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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 28 February 2018

21 February: PEN America Literary Awards | Frankfurt Book Fair 'Guests of Honour' | The last 100 reviews
22 February: IPAF shortlist | LA Times Book Prize finalists | Israeli fiction in ... Israel | A Girl in Exile review
23 February: Europese Literatuurprijs longlist | Science fiction in ... Bangladesh
24 February: November 1918 (I) review
25 February: Translation in ... India | Tatar literature
26 February: Translation: Arabic to French | The Perfect Nanny review
27 February: New World Literature Today | Packing My Library review
28 February: (Not) reading in ... Japan | JCB Prize for Literature

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28 February 2018 - Wednesday

(Not) reading in ... Japan | JCB Prize for Literature

       (Not) reading in ... Japan

       As The Japan Times reports Majority of Japanese university students don't read books for pleasure, poll shows.
       They polled 10,021 students at 30 public and private universities, and the results were predictably depressing:
53.1 percent of the students said they do not read books at all, exceeding 50 percent for the first time since the federation started collecting such data in 2004.
The number of students who said they do not read at all for pleasure rose 4 percentage points from the previous year and was up 18.6 points over the past five years.
       The amount students spend on books per month was also the lowest since 1970 .....
       But, hey:
The survey also found that students use smartphones for 177.3 minutes a day on average, up 15.8 minutes.

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

       JCB Prize for Literature

       There are a couple of notable Indian literary prizes -- the multiple category Crossword Book Award(s), the best-novel-in-English The Hindu Literary Prize, the every-language-covering Sahitya Akademi Award(s) -- along with the slightly broader DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and now there's a new one, the JCB Prize for Literature.
       Translations will apparently be eligible for this one, and, at ₹25 lakhs, the prize money is good: that's close to US$40,000, for the winning title (with the translator getting ₹5 lakhs if the winning title is a translation).
this prestigious new Prize aims to foster greater translation between Indian languages, and to communicate to readers everywhere the diversity and energy of contemporary Indian fiction
       So that sounds promising.
       Rana Dasgupta is the 'literary director' of the new prize, and it opens for entry 1 March; see also the (not much more revealing) article, A new literary prize for Indian fiction worth Rs 25 lakh has been (quietly) announced).

       (Updated - 7 March): See now also a Q & A with Rana Dasgupta on why the newest and richest literary award for Indian fiction will be a gamechanger at

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

27 February 2018 - Tuesday

New World Literature Today | Packing My Library review

       New World Literature Today

       The March/April issue of World Literature Today is now available online -- well worth checking out, as always.
       As always, too, lots of book reviews -- with surprisingly few (just one !) of these titles also already under review at the complete review.

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

       Packing My Library review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of An Elegy and Ten Digressions by Alberto Manguel, Packing My Library, forthcoming from Yale University Press.

       This is the rare/unusual work that has appeared in translation before it comes out in English (despite having been written in English); even the German translation is available before the English original, but it's the Spanish one that's been out for longest.

       (Updated - 2 March): See now also Manguel going In Search of Libraries Past in the March issue of the Literary Review.

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

26 February 2018 - Monday

Translation: Arabic to French | The Perfect Nanny review

       Translation: Arabic to French

       The ‘Sheikh Hamad Award for Translation is ... well, as they put it: "a prize that hands out a ridiculous amount of cash"; among the winners of the most recent awards was Philippe Vigreux, for his translations -- of Naguib Mahfouz and Ibrahim al-Koni, among others; he's currently translating a book by Sinan Antoon.
       In The Peninsula Zainab Ratab talks with him, in Ignored in France and honoured in Qatar -- though apparently that honouring didn't extend to checking the proper transliteration of his name back from the Arabic: he's referred to as "Dr Philippe Figuero" throughout the piece (hey, they got the 'Philippe' right).
       Bless him for believing:
translation can bring things back to normal. It can help highlight the facts and combat the extremism and intolerance that are afflicting the Arab world today.

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

       The Perfect Nanny review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Leïla Slimani's 2016 prix Goncourt-winning novel, The Perfect Nanny -- also just out in the UK, under the title Lullaby.

       This has gotten quite a bit of review attention -- this is one of the rare books (though, surprisingly the second in the past week, after the Kadare) that has also gotten the LitHub 'Book Marks' treatment -- and, boy, am I glad I don't cover more popular titles, because the link-collecting is ... tiresome.
       And, while I do realize prizes are ... determined by the whims of the judges (the Man Booker not only went to one of McEwan's worst (Amsterdam) but even sunk, once, to the level of Vernon God Little), but I am kind of surprised that this won the biggest of the French prizes, the Goncourt. I can understand missteps such as The Kindly Ones -- big ! serious ! Nazis ! -- , and, hey, this one is arguably better-written than that was, but still ..... (Note that the Goncourt can not, strictly speaking, be considered the French 'best book' prize, since it's (supposed to be) one-and-done: previous winners can't win again, so all the former winner are out of the running each time around.)

       (Brief irritated Book Marks-page asides: a) don't offer a link that promises: "READ FULL REVIEW >>" if I can't when I click on it (here e.g. Wall Street Journal and Financial Times): doing so is a complete waste of your readers' time (and really frustrating); and b) that The New York Times Book Review review is not a review; Marilyn Stasio's is the review of record.)

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

25 February 2018 - Sunday

Translation in ... India | Tatar literature

       Translation in ... India

       In the Financial Express Smitha Verma finds, at some length, Literary translators empowering regional stories to find mainstream publishers, but not enough to revive this neglected segment.

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

       Tatar literature

       At Realnoe Vremya Alfrid Bustanov writes about digitalised Tatar literature, in To "immortalise" Tatar language: digital capabilities for inquisitive researcher.

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

24 February 2018 - Saturday

November 1918 (I) review

       November 1918 (I) review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the first of the four parts of Alfred Döblin trilogy of the (well, 'a', as he called it ...) German Revolution, November 1918, Bürger und Soldaten 1918 -- the part John E. Woods hasn't translated .....
       Döblin -- greatly admired by both Günter Grass (who endowed the Alfred Döblin Prize) and Arno Schmidt, among many others -- has quietly been gaining some English-language momentum in recent years, with New York Review Books bringing out a trio of his works, from a re-issue of The Three Leaps of Wang Lun (see their publicity page, or get your copy at or to the new Michael Hofmann translation of the classic Berlin Alexanderplatz (which is now also out as a Penguin Classic in the UK; get your copy at or
       The November 1918-series would sort of lend itself to a 2018 revival (the hundredth anniversary of the subject matter, after all), but, hey, it took them a while to sort out in German, too, so .....
       Anyway, I do hope to get to the remaining volumes before ... November.

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

23 February 2018 - Friday

Europese Literatuurprijs longlist | Science fiction in ... Bangladesh

       Europese Literatuurprijs longlist

       The Dutch Europese Literatuurprijs is awarded for the best (European) book in Dutch translation, and they've just announced their (twenty-title) 2018 longlist.
       It is limited to European authors, but still interesting to see the variety, and what's been translated into Dutch. There are a few familiar English names, and at least some titles also translated into English -- though some of the most interesting are still to come, like Dubravka Ugrešić's Fox, forthcoming from Open Letter (see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or, and Nino Haratischwili's The Eighth Life, forthcoming from Scribe.

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

       Science fiction in ... Bangladesh

       In the Dhaka Tribune Afrose Jahan Chaity reports Ekushey Book Fair: Science-fiction books see the largest sales.
       A new title by Muhammed Zafar Iqbal was apparently all the rage:
Titled "Tratina" [ত্রাতিনা], the book has seen the highest number of sales in the book fair until now. According to its publisher, Somoy Prokashon, it has already sold 30,000 copies.
       But local content apparently isn't enough:
A salesman of Anannya said that keeping up with visitors' demands, they have also published translations of different works of science fictions

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

22 February 2018 - Thursday

IPAF shortlist | LA Times Book Prize finalists
Israeli fiction in ... Israel | A Girl in Exile review

       IPAF shortlist

       They've announced the six-title strong shortlist for this year's International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
       It includes works by Ibrahim Nasrallah and Amir Tag Elsir -- as well as one that's been translated and is due out in English shortly, Shahad Al Rawi's The Baghdad Clock; see the Oneworld publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or
       The winner will be announced 24 April.

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

       LA Times Book Prize finalists

       They've announced the finalists for this year's LA Times Book Prizes -- awarded in ten categories.
       Neat to see Vivek Shanbhag's Ghachar Ghochar -- a book in translation, and a paperback original at that -- as one of five fiction finalists.
       (That is the only one of the finalists under review at the complete review.)

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

       Israeli fiction in ... Israel

       In the Forward Aviya Kushner wonders Do Israeli Writers Still Care About Israeli Literature ?
       Apparently: "Israeli readers are reading less Israeli literature in favor of work in translation" -- and:
in Israel, in literary circles, there is a growing sense of worry about the lack of interest readers are showing in Israeli writers, especially newer and younger writers.
       (See also the Israeli literature under review at the complete review.)

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

       A Girl in Exile review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ismail Kadare's A Girl in Exile: Requiem For Linda B..
       This came out in 2016 in the UK, but it's taken until now for a US edition to come out (from Counterpoint).

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

21 February 2018 - Wednesday

PEN America Literary Awards | Frankfurt Book Fair 'Guests of Honour'
The last 100 reviews

       PEN America Literary Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's PEN America Literary Awards, with Len Rix's translation of Katalin Street by Szabó Magda winning the translation prize; see also the New York Review Books publicity page, or get your copy at or
       Of course, my favorite category is the PEN/Edward and Lily Tuck Award for Paraguayan Literature -- because there definitely isn't enough Paraguayan literature ... well, pretty much anywhere beyond Paraguay. Fantasmario, by Javier Viveros, takes that one -- so we'll hopefully soon/eventually see it translated into English .....

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

       Frankfurt Book Fair 'Guests of Honour'

       More 'Guests of Honour' !
       They've announced that Slovenia to be Guest of Honour at the Frankfurter Buchmesse 2022 -- just a few weeks after they announced that Italy to be Guest of Honour at the Frankfurter Buchmesse 2023.
       Tiding you over until then, the Frankfurt Book Fair has the following Guests of Honour:
  • 2018: Georgia
  • 2019: Norway
  • 2020: Canada
  • 2021: Spain
       So you can already plan pretty far ahead now ....

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

       The last 100 reviews

       Yes, I'm up to 4100 books under review at the complete review, so it's time for another overview of the past 100 reviewed titles.

       - The last 100 reviews were posted over a zippy 163 days (previous hundred: almost a month longer, at 188 day), totaling 99,527 words (up considerably from the previous hundred: 93,697 ); the longest review was 3258 words, and eight reviews were over 1500 words long.
       The reviewed books had a total of 25,555 pages (previous hundred: 25,387); despite a higher average page-total than the last hundred, the trend of short and shorter books in translation continues, with ten reviewed titles (one-tenth of the total) under 100 pages (last hundred: seven).

       - Reviewed books were originally written in 23 different languages (including English; previous hundred: 26), with English topping the field (22), ahead of French (16) and Japanese (9). No new languages were added. (See also the updated full breakdown of all the languages books under review were originally written in.)

       - Reviewed books were by authors from 34 countries (previous 100: 36), led by France (12), followed by the UK and the US (10 each).

       - As always, male-written books were overwhelmingly dominant -- 82 of the reviewed books were written by men (improving the horribly sexist average of written-by-women titles under review ever so slightly, to ... 15.85 per cent).

       - Three books received a grade of 'A' -- Andrés Barba's Such Small Hands, Annie Ernaux's The Years, and Dag Solstad's T Singer. One book rated a 'C-'; two were ungraded.

       - Fiction dominated, as always, with 85 titles that were novels/novellas/stories.

       As always, there are all sorts of areas, languages, genres, etc. that I wish I'd read more of/from. Maybe eventually .....

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

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