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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review

9 June 2023 - Friday

Griffin Poetry Prize | Peter Constantine Q & A

       Griffin Poetry Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's C$130,000 Griffin Poetry Prize, and it is Best Barbarian, by Roger Reeves.
       See also the W.W.Norton publicity page, or get your copy at, or

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       Peter Constantine Q & A

       At the Literary Hub Esther Allen has a fun Q & A with the translator and author, in A Babel of Languages: Peter Constantine on the Joys of Translation and Multilingual Writing.

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8 June 2023 - Thursday

Premio Strega finalists | 'Manuscripts by Candlelight'

       Premio Strega finalists

       They've announced the five finalists for this year's Premio Strega, the leading Italian literary prize; 80 titles were nominated for the prize..
       The voting for the finalists was fairly close -- the top vote-getter had 217, the fifth 167 -- so it doesn't look like there's a clear frontrunner.
       Presumably, the best-known of the finalists in the US/UK is Andrea Canobbio, whose La traversata notturna remains in the running; several of his works have been translated into English -- The Natural Disorder of Things and Three Light-Years. An earlier novel by Rosella Postorino has also been translated -- as At the Wolf's Table in the US and as The Women at Hitler's Table in the UK (because ... publishers ....).
       The winner will be announced 6 July.

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       'Manuscripts by Candlelight'

       At Stanford Report Charity Ferreira reports on Reading rare books by candlelight -- though, alas (or rather: horrifyingly): the candles were of the battery-operated sort .....
       Okay, actual candlelight -- or rather the candle-smoke -- is obviously bad for books, but still .....

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7 June 2023 - Wednesday

Prix Jean d'Ormesson | Dutch translation grants | Markovics Botond Q & A

       Prix Jean d'Ormesson

       As I've repeatedly noted, the anything-goes prix Jean d'Ormesson -- where judges nominate whatever books they want, old or new -- is one of my favorite book prizes, and they've now announced this year's winner -- somewhat disappointingly, a new title: La douceur, by Étienne de Montety; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.
       See also the Stock publicity page.

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       Dutch translation grants

       The Dutch Foundation for Literature has announced the first round of the 2023 translation grants, for Dutch works to be translated into other languages.
       Always interesting to see what will get translated -- and into what languages. Disappointingly, not much is being translated into English -- just two works, both fiction, with Anne Eekhout's Mary Shelley-novel coming out as Mary in the UK, from Pushkin Press; see their publicity page, and as Mary and the Birth of Frankenstein in the US, from HarperVia; see their publicity page.

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       Markovics Botond Q & A

       At hlo they have a Q & A with Botond Markovics: I take the 'science' in sci-fi very seriously.
       He publishes under the name 'Brandon Hackett' -- and hlo calls him "a titan of Hungarian science fiction".
       None of his novels appear to have been translated into English yet; see also his official site.

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6 June 2023 - Tuesday

James Kelman profile | Sir Thomas Browne review

       James Kelman profile

       In the Irish Times Éamon Sweeney profiles James Kelman: ‘Irish writers get cushy jobs because they never challenge a single damn thing’ [updated: which, as a reader points out is actually from quite a few years back ! -- but still of interest].
       Apparently the Booker Prize winner "currently doesn't have a publisher" -- and he notes:
When it came to 1994 and the Booker Prize, the Director of Dillon's said they wouldn't stock it. They were the second largest bookseller after Waterstone's at the time. I've been on Random House and Penguin, but no one publishes me at the moment. I can't blame them, because I used to be a salesman.
       (Of course, we know what became of Dillon's .....)

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       Sir Thomas Browne review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Gavin Francis on Sir Thomas Browne,: The Opium of Time -- a volume in Oxford University Press fairly new 'My Reading'-series.

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5 June 2023 - Monday

AI in publishing | Tomás Nevinson review

       AI in publishing

       In Publishers Weekly Thad McIlroy makes the case that AI Is About to Turn Book Publishing Upside-Down.
       He goes so far as to say that:
I believe that every function in trade book publishing today can be automated with the help of generative AI. And, if this is true, then the trade book publishing industry as we know it will soon be obsolete. We will need to move on.
       It'll certainly be interesting to see if: "ChatGPT will become the patron saint of the slush pile", weeding out a great deal.
       Interesting, also, that he sees copyediting as the first part of the process that will be displaced by AI:
I don’t think that GPT-4 can yet handle copyediting to the standard that book publishers require. But that ability is going to be here sooner, not later. While professionally copyedited books may still be “better” to a refined editor’s eye, you won’t be able to sell more books with the professional human touch. They will already be good enough.
       (Ah, great, settling for 'good enough' .....)

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       Tomás Nevinson review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Javier Marías' final novel, Tomás Nevinson, which is now also out in English.

       This is a fairly long novel, but I have to say, it was one of the more pleasing reading-experiences I've had in quite a while -- maybe since I last read some Iris Murdoch. It's just so nice to read an author who just knows what he's doing.

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4 June 2023 - Sunday

Genre misalignment in translation ?

       Genre misalignment in translation ?

       In The Japan Times Iain Maloney considers The curious case of Fuminori Nakamura's genre misalignment:
“It has always struck me that he has the position of a literary writer in Japan, while he has been put into the noir genre for English-language readers,” [Allison Markin] Powell says. “My sense is that in Japan, Nakamura is free to write whatever kind of book he’d like to write, but that he is not afforded the same freedom in English translation. This phenomenon is not limited to Nakamura — I believe it happens to many writers since editors can pick and choose among an author’s works the titles they believe will appeal or sell in their markets.
       All nine Nakamura titles translated into English are under review at the complete review, including the latest, The Rope Artist.

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3 June 2023 - Saturday

Jenny Erpenbeck Q & A | {rix Fragonard

       Jenny Erpenbeck Q & A

       Jenny Erpenbeck does The Guardian's 'The books of my life'-Q & A.
       Among her responses:
The book I could never read again

Hermann Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund. There’s a certain time in life when one needs to read Hesse, and there’s another time when you’re far from it.
       (By the way, the first title she mentions -- Pünktchen and Anton -- is available in English in a translation by Anthea Bell, Dot and Anton; see the Pushkin Press publicity page..)

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       Prix Fragonard

       They've announced the winner of this year's prix Fragonard de littérature étrangère, a French prize for a work in translation by a female author, and it is the French translation of Tawada Yoko's The Emissary (published in the UK as: The Last Children of Tokyo).
       Nice to see that Dubravka Ugrešić's Fox got a 'special mention'.

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2 June 2023 - Friday

Deutscher Sachbuchpreis | Luca Di Fulvio (1957-2023)

       Deutscher Sachbuchpreis

       They've announced the winner of this year's Deutscher Sachbuchpreis, the leading German-language non-fiction book prize, and it is Ein Hof und elf Geschwister, by Ewald Frie; see also the C.H.Beck publicity page.

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       Luca Di Fulvio (1957-2023)

       Italian author Luca Di Fulvio has passed away; see, for example, the report.
       Several of his works have been translated into English; the only one under review at the complete review is The Mannequin Man.

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1 June 2023 - Thursday

Ama Ata Aidoo (1842-2023) | Naveen Kishore Q & A

       Ama Ata Aidoo (1842-2023)

       Ghanaian author Ama Ata Aidoo has passed away; see, for example, the BBC report, Ama Ata Aidoo: Ghana's famous author and feminist dies.
       Three of her works are under review at the complete review:
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       Naveen Kishore Q & A

       At Kitaab they have a Q & A with the Seagull Books-publisher, “One doesn’t always write only to be published.”- Naveen Kishore (Poet, Artist, Publisher, and Writer).

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31 May 2023 - Wednesday

VCU Cabell finalists | Encyclopedia review

       VCU Cabell finalists

       They've announced the three finalists for this year's VCU Cabell First Novelist Award

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       Encyclopedia review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Richard Horn's 1969 novel-as-Encyclopedia.
       This was long out of print; great to see Tough Poets Press reviving it.

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30 May 2023 - Tuesday

Jnanpith Award | James Tait Black shortlists
Premio Reina Sofía | Daniel Hahn Q & A

       Jnanpith Award

       They've announced the winner of the 2022 Jnanpith Award, the leading Indian author prize, and it is Damodar Mauzo; see, for example, the PTI report.
       The Goan author writes in Konkani; his novel Karmelin has been translated into English -- see the Indian Novels Collective information page -- as have several story-collections, including Teresa's Man; see also the Rupa publicity page.

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       James Tait Black shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for this year's James Tait Black Prizes, "Britain's longest-running literary prize".
       One of the four fiction finalists is under review at the complete review: After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz.

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       Premio Reina Sofía

       They've announced the winner of this year's Premio Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoamericana, the leading Latin American poetry prize, and it is Gioconda Belli; see, for example the EFE report at El País.

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       Daniel Hahn Q & A

       In the Hindustan Times Kunal Ray has an Interview: Daniel Hahn, translator - “Awards are a statement of what we value”.

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29 May 2023 - Monday

Sade exhibit | Biography of X review

       Sade exhibit

       At the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona there's an exhibit devoted to the The 120 Days of Sodom-author running through 15 October, Sade: Freedom or evil, exploring: "the aesthetic, philosophical and political legacy of the Marquis de Sade in contemporary culture, from the early 20th-century avant-gardes to the present day".

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       Biography of X review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Catherine Lacey's Biography of X, which has been getting a lot of attention.

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28 May 2023 - Sunday

Korean literature abroad | Choose Your Own Adventures ... to the Booker

       Korean literature abroad

       Another article on how Korean literature in translation enjoys growing universal appeal, this one by Kwak Yeon-soo in The Korea Times, this time with a focus on international literary awards that Korean fiction in translation -- not just into English -- has been nominated for this year.

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       Choose Your Own Adventures ... to the Booker

       In The Guardian The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida-author Shehan Karunatilaka explains How Choose Your Own Adventures helped me win the Booker prize.

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27 May 2023 - Saturday

Greatest children's books ? | Geetanjali Shree Q & A

       Greatest children's books ?

       "BBC Culture polled 177 books experts from 56 countries in order to find the greatest children's books ever" and the results are now in; see their list of The 100 greatest children's books of all time.
       I've read quite a few of these -- but mostly in younger years; only one of the titles is under review at the complete review: Philip Pullman's Northern Lights (published in the US as The Golden Compass), which came in at number six.

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       Geetanjali Shree Q & A

       At The White Review Reya Divekar has an Interview with Geetanjali Shree, the author of Tomb of Sand and The Empty Space.

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26 May 2023 - Friday

Neustadt International Prize finalists | Dublin Literary Award
Peter Zeindler (1934-2023) | Bad Kids review

       Neustadt International Prize finalists

       They've announced the nine finalists for the 2024 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, a leading author prize; works by some of them are under review at the complete review:        The winner will be chosen at this year's Neustadt Lit Fest, scheduled for 23-25 October.

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       Dublin Literary Award

       They've announced the winner of this year's Dublin Literary Award, which pays out: "€100,000 for a single work of fiction in original English or translated into English", and it is Marzahn, Mon Amour by Katja Oskamp, in Jo Heinrich's translation.
       See also the Peirene Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

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       Peter Zeindler (1934-2023)

       Swiss mystery author Peter Zeindler has passed away; see, for example, the SRF report.

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       Bad Kids review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Chen Zijin's Bad Kids, now also (almost) out in the US.

       Certainly good to see more crime fiction from China -- definitely a literary area in which they still lag. But, hey, they've begun to catch up with science fiction, so maybe there's hope.
       This is still pretty rough -- but it has made the shortlist of this year's Crime Writers' Association Dagger for Crime Fiction in Translation.

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25 May 2023 - Thursday

Princess of Asturias Award for Literature | Macunaíma review

       Princess of Asturias Award for Literature

       They've announced that this year's Princess of Asturias Award for Literature will go to Murakami Haruki.

       This prize has a solid list of previous winners, though it is a bit all over the place -- last year's winner was playwright Juan Mayorga who, let's face it, doesn't quite have Murakami's international profile ..... (They also gave it to a songwriter before the Nobel folks did, setting that awful precedent -- Leonard Cohen in 2011, the year before Philip Roth got it.)

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       Macunaíma review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of a new translation, by Katrina Dodson, of Mário de Andrade 1928 Brazilian classic, Macunaíma: The Hero with No Character, now out from New Directions in the US and Fitzcarraldo in the UK.

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24 May 2023 - Wednesday

International Booker Prize | Dino Buzzati's Il deserto dei Tartari

       International Booker Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's International Booker Prize, and it is Time Shelter, by Georgi Gospodinov, in Angela Rodel's translation.
       Quite a lot of the winners of the International Booker Prize -- and the predecessor Independent Foreign Fiction Prize -- are under review at the complete review.

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       Dino Buzzati's Il deserto dei Tartari

       At Public Books Lawrence Venuti writes about Crossing “The Tartar Steppe”: A New Buzzati.
       Originally published in English in 1952, in a translation by Stuart Hood -- the version under review at the complete review --, New York Review Books has now published a new translation by Venuti, as The Stronghold; see also their publicity page, or get your copy at, or

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23 May 2023 - Tuesday

Premio Strega Europeo | NSW Premier's Literary Awards

       Premio Strega Europeo

       They've announced the winner of this year's Premio Strega Europeo, the leading Italian prize for a work in translation, and it is Emmanuel Carrère's V13.
       See also the P.O.L publicity page; it's not yet available in English, but is apparently coming out from Jonathan Cape in the UK; I expect there will be a US edition as well..

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       NSW Premier's Literary Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's NSW Premier's Literary Awards, a leading Australian literary prize.
       The Christina Stead Prize for Fiction went to Women I Know by Katerina Gibson.
       This was also a year when they awarded the biennial NSW Premier's Translation Prize -- won by Tiffany Tsao for her translation of Budi Darma's People from Bloomington.

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22 May 2023 - Monday

International Prize for Arabic Fiction | Annie Ernaux profile
Martin Heidegger's Changing Destinies review

       International Prize for Arabic Fiction

       They've announced the winner of this year's International Prize for Arabic Fiction, the leading Arabic-language fiction prize, and it is تغريبة القافر ('The Water Diviner'), by Omani author Zahran Alqasmi

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       Annie Ernaux profile

       In The Observer Alice Blackhurst profiles Annie Ernaux, in ‘If it’s not a risk… it’s nothing’: Nobel laureate Annie Ernaux on her unapologetic career.

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       Martin Heidegger's Changing Destinies review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Guillaume Payen's Martin Heidegger's Changing Destinies: Catholicism, Revolution, Nazism, recently out in English from Yale University Press.

       I should be reviewing some actual Heidegger -- but with the collected works a planned 102 (!) volumes, there's ... a lot.
       I am surprised by how little attention this has gotten from US/UK reviewers -- though I figure the usual suspects (The New York Review of Books; Times Literary Supplement; London Review of Books) will eventually get around to it. It doesn't seem to have gotten much German coverage either, where it was published in translation last year.

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21 May 2023 - Sunday

Martin Amis (1949-2023) | M.John Harrison Q & A

       Martin Amis (1949-2023)

       As widely noted, British author Martin Amis has died; see, for example, obituaries in The New York Times (by Dwight Garner) and The Guardian (by Sarah Shaffi).
       As shocking as the news is, what most surprised me was to learn that ... he had moved to Florida, dying 'at his home in Lake Worth, Florida'. After all the fuss the literary media made about him moving to and living in Brooklyn, how did this not get widely reported and covered ? (Also: too bad Amis never publicly weighed in on Florida's governor.)
       Several of his works are under review at the complete review -- though I haven't reviewd anything of his in some fifteen years:        I read his (generally much more impressive) earlier work before I started the site, and haven't revisited it, but he was certainly always an author to pay attention to.

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       M.John Harrison Q & A

       M.John Harrison -- Light, etc. -- has a new (anti-)memoir out, Wish I Was Here -- alas, apparently only in UK edition, so far; see the Serpent's Tail publicity page, or get your copy at -- and at The Guardian Anthony Cummins has a Q & A with him, M John Harrison: ‘I want to be the first human to imitate ChatGPT’.

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20 May 2023 - Saturday

Dževad Karahasan (1953-2023)

       Dževad Karahasan (1953-2023)

       Bosnian author Dževad Karahasan has passed away; see, for example, the Sarajevo Times piece, BiH Famous Writer Dzevad Karahasan has passed away.

       Very little of his work has neem translated into English, but see the Suhrkamp foreign rights author page for an overview of many of them.
       I have the German translation of his Omar Khayyam-novel, Što pepeo priča -- see the Suhrkamp foreign rights page -- and hope to finally get to it.

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19 May 2023 - Friday

ChatGPT: in China - in India

       ChatGPT: in China

       In the South China Morning Post Stephen Chen reports that ‘Somebody may call the police’: Chinese Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan turns to ChatGPT to beat writer’s block.
       He used it in writing a commendation for fellow author Yu Hua --:
But he stressed that he had written all of his novels himself and said he was likely to continue doing so because he enjoyed the power of writing.
       Interestingly, quite a bit of discussion in the article is about the fact that ChatGPT isn't freely accessible in China:
OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT, has not yet made the service available in China. Some commenters said it was possible Mo had violated OpenAI’s terms of service by using the platform in China, and they warned this could result in legal action being taken against him by OpenAI. The Post has reached out to OpenAI for comment.

The Chinese government has also banned the use of VPN software, which is needed to access ChatGPT from China, as a means of controlling access to information deemed inappropriate or sensitive. If Mo Yan or his student were caught using a VPN to access ChatGPT, they could face penalties such as fines or imprisonment.

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       ChatGPT: in India

       At The Hindu Sahana Venugopal takes a stab at Writing award-winning Indian fiction with ChatGPT.
       HarperCollins India CEO Ananth Padmanabhan was open to the AI-generated query letters (or at least the first: "if you saw the two emails that you sent, they have the same structure" ...), while literary agent Kanishka Gupta was more dismissive:
He declared the two storylines were “absolute rubbish,” and said they were full of cliched phrases, while regurgitating the plot lines of other published novels.

“I’m not going to read these books,” Mr. Gupta said simply.
       (I suspect that many human-written queries are also: "full of cliched phrases, while regurgitating the plot lines of other published novels".)
       Gupta did say: "if I get some AI-generated query letter which reads like a query letter written by an actual author and it’s creative enough, then I might invite the full manuscript".

       The future isn't quite here, but, damn, it's coming fast and hard.

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18 May 2023 - Thursday

Luis Chitarroni (1958-2023) | Ockham New Zealand Book Awards
Miles Franklin longlist | Coffee House Press

       Luis Chitarroni (1958-2023)

       Argentine author Luis Chitarroni has passed away; see, for example, Walter Lezcano's piece, Murió Luis Chitarroni, el genial escritor que encontró en la erudición una forma de generosidad in Clarín.

       The only one of his works under review at the complete review is The No Variations.

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       Ockham New Zealand Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, the leading New Zealand book awards.
       The fiction prize went to The Axeman's Carnival, by Catherine Chidgey; see also the Te Herenga Waka University Press publicity page.

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       Miles Franklin longlist

       They've announced the eleven-title longlist for this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award, a leading Australian novel prize.
       The shortlist will be announced on 20 June, and the winner on 25 July.

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       Coffee House Press

       At Publishers Weekly Claire Kirch reports that a Wave of Resignations Rocks Coffee House Press.

       Nothing from Coffee House Press has been reviewed at the complete review in a couple of years, but they do have a very solid list -- and some good-looking forthcoming titles.

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17 May 2023 - Wednesday

Publishing ... outside Russia | AI translation symposium

       Publishing ... outside Russia

       The Moscow Times looks Forward Into the Past: Forbidden Books In Russia, noting that:
Today the situation is reminiscent of the Soviet period. Russian literary journals and publishing houses are appearing outside Russia.
       They point, in particular, to publisher Freedom Letters.

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       AI translation symposium

       In The Korea Herald Hwang Dong-hee reports that LTI Korea to host symposium on current, future landscape of AI literature translation.
       The symposium will take place 26 May; certainly an interesting topic.

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16 May 2023 - Tuesday

Sibylle Lewitscharoff (1954-2023) | Prix Orange du livre en Afrique
Sin review

       Sibylle Lewitscharoff (1954-2023)

       German author Sibylle Lewitscharoff has passed away; see, for example, Tilman Krause's piece in Die Welt.

       Two of her novels are under review at the complete review -- Apostoloff and Blumenberg; see also the Suhrkamp foreign rights author page.

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       Prix Orange du livre en Afrique

       They've announced the winner of this year's prix Orange du livre en Afrique, a prize for a novel written in French by an African author and published by an African publisher, and it is Ambatomanga, la douleur et le silence, by Michèle Rakotoson; see also the Livres Hebdo report.

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       Sin review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of F. Sionil José's novel Sin -- published in the United States as Sins.

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15 May 2023 - Monday

Films based on Amélie Nothomb works | Reading in ... Russia

       Films based on Amélie Nothomb works

       At Frenchly Andrea Meyer offers a quick look at The Uncanny & Interesting Films of Belgian writer, Amélie Nothomb, the films based on her books.
       The books behind these films -- and almost all her others -- are, of course, under review at the complete review,

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       Reading in ... Russia

       At Foreign Policy Andrei Kolesnikov suggests that For Russians, Reading Is the New Resistance, as:
One crucial resemblance to Soviet times is the newly political role of reading. Unable to protest openly, people are expressing a different kind of resistance by reading literature that is banned, discouraged, or casts an unfavorable light on the regime -- if only by comparison.

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