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

Guest Feature | Susan Curtis @Istros_books | Podgorica International Book Fair 2019, Montenegro

The Frankfurter Buchmesse which is happening this week takes place over five days every October. It is the world’s largest trade fair for books and is THE place to be for publishers, agents, authors, illustrators, film producers, translators, and representatives from trade associations to network and do business. It attracts more visitors than any other book fair.

However the smaller local, regional book fairs are less daunting to visit, and are great opportunities to bring new books to a variety of readers and local communities. They are also more likely to showcase a greater variety of independent small publishers and private presses.

Susan Curtis, founder and MD of Istros Books in London which publishes translated literature from the Balkans and South-East Europe, wrote a special report for us about her recent visit to Montenegro to attend The Podgorica International Book Fair, 1-5 October, 2019. Continue reading Guest Feature | Susan Curtis @Istros_books | Podgorica International Book Fair 2019, Montenegro

Guest Feature | Leila Sackur, Dispatches from the Intern’s Desk

Leila Sackur is a recent graduate in History from the University of Cambridge. She is interested in everyday life, gentrification and urban space. At university, Leila was involved in the student press and politics. She is a freelance writer who enjoys reading and writing narrative-non fiction. @baby_____lei

As an intern at BookBlast, part of my role includes spending some time sifting through the archives of our online journal. What content have we put up recently . . . is there anything I can change or add to . . . would this or that article we published in 2017 be interesting to new Twitter and Facebook followers now, and who might have missed out? I like this activity. It’s interesting to spend time reading over our backlog of posts; piecing together the digital footprint of the work done for BookBlast Diary since it first went live in 2016.

We’re currently in an in-between phase where it’s been exactly one year since the first BookBlast 10×10 Tour, and a year to go until our next one. ICYMI, last year we collaborated with Waterstones to bring together ten independent publishers, their authors and translators, and showcase them across the UK in ten cities. Continue reading Guest Feature | Leila Sackur, Dispatches from the Intern’s Desk

Lesley Blanch Archive | Lesley Blanch: One of a Kind | virago.co.uk

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

Interview | Dina Nayeri | Author of the Week

Dina Nayeri is the author of The Ungrateful Refugee, one of the most widely shared 2017 Long Reads in The Guardian. Winner of the 2018 UNESCO City of Literature Paul Engle Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts literature grant (2015), O. Henry Prize(2015), Best American Short Stories (2018), and fellowships from the McDowell Colony, Bogliasco Foundation, and Yaddo, her stories and essays have been published by The New York Times, New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, New Yorker, Granta New Voices, Wall Street Journal, and numerous others.  www.dinanayeri.com @dinanayeri

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in Tehran, lived in Isfahan until I was eight, then spent sixteen months as a refugee, arriving in Oklahoma when I was ten years old.

Did, or do, your family ever talk about life in Iran before the 1979 Islamic revolution?
Constantly. The nostalgia around pre-revolutionary Iran was so visceral that it became a part of my growing up. All the joys and the rituals and the arts went underground or behind closed curtains, but we still had them. And our parents talked all the time about what Iran used to be.

What sorts of books were in your family home?
You had to be careful about what books you kept. So my parents kept very few novels, history books, or anything cultural, political, or even allegorical. Of course we kept the old poets: Rumi and Hafez and Sa’adi. There was The Shahnameh, of course. And lots of medical books. Shelves and shelves of medical books.
Continue reading Interview | Dina Nayeri | Author of the Week