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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 30 November 2016

21 November: Chinese literature in ... Africa | Booksellers that publish
22 November: International DUBLIN Literary Award longlist | William Trevor (1928-2016) | The Tales of Ise review
23 November: Jan Michalski Prize for Literature | Whitbread Costa Book Awards shortlists | The Tale of Aypi review
24 November: Books of the year lists: TLS's 'Books of the Year' | NYTBR's 100 Notable Books | Amos Oz Q & A | The Osamu Tezuka Story review
25 November: Hexed translation ? | Murakami in Copenhagen Odense | Writing in ... India
26 November: Prix Roger-Caillois | Nietzsche on His Balcony review
27 November: More best books lists | 'Non-western' recommendations | The Clothing of Books review
28 November: Gift-giving season - suggestions | Trysting review
29 November: Reading in ... Viet Nam | Serhiy Zhadan profile | Turbid Rivers review
30 November: Augustpriset | Julian Barnes Q & A | The Absolute Gravedigger review

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30 November 2016 - Wednesday

Augustpriset | Julian Barnes Q & A | The Absolute Gravedigger review


       They've announced the winners of the August Prize, the major Swedish literary prize, with the fiction prize (well, the svenska skönlitterära bok-prize, but you know ...) going to De polyglotta älskarna, by Lina Wolff; see also the Bonnier Rights (English) information page.

       Wolff's Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs was published earlier this year by And Other Stories; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or; appealing though it sounds, I have to admit I didn't take to it.

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

       Julian Barnes Q & A

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Pavel Basinsky talks to the author coming to the non/fiction book fair in Moscow (full fair name: International Book Fair for High-Quality Fiction and Non-Fiction) in the provocatively titled piece: Julian Barnes: Russians had 40 years to write Shostakovich novel but didn't.
       Interesting titbit: Barnes visited the Soviet Union in 1965 !
       (Quite a few Barnes titles are under review at the complete review -- England, England ! etc. -- but I haven't been able to bring myself to consider The Noise of Time yet; get your copy at or

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

       The Absolute Gravedigger review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Vítězslav Nezval's surrealist collection, The Absolute Gravedigger, out in an (as always) beautiful edition from Twisted Spoon Press.

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

29 November 2016 - Tuesday

Reading in ... Viet Nam | Serhiy Zhadan profile | Turbid Rivers review

       Reading in ... Viet Nam

       At the TLS Giang Nguyen-Thu looks at Popular tastes in Vietnam -- including literary ones.
       Among her observations, of some twenty years ago:
Nguyen Huy Thiep, whose writing provides a poignant account of daily struggles, was the most widely read author in Vietnam. And yet outside the country, Thiep was eclipsed by Bao Ninh and Duong Thu Huong, whose work better pandered to the image of Vietnam in the Western imagination -- a land of warfare and socialist dictatorship.
       (I'm pleased to note that all three authors find a mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction .....)
       A surprising copy-editing slip -- hey, this is the TLS; I expect better -- crops up, too:
By 2010, literature laden with politics no longer dominated the front shelves of Hanoian bookstores. Instead, we saw a colourful mixture of globally popular titles, such as the Twilight saga, Harry Potter and books by Marc Levi.
       Surely, that's Replay (etc.) author Marc Levy.
       I'd love to see this kind of piece about more corners ofthe world.

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

       Serhiy Zhadan profile

       At The New Yorker's Page-Turner weblog Marci Shore profiles The Bard of Eastern Ukraine, Where Things are Falling Apart -- Voroshilovgrad (etc.) author Serhiy Zhadan.

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

       Turbid Rivers review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ch'ae Man-Sik's 1930s novel, Turbid Rivers, one from the latest batch -- just out -- of Dalkey Archive Press' Library of Korean Literature titles (and probably one of the most reader-friendly -- even if it definitely edges close to (pure) melodrama).

       Note that, despite the claims (and cover-images) at both the publisher's site and, the finished copy went with the plural in the title (Turbid Rivers), not, as it would otherwise appear, the singular.

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

28 November 2016 - Monday

Gift-giving season - suggestions | Trysting review

       Gift-giving season - suggestions

       We've already reached the height of books-of-the-year-lists season -- put together prematurely, presumably in the hopes and expectation that these are what readers might find useful in making their seasonal gift-giving plans. I'm afraid I can/t/won't oblige with my own best-of-the-year list yet -- there's still more than a month of reading left, and I figure I have at least twenty reviews left in/ahead of me, along with a handful more books I'll read (and dozens to at least leaf through and consider).
       Still, I'd like to be helpful -- and, in fact, don't think my own best-of list is really an ideal gift-giving-guide; I suspect readers find my reviews and raves and dismissals more useful for their own reading-purposes than in selecting appropriate gifts. So here a few thoughts and suggestions:

       First off, a bit of self-promotion: many of you are already familiar with it, but if not: my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction (see also the Columbia University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or is something you might want to look into. While I do think this would, of course, make a great Christmas gift, you might actually want to get one now for your personal use, since it might help you find just the right book for you to give to the harder-to-please enthusiastic readers among your friends and family.
       (Wide-ranging reader Tyler Cowen recently posted his always-interesting selection of Best fiction of 2016 at Marginal Revolution and kindly also includes the CR Guide there -- noting: "If you could own only ten works on literature, this should be one of them".)

       Beyond that: I tend to think that Christmas (etc.) book-gifts should be not-quite-ordinary -- not necessarily, as noted, the best-of-the-year (everyone's already heard about -- and considered getting -- that latest National Book Award (or whatever) winner), but slightly unusual or off-beat, something that the person you're giving it to might not have thought of getting themselves.
       So, in a variety of categories, some suggestions:

        - This year's over-the-top literary must-have surely is Arno Schmidt's enormous Bottom's Dream , in the great (and many-prize-winning) John E. Woods' career-culminating translation: if you want to go big, you surely can hardly go bigger; get your copy at or
       Yes, this definitely isn't a gift for everyone, and very few readers are likely to make it all the way through -- it's an incredible undertaking -- but those who can appreciate it will really appreciate it. This oversize volume might not be something readers dare splurge on on their own, and it's impressive enough as book and object to make a welcome library or desktop adornment even for those who can't find the time or energy to actually read it. (I am a bit disappointed that this hasn't gotten more press coverage yet -- there's no doubt that this is one of the 'books of the year', by any measure.)
       (Self-servingly I suggest also you bundle it with the much slighter read, my little Arno Schmidt-monograph, which serves as a useful introduction to the author; get your copy at or

        - I'm not big on biographies, or indeed most non-fiction, but there are a couple of stand-out volumes that aren't fiction that even I can see as good gifts:
  • 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei by Eliot Weinberger is the ideal stocking-stuffer for any reader you know who is interested in translation. It really does fit in a stocking (really !), but also offers as much insight into translation as books many times its size. And the just-released re-issue comes with more ways !
  • Thomas Bernhard: 3 Days is a film book, with just the stills from the film, and Bernhard's words (and some background), and it's a beautful thing -- a must have for any Bernhard fan (and that's everyone you know, right ? because surely you wouldn't associate with anyone who isn't a fan, right ?).
        - What do you get the mystery fan ?
       How about some older classics finally available in translation -- like Pushkin Press' series of Frédéric Dard books (Bird in a Cage; Crush; The Wicked Go To Hell). Bonus: Bird in a Cage is a Christmas-time tale. (Oh, yeah ... but kind of bleak dark ... so maybe ... not ?)
       And if your mystery reading friends and family haven't discovered Pascal Garnier yet, well, Gallic Books keeps bringing them out and they shouldn't be missed; among this year's publications: Too Close to the Edge and The Eskimo Solution.

        - Science fiction ?
       Again, I reach back to what's new in translation -- and The Doomed City by brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky is certainly a not-to-be-missed major work. Meanwhile, Restless Books continue bringing out Cuban science fiction in translation, and they haven't disappointed yet either: The Year 200 by Agustín de Rojas is a nice fat volume for winter reading.

        - I'm going to avoid any traditional-fiction suggestions -- lots of good stuff, but also taste/interest-dependent, so it's hard to make general suggestions. One exception I'll make: I think Alejandro Zambra's creative Multiple Choice will work for a lot of people.

        - In the more serious/classic category: I've been kind of disappointed by how little coverage and attention the very much under-appreciated Murty Classical Library of India has been, and that's something you might want to introduce folks to: Bharavi's Arjuna and the Hunter seems an ideal volume to start with.

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

       Trysting review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Emmanuelle Pagano's variations on love, Trysting.

       In the UK this is published by And Other Stories, and in the US by Two Lines Press -- which is like a double seal of approval.

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

27 November 2016 - Sunday

More best books lists | 'Non-western' recommendations
The Clothing of Books review

       More best books lists

       In The Guardian they have part one of their 'Best books of 2016', where a solid list of writers: 'choose their best reads of 2016'. [Updated - 28 November]: And now they have part two too.

       In The Telegraph they have their: 'top critics count down the year's best, from 50 to 1', in The top 50 books of the year.

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

       'Non-western' recommendations

       A pretty short list, but a decent idea: in The Guardian a variety of authors suggest The non-western books that every student should read.
       Again, this barely scratches the surface -- but, hey, at least they're scratching .....
       And several of the titles are under review at the complete review:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Clothing of Books review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jhumpa Lahiri's The Clothing of Books.
       This was a literary festival keynote address -- given and written in Italian. And this translation is by her husband.

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

26 November 2016 - Saturday

Prix Roger-Caillois | Nietzsche on His Balcony review

       Prix Roger-Caillois

       The French prix Roger-Caillois now has four categories: one for a Latin American author, one for a French author, one for an essayist, and -- newly added this year -- one for a translator.
       It has a solid list of laureates -- especially in the Latin American category, where winners include Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, César Aira, and, rather late in the day, Roberto Bolaño (he got the prize in 2009 -- six years after his death ...). As is too common with French literary prizes, there is no handy awards-site; indeed, the best overview is, embarrassingly, the authority of last, desperate resort, the Wikipedia page ......
       They've now announced this year's winners, and Livres Hebdo has the run-down, as Spilt Milk-author Chico Buarque took the Latin American prize, and A Modest Proposal-author Régis Debray took the French prize.

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

       Nietzsche on His Balcony review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Carlos Fuentes' (just) posthumous novel, Nietzsche on His Balcony, due out shortly from Dalkey Archive Press.

       (Note that neither the cover nor the page count (actually: 332 (+ iv)) on the Amazon page resemble those of the actual book. But I hope you're not buying it just for the cover .....)

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

25 November 2016 - Friday

Hexed translation ? | Murakami in Copenhagen | Writing in ... India

       Hexed translation ?

       A fascinating review of Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt's Hex in The Oxonian Review reveals something I hadn't heard/noticed before:
Nancy Forest-Flier's 2016 English version of Hex is not a mere translation. Olde Heuvelt decided to seize an opportunity not many writers are in a position to do: he rewrote the book for the translation, creating a novel with a different setting and ending, a 'second edition' that is usually only produced by textbook writers. This version was then translated to English in consultation with Olde Heuvelt, who has a degree in American literature. Whereas the revision of the storyline is largely beneficial, the Dutch reader would be surprised to discover that Olde Heuvelt has uprooted the story from its Dutch setting and planted it in a village in New York State instead. Only the witch remains Dutch.
       US/UK readers might be ... surprised too: I only briefly leafed through a library copy of the (US edition of the) book and remained unaware of any revisions on this scale (and there's no indication of these on the copyright page either) -- though admirably the author does discuss doing this at his US publisher's weblog. (Still, I'd really like to see this announced and discussed much more prominently in/around the book itself, so that it's clear to potential purchasers and readers what has happened here.)
       Even if it's all a change for the better, it does raise some interesting issues -- including for, for example, the Best Translated Book Award judging of the book (it's eligible for next year's prize): how much does the transformation of the book weigh on judging it ?

       See also the Tor publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Murakami in Copenhagen Odense

       Murakami Haruki recently picked up the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award (previous winners: Paulo Coelho, J.K.Rowling, Isabel Allende, and Salman Rushdie, so, yeah ...), and in The Asahi Shimbun Kan Kashiwazaki reports on some of the events at and surrounding that, in Murakami: As a translator, I believe in 'power of translation' -- though not without ridiculously (and inaccurately) noting: "Murakami rarely makes public appearances or talks about his work", as if this was something special and exceptional (it's not).
       Murakami's acceptance speech in Copenhagen Odense [as a reader correctly points out to me,and I should have noticed ...] is available -- in Danish; presumably they'll eventually get around to posting the English translation too, though they certainly don't seem to be in much of a rush.

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

       Writing in ... India

       The Economist reports on what they call The latest craze among Indian readers -- though maybe it's not that new, given that they note:
The man credited with inaugurating this mythological revival is Ashok Banker, once better known as a literary novelist but who turned to mythological stories in 2003 with an eight-volume Ramayana series
       (Also: 'literary novelist' may be a bit of an exaggeration (hey, I read Ten Dead Admen when it came out ...).)
       Obviously, there's a lot of great material here -- and it's not like authors haven't turned to it before. I would, however, love to see some more creative and experimental approaches.

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

24 November 2016 - Thursday

Books of the year lists: TLS's 'Books of the Year' | NYTBR's 100 Notable Books
Amos Oz Q & A | The Osamu Tezuka Story review

       Books of the year list: TLS's 'Books of the Year'

       In the Times Literary Supplement many, many contributors name their Books of the Year 2016, an always interesting feature that, this year, is available in full online (previously, there was only a sampler freely accessible online).

       Bonus: a much shorter best-of list can be found at the New Statesman: Books of the year: the NS team on their favourites of 2016.

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

       Books of the year list: NYTBR's 100 Notable Books

       At The New York Times Book Review they've announced their 100 Notable Books of 2016.

       Only six of the titles -- four fiction, and two non -- are translations, a big decrease from last year's bumper crop of fourteen. And, revealing just how much the NYTBR and I fundamentally diverge: I've only reviewed one out of the hundred titles (in 2015 it had been six; in 2014, five) -- Han Kang's The Vegetarian (though I should be getting to a handful more, eventually).

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

       Amos Oz Q & A

       This week's By the Book-column in The New York Times Book Review features Amos Oz -- and he was definitely my kind of childhood reader:
I read everything. Anything at all. I read the user's manual of the electric heater, I read novels that were way above my grasp, I read poetry which could only offer me the music of its language while the meaning was still far from me. I read newspapers and magazines of all sorts, leaflets, ads, political manifestoes, dirty magazines, comics. Anything at all.
       Also: among the books he singles out for praise: Yan Lianke's Lenin's Kisses.

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

       The Osamu Tezuka Story review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ban Toshio and Tezuka Productions' The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime, just out -- after nearly a quarter of a century -- in English, from Stone Bridge Press.
       Despite combining two genres I generally avoid -- biography and cartoons -- (and that problematic 'Tezuka Productions' writing credit) ... well, in this case, it's appropriate and, more or less, works.

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

23 November 2016 - Wednesday

Jan Michalski Prize for Literature
Whitbread Costa Book Awards shortlists | The Tale of Aypi review

       Jan Michalski Prize for Literature

       The Jan Michalski Prize for Literature is a CHF50,000 prize: "awarded for works of fiction or non fiction, irrespective of the language in which it is written", and it has a pretty decent track record of selecting good titles.
       The three finalists this year were, fortunately, all novels: The Physics of Sorrow (by Georgi Gospodinov), The Way Things Were (by Aatish Taseer), and Što pepeo priča (by Dževad Karahasan; see the Suhrkamp foreign rights page, and let's hope someone decides to translate this sometime soon ...) -- and they've now announced (though not yet at the official site, last I checked ...) that The Physics of Sorrow has taken the prize.

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

       Whitbread Costa Book Awards shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for this year's Whitbread Costa Book Awards, albeit only in the dreaded pdf format at the official site so far (are you kidding me ? pdf ? you're kidding me, right ?), leading me to reluctantly link you to an outside page -- here at The Guardian -- where, if you scroll down, you can find all the titles in the various categories listed.

       None of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review at this time.

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

       The Tale of Aypi review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of (then still Soviet) Turkmen author Ak Welsapar's The Tale of Aypi, which Glagoslav recently brought out.

       Of course, the book we all want to see is his Cobra; see, for example, Andrew Bromfield's reader's report (warning ! dreaded pdf format !). Any US/UK takers yet ?

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

22 November 2016 - Tuesday

International DUBLIN Literary Award longlist
William Trevor (1928-2016) | The Tales of Ise review

       International DUBLIN Literary Award longlist

       They've announced the 147-title strong (formerly but no longer IMPAC-branded) International DUBLIN Literary Award 2017 longlist -- which is actually more of a starting list, consisting of the 147 titles nominated by libraries in 109 cities and 40 countries.
       The weakness of the selection process is evident, like every year, in the peculiar 'international' selection: while impressively 43 of the titles are in translation, a stunning none of these are translations from the Chinese, Korean, or Japanese (yes, there are more titles in the running with 'Japanese' in the title (one) than there are translated from all of these languages combined ...); there's also only one translation from the Arabic. This isn't merely silly, it's ridiculous.
       The other -- though related -- problem with the selection process is that the libraries doing the selecting tend to be ultra-nationalist in their selections -- something the prize hasn't done near enough to combat. (The problems are related because, for example, no libraries from Korea, or China, or all of Africa (!), or anywhere in the 'Middle East' played along this year -- depriving them also of the chance to nominate their own (since clearly no one else had any interest in doing so).
       So, while somewhat 'international' this disappointingly remains a far from comprehensively global literary prize.

       Quite a few titles are under review at the complete review -- though there are also quite a few that I haven't seen yet.        In the Irish Times Eileen Battersby has an enjoyably opinionated overview (though I don't quite agree with her opinions -- and am disappointed she doesn't take the prize to task for its nominating-weaknesses and -biases).

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

       William Trevor (1928-2016)

       Irish author William Trevor has passed away; see, for example, obituaries in The New York Times and The Guardian.
       Surprisingly, none of his books are under review at the complete review, but see for example his The Art of Fiction Q & A in The Paris Review. And the fat volume of The Collected Stories isn't a bad place to start; get your copy at or

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

       The Tales of Ise review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the latest translation (by Peter MacMillan) and edition (Penguin Classics), of the 伊勢物語, The Tales of Ise.

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

21 November 2016 - Monday

Chinese literature in ... Africa | Booksellers that publish

       Chinese literature in ... Africa

       In The Herald Catherine Gilbert considers: Chinese literature in Africa: Meaningful or simply ceremonial ?
       While the reliance on the UNESCO Index Translationum should be treated with some caution -- it shouldn't be considered definitive -- she does have a valid point that the prevalent:
Filtering Chinese literature through Western intermediaries and languages determines which books are distributed in African countries.
       And that this is problematic.
       Disappointing, too -- if not entirely surprising -- that: "There is also a noticeable shortage of translations into African languages". So it's good to see a Kiswahili translation.
       As to her hopes:
I would suggest that there should be efforts to build collaborations between Chinese and local African publishing houses without going via a European or Western intermediary.
       It's a nice idea, but seems very unlikely.

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

       Booksellers that publish

       In Publishers Weekly Judith Rosen reports that More Independent Booksellers Are Getting Into the Publishing Business (while amazingly managing to avoid mention of the industry standard-bearer, City Lights).
       Still, some interesting examples -- and also good to hear that Deep Velum's bookselling-arm is doing well (and looking to expand with additional stores !).

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

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