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the Literary Saloon at the Complete Review
opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review

The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 May 2021

11 May: Solzhenitsyn's Nobel | Libris Literatuur Prijs | King Kong Theory review
12 May: Libri irodalmi díj | RSL Ondaatje Prize | Pittsburgh International Literary Festival
13 May: Q & As: Brian Nelson - Paul Theroux | Ockham New Zealand Book Awards
14 May: EUPL disqualification(s) | Dylan Thomas Prize | Linda, As in the Linda Murder review
15 May: French-American Foundation Translation Prizes | Shakespeare in ... Tibetan
16 May: Salman Rushdie profile
17 May: 'How women conquered the world of fiction' | Jhumpa Lahiri Q & A | Journey to the Edge of Reason review
18 May: Prix mondial Cino Del Duca | Miles Franklin Literary Award longlist | Among the Hedges review
19 May: European Union Prizes for Literature | Society of Authors Awards shortlists
20 May: Republic of Consciousness Prize

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20 May 2021 - Thursday

Republic of Consciousness Prize

       Republic of Consciousness Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses, which: "rewards the best fiction published by publishers with fewer than five full-time employees" in the UK and Ireland, and it is Lote, by Shola von Reinhold, selected from a pool of more than 80 submissions; see also Ruth Comerford's report in The Bookseller.
       See also the Jacaranda Books publicity page for Lote, or get your copy at or

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

19 May 2021 - Wednesday

European Union Prizes for Literature | Society of Authors Awards shortlists

       European Union Prizes for Literature

       They've announced the winners of the latest batch of European Union Prizes for Literature, for works by: "emerging fiction writers" from the 41 countries participating in the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.
       Fourteen countries were to announce winners in this particular cycle but:
After further consideration of the shortlist suggested by the Moldovan jury, the EUPL Steering Committee could not confirm the proposed candidates as emerging authors. Therefore, there will be no Moldovan laureate in 2021.
       Given how little Moldovan literature ever makes it beyond the local borders I'd argue that pretty much anything from there should count as "emerging", but I guess they saw things differently.
       (The books that are in the running, and then the winners, are decided on by national juries -- i.e. each country names its own finalists and then winner, a less than ideal way of doing things ..... See also my recent mention about some of the disqualified finalists for these prizes.)

       There's no question, however, that the European Union Prize for Literature does help get attention for the winning titles; we're fairly certain to be seeing quite a few of these in English translation in the next couple of years. (Some of these authors already have other titles available in translation, e.g. Armenian winner Aram Pachyan.)

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

       Society of Authors Awards shortlists

       The Society of Authors has announced its Awards-shortlists.
       The five awards include one for a first novel by a writer under 35 (The Betty Trask Prize and Awards), one for a first novel by a writer over 40 (the McKitterick Prize), and one for a first novel by a writer over 60 (the Paul Torday Memorial Prize). Authors of a first novel who are between the ages of 35 and 40 are out of luck, however.
       The winners will be announced 9 June.

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

18 May 2021 - Tuesday

Prix mondial Cino Del Duca | Miles Franklin Literary Award longlist
Among the Hedges review

       Prix mondial Cino Del Duca

       The Institut de France has announced its 2021 prize-winners, which includes the prix mondial Cino Del Duca, a €200,000 author-prize for a life's-work that has a 'message of modern humanism', and the winner is Maryse Condé; see also the official press release (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       The prix mondial Cino Del Duca has an impressive list of previous winners that includes, among many others, Ignazio Silone (1971), Jorge Luis Borges (1980), Ismail Kadare (1992), and Patrick Modiano (2010); last year's winner was Joyce Carol Oates.

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

       Miles Franklin Literary Award longlist

       They've announced the twelve-title strong longlist for this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award, a leading Australian novel prize; it includes titles by Aravind Adiga and Gail Jones.
       The shortlist will be announced 16 June, and the winner on 15 July.

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

       Among the Hedges review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Sara Mesa's Among the Hedges, just out from Open Letter.

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

17 May 2021 - Monday

'How women conquered the world of fiction' | Jhumpa Lahiri Q & A
Journey to the Edge of Reason review

       'How women conquered the world of fiction'

       In The Observer Johanna Thomas-Corr finds: 'From Sally Rooney to Raven Leilani, female novelists have captured the literary zeitgeist, with more buzz, prizes and bestsellers than men. But is this cultural shift something to celebrate or rectify ?' in How women conquered the world of fiction.
       This is of course the kind of article meant to stir things up -- "men -- and especially young men -- are being shut out of an industry that is blind to its own prejudices" !
       I'm not sure it does that very effectively, but there is certainly considerable comic value in the comments she gets from the men she talks to -- whereby, of course:
The subject is such a hornet's nest that almost every man in the books industry who I approached refused to speak on the record for fear of the backlash.
That male publisher is at pains to point out that, yes, “the exciting writing is coming from women right now” and that he himself publishes more women. But this is “because there aren’t that many men around. Men aren’t coming through.”
       Oh, men, men, men ..... Come on through !
       Sounds like it's a tough world out there:
“I was having a meeting the other day with yet another 28-year-old woman,” he continues. “I always ask editors, ‘What are you looking for’, and she happened to say, ‘What I really want is a generational family drama’. I said, ‘Oh, like The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen?’ and honestly, you would think I’d said Mein Kampf. She said, ‘No! Nothing like that!’.
       (And, yeah, sure, there's not going to be any media hype about J-Franz's forthcoming guaranteed-bestselling Crossroads .....)
       At least we can now look forward to lots of reaction pieces and Twitter-snark, so there's that.

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

       Jhumpa Lahiri Q & A

       In the Times of India Namita Devidayal has a Q & A with Jhumpa Lahiri -- and she gives what I have always considered very good advice to aspiring writers:
I really think one of the most amazing and direct ways to write is to translate literature that you love and admire. Translation is the most productive and illuminating form of literary apprenticeship because you really get inside the writer’s head and inside a language and you have to then recreate it.
       Sounds right to me.

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

       Journey to the Edge of Reason review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Stephen Budiansky's Journey to the Edge of Reason: The Life of Kurt Gödel.

       I frequently find that non-fiction titles published by commercial presses such as Penguin in the UK come out in US editions only from a university press; this is the rare title that (just) came out in the US from a commercial (well, large independent) publisher -- W.W.Norton -- and from a university press (Oxford University Press) in the UK.

       My favorite titbit: in 1962, at age 56, Gödel comes across a new-to-him author:

Gödel discovers Kafka

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

16 May 2021 - Sunday

Salman Rushdie profile

       Salman Rushdie profile

       Salman Rushdie has a new collection of non-fiction pieces coming out, Languages of Truth, and in The Guardian Hadley Freeman profiles him, in Salman Rushdie: ‘I am stupidly optimistic – it got me through those bad years’.
       Among the titbits of interest: Rushdie is working on his first play: it's about Helen of Troy -- and: "It's written in verse" !

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

15 May 2021 - Saturday

French-American Foundation Translation Prizes | Shakespeare in ... Tibetan

       French-American Foundation Translation Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's French-American Foundation Translation Prizes
       The fiction category winner is Chris Andrews, for his translation of Kaouther Adimi's Our Riches (published in the UK as: A Bookshop in Algiers).
       The non-fiction category winner is Hoyt Rogers, for his translation of Yves Bonnefoy's Rome, 1630.
       The awards ceremony will be online on 3 June at 13:00 EST; you can register to watch.

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

       Shakespeare in ... Tibetan

       In Tricycle Patrick Dowd writes about: 'The first Tibetan translations of Shakespeare' -- by Drakdong Tréling Wangdor --, in Bringing the Bard to Tibet
       Dowd notes:
The Buddhist resonance that pervades his Shakespearean translations likely derives from Wangdor’s overarching translation philosophy. He emphasizes the importance of faithfulness to the source text but argues that the translator must convey the meaning of the original in the context of the translated language, even if this is at odds with a literalistic translation. The translator needs to artistically re-create the work, ensuring both that it honors the original and that it stands on its own right within its new cultural framework.

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

14 May 2021 - Friday

EUPL disqualification(s) | Dylan Thomas Prize
Linda, As in the Linda Murder review

       EUPL disqualification(s)

       The European Union Prize for Literature announced its shortlists -- 14, for the fourteen countries eligible for the prizes this year -- a month ago, with the winners to be announced next week.
       The shortlists are selected by national juries -- but there's now some outrage over the EUPL having rejected one of the shortlisted titles, Maltese selection Għall-Glorja tal-Patrija ! by Aleks Farrugia; see, for example, Matthew Vella's report in Malta Today, Aleks Farrugia disqualified by EU Literature Prize over SKS’s ‘Labour’ affiliation.
       The issue is apparently that the book was published by a publishing house (SKS) affiliated with a political party, which the prize considers unacceptable. Understandably, they want to keep politics out of it, but it's unfortunate that books can be disqualified just because of who the publisher is -- which can obviously be a problem for smaller markets, where there are very few commercial publishers of any kind.
       (I'd argue the much bigger problem is leaving the selection process in national-jury hands rather than trying to make things truly European, but I do understand the difficulty of finding sufficient outside jurors capable of assessing works in Maltese, etc. .....)

       Almost more interesting to me is what is mentioned in Chris Peregin's Lovin Malta report, Rejected For EU Book Prize, Labour-Published ‘Glory To The Fatherland’ Fuels Debate On Media Ownership, about the Maltese shortlist:
This meant that a book by author Aleks Farrugia, who was one of Malta’s five shortlisted books but is published by SKS, was eliminated from the process, together with another two books that were eliminated for other reasons.
       As you can see from the shortlist, countries each have up to five titles in the running -- but some have considerably fewer (including Malta, with just two). Were they all allowed to shortlist five -- and were numerous titles then eliminated for various reasons ? (I, for one, would love to know what reasons the other two Maltese titles were eliminated for .....)
       It's a shame that there seems to be no transparency here, especially for outsiders; were it not for this kerfuffle I would never have known that there were originally (meant to be) five shortlisted Maltese titles -- and, presumably, five for each country -- and that numerous titles were, without public knowledge (much less explanation), excluded.

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

       Dylan Thomas Prize

       They've announced that this year's Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize -- a prize: "for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under" -- goes to Luster, by Raven Leilani.
       See also the publicity pages from Picador and Farrar, Straus and Giroux, or get your copy at or

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

       Linda, As in the Linda Murder review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of An Evert Bäckström Novel by Leif GW Persson, Linda, As in the Linda Murder.

       This is the first in the trio of Bäckström-novels (though the character also appears in other novels by Persson); in what is still all too common custom for series-in-translation, it was published second in the United States.

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

13 May 2021 - Thursday

Q & As: Brian Nelson - Paul Theroux
Ockham New Zealand Book Awards

       Q & A: Brian Nelson

       Oxford World's Classics has been publishing new translations of Émile Zola's Les Rougon-Macquart-series for over two decades now and have now completed the series; I have been slowly making my way through them -- most recently with The Ladies' Paradise, in Brian Nelson's translation.
       At the arts fuse Bill Marx now has a Book Interview: Translator Brian Nelson on Finally Hearing Émile Zola’s Voice in English.
       Nelson notes:
If, for whatever reason, readers use late nineteenth-century (or some later) translations, they will gain little sense of the power of Zola’s vision and language. These translations (reprinted in recent times, unfortunately, by publishers wanting to avoid translation costs) were often abridged and replete with excisions and euphemistic lexical choices. Even the series of Zola translations published in the ’50s by Paul Elek are dated and relatively weak.
       Good to hear, too, that: "Sales have been strong" -- including The Ladies' Paradise selling over 100,000 copies ("thanks significantly, I might add, to the BBC's TV version of 2012, The Paradise", he admits).

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

       Q & A: Paul Theroux

       Paul Theroux's new novel, Under the Wave at Waimea, is just out, but his interview with Klara Glowczewska in Town & Country focuses on an earlier work -- now adapted for the screen --, Author Paul Theroux on Why the Story of The Mosquito Coast Endures
       Quite a bit here -- including the titbit that:
Also in April, Theroux reached the 100,000-word mark on his next novel. "I started on April 1, 2020, superstitiously. It was going to be a short story for The New Yorker. I thought I'd write it for as long as this pandemic lasted. I'll finish it this summer, probably. But I can't tell you what it's about."
       (He does reveal a bit, at the end of the interview.)

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

       Ockham New Zealand Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, with Airini Beautrais' story collection Bug Week winning the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction.
       They also awarded the Te Mūrau o te Tuhi, a discretionary Māori Language Award, and it went to Tā Tīmoti Kāretu's Mātāmua ko te Kupu !; see also the Auckland University Press publicity page.

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

12 May 2021 - Wednesday

Libri irodalmi díj | RSL Ondaatje Prize
Pittsburgh International Literary Festival

       Libri irodalmi díj

       They've announced the winner of this year's Libri irodalmi díj, a leading Hungarian literary prize, and it goes to Magyar Copperfield, by Bereményi Géza; see also the hlo report, Géza Bereményi Wins Libri Literary Prize; Krisztián Grecsó Wins Audience Award.
       See also the Magvető Kiadó publicity page for Magyar Copperfield.

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

       RSL Ondaatje Prize

       The Royal Society of Literature has announced the winner of this year's RSL Ondaatje Prize, a £10,000 prize: "awarded for a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place", and it is The Butchers, by Ruth Gilligan (published as The Butchers' Blessing in the US ...).
       See also the publicity pages from Atlantic Books and Tin House, or get your copy at or

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

       Pittsburgh International Literary Festival

       The Pittsburgh International Literary Festival runs from today through the 21st; it: "considers themes of migration, identity, and displacement with an emphasis on works in translation".
       An impressive programme -- and easily accessible, regardless where you are.

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

11 May 2021 - Tuesday

Solzhenitsyn's Nobel | Libris Literatuur Prijs | King Kong Theory review

       Solzhenitsyn's Nobel

       The Swedish Academy has now, belatedly, opened the archives of the Nobel Prize deliberations from 50 years ago, regarding the 1970 prize awarded to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; regrettably, they haven't posted information -- such as the list of nominated authors -- at the archive-site yet.
       Kaj Schueler, of Svenska Dagbladet, appears to have been first on the scene to inspect the papers; his report, Hemliga dokument: Därför fick Aleksandr Solzjenitsyn is unfortunately paywalled, but at least from the first section we can glean the most important news: that Solzhenitsyn was a near-unanimous choice, with only Artur Lundkvist strongly opposed, and that the two authors he beat out were Pablo Neruda (who was awarded the prize the next year) and Patrick White, who would get the prize in 1973.

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

       Libris Literatuur Prijs

       They've announced the winner of this year's Libris Literatuur Prijs, one of the leading Dutch literary prizes, and it is Cliënt E. Busken, by (eighty-one-year-old) Jeroen Brouwers.
       See also the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page for this book "about the decline of a man with dementia".

       Brouwers' Sunken Red was translated into English over thirty years ago -- and reviewed in The New York Times Book Review back in the day, 'In Short': "Told with an aching beauty in a spiraling form that gradually reveals more and more, Sunken Red is a cathartic achievement" -- but that seems to have been the extent of it; it'll be interesting to see if his work will now get another look from US/UK publishers.

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

       King Kong Theory review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the new translation, by Frank Wynne, of Virginie Despentes' King Kong Theory, out last year in the UK from Fitzcarraldo Editions and now out -- today, in fact -- in the US from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

       This 2006 work is the rare example of a work of contemporary non-fiction that has been re-issued in a new translation (Stéphanie Benson's translation appeared in 2009). (Re-translations of recent works of fiction are also relatively rare, but you do see more of them.) It must be something about the work: the Germans gave it a second try recently as well (Kiepenheuer & Witsch) -- and there are also two translations into Spanish.
       (Given the importance of the tone and voice to the work, there may have been good reason to have another go at it.)

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

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