Interview | Lucy Popescu | Author of the Week

Lucy Popescu is a author, editor and arts critic with a background in human rights. She worked with the English PEN for over twenty years and was Director of its Writers in Prison Committee from 1991 to 2006. Her most recent anthology is A Country to Call Home which focuses on the experiences of young refugees (Unbound, 2018). Lucy is the chair of the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award; teaches creative writing at the Working Men’s College in Camden; curates literary evenings at Waterstones; is a Trustee of the JMK Award for Theatre Directors; and mentors refugee writers at Write to Life, Freedom from Torture’s creative writing group.

Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up
I grew up in Oxfordshire. My late mother was the children’s author, Christine Pullein-Thompson so I was put on a pony before I could walk. It’s a beautiful part of England and I loved hurtling round the woods and hills on a pony – following in my mother’s hoof steps – she grew up in Peppard. Years later, I found out that I had lived in a world that many horse mad girls envied.

Were your parents great readers? What were the books that made you fall in love with reading?
I come from a family of writers and grew up surrounded by books. I read hand me downs of Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies and E. Nesbit’s The Phoenix and the Carpet and loved C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books as a young child. I also read all my mother’s books and then the books written by her sisters . . . That took some time. I was a precocious reader. I wanted to know why, aged nine, I was banned from reading Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. I also read Wuthering Heights too young and thought Heathcliff was a romantic hero. I devoured JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye as a teenager. Continue reading Interview | Lucy Popescu | Author of the Week

Spotlight | Tatiana de Rosnay, Alicia Drake & Daughters of Simone de Beauvoir | Beyond Words French Literature Festival 2019

So many books have been written with Paris as a character and there are so many clichés about its seductive beauty, as a writer you need to find your Paris and step away from the great dark magnet that it is. Often the dark Paris is what is most interesting.” Alicia Drake

The vision of Paris as an intellectual’s city with writers and artists chain-smoking on café terraces, arguing about literature, art and Existentialism has been consigned to the attic by most contemporary novelists at work today who are worth reading. Tatiana de Rosnay and Alicia Drake are two such writers whose vision of the City of Light is anything but a picture postcard. They graced the stage at this year’s Beyond Words French Literature Festival at the French Institute in South Kensington.

There is, of course, some superb non fiction on offer which gives a genuine, riveting, and rather more leftfield take beyond the usual stereotypical reads – my favourite being the memoirs of late, great John Calder who I was lucky enough to know. The Garden of Eros: The Story of the Paris Expatriates and the Post-war Literary Scene is essential reading for anyone curious about visionary entrepreneurs operating in the publishing industry of yesteryear, and the Paris-London-New York golden triangle.

A forgotten Paris is described by the late Lesley Blanch in her memoirs On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life (Virago) in which she describes Russian Paris of the 1920s with theatre director, Theodore Komisarjevsky, and the beleaguered capital in 1945 when she was there with her younger husband Romain Gary, ambitious and unknown. “Romain developed a hunger for the atmosphere of the studios where a circle of newer artists worked. Long evenings would be spent trudging along the icy ill-lit streets and interminable boulevards. Public transport was scarce, very few people had cars then, and we had no money for taxis, which were rare. Continue reading Spotlight | Tatiana de Rosnay, Alicia Drake & Daughters of Simone de Beauvoir | Beyond Words French Literature Festival 2019

Spotlight | Jonathan Coe, Olivia Rosenthal, Claudia Durastanti & Others | Beyond Words French Literature Festival 2019

I was delighted to be invited along to some of the key talks held at this year’s Beyond Words French Literature Festival at the French Institute in South Kensington. Beyond Words has become ‘The Big Event’ in London for the promotion of French books translated into English. The festival features bilingual live literature events, writers’ talks, musical performances, screenings of recent literary adaptations, staged readings and books galore – both classic and contemporary.

This is the first of two posts about just some of what was up for discussion at the #BeyondWordsFest

Translation: a success story

Since I researched and wrote Boom not Bust: A new chapter in the story of translation in the UK in March 2015, translated fiction has become an ongoing success story. Brexit fatigue has led to a surge in the sale of translated fiction in the UK – an unexpected boon. Reading writing from elsewhere is ever more crucial as Little Englanders tighten their grip on this offshore island which looks set to sink beneath delusions of grandeur, short of a miracle . . .
Continue reading Spotlight | Jonathan Coe, Olivia Rosenthal, Claudia Durastanti & Others | Beyond Words French Literature Festival 2019

Review | The Rain Watcher, Tatiana de Rosnay | Book of the Week

The flooding was not going to subside. Linden had turned off the TV. He had felt slightly nauseous. The Seine’s upwelling had upset him, but his parents’ state worried him all the more. The bad timing of their visit to Paris stupefied him. How could their family weekend have turned into such an ordeal?

After a prolonged separation, the Malegarde family is set to celebrate the fortieth wedding anniversary of Paul and his wife Lauren, as well as his seventieth birthday. It is a shock for the elderly couple used to secluded rural life in the Drôme valley to arrive in a capital saturated by monsoon-like rain. Linden and Tilia, based in San Francisco and London respectively, join their parents in Chatterton Hotel in the 14th arrondissement. The family has not been reunited in such a way since they were teenagers.
Continue reading Review | The Rain Watcher, Tatiana de Rosnay | Book of the Week

Interview | Tatiana de Rosnay | Author of the Week

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in the outskirts of Paris, and I grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, and in Paris, France.

What sorts of books were in your family home?
My father who is French read scientific books, but he loved Jules Verne, and my mother who is British initiated me to Daphné du Maurier.

Who were early formative influences as a writer?
Anne Frank, Edgar Poe, Enid Blyton, C.S Lewis. Continue reading Interview | Tatiana de Rosnay | Author of the Week

Interview | Ben Pastor, novelist | Author of the Week

Author, BEN PASTOR, lived for thirty years in the United States, working as a university professor, before returning to Italy to write historical thrillers. Bitter Lemon Press have published six of her novels to date.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in Rome, and grew up in the hill country southeast of the city. Ten elements typified our small town: Roman ruins; rainy springs; olive groves; sparkling red wine; farm women dressing in beautiful traditional garb on holidays; the Thursday fair; more steps than streets (a problem and a good exercise for my family doctor father); a tall church steeple from where you could glimpse the sea in the far distance; cats, dogs, and farm animals of all kinds; the feeling that the world was orderly, cyclical, and safe.

What sorts of books were in your family home?
All sorts (except pornography) and too many to count. As children, my sister Simona and I used to read avidly, and then have a picnic on top of the tall bookshelves of the family library. Years later, we found mummified little pieces of sandwiches behind the furniture when we moved out. Mother had a passion for nineteenth-and-twentieth-century literature: the great French, English, Spanish, Russian, Italian, American authors . . . Father loved geography, history and mysteries; all of us had a fondness for poetry and art. From The Epic of Gilgamesh to Nicholas Nickleby, from Blood and Sand to Dead Souls, the steps to culture and to our picnic place were all there! Continue reading Interview | Ben Pastor, novelist | Author of the Week

Guest Post | Lucy Popescu @lucyjpop | European Literature Days, Literaturhaus Europa

The exuberant 10th anniversary of a small European literary festival, Literaturhaus Europa, held in the Wachau region of Austria, throws into sharp relief the cultural poverty we potentially face post-Brexit.

European Literature Days frequently punches above its weight, luring prominent international writers to participate in workshops and panel discussions over a long weekend. The theme this year was film, literature and literary adaptation. Continue reading Guest Post | Lucy Popescu @lucyjpop | European Literature Days, Literaturhaus Europa

Guest Post | Susan Curtis @Istros_books | Belgrade Book Fair 2018

The opening ceremony of Belgrade Book Fair took place on Sunday 21 October, officially commencing one of the biggest publishing events of the region. There is no doubt that Serbia takes pride in this annual gathering of publishers and public, now in its 63rd year, with the writer and Academician Matija Bećković comparing readers’ attendance of the fair to worshippers in a church. Between his opening speech and that of the representative of the Guest of Honour – this year Morocco, the first Arab nation to have this accolade – the public was treated to performances from the opera singer Jasmina Trumbetaš Petrović, accompanied on piano. Continue reading Guest Post | Susan Curtis @Istros_books | Belgrade Book Fair 2018

Breaking News | The BookBlast 10×10 Tour in association with Waterstones

Hello, hello!

Since we hit the road on 11 September, we still have 3 events to go, storytelling and showcasing small, risk-taking publishers who fill a unique niche in discovering talent, enriching our literary culture.

Looking back, I spent a good chunk of the end of last year and the beginning of this one planning and fund raising for the 10×10 tour, with the invaluable support and technical expertise of Ben Fiagbe. Connie Jehu came on board over the summer to collaborate in implementing our plan, while Sue Amaradivakara from the PR Collective began to promote the tour across national and local media. Interviews were done with Robert Elms for BBC Radio London, Monocle 24 Radio, Bookanista, The Bookseller, LoveReading and others. Continue reading Breaking News | The BookBlast 10×10 Tour in association with Waterstones

BookBlast® 10×10 Tour | Thurs 4 Oct., Waterstones, Brighton, 6.30 p.m. | Meike Ziervogel, Jamie Bulloch, Nashwa Gowanloch @PeirenePress @BrightonWstones

The fifth talk of the BookBlast® 10×10 tour, a nationwide celebration of independent publishing, features Peirene Press which focuses on European & World Literature, much of it in translation. It was founded in 2008 by Meike Ziervogel who is both a novelist and a publisher. She grew up in northern Germany and lives in North London. In 2012 Meike was meike ziervogel bookblast interviewvoted as one of Britain’s 100 most innovative and influential people in the creative and media industries by the “Time Out and Hospital Club 100 list”. Meike is the author of four novels, all published by Salt. Her alter ego, “The Nymph” regularly writes about The Pain & Passion of a Small Publisher for Peirene online and is a must-read blog.

On Thurs 4 Oct., @BrightonWstones Meike will lead a discussion with translators Jamie Bulloch and Nashwa Gowanloch, with as its theme: Inside Out: Voices of the Diaspora. Book Tickets Continue reading BookBlast® 10×10 Tour | Thurs 4 Oct., Waterstones, Brighton, 6.30 p.m. | Meike Ziervogel, Jamie Bulloch, Nashwa Gowanloch @PeirenePress @BrightonWstones