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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 January 2023

11 January: NEA grants | 2022 in review at the complete review
12 January: Assigned in college English Literature classes | New Ko Un books
13 January: Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize | Ross Benjamin Q & A | The Custom of the Country review
14 January: New Ogawa Yōko | Idol, Burning review
15 January: Bret Easton Ellis Q & A | North Korean fiction
16 January: Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards | Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize shortlists | Mr. Breakfast review
17 January: T.S.Eliot Prize | So Distant From My Life review
18 January: American Akutagawa contender ? | Wortmeldungen-Literaturpreis shortlist
19 January: Literature from ... Japan | National Jewish Book Awards | die verbesserung von mitteleuropa, roman review
20 January: Japanese literary prizes | Edgar® Awards finalists | Baillie Gifford best-of award

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20 January 2023 - Friday

Japanese literary prizes | Edgar® Awards finalists
Baillie Gifford best-of award

       Japanese literary prizes

       The leading Japanese literary prizes, the Akutagawa and the Naoki Prizes, are biannual, announced twice a year, and they've now announced the most recent batch of winners -- doubling down with both prizes having co-winners this time around; see for example mentions here and here.
       The Akutagawa Prize went to Sato Atsushi for 荒地の家族 ('Families of the Wasteland'; see also the Shinchosha publicity page) and Idogawa Iko for この世の喜びよ ('Joy of the World'; see also the Kodansha publicity page). (The American contender -- see my previous mention -- fell short.)
       The Naoki Prize went to Ogawa Satoshi for 地図と拳 ('Map and Fist'; see also the Shueisha publicity page ) and Chihaya Akane for しろがねの葉 ('Shirogane Leaf'; see also the Shinchosha publicity page).

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

       Edgar® Awards finalists

       The Mystery Writers of America have announced the finalists for this year's Edgar Allan Poe Awards.
       Lots of categories -- but I haven't seen any of these.
       The winners will be announced 27 April.

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

       Baillie Gifford best-of award

       The Baillie Gifford Prize, a leading non-fiction prize, has announced that it is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a best-of prize, pitting the winners from 1999 to 2022 against each other.
       During most of this time (1999 to 2015) this prize was known as the Samuel Johnson Prize; the only winning title under review at the complete review is Jonathan Coe's B.S.Johnson-biography, Like a Fiery Elephant.
       The winner will be announced on 27 April.

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

19 January 2023 - Thursday

Literature from ... Japan | National Jewish Book Awards
die verbesserung von mitteleuropa, roman review

       Literature from ... Japan

       At The Federal Nawaid Anjum looks at What has led to the great resurgence of literature from Japan.

       There is, of course, quite a bit of Japanese literature under review at the complete review.

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

       National Jewish Book Awards

       The Jewish Book Council has announced the winners of this year's (American) National Jewish Book Awards; there are many, many categories.
       The Hebrew Fiction in Translation category was won by Love by Maayan Eitan, in the author's own translation.
       The Fiction category winner was Signal Fires, by Dani Shapiro.
       Koshersoul by Michael W. Twitty was named Jewish Book of the Year.

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

       die verbesserung von mitteleuropa, roman review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Oswald Wiener's 1969 novel, die verbesserung von mitteleuropa, roman.

       This is among the most significant post-war German works of fiction that hasn't yet been translated into English -- though admittedly not a very widely-read one. As I have mentioned before, this strikes me as the ultimate Dalkey Archive Press title -- I'm surprised they haven't had a go at it.

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

18 January 2023 - Wednesday

American Akutagawa contender ? | Wortmeldungen-Literaturpreis shortlist

       American Akutagawa contender ?

       They're announcing the winner of the 168th round of the Akutagawa Prize -- the leading Japanese literary prize (with sixteen winning titles under review at the complete review), and among the finalists is グレゴリー・ケズナジャット, with his story 開墾地 (see also the Kodansha publicity page). That would be Gregory Khezrnejat -- leading Thu-Huong Ha to ask in The Japan Times Could the Akutagawa Prize get its first American winner ?
       He wouldn't be the first foreign-born winner -- Li Kotomi won just two years ago -- and he's certainly not the first American to publish a work in Japanese -- see, for example, Hideo Levy's A Room Where the Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard. Still, this is certainly something to watch.

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

       Wortmeldungen-Literaturpreis shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Wortmeldungen literary prize, a €35,000 prize for a short critical German text -- between 8 and 25 pages in length --, making it one of the richest literary prizes going, in prize-money-per-word terms.
       Finalists include texts by Atlas of Remote Islands-author Judith Schalansky and Mörikes Schlüsselbein-author Olga Martynova; all five texts can be read via the links on the announcement-page.
       The winning text will be announced in March.

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

17 January 2023 - Tuesday

T.S.Eliot Prize | So Distant From My Life review

       T.S.Eliot Prize

       They've announced the winner of the £25,000 2022 T.S.Eliot Prize, and it is Sonnets for Albert by Anthony Joseph.
       See also the Bloomsbury publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       So Distant From My Life review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Monique Ilboudo's So Distant From My Life, recently out from Tilted Axis Press.

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

16 January 2023 - Monday

Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards | Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize shortlists
Mr. Breakfast review

       Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards, a leading Iranian literary prize; the official site is down as I write this, but see, for example, the Tehran Times report, Book viewing Baha'i faith as political body wins Jalal Literary Award.
       Disappointingly: "The novel category had no winner".

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

       Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for this year's Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature
       Established: "to recognize writing in African languages and encourage translation from, between, and into African languages", it is for unpublished manuscripts in Kiswahili.
       The winners will be announced on 25 January.

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

       Mr. Breakfast review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jonathan Carroll's latest novel, Mr. Breakfast.

       This actually came out in both Polish and Italian translation in 2020 already -- but the original English version is only being published now, by Melville House.

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

15 January 2023 - Sunday

Bret Easton Ellis Q & A | North Korean fiction

       Bret Easton Ellis Q & A

       Bret Easton Ellis' first novel in over a decade, The Shards, is just out, and at The Guardian Anthony Cummins has a Q & A with him, in Bret Easton Ellis: ‘James and the Giant Peach changed my life’.
       Among the points of interest: he switched UK publishers, from longtime publisher Picador (UK):
They didn’t want it! I’d been with them since I was 21 but something felt broken. They made a lowball offer and my agency made this decision to take a risk trying a new kind of deal [with Swift Press]. There is this antiquated notion in traditional publishing: “Give the big fat advance! Never make it back ! Promote a book that will never make anyone any money once that advance is given up!” What if you partner with a publisher, don’t take an advance and work together selling the product ? Start making money for the house and yourself from book one.
       Of course, he's hedging his bets with this one -- no doubt, there was a nice fat advance from the US publisher of this one (Knopf). But maybe it'll pay off for him .....

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

       North Korean fiction

       We see far too little fiction from North Korea, but at least we get the occasional glimpses of some of the writing there at the invaluable North Korean Literature in English-weblog, where we can now read about Chŏng Ki Jong's 2012 novel 운명 ('Fate'), in Fate (#1): Did Kim Il Sung lure Che Guevara to his death ?.
       Wondering: "Is Kim Il Sung the Yoko Ono of the Cuban revolutionary leadership?" and finding that: "This is an important novel, by an important author, that came out in an important year", this is certainly worth a look.

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

14 January 2023 - Saturday

New Ogawa Yōko | Idol, Burning review

       New Ogawa Yōko

       Although several of Ogawa Yōko's works seem to have done very well in English translation -- from The Housekeeper and the Professor to The Memory Police --, an enormous amount of her output has not yet been translated. A growing amount, no less, as her latest is out in Japan, with Takino Yūsaku reporting on 掌に眠る舞台 -- see the Shūeisha publicity page -- at, in Ogawa Yōko's Latest Collection Offers New Glimpses at the Surreal Underbelly of Everyday Life.
       Here's hoping this -- or any of the many other still untranslated works ... -- makes it into English in the not too distant future.

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

       Idol, Burning review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Usami Rin's Akutagawa Prize-winning Idol, Burning, recently out in English.

       In A Note from the Translator, Asa Yoneda notes that this was: "the single bestselling novel published in Japanese that year" (2020), and at mailmate they sum up Japan's Top 10 Bestselling Books in 2021 by Nippan ("based on data collected from November 24, 2020 to November 21, 2021") and have it at number three among all books, reporting that it sold 520,000 copies.
       Between this sales-success and the Akutagawa-win, I'm surprised it didn't get a bit more US review-attention.

       This is also, remarkably, the sixteenth Akutagawa Prize-winning title under review at the complete review -- making this the best-covered prize at the site. By comparison, only thirteen Goncourt-winners are under review -- and only four Pulitzer Prize (for fiction) winners, and three (fiction) (US) National Book Award winners.

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

13 January 2023 - Friday

Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize | Ross Benjamin Q & A
The Custom of the Country review

       Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize

       They've announced the winners of the 2022 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation -- two winners this year, sharing the prize: Humphrey Davies' translation of Hamdi Abu Golayyel's The Men Who Swallowed the Sun and Robin Moger's translation of Mohamed Kheir's Slipping.
       This is one of the Translation Prizes hosted by the Society of Authors, with the rest of the awards to be announced at the official awards ceremony on 8 February.

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

       Ross Benjamin Q & A

       Ross Benjamin's new uncensored translation of The Diaries of Franz Kafka is just out -- see the Schocken publicity page -- and at Slate Rebecca Schuman has a Q & A with him, in Kafka Gone Wild.

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

       The Custom of the Country review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Edith Wharton's 1913 classic, The Custom of the Country, recently also re-issued in a Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition.

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

12 January 2023 - Thursday

Assigned in college English Literature classes | New Ko Un books

       Assigned in college English Literature classes

       The Pudding looks at What literature do we study from the 1990s ? looking at which books are assigned the most in college-level English Literature classes, based on Open Syllabus data.
       The sort-of-slideshow presentation of this material here is ... terribly cumbersome -- apparently this horror is a form of "longform data journalism" -- but the information is interesting. (If you make your way through you can also find top ten lists for books written in the 1980s and 2000s as sell.)
       Tim O'Brien's The Things they Carried is apparently the most-assigned 1990s title nowadays -- appearing on 2050 syllabi. The only 1990s title under review at the complete review is J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace -- number six.

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

       New Ko Un books

       In The Korea Times Kwak Yeon-soo reports that New books by disgraced poet Ko Un spark calls for boycott.
       The two books are 'Song of Nothingness' and 'Conversations with Ko Un' -- see the publicity pages at Silcheon Munhak here and here -- and they mark: "the disgraced poet's return to the literary scene following multiple sexual misconduct allegations that were brought forth against him beginning in 2017".
       Five years has clearly not been long enough for many readers, the strong reaction suggests.
       I am kind of curious about the conversation-volume .....

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

11 January 2023 - Wednesday

NEA grants | 2022 in review at the complete review

       NEA grants

       The (American) National Endowment for the Arts has announced its first round of recommended awards for fiscal year 2023 (there will be a second this summer). (The National Endowment for the Humanities has also announced their grants.)
       Lots of literary awards -- see the full list (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of grants. Among them 36 literature fellowships for Creative Writing, and 22 for Translation Projects.
       There's no convenient overview list of the translation projects, but you can click through to each one here.

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

       2022 in review at the complete review

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

       In 2022, 165 books were reviewed at the complete review, down from the 174 in 2021 and the fewest in a long time. The total number of pages of the reviewed books was slightly less than in 2021 -- 50,535, versus 51,302 -- but the average length of reviewed books was up more than ten pages, to 306.27 -- the highest average to date (and probably too high -- I should probably aim for more balance). The median length of reviewed books was up by two pages, to 242.50.
       The longest book reviewed was 1122 pages long, one of two that came in at over a thousand pages, with another seven titles 750 or more pages in length. Only five books were under 100 pages in length.

       The total number of review-words written was only 213,022 -- down considerably from 268,854 in 2021 --, with the average review-length down closer to the historic average, at 1291 (down from a 1545.14 words/review average in 2021).
       The median review-length was 1141 words, and the longest was 3387 words long, with two more reviews over 3000 words in length (and one with 2999) and 13 more over 2000 words.

       You can find the 50 most popular reviews, 2022 here.

       The most popular author pages were:
  1. Annie Ernaux
  2. Patrick White
  3. Murakami Haruki
  4. Amélie Nothomb
  5. Jonathan Coe
       (Ernaux's Nobel Prize win of course easily propelled her to the top of the list.)

       Books originally written in 34 languages (including English) were reviewed in 2022 -- up from 29 in 2021,
       The top nine languages were:
  • 1. English 60 (36.36%% of all books) (2021: 45)
  • 2. French 18 (2021: 27)
  • 3. Japanese 14 (12)
  • 4. German 12 (13)
  • 5. Spanish 11 (14)
  • 6. Russian 6
  • 7. Italian 4
  • 8. Chinese 3
  • -. Danish 3
       (There were nine languages which two books were originally written in.)

       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 2022 came from roughly 48 countries, compared to 51 in 2021. The leading countries were:
  • 1. US 25 (2021: 27)
  • 2. UK 24 (11)
  • 3. Japan 14 (12)
  • 4. France 12 (22)
  • 5. Germany 6 (6)
       (It is interesting to see that so much of the increase in written-in-English coverage is clearly of works by authors from the UK -- and that there were actaully fewer American-authored titles reviewed in 2022.)

       The ratio of male-to-female authors remains consistently poor, with reviews of only 35 titles by women writers -- 21.21%.

       Site traffic had already begun to rise significantly at the end of 2021 and continued to improve throughout the year, with total traffic up almost 70 % year-on-year.
       There were visitors from 229 countries and territories in 2022 (2021: 215); the only country with visitors in 2021 that did not register a visit in 2022 was the Marshall Islands.

       The countries from which the most traffic came were:
  1. United States (32.66%; 2021: 32.95%)
  2. India (9.55%)
  3. United Kingdom (8.99%)
  4. Philippines
  5. Canada
  6. Australia
  7. China
  8. Germany
  9. Netherlands
  10. Nigeria
       The top five nations were unchanged -- with the percentage of traffic from each also almost completely stable -- but Australia did move by China for sixth place.

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

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