Article first published on posthumous publication of On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life by Lesley Blanch,15 January 2015 by virago.co.uk
As far as godmothers go, Lesley Blanch (1904-2007) was as good as it gets. She was an understanding and generous friend; listening without judging. She opened up new ways of seeing the world and was modern and free, with tremendous wit and style. Seductive and glamorous, she was a superb storyteller. A scholarly romantic, her passion was for all things Russian and Oriental. She never apologized for who she was, took risks and relished writing about her adventures. Resilient and alert to the end of her long life, she stood firm and dignified in the face of back-biting and envy.
Lesley was ahead of her time, and prescient in the way she attempted to bridge West and East: especially the West and Islam. Although most people today associate her with the classic book which pioneered a new approach to history writing, The Wilder Shores of Love, her greatest work is The Sabres of Paradise. The way she writes about the struggle of the people of the Caucasus to remain independent of Russia is dramatic and disturbingly relevant to our world today. As Philip Marsden put it: “Like Tolstoy’s, her [Lesley Blanch’s] sense of history is ultimately convincing not because of any sweeping theses, but because of its particularities, the quirks of individuals and their personal narratives, their deluded ambitions, their vanities and passions.”Continue reading Lesley Blanch Archive | Lesley Blanch: One of a Kind | virago.co.uk
This month’s top 10 reads take in calypso and a debut children’s book by Junot Díaz; Europe and the Middle East; murder most foul in the Australian Outback; tales of survival and hope; and life on the road.
Listing in alphabetical order according to publisher @carcanet @commapress @elandpublishing @gingkolibrary @hauspublishing @oneworldnews @peirenepress @peepaltreepress @pushkinpress
The Ink Trade: Selected Journalism 1961-1993 by Anthony Burgess. Edited by Will Carr (Carcanet) buy here
“The general public does not care much for genius. Originality is dangerous, so is the naked truth . . . How can you explain to the great public that one of the most important things in the world is to invent a new way of saying things? But nobody cares about style, language, the power of the word. They prefer to hear about failure really being success, about a great writer killing himself at the early age (my age) of 62.” ― Anthony Burgess
Best known for his novel, A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess was born in Manchester in 1917. A novelist, poet, playwright, composer, linguist, translator and critic, he wrote over 60 books of fiction, non-fiction and autobiography, as well as classical music, plays, film scripts, essays and articles. Burgess contributed to newspapers and periodicals around the world, among them the Observer, the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times,Playboy, and Le Monde. During his lifetime, he published two substantial collections of journalism, Urgent Copy (1968) and Homage toQwert Yuiop (1986); a posthumous collection of occasional essays, One Man’s Chorus, was published in 1998.Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | June 2018
“The next morning, standing in the doorway to see me off on my way to the north of Punjab, to the capital, Islamabad, the Begum strained with both hands to raise a heavy old leather-bound Koran under which I ducked to receive divine protection. She resembled a classical figure holding up a torch so that I might see the good in her country.”
Two great matriarchs loom over this memoir which flies over Pakistan like a magical flying carpet: Isambard Wilkinson’s grandmother, and her friend, Sajida Ali Khan a.k.a. the Begum, from Lahore in the Punjab. As a small boy visiting the Irish family home that is suffused with a “heady, dusty fragrance” and chock-full of Anglo-Indian mementoes dating back to the 19th century, a warm and intoxicating vision of another world offered an antidote to the cold austerity of boarding school. His first actual visit to Pakistan was with his grandmother in 1990, to attend a wedding of one of the Begum’s children; and then in 2006 as foreign correspondent. His desire to explore the country and live there eventually was cut short by kidney failure, dialysis and successful surgery when his brother gave him a kidney. Travels in a Dervish Cloak has been seven years in the making.Continue reading Review | Travels in a Dervish Cloak, Isambard Wilkinson | Book of the Week
Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself. ROSE: No, but there were books around. I was quite a lonely child and books were a marvellous escape and provided adventure, friends and role models – Noel Streatfield, E. Nesbit, Johanna Spyri, L. L. Montgomery, Louisa M. Alcott and Lucy M. Boston. Just remembering makes me want to get back under the sheets and counterpane with a pile of them. BARNABY: No, I can remember them both being rather concerned that I was reading “yet another book” instead of riding a pony, or playing with the dogs. There were many books in the tiny, dark Tudor cottage in which I was brought up, but they were mostly all inherited. They included a vast shelf of bound Punch magazines and a full set of Jorrocks. At a young age I used my pocket money to acquire the Ladybird history books but before the age of seven I had graduated to Jackdaws – fascinating folders of facsimile historic documents and maps.
Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start? ROSE: No. I was in the film business at first, but I married a bookaholic, and books took over our lives. BARNABY: No, I had imagined I would either be a Naval Officer like my father and grandfather, or in the cavalry like my other grandfather, which would be combined in old age by brewing beer, or becoming a clergyman like my ancestors.Continue reading Interview | The Directors of Eland Books | Indie Publisher of the Week
Where were you born? Southsea, which conjured exotic images of Pacific islands in my young mind. Then I discovered it was part of Portsmouth. I was born there because my father was in the navy.
Where did you grow up? After my birth, my father went off to sea to the Antarctic and my mother took me and my elder brother to our grandmother in rural Ireland. I went to boarding school in the UK at the age of seven ‘til 18. Ireland was our one constant for many years, as well as my parents’ Edwardian-bohemian home on the seafront in Deal, Kent, then an old smugglers town with a raffish air.
What sorts of books were in your family home? My parents read lots and widely, from biography and history to novels of all stripes. My father’s favourite book is Lampedusa’s The Leopard, and my mother loved Nancy Mitford. There were also plenty of humorous books, including P.G. Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh.Continue reading Interview | Isambard Wilkinson | Author of the Week