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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 September 2020

1 September: G.H. Habib Q & A | Archipelago profile | Piranesi review
2 September: JCB Prize for Literature longlist | Ann Goldstein Q & A
3 September: ALTA National Translation Awards longlists | Translations from the ... Dutch | Moscow International Book Fair | Ascent to Glory review
4 September: International DUBLIN Literary Award shortlist | Longlists: Österreichischer Buchpreis - Boekenbon Literatuurprijs | Prix de la littérature arabe finalists
5 September: Cundill History Prize longlist | Cullman Center 2020-2021 Fellows | The Woman Who Was Poor review
6 September: Q & As: Kawakami Mieko - Arthur Goldhammer | Jhumpa Lahiri on translation
7 September: Translation: China vs. India | The Memory Monster review
9 September: Alberto Manguel donates his library | Achmat Dangor (1948-2020) | Longlists: prix Renaudot - Scotiabank Giller Prize | Frankfurt Book Fair goes virtual | ilb 2020 | The Distance review
10 September: Women's Prize for Fiction | Top 10 Soviet sci-fi writers ? | Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis shortlist

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10 September 2020 - Thursday

Women's Prize for Fiction | Top 10 Soviet sci-fi writers ?
Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis shortlist

       Women's Prize for Fiction

       They've announced the winner of this year's Women's Prize for Fiction -- the leading UK prize for fiction written by women, previously also known as the Orange Prize and the Baileys Women's Prize -- and it is Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell.

       I haven't seen this one yet, but it does sound intriguing; see also the publicity pages from Tinder Press and Alfred A. Knopf, or get your copy at or

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

       Top 10 Soviet sci-fi writers ?

       At Russia Beyond Valeria Paikova offers a list of the Top 10 Greatest Soviet sci-fi writers.
       The biggest surprise is that the Strugatsky-brothers don't rate the top spot -- though they do get the runner-up spot. Instead, it's Ivan Yefremov who tops the list. Quite a bit of his work has been translated into English, and he was undoubtedly a very influential figure, but the best ... ?
       Only work by the Strugatsky's is under review at the complete review -- see, for example, Roadside Picnic -- but I would certainly love to get to some these other authors as well.

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

       Wilhelm Raabe-Literaturpreis shortlist

       The €30,000 Wilhelm Raabe Literary Prize is one of the biggest German book prizes -- with several of the previous winners under review at the complete review (Wolf Haas' The Weather Fifteen Years Ago (2006), Sibylle Lewitscharoff's Blumenberg (2011), Christian Kracht's Imperium (2012)) -- and they've now announced their five-title shortlist -- with four of the five titles also found on the just-announced longlist for the German Book Prize, with only Anna Katharina Hahn's Aus und davon not having gotten the nod there.
       The winner will be announced in early November.

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

9 September 2020 - Wednesday

Alberto Manguel donates his library | Achmat Dangor (1948-2020)
Longlists: prix Renaudot - Scotiabank Giller Prize
Frankfurt Book Fair goes virtual | ilb 2020 | The Distance review

       Alberto Manguel donates his library

       As the city of Lisbon has announced, Alberto Manguel is donating his 40,000-volume library to them, to be the core of the planned Centro de Estudos de História da Leitura ('Center for the Study of Reading'), which looks very promising; the hand-over protocol us to be signed later this week, on 12 September, at the Lisbon Book Fair.

       Manguel's enormous library is legendary -- see a few pictures in his report from over a decade ago in The New York Times, when it was just A 30,000-Volume Window on the World -- and he has written about it (and other libraries) extensively; see, in particular, his book on Packing My Library -- future editions of which will now hopefully come with an additional chapter about this new chapter .....

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

       Achmat Dangor (1948-2020)

       South African author Achmat Dangor has passed away; see, for example, Sello Hatang's Homage to Achmat Dangor at Business Day.

       See also the Achmat Dangor page at British Council Literature; his Bitter Fruit was shortlisted for both the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Man Booker Prize; see the Black Cat publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Longlists: prix Renaudot

       The first of the big fall French literary prizes, the prix Renaudot, has announced its longlists; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.
       Longlisted authors in the novel category who have previously had books translated into English include Serge Joncour (e.g. UV), Hervé Le Tellier (e.g. All Happy Families ), Véronique Olmi, and Jean Rolin (e.g. The Explosion of the Radiator Hose).
       This is a four-round prize -- they'll announce a shorter longlist (1 October) before announcing the finalists (5 November) and then the winner (10 November)

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

       Longlist: Scotiabank Giller Prize

       They announced the longlist for this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize, a leading Canadian fiction prize paying out C$100,000, fourteen titles selected from 118 submitted (but unfortunately apparently unrevealed) titles.
       None of these titles are under review at the complete review.
       The shortlist will be announced 5 October, and the winner 9 November.

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

       Frankfurt Book Fair goes virtual

       The Frankfurt Book Fair, scheduled for 14 to 18 October, had long planned to have at least some physical presence but that plan has now gone out the window: they've now announced:
The book fair’s traditional on-site exhibition is being cancelled this year due to the corona pandemic, since current travel restrictions would prevent numerous country stands from being realised as planned. In addition, the quarantine requirements that will be enforced on 1 October 2020 make it nearly impossible for European exhibitors and trade visitors to participate.
       They're still planning a lot of virtual stuff .....
       See also Ed Nawotka's report at Publishers Weekly, Frankfurt Cancels Physical Fair, Goes All Virtual.

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

       ilb 2020

       The 20th international literature festival berlin opens today, and runs through the 19th; as always, there's an amazing lineup of authors.
       Many of the events are being streamed, and you can watch them here.

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

       The Distance review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ivan Vladislavić's The Distance, which came out last year in South Africa and is now (just about) out in the US from Archipelago Books.

       I'm no boxing-fan, but for all the Muhammad Ali-material this turns out to be very far from a boxing novel, and though my expectations re. Vladislavić are always high, this was even better than expected.

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

8 September 2020 - Tuesday

       Apologies, but internet issues -- frustratingly downstream, rather than any sort of local provider-issues (not that that would be any better), with my internet connection technically *working* but unwilling/able to actually connect to any site or open any pages ("This site can't be reached", my browser tells me, across the board, every would-be connection timing out or re-setting) ... -- have again prevented me from updating and posting here on the usual schedule.
       (I don't know if it's the start of schools straining the system, but I can't recall ever having encountered as many extended (over at least several hours) internet outages (as well as more than the usual blips), in various forms, as I have over the past few weeks; the internet feels considerably creakier than usual .....)

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

7 September 2020 - Monday

Translation: China vs. India | The Memory Monster review

       Translation: China vs. India

       In the Sunday Guardian B. R. Deepak argues that: "if we compare China’s research and translation of Indian classics, medieval, modern and contemporary works, India’s performance is abysmal", in (the rather unfortunately framed) Know yourself, know your enemy.
       An interesting comparison.

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

       The Memory Monster review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yishai Sarid's The Memory Monster, just out in English from Restless Books.

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

6 September 2020 - Sunday

Q & As: Kawakami Mieko - Arthur Goldhammer | Jhumpa Lahiri on translation

       Q & A: Kawakami Mieko

       At Elle Kali Fajardo Anstine has a Q & A with Breasts and Eggs-author Kawakami Mieko, 'It's Okay To Laugh, Even When The Situation Is Tragic'.
       Interesting to hear that Kawakami's music only started selling once she won the Akutagawa Prize -- "Up until then, I'd been giving music everything I had, but couldn't sell more than a few hundred CDs" -- and also about her influences:
A major inspiration on my writing has been Ichiyo Higuchi. She was the first woman in Japan to really make a living as a writer. I should add that people in Japan read a lot of literature in translation, too. I’ve been influenced by writers from all kinds of different countries, especially the various ways they handle theme. Dostoevsky is all about polyphony; with Woolf, it’s the distance she creates between message and fiction. From the work of Haruki Murakami, I learned how a person’s approach to writing can change and develop when they continue writing over a long period of time. Outside of literary fiction, I’d say I’m most inspired by the world of philosophy.

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

       Q & A: Arthur Goldhammer

       At The Harvard Gazette Arthur Goldhammer -- translator of the two mammoth Thomas Piketty works, among many others -- "talks about the three elements of a great translation and his circuitous route to success in a field he never studied" with Christina Pazzanese, in In translation, he found his raison d'être.
       Certainly a fascinating career-path -- and now he's (re)turning to writing fiction .....

       The two Goldhammer-translations under review at the complete review are Emile Zola's The Kill and Albert Camus' Algerian Chronicles.

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

       Jhumpa Lahiri on translation

       At the Princeton news site, Denise Valenti writes about how Jhumpa Lahiri champions the writerly art of translation.

       Lahiri has famously learned Italian, translating Domenico Starnone's Ties and Trick and writing about her journey in In Other Words; in 2018 published a novel she wrote in Italian, Dove mi trovo; see, for example, the Guanda publicity page.
       Dove mi trovo is coming out in English, in Lahiri's own translation, in May 2021 -- see the publicity pages from Alfred A. Knopf and Bloomsbury, or pre-order your copy from or -- but I can't help but note that the Persian translation came out in Iran last year; see the publisher's publicity page, or the Tehran Times report, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Italian novel “Dove mi trovo” published in Persian.
       (I know that in Iran they tend to dispense with niceties like copyright -- i.e. actually paying for the foreign rights for the books they publish -- and, hey, the translation probably isn't quite on the level as the author's own translation into English will be, but the fact that a Jhumpa Lahiri novel is available in Persian a whole year before you can read it in English strikes me as ... not exactly a great validation of the US/UK publishing (especially in translation ...) business model.)

       The Princeton-piece offers a few interesting titbits as well -- and I hope this becomes more than just a suggested possibility:
Lahiri has suggested the possibility of having a translation workshop become a requirement for obtaining a certificate in creative writing.
       Also: Lahiri is participating in the Princeton colloquium Things As They Should Be ? A Question for the Humanities on 9 September -- her topic: “Not should but might: notes of a would-be translator”; that should be interesting.

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

5 September 2020 - Saturday

Cundill History Prize longlist | Cullman Center 2020-2021 Fellows
The Woman Who Was Poor review

       Cundill History Prize longlist

       They've announced the sixteen-title strong longlist for this year's Cundill History Prize, a US$75,000 prize "awarded annually to the book that embodies historical scholarship, originality, literary quality and broad appeal".
       The shortlist will be announced 22 September.

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

       Cullman Center 2020-2021 Fellows

       The New York Public Library's Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers has announced this year's batch of fifteen fellows, selected from 471 applicants from 49 countries.
       Fellows are appointed for nine months, and receive: "a stipend of up to $75,000, the use of an office with a computer, and full access to the Library's physical and electronic resources"
       This most recent class includes Namwali Serpell, who will work on The Afronaut, exploring "the complex origins of Afrofuturism"; Gregory Pardlo, who will: "research demonology for a poetry collection that considers the symmetry between beliefs in witchcraft and race"; and Peter Kuper, who will work on: "a graphic novel about the symbiotic relationship between insects and humans".

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

       The Woman Who Was Poor review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Léon Bloy's The Woman Who Was Poor which was actually re-issued not too long ago, by St. Augustine's Press.

       Bloy based one of his characters in this on himself, that of Cain Marchenoir, and mentions here that: "The odd personality of Marchenoir has been described at length in another book, so it would be superfluous to limn him over again in these pages". That novel is now finally also available in English, as The Desperate Man, from Snuggly Books; I hadn't realized it was out, but now definitely want to take a look; see also their publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

4 September 2020 - Friday

International DUBLIN Literary Award shortlist
Longlists: Österreichischer Buchpreis - Boekenbon Literatuurprijs
Prix de la littérature arabe finalists

       International DUBLIN Literary Award shortlist

       They've announced the ten-title strong longlist for this year's International DUBLIN Literary Award; it includes three books in translation -- two of which are under review at the complete review: Disoriental, by Négar Djavadi, and Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk
       The winner of this €100,000 "prize for a single work of fiction published in English" will be announced on 22 October.

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

       Longlist: Österreichischer Buchpreis

       They've announced the ten-title strong longlist for this year's Austrian Book Prize, selected from 117 entries (in all genres -- it really is a 'book' (rather than, say, novel) prize (though the longlist is novel-dominated); regrettably the submitted titles are not revealed ...) -- with Helena Adler's Die Infantin trägt den Scheitel links the only one of the five Austrian titles that were longlisted for the German Book Prize to also make the cut here.
       I do hope to get to several of these -- the Adler, and certainly the Ilija Trojanow; the three works shortlisted in the debut-category also look worth a look.
       The shortlist for the main prize will be announced on 8 October, and the winners on 9 November.

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

       Longlist: Boekenbon Literatuurprijs

       It's beginning to seem like the leading Dutch novel prize has decided to change its name practically every year: in the past decade it's been the AKO Literatuurprijs, the ECI Literatuurprijs, and the BookSpot Literatuurprijs -- and now it's the Boekenbon Literatuurprijs. New sponsor, but still the same big payday -- €50,000 -- and presumably still the same prestige ..... (And, even if they can't nail down a name (or sponsor) long-term, respect: they do what every literary prize should but practically none does: reveal the entire list (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of titles that were considered -- all 460 of them.)
       They've now announced their fifteen-title strong longlist. Several of the authors have had previous work translated into English; Herman Koch is probably the best-known name.
       The shortlist will be announced 29 September, and the winner on 12 November.

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

       Prix de la littérature arabe finalists

       They've announced the seven finalists for this year's prix de la littérature arabe.
       Five of the works were written in French; two are translations from the Arabic.
       The winner will be announced 4 November.

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

3 September 2020 - Thursday

ALTA National Translation Awards longlists | Translations from the ... Dutch
Moscow International Book Fair | Ascent to Glory review

       ALTA National Translation Awards longlists

       The American Literary Translators Association has announced the longlists -- in prose and poetry -- for this year's National Translation Awards. The award: "is the only national award for translated fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction that includes a rigorous examination of both the source text and its relation to the finished English work" -- which is especially impressive given the range of languages this year; they include Arabic, Chinese, and Korean in the prose category, and ancient Greek and Malay in poetry.
       I haven't seen any of the ten poetry titles, but several of the prose titles are under review at the complete review:
  • A Couple of Soles, by Li Yu, translated by Jing Shen and Robert E. Hegel
  • At Dusk, by Hwang Sok-yong, translated by Sora Kim-Russell
  • Welcome to America, by Linda Boström Knausgård, translated from the Swedish by Martin Aitken
       I have a few more of these -- and would love to see the Malerba ... -- but I'm particularly pleased to see the Boström Knausgård, among the best books I read last year and one that hasn't gotten the attention it deserves.

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

       Translations from the ... Dutch

       The Dutch Foundation for Literature has announced its most recent Translation Grants for Foreign Publishers -- always a handy way of seeing what is being translated from the Dutch, and, occasionally, what will be appearing in English.
       Shockingly, none of the fiction grants are for translations into English; okay, some of these, such as Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer's Grand Hotel Europa previously got a grant for its translation -- in that case, by Michele Hutchison, into English, and that is expected next year (from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the US and Fourth Estate in the UK); still, it's not a great sign that there weren't any fiction titles to support this time around. (There are two non-fiction titles getting support, and one poetry book -- but all three are also UK publications .....)

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

       Moscow International Book Fair

       The Moscow International Book Fair opened yesterday, and runs through the 6th, with South Korea as the Guest of Honour.
       They're touting it as: "the first international book fair to be held both online and offline in the post-COVID world" -- though given current infection rates there I think 'post-COVID' maybe isn't exactly the right term ..... But, of course, one hopes everything goes well; it'll certainly be interesting to hear how many people visit -- and how healthy everyone stays .....
       See also Alexandra Guzeva's preview, Moscow hosts the FIRST massive international book fair after the COVID pandemic, at Russia Beyond.

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

       Ascent to Glory review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Álvaro Santana-Acuña on How One Hundred Years of Solitude Was Written and Became a Global Classic, Ascent to Glory, recently out from Columbia University Press.

       I always find books on books and their publication/circulation/canonization interesting -- and have a few more that I've been meaning to get, including David Karashima's Who We're Reading When We're Reading Murakami (see my recent mention) and David Bellos on Les Misérables, in The Novel of the Century.

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

2 September 2020 - Wednesday

JCB Prize for Literature longlist | Ann Goldstein Q & A

       JCB Prize for Literature longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's JCB Prize for Literature, a leading prize for an Indian work of fiction; see also A reader's guide to the ten books on the Rs 25-lakh JCB Prize for Literature 2020 longlist by Suhasini Patni at
       I haven't seen any of these -- and only one of the longlisted authors has a title under review at the complete review, Samit Basu (with his Turbulence).
       The shortlist will be announced 25 September.

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

       Ann Goldstein Q & A

       With the latest Elena Ferrante novel out, Adrienne Westenfeld has a Q & A with its translator at Esquire, in You May Not Know Ann Goldstein. But Without Her, You Might Not Know Elena Ferrante Either.
       But if you need to hear from the author herself, The Guardian offers Elena Ferrante: 'We don't have to fear change, what is other shouldn't frighten us', in which she: "answers questions from booksellers and translators around the world".

       (I haven't seen The Lying Life of Adults yet, but see the Europa Editions publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

1 September 2020 - Tuesday

G.H. Habib Q & A | Archipelago profile | Piranesi review

       G.H. Habib Q & A

       At New Age Dhrubo Sadiq is In conversation with GH Habib, translator into Bengali of everything from One Hundred Years of Solitude to The Name of the Rose -- though, alas, it appears often second-hand, via the English translation, an issue which he at least addresses:
As regards translating into Bangla, a considerable disregard of the common norm of translation is overlooked or not practiced here, that is, translating from the original language. A lion’s share of the books so far translated into Bangla have appeared via English, be the original ones written in Greek, Latin, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Norwegian, and so on, the notable exceptions being Sanskrit, Arabic, Urdu and Russian. But then, there is no guarantee that translating from the original always provides the best rendition.
       He also makes the observation:
[T]ranslation of Bangla literature into other languages is in a very sorry state indeed, both in terms of volume and quality, hardly noticeable and as a consequence insignificant in terms of creating any influence in the arena of world literature.
       (I'd certainly agree as to volume -- but as far as quality goes, I think a decent percentage of what little does get translated is actually pretty good; there are some fine translators from the Bangla.)

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

       Archipelago profile

       At the Brownstoner Craig Hubert takes a (brief) look at Literary Expansion: Gowanus-Based Archipelago Books Travels the World for Titles, profiling publishing house Archipelago Books.

       Quite a few Archipelago titles are under review at the complete review -- but I have a lot more to get to.

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

       Piranesi review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Susanna Clarke's Piranesi -- due out shortly, and certainly among the more anticipated fall 2020 titles.

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

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