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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 31 August 2017

21 August: Anniversaries 50th anniversary | Book coverage at The New York Times | Lenox, Massachusetts appearance
22 August: Kakutani's reviews, number-crunched | Beijing International Book Fair | Soul Cage review
23 August: 'Glossing Africa' | Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival | Chinese literature abroad
24 August: Jan Michalski Prize shortlist | I Hear Your Voice review | Speaking ...
25 August: Calligraphing the Divine Comedy | Bestselling in ... Hindi
26 August: New World Literature Today | Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis shortlist | Karimayi review
27 August: Jan Michalski Foundation profile | The top 112 (!) Russian writers ?
28 August: Favourite Dicks | Pamuk on teaching | For Isabel review
29 August: Mountain Echoes | Christopher Okigbo, 50 years on
30 August: BTBA 2018 judges and dates | Aslı Erdoğan, stuck in Turkey | 'Partition and Bangladeshi literature' | For Two Thousand Years review
31 August: Translation in ... India | Publishing in ... Quebec | 'Restaurant libraries'

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31 August 2017 - Thursday

Translation in ... India | Publishing in ... Quebec | 'Restaurant libraries'

       Translation in ... India

       At livemint they have a roundtable -- "our salon Lounge Lounge" -- where they: "turn to the Indian translation story, and discuss whether there is a market for books translated from one Indian language to another", in Translations: From Kannada to Marathi via English.
       Sadly, shockingly the 'via English'-route is apparently a common, necessary one -- between: "Kannada and Bengali, there is not even one" directly, one of the participants notes/claims.
Now, you're seeing a fair amount getting translated into English, but it's still not a lot. We're getting the beginnings of some translations between Indian languages, but often they have to go via Hindi or English because you may not have a direct connect between languages.
       Or, as another participant puts it:
It's a largely tragic scene, translations between Indian languages. Last week we heard about how the last translator from Bengali to Tamil died.

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

       Publishing in ... Quebec

       An interesting piece in Quill & Quire, as Steven W. Beattie looks at How young Quebec publishers are taking risks and finding new readers.
       Great to hear that:
The francophone side of Quebec publishing is "in the middle of a renaissance right now," says author, translator, and editor Dimitri Nasrallah. "I would argue that they have one of the strongest publishing sectors in the country."
Ironically, the one place that French-language books out of Quebec don't seem to gain much traction is in the rest of Canada.
       And always interesting to hear the numbers:
A bestseller in Quebec is around 3,000 copies. "Reaching 3,000 copies in the last three or four years is tough," says Tanguay. "It's really tough. And the average sale is about 500 to maybe about 1,000 copies if you're a good press and the author is known. Those are real numbers."

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

       'Restaurant libraries'

       'Restaurant libraries' -- this is apparently a thing. And, at Bon Appétit, Mari Uyehara explores the pressing question, Where Do All Those Books Come From in Restaurant Libraries ?
       I obviously do not get out/around enough. On the other hand -- maybe for good reason.

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

30 August 2017 - Wednesday

BTBA 2018 judges and dates | Aslı Erdoğan, stuck in Turkey
'Partition and Bangladeshi literature' | For Two Thousand Years review

       BTBA 2018 judges and dates

       At Three Percent they list the judges for the 2018 Best Translated Book Awards (which is for the best newly translated work published in the US in 2017, in the categories of fiction and poetry) -- and, "subject to change", the plan is to announce the longlist on 10 April, shortlists on 15 May, and the winners on 31 May.

       I've been meaning to post my early speculation -- and I will try to do so soon -- but so far it's been a fairly low standout-year, at least as far as what I've seen (Radiant Terminus and The Evenings being the major exceptions). Meanwhile, at his Goodreads group, The Mookse and the Gripes has begun discussion -- so join in !

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

       Aslı Erdoğan, stuck in Turkey

       The City in Crimson Cloak-author Aslı Erdoğan is to receive the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize on 22 September -- but the Turkish authorities have nixed her receiving it in person, withholding her passport and thus preventing her from traveling abroad; see the Deutsche Welle report, Turkey hinders author Asli Erdogan's trip to Germany, and the official statement from the prize-folks.
       (Previous winners include Lev Kopelev, Houshang Golshiri, Svetlana Alexievich (in 2001 -- fourteen years before she won the Nobel Prize ...), and Adonis.)

       Note also that Erdoğan (finally) has a new work coming out in English, this fall, the collection of stories The Stone Building and Other Places; see the City Lights publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or

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

       'Partition and Bangladeshi literature'

       In the Daily Star Kaiser Haq offers a useful overview of Partition and Bangladeshi literature -- including some works in English, and actually US/UK-available .....

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

       For Two Thousand Years review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mihail Sebastian's 1934 novel, For Two Thousand Years, which Penguin brought out in the UK -- to much acclaim -- last year, and which is now forthcoming from Other Press in the US.

       Among the UK critics' complaints was the absence of any supporting material -- an introduction and/or footnotes. The US edition does have a Foreword (by Mark Mazower).

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

29 August 2017 - Tuesday

Mountain Echoes | Christopher Okigbo, 50 years on

       Mountain Echoes

       The Bhutanese Mountain Echoes literary festival ran 24 through 27 August and even beyond the locale looks to have been quite impressive.
       At Kuensel Karma Cheki noted Bhutanese authors outnumber foreign participants in Mountain Echoes, while the IANS report (here at the Business Standard) sums up, And the mountains echoed: Mountain Echoes Literary Festival ends.

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

       Christopher Okigbo, 50 years on

       Labyrinths-author Christopher Okigbo passed away fifty years ago but as, for example, they report at Vanguard, The masters' gathering for the 50th year of Christopher Okigbo legacy as a conference on the great poet is planned at the University of Ibadan on 20-21 September.
       See also 50 Years Gone, Christopher Okigbo's Legacy Lives at This Day.

       And don't forget Ali A. Mazrui's fascinating odd fiction, The Trial of Christopher Okigbo

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

28 August 2017 - Monday

Favourite Dicks | Pamuk on teaching | For Isabel review

       Favourite Dicks

       In The Observer they have the impressive trio of Nicola Barker, Michael Moorcock, and Adam Roberts write about The Philip K Dick book I love most ..., a nice introduction to the writer and some of his most significant work.

       I read more or less all of Philip K Dick's work before I started the site, so none it is under review at the complete review, but I am sorely tempted to revisit it .....

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

       Pamuk on teaching

       The Los Angeles Times has an op-ed by Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, in which he admits: Sometimes, to teach a novel feels like a betrayal of literature.

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

       For Isabel review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Mandala by Antonio Tabucchi, the posthumously published For Isabel, now available in English, from Archipelago Books.

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

27 August 2017 - Sunday

Jan Michalski Foundation profile | The top 112 (!) Russian writers ?

       Jan Michalski Foundation profile

       The Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature is an impressive literary center, in a lovely Swiss locale, and at swissinfo Domhnall O'Sullivan now profiles it, in Treehouses of language: inside a Swiss literature foundation.

       Focused on the visiting writers and the facilities, I still note with some amazement how well the foundation manages to keep their Jan Michalski Prize -- which, as I mentioned just a few days ago, recently announced a shortlist -- under wraps: not a word of it is mentioned in the profile .....

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

       The top 112 (!) Russian writers ?

       Alexandra Guzeva apparently had some time on her hands this summer, and now at Russia Beyond the Headlines she lists what she considers the top 112 Russian writers ranging from great, to absolutely freaking great.
       An editor's note does acknowledge:
The opinion of the author and the order of writers are subjective and might differ from the opinion of Russian literary scholars, critics and writers.
       Maybe .....
       Still, as a Russian-writers-starters-list, it's ... a start.

       Classical -- or at least dead -- authors do dominate, especially the upper ranks: the top living author is Laurus-author Eugene Vodolazkin, at 25th -- and it's another ten places before there's another living soul, The Big Green Tent-author Ludmila Ulitskaya coming in 35th.

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

26 August 2017 - Saturday

New World Literature Today | Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis shortlist
Karimayi review

       New World Literature Today

       The September/October issue of World Literature Today is out -- ideal weekend reading. The theme is 'Lives/Interrupted.'
       Of particular interest, as always: the extensive book review section !

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

       Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis -- a € 30,000 German novel prize that's overshadowed by the German Book Prize (though winners include titles such as Christian Kracht's Imperium (2012), Sibylle Lewitscharoff's Blumenberg (2011), and Wolf Haas' The Weather Fifteen Years Ago (2006)).
       Finalists include German Book Prize favorites such as Ingo Schulze's Peter Holtz -- and, for example, Daniel Kehlmann's Tyll (whose October publication date means it wasn't eligible for this year's German Book Prize and will have to hope people remember it next year ...).

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

       Karimayi review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Chandrasekhar Kambar's Karimayi, just out from Seagull Books.

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

25 August 2017 - Friday

Calligraphing the Divine Comedy | Bestselling in ... Hindi

       Calligraphing the Divine Comedy

       This is a pretty neat project: Le forme degli accenti -- 'The Shape of Accents' -- is: 'a visual reading of the Divine Comedy', with twenty-four calligraphers transcribing the first 21 lines of Dante's classic -- in a variety of languages.
       At Al-Ahram Weekly Nahed Nasr reviews the show as it will be (briefly) on display in Luxor, in The Divine Calligraphy -- with some nice samples.

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

       Bestselling in ... Hindi

       India Education Diary reports that Bestseller Tracked Down in Hindi for the First Time; Top 10 Books Announced in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Translation.
       No actual numbers, but at least a sense of what is best-selling in Hindi. Only one author on the fiction top-ten has a book under review at the complete review (Surender Mohan Pathak), and it's interesting to see that the top ten translated titles aren't dominated by foreign titles but rather English-writing Indian authors, notably Amish Tripathi (with four of the top five titles). (One Chetan Bhagat title also makes the top ten.)

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

24 August 2017 - Thursday

Jan Michalski Prize shortlist | I Hear Your Voice review | Speaking ...

       Jan Michalski Prize shortlist

       They've announced the 'second selection of the jury' for this year's Jan Michalski Prize, the five-title strong short- (but not shortest ?) list for this intriguing international literature prize.
       Remaining in the running are both Thierry Wolton's massive, three-volume history of communism, and Lawrence Liang et al.'s 100-page sliver, Invisible Libraries -- called 'speculative fiction' at the Yoda Press publicity page (and certainly sounding like it's worth a look; get your copy at or

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

       I Hear Your Voice review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kim Young-ha's I Hear Your Voice, just out in English.

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

       Speaking ...

       A reminder that I'll be speaking at the Trinity Church Parish House in Lenox, Massachusetts, tomorrow at 17:00; see e.g..
       Basically about 'writers and translation' -- should be interesting, I think .....

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

23 August 2017 - Wednesday

'Glossing Africa' | Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival
Chinese literature abroad

       'Glossing Africa'

       An interesting piece at The New York Review of Books' NYRDaily weblog, as Namwali Serpell writes about Glossing Africa, noting that:
Whenever African writers are on a panel together, we are asked about the continent as a whole -- its literature, its future, its political woes and economic potential. When African writers get together on our own, we talk about glossaries.
       An interesting issue -- and hardly limited to books from Africa.
       Among those quoted is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Serpell noting:
She refuses to make the Nigerian names in her work "simpler" for Americans. "Does it mean that some nice person in Iowa wouldn't buy it because the name is scary ? Maybe. But I can live with that."
       This reminds me of Can Xue's Frontier, recently out from Open Letter (see their publicity page). As Caanan Morse explains in his review at Music & Literature:
The prefatory pages of the book feature a “Note on Names,” in which the translators state, “With Can Xue’s permission, we have changed some of the Chinese names to English names that are similar to the Chinese. For those who have read or will read the novel in Chinese, we provide this list.” Eleven Chinese names – some of which are very and significantly Chinese – and their English “equivalents” follow.

I do not know why the translators made this decision; I do know that it significantly affects the work, and represents an aesthetic I thought this community had moved beyond, one that bears some comparison to the act of colonization. It inspires a legion of legitimate questions: by what standard to the translators judge the Chinese names “Hu Shan” and “Shi Miao” to be similar to “José” and “Sherman” ?
       'Helping' English-reading readers cuts both ways: for all my admiration for Can Xue I have literally been unable to get beyond this point in Frontier, so jarring and disorienting do I find the Westernized names. (But maybe some 'nice person in Iowa' (ouch ...) was won over in my stead ?)

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

       Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival

       The Festival Mediterranju tal-Letteratura ta' Malta starts tomorrow, with an interesting line-up of authors, mainly from 'small' countries -- including Tunisia, Luxembourg, Latvia, and Burma.
       At the Times of Malta they also have a preview, Twelve writers for literature festival.

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

       Chinese literature abroad

       In the Global Times Huang Tingting reports that Experts discuss trends in overseas Chinese literature translation and publishing, an interesting little overview.

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

22 August 2017 - Tuesday

Kakutani's reviews, number-crunched | Beijing International Book Fair
Soul Cage review

       Kakutani's reviews, number-crunched

       As has been widely noted -- and mentioned here several times, lead book reviewer Michiko Kakutani is abandoning her gig at The New York Times -- and now, at Slate, Andrew Kahn looks at "Michiko Kakutani's favorite book-review clichés, by the numbers" -- and more.
       Yes, he number-crunched the reviews -- "assembling a dataset of 2,310 reviews totaling 2.8 million words. It isn't comprehensive, but it's close". And the results are great -- including her 'favorite formulas', "a comically repetitive litany of shit that happens in book".
       Lots of good fun to be found here.
       (Though I do note, if anyone ever bothered doing a similar exercise with the reviews at the complete review they'd find even more formulaic repetition ....)

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

       Beijing International Book Fair

       The Beijing International Book Fair opens tomorrow and runs through Sunday -- with Iran as the 'Guest of Honor'. (Iran is returning the favor at the 2019 Tehran International Book Fair .....)
       At Publishing Perspectives Porter Anderson has a Q & A with the fair's director, Liying Lin, On the Eve of Beijing International Book Fair: 'Exponential Growth'.

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

       Soul Cage review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Honda Tetsuya's Soul Cage.

       This is the second in a series, and I reviewed the first one, and that's pretty much the only reason I posted a review of this one. The series as a whole might wind up being OK (the original Japanese already includes several more installments), but this is obviously not a highpoint.

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

21 August 2017 - Monday

Anniversaries 50th anniversary | Book coverage at The New York Times
Lenox, Massachusetts appearance

       Anniversaries 50th anniversary

       Uwe Johnson's great year-in-the-life novel, Anniversaries, still only exists in a mutilated English translation, but New York Review Books is bringing out the whole grand four-volume work in Damion Searls' translation, beginning in the fall of next year -- and a teaser sampler will apparently be released before that, and at n+1 they have a piece adapted from Searls' introduction to it, The great German New York novel, fifty years later.
       With the novel's dated entries beginning exactly fifty years ago it is indeed a good time to revisit the novel -- and it's good to see the Germans doing it up too: publisher Suhrkamp cleverly offers to send subscribers an entry a day for the first month (here), while in the Hamburger Abendblatt Thomas Andre simply challenges: Unwürdige, lest Uwe Johnson !, and in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Andreas Bernard offers a longer overview-article, Zurück zum Riverside Drive.

       As Searls notes, Anniversaries is a surprisingly timely read -- and, yes, it is one of the great New York City in the late-60s novels (German or otherwise).
       US/UK readers will have to be patient a while longer, but this one is worth the wait -- it is one of the truly great post-war German novels.

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

       Book coverage at The New York Times

       At Publishers Weekly John Maher reports on the now Michiko Kakutani-less but otherwise consolidated books coverage at The New York Times in the (threateningly headlined ?) The 'New York Times' Books Desk Will Make You Read Again.
"It used to be that a book would come in and we'd say, 'Should we review this or not ?'" [editor Pamela] Paul said. "Now the book comes in and we say, 'Should we cover this or not, and if so, what should that coverage be ? What is the best way to tell this story, regardless of the medium ?'"
       While I understand the benefits of consolidating everything in a single department I am, of course, less enthusiastic about book and author coverage, rather than simple reviewage. Yes, even I succumb to it frequently here -- but the more we are spared the stories-behind-the-stories, the better.

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

       Lenox, Massachusetts appearance

       If you're in the Berkshires in Massachusetts next weekend you can catch me at the Trinity Church parish house in Lenox on Friday, 25 August, at 17:00 (5 PM) -- speaking mainly about writers and translation (and speculating why so many foreign writers also translate, while so few US/UK writers do ...), as well as signing my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction.
       Should be fun !

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

previous entries (11 - 20 August 2017)

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