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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 - 19 November 2021

11 November: Goldsmiths Prize | Warwick Prize shortlist | Sylvère Lotringer (1938-2021)
12 November: Boekenbon Literatuurprijs | Bayerische Buchpreise | Finlandia-palkinto shortlist | 'Untranslated' series
13 November: Ghostwriting | Visiting Buch Wien | The Sentence review
14 November: JCB Prize for Literature | Humphrey Davies (1947-2021) | Wilbur Smith (1933-2021) | Prix du Meilleur livre étranger finalists
15 November: Europese Literatuurprijs jury report | Etel Adnan (1925-2021) | Gurnah (not (yet)) in China
16 November: Gianni Rodari profile | (Another) best mysteries list | 2022 PEN America Literary Awards judges
17 November: SoA Translation Prize shortlists | Baillie Gifford Prize | Dawn Powell profile | Die Wolfshaut review
18 November: National Book Awards | Governor General's Literary Awards | Best books lists | Booker sales-boost
19 November: Oswald Wiener (1935-2021) | Prix du Meilleur livre étranger | Grand prix de la Critique littéraire | Reviewing translations panel | The Brass Go-Between review

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19 November 2021 - Friday

Oswald Wiener (1935-2021) | Prix du Meilleur livre étranger
Grand prix de la Critique littéraire | Reviewing translations panel
The Brass Go-Between review

       Oswald Wiener (1935-2021)

       Very sad to hear that Oswald Wiener has passed away; see, for example, (German) reports at APA, the Wiener Zeitung, and ORF.

       He remains best-known for his die verbesserung von mitteleuropa, roman -- see the Jung und Jung publicity page -- and I finally got a personal copy of this, as well as the amazing Italian translation that came out this year, by Nicola Cipani -- see the il verri publicity page -- and properly reviewing this/these has been one of my grander ambitions this year. It might spill into next year, but I will be getting to it.
       (As I've noted before, I am surprised Dalkey Archive Press haven't published an English translation of this -- this is such an obvious fit to Dalkey. Of course, it's never too late .....)

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

       Prix du Meilleur livre étranger

       They announced the winners of this prize for the best foreign books translated into French -- see also my mention of the announcement of the finalists --; see the Livres Hebdo report.
       The fiction winner is the French translation of Guzel Yakhina's Дети мои; see also the elkost information page on the book, which is apparently coming out from Europa Editions in the US and UK.
       The non-fiction winner is Kapka Kassabova's To the Lake; see also the publicity pages from Graywolf and Granta.

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

       Grand prix de la Critique littéraire

       The French Grand prix de la Critique littéraire was founded in 1948, and the PEN Club Français has now announced this year's winner -- Le réalisme pense la démocratie, by Philippe Dufour, which beat out Chez Temporel by Patrick Cloux by a commanding seven votes to one in the final reckoning.
       See also the Éditions La Baconnière publicity page.

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

       Reviewing translations panel

       This sounds like it should be worth your while: the National Book Critics Circle is hosting an online panel on The Art of Reviewing Literature in Translation on Sunday, 21 November, at 13:00 EST, with Kevin Blankinship, Shelley Frisch, Samuel Martin, Emma Ramadan, and Jeremy Tiang.

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

       The Brass Go-Between review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ross Thomas' 1969 thriller, The Brass Go-Between -- the first in the Philip St.Ives-series that he wrote under the name of Oliver Bleeck.

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

18 November 2021 - Thursday

National Book Awards | Governor General's Literary Awards
Best books lists | Booker sales-boost

       National Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's (American) National Book Awards.
       Hell of a Book by Jason Mott won the fiction award, while Aneesa Abbas Higgins' translation of Elisa Shua Dusapin's Winter in Sokcho won the Translated Literature award.

       The Dusapin has been appearing on a lot of best-translated and best-book lists, and is the first major-award winner for Open Letter Books. I have to admit, I'm a bit surprised that this is their break-out book; they've published a lot of great books -- see those under review at the complete review -- and I would not have guessed this one to be the one that really catches on. But they certainly deserve the attention and success, so good on them.

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

       Governor General's Literary Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's Governor General's Literary Awards, a leading Canadian literary prize -- fourteen winners in seven categories, once for French and once for English works.
       Tainna: The Unseen Ones won for best English-language work of fiction, while Faire les sucres by Fanny Britt won the French prize.

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

       Best books lists

       They're all over, but at least the personal-suggestions ones are a bit more interesting; see, for example, now 'New Statesman writers and guests choose their favourite reading of 2021' at the New Statesman's Books of the year-round-up, while The Spectator has their two-part 'chosen by our regular reviewers'-list, here and here.

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

       Booker sales-boost

       In The Bookseller Sian Bayley reports that Chatto reprints 153k copies of Galgut's Booker winner The Promise, as the leading English-language novel prize again provides the expected sales-boost:
The Promise has sold 23,878 copies in hardback, with 14,622 of those sold in the last two weeks, a 1,925% jump in volume compared with the two weeks before.
       Meanwhile, the US publisher of the book, Europa Editions, apparently already ordered a run of 40,000 new copies..

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

17 November 2021 - Wednesday

SoA Translation Prize shortlists | Baillie Gifford Prize
Dawn Powell profile | Die Wolfshaut review

       SoA Translation Prize shortlists

       The Society of Authors has announced the shortlists for six of its Translation Prizes, with the winners to be announced 10 February 2022.

       Shortlisted titles from five of the six prizes are under review at the complete review -- the only one I haven't reviewed a single title from is the Premio Valle Inclán, for translations from the Spanish.
       There are a surprising three shortlisted titles for the Bernard Shaw Prize -- translations from the Swedish -- under review:
  • Chitambo by Hagar Olsson, tr. Sarah Death
  • Crisis by Karin Boye, tr. Amanda Doxtater
  • To Cook A Bear by Mikael Niemi, tr. Deborah Bragan-Turner
       Only one title shortlisted for the Schlegel-Tieck Prize -- for translation from the German -- is under review:        Three titles shortlisted for the Scott Moncrieff Prize, for translations from the French, are under review:        Two titles shortlisted for the Vondel Prize, for translations from the Dutch, are under review:        And one title shortlisted for the TA First Translation prize is under review:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Baillie Gifford Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, a £50,000 prize that calls itself: "the most prestigious non-fiction prize in the UK", and it is Empire of Pain, by Patrick Radden Keefe.

       See also the publicity pages from Doubleday and Picador, or get your copy at or

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

       Dawn Powell profile

       In the Columbus Monthly Peter Tonguette has a lengthy profile of How Literary History (Nearly) Forgets Ohio's Dawn Powell.
       Dawn Powell is, of course, not really forgotten, and still gets quite frequent notice; still, the consensus seems to be she doesn't get the attention she deserves. (Of course, that's true about an enormous number of authors.)
       I have the two Library of America volumes of nine of her novels and keep meaning to cover some of them, but I haven't gotten around to it yet .....

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

       Die Wolfshaut review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hans Lebert's 1960 novel, Die Wolfshaut.

       This is a major novel -- cited, for example, by Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek as a major influence on her own work (yes, I know that isn't everyone's idea of a recommendation, but Jelinek too easily gets a bad rap: remember, she's also the German (co-)translator of Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow). Disappointingly, Lebert's legal heirs -- his widow, it seems -- apparently currently refuse to let his work be re-issued (hence the pretty steep prices for even a German edition of this one), much less be translated (into, for example, English ...). Ah, literary executors .....
       My 1991 edition of Die Wolfshaut comes with an afterword by Lebert-biographer Jürgen Egyptien (Sonderzahl, 2019), which opens with a mention that his own copy of this novel comes from Otto Basil's library, and slips in a Gerhard Fritsch-mention in that first paragraph as well -- which alone would have been enough to win me over. Basil might be familiar to some English-speaking readers from his alternate-history novel, The Twilight Men, while I remain surprised that Gerhard Fritsch hasn't been translated yet, as he seems an author very much suited to some of the subjects of this time; I have two of his novels and will try to get around to reviewing them too, sooner rather than later.

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

16 November 2021 - Tuesday

Gianni Rodari profile | (Another) best mysteries list
2022 PEN America Literary Awards judges

       Gianni Rodari profile

       At Jacobin Giorgio Chiappa profiles Lamberto, Lamberto, Lamberto-author Gianni Rodari, in The Italian Communist Whose Radical Children's Books Shaped a Generation.
       Yes, it hasn't even been a year since Joan Acocella profiled him in The New Yorker, asThe Italian Genius Who Mixed Marxism and Children's Literature, but, hey, it's a good story .....

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

       (Another) best mysteries list

       Of lists there can never be enough, and while it is now the season for best-of-the-year lists there are also some all-timers popping up -- so at Parade, where Michael Giltz offers Want to Crack the Case ? These Are The 101 Best Mystery Books of All Time.
       I fail to understand the decision -- frequently found on lists like this -- to: "sticking to one title per author". It's a list of best books; who the author is is irrelevant; if the author is a true master, why shouldn't they be represented by more than one title ? (Granted, in the mystery genre, one title is (far too) often sufficient to sum up an author's output -- as suggested here also by the many first-in-a-series selections --, but there are certainly exceptions.)
       (The failure of this 'system' is evident here in the selection of The Strange Case of Peter the Lett (since re-translated as Pietr the Latvian), which is a good Maigret (but more conspicuously, the first Maigret ...) but pales compared to some of Simenon's others -- not to mention the best of his romans durs.)

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

       2022 PEN America Literary Awards judges

       They've announced the sixty judges for next year's 2022 PEN America Literary Awards in all the different categories

       The judges for the PEN Translation Prize will be: Almiro Andrade, Mayada Ibrahim, Barbara Ofosu-Somuah, and Sharon E. Rhodes.
       The judges for the (US $50,000) PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature are: Laila Lalami, Mónica de la Torre, and David Treuer.

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

15 November 2021 - Monday

Europese Literatuurprijs jury report | Etel Adnan (1925-2021)
Gurnah (not (yet)) in China

       Europese Literatuurprijs jury report

       As I mentioned back then, two months ago they announced the winner of the Europese Literatuurprijs -- an award for the best translation of a European novel into Dutch (and: "not be confused with the EU Literature Prize, which is organised by the European Union", as they helpfully point out) --, Saša Stanišić's Where You Come From (due out in English soon), but the awards ceremony was only last week, and the Dutch Foundation for Literature now post the Jury report and words of thanks, with links to (pdfs) of the speeches by the prize-winning author and translator.

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

       Etel Adnan (1925-2021)

       Author and artist Etel Adnan has passed away; see, for example, the Etel Adnan obituary: 1925-2021 at Wallpaper*.
       See also her official site.

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

       Gurnah (not (yet)) in China

       Bruce Humes continues to closely track the publication of African works in China -- and does so also now with regards to the most recent Nobel laureate, Abdulrazak Gurnah, none of whose work has been published in China.
       That is due to quickly change, as Humes reports in Nobel Laureate Gurnah's Tales of Exile and Migration Set to Launch in China within 2nd Half 2022, with Shanghai Translation Publishing House having bought the rights to all ten of Gurnah's novels and set to publish five of them by the end of next year.
       Interesting also to hear that:
Years ago it also introduced Naguib Mahfouz to mainland readers, but Feng described sales of the master storyteller, whose novels are all set in Egypt, as “rather mediocre.”.
       I wonder what went wrong there, and why Mahfouz didn't catch on. (Of course, given the size of the Chinese market, one would also like to know what constitute 'mediocre sales' there.)

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

14 November 2021 - Sunday

JCB Prize for Literature | Humphrey Davies (1947-2021)
Wilbur Smith (1933-2021) | Prix du Meilleur livre étranger finalists

       JCB Prize for Literature

       They've announced the winner of this year's JCB Prize for Literature, a leading Indian fiction prize, and it is Delhi: A Soliloquy, by M. Mukundan; see, for example, the report at
       Amazingly, this is the third time in the past four years that a translation from the Malayalam has won the prize (which, if nothing else, should tell you: check out some Malayalam fiction !).
       Delhi: A Soliloquy is published by Westland, an Indian Amazon-imprint; get your copy at or

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

       Humphrey Davies (1947-2021)

       Sad to hear that translator (from the Arabic) Humphrey Davies has passed away; see, for example, the mention at Banipal.

       Quite a few of his translations are under review at the complete review -- from early Mahfouz to the stunning Leg over Leg to, most recently, Aziz Mohammad's The Critical Case of a Man Called K.

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

       Wilbur Smith (1933-2021)

       Tremendously bestselling author Wilbur Smith -- "The Zambian-born writer published 49 books and sold more than 140 million copies worldwide", The Guardian's obituary notes -- has passed away.

       (I've never read any of his books.)

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

       Prix du Meilleur livre étranger finalists

       The prix du Meilleur livre étranger -- a French best foreign book prize -- has been around since 1948 and has a very impressive list of fiction winners, ranging from the rather odd first pick -- The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg ! -- through a veritable rollcall of modern greats, including a Kawabata novel (Snow Country) quite a bit before he got the Nobel (1961), Musil's The Man without Qualities (1958), Grass' The Tin Drum (1962), Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude (1969), and Fernando del Paso's Palinuro of Mexico (1986), among many others. Some odder calls along the way are made up for inspired ones -- Salman Rushdie's Shame (1985; and, yes, it may well be his best) -- and neat unlikely ones, like John Hawkes' The Blood Oranges (1973).
       Anyway, they've now announced this year's finalists, in their fiction and non categories; for a prize that can tend towards the Anglocentric it's good to see none of the four fiction finalists was written in English; see the Livres Hebdo report.

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

13 November 2021 - Saturday

Ghostwriting | Visiting Buch Wien | The Sentence review


       In Publishers Weekly Rachel Deahl writes about that odd category of writers, in Ghostwriters Come out of the Shadows.
       They still seem pretty much in the shadows, even per this account -- even if:
The rise of the term collaborator within publishing speaks to the respect ghostwriters command from others working behind the scenes. As one industry insider, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, put it, the term ghostwriter “implies subterfuge,” which they called “problematic.” The work is, they went on, totally “above board” and there’s “no reason to hide it.”
       (Apparently 'collaborator' doesn't have ... connotations ? Also: if you have to hide behind anonymity for this kind of remark, what does that say ?)
       Well, as always, publishing remains a very odd industry, with many odd practices.

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

       Visiting Buch Wien

       As I've mentioned, the Viennese book festival Buch Wien is on through the 14th, and I've had a chance to visit on the first two days -- the first book fair I've been to in quite a few years.
       There's a comforting -- and also slightly disappointing -- familiarity to it all. Tidier than the Javits Center -- the last cavernous hall where, in the old Book Expo America days, I used to roam -- the Viennese Messe-hall provides the usual: lots of publishers stands, and a couple of stages, with a constant flow of activity, as well as an extensive pop-up bookstore to complement what's available at the stands.
       The line-up is somewhat overwhelming -- often several authors and/or events of interest on concurrently. Among much else, both the recently announced Swiss and Austrian Book Prizes had panels, and there was also a nice display of the most attractive Austrian books competition. And, of course, there are author-events galore -- I enjoyed Franzobel on his latest (see the Zsolnay foreign rights page); have to appreciate any author who insists on coming to the stage beer in hand (for a mid-afternoon event).
       With Russia as the guest country there is a Read Russia stand -- and authors including Maxim Osipov, Andrei Gelassimov (e.g. The Lying Year), and Alisa Ganieva (e.g. Bride and Groom) on hand.
       An interesting mix of publisher-booths -- always good to see a lot of the local ones, though the bigger German houses were also represented (all in relatively small spaces).
       It makes for a decent overview of a scene I've been away from for too long -- with it becoming clear that the proliferation of Austrian 'Krimis' (mystery novels) has gotten way out of hand. Still, among the books I was most intrigued by is Reinhard Gnettner's Nur der Tod ist unsterblich, whose premise is apparently that Heimito von Doderer, Erich Fried, Leo Perutz, Friedrich Torberg, and Stefan Zweig meet at the Café Central and club together in an old-men's apartment-share (WG), where they want to work together to ensure their immortality. Haven't bought a copy, but I can see that at some point I will .....
       Among the other discoveries was the stand of publisher Frank & Timme, whose line-up of works on 'Translationswissenschaft' ('translation science) alone is hard to resist: I think I really need a title like Übersetzer und Übersetzen in der DDR (publicity page) .....

       For more (German) coverage, see, for example, Michael Wurmitzer on Buch Wien eröffnet: Russland in Bildern und Isolde Charim über Corona.
       And if you're in the neighborhood: it runs through tomorrow, so go have a look.

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

       The Sentence review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Louise Erdrich's new novel, The Sentence, which just came out (in the US; UK audiences still have to wait a bit).

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

12 November 2021 - Friday

Boekenbon Literatuurprijs | Bayerische Buchpreise
Finlandia-palkinto shortlist | 'Untranslated' series

       Boekenbon Literatuurprijs

       They've announced the winner of this year's Boekenbon Literatuurprijs, one of the leading Dutch novel prizes (which you might remember as the ECI Literatuurprijs, or, before that, the AKO Literatuurprijs ...), and it is Op weg naar De Hartz, by Wessel te Gussinklo; see also the Koppernik publicity page.

       (Note that they also provide a list (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of every title considered for the prize -- all 495 (!) of them -- just like every literary prize should.)

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

       Bayerische Buchpreise

       They've announced the winners of this year's Bavarian Book Prizes, with Ein von Schatten begrenzter Raum by Emine Sevgi Özdamar taking the fiction prize, and Die Welt neu beginnen by Helge Hesse taking the non-fiction prize.
       Emine Sevgi Özdamar's The Bridge of the Golden Horn has been translated into English, so I imagine we might see this one as well; see also the Suhrkamp foreign rights page for Ein von Schatten begrenzter Raum.

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

       Finlandia-palkinto shortlist

       They've announced the six-ttle shortlist for this year's Finlandia Prize for Fiction; see also the YLE report, Finlandia literary prize shortlist unveiled, half of candidates are previous winners -- apparently something that is quite unusual, as only two writers have won the award twice.
       As they note at YLE: "The Finlandia Prize is the nation's most important literary award, with winners and nominees virtually guaranteed brisk sales in the run-up to Christmas".

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

       'Untranslated' series

       Charco Press, which hitherto have focused on publishing translations of Latin American authors (as well as some of the texts in the Spanish original) has now announced a new "English-first series":
The 'Untranslated' series will embrace texts by English-speaking authors linked somehow to sharing their experience of Latin American culture, as well as opening the door to Latin American authors writing in English.
       Appropriately enough, the two first planned titles are by two (of their) translators .....
       Should be interesting.

       (Astonishingly, I've never actually seen a Charco Press book -- but they certainly have an excellent-looking list.)

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

11 November 2021 - Thursday

Goldsmiths Prize | Warwick Prize shortlist
Sylvère Lotringer (1938-2021)

       Goldsmiths Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Goldsmiths Prize, which rewards: "fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form", and it is Sterling Karat Gold, by Isabel Waidner; see also Johanna Thomas-Corr in the New Statesman on Why Isabel Waidner won the 2021 Goldsmiths Prize.
       See also the Peninsula Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Warwick Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Warwick Prize for Women in Translation.
       Only one of the eight titles left in the running is under review at the complete review -- David Boyd and Sam Bett's translation of Kawakami Mieko's Breasts and Eggs -- though I do have a few more of these (and would like to see some of the others). Maria Stepanova (and her translator, Sasha Dugdale) managed a rare double -- two of her books made the final eight !
       The winner will be announced 24 November.

       And it always bears repeating: this prize does what every literary prize should do: it reveals all of the titles that were eligible (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) and hence considered for the prize -- 115 of them. There's no excuse for other prizes not to do this as well -- but very few do.

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

       Sylvère Lotringer (1938-2021)

       Sylvère Lotringer, founder of the journal and then publishing house Semiotext(e) has passed away; see, for example, the report at Artforum.

       Maybe not a typical Semiotext(e) publication but certainly one of my favorites is Julio Cortázar's Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires. But there are many very interesting books from the imprint, well worth checking out.

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

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