Review | The Intimate Resistance, Josep Maria Esquirol (trs. Douglas Suttle) | Fum d’Estampa Press

A profound reflection on the human condition, Intimate Resistance is a welcome alternative to those glib bestselling books by counsellors and guides who synthesize complicated intellectual, scientific and spiritual ideas for instant, easy consumption. Living in the present moment is, perhaps, one of the most overused concepts expounded by the advocates of Mindfulness with the likes of Deepak Chopra (a student of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation), Eckhart Tolle and the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh a.k.a. Osho, leading the way.

Society has found itself distanced from Sartrean interpretation and so plays with the idea of finding one’s own personal path to happiness – often only understood as achievement: in other words, success.” (page 13)

Josep Maria Esquirol’s study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence, is underpinned by sound academic argument entwined with the concepts of many the world’s most important and influential philosophers and thinkers – including Arendt, Patočka, Melville, Bachelard, Sartre, Husserl, Heidegger, Levinas, Pascal, Voltaire, Camus, Deleuze, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Freud and others – as he develops his own theories, all the while wearing his learning lightly. Intimate Resistance is a lyrical, lucid, poetic read of imaginative explorations and etymological musings conjuring visual vistas. Continue reading Review | The Intimate Resistance, Josep Maria Esquirol (trs. Douglas Suttle) | Fum d’Estampa Press

Guest Review | Lucy Popescu | The Blessed Rita, Tommy Wieringa | Scribe UK

The Blessed Rita is a compelling portrait of the forgotten, and Tommy Wieringa makes a convincing case for empathy with those living on the margins of society. There is a chilling beauty to many bleak landscapes and this stark portrait of a remote Dutch community, expertly translated by Sam Garrett, reminds us that the same is true in literature. Continue reading Guest Review | Lucy Popescu | The Blessed Rita, Tommy Wieringa | Scribe UK

Guest Review | Henrietta Foster | Mazel Tov, J.S. Margot | Pushkin Press

Ahead of the first two live podcast recordings of the 15-part weekly #BridgingTheDivide series going out on Thursday 30 July, here is a guest review of the featured book, Mazel Tov,  to give a taste of what you’ll hear and experience. Tune in on Thursday at 5 and 6 p.m. to hear author J S Margot and publisher Adam Freudenheim talk about their experiences.

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Towards the end of this marvellous memoir the narrator writes “If I occasionally had the temerity even briefly to think I could penetrate the millefeuille of Jewish culture, I was soon disabused of this idea.” The book is full of various cultural millefeulles that require penetrating – ironic considering that patisserie is the one gastronomic art that the Belgians do not excel in. 

Mazel Tov is the story of an extraordinary friendship – in fact several extraordinary friendships that marked the twenties of the author J.S.Margot. At first sight it is the story of a young Flemish woman at university in Antwerp who teaches the four children of an Orthodox Jewish family to earn a bit of extra money. It is also the story of her first great love for an Iranian political refugee. In both cases she is exposed to a culture and religion that is not her own. She also begins to realise that she is on the receiving end of a certain amount of paranoia and suspicion from both her employers and her boyfriend. Continue reading Guest Review | Henrietta Foster | Mazel Tov, J.S. Margot | Pushkin Press

BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Self-isolating Minds | April 2020

According to HISTORY UK, the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, “infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide – about one-third of the planet’s population – and killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims, including some 675,000 Americans.” Luckily, however horrific the current pandemic, numbers such as those have not yet been reached, with 2,214,461 people declared infected 148,979 deaths and 560,309 people who have recovered at the time of writing. [Worldometer]

As Covid-19 wreaks havoc on all parts of the publishing and writing worlds – the Guardian’s listing of major cancellations makes for sobering reading – book fairs are starting to operate online, the Society of Authors has just announced its Home Festival (20 April to 1 May 2020), and The Royal Society of Literature is sending out an Only Connect thrice-weekly letter to subscribers, “helping us to stay close to one another in these times of isolation”. How sad it is to hear that the Chilean author, Luis Sepúlveda, has died of the dreaded virus at the age of seventy. Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Self-isolating Minds | April 2020

Review | Along the Amber Route, St Petersburg to Venice – C. J. Schüler | Book of the Week

I am standing in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. In a glass case in front of me are some small, irregular beads of dark, honey-coloured amber. Discovered in a Mycenaean tomb in Crete by Sir Arthur Evans, they date from between 1700 and 1300 BC, the dawn of classical civilization. At around the same time, in north Wales, hundreds of amber beads were placed in a stone-lined tomb along with a body wrapped in the spectacular gold shoulder ornament known as the Mold Cape, now in the British Museum. Amber has been found in the tomb of Tutankhamun and in the ruins of Troy. The Etruscans imported large amounts of it, which they used to adorn jewellery, as doid the Romans after them.” So begins literary critic, cartographer and historian, C. J. Schüler’s illuminating and entertaining travelogue-cum-memoir following the Amber Route, retracing “some of the deepest fault lines in European history,” and his family’s hidden history as he goes.

A dinosaur DNA-carrying mosquito preserved inside a piece of amber was the catalyst for classic film Jurassic Park, based on the novel by Michael Crichton. As Schüler points out, this may have seemed far-fetched back in the 1990s, but not so now. A mosquito dating back to age of dinosaurs was found preserved in amber in 2019.
Continue reading Review | Along the Amber Route, St Petersburg to Venice – C. J. Schüler | Book of the Week