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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 March 2022

11 March: International Booker Prize longlist | Wortmeldungen-Literaturpreis
12 March: Österreichischer Staatspreis für Europäische Literatur | American Academy of Arts and Letters awards | Salka Valka review
13 March: Seagull Books profile | Péter H. Nagy Q & A
14 March: Prix Jean Monnet longlist | Tomb of Sand | A Novel to Read on the Train review
15 March: Europese Literatuurprijs longlist | Prix Orange du livre en Afrique finalists | The last 100 reviews
16 March: 10 years of the Stella Prize | Iran's Book of the Year Awards | The Runes Have Been Cast review
17 March: Closing in on 5000 | A Dog in Water review
18 March: National Book Critics Circle Awards | Preise der Leipziger Buchmesse
19 March: Abdulrazak Gurnah Q & A | On the road with Bashō | The Lighted Burrow review
20 March: Damon Galgut Q & A | The Passenger sales success

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20 March 2022 - Sunday

Damon Galgut Q & A | The Passenger sales success

       Damon Galgut Q & A

       At Sayari Debnath has: 'An interview with Damon Galgut about his books, his connections with India, and winning The Booker Prize', in ‘I simply write what I have experienced, what I know’: Damon Galgut, 2021 Booker Prize winner.

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

       The Passenger sales success

       In The Bookseller Ruth Comerford reports that Pushkin hits 100,000 copies milestone for first time with The Passenger -- the Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz novel, translated by Philip Boehm.
       I am a bit surprised that this is their biggest hit to date -- Pushkin Press has brought out a lot of great books -- but good for them.
       In the US, this came out from Metropolitan -- see their publicity page -- and I wonder how they did with it.
       I haven't seen this yet; get your copy at, or

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

19 March 2022 - Saturday

Abdulrazak Gurnah Q & A | On the road with Bashō
The Lighted Burrow review

       Abdulrazak Gurnah Q & A

       At Deutsche Welle Annabelle Steffes-Halmer has a Q & A with Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah on exile and literature.
       Among his observations:
When it came to writing, I didn't really think about what language I wanted to write in. I kind of understood and knew that I had an intimate connection and relationship with the way I used English that I didn't quite have in writing Swahili. People who are writing in Swahili do things with a language that I don't know how to do.

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

       On the road with Bashō

       At Fukasawa Shinji follows the trail of Matsuo Bashō: A Literary Wanderer.

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

       The Lighted Burrow review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Max Blecher's The Lighted Burrow: A Sanatorium Journal, just out from Sublunary Editions.

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

18 March 2022 - Friday

National Book Critics Circle Awards | Preise der Leipziger Buchmesse

       National Book Critics Circle Awards

       They've announced the winners of the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Awards, awarded in six categories.
       The fiction prize went to The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers.
       The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing was awarded to Merve Emre.

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

       Preise der Leipziger Buchmesse

       No Leipzig Book Fair this year, but they have now announced the winners of the trio of Leipzig Book Fair Prizes.

       In the fiction category, Tomer Gardi's Eine runde Sache took the prize -- noteworthy not least for the fact that half of the two-part book is a translation (from the Hebrew, by Anne Birkenhauer); see also the Droschl foreign rights page.

       The translation prize didn't go to Stefan Moster's mammoth translation of Volter Kilpi's Alastalon salissa (see the mare publicity page) but rather Anne Weber's translation of Cécile Wajsbrot's Nevermore; see also the publicity pages from Le Bruit du temps and Wallstein Verlag. It features a translator working on a translation of a section of Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse ..... (And, yes, prize-winning translator Weber is the same Anne Weber who won the 2020 German Book Prize, for her novel-in-verse, coming out in Tess Lewis' translation as Epic Annette from Indigo Press; see their publicity page.)

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

17 March 2022 - Thursday

Closing in on 5000 | A Dog in Water review

       Closing in on 5000

       There are now 4904 reviews up at the complete review, which means I'll hit 5000 later this year -- sometime in October seems likely, maybe not too long after they announce this year's Nobel Prize in Literature.
       So 5000 is still a ways off, but it seems like a nice, round milestone, and I'm beginning to think ahead as how to mark it -- what book deserves to be the 5000th reviewed at the site ?
       (A part of me is tempted to just call it quits at 4999, which sounds like a good stopping point, but I probably won't be able to bring myself to do that.)
       So what would be the ideal title to review ? A quintessential complete review book ... so, an obscure novel, in a bilingual edition -- with a title that begins with a number, features real people as characters, and is presumably published by Dalkey Archive Press ?
       It seems worth aiming for something significant; the first books that come to mind are the big ones: Miss Miss MacIntosh, My Darling (a review of which would be well-timed, too, coming not too long after the Dalkey Archive Press re-issue is due out) or Clarissa ? The ten-volume C.H.Tawney translation of The Ocean Of Story would seem an obvious choice, but I only have access to an e-version and I don't know that I could handle anywhere near that much in electronic form (even if it is only really nine volumes -- the tenth being Appendixes and the Index).
       I'm avoiding series -- -- reviews of those are volume-by-volume, rather than the series-as-a-whole, so they're not really a good fit. So no Proust or Het Bureau (or Harry Potter) -- though I'm still considering Fluß ohne Ufer.
       A lot of the big classics -- Ulysses, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften -- have the drawbacks of being works I've read before, as well as being well-covered elsewhere; I think something not so well covered would be more appropriate.
       There is an early favorite -- and it's not even a massive work (sorry, no clues beyond that -- and that I have mentioned it, very favorably, at the site (once) -- for now) -- but I'm open to suggestions. (If you're on Twitter, you can make them there.)
       Still quite some time to think about this -- and maybe I'll just review whatever comes up that day ... -- but it'd be fun to cross that mark with something noteworthy.

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

       A Dog in Water review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kiuchi Kazuhiro's hardboiled PI novel, A Dog in Water.

       This came out from Vertical, Inc. a while back; they've apparently since been fully integrated into Kodansha (US) (though the old site is still out there), but I still pick up any of their (non-manga) titles when I can find one -- so also this one, which was definitely a good get. Disappointing to see that this didn't get more coverage; it's very good.

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

16 March 2022 - Wednesday

10 years of the Stella Prize | Iran's Book of the Year Awards
The Runes Have Been Cast review

       10 years of the Stella Prize

       The Stella Prize is an Australian prize for a book written by a woman that is being awarded for the tenth time this year, and at ABC News Hannah Story has an extensive look at the Stella Prize 10 years on: Australian authors reflect on how the award changed their careers and the literary landscape.

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

       Iran's Book of the Year Awards

       The Tehran Times reports that Iran honors top books of the year, as they handed out Iran's Book of the Year Awards, with president Ebrahim Raisi doing the honors.
       Neat to see the awards are taken seriously enough that the president hands them out; disappointing to see that fiction doesn't rate a mention .....

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

       The Runes Have Been Cast review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Robert Irwin's latest novel, The Runes Have Been Cast.

       Dedalus have published quite a pile of his novels, and I have many of them and it's about time I got to them; I expect to be covering more soon.

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

15 March 2022 - Tuesday

Europese Literatuurprijs longlist | Prix Orange du livre en Afrique finalists
The last 100 reviews

       Europese Literatuurprijs longlist

       They've announced the twenty-title strong longlist for this year's Europese Literatuurprijs, a Dutch prize for the best work of fiction by a European author translated into Dutch.
       Only one of the titles is under review at the complete review -- The Anomaly, by Hervé Le Tellier -- but two of the others that will be appearing in English later this year are titles I very much hope to see: Collected Works by Lydia Sandgren, coming from Astra in the US and Pushkin Press in the UK, and M: Son of the Century by Antonio Scurati, coming from Harper.
       Five of the titles are translations from the English -- so already available in English .....

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

       Prix Orange du livre en Afrique finalists

       They've announced the six-title longlist for this year's prix Orange du livre en Afrique, awarded to a novel written in French by an African author and published by an African publisher; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.
       Among the finalists is The Desert and the Drum-author Beyrouk, for Le silence des horizons; see also the elyzad publicity page.

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

       The last 100 reviews

       I recently reached 4900 books under review at the complete review, so it's time for another overview of the past 100 reviewed titles (4801 through 4900).

       - The last 100 reviews were posted over a long 228 days -- taking considerably longer than the last 100 (194 days); the difference is due entirely to the length of the books reviewed, which averaged an incredible 323.62 pages each (up more than fifty (!) pages from the last hundred's already record 273.18 pages); impressively the per-day average remained almost identical, the 141.94 per day of the most recent 100 just up over the previous 140.81. Astonishingly, there wasn't a thousand-pager in the bunch, though there were four titles over 900 pages, and 24 over 400. Only four reviewed titles were shorter than a hundred pages.

       - The last 100 reviews were 148,912 words long, down from the previous 156,736. The longest review was 3517 words long (one of four that was over 3000 words), and a total of 17 reviews were over 2000 words long.

       - Reviewed books were originally written in only 22 different languages (including English); unusually, English was by far the most popular language, with 35 titles, followed by French (16), German (11), and Spanish and Japanese (6 each). No new languages were added. (See also the updated full breakdown of all the languages books under review were originally written in.)

       - Male-written books were yet again in the (super-)majority, with 76 out of 100 written by men. Still, that raised the historic sexist average of written-by-women titles under review to 16.92 per cent.

       - Only one book was rated 'A' -- Richard Zenith's biography of Pessoa (and I remain amazed that this hasn't figured on more biography-prize long- and shortlists over the past year). Eleven books did rate 'A-', while the lowest-rated title was a single 'B-'.

       - Fiction, as always, dominated, with 73 novels reviewed; disappointingly, there was little drama (2) and no poetry reviewed.

       The recent trend towards slightly more English-language fiction has continued, but I do hope to again turn to a greater range of languages over the next 100 titles.
       On to number 5000 !

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

14 March 2022 - Monday

Prix Jean Monnet longlist | Tomb of Sand
A Novel to Read on the Train review

       Prix Jean Monnet longlist

       The prix Jean Monnet de littérature européenne is a prize for the best European novel available in French (translation or original), and they've now announced the longlist for the 2022 prize; not yet at the official site, last I checked, but see, for example, the ActuaLitté report.
       A lot of good-sounding titles, from the latest Amélie Nothomb to Jonathan Coe's Mr Wilder and Me -- which still hasn't come out in a US edition ... --, Andrey Kurkov's Grey Bees (which is finally coming out in a US edition ...), and Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer's Grand Hotel Europa, which is finally coming out in English later this year.

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

       Tomb of Sand

       Daisy Rockwell's translation of Geetanjali Shree's Tomb of Sand is among the novels on the recently announced longlist for this year's International Booker Prize; published by Tilted Axis, it's now also out from Penguin India -- and there's quite a bit of coverage in India.
       At they have an excerpt from Rockwell's Translator's Note for the Indian edition, and in the Times of India Sonam Joshi has a Q & A with both the author and the translator.

       I haven't seen Tomb of Sand yet, but I do hope to eventually.

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

       A Novel to Read on the Train review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Dumitru Tsepeneag's 1985 novel, A Novel to Read on the Train, the first of his novels written in French.

       This came out from Dalkey Archive Press last year, and it's the sixth Tsepeneag under review at the complete review; great to see that there are apparently more due out at the end of this year; no information yet at the still very much in the works Dalkey Archive site overhaul, but see Amazon listings here and here.

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

13 March 2022 - Sunday

Seagull Books profile | Péter H. Nagy Q & A

       Seagull Books profile

       At Em and the Big Hoom-author Jerry Pinto has the first of a two-part profile of the great Indian publishing house, Seagull Books at 40: Founder Naveen Kishore through the eyes of colleagues and collaborators.
       Seagull Books is an amazing publisher; quite a few of its titles are under review at the complete review (though, sigh, it's been ages since I've seen one).

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

       Péter H. Nagy Q & A

       At hlo they have a Q & A with Péter H. Nagy: The Paths that Sci-fi Wanders, about science fiction in general and Hungarian science fiction in particular.
       There's not much Hungarian science fiction available in English -- but maybe someone will publish a translation of Baráth Katalin's Afázia; see the Agave publicity page.

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

12 March 2022 - Saturday

Österreichischer Staatspreis für Europäische Literatur
American Academy of Arts and Letters awards | Salka Valka review

       Österreichischer Staatspreis für Europäische Literatur

       They've announced the winner of this year's Austrian State Prize for European literature, the leading limited-to-Europeans author prize, and it is Ali Smith.

       It's been far too long since I covered any of her works, but several are under review at the complete review:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       American Academy of Arts and Letters awards

       The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced its 2022 awards in literature, with sixteen writers being honored.
       Among the winners: the Award of Merit for Poetry goes to Stephen Dobyns; the Katherine Anne Porter Award goes to Lynne Tillman; and the Thornton Wilder Prize for Translation goes to Edith Grossman.

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

       Salka Valka review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness' early novel, Salka Valka, in a new translation by Philip Roughton; it's already out in the UK, from Vintage Classics, and due out in the US in May, from Archipelago Books.
       The previous translation, F.H.Lyon's from 1936, was second-hand, via the Danish translation, so it's great to have one directly from the Icelandic.

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

11 March 2022 - Friday

International Booker Prize longlist | Wortmeldungen-Literaturpreis

       International Booker Prize longlist

       They've announced the thirteen-title-strong longlist for the International Booker Prize:
  • After The Sun by Jonas Eika, translated by Sherilyn Nicolette Hellberg

  • The Book of Mother by Violaine Huisman, translated by Leslie Camhi

  • The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft

  • Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur

  • Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Frances Riddle

  • Happy Stories, Mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu, translated by Tiffany Tsao

  • Heaven by Kawakami Mieko, translated by Samuel Bett and David Boyd

  • Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park, translated by Anton Hur

  • More Than I Love My Life by David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen

  • A New Name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls

  • Paradais by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes

  • Phenotypes by Paulo Scott, translated by Daniel Hahn

  • Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated by Daisy Rockwell
       Remember, this prize is for books published in the UK -- and whose author and translator are both alive (i.e. no translations of old classics are eligible).
       An impressive showing by smaller publishers -- including three titles each published by Tilted Axis Press and Fitzcarraldo, as well as titles by Honford Star, Lolli Edition, and Charco Press -- and translator Anton Hur has two titles on the list. Neat also to see the prize ranging far beyond just the European.
       Disappointingly, I've only seen one title beyond the two already under review at the complete review; I'm not holding my breath about being able to get my hands on any of the others anytime soon .....

       The shortlist will be announced 7 April, and the winner on 26 May.

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


       The Wortmeldungen-Literaturpreis is a German prize for a short, critical non-fiction text -- paying out an impressive €35,000, making it one of the richest literary prizes going, reckoned per word. (This year's winning text is 3800 words long -- that works out to more than US$l10 per word.)
       They've now announced this year's winner, and it is 'Die Verteidigung der Poesie in Zeiten dauernden Exils' ('The defense of poetry in times of enduring exile'), by Belarusian author Volha Hapeyeva; you can read the whole (German) text here (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).
       Some of Hapeyeva's work has been translated into English as well; see, for example, the chapbook In my Garden of Mutants; see the Arc publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

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