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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 May 2018

1 May: Tehran International Book Fair | Prizes: NSW Premier's Literary Awards - Wellcome Prize
2 May: Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize shortlist | Fifteen years of Words without Borders
3 May: Bibliotopia | First Person review
4 May: No Nobel Prize in Literature this year | J.S.Mill marginalia | Allmen and the Dragonflies review
5 May: Nobel postponement reactions | Canon making | Publishing in ... Australia
6 May: (Other) Goncourt prizes | Magazine editing
7 May: Translator memorialized | Bosphorus Review of Books profile | Bride and Groom review
8 May: Libris Literatuur Prijs | African literature in ... China | The Secret History of my Sojourn in Russia review
9 May: Folio Prize | Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize | 'Venuti and After' conference
10 May: Georgia-in-Frankfurt preview | (Socialist) Realism

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10 May 2018 - Thursday

Georgia-in-Frankfurt preview | (Socialist) Realism

       Georgia-in-Frankfurt preview

       Georgia is the 'guest of honour' at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, and on Monday they introduced their programme including with an elaborate Georgia - Made by Characters-press kit (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       Among the observations:
Since 2010, about 200 Georgian books have been translated and published in foreign countries with the aid of the Ministry of Culture and Sport of Georgia and Georgian National Book Center, among them 65 were published in German speaking countries. A further 60 new German translations are planned as part of Georgia's appearance as Guest of Honour.
       Meanwhile. the Three Percent database so far lists zero (0) translations from the Georgian appearing in 2018 and 2019 -- though of course there's still time to change that ... -- and a mere ten for the entire decade before that -- mostly made up of titles from the Dalkey Archive Press Georgian Literature Series. (There's also Comma Press' recent anthology, The Book of Tbilisi, which I haven't seen but sounds like a good intro-volume; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or
       There are a few Georgian titles under review at the complete review -- but not nearly as many as I'd like; I hope to see more in the run-up to/fall-out from Frankfurt .....

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

       (Socialist) Realism

       An interesting piece at e-flux by Robert Bird, Articulations of (Socialist) Realism: Lukács, Platonov, Shklovsky, as he notes:
     Two puzzles dominate recent discussions of Soviet literature and Marxist aesthetics in the 1930s. The first is how the official Soviet system tolerated and even at times celebrated such an idiosyncratic writer as Andrei Platonov, who in the last twenty-five years has emerged as the central literary artist of the time. The second puzzle is how socialist realism, a literature wholly focused on the future, came to model itself on nineteenth-century realism, with the result that the bulk of socialist realist novels (and works in other literary genres and artistic mediums) read like tedious exercises in nostalgia, while artists who really anticipate the future, like Platonov, became marginalized.
       I'm fascinated by early Soviet literature -- though admittedly more the 1920s than 30s (and I'm not quite as Platonov-enthusiastic as most ...) -- and quite a few Shklovsky titles are also under review at the complete review; see, e.g. Third Factory .

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

9 May 2018 - Wednesday

Folio Prize | Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize
'Venuti and After' conference

       Folio Prize

       They've announced that this year's Rathbones Folio Prize has been awarded to Ghosts of The Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry; see the MCD publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize

       They've announced that Isabel Fargo Cole has won this year's Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize for her translation of Wolfgang Hilbig's Old Rendering Plant; see also the Two Lines Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

       Recall that Cole's (written in German !) novel, Die grüne Grenze was a finalist for this year's Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse; see also the Edition Nautilus publicity page.

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

       'Venuti and After' conference

       On Friday the British Centre for Literary Translation is hosting an all-day conference, Venuti and After.
       Both Lawrence Venuti's The Translator's Invisibility and Kate Briggs' This Little Art are high on my to-cover pile (ah, non-fiction ... always tougher to digest/work on ...), and both will be there; sounds like it'll be pretty interesting -- head on over, if you have the chance.

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

8 May 2018 - Tuesday

Libris Literatuur Prijs | African literature in ... China
The Secret History of my Sojourn in Russia review

       Libris Literatuur Prijs

       They've announced that this year the €50,000 Libris Literatuur Prijs -- the leading Dutch novel prize -- goes to Wees onzichtbaar, by Murat Isik; see also the Ambo|Anthos publicity page.

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

       African literature in ... China

       At Sixth Tone Bruce Humes wonders Can Literary Imports Change Chinese Perceptions of Africa ?
       Humes reports on "three waves of African literary imports" in China -- and also points to the useful African Writing in Chinese Translation database -- '50 African Authors, 120 Translated Works' -- at his weblog.
       Obviously, China still has a lot of catching up to do in this area .....

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

       The Secret History of my Sojourn in Russia review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jaroslav Hašek's The Secret History of my Sojourn in Russia, recently out from Glagoslav.

       Hašek is, of course, best known for his The Good Soldier Švejk -- perhaps the best-known and loved of all Czech novels -- but who knew he spent more than six years (of his short life) in Russia ?

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

7 May 2018 - Monday

Translator memorialized | Bosphorus Review of Books profile
Bride and Groom review

       Translator memorialized

       OK, maybe it's more about that title he translated than his career-as-translator per se, but what translator wouldn't kill for the headline Translator's former residence now a Communist Manifesto exhibition center ?
       And Chen Wangdao does get his due, too: check out that picture of: "A life-size wax statue of Chen Wangdao sitting at his desk on the second floor" -- pen in hand !
       See also fun (?) anecdotal art like: "A large picture on the wall tells the story of how Chen was so engrossed in his work he mistook ink for sugar when eating zongzi."
       And it's actually a pretty neat-looking house, too.

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

       Bosphorus Review of Books profile

       The Bosphorus Review of Books is now up to issue number nine, and in Daily Sabah Matt Hanson profiles A strait of tomes: In conversation with the Bosphorus Review of Books.

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

       Bride and Groom review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alisa Ganieva's Bride and Groom -- a novel set in Dagestan, recently out in English from Deep Vellum.

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

6 May 2018 - Sunday

(Other) Goncourt prizes | Magazine editing

       (Other) Goncourt prizes

       The prix Goncourt, awarded in the fall, is the leading French book prize, but the Académie Goncourt hands out quite a few others, and they've just announced the winners of this year's Goncourt du premier roman (the first novel prize) and the Goncourt de la nouvelle.
       The Goncourt du premier roman went to Grand frère, by Mahir Guven; see the Philippe Rey publicity page.
       The Goncourt de la nouvelle went to Régis Jauffret's second 1000-page collection of microfictions, Microfictions 2018; see the Gallimard publicity page.
       The two Jauffret titles that have been translated into English are under review at the complete review -- Lacrimosa and Severe -- and I have to admit I am kind of curious about the Microfictions-volumes. They do seem rather unlikely to get translated into English, however, given their size.

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

       Magazine editing

       At Eurozine they've launched 'a series on the history of cultural journals'; the first piece is Matthew Philpotts' 'Seven theses on editorial plurality', What makes a great magazine editor ?

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

5 May 2018 - Saturday

Nobel postponement reactions | Canon making
Publishing in ... Australia

       Nobel postponement reactions

       As I mentioned yesterday, the Swedish Academy announced that they will not name the winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature in October, but rather hope/plan to do so in October, 2019 -- when they also hope/plan to announce the 2019 winner. As they note, this is not entirely unprecedented -- though the last time it happened was in 1949 ... --, and the priority right now is on getting their house back in order. Currently, it most definitely is not in order, with too few members playing along (i.e. still active in the Academy) to do anything.
       (Aside: one really has to wonder who the hell drafted the Academy charter, which apparently sees to a Hotel California-type situation (once you're in, you're in (and stuck) for life, even if you want nothing more to do with the institution -- 'You can check out any time you like / But you can never leave') as well as demanding that twelve of the eighteen members vote to elect any new members. What if a plague wiped out half the Academy ? There wouldn't be enough to vote to fill the vacant seats .....)
       The Nobel Foundation -- who must be pissed as hell about what's happening here -- have also issued an official statement, The Nobel Foundation supports the Swedish Academy's decision to postpone the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature -- noting also that:
We also assume that all members of the Academy realise that both its extensive reform efforts and its future organisational structure must be characterised by greater openness towards the outside world
       But surely part of the problem is that the one of the few reasons the Nobel is such a big deal is because the selection process works the way it does (or doesn't, as certain laureate-choices suggest ...), the Swedish Academy allowed to go about its 'business' in this nutty, secretive archaic-institutional way -- with an absolute lack of transparency (and surely loads of personality-conflicts behind the scenes).
       Sure, I'd love it if they always published the list of nominated authors -- not fifty years after the fact, as is now the case, but immediately -- and then their long- and short-lists -- but obviously most of the fun here is that this is a) about so insanely much money (we're talking about 'literature' after all, and there ain't money like this to be found in 'literature' anywhere else), and b) all in the hands of this ridiculous committee of Swedes who get to play dress-up and who, individually, may be, in their fields, (more or less) respected authorities but as a body are ... well, hard to take all too seriously (and always have been).

       Anyway, of course there have been lots of pieces about this decision/move -- and riffs on the prize in general ... --, including:        I suppose because all of the attention -- and (justifiably) bad press -- the Swedish Academy has gotten, it was inevitable that this year's prize would be considered 'tainted', if they had gone through with it, but I have to admit that I don't completely get it. The Academy is obviously a toxic mess, with some horrible issues that they have, so far, dealt with very poorly -- but would that really affect their decision-making regarding this year's laureate ? They've often made dubious, questionable decisions (don't get me started on the most recent disaster, from just two years ago ...) -- but surely this has always been a dysfunctional -- if generally more civil, and certainly putting on a better public face -- body. Yes, the current situation is extreme -- and functionally problematic, given that so many members are not actively participating in Academy-business any longer -- but is also a rare instance where the laundry and issues are very public; I suspect that over the years the behind-the-closed-doors infighting has been similarly heated.
       Yes, the Academy has a lot of work to do -- but surely, as far as the Nobel Prize itself goes, this doesn't compare to the 1974 disaster, which called the whole Prize and procedure into question. (That's the year they named two of their own co-laureates .....)
       I look forward to the PR-spin they'll be offering -- and to how they handle the whole twice-as-much-fun/potential for disaster awarding-two-prizes next year.

       (As an illustration of how peculiar this institution is, consider the 1949 prize, not awarded that year because they: "decided that none of the year's nominations met the criteria as outlined in the will of Alfred Nobel"
       How bad were the nominations ? Well, the Academy apparently changed its mind -- quickly: of the 35 authors named in the 43 nominations, nine (!) went on to get the Nobel -- and while some were arguably early in their careers (e.g. a pre-Zhivago Pasternak), they included the 1951, 1952, and 1953 winners (Lagerkvist, Mauriac, and Churchill). (The rest: Steinbeck, Agnon, Camus, Sholokhov, Halldór Laxness.) But neither the delayed 1949 laureate (Faulkner) nor the 1950 one (Bertrand Russell !) were nominated in 1949, so presumably the Academy was holding out for those two .....)

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

       Canon making

       The always fun canon-debate !
       In The Washington Post Viet Thanh Nguyen suggests 'Books by immigrants, foreigners and minorities don't diminish the 'classic' curriculum. They enhance it', in Canon Fodder
       The opening lines are a devastating indictment of the American higher education system:
In 1992, as a first-year PhD student at Berkeley, I told the English department chairman, a famous Americanist, that I wanted to write a dissertation on Vietnamese and Vietnamese American literature. "You can't do that," he said, fretting over my ambition to teach in a university English department. "You won't get a job."
       My main issue with the canon-debate is that it's a narrowing-down, as if literature can be captured and checked off with the consumption of a handful of 'canonical' texts. Instead, I'd (always) suggest: read more, and read more widely.

       On a more localized level, see also Ronan Doherty, Philip O’Leary, and Brian Ó Conchubhair on What are the best books in Irish ? Weaponising the Irish-language canon in the Irish Times.

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

       Publishing in ... Australia

       An interesting piece by Emmett Stinson at The Conversation on The remarkable, prize-winning rise of our small publishers in Australia.
       (A similar phenomenon is seen in US and UK translation prizes, dominated by small and independent presses. Does not reflect well on the big(gest) publishing conglomerates .....)

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

4 May 2018 - Friday

No Nobel Prize in Literature this year
J.S.Mill marginalia | Allmen and the Dragonflies review

       No Nobel Prize in Literature this year

       So, given all the turmoil at the Swedish Academy they've made it official: The Swedish Academy postpones the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature.
       The prize isn't cancelled -- they'll double up (they hope ...) next year, awarding both the 2018 and 2019 prizes then --, and, as they note, this isn't the first time the prize has been postponed.
       Probably the right decision, giving them time to regroup -- but it's still going to take some work for them to get their institutional mess in order. And it's disappointing for all of us who enjoy the annual spectacle (well, with that recent, drawn-out exception ...).
       Any bets yet on how they're going to play the two-prizes-next-year awards ? Similar authors ? Radically different authors ? (I know, I know: way too early to speculate; we'll have to see what the Academy actually looks like (i.e. who is still in it) to guess.)

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

       J.S.Mill marginalia

       This is what the internet does best: sites such as Mill Marginalia Online, offering, yes, "a digital edition of all marks and annotations in the books of the John Stuart Mill Collection, held at Oxford University's Somerville College".
       In The Guardian Richard Adams writes about the project, in JS Mill scribbles reveal he was far from a chilly Victorian intellectual.
       The only Mill title under review at the complete review is On Liberty, but/and he is certainly among the authors who have had a tremendous impact on me.

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

       Allmen and the Dragonflies review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Martin Suter's Allmen and the Dragonflies, just (about) out from New Vessel Press -- and a great little light read. Here's hoping they follow up with the whole series.

       Meanwhile, his The Last Weynfeldt, which New Vessel Press brought out in the US a couple of years ago, just came out in the UK in a No Exit Press edition.

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

3 May 2018 - Thursday

Bibliotopia | First Person review


       The Fondation Jan Michalski is holding their BIBLIOTOPIA literary week-end around the world tomorrow through Sunday, with a very good line-up of international authors -- looks promising.

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

       First Person review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Richard Flanagan's most recent novel, First Person, now also out in a US edition.

       I'm a bit surprised it hasn't gotten a bit more US review-attention yet -- Flanagan has previously (and not that long ago) won the Man Booker Prize, after all, and the story-behind-the-story, at the very least, is an interesting one.

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

2 May 2018 - Wednesday

Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize shortlist
Fifteen years of Words without Borders

       Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, eight titles translated from six languages, selected from 112 titles translated from 24 different languages. (The prize is limited to translations: "from any living European language" -- but considers titles by deceased authors (unlike the Man Booker International Prize) as well as new translations of previously translated works (unlike the Best Translated Book Award), with examples of both making the shortlist.)
       The finalists are:
  • A Love Story, by Émile Zola, tr. Helen Constantine
  • Belladonna, by Daša Drndić, tr. Celia Hawkesworth
  • Blood Dark, by Louis Guilloux, tr. Laura Marris
  • The End of Eddy, by Édouard Louis, tr. Michael Lucey
  • Memoirs of a Polar Bear, by Tawada Yoko, tr. Susan Bernofsky
  • Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, by Dorthe Nors, tr. Misha Hoekstra
  • Such Small Hands, by Andrés Barba, tr. Lisa Dillman
  • Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems, by Pablo Neruda, tr. Forrest Gander
       Interestingly, there was no overlap whatsoever between the BTBA longlist and this one, and while eligibility issues (year of publication, language, re-translation) preclude some titles from appearing on both, it's still surprising. Two titles I felt quite sure would make it onto the BTBA list -- the Barba and Drndić -- were at least recognized here. And good also to see that this prize gives worthy translations like the new version of the Guilloux a chance (as neither the BTBA nor Man Booker would, for eligibility reasons).

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

       Fifteen years of Words without Borders

       In the May, 2018 issue of Words without Borders, 'The World through the Eyes of Writers: Celebrating Fifteen Years', they're "marking our fifteenth anniversary by taking readers around the globe and through our archives with work by some of our favorite contributors".
       Fifteen years, and tons of great material -- make your way through the new issue, or wade through the archives !

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

1 May 2018 - Tuesday

Tehran International Book Fair
Prizes: NSW Premier's Literary Awards - Wellcome Prize

       Tehran International Book Fair

       The Tehran International Book Fair runs from tomorrow through 12 May, with Serbia as this year's 'Guest of Honor'.
       As Manijeh Rezapoor reports in the Tehran Times, (President Hassan) Rouhani to inaugurate Tehran Intl. Book Fair

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

       Prizes: NSW Premier's Literary Awards

       They've announced the winner's of this year's NSW Premier's Literary Awards, one of the leading Australian literary prizes.
       The Christina Stead Prize for Fiction went to The Book of Dirt, by Bram Presser -- and it also picked up the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing, as well as the People's Choice Award; see the Text publicity page.
       Unfortunately, the NSW Premier's Translation Prize is only biennial, and this was an off year for it.

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

       Prize: Wellcome Prize

       They've announced that this year's Wellcome Prize -- awarded to a work of fiction or non that has: "a central theme that engages with some aspect of medicine, health or illness" -- has been awarded to To Be a Machine, by Mark O'Connell; see the Granta publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

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