New year, and news could be better from France. Over 600 small businesses have been destroyed or damaged in Paris alone since the yellow vests protests at the end of last year. President Macron’s open letter to French citizens seems to have done little to quell dissent; ditto for his tour of the regions in an attempt to get Mayors and their communities to share what’s on their mind. The EU’s political landscape is set to change after the elections in May 2019. Thank goodness for books, films and music offering an essential breath of fresh air!
“Judging the Banipal Translation Prize was a most enriching experience. It reminded me that literature can be a force for good – no bad thing! We need to be shocked out of a comfortable complacency that suggests that books should not attempt to bring about social and political change. The entries provided no shortage of shocks.” Pete Ayrton, Chair of Judges, the Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation.
The Man Booker International, the IMPAC Award, English PEN’s Writers in Translation Programme* and the Society of Authors’ series of prizes for outstanding literary translations from works in Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish are the leaders of the prize-giving pack.
As we head out of the old, into the new, year, our top 10 reads to see us out feature superb writing from China, fin-de-siècle Paris, the Middle East, Istanbul by way of New York, Switzerland and Cuba, in no particular order. @maclehosepress @carcanet @BanipalMagazine @melvillehouse @dedalusbooks @NBNi_books @hoperoadpublish @oneworldnews @jamiebulloch @PennedintheM
A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor Heroes (Vol. 1) by Jin Young, trs. Anna Holmwood (MacLehose Press) buy here
The author Louis Cha who died aged ninety-four on 30 October, wrote under the pen name Jin Yong. His books have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide and been adapted into countless films, TV series, graphic novels and video games. His works are all set during the rich and storied history of China. The first English translation of A Hero Born, the first of his 12-volume epic Legends of the Condor Heroes, was published earlier on this year by MacLehose Press. We include him here as a tribute to an unparalleled master storyteller. Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | November-December 2018
The Book of Birmingham is the latest title to be published by Comma Press in their cities in short fiction series which serves as an excellent introduction to some superb contemporary writers. The ultimate in armchair city tours, the series is ideal for discovering other places, other lives.
The Book of Birmingham – focusing on the second largest city in the UK after London which “sits atthe central crossroads of England, the industrial heartland of the country” – brings together short stories by some writers known to me, (Kit de Waal, Bobby Nayyar, C.D. Rose, Sharon Duggal, Kavita Bhanot), and some not, (Sibyl Ruth, Malachi McIntosh, Joel Lane, Jendella Benson, Alan Beard, Balvinder Banga). The city’s “working-class foundation is inseparable from the city’s literature, reflected in the voices of its best-known contemporary authors: Jonathan Coe, Catherine O’Flynn, Benjamin Zephaniah, Kit de Waal, Joel Lane . . .”
The exuberant 10th anniversary of a small European literary festival, Literaturhaus Europa, held in the Wachau region of Austria, throws into sharp relief the cultural poverty we potentially face post-Brexit.
We live in an increasingly polarised mad and maddening world seemingly going from bad to worse. The hunger for “how to be happy” and “how to achieve more success in life” top tips type reading fodder is countered by our apparent preference for bad news over the good, (motivated by schadenfreude, a heightened vigilance for threats thanks to a daily Media diet of disasters, shock value . . . or so the thinking goes).
If it bleeds, it leads
Sam Jordison’s series Crap Towns became a cult hit. Now he has pulled another winner out of his hat – The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad. It is an entertaining and thoroughly-researched book of alternative general knowledge. Factual and informative lists ranging across the natural world, history, popular culture, sports, food, medicine, science, economics, politics, drugs, divorce and crystal-ball gazing balls-ups are seasoned with tongue-in-cheek personal asides. It is a particularly cheering read if your own life is in the doldrums, or for some Christmas fun and games. So quiz each other and laugh when no one knows the answers: there is invariably someone worse off than you! Continue reading Review | The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad, Sam Jordison | Book of the Week
Andrew Crumey: “Art is the expression of value and science is the explanation of phenomena . . . I’m interested in the borderline of the explanatory and the expressive.”
Alasdair Gray, James Kelman, A.L. Kennedy, Allan Massie, Val McDermid, Andrew O’Hagan, Ian Rankin, Ali Smith, Irvine Welsh, Alan Warner . . . the list of fine Scottish writers is a long one.
Andrew Crumey was in conversation with doyenne of translators, Margaret Jull Costa, and Eric Lane, founder of Dedalus Books at the opening event of the BookBlast 10×10 Tour at Waterstones in Gower Street, Bloomsbury, on 11 September. HEAR HERE
On a night of political disunity and meltdown as Brexit hit the buffers, we were delighted to host the final event of this year’s inaugural BookBlast 10×10 tour at WestBank Art & Music in Thorpe Close, W10, under the Westway.
Kit Caless from INFLUX PRESS led the discussion with Susan from ISTROS BOOKS and Elizabeth from SAQI BOOKS about how #indiepubs play such an important role in the cultural ecosystem; translation, rigid mindsets and choosing to publish books written without market trends in mind; the importance of buying books directly from #indiepubs websites; how best to access buyers at the major bookselling chains deciding on what and how much to purchase (tricky in some instances when there is just one fiction buyer for a whole chain!).
The audience of publishing consultants, book distributors, bloggers, indie film makers, readers and writers raised the issues of how Amazon goes after publisher profit margins with crippling consequences for indies; and the lack of publicity in the Media which is ironic given the growing demand for eclectic, nongeneric, unconventional writing of the kind that is supplied by the smaller publishers who are regularly winning prizes. Continue reading Latest News | It’s a wrap! The BookBlast 10×10 Tour in association with Waterstones