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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 August 2019

11 August: 9mobile Prize For Literature | Annie Ernaux profile | Duanwad Pimwana Q & A | Das Leben der Wünsche review | 17 years of the Literary Saloon
12 August: 'Literary fragments' | Institute of Naga Literature | 'The great literature war' in Taiwan | Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas review
13 August: German translation subsidies | Chinese online literature gets real ? | Israeli 'bookcrossing' in Ecuador
14 August: Ogawa Yoko profile | FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year longlist | Audiobook advances | Tough Justice review
15 August: Nepali literature | Amazon publishing | BookBrahma
16 August: 'The Library of Unread Books' | SFC Literary Prize finalists | The Journalists review
17 August: Mao Dun Literature Prize | David Damrosch profile | Yvonne Owuor Q & A | Аутопсия на една любов review
18 August: James Tait Black Prizes | The world of literary translation
19 August: Reviewing translations ... | Jakarta International Literary Festival
20 August: German Book Prize longlist | Mountain Echoes | SS-GB review

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20 August 2019 - Tuesday

German Book Prize longlist
Mountain Echoes | SS-GB review

       German Book Prize longlist

       They've announced the twenty-title (!) strong longlist for this year's German Book Prize, selected from 203 (unfortunately not revealed) titles that were considered (with only 173 submitted, that's quite a lot that were called in by the jury ...).
       The most (only ?) familiar name for English-speaking readers is presumably Saša Stanišić, who has had some success in translation. Several of these are not out yet (like the Booker Prize, the prize doesn't cover a calendar year of publications, but rather those October 2018 through 17 September 2019), but I haven't read any of the twenty (and also can't judge regarding omissions and the like ...).
       (Updated): See now also the Deutsche Welle report From bees to refugees: The German Book Prize releases its longlist, as well as German coverage from Andreas Platthaus (in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) and Gerrit Bartels (in Der Tagesspiegel), as well as coverage in Der Spiegel.
       Some of the numbers, as observed in these pieces: eleven of the authors are women, nine men; there are seven first-time authors on the list (eight if you count Karen Köhler, whose only previous publication was not a novel); and Austrian authors punched above their weight (six titles), the Swiss below (just one).
       Platthaus suggests some of the names/titles left out -- and Bartels a whole lot.

       The German Book Prize has established itself as the leading German novel prize; six of the previous winning titles are under review at the complete review.
       The shortlist will be announced 17 September, and the winner on 14 October.

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

       Mountain Echoes

       The Mountain Echoes literary festival in Bhutan is being held for the tenth time, and runs 23 to 25 August, with a theme of 'Many Lives, Many Stories'. (Yes, the main site says "22 - 25 August", but the programme would seem to only start on the 23rd.)
       In The Hindu Vangmayi Parakala takes a good long look at Mapping how the Mountain Echoes festival has influenced Bhutan, while in the Indian Express Tanushree Ghosh reports that Bhutan's literary festival, Mountain Echoes, turns 10.

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

       SS-GB review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Len Deighton's 1978 alternate-history thriller, SS-GB.

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

19 August 2019 - Monday

Reviewing translations ... | Jakarta International Literary Festival

       Reviewing translations ...

       I am no great believer in prescriptions how to review books, but it's always interesting to see what people believe should be rules, and in The Moscow Times Michele A. Berdy goes off on a nice long rant on the subject, in If I Were Queen of Translation Reviews.
       Given how little attention there is to the particular issues regarding reviewing translations -- beyond very small circles, where it is of course discussed constantly and ad infinitum -- it's a worthwhile look at and discussion of some of these. (I suspect this remains a tilting-at-windmills exercise: while there are notable exceptions -- venues which admirably discuss specifically the translation of a book -- for the most part it's a win if the translator simply gets a mention in a review .....)

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

       Jakarta International Literary Festival

       The first-ever Jakarta International Literary Festival starts tomorrow, beginning with a keynote speech by Adania Shibli.
       The theme of this year's festival is "pagar" ('fences'), which:
reflects the blurring boundaries as a consequence of globalization. This theme tries to reflect the struggle of how contemporary literature is trying to confront not only local debates but also global issues.
       See also Josa Lukman's preview in The Jakarta Post, Jakarta's literary festival to highlight Southern identity.

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

18 August 2019 - Sunday

James Tait Black Prizes | The world of literary translation

       James Tait Black Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's James Tait Black Prizes, and they are Crudo, by Olivia Laing, which won the fiction prize, and In Extremis, by Lindsey Hilsum, which won the biography category.

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

       The world of literary translation

       In The Japan Times Louise George Kittaka has a piece on Understanding the challenging world of the literary translator (translating from Japanese into English), offering insights from several translators.
       Avery Fischer Udagawa observes:
The most challenging aspect is the low demand for international children's literature in the U.S., my home country. Getting published requires advocating in addition to translating, while earning a living another way altogether
       Meanwhile, Louise Heal Kawai -- translator of, among others, Ms Ice Sandwich and Seventeen -- notes:
“In the case of my own work, I’ve calculated that’s between a third and a half of reviews or recommendations,” she says. “There will be remarks such as ‘beautifully written’ or ‘flowing prose’ but no mention of the person who wrote that English prose.”
       And good to see also some publishers weigh in -- Pushkin Press and Stone Bridge Press.

       Interesting though the article is, the translation-article everyone (well, everyone who deals in some way with literature-in-translation) is buzzing about is Magdalena Edwards' detailed one in the Los Angeles Review of Books on Benjamin Moser and the Smallest Woman in the World. Moser has a Susan Sontag biography coming out (Sontag; see the Ecco publicity page), but for quite a while has hitched his wagon to Clarice Lispector, writing a biography (Why This World) as well as overseeing and being variously involved with translations -- new and re-translations -- of much of her work; see the New Directions page of all these; his industrious engagement with (and promotion of) the author certainly contributed greatly to the Lispector-renaissance of the past few years.
       The new translations have generally been widely hailed, but as Edwards' article (and reactions to it on Twitter) makes clear, Moser's handling of bringing the Lispector-œuvre into English has been ... not without issues.
       Text-focused, I'm uncomfortable with all the people-issues around books -- but of course there's no real way entirely around them. But, yes, some people ... put themselves in the picture way more than is strictly necessary, and often not in good ways. Unfortunately, especially the books-in-translation-world is one where (often loud and forceful) advocacy, in all its forms, from translators, publishers, booksellers (and the occasional critic), is (often seen as) the only way to get the attention work is due, so personality (too) often comes into play ..... Very strongly held opinions -- about how to do things -- and the sometimes dubious corresponding actions are ... not uncommon, and some of these rub many people the wrong way (often justifiably so; occasionally, not so much); generally, as we see from Edwards' article, readers are not privy to the significant behind-the-scenes ... maneuvering involved in the translation, and translation-publishing, processes.

       For what it's worth, you may have noticed that there actually are no Lispector works under review at the complete review, though I have copies of almost all these relatively recently published translations, have read most of them, and have mentioned some at this Literary Saloon, and although I find her a very interesting author (and, of course, mentioned several of her works in my The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction).
       In part, the absence of reviews is due to the fact that I had read the earlier versions of the previously translated works years ago and would want to compare these with the new versions in any review (but that's a lot of work, and I also haven't had the patience for it yet); beyond that, the books got a great deal of coverage elsewhere, which always makes it less of a priority for me to get to a particular work. But part of it was also simply that something didn't sit entirely right either; I'm both disappointed and annoyed to find validation of that gut feeling in Edwards' piece -- annoyed because I wish it could just be about the texts, but, as her experiences show, other factors come into disruptive play .....

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

17 August 2019 - Saturday

Mao Dun Literature Prize | David Damrosch profile
Yvonne Owuor Q & A | Аутопсия на една любов review

       Mao Dun Literature Prize

       They've announced the winners of this year's Mao Dun Literature Prize (茅盾文学奖), a leading Chinese novel award that makes up for only being awarded every four years by having multiple winners:
  • 人世间, by Liang Xiaosheng
  • 牵风记, by Xu Huaizhong
  • 北上, by Xu Zechen
  • 主角, by Chen Yan
  • 应物兄, by Li Er
       See also the (brief) Xinhua report, Five novels win China's top literature award.
       (Not much English-language presence for any of these authors, much less their work, but a Paper Republic dreamlist ("our readers recommend Chinese books for translation") from 2016 does include another Liang Xiaosheng novel, 浮城 ('Floating City'), which is described as: "This Lord of the Flies for adults tells the bizarre tale of an entire city that breaks away from the mainland and floats away to sea, leaving the inhabitants to cling to civilization as best they can", so I'm definitely on board with seeing some of his work in translation.)

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

       David Damrosch profile

       In Harvard Magazine Spencer Lee Lenfield considers 'David Damrosch's literary global reach' at some length, profiling the leading world-lit man in A World of Literature.
       Great quote, right at the start:
I work mostly on literature between roughly 2000 and 2015. But '2000' means 2000 B.C.E
       And good to see him advocating:
We really need to look at work that’s being done in Italian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and in Eastern Europe—in translation if we can’t read it in the original—and we need to be getting more translations of things that aren’t translated... One of the things world literature has to talk about is its own uneven playing field.
       Well worth a look.

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

       Yvonne Owuor Q & A

       In the Saturday Nation Oumah Otienoh has a Q & A with Jomo Kenyatta Prize-winning Yvonne Owuor: We are no longer a literary desert.
       Good to hear that she finds:
That ‘literary desert’ tag is a daft, stale one; for writers of the world, Nairobi rocks, it truly rocks.

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

       Аутопсия на една любов review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Bulgarian author Victor Paskov's last novel, the 2005 Аутопсия на една любов.

       Paskov's earlier, and best-known work, A Ballad for Georg Henig was translated into English -- published by Peter Owen -- but this one has just made it into German so far (the most obvious choice, given that Paskov spent much of his life in the GDR, and that much of the novel is set in modern-day Berlin).
       It has apparently elicited strong and mixed reactions -- notably, A Short Tale of Shame-author Angel Igov really ripped into it.

       (The German edition came out from Dittrich, in their nice little editionBalkan-series, of which I'd love to see more.)

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

16 August 2019 - Friday

'The Library of Unread Books' | SFC Literary Prize finalists
The Journalists review

       'The Library of Unread Books'

       'The Library of Unread Books' is an "an itinerant library" cum exhibition/installation that has already been shown in a variety of venues and is next coming to the Jameel Arts Centre (16 November through 31 January); in The National Rupert Hawksley previews it, in: How a library full of unread books is exploring the relationship between wealth and knowledge.
       This is an intriguing concept -- though of course my own library is also one that contains hundreds of unread books (which I prefer to think of as: not-yet-read books ...).
       Disappointingly, there's not an accompanying web-presence, just -- horrors ! -- a Facebook page.

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

       SFC Literary Prize finalists

       The St. Francis College Literary Prize -- a biennial, $50,000 prize for: "an author's third to fifth work of published fiction" -- has announced the finalists for this year's award.
       There are six titles left in the running, selected from 184 (unfortunately not revealed) entries.
       The winner will be announced 21 September.

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

       The Journalists review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Gustav Freytag's 1852 play, The Journalists.

       You don't see this one being played a lot any longer (not even in the German-speaking world), but it was a huge hit in the nineteenth century -- among the most popular German comedies (though admittedly the German playwrights weren't exactly known for their comedies ...), with The New York Times' review noting, in 1888, that it: "has been presented again and again in New-York"; there are apparently also (at least) three translations of it into English. And it was popular enough for the American Book Company to publish the German original

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

15 August 2019 - Thursday

Nepali literature | Amazon publishing | BookBrahma

       Nepali literature

       At Global Voices Qurratulain (Annie) Zaman has a Q & A, 'The external world doesn't know how rich Nepali literature is': An interview with author Dr. Sangita Swechcha.
       Swechcha does note:
Since most of these are written in Nepali, the external world doesn't know much about how rich Nepali literature is. In this sense, Nepali literature seems to be a bit isolated from the external world. However, the situation is changing now. Not only is [the number of] Nepali writers who write in English slowly growing but the translation of literary works from Nepali to other languages is gaining momentum too. I believe that with this changing trend people will get acquainted with Nepali literature and Nepali literature will have more exposure to the external world as well.
       Most of this -- especially as far as written-in-Nepali works go -- still comes via (or just in) India -- though the (embarrassingly still just) one Nepali work under review at the complete review -- Mountains Painted with Turmeric, by Lil Bahadur Chettri -- came out from Columbia University Press.

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

       Amazon publishing

       I missed this last week at The Atlantic, where Blake Montgomery wrote about The Amazon Publishing Juggernaut -- without even mentioning translation-specializing imprint Amazon Crossing .....
       Montgomery does note that The Three Mistakes of my Life (etc.)-author Chetan Bhagat is aboard -- maybe a way: "to establish a foothold in the gargantuan Indian market" (though he seems to have had ... limited success beyond it, including the US/UK).

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


       As Varsha Gowda reports in the New Indian Express, a new website is Typing a new chapter for Kannada literature.
       Okay, BookBrahma is probably only really useful at this point if you actually read Kannada, but it's always good to see these sites dedicated to literature from languages that don't get wide coverage elsewhere (and Kannada is no small language: the Wikipedia table of languages by number of native speakers has it ahead of, among many others, for example, Polish, Dutch, and Thai).
       And maybe the attention will also help bring a few more titles into English (or other languages) .....

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

14 August 2019 - Wednesday

Ogawa Yoko profile | FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year longlist
Audiobook advances | Tough Justice review

       Ogawa Yoko profile

       With The Memory Police now out in the US (and out tomorrow in the UK), it's good to see a decent amount of review coverage already, and now also Motoko Rich's profile in The New York Times, 'I Just Peeked Into Their World and Took Notes': Yoko Ogawa Conjures Spirits in Hiding.
       This is the fifth title by Ogawa to appear in English -- but, sigh, she is: "the author of more than 40 novels and story collections". (All five available-in-English titles are under review at the complete review, as are five that aren't -- but that's still less than quarter of her output .....)
       Amusing anecdote from the profile:
Growing up, Ogawa wrote for herself. When she married a steel company engineer, she quit her job as a medical university secretary — a common life step for many women of her generation.

While her husband worked, she wrote. She didn’t intentionally keep it secret, she said, but her husband only learned about her writing when her debut novel, “The Breaking of the Butterfly,” received a literary prize.

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

       FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award -- though, bafflingly, the announcement is paywalled at the official site, which is why I waited until today -- when I can link to The Bookseller's report, where the information about what sixteen titles made it is freely accessible.
       None of the longlisted titles are under review at the complete review at this time.
       The shortlist will be announced next month.

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

       Audiobook advances

       It's unclear how advanced this is, but obviously the technological capabilities will someday (soon) be here: synthetic speech that sounds like the author (or anyone you want) used to 'record' (i.e. generate) audiobooks, as the BBC summarily reports about such efforts, in AI reads books out loud in authors' voices.
       It's already possible to: "generate an audio version of a book, using digitised, synthetic voices" -- and these voices are just getting better and more lifelike. And so, for example:
London-based tech start-up DeepZen says its synthetic speech technology can create multiple versions of an audiobook within hours, cutting down time and costs by an estimated 90%.
       I am curious about the legal implications of who 'owns' a voice -- i.e. can/will they just imitate famous actors and speakers, will there be a market in licensing voices, etc.
       As someone who doesn't listen to audiobooks -- I don't have the patience, time, or occasion to, and really find actual books just so much more versatile -- I'm not sure what to think, but given the way the market is growing, these developments should be of interest to a lot of readers (listeners).

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

       Tough Justice review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of (Frédéric Dard writing as) San Antonio's 1955 novel, Tough Justice, one of the handful of San-Antonios translated into English (though it's been a while since anyone tried this ...).

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

13 August 2019 - Tuesday

German translation subsidies | Chinese online literature gets real ?
Israeli 'bookcrossing' in Ecuador

       German translation subsidies

       The Deutscher Übersetzerfonds ('German translation fund') provides grants for translators for works being translated into German -- much like the English PEN Translates awards and the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants do for translators-into-English --, and they've just announced the newest batch: 33 grants paying out a total of €180,100; the full press release (warning ! even more annoying than just being in dreaded pdf format ! has to be downloaded !) gives the full details of the projects getting support; the Börsenblatt report gives a good overview (though not the full titles of all the projects ...).
       These are always fascinating -- to see what gets translated (and what is deemed worthy of support ...) in(to) other languages.
       Among the projects are several translations from the English, such as of The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai, Hari Kunzru's Gods without Men, and Ali Smith's Winter, as well as a Jack Kerouac; more interesting is the foreign stuff, which includes some familiar names at which I perk up: Jin Yong, Aka Mortschiladse, and Sara Mesa, as well as a David Van Reybrouck. And there's also Antonio Scurati's Premio Strega-winning M -- il figlio del secolo; that one's also coming out in English, but as best I can tell none of the titles (beyond those written in English) have been translated into/are available in English yet.

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

       Chinese online literature gets real ?

       Xinhua reports that Chinese online literature favors more realistic themes, as, while fantasy and period themes were long the big attraction, now:
Up to 65 percent of online literary works were about realistic themes, a 24-percent increase year on year, according to a report on the development of Chinese online literature in 2018.
       And for your periodic reminder of just how big and big a deal online literature is in China:
In 2018, 7.95 million online literary works were newly uploaded, raising the total number to 24.42 million, up 48.3 percent over that of 2017
       As far as readers: "China had 430 million online literature readers, up 14.4 percent year on year".
       (See also, for example, Michel Hockx's book on Internet Literature in China.)

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

       Israeli 'bookcrossing' in Ecuador

       This seems like a nice way for a smaller country to get the message out about its literature in another smaller country: Israel is distributing 200 books in Ecuador, bookcrossing-style, in their Libros Libres de Israel-project; Abigail Klein Leichman has the story (well, a mostly just regurgitated (but translated into English) version of the official press release) at Israel21c, Translated Israeli books hit the streets of Ecuador.
       They're even leaving books in the Galápagos.
       This seems like a really good, relatively cheap way of getting the word -- and the books -- out, and into another culture.
       (Note, however, that while Israel is a 'small' country (and Hebrew a 'small' language), the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature is one of the more impressive national literature-supporting agencies. Oddly (or perhaps not so much ...), several 'small' countries, from Finland to the Netherlands are particularly good with their literary support -- whereby having the funds (i.e. a government willing to spend money on this sort of thing) is of course the major factor, and rich European countries are a bit better positioned than others in this regard; so, of course, it's sad to see the Ecuadorians aren't able to launch a similar exchange-project in Israel ...).)

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

12 August 2019 - Monday

'Literary fragments' | Institute of Naga Literature
'The great literature war' in Taiwan
Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas review

       'Literary fragments'

       In The National (Scotland) they collect Summer leaves: Scotland's top writers select their favourite literary fragments, with some fine selectors (including Janice Galloway and Alasdair Gray) and some nice selections.

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

       Institute of Naga Literature

       With its many languages and regions, it's easy for some (many ...) Indian literatures to fall way under the radar, so it's good to hear that one of these -- fascinating Nagaland -- should now be getting its own Institute of Naga Literature: Medolenuo Ambrocia reports as much in EastMojo, in: Nagaland govt to set up institute for Naga literature (though: "a definite time frame is not yet ascertained" ...).

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

       'The great literature war' in Taiwan

       In the Taipei Times Han Cheung writes about Taiwan in Time: The great literature war -- when: "The debate over Taiwan-centric nativist literature boiled over in August 1977, with the government leading attacks on such writings as pro-communist and divisionist"
       Ah, the times when (and where) literature meant something ! (Okay, this kind of stuff still comes to a boil pretty often, in many places, but the extent (and government involvement) here is impressive.)

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

       Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Olivier Adam's 1999 novel, Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas -- not yet translated into English.

       I'm kind of surprised this -- and more of his work in general -- hasn't been published in English (Cliffs still seems to be the extent of it). This one would seem to have decent US/UK-audience potential, and would fit the list of any number of publishers (beginning with translation-powerhouse AmazonCrossing). And, hey, there's a movie tie-in (not that many people in the US/UK saw or are aware of the movie version, but still).
       See also Lewis Manalo's 2010 (!) piece in Publishing Perspectives, A Very French Melancholy: Olivier Adam, the Man Who Lost the Goncourt.

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

11 August 2019 - Sunday

9mobile Prize For Literature | Annie Ernaux profile
Duanwad Pimwana Q & A | Das Leben der Wünsche review
17 years of the Literary Saloon

       9mobile Prize For Literature

       I've mentioned the issues with the former Etisalat Prize for Literature, more recently known as the 9mobile Prize For Literature (most recently here), but, hey, they finally got around to announcing ... last year's winner. Not yet at the official site, last I checked, but still .....
       As, for example, Jayne Augoye writes in the Premium Times, Nigerian writer Ayobami Adebayo wins 2018 9mobile Literature Prize, as Stay With Me, by Ayòbámi Adébáyò, gets the prize.
       See also the Vintage publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Annie Ernaux profile

       In The Guardian Angelique Chrisafis has a profile, Abortion, sex and family secrets: Annie Ernaux, France's great truth teller.
       Works by Annie Ernaux have been appearing in English for quite a while, but it's great to see her finally getting the attention she deserves.

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

       Duanwad Pimwana Q & A

       At PEN Lily Philpott offers The PEN Ten: An Interview in Translation with Duanwad Pimwana, the Thai writer with two books now out in English translation (I have both and should be getting to them ...).
       Admirably, the interview is presented in both the Thai it was conducted in and Mui Poopoksakul's translation.

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

       Das Leben der Wünsche review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Thomas Glavinic's 2009 novel, Das Leben der Wünsche -- not yet translated into English

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

       17 years of the Literary Saloon

       The complete review was started in 1999, so the site is already twenty years old, but today is the seventeenth anniversary of the first post at this later-added Literary Saloon; glad to see you're still reading it .....

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

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