Book Blasts Top 5 Reads for Independent Minds this month showcases Ariel Khan, Teresa Solana, Fred D’Aguiar, Marinko Koščec, Oliver Bottini. There’s much excitement here at BB HQ about the 10×10 tour of superb independent publishers coming up very soon, with the first talk being held on 11 September at 6.30 p.m.; Waterstones, Gower Street, London W1.
Raising Sparks by Ariel Khan (Bluemoose Books)
The fastest selling Bluemoose title to date, Raising Sparks has been reprinted just eight weeks after publication.
Malka Sabbatto is the teenage daughter of a Rosh Yeshiva in a Jerusalem Charedi community. She flees the confines of her traditional family, and is followed by Moshe, a Russian immigrant and her father’s top student. They embark on a passionate exploration of Jewish mysticism, in particular Kabbalah. After falling in with a sinister cult in Safed she escapes to Jaffa, a fulcrum of Israeli-Palestinian tension, where she starts to build a new life under the wing of an Arab chef. When she feels she has finally found contentment, a family tragedy forces her to return to Jerusalem.
“Introducing Kabbalah to general readers is a formidable challenge. [The book’s] darkest passages consider how mysticism can be exploited for sexually and psychologically abusive purposes . . . Malka is a superb creation: a visionary ingénue, with seemingly endless reserves of compassion and resilience. Other strong characters include Shira, a student of Kabbalah, whom Malka meets in Safed, and Mahmoud, a gay Arab-Israeli she befriends in Jaffa . . . Kahn is a skilful, imaginative writer, adept at working with symbolism in prose.” – Alun David, The Jewish Chronicle
Kevin Duffy from BLUEMOOSE BOOKS will be chairing the 10×10 Tour talk “The Northern Influence on Culture” with authors Dan Micklethwaite and Colette Snowden, Wednesday 12 September at 6.30 p.m., Waterstones, Newcastle. Buy your tickets HERE.
The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and Other Stories by Teresa Solana, trs. Peter Bush (Bitter Lemon)
“Most readers and writers of noir will never commit a crime or be involved in a police investigation, and perhaps that is why we so enjoy reading and writing stories of blood and guts that allow us to enter the criminal minds of murderers and the elaborate mind games and procedures of fictional detectives. But we are all trapped in some way. No matter whether a tormented ghost, a repentant vampire, a nice-as-pie old lady, or a gauche mammoth hunter, at some stage in our lives we will be forced to make a choice that will challenge our values and force us to enter the murky unknown.”
The oddest things happen. Statues decompose and stink out galleries, two old grandmothers are vengeful killers and a prehistoric detective trails a triple murder that is threatening idyllic cave life. The collection includes the prize-winning Connections, a sparkling web of Barcelona stories that allows Solana to explore the darker side of the city.
“Very highly recommended – for those with a taste for murder, the surreal, and the stories of Saki.” – Euro Crime
Translations From Memory by Fred D’Aguiar (Carcanet)
The memories from which Fred D’Aguiar translates these poems are cultural and personal, from the ancient Gilgamesh epic to the modern world, from classical philosophy to C.L.R. James and Aimé Césaire, from Asia and Europe to the new world in which their destinies are unpredictably worked out.
D’Aguiar’s concluding translations are of Derek Walcott and Kamau Brathwaite, masters and remakers of language and form, from whom (among a multitude of others) he takes his bearings. This unusual integration of tributes and the ironies they provoke give Translations a radical colouring: D’Aguiar is learned; he is also wry, alert to the false notes in history and what follows from them.
The topless towers on South Beach
Keep their shape with a watering can
That stops them crumbling in the sun
Under the overpass homeless men,
Women and some children stake out
Ground with cardboard and shopping carts
Armies of tourists snap the castle and stare,
News crews aim and shoot the ramparts
From various angles and interview
The architect – a shy young man
Bronzed like a Greek God with hair
Involuntarily bleached by sun and sea
Dirty blond and twisted by neglect
Into dreads, no Jah, no Rastafari,
No mercy, mercy, me, a stone’s throw
From these poor folk with no temples
But the pillars that support the overpass
Under a starlit roof named after gods.
© Fred D’Aguiar
A Handful of Sand by Marinko Koščec, trs. Will Firth (Istros Books)
‘”Marinko Koščec has a dark wit . . . a couple of times I even laughed out loud during this book. This book shows how precious and fragile love is between two people in modern Croatia, but this story is also a story everyone can relate to even outside Croatia.” – Stu Allen, Winstonsdad’s Blog
A Handful of Sand is a love story and an ode to lost opportunity. Written as a duet for two narrators, both the male and female voices recount their past to see how it has impacted on their present, offering to us the sum of their histories in anticipation of the exquisite moment when they meet.
Both characters struggle with their day to day existence. Loneliness haunts the lovers as though it were a ghostly third character. A Handful of Sand explores the fragility of love and how easily that moment of intoxication becomes one of incomprehension and love becomes sand slipping through one’s fingers. Communication would allow them to come together as individuals, beyond the safe harbour of words, but is it possible?
Susan Curtis from ISTROS BOOKS will be chairing the 10×10 Tour talk “The End of the World? How the Balkans writes the Holocaust” with Christina Pribićević-Zorić and Georgia de Chamberet, Thursday 27 September at 6.30 p.m., Waterstones, Nottingham. Buy your tickets HERE.
A Summer of Murder by Oliver Bottini, trs. Jamie Bulloch (MacLehose Press)
“At three o’clock that morning she had been at the till of a Freiburg petrol station, packing four bottles of high-percentage alcohol into a bag. Back home she’d set the bottles on the coffee table in front of her. Right, she said, ify ou really want to drink, then go ahead! Do you want vodka? Bourbon? Have what you fancy! Vodka? Yes? Go on, then, drink! Drink what you want!”
When the fire brigade is called to a burning shed on the land of an unpopular farmer in peaceful Kirchzarten in the Black Forest, a fireman dies as the secret weapons cache beneath it explodes. Freiburg’s Chief of Police, Louise Bonì, is back from a treatment centre for alcoholism, and is assigned to the task force dealing with this case. The meagre evidence they have points to a possible connection with German neo-Nazis or illegal arms dealers from the former Yugoslavia of the 1990s, while the arrival of secret service agents suggests far more is at stake. For Louise to solve the riddle she needs to overcome the ghosts of her past that continue to haunt her. She is facing the most difficult case of her career so far.
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