Guest Review | Victor Meadowcroft | A Musical Offering, Luis Sagasti | Charco Press

A Musical Offering is Argentinian author Luis Sagasti’s second novel to appear in English. His first, Fireflies (also published by Charco Press and reviewed for The BookBlast Diary) saw translator Fionn Petch nominated for a TA First Translation Prize in 2018, and this is another fine performance from Petch, convincingly reproducing the author’s erudite but effortless prose, with occasional poetic flourishes.

A Note-Perfect Ode to Wonder

The novel opens with an account of the origins of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Suffering from insomnia, Bach’s patron, Count Keyserling, tasks the composer with devising a piece of music that will lull him to sleep. Once completed, the composition is to be played by virtuoso harpsichordist Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, who will deliver these “musical sleeping pills” until the Count finally dozes off. From here, Sagasti leads us into the twentieth century, introducing two famous recordings of the Goldberg Variations performed by Canadian piano prodigy Glenn Gould, one at the beginning and one near the end of his career. Continue reading Guest Review | Victor Meadowcroft | A Musical Offering, Luis Sagasti | Charco Press

Guest Feature | Rachel Goldblatt | Dispatches from the Intern’s Desk

Starting a new job in the middle of a global pandemic is not something many people would find enviable, though I was obviously delighted for the opportunity as so many others were being furloughed. When I began working for BookBlast in West London, it was in the context of not knowing what the weeks and months ahead had in store. I was meant to be starting an internship at Bloomsbury in April, which was postponed indefinitely due to Covid-19. With the prospect of an endless stretch of time ahead with no work, and any notions of career progression firmly on hold, I had a sinking sense of dread about the rest of 2020. Continue reading Guest Feature | Rachel Goldblatt | Dispatches from the Intern’s Desk

Guest Review | Lucy Popescu | Tazmamart: 18 Years in Morocco’s Secret Prison, Aziz BineBine | Haus

Tazmamart was an underground military prison in southeast Morocco where those considered enemies of the king were detained from 1972 to 1991. It was built after two failed coup d’états against Hassan II of Morocco. On 10 July 1971, around a thousand soldiers were driven to Skhirat palace, where the king was celebrating his birthday and when a shot was fired, panic ensued. Hassan survived the mayhem and those deemed responsible were rounded up and dispatched to Kenitra prison. Many of those detained were unwitting participants in the alleged coup and, like Aziz BineBine, a recent graduate of the Royal Military Academy, had not fired a shot. He was one of several army officers sent to Kenitra and later to Tazmamart. Continue reading Guest Review | Lucy Popescu | Tazmamart: 18 Years in Morocco’s Secret Prison, Aziz BineBine | Haus

Interview | Harry Hall, Haus Publishing | Indie Publisher of the Week

Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
There were always plenty of books at home, but I don’t remember much reading.

What was the book that made you fall in love with reading?
I read almost nothing before the age of fifteen. Then a friend pressed Martin Amis’s The Rachel Papers on me. If I hadn’t found that book as funny as I did things might have panned out very differently.

When did you start working in the publishing industry? Was it intentional or a fluke?
In 2005. I had no idea what I wanted to do. One piece of good fortune after another lead me to meet Haus’s founder, Barbara Schwepcke. I was very lucky. Starting with non-fiction, Haus turned to publishing literary fiction in translation in 2008. The international list of authors includes Siegfried Lenz, Markus Werner, Thomas Mann, Clarice Lispector, Érik Orsenna, Alex Capus. Continue reading Interview | Harry Hall, Haus Publishing | Indie Publisher of the Week

Guest Review | Rachel Goldblatt | Heaven, Manuel Vilas | Carcanet Press

Any thought of escaping home and summer in London for sun, sea and al fresco lunches – paella, gelato, freshly grilled octopus – has been scuppered by the recent global lockdown. The world is at a standstill as we are besieged by Covid-19. Travel plans and holidays have been either postponed or cancelled. A trickle of pictures of lunches by turquoise seas and sun-kissed legs keeping cool under striped umbrellas have only very recently begun to sneak back onto my social media feeds from the lucky few who have managed to get away.

So reading Heaven, Manuel Vilas’s latest collection of poetry and short fiction published by Carcanet Press, translated from the Spanish by poet and Cambridge don, James Womack, abated my craving for the Hispanic sun, cool cobbled church squares and ocean swims. Complex, rich, melancholy, beautiful, biblical and profane, this is one of the finest and most powerful collections of contemporary poetry I’ve read in recent years. Violence, beauty, tenderness, sex and death coexist and have a momentum all of their own, at times even eclipsing the author. Continue reading Guest Review | Rachel Goldblatt | Heaven, Manuel Vilas | Carcanet Press