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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 30 June 2018

21 June: Contemporary Japanese writing | Open Letter profile | Seoul International Book Fair | Wait, Blink review
22 June: Bruce Humes profile | Arab-Chinese literature forum | The New Adventures of Don Quixote review
23 June: Jan Michalski Prize longlist | New issue of World Literature Today
24 June: Sunday Times Literary Awards | The Valley of the Fallen review
25 June: Donald Hall (1928-2018) | The Years - UK edition
26 June: The (too) personal novel ? | Austrian Book Prize
27 June: (Some big) US fall titles | The Flying Mountain review
28 June: Rheingau Literatur Preis | Mario Vargas Llosa Q & A | Literary magazines in ... Africa | Deaths for the Ladies review
29 June: Whiting Literary Magazine Prizes | French literary prizes: Prix Émile Guimet - Prix America
30 June: Académie française distinctions | Nyein Kyaw profile | The Traitor's Niche review

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30 June 2018 - Saturday

Académie française distinctions | Nyein Kyaw profile | The Traitor's Niche review

       Académie française distinctions

       The Académie française waits until the fall to announce its big novel prize, the Grand Prix du Roman, but they hand out a lot of other prizes and honors, and they've now announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the 66 2018 palmarès.
       Among the top honors: Charles Dantzig was awarded the (usually) biennial €45,000 Grand Prix de Littérature Paul Morand. (I've been enjoying his fat Dictionnaire égoïste de la littérature française (see the Le Livre de Poche publicity page) and hope to eventually get a review up.)
       Michel Tremblay was awarded the Grand Prix de la francophonie, while The Meursault Investigation-author Kamel Daoud won the Grande Médaille de la francophonie.

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

       Nyein Kyaw profile

       In the Myanmar Times Tu Thein Oo profiles Burmese author Nyein Kyaw, Writer of Romance and much more.
       Apparently he was: "one of the most respected, well-known writers in Myanmar from the mid-70s to mid-90s", he: "escaped the censors because his work focused on romance, not politics".
       It would be great to see some of these popular works in English (even/especially with those covers ...) .....

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

       The Traitor's Niche review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ismail Kadare's 1978 novel, The Traitor's Niche; a UK edition came out last year, and now Counterpoint has come out with a US edition.

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

29 June 2018 - Friday

Whiting Literary Magazine Prizes
French literary prizes: Prix Émile Guimet - Prix America

       Whiting Literary Magazine Prizes

       The Whiting Foundation has set up the Whiting Literary Magazine Prizes for non-profit literary publications in three categories -- two print, depending on budget, and one digital. The prizes: "acknowledge, reward, and encourage organizations that actively nurture the writers who tell us, through their art, what is important", and they've now announced this year's winners: A Public Space, Fence, and Words without Borders.
       Each winner gets an outright grant right away -- $20,000 for the medium-sized magazine category, $10,000 each for the smaller magazine and 'primarily online' categories -- and then a matching grant up to that amount for each of the next two years.
       Worthy winners all, and it's especially great to see Word without Borders recognized for their work.

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

       French literary prize: Prix Émile Guimet

       The prix Émile Guimet de littérature asiatique is a French literary prize for the best (relatively new -- it can't have been published in its original language more than ten years ago) Asian work of fiction translated into French, and they've now announced this year's winner, the French translation of Hwang Sok-yong's 해질 무렵, Au soleil couchant (not yet available in English; see the Philippe Picquier publicity page).
       See also the list of finalists -- two of which were are translations from English. The only one of the finalists under review at the complete review is A Yi's A Perfect Crime.

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

       French literary prize: Prix America

       The French magazine America started a 'prix America' last year, for the best American book published in French, and they've announced that My Absolute Darling (published in French under the original English title) by Gabriel Tallent has taken this year's prize; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.

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

28 June 2018 - Thursday

Rheingau Literatur Preis | Mario Vargas Llosa Q & A
Literary magazines in ... Africa | Deaths for the Ladies review

       Rheingau Literatur Preis

       They've announced that Robert Seethaler will pick up (on 23 September, at their annual festival) the Rheingau Literatur Preis -- €11,111 and 111 bottles of Rheingau Riesling -- for his new novel, Das Feld.
       Seethaler has already enjoyed great international success, and A Whole Life and The Tobacconist are available in English. I have to admit that I haven't quite been won over -- and I don't think this new one (featuring the talking dead ...) will do the job either. It will, however, no doubt soon be available in English translation; see the Hanser foreign rights page.

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

       Mario Vargas Llosa Q & A

       At The Washington Post Michael Skafidas has a Q & A with Mario Vargas Llosa -- Reading 'Lolita' in the #MeToo era.
       The Nobel laureate argues:
You cannot attack literature for our vices and prejudices and stupidities. I think this is very important because I am convinced that the feminist movement's voice should be heard, but I don't accept this idea of censorship for literature or for culture in general.

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

       Literary magazines in ... Africa

       At okayafrica Tadiwa Madenga looks at 5 Literary Magazines That Have Transformed African Literature, beginning with Black Orpheus

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

       Deaths for the Ladies review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Norman Mailer's 1962 poetry collection, Deaths for the Ladies (and other disasters).
       Yes, this is not one of Mailer's more famous books; indeed, it looks like it's been out of print for many decades. It's also not particularly good -- but I have to admit, I was curious .....

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

27 June 2018 - Wednesday

(Some big) US fall titles | The Flying Mountain review

       (Some big) US fall titles

       At Publishers Weekly they have their Fall 2018 Adult Announcements issue, listing what they consider to be: 'The big titles of autumn'.
       The most interesting category of the fifteen they have is the Literary Fiction list -- and it's encouraging/interesting/(worrying ?) to see how many of the titles are works in translation: the new Murakami, the sixth and final volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle (both making their top ten), as well as everything from The Taiga Syndrome by Cristina Rivera Garza (from Dorothy -- I just got the ARC, and it looks intriguing) to the next Virginie Despentes to make it to the US (which still isn't Vernon Subutex ...), the next Yan Lianke, Olga Tokarczuk's Man Booker International Prize-winner -- and, above all, Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries (as well as, inexplicably, the new Paulo Coelho).
       A lot to look forward to -- though there's a whole lot beyond these too .....

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

       The Flying Mountain review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Christoph Ransmayr's novel-in-(sort-of-)verse, The Flying Mountain.
       This 2006 novel is finally available in English, in Simon Pare's translation, from Seagull Books -- and it was (deservedly) longlisted for this year's Man Booker International Prize (and I have hopes that it will be the first book that gets (at least) longlisted in both the fiction and the poetry categories for the Best Translated Book Award next year (the last work that I thought stood a chance of doing that double was Gonçalo M. Tavares' A Voyage to India, which, however, ... didn't)).
       It is somewhat disappointing that the Man Booker International Prize attention hasn't translated into wider English-language review-coverage -- at least not yet .....

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

26 June 2018 - Tuesday

The (too) personal novel ? | Austrian Book Prize

       The (too) personal novel ?

       In The Guardian Alex Clark wonders Drawn from life: why have novelists stopped making things up ?
       Of course, variations on 'autofiction' have existed almost as long as the novel itself, but she's right that the current iteration is crazy-widespread right now. I'm still more annoyed by novelists' continued reliance on real-life figures other than themselves (even as I am deeply impressed by some/many (most recently: the most recently reviewed title at the site ...)), but then I've also managed to avoid many of the titles/authors/navel-gazers she cites.
       I'm certainly strongly in the write-what-you-don't-know camp (and have little-to-no interest in authors' (or anyone else's) 'real' lives), but it seems to me there's also room for all of these and more ..... Sure, this stuff is getting more attention than it probably deserves (and leading too many impressionable young writers astray), but there's so much else out there as well, and so many authors who are trying other (more and less interesting) things (with more or less equally mixed results ...) .....

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

       Austrian Book Prize

       Following the German and (German-)Swiss example, the Austrians set up their own best-book-prize in 2016 (their variation open to all genres, which is at least something slightly different).
       The entries are in for this year's prize, and while, like the Man Booker, the German Book Prize, and most of the rest they outrageously and inexplicably won't reveal what those books actually are, they have now announced the numbers: 121 books, from 60 publishers (39 Austrian, 19 German, and two Swiss publishers).
       The ten-title longlist will be announced 5 September.

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

25 June 2018 - Monday

Donald Hall (1928-2018) | The Years - UK edition

       Donald Hall (1928-2018)

       American poet Donald Hall has passed away; see, for example, David Kirby's obituary in The New York Times.
       A good selection of his poetry is available at the Poetry site; beside the many volumes of poetry see also, for example, his Unpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in Poetry; get your copy at or

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

       The Years - UK edition

       Annie Ernaux's The Years came out last fall in the US (from Seven Stories Press) and now also is available in a UK edition (from Fitzcarraldo Editions -- enough said, right ?) -- worth a mention, since this was one of the best books I read last year. (True, I've been a longtime Ernaux-fan, but even those that have had some difficulty with the grim/bleakness of some of her other works should find this much more ... welcoming.)
       Limited review coverage so far -- Lauren Elkin's review in The Guardian and not much more ... -- but it took a while for those US reviews to start coming in, too, so hopefully it will get the attention it deserves.

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

24 June 2018 - Sunday

Sunday Times Literary Awards | The Valley of the Fallen review

       Sunday Times Literary Awards

       They've announced the winners of the 2018 Sunday Times Literary Awards, with the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize going to A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg, by Harry Kalmer; see also the Penguin (SA) publicity page; it doesn't appear to be readily US/UK available.

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

       The Valley of the Fallen review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Carlos Rojas' 1978 Goya novel, The Valley of the Fallen, recently out from Yale University Press in their Margellos World Republic of Letters-series.

       Rojas is a long-time American resident -- he taught at Emory -- but remains widely unknown and under-appreciated here; Edith Grossman translated this, as well as his The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico García Lorca Ascends to Hell a couple of years ago, but even that star-power translation support doesn't seem to have translated into the attention for or interest in his works they deserve. (The review of The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico García Lorca Ascends to Hell has gotten all of two page-views at the complete review in the past three months .....) He doesn't seem to be getting his due in Spain either -- this one appears to be (rather long) out of print there ....
       (This might actually be a case of a translator with the same name (translating from the Chinese -- Yan Lianke, in particular; see his faculty page) being better-known in the English speaking world than the author .....)

       As to The Valley of the Fallen: it is very, very good -- an exceptional work.

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

23 June 2018 - Saturday

Jan Michalski Prize longlist | New issue of World Literature Today

       Jan Michalski Prize longlist

       They've announced the first round selections of the 2018 Jan Michalski Prize, the admirable (if under-publicized) prize "awarded for works of fiction or non fiction, irrespective of the language in which it is written", which pays out a tidy CHF 50,000.
       The first round selection -- last year there was a second round, and only then were three finalists announced -- is made up of nine titles and includes quite a few prize-winners and elsewhere-longlisted titles including Preti Taneja's We That Are Young, which just won the Desmond Elliott Prize and Maggie Nelson's (2015) National Book Critic Circle Award-winning The Argonauts, There's also a not-yet-translated Olga Tokarczuk, a George Szirtes collection, and the two volumes of Virginie Despentes' Vernon Subutex.
       The usual odd but interesting mix -- though of course as always I'd like to see more fiction .....

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

       New issue of World Literature Today

       The July-August issue of World Literature Today is now available, with a section on 2018 Puterbaugh Fellow Jenny Erpenbeck.
       Lots to keep you busy with -- including my favorite part of every issue, the extensive book review section.

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

22 June 2018 - Friday

Bruce Humes profile | Arab-Chinese literature forum
The New Adventures of Don Quixote review

       Bruce Humes profile

       In the South China Morning Post Thomas Bird profiles translator Bruce Humes -- or rather lets Humes give convenient summaries, in How a writer gives voice to China's ethnic minorities by translating their stories.
       Among the most fascinating/disturbing things Humes mentions:
Since returning to East Asia in 2014 I have not been able to make a smooth transition from the China of Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin -- a period I now realise was fairly liberal in terms of media freedom -- to the increasingly authoritarian environment under Xi Jinping.

As a translator who needs unimpeded access to the internet, I simply cannot do my work [in China].
       See also his weblog, Altaic Storytelling.

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

       Arab-Chinese literature forum

       They're apparently holding an Arab-Chinese literature forum -- "dubbed 'Literary Innovation on the New Silk Road'" -- with more than fifty writers, including thirteen from China.
       See, for example, the account at Xinhuanet, First Arab-Chinese literature forum features dialogue between civilizations.

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

       The New Adventures of Don Quixote review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of a Tariq Ali play from a couple of years ago, The New Adventures of Don Quixote.

       I really should/want to get to more drama ... (among so much I would like to get to ...).

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

21 June 2018 - Thursday

Contemporary Japanese writing | Open Letter profile
Seoul International Book Fair | Wait, Blink review

       Contemporary Japanese writing

       At the Times Literary Supplement site Roland Kelts writes about Japanese questions of the soul, looking at what he calls the 'A.M.'-- "After Murakami" -- generation of Japanese writers.
       He finds:
The sex and race-driven identity politics currently animating and, to my mind, diminishing the literature and cultural products of the West are either muted or non-existent in Japan, where postmodern aesthetics are the outer skin of a modernist backbone. Japanese stories focus on the individual adrift in seas of excessive convenience and information, obsessed with personal not political identities, and questions of the soul.
       Many of the authors he mentions are under review at the complete review. And having also heard Slow Boat (etc.)-author Furukawa Hideo read from his own work, I can confirm that it is, indeed, an ... unusual experience.

       (Meanwhile, see also the recently reviewed The Rise and Fall of Modern Japanese Literature, by John Whittier Treat -- with a much broader (and hence less focused on the current -- though Furukawa and some of these others do get a mention) ambit.)

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

       Open Letter profile

       In the Rochester Review Kathleen McGarvey profiles University of Rochester-based publisher of literature in translation Open Letter, in A small giant in world literature.
       10 years, 100 titles, and (by now considerably more than) 100,000 books is pretty good -- and the graphic at the end of the article, with all 100 book covers, is actually pretty useful as a quick overview.

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

       Seoul International Book Fair

       The Seoul International Book Fair opened yesterday and runs through Sunday.
       The Guest of Honour this year is the Czech Republic -- "Historically it is the first time, when Czech literature is presented to Korea in more complex manner".
       See also Kwak Yeon-soo's report on the International Translation and Publication Symposium ("held on the sidelines of the 2018 Seoul International Book Fair") in The Korea Times, Translated literary works gaining influence.

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

       Wait, Blink review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Gunnhild Øyehaug's novel, Wait, Blink: A Perfect Picture of Inner Life, just out in English from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

       (A film based on this was released in 2015; it was apparently the 10th most successful (domestic) film in Norway that year -- though with only 22,442 tickets sold. So somehow I don't think the movie-tie-in angle will be very helpful with selling US/UK readers on the English translation .....)

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

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