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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 July 2017

11 July: Indian book village | Conversations with Vladimir Nabokov review
12 July: 'Most Anticipated' books | Literary notes by Mao | Seagull Books profile
13 July: Leonardo Padura Q & A | Translation in ... Iran | The Reef review
14 July: China's 'most valuable literature IPs' | Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award | Stories from North Korea (?)
15 July: Hawthornden prize | Handke drawings
16 July: Ranking Austens | Like a Fading Shadow review
17 July: Anne Golon (1921-2017) | Spring Garden review
18 July: Online reading in ... China | HBKU Press profile
19 July: New Asymptote | Man Booker International Prize judging panel
20 July: Japanese literary prizes | Remains of Life review

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20 July 2017 - Thursday

Japanese literary prizes | Remains of Life review

       Japanese literary prizes

       They've handed out the Akutagawa and Naoki prizes again, as they do every six months, and, as Daisuke Kikuchi reports in The Japan Times, First-time writer awarded prestigious Akutagawa Prize.
       That's Numata Shinsuke [沼田真佑], who won the Akutagawa Prize for his novel 'Eiri,' [影裏].
       Satō Shōgo [佐藤正午] won the Naoki Prize for his novel, 'Tsuki no Michikake' [月の満ち欠け] ('The Waxing and Waning of the Moon').
       As a debut author, it's not surprising that Numata is unknown in English; Satō, on the other hand, has been a prolific and successful author -- but is as yet untranslated into English. See also the Books from Japan page on Satō, which also introduces two of his (other) titles.

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

       Remains of Life review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Taiwanese author Wu He's Remains of Life, recently out in English from Columbia University Press.
       It's a significant text; as translator Michael Berry notes in his Introduction: "Upon its publication in Taiwan, the novel won virtually every major national literary award".

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

19 July 2017 - Wednesday

New Asymptote | Man Booker International Prize judging panel

       New Asymptote

       The July issue of Asymptote is now available online and, as usual, there's a lot here to keep you busy for the next few days -- "never-before-published writing from 27 countries and 21 languages in one issue".
       Impressive, top (Karin Boye !) to bottom -- definitely recommended.

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

       Man Booker International Prize judging panel

       Yes, Judges announced for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize, with Lisa Appignanesi chairing, and Michael Hofmann, Hari Kunzru, Tim Martin, and Helen Oyeyemi making up the rest of the judging panel.
       The longlist will be announced in March 2018, the shortlist in April, the winner in May. (That's as specific as they've gotten so far.)

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

18 July 2017 - Tuesday

Online reading in ... China | HBKU Press profile

       Online reading in ... China

       Forbes takes a look at the Chinese online-writing phenomenon -- big business, as I've noted --, with Jinshan Hong finding that: China's Online Reading Craze Is So Big It's Challenging Amazon's Kindle.
       As one reader explains:
When reading on Kindle, you are facing a single terminal; when reading Chinese online novels, you are engaging with a community.
       And interesting to see how highly some regard the phenomenon, and its potential abroad:
America has Hollywood; Japan has animation; Korea has TV drama. In the future, China will have online literature.

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

       HBKU Press profile

       What started in 2010 as the Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation is now HBKU Press, and in The Peninsula they have a brief profile, describing how HBKU Press translation works reach wider circles (with as much focus on the translations into as out of Arabic).

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

17 July 2017 - Monday

Anne Golon (1921-2017) | Spring Garden review

       Anne Golon (1921-2017)

       Anne Golon, the French author of the immensely popular Angélique-series -- reportedly selling over 150 million copies worldwide -- has passed away; see, for example, the report in Le Figaro.
       The series never seemed to achieve quite the same popularity in English as it did elsewhere -- perhaps because the books, with which her husband Serge helped her with the research, were bizarrely ascribed to 'Sergeanne Golon'. As explained in an article in Le Monde a few years ago:
Mais lorsque le premier tome d'Angélique, marquise des Anges sort, en 1957, il semble impensable que le nom d'une femme apparaisse seul en couverture. L'éditeur américain propose alors une étrange solution, signer les romans «Sergeanne Golon». «On m'a expliqué que le nom d'un homme ferait plus sérieux. Les journalistes ne pouvaient pas croire qu'une femme puisse être un auteur.»
       But in France (and elsewhere) most everything soon came out as by 'Anne Golon' -- except in English, where 'Sergeanne' remained popular ..... Get your copy of the first volume at or

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

       Spring Garden review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Shibasaki Tomoka's 2014 Akutagawa Prize-winning novel, Spring Garden, out in the UK from Pushkin Press and due out in the US in November.

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

16 July 2017 - Sunday

Ranking Austens | Like a Fading Shadow review

       Ranking Austens

       In The Guardian they get quite a selection of authors -- including Margaret Drabble, Hilary Mantel, Ian McEwan, and Joyce Carol Oates -- to opine on Which is the greatest Jane Austen novel ?
       Conveniently, there's no consensus .....

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

       Like a Fading Shadow review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Antonio Muñoz Molina's Like a Fading Shadow, coming out this week in the US from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and later this year in the UK.

       This is yet another work of fiction which closely follows historical events -- Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassin, James Earl Ray, on the run, in this case (with bonus points for Adolfo Bioy Casares and Juan Carlos Onetti cameos (yeah, not in the Ray sections ...)) -- and much as I enjoy adding to the Real People in Works of Fiction-index, I am tiring some of all this (semi-)historical fiction (but it's hard to get away from -- pretty much every other book I pick up seems to involve some ...).

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

15 July 2017 - Saturday

Hawthornden prize | Handke drawings

       Hawthornden prize

       They've announced that this year's winner of the Hawthornden prize is Mothering Sunday, by Graham Swift.
       The Hawthornden prize is among England's oldest, and has an impressive list of very varied winning titles -- among those under review at the complete review are: David Jones' In Parenthesis (1938), Geoffrey Hill's King Log (1969), and Hilary Mantel's An Experiment in Love (1996). It is also rather low-publicity, without an official site -- and not much internet-notice -- to the extent that The Guardian's report on this year's prize, by one of the five judges, Hermione Lee, is headlined: Graham Swift’s Mothering Sunday wins fiction’s most secretive prize.

       The only Swift title under review at the complete review is The Light of Day, but get your copy of Mothering Sunday at or

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

       Handke drawings

       Like many writers, Peter Handke also has an illustrative itch, and there's an exhibit of his collected drawings, 2007-2017, on now in Berlin, at the Galerie Klaus Gerrit Friese -- with images available on that page.

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

14 July 2017 - Friday

China's 'most valuable literature IPs'
Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award
Stories from North Korea (?)

       China's 'most valuable literature IPs'

       The Hurun Report has released their list of Mopian Hurun Most Valuable Creative Works IP 2017, "ranking the 'Harry Potters' of China, the 100 creative works with the most valuable franchises"; see also the fuller Chinese press release.
       Summing up in the Global Times, Huang Tingting finds Hurun's list of most valuable literature IPs reflects growing power of online works -- as:
The top 10 online literature writers in China have created franchises worth a staggering 1 billion yuan ($150 million) each,
       As I've frequently noted: an area that really should get more attention (and press coverage ...).

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

       Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award

       The Dayton Literary Peace Prizes are a book award that honors books that: "that have led readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions, and political points of view", and aside from honoring a work of fiction and one of non each year, they also award a 'Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award', an author-award that, they've announced, this year will go to Colm Toíbín.

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

       Stories from North Korea (?)

       I reviewed Bandi's The Accusation earlier this year and, unsurprisingly, the story-around-the-stories has continued to attract interest, with Mythili G. Rao now writing about A Collection of North Korean Stories and the Mystery of Their Origins at The New Yorker's Page-Turner weblog.
       Some interesting background about the publishing process -- and some doubters, such as Barbara Demick:
"If I were to put my money on it, I would say the story is not exactly what it seems," she said. "It doesn't mean it's completely forgery," she added. Perhaps, she speculated, the stories could be the work of a defector -- in her experience, most North Koreans have trouble recognizing the regime's internal contradictions until they've spent a significant amount of time outside its borders. "I find it hard to believe that this was written by somebody in North Korea," she said.
       As Rao also notes:
But very few works of North Korean literature are available in English. There's Han Sorya's 1951 novella, "Jackals," [available in Brian Myers' Han Sorya and North Korean Literature] which is often cited as the epitome of juche literature -- propaganda promoting a uniquely North Korean brand of ethnic-nationalist self-reliance. More contemporary work is hard to come by. A smattering of stories from North Korea's official state magazine, Chosun Munhak, and its state-run publishing house have been translated into English in recent years, but most writing about life in North Korea that is accessible to non-Korean readers is built around defector testimony.
       As I noted in my review of the Bandi-stuff, what would be most interesting to see is fiction actually being published in North Korea; it's disappointing that so little of that makes it into English. (And I suspect it would be more revealing -- though in an entirely different way -- than The Accusation-stories.)

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

13 July 2017 - Thursday

Leonardo Padura Q & A | Translation in ... Iran
The Reef review

       Leonardo Padura Q & A

       At the Literary Hub Dwyer Murphy has a Q & A with Leonardo Padura on a Lost Generation of Cubans, and the Arrogance of Trump.
       Padura's most recent novel (in translation) is Heretics, which is discussed here -- and I hadn't realized there was a TV version of his 'Havana'-quartet -- available on Netflix (where they use the original (Spanish) titles of the novels, not the seasonal English ones).

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

       Translation in ... Iran

       Iran is one of the few international copyright holdouts -- leading to the free-for-all of multiple translations of (unprotected foreign) hot titles appearing (as I've often mentioned), and in the Tehran Times they now report on a translator who complains about one of the obvious consequences of this situation: Arsalan Fasihi: Iran's literary world suffers from bad translations.
       He's pretty harsh about some of the translators' (non-)qualifications:
"Many of these translators are not acquainted with the written and literary language in Persian."

"These translators have not read Persian books and cannot write in Persian, and since Persian is their native language they assume that they can be translators," he lamented.
       He also comes to the obvious conclusion:
There is no way to stop this chaos except by joining the Berne convention.
       (I do note that there is something to be said for the chaos too: sure, the (original) authors and publishers get screwed, by not getting a cut of the proceeds, but more variety -- even (or especially ?) in translation -- is generally desirable, giving consumers choice (which they rarely have in the US, for example, except for with translations of older, out-of-copyright titles ...). So maybe it's not all a bad thing ? (The cost-savings -- some of which are presumably passed on to consumers -- of not paying for foreign rights are presumably a market positive too.))

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

       The Reef review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Juan Villoro's The Reef, now out in English, from George Braziller.

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

12 July 2017 - Wednesday

'Most Anticipated' books | Literary notes by Mao | Seagull Books profile

       'Most Anticipated' books

       The Millions now offer their list of the Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2017 Book Preview: 80 US titles that they ... anticipate.
       Only one of them is already under review at the complete review -- Laurent Binet's The Seventh Function of Language -- but I have a handful of others, and look forward to seeing a few more.
       Still: there's a lot beyond these, too, so keep an eye out .....

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

       Literary notes by Mao

       They won't win any calligraphy prizes, but some Mao Zedong 'autograph manuscript notes on classical Chinese literature' were up for auction at Sotheby's yesterday, and the £60,000-80,000 estimate proved to be a woeful under-estimate, as the lot sold for a whopping £704,750.
The notes provide numerous valuable insights into Mao's thinking on literature. Not surprisingly, his attention is mostly focused on the intersection of poetry and politics.
       As to why the notes exist:
Di had difficulty understanding what Mao was saying. On later visits she asked Mao to write his thoughts into a notepad to ease communication, and she also made her own notes of the conversation.
       If his speech wasn't very clear, his writing was only slightly better:

Mao notes

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

       Seagull Books profile

       Via I'm pointed to (yet another ...) profile of The Little Publisher That Could, by Sandip Roy in the current Indian Quarterly -- Seagull Books.

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

11 July 2017 - Tuesday

Indian book village | Conversations with Vladimir Nabokov review

       Indian book village

       This got some coverage in May, when it opened, and at Nupur D'Souza follows up, finding Maharashtra's books village seems like a good idea -- but what do its residents think of the project ?
       The town is Bhilar -- a small town located between two hill stations -- and it is the first 'पुस्तकांचे गाव' ('book village') in India.
       Apparently: "modelled along the lines of Hay on Wye", it seems way different:
The Rajya Marathi Vikas Sanstha chose 25 locations around the village as homes for the new books. The selection criteria were simple: the homes should have enough space for both books and furniture, be located at a convenient distance from the main road and that the home's residents should be willing to join the enterprise as caretakers of the books.
       Yes, most of these book-spaces have apparently been set up in private homes.

       I do like how the official logo in this otherwise-known-for-its-strawberries town covers all the local bases:

Book Village logo

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

       Conversations with Vladimir Nabokov review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Conversations with Vladimir Nabokov, edited by Robert Golla, a recent volume in the University Press of Mississippi's admirable (and extensive) 'Conversations with ....' series.

       (I do find it amusing that the one other volume in the series Golla edited is Conversations with Michael Crichton .....)

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

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