Anna Kim’s The Great Homecoming, published by Granta Books just before Lockdown is a sweeping tale of friendship and betrayal that explores the devastating impact of the Korean War, Russian and American politicking and the Cold War on individuals, families and cities in Korea and Japan during the 1950s and ’60s.
Anna Kim was born in Daejeon, South Korea but grew up in Austria and wrote the novel in German. She has garnered much praise and recognition for her previous work, and is the recipient of, among other accolades, the Austrian State Fellowship for Literature and the 2012 European Union Prize for Literature, for her second novel Frozen Time. This slick and accomplished translation by Jamie Lee Searle is sure to widen Kim’s fanbase and acclaim, and rightly so.
The novel begins in the present day. A young translator, Hanna, who was born in South Korea but then adopted by a German couple, visits an elderly Korean man, Yunho Kang, who lives in the American missionary quarter in Seoul. When Hanna translates a letter that Yunho has received from America informing him of the death of a Mrs Eve Lewis, he embarks on reminiscing about Eve Moon, or Yunmee – for she is a woman of many names and identities – and his friend Johnny, in Seoul in 1959. Continue reading Guest Review | Rachel Goldblatt | The Great Homecoming, Anna Kim | Granta Books
“You don’t travel in order to deck yourself with exoticism and anecdotes like a Christmas tree, but so that the route plucks you, rinses you, wrings you out, makes you like one of those towels, threadbare with washing that are handed out with slivers of soap in brothels. You leave far behind you the excuses or curses of your birthplace, and in each filthy bundle lugged about in crowded waiting rooms, on little station platforms appalling in their heat and misery, you see your own coffin going by. Without this detachment and lucidity, how can you hope to convey what you have seen?” — from Nicolas Bouvier’s The Scorpion-Fish
The Swiss writer and photographer, Nicolas Bouvier, (1929-98) was a traveller in the real sense of the word, navigating different worlds and writing about forgotten people and changed places. He gives us alternative perspectives on places like the Balkans, Iran, Azerbaijan, Japan, China, Korea and the highlands of Scotland.
He is unusual in the way he writes, at times, in a stream of consciousness about the world around him and how he feels in the instant so directly and openly. In The Scorpion Fish, his description of a bomb blowing up a bus and the grisly aftermath is not only very beautifully written but mirrors his inner collapse and sense of physical decrepitude. Continue reading Review | So It Goes – Travels in the Aran Isles, Xian and places in between, Nicolas Bouvier | Eland Publishing
Ahead of the first two live podcast recordings of the 15-part weekly #BridgingTheDivide series going out on Thursday 30 July, here is a guest review of the featured book, Mazel Tov, to give a taste of what you’ll hear and experience. Tune in on Thursday at 5 and 6 p.m. to hear author J S Margot and publisher Adam Freudenheim talk about their experiences.
Towards the end of this marvellous memoir the narrator writes “If I occasionally had the temerity even briefly to think I could penetrate the millefeuille of Jewish culture, I was soon disabused of this idea.” The book is full of various cultural millefeulles that require penetrating – ironic considering that patisserie is the one gastronomic art that the Belgians do not excel in.
Mazel Tov is the story of an extraordinary friendship – in fact several extraordinary friendships that marked the twenties of the author J.S.Margot. At first sight it is the story of a young Flemish woman at university in Antwerp who teaches the four children of an Orthodox Jewish family to earn a bit of extra money. It is also the story of her first great love for an Iranian political refugee. In both cases she is exposed to a culture and religion that is not her own. She also begins to realise that she is on the receiving end of a certain amount of paranoia and suspicion from both her employers and her boyfriend. Continue reading Guest Review | Henrietta Foster | Mazel Tov, J.S. Margot | Pushkin Press
Victor Meadowcroft is a translator from Portuguese and Spanish and a graduate of the MA in Literary Translation programme at the University of East Anglia. With Margaret Jull Costa, he has produced co-translations of stories by Agustina Bessa-Luís, a pillar of twentieth century Portuguese literature, which appeared in the anthology Take Six: Six Portuguese Women Writers (Dedalus Books). He has also translated works by authors such as María Fernanda Ampuero, Itamar Vieira Junior and Murilo Rubião, and is currently working on co-translations of two novels by Evelio Rosero, with Anne McLean.
In his collection of dispatches from “the new Latin America” entitled How to Travel Without Seeing (trs. Jeffrey Lawrence), celebrated Spanish-Argentine author Andrés Neuman makes this curious statement: “It occurs to me that Ecuadorian literature is a literature of dragons. That it has waited for years, decades, centuries, holding its breath. A breath fiery with waiting. Capable of setting fire to anything. Tired of remaining contained within itself. A literature turned volcano.” Continue reading Guest Feature | Victor Meadowcroft | A Literary Eruption: The Triumph of Ecuadorian Fiction
Henrietta Foster is an established journalist, TV producer and film-maker. Her latest film Beyond the Grace Note (Sky Arts) looks at some of the most remarkable and resilient female conductors, and the joys and challenges of the profession in the male-dominated world of orchestral conducting. Her previous work includes Art & Islam with Hari Kunzru for the BBC (2004), and Millennium Minds with philosopher, Alain de Botton, for Channel 4 (1999).
In January of this year when the world was quite normal with open functioning cinemas there was one film I really wanted to see: Le Mystère Henri Pick. I’d liked the other films based on David Foenkinos’ novels and even better this one starred the marvellous Fabrice Luchini. Sadly I missed both screenings at the Ciné Lumière in London because in those far off days there was more than one thing to do in the evenings. I went to the Institut Français library and checked the novel out but just before lockdown someone else requested the book and I had to return it unread. Henri and Henrietta seemed fated not to meet.
Then to my great joy I saw that Pushkin Press was publishing a translation of the novel and in conjunction with Walter Presents no less. Walter Iuzzolino and his collection of continental European television dramas are the only real reasons to watch Channel Four now that Homeland is over. Putting aside my guilt about not reading the novel in French, I asked Pushkin Press for a copy to review.
Continue reading Guest Review | Henrietta Foster | The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos