Interview | Alastair Niven OBE LVO | Writer, lecturer & arts administrator

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

Podcast LIVE | Update: Bridging the Divide: Translation and the Art of Empathy | season 1

Hello, hello!

Since the first seven episodes of our weekly series Bridging the Divide: Translation and the Art of Empathy went live in July, there are still eight episodes to look forward to. The hosts, Georgia de Chamberet and Lucy Popescu, interview independent publishers, their authors and highly creative translators filling a unique niche in showcasing myriad inner and outer worlds thereby enriching our literary culture.

When reading, do you “hear” the book as if it is being read to you by the author?

The voice tells us so much about a person. Where they come from, their personality and how they’re feeling. As important as the voices in writers’ heads are those that are heard by readers. Hearing authors and translators talk describe their vision and craft in our Bridging the Divide series will enhance your reading of their books.

Catch up, listen up!

Interview | J.S. Margot, author of the memoir Mazel Tov

What happens when a young Flemish woman at university in Antwerp teaches the four children of an Orthodox Jewish family to earn a bit of extra money? How does her first great love for an Iranian political refugee evolve? Read Henrietta Foster’s review HERE

If Soundcloud isn’t your thing, there are several other ways of subscribing to the podcasts depending on the device you are using.

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Continue reading Podcast LIVE | Update: Bridging the Divide: Translation and the Art of Empathy | season 1

Podcast LIVE | In conversation with Michèle Roberts, Franco-British novelist

Michèle Roberts is the author of twelve highly-acclaimed novels, including The Looking Glass and Daughters of the House which won the W.H. Smith Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She has also published poetry and short stories, and is Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and a member of PEN and of The Society of Authors.

I caught up with her by the telephone, on the eve of the Covid 19 lockdown, to talk about Negative Capability: A Diary of Surviving, her latest book out today with Sandstone Press, and much more besides. 

Continue reading Podcast LIVE | In conversation with Michèle Roberts, Franco-British novelist

Interview | T. J. Gorton, author

TJ Gorton lives between London and SW France, when not locked down.  He had a brief academic career teaching Arabic at St Andrews, before being lured into an unloved career working for oil companies, mostly in the Middle East.  Since retiring, he has published seven books, from translations of Classical Arabic Poetry, to anthologies of travel writing about Lebanon, Beirut, and Jerusalem. His biography of a 17th-century Druze prince Renaissance Emir: A Druze Warlord at the Court of the Medici by Ted Gorton and debut novel, Only the Dead: A Levantine Tragedy, shortlsited for the Best First Novel Aard, are both published by Quartet Books. Author website. @tedgorton1

Where did you grow up, and what sorts of books were in your family home?
I was born in Texas to a military family, beginning an itinerant life which went on to include spells in Turkey, Japan, Argentina, Turkey again, Beirut, Paris, Oklahoma, and Oxford. Growing up, there were not a lot of books around, though my mother subscribed to the Reader’s Digest so I would read that and anything else I could scrounge.

What books had the greatest impact on you?
One seminal one (early teens) was The Wisdom of the West by Bertrand Russell, who explained the mysteries of Greek philosophy in brilliant graphics and exquisitely clear prose; I still rummage through it from time to time. But the one book that blew my mind at about age 18 was Joyce’s Ulysses. Coupled with a superb English teacher, it opened my mind to the infinite possibilities of literature for remaking the world. Continue reading Interview | T. J. Gorton, author

Interview | Gerald Jacobs, writer and critic

Gerald Jacobs is based in North London. The Literary Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, he has written for a wide range of newspapers and magazines. His books include Judi Dench: A Great Deal of Laughter; A Question of Football (with John North and the late Emlyn Hughes of Liverpool and England), The Sacred Games; and Nine Love Letters. His novel Pomeranski is published on 30 April. 

You were born in post-war Brixton? What sorts of books were in your family home?
I was actually born in Cheltenham, where my parents happened to be at the time but never lived there. I was brought up in the family home in Brixton. (I first made a conscious visit to Cheltenham when I was about thirty, and was very taken with it.)

We had a limited but varied amount of books on our two or three bookshelves. We made full, regular use of the local Carnegie Library. My father was not a great reader beyond books about the Second World War. There were a few, infrequently consulted religious prayer books and a Bible. My mother read novels and poetry. I loved reading a comic series called Classics Illustrated — picture-frame versions of Dickens, Dumas, Walter Scott etc. I also borrowed my mother’s Agatha Christie novels and read the wonderful comics consisting of pages of words without pictures: Wizard; Hotspur; Rover; and Adventure.
Continue reading Interview | Gerald Jacobs, writer and critic