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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 August 2020

1 August: New Mo Yan book | Milan Kundera's private library to MZK | Imaginary Interviews review
2 August: Mishima resurgence | Silver Age of Russian poetry | Korean novelists take offense
3 August: The rise of audiobooks | Virginie Despentes Q & A | One Love Chigusa review
4 August: Naguib Mahfouz Museum | Karl Mickel archive | Manual review
7 August: CWA Daggers shortlists | Национальный бестселлер | Global Publishing conference | Ottilie Mulzet Q & A
8 August: Indie non-fiction | The Bookseller sold | NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature postponed | No Room at the Morgue review
9 August: Teaching African literature | Loves That Bind review
10 August: Scrivere Disegnando exhibit | Publishing in ... Bangladesh | Lost Illusions review

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10 August 2020 - Monday

Scrivere Disegnando exhibit | Publishing in ... Bangladesh
Lost Illusions review

       Scrivere Disegnando exhibit

       At the Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève the exhibit Scrivere Disegnando: When Language Seeks Its Other runs through 23 August -- and it sounds fascinating
Its aim is to look back over a number of practices, from the early twentieth century to the present day, in which writing leaves the function of communication behind and moves into the sphere of the illegible and unspeakable.
       At hyperallergic Edward M. Gómez offers a nicely-illustrated overview, in When Writing Has No Meaning.

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

       Publishing in ... Bangladesh's series: 'on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on publishing' continues with Ahmedur Rashid Tutul looking at Publishing in Bangladesh: Is Covid-19 damaging the good and amplifying the problematic ?

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

       Lost Illusions review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Honoré de Balzac's classic Lost Illusions, in a new translation by Raymond N. MacKenzie, recently from the University of Minnesota Press.

       Amusingly enough, I reviewed the sequel to this, A Harlot High and Low, way back in 2007; Raymond N. MacKenzie has now also translated this and it's coming out, as Lost Souls, also from the University of Minnesota Press, later this year; see their publicity page.

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

9 August 2020 - Sunday

Teaching African literature | Loves That Bind review

       Teaching African literature

       At Africa is a Country Lily Saint and Bhakti Shringarpure wondered: 'What if you survey African literature professors to find out which works and writers are most regularly taught ?' and document the results in African literature is a country.
       Among the conclusions: 'Only a few canonical ones continue to dominate curricula'.
       They surveyed "instructors of African literature at the university level", and received responses from 105 individuals ("mainly residents in the US or Europe", sigh), listing 671 texts. Impressively, 45 of the 54 African countries were represented -- though almost half of the 407 authors of those 671 texts came from just three countries (South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya). Sub-Saharan Africa dominates the reading lists, but three North African nations (Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria) are among the ten nations with the most authors represented.
       While they do reveal that: "the total number of languages of assigned texts was 18" they don't break it down beyond noting:
When it comes to languages, English and French are the source languages of the majority of texts, though a smattering of African languages taught in translation are represented by Acoli, Afrikaans, Arabic, Tigrinya, Xhosa, and Yoruba literary works. A fair number of works written in Spanish and Portuguese are also regularly taught.
       While the authors with the most mentions are not surprising -- Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o leading the field, ahead of Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee then a distant but still popular fourth -- I was surprised that while two of the other African Nobel laureates both break the top ten (Nadine Gordimer (8th, with 34 mentions) and Wole Soyinka (10th/30 mentions)), the great Naguib Mahfouz apparently is widely considered not to fit the African bill: he doesn't rate among the twenty most taught authors, and none of his works are among the twenty most-taught works. (My guess is that African literature-teachers figure he gets his due/coverage in Arabic literature courses ..... But it's not like Arabic works and authors aren't covered: Season of Migration to the North is the seventh-most-mentioned text, its author Tayeb Salih, almost entirely on the back of that single book, tied for the 18th most-mentioned author.)
       Disappointing also to hear reports such as:
Senegalese writer Boris Boubacar Diop told us that its always the same old texts as well: “African authors are taught in both [Nigeria and Senegal] however they are almost the same ones since the time of independence: Senghor, Beti, Sembene, Kourouma etc. for the ”francophones” et Ngũgĩ, Achebe for the Anglophones.
       This is the first in a series: "which asks how we decolonize literary studies today" and I am very much looking forward to seeing the rest.

       (Coverage of African literature at the complete review is also rather old standards-heavy but you could do worse (like many university African literature departments ?) for a place to start for an overview.)

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

       Loves That Bind review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Julián Ríos' Loves That Bind, in Edith Grossman's translation (she got her name on the cover, too -- but the translation copyright is in Ríos' name).

       This was from the days when Knopf thought Ríos stood a break-out chance; they gave him one more shot at it three years later, with Monstruary, but that was all she wrote; it was back to Dalkey Archive Press (who admirably had already published Larva and Poundemonium) for Ríos .....
       Still, even the literary establishment seemed to think he might have a go at it with this one: this even got the rare The New York Times and The New York Times Book Review review treatment (but, given that it really got the treatment from the Kakutani, that wasn't necessarily a good thing; on the other hand, Steven Moore (of The Novel: An Alternative History) wrote in The Washington Post that: "I live for novels like this one" ...).
       (The Brits, however, never bit: this doesn't appear to have found a UK publisher. And while they even got so far as a cover and an Amazon-listing for a German translation, way back in 2001, Liebe als schöne Kunst seems never to have seen the light of day.)
       And, yes, I will get to Larva, which, whatever else it is, is also amazing. (See the Dalkey Archive publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

8 August 2020 - Saturday

Indie non-fiction | The Bookseller sold
NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature postponed
No Room at the Morgue review

       Indie non-fiction

       At Publishers Weekly John Maher and Ed Nawotka report on how Three Indie Presses Make Moves in Nonfiction, as: "Three independent publishing houses best known for their fiction in translation are upping their nonfiction game": Deep Vellum, Europa Editions, and Transit Books.
       My preference of course remains for fiction, but there are some interesting-sounding projects here, including Deep Vellum's Dispatches from the Republic of Letters: 50 Years of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature; pre-order your copy at or

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

       The Bookseller sold

       At the leading British trade-publication The Bookseller Philip Jones reports that The Bookseller acquired by publisher of the Stage.
       The Bookseller was launched in 1858 (!); The Stage in 1880.

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

       NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature postponed

       They've announced that this year's NLNG prizes, including the Nigeria Prize for Literature and the Nigeria Prize for Literary Criticism, have been postponed until next year.
       The literature prize rotates through four categories, year by year, and this was apparently the novel-year; this year's entries will be carried over to next year.

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

       No Room at the Morgue review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jean-Patrick Manchette's 1973 novel, No Room at the Morgue, the latest Manchette in translation from New York Review Books.
       Always good to see more Manchette -- and there are a few more to go. Not to mention the nearly thousand-page Journal 1966-1974 -- see the Folio publicity page -- or what about the recently published 'chroniques ludiques' collection, Play it again, Dupont -- see the La Table Ronde publicity page .....

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

7 August 2020 - Friday

CWA Daggers shortlists | Национальный бестселлер
Global Publishing conference | Ottilie Mulzet Q & A

       CWA Daggers shortlists

       The British Crime Writers' Association has announced the shortlists for the CWA Dagger awards, including the six titles left in the running for the Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger; only one of these is under review at the complete review, Kike Ferrari's Like Flies From Afar, in Adrian Nathan West's translation.
       The winners are scheduled to be announced on 22 October.

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

       Национальный бестселлер

       They've announced the winner of this year's 'National Bestseller' -- 'NatBest' -- award, a leading Russian prose-book award, and it is The Librarian-author Mikhail Elizarov's Земля.
       See also the mention at Lizok's Bookshelf, and the АСТ publicity page.

       One of the neat/odd things about this award is that the books considered for the prize are nominated by individuals -- prominent authors, critics, publishers, etc.; here is this year's list of nominators and their selections -- and whoever nominated the winning title -- in this case Alexey Kolobrodov -- gets a (one-tenth) share of the 1,000,000 ruble prize.
       Interesting incentives at work in the nominating process there: you want to select a title you think the jurors -- here this year's panel -- will go for (as (possibly) opposed to selecting the title you truly think is best).

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

       Global Publishing conference

       For those looking ahead: this sounds promising: Princeton is organizing a three-day online conference on Global Publishing and the Making of Literary Worlds: Translation, Media, and Mobility which will be held 4 to 6 June 2021.
       They explain:
We expect this conference will break new ground intellectually as its practical publishing sessions offer information and advice to the next generation of scholars who face the ongoing challenges of a shrinking job market and complex publishing landscape.

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

       Ottilie Mulzet Q & A

       At the Los Angeles Review of Books Chamini Kulathunga has a Q & A with the translator-from-the-Hungarian, English Has Its Own Music: A Conversation with Ottilie Mulzet.

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

5 - 6 August 2020 - Wednesday/Thursday

       This interruption to our regularly scheduled programming was brought to you courtesy of an America made *great* again, where (lack of investment in and upkeep of) infrastructure and entirely inadequate preparations to efficiently respond when (foreseeable) issues do arise can lead to a few downed utility wires causing a 48-hour disruption of electrical power and internet access.

       We apologize for the inconvenience.

- the Management

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4 August 2020 - Tuesday

Naguib Mahfouz Museum | Karl Mickel archive | Manual review

       Naguib Mahfouz Museum

       As Angy Essam reports in Egypt Today Egypt's Naguib Mahfouz Museum to reopen for public on August 2.
       Sure, the Naguib Mahfouz Museum sounds well worth a visit, and it's great to hear it's open again (though I suspect rather few readers will be able to make the trip at this time) -- and Naguib Mahfouz is, after all, the author with the most titles under review at the complete review (26 !) -- but, yes, the main reason I like pointing to this particular institution is to remind readers not to confuse it with the other Naguib Mahfouz Museum, which definitely has a ... different focus.

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

       Karl Mickel archive

       The Deutsches Literaturarchiv in Marbach reports that they've acquired more of the archive of Karl Mickel, who passed away in 2000 and who had left his papers to the archive at the time.
       I don't think there's any author where the ratio of how highly I regard them to how widely (un)known/read they are is as great as it is with Mickel. Other authors have been even more influential and important to me -- say, Peter Weiss or Arno Schmidt -- but they're all (relatively, still) well known (and that's not even mentioning all the obvious and truly well-known and widely read ones). Mickel basically just figures in some German Democratic Republic poetry-surveys -- but I admire his essays, fiction, libretti, and plays greatly as well, and have carried them with me for a long, long time.
       Time to review Lachmunds Freunde, I guess .....

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

       Manual review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Daren King's 2008 novel Manual.

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

3 August 2020 - Monday

The rise of audiobooks | Virginie Despentes Q & A | One Love Chigusa review

       The rise of audiobooks

       In The Observer Alex Preston offers A word in your ear... why the rise of audiobooks is a story worth celebrating.
       Audiobooks were already doing well before things came to a stop, and seem to have done very well in lockdown, too.
       It's great that more people are enjoying books in whatever form -- especially since the increased popularity of the format does not appear to have come at the cost of print-books (i.e. people aren't simply substituting listening for reading), but I have to admit I don't really get it; I can't imagine having the patience to listen to a book being read out loud to me. (Of course, I haven't even had the patience to watch an entire movie over the past few months -- if there's text in reach, that's what I'll turn to (and there's a lot of text piled all around me right now).)

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

       Virginie Despentes Q & A

       The Guardian has a book-focused Q & A with Virginie Despentes: 'Charles Bukowski is my comfort read. He makes me feel good'.
       She has the proper attitude re. books she hasn't read yet: "I never read Joyce, for example. Zero shame. I will read him when the right time comes."

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

       One Love Chigusa review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Shimada Soji's One Love Chigusa, the latest in the wonderful Red Circle Minis series.

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

2 August 2020 - Sunday

Mishima resurgence | Silver Age of Russian poetry
Korean novelists take offense

       Mishima resurgence

       In Metropolis Eric Margolis finds that, with works such as Life for Sale and Star (and The Frolic of the Beasts), 'Fifty years after his death, Yukio Mishima is reemerging in translation', in The Resurgence of a Japanese Literary Master.
       As he notes, for a long time, Mishima has been seen -- because presented -- in a very specific form abroad, as:
a writer of capital-L literary fiction, with dense works and elaborate language, in dense conversation with early 20th century European literature and theories of modernization
       In fact, however, there's a lot more to his work -- because there are a lot more works, most of which we haven't seen in translation: Mishima remains one of the most under-translated modern masters, with only a fraction of his prodigious output available in English.
       (The reason so little has been translated, especially after that first wave of the big, serious works through the early 1970s ? Obviously, publishers long seemed only interested in works that fit the Western image of Mishima (which he himself -- ridiculously image-conscious as he was -- also carefully fostered) -- which much of his very varied output might undermine. But I also note that the Mishima estate is represented by a literary agency, which seems to have a ... not necessarily reader-friendly approach to 'handling' their clients, i.e. seems to have other priorities than actually getting the work out there so it can be read.)

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

       Silver Age of Russian poetry

       At Russia Beyond Alexandra Guzeva explains What makes the Silver Age of Russian poetry so important.
       Symbolism ! Acmeism ! Futurism ! New Peasant Poetry ! Imaginism !

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

       Korean novelists take offense

       Quite the to-do in South Korea, as Kang Hyun-kyung reports in The Korea Times that Novelists call on justice minister to apologize for 'insulting' remarks, as, during a National Assembly Legislation and Judiciary Committee meeting:
[Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae] said sarcastically, "(You're) writing a fiction novel."

Her attitude caused a stir, resulting in the committee meeting being suspended temporarily as opposition lawmakers protested against her unprofessional demeanor. Choo did not back down, criticizing the opposition lawmaker's behavior and claiming his questions were inappropriate.

"Watching her on TV, many novelists were shocked and some even felt insulted," the group said in a statement.

"The justice minister was treating fiction novels as 'lies or something like that.' We realized a tough road is ahead of Korean literature. How could she treat novels as a sort of a lie ? How could the justice minister do that in public, particularly when everybody was watching her on TV and all eyes were on her ? She humiliated novelists who are working hard to write stories amid tough working conditions."
       Yes, Korean Novelists' Association Chairman Kim Ho-un said they felt that this was just going too far:
Previously, there were similar cases in which fiction was mocked but we didn't take any measures. After Choo, we agreed we had to issue a warning.
       So they'll be sending an open letter .....
       We'll see whether that teaches politicians to show a little more respect for fiction and fiction-writers .....

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

1 August 2020 - Saturday

New Mo Yan book | Milan Kundera's private library to MZK
Imaginary Interviews review

       New Mo Yan book

       As, for example, Wu Yan reports at CGTN, Mo Yan publishes first book after winning Nobel Prize in literature.
       Yes, it's been a while -- he won the prize in 2012 -- but now 晚熟的人 -- the title translated (on the cover) as 'A Late Bloomer' --, a collection of twelve novellas, is apparently out (though I couldn't find a listing at the People's Literature Publishing House-site yet).
       No word yet when we can expect an English translation, but I imagine there will be one, sooner rather than later.

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

       Milan Kundera's private library to MZK

       They've announced that Milan Kundera is donating his private library to the Moravská Zemská Knihovna -- the Moravian Regional Library -- in Brno; see also, for example, Ruth Fraňková's Q & A with library director Tomáš Kubíček at Radio Prague International, “It shows his deep roots” – Kundera gifts book collection to library in native Brno

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

       Imaginary Interviews review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of André Gide's wartime collection of Imaginary Interviews.

       I have a weakness for books in dialogue, so of course this was hard to pass up.

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

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