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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 30 June 2020

21 June: Media24 Books Literary Prizes | Latvian poetry in translation | Summer reading recommendations
22 June: Bachmannpreis | Literary magazines in ... India | Cankarjeva nagrada
23 June: James Tait Black shortlists | Libris Literatuur Prijs | Kafka translation Q & A
24 June: Mishima Yukio, UFO enthusiast | Prix Sade (first) shortlist | 'Translationese'
25 June: New editor at the TLS | 'What TLS writers will be reading this summer' | 86th St. Barnes & Noble closing | Macbeth review
26 June: Europese Literatuurprijs shortlists | Jan Novák Q & A
27 June: 'Bibliothèque idéale' ? | Osiris Rising review
28 June: Crime writers and their creations | Charles Webb (1939-2020) | W.G. Sebald Lecture
29 June: Orwell in La Pléiade | 'Depicting writing' | Locus Awards
30 June: Summer World Literature Today | Prix Jean d'Ormesson | Dieter E. Zimmer (1934-2020) | Fifty Degrees Below review

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30 June 2020 - Tuesday

Summer World Literature Today | Prix Jean d'Ormesson
Dieter E. Zimmer (1934-2020) | Fifty Degrees Below review

       Summer World Literature Today

       The Summer 2020 issue of World Literature Today is now out, with a focus on: 'Notes from the Cataclysm' and lots of other material -- poems, fiction, essays (including The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree-author Shokoofeh Azar explaining Why Iranians Continue to Seek Refuge in Australia and Peter Constantine on Desegregating Language: The New Afrikaans Crime Novel), and interviews.
       And don't forget the always interesting and extensive book review section.

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

       Prix Jean d'Ormesson

       They've announced the winner of this year's prix Jean d'Ormesson, an almost perfectly conceived French literary prize in that basically anything goes: the judges get to choose whatever books they want, from whenever, and then pick the best from their initial selection. Among the books in the running this year were: Gabriel Garcia Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring -- and the winning title was first published in French translation in 1992, won several French literary prizes in the early 1990s, and is by an author who died in 2017: Mediterranean: A Cultural Landscape, by Predrag Matvejevic; see also the Livres Hebdo report.
       The University of California Press published Michael Henry Heim's translation of this in 1999; in his review in The Los Angeles Times Jonathan Levi concludes:
Who can doubt that Mediterranean belongs in the posthumous library of Borges, not to mention the working archives of NATO ?
       Sounds intriguing .....
       Get your copy at or

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

       Dieter E. Zimmer (1934-2020)

       Dieter E. Zimmer has passed away; see (German) notices in, for example, Die Zeit (where he was long an editor) and the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
       He is responsible for the German Vladimir Nabokov Collected Works from Rowohlt, and translated quite a bit of the work himself; he also translated Joyce's Dubliners and two Nathanael West novels, among others, into German. He also wrote several books about Nabokov and his work, among much else; indeed, coïncidentally, I picked up a copy of his Die Bibliothek der Zukunft recently.
       See also his excellent and extensive personal site.

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

       Fifty Degrees Below review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the second volume in Kim Stanley Robinson's Science in the Capital-trilogy, Fifty Degrees Below.

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

29 June 2020 - Monday

Orwell in La Pléiade | 'Depicting writing' | Locus Awards

       Orwell in La Pléiade

       La Pléiade is the French imprint that houses the greatest of the classics -- mainly French, mainly dead, mainly in fat, fat collected-works editions -- and they've now announced, as RFI reports, that George Orwell finds a home in France's prestigious Pléiade literary collection; see also the Le Monde report.
       The volume will include the major novels, as well as several of the non-fiction works.
       It looks like a pretty British fall for La Pléiade: this is coming out in October, and in September they're re-issuing two volumes of Dickens, as well as a 1680-page volume of George Eliot (featuring Middlemarch, along with The Mill on the Floss).

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

       'Depicting writing'

       An interesting post at the CREWS Project's weblog, Pippa Steele on Depicting writing -- i.e. depicting the actual act of writing -- in classical times.

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

       Locus Awards

       They've announced the winners of this years Locus Awards, a leading American science fiction/fantasy prize.
       Lots of categories -- and the finalists are listed along with the category winners. But I haven't seen any of these ....

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

28 June 2020 - Sunday

Crime writers and their creations | Charles Webb (1939-2020)
W.G. Sebald Lecture

       Crime writers and their creations

       In The Guardian Alison Flood collects leading crime-fiction authors' comments on: "how they came up with their most famous creations, what it's like to live with them over decades and if they'll last the distance", in Me and my detective by Lee Child, Attica Locke, Sara Paretsky, Jo Nesbø and more.
       Good fun.

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

       Charles Webb (1939-2020)

       Charles Webb, best known as the author of The Graduate, on which the famous movie was based, has passed away.
       As Harrison Smith's obituary in The Washington Post makes clear, he was an unusual guy -- about as anti-materialist as seems possible:
He had sold the movie rights to his novel for a flat fee of $20,000 and never shared in the film's profits or in the proceeds from subsequent stage adaptations. He donated the book's copyright to the Anti-Defamation League and went on to sell or donate nearly everything else he had as well
       He did publish other books, but his debut overshadowed everything else. See also the Washington Square Press publicity page for The Graduate, or get your copy at or

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

       W.G. Sebald Lecture

       David Bellos will deliver this year's W.G. Sebald Lecture tomorrow, on: "The Myths and Mysteries of Literary Translation" -- and you can watch live (though you do have to register). It's at 16:00 local (London) time, and should be well worthwhile.
       Bellos teaches at Princeton, and has translated works including Georges Perec's Life A User's Manual and Romain Gary's Hocus Bogus; among his books are the biography, Georges Perec and Is That a Fish in Your Ear ?

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

27 June 2020 - Saturday

'Bibliothèque idéale' ? | Osiris Rising review

       'Bibliothèque idéale' ?

       At Télérama they've selected their Bibliothèque idéale : les 100 livres préférés de “Télérama”, a five-category top-100 list (or actually: five top-20 lists).
       The detailed descriptions of the five category selections are pay-to-view, but at least the master list is freely accessible.

       Several of the titles are under review at the complete review:
       Of the 'grands classiques':        Among the interesting choices here: Kafka's Journals over any of his fiction. Also noteworthy: it's a pretty modern classics list -- as best I can tell, Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo (1844) is the oldest title on it, and half the books are twentieth century.

       Of the contemporary French fiction choices:        Of the (modern) foreign fiction choices:        Of the 'polars et romans de science-fiction' choices, i.e. mystery/crime as well as science fiction thrown together:        Not entirely surprisingly, none of the twenty 'essais et livres d'histoire' -- i.e. non-fiction titles -- are under review at the complete review.
       I find the list(s) kind of -- or even very -- hit or miss, but still, as always, enjoy the exercise .....

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

       Osiris Rising review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of a novel of Africa past, present, and future by Ayi Kwei Armah, his 1995 Osiris Rising.

       I'd previously only been able to library-peruse this (and Armah's KMT), so I was glad to finally be able to get a copy of my own. I'm still surprised how Armah has disappeared from the contemporary-African-literature conversation, at least in the US -- despite having attended Groton, Harvard, and Columbia, and his first novel -- the classic The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born -- coming out from Houghton Mifflin (1968) (as did Fragments (1970)). Of course, he truly (re-)committed to Africa -- but it's still surprising that his work isn't more widely available in the US (or Europe).
       Now to get my own copy of KMT -- but those are ridiculously hard to find (and expensive) .....

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

26 June 2020 - Friday

Europese Literatuurprijs shortlists | Jan Novák Q & A

       Europese Literatuurprijs shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for this year's Europese Literatuurprijs, for the best European novel translated into Dutch.
       There's a student jury this year as well, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the prize, which is selecting a title with social and human focus; among the finalists they selected are Sally Rooney's Normal People and Ali Smith's Spring -- which also made the regular list, as did Fleur Jaeggy's SS Proleterka and Krasznahorkai László's Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming.
       The winners will be announced in September.

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

       Jan Novák Q & A

       Jan Novák has written a biography of Milan Kundera which is just out in the Czech Republic and getting a lot of attention, and at Radio Prague International Brian Kenety has a Q & A with him, Milan Kundera is a 'moral relativist' with much to hide, says Czech author of controversial new biography.
       The biography only covers Kundera's Czech years -- i.e. through 1975, when he went into exile in France (switching then also to writing in French).
       Novák came to the US as a young teenager -- and attended the University of Chicago -- and has published books in both English and Czech. It'll be interesting to see whether this comes out -- in this form (it's almost 900 pages long ...) -- in English; see also the Argos publicity page.

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

25 June 2020 - Thursday

New editor at the TLS | 'What TLS writers will be reading this summer'
86th St. Barnes & Noble closing | Macbeth review

       New editor at the TLS

       News UK has announced that, after four years as editor of the Times Literary Supplement, Stig Abell is moving on -- to: "work with programme directors advising on editorial tone of voice" at Wireless --, and that former Sunday Times head man Martin Ivens will take over the position.

       While the TLS showed impressive circulation-growth during the early part of Abell's tenure -- news reports of Audit Bureau of Circulations numbers had circulation up 20%, to an average circulation of 38,545 copies weekly for the period of July to December 2017 and then up to 46,145 copies for the same period in 2018. However, the latest ABC figures, for July to December 2019, show circulation collapsing catastrophically, to 28,159. So presumably this change was in (no small) part a business decision.
       (These numbers appear to be accurate; the current TLS rate card reports: "an audited circulation of 32,100" (presumably for the period January-June 2019), while the previous one gave a: "Circulation: 41,382 (January-June 2018)".)

       I find the TLS remains a must-read, and for the most part could live with the Abell-imprint on the publication (though, text-focused as I am, I don't need/want stuff like 'A monthly round-up of watching'). Of course, there was that Voynich manuscript fiasco -- not the TLS' finest hour, much less cover-story ... -- but fortunately that proved to be an aberration rather than the new norm.

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

       'What TLS writers will be reading this summer'

       As far as summer-season filler-articles -- the inevitable variations-on-the-listicle -- the 'What our writers will be reading this summer' collection is at least among the more interesting -- so also that in this week's Times Literary Supplement, Holiday in the living room.

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

       86th St. Barnes & Noble closing

       About fifteen years ago there were still two large Barnes & Nobles on Manhattan's Upper East Side -- one on Lexington, between 86th and 87th (now a PetCo), and one between 2nd and 3rd on 86th (now a Fairway). For a couple of years, they were consolidated into one store -- the one between 2nd and 3rd -- and then, in 2009, the whole store moved to 150 East 86th (between 3rd and Lexington). For almost a decade this was my neighborhood Barnes & Noble -- but now, as Orion Jones reports at The Real Deal, Barnes & Noble closing on Upper East Side.
       That leaves only four (!) Barnes & Noble in all of Manhattan, and while I'd certainly love to see more independents, this is not a neighborhood many have been popping up in in recent years. With Crawford Doyle having closed in 2017, the remaining pickings are rather few and far between: yes, one of New York's great bookstores is thereabouts, but Albertine has a somewhat narrow purview; there's fortunately also still The Corner Bookstore -- but there was (or rather: is) certainly also a need for a Barnes & Noble type mega-store .....
       (As a primarily-used-book buyer, my favorite local haunt was, of course, The Book Cellar (bonus: it's attached to an NYPL-branch) -- and not just because their website is nearly as ... old-school as this one is .....)

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

       Macbeth review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jo Nesbø's take on Macbeth, from the Hogarth Shakespeare-series (which offers: "Shakespeare's works retold by acclaimed and bestselling novelists of today").
       It's arguably too close to the original -- plot-wise -- but it is a good read.

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

24 June 2020 - Wednesday

Mishima Yukio, UFO enthusiast | Prix Sade (first) shortlist | 'Translationese'

       Mishima Yukio, UFO enthusiast

       At they report on Watching the Skies in Japan: Mishima Yukio and Other UFO Enthusiasts, as Mishima was a member of the Japan Flying Saucer Research Association [日本空飛ぶ円盤研究会] and even wrote an essay for their official publication in 1957.
       And, while some previously untranslated Mishima has been appearing in English the past few years -- e.g. Life for Sale and Star -- what we really need to see is his science fiction novel 美しい星 ('Beautiful Star'). (Mishima apparently was eager to see it translated into English, but Donald Keene apparently wasn't enthusiastic and Knopf passed on it -- and in his Yukio Mishima (2014) Damian Flanagan reports that: "Beautiful Star was a complete dud, selling only 20,000 copies -- the lowest for any book he had ever written".)

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

       Prix Sade (first) shortlist

       The prix Sade has announced its (first) shortlist -- like many French prizes, it is a four-rounder, with longlist, long-shortlist, final shortlist, and winner --; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.
       Among the titles still in the running: a volume of Julien Green's journals and the title I'm most eager to see, Et je vous offre le néant by Gérard Macé; see also the Gallimard publicity page.
       The finalists will be announced 14 September, and the winner on 26 September.

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


       At The Paris Review The Daily weblog Ono Masatsugu writes On Translationese, focusing on Murakami Haruki and Oe Kenzaburo.
       Interesting insight into Japanese writing -- including that:
(V)ery few contemporary Japanese novelists read foreign novels—even American or British fiction—in the original. I get the sense that they perhaps don’t feel it’s necessary, since they are able to read a wide range of foreign novels in Japanese translation (translators of literary fiction are relatively well respected in Japan and are considered connoisseurs whose opinions and tastes matter).

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

23 June 2020 - Tuesday

James Tait Black shortlists | Libris Literatuur Prijs
Kafka translation Q & A

       James Tait Black shortlists

       They've announced the two shortlists for this year's James Tait Black Prizes, four titles each in the fiction and biography categories of the: "UK's oldest literary prizes", awarded since 1919; they are also: "the only major British book awards judged by literature scholars and students".
       The fiction finalists are:
  • Ducks, Newburyport, by Lucy Ellmann
  • Girl, by Edna OBrien
  • Sudden Traveller, by Sarah Hall
  • Travellers, by Helon Habila
       The winners will be announced in August.

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

       Libris Literatuur Prijs

       They've announced the winner of this year's Libris Literatuur Prijs, a Dutch literary prize modeled on the Booker Prize, awarded since 1994, and paying out €50,000 -- and it is Uit het leven van een hond by Sander Kollaard.
       See also the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page (where they suggest the novel has: "a John Updike-like atmosphere" ...) and the Uitgeverij Van Oorschot publicity page.
       His previous novel, Stage Four, is available in English -- Amazon Crossing published it two years ago; get your copy at or

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

       Kafka translation Q & A

       A selection of The Lost Writings by Franz Kafka is coming out from New Directions this fall -- see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or -- and in this week's The New Yorker they have both an excerpt as well as a Q & A with: "the president and editor-in-chief of New Directions, Barbara Epler, and the translator Michael Hofmann".

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

22 June 2020 - Monday

Bachmannpreis | Literary magazines in ... India
Cankarjeva nagrada


       They held the 44th 'Days of German-language literature' this weekend, the centerpiece of which is the three-day Bachmann Prize competition, where authors read out their texts and receive immediate feedback/criticism from the judging panel.
       This year's winner was Vom Aufstehen (warning ! dreaded pdf format !), by Helga Schubert; see links to all the texts here.
       Schubert was certainly the sentimental favorite from the get-go: she had actually been invited to compete in 1980 (! -- seven of this year's competitors had not even been born yet), but the East German authorities would not permit her to travel to Austria to compete; on top of that, she was a member of the judging panel from 1987 to 1990.
       Schubert is a well-established author -- indeed was already well-established in the German Democratic Republic (which hasn't been around for thirty years ...); however, only selections of her work appear to have been translated into English.

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

       Literary magazines in ... India

       In the Times of India they have a PTI report on Literary magazines in India and their short lives ! (Gotta love that exclamation mark .....)
       As Tabish Khair observes:
Literary magazines have high mortality all over the world, though there are some that sometimes make it to 100 years or more. In India, their lifespan is shorter because India has hardly any literary readership
       Among the magazines mentioned is The Equator Line.

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

       Cankarjeva nagrada

       The Cankar Award is a new Slovenian literary award, named after Slovenian author Ivan Cankar and is: "awarded annually for the best original literary work of the past year, published as an individual book in Slovenian language".
       Awarded for the first time this year, they've announced the winner -- though not yet at the official site, last I checked -- and it is V Elvisovi sobi, by Sebastijan Pregelj; see, for example, the report in Večer.
       Pregelj's A Chronicle of Forgetting is available in English; see the Litteræ Slovenicæ publicity page. See also the Goga publicity page for V Elvisovi sobi.

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

21 June 2020 - Sunday

Media24 Books Literary Prizes | Latvian poetry in translation
Summer reading recommendations

       Media24 Books Literary Prizes

       The South African Media24 Books Literary Prizes are a sort of in-house literary prize, as they go to the: "best work published during the previous year by the Media24 Books division" -- though admittedly these do rather dominate the South African market.
       They've announced this year's winners -- but, as has been widely noted, the authors of the winning titles -- and the composition of the judging panel -- do not exactly reflect the diversity of South African literature at this time. No, this does not look good: as even reported at News24 -- yes, yet another Media24 outlet (they really do kind of dominate the local market) -- by Herman Eloff, it looks so bad that: Media24 Books apologise after outcry over lack of diversity in its annual book awards.
       Yes, somehow the best they could manage was:
The winners of the Media24 Book Awards, selected from a total of 80 submissions, included six white males and one white female, while the judging panel of 18 members only included two people of colour.
       This really does not seem to reflect the state of contemporary South African society or literature (or even what the Media24 imprints publish).

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

       Latvian poetry in translation

       Latvian Literature reports on Seven More Translations of Latvian Poetry Published Abroad -- including some into English.

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

       Summer reading recommendations

       The long lockdown has already spawned endless reading-suggestion lists, and now with the summer here there are also summer-reading-suggestion lists to be found everywhere one looks.
       Some places simply combine then -- and writer-lists are not the worst to rely on (or at least consult): see for example npr's A Long Summer Ahead: What Writers Are Reading As The Pandemic Goes On or Books to help you escape lockdown, chosen by Hilary Mantel, Edna O'Brien and more at The Guardian.
       More comprehensively, The Guardian also offers: The great escape: 50 brilliant books to transport you this summer.
       Some of these, however, seem way too specific -- like The Washington Post's offer of Your international relations book recommendations for the 2020 summer solstice.

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

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