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

The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 January 2022

1 January : Bestselling in 2021 in ... France | 'African Writing in Chinese Translation' | 2022
2 January : Coming in 2022 | 2021 translations from ... Russian | Wannsee review
3 January : Rentrée d'hiver | My Annihilation review
4 January : Gianni Celati (1937-2022) | Most Popular Reviews - 2021 | The Subplot review
5 January : Nobel Prize in Literature 1971 | Whitbread Costa Book Awards category winners | Publishing in ... Turkey
6 January : Silvers-Dudley Prizes | Ancient writing
7 January : F. Sionil José (1924-2022) | Revived African Writers Series ?
8 January : Musharraf Ali Farooqi profile | Europa Editions Q & A
9 January : Publishing in ... India | Review copies in 2021
10 January : Bestseling in the US in 2021 | Translation into ... Balochi | 2021 in review at the complete review

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10 January 2022 - Monday

Bestseling in the US in 2021 | Translation into ... Balochi
2021 in review at the complete review

       Bestseling in the US in 2021

       At Publishers Weekly John Maher reports on the 25 bestselling print titles in the US in 2021 -- with the (NPD BookScan) numbers ! --, in Dav Pilkey Dominated the 2021 Bestseller List.
       Aside from one of those Pilkey titles, American Marxism was the only title selling a million copies (sigh); I haven't seen, much less reviewed, any of the top 25.

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

       Translation into ... Balochi

       At The News on Sunday Fazal Baloch finds that: 'Balochi literature has recently witnessed a great surge in the realm of translation' in looking at A year in translation.
       Always interesting to see what gets translated into other languages.

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

       2021 in review at the complete review

       Here is the annual overview of the year that was at the site, mostly in numbers:

       In 2021, 174 books were reviewed at the complete review, down considerably from the 198 in 2020 and the fewest in a long time. One reason was that the books were longer -- the 174 reviewed books had 51,302 pages, compared to 50,683 pages for the 198 2020 books -- with the average length of reviewed books 294.84 pages in 2021, up almost 40 pages per book over 2020 and by far the highest annual average to date; yes, I am increasingly drawn even more to long novels ..... (The median length of reviewed books -- 240.5 -- was also up 10 pages over the 2020 median.)
       The longest book reviewed was *only* 950 pages -- not a thousand-pager in the lot -- while 21 of the books were over 500 pages (compared to 12 in 2020). (Seven books were under 100 pages in length.)

       The average review length seems to have plateaued at a current comfort level (after steadily increasing to this point over the years), the 1545.14 words/review average in 2021 only slightly more than the 1521 in 2020. (Total review-words written -- given the fewer review -- was down considerably however, to 268,854.)
       The median review-length was 1397 words, and the longest was 3816 words long -- which was not even that much of an outlier, with six reviews clocking in at over 3000 words (and 27 more over 2000).

       You can find the 50 most popular reviews, 2021 here.

       The most popular author pages were:
  1. Amélie Nothomb
  2. Murakami Haruki
  3. Patrick White
  4. Cynthia Ozick
  5. Roberto Bolaño
       The most popular review-indices were for:
  1. Far East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) literature
  2. Mysteries and Thrillers
  3. Books Written Before 1900
  4. Erotic, Pornographic, and Sex-related books
  5. Eastern European literature
  6. French literature
  7. Books from selected Imprints and Publishers
  8. German literature
  9. Latin and South American literature
  10. Science fiction
       These were also the top ten indices last year -- albeit in different order. Last year's number one, the erotic index, has again slipped down to fourth place -- yo-yo-ing between the two positions for the past four years.

       Disappointingly, books originally written in only 29 languages (including English) were reviewed in 2021 -- down from 38 in 2020.
       The top ten languages were:
  • 1. English 45 (25.86% of all books) (2020: 54)
  • 2. French 27 (2020: 29)
  • 3. Spanish 14 (13)
  • 4. German 13 (11)
  • 5. Japanese 12 (13)
  • 6. Italian 9
  • 7. Chinese 7
  • 8. Arabic 5
  • -. Danish 5
  • -. Swedish 5
       It's more difficult to get any sort of meaningful count of countries, not least because countries change over the years (the Soviet Union, ancient Rome, etc.), but authors of reviewed books in 2021 came from roughly 51 countries, compared to 55 in 2020. The leading countries were:
  • 1. US 27 (2020: 21)
  • 2. France 22 (22)
  • 3. Japan 12 (14)
  • 4. UK 11 (23)
  • 5. Italy 9 (10)
       The ratio of male-to-female authors remains consistently poor, but women writers did almost make more than a quarter of all reviewed titles: 45 books were by female authors, 25.86%.

       Two titles received an 'A' grade -- The Membranes, by Chi Ta-wei, and Richard Zenith's biography of Pessoa.
       Eighteen titles got a grade of 'A-', 76 'B+', 69 'B'; the lowest grade was a single 'C'.

       Site traffic continued a longtime decline at the beginning of the year, flattened out over the summer, and increased at a good clip towards the end of the year.
       Regionally, the biggest decline in traffic was in South America, while the lowest decline was in Africa. Among the countries providing the most traffic to the site, growth was strong in the Philippines -- but even stronger in China, where it was up over 60% over 2020, pushing it into sixth place overall (up from ninth in 2020). Meanwhile, traffic from the United States was down -- and, at 32.95% of all traffic, dipped below one-third of all traffic for the first time.
       There were visitors from 215 countries and territories in 2021 (2020: 222).

       The countries from which the most traffic came were:
  1. United States (32.95%; 2020: 35.40%)
  2. India (9.56%)
  3. United Kingdom (8.92%)
  4. Philippines
  5. Canada
  6. China
  7. Australia
  8. Nigeria
  9. Germany
  10. Netherlands

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

9 January 2022 - Sunday

Publishing in ... India | Review copies in 2021

       Publishing in ... India

       In The Hans India Zafri Mudasser Nofil looks at How publishers beat Covid blues in 2021 ! in India.

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

       Review copies in 2021

       Unsurprisingly, the COVID epidemic really impacted the receiving of review copies at the complete review in 2020; the 231 (physical) review copies I did receive were the fewest since 2004. Publishers have now gotten more on track again, and so things did pick up considerably in 2021, with 331 review copy arrivals (and 389 book acquisitions in total).
       (I did have access to quite a few e-versions of books, but these are not included in the totals except for titles that were reviewed based solely on the e-version; I find the format almost impossible to work with (beyond as reference -- for name-/spelling-checking, for example) and will do pretty much anything to avoid them; in 2021 two reviews were off e-versions -- and that was two too many.)

       I reviewed a considerably higher percentage of review copies than usual: as of 31 December 2021 I had reviewed 105 of the 331 I had received (31.72%). (I have since reviewed three more.) By comparison: in 2020 I had reviewed, by year-end, 57 of the 231 review copies I had received (24.68%); in 2019 it was 102 out of 437 (23.34%).
       (Naturally, I continue to get to books received in any given year after that year is over -- so, for example, I have now reviewed 75 of the 231 2020 titles (32.47%) and 138 of the 437 2019 titles (31.58%).)

       A number of publishers send me more or less all their titles, and quite a few more send the titles they think I'd be interested in (mainly fiction in translation); several others send checklists or the like for me to choose the titles of interest, which are then usually (though not always) provided. Beyond that, I also request many titles -- responses to which still tend to be very hit or miss. But every book I receive is much appreciated, even if I don't manage to get to it, or don't immediately.
       (Books reviewed in 2021 included one where I had received the review copy 5721 days before the review was posted, another was reviewed 3312 days after it was received; yes, sometimes it takes longer than others .....)

       Ten publishers provided ten or more review copies in 2021 (compared to five in 2020) -- with four more providing nine each. The top fifteen providers of review copies in 2021 were:        As the list suggests, major publishers don't figure prominently as suppliers of review copies -- though admittedly this in part also reflects my review-preferences -- obviously much closer to what, for example, Dedalus publishes than one of the big five. That said, I could certainly do with seeing some more of their titles, especially those in translation. Also under-represented are a number of smaller but significant independents with a focus on literature in translation who are perhaps understandably reluctant to provide print copies of titles (at least to me; they generally do make e-copies available -- but, as noted, I basically can't work with/off those, much as I'd like to).
       One publisher whom I expect or at least hope to get (many) more review copies from in 2022 is the revived Dalkey Archive Press -- the top provider to the site in their heyday, and apparently getting back on course; only five titles all last year, but I keep my fingers crossed at seeing bucket-loads in 2022.

       What books I (can) get from publishers certainly does strongly influence what gets reviewed at the site. There are a number of major 2021 titles I would have covered, had I been able to obtain a copy; on the other hand, most of those are well-covered elsewhere, so it's probably for the best that instead I devoted the time to the titles from smaller presses that don't get nearly as much attention .....

       See also the comprehensive Index of Books Received and Acquired - 2021.

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

8 January 2022 - Saturday

Musharraf Ali Farooqi profile | Europa Editions Q & A

       Musharraf Ali Farooqi profile

       IANSlive has a profile of the author, in Reading Manto not enough to know what's worthy in 20th century Urdu literature: Musharraf Ali Farooqi.
       He says:
My friends, the translation juggernaut Arunava Sinha and Daisy Rockwell, are making very important contributions to world literature through their wonderful translations of twentieth-century Indian literature. Similarly, I feel that a greater and more meaningful engagement for Urdu literature will come when we translate the many accomplished works from twentieth-century Urdu literature, which are not as much a part of the literary conversation today as they should be. Translations are the best and the only way to attract an international audience for our literature.
       It would certainly be great to see more translations .....

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

       Europa Editions Q & A

       At the Literary Hub Corinne Segal continues their series, this time with Interview with an Indie Press: Europa Editions
       I've been reviewing Europa Editions titles at the complete review since they started -- lots of good stuff.

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

7 January 2022 - Friday

F. Sionil José (1924-2022) | Revived African Writers Series ?

       F. Sionil José (1924-2022)

       Leading Philippine author F. Sionil José has passed away; see, for example, Zacarian Sarao reporting National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose dies at 97 in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
       He is best known for his five-volume Rosales saga.

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

       Revived African Writers Series ?

       Stephen Embleton made the announcement last month and, as Chukwuebuka Ibeh now also reports at Brittle Paper, Iconic African Writers Series Re-Launches After 19-Year Hiatus.
       This isn't the first (attempted) revival of the classic series -- Penguin launched theirs a couple of years ago -- but this does sound promising; I certainly hope it takes off.

       The original African Writers Series is, of course, truly classic; quite a few of the titles from it are under review at the complete review -- and James Currey's Africa Writes Back is a great series-history. (For a quick overview of the series, see also the Chadwyck-Healey Literature Collections information page.)

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

6 January 2022 - Thursday

Silvers-Dudley Prizes | Ancient writing

       Silvers-Dudley Prizes

       The Robert B. Silvers Foundation has announced the first set of winners of the Silvers-Dudley Prizes for literary criticism, arts writing, and journalism.
       Great to see this support for practitioners in these fields.

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

       Ancient writing

       The Bibliothèque nationale de France will have an exhibit on 'L’aventure Champollion. Dans le secret des hiéroglyphes' from 12 April to 24 July, and in conjunction with that they have a lecture series on Archéologie des écritures anciennes, about ancient writing systems, starting 12 January; they look pretty interesting.

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

5 January 2022 - Wednesday

Nobel Prize in Literature 1971
Whitbread Costa Book Awards category winners | Publishing in ... Turkey

       Nobel Prize in Literature 1971

       Pablo Neruda was awarded the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature; now, fifty years after the fact, the Swedish Academy has opened the archive of the deliberations for that year's prize.
       At Svenska Dagbladet Kaj Schueler has the (paywalled) first look -- and at TT Nyhetsbyrån they summarize the results. The big takeaway here: the shortlist consisted of Neruda, W.H.Auden, André Malraux, Eugenio Montale, and Patrick White
       The Swedish Academy has also released the list (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of all the nominees -- and this is where the real big news is: Arno Schmidt was nominated !
       Other first-time nominees included: James Baldwin, William Golding, Philip Larkin, Elie Wiesel, and Romain Gary -- as well as more intriguing choices José María Arguedas, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, and the first (and only ?) Mongolian nominee, Tsendiin Damdinsüren.

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

       Whitbread Costa Book Awards category winners

       They've announced the five category winners for the 2021 Costa Book Awards -- which will now face off for the top prize, to be announced 1 February.

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

       Publishing in ... Turkey

       Turkish president Erdoğan's ... unusual monetary policy has wreaked havoc with Turkey's economy and at Middle East Eye Mefaret Aktas reports how: 'Skyrocketing prices of paper and growing fees risk sinking small and medium-sized publishing companies to the detriment of Turkey's cultural scene', in Turkish lira: Book publishers pushed to brink by currency crisis.
       Some interesting titbits about Turkish publishing -- not least, that: "Turkish publishers buy most of their paper from Portugal". Also of interest:
Half of the books published every year are translations, and mostly from English. Publishers make most of their money from translated books.
       But, unfortunately, rights/licensing is now prohibitively expensive .....

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

4 January 2022 - Tuesday

Gianni Celati (1937-2022) | Most Popular Reviews - 2021
The Subplot review

       Gianni Celati (1937-2022)

       Italian author and translator Gianni Celati has passed away; see, for eample, the ANSA report.
       His list of translations is impressive, including works by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Melville, Hölderlin, and Stendhal -- and culminating with his translation of James Joyce's Ulysses.
       The only one of his works under review at the complete review is his Adventures in Africa.

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

       Most Popular Reviews - 2021

       The most-viewed reviews at the complete review in 2021 were:
  1. El Filibusterismo, José Rizal
  2. The Dilemma of a Ghost, Ama Ata Aidoo
  3. The Legends of Khasak, O.V.Vijayan
  4. Killing Time in a Warm Place, Jose Dalisay
  5. Noli Me Tangere*, José Rizal
  6. Three Days and a Life, Pierre Lemaitre
  7. Now You're One of Us, Nonami Asa
  8. The Lost Daughter, Elena Ferrante
  9. Voice of a Dream, Glaydah Namukasa
  10. Klara and the Sun*, Kazuo Ishiguro
  11. The 120 Days of Sodom, the Marquis de Sade
  12. Decolonising the Mind, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
  13. A Play of Giants, Wole Soyinka
  14. Never*, Ken Follett
  15. Silverview*, John le Carré
       Reviews with an asterisk (*) are ones that were first posted in 2021. Remarkably, no 2020 reviews were among the top fifty review in 2020 -- but eight 2021 reviews made the top fifty in 2021, including four in the top fifteen.
       In 2020 there were 14 reviews that hadn't been in the top 50 in 2019; in 2021 there were 23 that hadn't been in the previous top 50.
       It wasn't a surprise that the review of Noli Me Tangere was the most popular new review -- given the popularity of the review of El Filibusterismo over the years. More surprising was that several reviews only added late in the year did so well.
       Meanwhile, among 2021 reviews that did poorly, Doris Lessing's Shikasta is the one that I was most surprised by -- it didn't even make the top 250.
       See also all the top 50 reviews of 2021.

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

       The Subplot review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Megan Walsh on What China Is Reading and Why It Matters, in The Subplot, forthcoming from Columbia Global Reports.

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

3 January 2022 - Monday

Rentrée d'hiver | My Annihilation review

       Rentrée d'hiver

       The big French "rentrée", when they flood the market with new titles, is at the end of August, but there's a winter-rentrée as well -- with 545 novels set to hit the market; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo preview, 545 romans pour la 545 romans pour la rentrée d'hiver 2022.
       There are 385 works of French fiction appearing -- the most highly-anticipated being the latest Michel Houellebecq, the 736-page Anéantir; see, for example, the Flammarion publicity page.

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

       My Annihilation review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nakamura Fuminori's My Annihilation.

       This is the eighth Nakamura title under review at the complete review.

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

2 January 2022 - Sunday

Coming in 2022 | 2021 translations from ... Russian
Wannsee review

       Coming in 2022

       Quite a few preview pieces are now up, of what books we can look forward to this year, including:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       2021 translations from ... Russian

       At her Lizok's Bookshelf Lisa C. Hayden lists the translations from Russian that were published in English in 2021 -- thirty-eight of them (down from forty-nine in 2020) -- a useful reference post.

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

       Wannsee review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Peter Longerich on Wannsee: The Road to the Final Solution, now out in English, from Oxford University Press.

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

1 January 2022 - Saturday

Bestselling in 2021 in ... France | 'African Writing in Chinese Translation' | 2022

       Bestselling in 2021 in ... France

       ActuaLitté has a variety of lists of the bestselling titles in France in 2021, including Les 10 romans les plus vendus de 2021 (the top ten novels) and Quelles furent les meilleures ventes de livres de poche en 2021 ? (the top ten paperbacks, fiction and non).
       In the (new ?) novel category Guillaume Musso's L'inconnue de la Seine topped the list with 399,204 copies sold, while his La vie est un roman apparently sold 433,531 copies in paperback. The Goncourt-winner by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, La plus secrète mémoire des hommes, was second in the fiction category, selling 377,172 copies; Amélie Nothomb's Premier sang was fourth, with 233,973 copies sold.

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

       'African Writing in Chinese Translation'

       At his weblog Bruce Humes has an overview of African Writing in Chinese Translation: 2021 Round-up + A Peek at 2022.
       Always interesting to see what gets translated -- not that much in this case (16 works published in 2020-2021), but a pretty decent selection. Good, especially, to see some more Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o making it to China recently (now making him: "one of Africa's most published authors in Chinese") -- including Wizard of the Crow (though I fear it was likely translated from the English translation ...).

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


       A new year ! Though, yes, as usual at the complete review, that pretty much amounts to only more of the same. Still, at least one milestone will be reached: sometime in the fall, the site should hit 5000 reviews. Not yet sure how I want to celebrate that .....
       With only 174 reviews, 2021 was a somewhat slower year than usual. Not sure whether I can pick up the pace again, but we'll see how things go. Certainly the selection and variety should be more or less the usual.
       First, I will get to a full look at 2021-in-review(s) -- but it'll be a few days before I get all the statistics sorted and organized.
       After being flat for most of the year, there was a surprising uptick in traffic in December -- over 15% over December 2020 -- and I hope that trend carries through into the new year. But regardless of how many or few of you readers there are out there, I'm glad you still visit, and I hope you continue to get something out of it.

       Wishing all of you a good year -- and a lot of good reading !

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

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