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The Literary Saloon Archive

23 - 31 August 2019

23 August: The new Houellebecq ... | Translating Chinese fiction | Shkëlqimi dhe rënia e shokut Zylo review
24 August: Expanding Japanese fiction | Writing in ... Uganda | Chinaman's Chance review
25 August: The political novel | Must reads ?
26 August: Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous review
27 August: '100 Best Books by Women Writers in Translation' | Literature in ... Sri Lanka | New Iranian literary prize | A Hero Born review
28 August: 'The 100 China books you have to read' | Royal Society Science Book Prize shortlist
29 August: Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalists | A Short Treatise Inviting the Reader to Discover the Subtle Art of Go review
30 August: Amir Hassan Cheheltan Q & A | Objectionable War and Peace ? | Weltempfänger-Bestenliste
31 August: V & Q Books | The Nine Cloud Dream review

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31 August 2019 - Saturday

V & Q Books | The Nine Cloud Dream review

       V & Q Books

       German publisher Voland & Quist has exciting news: they're starting up an English-language imprint, V & Q Books, with translator Katy Derbyshire as publisher, publishing five to six translations from the German annually, starting in the fall of 2020.
       While German is fairly well represented in translation, if you consider things relatively -- it's consistently the third most translated-from language, behind Spanish and French -- in absolute terms the numbers are still pretty feeble, so it's great to see a dedicated imprint like this.
       In Die Zeit Johannes Schneider has a (German) Q & A with Katy Derbyshire in which she talks more about this promising undertaking.

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

       The Nine Cloud Dream review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kim Man-jung's seventeenth century Korean classic, The Nine Cloud Dream, recently out in a new translation in the Penguin Classics series.

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

30 August 2019 - Friday

Amir Hassan Cheheltan Q & A | Objectionable War and Peace ?

       Amir Hassan Cheheltan Q & A

       At Nasrin Bassiri has a Q & A with Amir Hassan Cheheltan, "Literature is based on politics and eroticism".
       The Iranian author still lives in Iran but notes: "I have not been able to publish a single novel in Iran in the past 15 years" -- while publishing several in German translation over that span (including one under review at the complete review)

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

       Objectionable War and Peace ?

       A case at the Bombay High Court against Vernon Gonsalves has been attracting attention, as Justice Sarang Kotwal wondered about the defendant's reading material:
"War and Peace is about a war in another country," Justice Sarang Kotwal said. "Why were you having...[it] at home ? You will have to explain this to the court."
       But at least the Indian media is having fun with this: Bombay HC asks why War and Peace at home. Truly bizarre, says Jairam Ramesh says India Today, while NDTV reports that, reassuringly (?) After War And Peace Question, Judge Says He Knew Tolstoy Book Was Classic. Meanwhile, at they wonder: If reading 'War and Peace' is illegal, which other books should we not be reading ? and at The Wire Markandey Katju considers other Books Which May Get Me into Trouble.

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


       The LitProm Weltempfänger-Bestenliste is a seasonal German best-of list for works in (German) translation from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and the latest one is now out.
       It is topped by Valeria Luiselli's Lost Children Archive, followed by Pyun Hye-Young's The Hole -- and a Mishima Yukio comes in at number five.

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

29 August 2019 - Thursday

Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalists
A Short Treatise Inviting the Reader to Discover the Subtle Art of Go review

       Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalists

       They've announced the finalists for the Dayton Literary Peace Prizes, six each in the fiction and non categories.
       One of the finalists is under review at the complete review -- Insurrecto, by Gina Apostol.
       The winners will be announced 17 September, with the awards ceremony then to be held 3 November.

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

       A Short Treatise Inviting the Reader to Discover the Subtle Art of Go review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the 1969 A Short Treatise Inviting the Reader to Discover the Subtle Art of Go, co-authored by Pierre Lusson and Oulipians Georges Perec and Jacques Roubaud.

       Go ! Perec ! Roubaud ! What more could one ask for ?

       As always, the Wakefield Press edition is a lovely little one. I can only hope it gets the attention the Italian translation got a few years ago. (It's also coming out in German later this year, as Diaphenes is doing an impressive collected Perec.)

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

28 August 2019 - Wednesday

'The 100 China books you have to read'
Royal Society Science Book Prize shortlist

       'The 100 China books you have to read'

       Of list-making there is no end, and we now have The SupChina Book List -- apparently: "The 100 China books you have to read, ranked":
There was no criteria except availability in English. Yes, this was more mad than methodical
       It's also limited to one title per author (a list-limitation I have never understood the purpose of).
       Still, they get it right with number one, so who am I to complain ?
       See the more convenient all-on-one-page list -- with a few of the titles under review at the complete review (the latest one added ... two days ago):        With two-thirds of the titles not originally written in Chinese, the list definitely leans towards outside views/interpretations, for better and worse.

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

       Royal Society Science Book Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Royal Society Science Book Prize, selected from: "over 170 submissions".
       The winning title will be announced 23 September.

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

27 August 2019 - Tuesday

'100 Best Books by Women Writers in Translation' | Literature in ... Sri Lanka
New Iranian literary prize | A Hero Born review

       '100 Best Books by Women Writers in Translation'

       At her Biblibio weblog Meytal Radzinski, who has long provided a valuable voice and pressure in support of more attention being paid to women in translation (most notably as founder of 'Women in Translation Month' (which it currently is ...)) offers the results of her call to readers to nominate the best works by women in translation, in The 100 Best Books by Women Writers in Translation (noting also: "This is obviously not really a list of the 100 best books by women in translation... because no such list could ever possibly exist! (...) Our list is crowdsourced and borne of reader-love; it is a list that is strongly rooted in current reading trends")
       It really is "strongly rooted in current reading trends" -- among other things, as far as I can tell, there are only two pre-twentieth century work on the list (Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji and Sappho's poetry) -- and very current-/recent-heavy. The top few aren't really that surprising, but some of the other selections are; more surprising is what's missing.
       I'm terrible at participating in this sort of thing (and I didn't), but two novels I would definitely have put on my top-ten-list are The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice as Chronicled by her Minstrel Laura by Irmtraud Morgner and the sublime Loving Sabotage by Amélie Nothomb (and I'm surprised that not a single Nothomb title made the cut). As is, a quick count suggests 37 of the titles listed are under review at the complete review.
       Look for further discussion of this list -- and on the issue of women (too often not ...) in translation -- at Biblibio. But you have it bookmarked already anyway, right ?

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

       Literature in ... Sri Lanka

       In the Daily News Daya Dissanayake wonders about What ails Sri Lankan Literature, finding that: "during the past few years we have been facing a serious decline in our creative fiction and critical studies" -- so much so that: "what is coming out in Sri Lanka today as literature is pathetic".

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

       New Iranian literary prize

       As the Tehran Times reports, Association of Islamic Revolution Publishers launches Seyyed Ali Andarzgu Literary Awards.
       Yes, there is an Association of Islamic Revolution Publishers -- and this prize would seem to be an attempt to bring back to the fore a sense of triumphalism about the system currently in place, an apparent reaction to the obvious fact that public opinion is increasingly wavering. Hence also the framing of it as a reaction, as:
The organizers of the awards had previously said that they intend to struggle against a current trend of attempts to sanctify the Pahlavi regime.
       It's like the Soviets worrying about Romanov-nostalgia .....
       That said, it doesn't look like they anointed simple programmatic works: specifically, Mohammadreza Sharafi-Khabushan's عاشقي به سبک ونگوگ ('Romance in a Van Gogh Style'), co-winner in the adult fiction category, looks like the real deal. His more recent work, بی‌کتابی ('Booklessness'), swept the major, established Iranian literary prizes, and he seems to have made it into the ranks of leading literary authors; I'd be very surprised if we have to wait much longer for his international breakthrough (well, some of his books getting published abroad -- though the current American sanctions situation has obviously dampened (m)any opportunities, even in European markets).
       See also the Adab publicity page for 'Romance in a Van Gogh Style' -- with its clever cover-image.

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

       A Hero Born review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the first volume of Jin Yong's Legends of the Condor Heroes-saga, A Hero Born, which came out in the UK last year and is now finally, in a couple of weeks, also coming to the US, from St. Martin's Press, with a decent bit of fanfare (i.e. they're putting some marketing money into this -- though so far the level of buzz has been a bit underwhelming).

       This is planned as a four-volume set -- the second volume is already out in the UK -- but certainly suffers some from being only partial here. True, publishing it all-in-one would have been risky -- it's enormous, and putting all the eggs in that one basket would have required quite some nerves on the part of the publishers -- but I'm glad that, for example, I was able to read his similarly mammoth The Deer and the Cauldron all in one go. Of course, with this one the fear has to be that readers will wait until all four volumes are available before taking the plunge .....

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

26 August 2019 - Monday

Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous review

       Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Manu Joseph's Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous, already out in India and the UK and coming to the US this fall, in the Myriad Editions edition, as well.

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

25 August 2019 - Sunday

The political novel | Must reads ?

       The political novel

       In The Guardian Dorian Lynskey wonders: Is the political novel dead ?
       He argues: "the campaigning novel has become an anachronism" -- in a paragraph that mentions Things Fall Apart and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, neither of which seems particularly 'campaigning' .....
       Aside from the fact that there is, in fact, an incredible amount of 'campaigning' fiction being written and published (though admittedly most of it not widely read) -- I get review-pitches for this kind of stuff by the bucket-load --, it seems to me a lot of contemporary fiction is, in significant respects, political. Not always (rubbing-it-)in-your-face obviously so, but still.

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

       Must reads ?

       Always interesting to see what are considered 'must reads', and in French Vogue Claire Beghin lists Les 15 meilleurs livres qu'il faut avoir lus dans sa vie -- suggesting it's something of a consensus, an aggregate list ("En comparant les listes diverses établies au fil du temps par les journaux, les éditeurs, les auteurs et, bien sûr les lecteurs français ou anglo-saxons, voici ceux qui trônent inlassablement en tête du classement") but without noting what sources were relied on. (Presumably a reliance on English-speaking readers' lists -- this sort of exercise is much more popular in the English-speaking world than elsewhere -- explains why so many English-language titles feature on a French magazine's list .....)
       Definitely not international enough -- or French enough, even, at least for a French list (Proust is the extent of it ...), but a few weeks ago she offered the much more specific Les 5 livres de Guy de Maupassant à lire au moins une fois dans sa vie, so .....

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

24 August 2019 - Saturday

Expanding Japanese fiction | Writing in ... Uganda | Chinaman's Chance review

       Expanding Japanese fiction

       At the AP Alex Barreira reports on how Women, late-in-life new authors expand Japanese literature, as:
Japanese literature is beginning to look different as new voices, including young writers, women and the elderly, receive domestic and international recognition.

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

       Writing in ... Uganda

       In The Economist Prospero reports on The writers breathing fresh life into Ugandan literature.

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

       Chinaman's Chance review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ross Thomas' Chinaman's Chance.

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

23 August 2019 - Friday

The new Houellebecq ... | Translating Chinese fiction
Shkëlqimi dhe rënia e shokut Zylo review

       The new Houellebecq ...

       The new Michel Houellebecq isn't a book, but rather the film Thalasso, directed by Guillaume Nicloux, in which the author plays himself, opposite Gérard Depardieu, who plays himself .....
       It's just out in France, where it has received considerable attention -- including on the cover of this week's Charlie Hebdo. See also the IMDb page or, for example, the France 24 report, Sparks fly on big screen as Depardieu meets Houellebecq in (booze-free) French spa.

       Meanwhile, Houellebecq's not quite so new latest novel is scheduled to come out in English soon -- though, as an impatient David Sexton notes in the Evening Standard, in a profile of the author, What France's most important writer said next:
Published in France in January, with an initial print run of 320,000 copies, Serotonin appeared in German, Italian and Spanish versions just days later. Why we have had to wait so long is not clear.
       Indeed. But it'll be showing up this fall; see the publicity pages from Farrar, Straus and Giroux and William Heinemann (and don't get me started on those covers ...), or pre-order your copy at or

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

       Translating Chinese fiction

       I've often mentioned the popularity of Chinese online fiction, with an incredible volume of (maybe not always so good ...) fiction finding a large audience -- but: "Chinese online literature has had trouble being under the spotlight overseas due to the lack of translators and translation inefficiency as the main obstacles in this industry".
       What to do ? Apparently -- machine-translate it .....
       So reports Gabriel Li at pandaily, in Chinese Online Literature Steps Into Overseas Market With AI Translation, focusing on: "an open platform named to help online literature make their way to overseas markets"
       Obviously, it's more ... efficient. Whether it's anything else -- like readable -- ... well, we'll see.
       (Regardless of the quality currently achievable, we'll obviously be seeing more and more of this -- and there will, no doubt, be improvements in quality. Whether they'll ever be anywhere near good enough ... I still have my doubts.)

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

       Shkëlqimi dhe rënia e shokut Zylo review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Dritëro Agolli's Shkëlqimi dhe rënia e shokut Zylo.

       Far too little Albanian fiction is translated into English -- and this hasn't been, though some of Agolli's other work has been -- albeit only by the official Albanian publishers of the time (i.e. maybe not the most impressive of translations ...); a decade ago Peter Constantine made the case for (re)translating one of Agolli's books, and more of his work in general, in the Quarterly Conversation's 'Translate this Book !'-feature, noting that:
what is most remarkable in the writings of both Agolli and Kadare is that during the years of the harshest and most restrictive censorship they both managed to write deep and powerful novels, despite having to avoid an endless list of unmentionable and untreatable topics.
       I'd certainly argue for more Agolli-in-English (and some contemporary Albanian fiction, too, for good measure).

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

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