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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 30 June 2015

21 June: Science fiction in ... Japan | Oksanen on European Finlandization
22 June: Shin Kyung-sook plagiarism questions | The World in my Hands review
23 June: Volokhonsky and Pevear Q & A | 101 Detectives review
24 June: Miles Franklin Literary Award | Book fairs in ... Zimbabwe | The Travels of Daniel Ascher review
25 June: EU Prize for Literature ceremony | Reading in ... Russia
26 June: Rentrée littéraire preview | Murakami's beginnings | (Criminal) Borgesian remix | Covers of ... books by South Asian women writers
27 June: Print/digital in ... Hungary | Financial Times summer books list | Reading the World review
28 June: Sunday Times Literary Awards | Aubrey Menen profile
29 June: 'Russian Library' (redux ?)
30 June: HKW International Literary Prize | The Festival of Insignificance review

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30 June 2015 - Tuesday

HKW International Literary Prize | The Festival of Insignificance review

       HKW International Literary Prize

       The've announced that Amos Oz's הבשורה על פי יהודה, in Mirjam Pressler's German translation (as Judas) has won this year's Internationaler Literaturpreis - Haus der Kulturen der Welt -- the big (€25,000 for the author, and €10,000 for the translator) German best translated (contemporary) book award; see also, for example, Sabine Peschel's report Amos Oz wins major German literature award at DeutscheWelle.
       It no doubt will appear in English translation eventually, but it hasn't yet. (Hey, why shouldn't it appear in ... say, Brazil before it comes out in the US/UK provinces, right ? I do note, however, without comment, that Oz is handled by 'literary' agent Andrew Wylie.)

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

       The Festival of Insignificance review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Milan Kundera's recent novel -- his first in over a decade -- The Festival of Insignificance.

       Interesting to see the mixed reactions to this -- and also how much review coverage there has been of it (the most, by far, of any book I 've covered so far this year).

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

29 June 2015 - Monday

'Russian Library' (redux ?)

       'Russian Library' (redux ?)

       In The New York Times Andrew Roth reports that Columbia University Press to Publish New Translations of Russian Literature, as:
The idea, tentatively named the Russian Library, envisions dozens, and perhaps more than 100, new translations of Russian modern literature and classics, selected by the publisher with support from a committee of Russian and American academics.
       Columbia University Press already has some good foreign literature coverage -- especially east Asian literature -- and among the publishers they distribute is leading international literature publisher Dalkey Archive Press, so this could be a really good fit.
       There's one open question/issue, however: readers might recall that a project not so tentatively named The Russian Library -- "scheduled to publish 125 volumes over the next 10 years" -- was launched by the very same Read Russia and the very same Peter Kaufman not all that long ago, in partnership with The Overlook Press (who, with imprint Ardis, have long been in the Russian game, too) -- see, for example, the Shelf Awareness report Overlook Press to Publish 'Russian Library' (which even pictures Vladimir Grigoriev and Peter Kaufman sealing the deal in 2012); see also the Publishers Weekly report from back then.
       So what happened with the Overlook deal ? (Disappointing reporting on the part of The New York Times, not to even acknowledge that this is apparently take two of this project, or to poke around and learn what happened to take one.)

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

28 June 2015 - Sunday

Sunday Times Literary Awards | Aubrey Menen profile

       Sunday Times Literary Awards

       They've announced the winners of the 2015 (South African) Sunday Times Literary Awards, with Arctic Summer, by Damon Galgut, taking the fiction prize, and Askari, by Jacob Dlamini, taking the non-fiction prize.
       Galgut's E.M.Forster-novel isn't under review at the complete review, but I've admired his earlier work; see also the publicity pages at Europa Editions and Atlantic Books, or get your copy at or

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

       Aubrey Menen profile

       Nakul Krishna's look at 'The particular strangeness of Aubrey Menen', Is Fun Fun ? is now fully accessible at The Caravan.
       There doesn't seem to be any Menen currently in print in the US or UK, but Penguin India have a solid collection of Classic Aubrey Menen; see their publicity page.

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

27 June 2015 - Saturday

Print/digital in ... Hungary | Financial Times summer books list
Reading the World review

       Print/digital in ... Hungary

       At hlo Szabolcs László considers Print vs. online literary journals in Hungary -- a subject of some debate, apparently.
       Among the fun incidental titbits: hand-writing Péters Nádas and Esterházy share(d) not only a name but: "a much-beloved typist".

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

       Financial Times summer books list

       The FT's Summer books 2015 -- "FT writers and guests pick their books of the year so far" -- is certainly ... extensive -- but, helpfully divided up by subject-matter (including 'Fiction in translation' !), among the better compilations we'll be seeing.

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

       Reading the World review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ann Morgan's Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer, which has just been published in the US, as The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe (because ... publishers .. you know ...).

       This is the book resulting from Morgan's A year of reading the world project -- and, given the subject matter, presumably of interest to almost all complete review readers -- international literature and all that !

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

26 June 2015 - Friday

Rentrée littéraire preview | Murakami's beginnings
(Criminal) Borgesian remix | Covers of ... books by South Asian women writers

       Rentrée littéraire preview

       The 'rentrée littéraire' is the annual French flooding of the book market that starts at the end of August, and they've now released the first numbers: Livres Hebdo reports that there will be 589 works of fiction on offer (down from 607 last year). French works make up 393 (with 68 debuts, down from 75 last year), and there are 196 works in translation (down from 203 last year).
       They -- and others, such as the report at L'Express -- mention some of the big-name authors with new works coming out (and there will be a lot more coverage in the coming weeks). Among the notable publications: L'infinie comédie, as David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest finally gets translated into French; pre-order you 1488-page copy at

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

       Murakami's beginnings

       We've heard a lot of this before, but it's still entertaining to read Murakami Haruki on his beginnings as a writer; the Literary Hub now prints the introduction from the forthcoming re-translation of his two first novels, which is being published as Wind/Pinball.
       See also the publicity pages at Alfred A. Knopf and Harvill Secker, or pre-order your copy at or

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

       (Criminal) Borgesian remix

       As reported in The Guardian, Pablo Katchadjian's 2009 remix of a Jorge Luis Borges story in El Aleph engordado has landed him in a heap of legal trouble.
       The Guardian piece, by Fernando Sdrigotti, is tendentiously titled 'Re-working Borges is a legitimate experiment, not a crime', as he argues that this sort of literary experimentation is a good thing. While I agree with the premise, I note that copyright law (likely) prohibits this sort of thing with an in-copyright work (as Borges' story still is) -- i.e. it is a crime (hey, lots of silly things are) -- and that the argument: "when everything is reproduced and available to anyone clever enough to perform a web search" isn't exactly a winning counter/defense.
       I think it remains a good idea for copyright holders to maintain as much control over their work as they wish (hence also my strong support for the often withheld copyright for translators) -- though there is no question that current copyright regimes linger way too long: so here also the problem is not long-dead Borges, who couldn't care less (or, as Sdrigotti suggests, might even approve) but rather his estate -- in the form of the widow Kodama and her enabler, estate-handler Andrew Wylie.
       It might not be the worst thing if they threw the book at this guy and jailed him; over-the-top punishment might raise public awareness of how sillily extreme copyright laws have become and might help pare them back to more reasonable levels.

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

       Covers of ... books by South Asian women writers

       At Lisa Lau explores Why do so many books by South Asian women writers have the same kind of covers ?
       Among the embarrassing observations:
We also compared those covers published for a Western marketplace and for an Indian marketplace, and flagged up the differences. The divergences are considerable, as one might expect. (Those for the Indian market were far less traditional, conservative, and exoticised; they tended to be more contemporary, playful, modernised.) We surmised target audiences, and social messages being conveyed by covering books with such images, and discussed what identity constructions were being offered and encouraged, and where.
       As always, the cover-debate escapes me: for me it's always: as basic, unembellished as possible -- the French and German uniform unillustrated looks (Gallimard, Éditions de Minuit, P.O.L.; some of those Suhrkamp series, the pocket-sized yellow Reclam texts) being, of course, my ideal.

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

25 June 2015 - Thursday

EU Prize for Literature ceremony | Reading in ... Russia

       EU Prize for Literature ceremony

       They announced the winners of this year's EU Prizes for Literature a couple of months ago but they just had the ceremony.
       This award -- or rather, these awards (they handed out twelve of them) -- rotate through the EU member countries, a dozen or so at a time and, as I've noted before, the name is a bit misleading -- as is the description that the winners are: "nominated by national juries". In fact, each national jury names the national winner -- so far from being an EU Prize it's a national literary prize that just happens to be handed out on the EU stage. (It's also hard to believe the national juries are quite as objective as an international one might be .....)
       What is neat (if also a bit worrisome) is that the winners get some cash and: "will be given priority to receive EU translation grants through the support programme for Europe's cultural and creative sectors, Creative Europe". This apparently helps quite a bit:
The translation of more than 56 EUPL winners' books since 2009 already allowed them to be read by a much larger audience throughout Europe.
       And while you probably haven't heard about or read many of the winning titles/authors over the years, they have honored some very good stuff that has done very well in translation.

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

       Reading in ... Russia

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Marina Obrazkova looks at Trends in Russia's reading culture.
       The figure of 37 per cent not reading at all is kind of shocking. Interesting also to hear that the director of the Mescheryakov Publishing House believes:
Russia has never had a particularly large reading public in relation to other countries. You will that find bookstores in Germany or France are far busier than in Russia, for example.
       (I don't know that bookstore-busy-ness equates with reading culture -- and, after all, this is the same guy who also claims: "Literary tastes are formed in childhood and are unrelated to trends. If parents have good taste, they'll pass it down to their children" .....)
       As the infographic shows, e-readers really haven't taken off there yet -- no domestic Киндл yet, apparently ..... Yet 13 per cent read on their computers, so it's not the e-format that is holding things back.

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

24 June 2015 - Wednesday

Miles Franklin Literary Award | Book fairs in ... Zimbabwe
The Travels of Daniel Ascher review

       Miles Franklin Literary Award

       They've announced that The Eye of the Sheep, by Sofie Laguna, has won this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award, one of the leading Australian literary prizes.
       It does not appear to be available in the US or UK yet, but see the Allen & Unwin publicity page.

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

       Book fairs in ... Zimbabwe

       In The Herald Beaven Tapureta offers A tale of three book festivals, as Zimbabwe not only hosts the storied (if somewhat discombobulated -- see official sites here and here) Zimbabwe International Book Fair this year, but also two newer festivals, LitFest Harare and Zambezi Book Expo.
       It'll be interesting to see how things go -- and whether three festivals are better than one (or two); even if not direct competition, the newcomers will surely put some pressure on ZIBF to up its game .....

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

       The Travels of Daniel Ascher review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Déborah Lévy-Bertherat's The Travels of Daniel Ascher, just out in English from Other Press.

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

23 June 2015 - Tuesday

Volokhonsky and Pevear Q & A | 101 Detectives review

       Volokhonsky and Pevear Q & A

       At the Literary Hub they print (an excerpt from ?) Susannah Hunnewell's Q & A with translators-from-the-Russian Larissa Volokhonsky and Richard Pevear from the current The Paris Review, as The Quiet Rebels of Russian Translation.
       (It's nice to see The Paris Review doing 'The Art of Translation' Q & As, to go along with their Art of Fiction/Poetry/etc. series -- but even with a double dose in the current issue (Peter Cole is the other one) they're only up to number ...five (by comparison: they're well over two hundred with the fiction ones ...).

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

       101 Detectives review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ivan Vladislavić's new collection of stories, 101 Detectives, out from Umuzi in South Africa and from And Other Stories in the UK and US.

       These are fine stories and this is good writing, but I have to admit to being somewhat at a loss here: my frustration with story-collections grows apace -- with each encounter, practically -- and nothing seems to help. I've never been a huge fan, but am finding even less satisfaction than usual in them; more than that, I am finding myself annoyed and irritated: I simply don't see the point. Maybe it's all the short pieces I read online (more non-fiction than stories, but still ...) ? Certainly, it's a lack of coherence that bothers me -- why bother collecting stories in a single volume if there isn't some (really) unifying principle to the collection ? Leave the stray pieces stray; there are enough publishing possibilities in this day and age that anyone who wants to find them -- or fit them together for themselves -- can.
       More and more I find myself wondering: why can't everybody just write novels ? Well, writers should write whatever they feel like -- but publishers shouldn't feel compelled to package separate things together ..... And me, I think I'll be sticking to novels (and, sigh, the occasional work of non-fiction) for the foreseeable future.

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

22 June 2015 - Monday

Shin Kyung-sook plagiarism questions | The World in my Hands review

       Shin Kyung-sook plagiarism questions

       Somewhat late in the day, Please Look After Mom and I'll Be Right There-author Shin Kyung-sook finds herself embroiled in a growing plagiarism scandal. As Lee Sun-young reports in the K Pop Herald, Plagiarism charges haunt Korea's literary icon as she has been accused of 'lifting' a passage from Mishima Yukio's Patriotism in a 1996 work -- dredging up memories of previous accusations of plagiarism as well, such as a 2000 story that: "was revealed to contain six paragraphs lifted from another book with only a few changes".
       Some of this seems to be getting rather silly: the Yonhap story Plagiarism suspicions raised on novelist Shin Kyung-sook reports that:
Yonhap News Agency found on Monday that [...] the titles of two of her short stories published in the March-April 1990 issue of the Korean Literature magazine and the autumn issue of Munye Joongang in 1992, were identical to those of two poems published in 1987 and 1989 by Yoon Hee-sang
       But others, like the borrowings from Luise Rinser (!) in Please Look After Mom (and another work) seem more serious.
       The Dong-A Ilbo piece, Cartel within writers' community interrupts eradication of plagiarism, suggests that the South Korean system leads to such cases being hushed-up in the closed circle of writers, "due to secrecy and cronyism involved in the process":
Many writers sought to keep good terms with publishers, believing that even though Shin Kyung-sook disappears from the stage, publishers will remain in power forever.
       Complicating matters:
Another cause for repeated suspicions over plagiarism is the lack of specific criteria that allows for defining of plagiarism due to lack of standards for plagiarism in literary works. "There are no specific standards in provisions in Korean copyright acts that clarify 'overlapping of a certain number of words or phrases constitute plagiarism'"
       The one interesting observation from a US publishing standpoint: despite its apparent success, Please Look After Mom publisher Alfred A. Knopf did not continue to publish her in the US (a big surprise to outside observers); it's unclear whether they were outbid for the next book (doubtful) ... or whether maybe they had other concerns .....

       And I am curious when this story -- which, by now, is a 'story' -- gets picked up by US/UK media. (Knowing who is 'inspired' by reads this weblog, I figure: by Wednesday at the latest.)

       (Updated - 23 June): And now, just a week after headlines like Novelist denies plagiarism accusations started appearing Shin Kyung-sook has changed her tune and, as Yonhap report, Novelist Shin Kyung-sook admits plagiarism. So now it remains to be seen what the fallout will be.

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

       The World in my Hands review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Bangladeshi author K. Anis Ahmed's recent novel, The World in my Hands.

       English-writing Ahmed, who studied at Brown, Washington University, and NYU, is obviously very familiar with Western writing and tastes, but this is still a novel meant for (relatively) local readers -- published by Random House India, with no US/UK editions yet -- local English-language popular fiction of the sort I'd really like to be reading a lot more of -- not just from Southeast Asia, but other areas as well. (Local popular literature in translation would also be great to see, but that's an even taller order .....)

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

21 June 2015 - Sunday

Science fiction in ... Japan | Oksanen on European Finlandization

       Science fiction in ... Japan

       In The Japan Times Iain Maloney profiles Japanese science fiction writer Fujii Taiyo, in The new face of Japanese sci-fi chases an augmented world.
       His Gene Mapper is just out from Haikasoru; I haven't seen it yet, but hope to have a look; meanwhile, see their publicity page, or get your copy at or
       Interesting that Fukii self-published the first iteration of this novel as an e-book in Japan and, while it sold 10,000 copies, he still finds: "the popularity of e-book readers hasn't grown enough in Japan" -- despite the 'cell phone novel'-genre proving to be quite popular.

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

       Oksanen on European Finlandization

       At Eurozine they publish Sofi Oksanen 'On the Finlandization of Europe', A lion in a cage, based on a speech she recently delivered at a conference in Latvia.
       Oksanen's Purge and the just-published-in-English When the Doves Disappeared -- see the Konpf publicity page, or get your copy at or -- both deal with Estonia and the Soviet Union, and this is an interesting piece considering 'Finlandization' -- "the influence that a stronger power exercises on the policies of weaker states" -- and language. In the cases of both Finland and Estonia that (overwhelmingly stronger) power was (and is, in only slightly different form) the Soviet Union and now Russia -- though as she notes, the different Finnish and Estonian experiences have led to very different understandings of language dealing with these issues.

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

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