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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 August 2015

11 August: Murakami's latest | Publishing in ... Burma | Thirteen years of the Literary Saloon
12 August: Erika-Fuchs-Haus | Gustave Le Rouge reviews
13 August: FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award longlist | Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award | Utta Danella | The Widower review
14 August: Vladimir Sorokin Q & A | T.S.Eliot on the 'contemporary novel' | Susan Bernofsky Q & A | The Beautiful Bureaucrat review
15 August: Guardian first book award longlist | A contemporary Don Quixote
16 August: Rafael Chirbes (1949-2015) | 'The Modern Novel' moves | Viennese Romance review
17 August: 100 greatest English-language novels ? | Mia Couto profile
18 August: James Tait Black Prizes | Mao Dun Literature Prize | St. Francis College Literary Prize short list
19 August: Drama in translation | James Wood Q & A | Rock, Paper, Scissors review
20 August: German Book Prize | Friedrich-Hölderlin-Preis

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20 August 2015 - Thursday

German Book Prize | Friedrich-Hölderlin-Preis

       German Book Prize

       Generally -- no, overwhelmingly -- the Germans prefer author- to book-prizes: they'd rather honor a life's work over specific works. But seeing the success of the Man Booker Prize they launched an imitation-Man Booker a decade ago, the Deutscher Buchpreis -- and they've now announced the 20-title-strong longlist for this year's prize (selected from 167 novels, submitted by 110 publishers -- alas, in overzealous imitation of the Man Booker they too do not reveal what those submitted titles actually were, so we have no idea what worthy titles weren't even in the running).
       Quite a few of the longlisted authors have had books published in English translation, including Jenny Erpenbeck (Visitation, etc.), Alina Bronsky (Broken Glass Park, etc.), Ilija Trojanow (The Collector of Worlds, etc.), Clemens J. Setz, and Rolf Lappert.
       I haven't seen/read any of these titles -- and while there are several I'd like to see, the one I am most curious about is definitely Die Erfindung der Roten Armee Fraktion durch einen manisch-depressiven Teenager im Sommer 1969 (by Frank Witzel); see the Matthes & Seitz publicity page.
       The shortlist will be announced 16 September; the winner will be announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair, on 12 October.

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


       As noted above, the Germans really go for author- over book-prizes, and they've now announced that Herta Müller -- yes, the one with the Nobel under her belt -- has won this year's Friedrich-Hölderlin-Preis.
       That would be the biennial, €10,000 Friedrich-Hölderlin-Preis awarded by the university and the city of Tübingen -- and not the annual, €20,000 Friedrich-Hölderlin-Preis awarded by the city of Bad Homburg v.d.Höhe.
       Yes, there are two of these ..... And while I venerate Hölderlin as much as (or probably more than) the next guy ... come on....
       (Also: with all due respect etc. etc. for Herta: she's most deserving, certainly, but ... she needs another author prize ?)

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

19 August 2015 - Wednesday

Drama in translation | James Wood Q & A
Rock, Paper, Scissors review

       Drama in translation

       The Three Percent Translation Databases are an invaluable resource -- but list only (previously untranslated) works of fiction and poetry, i.e. don't cover much else that appears in English translation.
       Admirably David Sledge (on Twitter here) has put together a Theater Translation Database 2008-2015 [updated: And see now also the accompanying Theater in Translation page]. A lot of these are multiple-play volumes, so the total number of translated plays is somewhat larger, but amazingly there seem to an average of less than thirty translated-drama-volumes appearing annually in English -- a rather limited/disappointing total.
       Interesting also -- if perhaps not entirely surprising -- that the big publishers of fiction in translation don't figure very prominently as publishers of drama in translation.

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

       James Wood Q & A

       At Slate Isaac Chotiner has A Conversation With James Wood, The New Yorker book critic and author of The Book Against God.

       Wood's most recent book is The Nearest Thing to Life; get your copy at or

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

       Rock, Paper, Scissors review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Naja Marie Aidt's Rock, Paper, Scissors, just out from Open Letter.

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

18 August 2015 - Tuesday

James Tait Black Prizes | Mao Dun Literature Prize
St. Francis College Literary Prize short list

       James Tait Black Prizes

       They've announced the winners of the James Tait Black Prizes, and In the Light of What We Know, by Zia Haider Rahman, has taken the fiction prize.

       (I can't help but note one of my pet peeves here: this is a book prize, so it should be the book that is spotlighted: 'Debut novelist and best-selling writer scoop oldest book awards' and 'Zia Haider Rahman, fiction winner' misplace the emphasis on the author. Who cares who the author is ? It is the book that counts, and the book that should be honored.)

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

       Mao Dun Literature Prize

       The Mao Dun Literature Prize (茅盾文学奖) -- awarded only every four years -- is one of the most prestigious (and controversial) Chinese literary prizes, and they've now announced this year's five winning titles, selected from 252 qualifying novels; see also, for example, the gbtimes report, Winners of 2015 Mao Dun Literature Prize announced.
       Among the authors with winning titles who have previously been translated into English are Su Tong and Wang Meng; several of Ge Fei's works are also already available in French translation.

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

       St. Francis College Literary Prize short list

       They've announced the shortlist for the $50,000 St. Francis College Literary Prize -- awarded biennially 'for a 3rd to 5th published work of fiction'.
       I'm afraid none of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review (and I don't expect to get to any of them anytime soon).
       The winner will be announced 19 September.

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

17 August 2015 - Monday

100 greatest English-language novels ? | Mia Couto profile

       100 greatest English-language novels ?

       Robert McCrum's two-year-long project of listing The 100 best novels: from Bunyan’s pilgrim to Carey’s Ned Kelly -- which, as the small(er) print clarifies considers only 'the 100 greatest English-language novels of all time' [emphasis added] (quite the caveat, one would think, but hey ...) -- has apparently now reached its conclusion; there is no convenient one-page list of the 100 titles (because that would be too ... convenient [updated - 18 August: this has now belatedly been rectified: see the full list here]) but you can find them starting here.
       McCrum admits to getting off track over the course of compiling his classics -- "I cursed the leniency I had exercised towards the novels published between 1880 and 1930", and he acknowledges "a few howlers, several regrets" -- and of course it's a terribly subjective exercise, regardless.
       Certainly of some interest, but, yeah ... not my top 100, by a long shot.

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

       Mia Couto profile

       In The Guardian Maya Jaggi profiles Mia Couto -- the Neustadt International Prize for Literature-winning author of The Tuner of Silences and the just-released-in-translation Confession of the Lioness (which I have, and should be getting to; meanwhile, see the publicity pages at Farrar, Straus and Giroux or Harvill Secker, or get your copy at or

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

16 August 2015 - Sunday

Rafael Chirbes (1949-2015) | 'The Modern Novel' moves
Viennese Romance review

       Rafael Chirbes (1949-2015)

       Spanish author Rafael Chirbes (1949-2015) has passed away -- just a few months before the highly-praised On the Edge appears in English (see the New Directions publicity page, or get your copy at or
       No English-language coverage yet, as I write/post this, but lots in the Spanish-language press; see, for example, Fallece Rafael Chirbes, la letra y la rabia de la crisis in El Mundo.

       Several of his books are under review at the complete review -- e.g. Mimoun -- but I wasn't that impressed by them; that was a long time ago, and I'm curious as to what I'll think of On the Edge.

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

       'The Modern Novel' moves

       Most of the visitors to this site are presumably interested in international literature and so you have (or certainly should have) also bookmarked The Modern Novel, which offers some of the most extensive and far-ranging review-coverage of international literature (well, modern novels, basically) on the internet. But that bookmark now changes: the site used to be here but has now, after a major redesign, moved here.
       The redesign and move -- and some of their consequences -- are explained here.

       As I've often noted, the complete review is obviously long overdue for a design-overhaul, its antiquated amateurish look quite an embarrassment, but among the reasons I don't is because, although it looks relatively rickety, the underlying structure (if not overlying look ...) has proved sturdy, dependable, and stable. I will eventually spiff things up a bit -- but even then: not much. And not at the cost of some of The Modern Novel changes -- page URLs simply won't change (a last, futile stand against the all-pervasive link-rot on/of the internet ?), for example.

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

       Viennese Romance review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of David Vogel's Viennese Romance -- posthumously published just a few years ago, decades after Vogel wrote it, and now available in a very nice edition from Scribe.

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

15 August 2015 - Saturday

Guardian first book award longlist | A contemporary Don Quixote

       Guardian first book award longlist

       They've announced the Guardian first book award longlist -- annoyingly not simply listing the titles on a page (with some commentary, if necessary) but rather either slipping in the titles in an overview article or providing Guardian first book award 2015 longlist - in pictures (colorful, yes -- but incredibly annoying too; at least it's not presented in flip-page album format).
       I am curious about some of these titles, but have not seen any of them.

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

       A contemporary Don Quixote

       An interesting AFP article by Roland Lloyd Parry (here at the Daily Star), Quixote-crazy -- rewriting Spain's comic bible, discussing the difficulty the (original) of Cervantes' classic poses for Spanish readers and efforts to present a modern version -- a translation/simplification of the text in modern Spanish. Among these is the 'Real Academia Española Edition' -- adapted by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (yes, he's an academician, too); see also the Santillana publicity page, or get your copy at

       Updating classic works -- including by 'translating' them, in a manner of speaking -- is common in any number of languages/cultures; Beowulf, for example, or The Tale of Genji (famously translated into modern Japanese by (among others) Tanizaki Jun'ichirō; see also Michael Emmerich's fascinating study, The Tale of Genji).

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

14 August 2015 - Friday

Vladimir Sorokin Q & A | T.S.Eliot on the 'contemporary novel'
Susan Bernofsky Q & A | The Beautiful Bureaucrat review

       Vladimir Sorokin Q & A

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines they have excerpts of Natalya Kochetkova's Q & A with Day of the Oprichnik-author Vladimir Sorokin (but see also the full Russian original at
       Interesting to hear about his and Gelia Chef's Project Telluria at the Venice Biennale.
       Meanwhile, the rights to Sorokin's book Telluria have been bought in many, many languages -- but not yet, apparently, in English; see the informative information page at literary agency galina dursthoff.

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

       T.S.Eliot on the 'contemporary novel'

       The Times Literary Supplement publishes T.S.Eliot's essay on The Contemporary Novel -- published in French translation in 1927, but never before in English, apparently.
       Interesting -- including the authors he focuses on, "four examples of very different types and orders of value: D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, David Garnett and Aldous Huxley".
       Amusing, in particular, to read:
Mr. Huxley is tormented; Mr. David Garnett, a far more accomplished writer, is secure. Mr. Garnett is one of the most interesting examples of psychologism.
       Of course, Huxley still had a long way to go in his career. So actually did Garnett -- but with considerably less lasting success than Huxley.
       Still, this makes me want to seek some of his work out -- and among the interesting facts about 'Bunny' (so his unfortunate nickname): his mother was the famous translator Constance, and, like T.S.Eliot, one of his books was made into a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber (his novel, Aspects of Love).

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

       Susan Bernofsky Q & A

       At the Asymptotoe blog Katrine Øgaard Jensen has a Q & A with translator Susan Bernofsky.
       The translation she's working on sounds fun .....

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

       The Beautiful Bureaucrat review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Helen Phillips' The Beautiful Bureaucrat, which just came out.

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

13 August 2015 - Thursday

FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award longlist
Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award
Utta Danella | The Widower review

       FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award longlist

       They've announced the fifteen-title-strong longlist for the FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award; the official announcement doesn't appear to be freely accessible at this time, but you can find all the titles here, too (scroll down).
       As expected, none of these titles are under review at the complete review (indeed, I haven't seen a one of these) -- but I figure business-book-coverage will always lag hereabouts. (Still, Robert Shiller, Philip Tetlock ... can't say I'm not a bit curious.)
       The shortlist will be announced 22 September, and the winner on 17 November.

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

       Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award

       The Dayton Literary Peace Prize is a book prize, honoring books: "that have led readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions, and political points of view". They also award a 'Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award', a lifetime achievement equivalent of the book prize ... and they've now announced that this year's prize will be going to ... Gloria Steinem.
       (She apparently does have a book coming out this fall -- "her first in 20 years".)
       She'll get to pick the prize up at the official ceremony, on 1 November.
       Yes, in Dayton.

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

       Utta Danella

       So, yeah, I apologize for not apprising you of Utta Danella's recent death -- but let's face it: you're not an Utta Danella crowd, and you don't come to the complete review looking for reviews of her books .....
       Still, 70,000,000 copies sold, a (German) household name ... maybe worth a mention ?
       Honestly, I wouldn't have bothered, but there was one thing about this brief and cursory DeutscheWelle mention that struck me. Bowled me over, even. Not the seventy million copies sold worldwide, but rather this:
The author also penned many short stories and works of non-fiction, and translated a number of works from English into German.
       Even mega-successful pop-fiction author Utta Danella translated books. Not many, and not really ... noteworthy ones. But she honed her craft and brought foreign works to German readers.
       Other nation's mega-bestsellers do it.
       Murakami does it.
       Anna Gavalda does it.
       But US/UK authors ?
       Utta Danella spending some of her precious and remunerative churning-out-books time on translation, it's like Danielle Steel translating (as, with her fluent French, she easily could ...).
       Yet again, I don't understand why US/UK writers of fiction don't devote some/more of their time to translating. (Yes, yes, I know, some do -- Coetzee, Auster, Lydia Davis, etc. But they're drops in the bucket; abroad it sometimes feels like every novelist has translated a book.)

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

       The Widower review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Malay-writing Singaporean author Mohamed Latiff Mohamed's The Widower, recently published in English translation by Epigram Books.

       Yes, there is a great Singaporean novel Tyler Cowen wrote at his Marginal Revolution weblog a couple of weeks ago, and of course I was paying attention (aren't I always ?) and Epigram kindly provided me with a copy, enabling me to cover it -- and making me also aware of their fine list and the interesting mix of titles on it.
       As longtime readers know, I often complain about how little Southeast Asian fiction is readily available in English; Epigram's books aren't all that readily available in the US/UK (The Widower isn't listed on Amazon -- a rarity for an English-language publication in this day and age) but their catalogue includes goodies translated from the Chinese and Tamil, along with Malay (and, of course, some English-written stuff too), a nice cross-section of the regional literature.
       Happy days indeed that this sort of stuff is now at least closer to hand, and, with a bit of effort, obtainable.

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

12 August 2015 - Wednesday

Erika-Fuchs-Haus | Gustave Le Rouge reviews


       The Erika-Fuchs-Haus, a 'Museum für Comic und Sprachkunst' (museum for comics and language-arts), opened in Germany at the beginning of the month.
       Erika Fuchs (1906-2005) is the rare translator to have achieved great acclaim and recognition for translations of ... comic books -- the Disney ones (Donald Duck, etc.), specifically. Susan Bernofsky has a good explanation of her success and art in her 2009 Wall Street Journal piece, Why Donald Duck Is the Jerry Lewis of Germany, noting that:
Her interpretations of the comic books often quote (and misquote) from the great classics of German literature, sometimes even inserting political subtexts into the duck tales. Dr. Fuchs both thickens and deepens Mr. Barks's often sparse dialogues, and the hilariousness of the result may explain why Donald Duck remains the most popular children's comic in Germany to this day.
       The museum sounds like fun -- and it's nice to see such space dedicated to a translator (though obviously her comics-work is more exhibition-friendly than that of most translators); see also (German) reports at boersenblatt and in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

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

       Gustave Le Rouge reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two just-over-a-century old science fiction novels by Gustave Le Rouge, just resurrected by the University of Nebraska Press in one volume as Prisoner of the Vampires of Mars (a more polished version of Brian Evenson's earlier translation, published a couple of years ago as The Vampires of Mars):        Nice to see this sort of stuff available.

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

11 August 2015 - Tuesday

Murakami's latest | Publishing in ... Burma
Thirteen years of the Literary Saloon

       Murakami's latest

       In the US and UK Murakami Haruki's latest is both new and old -- Wind/Pinball, new/re-translations of his two earliest novels, now published together in one volume (with the two novels reviewed independently here at the complete review: Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973).
       In Japan meanwhile they've just published the book version of his three-month stint with an online advice-column, 村上さんのところ. What's really cool is that while the 250-odd page print version (see the Shinchosha publicity page) offers only a sampling -- 473 of the submitted questions -- there's also an e-book version (see the Shinchosha publicity page) that includes all 3716 of the questions Murakami dealt with (out of 37,465 submitted questions) -- the expanded/full version.
       See also Maiko Itagaki reporting Haruki Murakami gets personal in his new book in the Asahi Shimbun.

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

       Publishing in ... Burma

       In The Myanmar Times Zon Pann Pwint reports that Literature fans book it to anniversary fair, as local publishing house and bookstore Seikku Cho Cho (see, sigh, their Facebook page; the website address doesn't seem to lead anywhere) celebrates its sixteenth anniversary.
       Good to see the ambition:
He scoured the archives of the Central Library and the National Library for short stories and novels by Shwe Oo Daung, P Moe Hnin, Ba Maw Tin Aung, Thaw Tar Swe and others.
       Of course, I hope foreign rights sales start becoming part of the picture, too .....

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

       Thirteen years of the Literary Saloon

       The complete review went online in 1999, with this Literary Saloon weblog added to it on this day in 2002 -- and so, yes, the Literary Saloon has now hit its teen years.
       I'm glad to see some readers still seem to find it useful; I hope you continue to do so.

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

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