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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review

1 July 2022 - Friday

Future Library profile
Großer Preis des Deutschen Literaturfonds | Grand Prix SGDL

       Future Library profile

       At the BBC Richard Fisher visits The Norwegian library with unreadable books -- the Future Library; see also my previous mention -- with the manuscripts -- one new one added each year -- that will only be made public in 2114.
       The Silent Room looks impressive.

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       Großer Preis des Deutschen Literaturfonds

       They've announced the winner of this year's Großer Preis des Deutschen Literaturfonds -- which, at €50,000 is one of the most generous German author-prizes (paying out as much as the most illustrious of them all, the Georg-Büchner-Preis) -- and it is Georg Klein.
       Klein has previously won the Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis (2000) and the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair (for Roman unserer Kindheit, in 2010), making him one of the most prominent contemporary German authors none of whose books have been translated into English. (Back in 2012 The Guardian did print his piece on The future of the novel .....)
       He gets to pick up the prize on 28 November.

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       Grand Prix SGDL

       The Société des Gens de Lettres has announced the winner of this year's Grand Prix SGDL/Ministère de la culture pour l’œuvre de traduction, a leading French translator-prize, and it is Robert Amutio -- best-known as the French translator of the works of Roberto Bolaño.

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30 June 2022 - Thursday

CWA Dagger Awards | Gordon Burn Prize longlist
In Praise of Good Bookstores review

       CWA Dagger Awards

       The Crime Writers' Association has announced the winners of this year's CWA Dagger Awards, honoring: "the very best in the crime writing genre".
       The CWA Gold Dagger, for the best crime novel, went to Sunset Swing, by Ray Celestin.
       The Dagger for Crime Fiction in Translation went to Hotel Cartagena, by Simone Buchholz, in Rachel Ward's translation.

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       Gordon Burn Prize longlist

       They've announced the longlist for this year's Gordon Burn Prize, a prize for which both fiction and non are eligible.
       The prize celebrates work: "which represents the spirit and sensibility of Gordon's literary methods". See also my reviews of three of Burn's works: Born Yesterday, Fullalove, and The North of England Home Service.

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       In Praise of Good Bookstores review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jeff Deutsch's In Praise of Good Bookstores, recently out from Princeton University Press.

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29 June 2022 - Wednesday

Q & As: Julia Sherwood - Arunava Sinha

       Q & A: Julia Sherwood

       At Radio Prague International Ruth Fraňková has a Q & A with Julia Sherwood on discovering Czech comics and on translating in tandem.

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       Q & A: Arunava Sinha

       At Firstpost. Chintan Girish Modi has a Q & A with Arunava Sinha: ‘You have to stand by the persecuted in a minority-majority situation’.

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28 June 2022 - Tuesday

Peace Prize of the German Book Trade | The Interpreter review

       Peace Prize of the German Book Trade

       They've announced that Ukrainian author Serhiy Zhadan will receive this year's Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. He gets to pick it up on 24 October, at the end of the Frankfurt Book Fair.
       Several Zhadan titles are under review at the complete review:
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       The Interpreter review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Diego Marani's The Interpreter.

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27 June 2022 - Monday

Bachmannpreis | Frank Moorhouse (1938-2022)
Sunday Times Literary Awards longlists
The Very Last Interview review


       Over the weekend they held the Tage der deutschsprachigen Literatur -- 'days of German-language literature' -- which features the (in)famous read-out-loud literary prize, the Bachmannpreis.
       This year's winner was Ana Marwan, with her text, Wechselkröte (warning ! dreaded pdf format !); see also how the judges reacted to her reading.
       Four other prizes were also handed out.

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       Frank Moorhouse (1938-2022)

       Australian author Frank Moorhouse has passed away; see, for example, obituaries in The Guardian and the Sydney Morning Herald.

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       Sunday Times Literary Awards longlists

       They've announced the longlists for this year's (South African) Sunday Times Literary Awards, in the two categories, fiction and non.
       These are very long lists; certainly, Damon Galgut's Booker-winning The Promise has to count among the fiction favorites.

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       The Very Last Interview review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of David Shields' The Very Last Interview, recently out from New York Review Books.

       (There's also a short-film adaptation of this !)

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26 June 2022 - Sunday

Marie Darrieussecq Q & A | Authors' summer reading

       Marie Darrieussecq Q & A

       In the Hindustan Times Arunima Mazumdar has a Q & A with the author, in ‘I was reborn as a writer’ - Marie Darrieussecq, author, Pig Tales.

       New to me re. Pig Tales: "Jean-Luc Godard bought the novel rights as soon as it came out, in September 1996". (But, yeah, it didn't work out.)

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       Authors' summer reading

       At The Guardian they have some picks for Summer books: Bernardine Evaristo, Hilary Mantel, David Nicholls and more pick their favourites

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25 June 2022 - Saturday

Seagull Books profile | Lysistrata review

       Seagull Books profile

       At the Literary Hub Corinne Segal continues their series Interview with an Indie Press: Seagull Books, speaking with publisher Naveen Kishore.
       The wonderful Seagull Books is celebrating its fortieth anniversary, too; they continue to have a remarkable list (though I haven't seen any of their newer ttitles in quite a while ...).

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       Lysistrata review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Aristophanes' classic, Lysistrata, in Jeffrey Henderson's translation, in the Loeb Classical Library edition.

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24 June 2022 - Friday

Europese Literatuurprijs shortlist | Miles Franklin shortlist
OED profile | Whitbread Costa book awards history

       Europese Literatuurprijs shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Europese Literatuurprijs, awarded for the best translation of a European work of fiction into Dutch; see, for example, the Dutch Foundation for Literature report.
       Only one of the five titles is a translation from English.
       The winner will be announced 5 November.

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       Miles Franklin shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award, a leading Australian novel prize.
       The five finalists include a work by a previous winner of the prize, as well as a self-published work.
       The winner will be announced 20 July.

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       OED profile

       In the New Statesman Pippa Bailey goes From aardvark to woke: inside the Oxford English Dictionary -- always a fun exercise.

       (See also Simon Winchester's The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary (and, of course, his The Professor and the Madman), as well as Ammon Shea on Reading the OED.)

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       Whitbread Costa book awards history

       In The Guardian Claire Armitstead looks back at the prize, in Shock ending: how the Costa book awards changed reading -- and pitted husband against wife.
       Among the observations:
“It made a huge difference to my reputation and sales,” says Pullman. “After the Whitbread I was sort of known about, whereas I hadn’t been before. The Carnegie medal I won for Northern Lights was a big thing in the children’s book world, which is neither known or very much cared about by the rest of the reading public; but the nature of the Whitbread/Costa award guaranteed that the news pages as well as the book pages took notice.

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23 June 2022 - Thursday

Internationaler Literaturpreis | Wolfson History Prize | Bad Eminence review

       Internationaler Literaturpreis

       They've announced the winner of this year's Internationaler Literaturpreis, awarded for: "an outstanding work of contemporary international literature that has been translated into German for the first time", and it is the German translation, by Friederike von Criegern, of Cristina Morales' Easy Reading.
       This is apparently out in English already in the UK, but not yet in the US; see also the Jonathan Cape publicity page or get your copy at

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       Wolfson History Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Wolfson History Prize, the: "most valuable history-writing prize in the UK", and it is Devil-Land by Clare Jackson.
       See also the Allen Lane publicity page, or get your copy at, or

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       Bad Eminence review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of James Greer's new novel, Bad Eminence, just (about) out from And Other Stories.

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22 June 2022 - Wednesday

US fall books preview | Filter Vertaalprijs finalists
Translations from Indian languages

       US fall books preview

       Publishers Weekly has their fall 2022 US books preview -- Adult Books for Fall 2022; click on the various categories for their various run-downs.
       Only the tip of the iceberg here, but at least a fairly wide range of forthcoming titles.

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       Filter Vertaalprijs finalists

       They've announced the five finalists for this year's Filter Vertaalprijs, a leading prize for translations into Dutch.
       The finalists include the Dutch translation of Harold McGee's Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World's Smells (see the Penguin Books publicity page), as well as the translations of the medieval Roman van Heinric en Margriete van Limborch (see the Athenaeum publicity page) and Cao Xueqin's The Story of the Stone (see also the Athenaeum publicity page).
       The winner will announced 28 September.

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       Translations from Indian languages

       Yet another piece wondering Will the Booker lead to a surge in translations ?, this one from Stanley Carvalho in the Deccan Herald.
       The situation in India is actually already not that bad -- quite a bit gets translated into English and published there -- but far too little is published in the US/UK.

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21 June 2022 - Tuesday

O Pioneers ! review

       O Pioneers ! review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Willa Cather's 1913 novel, O Pioneers !

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20 June 2022 - Monday

Best Australian novels of the last 25 years ? | Finnegans Wakes review

       Best Australian novels of the last 25 years ?

       At The Age Melanie Kembrey offers a list of The 25 best Australian novels of the last 25 years
       The only title under review at the complete review is True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey.

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       Finnegans Wakes review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Patrick O'Neill's Finnegans Wakes: Tales of Translation, recently from the University of Toronto Press

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19 June 2022 - Sunday

Harry Potter oral history | Tomb Of Sand Q & A

       Harry Potter oral history

       In The Guardian Lisa Allardice has an entertaining piece on ‘There was practically a riot at King’s Cross’: an oral history of Harry Potter at 25.

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       Tomb of Sand Q & A

       At Vighnesh Hampapura has a lengthy 'free-wheeling chat with International Booker Prize winners Geetanjali Shree and Daisy Rockwell' -- the author and the translator of Tomb of Sand --, in ‘We’re both very superstitious’: Geetanjali Shree and Daisy Rockwell get candid about ‘Tomb Of Sand’.

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18 June 2022 - Saturday

Walter Scott Prize | Death on Gokumon Island review

       Walter Scott Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, and it is News Of The Dead, by James Robertson.
       See also the Hamish Hamilton publicity page or get your copy at; there does not appear to be a US edition yet.

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       Death on Gokumon Island review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yokomizo Seishi's classic mystery, Death on Gokumon Island, now out in English, from Pushkin Press.

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17 June 2022 - Friday

Sebald Lecture | New Korean Literature Now
Forward Prizes for Poetry shortlists

       Sebald Lecture

       Lydia Davis gave this year's Sebald Lecture a couple of weeks ago. The transcript does not appear to be available online yet, but you can now watch it here.
       (It's been up a week -- and there are only 103 views ?!?? Disappointing.)

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       New Korean Literature Now

       The Summer 2022 issue of Korean Literature Now is now available online -- in, once again, somewhat new form/presentation.

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       Forward Prizes for Poetry shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for this year's Forward Prizes for Poetry, "the most influential awards for new poetry in the UK and Ireland".

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16 June 2022 - Thursday

Women's Prize for Fiction | Flowers of Lhasa review

       Women's Prize for Fiction

       They've announced the winner of this year's Women's Prize for Fiction, and it is The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki.
       See also the publicity pages at Canongate and Penguin Books, or get your copy at, or

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       Flowers of Lhasa review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tsering Yangkyi's Flowers of Lhasa, just out from Balestier Press.
       There are very few translations of Tibetan fiction available in English -- this is only the third under review at the complete review -- so it is certainly good to see.

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15 June 2022 - Wednesday

A.B.Yehoshua (1936-2022) | Translation from ... Assamese

       A.B.Yehoshua (1936-2022)

       Israeli author A.B.Yehoshua has passed away; see, for example, the obituary by Joseph Berger in The New York Times.
       Only one of his books is under review at the complete review -- The Retrospective.

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       Translation from ... Assamese

       At Outlook India Syeda Ambia Zahan has a short Q & A with a former director of the National Book Trust, Regional Literature Needs Quality Translators: Assam Poet Rita Chowdhury.
       One surprising observation:
But when we directly translate an Assamese book into English, mostly we lose the essence because of lack of quality translators, barring a few. It is better, if we go through a ‘via language’ process. For example, if we translate an Assamese book into Hindi first then it becomes easier to get quality translation work from Hindi into English because there are lots of quality Hindi-language translators who have good command over both Hindi and English. The problem with most Assamese translators is that if one has a good grasp of English, he or she might not have the same grasp on the Assamese language.
       I don't know that I've ever heard the case made that it's better to translate second-hand .....

       (There is currently only one translation from Assamese under review at the complete review, Rajanikanta Bordoloi's Miri Jiyori. I'd certainly love to see and cover some more contemporary work.)

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14 June 2022 - Tuesday

EBRD Literature Prize | European Review of Books | 2312 review

       EBRD Literature Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's EBRD Literature Prize, "which celebrates the very best in translated literature from the nearly 40 countries where the Bank invests", and it is The Orphanage by Serhiy Zhadan, translated by Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler.

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       European Review of Books

       The European Review of Books has now launched its first issue
       A lot of material here -- and neat to see that quite a few of the pieces are available in two languages.
       And they do also have reviews of a number of books !

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       2312 review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312.

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13 June 2022 - Monday

Premio Strega Europeo | Future Library ceremony and symposium
The ethics of ... autocriticism ?

       Premio Strega Europeo

       I missed this a couple of weeks ago, but they've announced the winners of this year's Premio Strega Europeo, a leading Italian prize for a work in translation, with this year's prize shared by translations of Amélie Nothomb's Premier Sang and Mikhail Shishkin's The Light and the Dark.

       Previous winners of this relatively new prize -- it was first awarded in 2014 -- include Georgi Gospodinov's Time Shelter (2021) and Annie Ernaux's The Years (2016).

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       Future Library ceremony and symposium

       The Future Library in Norway has, since 2014, famously been collecting manuscripts from well-known authors that will only be published in 2114, on paper made from recently planted trees in a nearby forest.
       Apparently, authors have been unable to hand off their manuscripts since 2018, so the latest three -- by My Struggle-author Karl Ove Knausgård (2019), Ocean Vuong (2020), and Nervous Conditions-author Tsitsi Dangarembga (2021) -- all dropped theirs off together, yesterday.
       Today, there will be a Symposium -- with, for example, David Mitchell, Sjón, and Rob Young discussing: 'Vertical Labyrinths: Rewriting Time' -- as well as the grand opening of the 'silent room' where the manuscripts will now be kept and on (locked) display.

       (Updated - 15 June): See now also Rosie Goldsmith's report in The Guardian, Future Library opens secret archive of unseen texts in Oslo (though of course what was 'opened' wasn't the actual archive (i.e. the material), but the room housing it).

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       The ethics of ... autocriticism ?

       At Practical Ethics Mette Leonard Høeg considers Can a Character in an Autobiographical Novel Review the Book in Which She Appears ? On the Ethics of Literary Criticism.
       Høeg writes:
I suggest that some literary works call for precisely a literary criticism that is personal and based on the critic’s experiences with the author and the reality it presents. I propose to use the term autotheoretical criticism, or, simply, autocriticism, to designate a genre or kind of literary of criticism which foregrounds the critic’s personal relation to the author of the reviewed work and which is based on the view that such a personal/private connection is relevant, if not even necessary in order to adequately assess the reality-referencing and confessional project of the many works in contemporary literature that blend fiction and autobiography, i.e. to criticise such genre-blending works according to the parameters they themselves set out.
       Oh, good, more terminology .....
       Anyway, I'm very much hoping never to be in a position where I have to consider this. I could also do without ever seeing "criticism which foregrounds the critic’s personal relation to the author of the reviewed work".

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12 June 2022 - Sunday

Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize

       Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize, awarded for a translation into English from any living European language, and it is Nancy Naomi Carlson's translation of Cargo Hold of Stars: Coolitude by Khal Torabully.
       See also the Seagull Books publicity page, or get your copy at, or

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11 June 2022 - Saturday

Costa Book Awards | Chetan Bhagat Q & A | Gentlemen Callers review

       Costa Book Awards

       From 1971 to 2005 they were the Whitbread Book Awards, in recent years they've been the Costa Book Awards -- and now, they are no more: as sponsor Costa Coffee has announced, Costa Book Awards ends after 50 amazing years.
       This seems to have come pretty much out of the blue. Usually sponsors let it be known that they don't want to pay up any longer, and prizes go in search of new money, but apparently they decided pretty much just to pull the plug here.
       A lot of fine books won the award over the years -- and the book-of-the-year prize, pitting the category winners, which has been around since the mid-1980s, at least set it apart from the other big UK prizes.

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       Chetan Bhagat Q & A

       In the Star of Mysore Sujata Rajpal has a Q & A with One night @ the call center-author Chetan Bhagat, ‘India Loves Caste System, Even Literature Has One’.

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       Gentlemen Callers review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Corinne Hoex's Gentlemen Callersr, recently out from Dalkey Archive Press.

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10 June 2022 - Friday

The Dogs borrowings | Prix Jean d'Ormesson
Promoting literature in translation

       The Dogs borrowings

       Anna Katharine Verney's exposé in The Guardian has a hell of a summing-up headline: Miles Franklin-nominated novelist apologises for plagiarising Nobel laureate ‘without realising’.
       Plagiarism is a bad idea in general; plagiarizing a Nobel laureate seems downright foolish. And I wish authors would start coming up with more creative excuses when they get caught at it.
       The book in question is John Hughes' The Dogs -- see the Upswell publicity page (which does not yet note that the novel in ... not entirely original) -- and the book it 'borrows' from is Svetlana Alexievich's The Unwomanly Face of War. See also the Books + Publishing report.
       And it's a safe bet that The Dogs will not be taking this or any prize anytime soon.

       (Updated - 11 June): Unsurprisingly, The Guardian now reports that the Miles Franklin Prize has now removed The Dogs from the longlist.

       (Updated - 17 June): Hughes does himself no favors by *explaining* his plagiarism in The Guardian, in John Hughes: I am not a plagiarist -- and here's why.

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       Prix Jean d'Ormesson

       The prix Jean d'Ormesson is definitely one of the best prize-concepts going: it's basically an anything-goes prize, with the jurors selecting the books that are then in the running -- whereby they can select whatever titles they want, old or new. So, for example, this year's longlist included Mariama Bâ's So Long a Letter (which was first published in French in 1979), Cheikh Hamidou Kane's Ambiguous Adventure (1961), and ... uh, David Niven's memoirs.
       They've now announced this year's winner and -- somewhat disappointingly -- it is a new title, Voyage autour de mon enfance, by Emmanuel de Waresquiel; see the Livres Hebdo report and see also the Tallandier publicity page.

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       Promoting literature in translation

       In Publishers Weekly John Maher reports on a recent 'industry roundtable' on "How to Promote Italian Literature in the USA, in The Ever-Shifting Challenge of Promoting Literature in Translation.
       Among the interesting titbits: McNally Jackson-bookstores owner Sarah McNally reveals:
“I have always [organized] the literature section in my stores in terms of countries, and at one point, when the original store was maybe five or six years old, I thought, maybe I'm wrong,” she said. “When I switched the organization to A-Z [by author], [sales] numbers [for international literature] went down by about 30% immediately, so we switched them back.

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9 June 2022 - Thursday

Premio Strega finalists | Caine Prize shortlist | Time Shelter review

       Premio Strega finalists

       They've announced the finalists for this year's Premio Strega, the leading Italian novel prize.
       Spatriati, by Mario Desiati, was the leading vote-getter in this round, with 244 -- a healthy margin over the 178 the next most popular work got.
       Seven books remain in the running; the winner will be announced on 7 July.

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       Caine Prize shortlist

       They've announced the shortlist for this year's AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, the leading African short story prize.
       The five shortlisted stories were selected from 349 entries from 27 African countries. You can read all five stories online; links (to pdfs ...) can be found here.
       The winner will be announced 18 July.

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       Time Shelter review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Georgi Gospodinov's Time Shelter, recently also out in English.

       Coïncidentally, the book I reviewed just before this one was another contemporary European novel that similarly explores how (European) history and past bear on a contemporary Europe that seems .... the opposite of unrooted ? completely rooted in past ? Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer's Grand Hotel Europa.

       Meanwhile, Novinite reports that Gospodinov has been nominated for this year's Nobel Prize in Literature:
The proposal was signed by chairwoman Zdravka Evtimova. Bulgaria's candidacy was sent a few months ago but so far there has been no response from the Swedish Nobel Committee.
       Gotta love that surprised: "so far there has been no response from the Swedish Nobel Committee" .....
       (Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if there had been one -- behind the scenes: a firm slap on the wrist. The Swedish Academy frowns upon (to put it mildly ...) nominations being made public. It's a major no-no, with nominators officially forbidden to reveal what name(s) they submitted -- though you do see a few local reports like this every year. I suspect, however, that the mere publicizing of the nomination is sufficient to ensure that Gospodinov won't be in the closer running for this year's prize .....)

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