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 | Michael Z. Wise, co-founder, New Vessel Press | Indie Publisher of the Week

Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve enjoyed reading since I was a child — yes, my parents encouraged me to study and explore books. After studying French in high school and living for a summer with a French family in Clermont Ferrand, I have loved reading in other languages.

Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start?
I’m relatively new to the business of publishing, although I’ve written a book (Capital Dilemma: Germany’s Search for a New Architecture of Democracy) I only co-founded New Vessel Press with Ross Ufberg in 2012. We’re both passionate about literature and foreign literature in particular — I read French and German and Ross reads Russian and Polish — but neither of us has prior experience in publishing. We’ve been learning as we go along which has made building a new house a challenge but great fun. Nowadays the publishing world is changing so rapidly that I’d venture that we have just as much of a clue as to where things are going as more traditional, established houses. Continue reading Interview | Michael Z. Wise, co-founder, New Vessel Press | Indie Publisher of the Week

Review | Landing, Laia Fàbregas | Book of the Week

When you’re rooted in yourself, you feel settled wherever you go. I guess to feel good we need to find places to adapt to. Except once we’ve adapted we need to move on, to find a new place to adapt to. But once you’ve adapted to several different places, you no longer have one place where you belong. That’s when the place where you belong becomes the space between those two different places. Moving around and seeing new places — that’s my natural habitat. The truth is I’m a nomad.” So speaks Roberto, train steward on the high-speed Talgo.

Modern society is becoming increasingly rootless and uniformist, as the forces of global capitalism, increased migration and social pluralism influence work, lifestyle and beliefs. Economic migration is spurring rapid social change, leading to ambiguity about identity, sense of place in the world and a cultural dissonance. As governments lose touch with their citizens, they ignore to their peril how groups that are ignored, or ostracised, become desperate, rebellious and take direct action. Humans need to belong to a social group, to be heard, make sense of their identity, and develop a sense of belonging — a sense of purpose. In a shifting world, no wonder social networking on the internet is so huge.

Continue reading Review | Landing, Laia Fàbregas | Book of the Week

Interview | Ghassan Fergiani, Darf Publishers | Indie Publisher of the Week

Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
My father was a teacher, a bookseller and a publisher. He was a reader. I grew up around books in our family house. My mother was not a reader of books, more of magazines, but I remember growing up listening to all the stories she told us at night time.

Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start?
Growing up in Tripoli, I spent most of my time after school at my father’s bookshops, sometimes at the Arabic bookshop and sometimes at the English Language bookshops. I wasn’t the only one, my siblings and cousins were there too, so it was a bit of fun and a bit of work. When I was young I did think I would be in the book life.
Continue reading Interview | Ghassan Fergiani, Darf Publishers | Indie Publisher of the Week

Interview | Siân Williams | Translator of the Week

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a translator and the founder of The Children’s Bookshow, a national tour of writers and illustrators of children’s literature which has been taking place in theatres across England each autumn since 2003. For most of my working life I was a publisher, initially founding, with three others, Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative.

When you were growing up, what books had an impact on you?
The Old Curiosity Shop, Jane Eyre, Little Women, Ten Twentieth Century Poets (which I remember included poems by Auden, T.S. Eliot, Edward Thomas, Robert Frost, Edwin Muir, Yeats, Thomas Hardy amongst others, perhaps I didn’t like the others!).  I also loved Longfellow as a child and Palgrave’s Golden Treasury I think it was called.  Many many more, I’ve always been a voracious reader so a list would take a book!

Later, I came to love Russian literature, so Chekhov, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Mandel’shtam’s poetry in particular during adolescence.
Continue reading Interview | Siân Williams | Translator of the Week

Review | Betty Boo, Claudia Piñeiro | Book of the Week

A new literary genre: paranoid fiction. Everyone is a suspect; everyone feels pursued,” Ricardo Piglia (published by Deep Vellum & Duke University Press).

Beef, gauchos and the tango. Eva Perón, military dictatorship and The Disappeared. Maradona, the 1986 World Cup and Thatcher’s last stand for Empire. Such are the answers of friends when asked what images Argentina conjures up in their mind’s eye. To which I would add, bookishly, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar and Ernesto Sabato.

Crime novelist Claudia Piñeiro is a welcome discovery. All Yours, A Crack in the Wall, Thursday Night Widows published by Bitter Lemon Press, and now Betty Boo, give an alternative, very contemporary view of Argentina. The abuse of public power for private benefit is increasingly a global problem, manifested in myriad nuanced ways at a local level. Corruption is invariably intrinsic to the way power is exercised. Just recently, the name of Argentina’s new president, Mauricio Macri, appeared in the Panama Papers leaked files. Continue reading Review | Betty Boo, Claudia Piñeiro | Book of the Week

Interview | Claudia Piñeiro | Author of the Week

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Woman, writer, mother, honest, curmudgeon.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My top three careers were: Sociologist, Ecologist, Mathematician. In other words, everything!

What books have had a lasting impact on you?
David Grossman’s To The End Of The Land.

Why do you write?
Because writing is part of who I am. It’s existential. I wouldn’t be who I am if I didn’t write.
Continue reading Interview | Claudia Piñeiro | Author of the Week

Interview | Peter Bush | Translator of the Week

Peter Bush is a translator of works from Catalan, French, Spanish and Portuguese to English and has recieved numerous awards including the 2009 Calouste Gulbenkian Portuguese Translation Prize for his translation of Equator by Miguel Sousa Tavares; the 1997 Premio Valle-Inclán for his translation of The Marx Family Saga by Juan Goytisolo; the 1994 Outstanding Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association for his translation of The Old Man Who Read Love Stories by Luis Sepúlveda; the 2011 Cruz de Oficial, Orden del Mérito Civil, awarded by King Juan Carlos of Spain, for contribution to the creation of cultural dialogue between UK and Spain; and the 2015 Creu de Sant Jordi, most distinguished award given by the Generalitat of Catalonia, for the translation and promotion of Catalan literature.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I had a happy childhood on council estates in Lincolnshire on the edge of the Fens.
My father was a typographer, so the house was full of newsprint every day. My grandfather was a shepherd and Dad didn’t want to work on the land. My mother came from a family that lived in a tenement in the centre of Sheffield. Her dad was a sawyer from the Rhonda Valley and her mother from the Irish community on Merseyside. In the UK translation starts with class, dialect and migration..
I’ve just moved to Oxford with my family after living in Barcelona for eleven years.

When you were growing up, what books had an impact on you?
My first exciting reads were adventure comics. I got really hooked on cliff-hangers.
Then I moved on to Tarzan and Agatha Christie. At sixteen I loved Molière and Balzac.
Continue reading Interview | Peter Bush | Translator of the Week