Podcast LIVE | Talking Thai with Narisa Chakrabongse, River Books | Indie Publisher of the Week

With the arrival on the scene of indie trade publishers like Deborah Smith’s Tilted Axis Press, and Will Evans’ Deep Vellum Books in the US, bringing new fiction from South-East Asia to English- language readers, and young translators like Mui Poopoksakul bringing Thai literature to the English-speaking world, writing offering an inside take on the region is getting fresh impetus and visibility.

River Books has been a respected publisher of books on the region for many years, offering readers in-depth, insider knowledge about South-East Asian art and culture. Narisa Chakrabongse, the founder and CEO of River Books, is the editor of the Oxford River Books English-Thai Dictionary. Chakrabongse Villas, the family home, is a small boutique hotel in Bangkok.

I caught up with Narisa Chakrabongse some months ago at the launch of Rabbit Cloud and the Rain Makers, and we met up later to talk about her unusual Thai-Russian-British background, being a foreigner living in a strange land and, of course, River Books. Continue reading Podcast LIVE | Talking Thai with Narisa Chakrabongse, River Books | Indie Publisher of the Week

BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | December 2019

Our end of year top ten reads for independent minds offers a smorgasbord of brain food, bringing you a medley of writing and ideas by way of France, Germany, Mexico, Romania and true-grit Britain, in no particular order.

An over-riding theme in our selection is the way most of the writers, each in their way, tend to hold a broken mirror to a world gone mad and muddled. What is the solution?

@OneworldNews @dedalusbooks @carcanet @andothertweets @quartetbooks @hoperoadpublish @istros_books  @GrantaBooks @SaqiBooks @commapress @NBNi_books

Here at BookBlast we wish all of you readers, followers and supporters much joy, peace and love over this festive season. Have a merry one! Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | December 2019

Spotlight | The 2019 Warwick Prize for Women in Translation

Translation is no longer marginalised as it once was, with its advocates being viewed as quirky oddballs lacking commercial sense and sensibility. The number of independent presses publishing translated literature in the UK has greatly increased in the past decade, often set up by people with a corporate publishing or banking background who are astute operators.  Booksellers are far less curmudgeonly than they once were. And somewhat unexpectedly, in 2015, Amazon Crossing published three times more translated fiction in the US than its closest competitors in America (FSG, which has a long tradition of publishing works in translation, and Atria, which mostly publishes books by celebrities).

The imprints of conglomerate publishers in the UK who publish works in translation – MacLehose Press, Harvill Secker, Sceptre, Vintage, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Penguin Press –  publish predominantly though not exclusively the sub-genre of crime fiction in translation, leaving the field open for the likes of Alma Books, And Other Stories, Arc, Carcanet, Comma Press, Dedalus, Fitzcarraldo, Les Fugitives, Gallic, Granta, Hesperus, Istros, Jantar, Norvik Press, Peirene Press, Portobello Books, Pushkin Press, Saqi Books, Scribe UK, Small Axes, and others, to publish experimental and literary translation. Continue reading Spotlight | The 2019 Warwick Prize for Women in Translation

Interview | Ivana Dobrakovová | Author of the Week

Ivana Dobrakovová is based in Turin where she works as a freelance translator from French and Italian and is the translator of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels into Slovak. She is the author of three short story collections First Death in the Family, Toxo and Mothers and Truckers; and one novel, Bellevue.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in Czechoslovakia, in Bratislava, and I grew up there as well, in a very nice residential district above the castle.

Were the members of your family big readers?
Well, my father was a mathematician, I have never seen him with a novel (although my mum told me he enjoyed Flaubert’s Madame Bovary when he was young), but my mother is still a big reader. She is also a mathematician and she doesn’t like fiction much (although she has read more novels than me); she usually reads all the biographies, books of interviews, historical books and whatever else she can grab hold of.

When you were growing up, what books had an impact on you?
I read a lot when I was little girl and during adolescence, but different things, not necessarily fiction. I went through all kinds of phases – for a while I read only fantasy, then books about movies and film-making and critiques (Hitchcock, Truffaut), then I caught Monty Python fever. This was followed by two years of reading only Franz Kafka. My mum tried to guide me, she wanted me to read more conventional books, or what was appropriate for a girl, like Gone with the Wind, or Russian classics, but I disobeyed her and just read what I wanted. I started reading fiction a great deal in my last year at university, which was a very happy time – I remember my amazement at discovering Julio Cortázar´s short stories – and the urge to copy him and try to understand how he “does” it. I started to read contemporary French literature since after school I decided to translate French authors. Ernesto Sabato’s novel On Heroes and Tombs was very important to me during my adolescence, and the section Report on the Blind was my first encounter with madness and paranoia in literature. Continue reading Interview | Ivana Dobrakovová | Author of the Week

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