Interview | Kim Oliver, Literary Executor | Small Axes

On Wednesday 28 August, HopeRoad‘s new imprint, Small Axes, headed up by Serpent’s Tail founder Pete Ayrton, will celebrate by showcasing its launch title, The Nowhere Man, at the Nehru Centre in Mayfair. Kim Oliver, Kamala Markandaya’s daughter and literary executor, gave us an exclusive interview as a preview of the big night itself.

Kamala Markandaya’s pioneering novel The Nowhere Man, originally published in the 1970s, is reviewed HERE for The BookBlast Diary. It is a perfect read for this coming Notting Hill Carnival weekend.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in Lewisham in south London. Our family home was in Forest Hill, and that’s where I grew up – in the same house from birth through childhood and teenage years. I still see my earliest childhood friend who lived next door – we have been friends for more than sixty years! When we speak of it, and think back, we realise we were born into very much a post-war world, in the 1950s. It seems very drab, looking back. I remember the paintwork upstairs in our house being a dark-grey gloss. I love grey now for decorating, but that grey was so dark and dreary! There wasn’t the choice there is now.
Continue reading Interview | Kim Oliver, Literary Executor | Small Axes

Review | Madeleine, Euan Cameron | MacLehose Press

 “I always stay at the Louisiane when I’m in Paris, if only for sentimental reasons. It is not the most comfortable of hotels, but I like to think of figures such as Henry Miller and Ezra Pound staying there in the years between the wars. There is still a lingering louche whiff of a hôtel de passe, and of what I imagine Paris to have been like in the immediate post-war period, with those cobbled streets, open-backed buses and the faces that you see in Brassaï’s photographs.”

Madeleine is a perfectly-formed, psychologically acute first novel of love and war, shameful secrets and cowardly treachery. Euan Cameron’s prose sparkles with unsettling beauty and intelligence as he vividly brings to life the world of the French haute bourgeoisie that is shot through with chauvinism, moralistic posturing and anti-Semitism.

Continue reading Review | Madeleine, Euan Cameron | MacLehose Press

Interview | Euan Cameron | Author of the Week

Euan Cameron has enjoyed a long career first as a publisher and subsequently as a translator and book reviewer. He has translated over thirty books from French including works by Simone de Beauvoir, Julien Green, Paul Morand, Pierre Péju, Jean-Paul Kauffmann, Philippe Claudel and Patrick Modiano, as well as biographies of Marcel Proust and Irène Némirovsky. He was appointed Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2011. His first novel, Madeleine, was published in June by MacLehose Press.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up? 
Born in London, but I grew up in Dorset and in Buenos Aires.

Were the members of your family big readers?
My mother was a serious reader. She was always reading a recently published novel or a literary biography. When we lived in Argentina, she ordered books she had read about in her weekly New Statesman from the Librería Mackern in Buenos Aires.
Continue reading Interview | Euan Cameron | Author of the Week

Book 2 Review | Wild Woman, Marina Šur Puhlovski & Under Pressure, Faruk Šehić | Istros Books

What can the novels Wild Woman by Marina Šur Puhlovski and Under Pressure by Faruk Šehić tell us about the breakup of Yugoslavia which caused such a tectonic shift in Balkan identity?

Each to their war and its troubled aftermath: one in the domestic sphere, the other out on the field and in the trenches. Both are informed by terror, brutality, power struggles and stubborn memories which refuse to go away. The gender split seems clear: survivors of domestic violence are primarily women and war veterans are mainly men each to their trauma.

Continue reading Book 2 Review | Wild Woman, Marina Šur Puhlovski & Under Pressure, Faruk Šehić | Istros Books

Podcast LIVE | In conversation with Keith Anderson a.k.a. Bob Andy, reggae vocalist & songwriter

Instead of bringing you the best reads for summer, BookBlast® is bringing you the best reggae for summer.

Keith Anderson, known as Bob Andy, talks about his life and times in a rare and exclusive interview.

Best known in the UK for the track recorded with Marcia Griffiths “Young, Gifted and Black” (1970), he is widely regarded as “one of reggae’s most influential songwriters,” Wikipedia.

Continue reading Podcast LIVE | In conversation with Keith Anderson a.k.a. Bob Andy, reggae vocalist & songwriter

Review | The Nowhere Man, Kamala Markandaya | Small Axes

History is not the past, it is the present. We carry our history with us,” James Baldwin

Pete Ayrton, editor and publisher, who in 1986 founded Serpent’s Tail which he retired from in 2016, has teamed up with Rosemarie Hudson, the founder of HopeRoad (2010) to head up a new imprint: Small Axes.

The publication and promotion of literature from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean which challenges cultural stereotyping is becoming ever more urgent in the face of rising authoritarianism in the US, UK and across Europe.

The Small Axes list will focus on republishing post-colonial classics that helped to shape cultural shifts at the time of their printing and remain as relevant today as when they were first published.

He lapsed into bitterness, as people tended to do now, despite some shreds of conviction that still remained that Britain was an honourable adversary. ‘Over three hundred lives,’ he said. ‘A hundred Indians for each Briton. That is their scale, the scale by which they value themselves and against which we are measured. That is what we are up against: not their greed, or their anger, nor land hunger, nor the need to trade, but their arrogance, the mentality that produces such policies and acts.’” Continue reading Review | The Nowhere Man, Kamala Markandaya | Small Axes

Podcast LIVE | In conversation with Philip Mansel, author | A Life of Louis XIV

Louis XIV was both King of France and a global ruler with global ambitions. He founded colonies in America, Africa and India, tried to seize Siam (as Thailand was then known), sent missionaries and mathematicians to the Emperor of China and launched the struggle for France’s global markets which continues to this day . . . Louis was a man in pursuit of glory, a king devoted to dynastic aggrandisement and a leader bent on national expansion. He is also an argument . . .” from the introduction by Philip Mansel.

King of the World is the most comprehensive and up-to-date historical biography in English of Europe’s longest-reigning monarch: Louis XIV. Taking seven years to complete, it draws on all the latest research in France, Britain and America and pays special attention to the culture of the court, on which Philip Mansel is an acknowledged expert.

How is it that great leaders can delude themselves that they are working for the greater good, but engage in behavior that is morally wrong? This conundrum lies at the heart of King of the World which is a rich and rewarding read.

Continue reading Podcast LIVE | In conversation with Philip Mansel, author | A Life of Louis XIV

Review | A Country to Call Home (ed.) Lucy Popescu | Book of the Week

So refugee week is over. The fact that the UK is the only country in Europe where refugees who arrive looking for a safe haven are detained indefinitely, and are often sent back home to face persecution, torture or death, will be kicked into the long grass once again. Certain politicians continue to use the language of disaster and provoke fear by swelling numbers of arrivals, backed by box-ticking Home Office officials.

Refugees are individuals seeking asylum for humanitarian reasons and suffer trauma, broken dreams, love and loss as a consequence. They are not amorphous groups to be rendered and processed and imprisoned in detention centres like criminals. Such a hostile environment is anything but a welcoming new home, and some go crazy with grief.   Continue reading Review | A Country to Call Home (ed.) Lucy Popescu | Book of the Week

Interview | Lucy Popescu | Author of the Week

Lucy Popescu is a author, editor and arts critic with a background in human rights. She worked with the English PEN for over twenty years and was Director of its Writers in Prison Committee from 1991 to 2006. Her most recent anthology is A Country to Call Home which focuses on the experiences of young refugees (Unbound, 2018). Lucy is the chair of the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award; teaches creative writing at the Working Men’s College in Camden; curates literary evenings at Waterstones; is a Trustee of the JMK Award for Theatre Directors; and mentors refugee writers at Write to Life, Freedom from Torture’s creative writing group.

Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up
I grew up in Oxfordshire. My late mother was the children’s author, Christine Pullein-Thompson so I was put on a pony before I could walk. It’s a beautiful part of England and I loved hurtling round the woods and hills on a pony – following in my mother’s hoof steps – she grew up in Peppard. Years later, I found out that I had lived in a world that many horse mad girls envied.

Were your parents great readers? What were the books that made you fall in love with reading?
I come from a family of writers and grew up surrounded by books. I read hand me downs of Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies and E. Nesbit’s The Phoenix and the Carpet and loved C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books as a young child. I also read all my mother’s books and then the books written by her sisters . . . That took some time. I was a precocious reader. I wanted to know why, aged nine, I was banned from reading Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. I also read Wuthering Heights too young and thought Heathcliff was a romantic hero. I devoured JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye as a teenager. Continue reading Interview | Lucy Popescu | Author of the Week

Spotlight | Tatiana de Rosnay, Alicia Drake & Daughters of Simone de Beauvoir | Beyond Words French Literature Festival 2019

So many books have been written with Paris as a character and there are so many clichés about its seductive beauty, as a writer you need to find your Paris and step away from the great dark magnet that it is. Often the dark Paris is what is most interesting.” Alicia Drake

The vision of Paris as an intellectual’s city with writers and artists chain-smoking on café terraces, arguing about literature, art and Existentialism has been consigned to the attic by most contemporary novelists at work today who are worth reading. Tatiana de Rosnay and Alicia Drake are two such writers whose vision of the City of Light is anything but a picture postcard. They graced the stage at this year’s Beyond Words French Literature Festival at the French Institute in South Kensington.

There is, of course, some superb non fiction on offer which gives a genuine, riveting, and rather more leftfield take beyond the usual stereotypical reads – my favourite being the memoirs of late, great John Calder who I was lucky enough to know. The Garden of Eros: The Story of the Paris Expatriates and the Post-war Literary Scene is essential reading for anyone curious about visionary entrepreneurs operating in the publishing industry of yesteryear, and the Paris-London-New York golden triangle.

A forgotten Paris is described by the late Lesley Blanch in her memoirs On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life (Virago) in which she describes Russian Paris of the 1920s with theatre director, Theodore Komisarjevsky, and the beleaguered capital in 1945 when she was there with her younger husband Romain Gary, ambitious and unknown. “Romain developed a hunger for the atmosphere of the studios where a circle of newer artists worked. Long evenings would be spent trudging along the icy ill-lit streets and interminable boulevards. Public transport was scarce, very few people had cars then, and we had no money for taxis, which were rare. Continue reading Spotlight | Tatiana de Rosnay, Alicia Drake & Daughters of Simone de Beauvoir | Beyond Words French Literature Festival 2019