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

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

Review | Madeleine, Euan Cameron | MacLehose Press

 “I always stay at the Louisiane when I’m in Paris, if only for sentimental reasons. It is not the most comfortable of hotels, but I like to think of figures such as Henry Miller and Ezra Pound staying there in the years between the wars. There is still a lingering louche whiff of a hôtel de passe, and of what I imagine Paris to have been like in the immediate post-war period, with those cobbled streets, open-backed buses and the faces that you see in Brassaï’s photographs.”

Madeleine is a perfectly-formed, psychologically acute first novel of love and war, shameful secrets and cowardly treachery. Euan Cameron’s prose sparkles with unsettling beauty and intelligence as he vividly brings to life the world of the French haute bourgeoisie that is shot through with chauvinism, moralistic posturing and anti-Semitism.

Continue reading Review | Madeleine, Euan Cameron | MacLehose Press

Interview | Euan Cameron | Author of the Week

Euan Cameron has enjoyed a long career first as a publisher and subsequently as a translator and book reviewer. He has translated over thirty books from French including works by Simone de Beauvoir, Julien Green, Paul Morand, Pierre Péju, Jean-Paul Kauffmann, Philippe Claudel and Patrick Modiano, as well as biographies of Marcel Proust and Irène Némirovsky. He was appointed Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2011. His first novel, Madeleine, was published in June by MacLehose Press.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up? 
Born in London, but I grew up in Dorset and in Buenos Aires.

Were the members of your family big readers?
My mother was a serious reader. She was always reading a recently published novel or a literary biography. When we lived in Argentina, she ordered books she had read about in her weekly New Statesman from the Librería Mackern in Buenos Aires.
Continue reading Interview | Euan Cameron | Author of the Week

Review | A Country to Call Home (ed.) Lucy Popescu | Book of the Week

So refugee week is over. The fact that the UK is the only country in Europe where refugees who arrive looking for a safe haven are detained indefinitely, and are often sent back home to face persecution, torture or death, will be kicked into the long grass once again. Certain politicians continue to use the language of disaster and provoke fear by swelling numbers of arrivals, backed by box-ticking Home Office officials.

Refugees are individuals seeking asylum for humanitarian reasons and suffer trauma, broken dreams, love and loss as a consequence. They are not amorphous groups to be rendered and processed and imprisoned in detention centres like criminals. Such a hostile environment is anything but a welcoming new home, and some go crazy with grief.   Continue reading Review | A Country to Call Home (ed.) Lucy Popescu | Book of the Week

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

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 | Judith Uyterlinde & Lydia Unsworth, World Editions | Indie Publisher of the Week

Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
JUDITH (Publishing Director): My father loves reading newspapers and history books. My mother loves reading novels. If I publish a book I usually ask myself if my mother would like reading it too―meaning that it shouldn’t be pretentious or unnecessarily complicated. My aunt was the person who stimulated me most though―she was a great storyteller herself, as well as a librarian, and somehow she always seemed to know exactly which books to give me to read.

LYDIA (Editor-in-Chief): Not while I was growing up, although I’m not sure how much free time they had. It was very much noted that I was a reader though, and was encouraged. I also quickly worked out that reading in bed meant I could stay up late by turning the light back on after my parents went downstairs. Continue reading Interview | Judith Uyterlinde & Lydia Unsworth, World Editions | Indie Publisher of the Week

Book 2 Review | The Governesses, Anne Serre & Now, Now Louison, Jean Frémon | Les Fugitives

The Governesses by Anne Serre | Translated by Mark Hutchinson | Les Fugitives

Published 25 March, 2019 | PB 120 pages ISBN 978-978-0993009396

Experience had shown you, however, that no pact lasts forever. You knew that the members of the household would once again be shuffled together like playing cards, and that when the next hand was dealt the alliances would fall out differently.”

The Governesses is a most unusual erotic fable about sex and power, illusion and eroticism, beautifully translated from the French into supremely elegant, languid prose. Its atmosphere is reminiscent of Alain Fournier and Julien Green.

Inès, Laura and Eléonore are governesses, responsible for four boys. The “mistresses of games and pleasure” they radiate a wild and frisky innocence, and have the run of the upstairs salons in the country house of Monsieur Austeur and his wife, Julie. “The excessive silence of the households they wait upon” may be “conducive to reading thinking and raising little boys who are champion hoop rollers, and to the elderly gentleman’s repose, and the waning love of Monsieur and Madame Auster,” but it is stultifying. Their employers’ home is “a boundless void.” The young women have nowhere to go, and there are no distractions. Continue reading Book 2 Review | The Governesses, Anne Serre & Now, Now Louison, Jean Frémon | Les Fugitives

Podcast LIVE | In Conversation with Nicky Harman | Translating China & Top 10 Reads

Celebrating this year’s Chinese New Year of the Pig, I discuss translating China with Nicky Harman on the launch of Paper Republic’s roundup of the most recent publications in English translation. Their 2018 roll call features thirty-three novels, six poetry collections and three YA and children’s books.

Paper Republic is a unique resource you won’t find anywhere else on the web. Its co-founder, Nicky Harman, is a leading light of the translation community in the UK and a passionate promoter of Chinese literature and culture. She is co-Chair of the Translators Association (Society of Authors). Nicky is often away, but I managed to catch up with her for brunch on Valentine’s day to discuss the literature of a non-English speaking continent that is 4,834 miles away from this small offshore island.

Here is the Podcast of our conversation

Continue reading Podcast LIVE | In Conversation with Nicky Harman | Translating China & Top 10 Reads