In The Fig Tree, deftly translated by Olivia Hellewell, Goran Vojnović portrays three generations of a family whose lives are marked by the disintegration of Yugoslavia and its brutal aftermath.
Jadran’s grandfather Aleksandar was born in Novi Sad in 1925. Long before the Nazis marched through, Aleksandar’s cautious single mother, Ester Aljehin, married a dentist for his name and abruptly left him to settle in Belgrade, where she worked as a nurse. When she “caught sight of the first Nazi uniforms in the city,” fear drove her to move again and she arrived in Ljubljana in February 1942: “Slovenes seemed less intimidating than Serbs,” although they still treated her with suspicion. Years later, her son Aleksandar Dordevic arrives in Buje, Croatia. Employed as a forest warden, he feels like “an outsider with a local-sounding name.” Aleksandar and his pregnant wife Jana settle in Momjan (which later become part of Croatia), in a house he builds with his own hands with its own fig tree. Continue reading Guest Review | The Fig Tree by Goran Vojnović | Istros Books
The Blessed Rita is a compelling portrait of the forgotten, and Tommy Wieringa makes a convincing case for empathy with those living on the margins of society. There is a chilling beauty to many bleak landscapes and this stark portrait of a remote Dutch community, expertly translated by Sam Garrett, reminds us that the same is true in literature. Continue reading Guest Review | Lucy Popescu | The Blessed Rita, Tommy Wieringa | Scribe UK
Since the first seven episodes of our weekly series Bridging the Divide: Translation and the Art of Empathy went live in July, there are still eight episodes to look forward to. The hosts, Georgia de Chamberet and Lucy Popescu, interview independent publishers, their authors and highly creative translators filling a unique niche in showcasing myriad inner and outer worlds thereby enriching our literary culture.
When reading, do you “hear” the book as if it is being read to you by the author?
The voice tells us so much about a person. Where they come from, their personality and how they’re feeling. As important as the voices in writers’ heads are those that are heard by readers. Hearing authors and translators talk describe their vision and craft in our Bridging the Divide series will enhance your reading of their books.
Catch up, listen up!
Interview | J.S. Margot, author of the memoir Mazel Tov
What happens when a young Flemish woman at university in Antwerp teaches the four children of an Orthodox Jewish family to earn a bit of extra money? How does her first great love for an Iranian political refugee evolve? Read Henrietta Foster’s review HERE
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Continue reading Podcast LIVE | The latest on Bridging the Divide: Translation and the Art of Empathy
Tazmamart was an underground military prison in southeast Morocco where those considered enemies of the king were detained from 1972 to 1991. It was built after two failed coup d’états against Hassan II of Morocco. On 10 July 1971, around a thousand soldiers were driven to Skhirat palace, where the king was celebrating his birthday and when a shot was fired, panic ensued. Hassan survived the mayhem and those deemed responsible were rounded up and dispatched to Kenitra prison. Many of those detained were unwitting participants in the alleged coup and, like Aziz BineBine, a recent graduate of the Royal Military Academy, had not fired a shot. He was one of several army officers sent to Kenitra and later to Tazmamart. Continue reading Guest Review | Lucy Popescu | Tazmamart: 18 Years in Morocco’s Secret Prison, Aziz BineBine | Haus
Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
There were always plenty of books at home, but I don’t remember much reading.
What was the book that made you fall in love with reading?
I read almost nothing before the age of fifteen. Then a friend pressed Martin Amis’s The Rachel Papers on me. If I hadn’t found that book as funny as I did things might have panned out very differently.
When did you start working in the publishing industry? Was it intentional or a fluke?
In 2005. I had no idea what I wanted to do. One piece of good fortune after another lead me to meet Haus’s founder, Barbara Schwepcke. I was very lucky. Starting with non-fiction, Haus turned to publishing literary fiction in translation in 2008. The international list of authors includes Siegfried Lenz, Markus Werner, Thomas Mann, Clarice Lispector, Érik Orsenna, Alex Capus. Continue reading Interview | Harry Hall, Haus Publishing | Indie Publisher of the Week