BookBlasts® | Top 5 Reads for Independent Minds | Central & Eastern Europe

The fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago marked a symbolic end to the ideological split between East and West, spreading across Europe and dividing the two superpowers, the US and the Soviet Union, and their allies, during the Cold War. 

Since 9 November 1989, European countries have built over 1,000 kilometres of walls along their borders, with the backing of new populist parties in Hungary, Austria and Italy, in a bid to tackle the continent’s biggest migrant and refugee crisis since the World War Two. By the end of the Cold War there were approximately fifteen walls and fences along borders around the world; today, there are at least seventy.

The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the issue of enforcing border checks, is a central issue in the Brexit negotiations. [Chatham House] Even if a border wall falls, it stays in the minds of people. A link between walls and a country’s mental-health problems has been made by psychiatrists. [The New Yorker Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 5 Reads for Independent Minds | Central & Eastern Europe

Guest Feature | Leila Sackur interviews John Robert Lee (ed.) Saint Lucian Writers and Writing

Saint Lucian Writers and Writing edited by John Robert Lee is an indispensable author index of poetry, prose and drama available from Papillote Press. His other publications include Collected Poems 1975-2015, Canticles and Elemental. A new collection of poems, Pierrot, will be published by Peepal Tree Press in Leeds in February 2020.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am Saint Lucian, lived there for most of my life, been involved with the arts, literature and media from the late 1960’s, from about nineteen. I attended the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, Barbados from 1969, finished off my degree at Mona, Jamaica in the early 1980’s, began work with the library service in St. Lucia in 1979 after working as a teacher, cultural officer and radio announcer and producer. Literature, theatre, literary journalism, media (print and electronic), libraries and teaching have been my main interests and occupations. I am a practising Christian and Bible teacher and preacher with my local Baptist church.

When you were growing up, what books had an impact on you?
My mother encouraged me to read and memorize poetry, my father bought me books; I read the usual Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, William and Jennings books, Enid Blyton, fairy tales and many of the classics. Comics of course. I had an early exposure to newspapers, principally the Trinidad Guardian which my father got daily. My father and mother were readers and encouraged reading. A year or so before I went to university, I took A-level classes in Literature and became introduced to the moderns – Eliot, D H Lawrence, Philip Larkin et al – read many anthologies and these have had a lifelong impact and influence. Continue reading Guest Feature | Leila Sackur interviews John Robert Lee (ed.) Saint Lucian Writers and Writing

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

Review | The Eighth Life (for Brilka), Nino Haratischvili | Scribe Books UK

I owe these lines to a century that cheated and deceived everyone, all those who hoped. I owe these lines to an enduring betrayal that settled over my family like a curse. I owe these lines to my sister, whom I could never forgive for flying away . . .” writes Niza in the prologue to this epic and addictive Georgian family saga spanning the 20th century.

“Carpets are woven from stories”

Germany, 2006. A twenty-eight-year-old visiting professor from Georgia – a small country sandwiched between Russia and Turkey on the Black Sea – has lived in Berlin for several years to escape the weight of a painful family past. When her twelve-year-old niece runs away from her dance troupe “in search of answers” during a trip to the West, she sets off to find the girl who turns up near Vienna. In search of her identity, Niza undertakes to write, for herself and her niece, the story of their family over six generations. I owe these lines to you Brilka because you deserve the eighth life. Because they say the number eight represents infinity, constant recurrence. I am giving my eight to you.” Continue reading Review | The Eighth Life (for Brilka), Nino Haratischvili | Scribe Books UK

Interview | Charlotte Collins & Ruth Martin | Translator(s) of the Week

The Eighth Life (for Brilka) by Nino Haratischvili translated by Ruth Martin & Charlotte Collins, is published by Scribe UK on 14 November, 2019. @the_germanist @cctranslates @ScribeUKbooks

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
RM: I grew up in Cornwall, and did a first degree in English and a PhD in German literature. I’ve been a full-time translator for about eight years now, working on both fiction and non-fiction titles.
CC: I did a degree in English Literature, then went to drama school. I worked in theatre on and off for quite a long time. A schools tour took me to Germany in 1996, where I lived for nine years. I’ve also worked as a radio journalist, and started translating full-time in 2010.

When you were growing up, what books had an impact on you?
RM: My dad used to read the Just So Stories to me when I was quite little; he did the voices of all the animals. I think he enjoyed it as much as I did. Reading aloud to children is one of the best things a parent can do, in my opinion. I loved anything by Roald Dahl, too – he had a big influence on my sense of humour. Saturday was library day in our house and I would read my allocation of books, then my brother’s, then I’d start sneaking books off my parents’ piles and reading them in a tree at the bottom of the garden where I wouldn’t be found for a couple of hours.
CC: I was obsessed with Peter Pan. I was convinced that if I thought beautiful enough thoughts I’d be able to fly, even without fairy dust. My grandmother had to have a serious talk with me because I kept launching myself down the stairs. I had wonderful books – The Chronicles of Narnia, Maria Gripe’s Hugo and Josephine series (translated by Paul Britten Austin), Tom’s Midnight Garden, (I used to play in that garden; a schoolfriend lived in Philippa Pearce’s old house.) I loved Andrew Lang’s coloured fairy books; Yellow and Violet were my favourites. There were a lot of time-slip books, a lot in which a lonely child finds a friend, a lot with absent fathers who miraculously return. I can’t remember who started me off on the Brontës, but I read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre when I was about eight and would nag my poor grandparents to take me to Haworth every summer. Francis Spufford’s memoir The Child that Books Built beautifully explores the way we’re shaped, as children, by the books we read, the way we escape into their worlds. Continue reading Interview | Charlotte Collins & Ruth Martin | Translator(s) of the Week

Interview | Philip Gwyn Jones, Scribe UK | Indie Publisher of the Week

Editor and publisher, Philip Gwyn Jones, has 25 years’ high-level experience at the heart of literary publishing in the UK. Most recently, he founded Portobello Books in 2004 and joined Scribe UK in 2014. He is a passionate and persuasive campaigner for great writing and has worked with both the conglomerates and the independents, as well as charities championing writing and writers, universities teaching the history and craft of writing and publishing, and literature festivals. @PGJpublishing @ScribeUKbooks 

Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
My father read [and watched and listened to] only news, news, news. My mother was an aspirational reader and even more aspirational for her only child when he eventually arrived, and dutifully followed the advice in the women’s magazines of the 1960s-’70s from the likes of Kaye Webb about what books a child should be given to read. I ended up with a marvellous library of paperback kids’ books, mostly Puffins, from that time, which was largely ignored by my own children, and is now boxed up in the attic to be ignored by generations to come.

What was the book that made you fall in love with reading?
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which remains to me the greatest book of them all, containing, as it does, everything and its undoing and its explaining. Plus Asterix, in those puntastic Anthea Bell translations. Continue reading Interview | Philip Gwyn Jones, Scribe UK | Indie Publisher of the Week

Interview | Sophie Lewis | Translator of the Week

Sophie Lewis is a London-born writer, editor and translator from French (since 2005) and Portuguese (since 2012). She has translated works by Stendhal, Verne, Marcel Aymé, Violette Leduc, Emmanuelle Pagano, Noémi Lefebvre, João Gilberto Noll and Sheyla Smanioto, among others. She was Senior Editor at indie trade publisher And Other Stories from 2010 to 2016. In 2016 she co-founded Shadow Heroes, a workshop series introducing aspects of translation to GCSE-level students. She is now Managing Editor at the Folio Society. This Tilting World by Colette Fellous, published by Les Fugitives on 16 September, is her latest translation.

Where did you grow up? Have you always lived in London?
I grew up in Islington in North London. I’m happy to call myself a born and bred Londoner, though my parents were not from here, nor were their parents from where they grew up.
I spent my childhood and adolescence in London, and was back and forth between Oxford, Paris and London as a student. My big, very sensible adventure was a move to Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of 2011. My husband got a teaching job there and we took a weekend to decide this was a great plan, despite never having set foot on the continent before. It was a great plan. We stayed for four and a half years. Now we’re back in London we can’t help speculating about making another similar move, though to somewhere as different again. Languages play their part, of course. Continue reading Interview | Sophie Lewis | Translator of the Week

Review | This Tilting World, Colette Fellous trs. Sophie Lewis | Book of the Week

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.

I could talk about that death; I haven’t the strength to discuss the others. This tilting world, how can we talk about it, how make sense of it? Only by naming the appalling blow those deaths have dealt each one of us, the deep wound they have gouged which can never be healed, the birth of a new kind of warfare, and this terror that is taking root everywhere, even within our own bodies. Continue reading Review | This Tilting World, Colette Fellous trs. Sophie Lewis | Book of the Week

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