MacLehose Press

10 things you didn’t know about the start of the First World War

There’s been a lot in the media this year about the hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War. But besides the memorial services, the sombre analysis and the promises that we must not let such a conflict happen again, the story of how the assassination of an Austrian heir led to the world’s most destructive conflict has remained in the background.

Derek Robinson, a trained historian and author of numerous novels, including A Splendid Little War and the Booker Prize-shortlisted Goshawk Squadron, has written a brilliant new introduction to the events of those fateful months, Why 1914?. It’s packed with details you may never have heard before. Did you know, for instance . . .

1.    Gavrilo Princip, Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassin, was only 20 years old, and suffered from tuberculosis.

Gavrilo Princip lego

2.    Anglo-German hostility can be traced back to a telegram from Kaiser William II to President Kruger in South Africa, congratulating him on protecting Transvaal’s independence from Britain during the Boer War. Transvaal was a British protectorate at the time.

Paul Kruger

3.    When Britain created a plan for if Europe went to war, the British Cabinet was never consulted as the government believed war to be strictly a military concern.

British Soldiers

4.    After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Austria had to delay their military response because half of their army was on harvest leave tending to crops.

Austrian Soliders

5.    In 1914, the monarchs of Russia, Germany and Britain were all cousins. It wasnt until the end of the year that George V struck the German princes off the Roll of the Garter.

Nikolai_II_and_George_V_and_Albert_I

6.    Britain accidentally sent an invalidly-worded declaration of war to the German ambassador, and the Foreign Office had to send their youngest member of staff to retrieve it and replace it with the correct version before war could officially be commenced.

(C) Marion Doss

7.    Expecting an easy path through Belgium, the German army was waylaid by hundreds of small gangs of Belgian guerrillas, who ultimately forced a quarter of the German force to be diverted from the front.

(C) DrakeGoodman

8.    Early communication between the British and French was so poor that when the B.E.F. arrived in France they did not know the enemy’s whereabouts, destination or numbers.

The_British_Army_on_the_Western_Front_1914-1918_Q70268

9.    Widely credited stories circulated amongst the B.E.F. of angels who had appeared to protect them while retreating from the German advance.

Angel

10.    Belgian railwaymen sabotaged their own network to derail the Schlieffen Plan, blowing up bridges and blocking tunnels until 90 per cent of the network became unusable.

Train

Why 1914?Want to know more? Purchase Derek Robinson’s Why 1914? now for only £5.49!

(Only available in ebook, or in print from the author’s website.)

COMPETITION – win all three of our September titles

So it’s September, a chill is in the air, and we’re beginning to think it might be worth abandoning those needlessly optimistic outdoor plans, and settling down with a nice book.

Luckily for you, we’ve got three gems this month. And luckier still, you can win them all! Simply tell us on Twitter, on Facebook or in the comments below which of the three books below you’re most interested in, and you’ll be in the hat to win all three.

September Books competition

The Sermon on the Fall of Rome Jerome Ferrari

The Sermon on the Fall of Rome by Jérôme Ferrari (translated by Geoffrey Strachan)

Of all the author’s we’re publishing this year, Ferrari is certainly amongst the most highly acclaimed. The reviews for this book in France (where it won the Prix Goncourt – comfortably the most prestigious of France’s many literary awards) are quite staggering:  Raphaëlle Leyris of Le Monde proclaimed it “the best novel of the year”,  Claire Devarrieux at Libération declared it ”overflowing with eroticism, sensuality, violence and blinding flashes of wisdom”, while Bernard Pivot of L’Academie Goncourt said “Language that undulates like a serpent in the sun … A brilliant novel”.

We could go on to list the plaudits Jérôme’s last novel, Where I Left My Soul, received in Britain (listed as a book of the year in four national newspapers), but we could equally talk for days about what this new masterpiece is about – the biggest questions of life, the universe and everything are exquisitely distilled into the story of a small Corsican bar, and the various miscreants whose lives sequentially fill it. Funnier, sadder and wiser than his already-wonderful previous work, this is absolutely not to be missed.

Buy now from MacLehose Press | Amazon | Waterstones

Forever Yours Daniel GlattauerForever Yours by Daniel Glattauer (translated by Jamie Bulloch)

Daniel Glattauer came to the world’s attention with Love Virtually, an epistolary romance for the digital generation about two strangers who are brought together by a typo in an email address. By turns funny and romantic, it captured the imagination of an international audience, and also came to be adapted into a radio play by BBC Radio 4, starring no lesser luminaries than David Tennant and Emilia Fox.

This new novel is a wonderfully strange creation. Judith, a perfectly cheery thirty-something singleton, meets Hannes, who proceeds to fall in love with her. She’s a bit thrown by his passion, but he’s charming and witty and intelligent – what could go wrong? Described as being “like a cocktail laced with arsenic”, this is a psychological suspense story like nothing you’ve ever read before.

Buy now from MacLehose Press | Amazon | Waterstones

Olivier Ziegler coverOliver by Philip Ziegler

Widely regarded as being the finest actor of his generation, there are no shortage of biographies of Laurence Olivier in existence. Why read this one? Well, since you asked, The Times described it as Olivier’s “definitive and best-sourced biography”, the Daily Mail described it as “probably the best-focused”, and Tarquin Olivier – Laurence’s son – describes Ziegler’s book as being “the Larry I knew”.

But this isn’t just the best Olivier biography, it’s also a gripping read. It is “compelling” (Simon Callow), “a triumph” (Sunday Times), “joyful and wonderful” (The Times), “outrageously enjoyable (Scotsman) “outstanding” (Literary Review), “splendid” (Economist) and “superbly insightful” (Independent). Whether as an actor, a lover or the founder of the British National Theatre, Ziegler’s Olivier is an astounding creation.

Buy now from MacLehose Press | Amazon | Waterstones

Women in Translation Month: MacLehose Press Recommends . . . (Part 2)

You’ve already seen the first part of our Women in Translation recommendations – without further ado it’s time for part 2 – with great thanks our wonderful translators and staff for their recommendations, and to the brilliant female authors mentioned for giving us their books!

Joel Richardson, MacLehose Press

Snow White Must DieSince translated fiction is often seen as something of a niche market (all the more so for women in translation), it’s especially gratifying when a translated author breaks into the mainstream. When I picked it up in Frankfurt train station at the start of a long journey home, I had no idea I’d race through Nele Neuhaus’ Snow White Must Die in barely half the journey. Translated by Steven T. Murray, this is not just a page-turning mystery but also a dissection of a small town’s response to trauma, with a huge and eclectic cast, this is one of many books that prove that female authors are at the forefront of European crime fiction.

Margaret Jull Costa, Translator

word-treeTeolinda Gersão’s The Word Tree, which I translated, is set in both pre-independence Mozambique and in Salazar’s pre-revolution Portugal. In her simple but rich prose, Gersão evokes both the heat and ease and lushness of the former and the suffocating primness of the latter, providing along the way an extraordinarily evocative portrait of childhood and adolescence and thwarted ambitions. Even the less sympathetic characters, both Black and White, are drawn with great understanding and subtlety. There are no goodies and baddies, simply flawed human beings struggling to define themselves and to define what “home” and “happiness” mean.

Alison Anderson, Translator

The WallThe House on Moon Lake by Francesca Duranti, translated by Stephen Sartarelli, is an intriguing novel about translation and the imagination, and won prizes on its publication in Italy. I remember being drawn in and captivated by the story with its unclear boundaries between fact and fiction, and have read it several times.

The Dust Roads of Monferrato by Rosetta Loy, translated by William Weaver in 1990, is a beautifully drawn and sensitive chronicle of an Italian family in the 19th century, totally engrossing, superbly translated. Considered her masterpiece, winner of numerous prizes in Italy.

Visitation, by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky, is an extraordinary “saga” of a house in Germany and its successive owners through war and displacement. I was above all amazed by Susan Bernofsky’s skilful translation, too.

Finally, at the moment I am reading The Wall, by Marlen Haushofer, written in 1963, translated by Shaun Whiteside in 2013, and so far I have been completely blown away by this book. A woman vacationing in the Austrian Alps wakes up one day to find herself completely alone, with a dog, two cats, and a cow for sole companions, in a world that has been walled off from a disaster. A science fiction that is really an examination of solitude, survival, and the human condition.

Euan Cameron, Translator

The DoorOne of the novels I most enjoyed when I worked as a publisher was The Door, written by the distinguished Hungarian poet and novelist Magda Szabó, and translated by Len Rix. It’s the story of the intense and ultimately tragic relationship between two very different women, one an aspiring young writer who in her later life narrates the novel, the other a proud, marvellously eccentric and mysterious older character called Emerence, whom I’ve never been able to forget.

Cristina Viti, Translator

Elsa MoranteProbably best known to English-speaking readers for her novel History (translated by William Weaver), Elsa Morante started writing as a child and published her first works (including a translation of Katherine Mansfield’s Scrapbook) in her twenties. Her books remain in print and are the subject of much debate and study (with Open Letter recently republishing Weaver’s translation of her last novel, Aracoeli); however some of her best work remains untranslated, and her first major novel, Menzogna e sortilegio, intended as a meditation on the novel form itself, has never been given the dignity of a full, new translation after the drastically abridged version published in 1951 by Harcourt Brace (House Of Liars).

Sian Reynolds, Translator

A selection of tragi-comic short stories by the Russian writer “Teffi” (1872-1952) has recently been published in the UK. Born Nadezhda Alexandrovna Lokhvitskaya in St Petersburg, she chose her short pen-name partly as a joke. Her witty and ironic stories were published first in Russia between 1900 and 1918, and then in exile in Paris from the 1920s. She has been rediscovered in Russian recently, and the recently released collection Subtly Worded (translated from the Russian by six different translators) covers the years before, during, and after the Revolution.  They include re-worked episodes from her own life, such as when, aged thirteen, she visited Tolstoy to beg him to stop Prince Andrei dying in War and Peace - but didn’t dare; and when she met Rasputin at a strange sequence of parties. More often the stories are about ordinary people trying to cope with what life throws at them, not always emerging with dignity.  The ironic title story (1920) is  about the ” subtly worded” language of “strange letters”  from the early Soviet Union and how to reply in the same code. “Que faire” is an allusive satire on the emigrés in Paris. Some of the great women poets of modern Russia – Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva – are well known now world-wide, but  few Russian women prose writers of this period have been translated. ”Funny on the outside, tragic on the inside”, these stories can quite readily be seen as in the tradition of Chekhov.

 

Women in Translation Month: MacLehose Press Recommends . . . (Part 1)

As you may have already realised from the fascinating discussions across the blogosphere (and twittersphere. And possibly the real world too, although if so we sadly weren’t invited!), August 2014 is Women in Translation Month.

This great initiative was set up by the Biblibio blog (read the introduction here), as a means of bringing attention to brilliant works of literature in translation by female authors, and also to show up how few books by women are being translated.

If you’ve got a favourite translated book by a woman, please let us know in the comments below. If you don’t, you might like to check out one of the recommendations below, from staff of MacLehose and Quercus, but principally from our wonderful translators.

(And since we had so many recommendations, there’ll be a whole extra post’s worth over the weekend!)

Ben Brock, Quercus Books

TainaronLeena Krohn has written huge amounts in her native Finnish – novels for adults and children, novellas, short stories and non-fiction – but very little has been translated. The most important and extraordinary exception so far has been her deeply weird novella Tainaron: Mail from Another City (translated from the Finnish by Hildi Hawkins), written in 1985 but not appearing in English for two decades, at which point it was nominated for a clutch of genre fiction awards. A series of letters from an impossible city – or from what one of its inhabitants calls “not a place” but rather “an event which no-one measures” – Tainaron takes a cue from Kafka and runs wild with it, creating a world whose least odd characteristic is that everybody seems to be an insect, and plumbing rich, strange depths of imagination and human behaviour through the lens of a curious visitor. Beautiful, unsettling and timeless – if only non-Finns could find out if the rest of her work was so good.

John Fletcher, Translator

Story of OPublished in France in 1954 and translated by Sabine d’Estrée (the pseudonym of Richard Seaver, the distinguished American publisher of avant-garde French fiction), Story of O has been brought back into the limelight by the success of a pale imitation, Fifty Shades of Grey. We should return to the original: over the years its prose has lost none of its incandescent lyricism. The author, Anne Desclos, wrote it under a pseudonym (Pauline Réage) as a passionate love-letter to the man in her life, Jean Paulhan, editor of the Nouvelle Revue Française, where she was editorial secretary.

Laura Watkinson, Translator

Summer BookLike many readers, I came to Tove Jansson’s writing via the Moomin route, having been fascinated, not to mention a little frightened, of these peculiar creatures when I was small. As an adult, I went on to explore her other writing, which turned out to be just as rare, magical and quirky as the Moomin characters and stories. The Summer Book and Fair Play (both translated by Thomas Teal) and A Winter Book (translated by Silvester Mazzarella, David McDuff and Kingsley Hart) reveal an author with an inimitably wry and sensitive view of the world. Thank goodness – and, most importantly, thank the translators and the publishers (Sort of Books) – that Jansson’s writing has made its way into English.

Silvester Mazarella, Translator

Having recently published translations of three recent novels by contemporary
Italian women writers of very different generations – I can warmly recommend all three.

Memoirs of a BitchFirst of all the well-established Dacia Maraini, now in her seventies, and her Train to Budapest. The book shows the contrast between two childhood friends torn apart by war in 1939, and what one later discovers through the long search for her lost child companion. On top of this it is also an extremely dramatic reconstruction of events during the anti-Soviet Budapest uprising of 1956.

Next the Sardinian Michela Murgia, about 40, and her Accabadora. This is a warm, subtle study of relationship between a young girl and the old woman with a secret occupation who becomes her adoptive mother.

And finally, only 19 years old at the time she wrote it, Francesca Petrizzo’s Memoirs of a
Bitch
, which retells the story of Helen of Troy: a 21st-century femme fatale dropped into the context of the male-dominated Trojan War.

Robert Chandler, Translator

Nadezhda TeffiThe least known of the many great Russian short-story writers is certainly Teffi (pseudonym of Nadezhda Lokhviskaya, 1872-1952).  Her finest works are Memories – an account of her last journey across Russia, before going by boat to Istanbul in 1919 – and her stories.  Writers of the stature of Bunin, Bulgakov and Zoshchenko admired Teffi – as did both Lenin and the last tsar; she had a huge readership both in pre-Revolutionary Russia and in emigre Paris. The psychological insight of the stories about children is especially remarkable.

During the first four decades after her death, however, she was almost forgotten. This was probably in part because she was a woman; in part because she was considered ‘lightweight’ (critics noticed her wit more than her perceptiveness); and in part because both Western and Soviet scholars tended to ignore émigré literature. Since the early 1990s Teffi has been published more and more widely, both in Russia and in translation.

Subtly Worded, a selection of her stories and articles (tr. Anne-Marie Jackson, Robert & Elizabeth Chandler and others) has recently been published by Pushkin Press.  Anne-Marie and I are at present translating Memories.

Humphrey Davies, Translator

Simin DaneshvarI flag Simin Daneshvar’s Suvashun, translated by M. R. Ghanoonparvar (various editions, but sadly out of print), a novel set in Shiraz during World War II; it’s been published a number of times and one gets the impression that everyone who reads it shouts for joy. I certainly did. It’s one of those books that through their intelligence and humanity have the potential to open the eyes of a foreign reading public to an entire new literature.

As we said before – if you have any recommendations to share, or if you’ve read any of these books, please do let us know in the comments!

Marco Malvaldi is “the definitive summer read”!

The Art of Killing Well

We’ve released some brilliant books this summer, but few have been so enthusiastically reviewed as Marco Malvaldi’s culinary mystery, The Art of Killing Well (translated by Howard Curtis).

Set in 19th Century Tuscany, the murder of a butler in a stately home full of eccentric aristocrats leaves the local constabulary baffled. Only Pellegrino Artusi, the legendary father of Italian cuisine, can halt the dastardly killer.

The tale delighted the Telegraph‘s Jake Kerridge, who described Malvaldi as “Camilleri’s heir apparent”, who praised the novel’s “distinctive flavour [which] lingers on your literary palate”.

More food puns came in from Jon Wise in the Weekend Sport, who called it a “tasty Michelin Three-Star book . . . Malvaldi has cooked up a gentle, atmospheric Agatha Christie-esque number with plenty of tongue in cheek wit and period detail in a mystery that finishes with a cute and clever twist”.

The book also drew bounteous praise from Ireland. Eileen Battersby in the Irish Times was one fan: “A very stylish book, ironic and fast-moving, a novel with which to have fun. Anyone seeking the definitive summer read . . . needs look no farther”.

Her enthusiasm was matched by Alannah Hopkin of the Irish Examiner. “This is ideal holiday reading, funny, compelling, unpredictable and immensely satisfying, the sort of book that you immediately want to recommend to half a dozen friends.”

And finally reviewer Nick Rennison loved the book so much he reviewed it twice! In the Sunday Times he called it an “engaging . . . tongue-in-cheek mystery” and reckoned none of Malvaldi’s previous works match this one “for wit and charm”. Meanwhile for BBC History his enthusiasm only deepened: “With its tongue-in-cheek wit and lively characterisation, Malvaldi’s novel is a delight to read”.

Convinced? You can buy it here (from us) or here (from Amazon) or here (from Waterstones), or here, to support your local independent bookshop

 

 

COMPETITION – win both our August titles

August is here, school’s out for summer, and we have two of our favourite books of the year, both publishing today!

As usual we’re running a competition to let you get your hands on a copy of both books – all you have to do is tell us on Twitter or Facebook which one you’re most excited about. And to be honest, it’s a difficult choice.

The competition will close on Wednesday night at 11.59pm, so get picking!

The Calligraphy of DreamsIn the literary heavyweight corner, we have Juan Marsé with The Calligraphy of Dreams. Marsé has been awarded the Cervantes Prize, given to honour the lifetime achievement of an outstanding writer in the Spanish language, and worth €125,000 – no less a source than Wikipedia describes it as “the Spanish-language equivalent” to the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Calligraphy of Dreams (translated by Nick Caistor) is his first novel since the award, and is rather stunning, if we say so ourselves. It tells the story of Ringo, a teenager in Franco’s Spain, who becomes inveigled as a go-between into an adult passion beyond his understanding. Beautifully written, and with a brilliant eye for both the confusion and delight of youth, this is not to be missed.

IreneBut then there’s Irène. Those of you who read Alex last year will need no introduction to either author Pierre Lemaitre or his diminutive detective hero, Camille Verhoeven. Both Alex and Irène have won endless plaudits – Irène was described by The Times as “gripping, frightening, intelligent and brilliant”, and by the Daily Mail as “crime fiction of the highest class”.

In the novel (translated by Frank Wynne), Verhoeven faces a particularly brutal serial killer. There seem to be no leads, until Verhoeven spots a connection – each killing is based on a murder in a famous crime novel. He takes the decision to contact the killer via an advertisement in a crime fiction magazine, but this is riskier than he knows: the media-christened “novelist” is not one for happy endings . . .

So there you have it. Tweet us or Facebook us your favourite, or comment below; we’ve copies of both books to give away!

The curious life of Michael Holroyd’s A Dog’s Life

A novel written nearly half century ago by Michael Holroyd finally sees the light of day in Britain. Its original American publisher, Tom Wallace, now an agent, recounts its story.

The following article first appeared on BookBrunch on July 10th, 2014.

A Dog's Life Michael HolroydGood news. Michael Holroyd’s first and only novel, A Dog’s Life, is now published in Britain by the MacLehose Press, 45 years after the appearance of an American edition. And therein lies a tale.

If all happy families are indeed happy alike, as Tolstoy has it, and therefore indistinguishable one from another, than one might maintain that dysfunctional families are identifiable by their uniquely dissimilar and unhappy ways. A Dog’s Life is a gentle satire of an elderly upper middle class couple, the couple’s ne’er-do-well son, all three seen through the eyes of the grandson, home for the weekend from National Service. The elderly couple’s descent into the inane infirmaties, inexplicable paranoia, and growing alienation from the competitive, materialistic and money ordered post-World War II world are viewed with dismay by our young hero, who himself shows signs of Oblomovian fatalism; while his ne’er-do-well father is caught between the horns of the unrealistic illusions of business success and his more likely and inevitable business failure. Near the novel’s end, Smith, the family dog, dies.

Holroyd’s father was not amused. In fact, he felt his son’s novel would tarnish the reputation of the family, and he threatened to sue the publishing firm William Heinemann and Holroyd (the future highly acclaimed biographer of Lytton Strachey, Augustus John, George Bernard Shaw and Ellen Terry and Henry Irving) if the novel saw the light of day.

The original American cover

The original American cover

Henry Holt (then called Holt, Rinehart & Winston) had just published a biography of Lytton Strachey in the US. Michael called me (I was senior editor at Henry Holt) and asked me if we would be willing to risk publishing A Dog’s Life – of course, only if we liked the novel. He assumed that 3,000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean would dampen his father’s wrath. My colleagues and I on the Holt editorial board jumped at the opportunity.

The novel received a favourable press (Holroyd thinks the American reviewers were relieved to read a short book by him), and after four or five years he asked us to let the novel go out of print. He had made his point, and happily went back to the task of becoming one of England’s foremost biographers.

Now this wonderful, short novel by one of the English language’s outstanding writers is finally published in England. As I said above, I was involved in the decision to publish A Dog’s Life in the US in 1969. Full disclosure prompts me to reveal that 45 years later, I am the literary agent who has arranged for its reissue in the US, in spring 2015, and I could not be more delighted. After all, Michael Holroyd is an International Treasure. Also, last week’s TLS carried a lengthy excerpt from the postscript that Holroyd has written for the UK edition outlining the  story about the belated publication of A Dog’s Life  in England and  the writing of biography and memoir.

Tom Wallace has been in American publishing for more than 50 years, first as an editor at Putnam, Holt, and Norton, and, since 1987, as a literary agent.

BUY NOW from MacLehose Press ¦ Waterstones ¦ Amazon

COMPETITION – win all 4 of our July titles

July is here, the weather is gorgeous, and Andy Murray and the England football team have nobly made sure we have nothing to distract us from reading in the sunshine.

We have four brilliant books publishing today, and as ever we have a competition for you. Simply tell us on Facebook, Twitter or via the comments below which you’re most excited to read, and you’ll be in with a chance of winning all four!

Competition closes at 11.59pm next Wednesday 9th July, so get in touch now!

MacLehose Press July TitlesA Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

A Naked Singularity Sergio De La PavaWhat to say about this truly magnificent novel? Perhaps you could begin by noting it was shortlisted for the inaugural Folio Prize, or that it won the prestigious PEN/Robert W Bingham Prize in the United States. You could point out that the Sunday Times called it “unputdownable”, The Times went with “mesmerizing”, Stuart Kelly in the Guardian wrote “It is ambitious, affecting, intelligent, plangent, comic, kooky and impassioned. I’ve read a lot of novels this year, between judging the Man Booker prize and the Granta Best of Young British Novelists, and I’ve yearned for this kind of exuberant, precise fiction.”

If you really insist on knowing what it’s about, it’s the story of Casi, a Manhattan lawyer who defends the most impoverished and desperate citizens to enter the New York justice system. It’s the story of his quest to commit the perfect crime; to rescue a mentally impaired inmate from death row; to discover a recipe for the perfect empanadas. It’s actually very good.

Buy now from MacLehose Press ¦ Amazon ¦ Waterstones

Bloodlines by Marcello Fois (translated from the Italian by Silvester Mazzarella)

Bloodlines Marcello FoisMarcello Fois has fans in high places. No less a luminary of Italian literature than Andrea Camilleri commented that “it is a long time since I came across a writer with such a deep, poetic sense of nature”.

This, his second novel to be translated into English, is a rather beautiful story of one Sardinian family, and their progress through the personal and political storms of the twentieth-century. Fois is undoubtedly a very intelligent writer, but this is at heart a wonderful story, full of deeply engaging characters and heart-breaking emotional resonance

Buy now from MacLehose Press ¦ Amazon ¦ Waterstones

An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman (translated from the Russian by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler)

Armenian SketchbookFew writers had to confront so many of the last century’s mass tragedies as Vasily Grossman. He is likely to be remembered, above all, for the terrifying clarity with which he writes about the Holocaust, the Battle of Stalingrad and the Terror Famine in the Ukraine. In between those horrors he found time to write the magnificent Life and Fate which has received almost unparalleled acclaim, not least in being described as “One of the greatest masterpieces of the twentieth century” by the Times Literary Supplement.

This, though, is something rather different – light, charming and digressive. Written just as Life and Fate was being censored (“arrested”, as Grossman himself put it), these are Grossman’s observations of a short sojourn in Armenia, as he travels amongst mountains and churches, as he meets the Armenians and discovers their culture. Perhaps the last word ought to go to Ian Thomson in the Spectator described it as “a book wonderful in every way”.

Buy now from MacLehose Press ¦ Amazon ¦ Waterstones

A Dog’s Life by Michael Holroyd

A Dog's Life Michael HolroydThis book has undergone perhaps the most interesting journey of anything we’ve published – no mean feat, in a month that features one initially-self-published sensation, and one book written while on the run from the censors. Michael Holroyd wrote this novella when he was in his teens and early twenties. It was almost published way back in 1969, but publication was halted when Holroyd’s father objected so strongly to the semi-autobiographical content that he refused to allow it to be published, threatening legal action.

It is the story of young Kenneth, and his anything-but-young family. Set in the aftermath of the second world war, it is a portrait of a time that has faded from memory, of a generation scarred by two world wars, and terrified of the future. By turns witty and melancholy, it’s a quite charming book, and a wonderful addition to a celebrated literary career.

Buy now from MacLehose Press ¦ Amazon ¦ Waterstones

 

Staff review: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

With the paperback publishing tomorrow, you’ll hopefully already have heard all about Sergio De La Pava’s A NAKED SINGULARITY, described variously as “Mesmerizing” (The Times), “Exuberant” (Guardian) and “Unputdownable” (Sunday Times). But if that (and being shortlisted for the inaugural Folio Prize, and winning the PEN/Robert W Bingham Prize . . .) aren’t enough to convince you, then read on for an introduction to the book from its first fan at Quercus/MacLehose Press, editor Katie Gordon.

A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La PavaA NAKED SINGULARITY by Sergio De La Pava

Often (don’t say it too loudly) in publishing we say nice things about books because it’s our job. But when asked to write something for this series, I didn’t even need to think twice. Coincidentally, I was reading a copy of A NAKED SINGULARITY after reading a piece about it on The Millions when it first came in on submission, and since then this huge, dense, extraordinary novel has become one of my favourite books, ever. It hit me right in the heart.

I was bowled over from the first page. Sergio De La Pava’s narrative voice is spectacular – the prose sparkles in every sentence; funny, tragic, mad and always wonderful. It’s easy to focus on the remarkable publication history of the book (initially self-published, it gained recognition through indie bloggers and has now won one of America’s larger literary prizes), but if any book stands on its own merits, this is it. De La Pava weaves together a completely unexpected pair of central narratives – a heist story and a death-row legal thriller – from an ocean of supporting material, ranging from recipes to pop culture dissections to boxing history, and all of it is surprising, exciting and beautifully written.

It’s been fun to see critics reach for comparisons to describe this book – “The Wire as written by Voltaire”, “somewhere between Descartes and Disneyland”, “Crime & Punishment as reimagined by the Coen Brothers”. Because in a very real sense something this ambitious, this brilliant, is not just incomparable but almost indescribable. As a huge fan of David Foster Wallace, the biggest compliment I can give is that if you like DFW, you’ll love this. I suppose that’s not very helpful. But you should read it and see what I mean.

Katie Gordon, Editor

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More Bloody Foreigners – The report

As you’ll hopefully know, a veritable gang of European crime authors were over last week for “More Bloody Foreigners”, an Arts Council-supported event to promote the best writing in the genre from all over the continent.

Amongst them was our very own Marco Malvaldi, author of The Art of Killing Well, a murder mystery set in nineteenth-century Italy, featuring a rather remarkable amateur detective – Pellegrino Artusi, a historical figure, and perhaps the world’s first celebrity chef. At the event Marco discussed Tuscany, Italian humour, and how he almost chose a very different – English – detective.

You can read a full report on the event here.

And if you’ve developed a thirst for continental crime, check out our picks from across the continent below!

The Art of Killing Well by Marco Malvaldiitaly-flag

 

 

 

 

The Art of Killing Well – Marco Malvaldi (translated by Howard Curtis)

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Only fittingly in a week where Italians have made the news for being rather too tasty (or, at least, biteable), this is a quite delicious murder mystery set in Tuscany in the late nineteenth century.

Pellegrino Artusi has just finished his culinary masterpiece, The Science of Good Food, and the Art of Eating Well. When he is invited to visit a Baronial castle for a boar hunt, he imagines it will be the perfect way to relax: exceptional food, interesting company, and some exercise for good measure. But when the butler is found murdered in the cellar, and the local constabulary are baffled by the array of aristocratic suspects, Pellegrino realises he might have to turn detective to solve the crime.

Alex Pierre Lemaitrefrance-flag

 

 

 

 

Alex – Pierre Lemaitre (translated by Frank Wynne)

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If France’s footballers have so far shown incisive attacking play to match anywhere else in the world, they still aren’t half as sharp as Pierre Lemaitre’s C.W.A. award-winning debut, Alex.

For the first few chapters, this is a brilliantly executed kidnapping thriller: a young woman is abducted by a cold-hearted killer and left to die; a world-weary detective must struggle to find her, faced with no clues as to even the identity of the victim. Then, things change.

To say much more would be almost to give too much away, but you’re looking for breathtakingly clever plotting, outrageously brilliant characters and a final twist so unexpected you’ll read the whole thing again, look no further.

The Second Deadly Sinsweden-flag

 

 

 

 

 

The Second Deadly Sin – Asa Larsson (translated by Laurie Thompson)

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If summer just seems a little bit too hot, you won’t be surprised to hear that Scandinavia has plenty of chills to offer. But even amongst the crowded ice field of Swedish crime fiction, this is pretty special – the Swedes saw fit to award it Crime Novel of the Year.

It all starts with an electrifying bear hunt across the sub-arctic tundra of Northern Sweden, which ends with the discovery that the bear hasn’t just been eating dogs. Next we jump to Kiruna, where a woman has been found brutally murdered in her own home, leaving behind a terrified son.

You might guess already that the two incidents are connected – but everyone apart from Rebecka Martinsson has their doubts. And when she’s thrown off the case by a malicious colleague and a lazy boss, she realises she might be the only thing that stands between the young boy and a ice-cold killer.

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