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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 31 July 2018

21 July: Man Booker International Prize judges | Translation review controversy | Uwe-Johnson-Preis | In Darfur review
22 July: Publishing in ... Israel | Ludmilla Petrushevskaya exhibit | Seagull Books profile
23 July: African Writers Series covers | A Spy in Time review
24 July: Man Booker Prize longlist | Murakami under wraps in Hong Kong
25 July: Hargeysa International Book Fair | Wishes review
26 July: Choi In-hun (1936-2018) | Sebald Lecture | CWA Dagger shortlists
27 July: German literary prizes, by the (gender) numbers | Bragi Ólafsson profile
28 July: British library borrowing lists | NYPL 'Library Lions' | Willem Frederik Hermans reviews
29 July: Vladimir Voinovich (1932-2018) | 'Literature in Translation'-series
30 July: Nigeria Prize for Literature longlist | Now the Night Begins review
31 July: 'Racist science fiction' | Document 1 review

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31 July 2018 - Tuesday

'Racist science fiction' | Document 1 review

       'Racist science fiction'

       In an opinion piece in The New York Times Ian Allen argues that: 'To understand why white supremacists back the president, we have to understand the books that define their worldview' -- leading him: Inside the World of Racist Science Fiction.
       Not a great place to be -- including with discussion of the one of these titles under review at the complete review, Jean Raspail's The Camp of the Saints. -- which is apparently: "at the top of the white supremacist best-seller list".

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

       Document 1 review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of François Blais' Document 1, recently out in English translation from Bookthug.

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

30 July 2018 - Monday

Nigeria Prize for Literature longlist | Now the Night Begins review

       Nigeria Prize for Literature longlist

       The NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates through four genres (fiction, poetry, children's literature, and drama) and this year is a drama year -- and they've now announced the eleven-title strong longlist (selected from 89 entries).
       I like how they look ahead to the next stages:
A shortlist of three is expected in September and a possible winner will be announced by the Advisory Board in October.
       'Possible' ? Well, they have failed to award a prize on previous occasions, so .....

       No mention of it in the longlist announcement, but when they announced how many entries there were they also noted:
This year's award will run concurrently with NLNG's Prize for Literary Criticism for which only two entries were received for this year's competition.
       Signs of an underdeveloped critical culture ? Given that the writing- and publishing-sectors seem to be thriving in Nigeria, it's disappointing that the critical sector is lagging. Not the most vital piece, but surely a helpful one for the overall literary culture.

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

       Now the Night Begins review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alain Guiraudie's prix Sade-winning Now the Night Begins, just out in English from Semiotext(e).

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

29 July 2018 - Sunday

Vladimir Voinovich (1932-2018) | 'Literature in Translation'-series

       Vladimir Voinovich (1932-2018)

       Russian author Vladimir Voinovich has passed away; see, for example, the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report, Russian Author, Former Soviet Dissident Voinovich Dies At 85.

       Only one of his novels is under review at the complete review -- Monumental Propaganda -- but I enjoyed the Ivan Chonkin books, and Moscow 2042 is also worthwhile.

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

       'Literature in Translation'-series

       Good for the Pakistani The News on Sunday for devoting a special report today to Literature In Translation -- six articles, including Asif Farrukhi's 'overview of the situation of translations related to Urdu, but more about Urdu into other languages', Literature in translation, Sarwat Ali on the translation of regional languages, in Within the region, and the overview-editorial.

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

28 July 2018 - Saturday

British library borrowing lists | NYPL 'Library Lions'
Willem Frederik Hermans reviews

       British library borrowing lists

       The British Public Lending Right office has released the data for UK public library book borrowings for the year 2016-17 (more specifically: apparently July 2016 to June 2017) -- unfortunately and disappointingly only ranking the books and authors and not providing actual borrowing numbers. James Patterson was, yet again, the most borrowed author (that's eleven consecutive years he's held the top spot), while Paula Hawkins' The Girl on the Train was the most borrowed title. (The Girl on the Train was also the sxith most borrowed title -- the paperback edition, that is; the hardcover edition was the one that topped the list, as apparently it's too difficult to actually count titles and they instead count different formats separately .....)
       The PLR information sheets -- all, alas, in the dreaded pdf format -- giving more detailed information, include:        For a non-pdf overview, see Alison Flood's James Patterson remains UK libraries' most borrowed author for 11th year at The Guardian (though this is your basic regurgitated press release article -- which somehow manages to fail to even note the time-period the data covers).

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

       NYPL 'Library Lions'

Each year The New York Public Library honors several distinguished individuals for outstanding achievements in their respective fields of arts, culture, letters and scholarship by naming them Library Lions.
       They've now announced this year's five honorees -- Ron Chernow, Francis Ford Coppola, Jessye Norman, Claudia Rankine, and Elizabeth Strout -- and they'll be honored at big bash on 5 November.

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

       Willem Frederik Hermans reviews

       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two novels by Dutch great, Willem Frederik Hermans:        An Untouched House is just out in the UK, from Pushkin Press, with a US edition due in October from Archipelago. Amazing that it took this long for this 1951 work to make it into English -- and disappointing that it hasn't gotten more attention, at least in the UK, yet .....
       Okay, maybe it's not that amazing that it took so long to see this in English -- after all, we still haven't seen Onder professoren translated, nor the book Cees Nooteboom calls: "his other masterpiece", De tranen der acacia's (nor the one I'm particularly fond of, Au Pair) ..... Indeed, in his afterword to An Untouched House Nooteboom describes Hermans' archives as: "thirty meters of coagulated anger", and only a couple of inches worth have been translated into English -- surely we deserve (a lot) more !

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

27 July 2018 - Friday

German literary prizes, by the (gender) numbers | Bragi Ólafsson profile

       German literary prizes, by the (gender) numbers

       I missed this a few weeks back when it appeared, but over at the Süddeutsche Zeitung Felix Stephan looks at the numbers, in Ist der Literaturbetrieb wirklich so sexistisch wie sein Ruf ? to see if the German literary industry -- as reflected in its prizes -- is as sexist as everyone seems to think.
       They tallied up the numbers from the fifty biggest German literary prizes over the past ten (or twelve ?) years and found that men did get an overwhelming majority of the prizes -- just a shade under two-thirds. The two top prize winners, however, were both women, Terézia Mora and Sibylle Lewitscharoff, picking up eight apiece, two more than the most successful man, Lutz Seiler. And at least the general trend seems to be in the right direction, with prize-parity even having been achieved in both 2015 and 2017.
       They also did the sums with the jurors, with Daniela Striegl the most active -- sitting in judgment an astonishing 35 times.
       Other less useful odds and ends: the most common first name of prize winners was 'Peter' (nine winners), while the most popular (by far) first name among jurors was 'Michael' (21, ahead of 'Peter', with 14).

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

       Bragi Ólafsson profile

       Bragi Ólafsson's Narrator is due out shortly in English translation (by Lytton Smith) -- see the Open Letter publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or -- and at Reykjavík Grapevine the emphatically Reykjavíkian author is profiled by Björn Halldórsson, in The Reykjavík Writer: Bragi Ólafsson’s Narrator Published By Open Letter Books.

       I have this title, and should be getting to it soon; the two previously translated Bragis are already under review at the complete review: The Ambassador and The Pets.

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

26 July 2018 - Thursday

Choi In-hun (1936-2018) | Sebald Lecture | CWA Dagger shortlists

       Choi In-hun (1936-2018)

       South Korean author Choi In-hun has passed away; see, for example, Jung Da-min's report in The Korea Times, Award-winning novelist Choi In-hun of 'The Square' dies of cancer
       The Square is also the one title by him under review at the complete review.

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

       Sebald Lecture

       Arundhati Roy's Sebald Lecture, delivered 5 June, has been available on YouTube for a while now, but now there's finally also a transcript of What is the Morally Appropriate Language in Which to Think and Write ? up, at LitHub.

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

       CWA Dagger shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for the various CWA Dagger Awards, including the Gold Dagger ("awarded to the best crime novel of the year") and the CWA Intenational Dagger (for best crime novel not originally written in English).
       One International Dagger finalist is under review at the complete review: Three Days and a Life, by Pierre Lemaitre, in Frank Wynne's translation.
       An Oliver Bottini is also on the shortlist -- announced just as another of his novels is named one of the three finalists for the (German) Crime Cologne Award (though that official site doesn't have the news yet -- but see the report at

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

25 July 2018 - Wednesday

Hargeysa International Book Fair | Wishes review

       Hargeysa International Book Fair

       The Hargeysa International Book Fair in Somaliland runs through tomorrow, and it's great to see that it seems to have really established itself, the annual event now running since 2008.
       The guest of honor this year was Rwanda; see also Cyril Belaud's report in the Mail & Guardian, Book fair turns the page for literature in Somaliland, as well as the SomalilandPress report, Somaliland: VP opens 11th Hargeisa International Book Fair (though the accompanying picture is not entirely welcoming ...).

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

       Wishes review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Georges Perec's Wishes, just out in English from Wakefield Press.

       Oulipo-author Perec's work of course always poses a challenge to translators, and this one in particular -- it's no wonder that, though first published in French in 1989, no one had a (full) go at it until now. And pseudonymous translator Mara Cologne Wythe-Hall didn't settle on a singular translation of the text(s) either: he does it twice, once literally, then the whole thing all over, considerably more freely .....

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

24 July 2018 - Tuesday

Man Booker Prize longlist | Murakami under wraps in Hong Kong

       Man Booker Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and the books making the cut are:
  • Everything Under, by Daisy Johnson
  • From a Low and Quiet Sea, by Donal Ryan
  • In Our Mad and Furious City , by Guy Gunaratne
  • The Long Take, by Robin Robertson
  • The Mars Room, by Rachel Kushner
  • Milkman, by Anna Burns
  • Normal People, by Sally Rooney
  • The Overstory, by Richard Powers
  • Sabrina, by Nick Drnaso
  • Snap, by Belinda Bauer
  • Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje
  • Washington Black , by Esi Edugyan
  • The Water Cure, by Sophie Mackintosh
       Presumably, Nick Drnaso's Sabrina getting longlisted will draw the most attention -- it's the first graphic novel ever to make the cut; see the publicity pages at Drawn & Quarterly and Granta, or get your copy at or
       None of the longlisted titles are under review at the complete review -- indeed, I don't have any of them, so I'm not sure I'll be getting to any before the prize is announced.
       The shortlist will be announced on 20 September, and the winner on 16 October.

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

       Murakami under wraps in Hong Kong

       Hong Kong has an Obscene Articles Tribunal, and they recently judged Murakami Haruki's Killing Commendatore (forthcoming in the US and UK; pre-order your copy at or to be 'indecent'.
       As Holmes Chan explains at Hong Kong Free Press, in Hong Kong’s Obscene Articles Tribunal under fire for classifying Murakami's literary work as 'indecent', that means that: "it cannot be sold to underage persons, and must be kept in a wrapper that bears a legal warning". As he also notes, this has not gone over particularly well .....
       In the South China Morning Post John Carney takes this opportunity to point out After Haruki Murakami novel ban, five other Hong Kong censorship controversies.
       I haven't seen this one yet, but it seems hard to believe than this novel is somehow shockingly more explicit that Murakami's previous work; indeed, it's kind of hard to imagine Murakami really doing 'indecent'.

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

23 July 2018 - Monday

African Writers Series covers | A Spy in Time review

       African Writers Series covers

       I'm a big fan of the old African Writers Series, and have a couple of dozen of them; nineteen of them are under review at the complete review. Now, in Lapham's Quarterly, Josh MacPhee goes: 'Looking back at the design of the African Writers Series', in the interesting Judged by Its Covers.

       (And don't forget James Currey's invaluable companion-guide to the series, Africa Writes Back, a must-have for anyone interested in it (or, indeed, African literature in the second half of the twentieth century).)

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

       A Spy in Time review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Imraan Coovadia's A Spy in Time, due out next month in the US from California Coldblood Books. (It's already out in South Africa.)

       This is kind of a change for him -- honest to goodness science fiction -- but then he's repetedly tried new directions in his fiction. Good to see, in any case, that he has a US publisher for this: The Wedding got a US release and decent attention almost twenty years ago, and Green-Eyed Thieves was/is nominally available (from Seagull Books); High Low In-Between and The Institute for Taxi Poetry didn't make it to these shores, and Tales of the Metric System only after some delay (and then published by not-so-commercial Ohio University Press ...).
       It'll be interesting to see whether the genre-embrace leads to more attention (and leads some new readers back to his backlist)..

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

22 July 2018 - Sunday

Publishing in ... Israel | Ludmilla Petrushevskaya exhibit | Seagull Books profile

       Publishing in ... Israel

       In Haaretz Gili Izikovich reports on BDS in Books: British Author Refuses to Publish in Israel -- and She's Not the Only One -- though noting that:
With all due respect to the BDS organizations, most writers are enthusiastic about being translated into foreign languages.
       An interesting/messy meeting of literature and politics -- though Kinneret Zmora-Bitan's Ziv Lewis claims:
I haven’t come across Western writers who identify with BDS. A writer wants his book to be read by as many people as possible. They may not want to contribute to public relations, won’t agree to be interviewed – but they want to be read. The same is true of writers from the Arab world whom we contact: Unofficially they all want to be published everywhere and in any language, including Hebrew.

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

       Ludmilla Petrushevskaya exhibit

       It closes today, but neat that they had the exhibit Petrushevaskaya Journey in celebration of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s 80th anniversary at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. In The Moscow Times Andrei Muchnik reports on it, in Celebrate a Literary Legend: Writer Lyudmila Petrushevskaya at 80.

       Only one Petrushevskaya title is under review at the complete review, for now -- There Once Lived a Girl who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself -- but she is certainly a major modern Russian author.

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

       Seagull Books profile

       In The Indian Express Paromita Chakrabarti profiles the wonderful Seagull Books, in Writing a New Chapter: Publisher Naveen Kishore on nearly four decades of Seagull Books.

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

21 July 2018 - Saturday

Man Booker International Prize judges | Translation review controversy
Uwe-Johnson-Preis | In Darfur review

       Man Booker International Prize judges

       They've announced who will be judging the 2019 Man Booker International Prize: Bettany Hughes (chair), Maureen Freely, Angie Hobbs, Elnathan John, and Pankaj Mishra.

       The longlist will be announced next March, the shortlist in April, and the winner in May (no exact dates yet given).

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

       Translation review controversy

       In the 1 July issue of The New York Times Book Review Benjamin Moser reviewed Kate Briggs' This Little Art (see the Fitzcarraldo Editions publicity page, or get your copy at or -- and it was iimediately clear that some of what he said would not go over well with (many) translators (though note that Moser is also -- and writes as -- a translator).
       Now comes the first major counter-punch, a letter to the editor signed by an all-star cast of major translators (including Susan Bernofsky, Lydia Davis, John Keene, Lawrence Venuti, and Emily Wilson). (There are also two individual letters responding to the review.) Many other translators have voiced their support/enthusiasm regarding this reaction as well (especially on Twitter).
       I hope this develops into a broader debate, as well -- there's lots to discuss here (but, no, I'm not going to, not here, not right now -- though I do have the book and should be covering it).

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


       Yesterday was Uwe Johnson's birthday, so they took the occasion to announce the winner of this year's Uwe Johnson Prize -- Der Gott jenes Sommers, by Ralf Rothmann; see also the Suhrkamp foreign rights page.
       English-language rights have already been sold, so you'll be seeing this -- and, like his previously translated To Die in Spring (get your copy at or, it's a set-in-1945 work .....

       Meanwhile, even if you didn't celebrate Uwe Johnson's birthday by pre-ordering the must-have Anniversaries -- well, it's never too late ..... (And, hey, it's not set in the Nazi-era ! Doesn't late-1960s New York City (with some East German contrast-material) sound more fun ?)

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

       In Darfur review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Muḥammad al-Tūnisī's nineteenth-century In Darfur: An Account of the Sultanate and Its People, in the Library of Arabic Literature's two-volume, bilingual edition.

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

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