BookBlast® France | Top 5 French Reads January, 2019

New year, and news could be better from France. Over 600 small businesses have been destroyed or damaged in Paris alone since the yellow vests protests at the end of last year. President Macron’s open letter to French citizens seems to have done little to quell dissent; ditto for his tour of the regions in an attempt to get Mayors and their communities to share what’s on their mind. The EU’s political landscape is set to change after the elections in May 2019. Thank goodness for books, films and music offering an essential breath of fresh air!

Here is our list of top 5 reads in French creating a buzz across the Channel for all you Francophiles out there . . . Continue reading BookBlast® France | Top 5 French Reads January, 2019

Spotlight | Sitting in Judgement: the 2018 Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation

Judging the Banipal Translation Prize was a most enriching experience. It reminded me that literature can be a force for good – no bad thing! We need to be shocked out of a comfortable complacency that suggests that books should not attempt to bring about social and political change. The entries provided no shortage of shocks.” Pete Ayrton, Chair of Judges, the Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation.

The Man Booker International, the IMPAC Award, English PEN’s Writers in Translation Programme* and the Society of Authors’ series of prizes for outstanding literary translations from works in Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish are the leaders of the prize-giving pack.

Elevating world literature in translation for the UK market from other cultures and promoting cultural understanding is crucial as Brexit Britain becomes more inward looking. Even more so since language learning is on the decline following the abolition of a compulsory language GCSE in 2004. Continue reading Spotlight | Sitting in Judgement: the 2018 Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation

Guest Post | Lucy Popescu @lucyjpop | European Literature Days, Literaturhaus Europa

The exuberant 10th anniversary of a small European literary festival, Literaturhaus Europa, held in the Wachau region of Austria, throws into sharp relief the cultural poverty we potentially face post-Brexit.

European Literature Days frequently punches above its weight, luring prominent international writers to participate in workshops and panel discussions over a long weekend. The theme this year was film, literature and literary adaptation. Continue reading Guest Post | Lucy Popescu @lucyjpop | European Literature Days, Literaturhaus Europa

Podcast | LIVE interview: Andrew Crumey, author

Andrew Crumey: “Art is the expression of value and science is the explanation of phenomena . . . I’m interested in the borderline of the explanatory and the expressive.”

Alasdair Gray, James Kelman, A.L. Kennedy, Allan Massie, Val McDermid, Andrew O’Hagan, Ian Rankin, Ali Smith, Irvine Welsh, Alan Warner . . . the list of fine Scottish writers is a long one.

dedalus eric lane margaret jull costa andrew crumey 2Andrew Crumey was in conversation with doyenne of translators, Margaret Jull Costa, and Eric Lane, founder of Dedalus Books at the opening event of the BookBlast 10×10 Tour at Waterstones in Gower Street, Bloomsbury, on 11 September. HEAR HERE

Continue reading Podcast | LIVE interview: Andrew Crumey, author

Latest News | It’s a wrap! The BookBlast 10×10 Tour in association with Waterstones

Hello, bonjour, greetings!

On a night of political disunity and meltdown as Brexit hit the buffers, we were delighted to host the final event of this year’s inaugural BookBlast 10×10 tour at WestBank Art & Music in Thorpe Close, W10, under the Westway.

Kit Caless from INFLUX PRESS led the discussion with Susan from ISTROS BOOKS and Elizabeth from SAQI BOOKS about how #indiepubs play such an important role in the cultural ecosystem; translation, rigid mindsets and choosing to publish books written without market trends in mind; the importance of buying books directly from #indiepubs websites; how best to access buyers at the major bookselling chains deciding on what and how much to purchase (tricky in some instances when there is just one fiction buyer for a whole chain!).

The audience of publishing consultants, book distributors, bloggers, indie film makers, readers and writers raised the issues of how Amazon goes after publisher profit margins with crippling consequences for indies; and the lack of publicity in the Media which is ironic given the growing demand for eclectic, nongeneric, unconventional writing of the kind that is supplied by the smaller publishers who are regularly winning prizes.
Continue reading Latest News | It’s a wrap! The BookBlast 10×10 Tour in association with Waterstones

BookBlasts® | Top 5 Reads for Independent Minds | October 2018

Much excitement, relief and exhaustion here at BookBlast as the 10×10 tour of superb #indiepubs around the regions of England is drawing to a close, as we approach Liverpool and finally Manchester. You can buy tickets HERE

Our monthly round up features five eclectic reads coming to you from France, Italy, New York and the Indian Ocean @BelgraviaB @maclehosepress  @pushkinpress

Little by Edward Carey (Gallic/Aardvark Bureau) buy here

In the same year that the five-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his Minuet for Harpsichord, in the precise year when the British captured Pondicherry in India from the French, in the exact same year in which the melody for ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ was first published, in that very year, which is to say 1761, whilst in the city of Paris people at their salons told tales of beasts in castles and men with blue beards and beauties that would not wake and cats in boots and slippers made of glass and youngest children with tufts in their hair and daughters wrapped in donkey skin, and whilst in London people at their clubs discussed the coronation of King George III and Queen Charlotte, many miles away from all this activity, in a small village in Alsace, in the presence of a ruddy midwife, two village maids, and a terrified mother, was born a certain undersized baby.” Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 5 Reads for Independent Minds | October 2018

Interview | Elizabeth Briggs, editor & marketing manager, Saqi Books | Indie Publisher of the Week

Meet in person the indie publisher, Elizabeth Briggs, from Saqi Books, at the BookBlast 10×10 Tour event, Waterstones, Birmingham, 24-26 High Street, B4 7SL  @Bhamwaterstones 6.30 p.m. Thursday 25 October. Theme: The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write with reference to the anthology edited by Sabrina Mahfouz. With poets Nafeesa Hamid and Aliyah Holder. Book Tickets

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
Worcester, where I lived until I left for university in the North East of England at seventeen. Determined as ‘Britain’s most average constituency’ by the BBC last year, it’s not bad coming from a city whose place on the international stage is thanks to a great sauce and Edward Elgar.

What sorts of books were in your family home?
All sorts. I was very lucky. We had these incredible encyclopedias of animals from around the world, which I used to spend hours pouring over and copying the pictures. They were shelved alongside an illustrated bible, which I didn’t think at all odd at the time. It never occurred to me as a child that people took stories from the old testament as gospel: I thought they were wild and strange fantasy at the time – violent and bloody, the kind of things I wasn’t allowed to watch on TV. My dad also has an astonishing collection of moldy orange Penguin original paperbacks, bought back when they cost 85p each. I used to read a lot of Agatha Christie. I also have two older sisters so could borrow their books too. I read The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst when it first came out (I was twelve at the time), which was eye-opening.
Continue reading Interview | Elizabeth Briggs, editor & marketing manager, Saqi Books | Indie Publisher of the Week

Interview | Nafeesa Hamid, poet | @NafeesaHamid

Meet Nafeesa Hamid in person at the BookBlast 10×10 Tour event, Waterstones, Birmingham, 24-26 High Street, B4 7SL  @Bhamwaterstones 6.30 p.m. Thursday 25 October. Theme: The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write with reference to the anthology edited by Sabrina Mahfouz. In conversation with Elizabeth Briggs SAQI BOOKS chair, and poet, Aliyah Holder. Book Tickets

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in Pakistan and came to the UK at aged four. I grew up in Alum Rock, inner city Birmingham where I lived until nineteen. There was (and still is) a massive sense of community in Alum Rock, which is lovely for the most part, but also means everyone knows everything about everyone. I attended school in Alum Rock – Shaw Hill Primary and Park View Secondary (involved heavily in the Trojan Horse Scandal).
Continue reading Interview | Nafeesa Hamid, poet | @NafeesaHamid

Interview | Qaisra Shahraz, author

Meet Qaisra Shahraz in person at the BookBlast 10×10 Tour event, Waterstones, Bristol Galleries: 11A Union Galleries, Broadmead BS1 3XD 6.30 p.m. Thursday 18 October. Theme: Trading Places: Bright City, Dark Secrets. In conversation with Rosemarie Hudson, HopeRoad Publishing, (chair), and author Pete Kalu. Book Tickets

 Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in Pakistan and arrived in the UK at the age of nine. I grew up in Manchester.

What sorts of books were in your family home?
All sorts. In my childhood days, there was a book shelf stacked with volumes of Encyclopaedia Britannica  that my father bought to educate his children along with books by famous Pakistani poets, for example the work of Allama Iqbal.  Near my bed I had Enid Blyton’s Malory Tower series of six novels and the Famous Five collection. In my teenage years, quite a few Barbara Cartland books entered my bedroom. In our ancestral home in a wooden cabinet in Lahore I came across two of William Shakespeare’s plays. One was my father’s student copy of Hamlet, with margins lined with notes neatly scribbled in his elegant handwriting. As I pursued my studies of English literature, I proudly lined my bookcase with volumes of world literature, including numerous classics. I developed a literary appetite for the works of Leo Tolstoy, Henrik Ibsen, Ruth Prawar Jhabawalla,  Molière, Emile Zola, the ancient Greek tragedies, as well as the work of many popular Victorian novelists, including that of Elizabeth Gaskell. It was a proud moment when I was invited to read in her house at 84 Plymouth Grove here in Manchester.
Continue reading Interview | Qaisra Shahraz, author

BookBlasts® | Top 5 Reads for Independent Minds | September 2018

This month’s top 5 reads features titles by some of the #indiepubs being showcased in the  #bookblast10x10tour at talks being held in Waterstones’ flagship stores across the regions of England. Starting from Gower Street we have visited Newcastle, Leeds, Nottingham so far . . . and will be in Brighton next week Thursday, and Norwich the Thursday after . . . details & tickets HERE

Listing in alphabetical order  @commapress @carcanetpress @galleybeggars @hoperoadpublish @AnthonyGardnerA

The Book of Birmingham: A City in Short Fiction, edited by Kavita Bhanot, is part of Comma’s popular ‘Reading the City’ series (September 2018) buy here

Contributors: Alan Beard. Jendella Benson,  Balvinder Banga,  Sharon Duggal,  Malachi McIntosh, Bobby Nayyar,  C.D. Rose, Sibyl Ruth, Kit de Waal

 “At one time connected to every other corner of the nation through a latticework of canals which facilitated the transport of raw goods in and finished goods out of the city, and across the world, Birmingham has been shaped by its industrial history – in particular by the working-class roots of so many of its inhabitants who gave their professional lives to these industries. This working-class foundation is inseparable from the city’s literature, reflected in the voices of its best-known contemporary authors: Jonathan Coe, Catherine O’Flynn, Benjamin Zephaniah, Kit de Waal, Joel Lane . . . to name just a few. [. . .] Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 5 Reads for Independent Minds | September 2018