Only yesterday, yet another story about small boats carrying migrants crossing the English Channel hit the headlines. Since the pandemic, the journey has become even more perilous. And it has recently become illegal for asylum seekers arriving in the UK via people smugglers to remain: they will be asked to leave the UK, either voluntarily or by force. What lies behind the desperation to seek safety and a better life in the UK and Europe?
“They say that Boko Haram is everywhere. That even little-little girls with the sheet over their heads can come here and Boko Haramise us.” Continue reading Review | A Long Way From Douala, Max Lobe (trs.) Ros Schwartz | HopeRoad Publishing
Views of China in the West have grown increasingly negative, with tensions heating up over the crushing of human rights in Hong Kong, the Uighur genocide and the activities of technology companies like Huawei. Violent attacks on Asian Americans have gone up since the start of the pandemic a year ago. Public officials representing the United States and China squabbled openly at official talks held this month in Alaska.
According to The Palgrave Handbook of Ethnicity, more than 40 million people of Chinese origin live outside mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau forming one of the biggest diasporic populations in the world. Cultural understanding is preferable to culture wars . . . It’s better to be enriched than impoverished, right? Continue reading Review | Monkey King: Journey to the West, Wu Cheng’en (Trs. Julia Lovell) | Penguin Classics
Kokoschka’s Doll is a surreal, poignant and sometimes dizzying reflection on the nature of the universe, life’s coincidences and, of course, the human condition.
“I’m writing a new book.”
“What’s it about?” Isaac Dresner asked.
“Who knows. About love or hate, the human condition, that sort of thing. What is any book about?” (pp. 99-100)
The narrative contains stories within stories within stories and different timelines shift and align and become revealed to us as the book progresses. There are frequent philosophical musings and many tales so unlikely they simply must be true. Chance, fate, destiny, divine intervention, call it how you will, weaves together an improbable cast across decades and continents to deliver us this Russian doll of a novel. Continue reading Guest Review | Andrew McDougall | Kokoschka’s Doll, Afonso Cruz (trs. Rahul Bery) | MacLehose Press
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