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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 November 2017

1 November: Bob Dylan milks Nobel lecture for cash | French literary prizes
2 November: Governor General's Literary Awards | The Instant Enemy review
3 November: Nordic Council Literature Prize | Jan Wagner
4 November: Writing in ... Welsh | German-writing Iranian authors | theMystery.doc review
5 November: Translation from/into Arabic | Lu Xun, translator
6 November: Cheng Ching-wen (1932-2017) | Two Matéi Visniec plays
7 November: International DUBLIN Literary Award longlist | French literary prizes | Madonna in a Fur Coat review
8 November: Online literature platforms | Three years of Arno Schimdt | Low Heights review
9 November: Literary prizes: David Cohen Prize - Österreichischer Buchpreis - Femina - SALA | PEN Translates awards | AUC Press profile
10 November: Neustadt International Prize for Literature | ECI Literatuurprijs | Best/overrated of the year

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10 November 2017 - Friday

Neustadt International Prize for Literature | ECI Literatuurprijs
Best/overrated of the year

       Neustadt International Prize for Literature

       The major international author prize awarded in the US, the biennial Neustadt International Prize for Literature, has announced that the 2018 prize will got to Edwidge Danticat; among the finalists she beat out were: Emmanuel Carrère, Amitav Ghosh, Mohsin Hamid, and Ludmila Ulitskaya.
       None of Danticat's works are under review at the complete review; her most recent work is The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story; see the Graywolf Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       ECI Literatuurprijs

       The ECI Literatuurprijs -- formerly the AKO Literatuurprijs (yes, this sponsor/name-changing nonsense afflicts not just UK literary prizes) -- is one of the leading Dutch literary prizes, and they've announced that Flemish author Koen Peeters' De mensengenezer has won this year's prize; see also the De Bezige Bij foreign rights page, as well as the Flanders Literature information page.

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

       Best/overrated of the year

       The trickle (and soon to be flood) of newspaper-filler books-of-the-year pieces has begun, and The Spectator at least tries to make things a bit more interesting by asking some of their regular reviewers to name: 'the best and most overrated books of 2017', in Books of the year.
       Alas, few take them up on it, with barely any suggesting what might be overrated (though Jenny Colgan at least finds Gabriel Tallent's My Absolute Darling; "too mulched down to a paste for my liking").

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

9 November 2017 - Thursday

Literary prizes: David Cohen Prize - Österreichischer Buchpreis - Femina - SALA
PEN Translates awards | AUC Press profile

       Literary prize: David Cohen Prize

       They've announced that Tom Stoppard has won this year's David Cohen Prize, a biennial £40,000 author award that has previously gone to, among others, Nobel laureates V.S.Naipaul (1993), Harold Pinter (1995), and Doris Lessing (2001).

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

       Literary prize: Österreichischer Buchpreis

       Robert Menasse won the German Book Prize exactly a month ago, and now his (half-)sister Eva has taken the Austrian Book Prize, for Tiere für Fortgeschrittene ('Advanced Studies in Animals'); see also the Kiepenheuer & Witsch foreign rights page.

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

       Literary prizes: Femina

       The French-prize-flood continues, now also with the prix Femina which, aside from a local fiction award (won by La Serpe, by Philippe Jaenada -- beating out Bakhita, by Véronique Olmi by six votes to four, just as Vuillard beat her out by the same margin for the Goncourt on Monday ...), also has a foreign category -- won by John Edgar Wideman, for his Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File; see the Simon & Schuster publicity page, or get your copy at or
       The Wideman narrowly beat out -- five votes to four -- Paolo Cognetti's The Eight Mountains, due out in English next spring; see the Atria publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or

       (Updated - 10 November): They've now also announced the three-category prix Médicis -- see the Livres Hebdo report -- and here the Paolo Cognetti did win the best foreign fiction prize.

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

       Literary prizes: SALA

       They've announced the winners of the South African Literary Awards -- admirably awarded in a number of languages.
       So, for example, the 'First-time Published Author Award' went to a work in Sepedi, Tšhutšhumakgala, by Moses Shimo Seletisha.

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

       PEN Translates awards

       English PEN has announced the latest round of PEN Translates awards -- which seem more like grants to me, but, hey, 'awards' looks better on the covers, I guess.
       An impressive variety -- books from fifteen countries and fourteen languages -- including: "the first novel from Mauritania to be translated into English" (Mbarek Ould Beyrouk's The Desert and the Drum, forthcoming from Dedalus).
       Among the other titles: Lina Wolff's Augustpriset-winning The Polyglot Lovers; see also the Bonnier rights page.

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

       AUC Press profile

       Via I'm pointed to Ursula Lindsey's AUC Press-profile, University Press Thrives On New Arabic Fiction, at Al-Fanar Media.
       Quite a few AUC Press titles are under review at the complete review -- though oddly, I've gotten to a lot fewer in the past few years.

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

8 November 2017 - Wednesday

Online literature platforms | Three years of Arno Schimdt
Low Heights review

       Online literature platforms

       Chinese firm Tencent has just spun off China Literature Ltd., in the biggest local IPO of the year: it's a big story in the financial press, but otherwise seems to have been widely ignored, as the 'publishing industry' likes to see/sell itself as above such crass things as ... money ?
       Maybe time to pay attention ? At Bloomberg Adam Minter goes so far as to claim China Reinvents Literature (Profitably), and, the day after, Lulu Yilun Chen reports China Literature Soars in Hong Kong Debut After Tencent Spinoff -- "The stock rose as high as HK$99.60, 81 percent above the HK$55 price in the IPO, before trading at HK$97.30 as of 9:42 a.m"
       Chen describes China Literature Ltd. as: "offering a similar business model to Inc.'s Kindle Store" -- but that's not really right. Indeed, everyone seems to be missing the point here -- not least Bastei Lübbe, who seem to have tried/wanted to build try something closer to it with their (horrifically-named) oolipo-platform, which appears to have been a beyond-dud, as yesterday's conveniently timed write-down reports suggest; see, e.g. the Reuters summary, or a longer (German) report at Boersenblatt: launched just in March, this has been such a disaster that they've completely pulled the money-plug (and are reduced to saying they hope to use the technology they developed ... 'elsewhere' ...).
       Two sides of the future-of-publishing coin (or one of those coins, anyway), with very, very different outcomes/looks.
       There's a lot more to this (and these two examples, in particular) -- why is there so little reporting on this outside the financial press ?

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

       Three years of Arno Schimdt

       My little Arno Schmidt : a centennial colloquy became available on Amazon (which, in this day and age, means: was published) exactly three years ago. It's sold 123 copies -- two in the last month --, which seems like a decent number for a very casually self-published book, though I had hoped for slightly more Bottom's Dream-coat-tails ... except that this great work/epochal translation itself got so little coverage. A couple of overview-pieces, but I don't think there's been a traditional-media review anywhere yet -- come on folks (and, yes, if you're desperate(/ambitious ?) I'm open to commissions ...). (Meanwhile, it looks like the 2500-copy initial print-run of Bottom's Dream is run: prices are already double list -- looks like it was a good investment if you got your hands on a copy ..... Better yet: a literary treat you can enjoy for years (because that's how long it will take you to get through it ...) .....)

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

       Low Heights review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pascal Garnier's Low Heights.
       This is the tenth Garnier Gallic Books have published -- bless them -- and now the tenth I have reviewed. And he does not disappoint (the bleakness of his world-view tempered by the humor (and inventiveness)). Good stuff !

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

7 November 2017 - Tuesday

International DUBLIN Literary Award longlist | French literary prizes
Madonna in a Fur Coat review

       International DUBLIN Literary Award longlist

       They've announced the 150 (!) title strong longlist for the 2018 International DUBLIN Literary Award -- including 48 novels in translation, translated from 17 languages (with the translator getting a cut of the impressive €100,000 prize money if a translation wins).
       The titles are nominated by libraries from around (much of ...) the world, which sounds good but in practice is still the prize's great weak point. While they: "invite over 400 library systems to participate each year", they seem to do much better getting responses in some areas of the world than others -- and regrettably very many of the libraries are ... homers, nominating local titles. So, while admirably international, this prize with 150 titles in the running manages to include not a single title translated from the Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, or Russian -- which, let's face it, is simply ridiculous. (Unsurprisingly, not a single Chinese, Japanese, or Arab-country library played along; admirably, the one Russian library that did (the Margarita Rudomino All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature) didn't go all hometown with its three selections.) In fact, other than one Korean title and two from the Hebrew, all the translations are from European languages.
       As usual, the longlist is a really mixed bag, but there are certainly some decent titles on it.
       Several (but fewer than usual) are under review at the complete review:        The shortlist will be announced in April, and the winner on 13 June.

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

       French literary prizes

       The one-two punch of major French literary prizes has been announced, with the prix Goncourt going to L'ordre du jour, by Éric Vuillard (in the third round of voting, beating out Bakhita, by Véronique Olmi, six votes to four), and the prix Renaudot going to La Disparition de Josef Mengele, by Olivier Guez.
       Both are (more or less) World War II novels -- Nazism remains a (strangely) popular subject-matter in France -- and both are among the more successful fall-books in France, even before they picked up these prizes, selling 25,000 and 30,000 copies, respectively (and soon to sell many more).
       See also, for example, the Deutsche Welle report by Cristina Burack, Eric Vuillard wins Prix Goncourt for best work of French literature 2017.
       I'm also kind of impressed to see that L'ordre du jour is selling quite well on (the US), with an: "Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,722" as I write this. Bizarrely, however, one of Vuillard's other books has just come out in English, and even has a US-subject matter -- Sorrow of the Earth: Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull and the Tragedy of Show Business, from Pushkin Press; see their publicity page -- and it only rates a basically-no-one-is-buying-this-thing Amazon Best Sellers Rank of 1,192,009 (as I write this).
       As to the English translation of L'ordre du jour, it's due in the US in almost exactly a year: Other Press have announced a 13 November 2018 publication date for The Order of the Day (or perhaps The Agenda); see also the 2 Seas foreign rights page.

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

       Madonna in a Fur Coat review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sabahattin Ali's 1943 novel, Madonna in a Fur Coat, which Penguin Classics brought out in the UK last year, and which is out from Other Press in a US edition ... today.

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

6 November 2017 - Monday

Cheng Ching-wen (1932-2017) | Two Matéi Visniec plays

       Cheng Ching-wen (1932-2017)

       Taiwanese author Cheng Ching-wen (Zheng Qingwen; 鄭清文) has passed away; see, for example, The China Post report, Renowned Taiwanese author dies at 85.
       Columbia University Press published his collection Three-Legged Horse -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at or -- and it won the Kiriyama Prize, which had a pretty decent track record, back in the day.

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

       Two Matéi Visniec plays

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two plays by Matéi Visniec, both available in Seagull Books' 2015 collection (of seven plays), How to Explain the History of Communism to Mental Patients and Other Plays:        Amusingly, one of the few English-language articles about a production of either of these is of ... a recent Iranian production; see the Financial Tribune's report of Meyerhold's 'Last Nightmares' in Play at Mowlavi Theater.

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

5 November 2017 - Sunday

Translation from/into Arabic | Lu Xun, translator

       Translation from/into Arabic

       A brief report on "a panel discussion held on the sidelines of the Sharjah International Book Fair" (sidelines ? ouch ...) by Afkar Abdullah in the Khaleej Times -- that: Translations help bridge Arab-Western world gap.
       Absolutely, right ?

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

       Lu Xun, translator

       The recent China Daily article discussing Fresh take on Dutch classic fairy tale makes me aware that it was Lu Xun who first translated Frederik van Eeden's De kleine Johannes into Chinese.
       Lu Xun is, of course, the leading Chinese literary light of the between-the-World-Wars period -- and Harvard University Press have recently brought out a collection of his non-fiction, Jottings under Lamplight (I have a copy, and hope to eventually get to it; meanwhile, see their publicity page, or get your copy at or If he devoted this much time to a book -- that's impressive.
       English-language editions are readily available (though not from any 'traditional' publisher, it seems -- but, out of copyright, it's been widely reprinted); see also the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page.

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

4 November 2017 - Saturday

Writing in ... Welsh | German-writing Iranian authors | theMystery.doc review

       Writing in ... Welsh

       The BBC reported on a Decline in Welsh-language book sales since 2011, but the picture is more complicated -- and not as dismal -- than that initial impression suggests.
       As Alison Flood reports in The Guardian: Welsh-language novels 'enjoying golden age' despite reported sales decline, with much of the decrease attributable to a changed children's market. Meanwhile, as far as novels go -- and novels are what counts (for some of us ...) -- there's been nice growth. For example:
According to [Y Lolfa's Garmon] Gruffudd, 15 years ago a Welsh novel would sell less than 500 copies, but now "there are dozens of mostly young writers with strong followings writing contemporary fiction" and selling between 1,000 and 4,000 copies of their books.
       Sounds good.

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

       German-writing Iranian authors

       Quite a few authors with an Iranian background have been successful writng in the United States, but it looks like there's competition in Germany, as Fahimeh Farsaie reports on "the second generation of Iranian women authors in Germany", in Patchwork identities at (As in the US, they're mainly -- well, here: all -- women.)

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

       theMystery.doc review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Matthew McIntosh massive theMystery.doc -- an example of contemporary American experimental literature ?
       (Why am I not entirely surprised that he's apparently a creative writing-programme graduate ?)

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

3 November 2017 - Friday

Nordic Council Literature Prize | Jan Wagner

       Nordic Council Literature Prize

       They've announced that Erindring om kærligheden, by Kirsten Thorup has won the 2017 Nordic Council Literature Prize; see, for example, the Gyldendal Group Agency foreign rights page.
       The Nordic Council Literature Prize, pitting works from all the Scandinavian countries (and several territories) against each other, has a pretty impressive track record, so it seems worth paying attention to (and seven previous winning titles are under review at the complete review).
       Thorup has, of course, been around a long time -- and several of her books have been translated into English, most recently The God of Chance, from Norvik Press; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or (I have a copy of this, and would hope to cover it, one of these days.) Her earlier Baby won the short-lived but impressive Pegasus Prize (the first one, in fact); see the LSU Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Jan Wagner

       Jan Wagner, this year's winner of the Georg-Büchner-Preis -- the biggest German author-prize -- picked it up a few days ago, and his Dankrede is now available (in the original German ...) online.
       Wagner will be following up with a multiple-stop US tour -- appearing, for example, in New York on 18 November at the New York Goethe-Institut (with Yusef Komunyakaa !).
       There are a few Wagner-volumes available in English (though not as many as by crime writer Jan Costin Wagner ...), most recently -- very recently -- The Art of Topiary, just out from Milkweed; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

2 November 2017 - Thursday

Governor General's Literary Awards | The Instant Enemy review

       Governor General's Literary Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's (Canadian) Governor General's Literary Awards -- winners in two times seven categories, English and French.
       Best English work of fiction went to We'll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night, by Joel Thomas Hynes; see Harper Collins Canada publicity page, or get your copy at or
       Best French work of fiction went to Le poids de la neige, by Christian Guay-Poliquin; see the La Peuplade publicity page, or get your copy at
       The awards ceremony is 29 November.

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

       The Instant Enemy review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ross Macdonald's 1968 novel, The Instant Enemy -- another in the Library of America's recent Four Later Novels collection.

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

1 November 2017 - Wednesday

Bob Dylan milks Nobel lecture for cash | French literary prizes

       Bob Dylan milks Nobel lecture for cash

       Every Nobel laureate gives the copyright to their Nobel lecture to the Nobel Foundation, and they in turn allow any newspaper to publish it in full, as well as overseeing other publications of it; see, for example, the copyright-notice for Svetlana Alexievich's 2015 Nobel lecture. I've never heard of any laureate keeping the copyright -- J.M.Coetzee was apparently reluctant to give up his, but even he ultimately went along with it --, but in their kowtowing desperation and complete mismanagement of the awarding of the 2016 prize -- infamously and ridiculously awarded to Bob Dylan -- the Swedish Academy somehow, incredibly, didn't manage to secure the copyright to his lecture for the foundation (as I noted at the time); see the very different copyright notice for his Nobel lecture.
       Nobel lectures do get published in book form, individually and in collections. So, for example, there's J.M.Coetzee's, which Penguin published -- get your copy at --, and there's the Melbourne University Press 1986-2006 collection, published in a US edition by The New Press -- get your copy at But in all cases, it's the Nobel Fundation that holds the copyright -- and hence control (and, presumably, most of the cash).
       Dylan, on the other hand, has gone totally solo -- and now stands to cash in, big time, all by himself. As John Williams now reports in The New York Times -- disappointingly, without mentioning the copyright-issue --, in Bob Dylan's Nobel Lecture Signed, Sealed and Delivered:
Simon & Schuster today released a special edition of Mr. Dylan’s Nobel lecture, which runs to 23 pages. One hundred individually signed and numbered hardcover copies in slipcases are available for $2,500 each. (Next-day shipping is included.)
       Yes, that works out to more than US$100 per page. (But then it's not about the pages, is it ?)
       There's even a special site where you can order this 'deluxe' version --
       The Nobel Prize in Literature is to be awarded to someone producing 'the most outstanding work in an ideal direction'; whatever Alfred Nobel might have meant with those words (and there's been lots of debate and confusion about that), one wonders whether anyone considers or hopes this is the 'ideal direction' he imagined ..... (Hey, who knows ? Maybe Dylan has the profits earmarked for his favorite charity, right ? Maybe he thinks he can do good better with it than the Nobel Foundation would .....)
       The Swedish Academy has, in an almost admirable way, stood by their ridiculous choice, but I'm sure even they had hoped the embarrassments were over -- but, no, Dylan is the Nobel-disaster that keeps giving. They must be really proud and pleased to see: '' (!) and him flogging US$2,500-copies ("plus applicable taxes") of his lecture.
       For those who are unwilling to spend quite so much, or who don't care about their texts being signed and numbered, Simon & Schuster also offers an edition that looks to be identical, except it doesn't include the protective slipcase or the Dylan-signature, that can be yours for US$16.99 (or less -- that's the list price -- at -- where it is, as I write this, the: "#1 Best Seller in Literary Speeches").
       [Updated: I have to admit I'm kind of surprised they didn't add a bit more to the 'deluxe' version -- if they can provide a slipcase, surely they could also have included a CD of the audio. But it's not about the lecture, is it ? They're not selling a book or a text, they're selling an object, its ostensible value found entirely in the fact that Dylan-touched-and-left-his-mark-on-it.]
       I remind you also that you can always read (and/or listen to !) it for free (and print it out/download it for your own use) at the Nobel site itself -- here.

       By and large, I'm all for artists (and translators !) keeping the copyright to their work, but in the Nobel lecture-case there's something to be said for institutional control, allowing them to publish nice series of all the lectures, etc. etc. The Dylan-exception complicates things.
       On the other hand ... there's something to be said to being able to exclude him from the Nobel canon, as he conveniently sets and holds himself apart ... hmmm, maybe this will work out well after all .....

       I almost admire Dylan's completely shameless cashing-in -- why be satisfied with the almost one million dollar Nobel payday when you can make another quarter million off of a limited edition of a lecture everybody else gives up for free ? The Swedish Academy wanted to honor the rebellious songwriter -- they presumably just didn't realize that his rebelliousness against institutions, like them and the Nobel Foundation, was so true-blue, all-American -- i.e. it's all just about the money.
       Part of me hopes Kazuo Ishiguro goes against type and tries to top Dylan's prima donna act when he goes to pick up his Nobel next month -- but, no, he seems to be too nice and decent a guy, and I'm afraid he'll play along and do everything that's expected of him. But maybe we haven't heard the last from Dylan -- he could still ... melt down his Nobel medal ? auction off his Nobel diploma ? Stay tuned !

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

       French literary prizes

       They've announced the winners of the prix Sofitel du Meilleur livre étranger -- a French best-foreign-book prize -- and both the fiction and non winners are translations from the English: Viet Thanh Nguyen's Pulitzer Prize-winner, The Sympathizer (get your copy at or, and Philippe Sands' East West Street (get your copy at or; see the report at Livres Hebdo.

       Meanwhile, the prix Médicis was set to announce its final shortlist -- a troisième sélection, just like the Goncourt does -- and then decided ... nah. So they're sticking with their (very long) second lists -- 15 finalists in the French novel category, 12 in the foreign novel category, and 11 non-fiction titles -- and will just jump ahead, next week, and announce the winners. See the report at Livres Hebdo.
       Gotta like how flexible the French prizes are, changing the rules and procedures on the fly .....

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

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