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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 September 2016

1 September: (Not) reading in the US | The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir review
2 September: Best Translated Book Award - the judges | The New York Times' book coverage | A Cage in Search of a Bird review
3 September: Q & As: Ann Goldstein - Kawakami and Powell | The Subsidiary review
4 September: Mountain Echoes literary festival reports
5 September: New issue of the Swedish Book Review | The Doomed City review
6 September: Literary prizes: in the Philippines - Literaturpreis Alpha shortlist | Fragile Travelers review
7 September: Bottom's up ! | Literary prizes: French longlists - Nigeria Prize for Literature shortlist
8 September: Giller Prize longlist | Publishing in ... South East Asia | The English Teacher review
9 September: FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award shortlist | Poetry in ... Burma | Writivism reports
10 September: Closed-book reading | 'Preis der Stiftung Buchkunst'

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10 September 2016 - Saturday

Closed-book reading | 'Preis der Stiftung Buchkunst'

       Closed-book reading

       The MIT News story -- i.e. essentially the press release - has a catchier headline (Judging a book through its cover) than the actual title of the paper (Terahertz time-gated spectral imaging for content extraction through layered structures), but either way it's pretty cool science, as: "MIT researchers and their colleagues are designing an imaging system that can read closed books".
       It also has useful applications to old and very fragile books, that might be damaged by simply trying to open them.
       They still have a way to go -- for the paper: "textual content was extracted from a sample similar to a closed book with single-sided pages down to nine pages without human supervision", which is rather less than book-length -- but it sounds promising.

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

       'Preis der Stiftung Buchkunst'

       The German Stiftung Buchkunst selected their top 25 of the most attractive German publications of the year a few months ago, and now they've announced the best of them all, an architectural guidebook of Cologne, Architekturführer Köln.
       The unlikely-sounding publisher of this volume is the Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König -- see their publicity page -- but they actually have a very impressive list, and of course attention to detail and quality of design are among the things this prize looks for.

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

9 September 2016 - Friday

FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award shortlist
Poetry in ... Burma | Writivism reports

       FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award shortlist

       They've annoucned the six-title-strong shortlist for this year's FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award -- though ridiculously the announcement-article at the Financial Times itself is paywalled .....
       You can figure out which titles made it on the less useful FT Best business books page (scroll down some, and see the titles with the blue 'SL" buttons), but since even that involves additional link-clicks I'm reduced to pointing you to an outside press report for a slightly more convenient overview -- see, for example, Natasha Onwuemezi reporting that Bloomsbury has two on FT Business Book shortlist at The Bookseller.

       None of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review, and I suspect I won't get to any of them.

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

       Poetry in ... Burma

       In The Myanmar Times Lillian Kalish looks at Myanmar's brave new voices, and finds a rejuvenated poetry scene -- finding:
It's hard to predict Myanmar's poetic future but, for now, with a fiery group of young poets paving the way, poems and the ones responsible for their birth can yet again be seen raining down over Yangon.
       Let's hope the fiction writers are equally engaged and active !

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

       Writivism reports

       The 2016 Writivism Festival, with a theme of: 'Restoring Connections', ran from 22 to 28 August in Uganda.
       Available reports of the festival now include Abigail Arunga's Where literary geniuses go on pilgrimage in the Daily Nation, and Moreen Mpamukama's Move over Achebe, Ngugi, Soyinka ... in The Observer (Uganda).

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

8 September 2016 - Thursday

Giller Prize longlist | Publishing in ... South East Asia
The English Teacher review

       Giller Prize longlist

       The (Canadian) Scotiabank Giller Prize has announced its twelve-title-strong lomglist, selected from 161 (unfortunately not revealed ...) submissions.
       One of the titles is in translation, too: The Party Wall, by Catherine Leroux, published by Biblioasis; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Publishing in ... South East Asia

       At Publishing Perspectives Porter Anderson has a Q & A with Kenneth Quek about Southeast Asia's Rising Publishing World.
       It's only partially rising, but there's lots of potential here.

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

       The English Teacher review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yiftach Reicher Atir's The English Teacher, an Israeli spy novel written by a former spy .....

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

7 September 2016 - Wednesday

Bottom's up !
Literary prizes: French longlists - Nigeria Prize for Literature shortlist

       Bottom's up !

       A couple of weeks ago I posted on preparing for the big (in almost all ways) literary and translation publication of the year, Dalkey Archive Press' publication of John E. Woods' translation of Arno Schmidt's Bottom's Dream. While the official publication date is only at the end of September ... hold onto your hats: it's already out. It's been stacked and sighted in bookstores, Amazon is shipping copies (at a tidy clip, too, judging by the sales rank and rapid decrease in the number of copies they list as having on hand) -- and I got my copy a few days ago:

Bottom's Dream: Arno Schmidt - the book !

       The book seems to have generated quite a good bit of low-level (twitter, blog, message board) buzz already, but has still barely registered in the traditional literary press -- no preview articles or profiles, much less any reviews. It's understandable that there aren't any reviews yet -- it's a lot to work through -- but still surprising that there hasn't been more notice simply of the book (and translator Woods, who does, after all, have quite a reputation) -- its sheer size seems noteworthy, and as both literary- and translation-accomplishment (hell, as a typesetting-accomplishment -- which Woods also is responsible for) it is a remarkable achievement.
       Of course, Schmidt himself remains woefully neglected in the English speaking world -- which was what led me to write my Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy (get your copy at or; it's also available on Kindle (get your copy at or It is -- I like to think -- a helpful introductory overview of Schmidt and his work -- and some introduction is helpful, I believe, before you take the Bottom's Dream-plunge. (Unfortunately, there's not much else on Schmidt in English, short of a few academic volumes.)
       Anyway, I hope those literary editors, etc. are paying attention and assigning pieces on the book, and I'll certainly keep you posted on the coverage that does appear.
       Meanwhile: go ahead ! be brave ! pick up a copy and tackle it yourself ! (Lift with the knees when picking it up, however; this is one heavy book. And you probably want to clear your desk -- both for the space and time you'll need to devote to it -- or at least set up a nice and very sturdy bookstand to actually read the damn thing.)

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

       Literary prizes: French longlists

       The big French literary prizes have started coming out with their longlists:

        - the prix Goncourt -- the biggest of them all -- has announced its 1ère sélection; unlike most literary prizes the Goncourt goes through four rounds (not the usual three), so this is sort of the long(er) list, with long- and short-list to follow, and then finally the winner.
       Books by quite a few authors who have other works available in English made the list, including: Natacha Appanah, Jean-Paul Dubois, Régis Jauffret, Luc Lang, Laurent Mauvignier, and Yasmina Reza.

        - the prix Renaudot -- second fiddle to the Goncourt, but with a jury that includes Nobel laureate J.-M. G. Le Clézio -- has announced its longlists too, one for best novel (18 titles) and one for non-fiction (6 titles).
       There is some Goncourt-overlap -- perhaps most surprisingly (to me) Régis Jauffret doubles up; so does Yasmina Reza. And Simon Liberati's French spin on Emma Cline's The Girls -- well, at least another variation of the Manson story --, California girls, is also on this longlist.

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

       Literary prize: Nigeria Prize for Literature shortlist

       From a longlist of eleven they've now announced a shortlist of three remaining contenders for the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature; see, for example, Prisca Sam-Duru's report in Vanguard.
       Night Dancer, by Chika Unigwe, is still in the running -- and she won the prize in 2012, the last time it was awarded in the prose fiction category (it rotates annually through four types of writing), while another finalist, Elnathan John, has also twice been shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing.
       The winner will be announced next month.

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

6 September 2016 - Tuesday

Literary prizes: in the Philippines - Literaturpreis Alpha shortlist
Fragile Travelers review

       Literary prizes: in the Philippines

       They've announced the finalists for the 35th National Book Awards in the Philippines -- with only two English-language novels left in the running.
       Noteworthy also how several publishers dominate some of the categories -- especially Anvil Publishing (whose motto -- "We shape minds" -- seems a bit ... incongruous, given the anvil-logo and -theme ,,,) and the University of the Philippines Press, though note also the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House dominance (four of five) in the 'Best Book of Poetry in English' category.

       Meanwhile, they've also announced that 51 writers are winners of 66th Palanca Awards -- though the official Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards-site remains a bit behind the times.

       (Updated - 7 September): See now also Nickie Wang's related piece in the Manila Standrad, Can a literary award make a body of work popular ?

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

       Literary prize: Literaturpreis Alpha shortlist

       They've announced the nine finalists on the shortlist for the Austrian 'Alpha' literary prize -- selected from 57 submissions.
       This prize is meant to encourage young talents, so the major restriction is that authors can't have published more than three previous works. It's only been around since 2010, but at least one US publisher has been impressed by the selections, as New Vessel has published two previous winners: Milena Michiko Flašar's I Called Him Necktie (2012) and Marjana Gaponenko's Who is Martha ? (2013).
       And, in a time when there are many justified complaints about how little is translated into English by women, and how women are under-represented among what major German publishers bring out, it's worth noting that seven of the nine shortlisted titles are by women.
       One of them, Barbi Marković, has already been on the local radar with her Bernhard-variation, Izlaženje, and her Superheldinnen sounds interesting too -- see the Residenz foreign rights page. Noteworthy, too: it was written: " partly in German, partly in Serbian", the Serbian parts translated into German by Mascha Dabić.

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

       Fragile Travelers review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jovanka Živanović's Fragile Travelers, recently published by Dalkey Archive Press.

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

5 September 2016 - Monday

New issue of the Swedish Book Review | The Doomed City review

       New issue of the Swedish Book Review

       The 2016:2 Issue of the Swedish Book Review is now up, with some of the material freely available -- notably, and most importantly, the reviews.
       Of particular interest -- beside Karin Boye and Torgny Lindgren samples -- is a Q & A with Norvik Press-publisher Janet Garton on the thirtieth anniversary of this wonderful Scandinavian-focused press (who also happen to publish .... uh, the Swedish Book Review ...).

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

       The Doomed City review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's The Doomed City -- a novel they finished, for the drawer, in 1972 and only published when the Soviet Union was tottering, in the late 1980s, and that only now has appeared in English, in Andrew Bromfield's translation, from Chicago Review Press.
       It's rather surprising (and disappointing) this hasn't attracted more attention -- it's the Strugatskys, after all; it's also a very good book.

       Science fiction titles have not fared well at the Best Translated Book Awards -- but then there have been relatively few stand-out works in contention (The World of the End, by Ofir Touché Gafla, is one of the few I can recall that deserved more attention), but this year's judging panel includes Rachel S. Cordasco, who also runs the useful Speculative Fiction in Translation site. That, and the fact that this looks like a better-than-usual year as far as science fiction offerings go (including, for example, Restless Books Cuban offerings, including Agustín de Rojas' The Year 200), means there's some hope for some science fiction to crack the longlist.
       (Ironically, I think the weakest aspect of The Doomed City is Bromfield's translation, as he seems a bit flummoxed by the (Soviet/70s-)period-language and how to handle that.)

       The title of the novel comes, as Boris Strugatsky explains in his Afterword, from the Nicholas Roerich painting of the same name -- and I was flabbergasted to learn that there is actually a (the ?) Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York City (with an excellent website -- worth a look).

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

4 September 2016 - Sunday

Mountain Echoes literary festival reports

       Mountain Echoes literary festival reports

       They held the Mountain Echoes literary festival in Bhutan last weekend.
       You can even watch all nine-plus hours of the first day's events on YouTube (and hopefully they'll edit this and the other days' recordings to make it more readily enjoyable, panel by panel), but if you don't quite have the time/patience for that, there are now several reports on a variety of the proceedings available, including:        And there's a good deal of information at the official site, too, including blog posts by the delegates.

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

3 September 2016 - Saturday

Q & As: Ann Goldstein - Kawakami and Powell | The Subsidiary review

       Q & A: Ann Goldstein

       At the Literary Hub they have Melinda Harvey's The Lifted Brow-Q & A with translator-from-the-Italian Ann Goldstein, of Elena Ferrante-fame, but also translator of, for example, Jhumpa Lahiri's recent In Other Words.

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

       Q & A: Kawakami and Powell

       At the PEN Atlas Tasja Dorkofikis has a Q & A with Japanese author Kawakami Hiromi and translator Allison Markin Powell -- though specifically focusing on The Nakano Thrift Shop, which is only available in the UK for now (get your copy at
       Good to see that Kawakami titles are now regularly appearing in English (even if they aren't making it to both sides of the Atlantic in quite so timely a fashion ...); two are under review at the complete review: Manazuru and The Briefcase (published in the UK as, sigh: Strange Weather in Tokyo).

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

       The Subsidiary review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Matías Celedón's creatively-presented The Subsidiary, just out from Melville House.

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

2 September 2016 - Friday

Best Translated Book Award - the judges | The New York Times' book coverage
A Cage in Search of a Bird review

       Best Translated Book Award - the judges

       At Three Percent Chad Post reveals the judges for the 2017 (judging 2016 releases) (American) Best Translated Book Awards, as well as the tentative announcement dates: 28 March for the longlists, 18 April for the shortlists, and 9 May -- the winners ! (Hopefully, this also means that we're due for a 2016 Translation Database update soon .....)

       Among the fiction judges is Trevor Berrett, of The Mookse and the Gripes, and he offers a brief Looking Ahead To The 2017 Best Translated Book Award.
       He also runs a 'Goodreads'- discussion board on 2017: BTBA Speculation -- and of course you are encouraged to discuss along !

       While the judges have presumably already slogged through much of this year's eligible list, I haven't come across too many sure-fire longlist-titles yet. Among my early predictions:
  • The Man Booker International Prize-winning The Vegetarian, by Han Kang, is the obvious early favorite
  • Arno Schmidt's Bottom's Dream, in John E. Woods career-culminating translation, seems almost hors catégorie, and I suspect it's too ... everything to win the prize, but I can't imagine it not, at the very least, making the (25-title-strong) longlist
  • Antonio Di Benedetto's much-admired 1956 novel, Zama finally made it into English, in Esther Allen's translation, and figures to be an automatic for the longlist too
       Other strong longlist contenders include:
  • The Heart (so the US title), by Maylis de Kerangal
  • Ladivine by Marie NDiaye
  • Moonstone by Sjón
  • On the Edge, by Rafael Chirbes
  • At least one of the many Patrick Modianos coming out this year .....
       Perhaps more of a reach, but among the titles I would be considering:        But, as noted, I haven't read/seen all that much from the eligible pile, and the judges have surely already dug much deeper. At Three Percent they should soon be posting on their judging experiences, so that should help provide some insight too -- and I hope others speculate/comment too, suggesting other titles that they think are worthy of closer consideration.

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

       The New York Times' book coverage

       I noted that The New York Times was consolidating its book coverage, with The New York Times Book Review-editor Pamela Paul now also in charge of the daily edition's (extensive) book coverage, and at Publishers Weekly John Maher now reports on how Under Pamela Paul, a New Books Desk Takes Shape at the 'Times'.
       I am curious to see what the changes will mean, but it's good to hear, for example, that:
Other changes readers can expect to see include a "vast" expansion of online books coverage, along with a more "international approach" to the industry and to reading in general. "I always think it's interesting to know what's been read in Russia, for example," Paul said.
       Also good to hear: "Paul also placed a heavy emphasis on books coverage outside of the traditional review structure".
       There's certainly potential here; now to see what actually happens .....

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

       A Cage in Search of a Bird review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Florence Noiville's A Cage in Search of a Bird, forthcoming from Seagull Books.

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

1 September 2016 - Thursday

(Not) reading in the US | The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir review

       (Not) reading in the US

       The (American) National Endowment for the Arts have released their latest Results from the Annual Arts Basic Survey -- see also the summary press release -- and literary interest apparently continues its slow but steady decline:
(T)he AABS shows a drop in the share of adults reading literature. From 47 percent in 2012, literary-reading rates fell to 45 percent in 2013, and to 43.1 percent in 2015.
       Women read a lot more than men (49.8% to 35.9%), and 'Non-Hispanic Whites' (50%) way more than 'Non-Hispanic Blacks' (28.7%), 'Hispanics' (26.7%), and 'Others' (39.2%). Not too surprisingly, the more education a respondent had, the more likely they were to claim they read: 68.1% of those whose 'Highest level of education' was graduate school, vs. only 11.6% who haven't gotten beyond grade school. Age-wise, the spread is more even -- with the lowest percentages being the 75-and-overs (39.7%) and those 35 to 44 (40.1%).

       (Updated - 2 September): But compare now the Pew Research Center findings on Book Reading 2016 reported by Andrew Perrin:
Following a slight overall decline in book readership between 2011 and 2012, the share of American adults who read books in any format has remained largely unchanged over the last four years. Some 73% of Americans report that they have read at least one book in the last year.
       There are of course difference in the two surveys as to what constitues a 'book' and 'reading' (the NEA foucses on the more-narrowly defined 'literature', and only asks about reading 'not required for work or school'); still, interesting to see the divergence.
       (Note that the Pew survey also looks into the formats people read in, print v. e-book, as well as the devices they use.)

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

       The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Susan Daitch's new novel, The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir.

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

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