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Viewing Blog: the Literary Saloon, Most Recent at Top
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1. Juan Goytisolo picks up Premio Cervantes

       They announced (and I mentioned) a while back that the great Juan Goytisolo would receive the 2014 Premio Cervantes, the leading Spanish-language author-prize and on 23 April -- not just Shakespeare's birthday, but also Cervantes' -- they had the ceremony handing over the prize.
       I was waiting/hoping for some English-language coverage -- it's Goytisolo ! the major Spanish-language author-prize ! royalty ! -- but ... little has been forthcoming. (Still, there's some: Cervantes prizewinner laments state of Spain during ceremony, Javier Rodríguez Marcos reports at El País 'In English'.)
       You can watch/listen to Goytisolo's acceptance speech here, or read it here, both in the original Spanish. (Come on, someone publish the English translation !)

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2. The Mahé Circle review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Georges Simenon's The Mahé Circle.

       Penguin Classics have started publishing the complete Maigret-series in new translations -- a wonderful undertaking -- but I've always been more partial to the other half of his œuvre, the so-called romans durs (as well as the hors catégorie works such as the Mémoires intimes (not in the abbreviated English translation ...)), and admirably they've been paying some attention to these as well.
       The Mahé Circle -- first published in 1946 -- was, astonishingly, never translated into English before; it finally came out, in Siân Reynolds' translation, in the UK last year and has now made its way to the US.
       You can understand that some of Simenon's prodigious output might fall through the cracks, but this corrects a major oversight: this is a major work. Brutally bleak -- probably why it was previously neglected -- but very well done.

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3. Publishing in ... Kenya

       Always fun to see the local complaints -- though admittedly it's also a bit depressing to see such problems and issues appear to be universal -- as in The Standard Abenea Ndago notes there are Few arguments that publishers and editors will never win.
       Ndago doesn't mince words:

The universe of locust feeding on the grass of Kenyan literature is presided over by a clueless generation of publisher CEOs that is probably a hundred times more traditional than the old people they usually accuse of this disease.
       And:
We did not initially know it, but it should now be clear that the second biggest stumbling block to the growth of Kenyan literature -- second only to State House -- is the Kenyan publisher.

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4. Murder on the Thirty-First Floor review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Per Wahlöö's Murder on the Thirty-First Floor -- a recent re-translation of his 1964 novel (originally published in English as The Thirty-First Floor, in 1967).

       Wahlöö is of course best known for his Martin Beck series, co-written with his wife, Maj Sjöwall, but he also wrote several novels on his own, including this one, the first in his Inspector Jensen diptych.
       In the US Vintage Crime/Black Lizard have re-issued five of his solo efforts -- I had previously reviewed The Generals -- and this one was certainly worth resurrecting (and re-translating).

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5. Translations-from-the French shortlists

       The French-American Foundation and Florence Gould Foundation have announced the finalists for their Translation Prizes.
       Only one overlap with the Best Translated Book Award longlist -- Pierre Michon's Winter Mythologies and Abbots -- but several others are under review at the complete review:

       The winners will be announced 9 June.

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6. STEFG Short Story Award

       They've announced that A Sheltered Woman, a story by Yiyun Li, has won the 2015 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award.
       At £30,000, it pays out more than most US novel awards ..... Read the rest of this post

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7. Poetic extinction ?

       Some depressing graphs and charts at The Washington Post's 'Wonkblog', where Christopher Ingraham reports that Poetry is going extinct, government data show [via]
       The statistics certainly do not look good.
       (I struggle to review a reasonable amount of poetry at the complete review -- but, honestly, it's hard to get me interested in anything other than novels. Of course, there are those novels in verse .....)

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8. The Author and Me review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Éric Chevillard's The Author and Me.

       This is one of the titles on the Best Translated Book Awards longlist -- and next you week you can read me argue 'Why this book should win' at Three Percent ..... Read the rest of this post

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9. Österreichischer Staatspreis für Europäische Literatur

       The Culture Division of the Federal Chancellery of Austria (as the former Ministry of Culture is now apparently organized) announced their annual literary prizes yesterday, including the big one, the Austrian State Prize for European Literature -- probably the most prestigious European-author prize going (check out the previous winners) -- and this year it goes to Nostalgia-author Mircea Cărtărescu (who has been picking up the prizes right and left recently -- most recently the Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding).

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10. Иностранная литература - prize

       The Russian Ясная Поляна-literary prizes now also have an 'international literature' category -- a best-translated-into-Russian award --, and they've announced the 33 longlisted titles. (Despite the long-longlist they will not have a shortlist -- they'll just announce a winner in October.)
       Among the requirements is that the winners show up for the ceremony -- interesting to see if Thomas Pynchon (who is longlisted) would consider that.
       Lots of these titles are under review at the complete review. It is interesting to see what titles they consider of merit -- and a bit disappointing that are no non-European-language-writing representatives.
       See also the Russia Beyond the Headlines report, The nominees for the Yasnaya Polyana Award's Foreign Literature category announced.

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11. Tales of the Metric System review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Imraan Coovadia's recent (and Sunday Times Fiction Prize longlisted) novel, Tales of the Metric System.

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12. Book-keeping/burning in ... North Korea

       At DailyNK Choi Song Min reports on Furnaces Ablaze with Kim Literature -- book-burning not, as you might expect, to provide heat but rather:

Some households in North Korea are reportedly incinerating literature and books written by the two former leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, to evade potential punishment for failure to take adequate care of material deemed sacred under state doctrine.
       The inspectors -- yes, inspectors apparently come around to check up on the state of the Kim-lit in your library -- apparently face a problem now:
"Officials from the Propaganda and Agitation Department who carried out the inspection this time around are at a loss for words because it's not just a few households devoid of any Kim family literature -- it's almost all of them," she said. "Afraid that reporting this to their superiors in the Central Party will reflect poorly on their work and character, opening them up to myriad punishments, they're all staying tight-lipped about what they've seen."
       (Helpfully, the article also notes: "The content of this article was broadcast to the North Korean people via Unification Media Group" .....)

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13. Russian book prizes

       Lizok's Bookshelf has the run-down of the latest Russian book prizes -- the Национальный бестселлер (catchily shortened to 'NatsBest') shortlist and the Большая книга ('Big Book', sigh) longlist.
       A couple of familiar names -- notably Pelevin, Limonov, and Gelasimov on the 'Big Book' longlist -- but still noteworthy how few of these authors really figure in any way meaningfully abroad.

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14. New issue of list

       The Spring 2015 issue of list: Books from Korea is now available online (though not very obviously so -- that site redesign still needs a lot of work ...).
       There's a special section on the 'Korean Künstlerroman', as well as the usual variety of reviews, excerpts, etc.

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15. Vilas Sarang (1942-2015)

       Indian author Vilas Sarang has passed away; see, for example, Ramu Ramanathan on The Incomparable Silence of Vilas Sarang in the Mumbai Mirror and Anu Kumar's Vilas Sarang: the writer you should have read to understand post-modern Indian literature at Scroll.in.

       I'm fairly certain his collection of stories, Fair Tree of the Void, is the first translated-from-the-Marathi volume I managed to get my hands on (purchased, in 2003, for US$2.98 at the Strand in New York) -- though I think what struck me most back then was that it was: "translated from the Marathi by the author and Breon Mitchell", Mitchell even then, before his re-translation of The Tin Drum, known to me only as a translator from the German ..... (Anu Kumar's piece explains how this came about.)
       The larger collection, The Women in Cages, building on Fair Tree of the Void, is probably the place to dive in; get your copy at Amazon.com orAmazon.co.uk.

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16. Gerald Murnane Q & A

       At 3:AM Tristan Foster has a Q & A, Eight questions for Gerald Murnane.

       See also, for example, my review of Murnane's Barley Patch.

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17. Pamuk's A Strangeness in my Mind

       Orhan Pamuk's new novel will be published in the UK and US in October, in Ekin Oklap's translation, as A Strangeness in my Mind (pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk). (In Ekin Oklap's translation: I can't help but note that Pamuk seems to be going through an awful lot of translators .....)

       At Qantara.de Ceyda Nurtsch now looks at the novel and Turkish reactions to it (and Pamuk), in A journey through time to a lost world -- the most detailed look in English we've gotten at the novel so far.

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18. Proffer on Brodsky

       At her Book Haven weblog Cynthia Haven enthuses about Ardis-co-founder Ellendea Proffer Teasley's Joseph Brodsky-focused memoir, Бродский среди нас ('Brodsky Among Us'), in The book that's rocking Russia: Ellendea Proffer's Brodsky Among Us is a bestseller.
       As she notes:

Here's why this story is important here, now: most of his poetic career was in the U.S., not Russia
       Nice to see a book like this can meet with such success in contemporary Russia -- and surely it's something that should also appear in English. Meanwhile, see also the АСТ publicity page.

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19. Los Angeles Times Book Prizes

       They announced the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes over the weekend -- and one title is even under review at the complete review: First Fiction winner Faces in the Crowd (by Valeria Luiselli).

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20. German Book Prize

       The German Book Prize -- with a winner to be announced in October, at the Frankfurt Book Fair -- has revealed that Publishers submit 167 titles.
       Alas -- and inexplicably -- they don't reveal what those 167 titles are, embracing a Man Booker-like lack of transparency.

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21. Jazz, Perfume and the Incident review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Seno Gumira Ajidarma's Jazz, Perfume and the Incident., another title in Lontar's excellent Modern Library of Indonesia.

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22. Pulitzer Prizes

       The 2015 Pulitzer Prizes -- which include several book categories -- have been announced.
       The Fiction prize went to All the Light We Cannot See (by Anthony Doerr; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk). Nice to see The Moor's Account by Laila 'MoorishGirl' Lalami was one of the finalists .....
       The Criticism prize went to a TV critic.

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23. Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize

       They've announced the (co-)winners of this year's Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize: Diary of the Fall (by Michel Laub) and Hanns and Rudolf (by Thomas Harding); see, for example, the report at The Jewish Chronicle.

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24. Israeli book-price law

       Last year Israel passed legislation placing limits on book-discounting (previously widespread, especially among the market-dominating retailers), and it would be interesting to learn about the consequences of the implementation of this legislation.
       Unfortunately, what coverage one finds tends to be along the lines of Sharona Schwartz's New Israeli Law Mandates Price Controls for Books, Minimum Payments to Authors -- Here's What Happened to Sales After Just One Year at something calling itself 'The Blaze'.
       While several sources are cited, the only person who seems to have been interviewed for the piece is one "Boaz Arad, the head of the Ayn Rand Center's Israel branch", with predictable results -- quoted at length and offering such helpful textbook economic explanations as:

For example, Arad said, "If I can produce at the rate of $5 an hour -- that's what I'm worth to my employer -- maybe I'm not disciplined, maybe I'm disabled, but if you enact a minimum wage of $6 an hour, it means my employer will lose a dollar on every hour he will have me so the next day I'll lose my job."
       Much as readers no doubt appreciate the 'lesson' in basic economic theory ... well, there's considerable debate about the effects of minimum wage laws and this simplified version only makes the grade in your junior-high economics class. Beyond that, and more significantly: minimum wage laws are not really comparable to pricing laws of the sort under (ostensible) discussion.
       But good to see Arad 'understands' publishing -- and how authors can become successful ! --, offering helpful and insightful advice such as:
Almost the only way for unknown writers to become popular is to put their first book on sale, even to give it for free if possible, to publicize their name and get their audience and eventually make money from their writing,
       So that's the secret ! Now you know !

       As to the Israeli law in question: more (real) hard data and less ideologically tainted theorizing, please. Please.

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25. Attachment review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Florence Noiville's Attachment., due out shortly from Seagull Books (in a nice-looking little volume, by the way).

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