This year’s Beyond Words Festival featured a great line-up from across the Channel. Throughout the week, the Institut Français du Royaume Uni in South Kensington, London, was bustling with people eager to see their favourite French authors in conversation with their British counterparts discussing not only their latest books, but many things words and ideas from France, past and present.
The first event I attended was A Gallic Evening with Muriel Barbery, Antoine Laurain and Jean-Baptiste Andrea, chaired by Viv Groskop. Gallic Books publish “the very best of what the French are actually reading.” Over the past decade, they have brought over one hundred authors to the British reading public.
Continue reading Spotlight | Highlights, Beyond Words Festival, 2023 | Institut Français du Royaume Uni
Madan Lal Dhingra’s great niece, Leena Dhingra, unravels the life and death of an Indian revolutionary in this haunting work that is part history, part memoir.
What was the largest movement of people in history? In 1923, over a million and a half Greeks and Turks were forcibly ‘exchanged’ as part of the Lausanne Convention. In May and June 1940, about eight million people from the Netherlands, Belgium and France fled from the blitzkrieg advance of the German army. But the sorry prize for the largest movement of people must go to the 1947 Partition of India. Seventy-five years ago, up to twenty million people travelled between the newly-created states of India and Pakistan, crossing the border formed by arbitrary political considerations in the last days of the British Raj. Partition was a distressing, painful and bloody process: estimates circulate that something like two million never arrived at their chosen destination. Continue reading Guest Review | Sharif Gemie | Exhumation: the Life and Death of Madan Lal Dhingra, Leena Dhingra | Hope Road Publishing
Vanessa Springora’s memoir, Consent, became an instant, international literary sensation when it was published in France. Her beautifully written, intimate and powerful description of her relationship in the mid-1980s with the French author Gabriel Matzneff, when she was fourteen and he fifty, is a beautifully written universal #MeToo story of power, manipulation, trauma, resilience and healing. Award-winning translator, Natasha Lehrer, captures Springora’s changes in pace and in tone, the voices and the silences, the literary milieu then and now with a sensitive ear and lexical deftness.
Continue reading Podcast LIVE | In conversation with Natasha Lehrer, translator of Consent by Vanessa Springora
Why write an autobiography? Setting aside the ‘celebrity’ memoir, it is generally undertaken in a person’s later years, usually to give insights into how experiences have shaped them as a person . . . to preserve their life story for future generations . . . to shed light on an important moment in time . . . or to set the record straight.
Alastair Niven starts his engaging memoir, In Glad or Sorry Hours, in his early childhood, ending in the present, spanning a period of social and cultural innovation. He played an influential role, contributing to shaping the evolution of culture in England for over three decades: at the Africa Centre, the Arts Council, the British Council, as President of English PEN and at Cumberland Lodge. For twenty years he was Chairman of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Discerning and generous in using his power, he clearly deeply cares about the value and wellbeing that literature and culture bring to individuals and to society. Continue reading Review | In Glad or Sorry Hours – a memoir, Alastair Niven | Starhaven Press
The publication of La Familia Grande by Camille Kouchner reveals how incest is everpresent at the highest levels of French society, even among the most glamorous, powerful, bohemian, left wing intellectual Parisian élite, known as “la gauche caviar” (champagne socialists). In France, one in ten people say they are victims of incest according to Ipsos.
Camille Kouchner is the daughter of the late feminist, political scientist and lecturer Évelyne Pisier, and Bernard Kouchner, co-founder of the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs under President Nicolas Sarkozy, having previously been a minister during Mitterand’s presidency. In 2010, the Jerusalem Post considered Bernard Kouchner the fifteenth most influential Jew in the world.
Continue reading Spotlight | La Familia Grande, Camille Kouchner | Éditions du Seuil