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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 31 October 2016

21 October: American Pastoral, the movie | New Books in German at 20 | Birth of a Dream Weaver review
22 October: Dutch/Flemish overviews | Prix Interallié (semi-)shortlist | Translated from the Japanese, forthcoming in 2017 | Translation in ... Egypt
23 October: Dylan and the Nobel saga, cont'd. | The Evenings, finally in English | Revolution 2020 review
24 October: Elif Shafak Q & A | Ring of Lies reviews
25 October: New issue of World Literature Today | Words without Borders profile
26 October: Prizes: Man Booker Prize - Governor General's Literary Awards - Prix Femina | Prize finalists: Goncourt and Renaudot - Augustpriset | The Neustadt Festival
27 October: Irish Book Awards shortlists | Peter Weiss review
28 October: Q & As: Biblioasis/Stephen Henighan - Tomáš Zmeškal | Literaturpreis Alpha
29 October: Dylan to try to see if he can fit Stockholm visit in ? | PW's 'Best Books of 2016' | Online literary platforms
30 October: Canadian literary prize analysis | Children's books in ... Iran
31 October: Top Spanish-language books of the past 25 years ? | The Explosion Chronicles review

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31 October 2016 - Monday

Top Spanish-language books of the past 25 years ?
The Explosion Chronicles review

       Top Spanish-language books of the past 25 years ?

       Babelia, at El País, is celebrating its 25th anniversary, so they've asked 50 críticos, escritores y libreros (each of whom got to select five titles) to determine Los mejores libros en español de los últimos 25 años -- the top Spanish-language books of the past 25 years. [Unfortunately, the 'list' is presented as a slideshow -- almost reason enough to not click onto, much less through it .....]
       Several of these titles haven't been translated into English yet (Borges, sigh ...), but of those that have, several are under review at the complete review:        A solid list, for the most part, though of course there's a lot you could argue about; the one glaring oversight, in my mind, is The Marx Family Saga, by Juan Goytisolo.

       (Updated - 1 November): They do actually offer a convenient list -- that also includes the next 75 top titles (listed alphabetically, not by rank, however). Still no Goytisolo, however.

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

       The Explosion Chronicles review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yan Lianke's The Explosion Chronicles, just out in the US (and coming to the UK in a few months).

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

30 October 2016 - Sunday

Canadian literary prize analysis | Children's books in ... Iran

       Canadian literary prize analysis

       Brian Bethune takes: 'A closer look at the Gillers, the Writer's [sic] Trust and the Governor General awards' in Maclean's, in considering Who wins Canada's literary prizes -- and why.

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

       Children's books in ... Iran

       Several US reviewers have expressed some concerns about the age-appropriateness of Elena Ferrante's kid's book, The Beach at Night, just (about) out in English -- for reasons silly (the use of the word "shit") and more reasonable (it is a very dark tale that may well be (way) too much for the youngsters to handle).
       Meanwhile in Iran they're apparently more tolerant -- at least of depictions that are unthinkable in US kid's books: as Shabnam von Hein reports at DeutscheWelle, Children's books in Iran glorify violence. And, yes, those picture-book illustrations of hanged kitty and hanged puppy are ... deeply disturbing.
       This is not okay, folks. Still, it would have been interesting to get comments from the publishers, authors, or illustrators as well, or official sources, explaining why this is permitted (or encouraged ?) while, for example, showing a woman's uncovered head is considered unacceptable.

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

29 October 2016 - Saturday

Dylan to try to see if he can fit Stockholm visit in ?
PW's 'Best Books of 2016' | Online literary platforms

       Dylan to try to see if he can fit Stockholm visit in ?

       Bob Dylan, the 2016 Nobel laureate, is apparently much more eager to put on his white-tie outfit and pick up the Nobel Prize than he's let on so far (see, for example, my previous mention), telling Edna Gunderson, in an exclusive in The Telegraph that he can see himself taking part in the ceremonies:
"Absolutely," he says. "If it's at all possible."
       It's not exactly clear what difficulties Dylan foresees -- visa problems ? no available flights at this late date ? -- but, hey, at least he's apparently not turning the prize down (though of course there's always time for a dramatic gesture at the ceremonies themselves ...). You can practically hear the Swedish Academy collectively sighing with relief (though I still imagine a still-disgruntled chortle or two in the background).
       The picture Gunderson offers is of a Dylan both surprised at and pleased about the honor -- though, sure, he can understand why they think he's deserving, admitting:
"Some [of my own] songs [...] definitely are Homeric in value"
       So now fevered speculation can focus on what form his 'Nobel Lecture' and his 'Banquet Speech' will take. Will he bring his guitar ? Will he sing ? Can he be convinced not to ?

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

       PW's 'Best Books of 2016'

       Well, the year is almost 5/6th over, and that's apparently late enough to start with the 'best books of the year'-lists (not that we haven't seen a lot of 'best books of the year so far'-lists already ...), and Publishers Weekly now has its big list(s) up: 150 best books, including a top 10, as well as the best in various categories (such as fiction).
       Predictably, not many books covered at the complete review made the cut -- though it's good to see a decent number of books in translation among the selected titles --, and only one from the top ten does: The Vegetarian, by Han Kang.
       Two more are also covered from the more extensive fiction list: One Hundred Twenty-One Days, by Michèle Audin, and Zama, by Antonio Di Benedetto.

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

       Online literary platforms

       In the Daily Nation Gloria Mwaniga considers the Literary graveyard that is the modern digital platform.
       On the one hand, she welcomes the impressive new Kenya-based Enkare Review (which is definitely worth a look), but she also wonders:
Haven't we witnessed the premature births and deaths of so many start-ups in the Kenyan digital literary space ? [...] What happens to the promise-laden journals and magazines started by a coterie of writers and individuals ? How come they never survive past the fifth year ?
       And she is particularly concerned about the consequences for writing, given all this venue-proliferation:
Tragically, though, even as more publishers are being created, the writing side of the business seems to be suffering. For half-baked writers now get to publish their half-baked stories easily, thanks to the unstructured online spaces which lack the keen guiding hands of expert editors.
       And she warns:
The poorly structured literacy spaces may be a quicksand for the younger writer who never transcends its lustre, because there is no growth in moving from one poor online magazine to another low quality space, where there are neither credible editors nor a critical reading mass because the magazine is never able to invite or survive the kind of scrutiny needed for their next level of growth.
       (I'd suggest that similar complaints have long been voiced re. pre-digital-age small (maga)zines and the like .....)

       (Updated - 6 November): See now also James Murua suggesting that From these digital literary graveyards will rise the next Ngugi.

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

28 October 2016 - Friday

Q & As: Biblioasis/Stephen Henighan - Tomáš Zmeškal | Literaturpreis Alpha

       Q & A: Biblioasis/Stephen Henighan

       At the Asymptote weblog Sarah Moses has a 'Meet the Publisher'-Q & A with translator and Biblioasis-editor Stephen Henighan on Globalization, Translation, and The Avant-garde.
       And great to hear that there's a: "new Ondjaki novel, Os Transparentes, that I've just finished translating".

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

       Q & A: Tomáš Zmeškal

       At the Words without Borders weblog Jessie Chaffee has a Q & A with the Czech Love Letter in Cuneiform-author, in Deciphering the Past Through Fiction: An Interview with Tomáš Zmeškal.

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

       Literaturpreis Alpha

       No word yet at the official (supporting) site(s), last I checked, but they're reporting that Superheldinnen, by Barbi Marković, has won this year's Literaturpreis Alpha.
       Marković is the author of the inetresting Izlaženje, and this one -- written in both German and Serbian (with translations by Mascha Dabić) -- sounds like it has potential too. See also the (English) Residenz Verlag foreign rights page) describing it as: "an ode to pessimism").

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

27 October 2016 - Thursday

Irish Book Awards shortlists | Peter Weiss review

       Irish Book Awards shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for the many Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards, in a wide variety of (apparently all also sponsored) categories -- though somewhat disappointingly, Irish-language fiction does not seem to rate highly here.
       The winners will be announced 16 November.

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

       Peter Weiss review

       Just in time for the Peter Weiss-centenary (8 November) comes Werner Schmidt's biography, Peter Weiss: Leben eines kritischen Intellektuellen, the most recently-reviewed title at the complete review.
       I suppose all the German papers are waiting until the anniversary before posting their coverage -- I haven't seen any yet -- and I wonder whether there will be more general English-language Weiss-coverage anywhere. At the World Socialist Web Site Stefan Steinberg does offer an overview of sorts, in The false friends of Peter Weiss, German dramatist, filmmaker and novelist.

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

26 October 2016 - Wednesday

Prizes: Man Booker Prize - Governor General's Literary Awards - Prix Femina
Prize finalists: Goncourt and Renaudot - Augustpriset
The Neustadt Festival

       Prize: Man Booker Prize

       The Man Booker Prize is probably the leading English-language novel prize, and they've announced that this year's prize goes to The Sellout (by Paul Beatty).

       The Sellout is not yet under review at the complete review; see instead the publicity pages at Oneworld and Picador, or get your copy at or

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

       Prizes: Governor General's Literary Awards

       The Canada Council for the Arts has announced the winners of this year's Governor General's Literary Awards.
       Do Not Say We Have Nothing, by Madeleine Thien, fell short at the Man Booker Prize, but did win as best English-language fiction, while Au péril de la mer, by Dominique Fortier, won the French fiction prize.

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

       Prizes: Prix Femina

       They've announced the winners of the prix Femina in its three categories, with Le garçon (by Marcus Malte) taking the big prize, Rabih Alameddine's An Unnecessary Woman pipping Petina Gappah's The Book of Memory five votes to four for the 'Femina étranger' (their foreign fiction category), and a Ghislaine Dunan book winning the 'Femina essai' (their non-fiction category).
       It doesn't appear that any Marcus Malte titles have been translated into English yet, but he's written quite an interesting variety.

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

       Prize finalists: Goncourt and Renaudot

       The two most prestigious French literary prizes are the prix Goncourt and the prix Renaudot, and they've now announced their shortlists: the Goncourt is down to just four titles, while the Renaudot has five titles left in the running for their fiction prize, and three contending for non.
       Chanson douce, by Leila Slimani, and Cannibales, by Régis Jauffret, are in the running for both prizes. Nothing by (the quite young) Slimani appears to be available in English, but we've seen a few Jauffrets -- Lacrimosa and Severe.
       The winners will be announced 3 November.

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

       Prize finalists: Augustpriset

       The Augustpriset is the leading Swedish book prize, and they've now announced the finalists in the various categories this year.
       Among the contenders for the 'skönlitterära' prize are books by Lars Norén and by The Helios Disaster-author (and, yes, that guy's wife), Linda Boström Knausgård.
       The winners will be announced 28 November.

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

       The Neustadt Festival

       Dubravka Ugrešić now gets to pick up her Neustadt Prize, as part of the Neustadt Festival of International Literature & Culture, which runs from 26 to 28 October -- surely well worth attending if you're in the (Oklahoma) neighborhood.

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

25 October 2016 - Tuesday

New issue of World Literature Today | Words without Borders profile

       New issue of World Literature Today

       The November-December issue of World Literature Today is up -- and this month (well, these months ...) it's 'Women Writers - cover to cover'.
       And they do mean cover to cover: even the book review section only covers written-by-women books this time around (a lot of good stuff, too -- quite a few of which are under review at the complete review already).
       Lots of worthwhile articles (and interviews, poetry, etc.), as always !

       [Apparently their current deal is access to five free articles a month [or, you know, just clear your cookies, for an endless supply, like with The New York Times, etc.], but if you're interested in international literature this is pretty much a must-subscribe.]

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

       Words without Borders profile

       In the Forward Aviya Kushner profiles Words without Borders and its editorial director, Susan Harris, in Why This Literary Translator Will Do Yiddish -- but Not Haruki Murakami, with some interesting information about the invaluable site.

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

24 October 2016 - Monday

Elif Shafak Q & A | Ring of Lies reviews

       Elif Shafak Q & A

       At Deutsche Welle Sabine Peschel has a Q & A with Author Elif Shafak: 'What happens in Turkey has repercussions beyond'.

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

       Ring of Lies reviews

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Roni Dunevich's thriller, Ring of Lies.
       This is the third in a series, but, in too-typical-US/UK-publisher form, the first (and so far only) volume available in English .....

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

23 October 2016 - Sunday

Dylan and the Nobel saga, cont'd. | The Evenings, finally in English
Revolution 2020 review

       Dylan and the Nobel saga, cont'd.

       A couple of days ago I noted that Bob Dylan was still ignoring the Swedish Academy, and had not given any signs of acknowledgement to them regarding the Nobel Prize they want to bestow on him -- and how this whole growing fiasco was both bad for the 'Nobel Prize in Literature'-brand, as well as how it well may lead to a big shift back to far more conservative decision-making as far as future laureates go, as the pro-Dylan faction of the Swedish Academy that presumably pushed the decision through is being thoroughly humiliated by their idol.
       Things haven't improved since then, with the notable news being:
  • On Dylan's official website there was, briefly, mention of his winning the prize -- a mention that was, however, soon deleted; see, for example, the Entertainment Weekly report

  • Swedish academician Per Wästberg commented on the situation, noting that the ball is in Dylan's court and they'll just wait and see -- admitting that there's not really that big a rush, (perhaps unwisely) noting that: "Han kan nog dröja med att lämna besked tills väldigt nära själva festen" ('He can put off a reply until close to the festivities'). But also Wästberg admitted/suggested: "Man kan ju säga att det är oartigt och arrogant" ('One can say this is impolite and arrogant').

  • The Swedish Academy has released a press release, signed by personal secretary Sara Danius, emphasizing that Per's comments are not official -- this was: "Mr Wästberg’s private opinion and is not to be taken as the official standpoint of the Swedish Academy"

       Dylan is of course free to do as he pleases -- though of course the polite thing really would be to give the Swedish Academy a call and tell them what exactly his stand on getting the prize is.
       As I mentioned before, while this makes for short-term (melo)dramatics, whatever Dylan chooses to do (or not do) doesn't really matter much -- beyond for those hoping to get a free concert in Stockholm in early December.
       Meanwhile, much of the long term damage has already been done -- though its extent remains unknown. It's hard to believe the Swedish Academy stands united behind their choice any longer -- the week's delay in announcing the prize suggests there was considerable disagreement going into this, and that quite a few members had to be won over, and they are presumably mighty pissed right about now at having played a part in drawing the venerable institution into this circus. I can only assume there will be a backlash -- and I am very curious how that turns out.

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

       The Evenings, finally in English

       As I've mentioned quite a few times, Gerard Reve's The Evenings is one of the most famous novels never to have been translated into English -- a situation that is only now being rectified, as Pushkin Press are coming out with a translation, by Sam Garrett; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or
       It's nice to see Dalya Alberge's big preview-article in The Observer, but Dutch to share their dark masterpiece, 70 years on makes it sound like the Dutch were holding it back for all these years (when instead it was just US/UK publishers who couldn't be bothered to publish it). (He, and it, were certainly important enough to rate a mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction.)

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

       Revolution 2020 review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Chetan Bhagat's 2011 novel, Revolution 2020: Love. Corruption. Ambition.

       Two of the three -- and sometimes all three -- Chetan Bhagat novels under review at the complete review almost always feature among the fifteen most popular reviews each month; I suspect this one will enjoy similar popularity.
       I am a bit behind in my coverage of Bhagat's books: as popular as they are in India, they have not taken off in the US/UK, and are much harder to conveniently come by; I only finally came across a (used, US$1.00) copy of this one a couple of weeks ago.

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

22 October 2016 - Saturday

Dutch/Flemish overviews | Prix Interallié (semi-)shortlist
Translated from the Japanese, forthcoming in 2017 | Translation in ... Egypt

       Dutch/Flemish overviews

       With the Netherlands and Flanders as Guest of Honour at the currently on-going Frankfurt Book Fair more attention is being paid to the region and, for example, Eric Visser now offers an overview of Low Countries: lofty ideals in The Bookseller.

       See also my overview of 'Contemporary Dutch fiction from a foreign perspective' from 2010, in De Revisor -- and the considerable amount of Dutch literature under review at the complete review. (Dutch ranks an improbable sixth among all languages the books under review were written in -- just ahead of (though for all intents and purposes roughly the same as) Italian and Arabic.)

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

       Prix Interallié (semi-)shortlist

       The prix Interallié isn't one of the top-tier French literary prizes -- high second-tier, let's say, though it does have the distinction of being the last-to-announce of the (more or less) major prizes, on 8 November -- and its semi-shortlist (like the Goncourt, it goes through four lists (long, semi-short, short, winner) rather than the more usual three) has just been announced.
       I probably wouldn't have bothered to mention this, except that it is a nice demonstration of how differently the French do things: of the twelve titles from the first round, seven gave been cut -- and one that didn't make the first round, Benoît Duteurtre's Livre pour adultes, suddenly pops on the second-round list. (Think of the drama if a book that hadn't been longlisted for the Man Booker found its way onto the shortlist .....)
       While unusual, it's hardly the first time this has happened with French literary prizes -- my guess is that the judges simply didn't read all the eligible/submitted books by the first deadline, and are willing to adjust and take into account their oversights.

       (Duteurtre isn't unknown in English -- and his Customer Service and The Little Girl and the Cigarette are both under review at the complete review.)

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

       Translated from the Japanese, forthcoming in 2017

       No doubt, an early version of the 2017 Translation Database will soon be up at Three Percent, but it's good we already can get a limited preview of what we can look forward to in translations from the Japanese, helpfully collected at Lines from the Horizon.
       Los of big names here, and some very fine stuff.

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

       Translation in ... Egypt

       At Al-Ahram Weekly Rania Khallaf profiles the head of Egypt's National Centre for Translation, Anwar Mogeith, in Keeping the flame alight.
       He speaks about both translation into Arabic, and of Egyptian books for foreign audiences -- though noting:
"Previous translations done by the GEBO [General Egyptian Book Organization] were full of problems and the books ended up in the warehouses." The choices were made by Egyptians, he says, without any awareness of the target markets
       Government organizations are often not well-suited for this task, because of the (non-literary) agendas of many of those involved, so it will be interesting to see how/whether they approach this.

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

21 October 2016 - Friday

American Pastoral, the movie | New Books in German at 20
Birth of a Dream Weaver review

       American Pastoral, the movie

       I posted my review of Philip Roth's American Pastoral a few days ago -- just in time for the (limited) release of the movie version (see the official site) -- and now the first reviews of that are out.

       The headlines pretty much say it all -- though admittedly a few reviews were more positive than others:        I think I will be skipping it. (But then I skip most movies, especially literary adaptations.)

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

       New Books in German at 20

       New Books in German bills itself as an: 'essential resource for publishers, translators, booksellers and readers', and well, while 'essential' is probably a bit of a stretch, it is certainly a useful resource -- and it has now turned twenty, and at English PEN editor Charlotte Ryland and acting editor Jen Calleja now "discuss the last -- and next -- twenty years of the magazine", in New Books in German at 20.

       [Note that as a long-time member of the US 'editorial committee' I have been (and continue to be) peripherally associated with some of the doings of NBG.]

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

       Birth of a Dream Weaver review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the third of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o's memoirs, A Writer's Awakening, Birth of a Dream Weaver.

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

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