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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 July 2018

1 July: Perfume - the TV series | Most attractive Austrian books
2 July: The latest on the Nobel Prize in Literature | Venetian Blind review
3 July: Europese Literatuurprijs shortlist | Sacred Games - the mini-series
4 July: Georg-Büchner-Preis | Caine Prize for African Writing
5 July: Bookstan | Howard Jacobson defends the novel | Sand review
6 July: Austrian State Prize for European Literature | 'Gender and Indian Literary Awards' | PEN Translates awards
7 July: Premio Strega | Mesopotamia review
8 July: Writing in ... Hong Kong | Authors pick summer reads
9 July: 'Golden' Man Booker Prize | Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis
10 July: Nominations for wannabe alternate Nobel Prize | Ma Bo’le’s Second Life review

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10 July 2018 - Tuesday

Nominations for wannabe alternate Nobel Prize
Ma Bo’le’s Second Life review

       Nominations for wannabe alternate Nobel Prize

       Last week, I mentioned that some Swedes had set up 'Den Nya Akademien' -- 'The New Academy' -- to do what the Swedish Academy has postponed until (at least) next year: give a big award to the most deserving world author.
       Their not-the-Nobel-Prize ambitions continue apace: whereas last week the official site only had a short explanation in English alongside all the Swedish, they've now gone (international-)media-friendlily all in -- in(to) English, that is.
       They've also completed the first stage of the prize process for this 'New Prize in Literature': as you might recall, they invited Swedish librarians to nominate authors for consideration; the librarians' suggestions form the 'longlist' and the public -- you ! -- then gets to vote (through 14 August) for their favorites; the four top vote-getters are then handed over for the: "final assessment by the expert jury", who will select a winner, to be announced 14 October. (The 'expert jury' consists of: Ann Pålsson, Lisbeth Larsson, Marianne Steinsaphir, Peter Stenson, and Gunilla Sandin,.)
       Well, the longlist is up and the voting open.

       The 47 authors who made the cut are:
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Johannes Anyuru
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Paul Auster
  • Silvia Avallone
  • Nina Bouraoui
  • Anne Carson
  • Maryse Condé
  • Don DeLillo
  • Inger Edelfeldt
  • Kerstin Ekman
  • Elena Ferrante
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Jens Ganman
  • Siri Hustvedt
  • Jenny Jägerfeld
  • Jón Kalman Stefánsson
  • Jonas Hassen Khemiri
  • Jamaica Kincaid
  • David Levithan
  • Édouard Louis
  • Sara Lövestam
  • Ulf Lundell
  • Cormac McCarthy
  • Ian McEwan
  • Murakami Haruki
  • Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
  • Joyce Carol Oates
  • Nnedi Okorafor
  • Sofi Oksanen
  • Amos Oz
  • Sara Paborn
  • Agneta Pleijel
  • Thomas Pynchon
  • Marilynne Robinson
  • Meg Rosoff
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Arundhati Roy
  • Jessica Schiefauer
  • Patti Smith
  • Zadie Smith
  • Peter Stamm
  • Sara Stridsberg
  • Donna Tartt
  • Kim Thúy
  • Olga Tokarczuk
  • Jeanette Winterson
       I'd suggest that the fact that they misspelled at least three of these names (they have "Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche", "Jamaica Kincade", and "David Leviathan") is not a great sign .....
       Swedish librarians also appear to really like hometown authors: just over a quarter of the nominated writers are Swedish. Quite a few are also very young -- in their thirties, with a limited track- (i.e. book) record -- though quite a bit of the old geezer contingent familiar from annual Nobel speculations is also accounted for. Certainly, the list tends fairly strongly to the popular rather than 'serious'; they really seem to be going for a Nobel-lite

       This little game probably doesn't deserve the attention it's getting, but the Nobel-void is obviously keenly felt and the international media needs material to fill it, so even an amateurish second-rate effort like this can attract a ton of coverage .....

       (Updated): Looking over the list more closely, it really is shocking how limited (and overly Swedish -- twelve Swedish authors !) it is. While local authors fare well, the neighbors don't: not a single Norwegian author (though I'd rate Solstad, Espedal, Fosse, Kjærstad, and Per Petterson above all the nominated Swedes, and throw in Knausgård for good measure), nor any Danes. And not a single Spanish-writing author ? (Meaning also -- because there's no Portuguese-writing nominee either --: none from Latin America.) Farther afield is less surprising -- Murakami, the only Asian-language-writing author, the Arabic-writing ones ignored as well -- but still .....
       But at least there is an admirable balance of male/female authors, which is at least something.

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

       Ma Bo’le’s Second Life review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Xiao Hong's 1941 novel, Ma Bo’le’s Second Life, just about out from Open Letter.

       Ma Bo’le’s Second Life is not only translated by longtime-Xiao Hong expert and translator Howard Goldblatt, one of the leading contemporary translators from the Chinese -- it's translated, "edited, and completed by Howard Goldblatt" .....
       And there, of course, is the rub.
       A great case study in how far the role of the translator should go -- and it'll be interesting to see how, for example, judges of translation-awards, like the Best Translated Book Award, deal with it .....

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

9 July 2018 - Monday

'Golden' Man Booker Prize | Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis

       'Golden' Man Booker Prize

       The Man Booker Prize is an annual prize that is for the best written-in-English, published-in-the-UK novel (that's submitted by its publisher for the prize ...), but every couple of years they have a 'best-of' (the previous winners) award -- most recently the so-called 'Golden' Man Booker.
       For this one, judges selected one winner from each of the five decades the award has been handed out, and then opened it up to public vote -- and they've now announced that The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje, has won.
       If this is the sort of thing that makes you want to check it out -- and it is a good book -- you can get your copy at or

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


       The Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis is the famous/notorious German-language prize where authors read in front of a jury and are publicly judged on their texts; it has an impressive list of previous winners, including the most recent Georg-Büchner Prize winner (see my recent mention), Terézia Mora (in 1999).
       They held this year's contest over the past few days -- and they've now announced that Ukrainian author Tanja Maljartschuk has won, with her text, Frösche im Meer (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       If the name seems familiar to readers, that might be because I recently reviewed her A Biography of a Chance Miracle, just out in English from Cadmus Press -- an impressive and good catch for/by them.

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

8 July 2018 - Sunday

Writing in ... Hong Kong | Authors pick summer reads

       Writing in ... Hong Kong

       Via, I'm pointed to Sarah Karacs looking into Why is it So Hard to Find Hong Kong Literature in English ? in Zolima.
       (Atlas, the book she begins with, is under review at the complete review -- but, yes, I've had trouble finding more Hong Long fiction, in English or Chinese, to cover .....)

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

       Authors pick summer reads

       The Guardian offers part one of their round-up of 'Best summer books 2018, as picked by writers', with a pretty good line-up of authors. Just too bad they have to so annoyingly spread it over more than one part (the second presumably to follow in a day or two ... now also up, here).

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

7 July 2018 - Saturday

Premio Strega | Mesopotamia review

       Premio Strega

       They've announced the winner of the Premio Strega, the leading Italian book prize, and it is La ragazza con la Leica by Helena Janeczek -- the first female author to win the prize in fifteen years.
       At The Paris Review's The Daily weblog Francesco Pacifico offers a lot of background, in First Woman Wins the Strega Prize in Fifteen Years.
       One of her novels has been translated into English -- but I'm afraid the New Academia Publishing/Scarith Books title, The Swallows of Monte Cassino, didn't attract much attention; see also their publicity page, or get your copy at or; this one will probably do better; see also the Guanda publicity page, as well as the ANSA report, Janeczek wins 2018 Strega book prize.

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

       Mesopotamia review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Serhiy Zhadan's Mesopotamia, just out in English from Yale University Press, in their Margellos World Republic of Letters series.

       Lots of blurbs for this one -- three pages worth at the beginning of the book, while they avoided any review-quotes (though there were quite a few very positive German ones to choose from). Blurbs from Gary Shteyngart (gracing the cover, too), Timothy Snyder, Askold Melnyczuk, and Lara Vapnyar, among others -- twelve in total. Not sure how much weight that carries with potential book-buyers, but we'll see.
       As to English-language reviews so far: very little to be seen, despite the book already being out for two months .....

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

6 July 2018 - Friday

Austrian State Prize for European Literature
'Gender and Indian Literary Awards' | PEN Translates awards

       Austrian State Prize for European Literature

       With this year's Nobel Prize in Literature delayed (at least) until next year, and the Man Booker International Prize having transitioned from an author- to a book-prize, there aren't that many international author prizes to look forward to this year. Yes, there's the biennial Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which will be handed out this fall, but they announced the winner (Edwidge Danticat) last year ..... So the Österreichischer Staatspreis für Europäische Literatur -- while limited to European authors -- is among the few major author prizes that consider writers writing in different languages -- and they've announced that this year's prize will go to ... an English-writing author, Zadie Smith.
       The prize has an impressive list of previous winners -- but US/UK readers will hardly need much of an introduction to this year's winner. But, hey, at least her books are available in English .....

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

       'Gender and Indian Literary Awards'

       Via I'm pointed to Suraj Jacob and Vanamala Viswanatha's study in the Economic and Political Weekly of Gender and Indian Literary Awards.
       They looked at the distribution of Sahitya Akademi Award winners -- the leading Indian literary awards, which are handed out in almost two dozen Indian languages.
In the 22 languages we consider, there have been 1,129 national Sahitya Akademi awards to date (19552016). Of these, a mere 8.1% have gone to women.
       This is an ... incredibly low number.
       The disparity is least-bad in English, and the general trend is towards more balance, but still .....
       Interesting regional/cultural differences here too.

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

       PEN Translates awards

       They've announced the most recent batch of 'English PEN Awards' (which are rather confusingly called 'awards' -- and do award cash, covering translation costs -- but are what is usually called grants or subsidies, or something along those lines ...).
       Seventeen projects are recognized this time around, translations from ten different languages -- and it's always interesting to see what we can look forward to in the next year or so (or what they can look forward to in the UK -- not all of these publishers' titles will be readily US available ...).

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

5 July 2018 - Thursday

Bookstan | Howard Jacobson defends the novel | Sand review


       I'm not so sure about that name but the International Festival of Literature Bookstan is being held, for the third time, in Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, through the seventh. The Geert Mak-curated festival has a theme of 'Borders and Boundaries', and the list of participants is solid -- regional-heavy, but with a few prominent foreign writers as well (including David Mitchell, Nadifa Mohamed, and Frank Westerman).
       Among the panels: one on the: 'Role and Responsibility of Literature Festivals' (Saturday, at 14:30) .....
       See also the brief Sarajevo Times preview-report.

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

       Howard Jacobson defends the novel

       At the TLS Howard Jacobson makes a case for Why the novel matters.
       (As someone for whom the novel is the be-all and end-all, the answer(s) seem self-evident, but yet another spirited defense can't hurt either, right ?)

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

       Sand review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Wolfgang Herrndorf's Sand.
       Tim Mohr's translation was published by Pushkin Press in the UK last year, and now New York Review Books have brought it out in the US.
       Despite the Publishers Weekly protestations, this strikes me as an ideal 'summer read' -- a nice fat and meaty quasi-thriller that's a lot of fun.

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

4 July 2018 - Wednesday

Georg-Büchner-Preis | Caine Prize for African Writing


       They've announced that this year's Georg-Büchner Prize -- the leading German author prize, and worth €50,000 -- will go (on 27 October) to author -- and translator ! -- Terézia Mora.
       Her Day In Day Out, in a translation by Michael Henry Heim, appears to be the only one her works translated into English; get your copy at or
       She has translated quite a bit into German from the Hungarian, including numerous works by Esterházy Péter, Zilahy Péter's The Last Window-Giraffe, and Örkény István's One Minute Stories.
       See also the Deutsche Welle report, Terezia Mora wins 2018 Georg Büchner Prize for German literature.

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

       Caine Prize for African Writing

       They've announced that tis year's Caine Prize for African Writing -- the leading African prize for a short story published in English -- goes to Fanta Blackcurrant (warning ! dreaded pdf format !), by Makena Onjerika.

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

3 July 2018 - Tuesday

Europese Literatuurprijs shortlist | Sacred Games - the mini-series

       Europese Literatuurprijs shortlist

       The Europese Literatuurprijs -- a prize for the best novel by an author from a Council of Europe member state, translated into Dutch -- has announced its 2018 shortlist of five titles.
       Two titles from the German -- including Daniel Kehlmann's Tyll -- and two from the Italian, including Paolo Cognetti's The Eight Mountains, which continues to enjoy incredible international success (see also the publicity pages for the US and UK editions, from Atria Books and Harvill Secker), but none from the English.
       Noteworthy: all five shortlisted books were written by men -- despite an almost balanced longlist, which included Jane Gardam's Old Filth, Leïla Slimani's The Perfect Nanny (UK title: Lullaby), and Dubravka Ugrešić's Fox .....

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

       Sacred Games - the mini-series

       Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games has been made into a mini-series -- apparently the first Netflix India original but surely with great international potential; see also the Netflix page.
       At Supriya Nair has a Q & A with Vikram Chandra on 'Sacred Games': 'I cried though I know what's going to happen to the characters'

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

2 July 2018 - Monday

The latest on the Nobel Prize in Literature
Venetian Blind review

       The latest on the Nobel Prize in Literature

       Nobel Foundation head Lars Heikensten has apparently felt the need to put more pressure on the Swedish Academy, talking to the Financial Times (for a profile [£]) and spelling things out quite clearly, playing the money-card:
What will happen in 2019 ? That will depend on the Academy regaining confidence. We cannot have an organisation responsible for rewarding the prize, which does not enjoy reasonable confidence. In the end, it is clear that we are the ones who decide if the money is going to be paid out
       Richard Milne reports on this in Nobel Prize in literature at risk of another postponement [£].

       Meanwhile, a group has now set up 'Den Nya Akademien' ('The New Academy'), founded, as they explain (also in English -- scroll down) solely for the purpose of giving out a literature prize in place of the Nobel Prize this year. As they explain:
In awarding this prize, we are staging a protest.
       The winner will be announced in October -- just as the Nobel would have been -- and: "presented at a formal event with a grand celebration on December 10th 2018" (the same day as the big Nobel ceremony ...). (The New Academy will apparently then dissolve itself -- though maybe they'll have to repeat the exercise next year .....)
       Nominations can be made by Swedish librarians until 8 July -- but then the vote for the four finalists is apparently open to one and all (between 9 and 31 July), a big free for all; an expert jury will then decide on the winner.

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

       Venetian Blind review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of William Haggard's Venetian Blind, a 1959 thriller by an author who seems to have been quite popular in the 60s but whose work has (understandably) fallen rather out of sight.

       It can't quite live up to its cover:

Venetian Blind

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

1 July 2018 - Sunday

Perfume - the TV series | Most attractive Austrian books

       Perfume - the TV series

       Patrick Süskind's international bestseller Perfume was made into a movie more than a decade ago, but now it's also been turned into a TV mini-series, the first two episodes premiering at the Munich Film Festival on Friday.
       Jochen Kürten has the story at Deutsche Welle, in Munich Film Festival premieres Perfume TV series based on Patrick Süskind book - including the news that Netflix has acquired the international rights, so you can expect to see it there in the not too distant future.
       Interesting that they refer to it as 'season one' -- meaning they're presumably leaving their options open to expand on the book in possible seasons to come .....

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

       Most attractive Austrian books

       The Austrian (state) competition for the most attractive books of the (last) year -- 'die 15 schönsten Bücher Österreichs 2017' -- recently announced the winners; see also the pictures of the award ceremony.

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

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