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3 December 2021 - Friday

Cundill History Prize | New Latin American Literature Today

       Cundill History Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Cundill History Prize -- at US$75,000, apparently: "the largest reward for a work of non-fiction in English" -- and it is Blood on the River: a Chronicle of Mutiny and Freedom on the Wild Coast, by Marjoleine Kars.
       See also the New Press publicity page, or get your copy at or pre-order your copy at (as it is only coming out in the UK next summer).

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       New Latin American Literature Today

       The November issue of Latin American Literature Today is now available -- and its the fifth-anniversary issue.
       As always, lots of good material - and don't forget the extensive book review section.

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2 December 2021 - Thursday

Marie-Claire Blais (1939-2021) | Finlandia Prize
Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize
FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year
The Women Are Up to Something review

       Marie-Claire Blais (1939-2021)

       Canadian author Marie-Claire Blais has passed away; see, for example, Deborah Dundas in the Toronto Star on Quebec writer Marie-Claire Blais, once the enfant terrible of French Canadian fiction, has died at the age of 82.
       You may recall Pasha Malla wondering in The New Yorker not too long ago: Will American Readers Ever Catch on to Marie-Claire Blais ? (I suspect her death will not change this situation much.)
       See also the Blais titles available from House of Anansi.

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       Finlandia Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Finlandia Prize, the leading Finnish literary prize, and it is Jukka Viikilä's Taivaallinen vastaanotto; see also the Otava publicity page.

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       Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize, awarded: "for the best non-fiction book on modern/contemporary India published in the previous year", and it is Dinyar Patel's biography of Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism; see also Dinyar Patel's report at as well as the Harvard University Press publicity page for Naoroji.

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       FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year

       They've announced the winner of this year's Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year, and it is This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends, by Nicole Perlroth; see also the official book site or the Bloomsbury publicity page.

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       The Women Are Up to Something review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Benjamin J.B. Lipscomb on How Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch Revolutionized Ethics, in The Women Are Up to Something, just out from Oxford University Press.

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1 December 2021 - Wednesday

WLT's 100 notable 2021 translations | NYTBR top 10
Foreign Policy favorites | Coming in 2022: translations from the Arabic

       WLT's 100 notable 2021 translations

       They've now posted World Literature Today’s 75—Make That 100—Notable Translations of 2021 -- upping the usual 75 to a round 100 this year.
       As always, this list makes for a decent overview of much of the best that's been translated this year -- though quite a bit also gets overlooked: just among recent releases I note that Willem Frederik Hermans' A Guardian Angel Recalls, Hervé Le Tellier's prix Goncourt-winning (surely that's notable ?) The Anomaly, Pierre Senges' Ahab (Sequels), and Mario Vargas Llosa's Harsh Times all don't make the list. Neither does the recent National Book Award for Translated Literature winner, Elisa Shua Dusapin's Winter in Sokcho. Or, for example, The Membranes, by Chi Ta-wei -- certainly one of the works in translation published in 2021 that most impressed me.
       (Meanwhile, I'm not sure about the inclusion of titles that will only be available in the US next year, such as Olga Tokarczuk's The Books of Jacob -- though of ocurse the heads-up can't hurt.)

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       NYTBR top 10

       The New York Times Book Review has announced their 10 Best Books of 2021.
       (Recall that these are selected from their 100 notable books of the year -- which, in turn, are selected from the books they've reviewed; a fairly limited pool.) If they haven't reviewed it, they didn't consider it.)
       Two of the titles are under review at the complete review -- the two translated titles:
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       Foreign Policy favorites

       At Foreign Policy they round up 'some of our favorite reads this year', in The Best Books We Read in 2021.

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       Coming in 2022: translations from the Arabic

       At Arablit they've put together a nice list of what's Forthcoming 2022: Arabic Literature in English Translation
       Quite a bit to look forward to here -- not least, new titles by Ibrahim al-Koni, Sonallah Ibrahim, and Reem Bassiouney.

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30 November 2021 - Tuesday

Royal Society Science Book Prize | Scotland's National Book Awards
Q & As: Mohamed Mbougar Sarr - Emma Ramadan - Tim Mackintosh-Smith
Evaristo to head Royal Society of Literature

       Royal Society Science Book Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Royal Society Science Book Prize, and it is Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures, by Merlin Sheldrake; see, for example, The Bookseller report.

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       Scotland's National Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's Scotland's National Book Awards
       The fiction winner is Duck Feet, by Ely Percy, while Douglas Dunn won the Lifetime Achievement Award.

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       Q & A: Mohamed Mbougar Sarr

       At Deutsche Welle Georges Ibrahim Tounkara has a Q & A with this year's prix Goncourt-winning author, Mohamed Mbougar Sarr: Reinventing Africa.

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       Q & A: Emma Ramadan

       At Public Books Jocelyn Frelier has a Q & A, “Between the Experiment and the Essence”: Emma Ramadan Talks Translation.

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       Q & A: Tim Mackintosh-Smith

       At Elisabeth Knoblauch has a Q & A with Arabist Tim Mackintosh-Smith, whose: 'latest book -- Arabs -- reveals how linguistic developments helped and hindered the progress of Arab history', "Reading Arabic is a bit like playing chess".

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       Evaristo to head Royal Society of Literature

       They've announced that Booker-winning author Bernardine Evaristo is to be the next president of the Royal Society of Literature, taking over from current president Marina Warner; see also, for example, Harriet Sherwood's report in The Guardian.

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29 November 2021 - Monday

Almudena Grandes (1960-2021) | Translation NFTs ?
The Night Will Be Long review

       Almudena Grandes (1960-2021)

       Spanish author Almudena Grandes has passed away; see, for example, the EFE report at La Prensa Latina.
       Several of her works have been translated into English: The Ages of Lulu and The Wind from the East (from Seven Stories), as well as The Frozen Heart (all three from Weidenfeld & Nicolson) -- the latter touted as: "the Spanish Dr Zhivago", for what that's worth.

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       Translation NFTs ?

       Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are all the rage, and at Japan Today they report that World's first NFT of a Japanese novel with English translation hopes to provide profitable opportunity for translators
(T)wo English versions of the NFT novel, translated by two different translators, are being released on OpenSea simultaneously.
       They suggest:
This project may be a step towards further growth in Japanese novels and literature, encouraging talented translators to work more on Japanese literature by compensating them through the NFT system as their work is worth, and not just solely relying on publishers.
       'Not just solely relying on publishers' sounds promising, but I don't know if this will really catch on. Still, certainly a story worth following.

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       The Night Will Be Long review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Santiago Gamboa's latest, The Night Will Be Long, just out in English from Europa Editions.

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28 November 2021 - Sunday

Q & As: Lydia Davis - Damon Galgut

       Q & A: Lydia Davis

       In The Observer Anthony Cummins has a Q & A with Lydia Davis: ‘I write it the way I want to write it’.
       The occasion is the upcoming publication of her Essays Two, focused on translation; I haven't seen this one yet, but see the publicity pages at Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Hamish Hamilton, or pre-order your copy at or

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       Q & A: Damon Galgut

       At Deutsche Welle Manasi Gopalakrishnan has a Q & A with the Booker Prize-winning author, in 'African writing is vibrant and living': Damon Galgut.
       As to the consequences of winning such a big prize, Galgut notes many of the positives, and that:
All of these are obviously very welcome for any writer; they're kind of a writer's dream. But they also come, as I say, with an intense level of interest and attention, which is focused on the writer rather than the work, and that is not always easy to deal with.
       He also welcomes the attention African writers have gotten recently, especially in terms of literary-prize wins -- and also hopes that: "that maybe some African governments will take it seriously too, and invest in support of and attention to their own artists".

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27 November 2021 - Saturday

Translating from and into Armenian | Tata Literature Live! Literary Awards

       Translating from and into Armenian

       In The Armenian Mirror-Spectator Artsvi Bakhchinyan has a Q & A with Anna Maria Mattaar: Translating from Armenian into Dutch and vice versa.
       Always good to see translation between 'smaller' languages -- and not, for example, via English ... -- and neat to see it going both ways -- though she notes:
Now I translate more into Armenian, because there is more demand in Dutch literature here in Armenia than that of Armenian literature in the Netherlands. There are no other translators of Armenian fiction in the Netherlands. The biggest problem there is the publishing houses that do not want to publish Armenian literature.
       Disappointing to hear -- there's far too little Armenian literature available in any European language .....
       (And I wish she'd have revealed what the 900-page novel she is translating from Dutch into Armenian is.)

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       Tata Literature Live! Literary Awards

       They announced the winners of this year's Tata Literature Live! Literary Awards last week, an Indian prize awarded in six categories (including one for publisher of the year -- HarperCollins Publishers India this year).

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26 November 2021 - Friday

Mario Vargas Llosa, immortel | African literary prize-success

       Mario Vargas Llosa, immortel

       Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa is an immortel ! -- i.e. he has been elected to the Académie française, taking his seat on fauteuil 18.
       He received 18 out of 22 votes (which included two non-votes) in the first and only round of voting -- a stunning election-result; usually these elections go through several rounds, and it's almost unheard of, even in the final instance, to get that high a percentage of the votes. He was also elected despite technically being too old; since 2010 elected members are supposed to be under 75. Clearly, they really wanted him on board (and he presumably really wanted to join the gang -- for the habit vert and épée, I suspect ...).)
       Vargas Llosa is also unusual in being a non-francophone foreigner. There are other foreign and foreign-born immortels, such as Maurizio Serra, but they all at least also write in French; Vargas Llosa does not.

       By the way, those habit-verts aren't off the rack -- there's even a tailor who specializes in them.

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       African literary prize-success

       As has been widely noted, many of the leading literary prizes this year have gone to authors with strong connections to Africa; at France 24 they now have the AFP report that looks at Why Africa is dominating literary prizes in 2021.
       Among the observations:
What might explain the burst of European interest is that Africa looks increasingly like a testing ground for problems that may soon affect us all.

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25 November 2021 - Thursday

Warwick Prize | HWA Crown Awards

       Warwick Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, and it is Jackie Smith's translation of Judith Schalansky's An Inventory of Losses.
       I've been curious about this one but haven't seen it yet; see also the publicity pages from New Directions and MacLehose Press, or get your copy at or

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       HWA Crown Awards

       The Historical Writers' Association has announced the winners of this year's HWA Crown Awards, "celebrating the best historical writing of the year, fiction and non-fiction".
       The HWA Gold Crown Award -- the fiction prize -- went to The Unwanted Dead by Chris Lloyd.

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24 November 2021 - Wednesday

Jan Michalski Prize | Banipal Prize shortlist
Whitbread Costa Book Awards shortlists | Mark McGurl Q & A
Franziska Linkerhand review

       Jan Michalski Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Jan Michalski Prize for Literature, "awarded for a work of fiction or non-fiction, irrespective of the language in which it is written", and it is the collective work OST: Letters, Memoirs and Stories from Ostarbeiter in Nazi Germany.
       See also the Granta publicity page, or get your copy at or

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       Banipal Prize shortlist

       They've announced the five-title shortlist for this year's Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation
       The winner will be announced 12 January.

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       Whitbread Costa Book Awards shortlists

       They've announced the shortlists for the Whitbread Costa Book Awards, four titles in each of the five categories.
       I haven't seen any of these.
       The category-winners -- announced on 4 January -- will then compete for the top prize, to be announced 1 February.

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       Mark McGurl Q & A

       Mark McGurl's Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon recently came out, and at Jacobin Alex N. Press now has a Q & A with him, Amazon Is Reshaping Contemporary Literature.

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       Franziska Linkerhand review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Brigitte Reimann's classic novel, Franziska Linkerhand.

       Surprisingly, this novel -- first published posthumously in 1974, in both the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic, and very popular in both -- has not yet been translated into English. It is among the best-known -- and best -- works to come out of East Germany -- up there with Irmtraud Morgner's The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice, Christa Wolf's They Divided the Sky (previously translated as Divided Heaven), and Ulrich Plenzdorf's The New Sorrows of Young W. --, even as an uncut/uncensored version was only finally published in 1998. (I read the edited version back in the early 1980s and even as such it is a very impressive work -- but I am pleased to have finally seen the uncut version.)
       Seagull has brought out two volumes of her diaries -- I Have No Regrets and It All Tastes of Farewell --, which give a good sense of her and her work, but this of course is something entirely different (and greater).

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23 November 2021 - Tuesday

NYTBR 100 Notable Books of 2021 | Japanese fiction in translation

       NYTBR 100 Notable Books of 2021

       The editors of The New York Times Book Review have released their 100 Notable Books of 2021 list. (Recall that this list is selected from the titles reviewed (or soon-to-be-reviewed) in the NYTBR -- a decent-sized pool of books, but far from all the worthy ones out there.)
       Last year they had an impressive eleven titles in translation on the list; this year they are down to five.
       Seven of the titles are under review at the complete review:        One book I'm very surprised was not included is Richard Zenith's Pessoa (which was reviewed in both The New York Times and The New York Times Book Review), which was certainly one of the most impressive books I read this year (and I am no great fan of biographies).

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       Japanese fiction in translation

       At NBC Victoria Namkung reports Move over, Murakami: Female authors drive growing interest in Japanese novels -- noting that:
Ten years ago, only a handful of books written by Japanese women were published in English, but of the 34 titles translated from the Japanese in the last two years, 28 were by women.
       Quite a few of the novels mentioned in the article are under review at the complete review.

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22 November 2021 - Monday

Prix du livre européen | David Godine Q & A
European Literature Night | Boardman Tasker Award

       Prix du livre européen

       The prix du livre européen is yet another best European book prize, awarded since 2007, and they've now announced this year's winner, Christos A. Chomenidis' Νίκη; see also the publicity pages from Πατάκη and Viviane Hamy.
       It beat out two other finalists, books by Slobodan Šnajder (Doba mjedi) and Kjell Westö (Tritonus) -- neither of which seems to be available in English translation yet either.

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       David Godine Q & A

       At the Boston Globe Mark Shanahan has a Q & A with David Godine about ‘Godine at Fifty’ and the press he founded to publish ‘books that matter for people who care’
       Though he sold Godine last year, and is now: "totally removed" from the publishing house, it obviously retains his strong personal imprint.
       My favorite observation:
We were not heavily engaged in the 21st century or where it was going
       Obviously, their Georges Perec-list alone makes them much-admired hereabouts (most of those are under review at the complete review), but there are a lot of other treasures here; among recent publications, I think especially Aleksandra Lun's The Palimpsests deserves more attention and readers than it got.

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       European Literature Night

       If you're in New York City tonight, they're holding European Literature Night 2021, "a presentation of 11 books from 10 European countries" -- a neat event, in a neat venue.
       Two of the titles being presented are under review at the complete review:
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       Boardman Tasker Award

       They've announced the winner of this year's Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature, and it is Emilio Comici: Angel of the Dolomites, by David Smart; see also the Rocky Mountain Books publicity page.

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19 November 2021 - Friday

Oswald Wiener (1935-2021) | Prix du Meilleur livre étranger
Grand prix de la Critique littéraire | Reviewing translations panel
The Brass Go-Between review

       Oswald Wiener (1935-2021)

       Very sad to hear that Oswald Wiener has passed away; see, for example, (German) reports at APA, the Wiener Zeitung, and ORF.

       He remains best-known for his die verbesserung von mitteleuropa, roman -- see the Jung und Jung publicity page -- and I finally got a personal copy of this, as well as the amazing Italian translation that came out this year, by Nicola Cipani -- see the il verri publicity page -- and properly reviewing this/these has been one of my grander ambitions this year. It might spill into next year, but I will be getting to it.
       (As I've noted before, I am surprised Dalkey Archive Press haven't published an English translation of this -- this is such an obvious fit to Dalkey. Of course, it's never too late .....)

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       Prix du Meilleur livre étranger

       They announced the winners of this prize for the best foreign books translated into French -- see also my mention of the announcement of the finalists --; see the Livres Hebdo report.
       The fiction winner is the French translation of Guzel Yakhina's Дети мои; see also the elkost information page on the book, which is apparently coming out from Europa Editions in the US and UK.
       The non-fiction winner is Kapka Kassabova's To the Lake; see also the publicity pages from Graywolf and Granta.

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       Grand prix de la Critique littéraire

       The French Grand prix de la Critique littéraire was founded in 1948, and the PEN Club Français has now announced this year's winner -- Le réalisme pense la démocratie, by Philippe Dufour, which beat out Chez Temporel by Patrick Cloux by a commanding seven votes to one in the final reckoning.
       See also the Éditions La Baconnière publicity page.

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       Reviewing translations panel

       This sounds like it should be worth your while: the National Book Critics Circle is hosting an online panel on The Art of Reviewing Literature in Translation on Sunday, 21 November, at 13:00 EST, with Kevin Blankinship, Shelley Frisch, Samuel Martin, Emma Ramadan, and Jeremy Tiang.

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       The Brass Go-Between review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ross Thomas' 1969 thriller, The Brass Go-Between -- the first in the Philip St.Ives-series that he wrote under the name of Oliver Bleeck.

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18 November 2021 - Thursday

National Book Awards | Governor General's Literary Awards
Best books lists | Booker sales-boost

       National Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's (American) National Book Awards.
       Hell of a Book by Jason Mott won the fiction award, while Aneesa Abbas Higgins' translation of Elisa Shua Dusapin's Winter in Sokcho won the Translated Literature award.

       The Dusapin has been appearing on a lot of best-translated and best-book lists, and is the first major-award winner for Open Letter Books. I have to admit, I'm a bit surprised that this is their break-out book; they've published a lot of great books -- see those under review at the complete review -- and I would not have guessed this one to be the one that really catches on. But they certainly deserve the attention and success, so good on them.

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       Governor General's Literary Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's Governor General's Literary Awards, a leading Canadian literary prize -- fourteen winners in seven categories, once for French and once for English works.
       Tainna: The Unseen Ones won for best English-language work of fiction, while Faire les sucres by Fanny Britt won the French prize.

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       Best books lists

       They're all over, but at least the personal-suggestions ones are a bit more interesting; see, for example, now 'New Statesman writers and guests choose their favourite reading of 2021' at the New Statesman's Books of the year-round-up, while The Spectator has their two-part 'chosen by our regular reviewers'-list, here and here.

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       Booker sales-boost

       In The Bookseller Sian Bayley reports that Chatto reprints 153k copies of Galgut's Booker winner The Promise, as the leading English-language novel prize again provides the expected sales-boost:
The Promise has sold 23,878 copies in hardback, with 14,622 of those sold in the last two weeks, a 1,925% jump in volume compared with the two weeks before.
       Meanwhile, the US publisher of the book, Europa Editions, apparently already ordered a run of 40,000 new copies..

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17 November 2021 - Wednesday

SoA Translation Prize shortlists | Baillie Gifford Prize
Dawn Powell profile | Die Wolfshaut review

       SoA Translation Prize shortlists

       The Society of Authors has announced the shortlists for six of its Translation Prizes, with the winners to be announced 10 February 2022.

       Shortlisted titles from five of the six prizes are under review at the complete review -- the only one I haven't reviewed a single title from is the Premio Valle Inclán, for translations from the Spanish.
       There are a surprising three shortlisted titles for the Bernard Shaw Prize -- translations from the Swedish -- under review:
  • Chitambo by Hagar Olsson, tr. Sarah Death
  • Crisis by Karin Boye, tr. Amanda Doxtater
  • To Cook A Bear by Mikael Niemi, tr. Deborah Bragan-Turner
       Only one title shortlisted for the Schlegel-Tieck Prize -- for translation from the German -- is under review:        Three titles shortlisted for the Scott Moncrieff Prize, for translations from the French, are under review:        Two titles shortlisted for the Vondel Prize, for translations from the Dutch, are under review:        And one title shortlisted for the TA First Translation prize is under review:
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       Baillie Gifford Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, a £50,000 prize that calls itself: "the most prestigious non-fiction prize in the UK", and it is Empire of Pain, by Patrick Radden Keefe.

       See also the publicity pages from Doubleday and Picador, or get your copy at or

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       Dawn Powell profile

       In the Columbus Monthly Peter Tonguette has a lengthy profile of How Literary History (Nearly) Forgets Ohio's Dawn Powell.
       Dawn Powell is, of course, not really forgotten, and still gets quite frequent notice; still, the consensus seems to be she doesn't get the attention she deserves. (Of course, that's true about an enormous number of authors.)
       I have the two Library of America volumes of nine of her novels and keep meaning to cover some of them, but I haven't gotten around to it yet .....

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       Die Wolfshaut review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hans Lebert's 1960 novel, Die Wolfshaut.

       This is a major novel -- cited, for example, by Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek as a major influence on her own work (yes, I know that isn't everyone's idea of a recommendation, but Jelinek too easily gets a bad rap: remember, she's also the German (co-)translator of Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow). Disappointingly, Lebert's legal heirs -- his widow, it seems -- apparently currently refuse to let his work be re-issued (hence the pretty steep prices for even a German edition of this one), much less be translated (into, for example, English ...). Ah, literary executors .....
       My 1991 edition of Die Wolfshaut comes with an afterword by Lebert-biographer Jürgen Egyptien (Sonderzahl, 2019), which opens with a mention that his own copy of this novel comes from Otto Basil's library, and slips in a Gerhard Fritsch-mention in that first paragraph as well -- which alone would have been enough to win me over. Basil might be familiar to some English-speaking readers from his alternate-history novel, The Twilight Men, while I remain surprised that Gerhard Fritsch hasn't been translated yet, as he seems an author very much suited to some of the subjects of this time; I have two of his novels and will try to get around to reviewing them too, sooner rather than later.

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16 November 2021 - Tuesday

Gianni Rodari profile | (Another) best mysteries list
2022 PEN America Literary Awards judges

       Gianni Rodari profile

       At Jacobin Giorgio Chiappa profiles Lamberto, Lamberto, Lamberto-author Gianni Rodari, in The Italian Communist Whose Radical Children's Books Shaped a Generation.
       Yes, it hasn't even been a year since Joan Acocella profiled him in The New Yorker, asThe Italian Genius Who Mixed Marxism and Children's Literature, but, hey, it's a good story .....

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

       (Another) best mysteries list

       Of lists there can never be enough, and while it is now the season for best-of-the-year lists there are also some all-timers popping up -- so at Parade, where Michael Giltz offers Want to Crack the Case ? These Are The 101 Best Mystery Books of All Time.
       I fail to understand the decision -- frequently found on lists like this -- to: "sticking to one title per author". It's a list of best books; who the author is is irrelevant; if the author is a true master, why shouldn't they be represented by more than one title ? (Granted, in the mystery genre, one title is (far too) often sufficient to sum up an author's output -- as suggested here also by the many first-in-a-series selections --, but there are certainly exceptions.)
       (The failure of this 'system' is evident here in the selection of The Strange Case of Peter the Lett (since re-translated as Pietr the Latvian), which is a good Maigret (but more conspicuously, the first Maigret ...) but pales compared to some of Simenon's others -- not to mention the best of his romans durs.)

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

       2022 PEN America Literary Awards judges

       They've announced the sixty judges for next year's 2022 PEN America Literary Awards in all the different categories

       The judges for the PEN Translation Prize will be: Almiro Andrade, Mayada Ibrahim, Barbara Ofosu-Somuah, and Sharon E. Rhodes.
       The judges for the (US $50,000) PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature are: Laila Lalami, Mónica de la Torre, and David Treuer.

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

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