Alastair Niven is the author of four books and numerous scholarly articles on aspects of Commonwealth and post-colonial literature. A judge of the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1994 and of the Man Booker Prize in 2014, he was also for twenty years Chairman of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. He was director of literature at the Arts Council and at the British Council and is a former president of English PEN. His memoirs In Glad or Sorry Hours are published by Starhaven Press.
Where were you born and brought up? Were you a happy child?
I was born in a nursing home in Edinburgh. It is now a Hilton hotel, where the judging of the Stakis Prize for Scottish Writer of the Year took place in 1998. I found myself deliberating with my fellow judges in the room in which I first saw the light of day. I had come full circle. As for a happy childhood – by and large, except when my father was on his daily rant about a misplaced towel or some crumbs on the carpet. Continue reading Interview | Alastair Niven OBE LVO | Writer, lecturer & arts administrator
Worldwide interest in Korean fiction and film has blossomed and bloomed since Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin won the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize; The Vegetarian by Han Kang won the Man Booker International Prize 2016; and the film Parasite (written, directed and produced by Bong Joon Ho) carried off four Oscars in 2020.
The latest recently-published offerings on our radar are The Great Homecoming by Anna Kim (Granta) which will be reviewed in the Spring; and Winter in Sokcho; its author, Elisa Shua Dusapin, is Franco-Korean, born to a French father and a South Korean mother, like the heroine of her first novel.
“Old Park hadn’t moved on from the days after the war, when guests were lured like squid to their nets, dazzled by strings of blinking lights. From the boiler room, on clear days, I could see the beach stretching all the way to the Ulsan mountains that swelled on the horizon . . . People washed up there by chance when they’d had too much to drink, or missed the last bus home.” Continue reading Review | Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin | Daunt Books Publishing
Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
My mum has always read books, there were lots of books around her house when I was growing up. But as a child and teenager I didn’t read all that much – I was too busy playing football, cricket and skateboarding to bother sitting down to read. I started to take reading seriously when I was about eighteen.
Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start?
Hell no. Have you seen the people that work in publishing? I never thought it was a place for me. I’m joking, but not joking at the same time. I’ve met lots of great people in the industry but from the outside it appears to be a very elitist, English Literature Graduate kind of place. That’s not my background, so it wasn’t something I ever considered. Starting Influx Press with my school friend Gary Budden was kind of a way of (very slowly and ineffectively) knocking down those closed doors. Continue reading Interview | Kit Caless, Influx Press | Indie Publisher of the Week
“When has anyone official in this country ever told the truth? I’ve been alive for nearly eighty years and I’ve never seen it. Not once. There are people missing . . .”
We know about how Fidel and Raúl Castro Ruz overthrew the dictator Fulgencio Batista during the 1953–59 Cuban Revolution, and that Cuba became a communist thorn in the side of America under the leadership of Fidel Castro, Moscow’s communist ally in the United States’ back yard. But what was it like living day-by-day through the revolution, that moment in time when history altered its course?
Continue reading Review | The Art of White Roses, Viviana Prado-Núñez | Book of the Week
Gabriel Josipovici is a pre-eminent British novelist, short story writer, critic, literary theorist, playwright, and a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement. Georgia’s exclusive interview for BookBlast® celebrates the publication this week of his latest novel, The Cemetery in Barnes, (Carcanet).
You were born during World War Two in Occupied France, what are your memories of that time?
I was born in Nice but we escaped to La Bourboule and Le Mont Dore in the Massif Central during the war. They were spa resorts for people suffering from lung problems, and so were full of hotels – La Bourboule was for children and Le Mont Dore for adults.
My parents had arrived in France newly-married from Egypt. My father had done his studies in French and wanted to go to a French university so he got a place at the University of Aix-Marseille. They lived in Aix while he did his doctorate, and then bought a house in Vence. Somehow they failed to take on board all that was happening. War started and I was born in Nice in October 1940, on the last day they could have got out back to Egypt as they had tickets for a ship. Nice was not the zone libre, but it was under tutelage of the Italians who were good to their Jews.
Continue reading Interview | Gabriel Josipovici, author & critic