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Preview: the Literary Saloon

the Literary Saloon

opinionated commentary on literary matters

Copyright: Copyright 2018 the Complete Review

Philip Kerr (1956-2018)
       Sad to hear that Philip Kerr, best known for his many Bernie Gunther novels, has passed away; see, for example, Hannah Summers' report in The Guardian
       While I read the first, best, Gunther novels -- that first trilogy -- as well as favorites such as A Philosophical Investigation (and duds like Dead Meat and The Grid) before I started the site, several of his works are under review at the complete review:

Tawada Yoko reviews
       The most recent additions to the complete review are my reviews of two works by Tawada Yoko:
  • The novel The Emissary, due out shortly from New Directions
  • The story, Time Differences, published as part of Strangers Press' Keshiki-series

Whiting Awards
       The Whiting Foundation has announced their 2018 award winners -- the ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama who receive US$50,000 each, lucky them.

The Neighborhood review
       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mario Vargas Llosa's latest novel to be translated into English, The Neighborhood.

       This hasn't gotten very much US-review attention yet (the UK edition isn't out yet) -- with the notable exception of The New York Times, who have not only done the rare daily-edition/The New York Times Book Review double (admittedly both times in reviews that also cover the simultaneously-released essay collection, Sabers and Utopias) but also a very fancy profile in The New York Times Magazine. Yes, the guy's a Nobel laureate -- but this is ... a lot of coverage, for two not-very-good books ..... Perhaps not the best allocation of limited literary coverage/review resources ?

Prix Jean d'Ormesson longlist
       French author Jean d'Ormesson died last year -- but at least there's a prix Jean d'Ormesson now, with a focus on classics that have fallen into some obscurity, and they've now announced a twelve-title longlist, with lots of modern translations: works by Chinghiz Aitmatov, Gerald Durell, Gerald Durell, Claudio Magris, Eric Newby, William Styron, and Inoue Yasushi (The Hunting Gun) among them. A pretty solid line-up.
       The winner will be announced on 6 June.

Festival Neue Literatur
       The Festival Neue Literatur -- bringing: "new writing from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States" to New York -- runs tomorrow through Sunday.
       This year's theme is: Insider | Outsider.

Jürg Laederach (1945-2018)
       Swiss author Jürg Laederach has passed away; see, for example, Paul Jandl's Neue Zürcher Zeitung piece.
       He wasn't widely translated into English, but Semiotext(e) brought out 69 Ways to Play the Blues (see their publicity page, or get your copy at or and Dalkey Archive Press brought out The Whole of Life (see their publicity page, or get your copy at or, so that should tell you something .....

American Academy of Arts and Letters prizes
       The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced that Thomas Pynchon has been awarded the inaugural biennial US$100,000 Christopher Lightfoot Walker Award, "which recognizes a writer of distinction who has made a significant contribution to American literature".
       They've also announced their (other) literature award winners -- eight 'Arts and Letters Awards in Literature'-winners, and the winners of seven other awards.

Trick review
       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Domenico Starnone's Trick -- just out in English, from Europa Editions, in Jhumpa Lahiri's translation.

Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award
       I missed this when they announced it a couple of weeks ago, but Irish/Gaelic-writing Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill has been named the winner of this year's Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award (which she'll pick up on 10 May).
       The award recognizes: "outstanding artistic and intellectual literary achievements on the world stage which have a bearing on the world of values towards which Zbigniew Herbert's work gravitated", and previous winners include Breyten Breytenbach (2017), Lars Gustafsson (2016), and W.S.Merwin (the inaugural prize, in 2013).
       See also, for example, her bilingual collection Selected Poems: Rogha Dánta; see the New Island publicity page, or get your copy at or

Wellcome Book Prize shortlist
       They've announced the shortlist for this year's Wellcome Book Prize -- open to works of fiction and non that: "have a central theme that engages with some aspect of medicine, health or illness".
       The winner will be announced 30 April; none of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review (and I don't expect any to be before then, either).

Writing in ... Pakistan
       At Maniza Naqvi finds: 'The number of writers and books is increasingly exponentially', in In Pakistan, English fiction is gathering pace in its search for approval and recognition -- even as Sneha Bhura wonders, in The Week, Will contemporary Urdu novelists please stand up ?

China Literature 2017 results
       One of last year's big IPOs was that of China Literature Limited, the online behemoth, and they've just released their annual results [(dreaded) pdf; (identical) PR newswire release)].
       While the stock has under-performed (it closed yesterday at 82.05, still below the opening 90.05 last November, and far off the closing high of 104 (9 November, in the early euphoria)).
       With 6.9 million writers on the platform, they certainly are huge -- and looking to expand with Thai, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese versions.
       The money isn't insignificant, either: US$523.5 million of online reading revenue (!) in 2017 (though revenue from 'physical books and others' were down about 10 per cent from the previous year ...).

OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature longlists
       They've announced the longlists for the 2018 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature -- though these are more less the finalists, three each in the poetry and fiction categories (with: "an unprecedented decision to name no titles to the longlist" in the non-fiction category).
       Impressively -- if also a bit worryingly -- all three fiction finalists were published by Peepal Tree Press (as was one of the poetry finalists ...).
       The category winners will be announced 2 April, the overall winner on 28 April.

ST/EFG Short Story Award shortlist
       They've announced the six-title shortlist for this year's Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award -- an all-American line-up.
       The winning story will be announced 26 April.

Congo Inc. review
       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of In Koli Jean Bofane's novel, Congo Inc.: Bismarck's Testament, just out in English from Indiana University Press in their Global African Voices-series.

       It includes a small Laure Adler-cmaeo -- she of, for example, the Q & A volume with George Steiner, A Long Saturday.

Q & A: Dag Solstad
       With Dag Solstad's T Singer and Armand V coming out soon in English translation, both in the US and UK, it's good to see some prominent early attention, such as Adam Dalva's Q & A in Publishers Weekly, The Process of No Process: PW Talks with Dag Solstad.
       Good also to see the first English-language reviews, at PW and Kirkus Reviews -- the latter summing up in the review of T Singer:
Knut Hamsun remains the king of Nordic gloom, but Solstad gives him a run for the money in a story at once traditional and postmodern.
       And in the review of Armand V:
If Knausgaard is too cheery for you, then this is just your cup of lutefisk.
       (I think both of these novels are contenders for next year's Best Translated Book Award and the Man Booker International Prize .....)

Q & A: David Albahari
       David Albahari turned seventy last week, and in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung Andreas Breitenstein has a (German) Q & A with him.
       Albahari is reasonably well represented in English translation, but certainly deserves more attention.
       Several of his titles are under review at the complete review:

Q & A: Will Self
       In The Guardian Alex Clark has a Q & A with Will Self: 'The novel is absolutely doomed'.
       Among the interesting titbits: Self professes:
I'm completely digital. I barely read on hard copy any more.
       I can't recall many writers who have made that transition; it's far more common to hear them clinging to paper/print. (And it's amusing to see that as far as writing goes he thinks: "writing on computers is a bit of disaster" and instead relies on a manual typewriter .....)
       Also good to hear:
For pleasure, I'm rereading Paul Theroux, who I think is a vastly underrated writer.
       I agree.
       (Ten of Theroux's books are under review at the complete review, most recently Mother Land. A few by Self are also under review, though nothing recent; see, for example, Dorian.)

Sergio Ramírez Q & A
       At the Asymptote weblog José García Escobar has a Q & A In Conversation with Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramírez, and while they may be setting the bar a bit too high with the claim: "Sergio is arguably the most important Central American writer today", he certainly is a very good and important author -- and woefully under-appreciated in the English-speaking world.
       Several of his works are under review at the complete review:

Bookselling in ... France
       GFK now report on the numbers, in France in 2017 -- and find that book sales were down 1 per cent by volume and 1.2 per cent by sales.
       They also found that 28,6 million French(wo)men were book-buyers -- a disappointing/shameful only-52-per-cent of the 10+ population. But at least the average book buyer purchased almost 11 books a year.
       Note, however, that the most popular title counted was, as reported, for example, in Les Echos, Astérix et la Transitalique, with 1.6 million copies sold .....

The Queen of the Night review
       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Marc Behm's 1977 novel, The Queen of the Night.

       It's a wild and weird one -- and comes with a great opening line/paragraph:
I hate furniture and clowns.

Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse
       The Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair is the big German spring book prize (with the German Book Prize the big(ger) one in the fall) -- and is actually three prizes, awarding one for a work of fiction, one for non, and one for best translation.
       They've now announced this year's prize winners, with Esther Kinsky's Hain. Geländeroman winning the fiction prize; see also the Suhrkamp foreign rights page -- and note that English-language rights have been bought by Fitzcarraldo, who recently brought out her River; see their publicity page.
       Sabine Stöhr and Juri Durkot's translation of Serhiy Zhadan's Інтернат was named the best translation; see the Suhrkamp foreign rights page.
       Ukrainian author Zhadan's Voroshilovgrad is available in English -- and Mesopotamia is due out shortly from Yale University Press, in their Margellos World Republic of Letters-series; see their publicity page, or pre-order your copy at or (Meanwhile, his Depeche Modeis also under review at the complete review.)

National Book Critics Circle Awards
       They've announced the winners of this year's (American) National Book Critics Circle Awards.
       None of these works are under review at the complete review -- though at least two other titles by one of the winning authors, Xiaolu Guo, are (A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers and Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth).

Chinese Indonesian Literature Museum
       In the South China Morning Post Randy Mulyanto writes about the Chinese Indonesian Literature Museum, in Fighting prejudice against Indonesia's ethnic Chinese, museum uses literature to show their role in country's history.
       Great to see this -- and it looks pretty impressive, with a collection of: "more than 30,000 books, newspapers, comics and other documents".

French-American Foundation Translation Prize finalists
       They've announced the finalists for the 2018 French-American Foundation Translation Prize.
       The five fiction finalists are:
  • Melville, by Jean Giono; translated by Paul Eprile
  • Moving the Palace, by Charif Majdalani; translated by Edward Gauvin
  • Not One Day, by Anne Garréta; translated by Emma Ramadan
  • The Principle, by Jérôme Ferrari; translated by Howard Curtis
  • The Seventh Function of Language, by Laurent Binet; translated by Sam Taylor
       There are also five finalist in the non-fiction category -- including the book that towers over all these, The Years, by Annie Ernaux, in Alison L. Strayer's translation.
       The winners will be announced in May.

(American) National Book Award judges revealed
       The (American) National Book Awards are now open for submissions (through 29 June), and they've also revealed who will be judging each of the five categories.
       After some three decades, there's a prize for Translated Literature again (though this time: only by living authors ...), and the five judges for that category are: Harold Augenbraum (chair), Karen Maeda Allman, Sinan Antoon, Susan Bernofsky, and Álvaro Enrigue.
       The longlists will be announced in mid-September.

The Bird Tribunal review
       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Agnes Ravatn's The Bird Tribunal -- yet another Norwegian novel.
       Orenda Books brought this out, and while they couldn't get much press coverage, they did wrangle a very impressive number of weblog-reviews for it.

London Book Fair Awards shortlists
       They've announced the shortlists for the London Book Fair International Excellence Awards, which includes a variety of interesting categories -- including, notably, the Literary Translation Initiative Award.
       This year's finalists for that one are a fine trio:        The Lontar Foundation promotes: "Indonesian literature and culture through the translation of Indonesian literary works" -- and several of their works are under review at the complete review -- while Serbian publisher Geopoetika also publishes some titles in English translation (some of which have also since been picked up/(re)published by US/UK publishers).

Czech Authors in Persian
       At the Czech National Library an exhibit on Czech Authors in Persian Translations: Literary Art and Professional Works, Translated and Published in Iran runs from tomorrow through 28 April.
       Always interesting to see how literature moves outside the usual dominant routes and languages; wish I could see this.