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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 30 November 2015

21 November: Reading in ... Romania | Petros Markaris Q & A | Murder Most Serene review
22 November: Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards | New Statesman 2015 favourites list
23 November: Translation from ... Hindi | An Englishman in Madrid review
24 November: Reading in ... India | Augustpriset | (Australian) Prime Minister's Literary Awards shortlists | The Blizzard review
25 November: Translations from ... Madagascar | Library of Bangladesh | Cassava Republic coming to UK | Because She Never Asked review
26 November: Prizes: Jan Michalski - Irish Book Awards - Prix Ivoire | Fifteen Dogs review
27 November: Lire books of the year | La nave di Teseo | Life, Only Better review
28 November: NY Times 100 Notable Books | Prizes: Finlandia Prize - DSC Prize shortlist | The Fifth Dimension review
29 November: Amir Gutfreund (1963-2015) | 'Best books' at The Guardian | Amélie Nothomb Q & A | Jean Hatzfeld Q & A | The Perception of Meaning review
30 November: Korrektur-Verlag | More French 'books of the year' | Literary criticism, East African style ?

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30 November 2015 - Monday

Korrektur-Verlag | More French 'books of the year'
Literary criticism, East African style ?


       In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung Ingeborg Waldinger profiles (in German) the wonderful-sounding Thomas Bernhard-devoted (really devoted ...) Korrektur-Verlag -- quite an impressive undertaking.

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

       More French 'books of the year'

       Another French publication gets in on the 'books of the year'-game, with Le Point announcing Notre palmarès des 25 livres de l'année 2015
       It's largely made up of the predictable usual suspects: Sansal's 2084 (which will surely be on absolutely every one of these lists), the Houellebecq, prize-winners by Binet, Énard, and de Vigan, etc. Okay, there's that Boris Johnson, too -- didn't see that coming .....

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       Literary criticism, East African style ?

       In the Daily Nation Chris Wanjala is disappointed with where literary criticism (and hence, apparently, literature itself) seems to be headed in East Africa, explaining: How literature is dying in the hands of young people writing on pornography.
       Oh, yes, oh dear ... that must be the problem .....

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

29 November 2015 - Sunday

Amir Gutfreund (1963-2015) | 'Best books' at The Guardian
Amélie Nothomb Q & A | Jean Hatzfeld Q & A
The Perception of Meaning review

       Amir Gutfreund (1963-2015)

       Israeli writer Amir Gutfreund has passed away; see, for example, Award-winning author Amir Gutfreund dies at The Jerusalem Post.
       He's probably best known for Our Holocaust -- somewhat surprisingly now published by AmazonCrossing; get your copy at or
       See also the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature Amir Gutfreund page.

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

       'Best books' at The Guardian

       The Guardian, too, gets quite a selection of authors to: "reveal which of the past yearís books they have most enjoyed" -- indeed, so many authors that this is actually only: Best books of 2015 - part one, so there's more to come [updated (30 November): and fortunately that didn't take long: here is part two].
       Always interesting to see what is recommended and liked.
       (The Times Literary Supplement's is probably the one of these I most look forward to annually -- alas, they only reveal a small sample of this year's selections online.)

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

       Amélie Nothomb Q & A

       At PEN Atlas Tasja Dorkofikis has a Q &A with local favorite (and much-reviewed) Amélie Nothomb -- mainly about her just-published (in English) Pétronille.
       Aside from noting that the title-character is based on Stéphanie Hochet (see also, for example, the Salon littérraire Q & A, Pétronille par elle-même: Stéphanie Hochet est un personnage de fiction), Nothomb also mentions her prolificacy:
I am now writing my 84th novel. I published 24 of them. I donít know where this urge to write comes from.

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

       Jean Hatzfeld Q & A

       In the Forward Benjamin Ivry has a Q & A with Machete Season-author Jean Hatzfeld, who continues to write about the 1994 Rwandan genocide and its aftermath.

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

       The Perception of Meaning review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of a collection of Jordanian author Hisham Bustani's short fiction, The Perception of Meaning, just out in a bilingual edition, from Syracuse University Press.

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

28 November 2015 - Saturday

NY Times 100 Notable Books | Prizes: Finlandia Prize - DSC Prize shortlist
The Fifth Dimension review

       NY Times 100 Notable Books

       The New York Times has announced its 100 Notable Books of 2015
       After a mere three titles in translation in 2013 and eight last year they impressively managed to include what appears to be fourteen this time around.

       Last year I had reviewed five of the titles by the time the list was published, this year it's ... six:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Prize: Finlandia Prize

       They've announced that Oneiron, by Laura Lindstedt, has won the Finlandia Prize, the biggest Finnish literary prize; see, for example, the Yle report, Author Lindstedt slams government after Finlandia win.
       The winning title sounds intriguing both in premise -- "Seven women, each from a different country and unfamiliar to one another, come together in a white, undefined space just seconds after their respective deaths" -- and execution; for more information on the author and the book see the Elina Ahlback Literary Agency information page, and the (Finnish) Teos publicity page.
       Definitely something for US/UK publishers to consider, from the sounds of it; apparently so far only Hungarian rights have been sold.

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

       Prize: DSC Prize shortlist

       They've announced the six-title strong shortlist for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature (in London, of course, because ...).
       It includes one novel in translation, K.R.Meera's Hangwoman, translated from the Malayalam by J.Devika; see the Penguin India publicity page.

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       The Fifth Dimension review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Martin Vopěnka's The Fifth Dimension, just out from intrepid Barbican Press.

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

27 November 2015 - Friday

Lire books of the year | La nave di Teseo | Life, Only Better review

       Lire books of the year

       French magazine Lire annually selects a top book in twenty different categories -- with one crowned as overall "meilleur livre de l'année". They announced this year's list -- and 2084, by Boualem Sansal, is the not-so-surprising book of the year.
       Other category winners include a two-volume Virginie Despentes as French novel of the year, a Jón Kalman Stefánsson as best foreign fiction (beating out titles by Javier Cercas and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), and Ryan Gattis' All Involved as best roman noir.
       They also list the finalists in all the catgories, and among the oddities surfacing there: an Elmore Leonard-biography, apparently translated from (though apparently not yet published in) English, by Laurent Chalumeau -- see the Rivages publicity page -- the author of such works as Anne Frank 2, le retour !, and Fuck (see the Grasset publicity page). I wonder whether this will make it (back ?) into English.

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       La nave di Teseo

       The big news in Italian publishing this year has been the sale of RCS Libri to Mondadori (see, for ecample, the Mondadori press release), with venerable literary imprints including Bompiani and Rizzoli suddenly swallowed into a 'Mondazzoli' juggernaut (apparently controlling half of the local book market, and seventy percent of the paperback market) -- run by a Berlusconi, no less.
       It doesn't come as much of a surprise that many literary types are apparently jumping ship -- led by Bompiani editor in chief Elisabetta Sgarbi, who has now announced the founding of a new publishing house, to be called 'La nave di Teseo'; see, for example, the (Italian) report at Il libraio.
       I'm not so sure about that name -- suggested by no one less than Umberto Eco, who is fully on board with the new venture -- given that it's the (Rizzoli-published) Italian title of a ... J.J.Abrams book (see the publicity page)
       No real English-language coverage that I've seen so far, but there should be some shortly -- this is a big (and nicely messy) story.

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

       Life, Only Better review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Anna Gavalda's Life, Only Better, just out in English from Europa Editions.

       I'm always curious about bestselling fiction abroad, and Gavalda is one of the few really popular-in-France domestic authors that is also regularly translated (others like Guillaume Musso or Marc Levy have a much harder time getting translated). This is the fourth of her books under review at the complete review, and that isn't even all of them (I drew the line at Billie).
       I do grudgingly have to admit that she's onto something -- indeed, I think these would be good books to dissect in creative-writing classes. I just wish she'd be a bit more (or is it less ?) ambitious with her subject-matter. (It's also why that other very popular French author, Amélie Nothomb, is so much better: Nothomb's aim isn't first and foremost heartstrings-tugging and crowd-pleasing (as Gavalda's so obviously is); Gavalda is a manipulative writer, playing to the crowd, while Nothomb is largely (and wonderfully hopelessly) only caught up/entangled in herself.)

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26 November 2015 - Thursday

Prizes: Jan Michalski - Irish Book Awards - Prix Ivoire
Fifteen Dogs review

       Prize: Jan Michalski

       The Jan Michalski Prize for Literature is an impressive (if shockingly poorly publicized) prize, without language or (prose) genre restrictions, and they've announced the winner of this year's prize -- Birth Certificate, Mark Thompson's Danilo Kiš biography. (My preference is, of course, always for fiction, but they do always select interesting titles, regardless.)
       See also the Cornell University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Prizes: Irish Book Awards

       They've announced (albeit not very conveniently at the official site) the winners of this year's Irish Book Awards, with The Green Road, by Anne Enright, taking book of the year honors.

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

       Prize: Prix Ivoire

       The Prix Ivoire pour la Littérature Africaine d'Expression Francophone has announced its 2015 winner -- and it's Je suis vivant, by Haitian author Kettly Mars; see, for example, the Haiti Libre report, as well as the Mercure de France publicity page for the book.

       Mars' Savage Seasons recently came out in English, but has attracted disappointingly little review (or other) attention.

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       Fifteen Dogs review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of André Alexis' Fifteen Dogs.

       Yes, I was led to this by its recent Scotiabank Giller Prize-win -- that, and the promise/premise of talking dogs, Greek gods still doing their mischief, and the mention of some Oulipo poetry. Also: I seem to be sucker for titles that begin with numbers .....

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

25 November 2015 - Wednesday

Translations from ... Madagascar | Library of Bangladesh
Cassava Republic coming to UK | Because She Never Asked review

       Translations from ... Madagascar

       The December issue of Words Without Borders will apparently be devoted to literature from Madagascar, and at Broadly Ilana Masad profiles translator Allison Charette, in Meet Madagascar's 27-Year-Old Literary Ambassador.
       Madagascar is one of those countries from which almost nothing is available in English -- even though some Malagasy writers write in French (i.e. aren't that inaccessible). Charette got a PEN grant to translate Naivo's Au-delà des rizières (see the Sepia publicity page), so hopefully we'll at least see that in English soon.

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

       Library of Bangladesh

       I mentioned the announcement of the Dhaka Translation Center's 'Library of Bangladesh'-series earlier this year, and apparently the first two volumes are now out, published by bengal lights: see their publicity pages for two novellas by Syed Shamsul Haq and a collection of stories by Hasan Azizul Huq -- and let's hope there's some foreign distribution for these, too.
       Apparently ten more volumes are already planned.

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

       Cassava Republic coming to UK

       In less than a decade Cassava Republic has established itself as a leading Nigerian publisher -- and it's great to hear that, as Natasha Onwuemezi reports in The Bookseller, African publisher Cassava Republic to launch in UK.

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

       Because She Never Asked review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Enrique Vila-Matas' Sophie Calle-novel(la), Because She Never Asked.
       This is actually just one story from a bigger Spanish collection (Exploradores del abismo), published as a stand-alone in New Directions' lovely pocket-sized Pearl-series.
       It's a great introduction to Vila-Matas' work -- perhaps the ideal starter-volume.

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

24 November 2015 - Tuesday

Reading in ... India | Augustpriset
(Australian) Prime Minister's Literary Awards shortlists | The Blizzard review

       Reading in ... India

       The peculiar business that is book publishing is, of course, peculiar worldwide -- hence it's not just in the US/UK/etc. that one can find a headline such as The reading conundrum: Is the books business booming or dying ? -- as Saudamini Jain explores the Indian situation, in the Hindustan Times.
       Mixed signals indeed:
In the late 1970s, the average book sold around 2,000 copies, writes veteran publisher Ashok Chopra in his memoir A Scrapbook of Memories. This, he says, is roughly true even of today, four decades later.
       Indeed, apparently:
Most successful books sell not more than 3,000 copies in India. This is a low number for anywhere in the world -- especially considering the size of the Indian middle-class
       I'm not sure their sense of the Indian situation versus that abroad is correct:
The big failure of Indian publishing, [Thomas Abraham, managing director at Hachette India] says is that "We, as an industry, have failed to do anything collectively to build the reading habit. We have done nothing to propagate serious reading. In the West, they have a designated Reading Day when the government and publishers come together. In Chicago, for instance, everyone on that one day will read Anna Karenina or whatever. You need to create something on TV, like Oprah Winfrey does with her Book Club. We have nothing."
       Much as I like to imagine all of Chicago walking around with their heads buried in Anna Karenina ("or whatever" ...), well .....

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


       They've announced the winners of this year's Augustpriset, the leading Swedish literary prize, with Montecore-author Jonas Hassen Khemiri taking the fiction prize, with Allt jag inte minns.
       Rights have already been sold to this, with it scheduled for publication from Atria in the US and Scribner in the UK; see also the Ahlander Agency information page.

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

       (Australian) Prime Minister's Literary Awards shortlists

       Malcolm Turnbull is the fourth Australian prime minister in office since June 2013, but after a bit of turmoil in recent years things seem to have settled down around the Australian Prime Minister's Literary Awards, and they've now announced the shortlists for this year's prizes.
       Quite a few familiar names among the finalists (including Peter Carey, Elizabeth Harrower, David Malouf) but none of these titles are under review at the complete review.

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

       The Blizzard review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Vladimir Sorokin's unusual (but seasonal ?) Russian satire/homage/zombie tale, The Blizzard, coming out next week from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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23 November 2015 - Monday

Translation from ... Hindi | An Englishman in Madrid review

       Translation from ... Hindi

       Anjum Hasan's fascinating look at 'Reading Hindi literature in translation' -- English translation -- in The Caravan, Novel Renditions, is now fully accessible online.
       An interesting overview -- and many interesting observations, including that:
It is striking how so many of the novels recently translated into English capture life at a modern, usually mid- to late-twentieth-century, juncture. The dodgy, if not outright corrupted, nature of this modernity is what gives these novels their charge.
       Surprising, too, that apparently The Gift of a Cow-author Premchand -- "the king himself", Hasan writes -- has only had some 70 of his 300 stories translated.
       More depressing than just how little Hindi literature has been translated is how little of even just that has made it, readily accessibly, to US/UK shores. For every Uday Prakash (The Girl with the Golden Parasol, The Walls of Delhi) there seems so much more that is at least available in English but not readily available locally.
       But this does get me to put my copy of Gillian Wright's translation of Raag Darbari closer to the top of my get-to pile.

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

       An Englishman in Madrid review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Eduardo Mendoza's An Englishman in Madrid.
       This book won the Premio Planeta in 2010 -- a prize that with its €601,000 cash award blows pretty much every other literary prize (especially the American ones) out of the water.
       Nick Caistor's translation was published in the UK in 2013, but for some reason it only made it to the US this summer -- and doesn't seem to have gotten much attention here.

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

22 November 2015 - Sunday

Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards | New Statesman 2015 favourites list

       Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards

       The Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards are one Iran's leading literary prizes -- and, with each award paying out "110 Bahar Azadi gold coins" (reportedly: "worth over $33,000"), remunerative -- and they've announced this year's winners -- see the report in the Tehran Times -- and the not-winners, as:
No works in the categories of short story, literary criticism, or documentation were deemed worthy of Iran's most lucrative literary award during this year's edition of the Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards
       Meanwhile, the novel prize was shared, Fall Is the Last Season by Nasim Marashi and The Well-Behaved Girl by Shahriar Abbasi splitting the prize.
       In the categories without winners there were still some honorable mentions -- by works with some intriguing titles: Overview of Practical Anecdotes in the literary criticism section (and who doesn't like their anecdotes to be practical ?); Are Guys from Khazaneh Saved ? in the short story category; and Water Never Dies and You Will Die in Cairo in the 'documentation section'.

       The prize was, of course, named after leading Iranian author Jalal Al-e Ahmad -- nowadays perhaps better known in the US/UK as Simin Daneshvar's husband ? Four of his titles are under review at the complete review, including The Israeli Republic, which was recently brought out by Restless Books.

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

       New Statesman 2015 favourites list

       The past two weeks The Spectator has been having contributors name their best and most overrated books of the year (see my previous mention), and now the New Statesman also gets a nice cast of "friends and contributors" to weigh in on their favorites of the year, in Books of the year: the essential NS reading list.
       Always interesting to see what people come up with -- and these also include some older titles

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21 November 2015 - Saturday

Reading in ... Romania | Petros Markaris Q & A | Murder Most Serene review

       Reading in ... Romania

       The Romanian Gaudeamus International Book and Education Fair runs from 18 through 22 November in Bucharest -- the 22nd edition of the fair.
       At BalkanInsight Marian Chiriac reports Romania Fair Booms in Tough World For Books, as: "The number of people reading literature is constantly falling, official data show".
       Not what you want to hear:
(I)ndustry specialists are pessimistic about the future of reading in Romania as a whole.
       With 39 (!) per cent of Romanians reportedly not having read any books at all last year ... well, that's a shockingly high proportion of the population .....

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

       Petros Markaris Q & A

       Greek mystery writer Petros Markaris recently picked up the Premis LiberPress in the literature category, and at Catalonia Today they have a Q & A with him.
       Among the interesting quotes:
The crime novel is the only social novel left in European literature.
       (And I am surprised that he hasn't gotten more US/UK coverage, as his novels have been among the most insightful about Greek conditions for quite a few years now.)
       Also amusing to hear that, while he does read a lot of crime fiction he admits:
But I am fed up with the Scandinavians
       See also my reviews of his Deadline in Athens and Zone Defence.

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       Murder Most Serene review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Gabrielle Wittkop's Murder Most Serene, one of two Wittkops just out from Wakefield Press in beautiful editions (I'll get to the other one, Exemplary Departures, too; meanwhile, see their publicity page).

       Note that this isn't a murder mystery, at least not anywhere near the traditional sort; this is a book by the author of The Necrophiliac, and with its Sadeian epigraph, is very much in a similar vein .....

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

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