Spotlight | The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses 2018

Originally a fringe experiment dreamed up by novelist Neil Griffiths, and now in its second year, The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses 2018 is making waves and highlighting the superb and genuinely original writing being published by diverse independent publishers.

neil griffiths small press prize 2018 bookblast diary g de chamberet photo 2

Most writers make less than 600GBP per year from writing and the average sales of a literary fiction title is 264 copies, so literary fiction is a super niche area of the arts,” said Griffiths. “An award points readers towards overlooked gems with a specialized appeal.” This echoes what was expressed to me back in February 2016 by publishers and punters when I launched the BookBlast® celebrates independent publishing promotion online via The BookBlast® Diary, and the inspiration outlined in the piece: Why Independence Matters.

The books shortlisted include one turned down by almost every mainstream publisher and one that was too experimental to even be considered . . . the Inpress roster of 60 small presses shows how small presses do something else, something different, and something all-important. There are no artificial bestsellers here. This is the age of small presses,” declared Griffiths from the stage in the University of Westminster’s oak-pannelled Fyvie Hall. The screen behind him flashed up the shortlisted authors, book covers and publisher logos. Continue reading Spotlight | The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses 2018

BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | March 2018

Here is our scrapbook of top 10 reads for March featuring new books from Kurdistan, Croatia, Tashkent, Latvia, the Caribbean, Iceland, Mexico, Kenya, and last but not least, England. Here at BookBlast® HQ we love translation! This year’s Translation Prizes were awarded by the Society of Authors at the British Library, in recognition of outstanding translations from works in Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish. 

To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, Interlink are celebrating women’s voices and actions throughout the month. They are giving a free gift book with every purchase of an Interlink book written by a woman. With every order you place, you will receive a surprise gift (a novel, a cookbook, a memoir, or a history book) selected by an Interlink staff member to suit your taste (one book per order valued at $15 to $30). Just visit one of the following websites: or to place your order. You can also do so by calling 1-800-238-LINK.

Listing in alphabetical order according to publisher @Arc_Poetry @maclehosepress @peepaltreepress @PeirenePress @PushkinPress @SaqiBooks @SerenBooks @Silver_Press_ @TiltedAxisPress @InterlinkBooks
Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | March 2018

BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | February 2018

Here are our latest top 10 reads from a selection of indie publishers every book lover should know.  A good read underpinned by an open mind can change your lifeview irrevocably. Palestine in Black and White by Mohammad Sabaaneh is one such book.

Listing in alphabetical order according to publisher @BalestierPress @Carcanet @DarfPublishers @DeadInkBooks @NightLightNate @dedalusbooks @BelgraviaB @SaqiBooks @UnicornPubGroup

The Past is a Foreign Country

Liv by Roger Pulvers (Balestier Press) buy here

A fifty-five year old Norwegian woman who works as a volunteer for refugees is heading home on a suburban train in Sydney, Australia, in 1975. Liv Grimstad is discomfited by the man sitting opposite her. He is elderly with liver spots on his hands yet he is horribly familiar. Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | February 2018

Interview | Fionn Petch | Translator of the Week

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Scotland but left age sixteen and never really made it back. I lived in Mexico City for about twelve years, and now live in Berlin. I’m a freelance translator from Spanish and French into English.

When you were growing up, what books had an impact on you?
In my teens, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy; the John Wyndham novels; most of Orwell; Marguerite Yourcenar’s Memoirs of Hadrian; Calvino’s Invisible Cities; Claudio Magris’ A Different Sea – this last one changed the bearing of my life.

Why do you translate?
I believe translation underlies all communication, both within and between languages. Language is what makes us most distinctively human, and translation is a celebration of that, insofar as it makes all humans intelligible to each other, bringing different life-worlds into proximity. Translators are walkers-between-worlds.

Continue reading Interview | Fionn Petch | Translator of the Week

BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | January 2018

Here is our New Year round up of eclectic reads to delight and inspire you, happy new year, bonne année, felice anno nuovo, feliz año nuevo, ευτυχισμένο το νέο έτος, szczęśliwego nowego roku !

Listing in alphabetical order according to publisher @bitterlemonpub @commapress @Carcanet @CharcoPress @Istros_books  @maclehosepress @NewVesselPress @orbooks  @whitecrowbooks

Hell in Paradise

nicolas verdan greek wall bookblast diaryThe Greek Wall by Nicolas Verdan Trs. W. Donald Wilson (Bitter Lemon Press)

“At the moment, he no longer knows why he is here in this spot alongside a national highway, outside this brothel on the very edge of the Schengen Area. Perhaps, instead of discussing the wall inside, he might find a body like Christina’s? Not her face, not, he wouldn’t recognise it in that place. But maybe her perfume? Just a woman’s perfume, a scent, just her scent, please, please tell me if there mightn’t be, here in this place, in the countryside, on the frontier of Europe, a girl wearing Rykiel Woman.”

A severed head is found on the Greek border near a wall planned to stop Middle Eastern immigrants crossing from Turkey. Intelligence Agent Evangelos wants the truth about the murder, human trafficking into Greece, and about the corruption surrounding the wall’s construction. More than a mystery novel and a political thriller, The Greek Wall evokes the problems of the West incarnated in Greece: isolationism, fear of immigration, economic collapse and corruption. Paradise for tourists can become a hell for immigrants.

Poetic, pungent and atmospheric, The Greek Wall is a good example of how compelling crime fiction gives insights into the detective and the society in which they live.

The issues dealt with by Nicolas Verdan in The Greek Wall are close to his heart: “As a journalist, I went to Turkey, the Balkans, Greece, the Middle East, Central Asia, following or crossing the roads of migrants. My Greek grandparents were confronted by forced emigration of sorts. When my mother was a baby, the Greek civil war had begun. There was no choice but to leave your village to go to Athens, if necessary on foot. An exodus like the people from Syria and Iraq leaving everything behind: home, family, friends, skies, landscapes, the brilliance of olive trees in the sun. My grandmother came back to her village in the Peloponnese ten years after leaving it. It was only 350 kilometres from the capital, but coming back to your abandoned homeland was like coming to a foreign country. Devastation, no time, no money. Such was life in the 1950s in Greece. We must never forget how much rural exodus has affected the mentality of modern Greece.
Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | January 2018

Spotlight | The seemingly unstoppable boom in indie publishing & The Republic of Consciousness Prize

Indie Publishing vs. Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

With commissioning editors at mainstream publishers increasingly under the corporate cosh, any literary submissions calculated to sell less than 5000 copies are turned down regardless, which leaves the field open for independent publishers to come in and have a go at the roulette table imagining winners that might come their way.

An experienced commissioning editor may be able to spot high-quality writing and know their target readership, but s/he is no less a gambler than anyone else playing the publishing game. Their gut instinct counts for little in the corporate boardroom nowadays, even though the way in which advances are calculated is an inexact science, and tales of legendary rejections make for juicy water-cooler chat. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected 12 times before being picked up; Gone with the Wind got the thumbs down 32 times; Under the Frog 22 times; Dune 20 times; and The Tale of Peter Rabbit was rejected so many times it was self-published.

Smaller publishers generally avoid formulaic writing for the genre market, provide greater personalised support, and as opposed to a vanity press do not ask the author for money. Added to which crowdfunding has become a more than viable option, not only to raise funds, but to develop a community of readers ahead of publication (Peirene Now! No. 3, Shatila Stories was recently successfully funded with 327 backers pledging £13,350 via Kickstarter). Best not confuse authors self-publishing their own books only generally via a digital platform such as Amazon or Kobo with indie publishers; the term indie authors would be more accurate.

According to a recent report in The Guardian, “Independent publishers have unleashed a boom in sales,” and “turnover across the Arts Council England-funded portfolio surged above its budget by almost £100,000 this year, reaching £277,930.”

Continue reading Spotlight | The seemingly unstoppable boom in indie publishing & The Republic of Consciousness Prize

Guest Review | C. J. Schüler | Go, Went, Gone, Jenny Erpenbeck

On 9 November, the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel published a list of 33,293 people who died trying to emigrate to Europe between 1993 and May of this year. The vast majority drowned in the Mediterranean. As a death toll, the figure is numbing. As a proportion of the EU’s population of 510 million, it is less than 0.007 percent – smaller than the population of, say, Skelmersdale or Haywards Heath – an influx that could easily be accommodated within our large, wealthy continent.

Jenny Erpenbeck, the brilliant German novelist whose four previous books have probed her country’s troubled 20th century history, has now turned to the greatest challenge it has faced in the 21st: the refugee crisis. Her latest book, Go, Went, Gone, eschews the magical realist elements of its predecessors in favour of a crisp documentary approach. It also draws on that classically German genre, the Bildungsroman, a novel charting the moral education of its protagonist. Continue reading Guest Review | C. J. Schüler | Go, Went, Gone, Jenny Erpenbeck

Interview | Cécile Menon, founder, Les Fugitives | Indie Publisher of the Week

Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
My mother was a reader. Of modern classics mainly. She used to go with her father to the local library in our small home town. There weren’t hundreds of books in the house as I grew up, but enough to spur my interest.

Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start?
Yes, I wanted to work in publishing, and in England, after obtaining my degree at Sorbonne Nouvelle. I had no connections whatsoever, I was a complete outsider. My MA tutor told me right away it’d take me 10 years to get anywhere in that milieu. I didn’t believe him but he was right. After 10 years, even after I had somehow managed to get hired by the venerable John Calder, Judy Daish and Clive James, I was nowhere near a proper start in publishing. Having said that I was never really good at holding down a job! Working for Clive James was obviously a unique experience with a long-lasting influence on me. Continue reading Interview | Cécile Menon, founder, Les Fugitives | Indie Publisher of the Week

BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | November 2017

Our eclectic November top ten reads rejoice in strong women and have a radical, cosmopolitan flavour. We continue our celebration of 15 years of the Childrens’ Bookshow, highlighting two more books featured in this year’s tour. Happy reading! Georgia @bookblast

Strong Women

teffi pushkin press bookblast diary reviewRasputin and Other Ironies by Teffi (Pushkin Press) buy here
Translated by Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Rose France, Anne Marie Jackson

A semi-literate peasant and a counsellor to the Tsar, a hardened sinner and a man of prayer, a shape-shifter with the name of God on his lips. They called him cunning. Was there really nothing to him but cunning?  I shall tell you about my two brief encounters with him . . .” Teffi’s portrait of Rasputin, and her description of his unwanted advances, is a disturbing reminder of how sex-pests using positions of power to get their dirty way are not a new phenomenon.  All of the women saying #MeToo on Twitter are standing on the shoulders of the women who came before them.

Grigori Rasputin holding court in 1911
Grigori Rasputin holding court in 1911 Photo Topical Press AgencyGetty Images

Nadezhda Aleksandrovna Lokhvitskaya – who wrote under the pseudonym Teffi – was born in 1872 into a family prominent in Saint Petersburg society. An essayist, poet and playwright, she became so popular that there were Teffi sweets and a Teffi perfume. She supported socialism and the 1905 revolution, and worked for the first Bolshevik paper, New Life, which was later shut down by the Leninist authorities. She left Russia in 1919 and settled in France, where she died in 1952. Her engaging, witty and empathic writing belies a bleak undertow of loss and nostalgia for lost worlds as she writes about life before the revolution, fellow writers, emigration, and life in Paris.

Oriana Fallaci by Cristina de Stefano (Other Press) buy here
Translated from the Italian by Marina Harss

I’ve always been political in my writing, actions and life. I grew up in a political family. I was educated in politics . . . The risk of Fascism is my fixation,” wrote Oriana Fallaci. Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | November 2017

Review | Revolution! Writing from Russia 1917, Pete Ayrton (ed.) | Book of the Week

The city is destroyed, plundered. A very interesting city. Polish culture. An ancient, rich Jewish colony. These frightening bazaars, dwarfs in hooded coats, hoods and side-locks, the aged, a school street, ninety-six synagogues, all half-destroyed, and stories – American soldiers were here, oranges, cloth, thoroughfare, wire, deforestation and wasteland, endless barren land. Nothing to eat, no hope, war, everyone is equally bad, equally foreign, hostile, inhuman, before life was traditionally peaceful” – from Isaac Babel’s 1920 Diary in which he describes his experiences with the Cossack cavalry during the Polish-Soviet war.

To actually feel what it was like to be caught up in the most momentous event of the 20th century, and to walk in the shoes of those who either stayed and wrote under the increasingly tricky conditions of censorship, or fled to become émigrés pining for a lost world, or visited from abroad wanting to see revolution in action . . . read Pete Ayrton’s anthology Revolution! Writing from Russia 1917. Of all the books marking this year’s centenary of the Russian Revolution, this is the one to go for. Continue reading Review | Revolution! Writing from Russia 1917, Pete Ayrton (ed.) | Book of the Week