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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 August 2019

1 August: Rentrée littéraire previews | James Tait Black Prizes at 100 | Programming note
3 August: Writing in ... Malaysia | Book-purge overkill | Key Swiss authors ? | The Reunion review
4 August: Prix des cinq continents finalists | Chocolate Bookstore | On Savushun | Literary prize (mis)focus ? | C'est la Vie review
5 August: 'Naipaul and his critics' | Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid profile | Political jokes under Stalin
6 August: New(ly discovered) Proust coming out | Daryaganj book market R.I.P. | 'The Value of University Presses'
7 August: Toni Morrison (1931-2019) | 'Bookstagramming' | 'Most Underrated Book Award' | Львовская гастроль Джими Хендрикса review
8 August: Olga Tokarczuk profile | Baltic region literature funding | Kafka papers | Rabindranath Tagore's paintings | 'On Reading' at the Salzburg Festival
10 August: Library borrowing in the UK | Literary festivals in Africa | Manhattan's Babe review

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10 August 2019 - Saturday

Library borrowing in the UK | Literary festivals in Africa
Manhattan's Babe review

       Library borrowing in the UK

       The British Public Lending Right scheme sees to it that (UK- or EEA-based) authors receive payment for when their books are borrowed in libraries -- the more they're borrowed, the more authors get (up to a certain limit) --, and they've now announced the Most borrowed authors and books in UK libraries (for the period July 2017-June 2018), with slightly more detailed information here (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) (though of course it would be great to see an even greater breakdown and more numbers).
       James Patterson was the most borrowed author (again) during this time period, and Lee Child's Night School the most borrowed book.

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

       Literary festivals in Africa

       At Quartz James Murua looks at The rise and rise of the literary festival in African cities.
       Among these: they just held the Zimbabwe International Book Fair, which was once the premier book fair on the continent (though, yeah, that was quite a while ago).
       In NewsDay Beniah Munengwa laments Cry my beloved ZIBF ! -- writing:
The book extravaganza -- once the pride of Africa -- is now just a place where writers meet and reminisce over the past or discuss what could have been.
       But at least they're still holding it .....

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

       Manhattan's Babe review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Frédéric Beigbeder's Oona O'Neill and J.D.Salinger novel, Manhattan's Babe.

       I would have figured they might play up the names of the protagonists more in the title -- as in the French original: Oona & Salinger.
       Also: what's with all the illustrations in the English translation ?

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

8 August 2019 - Thursday

Olga Tokarczuk profile | Baltic region literature funding | Kafka papers
Rabindranath Tagore's paintings | 'On Reading' at the Salzburg Festival

       Olga Tokarczuk profile

       Olga Tokarczuk's Man Booker International Prize-shortlisted Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead has been out in the UK for a while already, but is only now coming to the US -- and it's good to see it getting some early attention, as Gabe Habash profiles the author at Publishers Weekly, in The Near-Mythic Inevitability of Olga Tokarczuk's Novels.
       I haven't seen Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead yet, but see the publicity pages from Fitzcarraldo Editions and Riverhead, and pre-order your copy at or get your copy at

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

       Baltic region literature funding

       Latvian Literature has been very active -- and, it seems, quite successful -- at promoting Latvian literature abroad, but, as Latvian Public Broadcasting reports, they are now receiving only a fraction of the funds they need/want -- as even: Estonia to spend 10 times more on literature than Latvia.
       Framing it as local competition is a good (and reasonable enough) idea -- and if the numbers are accurate and hold up (funding is always iffy ...) , the numbers in and around the Baltic sure do suggest that Latvia is an outlier -- on the wrong side -- as far as literary support goes.
       The numbers for the area-nations they give:
  • Latvia: €72,000
  • Lithuania: €440,000
  • Estonia: €732,000
  • Sweden: €954,000
  • Finland: €1,200,000
  • Poland: €1,600,000
       The money matters a lot, as the dirty not-so-secret of fiction in translation is that much of it has a vanity-publishing tint: you pay to play. Only a small part of end-costs, but it makes a huge difference to publishers -- especially translation-specializing US publishers (many of them small non-profits).
       Obviously, the difference between what they could do with €455,000 (the funding they asked for) and €72,000 (what they're apparently getting) is enormous.

       (Updated - 14 August): See now also Latvian Literarure's efforts to get the word and out and get more/proper funding, Latvian Literature platform launches #donotend campaign.

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

       Kafka papers

       The long saga of the Franz Kafka and Max Brod papers has more or less come to an end, with all of them now at the National Library of Israel -- see also Benjamin Balint's Kafka's Last Trial for the account of the most notorious (and drawn out) episode -- and the library has now unveiled the latest haul: see their report, Kafka's Rare Manuscripts: From the Vault in Switzerland to the Library in Jerusalem or, for example, the DeutscheWelle report by Cristina Burack, Last batch of missing Kafka papers unveiled in Israel.

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

       Rabindranath Tagore's paintings

       At The Wire Anjan Basu writes about the 1913 Nobel laureate, focusing not on his writing but rather considering how Rabindranath Tagore's Paintings Reveal His Quest For The World Beyond Words.
       He's far from the only writer who also tried his hand at drawing or painting, and it's always interesting to see the kind of work they do in another medium.

       (The only Tagore title under review at the complete review is Farewell my Friend.)

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

       'On Reading' at the Salzburg Festival

       Just your friendly reminder that yours truly will be speaking (in German) On Reading at the Salzburg Festival on Sunday, 11 August, at high noon.
       A great honor for me, and I hope that those of you who can make it enjoy it.

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

7 August 2019 - Wednesday

Toni Morrison (1931-2019)
'Bookstagramming' | 'Most Underrated Book Award'
Львовская гастроль Джими Хендрикса review

       Toni Morrison (1931-2019)

       As widely noted, American author and 1993 Nobel laureate Toni Morrison has passed away.
       There is an enormous amount of coverage already available online, but see, for example, obituaries in The Guardian and The New York Times.

       The Bluest Eye was assigned reading in one of my high school English classes -- making a very strong impression -- and our teacher managed to arrange for the class to meet and talk with her about the book (this was when she was still working as an editor) -- quite the literary experience for us kids.

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


       Via, I'm pointed to Angela Haupt's piece in The Washington Post on The Bookstagrammers and BookTubers changing the way we read.
       And here I thought I was too old and set in my ways to change the way I read !
       This begins with the saddest literary-related question I've come across in a while, even if it's meant tongue semi in cheek:
To put a literary spin on an adage: If you read a book but don't post about it on social media, did you really read it ?
       Is this what we've come to ?
       My 'social media' presence is limited to Twitter (useful for actual (literary) news, if you can scroll past the political and other opinions); I am decidedly not a picture-person, so I have little use for Instagram (much less moving pictures, i.e. YouTube) -- though I do post the occasional screen- or (mostly) text-grab, and even a picture here and there.
       I do see some purpose in posting pictures of books -- I sometimes do it -- because it's easier/takes up less space than listing lots of titles. I don't quite get the idea of just posting pictures of books, with limited additional commentary/information, but if that's what people like ... well, that's fine. Hey, anything that provokes more interest in books .....
       Though of course I do wish the interest were specifically in reading, rather than just books as objects/props .....
       Obviously (or at least hopefully) many 'Bookstagrammers' are also interested in the reading part, but the platform does ... tend to favor appearance over content. (As the look of this website surely tells you: I'm all about content, and almost completely indifferent to appearance.)
       The nature of the complete review site does mean that I actually do post-on-social-media every time a new review goes up -- it's an automated Twitter-feed -- though I don't mention every book I've read; in either case, it doesn't make the reading-experience any more real or notable, much less validate it in some way. (I would also note that it doesn't seem particularly significant, either: at best a couple of dozen people -- a fraction of the number of my 'followers' on Twitter -- will click through to any given review; the overwhelming majority of readers still come either via search engine search or simply through the front door, i.e. regularly check out the site directly. And somehow I doubt that if I started posting pretty pictures on Instagram -- don't worry, it's not happening -- I'd be changing 'the way we read' either .....)

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

       'Most Underrated Book Award'

       The Small Press Network has announced the shortlist for the 2019 Most Underrated Book Award, which: "aims to uncover and celebrate the hidden gems of Australian publishing".
       I like this idea -- though I can't help but note that, from a foreign perspective, pretty much everything local published in Australia qualifies as 'underrated', with no or few US/UK editions of Australian fiction from any Australian prize long- or shortlist available (see this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award longlist, for example).

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

       Львовская гастроль Джими Хендрикса review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Andrey Kurkov's Львовская гастроль Джими Хендрикса.

       Kurkov is actually quite well represented in English translation -- see the Penguin UK line-up -- but this 2012 novel hasn't made the cut so far, despite Jimi Hendrix in the title (and, sort of, in the story). Which I can't complain about too much; still, for fans -- and he has many -- it's still certainly a shame.
       The novel also features fellow writer Yuriy Vynnychuk -- and a character from one his novels (or, ultimately, not from one of his novels ...), and it's good to see Vynnychuk now making some English-language headway as well, with Glagoslav having recently published a collection (see their publicity page; I have a copy, and hope to get to it) and now Spuyten Duyvil publishing his Tango of Death (see their publicity page; I don't have a copy but desperately want one).

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

6 August 2019 - Tuesday

New(ly discovered) Proust coming out | Daryaganj book market R.I.P.
'The Value of University Presses'

       New(ly discovered) Proust coming out

       Editions de Fallois have announced the publication (on 9 October) of some previously unpublished early stories by Marcel Proust, in a volume titled: Le Mystérieux correspondant (pre-order your copy at; no word yet on an English translation -- though rest assured, one is inevitably coming).
       Among the reasons editor Luc Fraisse suspects they weren't published back in the day is: "qu’en raison de leur audace ils auraient pu heurter un milieu social où prévalait une forte morale traditionnelle"; presumably, they seem a a little bit less audacious nowadays.
       See also, for example, the Le Monde report, Des textes inédits de Marcel Proust seront publiés en octobre, or the AFP report at The Local, 'Lost' works from French literary giant Marcel Proust to be published in October (as there has been little English-language-media notice of this elsewhere so far).

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

       Daryaganj book market R.I.P.

       As, for example, reported by Sean Collin Young in The capital that lost a literary gold mine in The Asia Age: 'The legendary Sunday Book Market at Daryaganj has been shut down due to an order passed by the [Delhi High Court]'.
       What was it ?
Set up in 1974, the footpaths of Daryaganj soon became the go-to place for those who wished to buy books that were both reasonable and rare to find. The bazaar, which was set up every Sunday, had 200 booksellers, lined along Netaji Subhash Marg and Asaf Ali Road.
       Apparently it got in the way of the cars, however, and they of course take priority, because ... cars, so ..... (I suspect any basic urban planning course would teach which of these should be prioritized, and tried to figure out a work-around (like banning cars in city centers, starting with: on Sundays ?), but, no, people have places they need to get to, city social fabric be damnend, etc.)
       See also Kanupriya Dhingra wondering Will Delhi soon have a Daryaganj-used-books-market-shaped hole ?

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

       'The Value of University Presses'

       At the University of Minnesota Press weblog they post on The Value of University Presses, Then and Now, comparing the 2000 version of the Association of University Presses statement with a now renewed one, in a Q & A with contributor Douglas Armato, along with a copy of the statement (whose points are certainly worth recalling).

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

5 August 2019 - Monday

'Naipaul and his critics' | Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid profile
Political jokes under Stalin

       'Naipaul and his critics'

       A few pieces from the Summer issue of the Hudson Review are now available online, including Elizabeth Powers', Among the Barbarians: V. S. Naipaul and His Critics.
       She focuses a lot on his A Writer's People -- one of the few Naipaul works I actually haven't read; see the publicity pages from Vintage International and Picador, or get your copy at or
       (Quite a few other Naipaul works are under review at the complete review, fiction (e.g. Half a Life) and non (e.g. Literary Occasions). And, of course, there's Paul Theroux's classic Sir Vidia's Shadow.)

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

       Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid profile

       At ahramonline Dina Ezzat presents Novelist Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid talks about lasting impact of 1952 Revolution.
       They talk mainly about Alexandria, and Abdel-Meguid's trilogy -- whose last volume, Clouds over Alexandria, was recently published; see the Hoopoe publicity page, or get your copy at or
       Of course, it would be interesting to hear more about what only gets a brief mention at the end:
The impact of politics on society is something that can always be seen from different perspectives, Abdel-Meguid argues. His most recent novel, The Cyclops, is precisely about this. Published in Tunis, the novel is effectively an eulogy of the Arab Spring.

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

       Political jokes under Stalin

       In The Moscow Times Anna Kasradze has a Q & A with Jonathan Waterlow about his book, It's Only a Joke, Comrade ! -- an "exploration of political jokes told under Stalin" that draws: "on 273 criminal cases of Soviet joke tellers". Sounds intriguing.
       (Get your copy at or

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

4 August 2019 - Sunday

Prix des cinq continents finalists | Chocolate Bookstore | On Savushun
Literary prize (mis)focus ? | C'est la Vie review

       Prix des cinq continents finalists

       They've announced the ten finalists for this year's prix des cinq continents, a leading internationally-focused French-language-book prize, selected from 120 entries.
       Since these are books that only recently came out in the original French, none are available in English yet; the only finalist-author under review at the complete review is Beyrouk (his recently translated The Desert and the Drum).

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

       Chocolate Bookstore

       In The Korea Times Jung Hae-myoung has a double profile of the recently opened Chocolate Bookstore in Seoul (no official website, apparently; just a -- arghhh --- Facebook page): one focusing on the store-concept as a whole (Bookstore highlights special side of ordinary people), the other on the chocolate ('Buy a book, choose a chocolate').
       Offering "a selection of handmade chocolates and books that are carefully chosen by the owner" sounds like a decent retail recipe (and recall also the fuss a few years ago about a study that suggested the smell of chocolate helps entice book-buyers (Smelling the books: The effect of chocolate scent on purchase-related behavior in a bookstore)).
       And who could disagree that: "It is important to eat good quality chocolate" ?

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

       On Savushun

       Among the many books I read before I started the complete review and which I do want to return to and cover at the site, Simin Daneshvar's Savushun (also translated as: A Persian Requiem) is near the top of the list (as it certainly is notably missing in the otherwise pretty solid coverage of Iranian fiction at the site), so it's good to see some mention and coverage elsewhere -- as Joobin Bekhrad now writes about it at the Los Angeles Review of Books, in Iran Under Pressure, Again: What a 50-Year-Old Persian Classic Tells Us About the Country's Predicament Today.
       And speaking of older novels getting renewed attention: good to see a re-issue of Kamala Markandaya's 1972 The Nowhere Man (at least in the UK ...); see, for example, Bernardine Evaristo's recent review in The Guardian.

       Regrettably, I haven't gotten to either book yet on the site -- but both authors did of course get a mention in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction.
       Meanwhile, get your copy of Savushun (at or -- and see The Washington Post review, Iran's Greatest Hit -- and The Nowhere Man (at or; see also the Hope Road publicity page.

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

       Literary prize (mis)focus ?

       At they open up discussion on Are India's literary prizes wrong to focus more on the winning authors than on their books ?
       It's not just India, and the answer is, obviously: Yes.
       As longtime readers know, this is a pet peeve of mine: it drives me nuts when announcements of book-prize (from Pulitzer to Goncourt) winners are announced and covered with headlines featuring the author's name instead of the book's. It's different for author-prizes, like the Nobel, but book-prizes should be all about the book. Who cares who wrote it ?
       (That said, the living-author requirement they note here -- which also goes for prizes such as the Booker Prize and the (American) National Book Awards -- is a bit of a more complicated case -- perhaps unfair in the example cited, but overall quite reasonable -- though first publication in the time specified (last year, usually) would probably be fairer, even if that did allow the odd newly-discovered book by some long-dead author to occasionally slip in.)

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

       C'est la Vie review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Pascal Garnier's C'est la Vie, out shortly from Gallic Books.

       Gallic admirably keep bringing Garnier out in English -- this is the eleventh (they're all under review at the complete review); indeed, the next one has already been scheduled and announced, A Long Way Off, coming in April 2020 -- the only problem with that being that that's ... a long way off.
       C'est la Vie is also the unusual book where the English translation has a title in a foreign language that was not the original title in that foreign language (in this case, it was: Nul n'est à l'abri du succès ('No one is safe from success')).

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

3 August 2019 - Saturday

Writing in ... Malaysia | Book-purge overkill
Key Swiss authors ? | The Reunion review

       Writing in ... Malaysia

       Free Malaysia Today reports that National culture distant dream due to Islamisation of Malay literature, says author, referring to author Faizal Musa's keynote address at a seminar on International Literature, Language and Culture. (They also note: his "seven books remain banned by the Malaysian government" .....)
He said the phrase "Islamic literature" has also become problematic, and themes close to the religion such as oppression, corruption, feudalism, sectarianism and human rights are never part if it.
       In the same publication Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh reports on another call from the same seminar, Reject Arabisation of Malay culture, urges Rais Yatim -- a former minister and socio-cultural adviser to the government.

       I am somewhat hesitant to report on these sorts of local stories -- I'm not familiar with the source, unable to find much additional information, and have to suspect that there are a variety of agendas in play here -- but it's good to see at least some discussion of this (though of course I'm equally curious about the reactions, and other viewpoints). Obviously, this -- or rather the bigger issue -- is a hot issue in the region, with mainly Saudi-financed efforts to influence local (religious, political, and other) culture in South-East Asia (and Africa, and elsewhere) having problematic ripple effects across society (witness the recent elections in Indonesia). But as long as there's some open (well seminar-at-a-university type open) discussion, the situation doesn't appear entirely hopeless.

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

       Book-purge overkill

       Another story that I should probably scrutinize more closely before posting, but the headline claim seems accurate and the additional (scrutiny-deserving) titbits are too lovely-bizarre to resist, as TurkeyPurge (so you know their position ...) reports Turkish government destroys 302K copies of books at schools over Gulenists publishers: minister.
       That Turkish president Erdoğan has an issue with all reminders of Fethullah Gülen -- who he claims was behind the attempted coup a couple of years ago -- is well-known; the extent of it is ... incredible.
       The latest batch of books -- 301,878 copies -- were destroyed:
because they were published by the publishing houses that were closed with government's post-coup decrees. Destroyed books include textbooks, fictions, history books and so on.
       Bad enough -- but apparently any reference that might even be perceived to be to Fethullah Gülen is good enough to get a book purged and destroyed. That goes as far as ... 'Pennsylvania', obviously:
The objectionable textbook for sixth graders reportedly refers to American author James Michener, who mentioned Pennsylvania as his place of birth. Michener’s text was censored only because Gülen lives in that same US state. The number of destroyed 6th-grade-textbooks amounted to 882,000, the daily said.
       (Updated - 7 August): See now also The Guardian report by Alison Flood, Turkish government destroys more than 300,000 books ... oh, wait, a lot of that information, those sources, and links look ... awfully familiar ....

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

       Key Swiss authors ?

       I usually avoid lists like these -- and this isn't even a particularly good one -- but sometimes the source/effort makes it worth recognizing: that a list of 7 key authors from Switzerland's literary scene appears at the World Economic Forum site tickles me.
       They do manage to tie in the WEF, via Thomas Mann and The Magic Mountain:
He and his wife moved to the Waldsanatorium in Davos, where the novel is set. The ski resort is now well-known for hosting the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting.
       Too bad the list is dominated by authors more closely associated with other countries -- but it's something.

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

       The Reunion review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Guillaume Musso's The Reunion, just out in English.

       Musso regularly tops the bestselling-author-of-the-year chart in France (and is widely translated and successful elsewhere, too), but has barely made any headway in the English-speaking world; it will be interesting to see whether this helps him finally get a US/UK toehold. It probably does help that this novel isn't set in the US, as much of his work is; ridiculously implausible, the French setting nevertheless surely makes it easier for foreign readers to swallow.
       I have any number of issues with the book, but he does this sort of thing quite well and it could probably be described as winning. And it's always good to see this sort of truly pop fiction from other countries and languages available in English -- I wish there were a lot more of it (not necessarily of Musso, but from other languages).

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

1 August 2019 - Thursday

Rentrée littéraire previews | James Tait Black Prizes at 100
Programming note

       Rentrée littéraire previews

       The big annual French flood of books, the rentrée littéraire, gets going soon, and previews and highlight-lists have started appearing, selecting from the 524 novels -- the fewest in twenty years -- that are coming out; see also the various articles at franceinfo.
       Babelio ranks Les livres les plus attendus de la rentrée littéraire de septembre 2019 -- which does have the advantage of listing quite a lot of them.
       Vogue has a handful of titles in Rentrée littéraire 2019 : les livres les plus attendus, while 20 minutes has a more extensive listing, in Nothomb, Moix, Adam... On connaît déjà les livres les plus attendus de la rentrée littéraire.
       More to follow soon, no doubt.

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

       James Tait Black Prizes at 100

       The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes celebrate their hundredth anniversary this year, with this year's prizes to be announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 17 August.
       Fiction judge Alexandra Lawrie now offers an historical overview in How James Tait Black Memorial Prizes have rocked the literary world for 100 years in The Scotsman.

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

       Programming note

       Posting here at the Literary Saloon will be more sporadic through the first three weeks of the month, with occasional post-less days (like tomorrow) -- but ultimately I do still expect to get to as much news, and as many reviews, as usual.
       Sorry for any inconvenience.

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

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