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
Vanessa Springora’s memoir, Consent, became an instant, international literary sensation when it was published in France. Her beautifully written, intimate and powerful description of her relationship in the mid-1980s with the French author Gabriel Matzneff, when she was fourteen and he fifty, is a beautifully written universal #MeToo story of power, manipulation, trauma, resilience and healing. Award-winning translator, Natasha Lehrer, captures Springora’s changes in pace and in tone, the voices and the silences, the literary milieu then and now with a sensitive ear and lexical deftness.
Continue reading Podcast LIVE | In conversation with Natasha Lehrer, translator of Consent by Vanessa Springora
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
Alastair Niven is the author of four books and numerous scholarly articles on aspects of Commonwealth and post-colonial literature. A judge of the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1994 and of the Man Booker Prize in 2014, he was also for twenty years Chairman of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. He was director of literature at the Arts Council and at the British Council and is a former president of English PEN. His memoirs In Glad or Sorry Hours are published by Starhaven Press.
Where were you born and brought up? Were you a happy child?
I was born in a nursing home in Edinburgh. It is now a Hilton hotel, where the judging of the Stakis Prize for Scottish Writer of the Year took place in 1998. I found myself deliberating with my fellow judges in the room in which I first saw the light of day. I had come full circle. As for a happy childhood – by and large, except when my father was on his daily rant about a misplaced towel or some crumbs on the carpet. Continue reading Interview | Alastair Niven OBE LVO | Writer, lecturer & arts administrator