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opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review

9 December 2023 - Saturday

Scotland's National Book Awards | Diagram Prize
Publishing translations in ... Sweden

       Scotland's National Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's Scotland's National Book Awards.
       Martin MacInnes' In Ascension was named the Saltire Society Fiction Book of the Year.

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       Diagram Prize

       As Tom Tivnan reports, Matthew F. Jordan's Danger Sound Klaxon ! has won The Bookseller Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year.

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       Publishing translations in ... Sweden

       Via I'm pointed to Jana Rüegg's doctoral thesis, Publishing Translations: Flows, Patterns, and Power-Dynamics in the Swedish Book Market after 1970 (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- starting in 1970, as the book-market was deregulated then..
       Among her conclusions:
The publishing trajectories of the 45 selected Nobel Prize laureates highlight general patterns in the Swedish book market, i.e. that small publishing houses have become increasingly more important for translated high prestige literature, and the diminishing importance of medium-sized publishers.
       I suspect the story is similar in other nations/markets as well.

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8 December 2023 - Friday

Jon Fosse on 'A Silent Language' | Benjamin Zephaniah (1958-2023)
Reading in ... Romania | Irish Book of the Year | White Shadow review

       Jon Fosse on 'A Silent Language'

       This year's Nobel laureate in Literature, Scenes from a Childhood-author Jon Fosse, gave his Nobel lecture, A Silent Language, yesterday; you can also (re)watch it here.

       Meanwhile, in The New York Times Alex Marshall reports how Jon Fosse Wants to Say the Unsayable.
       Among the quotes:
Sarah Cameron Sunde, an artist based in the United States who has translated Fosse’s plays into English and directed several of them in New York, said that the American audience’s lack of recognition for Fosse could be explained, perhaps, by his frequently morbid subject matter: His writing often features characters wracked by loneliness, desperate for connection and contemplating the end, and many of his plays involve suicide. “Everyone is very afraid of death over here,” she said.

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       Benjamin Zephaniah (1958-2023)

       British author and performer Benjamin Zephaniah has passed away; see, for example, obituaries at the BBC, The New York Times, and The Guardian.

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       Reading in ... Romania

       At the LRB blog Paula Erizanu wonders Why don't Romanians read more ? as:
More than half of Romanians haven’t read a book in the past year, according to the National Statistics Institute. There are about 25 million Romanian speakers in the world, compared to ten million Hungarians, but the average print run for a Hungarian novel is three thousand, while for a Romanian novel it’s less than half that.
       (I haven't been able to find the INS report.)
       As she notes:
The outdated school curriculum is one answer. There are sixteen writers on the national curriculum for the baccalaureate exams and they are all dead, white and male. The most recent, Marin Sorescu, was born in 1936 and died in 1996. When contemporary writers visit schools, especially in rural areas, some students are surprised that living authors even exist.
       Not an ideal situation .....

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       Irish Book of the Year

       They've announced the winner of this year's An Post Irish Book of the Year, selected from the six awards category winners, and it is The Bee Sting by Paul Murray

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       White Shadow review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the second in The Barrøy Chronicles by Roy Jacobsen, White Shadow.

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7 December 2023 - Thursday

Whiting Grants | Jeffrey Angles Q & A
Shanghai International Online Literature Week

       Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grants

       They've announced the ten winners of this year's Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grants, awarded to: "writers in the process of completing a book of deeply researched and imaginatively composed nonfiction" -- and paying out a healthy US$40,000 apiece.
       Some intriguing-sounding projects, I suppose.

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       Jeffrey Angles Q & A

       Via I'm pointed to Rex Bowman's Q & A with the translator of The Thorn Puller at Great Lakes Review, Hiromi Ito and Jeffrey Angles: When a Great Writer Meets a Great Translator.
       Among much else, Angles suggests: " one voice which really ought to be heard in the twenty-first century is that of the ecocritical writer Michiko Ishimure"; among her (few) works available in English is Lake of Heaven; see the Lexington Books publicity page or get your copy at,, or

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       Shanghai International Online Literature Week

       Reporting on the Shanghai International Online Literature Week, Zhu Shenshen reports Chinese online literature finds fame and fortune on a global scale at Shine, and in the South China Morning Post Ben Jiang finds Generative AI translation lifts overseas sales of Chinese online literature industry: report.
AI has improved translation efficiency by more than 100 times and cut costs by over 90 per cent, according to China Literature, which said it had been increasing investments in the technology since earlier this year to improve its internal translation workflow.
       He does note: "Not all readers were impressed, though", but, oh yeah, we're goiing to be seeing a whole lot more of this.

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6 December 2023 - Wednesday

WLT's '75 Notable Translations 2023'
John Dos Passos Prize | Nobel Prize lecture in literature
The Emperor of China in a House of Ill Repute review

       WLT's '75 Notable Translations 2023'

       World Literature Today has announced its 75 Notable Translations 2023 -- always a good overview of many of the translations that appeared in the past year.
       Only seven of them are under review at the complete review .....

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       John Dos Passos Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's John Dos Passos Prize, awarded to: "a talented American writer who experiments with form, explores a range of voices and merits further recognition", and it is Patricia Engel.

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       Nobel Prize lecture in literature

       Jon Fosse will give the Nobel Prize lecture in literature tomorrow, at 17:00 CET; you can watch it live here, or then read it here.

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       The Emperor of China in a House of Ill Repute review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Songs of the Imperial Visit to Datong by Pu Songling, his novel The Emperor of China in a House of Ill Repute.

       This is one of the first five volumes in the Hsu-Tang Library of Classical Chinese Literature from Oxford University Press -- and the one I was most curious about. Pu Songling is a well-known author, and quite a bit of his work is available in translation (well, mainly Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio), but this was entirely new to me -- and a neat little discovery.

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5 December 2023 - Tuesday

FT Business Book of the Year | Frankfurt Book Fair 2027 Guest of Honor

       FT and Schroders Business Book of the Year

       They've announced (ridiculously apparently paywalled) the winner of this year's FT and Schroders Business Book of the Year, and it is Right Kind of Wrong, by Amy Edmondson -- subtitled The Science of Failing Well in the US and Why Learning to Fail Can Teach Us to Thrive in the UK.
       See also the publicity pages from Cornerstone Press or Atria Books, or get your copy at,, or

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       Frankfurt Book Fair 2027 Guest of Honor

       The Frankfurt Book Fair has now announced their 2027 Guest of Honor -- though not yet at their official site, last I checked, but see, for example, the Chilean culture ministry press release or the Börsenblatt report.
       Chile will be Guest of Honour -- following Italy (2024), the Philippines (2025), and the Czech Republic (2026).

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4 December 2023 - Monday

Taiwanese literature in translation | Newton's Brain review

       Taiwanese literature in translation

       At Taiwan News Sean Scanlan reports on how an International forum promotes translations of Taiwanese literature, reporting on a recent National Museum of Taiwan Literature international forum; see also the official (Chinese) press release.

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       Newton's Brain review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Romanetto by Jakub Arbes, Newton's Brain, in a new translation.

       This 1877 work is one of two just about out from Jantar in their new 'Historical Science Fiction'-series, which looks very promising.

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3 December 2023 - Sunday

Latest Litprom-Bestenliste | Skeletons in the Closet review

       Latest Litprom-Bestenliste

       The latest Litprom-Bestenliste, a quarterly German list of the best new publications in translation from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Arabic-speaking world, has released its Winter 2023/2024 selection.
       Always interesting to see what gets translated in other languages -- including, here, several titles not (yet) available in English.

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       Skeletons in the Closet review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jean-Patrick Manchette's Skeletons in the Closet, now out in English from New York Review Books.

       This was also made into a film, in 1981 -- Pour la peau d'un flic, both directed by and starring Alain Delon.

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2 December 2023 - Saturday

Translation Prizes shortlists | Hsu-Tang Library Q & A
Upcoming Japanese translations

       Translation Prizes shortlists

       The Society of Authors has announced the shortlists for next year's Translation Prizes -- 50 shortlisted works, for eight prizes.

       I am shocked how few of these I've seen -- but a few of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review:
  • The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Translation Prize (for translations from the Japanese):
  • The Schlegel-Tieck Prize (for translations from the German):
    • Siblings by Brigitte Reimann, translated by Lucy Jones

  • Scott Moncrieff Prize (for translations from the French):
    • The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier, translated by Adriana Hunter

  • The TA First Translation Prize
    • Awake by Harald Voetmann, translated by Johanne Sorgenfri Ottosen
       The winners will be announced 7 February 2024.

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       Hsu-Tang Library Q & A

       The Hsu-Tang Library of Classical Chinese Literature is the impressive new series from Oxford University Press, offering: "bilingual editions of literature from the Zhou Dynasty to the end of Imperial China in 1911"; I have the first five volumes -- and have already reviewed one of them, Master Incapable, with more to follow.
       At MIT News Peter Dizikes now has a Q & A with the series' founding editor-in-chief: 3 Questions: Wiebke Denecke on a landmark project for Chinese literature.
       As she notes: "It is a great moment for world literature".

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       Upcoming Japanese translations

       There's a helpful list of 2024 New and Upcoming Japanese Fiction Releases at Alison Fincher's Read Japanese Literature.
       Quite a few things to look forward to -- including new works by Ogawa Yoko (Pantheon; August, 2024), Akutagawa Prize-winners by Tanaka Shinya (Cannibals: Honford Star, March, 2024) and Toh EnJoe (Harlequin Butterfly: Pushklin Press, February, 2024) and the second part of Kyokutei Bakin's Eight Dogs, or "Hakkenden" (Cornell University Press, February, 2024).

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1 December 2023 - Friday

Vassilis Vassilikos (1933-2023) | Fürstinnen review

       Vassilis Vassilikos (1933-2023)

       Greek author Vassilis Vassilikos, best known for Z, which was filmed by Costa-Gavras, has passed away; see, for example, the report.
       Several of his works are available from Seven Stories Press.

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       Fürstinnen review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Eduard von Keyserling's 1917 novel, Fürstinnen.

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30 November 2023 - Thursday

Paweł Huelle (1957-2023) | Lutz Seiler Q & A
Joyce's Ulysses in Kurdish | 'Signed and First Edition Books Museum'

       Paweł Huelle (1957-2023)

       Polish author Paweł Huelle has passed away; see, for example, the report at TVP.
       The only one of his works under review at the complete review is Mercedes-Benz.

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       Lutz Seiler Q & A

       Exberliner has a Q & A with the Kruso-author, Büchner Prize winner Lutz Seiler on poetry, prose and the second life of translations.

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       Joyce's Ulysses in Kurdish

       At The Markaz Review Kaya Genç writes On the Herculean Task of Translating Joyce's Ulysses into Kurdish; see also the Avesta publicity page.

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       'Signed and First Edition Books Museum'

       In Daily Sabah Buse Keskin reports on Istanbul's literary gem: Türkiye's 1st 'Signed Books Museum' -- the İlk Baskı ve İmzalı Kitaplar Müzesi.
       An ... interesting idea.

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29 November 2023 - Wednesday

Pope congratulates Jon Fosse
NYTBR 10 Best Books of 2023 | Prix de la littérature arabe

       Pope congratulates Jon Fosse

       Pope Francis is apparently a fan of Nobel laureate Jon Fosse's -- and the Norwegian Catholic Church has the fan letter to prove it.
       Fosse is a convert to Catholicism, and the Pope wrote, among other things:
In a particular way, I am confident that your ability to evoke Almighty God's gifts of grace, peace and love in our often darkened world will surely enrich the lives of those who share the pilgrimage of faith.
       Fortunately, Fosse's work also works for those of us who have managed to avoid that particular pilgrimage.
       (I am, however, kind of -- actually: very -- disappointed the Pope wrote in English, rather than Latin. Also: come on ! I was sure the Pope would/should be an Oxford-comma man.)

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       NYTBR 10 Best Books of 2023

       Lots of 'best-of-the-year'-lists are coming out -- hey, it's almost December, after all -- including now The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of 2023 (presumably paywalled).
       I've only seen one of these -- the Maylis de Kerangal, which I do hope to get to.

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       Prix de la littérature arabe

       They've announced the winner of this year's prix de la littérature arabe, and it is Je me souviens de Falloujah, by Feurat Alani; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.
       See also the JC Lattès publicity page.

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27 November 2023 - Monday

Booker Prize | The Jib Door review

       Booker Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Booker Prize, the leading English-language novel award, and it is Prophet Song, by Paul Lynch.
       I haven't seen this one yet -- it's not out in the US yet (but is due out shortly); meanwhile, see the publicity pages from Oneworld and Atlantic Monthly Press , or get your copy at, or pre-order at or

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       The Jib Door review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Marlen Haushofer's 1957 novel, The Jib Door.

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26 November 2023 - Sunday

Srinath Perur Q & A

       Srinath Perur Q & A

       At Sayari Debnath has a Q & A with the translator of Vivek Shanbhag's Ghachar Ghochar (and now also his Sakina's Kiss), in ‘Translators need to employ the craft of fiction writing to do their work well’: Srinath Perur. Srinath Perur was also chair of this year's JCB Prize for Literature jury.
       I always make the case that fiction-writers should do translations, but, sure, it works the other way as well.

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25 November 2023 - Saturday

(Maltese) National Book Prizes | Thomas-Mann-Preis

       (Maltese) National Book Prizes

       They've announced the (many) winners of the National Book Prizes in Malta, "selected from a shortlist of 61 titles, published in the preceding year, across fourteen competitive categories", with Marta Marta by Loranne Vella winning for best novel; see also the Ede Books publicity page.

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       Getting a really early start on the prizes to be awarded next fall, they've announced that Navid Kermani will receive the 2024 Thomas Mann Prize, a leading German author-award (not limited to German-writing authors -- Jonathan Franzen won it in 2022 -- but predominantly given to them), and it is Navid Kermani.
       He gets to pick up the prize on 27 September 2024 (!).

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24 November 2023 - Friday

Warwick Prize for Women in Translation | Damion Searls on translating Jon Fosse

       Warwick Prize for Women in Translation

       They've announced the winner of this year's Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, and it is Your Wish Is My Command, by Deena Mohamed -- who both wrote and translated it (and thus takes the whole pot of prize money by herself); it is published as Shubeik Lubeik in the US because ... publishers, *sigh*.
       This is a graphic work of fiction; it sounds appealing -- but as a not-huge-fan of the graphic genres (or perhaps more accurately, as someone who sees them as something completely different from words-only books) I have some (tired, old) reservations. On the other hand: my interest has been piqued, and I'll probably try to have a look. (Also/not least: it's over 500 pages long suggesting something more substantial (yes, I'm easily won over by high page-counts).)
       See also the publicity pages from Granta and Pantheon, or get your copy at, or

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       Damion Searls on translating Jon Fosse

       I have a copy but haven't yet reviewed Nobel laureate Jon Fosse's A Shining, and at Asymptote Georgina Fooks now has a Q & A with the translator, in Casting the Spell: Damion Searls on Translating Jon Fosse's A Shining.
       Well worthwhile, including for such points as:
(F)or better or for worse (mainly for worse), English is the language that matters professionally for world literature. A German publisher told me a couple of years ago that if they have a book, they can get it translated into five or six languages, but it’s not until it gets a review in the Guardian UK or in the New Yorker that they can sell it to twenty or thirty languages—and they also told me that this is increasingly the case. English really is the gateway to bigger success for every other language; it’s not going to be a worldwide, translated-everywhere success unless it goes through English first.

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23 November 2023 - Thursday

Royal Society Science Book Prize | Irish Book Awards
Blancpain-Imaginist Literary Prize | Bremer Literaturpreis

       Royal Society Science Book Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Royal Society Trivedi Science Book Prize and it is An Immense World, by Ed Yong.
       See also the publicity pages from Vintage and Random House, or get your copy at,, or

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       Irish Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's An Post Irish Book Awards, with the Novel of the Year Award going to The Bee Sting, by Paul Murray, and the Foras na Gaeilge Irish Language Fiction Book of the Year Award going to Imram agus Scéalta Eile, by Róise Ní Bhaoill (see also the Éabhlóid publicity page).

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       Blancpain-Imaginist Literary Prize

       They apparently announced the winner of the Blancpain-Imaginist Literary Prize -- which is meant to be : "a literary accolade that is impartial, authoritative, professional and enduring while honoring a work that is likely to stimulate international dialogue" -- a month ago, but only released the press release for the 300,000 yuan (ca. US$42,000) prize now, and it is 一团坚冰, by Yang Zhihan; see also Yang Yang's China Daily report, Writer delivers cold, hard fiction.

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       Bremer Literaturpreis

       Longlisted for the German Book Prize, and shortlisted for both the Austrian and Bavarian Book Prizes, Teresa Präauer's Kochen im falschen Jahrhundert fell just short with all the 2023 prizes but finds some redemption -- and €25,000 in prize money -- by taking the just-announced 2024 Bremen Literary Prize.
       With English rights apparently already sold -- to Pushkin Press -- the book looks set for more success down the line, too.

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22 November 2023 - Wednesday

NYTBR 100 Notable Books of 2023 | ពានរង្វាន់ព្រះនាងឥន្ទ្រទេវី
Cavafy Archive | Typewriters ! | Die Ballade des letzten Gastes review

       NYTBR 100 Notable Books of 2023

       The New York Times Book Review has released its list of their 100 Notable Books of 2023 (presumably paywalled).
       As best I can tell, eight of the books are works in translation.
       After having reviewed seven of their 2021 notable books by the time the list was published, and five in 2022, there are only four under review at the complete review this year:
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       As Hong Raksmey reports in The Phnom Penh Post, Diverse talents shine at literary competition, as the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has announced the winners of this year's Indradevi Literary Awards, selected from "114 entries comprising 86 short novels and 28 poems". (I wonder why there are no long novels .....)
       Good to see support for the local literature; still, it's somewhat troubling when this is highlighted as a ... concern:
Un Sok Heang from the Novel Committee praises the commendable submissions, acknowledging their grounding in social reality and positive perspectives, notably in promoting women's values. However, he notes that, among the 86 works, when evaluating their meaning, genre and moral purpose, nearly all fell short in some aspects.

"Some writers should avoid choosing topics that do not benefit society," he opines.
       Very little Khmer writing makes it into English -- Suon Sorin's A New Sun Rises Over the Old Land is the only work under review at the complete review -- and I fear publishers and literary agents won't exactly be scouring the list of winners here either .....
       For more pictures from the award ceremony, see the CNC report.

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       Cavafy Archive

       The Onassis Foundation has apparently now opened the Cavafy Archive -- 'An archive open to all !' -- in Athens; see also the report
       Looks like it's worth a visit.

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       Typewriters !

       Heritage Auctions is auctioning off a neat but eclectic selection of celebrity-typewriters on 15 December.
       Harold Robbins' ! Philip Roth's ! Ted 'Unabomber' Kaczynski's ! John Updike's ! Andy Rooney's ! Truman Capote's ! Shirley Temple's ! Greta Garbo's ! Ray Bradbury's ! etc.
       See also Eric Grossman's report at Penta, Historic Typewriters Used by Literary Giants and Celebrities Up for Auction.

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       Die Ballade des letzten Gastes review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Peter Handke's latest novel, Die Ballade des letzten Gastes.

       This just came out in German, so there isn't an English translation yet, but we can probably expect one in a year or two.

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21 November 2023 - Tuesday

Replacement-Costa Awards shortlists | Comic Fiction Prize
Baku Book Center Q & A

       Replacement-Costa Awards shortlists

       The Costa Book Awards recently called it quits, but another coffee outfit has quickly jumped into the void and so now they have the Nero Book Awards in the UK -- and these have just announced the shortlists for their inaugural award.
       (Only) four titles each, in the four categories: fiction, non, children's, and debut -- differentiating themselves slightly from the Costas, which had a biography, rather than full non-fiction category, as well as a fifth category, poetry.
       Like the Costas, they will name the winner in each category -- on 16 January -- and then pit those four titles against each other, selecting an overall winner which will receive ... the Nero Gold Prize, sometime in February.

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       Comic Fiction Prize

       They've announced the winner of this year's Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction -- who receives: 'a jeroboam of Bollinger Special Cuvée, a case of Bollinger La Grande Année, the complete set of the Everyman’s Library P.G. Wodehouse collection, and a pig named after his winning book' -- and it is The Satsuma Complex, by Bob Mortimer; see, for example, Bruce Dessau's report at Beyond the Joke.
       See also the Gallery UK publicity page.

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       Baku Book Center Q & A

       At Azernews Laman Ismayilova has a Q & A with the Baku Book Center's PR manager, Nigar Huseynova, about: "the activities of the Baku Book Center, readers' preferences, the Baku Book Fair, and the state of the book market in Azerbaijan", in Baku Book Center strives to create vibrant literary community.
       Among the observations: "This year there were no noticeable peaks of interest in any genre" -- and: "Readers stopped buying thick books".

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20 November 2023 - Monday

Schweizer Buchpreis | South Korean literature in ... China
Pekinger Passion review

       Schweizer Buchpreis

       After the German, Austrian, and Bavarian Book Prizes, they've now announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the winner of this year's (German-language) Swiss Book Prize, and it is Sich lichtende Nebel by Christian Haller; see also the Luchterhand publicity page.
       (For what it's worth: Haller is eighty years old.)

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       South Korean literature in ... China

       In the South China Morning Post Kwak Yeon-soo reports on Why Chinese readers are falling in love with Korean fiction -- books adapted for K-dramas and movies, sci-fi, women’s literature, zombie thrillers.
       So, for example:
According to Ye, the number of books translated from Korean to Chinese and published in China has been increasing over the past three years. In 2021, only nine Korean novels were translated into simplified Chinese; in 2022, the number increased to 24; and in just the first three-quarters of 2023, it had gone up to 37.
       The numbers aren't huge, but that's a quick, big increase.
Bae notes there were only four or five Chinese publishing houses that sold translated Korean literature before 2019, including Jiangsu Literature and Art Publishing House, Beijing United Publishing, People’s Literature Publishing House and Citic Press Group.

Since 2019, the number expanded as regional publishing houses got in on the action, and now there are about 30-45 publishers that publish Korean books.
       It would, of course, also be interesting to hear how Chinese fiction is faring in South Korea and what the comparable numbers there are .....

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

       Pekinger Passion review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Swiss author Jürg Amann's little Kriminalnovelle from 2008, Pekinger Passion.

       This hasn't been translated into English, but it certainly seems worth considering by some US/UK publisher, as a neat little spin on the usual murder-mystery.

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

19 November 2023 - Sunday

JCB Prize for Literature | Paul Auster profile | The Secret Hours review

       JCB Prize for Literature

       They've announced the winner of this year's JCB Prize for Literature, the leading Indian prize for a work of fiction, and it is Fire Bird, by Perumal Murugan, translated by Janani Kannan.
       There is no US or UK edition yet, but see the India Hamish Hamilton publicity page, or get your copy at Flipkart,,, or

       This continues the streak of winners being works in translation; the last (and only) time a work written in English won was in 2019.

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

       Paul Auster profile

       In The Guardian Nicholas Wroe speaks with the author at some length, in ‘This might be the last thing I ever write’: Paul Auster on cancer, connection and the fallacy of closure.

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

       The Secret Hours review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mick Herron's new spy-thriller, The Secret Hours -- a more-or-less standalone (i.e. not part of his Slough House series, though there is a bit of character overlap).
       It's very good.

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

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