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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 October 2017

1 October: Q & A with Orhan Pamuk translator | Suhrkamp's Französische Bibliothek
2 October: Russian literature in ... China | New Words without Borders
3 October: Nobel Prize in Literature to be announced on Thursday | Nike award | Giller Prize shortlist | The Communist review
4 October: Literary prizes: Nobel chatter - პრემია საბა - Dayton Literary Peace Prizes
5 October: The Nobel Prize in Literature goes to ... Kazuo Ishiguro | (American) National Book Award finalists | Governor General's Literary Awards finalists | La Belle Roumaine review
6 October: More on the Nobel Prize | Geschwister-Scholl-Preis | Nepali writing in ... Qatar
7 October: 'Books from Norway' | Second rounds of French literary prizes
8 October: Writing in ... Nigeria | Indian writing abroad | Fear review
9 October: (American) National Translation Awards | Uselessness review
10 October: German Book Prize | ACFNY Translation Prize

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10 October 2017 - Tuesday

German Book Prize | ACFNY Translation Prize

       German Book Prize

       The Man Booker-imitation German Book Prize has announced its winner, selected from 200 (disappointingly: not revealed ...) titles that were considered, and it is Die Hauptstadt by Robert Menasse; see also the DeutscheWelle report, Robert Menasse wins German Book Prize 2017.
       Since it just came out in German it's not yet available in English, but MacLehose Press has bought the UK rights, and maybe some US publisher will have a go at it. See also the Suhrkamp foreign rights page, or check out a sample translation (warning ! dreaded pdf format !). And for those who can't wait for the English translation, it appears to be available -- and selling quite well ("Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,140", as I write this) -- at the US

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

       ACFNY Translation Prize

       A reminder that this Thursday, 12 October, at 19:30, they'll have the ACFNY Translation Prize ceremony
       Adrian West will pick up the prize, for his translation of Josef Winkler's Die Verschleppung/The Abduction -- and the author will also be present ! John Wray will join them in conversation, and Jeremy M. Davies will deliver the laudatio
       Sounds like it'll be good. I plan to attend .....

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

9 October 2017 - Monday

(American) National Translation Awards | Uselessness review

       (American) National Translation Awards

       The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) has announced the winners of their 2017 National Translation Awards.
       Esther Allen won the prose category, for her translation of Antonio Di Benedetto's Zama, while Daniel Borzutzky won the poetry category for his translation of Galo Ghigliotto's Valdivia; see the co•im•press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Uselessness review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Puerto Rican author Eduardo Lalo's Uselessness, just out in English from the University of Chicago Press -- the second Lalo they've published.

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

8 October 2017 - Sunday

Writing in ... Nigeria | Indian writing abroad | Fear review

       Writing in ... Nigeria

       In Vanguard Morenike Taire wonders, Where is Nigerian Literature ? -- focussing on the domestic scene, as:
Helon Habila, former Arts Editor for the Vanguard; as well as Chimamanda Adizie who won the 'junior Booker prize' and the Orange prize respectively, have moved on from Nigerian affairs, choosing, like Okri, to be Nigerian writers at large. [...] No home based writer is given any recognition, except in literary circles.
       Taire suggests:
This state of affairs might have more to do with the dearth of the entire industry than with the literary giants. Nobody is rewarding writers, so nobody wants to write. The level of literature that is available is therefore abysmal in nature. There is no competition, no inspiration, no encouragement.
       There certainly are institutional issues -- but I'm not sure lack of 'competition' is (even near) the heart of the problem. And while 'rewards' are certainly helpful, many writers nevertheless continue even without them .....

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

       Indian writing abroad

       At Kanishka Gupta has a Q & A with David Higham Associates' 'literary' agent Jessica Woollard, in What does it take for an Indian writer to be published abroad ? A literary agent has some answers.

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

       Fear review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Dirk Kurbjuweit's socio-psychological thriller Fear.

       An interesting publishing path into English -- Australian publisher Text were the first to bring this out, earlier this year (continuing the somewhat surprising small trend of Australian publishers taking the lead with books in translation, even/especially from the European patch ...), and has now just come out from Harper in the US. It will be out shortly from Anansi in Canada, while the UK edition is only coming out at the beginning of 2018, from Orion.
       Kurbjuweit tries too hard/much, to my mind (and too obviously, all of it) -- but there's no question that it is a book that stirs up a lot of questions and issues. And so also my review of it is one of my longer ones, just under 2000 words .....

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

7 October 2017 - Saturday

'Books from Norway' | Second rounds of French literary prizes

       'Books from Norway'

       Norway is the 'guest of honour' at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2019, and while they've long had the useful NORLA (Norwegian Literature Abroad) website they've now added a Books from Norway site, which looks promising.
       Norwegian literature is doing well in English (and internationally) -- with Karl Ove Knausgaard, Per Petterson, and Jo Nesbø (all with multiple titles under review at the complete review) leading the way -- but there are so many others, too (led by but hardly limited to Dag Solstad and Jan Kjærstad (also under review ...)).

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

       Second rounds of French literary prizes

       Several French literary prizes made their deuxièmes sélections this week, including the Renaudot (leaving nine novels, and four works of non-fiction in the running in their respective categories), and the Femina -- which continues the odd French tradition of adding books in the second round that they apparently hadn't gotten to the first time around (as well as cutting some from the first round).
       The Femina has three categories, including foreign fiction -- always interesting to see what's of international interest elsewhere.

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

6 October 2017 - Friday

More on the Nobel Prize | Geschwister-Scholl-Preis | Nepali writing in ... Qatar

       More on the Nobel Prize

       Yesterday's post offers a wide selection of links to information surrounding the announcement that Kazuo Ishiguro will receive this year's Nobel Prize in Literature, so if you haven't checked that out yet, that's a good place to start.

       Overall, the reaction has been very positive -- in the English-speaking world in no small part, it seems, because Ishiguro is an English-writing author whose work is familiar to a large readership (certainly compared to that of many of the recent Nobel laureates) and surprisingly many commentators apparently prefer to have the familiar validated than be exposed to (or, as they presumably see it, confronted with) something new and different.
       While Ishiguro has often figured in the discussions of possible Nobel candidates, he seems to have sort of gotten lost in the crowded field of British authors that people presumably saw as similarly likely -- say, Ian McEwan or A.S.Byatt. Indeed, he was not on this year's Ladbrokes betting list -- a rare and somewhat surprising complete miss for them. (He has not been prolific in the past decade, which presumably led them to let him slip off the list; the last time he was on it, as far as I can tell, was in 2013 (at 100/1 -- already ominously down from 2012's 66/1 ....).)
       He seems a relatively tame choice -- too obviously a counterweight to a selection such as Alexievich in 2015 (never mind last year's outright mistake) -- which seems unfair, because his writing certainly is award-worthy. Still, my preference would obviously have been for someone who isn't quite such a well- and widely-established literary star.
       (Reaction from the international-literature-interested community -- translators and publishers, in particular -- has been oddly muted; I wonder if the scheduling of the ALTA conference, which meant many of them were traveling or busy yesterday, prevented them from weighing in. Surprisingly, many of the usual suspects -- bloggers, international-literature periodicals and their blogs, and translators -- didn't have anything to say (or any opportunity ...) one way or another. I would have expected more expressions of disappointment -- though last year's selection presumably already took the wind out of a lot of these sails.)

       A few more links of possible interest:

        - Kazuo Ishiguro's Nobel interview

        - The Harry Ransom Center bought Ishiguro's archive a few years ago -- a wise investment, it looks like. See their press release, Students, Researchers and Public Have Access to Archive of Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro

       A few more Ishiguro-appreciations from critics:        And at The New Republic Alex Shephard ponders What Happened to the Nobel Prize in Literature ? finding: "The Nobel has become, well, fun" (though I have to admit, my reaction to that claim is: Huh ?). I don't really think the prize lends itself to such attempts at trend-spotting -- and note that Alexievich is a poor fit in some respects (she was one of the more obscure recent winners). Indeed, I wouldn't be at all surprised for the Swedish Academy to tack in a completely different direction again next year.

       The Nobel Prize Award Ceremony and the big banquet will take place 10 December -- most of which you'll be able to watch live online.

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


       They've announced that this year's Geschwister-Scholl-Preis, a €10,000 prize for a book that demonstrates 'intellectual independence' and promotes 'civil freedom, moral, intellectual, and aesthetic courage', among other things, will go (on 20 November) to the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Return, by Hisham Matar; get your copy at or

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

       Nepali writing in ... Qatar

       One doesn't hear nearly enough about Nepali writing anywhere, even in Nepal, so it's good to see something like Usha Wagle Gautam's report in the Gulf Times, Giving Nepali literature a voice, a Q & A with the "former president of International Nepali Literary Society [...] a prominent name in the Qatar-based Nepali literary fraternity".
       How neat that there is such a fraternity !

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

5 October 2017 - Thursday

The Nobel Prize in Literature goes to ... Kazuo Ishiguro
(American) National Book Award finalists
Governor General's Literary Awards finalists
La Belle Roumaine review

       The Nobel Prize in Literature goes to ... Kazuo Ishiguro

       They've announced that the 2017 Nobel laureate in literature is Kazuo Ishiguro.
       The official press announcement explains he is an author:
who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world

       Ishiguro has often been in the Nobel discussion -- albeit rarely as a favorite -- and ticks off some of the boxes they presumably wanted to hit this year, including that cross-cultural background, and being a writer in the (very) traditional(-novelist) mold (with popular appeal helped along by some popular but still serious movie adaptations).
       (Yes, after last year the Swedish Academy retreated to (complete) safety -- Ishiguro is a fine writer but already up there among the best-known writers who are considered literary (as opposed to purely 'popular') -- and he writes in English. This is about as 'safe' and unruffling a choice as it was humanly possible to make ..... And he'll cut a fine figure at the Nobel banquet, which they desperately want after last year's no-show.)
       It would appear that Ishiguro is also the first school-trained writer to win the Nobel -- he got his creative writing MA (the UK equivalent of the now so widespread American MFA) from the University of East Anglia.

       Several Ishiguro titles are under review at the complete review:
       Ishiguro does not appear to have an official web presence, but the British Council information page offers a good overview and see also his author page at publisher Faber & Faber.

       Apparently, Ishiguro learned he was getting the prize not from the Swedish Academy -- who try to be the ones to break the news, but apparently don't always have the right contact information etc. ... -- but from the BBC; see their report, Kazuo Ishiguro: Nobel Literature Prize is 'a magnificent honour', which has video of the call, and more.

       Early, more in-depth reports and considerations include:
       More basic 'he won'-overview pieces include:
       Several sites have 'Ishiguro-at'-collections, covering both reviews of, and writings by:
       Here are links to a few Q & As with Ishiguro over the years:
       There are also discussions (of sorts) re. Ishiguro taking the prize -- check out those at the usual discussion boards:
  • The already extensive Nobel Prize in Literature 2017 thread at the World Literature Forum

  • The Nobel Prize 2017thread at The Fictional Woods continues with discussions of the Ishiguro selection

  • The 2017 Nobel Prize thread at The Mookse and the Gripes discussion board at Goodreads picks up again now that the winner has been announced

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

       (American) National Book Award finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the 2017 (American) National Book Awards, in the four categories they have (fiction, non, poetry, young people's stuff).
       The winners will be announced 15 November.

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

       Governor General's Literary Awards finalists

       The 70 finalists for the (Canadian) Governor General's Literary Awards, in seven categories each in English and French, have been announced
       The winners will be announced 1 November, and the prize ceremony will be held on 29 November.

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

       La Belle Roumaine review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Dumitru Tsepeneag's La Belle Roumaine just out from Dalkey Archive Press.

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

4 October 2017 - Wednesday

Literary prizes: Nobel chatter - პრემია საბა - Dayton Literary Peace Prizes

       Literary prizes: Nobel chatter

       They'll announce the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature tomorrow, 5 October, at 13:00 CET (7:00 EST) (watch live !). I'll post coverage soon after the announcement, and follow-up during the day .....

       Not too many more big media-pieces on what to possibly expect, except for Alex Shephard's Who Will Win the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature ? at The New Republic.
       He works mainly off (and through) the Ladbrokes list -- with a few more names tossed in the now perhaps 'Obligatory Musician Category', as well as in the 'One of These People Will Actually Win the Nobel Prize'-category. (In the latter, I note there are two names that definitely won't win: Jussi Adler-Olsen just can't be taken seriously as a candidate, and, while Dag Solstad is definitely worthy and would normally be well worth considering, the Swedish Academy already gave him a big prize this year -- the Svenska Akademiens nordiska pris, -- and no way are they going to give him the Nobel in the same year.)
       (Updated): At Aftonbladet they have their annual critics-roundup of who do you expect to win / who do you wan't to win / who do you hope doesn't win, in Så ska det låta, Danius. Some silliness, some seriousness, and mostly the familiar names.

       As to movement on the betting sheets (as of Tuesday evening, EST, when I last checked)::

        - at Ladbrokes:
  • There's been no change at all in the odds of the top three (Ngũgĩ, Murakami, Atwood)
  • Yan Lianke and Ko Un have both moved from an opening 14/1 down to 8/1
  • No new names have popped up with low odds
        - at Unibet:
  • The favorites' odds are comparable to those at Ladbrokes, with Amos Oz rated slightly higher
  • No Ko Un bump here: he's still down at 25/1 (which suggests he's not on the shortlist -- if information had leaked the odds should be closer to the Ladbrokes ones)
  • Two surprise late additions -- and with good odds, no less: Jón Kalman Stefánsson (12/1) and Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson, who publishes as Sjón (18/1), neither of which figure on the Ladbrokes list -- strongly suggesting someone Icelandic made it onto the shortlist. (I doubt either of them is a real contender this year -- it's rare someone entirely new to the mix is in the real running -- but could be a harbinger for future years: this is exactly how and where Mo Yan popped up, the year before he won.)

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

       Literary prizes: პრემია საბა

       They've announced the winners of the 2017 Saba awards in Georgia, the leading literary prizes there, with Aleko Shughladze (see the GNBC author page) winning for best novel, with გადამალვა ('Hiding'; see also the Diogene publicity page).
       The award for best translation into Georgian was for that of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum (or 'Fuko Theater', as they helpfully transl(iter)ate it on the official site), while the best translation of a Georgian title into a foreign language went to the German translation of Who killed Chaikia ? (see the GNBC information page), by Ana Kordzaia-Samadashvili; see also the Verlag Hans Schiler publicity page.
       See also Nino Gugunishvili's Georgia Today report, Saba Annual Literature Competition Winners Announced.

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

       Literary prizes: Dayton Literary Peace Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's Dayton Literary Peace Prizes, which will be awarded 5 November.
       The fiction prize will go to The Veins of the Ocean, by Patricia Engel; see the Grove Atlantic publicity page, or get your copy at or
       The non-fiction prize will go to What Have We Done, by David Wood.

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

3 October 2017 - Tuesday

Nobel Prize in Literature to be announced on Thursday
Nike award | Giller Prize shortlist | The Communist review

       Nobel Prize in Literature to be announced on Thursday

       It's official: the Swedish Academy announced yesterday that they would announce the winner of this year's Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday, 5 October, at 13:00 CET (7:00 EST); you will be able to watch the announcement live on the internet.

       The general thinking has been that, after the 2016 fiasco, they would make a more 'traditional' selection, appeasing the pissed-off academy members who were outvoted last time around and trying to claw back some of the respect and standing that the prize managed to lose with one fell swoop (and painfully drawn out award-giving process) -- good luck with that .....
       The early announcement date would seem to support that idea -- apparently they didn't have too much trouble reaching a consensus, and thus did not require the additional time. (I suspect they also want to blend in -- announcing the prize in the week when most of the other prizes are announced -- rather than standing out, like they did last year, when they disastrously had the stage pretty much all to themselves .....)
       If we are to believe they're trying to make up for the Dylan-disaster -- and, mind you, I'm not completely convinced they are; they're a feisty little bunch, those Academicians, and they stood behind their Dylan choice (at least publicly ...) no matter what further humiliations he heaped on them (and, boy, did he heap ...) -- I'd suggest that might speak for a really presentable winner. I don't think we should underestimate the Academy's disappointment at their big white-tie and tails show being spoiled (with Dylan's semi-stand-in a singer who couldn't even remember the words to the song ... (which the press liked, but I would imagine didn't go over quite as well among the traditionalists at that fancy affair)): chances are, if there is such a ridiculous dress code, you take that sort of nonsense seriously ....
       Several recent laureates also were unable to attend for health reasons -- Pinter, Jelinek, Munro -- so I could imagine they really are desperate for a winner they can properly show off. So that speaks for someone who is willing to play along: I would suggest this would give an edge to, say, Javier Marías and Margaret Atwood, who are real professionals as far as this sort of thing goes. On the other hand, it works against, say, Peter Handke, who can't quite shake off that problematic contrarian reputation, leaving him just slightly less that salonfähig, at least for these purposes; I'm afraid it also works against the more politically inclined (or so-seeming, in the current climate) -- Ngũgĩ or Adonis, among others.
       (As far as dark horses go fitting the winning criteria, I'd still argue for The Colonel (etc.) author Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, who checks off a lot on the list(s) (including being a major but relatively unknown author, which is the sort of thing they also really like) -- and would be a worthy winner to boot .....)

       Media coverage and commentary has been limited so far. There's an AP article by Jim Heintz (here at The Washington Post), Nobel literature prize: Honoring the elusive 'ideal' ..... But more should follow in the (few) days to come.

       There hasn't been much movement on the betting sheets, but keep your eyes on those at Ladbrokes, especially, as well as local Unibet.

       Online discussion appears to be most active at the World Literature Forum, with the occasional stirrings at The Mookse and the Gripes discussion and The Fictional Woods. Join in !

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

       Nike award

       They've announced that the Nike, the leading Polish book prize, goes to Żeby nie było śladów, by Cezary Lazarewicz; see also the Czarne publicity page, as well as the Radio Poland report, Poland’s NIKE literary award goes to reporter Cezary Łazarewicz.
       The Radio Poland report describes the book as: "a comprehensive account of the murder of school student Grzegorz Przemyk during Poland’s communist era".

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

       Giller Prize shortlist

       They've announced the five titles left in the running (from 112 that were submitted), on the Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist. The prize is awarded for: "the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English", and worth a decent C$100,000.
       The winner will be announced 20 November.

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

       The Communist review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Guido Morselli's The Communist.

       Set in 1958-9, and written in 1964-5, it was first published posthumously, in 1976: Morselli was a more than under-appreciated author (a suicide who failed to get any of his numerous novels published during his lifetime, with Italo Calvino having rejected this one when Morselli submitted it ...).
       It's now just out in English, from New York Review Books.

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

2 October 2017 - Monday

Russian literature in ... China | New Words without Borders

       Russian literature in ... China

       In the Global Times Huang Tingting reports how Chinese publishers set off in daring new direction to boost flailing Russian literature publication industry in China, as: "Russian literature in China has been on the decline over the past few decades".
"The last Russian book that created any buzz in the Chinese mainland was Forest Newspaper by Soviet writer V. Bangiune [Виталий Бианки, usually transliterated: Vitaly Bianki] (1894-1959)," Zhang -- director-general of the China Written Works Copyright Society, a major organization involved in the State-sponsored Chinese-Russian Inter-translation Project launched in 2013 -- told the Global Times

The Chinese edition of the classic 1927 series' was reprinted a dozen times in the two years following its 2007 debut, Zhang said.

"I can't recall any Russian work of literature selling better than that one over the past decade," he noted.
       Pretty sad -- and a bit surprising. Forest Newspaper is a classic, of sorts, but it's amazing that nothing post-Soviet seems to have made much of an impression -- as, for example:
"I remember introducing a series of detective novels by Russian writer Alexandra Marinina that had sold tens of millions of copies in their home market to China," Zhang recalled. "They didn't perform as well as we had expected -- a dozen of books in the series only sold around 100,000 copies in total."
       (Marinina hasn't made any English-language inroads either, however.)

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

       New Words without Borders

       The October issue of Words without Borders is now up, featuring 'What Unites Us: Turkish Short Stories', as well as some samples from 'Multicultural Quebec' (and a few book reviews).

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

1 October 2017 - Sunday

Q & A with Orhan Pamuk translator | Suhrkamp's Französische Bibliothek

       Q & A with Orhan Pamuk translator

       A reader points me to William Armstrong's Q & A in Hürriyet Daily News with Ekin Oklap on translating Orhan Pamuk into English, with a focus on the just-out-in-English The Red-Haired Woman (get your copy at or
       Among the translation-issues that are discussed:
English has so many more words than Turkish to express similar concepts. So one of the things that comes up fairly frequently when I talk to Orhan about translation is whether a particular word that is repeated in the Turkish version may be replaced with something else in English. That’s a natural consequence of the differences between the two languages and their vocabulary

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

       Suhrkamp's Französische Bibliothek

       German publisher Suhrkamp's has announced a new Französische Bibliothek ('French library') series -- fifteen twentieth-century French works of literary significance that were generally out of print.
       The names are all familiar, but some of the works are not their best-known, and it's always interesting to see what makes the cut for such a series. And interesting to see who translated some of these, too: Peter Handke did the René Char, Jürg Laederach the Maurice Blanchot .....
       (Michel Leiris' Manhood is the only one of these titles under review at the complete review.)

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

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