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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 July 2023

1 July: New Hungarian books | Through Three Rooms review
2 July: Khaled Khalifa Q & A | Rentrée littéraire numbers
3 July: Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis | French publishing numbers, 2022
4 July: The Millions' 'Most Anticipated'
5 July: Peter Bieri (1944-2023) | VCU Cabell Award | Rodrigo Rey Rosa Q & A | Personal review
6 July: German publishing numbers, 2022 | Miki Liukkonen (1989-2023) | Acquiring and editing translations
7 July: Premio Strega | Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction | CWA Daggers | Caine Prize finalists
8 July: Prix Jean Monnet de littérature européenne finalists | Matsuda Aoko Q & A
9 July: Rahul Soni Q & A | February 1933 review
10 July: Books in ... Afghanistan | The last 100 reviews

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10 July 2023 - Monday

Books in ... Afghanistan | The last 100 reviews

       Books in ... Afghanistan

       At Al Jazeera Hujjatullah Zia finds that Books are losing value in Afghanistan -- this scares me.

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

       The last 100 reviews

       Having reached 5100 review at the complete review, it's time for the next overview of the past 100 reviews -- 5001 through 5100.

       - The last 100 reviews were posted over 252 days -- considerably longer than the last 100, which were covered in a mere 207 day. One reason was the length of the books reviewed: they averaged a ridiculous 325 pages -- the most ever -- (vs. 280 for the previous hundred), far above the per-book target of 250 pages. One book was over 1000 pages (1122), and a total of seven were over 700; five books had fewer than 100 pages, with two of these coming in at 37 pages.

       - The last 100 reviews were 119,638 words long, down quite a bit from the from the previous 128,222. The longest review was 3268 words long, while a total of 10 reviews were over 2000 words long (one of them coming in at 2999 words)

       - Reviewed books were originally written in 25 different languages (including English), with English again by far the most popular language, with 33 titles, followed by German (13), and then Japanese (10.5 each) and French (10). One new language was added -- Esperanto ! -- bringing the total number of languages represented to 85. (See also the updated full breakdown of all the languages books under review were originally written in.)

       - Male-written books continued to be in the (super-)majority, but the 29 out of 100 written by women was the all-time high (twice previously it's been 28). This was also the first 100 reviews with an author identifying as neither specifically male nor female. The historic sexist average of written-by-women titles under review has now crept up to ... 17.22 per cent.

       - No books were rated 'A+' or 'A'; ten titles were rated 'A-'. The lowest-rated titles were five rated 'B-'.

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

9 July 2023 - Sunday

Rahul Soni Q & A | February 1933 review

       Rahul Soni Q & A

       I reviewed Rahul Soni's translation of Shrikant Verma's Magadh when it came out, almost a decade ago, and apparently he's now published a revised translation, and at Sayari Debnath now talks to him: "about revisiting Magadh after a decade, his translating philosophy, editing translations, and what makes him take on a translation project", in ‘I find the constraints of the original text liberating to work with’: Translator Rahul Soni.

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

       February 1933 review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Uwe Wittstock on The Winter of Literature, in February 1933, recently out from Polity.

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

8 July 2023 - Saturday

Prix Jean Monnet de littérature européenne finalists
Matsuda Aoko Q & A

       Prix Jean Monnet de littérature européenne finalists

       They've announced the three finalists for the prix Jean Monnet de littérature européenne -- Colm Tóibín's The Magician, Bernhard Schlink's Die Enkelin, and Amélie Nothomb's Le Livre des sœurs.

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

       Matsuda Aoko Q & A

       At PEN Transmissions they have I’m Not Trying to Write Japanese Literature Per Se: Aoko Matsuda in Conversation with Polly Barton
       Matsuda comments on the Akutagawa Prize and its role in the Japanese literary world:
The page-count limit for the Akutagawa means you start conceiving stories and writing in a way that fits that prize, and I feel like it’s really unhealthy. I don’t want to be in that kind of environment. I just want to write the things I believe I really should write.
It’s so rare for the Akutagawa to be awarded to experimental novels that are actually doing something new. There’s a real style for Akutagawa books, and I don’t find it very interesting. Barely any books I’ve liked have won.

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

7 July 2023 - Friday

Premio Strega | Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction
CWA Daggers | Caine Prize finalists

       Premio Strega

       They've announced the winner of this year's Premio Strega, the leading Italian literary prize, and it is Come d'aria by Ada D'Adamo; see also the Elliot Edizioni publicity page. Among the noteworthy points about the winner: she's deceased, having passed away earlier this year. (Many literary prizes won't consider dead authors, from the Nobel to the Booker.)
       It was a pretty narrow win -- the winning title got 185 votes, to 170 for La traversata notturna by Andrea Canobbio; those two were ahead of the rest of the pack, with more than twice the votes the fourth-place title got.

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

       Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction

       They've announced that this year's Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction will go to ... George Saunders.
       The choice was apparently up to the Librarian of Congress -- Carla Hayden, who selected Saunders from "more than 88 distinguished literary figures".
       Saunders will be honored on 12 August.

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

       CWA Daggers

       The Crime Writers' Association has announced the winners of this year's CWA Dagger Awards.
       The CWA Gold Dagger went to The Kingdoms of Savannah, by George Dawes Green
       The Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger went to Even the Darkest Night by Javier Cercas, in Anne McLean's translation.

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

       Caine Prize finalists

       They've announced the five works shortlisted for this year's AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, a leading short story prize for African writers.
       You can read the stories -- in the dreaded pdf format -- here.
       The winner will be announced 2 October.

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

6 July 2023 - Thursday

German publishing numbers, 2022 | Miki Liukkonen (1989-2023)
Acquiring and editing translations

       German publishing numbers, 2022

       At Börsenblatt Christina Schulte runs down the German publishing numbers for 2022.
       Turnover was down -- but up in three categories, including 'Belletristik' (basically, adult fiction) and, especially, travel books (up 16.5 per cent).
       E-book sales were up slightly, but are still only 6 per cent of the market; while growth in audiobooks has continued to be strong.
       Disappointingly, the number of book-buyers continues to decline -- down to 39 per cent of the population age ten and over.
       At least the number of titles published has increased, after dropping precipitously in 2021; in 2022 64,278 new titles were published.
       The number of translated titles published was up an impressive 8 per cent, to 9403; unfortunately, they don't offer a more detailed breakdown of what languages these are from.
       Meanwhile, interest in German titles abroad declined steeply -- down 14.4 per cent, to 6655 titles sold abroad.

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

       Miki Liukkonen (1989-2023)

       Up and coming Finnish author Miki Liukkonen has passed away; see the (Finnish) WSOY press release or the AFP report, Finnish literary star Miki Liukkonen dies aged 33.
       None of his work appears to have been translated into English yet, but his massive O, which made several prize-shortlists, was recently translated into French and seems to have made quite an impression; see also the Bonnier rights page for it.
       See also the WSOY author page for more information about him and his works.

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

       Acquiring and editing translations

       At the Booker Prizes site: "Max Porter explains the process behind the publication of The Vegetarian", the Han Kang novel, in Max Porter on publishing The Vegetarian: 'Everyone agreed that this was an important book'.

       So much to say about this ... and to shake one's (or at least my) head at the publishing-acquisition-process, especially of foreign works. Really, it's amazing this 'business' works at all ..... (But, as I've often noted, I obviously don't understand it at all.)
       Admirably, Porter does address many of the issues around publishing literature in translation -- and this particular book.
       Still, I have... difficulties with Porter's admission:
I edited the translation, which surprised the author. I believe that a book being re-written in a new language deserves and benefits from editorial scrutiny in that language, so we tweaked a few things. It is a different book, needing different pacing, different tools for exposition, dialogue and lyricism as well as for political, social or emotional specificity. Korean and English are also profoundly different languages, so there is no point striving for fidelity or exactitude; the translator needs to create a new but related book that succeeds as an English language novel.
       'A new but related book' ? I know this is the popular and prevailing view of translation nowadays -- and Porter admits: "The book found many readers, which is the most important thing". Of course: publishing is a business -- even for all those so-called non-profits ... -- and if books are your product, you want to find readers (well book-buyers, but close enough ...); you want to make your product as consumer-friendly as possible.
       I understand that (as-close-as-possible-)fidelity-to-the-text in translation is way out of fashion nowadays -- but I wish the pendulum were swinging a bit more back in that direction, especially with texts from more 'foreign' languages and cultures. What I'd give for more books that were truer to the original (yes, yes, I know that's a complicated-verging-on-silly concept ....), rather than crowd-pleasing adaptations .....
       Much as I love translators and what they do, and I know they are doing (most of the time ...) what they think is best for the text and its potential readers, and as pleased as I am that they are getting more recognition -- including acknowledgment of their part in (re)creating the work on the covers of books and elsewhere --, deep down I long for the invisibility of the translator. Mind you, I've long also argued for the invisibility of the author -- I think far too much attention is paid to who the writer is, and that biography (and head-shots) play much too large a role in the reception of books.
       The text is what matters, only the text -- and, yes, I know that the idea of 'original' or 'definitive' texts is ... problematic, especially when dealing with translation. But still, but still .....

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

5 July 2023 - Wednesday

Peter Bieri (1944-2023) | VCU Cabell Award
Rodrigo Rey Rosa Q & A | Personal review

       Peter Bieri (1944-2023)

       Swiss philosopher Peter Bieri -- better-known under the name under which he published his novels, Pascal Mercier -- has passed away; see, for example, the SWI report.
       His best-known novel is under review at the complete review -- Night Train to Lisbon.

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

       VCU Cabell Award

       I missed this last week, but they've announced the winner of this year's VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and it is The Rabbit Hutch, by Tess Gunty, which has already racked up quite a few awards, including the 2022 National Book Award for Fiction. And it is just out in paperback.
       I haven't seen this yet, but see the publicity pages from Vintage and Oneworld, or get your copy at, or

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

       Rodrigo Rey Rosa Q & A

       At The Brooklyn Rail Tobias Carroll has a Q & A with Rodrigo Rey Rosa, whose The Country of Toó is due out shortly from Biblioasis; see also their publicity page
       I have a copy of this one and should be getting to it soon; three of his titles are already under review at the complete review; e.g. Severina.

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

       Personal review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Lee Child's nineteenth Jack Reacher novel, the 2014 Personal.

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

4 July 2023 - Tuesday

The Millions' 'Most Anticipated'

       The Millions' 'Most Anticipated'

       At The Millions they now have their list of the Most Anticipated: The Great 2023B Book Preview for the second half of the year, with 171 titles on offer.
       US-focused, of course -- and while there are certainly many titles of interest, note that there are a lot more to look out for.

       Among the biggest missing titles: Dalkey Archive Press' re-issue of Marguerite Young's Miss MacIntosh, My Darling; see their publicity page. (They do list the Dalkey re-issue of David Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress.)
       Also; two from Other Press (which I recently got ARCs of): Mohamed Mbougar Sarr's prix Goncourt-winning The Most Secret Memory of Men (publicity page) and Giuliano da Empoli's already much-discussed The Wizard of the Kremlin (publicity page).
       And what about Michael Brodsky's Invidicum, coming from Tough Poets Press (publicity page) ?

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

3 July 2023 - Monday

Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis | French publishing numbers, 2022


       They held the Tage der deutschsprachigen Literatur -- 'days of German literature' -- over the weekend. The centerpiece is the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, where authors read out their texts and are judged on the spot; this year's winner is Valeria Gordeev. with the text Er putzt (warning ! dreaded pdf format !).

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

       French publishing numbers, 2022

       The French publishers' association -- the Syndicat national de l’édition -- has now published the publishing-numbers (chiffre d'affaires des éditeurs) for France for 2022 -- see the (French) summary, or download the summary report. (The full report is only available to subscribers.)
       Apparently 2021 was a banner year -- that's how they're spinning all the declines in 2022. Units shifted fell from 486.1 million (2021) to 448.5 million (2022).
       Title-wise, the number of new titles fell (from 39,903 to 38,743), while re-issues rose (69,577 to 72,760) -- but the number of copies of those new titles remained basically unchanged, while 6.14 per cent fewer copies of re-issues were sold in 2022,
       E-books saw some gains, but still make up only 10.32 per cent of all books sold.
       Of particular interest: the translation numbers. The total number of translations was down -- to 11,185, from 12,360 in 2021 -- with a stunning 58.7 per cent translations from English (a total of 6,562 titles). The second most-translated-from language was Japanese, at 17.6% -- way ahead of third-place German (4.5 per cent). Of course, the Japanese totals were helped by graphic works -- 1,794 of the 1,967 translations from Japanese were 'bande dessinée'. (Sixty per cent of the graphic translations were translations from the Japanese.)
       Fiction made up 28 per cent of all translations, 'bande dessinée' 26, and children's/YA works 12 (dominated by translations from the English -- 76 per cent).

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

2 July 2023 - Sunday

Khaled Khalifa Q & A | Rentrée littéraire numbers

       Khaled Khalifa Q & A

       In The Observer Michael Safi has a Q & A with Syrian author Khaled Khalifa: ‘All the places of my childhood are destroyed’.
       His work is apparently banned in Syria -- though he has continued to live in Damascus even the past few years.

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

       Rentrée littéraire numbers

       The 'rentrée littéraire', when French publishers flood the market with their top fiction offerings, is set to start next month, and Livres Hebdo have the first numbers: there will be 321 French novels (74 of them debuts) and 145 in translation.
       The total of 466 is down some five per cent from last year's total of 490, and continues a longtime decline -- and is far from the 2010 record of 701 titles ..... Not a great sign .....
       See, for example, the AFP report at Le Figaro , La rentrée littéraire de 2023 est «la moins prolifique du siècle».

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

1 July 2023 - Saturday

New Hungarian books | Through Three Rooms review

       New Hungarian books

       At hlo they offer a: "selection from the 645 new books launched for the Festive Book Week, recommended by Csaba Károlyi, deputy editor-in-chief of literary and cultural periodical Élet és irodalom", in New Releases from the 2023 Festive Book Week
       Quite a selection; maybe we'll see some of these in English eventually.

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

       Through Three Rooms review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of An Asbjørn Krag Mystery by Sven Elvestad, Through Three Rooms -- recently out from new micro-press Kabaty Press

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

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