Podcast LIVE | In conversation with Michèle Roberts, Franco-British novelist

Michèle Roberts is the author of twelve highly-acclaimed novels, including The Looking Glass and Daughters of the House which won the W.H. Smith Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She has also published poetry and short stories, and is Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and a member of PEN and of The Society of Authors.

I caught up with her by the telephone, on the eve of the Covid 19 lockdown, to talk about Negative Capability: A Diary of Surviving, her latest book out today with Sandstone Press, and much more besides. 

Continue reading Podcast LIVE | In conversation with Michèle Roberts, Franco-British novelist

Spotlight | Tatiana de Rosnay, Alicia Drake & Daughters of Simone de Beauvoir | Beyond Words French Literature Festival 2019

So many books have been written with Paris as a character and there are so many clichés about its seductive beauty, as a writer you need to find your Paris and step away from the great dark magnet that it is. Often the dark Paris is what is most interesting.” Alicia Drake

The vision of Paris as an intellectual’s city with writers and artists chain-smoking on café terraces, arguing about literature, art and Existentialism has been consigned to the attic by most contemporary novelists at work today who are worth reading. Tatiana de Rosnay and Alicia Drake are two such writers whose vision of the City of Light is anything but a picture postcard. They graced the stage at this year’s Beyond Words French Literature Festival at the French Institute in South Kensington.

There is, of course, some superb non fiction on offer which gives a genuine, riveting, and rather more leftfield take beyond the usual stereotypical reads – my favourite being the memoirs of late, great John Calder who I was lucky enough to know. The Garden of Eros: The Story of the Paris Expatriates and the Post-war Literary Scene is essential reading for anyone curious about visionary entrepreneurs operating in the publishing industry of yesteryear, and the Paris-London-New York golden triangle.

A forgotten Paris is described by the late Lesley Blanch in her memoirs On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life (Virago) in which she describes Russian Paris of the 1920s with theatre director, Theodore Komisarjevsky, and the beleaguered capital in 1945 when she was there with her younger husband Romain Gary, ambitious and unknown. “Romain developed a hunger for the atmosphere of the studios where a circle of newer artists worked. Long evenings would be spent trudging along the icy ill-lit streets and interminable boulevards. Public transport was scarce, very few people had cars then, and we had no money for taxis, which were rare. Continue reading Spotlight | Tatiana de Rosnay, Alicia Drake & Daughters of Simone de Beauvoir | Beyond Words French Literature Festival 2019

Book 2 Review | The Governesses, Anne Serre & Now, Now Louison, Jean Frémon | Les Fugitives

The Governesses by Anne Serre | Translated by Mark Hutchinson | Les Fugitives

Published 25 March, 2019 | PB 120 pages ISBN 978-978-0993009396

Experience had shown you, however, that no pact lasts forever. You knew that the members of the household would once again be shuffled together like playing cards, and that when the next hand was dealt the alliances would fall out differently.”

The Governesses is a most unusual erotic fable about sex and power, illusion and eroticism, beautifully translated from the French into supremely elegant, languid prose. Its atmosphere is reminiscent of Alain Fournier and Julien Green.

Inès, Laura and Eléonore are governesses, responsible for four boys. The “mistresses of games and pleasure” they radiate a wild and frisky innocence, and have the run of the upstairs salons in the country house of Monsieur Austeur and his wife, Julie. “The excessive silence of the households they wait upon” may be “conducive to reading thinking and raising little boys who are champion hoop rollers, and to the elderly gentleman’s repose, and the waning love of Monsieur and Madame Auster,” but it is stultifying. Their employers’ home is “a boundless void.” The young women have nowhere to go, and there are no distractions. Continue reading Book 2 Review | The Governesses, Anne Serre & Now, Now Louison, Jean Frémon | Les Fugitives

BookBlast® 10×10 Tour | Thurs 25 Oct., Waterstones, Birmingham | Elizabeth Briggs, Nafeesa Hamid, Aliyah Holder

The eighth talk of the BookBlast® 10×10 tour, a nationwide celebration of independent publishing, features Saqi Books @BhamWaterstones Founded in 1983 in London, Saqi Books is an independent publishing house of quality general interest and academic books on North Africa and the Middle East. Over the years Saqi has expanded its list to include writers from all over the world and has established two imprints, Telegram and The Westbourne Press.

 saqi bookblast diary interviewOn Thurs. 25 October at 6.30 p.m., Elizabeth Briggs, editor & marketing manager @SaqiBooks will chair the discussion with Nafeesa Hamid and Aliyah Holder @BhamWaterstones The talk has as its theme, The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write inspired by the anthology edited by Sabrina Mahfouz in which their writing is featured.

Contributors to The Things I Would Tell You include: Fadia Faqir, Amina Jama, Chimene Suleyman, Aliyah Hasinah Holder, Kamila Shamsie, Imtiaz Dharker, Triska Hamid, Nafeesa Hamid, Ahdaf Soueif, Seema Begum, Leila Aboulela, Shazea Quraishi, Shaista Aziz, Miss L, Aisha Mirza, Hibaq Osman, Azra Tabassum, Selma Dabbagh, Asma Elbadawi, Samira Shackle, Sabrina Mahfouz, Hanan al-Shaykh. Continue reading BookBlast® 10×10 Tour | Thurs 25 Oct., Waterstones, Birmingham | Elizabeth Briggs, Nafeesa Hamid, Aliyah Holder

Review | Vernon Subutex 2, Virginie Despentes | ‏Maclehose Press

He is off his head. He has episodes when he zones out. It is not unpleasant. From time to time, he tries to reason with himself: he cannot stay here indefinitely, it has been a cold summer, he will catch another bout of flu, he needs to take care of himself, he needs to go back down into the city, find some clean clothes, do something [ . . .] Painfully, he climbs over the railings separating the communal garden from the property where he has taken to sleeping. He grips the branches and hoists his body up almost falling flat on his face on the other side. He ends up kneeling on the ground. He wishes he could feel sorry for himself, or disgust. Anything. But no, nothing. Nothing but this absurd calm.”

Look who’s back . . . and sleeping rough now that sofa surfing is a thing of the past: Vernon, Mr. Superstar D.J. and former owner of cult record shop ‘Revolver’. At the end of Vernon Subutex 1 he was beaten up by a gang of neo-Nazis – along with his TV screenwriter friend, Xavier, who was trying to rescue him but ended up comatose in hospital instead. Continue reading Review | Vernon Subutex 2, Virginie Despentes | ‏Maclehose Press