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Preview: the Literary Saloon

the Literary Saloon



opinionated commentary on literary matters



Copyright: Copyright 2017 the Complete Review
 



Anton Wildgans Preis
       The €15,000 Anton Wildgans Preis is officially the 'Literaturpreis der Österreichischen Industrie - Anton Wildgans' (the 'literary prize of the Austrian industry [association]') and is one of the leading Austrian author-prizes (though their attempts to give it to Thomas Bernhard (1967) and Peter Handke (1984) didn't exactly work out ...); among those who have gotten it are Ingeborg Bachmann, Friederike Mayröcker, Christoph Ransmayr, and Arno Geiger.
       They've now announced the winner of the 2017 prize (to be awarded in May), and it's Robert Seethaler -- whose A Whole Life was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize.
       See also the Farrar, Straus and Giroux publicity page for A Whole Life, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.



Hindi pulp fiction
       In First Post Manik Sharma mourns Hindi pulp fiction: With Ved Prakash Sharma's death, genre has received another blow.
       Among the problems:
Though translations have improved, in quality and in number, the trick of mastering genre fiction still remains elusive to the Indian publisher. Sharma's peer Pathak has been translated, but still waits recognition in the translations space because a market for pulp in English simply does not exist.
       I'd certainly love to see some of this stuff .....



Ties review
       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Domenico Starnone's Ties.
       Translated by Jhumpa Lahiri, this should get some attention -- and Starnone is certainly an author we should see more of in English.



'15 July' Book Fair
       They're holding an international book fair in Istanbul through 5 March, the CNR Kitap Fuarı, and with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaking at the opening ceremonies it's clear there's some official support for this. Maybe a bit much: the theme is '15 July', the logo is ... well, you can see. And Erdoğan used the occasion to slam:
the international media for portraying terrorists as heroes and ignore their victims, and turning a blind eye on the deadly July 15 failed coup attempt which left at least 248 people. He urged Turkish people to tell the story of the deadly coup through literature and arts.
       (So the report in the Daily Sabah.)
       Of course, the reason Erdoğan has to call on 'the people' is that he's muzzled and intimidated most of the actual writers in Turkey
       (For those of you who don't remember 15 July: Daily Sabah (yeah, there's not much free press left in Turkey either ...) describe it as the: "failed coup attempt, led by U.S.-based Fetullah Gülen and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ)" -- which, if not quite an 'alternative fact' is certainly a gross and inaccurate simplification of what happened.)
       All this is nuts, on a Trumpian level.
       But, hey, maybe there will be a library to show for it, in the end:
According to Erdoğan, the presidency is currently working on a new project to build a library and an all-purpose exhibition hall south of the presidential palace. He said the library would be open to everyone, 24 hours a day.



Books by the pound
       Is this what it's come to ? The new bookselling business model: Books by the Pound ?
       That's what this newly opened Georgia bookstore offers:
Here's how it works: $3.99 per lb for lbs 0-3 / $2.99 per lb for lbs 3-8 / $1.99 per lb for the rest. Goodbye full price ! Goodbye half-price !
       Good-bye, indeed .....
       See also the Gwinnett Daily Post piece by Cailin O'Brien, Innovative Lawrenceville book store sells 'books by the pound'.
       (Apparently it's: "a three-month test store", and I do have to admit I am curious as to the results -- though I'm not sure whether I'm rooting for it to be a viable business model.)



Quicksand review
       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Malin Persson Giolito's Quicksand.

       Giolito is indeed the daughter of Leif GW Persson, a very successful (and quite good) Swedish crime novelist in his own right.
       This novel also won the 2016 Bästa svenska kriminalroman ('Best Swedish Crime Novel' award) -- which her father had previously won (three times, including for Another Time, Another Life), and which has also gone to Stieg Larsson's The Girl who Played with Fire and Roslund and Hellström's Three Seconds; Henning Mankell, Håkan Nesser, and Åke Edwardson have also won the award multiple times.



Gateway Lit Fest
       The (inaugural edition of the) Gateway Lit Fest is being held this weekend, in Bombay, and with its focus on regional writers and writings, what's not to like:
The maiden edition has shortlisted seven regional languages as the focus streams -- Bengali, Kannada, Gujarati, Marathi, Malayalam, Oriya and Tamil -- apart from the mainstream Hindi and English.
       See also Kennith Rosario's overview/preview in The Hindu, Keeping aloft the flame of regional literature.
       The proliferation of literary festivals in India in recent years might seem excessive, but this sounds like a worthy addition.



Science fiction from/in ... China
       At Foreign Policy Emily Feng reports on How China Became a Sci-Fi Powerhouse, as: 'Would-be superstar authors once toiled in obscurity. Online publishing changed all that'.
       Also worth noting:
Much of the interest in science fiction within China is now driven by film and television companies, say writers and editors.



North v. South Korean writing
       A rare example of fiction from the 'other' Korea is now available in English: Bandi's Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea, The Accusation -- and in The Guardian translator Deborah Smith now discusses: Do North and South Korea speak the same language ? Yes, but not quite.



New World Literature Today
       The March-April issue of World Literature Today is now available online -- and, as always, well worth your time and attention. Among the topics covered/presented: 'Dystopian Visions' and 'Contemporary Montenegrin Prose'.
       But, as always, the pages to check out in particular are the WLT Book Reviews -- as always, quite an interesting selection.



Prize: JQ-Wingate Prize
       They've announced the winners -- plural, because the prize is shared this year -- of the 2017 Jewish Quarterly Wingate literary prize, the prize going to East West Street (by Philippe Sands) and Waking Lions (by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen).
       With the US edition of Waking Lions due out next week, that's good timing; meanwhile, see the Pushkin Press (UK) publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
       For East West Street, get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.



Prize: French Voices Award
       They announced the 2016 French Voices Award grantees a while ago -- and yesterday they awarded the Grand Prize to Youna Kwak's forthcoming translation of François Bon's novel Daewoo (at a very nice ceremony at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy that I had the pleasure of attending).
       Amazingly, this will apparently be the first full-length Bon to appear in English; Words without Borders has an excerpt from Daewoo (albeit in a different translation).



New Murakami
       The new -- massive, two-volume -- Murakami Haruki novel is out today -- in Japan(ese).
       Hence articles such as: Takashi Takizawa at the Asahi Shimbun reporting Bookstores brace for rush of Murakami's fans on Feb. 24 and Daisuke Kikuchi reporting in The Japan Times that Fans converge on bookstores to snap up Haruki Murakami's latest work.
       More information as to what it's actually all about will surely start popping up over the weekend.
       As to when an English translation can be expected: no word yet that I have seen, but presumably one is, or soon will, in the works.



Author-soldier
       Russian writer Zakhar Prilepin -- several of whose works are available in English; see the Glagoslav author page -- apparently recently introduced his new book, Officers and Militias of Russian Literature, in which: "he tries to prove that war and service are absolutely natural occupations for a writer".
       Practicing what he preaches (or trying to, in these days when conventional war(fare) isn't quite as straightforward any longer, in most locales), Prilepin recently: "announced that he had taken charge of a battalion in the [so-called] 'Donetsk People's Republic'". So reports Alexandra Guzeva at Russia Beyond the Headlines, in: What makes a popular Russian writer go to fight in Donbass ?
       Military posturing has always been Prilepin's schtick, so this isn't much of a surprise; that doesn't make the stench of this any better.
       I am amused to see that you can book him to lecture you at Glagoslav Speakers -- though I suspect his ... let's say: mobility is limited (i.e. you have to figure he'd be arrested as a terrorist and/or war criminal anywhere in Europe he sets foot; same for the US, I would have thought -- though in these rapidly changing times, who knows ? he might well be welcomed with open arms).



Prizes: Society of Authors' Translation Prizes
       They've announced the winners of this year's Society of Authors' Translation Prizes, and at the Times Literary Supplement Adrian Tahourdin has the run-down, in Open borders.

       The only prize-winning title under review at the complete review is Christina MacSweeney's Premio Valle Inclán-winning translation of Valeria Luiselli's The Story of My Teeth.



Prizes: PEN America Literary Awards
       They've announced the winners of this year's PEN America Literary Awards -- with the Translation Prize going to Tess Lewis, for her translation of Maja Haderlap's Angel of Oblivion (which had previously won the 2015 ACFNY Translation Prize).
       See also the Archipelago Books publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.



Prizes: Walter Scott Prize longlist
       They've announced the thirteen-title-strong longlist for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction -- with quite a few big names on it.



Prizes: L.A. Times Book Prize finalists
       They've announced the finalists for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize(s)
       Five of the categories include a (single) work in translation -- an impressive spread, at least.



The Last Days of New Paris review
       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of China Miéville surreal(ist) alternate-history, The Last Days of New Paris.



Yomiuri Prizes
       They announced these quite a few weeks ago, but the big ceremony for the 68th Yomiuri Prize(s) for Literature -- and the first I heard of it -- was only a couple of days ago; see also the official site.
       First off: the impressive selection committee (i.e. the judges) included Ikezawa Norikazu (The Navidad Incident, etc.), Kawakami Hiroki (The Briefcase / Strange Weather in Tokyo, etc.), and Ogawa Yoko (Revenge, etc.). Damn !
       Second: amazingly , there were two 'Western'-born winners: as WMU News reports, Professor wins prestigious Japanese literary prize for poetry, as Jeffrey Angles (ジェフリー・アングルス) won the poetry category for his わたしの日付変更線 ('My International Date Line'; see the 思潮社 publicity page), while Levy Hideo won the novel prize, for 模範郷 ('Model Village'; see the 集英社 publicity page).
       This is ... unusual, and impressive. And here's to hoping we get to see more of especially Levy's work in English translation; for now it's: A Room Where the Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard.
       (Meanwhile, you can watch Levy talk about 'The World in Japanese' here.)



Dacia Maraini
       You can -- and if you can, you should -- catch Dacia Maraini in conversation with Jhumpa Lahiri and Alessandro Giammei at Princeton at 16:30 today.
       If, like me, you can't, then you hope there will be reports (and video ?) -- and you can at least check out a brief Q & A with her by Jessie Chaffee at WWB Daily.

       The only Maraini book currently under review at the complete review is her Flaubert-take, Searching for Emma.



What We See When We Read review
       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of A Phenomenology by Peter Mendelsund, What We See When We Read.

       Yeah, I didn't get this at all; I see/read things rather differently.



Steve Sem-Sandberg Q & A
       At the History News Network Robin Lindley offers Beyond Forgetting: An Interview with Steve Sem-Sandberg on His Historical Novel, The Chosen Ones.
       Sem-Sandberg's The Emperor of Lies and The Chosen Ones are certainly ... admirable (and enormous), but I have to admit having my difficulties with them -- not just the horrific subject matter but their being so-closely-based-on-fact(s) fictions. Sem-Sandberg's claim: "The label 'documentary novel' just doesn't make any sense to me" strikes me as a bit ... disingenuous. Surely, this 'fiction' is (uncomfortably) close to fact,
       See also the Farrar, Straus and Giroux publicity page for The Chosen Ones, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.



Kzradock review
       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Louis Levy's 1910 novel, Kzradock the Onion Man and the Spring-Fresh Methuselah: From the Notes of Dr. Renard de Montpensier, now out in English from Wakefield Press.



African literary criticism
       In The Guardian (Nigeria) Tony E. Afejuku offers some Thoughts on contemporary African Literary criticism.
       He finds that -- especially in Nigeria --: "Critics of conscience are giving way to critics of ethnic value, critics who encourage and father commercialism"
       Interesting also the complaint/call:
Why do our contemporary critics wait for the West to applaud our writers before they themselves do so ? We must now learn to discover our writers (and critics) for the West rather than the West doing the discovery for us. This is imperative for the growth of our contemporary literature and criticism.
       That's probably a more complex issue than he allows for here.
       (Regardless: how can you not appreciate an article that can speak of: "the malaria of malice and jaundice of petty prejudice" ?)



Pakistani visual poetry
       An interesting piece (and lots of pictures) at The Conversation, as Durriya Kazi offers: 'At once silent and eloquent': a glimpse of Pakistani visual poetry.



Chinese literary prize guide
       Ever wondered about all those Chinese literary prizes ?
       No ?
       Well, still, if you ever do need an overview-guide to Chinese literary prize's Chen Dongmei's at the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative has you covered.



The Accusation review
       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea, Bandi's The Accusation.
       Given the paucity of literature from North Korea available in English -- in contrast to that of South Korea, a decent amount of which has been published in recent years -- this is certainly something of an event. Personally, I'd prefer to see some/more stuff that's actually being published in North Korea, but this is of some interest as well.



Wakefield Press Q & A
       At Bookishwitty they have a Q & A with Wakefield Press-director Marc Lowenthal about the press, 'Obscurer, Obscurer': Independent Publisher Wakefield Press on Translating Forgotten Classics.
       It's an unusual independent -- now up to some ten titles a year -- and they put out quite a bit of remarkable stuff. It's also always interesting to hear what performs well and what doesn't seem to catch on (and, in some cases, why) -- surprising, for example, that despite the attention (and how good she is) the Wittkops (e.g. Murder Most Serene) haven't done better.
       Quite a few Wakefield titles are under review at the complete review -- and there are many more that I look forward to. Also worth noting: while the books come in a variety of shapes and sizes, quite a few are of the truly pocket-sized sort, making for ideal carry-along reading (and the production values of the books is very high, too -- they are lovely pieces).



PEN World Voices Festival preview
       They've announced that the theme of this year's PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature (1 through 7 May, in New York) will be 'Gender and Power'.
       A decent amount of the schedule appears to be up at the official site (though you can annoyingly only click-through day by day), and the list of participants is certainly impressive -- too many great names to single out a few.



Abubakar Adam Ibrahim profile
       At Deutsche Welle Gwendolin Hilse profiles Abubakar Adam Ibrahim: northern Nigeria's 'literary provocateur'.
       His Season of Crimson Blossoms was the winner of the 2016 NLNG Nigerian Literature Prize; pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.
       And he will be one of the participants in this year's just-announced PEN World Voices Festival.



Shortlist: International Prize for Arabic Fiction
       They've announced the shortlist for the 2017 International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
       Elias Khoury makes the cut -- apparently his first short-listing, as: "Mohammed Hasan Alwan is the only author previously shortlisted for the Prize" (in 2013).
       The winning title will be announced on 25 April.



Shortlists: Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse
       The big German book prizes are the book-fair prizes: the Leipzig Book Prize, to be announced at the spring Leipzig Book Fair, and then the German Book Prize, to be announced at the fall Frankfurt Book Fair. (The Germans prefer author-prizes; these are both relatively new.)
       They've now announced the shortlists for the three-category (fiction, non, and translation -- though I guess the first of these should be non-non-fiction, since a poetry volume made it into the final five) Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse; DeutscheWelle also has the most embarrassing of English-language reports (basically a name-list -- they mention one nominated title), Leipzig Book Prize announces shortlist
       Several of the fiction nominees have previously had books translated into English -- though it's been quite a while for, for example Natascha Wodin.
       Meanwhile, in the translation category, Gregor Hens is nominated for his translation of Will Self's Shark -- just as his Nicotine appears in the US, with an Introduction by ... Will Self (see the Other Press publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or the it's-been-out-for-a-while UK edition from Fitzcarraldo at Amazon.co.uk). Other titles include classic stuff -- some Cervantes and Journey to the West.
       The winners will be announced 23 March.



The Principle review
       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jérôme Ferrari's Werner Heisenberg-novel, The Principle, just about out from Europa Editions.