Spotlight | Staging France: Beyond Words Festival of French Literature, London SW7

Cafés, books and debate are a mainstay of French culture in a uniquely seductive way, so to savour some French flair, head to the Institut français in London this week for the second Beyond Words Festival. Forty writers, translators, actors, musicians and journalists are taking part in talks and live performances, presenting iconic films, and engaging the broader public, not just Francophiles.

How Paris changed the world

Baudelaire looked at what being a bohemian meant and invented the word “modern”; Hemingway made Paris an obligatory destination for aspiring young American writers on their European Grand Tour; the French capital was home to Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco; and Nabokov was published there.

philippe gras photo bookblast diaryMay 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of May 1968 when French workers joined student protesters in Paris with a one-day general strike. Although the government was not overthrown, the protests ushered in a cultural revolution.

The Photo Exhibition AU COEUR DE MAI ’68 by the late French photographer Philippe Gras tells the story of May ’68, fifty years after the event. There is free access to the exhibition at the Institut français during La Médiathèque’s opening hours, until 19 May. Continue reading Spotlight | Staging France: Beyond Words Festival of French Literature, London SW7

Interview | Rosemarie Hudson, founder, HopeRoad Publishing | Indie Publisher of the Week

Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start?
No, I only started my career in publishing twenty years ago; previously I spent most of the time in the film industry.

Has your vision from when you started HopeRoad 7 years ago changed?
No, in that I still want to continue to publish authors and writings from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. It’s a big, rich vision that will last my lifetime.

How do you balance originality and profitability?
Our remit is to publish books of quality – to add a third word – that would otherwise not see the light of day. Profitability is something one can depend on when selling shoes, for instance – but book sales are mainly a gamble. Perhaps most publishers would agree with this! However, I believe in every single title we publish and gain great satisfaction from seeing these books in print and also from working with talented writers. We are still looking forward to that “big win”, but in the meantime, with occasional help from Arts Council England, along with grants for our translations, we are able to keep going, and to keep our standards high.

Continue reading Interview | Rosemarie Hudson, founder, HopeRoad Publishing | Indie Publisher of the Week

Spotlight | The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses 2018

Originally a fringe experiment dreamed up by novelist Neil Griffiths, and now in its second year, The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses 2018 is making waves and highlighting the superb and genuinely original writing being published by diverse independent publishers.

neil griffiths small press prize 2018 bookblast diary g de chamberet photo 2

Most writers make less than 600GBP per year from writing and the average sales of a literary fiction title is 264 copies, so literary fiction is a super niche area of the arts,” according to Griffiths. “An award points readers towards overlooked gems with a specialized appeal.” This echoes what was expressed to me back in February 2016 by publishers and punters when I launched the BookBlast® celebrates independent publishing promotion online via The BookBlast® Diary, and the inspiration outlined in the piece: Why Independence Matters.

The books shortlisted include one turned down by almost every mainstream publisher and one that was too experimental to even be considered . . . the Inpress roster of 60 small presses shows how small presses do something else, something different, and something all-important. There are no artificial bestsellers here. This is the age of small presses,” declared Griffiths from the stage in the University of Westminster’s oak-pannelled Fyvie Hall. The screen behind him flashed up the shortlisted authors, book covers and publisher logos. Continue reading Spotlight | The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses 2018

BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | March 2018

Here is our scrapbook of top 10 reads for March featuring new books from Kurdistan, Croatia, Tashkent, Latvia, the Caribbean, Iceland, Mexico, Kenya, and last but not least, England. Here at BookBlast® HQ we love translation! This year’s Translation Prizes were awarded by the Society of Authors at the British Library, in recognition of outstanding translations from works in Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish. 

To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, Interlink are celebrating women’s voices and actions throughout the month. They are giving a free gift book with every purchase of an Interlink book written by a woman. With every order you place, you will receive a surprise gift (a novel, a cookbook, a memoir, or a history book) selected by an Interlink staff member to suit your taste (one book per order valued at $15 to $30). Just visit one of the following websites: www.interlinkbooks.com www.immigrantcookbook.net www.soupforsyria.com or www.palestineonaplate.net to place your order. You can also do so by calling 1-800-238-LINK.

Listing in alphabetical order according to publisher @Arc_Poetry @maclehosepress @peepaltreepress @PeirenePress @PushkinPress @SaqiBooks @SerenBooks @Silver_Press_ @TiltedAxisPress @InterlinkBooks
Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | March 2018

Review | Fireflies, Luis Sagasti | Book of the Week

God, like fireflies, only shines in the darkness, wrote Schopenhauer.” – Fireflies (p. 71)

Fireflies by Luis Sagasti is a brief, existential history of the world in the form of eight essays knitted together by subtle connection points. An eclectic array of highbrow and pop cultural personalities are presented in a seemingly random manner but have common threads that carry an underlying message. Philosophy helps us live our lives, is a consolation: Wittgenstein and Habermas make an appearance; as does the celebrated author of haikus, Matsuo Basho.

An original and stimulating work of experimentalism, Fireflies is in the tradition of fellow Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino (who asserted that “the brain begins in the eye”), Roland Barthes and Michel Tournier. What is true and what is false? Are conspiracy theories grounded in any kind of reality? Is there a relationship between death and black holes? Can words express truth, and is perception reality?

Continue reading Review | Fireflies, Luis Sagasti | Book of the Week

Interview | Carolina Orloff, co-founder, Charco Press | Indie Publisher of the Week

Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
My father owned and ran a large bookshop right in the centre of Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I am from originally. It was a bookshop that had been in the family for three generations, and where the likes of Borges, the Ocampo sisters and Bioy Casares had current accounts. Both my parents were and are great readers and I grew up surrounded by books from a very early age. No doubt my love for literature grew from that. I even started writing at an early age, and had a book of poetry published when I was thirteen.

Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start?
Definitely in literature, in some form. I’ve always studied and worked with literature. I did an BA in Literature, followed by an MA in Translation and a PhD in Latin American Literature. I then lectured on literature, translated literature, examined literature papers and even wrote articles and books on one of Argentina’s most celebrated writers, Julio Cortázar.

Continue reading Interview | Carolina Orloff, co-founder, Charco Press | Indie Publisher of the Week

BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | January 2018

Here is our New Year round up of eclectic reads to delight and inspire you, happy new year, bonne année, felice anno nuovo, feliz año nuevo, ευτυχισμένο το νέο έτος, szczęśliwego nowego roku !

Listing in alphabetical order according to publisher @bitterlemonpub @commapress @Carcanet @CharcoPress @Istros_books  @maclehosepress @NewVesselPress @orbooks  @whitecrowbooks

Hell in Paradise

nicolas verdan greek wall bookblast diaryThe Greek Wall by Nicolas Verdan Trs. W. Donald Wilson (Bitter Lemon Press)

“At the moment, he no longer knows why he is here in this spot alongside a national highway, outside this brothel on the very edge of the Schengen Area. Perhaps, instead of discussing the wall inside, he might find a body like Christina’s? Not her face, not, he wouldn’t recognise it in that place. But maybe her perfume? Just a woman’s perfume, a scent, just her scent, please, please tell me if there mightn’t be, here in this place, in the countryside, on the frontier of Europe, a girl wearing Rykiel Woman.”

A severed head is found on the Greek border near a wall planned to stop Middle Eastern immigrants crossing from Turkey. Intelligence Agent Evangelos wants the truth about the murder, human trafficking into Greece, and about the corruption surrounding the wall’s construction. More than a mystery novel and a political thriller, The Greek Wall evokes the problems of the West incarnated in Greece: isolationism, fear of immigration, economic collapse and corruption. Paradise for tourists can become a hell for immigrants.

Poetic, pungent and atmospheric, The Greek Wall is a good example of how compelling crime fiction gives insights into the detective and the society in which they live.

The issues dealt with by Nicolas Verdan in The Greek Wall are close to his heart: “As a journalist, I went to Turkey, the Balkans, Greece, the Middle East, Central Asia, following or crossing the roads of migrants. My Greek grandparents were confronted by forced emigration of sorts. When my mother was a baby, the Greek civil war had begun. There was no choice but to leave your village to go to Athens, if necessary on foot. An exodus like the people from Syria and Iraq leaving everything behind: home, family, friends, skies, landscapes, the brilliance of olive trees in the sun. My grandmother came back to her village in the Peloponnese ten years after leaving it. It was only 350 kilometres from the capital, but coming back to your abandoned homeland was like coming to a foreign country. Devastation, no time, no money. Such was life in the 1950s in Greece. We must never forget how much rural exodus has affected the mentality of modern Greece.
Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | January 2018

BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | December 2017

December: a time of merry abandon, or seasonal reflection? Our round up of eclectic reads to delight and inspire you takes in both . . . Happy Christmas! Georgia @bookblast

Titles are in alphabetical order according to publisher @bitterlemonpub @darfpublishers @commapress @belgraviab @hoperoadpublish @hauspublishing @ibtauris @maclehosepress @pointedleaf @pushkinpress

Life without friends is like life on a desert island

friendships mark girouard bookblastFriendships by Mark Girouard (Bitter Lemon Press) buy here

Mark Girouard, the architectural writer, and authority on the country house, gathers together thirty letters of note and other communications from friends, alongside his writing about them. A few are or were famous, some are grand, and others not at all. The point of the book is that friendship has nothing to do with fame or success, but all to do with that sudden click of reciprocity, and pleasure in companionship that helps make life worth living. Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | December 2017

Spotlight | The seemingly unstoppable boom in indie publishing & The Republic of Consciousness Prize

Indie Publishing vs. Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

With commissioning editors at mainstream publishers increasingly under the corporate cosh, any literary submissions calculated to sell less than 5000 copies are turned down regardless, which leaves the field open for independent publishers to come in and have a go at the roulette table imagining winners that might come their way.

An experienced commissioning editor may be able to spot high-quality writing and know their target readership, but s/he is no less a gambler than anyone else playing the publishing game. Their gut instinct counts for little in the corporate boardroom nowadays, even though the way in which advances are calculated is an inexact science, and tales of legendary rejections make for juicy water-cooler chat. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected 12 times before being picked up; Gone with the Wind got the thumbs down 32 times; Under the Frog 22 times; Dune 20 times; and The Tale of Peter Rabbit was rejected so many times it was self-published.

Smaller publishers generally avoid formulaic writing for the genre market, provide greater personalised support, and as opposed to a vanity press do not ask the author for money. Added to which crowdfunding has become a more than viable option, not only to raise funds, but to develop a community of readers ahead of publication (Peirene Now! No. 3, Shatila Stories was recently successfully funded with 327 backers pledging £13,350 via Kickstarter). Best not confuse authors self-publishing their own books only generally via a digital platform such as Amazon or Kobo with indie publishers; the term indie authors would be more accurate.

According to a recent report in The Guardian, “Independent publishers have unleashed a boom in sales,” and “turnover across the Arts Council England-funded portfolio surged above its budget by almost £100,000 this year, reaching £277,930.”

Continue reading Spotlight | The seemingly unstoppable boom in indie publishing & The Republic of Consciousness Prize

Review | So the Doves, Heidi James | Book of the Week

Why was he so curious? Perhaps it was partly because of her mystique, her hold over him, and partly because her world was not his. Were they really so different? Maybe they were and maybe he believed that if he could only figure her out, emulate her – her gestures, her attitude – then maybe he could be invincible, extraordinary, like her.”

The novel tells the story of Marcus Murray, “forty-ish with a small paunch and a few grey hairs,” and his fascination with gorgeous free-spirit, Melanie, who had disappeared when he was seventeen. “It’s as if she was a figment of my imagination . . .” Not only is there a dead body virtually on the first page, but also a missing person, presumed dead.

A stylish psychological thriller, So the Doves is concerned with the moral legacy of Thatcherism; truth and lies and the death of idealism; what is real and what is imagined; small town decay; violence and intolerance in their various ugly forms. Continue reading Review | So the Doves, Heidi James | Book of the Week