The BookBlast® Podcast 2020 | Bridging the Divide: Translation & the Art of Empathy | 30 July to 05 November
Thursday 30 July, 5 pm: A ground-breaking weekly podcast series kicks off, championing independent publishers committed to publishing writing in translation; their authors and translators; including a guest interview with the publisher behind Nordic Noir.
The podcast line-up features award-winning, bestselling authors from across Europe, including Lars Mytting, J.S. Margot, Tommy Wieringa and Tahar Ben Jelloun, as well as interviews with their publishers Christopher MacLehose, Adam Freudenheim and Philip Gwyn Jones.
In a Covid-19 world, as social distancing becomes the norm, and travel to faraway places is but a dream, books in translation are more important than ever, offering new and alternative ways of seeing and understanding each other over and beyond daily news broadcasts.
So be an armchair traveller and escape the Coronavirus pandemic through sampling some of the finest translated literature published this year.
Bridging the Divide is hosted by editor, Georgia de Chamberet, and journalist, Lucy Popescu. The series introduces to readers a selection of new writing in translation by diverse authors, and flies in the face of the view that literary translation is just for the highbrow.
Each episode features authors, translators, or publishers discussing a lead title in translation published this year, and talking about their own work. The themed conversations also show how world writing promotes empathy, connecting us to each other at a time of unprecedented crisis.
With our upcoming twinned reviews and podcasts, we aim to generate extra Media exposure and long-term visibility, attracting readers to discover new titles in translation by storytellers popular in their homeland.
30 July, 5pm | J.S. Margot, Flemish author of Mazel Tov translated by Jane Hedley-Prole, (Pushkin Press), discusses navigating clashing cultures with Georgia de Chamberet.
Followed by an interview with publisher, Adam Freudenheim
Mazel Tov is a heart-warming, funny and provocative memoir of a young woman navigating clashing cultures during her decades-long friendship with an Orthodox Jewish family. While offering a fascinating and unique insight into the customs and traditions of the modern traditional Orthodox community, it is also a tale of humorous misunderstandings, unexpected friendships, and the power children possess to bring everyone together.
“In our hyper-partisan times there is hope to be found in the friendship between J.S. Margot and the Schneiders [. . .] So much of Mazel Tov is about a quest for understanding, an acknowledgment that empathy has its limits, and the admirable determination to forge relationships with people from vastly different cultures anyway. These days, that seems like an almost quixotic mission, but it’s rewarding to read about a time when it did happen, and the pleasures it bought to lives of the people on both sides of the ideological divide.” – Chloe Walker, culturefly.co.uk
The first book in over twenty-five years by Switzerland’s master travel writer to be translated into English, So It Goes is a brilliant and irresistible addition to the works of the inimitable Nicola Bouvier published by Eland Books.
This collection of shorter travel writings takes us from the wintery Aran Isles to a Buddhist temple and a volcanic walk in Korea, and traces the roots of Bouvier’s interminable amusement and curiosity back to his childhood reading, and a war against his eight-year old arch-nemesis, Bertha.
“Nicolas Bouvier was never one to stay at home, and the six small notches from his own much-marked assassin’s knife collected here, are beautiful additions to his select English-language oeuvre, pieces to be read carefully and returned to many times over.” – Tim Hannigan, asianreviewofbooks.com
13 August, 5pm | Jamie Lee Searle (translator from the German) & Anne Meadows (Granta Books), discuss Korean author, Anna Kim’s The Great Homecoming and love, war & the riptide of history
This Granta debut by prize winning and internationally lauded author Anna Kim, is an epic novel of love, espionage and betrayal between three friends who are caught between the warring states of North and South Korea. Published to extraordinary acclaim in Germany, this beautifully translated “atmospheric, melancholy novel […] barely lets you draw breath.” – Die Welt
20 August, 5pm | James Womack, translator of Spanish author Manuel Vilas Heaven (Carcanet), discusses love & death under the sun with Georgia de Chamberet.
Followed by an interview with publisher, Michael Schmidt
Translator James Womack and Carcanet Press bring celebrated Spanish author and poet Manuel Vilas to Anglophone readers with Vilas’s two major collections Heaven and Heat published together in one voilume. Vilas’s writing burns with raw energy and poetic rage as he ruminates over everything from alcohol, sex, and death, to pop mythology, capitalism and the sea.
“One of the most original writers of contemporary Spanish literature . . . In his novel, España, and poetry collection, Heat, Manuel Vilas sings an extraordinaryy hymn to Spanish mass culture (both celebratory and parodic), that is not usually sung,” Carlos Pardo, El Pais
27 August, 5pm | Lulu Norman (translator) & journalist, Lucy Popescu, discuss the desert hell endured by Moroccan author Aziz BineBinewhich he describes in Tazmamart: 18 Years of Morocco’s Secret Prison (Haus).
Plus a Q&A with publoisher, Harry Hall
Haus Publishing bring us the incredible true story of Aziz BineBine who, unwittingly entangled in a failed coup against King Hassan II, found himself locked up for eighteen years in a tiny, subterranean cell in Tazmamart prison, of the kind thought to only exist in horror stories. Ten years after his release, in remembrance of his friends who died while incarcerated, Aziz Binebine wrote this memoir. It is the unforgettable story of one man’s descent into an abyss of horror and despair, and how he came out the other side.
03 September, 5pm | Lars Mytting (author), Deborah Dawkin (translator) & Georgia de Chamberet, discuss The Bell in the Lake (MacLehose Press) and tradition vs. modernity.
Followed by an interview with publisher, Christopher MacLehose
Praised in The Guiardian as “a beautiful example of modern Norwegian folklore“, and chosen as The Times’ “Historical Fiction Book of the Month”, the first instalment in Lars Mytting’s thrilling new historical trilogy is an exquisite study of love, superstition and the natural world. Set in 1880 in a village in rural Norway, the arrival of a forward-thinking pastor and a urban German architect spark change in the parish, and offer a vision of an alternate life for young villager Astrid Henke. And then the bells begin to ring . . .
“Lyrical, melancholy and with beautifully drawn characters, this pitches old beliefs against new ways with a haunting delicacy that rings true.” – Eithne Farry, Daily Mail
10 September, 5pm | Tahar Ben Jelloun, Moroccan author of On Terrorism: Conversations with my Daughter translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins, (Small Axes), discusses terror as a weapon with Georgia de Chamberet. In French and English
On Terrorism: Conversations with my Daughter is an impassioned, succinct explanation of the seductions of terrorism in the modern world by leading writer and cultural commentator, Tahar Ben Jelloun Structured as a dialogue between the author and his teenage daughter, this book is a timely, important and powerful plea for tolerance and understanding in an incrneasingly divided and fractious modern world.
“For almost twenty years now, the famous Moroccan writer, Tahar Ben Jelloun has attempted to fight ignorance and prejudice with his educational series of books aimed at children and young adults. But of course they are also – and perhaps especially – aimed at adults.” – Christine Legrand, La Croix
17 September, 5pm | Tommy Wieringa (Dutch author), Sam Garrett (translator) & Lucy Popescu, discuss Blessed Rita (Scribe), and voices from the margins.
Followed by an interview with publisher, Philip Gwyn Jones (now at Picador)
From Booker International-longlisted Dutch author comes a new, darkly funny novel about life on the margins of society. What is the purpose of a man? What is there to look forward to when you feel that the life you know and live is over? These are just some of life’s big questions that Wieringa grapples with in this “brutally searing mini-masterpiece.” – Daily Mail
“A book to take with you as a guide into the future, or one to read as you look back on the past through a melancholic, though cathartic and forgiving lens. The book’s main strength (not at all its only one) is Wieringa’s fluency in an unspoken language. He translates for us those who cannot speak for themselves or who cannot be heard.” – Remy Greasley, NB Magazine
24 September, 5pm | Natasha Lehrer (translator) & Lucy Popescu, discuss French author, Nathalie Léger’s The White Dress (Les Fugitives) and brides on tour
Nathalie Léger’s The White Dress, beautifully translated from the French by Natasha Lehrer, tells the true story of performance artist Pippa Bacca who, in 2008, set out to walk from Milan to Jersualem in a white wedding dress. She never reached her destination. Léger’s work masterfully combines biography with autobiography as she explores memory, identity, what it means to be human, and what it means to write.
“The White Dress is a culmination of both Léger’s project and her pensive style, which is rendered by Natasha Lehrer in a graceful and attentive prose that shifts unobtrusively from the meticulously objective to the intensely personal.” – Amanda de Marco, blogs.exeter.ac.uk/translatingwomen
20 October, 5pm | Goran Vojnović (Slovenian author), Olivia Hellewell (translator) & Lucy Popescu, discuss The Fig Tree (Istros Books) and the experiences of families living between empires
The Fig Tree explores the fate of three generations in a family that has been significantly marked by the disintegration of Slovenia. Vojnovic pushes the boundaries of Slovenian literature in this masterful study of overlapping lives, loves, desires and brutal realities.
“You can build walls and put wires on your borders, like my country sadly did, but you can’t stop people moving in search of a better life. Worse even, with all these obstacles, we have created an atmosphere of permanent uneasiness, in which immigrants are facing an even tougher task if they want to integrate. Therefore, the biggest challenge is to change the atmosphere, because it is difficult to talk about these things while people are full of fear and sometimes even hatred towards those who are running for their lives.” – Goran Vojnović, eurochannel.com
05 November, 5pm | Beka Adamashvili, Georgian author of Bestseller (Dedalus Books) & Tamara Japaridze (translator), wrap up the series with a discussion about how well bestsellers travel and all things Georgian
Lauded as one of the most creative minds of contemporary Georgian literature, Beqa Adamashvilli’s satirical hit debut Bestseller parodies literary clichés and the lengths ambitious writers will go to in order to gain recognition and success. Pierre Saunaige is an unpopular French writer. Only twelve men attended the presentation of his latest novel. Pierre decides that the only way to become popular is to commit suicide and so he carries out his PR intent and goes to hell. But hell is not the place we think it is. Writers have their own hell [. . .] Jack Kerouac can’t stop walking and Samuel Beckett endlessly waits for somebody. An instant bestseller when it was published. Be an armchair traveller and escape the consequences of the Coronavirus through some of the finest translated literature published this year.
For more information about The 2020 BookBlast® Podcast series, to run a review, or extract, or arrange an interview, please contact Rachel on email bookblastpa at gmail dot com or find us on twitter @bookblast @rachpg
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