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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 31 July 2020

21 July: NYTBR, out of the office | Kalidasa, ecopoet ? | Translation from the ... Latvian | Crisis review
22 July: The Three-Body Problem in ... Japan | Sixty Days and Counting review
23 July: FG/F-AF Translation Prizes | Singapore Literature Prize shortlists | Too much fact in fiction scandal | Bookselling in ... the US
24 July: Banipal Prize entries | The Feminist Press Q & A | Bookselling in ... Delhi
25 July: Translations from ... the Armenian | Counselor Ayres' Memorial review
26 July: 'Forgotten Best Sellers' | W.-G.-Sebald-Literaturpreis
27 July: Ibne Safi | Jorge Consiglio Q & A | The Mystery of Henri Pick review
28 July: Booker Prize longlist | AKO Caine Prize for African Writing | Conversations with James Joyce review
29 July: French Voices Awards | Katy Derbyshire Q & A | Best New York Jewish book ? | Operation Rimbaud review
30 July: Chinese-English writing and translation | Baltic Assembly Prize for Literature | The Remote Country of Women review
31 July: Svetlana Alexievich Q & A | Bangladeshi fiction and poetry | Mahmoud Dowlatabadi master class

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31 July 2020 - Friday

Svetlana Alexievich Q & A | Bangladeshi fiction and poetry
Mahmoud Dowlatabadi master class

       Svetlana Alexievich Q & A

       At Eurozine they have an English translation of Siarhej Šapran's Q & A with Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich, Shards of truth.
       It's an abbreviated version of the Belarusian original, first published in Дзеяслоў, but still quite extensive and well worth a look.

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

       Bangladeshi fiction and poetry

       In the Dhaka Tribune Rifat Anjum Pia offers a useful list in Reading in the time of Corona: English translations of Bangladeshi fiction and poetry.

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

       Mahmoud Dowlatabadi master class

       As Iran Daily reports Author of 'Kelidar' to share literary experiences online, as The Colonel-author Mahmoud Dowlatabadi is doing a three-day online master class on: The Creative Experience of Literature.
       Okay, it is in Persian ..... But it's Dowlatabadi !

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

30 July 2020 - Thursday

Chinese-English writing and translation | Baltic Assembly Prize for Literature
The Remote Country of Women review

       Chinese-English writing and translation

       At the Asymptote blog Jiaoyang Li has a Q & A with Jianan Qian, Na Zhong, and Liuyu Ivy Chen -- "millennial Chinese female writers who [...] write bilingually and translate between their two languages", in A Linguistic Emigration: Chinese Women Writers on Their Translation Practices.
       Lots of interesting stuff here -- and a few things I strongly endorse (as longtime readers would no doubt guess), including Jianan Qian noting:
With due respect to the English publication, I do think English-speaking editors should recognize their ignorance and thus hold more respect for foreign literature.
       And there's Na Zhong:
I do have a few bones to pick with some accepted norms persisting in the English publishing world.

First, the lack of footnotes or endnotes in many translated works. While footnoting is widely accepted in Chinese literature, most English publishers are wary of footnotes for its academic overtones. Instead, they expect the translators to iron out all the odd details that are potentially foreign to the readers. Insert a piece of explainer here, localize one or two slangs there. What you have as a result is a tamed translation, its wildness trimmed to suit the certain tastes of the recipient market. It will lose the power to dazzle, enchant, and, more importantly, offend.

Second, too much liberty has been taken, by either the translators or editors, with the original work.

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

       Baltic Assembly Prize for Literature

       The Baltic Assembly Prize for Literature has been awarded since 1994 -- a sort of Baltic counterpart to the Nordic Council Literature Prize, for the Baltic region, honoring the best literary work written in Estonian, Latvian or Lithuanian.
       As report:
It was originally intended that the prize-winning works in literature would be published in all three languages, but in practice it did not happen. During the entire 25 years of the award, only a few books have been translated into the other languages.
       Now, however, they've funded the prize better, and the plan is to translate the winning title so that it is available in all three languages -- a great idea.

       A few of the winning titles have been translated into English -- the first one, for example, Tõnu Õnnepalu's Border Land (in the great Writings from an Unbound Europe-series from Northwestern University Press; see their publicity page), or 2009 winner, Inga Ābele's High Tide (see the Open Letter publicity page) -- but of course it would be great to see more .....

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

       The Remote Country of Women review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Bai Hua's The Remote Country of Women.

       This 1988 novel came out in the University of Hawai'i Press' Fiction from Modern China-series in 1994 -- a great little (though apparently long discontinued) series whose general editor was Howard Goldblatt. I'm surprised by how little serious attention this got, back in the day -- it's a significant work. (It did get reviewed in both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews -- but that seems to be almost the extent of it.)
       Bai Hua died last year; he was a fairly prominent author, and his difficulties with his film script 'Bitter Love' attracted international attention; see, for example, the 1981 (!) Christian Science Monitor article by Takashi Oka, Fate of 'Bitter Love' embitters Chinese writers.

       Highly recommended also -- though, alas, only in the dreaded pdf format ... --: Tzu-yi Elaine Lee on Translators' Collaboration and Decision-Making in the Case of Bai Hua's The Remote Country of Women, in Compilation and Translation Review.

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

29 July 2020 - Wednesday

French Voices Awards | Katy Derbyshire Q & A
Best New York Jewish book ? | Operation Rimbaud review

       French Voices Awards

       They've announced the 2019 French Voices Awards, with Jeffrey Zuckerman's translation of Titaua Peu's Pina winning in the fiction category; it is still looking for an American publisher; see also the publicity page at (Tahitian !) publisher Au vent des îles
       The other finalists are also listed, and several are already available in English; only Kaouther Adimi's Our Riches (published in the UK as: A Bookshop in Algiers) is under review at the complete review.

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

       Katy Derbyshire Q & A

       At The Publishing Profile they have a Q & A with Katy Derbyshire, a well-established translator and now also publisher of the new V & Q Books, an English-language imprint of German publisher Voland & Quist.

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

       Best New York Jewish book ?

       At Forward PJ Grisar wonders What's the best New York Jewish book of all time ? offering a solid list of contenders.

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

       Operation Rimbaud review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jacques Godbout's exotic caper novel, Operation Rimbaud -- featuring a protagonist who is a (not exactly dedicated) Jesuit, much of the action set in Ethiopia, in 1967, and cameos by Haile Selassie and Timothy Leary.

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

28 July 2020 - Tuesday

Booker Prize longlist | AKO Caine Prize for African Writing
Conversations with James Joyce review

       Booker Prize longlist

       They've announced the thirteen-title strong longlist for the 2020 Booker Prize, the leading English-language novel prize, chosen from 162 eligible titles (which, regrettably and outrageously, are not revealed).
       Nine of the titles are by authors who are American or also-American (Maaza Mengiste, for example, is listed as: 'Ethiopia/USA').
       I have not seen a single one of these titles.
       The shortlist will be announced 15 September.

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

       AKO Caine Prize for African Writing

       They've announced the winner of this year's AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, the leading African short-story prize; no press release or the like yet at the official site, but you can watch the video where they announce the winner -- 'Grace Jones', by Irenosen Okojie.
       You can also read the winning story (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- and indeed all the shortlisted stories -- at the site.

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

       Conversations with James Joyce review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Arthur Power's Conversations with James Joyce, recently re-issued by Dalkey Archive Press.

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

27 July 2020 - Monday

Ibne Safi | Jorge Consiglio Q & A | The Mystery of Henri Pick review

       Ibne Safi

       It was the fourtieth anniversary of Ibne Safi's death yesterday, and at The Wire Raza Naeem takes the occasion to consider Ibne Safi's Urdu Novel 'Prince Chilli': An Interpretation of Pakistan's National Maladies.
       Blaft have brought out a few of his detective novels -- see, e.g. their publicity page for Doctor Dread -- and I have (e-)copies of these and really do hope to get to them at some point ...... But this one certainly sounds intriguing as well; it would be great if there were an English translation of it available as well .....

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

       Jorge Consiglio Q & A

       Two of Jorge Consiglio's works are recently out from Charco Press -- and now Olivia Fletcher has a Q & A with him, in theartsdesk Q&A: author Jorge Consiglio.
       I haven't seen these two titles yet, but hope to eventually.

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

       The Mystery of Henri Pick review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of David Foenkinos' mystery-manuscript novel, The Mystery of Henri Pick, recently out from Pushkin Press.

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

26 July 2020 - Sunday

'Forgotten Best Sellers' | W.-G.-Sebald-Literaturpreis

       'Forgotten Best Sellers'

       A neat ongoing project at Lapham's Quarterly, where they consider: 'What makes a book a best seller ? Why are some best sellers forgotten ?' in Forgotten Best Sellers.
       There are already some interesting pieces up, and more to come.

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


       They've announced the winner of the inaugural W.G.Sebald Literary Prize, a €10,000 prize for an unpublished text on 'Rememberance and Memory' ('Erinnerung und Gedächtnis'), and it is 'Kalkstein' ('Limestone'), by Esther Kinsky.
       The winning text was selected from some 900 (!) anonymous (!) submissions.
       Kinsky will be awarded the prize on 21 November.

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

25 July 2020 - Saturday

Translations from ... the Armenian | Counselor Ayres' Memorial review

       Translations from ... the Armenian

       At MassisPost they look at Promising Translations, profiling Sophene Armeniaca, who: "are publishing original translations of the most notable works of literature that have been produced in the Armenian language". Sounds good !
       Meanwhile Glagoslav continue to bring out translations of contemporary Armenian fiction; I got their four most recent offerings this week and look forward to covering those. (Grig's Jesus' Cat is already under review.)

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

       Counselor Ayres' Memorial review

       The two new translations of Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis' The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas are currently getting all the attention (see my previous mention), but the most recent addition to the complete review is my review of his last novel, Counselor Ayres' Memorial.

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

24 July 2020 - Friday

Banipal Prize entries | The Feminist Press Q & A
Bookselling in ... Delhi

       Banipal Prize entries

       The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation has announced the fourteen entries in the running for the 2020 prize -- twelve novels, as well as a story collection and a poetry collection.
       I have only see one of these -- The Book of Collateral Damage by Sinan Antoon, in Jonathan Wright's translation.

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

       The Feminist Press Q & A

       As I've mentioned, The Feminist Press is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary -- and at Public Books Jeffrey J. William now has a Q & A with its executive director, The Feminist Press at 50: An Interview with Jamia Wilson.

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

       Bookselling in ... Delhi

       At Kanupriya Dhingra considers Why the lockdown and physical distancing have all but ended Delhi's iconic used books market.
       Dhingra notes:
One of the evident consequences of Covid-19 is that shopping in a crowded place like the second-hand book bazaar may not be considered safe. Readers will seek alternatives, if they haven’t begun to pursue them already. What made this bazaar special – the serendipitous and intimate engagement with an indefinite number of books – could become is biggest drawback in the post-pandemic world.
       What struck me most here was the idea of a: "crowded place like the second-hand book bazaar". A crowded book-selling venue ! So, yes, it would be a shame if that were lost.

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

23 July 2020 - Thursday

FG/F-AF Translation Prizes | Singapore Literature Prize shortlists
Too much fact in fiction scandal | Bookselling in ... the US

       FG/F-AF Translation Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's Florence Gould/French-American Foundation Translation Prizes, with the fiction award going to Alyson Waters, for her translation of Jean Giono's A King Alone; see also the New York Review Books publicity page, or get your copy at or; I have this, but haven't gotten to it yet.
       The awards ceremony will be held online on 10 September at 13:00 EST, and you'll be able to watch on 'Zoom'.

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

       Singapore Literature Prize shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for this year's Singapore Literature Prizes -- in the twelve categories, three each in each of four languages. (No handy one-page list of all of them that I can find, but you can painfully click one category after another on that main page.) While the prizes will be awarded this year -- on 27 August -- the prize-money has been drastically cut, from the usual S$10,000 to S$3,000.
       See also Olivia Ho's report in the Straits Times, Singapore Literature Prize announces shortlisted works, cuts top prize to $3,000 each.

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

       Too much fact in fiction scandal

       As Park Ji-won reports in The Korean Times, Controversial author stripped of literary prize, his books recalled.
       What did Kim Bong-gon do wrong ?
Kim was known to have used his private conversation with his acquaintances in his books without prior consent from them.
       Both are works of fiction -- but apparently Kim preferred to rely on (juicy ?) bits of conversations and exchanges with others rather than craft his own.
       Publishers Munhakdongne and Changbi are taking this seriously, withdrawing his books from sale, offering refunds to readers who bought them, and even re-publishing one anthology in which one of the works appears without it; see, for example, the Munhakdongne official statement.
       You can sample Summer, Speed at Korean Literature Now (for now ...), while Words without Borders offers his story College Folk -- which is described as, ironically, being a story in which: "a Korean student in Kyoto saves his professor from scandal, then finds himself on the verge of creating a new one".

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

       Bookselling in ... the US

       A fascinating look at bookselling in the US over the past couple of months, as Elizabeth A. Harris reports in The New York Times on how: 'Book sales jumped at big box stores this spring, which stayed open and stocked with essentials while other shops closed', in How to Sell Books in 2020: Put Them Near the Toilet Paper.
       Of course, only a relatively limited range of titles are even considered for box-store placement, so not all can take advantage of this. Still, who would have thought that:
“Covid-19 and the government stimulus checks have increased the demand for books in a big way, particularly on the adult books side,” Leigh Stidham, a Walmart spokeswoman, said in an email. “The fiction genre is strong despite some new title releases being pushed back to later in the year. Also, educational book sales have increased significantly since day cares and schools have been shut down.”

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

22 July 2020 - Wednesday

The Three-Body Problem in ... Japan | Sixty Days and Counting review

       The Three-Body Problem in ... Japan

       In the Global Times Ji Yuqiao reports that 'The Three-Body Problem' becomes best-seller in Japan, reflects growing influence of Chinese science fiction.
       The second volume of Liu Cixin's trilogy is now out in Japan -- and to me the most surprising thing is not that it has proven popular but that it took this long for a Japanese translation to come out (and the third volume isn't out there yet).
       Interesting titbits from the article: the Japanese translation is the 25th foreign edition -- and they had four translators working on this.

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

       Sixty Days and Counting review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the third in Kim Stanley Robinson's Science in the Capital-trilogy, Sixty Days and Counting.

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

21 July 2020 - Tuesday

NYTBR, out of the office | Kalidasa, ecopoet ?
Translation from the ... Latvian | Crisis review

       NYTBR, out of the office

       In The New York Times Adriana Balsamo reports on The Book Review in Quarantine, as the staff of The New York Times Book Review have been locked out of their offices the past few months -- and hence currently don't have that convenient place to receive all their galleys and then divvy them up:
“In the first week that we left the office, 167 packages of books arrived on the desk that no one was there to open or look at,” said Pamela Paul, the editor of the Book Review.
       The sending of physical galleys (and finished books) has been generally disrupted; I receive a fraction of the number The New York Times does under the best of circumstances, but in recent months the usual flow -- an average of eight or nine titles a week (437 in 2019) -- has become a mere trickle (6 physical copies in all of April, 11 in May, 10 in June, 11 so far this month (but only two in the last two weeks ...)). It's a nightmare: while publishers are quite good about getting out electronic galleys, I find it nearly impossible to review off of those.
       Much as I miss physical copies -- and, god, do I miss them --, I have, however, never found that:
Despite the adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” there’s actually a lot that editors can pick up from a printed book. It often arrives with press materials that provide context, and its cover — whether finished or temporary — can convey a strong message from the publishers. Blurbs from other authors and notable people situate the book in a larger cultural conversation.
       Strong messages from publishers ? Blurbs ? Sure, these and similar publicity-copy do have some entertainment value -- you'll often see examples made fun of on Twitter etc. ... -- but surely they shouldn't/can't possibly affect review-coverage in any way, shape, or form .....
       Good, however, to hear re. the NYTBR -- except for that use of the past tense ... ? -- that:
“It didn’t matter what publisher the galley came from, how big, how small, whether you’d heard of the author or hadn’t, the book was going to get a fair shake,” said Tina Jordan, the deputy editor of the Book Review.

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

       Kalidasa, ecopoet ?

       At Abhay K makes the case that: Kalidasa was an early practitioner of ecopoetry, a genre that the world is waking up to now, concluding that: "Kalidasa's genius lies in bringing together ecological with sensual and creating everlasting sensual ecopoetry".
       Apparently: "Ecopoetry is the new buzzword" (disclaimer: I am unfamiliar with it) -- and, hey, it's a worthy cause, and anything that gets the Kalidasa-word (and Kalidasa's words) out has a lot going for it.
       (Several translations of some of Kalidasa's work are under review at the complete review.)

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

       Translation from the ... Latvian

       Latvian Literature reports on the 46 project proposals for translations from the Latvian -- 23 each by publishers and translators -- that will receive financial support totaling €96,536.
       Good to see a few of these translations will be into English -- even if they are very few (three) and all with UK-based publishers (i.e. likely not so readily available in the US when they do come out).
       Admirable, too, that they're subsidizing translations into languages including Mongolian and Faroese.

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

       Crisis review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Karin Boye's 1934 novel, Crisis, just out in English from Norvik Press.

       Boye is one of those author whose reputation -- especially abroad -- is dominated by a single work. In her case it's the classic Kallocain -- recently also published in a new translation, by David McDuff, in the Penguin Classics-series; see their publicity page, or get your copy at; it does not appear to be available in the US yet, where the standard translation is Gustaf Lannestock's, from the University of Wisconsin Press; see their publicity page, or get your copy at
       Crisis certainly suggests, however, that more of her prose deserves to be translated.
       (Her Complete Poems have been available from Bloodaxe for a while and are certainly also recommended.)

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

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