Article first published on posthumous publication of On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life by Lesley Blanch,15 January 2015 by virago.co.uk
As far as godmothers go, Lesley Blanch (1904-2007) was as good as it gets. She was an understanding and generous friend; listening without judging. She opened up new ways of seeing the world and was modern and free, with tremendous wit and style. Seductive and glamorous, she was a superb storyteller. A scholarly romantic, her passion was for all things Russian and Oriental. She never apologized for who she was, took risks and relished writing about her adventures. Resilient and alert to the end of her long life, she stood firm and dignified in the face of back-biting and envy.
Lesley was ahead of her time, and prescient in the way she attempted to bridge West and East: especially the West and Islam. Although most people today associate her with the classic book which pioneered a new approach to history writing, The Wilder Shores of Love, her greatest work is The Sabres of Paradise. The way she writes about the struggle of the people of the Caucasus to remain independent of Russia is dramatic and disturbingly relevant to our world today. As Philip Marsden put it: “Like Tolstoy’s, her [Lesley Blanch’s] sense of history is ultimately convincing not because of any sweeping theses, but because of its particularities, the quirks of individuals and their personal narratives, their deluded ambitions, their vanities and passions.”Continue reading Lesley Blanch Archive | Lesley Blanch: One of a Kind | virago.co.uk
“Tomorrow, yes, I will leave this house. I’ll abandon the village and the life here, all the faces that I love I will leave. The friends, the objects, the doors, the pavement slabs, the tall eucalyptus and the wild olive trees, the orange groves, the roads, the markets, the music, the fruit, the dancing, the window of blue, I’ll leave it all, no strength left.”
Looking out to sea, Collette Fellous remembers her 1950s Tunisian childhood, her father, and lifelong friend, the writer Alain, who “died like a Greek hero, with an unheard howl, in the middle of the Aegean Sea, at the helm of his yacht.” She looks at the past in attempt to understand the brutal present on which she wishes to turn her back.
“Judging the Banipal Translation Prize was a most enriching experience. It reminded me that literature can be a force for good – no bad thing! We need to be shocked out of a comfortable complacency that suggests that books should not attempt to bring about social and political change. The entries provided no shortage of shocks.” Pete Ayrton, Chair of Judges, the Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation.
The Man Booker International, the IMPAC Award, English PEN’s Writers in Translation Programme* and the Society of Authors’ series of prizes for outstanding literary translations from works in Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish are the leaders of the prize-giving pack.
As we head out of the old, into the new, year, our top 10 reads to see us out feature superb writing from China, fin-de-siècle Paris, the Middle East, Istanbul by way of New York, Switzerland and Cuba, in no particular order. @maclehosepress @carcanet @BanipalMagazine @melvillehouse @dedalusbooks @NBNi_books @hoperoadpublish @oneworldnews @jamiebulloch @PennedintheM
A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor Heroes (Vol. 1) by Jin Young, trs. Anna Holmwood (MacLehose Press) buy here
The author Louis Cha who died aged ninety-four on 30 October, wrote under the pen name Jin Yong. His books have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide and been adapted into countless films, TV series, graphic novels and video games. His works are all set during the rich and storied history of China. The first English translation of A Hero Born, the first of his 12-volume epic Legends of the Condor Heroes, was published earlier on this year by MacLehose Press. We include him here as a tribute to an unparalleled master storyteller. Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | November-December 2018
On a night of political disunity and meltdown as Brexit hit the buffers, we were delighted to host the final event of this year’s inaugural BookBlast 10×10 tour at WestBank Art & Music in Thorpe Close, W10, under the Westway.
Kit Caless from INFLUX PRESS led the discussion with Susan from ISTROS BOOKS and Elizabeth from SAQI BOOKS about how #indiepubs play such an important role in the cultural ecosystem; translation, rigid mindsets and choosing to publish books written without market trends in mind; the importance of buying books directly from #indiepubs websites; how best to access buyers at the major bookselling chains deciding on what and how much to purchase (tricky in some instances when there is just one fiction buyer for a whole chain!).
The audience of publishing consultants, book distributors, bloggers, indie film makers, readers and writers raised the issues of how Amazon goes after publisher profit margins with crippling consequences for indies; and the lack of publicity in the Media which is ironic given the growing demand for eclectic, nongeneric, unconventional writing of the kind that is supplied by the smaller publishers who are regularly winning prizes. Continue reading Breaking News | It’s a wrap! The BookBlast 10×10 Tour in association with Waterstones
Much excitement, relief and exhaustion here at BookBlast as the 10×10 tour of superb #indiepubs around the regions of England is drawing to a close, as we approach Liverpool and finally Manchester. You can buy tickets HERE
Our monthly round up features five eclectic reads coming to you from France, Italy, New York and the Indian Ocean @BelgraviaB @maclehosepress @pushkinpress
Little by Edward Carey (Gallic/Aardvark Bureau) buy here
“In the same year that the five-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his Minuet for Harpsichord, in the precise year when the British captured Pondicherry in India from the French, in the exact same year in which the melody for ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ was first published, in that very year, which is to say 1761, whilst in the city of Paris people at their salons told tales of beasts in castles and men with blue beards and beauties that would not wake and cats in boots and slippers made of glass and youngest children with tufts in their hair and daughters wrapped in donkey skin, and whilst in London people at their clubs discussed the coronation of King George III and Queen Charlotte, many miles away from all this activity, in a small village in Alsace, in the presence of a ruddy midwife, two village maids, and a terrified mother, was born a certain undersized baby.”Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 5 Reads for Independent Minds | October 2018
The eighth talk of the BookBlast® 10×10 tour, a nationwide celebration of independent publishing, features Saqi Books @BhamWaterstones Founded in 1983 in London, Saqi Books is an independent publishing house of quality general interest and academic books on North Africa and the Middle East. Over the years Saqi has expanded its list to include writers from all over the world and has established two imprints, Telegram and The Westbourne Press.
On Thurs. 25 October at 6.30 p.m., Elizabeth Briggs, editor & marketing manager @SaqiBooks will chair the discussion with Nafeesa Hamid and Aliyah Holder @BhamWaterstones The talk has as its theme, The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write inspired by the anthology edited by Sabrina Mahfouz in which their writing is featured.
Meet in person the indie publisher, Elizabeth Briggs, from Saqi Books, at the BookBlast 10×10 Tour event, Waterstones, Birmingham, 24-26 High Street, B4 7SL @Bhamwaterstones 6.30 p.m. Thursday 25 October. Theme: The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write with reference to the anthology edited by Sabrina Mahfouz. With poets Nafeesa Hamid and Aliyah Holder. Book Tickets
Where were you born, and where did you grow up? Worcester, where I lived until I left for university in the North East of England at seventeen. Determined as ‘Britain’s most average constituency’ by the BBC last year, it’s not bad coming from a city whose place on the international stage is thanks to a great sauce and Edward Elgar.
What sorts of books were in your family home? All sorts. I was very lucky. We had these incredible encyclopedias of animals from around the world, which I used to spend hours pouring over and copying the pictures. They were shelved alongside an illustrated bible, which I didn’t think at all odd at the time. It never occurred to me as a child that people took stories from the old testament as gospel: I thought they were wild and strange fantasy at the time – violent and bloody, the kind of things I wasn’t allowed to watch on TV. My dad also has an astonishing collection of moldy orange Penguin original paperbacks, bought back when they cost 85p each. I used to read a lot of Agatha Christie. I also have two older sisters so could borrow their books too. I read The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst when it first came out (I was twelve at the time), which was eye-opening.Continue reading Interview | Elizabeth Briggs, editor & marketing manager, Saqi Books | Indie Publisher of the Week
The fifth talk of the BookBlast® 10×10 tour, a nationwide celebration of independent publishing, features Peirene Press which focuses on European & World Literature, much of it in translation. It was founded in 2008 by Meike Ziervogel who is both a novelist and a publisher. She grew up in northern Germany and lives in North London. In 2012 Meike was voted as one of Britain’s 100 most innovative and influential people in the creative and media industries by the “Time Out and Hospital Club 100 list”. Meike is the author of four novels, all published by Salt. Her alter ego, “The Nymph” regularly writes about The Pain & Passion of a Small Publisher for Peirene online and is a must-read blog.
Meet Nashwa Gowanlock in person at the 10×10 Tour event, Waterstones, Brighton 6.30 p.m. Thursday 4 OCT. Theme: Inside Out: Voices of the Diaspora. With Meike Ziervogel from Peirene Press, chair, and translator Jamie Bulloch (The Last Summer by Ricarda Huch). Book Tickets
Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m a British Egyptian born in Kuwait and raised between there and the UK, where I am now based. I was raised bilingual and attended a British school in Kuwait so the transition to England in 1990 following the Iraqi invasion wasn’t too much of a shock, although it was a bit of a culture shock! Most of my extended family live in Egypt and I have a very strong connection to them and the country itself, even though I never really lived there, but visit often. I’ve also lived as an expat in Qatar and Cyprus, when I worked for Al Jazeera and then AFP, but I’m now settled in Suffolk with my husband, stepson and a toddler who keeps me on my toes! Continue reading Interview | Nashwa Gowanlock, translator