Interview | François von Hurter, Bitter Lemon Press | Indie Publisher of the Week

Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
With a Greek mother and a Swiss/Austrian father, the bookshelves at home were the reflection of a mad continent. Goethe, Mann, Holderlin rubbing shoulders with Leigh Fermor, Kavafy and Seferis. And many biographies of T.E. Lawrence.

Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start?
Loved reading ‘from the start’ but publishing is a second career, begun at age 57.

Has your vision from when you started Bitter Lemon Press 13 years ago changed?
We entered the water gingerly, with a narrow focus on translated crime fiction. We have since diversified into novels written in English, both literary crime and general literary fiction, and also added a non-fiction imprint called Wilmington Square Books. WSB publishes thoughtful and engaging books about culture and society. Continue reading Interview | François von Hurter, Bitter Lemon Press | Indie Publisher of the Week

Interview | Claudia Piñeiro | Author of the Week

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Woman, writer, mother, honest, curmudgeon.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My top three careers were: Sociologist, Ecologist, Mathematician. In other words, everything!

What books have had a lasting impact on you?
David Grossman’s To The End Of The Land.

Why do you write?
Because writing is part of who I am. It’s existential. I wouldn’t be who I am if I didn’t write.
Continue reading Interview | Claudia Piñeiro | Author of the Week

Interview | Ana Pérez Galván, Hispabooks | Indie Publisher of the Week

Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
No, my father is a voracious newspaper reader, but not a book reader. My mother does enjoy reading now and then a good novel, but not as a habit, very much the same as my two sisters. I am a forty-one-year-old woman from Madrid. I have two kids (a boy of six, Máximo, and a girl of eight, Ada). I love reading, I love music (my taste is very eclectic), I love sculling (I row in a local rowing club) and I love my partner, with whom I’ve been nearly fifteen years now, unmarried. I don’t believe in God – I’m an apostate. I believe in solidarity, equality, tolerance and love.

Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start?
Yes, I’ve always had a passion for books and since an early age was clear about my wish to work in publishing, surrounded by books.
Continue reading Interview | Ana Pérez Galván, Hispabooks | Indie Publisher of the Week

Interview | Peter Bush | Translator of the Week

Peter Bush is a translator of works from Catalan, French, Spanish and Portuguese to English and has recieved numerous awards including the 2009 Calouste Gulbenkian Portuguese Translation Prize for his translation of Equator by Miguel Sousa Tavares; the 1997 Premio Valle-Inclán for his translation of The Marx Family Saga by Juan Goytisolo; the 1994 Outstanding Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association for his translation of The Old Man Who Read Love Stories by Luis Sepúlveda; the 2011 Cruz de Oficial, Orden del Mérito Civil, awarded by King Juan Carlos of Spain, for contribution to the creation of cultural dialogue between UK and Spain; and the 2015 Creu de Sant Jordi, most distinguished award given by the Generalitat of Catalonia, for the translation and promotion of Catalan literature.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I had a happy childhood on council estates in Lincolnshire on the edge of the Fens.
My father was a typographer, so the house was full of newsprint every day. My grandfather was a shepherd and Dad didn’t want to work on the land. My mother came from a family that lived in a tenement in the centre of Sheffield. Her dad was a sawyer from the Rhonda Valley and her mother from the Irish community on Merseyside. In the UK translation starts with class, dialect and migration..
I’ve just moved to Oxford with my family after living in Barcelona for eleven years.

When you were growing up, what books had an impact on you?
My first exciting reads were adventure comics. I got really hooked on cliff-hangers.
Then I moved on to Tarzan and Agatha Christie. At sixteen I loved Molière and Balzac.
Continue reading Interview | Peter Bush | Translator of the Week

Review | A Bad End, Fernando Royuela | Book of the Week

Life has always loomed large over us dwarves. Some take to it like a fish to water despite their diminished state and are even happy, while others tramp along the shores of existence like dogs driven wild by urban detritus, licking the sores of their own resentment, tempered by the terrible lash of indifference, as they tumble and stumble toward their tombs.” Goyito, in A Bad End

Historically, midgets often served as jesters, or entertainers in the courts of kings and aristocratic households. Isabella d’Este designed part of her palace for them and remembered two in her will. The paintings of Velázquez record the appearance of dwarves at the court of Philip IV of Spain. In the 18th and 19th centuries Russian tsars and nobles kept innumerable dwarfs; in 1710 a dwarf couple spent their wedding night in the tsar’s bedchamber. American showman P.T. Barnum publicized Charles Stratton (“General Tom Thumb”) in 1842 and he became an international star.
Continue reading Review | A Bad End, Fernando Royuela | Book of the Week

Guest Review | Henrietta Foster | Ludwig’s Room, Alois Hotschnig

Henrietta Foster is a freelance journalist and TV producer for the BBC. Her latest film, Beyond The Grace Note, is about women orchestra conductors. She is writing a book about Hungarian Jews.

Alois Hotschnig sent me a copy of Ludwig’s Room about a year or so ago. Accompanying the book was a postcard of a fearsome blue dragon by Albrecht Dürer, and on the reverse was a greeting in pencil. I mentioned his gift to Tess Lewis, the translator of the book, and that I was very much looking forward to reading it. Quick as a flash an email came back saying that as I had just been through a bad emotional break up, I was not to read the novel under any circumstances – any circumstances whatsoever. It was not a book for the broken-hearted. A little taken aback I did, however, obey my wise and good friend.

A few weeks ago and with some trepidation, I decided that I was now sufficiently robust to bookblast durer dragonread Ludwig’s Room. I was also curious to discover why it would have been so harmful for the recently dumped. Like Dürer’s dragon, it is a spiky, frightening, bleak and at times difficult book to read. But also like Dürer’s mythical beast, it is finely drawn and deceptively engaging. At times, it is very funny in a self-deprecating rather black-humoured way.
Continue reading Guest Review | Henrietta Foster | Ludwig’s Room, Alois Hotschnig

Interview | Anne Dolamore, co-publisher, Grub Street | Indie Publisher of the Week

Anne Dolamore started her career in publishing in the mid 1970s in the sales and marketing department at Faber & Faber, after reading English at Lancaster University. She moved to André Deutsch as one of the first women reps in London and in 1982 set up her own special sales consultancy, advising publishers such as Pan Macmillan, Harper Collins, Chatto, Bodley Head and Cape. At the end of the 1980s she wrote her first book, The Essential Olive Oil Companion, which was packaged by Grub Street and published by Macmillan. Her next book A Buyer’s Guide to Olive Oil, was published in 1994. In 1988 she joined forces with John Davies (the publisher of military aviation history books) to run Grub Street, which was voted International Cookbook Publisher of the Year at the World Cookbook Awards in 2000.

Anne was Chair of the Guild of Food Writers for two years; Chair of Sustain – the alliance for better food and farming; and Chair of the London Food Links working group for 10 years and served on the board of London Food, set up by the Mayor of London to deliver a London Food Strategy. She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and Les Dames des Escoffier. She has written for numerous publications, has made a number of radio and TV appearances, and recorded her lifetime food memories as a contribution to the National Sound Archive. She has just completed recording for the Women in Publishing Oral History Project.

Were your parents great readers?
My parents did both read; my mother mostly fiction but my father did love poetry and when I was a child he read to me most nights from A Book of 1000 Poems. At his funeral in 2008 my daughter, Amy, read one of his favourite poems, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Brook. They did instill in me a love of reading from the earliest age, and of course I am of that generation (now 63 yrs old) where weekly visits to the local library was a rite of passage. Libraries nurtured my insatiable reading habit and made me love books. Continue reading Interview | Anne Dolamore, co-publisher, Grub Street | Indie Publisher of the Week

Review | Vegetarianism: A History, Colin Spencer | Book of the Week

The history of evolution is reflected in the human diet. “What people eat is a symbol of what they believe,” writes Colin Spencer.

BSE or ‘mad cow disease’; ‘Frankenstein foods’; GM crops . . . the food on our plates and how it is reared, produced and sold is becoming an increasingly Big Issue and a contributing factor to why more and more people are espousing vegetarianism. There was a time when if you were a vegetarian it was considered kooky or cranky, but no longer. Colin Spencer’s comprehensive book, reissued in paperback for the first time in fifteen years, explores the psychology of abstention from flesh and attempts to discover why omnivorous humans at times voluntarily abstain from an available food. He begins in pre-history and ends in the present day.
Continue reading Review | Vegetarianism: A History, Colin Spencer | Book of the Week

Review | Skies, Alison Brackenbury | Book of the Week

“Alison Brackenbury loves, lives, hymns and rhymes the natural world and its people like no other poet.” Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales

Brackenbury’s latest (ninth) collection, Skies, reflects on childhood memory, Christmas in the country and stories from the WW1 passed down by relatives and friends.

It was the First World War.
Her husband was away.
She knew fear, but also found
new freedom in the day . . . Continue reading Review | Skies, Alison Brackenbury | Book of the Week

Interview | Alison Brackenbury | Author of the Week

Alison Brackenbury’s Carcanet collections include Dreams of Power (1981), Breaking Ground (1984), Christmas Roses (1988), Selected Poems (1991), 1829 (1995), After Beethoven (2000) and Bricks and Ballads (2004). Her poems have been included on BBC Radio 3 and 4, and 1829 was produced by Julian May for Radio 3. Her work recently won a Cholmondeley Award.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in what now seems almost like Victorian England, in the Lincolnshire countryside. I won a scholarship to Oxford, but quickly found that I preferred writing to academic work. So my First and I worked in a technical college library, then, for twenty-three years, in my husband’s metal finishing business. I had a child – and shaggy ponies – and too many cats. The planet heated. I had plenty to write about, and managed to produce nine poetry collections (and do a surprising amount of broadcasting on BBC Radio). Now I am a Retired Person, I at last have time to go round and give readings from all these poems . . .

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A successful writer of historical fiction, with an Irish wolfhound! I don’t regret not having written the fiction. I do wish I’d managed to keep a dog.
Continue reading Interview | Alison Brackenbury | Author of the Week