Saïd Khatibi’s polyphonic novel, Sarajevo Firewood, pays homage to the victims of civil war in Algeria and Bosnia in the 1990s, and gives the survivors a voice. Scarred by erratic memories and traumatic recall – indicative of the psychological wounds of war – writing is a way to come to terms with what happened.
“We might find a mass grave with a café or restaurant in front of it, which changed at night into a dance floor, on which the living took turns to move their bodies while the dead opposite them looked on silently.” Continue reading Review | Sarajevo Firewood, Saïd Khatibi (trs. Paul Starkey) | Banipal Books
Established in 2019, Fum d’Estampa Press publishes award-winning Catalan language poetry, fiction and essays in English translation. Its founder, Doug Suttle, tells us what inspired him, why the attraction to Catalan language and literature in particular, and what is so special about Barcelona.
Tell us a bit about your childhood and where you grew up.
I grew up in a leafy suburb of south London before heading up to Nottingham for my teenage years.
Were your parents great readers? What were the books that made you fall in love with reading?
My parents read a lot. They always have. I remember my father reading The Lord of the Rings and The Little Grey Men Go Down the Bright Stream to me as bedtime stories when I was a child. I remember going to sleep dreaming of Shadowfax and Ring Wraiths! I was also surrounded by Penguin Ladybird books about history and explorers, etc. I then quickly moved into reading whatever I could get my hands on. I think I was a pretty avid reader growing up. And that’s thanks to my parents.
A journalist, translator and editor . . . how did you end up in Catalonia?
Long story! I was looking for a change and had been travelling around Latin America for a while but was keen to try out something a little closer to the UK. I ended up in Catalonia. It’s got it all – mountains, an amazing coastline, wonderful cities, and a rich, varied culture.
Continue reading Interview | Douglas Suttle, founder, Fum d’Estampa Press | Indie Publisher of the Week
“He stood at the edge of the pavement, exactly on the corner, a full head higher than those around him. Olivia waited for him to dip his head as a sign of respect, but he stood there, very still, his hard blue eyes fixed on the oak coffin. Then he stepped forward and it seemed for a moment that he wanted to touch the coffin, to make the last contact with her grandmother before she was buried. Slowly, he lifted his head back, looking to the sky, then he jerked forward and spat a long stream down the window of the hearse.”
When all else fails and no peaceful solution can be found to end a struggle to control a country or a region, to achieve independence, or to force a change in government policy, warring camps form, families and communities are divided, and the killings and atrocities begin. The time and place and context might vary but the root cause for people taking up arms against each other is always the same: the pernicious polarisation of hate.
Continue reading Review | The Settlement, Ruth Kirby-Smith | 2QT Publishing, Yorkshire
In The Fig Tree, deftly translated by Olivia Hellewell, Goran Vojnović portrays three generations of a family whose lives are marked by the disintegration of Yugoslavia and its brutal aftermath.
Jadran’s grandfather Aleksandar was born in Novi Sad in 1925. Long before the Nazis marched through, Aleksandar’s cautious single mother, Ester Aljehin, married a dentist for his name and abruptly left him to settle in Belgrade, where she worked as a nurse. When she “caught sight of the first Nazi uniforms in the city,” fear drove her to move again and she arrived in Ljubljana in February 1942: “Slovenes seemed less intimidating than Serbs,” although they still treated her with suspicion. Years later, her son Aleksandar Dordevic arrives in Buje, Croatia. Employed as a forest warden, he feels like “an outsider with a local-sounding name.” Aleksandar and his pregnant wife Jana settle in Momjan (which later become part of Croatia), in a house he builds with his own hands with its own fig tree. Continue reading Guest Review | The Fig Tree by Goran Vojnović | Istros Books
Anna Kim’s The Great Homecoming, published by Granta Books just before Lockdown is a sweeping tale of friendship and betrayal that explores the devastating impact of the Korean War, Russian and American politicking and the Cold War on individuals, families and cities in Korea and Japan during the 1950s and ’60s.
Anna Kim was born in Daejeon, South Korea but grew up in Austria and wrote the novel in German. She has garnered much praise and recognition for her previous work, and is the recipient of, among other accolades, the Austrian State Fellowship for Literature and the 2012 European Union Prize for Literature, for her second novel Frozen Time. This slick and accomplished translation by Jamie Lee Searle is sure to widen Kim’s fanbase and acclaim, and rightly so.
The novel begins in the present day. A young translator, Hanna, who was born in South Korea but then adopted by a German couple, visits an elderly Korean man, Yunho Kang, who lives in the American missionary quarter in Seoul. When Hanna translates a letter that Yunho has received from America informing him of the death of a Mrs Eve Lewis, he embarks on reminiscing about Eve Moon, or Yunmee – for she is a woman of many names and identities – and his friend Johnny, in Seoul in 1959. Continue reading Guest Review | Rachel Goldblatt | The Great Homecoming, Anna Kim | Granta Books