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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 January 2020

11 January: Publishing in ... Africa | Lokalbericht review
12 January: NBCC Awards finalists | The last 100 reviews
13 January: 1969 Nobel Prize nominations | Inside the Critics' Circle review
14 January: T.S.Eliot Prize | 'Indian writers who defined the decade'
15 January: Swiss Grand Prize for literature | Crossword Book Awards | (More) coming in 2020 | A Sight for Sore Eyes review
16 January: Akutagawa and Naoki prizes | National Jewish Book Award | Best of 2019 in ... Hungary | 'Rightwing literature in Poland' | NEA Arts Project Grants
17 January: Bestselling French authors in 2019 | 'Latvian Literature' in 2019 | Divya review
18 January: New Asymptote | Bestselling French books in 2019
19 January: Epigram Books Fiction Prize | Lee Child handing over Jack Reacher
20 January: Indian Bildungsromane | Tyll review

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20 January 2020 - Monday

Indian Bildungsromane | Tyll review

       Indian Bildungsromane

       In The Hindu Saikat Majumdar considers The inheritance of flaws: What Indian bildungsromans tell us about our nation.

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

       Tyll review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Daniel Kehlmann's Tyll, due out shortly in English (from Pantheon in the US and riverrun in the UK).

       Among the secondary characters is Athanasius Kircher -- who also features in Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès' Where Tigers are at Home.

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

19 January 2020 - Sunday

Epigram Books Fiction Prize | Lee Child handing over Jack Reacher

       Epigram Books Fiction Prize

       They've announced the winner of the 2020 Epigram Books Fiction Prize, a leading Singaporean literary prize for an unpublished manuscript -- and it is How the Man in Green Saved Pahang, and Possibly the World, by Joshua Kam; it and the three other finalists will be published by Epigram in the second half of the year.

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

       Lee Child handing over Jack Reacher

       Author of the Jack Reacher-series Lee Child has announced that he's getting too old for this and is handing off the series to his brother (fifteen years his junior). The transition will apparently be gradual, with the next in the series, The Sentinel, attributed to Lee Child (in large print) and Andrew Child (in much smaller print ...).
       See also the reports at the BBC and The Guardian.

       Several Jack Reacher novels are under review at the complete review:        I imagine I'll get to a few more -- but probably more from the backlist rather than this new direction .....

       (Updated - 21 January): See now also Paraic O'Donnel on the End of the real Jack Reacher ? Lee Child passes pen to his brother in the Irish Times and Lee Child letting go of his creation is a tale told by other bestsellers by Alison Flood in The Guardian.

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

18 January 2020 - Saturday

New Asymptote | Bestselling French books in 2019

       New Asymptote

       The January 2020 issue of Asymptote is now available online -- a ton of great international literary material for your weekend reading.

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

       Bestselling French books in 2019

       After listing the bestselling French authors of 2019 (see my previous mention) and the bestselling books in France of the past decade (see my previous mention), they've now come out with the list of top-selling titles of 2019 in France.
       The Livres Hebdo report is mostly paywalled, but most of the information is also available, for example, here.
       With 1,573,000 copies sold, an Astérix-volume was, by far the top seller; two (!) Guillaume Musso titles followed at number two and three, The Reunion selling 565,237 copies and La vie secrète des écrivains selling 391,000 copies. In fourth place: Michel Houellebecq's Serotonin, with 384,709 copies sold -- just ahead of the prix Goncourt-winner by Jean-Paul Dubois, Tous les hommes n'habitent pas le monde de la même façon (367,652 copies).
       Only seven titles sold more than 300,000 copies -- compared to 12 in 2017 and 10 in 2018 .....

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

17 January 2020 - Friday

Bestselling French authors in 2019 | 'Latvian Literature' in 2019 | Divya review

       Bestselling French authors in 2019

       Le Figaro has its annual look at Notre palmarès des romanciers français qui vendent le plus -- the French authors who sold the most books (fiction) in France last year. Their article is paywalled, but helpfully you can find the information elsewhere -- see, for example, the RTBF report.
       Guillaume Musso easily topped the list again, selling 1.4 million books in France; one of his books appeared in the US last year, too -- The Reunion -- which I suspect did not sell quite (or anywhere near ...) as impressively as the original did in France .....
       The top ten were:
  1. Guillaume Musso (1.4 million books sold)
  2. Michel Bussi (946,008)
  3. Virginie Grimaldi (755,819)
  4. Marc Levy (744,544)
  5. Aurélie Valognes (683,338)
  6. Raphaëlle Giordano (631,609)
  7. Agnès Martin-Lugand (592,279)
  8. Franck Thilliez (585,072)
  9. Michel Houellebecq (basically all on the back of Serotonin)
  10. Valérie Perrin (503,867)
       The numbers were lower across the board than 2018's, when the top five all sold more than 800,000 books.

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

       'Latvian Literature' in 2019

       At Latvian Literature they offer their Top Ten 'Latvian Literature' Moments of 2019.
       Amazing that: "Last year saw the first translations of Latvian works into Japanese and Chinese".

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

       Divya review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yashpal's 1945 Hindi classic, Divya.

       Translator Anand notes re. this translation -- finally published in 2006 by Sahitya Akademi --:
Although the final draft was ready by 1988, the manuscript languished with literary agents in North America for several years, including one in Hollywood who, in the wake of the success of various television min-seres on the Orient in the eighties, took an option on Divya with a view to marketing it in the media as a similar US production. It also survived suggestions by two publishers to rewrite Divya's story in a less literary language so as to make it more accessible to the average reader, until the present publisher rescued it from further inattention.
       The surreal world of publishing books in translation in the US ... whereby it should be noted that this title still hasn't come out in a US edition (i.e. isn't readily available in the US (or, for that matter, UK) market). But then, according the Translation Database at Publishers Weekly, not a single translation of a work of fiction from Hindi was published in the US in all of 2019. (Indeed, the entire period covered by the Translation Database unearths all of six translations of works of fiction from Hindi for the entire period it covers -- 2008 through 2020 .....)

       Of course, what I'd really like to see now is his This Is Not That Dawn, which got a lot of attention (in India) when the English translation came out; see the Penguin India publicity page. But it's surprisingly hard to come about in the US .....

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

16 January 2020 - Thursday

Akutagawa and Naoki prizes | National Jewish Book Award
Best of 2019 in ... Hungary | 'Rightwing literature in Poland'
NEA Arts Project Grants

       Akutagawa and Naoki prizes

       The latest set of winners of two of the leading Japanese literary prizes, the Akutagawa and Naoki prizes, have been announced; see, for example, the Kyodo report, 2 novelists named for Japan's Akutagawa, Naoki literary awards.

       Furukawa Makoto won the Akutagawa Prize for his 背高泡立草 see also the Shueisha publicity page.

       Kawagoe Soichi won the Naoki Prize for 熱源; see the Bunshun publicity page.

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

       National Jewish Book Award

       They've announced the winners of the 2019 (American) National Jewish Book Awards -- now in its sixty-ninth year ! --, in all its many categories.
       The winners will be honored on 17 March.

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

       Best of 2019 in ... Hungary

       At hlo they collect "the twelve most important books from 2019" in Hungary, in Best Books of 2019 -- all in Hungarian, but some familiar names (Krasznahorkai !) and some really good sounding books; hopefully some will be available in English soon.

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

       'Rightwing literature in Poland'

       At Eurozine they reprint Maciej Urbanowski's Osteuropa article, an extensive look at: "Rightwing literature in Poland after 1989", Conservative revolution
       Disturbing if fascinating; I wonder whether we'll see any of these in translation.

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

       NEA Arts Project Grants

       The (American) National Endowment for the Arts has announced its latest batch of grants -- 1,187 grants, for $27.3 million, including 53 'Literary Arts' grants worth $1,150,000; see also the full list (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of grants.

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

15 January 2020 - Wednesday

Swiss Grand Prize for literature | Crossword Book Awards
(More) coming in 2020 | A Sight for Sore Eyes review

       Swiss Grand Prize for literature

       They've announced the 2020 winners of the federal Swiss literary prizes, including the two career/author prizes, with Sibylle Berg winning the Grand Prix suisse de littérature and translator(-from-the-German-(and-Russian-)to-French) Marion Graf winning the 'special translation prize'; seven books also received prizes.
       Berg has had quite a past year, also winning the (limited to German-language books) Swiss Book Prize for GRM (see the Kiepenheuer & Witsch foreign rights page; I really should get my hands on this one), while her play, Hass-Triptychon -- Wege aus der Krise won the Nestroy Prize (see also the Rowohlt publicity page).
       Graf has translated Robert Walser, Markus Werner, Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, Anna Akhmatova, and Boris Pasternak, among others.
       Berg and Graf will each get CHF 40,000, while each of the book-winners get 25,000; they all pick up their prizes at the official ceremony, on 13 February.

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

       Crossword Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's Crossword Book Awards, a leading Indian literary prize, with both a juried and 'popular' (voted on by the public) set of prizes.
       The Far Field, by Madhuri Vijay, won the English fiction category; see the publicity pages from Harper Collins India and Grove Press, or get your copy at Flipkart,, or
       Jayasree Kalathil's translation (from the Malayalam) of Diary of a Malayali Madman by N.Prabhakaran won the Indian language translation category; see the Harper Collins India publicity page, or get your copy at Flipkart,, or

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

       (More) coming in 2020

       The Millions' Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2020 Book Preview, covering some 140 books, came out last week, but now the Literary Hub doubles down with their even more extensive offering of the Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2020: A Look Ahead at the Year in Reading -- 281 books !
       Here, too, the focus is on 'bigger' books -- but, for that, it's certainly useful. Still: there are lots (and lots and lots) of titles, generally from smaller publishers, also worth looking out for; the Big Other's Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2020 ! is one place to find some of those -- but there are a lot more out there .....

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

       A Sight for Sore Eyes review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ruth Rendell's 1998 mystery, A Sight for Sore Eyes.

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

14 January 2020 - Tuesday

T.S.Eliot Prize | 'Indian writers who defined the decade'

       T.S.Eliot Prize

       The T.S.Eliot Prize, a £25,000 prize for: "the best new poetry collection published in the UK or Ireland" has now announced its 2019 winner -- not yet at the official site, last I checked, but see, for example, Sian Cain's report in The Guardian, British-Trinidadian dub poet Roger Robinson wins TS Eliot prize.
       Robinson's A Portable Paradise was the winning title; see also the Peepal Tree Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       'Indian writers who defined the decade'

       At Firstpost Aishwarya Sahasrabudhe suggests Indian writers who defined the decade, from Siddhartha Mukherjee to Sujatha Gidla, Perumal Murugan -- a fairly extensive list.

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

13 January 2020 - Monday

1969 Nobel Prize nominations | Inside the Critics' Circle review

       1969 Nobel Prize nominations

       The 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Samuel Beckett.
       Fifty years after the fact they open the archives regarding deliberations, and so they've now opened those for 1969; usually this gets some press coverage, but it's been very quiet this year. Kaj Schueler had quick coverage in Svenska Dagbladet -- but his report is behind a paywall; at least one can glean that it was ultimately apparently between Beckett and André Malraux.
       At least the list of nominees (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) is now available. There were 103 names nominated, including 28 first-time nominees (marked with an "x"); among them were future laureates Elias Canetti and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, as well as Edward Albee, Louis Guilloux, Tawfiq al-Hakim, Inoue Yasushi, Arthur Miller, Robert Pinget, Anthony Powell, Raymond Queneau, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Nathalie Sarraute.
       Quite a few future laureates were also nominated -- as were worthy authors that never won, including Jorge Luis Borges, Nabokov, and Tarjei Vesaas.

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

       Inside the Critics' Circle review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Phillipa K. Chong's look at Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times, in Inside the Critics' Circle, just out from Princeton University Press.

       (Of course it's impossible to resist reviewing a book on book reviewing .....)

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

12 January 2020 - Sunday

NBCC Awards finalists | The last 100 reviews

       NBCC Awards finalists

       The (American) National Book Critics Circle has announced the finalists for its awards in their six categories: autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, non, and poetry.
       I have read (sigh: seen) none of these.
       The winners will be announced 12 March.

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

       The last 100 reviews

       I recently reached 4500 books under review at the complete review, so it's time for another overview of the past 100 reviewed titles (4401 through 4500) -- somewhat confusingly coming almost right after the more comprehensive year in numbers overview covering all of 2019 (and twice as many reviews).

       - The last 100 reviews were posted over 188 days -- slightly longer than the previous 100 (162 days), and totaling 131,184 (last 100: 138,605 words). The longest review was 4519 words, and eight reviews were over 2000 words long.
       Reviewed books had a total of 25,743 pages, slightly above the previous 25,858, making for a pages-per-day rate of 137.54 (down from the previous 156.8).

       - Reviewed books were originally written in 30 different languages (including English); English led the way, with 22 titles, followed closely by French (21), and then Japanese (9), German (8), and Spanish (7). Two new language was added -- Faroese and Latvian -- bringing the total number of languages covered to an impressive 80. More impressively, there are now 37 languages from which at least ten books have been reviewed (one-offs are something, but by the time ten titles are reviewed, that begins to amount to meaningful coverage, I think). (See also the updated full breakdown of all the languages books under review were originally written in.)

       - Reviewed books were by authors from around 42 countries (previous 100: 36) -- 'around' because it's not always clear what 'country' a particular place (from a particular era) should be counted as --, France leading the way with 17, followed by Japan and the UK (9 each).

       - Male-written books were, yet again, overwhelmingly dominant, with 82 of the reviewed books written by men (just better than the historic sexist average of written-by-women titles under review of now ... 16.22 per cent).

       - One book was rated A -- Welcome to America, by Linda Boström Knausgård, and 8 were rated A-; B was the most common grade (52), while one title got a B-.

       - Fiction dominated, as it always does, with 83 titles that were novels/novellas/stories.

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

11 January 2020 - Saturday

Publishing in ... Africa | Lokalbericht review

       Publishing in ... Africa

       Via I'm pointed to Stanley Gazemba's African Publishing Minefields and the Woes of the African Writer in The Elephant; it's from a couple of weeks ago, but I only came across it now.
The best efforts to find a successor to the hugely successful African Writers Series have so far failed to bear fruit while the indigenisation of the book trade has seen the neglect of the African writer of fiction, with local publishers preferring the financial safety of educational publishing.
       Quite a few AWS titles are under review at the complete review; note, however, that books from a lot of present-day African publishers are readily available through the invaluable African Books Collective.

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

       Lokalbericht review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hermann Burger's Lokalbericht -- his first novel, from 1970, but only published posthumously, in 2016.

       The whole book is also available, in exemplary form, online.

       Only a smattering of Burger is available in English -- e.g. -- but his Brenner is forthcoming from Archipelago Books in Adrian Nathan West's translation; for now, see the Nagel & Kimche publicity page.

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

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