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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 April 2018

1 April: 'Against Storytelling' | Drue Heinz (1915-2018) | Oneiron review
2 April: Mini books | Jürgen Habermas' library | Bookselling in ... Zimbabwe
3 April: You Should Have Left. the movie | The Kremlin Ball review
4 April: Ahmed Khaled Tawfik (1962-2018) | New edition of The Sarashina Diary
5 April: International DUBLIN Literary Award shortlist | Best present-day UK/Irish authors ? | Alma Mahler review | Nineteen years of the Complete Review
6 April: Guggenheim Fellowships | German Book Prize entries | The Devils' Dance review
7 April: Swedish Academy turmoil | Prix Le Point du polar européen | Albertine Prize finalists Q & As
8 April: BTBA longlist speculation | Bestseller study
9 April: Library of Arabic Literature Q & A | Translator Q & As: Mary Ann Newman - N. Kalyan Raman - Le Duc Man | Disoriental review
10 April: Magnesia Litera | London Book Fair

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10 April 2018 - Tuesday

Magnesia Litera | London Book Fair

       Magnesia Litera

       They've announced the winners of the Magnesia Litera, the major Czech literary prize(s), with Opuštěná společnost, by Erik Tabery taking book of the year; see, for example, the Paseka publicity page, and the Radio Praha report by Ruth Fraňková, Non-fiction Examination of Czech Society's Ills Lands Literary Prize.
       The best translation into Czech went to one of Máirtín Ó Cadhain's Cré na Cille -- beating out a translation of Jonathan Franzen's Purity, among others.
       Since 2018 was also the centenary of the establishment of Czech independence, they also voted on the 'book of the century': the experts selected The Good Soldier Švejk, by Jaroslav Hašek (ahead of I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal), while the popular vote went to ... Saturnin.

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

       London Book Fair

       The London Book Fair runs from today through the 12th, with a 'market focus' on the Baltic Countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) -- and a great line-up from these.
       See, for example, the Latvian preview .....

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

9 April 2018 - Monday

Library of Arabic Literature Q & A
Translator Q & As: Mary Ann Newman - N. Kalyan Raman - Le Duc Man
Disoriental review

       Library of Arabic Literature Q & A

       In Al-Ahram Weekly David Tresilian has a Q & A with Library of Arabic Literature-executive editors Philip Kennedy, James Montgomery, Shawkat Toorawa, and Chip Rossetti, who: "explained some of thinking behind the series to the Weekly, as well as future plans", in Arabic translation comes of age.
       A long-time -- from the very beginning ! -- fan of the series, I only have five of the series titles under review at the complete review -- but a big pile of to-get-to titles. It really is a great series, and it's great to hear more about it.

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

       Translator Q & A: Mary Ann Newman

       In The Oberlin Review Sophie Drukman-Feldstein has a Q & A with Mary Ann Newman, Translator. Among her translations from the Catalan under review at the complete review are Josep Maria de Sagarra's Private Life and Quim Monzó's Gasoline
       Among her observations:
Spanish has that very beautiful romance rhythm, but that can be limiting when one is translating. Catalan is interesting because it has more edges. It has a lot of monosyllables, it has words that end in consonants -- it's very, very beautiful, but it has a somewhat more staccato sound.
       And heads up, folks, for all those who think the golden age is come and who might be getting complacent:
Having said that, translation is entering into a period of crisis. It's had about 10 years of looking like translation was becoming a part of the American publishing scene, because there was money from foreign institutions, there were grants for translations, there were a lot of small independent publishers arising who were devoting their work to translation. And it seemed like there was a little ecosystem that was functioning, but it turned out that the profit margin for publishers, for these small publishers, is so small that a lot of them may not survive.
       My sense is also of an looming downturn -- do what you can to prevent it (like reading (and buying) works in translation !).

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

       Translator Q & A: N. Kalyan Raman

       In the Sunday Guardian Bhumika Popli has a Q & A with translator (from the Tamil) N. Kalyan Raman, 'A translation can only be as good as the translator'.

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

       Translator Q & A: Le Duc Man

       At VietNamNet they have a Q & A with translator from-the-Russian-into-Vietnamese Le Duc Man, who won the Viet Nam Writers Association Award for best translation in 2017, Translation is a "soft" weapon
       He points to four distinct phases of translation into Vietnamese, dominated first by from-the-Chinese, then French (1905 through the early 1960s), Russian (1961-1990), and English (the last quarter of a century).

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

       Disoriental review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Négar Djavadi's wonderfully-titled Disoriental, out shortly from Europa Editions.

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

8 April 2018 - Sunday

BTBA longlist speculation | Bestseller study

       BTBA longlist speculation

       The longlist for the 2018 Best Translated Book Award in fiction will be announced on Tuesday, 10 April. (Apparently the judges have already finalized the list.) [The (shorter) poetry longlist will also be announced then, but I'm focusing solely on the fiction list here.]

       Just a reminder how this works (assuming nothing has changed since I last heard/checked): the nine fiction judges each choose and rank their top ten titles, and the sixteen most popular/highly ranked (when everything is added up) make the longlist; each judge then gets one free selection of any title they like, to round out the longlist of/at twenty-five books.

       Unlike last year -- an outlier, where there was one title that obviously towered over everything else (indeed, over everything that had ever been eligible and considered for the Best Translated Book Award), namely John E. Woods' translation of Arno Schmidt's Bottom's Dream -- this year's field looks much more even, with a lot of books one could make a case for. Which makes predicting hard. (Of course, even when there's an obviously superior work eligible, predicting can be hard: last year's BTBA jurors declined to longlist Bottom's Dream .....)
       A lot depends on the judges, so any real attempt at prediction would try to suss out their leanings and likings (some of which can be gleaned from their BTBA posts at Three Percent, Twitter comments, and the like), but even so, the large number of judges generally means that a lot of personal favorites don't rise to the top; from my own judging days I note that getting half of my ten initial choices onto the longlist was about all I could expect.
       Given my terrible track record in predicting, it seems futile trying to put together a full 25-title-list. It's a fun game -- but without even Chad Post's occasionally-provided helpful clues (like last year), I don't have the energy to play the guessing game. So I'll stick to the slightly easier game of: what would I choose ?
       I've only reviewed about 110 of the eligible titles, and looked at far fewer additional ones than I would have if I were actually judging, so there are quite a few -- including some apparent favorites -- that I'm probably missing. Still, a top ten -- listed in alphabetical, not rank, order -- I would have submitted were I judging might have consisted of:        Titles marked by an asterisk are the ones I would be stunned if they were not on the longlist ..... (So figure on two of them not making it .....)
       And actually, in a bit of strategic voting, I would have left off Compass, figuring it was a sure-bet to get enough other judges' votes to let me substitute a perhaps otherwise less likely work -- maybe Ghachar Ghochar, by Vivek Shanbhag, Boathouse by Jon Fosse, or Jean Giono's Melville.
       This isn't necessarily a true best-list -- as always, considerations of balance are also a factor the judges take into account: language, gender, etc. (and so, for example, I hope they have a better male-female balance than I managed (sheesh ...) -- and more linguistic variety, too, come to think of it .....)

       Among the things I'm wondering about the longlist:
  • Will any AmazonCrossing titles be on it ? (The most eligible titles -- by far -- of any publisher, but only a few vaguely realistic contenders. Still: titles by Andrei Gelasimov, Amir Gutfreund, Jia Pingwa, and Igor Štiks certainly deserved a closer look, so maybe .... ? (I've only seen the Jia Pingwa, and wouldn't have longlisted it .....))

  • Dalkey Archive Press titles ? The Senges looks like the strongest possibility; Luis Goytisolo's Recounting has the drawback of being (only-)the-first-in-a-tetralogy. There's a Jáchym Topol .....

  • Seagull Books ? Great batch of eligible titles, but any true standouts ?

  • Any genre -- specifically crime or science fiction -- titles ? It seems to be a weaker-than-usual year in this regard -- though I hope they had a proper look at what is one of the better Pascal Garniers .....

  • How will the big names/Nobel laureates -- Murakami, Pamuk, Modiano -- fare ? (Not well, I believe) [Jelinek's Charges is listed n the Translation Database as a work of fiction (i.e. eligible in this category); whether it is or not, I don't see it getting longlisted; Children of the Dead -- when/if it ever appears -- will be harder to ignore.)

  • How will the prize darlings -- Krasznahorkai (not this year, I think), Erpenbeck, Han Kang (more likely, surely) -- fare ?

  • How will Jhumpa Lahiri-as-translator play ? (I.e. will Elena Ferrante's husband's novel be longlisted, or does this thing just come with too much baggage ?)

  • How will the previously Man Booker International Prize long-/short-listed/winners do -- specifically last year's winner, Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman ?
       Among other titles that I could see making the longlist are:        There's been disappointingly little online discussion and debate, but at least there's a bit at The Mookse and the Gripes' Goodreads 2018 BTBA Speculation-thread. And you still have a few days to debate ! before you can start ripping into the longlist itself .....

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

       Bestseller study

       In EPJ Data Science Burcu Yucesoy, Xindi Wang, Junming Huang, and Albert-László Barabási write about Success in books: a big data approach to bestsellers, with some unsurprising conclusions -- "there are seasonal patterns to book sales" -- but also some more interesting observations, including: "there is a universal pattern to book sales".
       Reliance on The New York Times Bestseller List seems somewhat problematic (since, with its various limitations, it doesn't truly capture or reflect actual total books sales), but presumably it's good enough .....
       Well worth a look.

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

7 April 2018 - Saturday

Swedish Academy turmoil | Prix Le Point du polar européen
Albertine Prize finalists Q & As

       Swedish Academy turmoil

       The Nobel Prize in Literature-deciding Swedish Academy has had a rough couple of years -- most of which they brought on themselves, culminating in the catastrophic/ridiculous decision to award Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize (and the ensuing chaos -- leading to absurdities such as this (I can't believe they sold out -- but of course they did ...)) -- and it hasn't been a stranger to members getting upset: several walked away from Academy activity in response to the Academy's (lack of) response to the Salman Rushdie fatwa, and Knut Ahnlund was famously so disgusted with the selection of Elfriede Jelinek that he also tried to quit (but you can't quit the Academy: once you're in, you're stuck for life).
       The latest scandal is an ongoing one that has not been resolved to the satisfaction of at least three Academicians, as Peter Englund -- longtime permanent secretary, in charge of the whole Nobel to-do, before handing over the job to Sara Danius in 2015 --, Klas Östergren, and Kjell Espmark -- one-sixth of the Academy -- have now all said they are stepping back from any Academy activity; see, for example, the Reuters report, here at The New York Times, Sexual Misconduct Claim Spurs Nobel Members to Step Aside in Protest and The Washington Post report, 3 judges quit Nobel literature prize committee.
       Disappointingly there is no official mention or statement at either the official site or Sara Danius' weblog, Ur Akademiens liv .....
       Coming just a month or so before the Nobel committee narrows down the list of Nobel candidates (to five or so finalists) before the Academy's summer vacation, one wonders how this will impact the decision-making; certainly the institutional turmoil doesn't bode well for thoughtful deliberation .... But then they chose Dylan when things were calmer a couple of years ago, so maybe this is the jolt they need to get their (literary) house in order again.
       Stay tuned for the next exciting chapters in what is proving to be quite the soap opera.

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

       Prix Le Point du polar européen

       The prix Le Point du polar européen -- a French best European crime/thriller prize -- has gone to Malin Persson Giolito's Quicksand (while Dirk Kurbjuweit's Fear was another of the finalists); see, for example, the Le Point report.

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

       Albertine Prize finalists Q & As

       At the Literary Hub they have Q & As with the authors of the five Albertine Prize finalist-titles (which include Mathias Énard's Compass and Anne Garréta's Not One Day) -- good fun.
       (Readers (and non-readers, and bots) can vote for their favorite (book, or author, or translator, or whatever) until 1 May; the awards ceremony will be 6 June.)

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

6 April 2018 - Friday

Guggenheim Fellowships | German Book Prize entries
The Devils' Dance review

       Guggenheim Fellowships

       They've announced the 173 Guggenheim Fellowships awarded for 2018, which includes seven for fiction, including to authors Rachel Cusk and China Miéville.
       Only one fellowship was awarded for translation -- to Zama-translator Esther Allen, so she can complete translations of two more Antonio Di Benedetto novels. (Fun fact: Di Benedetto was himself a Guggenheim Fellow in 1973 !)
       And, of course, there are also other literary projects of interest, such as Stratis Papaioannou's History of Byzantine Literature (330 CE-1453 CE).

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

       German Book Prize entries

       The entries are in for this year's German Book Prize, and they've announced that there are 165 novels in the running. God forbid they'd tell us something useful, like what the hell those books are -- but, alas, like the Man Booker prizes, that's kept hush-hush, for no plausible or possible good reason .....
       The judges have a fair amount of time to wade through this pile, with the longlist only to be announced 14 August, with the shortlist announcement due 11 September, and the winner to be announced 8 October.

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

       The Devils' Dance review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hamid Ismailov's The Devils' Dance, the first of his novels to be translated from the Uzbek (he also writes in Russian, and several of his Russian works have been translated previously).
       Tilted Axis Press is bringing this out -- and it's great to see some more Central Asian literature being made available in English. It's translated by Donald Rayfield (except for the poetry, with which John Farndon helped out) -- best-known for his translations from the Georgian.

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

5 April 2018 - Thursday

International DUBLIN Literary Award shortlist | Best present-day UK/Irish authors ?
Alma Mahler review | Nineteen years of the Complete Review

       International DUBLIN Literary Award shortlist

       They've announced the ten-title-strong shortlist for this year's International DUBLIN Literary Award, with six titles in translation and where, as John Boyne reports in his Irish Times overview, Women outnumber men for first time on Dublin Literary Award shortlist.
       Only two of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review:        The winner will be announced 13 June.

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

       Best present-day UK/Irish authors ?

       In the Times Literary Supplement Alex Clark writes about The best British and Irish novelists today, reporting that:
(A) group of 200 or so critics, academics and writers of fiction were asked to supply a list of the ten British and Irish novelists whom they considered to be producing the best writing "at the moment"; the ones whose recent books have been among their most impressive, and whose future work is the most eagerly anticipated.
       The top three were Ali Smith, Hilary Mantel, and Zadie Smith; Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro is the top male, at number four -- but the old guard such as Martin Amis and Julian Barnes doesn't rate at all, at least not in the top twenty or so .....

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

       Alma Mahler review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sasho Dimoski's very slim novel, Alma Mahler, just out from Dalkey Archive Press.

       A rare translation from the Macedonian .....
       (How rare ? Well, even though Dalkey Archive Press has a Macedonian Literature Series ... well, this appears to be the extent of it.)

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

       Nineteen years of the Complete Review

       It was 5 April 1999 that the first reviews were posted at the complete review; now it's nineteen years later, and we're up to 4125 .....
       Time flies, but not everything changes; the formula of the site seems to have held up well -- links ! quotes ! (and my reviews ...) -- though, sure, the look of the site could use a little sprucing up.
       I'm glad to see folks still seem to find it of some use and interest; I hope you continue to do so.

       Your support is, of course, also always welcome:

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

4 April 2018 - Wednesday

Ahmed Khaled Tawfik (1962-2018) | New edition of The Sarashina Diary

       Ahmed Khaled Tawfik (1962-2018)

       Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik (also: Towfik, because ... transliteration ...) has passed away; see, for example, Well-known Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik dies at 55 at ahramonline, and Renowned Egyptian Author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik Dies at 55 at Egyptian Streets.
       He was: "one of the earliest Egyptian writers to specialise in horror, science fiction and fantasy", though only his Utopia seems to have made it into English (so far).

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

       New edition of The Sarashina Diary

       I reviewed Sugawara no Takasue no musume's classic The Sarashina Diary when the new translation by Sonja Arntzen and Itō Moriyuki came out a couple of years ago, but there's a new edition of this out now from Columbia University Press: same translation, but a 'Reader's Edition'; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or
       This one is perhaps more reader/user friendly -- not quite as much supporting material, specifically in the form of the 'interpretive study' (a much shorter Introduction here) -- but really, you'd do fine with either version.
       See now also the Q&A: Sonja Arntzen on the The Sarashina Diary: A Woman's Life in Eleventh-Century Japan at the Columbia University Press blog.

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

3 April 2018 - Tuesday

You Should Have Left. the movie | The Kremlin Ball review

       You Should Have Left. the movie

       As, for example, Variety reports, Kevin Bacon to Produce, Star in Horror-Thriller 'You Should Have Left' for Blumhouse.
       That's the film version of Daniel Kehlmann's recent novel, You Should Have Left -- not the first of his novels to be filmed, but certainly the most high-profile production. We'll see how that goes .....

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

       The Kremlin Ball review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Curzio Malaparte's unfinished novel, The Kremlin Ball, now out in English, from New York Review Books.

       Based on Malaparte's own experiences in 1929-30 Moscow, it's certainly an interesting piece of work.

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

2 April 2018 - Monday

Mini books | Jürgen Habermas' library | Bookselling in ... Zimbabwe

       Mini books

       In Tiny books collection at University of Iowa has volumes smaller than an inch, in the Iowa City Press-Citizen Dick Hakes profiles the Charlotte M. Smith Collection of Miniature Books.
       Much as I love pocket-sized books, some of these are even too small for my tastes (and/or perusal) .....

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

       Jürgen Habermas' library

       A nice regular feature at Suhrkamp's Logbuch weblog has them go 'Durch die Bibliothek ...' ('Through the library ...'), a library Q & A -- most recently about Jürgen Habermas'.
       Asked how he organizes his books, Habermas demonstrates his bibliophile bonafides, answering:
Die richtige Frage ist doch: Wo ist noch Platz für die Bücher ?

[Surely the proper question is: where is there still room for books ?]
       Also good to see: his current read is Annie Ernaux's The Years: "davon bin ich ganz hingerissen" ('I'm blown away by that one') he says. And good to see that, back when, he eagerly greeted every new Brecht play, and every new work by Peter Weiss, Max Frisch, Wolfgang Koeppen, Grass, Jurek Becker, Thomas Bernhard, and Alexander Kluge (though it's hard to overlook how Suhrkamp-heavy that particular list is ...).

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

       Bookselling in ... Zimbabwe

       In The Herald they report that 'Sloppy' booksellers under fire.
       Distribution remains a problem in much of Africa, though some of these are (one hopes) largely local issues -- and it should be possible to (eventually) address them.

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

1 April 2018 - Sunday

'Against Storytelling' | Drue Heinz (1915-2018) | Oneiron review

       'Against Storytelling'

       In late February they held the 4th UEA Symposium, with the theme: Against Storytelling, and at Nayani Goyal now reports on it, in Against storytelling: This essay might destroy all your ideas about the value of the story in a book.
The symposium was a lament against the celebration of "world literature"
       So, yeah, I'm sorry to have missed that .....

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

       Drue Heinz (1915-2018)

       Not only did she make it to 103, she co-founded Ecco Press, was a publisher of The Paris Review, and endowed the Drue Heinz Literature Prize -- quite the life, and Marylynne Pitz's obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is quite a read.

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

       Oneiron review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Laura Lindstedt's 2015 Finlandia Prize-winning novel, Oneiron, now out in English, from Oneworld.

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

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