Literary Saloon

the literary
weblog at the
complete review

the weblog

about the saloon

support the site





the Literary Saloon on Kindle

to e-mail us:

literary weblogs:

  Books, Inq.
  Critical Mass
  Guardian Books
  Jacket Copy
  The Millions
  NewPages Weblog
  Three Percent
  Typographical Era

  Papeles perdidos
  Rép. des livres

  Arts & Letters Daily
  Arts Beat/Books
  Brandywine Books
  Collected Miscell.
  Light Reading
  The Millions
  The Page
  ReadySteady Blog
  The Rumpus
  Two Words
  wood s lot

  See also: links page

saloon statistics

the Literary Saloon at the Complete Review
opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review

The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 October 2017

11 October: African literary prizes | Paul Olchvary Q & A | Forever and a Death review
12 October: Warwick Prize for Women in Translation shortlist | Prix Goncourt, next round | 2017 MacArthur Fellows | Writing in ... France | Tony Duvert reviews
13 October: Ishiguro in ... Iran | George Andreou Q & A | Houellebecq in Frankfurt
14 October: Prix de la Page 111 | Writing in ... Singapore | The Gurugu Pledge review
15 October: German literature in ... Arabic | 'Georgia: Made by Characters'
16 October: Margaret Atwood: 'Stories in the World' | Ali Smith: 'The novel in the age of Trump' | Literature in ... Kashmir | Black Money review
17 October: Premio Planeta | Svetlana Alexievich Q & A
18 October: Man Booker Prize | Prix Femina shortlists | South African Literary Awards shortlists | Monsterhuman review
19 October: Robert Elsie (1950-2017) | Ma Jian Q & A
20 October: New issue of Asymptote | Carl-Zuckmayer-Medaille

go to weblog

return to main archive

20 October 2017 - Friday

New issue of Asymptote | Carl-Zuckmayer-Medaille

       New issue of Asymptote

       The fall/October issue of Asymptote is now up,
       More than enough material to keep you busy, well through the weekend.

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


       They've announced that Yoko Tawada -- who famously writes in both German and Japanese -- will get the 2018 Carl-Zuckmayer-Medal (on 18 January).
       Previous winners of the medal include Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1984), Martin Walser (1990), pre-Nobel Herta Müller (2002), and Uwe Timm (2012). The prize consists not only of a medal, but also a thirty-liter barrel of wine .....
       Several of Tawada's works are under review at the complete review -- most recently Memoirs of a Polar Bear -- and I already have an ARC of the promising-looking The Emissary; pre-order your copy at or

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

19 October 2017 - Thursday

Robert Elsie (1950-2017) | Ma Jian Q & A

       Robert Elsie (1950-2017)

       Translator and promoter of all things Albanian Robert Elsie recently passed away -- but it's good to see that, as the Tirana Times reports, Robert Elsie's last wish comes true as Albanologist laid to rest in Albanian Alps.
       His Albanian Literature site has long been the best online resource about Albanian literature -- but check out also his personal site.
       Several books he edited and/or translated are under review at the complete review -- most notably the collection of Modern Albanian Short Stories published in Northwestern University Press' great 'Writings from an Unbound Europe'-series, Balkan Beauty, Balkan Blood, as well as Fatos Kongoli's novel, The Loser. But he could only do so much in promoting Albanian literature -- which, aside from Ismail Kadare, continues to go largely unnoticed and unavailable in English (don't even look to see how much Kongoli is translated into French, for example ....).

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

       Ma Jian Q & A

       At Deutsche Welle Sabine Peschel has a Q & A with Chinese author Ma Jian (Beijing Coma, etc.) -- who now lives in Berlin.
       He suggests:
Now we see that China has a problem that was never solved after 1989. After the tanks squashed political consciousness and the morale of the people, we see a China that is now richer, but also sadder and scarier than before. It possesses no humanity whatsoever. The Communist Party keeps its people well-fed, but cooped up in a pretty cage. It offers them no freedom or space to develop their own individuality and way of thinking.

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

18 October 2017 - Wednesday

Man Booker Prize | Prix Femina shortlists
South African Literary Awards shortlists | Monsterhuman review

       Man Booker Prize

       As widely noted, they've announced that this year's winner of the Man Booker Prize for Ficton is Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders.
       Obviously a book we've all heard a lot about, but I haven't seen it yet (nor sought it out), and I don't expect to get to, but see the publicity pages at Random House and Bloomsbury, or get your copy at or

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

       Prix Femina shortlists

       They've announced the prix Femina shortlists, in the three categories: French and foreign fiction (five titles left in the running in each), and non-fiction (seven left); see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.
       Three of the five foreign novel finalists are translations from the English .....
       The winners will be announced 8 November.

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

       South African Literary Awards shortlists

       They recently announced the shortlists for the South African Literary Awards -- which admirably consider writing in a large number of South African languages.
       The winners will be announced 7 November.

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

       Monsterhuman review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold's Monsterhuman, recently out from Dalkey Archive Press.

       It's the second of her books they've brought out; the previous one -- which this one is, in part, about -- got a decent amount of attention, but so far this seems to have slipped under the US/UK review-radar .....
       For those who like that sort of thing, there's quite a bit of the Norwegian literary scene along the way -- including:
     We cross the street, round the corner to the parking lot. And that's where I meet the rangy author for the first time. I will later talk about this meeting more extensively.
     "That was Karl Ove Knausgård," says the Satanist.
     "Never heard of him," I say.
       While not quite Knausgårdian, Monsterhuman is certainly similarly personal (and hefty ...) fiction.

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

17 October 2017 - Tuesday

Premio Planeta | Svetlana Alexievich Q & A

       Premio Planeta

       Getting a jump on the Man Booker -- which announces its winner today -- the Premio Planeta, the world's richest book- (as opposed to author- (like the Nobel)) prize, worth a cool €601,000, has announced its 2017 winner -- and despite there even being a piece on the world's richest book prizes out yesterday (Alessandro Speciale writing at Bloomberg on How to Make a Buck Writing Novels (Tip: Use Spanish)) there appears to be, as I write this, not a single English-language mention of who won .....
       As widely reported -- in other languages -- the winning entry (out of 634 !) was Javier Sierra's manuscript of a Holy Grail-novel, El fuego invisible; see, for example, the El Mundo report.
       Javier Sierra.
       No, none of his work is under review at the complete review -- but even I couldn't get around giving him a one-sentence, two-title mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction (yes, I am that conscientiously thorough). What can I say ? Let's just say ... El Confidencial sums it up in their (off-by-a-1000-euros) headline, Javier Sierra, el Dan Brown español, se lleva los 600.000 euros del premio Planeta
       He is very popular, and quite a few of his works have been translated into English. But I really can't recommend any of them. And I'm not holding out high hopes for this one, when it gets translated.

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

       Svetlana Alexievich Q & A

       At The Paris Review's The Daily weblog Mieke Chew offers Suitcase Full of Candy: An Interview with Svetlana Alexievich

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

16 October 2017 - Monday

Margaret Atwood: 'Stories in the World'
Ali Smith: 'The novel in the age of Trump'
Literature in ... Kashmir | Black Money review

       Margaret Atwood: 'Stories in the World'

       Margaret Atwood picked up the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels (Peace Prize of the German Book Trade) yesterday, and her acceptance speech, Stories in the World, is now available online; you can also watch the entire prize ceremony here (English-speakers should feel free to jump ahead to the ca. 46 minute mark for the prize hand-over and then her speech -- though, while after an impressive German opening she switches to English, there's a German simultaneous translation rendering it almost English-incomprehensible).

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

       Ali Smith: 'The novel in the age of Trump'

       In the New Statesman they print (an edited version of) Ali Smith's 27 September Goldsmiths Prize lecture, The novel in the age of Trump, which is certainly worth a look.

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

       Literature in ... Kashmir

       In Greater Kashmir Muzaffar Karim tries to (emphatically) make the case for/against Kashmir: The uselessness of literature !!
       Apparently, the situation there has gotten a bit ... confused, as he wonders:
why are people who deal with facts trying to write fiction and vice versa ? This is bad.
       Well, it ain't good .....

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

       Black Money review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ross Macdonald's 1966 novel, Black Money, now also collected in the most recent Library of America Macdonald collection, Four Later Novels.

       Some really great writing here; interesting to see that, while of course always popular in the US/UK, many of the foreign editions are long out of print -- only the Germans (thanks to Diogenes) really seem on top of things -- with this one out just last year in a new translation). Getting the voice right might be part of it -- though he doesn't seem to be that hard to translate, once you get the hang of it.

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

15 October 2017 - Sunday

German literature in ... Arabic | 'Georgia: Made by Characters'

       German literature in ... Arabic

       In The National Saeed Saeed reports that A wealth of German literature awaits Arabic publication.
       Jordanian-German translator Mustafa Al Slaiman is quoted at length -- including noting that:
"If you want me to be to totally frank, I will say that, yes, we have many publishers in the Arab world but for many, their motivations are wrong. They don't operate with the ideals that powers the most esteemed international publishing houses in Europe or the United States.

"The goals are mostly financial and profit-driven. The idea of pushing the culture forward is not really there and that is a sad thing."
       It is a sad thing -- but I'm afraid most European and US houses also have goals that are: "mostly financial and profit-driven".
       And while I'm all for any encouragement to get to the works of Peter Weiss ...:
Other German works that are important to translate are the 18th-century poetry of Friedrich Schiller or the more modern 20th-century poetry of Peter Weiss.
       (I guess you could say all his work is 'poetic' -- but he didn't publish any poetry .....)

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

       'Georgia: Made by Characters'

       France is this year's 'guest of honour' at the Frankfurt Book Fair (see their Frankfurt in French-site), but next year it's Georgia's turn -- and their web-presence is now up: Georgia Made by Characters.
       I'm hoping for a flood (well, trickle, in(to) English ...) of translations, but I note that the Three Percent translation databases list no US translations from the Georgian for 2018 yet. And none for 2017. And none for 2016. Sigh.
       There are a few Georgian title under review at the complete review, but I really would like to be able to add more .....

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

14 October 2017 - Saturday

Prix de la Page 111 | Writing in ... Singapore | The Gurugu Pledge review

       Prix de la Page 111

       They read 222 page 111s, came up with an eleven-title (page ?) longlist, read and discussed the finalists in a 111-minute podcast, and have now announced that Roi. by Mika Biermann takes the prize. (They don't seem to have an official page, just one on the Facebook, so forget that, but see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.)
       As is often the case with French literary prizes, it's more about the honor than the cash: the payout is a mere 111 centimes (in 1-centime coins).
       See also the Anacharsis publicity page for Roi., or get your copy at

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

       Writing in ... Singapore

       In the Straits Times Darryl Whetter makes the case that Sing Lit comes of age.
       Among his points of emphasis, however, is:
At a recent Tropics of the Imagination conference hosted by James Cook University in Singapore, I argued in a paper that the rise of creative writing education here is part of a literary coming of age. Lasalle, for example has a Master of Arts degree in creative writing, of which I am the inaugural programme leader.
       I have to admit that I disagree with his spin; indeed, I was more heartened by the European examples he cites:
It's also heartening that there is such a burgeoning interest in creative writing education here, for in this respect, Singaporeans might be pleasantly surprised to hear they're ahead of many developed Western countries.

Continental Europe remains so disinterested in creative writing that, according to Lasalle MA student and debut novelist Olivier Castaignede, his native France counts just one such master's programme. A Spanish professor was quoted as saying that he's first trying to launch a creative writing master's programme in English (at a Spanish university) in hopes of then branching out into Spanish.
       (I (grudgingly) accept that there's something to be said for (some) creative writing MFA programmes -- yes, maybe even/particularly in the case of a place/literature such as (contained, but multi-lingual) Singapore's -- but on the whole think writing is better placed (as well as both learnt and practiced) outside the academy.)

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

       The Gurugu Pledge review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel's African-migrants novel, The Gurugu Pledge, recently out from And Other Stories.

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

13 October 2017 - Friday

Ishiguro in ... Iran | George Andreou Q & A | Houellebecq in Frankfurt

       Ishiguro in ... Iran

       In the Tehran Times Seyyed Mostafa Mousavi Sabet reported that local authors were on board with the Swedish Academy's choice this year, in Iranian writers welcome Nobel prize for Kazuo Ishiguro -- which includes one of my favorite reactions (though this is presumably due in no small part to how it was translated), by Ahmad Puri:
"Ishiguro is his due to receive the prize," he said and added, "Bon appetite !"
       A reader also points me to the more detailed Iranwire story by Arash Azizi, Reading Ishiguro in Tehran.
       Among the observations of interest:
[Ishiguro] is also very well known in Iran, where he can perhaps be counted as one of the most-read novelists in the country.

Every single novel by Ishiguro has been translated into Persian, often more than once, and not just by anybody, but by the giants of Persian literature and translation.

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

       George Andreou Q & A

       At the Harvard Gazette Colleen Walsh has a Q & A with the new director of Harvard University Press, George Andreou, in New adventures in editing.

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

       Houellebecq in Frankfurt

       With France the 'guest of honour' at the ongoing Frankfurt Book Fair they have a ton of writers on site -- including Submission-author Michel Houellebecq, and at Deutsche Welle Jochen Kürten reports on his appearance there, in French author Michel Houellebecq in Frankfurt Book Fair's spotlight.
       Some good quotes and suggestions -- including:
Maybe the Germans, he said, should specialize in sophisticated pornography as a chance to keep the literature industry up and running.
       And good to see him note:
Houellebecq argued that literary translators in Europe need to be paid more. European translation, he pointed out, is the only way to make sure that European nations read more than just their own books and translations from English.

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

12 October 2017 - Thursday

Warwick Prize for Women in Translation shortlist | Prix Goncourt, next round
2017 MacArthur Fellows | Writing in ... France | Tony Duvert reviews

       Warwick Prize for Women in Translation shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, selected from 58 eligible entries (admirably revealed !).
       A UK prize, not all these are US-available -- indeed, I've only seen one, Susan Bernofsky's translation of Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Tawada Yoko.
       The winner will be announced 15 November.

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

       Prix Goncourt, next round

       The prix Goncourt has announced its deuxième sélection -- not yet the final shortlist, as a troisième will follow (on 30 October) before the winner is announced (on 6 November) -- yes, after their starting longlist, the Goncourt has a short and then a shorter list .....

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

       2017 MacArthur Fellows

       As widely noted, they've announced the 2017 MacArthur Fellows -- the US$625,000 "no-strings-attached award".
       As usual, there are a few writers in the crowd -- Viet Thanh Nguyen and Jesmyn Ward, as well as playwright Annie Baker.

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

       Writing in ... France

       With France this year's 'guest of honour' at the (ongoing) Frankfurt Book Fair there's even more attention than usual to what's going on there (at least in Germany ...), and at Deutsche Welle Jochen Kürten suggests 8 French heavyweight authors to check out at the Frankfurt Book Fair -- which includes a Q & A with prominent literary critic Iris Radisch, who just published a book called: Warum die Franzosen so gute Bücher schreiben ('Why the French write such good books') -- see also the Rowohlt foreign rights page.
       Among Radisch's explanations:
It is connected with libertinage, with the experimental love lives of the French

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

       Tony Duvert reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two Tony Duvert titles -- both originally published in French in 1978, and just out in English in beautiful little pocket-sized editions from Wakefield Press:        These are very short books -- fifty pages and less -- but both enjoyable (with Odd Jobs the more obviously entertaining).
       Duvert seems to be having a moment: Semiotext(e) have brought out several of his other books -- most recently Atlantic Island; get your copy at or

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

11 October 2017 - Wednesday

African literary prizes | Paul Olchvary Q & A
Forever and a Death review

       African literary prizes

       They've announced the winners of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature -- James Murua's weblog has a run-down of the various category winners (because there doesn't appear to be an official one yet ...) -- with Henry Ole Kulet's The Elephant Dance winning the English fiction category (see also, for example, Why Ole Kulet, a winner yet again, deserves more respect from critics by Goro wa Kamau in the Daily Nation), and Tom Olali's promising-sounding Mashetani wa Alepo winning the Kiswahili category.

       They've also announced that The Heresiad, by Ikeogu Oke has won this year's Nigeria Literature Prize (they rotate this prize through four genres; 2017 was a poetry year); see, for example, Ikeogu Oke is 2017 winner of Nigeria Prize for Literature by Prisca Sam-Duru in Vanguard.

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

       Paul Olchvary Q & A

       At hlo they have a Q & A with translator-from-the-Hungarian and New Europe Books-publisher Paul Olchvary

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

       Forever and a Death review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of a another posthumous Donald E. Westlake novel from Hard Case Crime, Forever and a Death -- which apparently started out as a treatment for a possible James Bond movie. (No Bond, or Bond-like character left over, however.)

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

previous entries (1 - 10 October 2017)

archive index

- return to top of the page -

© 2017 the complete review

the Complete Review
Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links