Indie Publisher of the Week | Ana Pérez Galván, founder of Hispabooks

Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
No, my father is a voracious newspaper reader, but not a book reader. My mother does enjoy reading now and then a good novel, but not as a habit, very much the same as my two sisters. I am a forty-one-year-old woman from Madrid. I have two kids (a boy of six, Máximo, and a girl of eight, Ada). I love reading, I love music (my taste is very eclectic), I love sculling (I row in a local rowing club) and I love my partner, with whom I’ve been nearly fifteen years now, unmarried. I don’t believe in God – I’m an apostate. I believe in solidarity, equality, tolerance and love.

Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start?
Yes, I’ve always had a passion for books and since an early age was clear about my wish to work in publishing, surrounded by books.
Continue reading Indie Publisher of the Week | Ana Pérez Galván, founder of Hispabooks

Translator of the Week | Peter Bush

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 Translator of the Week | Peter Bush

Book of the Week | A Bad End

Life has always loomed large over us dwarves. Some take to it like a fish to water despite their diminished state and are even happy, while others tramp along the shores of existence like dogs driven wild by urban detritus, licking the sores of their own resentment, tempered by the terrible lash of indifference, as they tumble and stumble toward their tombs.” Goyito, in A Bad End

Historically, midgets often served as jesters, or entertainers in the courts of kings and aristocratic households. Isabella d’Este designed part of her palace for them and remembered two in her will. The paintings of Velázquez record the appearance of dwarves at the court of Philip IV of Spain. In the 18th and 19th centuries Russian tsars and nobles kept innumerable dwarfs; in 1710 a dwarf couple spent their wedding night in the tsar’s bedchamber. American showman P.T. Barnum publicized Charles Stratton (“General Tom Thumb”) in 1842 and he became an international star.
Continue reading Book of the Week | A Bad End

Henrietta Foster reviews Ludwig’s Room by Alois Hotschnig trs. Tess Lewis

Henrietta Foster is a freelance journalist and TV producer for the BBC. Her latest film, Beyond The Grace Note, is about women orchestra conductors. She is writing a book about Hungarian Jews.

Alois Hotschnig sent me a copy of Ludwig’s Room about a year or so ago. Accompanying the book was a postcard of a fearsome blue dragon by Albrecht Dürer, and on the reverse was a greeting in pencil. I mentioned his gift to Tess Lewis, the translator of the book, and that I was very much looking forward to reading it. Quick as a flash an email came back saying that as I had just been through a bad emotional break up, I was not to read the novel under any circumstances – any circumstances whatsoever. It was not a book for the broken-hearted. A little taken aback I did, however, obey my wise and good friend.

A few weeks ago and with some trepidation, I decided that I was now sufficiently robust to bookblast durer dragonread Ludwig’s Room. I was also curious to discover why it would have been so harmful for the recently dumped. Like Dürer’s dragon, it is a spiky, frightening, bleak and at times difficult book to read. But also like Dürer’s mythical beast, it is finely drawn and deceptively engaging. At times, it is very funny in a self-deprecating rather black-humoured way.
Continue reading Henrietta Foster reviews Ludwig’s Room by Alois Hotschnig trs. Tess Lewis

Sex in the nineteenth-century city | Paris, London and the demi-monde

In his planning notes for Nana, the character of which was based on four notorious, pampered prostitutes, Zola describes his novel as being about “a whole society chasing after sex. A pack of hounds following a bitch . . .  The poem of male desire.*”  Nana rises from being a streetwalker to high-class cocotte; her golden tresses and “deadly smile of the man-eater” holding Le Tout Paris in thrall. Zola’s descriptions of her delirious expenditure, rising debts and magnificent, glitzy Hotel Particulier, “which seemed to have been built over an abyss that swallowed up men — along with their worldly possessions, their fortunes, their very names — without leaving even a handful of dust behind them,” foreshadow her vile death rotting in a state of stinking pustulence from smallpox during the last years of the French Second Empire. When it was published the novel was an instant hit, selling nearly 55,000 copies.

In his study of prostitution in Paris published in 1842 — Streetwalkers, Lorettes and Courtesans (Filles, Lorettes et Courtisanes) — Alexandre Dumas shows how going to work on the streets near La Bourse or rue Saint Honoré; on the Grands Boulevards; or in a brothel was more profitable for a lower-class girl than factory work, or shoplifting. Many sold themselves to support their families. Others were servants sacked by their employers, or arrived in the big city from the country having fallen pregnant.
Continue reading Sex in the nineteenth-century city | Paris, London and the demi-monde

Proust’s Questionnaire | Lesley Blanch

Lesley Blanch (1904-2007) influenced and inspired generations of writers, readers and critics. Her lifelong passion was for Russia, the Balkans and the Middle East. At heart a nomad, she spent the greater part of her life travelling about those remote areas her books record so vividly.
She left England in 1946, never to return, except as a visitor. Her marriage to Romain Gary, the French novelist and diplomat, afforded her many years of happy wanderings. After their divorce, in 1963, Blanch was seldom at her Paris home longer than to repack.
Her posthumous memoirs On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life are published by Virago, Little Brown.

Where would you like to live?
It must be a warm country. If I really want to be coldly factual I must try to live where I can be looked after, but that’s a very dull answer only come on me now when I’m approaching one hundred. I should like to live in the Levant, somewhere in a Moslem country; the Moslems respect age. I loved Afghanistan passionately, but not the way it is now. I read, over and over again, the place names, just to get back there.

What is your idea of happiness on earth?
I want a garden and animal companionship and music.

What faults do you find most forgivable?
Temper. Rudeness. I forgive them very quickly. I don’t bear much malice because I’m too bored with it. Continue reading Proust’s Questionnaire | Lesley Blanch

The BookBlast Review | Zola vs. The Victorians by Eileen Horne

Morality is not offended by human truth. It needs to know the real world and to make vice itself a source of wisdom. A novel by Sir Walter Scott may well push a highly strung young girl into the arms of a lover; a sincere study of the passions will no doubt horrify a young girl, but at the same time it will teach her about life and give her moral strength.” So wrote Emile Zola in La Tribune on 9 August, 1868.

When Zola was a young employee at the Parisian publisher Hachette, he came across La Cause du Beau Guillaume (1862) by the novelist and art critic Louis Edmond Duranty, an advocate of the Realist, subsequently renamed Naturalist, cause. In the preface to the 1900 edition, Jean Vaudal  writes: “In the gallery of ancestors which Zola gave to Naturalism, he placed the bust of Duranty on the second shelf, just beneath those of Balzac, Stendhal and Flaubert. If but one of them were to be granted the Naturalist label, it would be the author of La Cause du Beau Guillaume.”

Edmond and Jules de Goncourt formulated the doctrine of Naturalism, in 1864: “The novel of today is composed from documents, received by word of mouth or taken direct from nature, just as history is composed from written documents. Historians write narratives of the past, novelists narratives of the present.” Continue reading The BookBlast Review | Zola vs. The Victorians by Eileen Horne

The BookBlast Interview | Eileen Horne

Tell us a little bit about yourself
It is hard to decide which little bit is worth telling! For the purposes of this questionnaire: I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, an American, a Democrat, a long term ex-pat living in Italy and London, and a former television drama producer turned author, editor and screenwriter.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
It changed throughout childhood: I am sure I wanted by turns to be an astronaut (which gives away my era), a ballet dancer (sadly without any talent for it) and an actress (ditto!) – but as time went on I decided the best job would be a librarian – imagine that, I told my mother, your whole day would just be books, books, books . . . what could be better? On my father’s recent death I found tucked away in his study a picture book I made for him as a child of eight or so, which ends with an author’s profile on the inside back cover, including a drawing of myself (big eyes, dark rimmed glasses, crazy hair) and the legend: “Eileen will be a famous writer when she grows up.” I guess I’m still coming of age. Continue reading The BookBlast Interview | Eileen Horne