Alastair Niven is the author of four books and numerous scholarly articles on aspects of Commonwealth and post-colonial literature. A judge of the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1994 and of the Man Booker Prize in 2014, he was also for twenty years Chairman of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. He was director of literature at the Arts Council and at the British Council and is a former president of English PEN. His memoirs In Glad or Sorry Hours are published by Starhaven Press.
Where were you born and brought up? Were you a happy child?
I was born in a nursing home in Edinburgh. It is now a Hilton hotel, where the judging of the Stakis Prize for Scottish Writer of the Year took place in 1998. I found myself deliberating with my fellow judges in the room in which I first saw the light of day. I had come full circle. As for a happy childhood – by and large, except when my father was on his daily rant about a misplaced towel or some crumbs on the carpet. Continue reading Interview | Alastair Niven OBE LVO | Writer, lecturer & arts administrator
Why write an autobiography? Setting aside the ‘celebrity’ memoir, it is generally undertaken in a person’s later years, usually to give insights into how experiences have shaped them as a person . . . to preserve their life story for future generations . . . to shed light on an important moment in time . . . or to set the record straight.
Alastair Niven starts his engaging memoir, In Glad or Sorry Hours, in his early childhood, ending in the present, spanning a period of social and cultural innovation. He played an influential role, contributing to shaping the evolution of culture in England for over three decades: at the Africa Centre, the Arts Council, the British Council, as President of English PEN and at Cumberland Lodge. For twenty years he was Chairman of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Discerning and generous in using his power, he clearly deeply cares about the value and wellbeing that literature and culture bring to individuals and to society. Continue reading Review | In Glad or Sorry Hours – a memoir, Alastair Niven | Starhaven Press
Havana Year Zero by Karla Suárez, translated by Christina MacSweeney, is a brilliant, intense mystery where the past resurfaces in the present to suggest new possibilities for the future, amidst growing tension and constantly subverted expectations.
When the city and everything around you is a shambles, the best course of action is to build something, however small, something that will bring back the taste of the word future to your mouth. (p.227) Continue reading Book 2 Review | Andrew McDougall | Havana Year Zero, Karla Suárez & Fate, Jorge Consiglio | Charco Press
Venice Noir: The Dark History of the Lagoons is by a Venetian writer, cultural journalist and radio presenter, Isabella Panfido. To read about the folklore, myths and legends of the lagoon replete with an insider’s knowledge is not so usual. Venice Noir is a declaration of love for the islands and their inhabitants, and the sacred, inviolable waters of the Lagoon. It is neither straight history, nor a tourist guide, or pure fiction, but a poetic amalgamation of all of these.
A truly unique city built on a series of low mud banks between the tidal Adriatic, La Serenissima has charmed, fascinated and ensnared legions of romantics, visitors, artists and writers for centuries . . . Proust, Henry James and Thomas Mann . . . Muriel Spark, Lesley Blanch and Janet Todd . . . Anita Brookner, Daphne du Maurier and Donna Leon to name but a few. Continue reading Review | Venice Noir, Isabella Panfido trs. Christine Donougher | Dedalus Books
The ten young writers from Cameroon showcased in bilingual anthology Your Feet Will Lead You Where your Heart Is (Le Crépuscule des âmes sœurs) give an absorbing and entertaining kaleidoscopic snapshot of contemporary African life seen through the lens of empathy. A landmark publication, this motley collection offers readers a powerful range of storytelling from fantasy to existentialism and afrojujuism to realism.
Edited by the founder of Bakwa Books, Dzekashu Macviban, and poet and translator, Nfor E. Njinyoh, the collection is the end result of a literary translation workshop held in Cameroon in 2019 in collaboration with the University of Bristol, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Continue reading Review | Your Feet Will Lead You Where your Heart Is (Ed.) Dzekashu Macviban & Nfor E. Njinyoh | Bakwa Books