BookBlast® @bookblast presents the first of its monthly Top 10 reads, showcasing the internationalist diversity of indie publishers. There’s something for everyone – enjoy!
FANTASY & SHAMANISM
Lin Man-Chiu | The Ventriloquist’s Daughter (trs. Helen Wang) | Young adult fiction, Balestier Press ISBN 1911221050 buy here | Review, Global Literature in Libraries Initiative | @BalestierPress @HelenWangLondon
Move over Hollywood and all those creepy doll horror movies! This sours-weet story is compellingly weird and shamanic. When Luir’s mother dies, her father, a thwarted artist working as a doctor in the family hospital, is overcome with grief. He goes abroad to study and promises he will bring home a doll for his six-year-old daughter, Luir, who is left in the care of her grandparents. But the doll brought home from Peru by daddy is a menacing presence in the house, causing strife within the family.
The Ventriloquist’s Daughter was longlisted for the 2014 Found in Translation Award.
TARANTINO ON THE PAGE
This fast-paced and entertaining thriller is cocaine-fuelled Tarantino on the page. “Gomez lifts the top of the sheet. McCarthy is dumbfounded. He has seen dead bodies in Watertown before – the tragic residue of drunken brawls outside bars or nightclubs, victims of muggings committed by drug-starved addicts or illegals awaiting deportation; he has also had to deal with the settling of scores between motorcycle gangs; he even saw the lifeless corpse of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston bomber, before the Feds took it away. Bodies with their throats cut like Jimmy’s aren’t rare. Yet this is the first time he has been confronted with a corpse with the eyes slashed, the tongue cut out, and the cheeks gashed up to the ears.”
Swiss poet, novelist and journalist, Quentin Mouron won the prix Alpes-Jura for his novel Au point d’effusion des égouts in 2011.
Wish You Were Here
“I’d like to show you the city.
It’s impersonal under the cold
lazy in the summer heat
and Puerto Ricans hawk discount goods
on endless 14th Street.
I’d show you Central Park
on a cold dry day
the stone fountains figures
ride across Columbus Square
towards some other sea there.
We could understand ‘feeling groovy’
on the 58th Street bridge
and make way for shadows
under a village lamp.
Blimpey’s sells man-sized heroes
decorated with Italian/French dressing
and the Guggenheim has a stone deity
who might give us his blessing
I’ll show you summer makes way for fall
In the naked antisepsis of a Brooklyn Hall
and you’d probably say Schermmerhorn
is a ridiculous name.
We could name it, and discover our innocence again.”
Lorna Goodison is a poet alive to places, from the loved and lived-in world of Jamaica where she began and started a family, to the United States and Canada where she has made her teaching career, but always re-connecting with her Caribbean roots. Her instinct is to celebrate being alive in a world that is rich but in peril. “And what is the rare quality that has gone out of poetry that these marvellous poems restore?” asks Derek Walcott. “Joy.”
OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
Part anthology and part travelogue, Translating Libya presents the country through the eyes of sixteen Libyan short story writers and one American diplomat, Ethan Chorin, who has edited this collection. He has selected stories with a focus on cities and landmarks in Libya. The authors open a window on a rapidly urbanizing country with rich oil reserves, recently renewed diplomatic relations with the West and a nascent tourist industry based on its well-preserved ancient cities.
“At the time of writing, Translating Libya is one of the few multi-author anthologies of Libyan short stories in English. While the book is not widely available in Libya, the book is known to a number of Libyan intellectuals, politicians and writers. This speaks to the impression the first edition had made, and the indirect value it has had in cementing US-Libya relations . . . Translating Libya is an expression of Libyan culture, but also a lesson in how writers communicate in a repressive regime where heavy censorship and random, severe punishment are common” – from the Introduction by Ethan Chorin.
“I hailed a taxi outside Maj’s house and got into the backseat, as Teta directed me to do when riding in taxis alone. The man behind the wheel was young, though I couldn’t make out his age: perhaps 18, maybe 20. He was wearing a tight red T-shirt that gripped his body. He drove without speaking. A familiar pressure inside me began to build. It was a terrible choking sensation that had been growing in the months since I lost my parents. I had no control over my destiny, and everything around me could suddenly die or run away.”
Set in the aftermath of the 2011 revolutions, Saleem Haddad’s debut novel tells the story of a young gay man called Rasa living in an unnamed country during the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Set over one day and littered with flashbacks, it explores Rasa’s own personal turmoil over his grandmother discovering him in bed with his secret lover amid the political turmoil around him.
Saleem Haddad was born in Kuwait. He now lives in London, where he works as a conflict and security advisor, specializing in the Middle East.
“‘Marcelle, do you believe in reincarnation?’
Taken aback, she stopped dead and stared at him. All the innocence of this warm-hearted woman suddenly came to the surface: she had never thought of it, never imagined anything like it.
‘What do you mean?’
‘I read somewhere in Papa’s library that when everyone who knew him on earth is dead, a good man is reborn in a child’s body somewhere in the world …’
‘Well, that’s not a very comforting idea,’ Marcelle said. ‘So we never see our loved ones again?’
If she was thinking about her own vanished lovers, she had reasons for missing them, despite never having felt any real attachment to any of them. With nostalgia’s help we are very good at constructing false loves, heavily embellished by our imagination’.”
Michel Déon, who was born in Paris and died in Galway in 2016 at the age of 97, was the author of more than fifty works of fiction and non-fiction, and a member of the Académie Française.
Julian Evans is a writer and translator from French and German. He has previously translated Michel Déon’s The Foundling Boy, The Foundling’s War and The Great and the Good.
We will be running a review of Your Father’s Room in The BookBlast™ Diary in August, along with a Q&A with translator Julian Evans.
“One piece of luck: I didn’t explain to the pianist how to play the piano, it was touch and go, I told myself later in the plane, it was a close-run thing, I could very well have done it, I’m perfectly capable, I know I’m capable of explaining the art of the well-tempered keyboard to a pianist as if I myself were a virtuoso. I don’t know anything about music, I’m sitting in front of a virtuoso pianist and explaining exactly how your fingers should rest on the keys, see what I’m capable of. I’m explaining to him how to do it, as if the virtuoso pianist were just waiting for me all along to show him the best way to go about it at last, as if he was going to be filled with wonder at all the little pianistic techniques that I would generously furnish him with so he could improve his playing and become even more virtuosic thanks to me.”
“The internal stream of consciousness monologue of a woman on a plane returning home from Berlin. As she reads the correspondence between Thomas Mann and Theodor W. Adorno, in her mind, she moves back and forth between German and French, snippets of which appear in the text, as she relives her unusual romantic encounters with a male pianist/composer in Berlin” – from Rebecca Foster’s review for NUDGE
Ex-boxer meets Hampstead documentary-maker: this novella sharply captures two opposing standpoints in the EU debate: “Anthony Cartwright’s The Cut, published a year after the vote, is unique in that it was commissioned by Peirene (better known for short fiction in translation) specifically to explore Brexit. Following logically from his novels such as Heartland and Iron Towns, set in his native Midlands, Cartwright’s diamond-sharp novella digs deep into the political quagmire, dramatising the referendum’s opposing ideological standpoints via a man and a woman from very different class backgrounds. This is England as two distinct nations, both trying, but failing, to understand the other as a Black Country” – Jude Cook, The Guardian, 23 June 2017.
“’He’s from the gutter. His father was a drinker, before he disappeared without trace. The mother didn’t waste any tears or time and spread her legs for the next man.’
‘Watch your tongue.’
‘He’s not the right company for you.’
‘Albert is different. He works hard.’
‘He left school when he was eleven. He’s a crook.’
‘He knows a few queer fish. But he isn’t like them.’
‘I don’t want my daughter to end up like her grandmother.’”
Being in a war changes a person for ever. The Photographer is a tale of betrayal, loyalty, sacrifice and survival. The evacuation of East Prussia is pivotal for the family at the centre of the story. By winter 1945, nearly 11 million Germans — mostly women and children — had fled the Eastern provinces of the Reich, heading west. Killings and rapes committed by the Red Army triggered fear and panic amongst the population. With its underlying message of acceptance, forgiveness and hope, The Photographer should be an obligatory teen-read on every school curriculum.
Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore uncovers the family story that sparked the invention of the most popular female superhero of all time. Delving into the life of Wonder Woman’s eccentric creator, psychologist William Moulton Marston, Lepore uncovers her feminist origins: from the warrior princesses of the Amazon, to suffragists including Emmeline Pankhurst, and the women Marston shared his life with – his wife and his mistress.
“All superheroes have strange myths of origin, but the politically and erotically charged back-story of Wonder Woman outstrips any comic book. Jill Lepore unmasks the comic-strip heroine as the strange daughter of early 20th-century women’s suffrage and the bondage-fixated imagination of William Moulton Marston, a hucksterish psychologist who invented the lie-detector test and lived in a covert threesome with his wife and girlfriend . . . A startling and intelligent double biography” – James McConnachie, Sunday Times
Lesley Blanch, Far to Go and Many to Love: People and Places | Non fiction, travel memoir | Quartet Books ISBN buy here | Guest Blog, Female First | @QuartetBooks @LesleyBlanch @FoxedQuarterly @elandbooks
This selection of Lesley Blanch’s early journalism and travelling tales forms an irresistible sequel to On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life (Virago, 2015). Illustrated with photos and unpublished sketches from Blanch’s portfolio from when she worked with Russian émigré theatre director, Komisarjevsky. Features an insightful introduction with a distinctly Russian flavour. Far To Go and Many To Love unites writings on subjects as various as Vivien Leigh, polygamy, the Orient Express and Afghanistan.
“Sumptuous and captivating” – Independent
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