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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 31 August 2020

21 August: Translation from ... the Dutch | Translating Székely
22 August: James Tait Black Prizes | Martin Amis profile | Arabian Nights and Days review
23 August: Jay Rubin profile
24 August: 'Storja ta' Storja' | Book withdrawal in ... India | The neglected North-East (of India)
25 August: 骏马奖 | Ginny Tapley Takemori Q & A | Jokerman review
26 August: Jan Michalski - second selection | Pegasus Awards winners | Literature in ... Lesotho
27 August: International Booker Prize | Ned Kelly Awards shortlists | The Death of Comrade President review
28 August: Translating ... Indian literature | Think of a Number review
29 August: Premio FIL de Literatura | Singapore Literature Prizes | Nike Prize shortlist
30 August: Mini Krishnan profile | Kawakami Mieko Q & A | Astral Season, Beastly Season review
31 August: Tales of Ise | Arabic ⇆ Chinese translation

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31 August 2020 - Monday

Tales of Ise | Arabic ⇆ Chinese translation

       Tales of Ise

       At the Nikkei Asian Review 'Novelist Nobuko Takagi examines the enduring appeal of an ancient romantic', in 'Tales of Ise': the book where Japanese literature found beauty.
       As Takagi explains: "I brought back to life the story of Ariwara no Narihira, a Japanese poet who lived 1,100 years ago and is considered the main character of "Tales of Ise," in novel form" -- in her recent novel, 小説伊勢物語; see also the publisher's publicity page.
       The Tales of Ise has, of course, been translated into English -- see my review of the Peter MacMillan translation -- and I wonder whether this will make it into English; Vertical did bring out her Translucent Tree in 2008.

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

       Arabic ⇆ Chinese translation

       At Xinhua Marwa Yahya reports that Translation improves Arab access to Chinese literature, offering a (brief) look at translation efforts between the two languages.
       Good to hear they're not getting too cocky in China, as:
the Chinese government supports strongly the translation movement, noting that "China despite its huge progress in all domains, still believes it needs to learn from and benefit of the others' experience."

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

30 August 2020 - Sunday

Mini Krishnan profile | Kawakami Mieko Q & A
Astral Season, Beastly Season review

       Mini Krishnan profile

       At the Resh Susan profiles the Oxford University Press editor at quite some length, in A Life In Translation: How Mini Krishnan Opened New Worlds For Readers.
       Among her observations:
Translation, in Krishnan’s words, “is essentially a re-conceptualization of some untranslatable original, a feat of ‘linguistic yoga’, as every language comes with its own idiosyncrasies of grammar, syntax and vernacular”.
       And of course one has to appreciate:
“I wish I had a crore of rupees. I would have commissioned a 100 translations, given bursaries to translators, settled authors with handsome fees and handed over the translations to publishers and said “Thou shalt publish!”

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

       Kawakami Mieko Q & A

       At Electric Literature Becca Schuh has a Q & A with Breasts and Eggs-author Kawakami Mieko, “Breasts and Eggs” Grapples with the Weird Mess of Women’s Bodies.

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

       Astral Season, Beastly Season review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Saihate Tahi's Astral Season, Beastly Season, new from Honford Star.

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

29 August 2020 - Saturday

Premio FIL de Literatura | Singapore Literature Prizes | Nike Prize shortlist

       Premio FIL de Literatura

       They've announced the winner of this year's FIL Literary Award in Romance Languages, a US$150,000 author prize for a Romance-language writing author, and it is Portuguese author Lídia Jorge.
       See also the Mertin Literary Agency Lídia Jorge page for some information about her work; among the (few) titles available in English is The Painter of Birds; get your copy at or
       Jorge gets to pick up the prize on 28 November at the Guadalajara International Book Fair.

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

       Singapore Literature Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's Singapore Literature Prize, four winners (one each for English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil works) in three categories (fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction); you can also watch the prize ceremony at that official site.
       See also, for example, the report by Olivia Ho in The Straits Times, Singapore Literature Prize: Marylyn Tan is first woman to win for English poetry.

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

       Nike Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Nagroda Literacka „Nike”, the leading Polish book prize; outrageously and ridiculously the official site forwards to the Wyborcza-site, where the relevant information-articles, including the one listing the seven shortlisted titles, are ... paywalled, so you have to resort to outside sources -- so see, for example, the overview.
       Helpfully, at least, Portia Kentish does offer a quite extensive overview at Emerging Europe, with A closer look at the Nike Literature Award's seven finalists
       The winner of the 100,000 zł. prize will be announced 4 October.

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

28 August 2020 - Friday

Translating ... Indian literature | Think of a Number review

       Translating ... Indian literature

       At Ambar Sahil Chatterjee wonders How are India's literary translators coping with the pandemic ? Nothing is lost in translation.

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

       Think of a Number review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Anders Bodelsen's 1968 thriller, Think of a Number.

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

27 August 2020 - Thursday

International Booker Prize | Ned Kelly Awards shortlists
The Death of Comrade President review

       International Booker Prize

       They've announced that the winner of this year's £50,000 International Booker Prize is The Discomfort of Evening, by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, translated by Michele Hutchison.
       I only have an e-galley of this for now -- a major reason I haven't gotten to it yet -- but will likely eventually have a proper look; meanwhile, see the publicity pages from Faber & Faber and Graywolf Press, the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page, or get your copy at or

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

       Ned Kelly Awards shortlists

       The Australian Crime Writers Association has announced the shortlists for this year's Ned Kelly Awards.
       In three categories -- Best Crime Fiction, Debut Crime Fiction, and True Crime -- they're honoring Australian writing, but for the first time they've added a category for International Crime Fiction (published in Australia); regrettably, all four finalists in this category are English-language works.

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

       The Death of Comrade President review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alain Mabanckou's The Death of Comrade President, already out in the UK, from Serpent's Tail, and now coming to the US, from The New Press.

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

26 August 2020 - Wednesday

Jan Michalski - second selection | Pegasus Awards winners | Literature in ... Lesotho

       Jan Michalski - second selection

       They've announced the second selection of the Prix Jan Michalski -- the longer shortlist, with a shorter one to follow in October before the winning title is announced 25 November.
       Five titles are left in the running for the CHF50,000 prize.
       The two remaining French titles were both proposed by Benoît Duteurtre -- this is one of those the-judges-propose-the-books-that-are-considered prizes; the other finalists include a Mia Couto-trilogy, Fran Ross' Oreo, and Philippe Sands' East West Street.

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

       Pegasus Awards winners

       The Poetry Foundation has announced this year's Pegasus Awards winners: Marilyn Chin won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, a US$100,000 prize in recognition of outstanding lifetime achievement for a US poet, and Saskia Hamilton won the Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism, for The Dolphin Letters and The Dolphin: Two Versions.

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

       Literature in ... Lesotho

       In The Post Tšepiso S. Mothibi writes about A fading literature in Lesotho.
       Mothibi finds:
The river that sustained the literature has now dried up and there is a clear lack in establishing new avenues in literary writing. The topics explored have been exhausted to the point where they actually taste like over-chewed gum; limited in flavour and lacking all the suspense needed to have the reader yearning for the next page. There is need therefore for the literary field to find new themes to explore if we are to have anything called Lesotho literature in the near future.

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

25 August 2020 - Tuesday

骏马奖 | Ginny Tapley Takemori Q & A | Jokerman review


       They've announced the winners of the 'Steed Awards', awarded for national minority literatures in China, with twenty-five awards (selected from 376 works, published 2016 to 2019) announced in five categories -- novel, novella, reportage, poetry, and prose -- as well as five awards for translation.
       The novel award went to works by Yi, Yao, Mongolian, Tibetan, and Korean authors. Maybe eventually some of them will be translated into English .....

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

       Ginny Tapley Takemori Q & A

       At the Asymptote blog Xiao Yue Shan offers: WIT Month: An Interview with Ginny Tapley Takemori, about translation from the Japanese and contemporary Japanese writing.
       Ginny Tapley Takemori translated Murata Sayaka's Convenience Store Woman and Murata's soon-forthcoming Earthlings, which I'm looking forward to getting to.

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

       Jokerman review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Stefan Kutzenberger's Jokerman, a Bob Dylan conspiracy-novel, just out (in German ...).

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

24 August 2020 - Monday

'Storja ta' Storja' | Book withdrawal in ... India
The neglected North-East (of India)

       'Storja ta' Storja'

       The Maltese National Book Council commissioned the eight-part series exploring the life and works of eight Maltese authors, Storja ta' Storja, last year and in the Malta Independent Karl Azzopardi now has a Q & A with Sajjetta Charlie Cauchi, in ‘There is so much Maltese literature out there to explore’ – ‘Storja ta’ Storja’ producer.

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

       Book withdrawal in ... India

       Bloomsbury India had planned to publish -- rather soon after the fact -- Delhi Riots 2020 by Monika Arora, Sonali Chitalkar, and Prerna Malhotra; see their publicity page -- but now it looks like that subtitle proves all too apt: The Untold Story, as they've withdrawn the book.
       The problem appears to be considerable doubts about just how objective an account this is/could be, with many Bloomsbury authors objecting to its planned publication.
       Lots of coverage in the Indian press -- see, for example:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The neglected North-East (of India)

       I recently mentioned that they had put together The Lounge guide to India in 50 books, and while the obvious criticism of it is that it's limited to books written in English there are other shortcomings -- notably, as Sneha Khaund now explains at, Systemic erasure: Why writing from North-East India doesn’t make it to lists of ‘Indian’ books.
       I have been frustrated by the little that is available from this region -- especially in translation, but also written in English -- but I don't know if Khaund's call to: "read the books because they are an archive of pain and suffering at the hands of the state machinery that cannot be articulated otherwise" is the right way to sell what there is that is available.

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

23 August 2020 - Sunday

Jay Rubin profile

       Jay Rubin profile

       In The Japan Times Kris Kosaka has a profile of Jay Rubin: An academic's path to translation.
       Rubin has translated Sōseki's Sanshirō -- and of course numerous works by Murakami Haruki.
       About fellow Murakami translator:
Rubin credits [Alfred] Birnbaum for launching Murakami’s international success: “Definitely it was Birnbaum’s lively style that allowed Murakami to take off at all.”
       Which is nice of him to say -- but consider also that Rubin:
is currently working on a new translation of Hard-Boiled Wonderland [and the End of the World] to mark the opening of Waseda University’s Haruki Murakami Library in 2021.
       The original translation was, of course, by Birnbaum .....
       In his forthcoming Who We're Reading When We're Reading Murakami -- see the Soft Skull publicity page, or get your copy at or; my review should be up soon -- David Karashima discusses the translating of the novel -- and the extensive cuts and changes that, sigh, were made to it ("When the book was published, the copyright page included the credit, “translated and adapted by Alfred Birnbaum with the participation of the author.”"). So a new translation is certainly welcome -- indeed, I'd love to see complete translations of all the Murakami novels ......
       But it's fun to ... compare some of the comments in the Karashima-book, such as:
Rubin has said that Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is a book that he has “daydreamed about re-translating for myself simply as a way to get into it more deeply,” but that there is no such plan and that he would be “hard pressed not to steal Alfred’s brilliant use of past and present narratives for the two halves of the book.”
       (That's from a 2013 e-mail exchange with Karashima.)
       Meanwhile, however:
When I ask Birnbaum the same question [about the possibility of another translator creating an unabridged translation], he responds that “the only reason to re-do HBW is to bolster their careers,” referring, presumably, to Murakami’s other translators and editors.
       (That's from a 2019 e-mail exchange with Karashima.)
       In any case, hopefully, Rubin's new translation will be one that does entirely without cuts .....

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

22 August 2020 - Saturday

James Tait Black Prizes | Martin Amis profile | Arabian Nights and Days review

       James Tait Black Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's James Tait Black Prizes, "Britain's longest running literary awards", awarded since 1919.
       The fiction prize went to Ducks, Newburyport, by Lucy Ellmann; the biography prize to The Photographer at Sixteen, by George Szirtes.
       I still haven't fully gotten around to (the mammoth) Ducks, Newburyport, but do hope to eventually; meanwhile, get your copy at or

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

       Martin Amis profile

       Martin Amis has a new book coming out -- Inside Story; pre-order your copy at or -- and so the big publicity flood will soon be upon us; a lengthy profile at Publishers Weekly, Sinéad O'Shea finding Martin Amis Gets Matter of Fact starts things off .....

       I have an e-galley of this but will probably only really get to it once I get a print copy; I do expect/hope to review it.

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

       Arabian Nights and Days review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz's Arabian Nights and Days.

       This is the 27th Mahfouz title under review at the complete review, the most by any author. (Amélie Nothomb (25) and Geoff Nicholson (20) are the only other authors with twenty or more titles under review.) The only author who might challenge him for the most-reviewed books in the short- to mid-term (say, the next decade), is probably Georges Simenon (currently: 16); in the long-term, if Nothomb keeps up her book-a-year rate, she might take over the top spot in two or three decades .....

       Seeing as how many of his books I've reviewed, I was briefly concerned that Mahfouz might be too-dominant as far as what little translated-from-the-Arabic literature is under review at the complete review -- after all, if he wrote in his own language, that would rate as the 22nd most popular under review (out of 81 total languages; see the full list). Amazingly, however Arabic -- which is the eighth most popular language books under review were originally written in, with 119 titles -- would actually maintain its eighth-place ranking even if none of the Mahfouz titles counted; it's that far ahead of the ninth-place language (Russian).
       (Which language is most-dominated by a single author ? Albanian would seem to be the obvious choice, and with six of the ten written-in-Albanian titles under review ones by Ismail Kadare it's right up there, but of languages with ten or more titles under review the winner (loser ?) is Afrikaans, with ten of the fifteen titles under review by Deon Meyer.)

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

21 August 2020 - Friday

Translation from ... the Dutch | Translating Székely

       Translation from ... the Dutch

       A nice idea from the Dutch Foundation for Literature, as they support Translators as ambassadors of Dutch literature:
To help translators find new assignments in these uncertain times, the Dutch Foundation for Literature has subsidized a number of 3,000-word translations of Dutch literary titles.
       'A number' is a pretty big number: they approved 179 proposals, for sample-translation into 32 languages.
       Ten of the 84 fiction sample-translations are into English (as are 13 non-fiction titles (out of 45), and six poetry titles (out of 20)); let's hope some of these get picked up by US/UK publishers.

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

       Translating Székely

       A new translation of Székely János' Temptation -- the old one was (co-)translated by Ralph Manheim, back in 1946 -- by Mark Baczoni recently came out from New York Review Books, and at hlo Owen Good now has a Q & A with Mark Baczoni: Travel Is a Form of Adventure I Think.

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

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