times, in Moving Wikipedia From Computer to Many, Many Bookshelves. My favorite part:
First comes the 91-volume table of contents listing the nearly 11.5 million articles.
       You can actually purchase the volumes (though apparently not all at once -- "The order is so big it breaks the shopping cart", which seems kind of silly) - and I hope someone does.

       (Updated - 27 June): Michael Mandiberg now writes about 7,473 Volumes at 700 Pages Each: Meet Print Wikipedia at the Lulu Blog -- though with the disappointing admission that:
I have not printed out all of the books for this exhibition, nor do I personally have any intention of doing so -- unless someone paid the $500,000 to fabricate a full set. There are 106 volumes in the exhibition

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

       Harry Rowohlt (1945-2015)

       Harry Rowohlt, one of Germany's most renowned -- and visible, though for other reasons -- translators has passed away; see, for example, the report at DeutscheWelle.
       He translated a lot -- most famously, Winnie-the-Pooh, but also: many books by Flann O'Brien, Padgett Powell, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ken Bruen, among others, as well as odds and ends by everyone from Ian McEwan to Donald Barthelme and Susan Sontag.

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

16 June 2015 - Tuesday

Prizes: PEN Pinter Prize - Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction

       Prize: PEN Pinter Prize

       They've announced that James Fenton will receive this year's PEN Pinter Prize (on 6 October).
       His writing -- even beyond his fine poetry -- is certainly of interest; see also, for example, his Q & A with The Paris Review.

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

       Prize: Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction

       They've announced that The Ten Thousand Things, by John Spurling, has won this year's Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction (for novels: "set at least 60 years ago", and, sigh, written in English); see, for example, the BBC report.
       It beat out novels by Martin Amis, Kamila Shamsie, and Damon Galgut, among others -- some pretty solid competition.
       See the Overlook publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

15 June 2015 - Monday

'Internet literature' in ... China | Nobel obsession in ... Iran
New Quarterly Conversation | Individuals review

       'Internet literature' in ... China

       At ChinaDaily Xu Jing reports that a 'Golden age' dawns for Chinese web-writers as Chinese Internet literature apparently continues to flourish.
       I particularly like the categorization of writers ("into five levels by their income and number of fans"): poor guy, low rank god, middle class god, super god, and platinum/Supreme God writers -- at the top level apparently the title is even capitalized (well, at least in translation: it doesn't really work that way in Chinese).
       The big question -- and I'm surprised this isn't asked much more frequently and widely -- is: why China, and why not elsewhere ?

       I recently got a copy of Michel Hockx' Internet Literature in China (see the Columbia University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or and expect to get to it soon. It is certainly an interesting (and under-explored) phenomenon.

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

       Nobel obsession in ... Iran

       I've lost count of how often I've said it, but if your measure of success is nabbing a Nobel, you're doing it wrong. Alas, it remains seen as national validation -- and, even worse, folks have it all wrong. The latest example ?
Our literature has moved toward generalization, and there are very few young poets and writers who pay attention to daily issues. If this trend continues, we will tend to the popular literature and will lose our chance of winning the Nobel Literature for Iran in other years, too.
       So author and critic Fathollah Beeniyaz, in Iranian literature needs translation institutes to be noticed internationally.
       Oh, no -- popular literature. Ugh .....

       Sure, translation is key -- but Iran is actually not too badly served internationally, and it would be hard to believe that Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (The Colonel, etc.) and Shahrnush Parsipur (Women without Men) aren't in the Nobel-running more often than not.

       (Pro-tip, if Iran wants more general literary international recognition: join the conventions ! (the copyright ones, Berne and UCC ... come on, guys, just do it ...). And stop with the censorship nonsense.)

       (As to the Nobel, I remind you -- and them: it's not just you -- the Dutch haven't ever won one either.)

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

       New Quarterly Conversation

       Issue 40 - Summer 2015 of the Quarterly Conversation is now available online -- always interesting coverage of some very interesting books.

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

       Individuals review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lao Ma's collection of 'flash fiction', Individuals.

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

14 June 2015 - Sunday

Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize | Summer reads

       Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize and it is ... this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize-winning translation by Susan Bernofsky of Jenny Erpenbeck's The End of Days; see the publicity pages at New Directions and Portobello, or get your copy at or
       (This title not making the Best Translated Book Award longlist this year is increasingly looking like quite the oversight .....)

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

       Summer reads

       'Tis the time of year for newspapers to pad their pages with 'what to read this summer'-lists.
       At least a few of them are of the writer-suggestion sort -- the TLS has a sampling from the current issue's Books for summer list online, while in The Independent Arifa Akbar and Rachael Pells collect The best summer reads: 90 books chosen by 40 literary luminaries.

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

13 June 2015 - Saturday

FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards longlist
Michael Crichton profile | Barbe bleue review

       FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards longlist

       They've announced the longlists for the FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards, including in the fiction category; among the ten selected titles are: Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga and The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud.
       The 'Emerging' part of the award doesn't refer to the artists or their work, but rather to their nationalities, as it is limited to "passport holders of emerging nations".
       The list of nominees was impressive, too -- though I do wonder about 'Anonymous (Casey B Dolan)' .....
       The finalists will be announced 7 August, the winners on 5 October.

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

       Michael Crichton profile

       At Grantland Michael Weinreb has a profile of Michael Crichton, with a focus on his becoming a writer and the early pseudonymous work (like Drug of Choice).
       I wonder why there hasn't been a proper biography yet -- a lot of material there.

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

       Barbe bleue review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Amélie Nothomb's Barbe bleue, her (not-yet-translated-into-English) variation on Bluebeard.

       But fear not, English-speaking fans: Europa editions is bringing out her Pétronille this fall (see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or -- one of the few Nothomb-titles I don't have under review yet.

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

12 June 2015 - Friday

Wolfgang Jeschke (1936-2015) | The Chinese Political Novel review

       Wolfgang Jeschke (1936-2015)

       German science fiction author Wolfgang Jeschke has passed away; see, for example, the (German) notice in Die Welt.
       The rare German science fiction author actually published in English translation -- The Cusanus Game ! -- he was named 'Best Author' at the European Science Fiction Society Awards just last year.

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

       The Chinese Political Novel review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Catherine Vance Yeh's The Chinese Political Novel: Migration of a World Genre, published in the Harvard East Asian Monograph-series.

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

11 June 2015 - Thursday

Europese Literatuurprijs finalists | Premio Strega finalists
Princess of Asturias Award for Literature

       Europese Literatuurprijs finalists

       They've announced the shortlist for the 2015 Europese Literatuurprijs, the Dutch best translated (European) book award, with a good-looking list that includes Rafael Chirbes' On the Shore (due out in English early next year; see also the Anagrama foreign rights page), Mikhail Shishkin's (or, Dutch style: Sjisjkin's) Maidenhair, as well as books by Jenny Erpenbeck, António Lobo Antunes, and Yasmina Reza.

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

       Premio Strega finalists

       They had the first vote to winnow down the Premio Strega to five finalist (and they will, surely, eventually be posting the results here ...).
       Elena Ferrante's The Story of the Lost Child -- forthcoming from Europa editions; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or -- made the cut, but was only the third-highest vote-getter, with 140, considerably behind top vote-getter La ferocia by Nicola Lagioia; see the Books in Italy information page for some English-language information.
       The second vote, for the winner, will be held 2 July.

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

       Princess of Asturias Award for Literature

       They've announced that Leonardo Padura Fuentes will receive this year's (now) Princess of Asturias Award for Literature (it used to be 'prince' but they made that guy king, so now its under the auspices of the 'princess').
       They award these in a variety of categories including sport (the Gasol brothers taking the prize this year), but the literary prize has a decent track record (though 2011 -- Leonard Cohen -- was a bit iffy ...) -- and they have given it to Augusto Monterroso (2000), Álvaro Mutis (1999), and Miguel Delibes (1982), among many other worthies, so, yeah, okay.
       Quite a few Padura works are under review at the complete review:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

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