BookBlast® News | Where have all the intellectuals gone? | Librairie La Page 20.3.2018

Intellectuals have never had a more important contribution to make to culture and to democracy than now, in our age of post truth politics, trumpery and newspeak. We need to recreate a public sphere in which intellectuals and the general public can talk to each other in more profound ways than tweeting soundbites.

Intellectuals are a rare breed however there have been a number of sightings in past months. Some of these controversial individuals are likely to be found in South Kensington next Tuesday 20 March at 6.30pm since Pascal Bacqué will be at Librairie La Page, 7 Harrington Road, London, SW7 discussing his epic and hallucinatory novel just published by Massot éditions.

winston churchill in his daimlerOf War, Mankind and Planet Earth is a madly ambitious, hypnotic 440 page novel; the first of five volumes. Fifteen years of research and five very different drafts took Pascal Bacqué on a journey through his life and that of the world. Taking in 6000 years of history, he travels through the centuries to create a pot pourri of people, places and events, telling the never-ending story of war through the ages.

« You can get totally immersed in this book, play mind games, dream, admire and disagree . . . It is a book to be read aloud, a book on which to meditate, to be listened to with the third ear, to be read in one sitting, backwards, fast, or on edge of your chair . . . It is an extraordinary book, an addictive narrative which cannot be put down and which, once read, possesses you. » Bernard-Henri Lévy

World War Two and the Holocaust take centre stage. 1945: the end game is being played out. Ian Bute and Tolkien travel East with Churchill, and as they do so the secrets of ancient, millennial, old Europe emerge from the rubble. On their journey they encounter seventy archetypal men from through the ages, and rub shoulders with all the major world figures of literature, music and politics. A parallel narrative gives an added Tolkienesque dimension to this odyssey from West to East, culminating in a dramatic showdown in a clash of empires. 

Pascal BacquéThe event at Librairie La Page has been arranged in collaboration with the Hexagon Society, a centre for French and English cross-cultural exchange that facilitates encounters between thinkers and artists and the general public.

@EditionsMassot @BHL @LIBRAIRIELAPAGE

Pascal Bacqué is a poet, a writer, and artistic collaborator and a devotee of the Talmud. He has worked as director of the collection « Libelles » for L’âge d’Homme, as a member of the editorial board of the magazine La Règle du Jeu, and as director of the French Talmudic College with René Lévy. His works include Imperium (L’âge d’Homme, 2007), The Legend of Elijah (L’âge d’Homme, 2011), Ode to Armageddon (L’âge d’Homme, 2014).

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BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | January 2018

Here is our New Year round up of eclectic reads to delight and inspire you, happy new year, bonne année, felice anno nuovo, feliz año nuevo, ευτυχισμένο το νέο έτος, szczęśliwego nowego roku !

Listing in alphabetical order according to publisher @bitterlemonpub @commapress @Carcanet @CharcoPress @Istros_books  @maclehosepress @NewVesselPress @orbooks  @whitecrowbooks

Hell in Paradise

nicolas verdan greek wall bookblast diaryThe Greek Wall by Nicolas Verdan Trs. W. Donald Wilson (Bitter Lemon Press)

“At the moment, he no longer knows why he is here in this spot alongside a national highway, outside this brothel on the very edge of the Schengen Area. Perhaps, instead of discussing the wall inside, he might find a body like Christina’s? Not her face, not, he wouldn’t recognise it in that place. But maybe her perfume? Just a woman’s perfume, a scent, just her scent, please, please tell me if there mightn’t be, here in this place, in the countryside, on the frontier of Europe, a girl wearing Rykiel Woman.”

A severed head is found on the Greek border near a wall planned to stop Middle Eastern immigrants crossing from Turkey. Intelligence Agent Evangelos wants the truth about the murder, human trafficking into Greece, and about the corruption surrounding the wall’s construction. More than a mystery novel and a political thriller, The Greek Wall evokes the problems of the West incarnated in Greece: isolationism, fear of immigration, economic collapse and corruption. Paradise for tourists can become a hell for immigrants.

Poetic, pungent and atmospheric, The Greek Wall is a good example of how compelling crime fiction gives insights into the detective and the society in which they live.

The issues dealt with by Nicolas Verdan in The Greek Wall are close to his heart: “As a journalist, I went to Turkey, the Balkans, Greece, the Middle East, Central Asia, following or crossing the roads of migrants. My Greek grandparents were confronted by forced emigration of sorts. When my mother was a baby, the Greek civil war had begun. There was no choice but to leave your village to go to Athens, if necessary on foot. An exodus like the people from Syria and Iraq leaving everything behind: home, family, friends, skies, landscapes, the brilliance of olive trees in the sun. My grandmother came back to her village in the Peloponnese ten years after leaving it. It was only 350 kilometres from the capital, but coming back to your abandoned homeland was like coming to a foreign country. Devastation, no time, no money. Such was life in the 1950s in Greece. We must never forget how much rural exodus has affected the mentality of modern Greece.
Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | January 2018

Lesley Blanch Archive | The Magic of Iran 2 (1965)

The extreme good looks and elegance of the Royal Family bestow a festive air on the good works which they promote. Princess Ashraf, the Shah’s twin sister, is passionately involved in the question of women’s emancipation which is still a very revolutionary measure. Princess Shams, as passionately, leans more toward promoting the arts, and is herself a fine musician. Her husband, Dr. Pahleboud, as Director of Fine Arts, exercise a galvanic influence on every aspect of cultural development, while the entire Royal Family is passionate in its love of animals and determination to obtain better conditions for them everywhere, in happy contrast to so much of the East, where the animals lot is usually terrible.

When Roloff Beny photographed the Imperial couple and their children, I asked his majesty that the sitting, which was to be entirely informal, should not be in the Summer Palace, nor in the fabled frame of the Golestan, nor even in their private palace in Teheran, but in the Diamond Room of the Marble Palace, generally used for more stately occasions. Here eyneh-khari decoration reaches its apogee, and it was like placing them in the very heart of the diamond kingdom. But not formally. The little Crown Prince Reza, feting his fourth birthday, and his sister, the baby Princess Farahnaz, saw to that. Continue reading Lesley Blanch Archive | The Magic of Iran 2 (1965)

Review | A History of the Authors’ Club of London 1891-2016 by C. J. Schüler

BookBlast® reviews Writers, Lovers, Soldiers, Spies: A History of the Authors’ Club of London 1891-2016.

The history of the Authors’ Club is studded with famous names: Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Hardy, Rider Haggard, Ford Madox Ford, Graham Greene. Yet in the course of writing this history, I have learned that life, the culture, and often the very survival of the club have depended on others who are not so well remembered today. A healthy literary culture is not sustained by a handful of greats alone; it requires a significant number of dedicated, skilful practitioners who may not achieve critical accolade or vast commercial success yet persist in writing worthwhile, interesting books.” C J Schüler

The Authors’ Club

Founded in July 1891, the aim being to “advance the cause of Letters”, the Authors’ Club was originally the social arm of the Society of Authors; admitting journalists, editors, men of science, dramatists and academics, and not only the writers of books. “While many clubs, hitchens le gallienne bookblastincluding the Athenaeum and the Savile, had a number of literary figures among their numbers, none was specifically aimed at them. For an example of what he was trying to achieve, Walter Besant had to look across the Atlantic to New York, where an Authors’ Club had been founded in 1882, and included Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt and Andrew Carnegie among its members.” The Copyright act had just been passed, allowing British authors to receive royalties on American sales of their work. At the club’s inaugural dinner, Oscar Wilde raged at the Lord Chamberlain’s inspector censoring his new play, Salomé, with Sarah Bernhardt in the lead role.

Continue reading Review | A History of the Authors’ Club of London 1891-2016 by C. J. Schüler

Lesley Blanch Archive | Seaworthy and Semi-seagoing, British Vogue, 1943

Lesley Blanch was Features Editor of British Vogue 1937-45. During the Second World War, she was on the front line of women journalists covering a wide range of topics, and documented the lives of women in the forces with her friend the photographer Lee Miller.

This is the story of The Women ― today, as Clare Boothe Luce never imagined them yesterday. An all-star, all-women cast, it’s true, but there the resemblance ceases. These women are playing their parts in a world drama, but they remain limelight dodgers. And the scene is no demi-paradise of beauty parlours but the wild hills and lochs of Western Scotland.

Here, in pitching little boats, cutting through the mists and gales, on the big depot ship, swarming up and down plunging rope ladders, balanced, cat-like, to walk along the perilous jutting booms, picked Wrens undergo their boats-crew training. Or work as visual signallers, or service the torpedoes and depth charges aboard the motor torpedo boats and corvettes in the clanging uproar and grime of the Naval bases. One and all disprove the old wives’ or rather the old-fashioned husbands’ tale that woman’s place is the home, that women can’t get on together.

Continue reading Lesley Blanch Archive | Seaworthy and Semi-seagoing, British Vogue, 1943

Lesley Blanch Archive | Amazons

Far To Go and Many To Love: People and Places by Lesley Blanch, edited and with an introduction by Georgia de Chamberet (Quartet, 9780704374348, hb illus £25, 1 June 2017)
On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life by Lesley Blanch, edited and with an introduction by Georgia de Chamberet (Virago, 9780349005461, pb illus £10.99, 12 January 2017)

Terrible and wonderful, the steely Amazons went to battle against Bellerophon, and Homer sang them to eternal fame. Boadicea led her woad-dyed hordes upon the unwary Romans at Londinium. Jeanne d’Arc stormed Orleans, a valorous mystic. Christian Davies of the Scots Greys, swaggered her way through the battle of Ramilies. Brandishing her cutlass, Mary Read joined Captain Rackham’s pirate crew. Théroigné de Méricourt led the pike-bearing furies on Versailles . . . their grandchildren, the Communards, rallied round Louise Michel, “the Red Virgin of Montmartre,” while all the bravura of the Polish Amazons was pitted against Tzarist-Russian oppression.

In the American Civil War, Mme. Velasquez posed as Capt. Harry Burford, with mock-moustachios to aid her alibi. At the battle of Mentana, Mme. Blavatsky abandoned astral preoccupations to fight for Garibaldi. In the October Revolution, the Women’s Battalion held the Winter Palace for Kerensky. Only yesterday, in Spain and China, thousands of unknown women fought bravely, bloodily . . . Terrible and wonderful, the Amazonian spirit lives on, manifest alike through ages of troubadours, whalebone or machinery; the clash of spears and sabres merge into the thunders of modern bombardment.
Continue reading Lesley Blanch Archive | Amazons

Guest Review | Philip Marsden | The Sabres of Paradise, Lesley Blanch

The Sabres of Paradise was first published in 1960, a hundred years after the story it recounts had ended, after the Russian conquest of the Caucasus was at last complete. Nikita Khrushchev was in the Kremlin. President Kennedy was running for the White House. Soviet power was at its height. The republics of the Caucasus were just another comer of the vast Soviet empire cowed into conformity by the brutalities of Stalin. The episode of Imam Shamyl’s thirty-year resistance to Russian expansion − perhaps the most dramatic story ever to emerge from the Caucasus (where dramatic stories are hardly in short supply) − had receded to its rightful place in ancient history. The days of small bands of mountain guerrillas raiding, hostage-taking, hiding up in the thick Chechen forests were long gone; whole divisions being tied down by such tactics was unthinkable in an age overshadowed by nuclear weapons.

Forty years on, the story looks a little different and a lot more relevant; now − post-Vietnam, post-Afghanistan, post-Soviet Union and post-September 11. Who, in 1960, would have dared predict that the heirs of the Red Army − that vast force which had done so much to shape the geo-politics of the late twentieth century, already humiliated by the Afghan mujahideen − should in 1996 be defeated, run out of its own territory by a band of lightly-armed Chechens which rarely exceeded a few thousand in number?

Continue reading Guest Review | Philip Marsden | The Sabres of Paradise, Lesley Blanch

Review | Two perfect his ‘n’ hers reads by Lesley Blanch

Lesley Blanch: always interesting, always flirtatiously alive, always passionate – Barnaby Rogerson, Country Life

Of Lesley Blanch’s biographies, The Sabres of Paradise: Conquest and Vengeance in the Caucasus was her favourite. Thorough research, a balanced approach and dramatic storytelling skills bring to life Imam Shamyl, the ‘Lion of Daghestan’, leader of the warring mountain tribes of Daghestan and Chechnya. From 1834-59 they fought to remain independent of Russia, strengthened only by the desire for an independent Caucasus and their religious faith. The Tzar took Shamyl’s eldest son as a hostage to St Petersburg. Shamyl captured two Georgian princesses (from the Tzarina’s entourage), a French governess and the children, and kept them in his harem until they could be exchanged for his son.

Continue reading Review | Two perfect his ‘n’ hers reads by Lesley Blanch