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

The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 31 May 2022

21 May: Translation in ... India | Dorothy Project profile | Tomb of Sand review
22 May: Sophie Kerr Prize | Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize shortlist
23 May: International Prize for Arabic Fiction | Prayer-Cushions of the Flesh review
24 May: Dublin Literary Award | The Goatibex Constellation review
25 May: Internationaler Literaturpreis shortlist | Miles Franklin longlist | Publishing in ... Ukraine
26 May: Yesterday review
27 May: International Booker Prize | Shaun Whiteside Q & A
28 May: Arunava Sinha Q & A | Writing in ... Burma | Finding fiction in translation
29 May: Geoff Dyer: Q & A | Publishing in ... Turkey
30 May: Publishing in ... Ukraine | Writing in translation | A Word Child review
31 May: Deutscher Sachbuch Preis | Abu Dhabi International Book Fair | Contemporary book editing | Sebald Lecture

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31 May 2022 - Tuesday

Deutscher Sachbuch Preis | Abu Dhabi International Book Fair
Contemporary book editing | Sebald Lecture

       Deutscher Sachbuch Preis

       They've announced the winner of this year's German Non-Fiction Prize, which is meant to: "honour outstanding non-fiction books written in German that inspire social debate", and it is Die Hohenzollern und die Nazis. Geschichte einer Kollaboration; see also the Propyläen Verlag publicity page.

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

       Abu Dhabi International Book Fair

       At Stefan Weidner reports on the recent Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, in Arabic literature, criticism and commerce.
       Among the observations:
One game-changer could be the promotion of translations by Arab states. But this is precisely the problem: the translation funding that is available in Abu Dhabi, for example, does not offer publishers the opportunity to discover books on their own and then apply for funding for these titles, as the Europeans or Israel do with their literature and translation funding. Abu Dhabi only promotes titles that committees set up specifically for this purpose propose for translation and want to see translated. But since publishers do not like to be told what to publish, such funding tends to come to nothing.

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

       Contemporary book editing

       In The Bookseller Lauren Brown reports on a paywalled article in The Times, reporting that (Alex Rider-series author Anthony) Horowitz ‘shocked’ at notes for new book, saying children’s publishers scared of causing offence, as:
Anthony Horowitz has said “children’s publishers are more scared than anybody” when it comes to so-called cancel culture, saying he was shocked when receiving the notes for his new work.
       Details would, of course, be helpful, but, yes, it doesn't sound good:
“What is happening to writers is extremely dangerous,” he continued, “where certain words are hidden, where certain thoughts are not allowed any more, where certain activities [are not allowed], obviously to do with gender or to with ethnicity or to do with trying to share the experiences of others.”

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

       Sebald Lecture

       The Sebald Lecture will be given tomorrow, by Lydia Davis -- and you can watch live online, if you register.
       Davis will be:
reflecting back over her distinguished career as a translator from French, and discussing her recent collection Essays Two, about translation and foreign language-learning.

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

30 May 2022 - Monday

Publishing in ... Ukraine | Writing in translation | A Word Child review

       Publishing in ... Ukraine

       At Publishers Weekly Ed Nawotka looks at The War's Toll on Ukrainian Publishers.
       It relies on a survey conducted from 26 March to 8 April -- a long time ago, given the current circumstances -- but is still of some interest.

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

       Writing in translation

       Pamela Paul -- the former editor of The New York Times Book Review -- is now an opinion-columnist at the paper, and her piece this week argues we should Stop Pretending All Books Are Written in English, taking up the case for translators getting proper credit, which is certainly a worthy cause
       I would suggest that if you're going to point out: "Remember The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the runaway Nordic best seller ? No translator on the cover" you might want to also address and acknowledge other translator issues -- like the fact that the translator, Steven T. Murray, insisted on a pseudonym (Reg Keeland) because of ... editorial differences with the publisher; the published English version appears to be a perversion of the original (see, for example, Kajsa Paludan's thesis, Lisbeth Salander Lost In Translation (warning ! dreaded pdf format !)).

       (Meanwhile, what the hell is up with finding P-Paul's replacement ? The position at the NYTBR appears to still be open. I guess it's harder finding "someone uninterested in puffery and cliché" than expected.)

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

       A Word Child review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Iris Murdoch's 1975 novel A Word Child.

       I always wondered about variations on the 'What book should nobody read until the age of X ?'-question (as is asked, for example, in The New York Times Book Review's By the Book questionnaire (their age X being 40)). I read a ton of so-called 'inappropriate' books in my teens but, from Ayn Rand to The 120 Days of Sodom, I don't think the reading experiences were in any way damaging or disturbingly confusing; I always found obsessiveness and excess, in particular, whether of violence, sex, or ideological purity hard to take too seriously. But I have to admit, I think this one would been probably thrown me, the adults and relationships in A Word Child just too strange and outlandish (and yet somehow plausible enough) to be able to process; it likely would have presented me with more questions about the would-be adult world than I would have been able to handle.
       Old and now familiar both with more of Murdoch's work (and her characters and their peculiarities) as well as would-be adults in general, the novel couldn't shake me nearly as much -- though it is still profoundly weird -- but, yes, I have to admit I'm relieved I didn't come across it a few decades sooner.

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

29 May 2022 - Sunday

Geoff Dyer: Q & A | Publishing in ... Turkey

       Geoff Dyer: Q & A

       At The Guardian Anthony Cummins has a Q & A with Geoff Dyer: ‘I’m convinced Roger Federer and I could become great friends’.
       The most interesting response:
This is your eighth book since you last published a novel. Have you given up writing fiction ?

Pretty much. I’ve written all these books with an incredibly wide range of subject matter, but my novels can be summarised in a couple of sentences: guy goes to a party, meets girl with a group of friends, falls in love. That’s all I had. What I like the idea of doing next is an English version of Annie Ernaux’s The Years, to record some aspects of my very ordinary 1960s childhood in the working-class, semi-rural world that formed me, and which seems to have disappeared.
       I've enjoyed Dyer's novels, but I appreciate when an author doesn't force the issue; far too many don't and keep churning out all too similar novels, to no good end. (That said, he's certainly setting the bar high in hoping to emulate Ernaux .....)

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

       Publishing in ... Turkey

       At the beginning of the year I mentioned Mefaret Aktas' piece on Turkish lira: Book publishers pushed to brink by currency crisis in Middle East Eye , and now Kaya Genç has a follow-up at Al Jazeera, In Turkey, book publishers face agonising choices to survive.
       As he notes: "These are worrying developments for a $1bn industry". Hopefully, the longterm damage to the industry won't be too catastrophic.

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

28 May 2022 - Saturday

Arunava Sinha Q & A | Writing in ... Burma
Finding fiction in translation

       Arunava Sinha Q & A

       At the Hindustan Times Chintan Girish Modi has an Interview: Arunava Sinha, Translator, winner of the 6th Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator Award 2022 – “I’m very hopeful for the future of translations”.
       Sinha does note:
Not too many South Asian books in translation have been published yet in other English-language speaking countries.
       But he remains optimistic:
We will find ways to get translations out to readers. Digital technologies now allow low-cost publishing as well, so I'm very hopeful for the future of translations.

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

       Writing in ... Burma

       The Irrawaddy reports that Ex-Myanmar Military Officers to Head Press and Literary Bodies, which does not sound good.
U Myo Tun, a poet who uses the names Maung Sein Naung Lewe, worked for the Directorate of Public Relations and Psychological Warfare at the Defense Ministry. Their public profile is low.
       The directorate for public relations is also responsible for ... psychological warfare ? Yeah, I can imagine they'd want to keep a low profile .....
       Far too little literature from Burma makes it into English translation; the current situation of course makes it even less likely we'll get to see more anytime soon.

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

       Finding fiction in translation

       In The Bookseller Megan Clarke makes the case that Readers want translated fiction, so let's make it easy to find.
       Among her observations:
A key finding was that one of the roadblocks was a lack of communication between sectors and departments. This led decision-makers to act on often inaccurate assumptions about the market and other players in the translation process. This means that decisions are highly idiosyncratic and dependent upon individual beliefs and experiences
       'Inaccurate assumptions about the market' seems par for the course for professionals in publishing, as best as I can tell, so this isn't exactly a surprise (nor really a solution: I don't think they'll ever get it).
       But good to see that basically no one is actively opposed to reading something in translation: "just 1.03% said they would not be open to reading in translation".

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

27 May 2022 - Friday

International Booker Prize | Shaun Whiteside Q & A

       International Booker Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's International Booker Prize, and it is Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree and translated by Daisy Rockwell, who share the £50,000 prize money.
       Good to see a novel originally written in an Indian language get this kind of recognition -- though I'm still baffled why it got so little attention when it came out in the UK last year. Tilted Axis originally brought this out, but it only really started to get significant review coverage when this translation came out in India earlier this year, from Penguin India. (There will presumably now also soon be a US edition; at least that should then get some review attention, on the back of this prize-win.)
       I hope this leads to more translations from India being published in the US/UK, but I'm not as optimistic as many seem to be .....

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

       Shaun Whiteside Q & A

       At New Books in German Helen Nurse has an Interview with translator Shaun Whiteside.
       Among his observations:
This is part of the problem of being a translator. You’re not necessarily the kind of personality that wants the limelight all the time. And maybe that’s why, speaking personally to some extent, you got into translation rather than something else in the first place. However, on behalf of all other translators, I think it’s probably one of those things that you have to take on board. You have to say, I’m not just doing this for me, I’m doing it for my colleagues as well.

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

26 May 2022 - Thursday

Yesterday review

       Yesterday review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Juan Emar's 1935 novel Yesterday -- the first of his works available in English.
       Peirene brought this out in the UK last year, and now a US edition is out, from New Directions.

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

25 May 2022 - Wednesday

Internationaler Literaturpreis shortlist | Miles Franklin longlist
Publishing in ... Ukraine

       Internationaler Literaturpreis shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Haus der Kulturen der Welt Internationaler Literaturpreis, a leading prize for a: "work of contemporary international literature that has been translated into German for the first time"
       One of the six shortlisted titles is a translation from English -- Aleksandar Hemon's My Parents: An Introduction / This Does Not Belong to You. Other titles includes books by Can Xue and Adania Shibli -- and I'm particularly curious about Juhani Karila's Pienen hauen pyydystys, forthcoming in English from Restless Books (in the US) and Pushkin Press (in the UK); see also the Helsinki Literary Agency information page.
       The winner will be announced 22 June.

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

       Miles Franklin longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award, a leading Australian novel prize.
       Works by some familiar names here, including Michelle de Kretser, and John Hughes.
       The shortlist will be announced on 23 June 2022 and the winner on 20 July.

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

       Publishing in ... Ukraine

       At Deutsche Welle Anastassia Boutsko reports that a Ukrainian publishing house makes books to survive -- Kharkiv-based Vivat
       Ed Nawotka had a Q & A with CEO Yulia Orlova at Publishers Weekly two months ago, Ukraine's Vivat Publishing House Fights to Survive.

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

24 May 2022 - Tuesday

Dublin Literary Award | The Goatibex Constellation review

       Dublin Literary Award

       They've announced the winner of this year's Dublin Literary Award, and it is The Art of Losing, by Alice Zeniter. This is a work in translation so admirably the prize money will be split, €75,000 going to author Zeniter and €25,000 to translator Frank Wynne.

       I do have a copy of this, but haven't gotten to it yet; meanwhile, see the publicity pages at Picador (US) and Picador (UK), or get your copy at, or

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

       The Goatibex Constellation review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Fazil Iskander's 1966 novel, The Goatibex Constellation.

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

23 May 2022 - Monday

International Prize for Arabic Fiction | Prayer-Cushions of the Flesh review

       International Prize for Arabic Fiction

       They've announced the winner of this year's International Prize for Arabic Fiction, the leading Arabic fiction prize, and it is خبز على طاولة الخال ميلاد ('Bread on Uncle Milad's Table') by Mohamed Alnaas -- a debut novel.
       The prize also provides funding for an English translation, so we can expect to see this in English in a few years.

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

       Prayer-Cushions of the Flesh review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Robert Irwin's 1997 novel, Prayer-Cushions of the Flesh.

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

22 May 2022 - Sunday

Sophie Kerr Prize | Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize shortlist

       Sophie Kerr Prize

       They announced the winner of this year's Sophie Kerr Prize -- the biggest undergraduate writing prize awarded in the United States -- on Friday, and it is Teddy L. Friedline, whose portfolio has won them a tidy US$68,292.
       You can find examples of their work at their official site.

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

       Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize shortlist

       They've now announced the shortlist for this year's Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, awarded for a translation: "into English from any living European language".
       The only one of the shortlisted titles under review at the complete review is Rachael McGill's translation of Co-Wives, Co-Widows by Adrienne Yabouza.
       The winner will be announced 11 June.

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

21 May 2022 - Saturday

Translation in ... India | Dorothy Project profile | Tomb of Sand review

       Translation in ... India

       In The Hindu they present Dropping their invisibility: 12 Indian translators discuss their forthcoming works.
       Some interesting projects and comments -- and let's hope we can see some of these in the US/UK, too .....

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

       Dorothy Project profile

       At Publishers Weekly John Maher profiles Dorothy, a (Successful, Experimental) Publishing Project -- the feminist independent press run by Danielle Dutton and Martin Riker, Dorothy, a Publishing Project.

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

       Tomb of Sand review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Geetanjali Shree's Tomb of Sand.

       This came out from Tilted Axis Press last year -- and, recently, from Penguin India -- and is on the shortlist for the to-be-announced-next-week International Booker Prize, the first translation from the Hindi to make the shortlist.
       Its long- and short-listing got a decent amount of attention, and with the Indian edition there have been more newspaper reviews, but I am a bit surprised to see that it hasn't been covered or reviewed more widely in the British (much less American) press.
       A decade ago Tim Parks wondered [$] in The New York Review of Books why works available in English translation, including Geetanjali Shree's Mai, don't: "have the same international success as works by Anglo-Indian authors like Rushdie, Vikram Seth, and Arundhati Roy", and it continues to be an issue. Much of it still has to do with availability: a great deal of literature in Indian languages has been translated -- locally -- into English, but little has seeped beyond India's (and Pakistan's and Bangladesh's) borders. (I haven't seen Mai, but have reviewed another Shree title, The Empty Space, published by one of the few India-based publishers with some international distribution, Seagull Books.)
       The problem seems to be two-fold: publishers aren't picking up US/UK rights for these often already-translated titles -- and the media isn't covering the few that do (like Tomb of Sand) very well ......
       In a recent interview, the translator of Tomb of Sand, Daisy Rockwell addresses some of this:
(T)he fact is that international publishers have just had no interest at all in Indian translations. So everyone I know has tried. We've all tried different ways with agents, directly networking, but hardly anything has been published outside of India. So there's this huge amount going on inside of India, and in Pakistan and Bangladesh to a lesser degree. And it's not getting out at all and nobody wants it.
       As she notes, with some frustration, it would be so easy:
(T)here's just so much available. They don't even have to do anything. They can just call Penguin Random House or HarperCollins and say, ‘send me your list and I'll pick what I want.’ It's already been translated and edited.
       I really don't know what the answer is here. Certainly, an International Booker Prize win might help raise the profile of Indian-language fiction -- but I don't know that it's enough. Brief previous enthusiasms about translations from South and South-East Asia seem to have flamed out stunningly speedily, and given the mainstream press' reluctance to engage with this work so far .....

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

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