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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 April 2016

1 April: Kertész Imre (1929-2016) | Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent review
2 April: Yasnaya Polyana award - foreign fiction longlist | Dubravka Ugrešić Q & A
3 April: David Mitchell Q & A | Love Letter in Cuneiform review
4 April: Lars Gustafsson (1936-2016) | Florian Zeller | The CR Guide: coming/here
5 April: Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize longlist | The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man review
6 April: Prizes: Miles Franklin longlist - EU Prizes for Literature | In the Café of Lost Youth review
7 April: (Online) writing in ... China | Guggenheim fellowships
8 April: The Guardian kills off first book award | Edwin Frank Q & A
9 April: Novel (tourist) attractions | Guzel Yakhina Q & A | Vis and Ramin review
10 April: Magnesia Litera | Michael Hofmann profile

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10 April 2016 - Sunday

Magnesia Litera | Michael Hofmann profile

       Magnesia Litera

       The big Czech literay awards, the Magnesia Litera, have been announced, with Daniela Hodrová's Točité věty winning book of the year; see, for example, the brief Radio Praha report, Hodrová's Spiral Sentences wins Magnesia Litera for Czech book of year; see also the Malvern publicity page.

       In 2012 Hodrová won the Franz Kafka Prize -- putting her in some very good company -- and Jantar have recently brought out two of her books in English translation; one is under review at the complete review -- A Kingdom of Souls.

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

       Michael Hofmann profile

       In The Guardian Philip Oltermann profiles Michael Hofmann, son of the fine German author Gert, and a poet, critic, and popular translator-from-the-German (or, as Oltermann puts it, "arguably the world’s most influential translator of German into English") in his own right.
       Apparently in translating:
One of his guiding principles for translating, he says, is to avoid the obvious word, even if it is the literal equivalent of the original.
       Which, if true -- hey, this is a newspaper profile, so big chunks rather than just grains of salt ... -- certainly helps explain why I tend to have ... difficulties with Hofmann's translations. (As I've noted on previous occasions, I don't find Hofmann's wrong, but they're out of tune to my ears and sensibilities -- like music that's perfectly transcribed, but, across the board, half a tone flat or sharp.)

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

9 April 2016 - Saturday

Novel (tourist) attractions | Guzel Yakhina Q & A | Vis and Ramin review

       Novel (tourist) attractions

       The Bangkok Post reports that Japanese prefecture makes novel pitch to Thai tourists, as:
A series of romantic tales written by four Thai novelists is part of a new campaign to attract Thai tourists to Kagawa Prefecture in Japan.
       It's the คางาวะ รักพาไป -- 'Kagawa, Let Love Lead' -- series, and:
It consists of four different love stories named after four locations in the Japan's smallest prefecture located on the southern island of Shikloku: Shodoshima Forever, Destiny in Kotohira, Sweet Ogi-Megi and Winter Love in Takamatsu.
       Sounds like a fun idea -- and I'm impressed that it's Thai novels soliciting tourists for Japan, rather than the other way around. But, yeah, don't expect English translations anytime soon.

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

       Guzel Yakhina Q & A

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Alexandra Guzeva has a Q & A with author Guzel Yakhina about her 'Big Book Prize'-winning novel, Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes -- "the literary sensation of 2015"
       See also the Elkost information page about the book -- and note all the foreign rights that have already been sold (including into English, with RBTH reporting: "The English version of the book is slated for release in early 2018 by Oneworld Publications").

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

       Vis and Ramin review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the eleventh-century romantic verse epic by Fakhraddin Gorgani, Vis and Ramin -- a Penguin Classics volume (in Dick Davis' 2008 translation) that doesn't seem to have quite caught on yet.
       Worth a look.

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

8 April 2016 - Friday

The Guardian kills off first book award | Edwin Frank Q & A

       The Guardian kills off first book award

       In The Guardian Claire Armitstead explains that they're Saying goodbye to the Guardian first book award.
       First awarded in 2000, this prize has had a good track record -- though since it was for any sort of first books (fiction or non or anything else) it was occasionally stretched a bit thin.
       No clear reason is given why they're packing it in, but presumably it boils down to that it cost them more than they could make off it (which is certainly a valid reason).

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

       Edwin Frank Q & A

       At The Paris Review's Daily weblog Susannah Hunnewell offers What a Good Book Can Be: An Interview with Edwin Frank, who founded New York Review Books in 1999.
       Quite a few NYRB titles are under review at the complete review; the one Frank calls his favorite -- Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy -- is also the one that (by far) the most copies have been sold of via the Amazon links at this site -- literally hundreds.
       (This is also the book about which Nicholas Lezard (anti-presciently ?) wrote in The Guardian -- less than a year before he reviewed this NYRB edition -- that: "Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy survives among the cognoscenti, but there's no Penguin Classic of the book, and it would be difficult to see how there could be" ....)

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

7 April 2016 - Thursday

(Online) writing in ... China | Guggenheim fellowships

       (Online) writing in ... China

       Xinhua reports that Online literature loses big due to piracy, as in China: "Only 26.5 percent of web users regularly read legal copies of books". Which still seems like a pretty good percentage. (And is working out okay for some: "The online novelist 'Tangjiasanshao' made 110 million yuan (17 million U.S. dollars) in copyright royalties last year".)
       Apparently: "Only 5 percent of online novelists can support themselves fully through writing" -- which sounds pretty phenomenal to me (what percentage of print 'novelists' can support hemselves from their writing outside China ?).

       (As always, I find the Chinese online-writing-world (and business model, and piracy issues) grossly under-reported and -studied -- this is a huge industry, and while it's unclear 'Western' writing/publishing will follow (or stray onto ?) a similar course, surely it should be better understood and more closely studied.)

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

       Guggenheim fellowships

       They've announced the 2016 Guggenheim Fellowships -- 175, awarded to : "178 scholars, artists, and scientists".
       No translators this time around, but quite a few writers of fiction: Jesse Ball, Jennifer Clement, Amity Gaige, Laila Lalami, Jess Row, René Steinke, and Melanie Rae Thon.

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

6 April 2016 - Wednesday

Prizes: Miles Franklin longlist - EU Prizes for Literature
In the Café of Lost Youth review

       Prize: Miles Franklin longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the leading Australian novel-award.
       (Interestingly, apparently: "The terms of Miles’ will also stipulate that if no novel is deemed to be of sufficiently high standard, the Award can be given to a play".)
       The shortlist will be announced on 29 May.

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

       Prizes: EU Prizes for Literature

       They've announced the 2016 winners of the European Union Prizes for Literature -- and, no, I still don't get these.
       They hand these out to authors from twelve or thirteen EU countries annually, rotating through all the EU member-states -- everybody gets a prize ! Problematically, the juries are entirely national -- "Each country sets up a jury reflecting the national peculiarities of the book industry" (!) -- and so rather than being truly EU(-wide) prizes these are essentially entirely domestic prizes, which then get the EU stamp of approval.
       The (mis)use of the singular -- 'prize' rather than 'prizes' -- and the lack of clarity about the every-country-gets-a-turn aspect leads to misleading rah-rah headline such as Cypriot author wins prestigious EU literature prize. I don't mean to pick on the Cypriot winner -- this happens across the board -- but, yeah, of course 'Cypriot author wins [one of the (supposedly)]prestigious EU literature prize[s]' because that's the way it's set up -- this was Cyprus' year (along with eleven other nations) and some Cypriot author had to get one of the prizes.
       No doubt, the attempt to foster local talent from across the EU and get it some exposure on the bigger stage -- winners get a cash prize and some nice promotion, including at some of the big European book fairs -- is admirable, but this doesn't seem to be anywhere near the best way of going about it. In particular, having national juries pick the winners from their respective countries is surely not appropriate for anything that wants to be an EU prize (especially since surely all these countries already have national literary prizes).
       If they have to, then, sure, pick a winner from each country (though surely an EU prize, or prizes, should ideally be borderlessly transnational ...), but for god's sake, don't the let the locals name the winner. (There's enough language-expertise across the EU that getting outside judges for even the smallest languages should be manageable.))

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

       In the Café of Lost Youth review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano's In the Café of Lost Youth.
       This 2007 novel was only translated into English this year -- but (to make up for the delay ?) they decided to translate it twice: I reviewed Chris Clarke's translation, just out from New York Review Books, but a UK edition came out from MacLehose Press earlier this year, in Euan Cameron's translation.
       (I've been waiting for a book that wins the Man Booker International Prize and the Best Translated Book Award, but in different translations; alas, this won't be that title -- despite being a 2016 publication, it falls into the (one-time extended) eligibility period for this year's Man Booker International Prize, and it did not make the cut. (That still leaves Maylis de Kerangal's The Heart (UK edition (and different translation): Mend the Living), which was MBIP longlisted this year, and will be BTBA-eligible for next year's prize .....)

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

5 April 2016 - Tuesday

Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize longlist
The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man review

       Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize longlist

       They've announced the (South African) Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize longlist.
       I haven't seen any of these, though I figure a few will make it to the US/UK -- the Henrietta Rose-Innes ? And the only author with other books under review at the complete review is Ingrid Winterbach (e.g. The Book of Happenstance) -- whose nominated title is promisingly described on the publisher's publicity page as a: "kick-ass novel".

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

       The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the second Burton & Swinburne Adventure by Mark Hodder, The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man.

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

4 April 2016 - Monday

Lars Gustafsson (1936-2016) | Florian Zeller | The CR Guide: coming/here

       Lars Gustafsson (1936-2016)

       A bad couple of weeks as far writer-deaths goes continues with word that the wonderful Swedish author Lars Gustafsson has passed away.
       Less than a month ago I mentioned that they had announced he would be getting this year's Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award; he was due to receive it 17 May, on his 80th birthday; unfortunately, it will now be a posthumous affair.
       New Directions published quite a few of his titles -- see their author page -- but seem to have abandoned (or given up on) him over fifteen years ago, with nothing since. As I've often noted, he long taught at the University of Texas, Austin (see his official CV (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) from back then) and several of his novels are set in Texas -- including some of the not yet translated ones.
       No English-language coverage yet that I can find, though lots in the European press; see, for example, friend Per Olov Enquist's (Swedish) reaction (in Expressen) or, for example, a variety of reactions at Svenska Dagbladet.

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

       Florian Zeller

       I rate Florian Zeller's fiction high enough to warrant including it in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction (out tomorrow ! see below !), and four of his books are under review at the complete review itself (see, for example, The Fascination of Evil), but in recent years he seems to be making more of a name for himself as a playwright, and in The New York Times Rachel Donadio now wonders: The Next Playwright to Know ? Florian Zeller, From France to Broadway in a Big, Busy Leap.
       A Manhattan Theater Club production of his The Father, translated by Christopher Hampton and starring Frank Langella, opens 14 April. He seems to have already done quite well with some UK productions.

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

       The CR Guide: coming/here

       So the official publication date is apparently tomorrow, but Amazon has already been sending out copies and some have been sighted in the wild (i.e. a bookstore here and there) -- while other vendors still seem to be holding out for the originally announced 19 April publication date. In any case, my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction (Columbia University Press) is more or less out there, and I hope it's something that might be of interest to you. (Since you're reading this Literary Saloon I figure it might be .....)

The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction by M.A.Orthofer

       There are some pages and a blog to go with it, which I hope you will find to be a useful set of resources complementing the text -- especially, of course, with new and additional information, about new books, etc.

       Early reactions at, for example, Goodreads, have been very generous and encouraging, and I hope it's something you'll find useful (and informative and entertaining) as well.

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

3 April 2016 - Sunday

David Mitchell Q & A | Love Letter in Cuneiform review

       David Mitchell Q & A

       In The Japan Times William Bradbury has a Q & A with author David Mitchell.
       Asked about favorite Japanese authors/works he names The Makioka Sisters and Akutagawa -- and:
I like Yukio Mishima less as I age -- so bloody humourless ! Yasunari Kawabata, at least in translation, I find a little dry and unengaging, though I have a soft spot for The Master of Go, which inspired me to learn how to play the game. I can reveal exclusively to The Japan Times that I am the world's crappiest go player. Shusaku Endo's Silence is wonderful, and Haruki Murakami at his best is up there with the very best. Saichi Maruya has long passages of brilliance, too, as does Yoko Ogawa.
       Several Mitchell-titles are under review at the complete review (e.g. Cloud Atlas) as are some by most of the Japanese authors he names.

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

       Love Letter in Cuneiform review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Czech author Tomáš Zmeškal's Love Letter in Cuneiform, just out in Yale University Press' Margellos World Republic of Letters.

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

2 April 2016 - Saturday

Yasnaya Polyana award - foreign fiction longlist | Dubravka Ugrešić Q & A

       Yasnaya Polyana award - foreign fiction longlist

       Since last year the Russian Yasnaya Polyana literary award also have a foreign fiction category, for best translated work, and they've announced this year's 31-title-strong longlist; see also Alexandra Guzeva's report at Russia Beyond the Headlines, which also lists them all.
       Quite a variety -- including some titles that seem to have taken quite a while to get translated into Russian -- including Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones, and Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things. Some fresher stuff, too -- Houellebecq's Submission, for example. And, hey, works by Enrique Vila-Matas (Dublinesque), Pascal Quignard, Patrick Modiano, Herta Müller, and J.M.Coetzee.
       The prize money -- a million rubles for the author, 200,000 for the translator -- sounds less impressive in hard currency (a million rubles is less than US$15,000 this week, and presumably less next), but still .....

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

       Dubravka Ugrešić Q & A

       In The Great Theft, at Liberal Culture (the international edition of Kultura Liberalna), Łukasz Pawłowski has a Q & A with Dubravka Ugrešić.
       Anything from Ugrešić is always worth your while -- consider:
What was the primary motivation for the Croats to join the EU ?

Joining Europe provoked a national orgasm in Croatia. That meant we are better than Serbs, that we are finally joining "our" Catholic European family. That meant "good bye" to Serbs and "good bye" to Balkans. That meant that we, Croats, belong to Europe, and other people of former Yugoslavia belong to all that Balkan shit. However, my problem is not Croatia. My problem is Europe that might feel flattered by Croatian motivation for joining the EU.

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

1 April 2016 - Friday

Kertész Imre (1929-2016) | Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent review

       Kertész Imre (1929-2016)

       The great and -- despite his Nobel Prize -- underappreciated (in the US/UK, certainly) Kertész Imre has passed away. He'd been seriously ill for quite a while, so this isn't unexpected, but it's still a major loss.
       See, for example, obituaries in the Financial Times (Robert Wright), The New York Times (Jonathan Kandell), and at hlo; see also Luisa Zielinski's 'The Art of Fiction'-Q & A with the master.
       Ten of his books are under review at the complete review -- and that's not nearly enough.
       One can hope his death will serve as a nudge to US/UK publishers to translate more of his work (a lot hasn't been), and for readers to pick some up .....

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

       Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mircea Eliade's Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent -- written by Eliade in his teens, but first published in book form only in the late 1980s, and only now translated into English, in an edition from Istros Books.

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

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