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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 May 2016

1 May: Eka Kurniawan Q & A | Chinese investment in French publishing
2 May: Online writing in ... China | St. Louis Literary Award | Bird in a Cage review
3 May: Thomas-Mann-Preis | Geoff Dyer Q & A | Xorandor review
4 May: Paul Auster | Little Girls Breathe the Same Air as We Do review
5 May: Best Translated Book Awards ! | Tom Stoppard profile
6 May: Georges Perec's first novel | The Story of Manu review
7 May: Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize | New World Literature Today | Austrian Book Prize
8 May: Tehran International Book Fair | Masha Regina review
9 May: European Writers' Conference | Writing in/from ... South East Asia
10 May: Success in translation ! | Libris Literatuur Prijs | A Fine Line review

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10 May 2016 - Tuesday

Success in translation ! | Libris Literatuur Prijs
A Fine Line review

       Success in translation !

       The Man Booker International Prize commissioned a report based on Nielsen BookScan numbers in the UK and found that First research on the sales of translated fiction in the UK shows growth and comparative strength of international fiction.
       The numbers are impressive, as from 2001 to 2015 "translated fiction rose from 1.3 million copies sold a year to 2.5 million. In the literary fiction market, the rise was from 1 million copies to 1.5 million" (note that the 'literary fiction' definition apparently includes Paulo Coelho, so that bar really couldn't be set much lower ...). Some actual sales numbers -- of individual titles -- too, which is helpful, including for the top translated sellers in both 2001 and 2015 -- whereby it's kind of impressive that The Alchemist makes both lists (i.e. continues to sell) -- and also that Suite française continues to sell so well, also making the 2015 list.
       Please do note that the information/numbers on offer are very selective -- some in-between numbers would have been ... helpful, to see whether the trend is year-to-year or whether 2001 and 2015 are outliers, etc. etc.
       (Note, also, that they do note about all this: "This project is ongoing and due to the lack of standard international data on transalations [sic], subject to revision".)
       I hope someone has a go at this with US data too -- hard though it is to deal with (so many issues ...).

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

       Libris Literatuur Prijs

       The Libris Literatuur Prijs is one of the leading Dutch novel prizes (and pays out €50,000 to the winner), and they've announced that Jij zegt het, by Connie Palmen, has taken this year's prize.
       This is a novel about ... Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, told from Hughes' point of view; see the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page for an English overview.

       None of Palmen's novels are under review at the complete review at this time, but several have been translated into English; get your copy of The Laws, for example, at or
       (And, yes, of course: Palmen does rate a (short) mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction: check out her relationship novels, I suggest -- and here's another.)

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

       A Fine Line review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Gianrico Carofiglio's A Fine Line -- the fifth in his Guido Guerrieri-series, just out from Bitter Lemon Press.

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

9 May 2016 - Monday

European Writers' Conference | Writing in/from ... South East Asia

       European Writers' Conference

       This year's European Writers' Conference is being held today and tomorrow, with a theme of "WritingAwayBorders", with a solid list of participating authors.
       There will apparently be a manifesto -- but it will only be revealed halfway through the event, tomorrow morning.

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

       Writing in/from ... South East Asia

       In The Nation they have a piece (apparently from The Jakarta Post, although I can't find it there) on Awaiting Asean's literary leap, as they bemoan the lack of international recognition for South East Asian writing.
       Interestingly, they suggest:
Literature, the spread of which took giant leaps forward after the advent of the printing press, should have been able to work as a bridge to connect different languages and cultures in the region and help give rise to a semblance of a unified cultural identity.
       That seems quite a stretch -- and I think much of the best writing from the region is decidedly local, and less concerned with any larger, regional 'cultural identity'.
       Regardless, there's definitely too little from most of these countries making it out of the region, and especially into English.
       See also the index of South East Asian literature under review at the complete review.

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

8 May 2016 - Sunday

Tehran International Book Fair | Masha Regina review

       Tehran International Book Fair

       It's Tehran International Book Fair time -- through 14 May.
       They're holding it at a new venue this year -- and apparently are really concerned that that goes over well: Tehran Intl. Book Fair warmly received at new venue (despite that statue ...) they report in the Tehran Times -- but admit: "Due to the relocation, the TIBF still faces some problems". Amusingly, even in a piece reporting on Swiss Agnes-author Peter Stamm, Stamm tasked with creating a new world in literature at IBNA, the first quote they offer from him are his reassuring comments that:
I remember that in comparison with my first visit to Tehran Book Fair, the location for holding this event has been designed more efficiently and is more expanded. I feel a friendly environment here
       Meanwhile, Rudaw report that Censors remove extremist and 'unsuitable' books from Tehran book fair -- and:
those books which use a "counterfeit name" for the Persian Gulf were also removed by the committee. Referring to the Persian Gulf as the Arabic Gulf is forbidden in Iran.
       Ah, petty nationalism .....

       This year's motto is the somewhat ominous: "Tomorrow is too late to read"; the guest of honor is ... Russia.

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

       Masha Regina review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Russian author Vadim Levental's recent Masha Regina, just about out in English from Oneworld

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

7 May 2016 - Saturday

Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize | New World Literature Today
Austrian Book Prize

       Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize

       The Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize honors: "an outstanding literary translation from German into English published in the USA the previous year", and they've now announced that the 2016 prize goes to Daniel Bowles, for his translation of Christian Kracht's Imperium.
       Open to all translations from the German published in the previous year, the prize seems to have fallen a bit short it in eliciting submissions the past two years -- with only twenty-two submitted this year, despite many more being eligible -- but one of the things I really like about the prize is that they reveal all the titles that are being considered (as all literary prizes should (but very few do)).

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

       New World Literature Today

       The May-August double issue of World Literature Today is now available online, and well worth your time: of course there's the review section -- always my favorite -- but, among much else, The Vegetarian-author Han Kang also offers A Contemporary Korean Reading List, and there's a Q & A with her.

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

       Austrian Book Prize

       Like the Germans, the Austrians have long favored author- over book-prizes -- but the success of the Man Booker has led to imitations worldwide, and after the German Book Prize (launched 2004) and the Swiss Book Prize (launched 2008), the Austrians have now also fallen into line, finally launching an Austrian Book Prize this year.
       (Ironically, neither the German nor the Swiss prizes are truly national -- the German Book Prize is transnational, accepting entries from any German-writing authors, including those from Switzerland or Austria, while the Swiss Book Prize is limited to those Swiss authors who write in German (excluding the many who write in French and Italian, for example); the Austrian prize is also limited to German-written works -- but that comes a lot closer to covering everything than it does in Switzerland).
       The submissions are now all in for all three prizes for 2016, and number as follows:
  • German Book Prize: 156 novels submitted, by 98 publishers (72 of which are German, and 13 each Swiss and Austrian)
  • Swisss Book Prize: 83 novels submitted, by 56 publishers (30 Swiss, 23 German, 3 Austrian)
  • Austrian Book Prize: 95 titles submitted (unlike the German or Swiss prizes, the prize isn't restricted to novels), by 62 publishers ((37 Austrian, 21 German, and 4 Swiss)
       (In worst Man Booker imitation fashion, none of the prizes reveal what the submitted titles under consideration are -- they could all learn a thing or two from the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize (see above).

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

6 May 2016 - Friday

Georges Perec's first novel | The Story of Manu review

       Georges Perec's first novel

       L'Attentat de Sarajevo, Georges Perec's first novel, is finally coming out -- today ! (in French); see the Seuil publicity page or get your copy at; see also, for example, Alice Develey's report in Le Figaro, Le tout premier roman de Georges Perec a été retrouvé.
       (Seuil was one of two publishers that Perec submitted the manuscript to back in 1957, and who decided not to publish it at the time (Julliard was the other).)

       Another early Perec came out in (a David Bellos) translation last year -- Portrait of a Man Known as Il Condottiere, which is now just out in paperback from the University of Chicago Press; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or (I still haven't seen a copy of this, but hope to get my hands on a copy eventually, and will of course be covering it.)

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

       The Story of Manu review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Allasani Peddana's The Story of Manu -- apparently the first translation of this sixteenth-century Telugu classic (and that in a great bilingual edition in the Murty Classical Library of India-series).

       I'm really enjoying the Murty-series titles -- even, where as here, the original is completely beyond me ("Telugu uses eighteen vowels, each of which has both an independent form and a diacritic form", the Wikipedia page notes ...) -- and I also like the way Harvard University Press notes on each of the publicity pages for the books (e.g. for this one) that:
MCLI volumes are also available from leading bookstores and airport shops throughout the subcontinent.
       I really hope that's true -- and that subcontinental airline passengers are picking up copies left and right on the way to their flights ..... (Meanwhile, I wonder how many bookstores of any sort stock these in the US.)

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

5 May 2016 - Thursday

Best Translated Book Awards ! | Tom Stoppard profile

       Best Translated Book Awards !

       They've announced the winners of the Best Translated Book Awards, and the fiction award went to Signs Preceding the End of the World (by Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman).
       (The poetry prize went to Rilke Shake (by Angélica Freitas, translated by Hilary Kaplan).)

       I was certainly impressed by the Herrera -- and it is also one of the finalists where the translation-achievement is perhaps more obvious than elsewhere, making it an even more obvious choice. It was presumably somewhat of an outsider -- a slim volume, up against heavyweights like Lispector and the concluding Ferrante (I suspect the concluding Knausgaard, two years from now, will make a stronger showing as far as series-finales go) -- but I can't imagine there will be much criticism of the selection: this is a deserving book, and translation.

       (Note, however, that this means we won't see a Best Translated Book Award - Man Booker International Prize double this year, as the Herrera wasn't a finalist for the MBIP. (The winner of the MBIP will be announced 16 May).)

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

       Tom Stoppard profile

       In the Evening Standard Katie Law profiles Tom Stoppard.
       A bit gossipy (and hair-obsessed -- he: "still has a mane of thick curly hair" (though that photo sure suggests he's getting a bit ... threadbare); his latest wife is: "girlish and goldilocked at 61"), there's still some decent stuff here, as well as the usual fun-at-his-expense about his (not-quite-)use of e-mail and the like.
"I've very rarely emerged from writing something which I feel deserves an alpha plus." For which of his plays would he award himself an alpha plus ? The Invention of Love, his 1997 play about A E Housman, "presses all my buttons," he replies, and then he pauses. "But I think it's rather bad taste to start proposing your own A-stars."
       (And while The Invention of Love is a great play, it is of course Arcadia that is his masterpiece.)

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

4 May 2016 - Wednesday

Paul Auster | Little Girls Breathe the Same Air as We Do review

       Paul Auster

       Eric Clement had the scoop in La Presse last week but it seems to have (entirely ?) escaped English-language notice so far (or no one cares ?): that we can look forward to Un roman de 925 pages signé Paul Auster, Auster's forthcoming novel a near-thousand-pager he expects to have out in early 2017.
       No word as to the title of the just-finished work, or any of the details beyond its (great) length:
L'écrivain préfère ne pas dévoiler l'histoire de ce nouveau roman. Il souhaite que la surprise soit totale pour ses fidèles lecteurs. Il consent toutefois à dire qu'il s'agit d'une sorte de «saga».
       They follow up this week with a proper Q & A -- no additional clues about the book, but more general odds and ends (including about American politics).

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

       Little Girls Breathe the Same Air as We Do review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Oulipo-author Paul Fournel's 1978 novel, Little Girls Breathe the Same Air as We Do.

       This actually came out in English very quickly, George Braziller publishing it in 1979, and for example the Kirkus review suggested:
(I)t remains an odd, narrow exercise -- significant only as a minor-key promise of things to come from this young French writer.
       Ah, yes, the promise ! And a lot did come -- only not into English, with the recently published Dear Reader the first of his novels to be translated since then, after well over thirty years ! (though there was also that bicycling book in the meantime).
       Born in 1947, Fournel was indeed a promising young 32-year-old when Little Girls Breathe the Same Air as We Do came out in English -- and only now returns to the US/UK scene when he is closing in on 70.

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

3 May 2016 - Tuesday

Thomas-Mann-Preis | Geoff Dyer Q & A | Xorandor review


       They've announced that this year's Thomas Mann Prize will go to Jenny Erpenbeck (Visitation, etc.) -- though not yet at the official site, last I checked, so see, for example, the Boersenblatt report [Updated: see now also the Deutsche Welle report, Novelist Jenny Erpenbeck wins Thomas Mann Prize].
       She gets to pick it up on 17 September.
       The list of previous winners is a bit mixed (as indeed is the prize itself, which combined two previous prizes in 2010, and now alternates between being awarded on Lübeck and in Munich), but last year the (recently deceased) Lars Gustafsson got it, which was certainly also an excellent choice.

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

       Geoff Dyer Q & A

       In The Hindu Tishani Doshi has a Q & A with author Geoff Dyer.
       Among his responses:
The real issue for me is not whether it's true or untrue in accordance with what actually happened. But it's to do with form and the expectation of what people give to a certain form.

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

       Xorandor review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Christine Brooke-Rose's 1986 novel, Xorandor -- apparently recently re-issued in a two-for-one volume (with Verbivore) by Verbivoracious Press (though I only have the original Carcanet edition (and what I really wanted was the Avon paperback ...)).

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

2 May 2016 - Monday

Online writing in ... China | St. Louis Literary Award | Bird in a Cage review

       Online writing in ... China

       At Xinhua Lyu Dong and Li Zhengwei report on Leafing through online literature for China's Harry Potter, as:
If China's film market is a flame burning bright, the country's online literature is increasingly its fuel.
       As I've (often, sigh) noted, the Chinese online-publishing industry (and it sure looks like an industry -- "Over 140 million Chinese were regularly reading online literature on their computers and smartphones as of December") is a greatly under-studied and -reported-on phenomenon.
       Maybe now more will take notice, if indeed:
Online novels have amassed hundreds of millions of readers, and now they are being tapped for their potential to reach an even broader audience once adapted into films.

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

       St. Louis Literary Award

       The St. Louis Literary Award has a decent list of previous winners, and they've now announced that Noted Writer Michael Ondaatje Named Recipient of 2016 St. Louis Literary Award.
       He gets to pick it up on 6 October.

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

       Bird in a Cage review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Frédéric Dard's 1961 novel, Bird in a Cage.
       This is only due out -- from Pushkin Press, in their Vertigo imprint -- in June (in the UK) and September (US), but a Frédéric Dard sighting in English ? in a translation by David Bellos ? no way you can hold me back.
       In my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction (just out -- but you already have your copy, right ? if not ... get it at,, etc.), I noted that Dard (especially in his San-Antonio incarnation): "never stood much of a chance in English translation", as they've tried some odds and ends over the decades but nothing ever really took -- but Pushkin Press is having a go with several of his works, and with translators like Bellos (David freaking Bellos ! who is always up for a translation-challenge) maybe he stands a chance after all.
       As a reminder of where translation-into English stands, however, note that this (and quite a few other) Dard titles appeared in ... Iran (yes, that Iran) before they have in English: see e.g. ‘The Elevator’ of Frédéric Dard in Iran (or the more extensive Persian report -- and, yes, that's this title), as well as “Novels of the Night” in Persian Translation (with nice cover-images) at the International Crime Fiction Research Group.

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

1 May 2016 - Sunday

Eka Kurniawan Q & A | Chinese investment in French publishing

       Eka Kurniawan Q & A

       In The Jakarta Post Stevie Emilia has a Q & A with Eka Kurniawan (who recently made a splash in English translation, with Beauty is a Wound and Man Tiger).
       Among Kurniawan's answers: re. his favorite author he singles out:
If I have to mention only one, it's Knut Hamsun ( the Norwegian author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature ). His works convinced me to become a writer.
       And as far as 'social media' (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram) go, he says: "Don't like any of them."

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

       Chinese investment in French publishing

       At Paper Republic Bruce Humes points out that Chinese media are reporting that Chinese publisher/media firm ThinKingDom (新经典文化) has apparently invested in (i.e. bought a chunk of) leading French publisher of east Asian literature ("des livres de l'Extrême-Orient", as they put it) in translation Editions Philippe Picquier; see also the (Chinese) reports at The Paper and, a bit more extensively, sina (and note the deafening silence in the European press -- I couldn't find anything in the French papers ...).
       As Humes notes, it's unclear just how much of a stake they've staked themselves, but this is an interesting move, with Philippe Picquier a relatively small boutique independent -- but a leading conduit for east Asian literature into European languages and with a first rate list (and, presumably, contacts). Worth keeping an eye on.

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

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