MacLehose Press

Look Who’s Back

C.W.A. Awards 2015

We are delighted to able to report on a fantastic evening for MacLehose Press and Quercus authors at yesterday’s Crime Writers’ Association awards.


The C.W.A. International Dagger was awarded to Pierre Lemaitre for Camille, the final title in the acclaimed Verhoeven trilogy, translated by Frank Wynne. The more alert amongst you may also remember that Alex, the second title in the trilogy and also translated by Frank, was jointly awarded the same prize with Fred Vargas in 2013. A special mention should also go to Karim Miské’s Arab Jazz, translated by Sam Gordon, which was shortlisted along with Camille this year.

Arab Jazz


Meanwhile, we are delighted for our parent company Quercus, who had two winners with S G MacLean winning the Endeavour Historical Dagger for The Seeker, and Dan Davies winning the C.W.A. Non-Fiction Dagger for In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile.

So in short, a criminally good evening was had by all. Warmest congratulations to the winners and shortlisters, a full list of which may be found here, and a huge thank you to the C.W.A. for all they do to highlight brilliant crime writing.

Marina Raskova: Navigator, Heroine, N.K.V.D. Agent

Tonight we’re delighted to be launching Lyuba Vinogradova’s Defending the Motherland: The Soviet Women Who Fought Hitler’s Aces in the beautiful surroundings of Pushkin House, where Lyuba will be discussing her book in conversation with Max Hastings. Tickets are available on the door, but for those of you who want a cheeky taster beforehand, or those who just can’t hold on until 7pm this evening, (it’s OK – we’re pretty excited too), we though we’d introduce you to one of the extraordinary women whose story features in this remarkable book.

Defending this particular Motherland, it turns out, was quite a tricky business – especially if you happened to be a woman. Soviet attitudes towards gender equality had yet to permeate certain echelons of military aviation, and quite apart from standard perils such as crashing, being shot down, threat of capture or imminent death, the female soviet pilots also had to battle the ingrained belief of their male superiors that war was no place for a woman – and a woman at the front line, in a fighter plane with every intention of pelting various explosive forms of weaponry at the enemy, was absolutely unthinkable.

Marina Raskova however, was made of tougher stuff. Famed before war broke out for her daring flying exploits, Raskova was known to millions of Soviet citizens. She epitomized the glamour of flying in the late 1930s, being fearless, beautiful, intelligent and very patriotic.


 Marina Raskova

But there was a lot more to Raskova than met the eye. Following a meteoric career path as Russia’s first female navigator, her celebrity spread following her daring feat of flying from Moscow to the Russian Far East in 1938, with Valentina Grizodubova and Polina Osipenko, a flight that should have taken twenty four hours, and covered 6,000 kilometres. Running out of fuel as they approached the Manchurian border, Grizodubova ordered Raskova to bail out, as her navigator’s seat would be vulnerable in an emergency landing. Raskova landed in thick forest and spent ten days searching for the plane, with just a pistol, a compass, some matches and one and a half bars of chocolate to sustain her. Grizodubova meanwhile had managed to safely land the plane on its undercarriage, and she and Osipenko awaited rescue and Raskova’s return. It took over a week for rescue teams to find the plane, and in that time, the whole of Russia waited on tenterhooks. When news broke that the plane with two pilots had been found, there was widespread celebration. When it was discovered that Raskova too had finally made her way back to the plane, the whole country went wild.

marina, polina, valentina

Marina Raskova, Polina Osipenko and Valentina Grizodubova, following their heroic mission.

The three pilots became the first women to be awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, and following her ten-day ordeal, Raskova’s position as one of the most celebrated of all Soviet women was cemented.

When war broke out a few years later, Raskova’s reputation proved invaluable when it came to establishing the first all-female flying unit; it was she who was able to go directly to Stalin and obtain his permission for the foundation of the three female air regiments that form the basis of Defending the Motherland.

But whilst she was widely hailed as a heroine by most Russians, many years after her death – and the fall of the Soviet Union – her colleague, Valentina Grizodubova, was free to paint a rather different portrait of her intrepid former navigator.

It had always seemed odd to Grizodubova and Osipenko – both highly experienced, decorated pilots – that the navigator selected for their very dangerous, high-profile flight across Russia in 1938 should have been relatively inexperienced. Raskova was just twenty-five when the flight to the Russian Far East took place and her rise to prominence as one of Russia’s most famous aviators had been both swift and sudden. Grizodubova, it turned out, had seriously disliked her.

During the Stalinist purges, Grizodubova had personally protected and saved many people in the field of aviation from the horrors of the N.K.V.D., but she came to believe that Raskova had been ‘imposed’ on her and Osipenko because all important missions had to include an N.K.V.D. officer – and Raskova was that officer. By the time war broke out, Marina Raskova, the Air Force Major, was also a senior lieutenant of state security, and in reality she had been working for the N.K.V.D. for a number of years already – possibly as an informer. In 1940, when repressive measures against aviators were at their highest, Marina Raskova’s career in the N.K.V.D. took off in spectacular fashion. Hundreds of designers, engineers and Air Force officers were arrested – and many were later shot.

“I have no idea how Marina gained her navigator’s licence,” Grizodubova remarked. “Neither do I know what other work she was doing in parallel, but I have no doubt that many people suffered because of her. You could say she and I worked in tandem: she put people in prison and I ran around all the offices and tried to get them back out… If Polina Osipenko was a top-rate pilot, Marina Raskova had no specialist training as a navigator and had clocked up a total of only thirty or so flying hours. She knew absolutely nothing about flying in extreme weather conditions, let alone at night. She was a member of our crew only because she had been ‘recommended’ to us.”

The myth of Raskova the heroic navigator persisted long after her death in 1943, and you would be hard-pushed to uncover any documentary evidence about her work for the N.K.V.D. as any papers that might exist on the subject have never been made publicly available. Her extra-aviatory activities however were doubtless useful when it came to setting up her female air regiments; whatever the attitude of many senior male military commanders, Stalin was hardly going to refuse a heroic aviatrix who also just happened to be a valuable member of his secret police.

IFFP Long-list 2015

MacLehose Press was hit by some cripplingly exciting news at the tail-end of last week. We are thrilled to have not one, but two whole, glorious books on the long-list for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015.

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize – as I’m sure you know – honours the best work of fiction by a living author that has been translated into English from any other language. It also equally recognises the achievement of both writer and translator, which is rather wonderful and a neat response to anyone who thinks literary translation is just a matter of sticking the book through Google translate. Previous winners include Orhan Pamuk and W. G. Sebald – not to mention our very own Brodeck’s Report by Philippe Claudel – so it’s rather a big deal, and we are immensely proud of our two long-listed titles: the gorgeous, poetic Bloodlines, by Marcello Fois, translated from the Italian by Silvester Mazzarella, and the sublimely funny Look Who’s Back, by Timur Vermes, translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch.

The judges comments were as follows:

Judge Antonia Lloyd-Jones on Bloodlines:

“This beautiful novel depicts a Sardinian family over two generations, struggling with adversity brought not just by history but by life and fate. The flawless translation retains a lyrical tone that takes us into a world apart, reflecting the isolation and intensity of living on an island. Despite all, the human spirit wins out in this brave and timeless saga.”


Judge Richard Mansell on Look Who’s Back

“What would Hitler make of modern Germany, and what would it make of him? When he wakes up in 2011, in full uniform and doused in petrol, he is horrified and compelled to act, but he is taken for an impersonator who cannot break with character. Laughs abound as this excellently crafted satire turns a horrific figure into an object of comedy.”


In further joyous news for everyone at Quercus, Daniel Kehlmann’s F was also included on the long-list. This has been a particularly strong year for German literature – a third of the fifteen novels on the long-list are German translations – and a number of them, including Look Who’s Back and F are doing much to challenge lingering lazy stereotypes about Germans not having a sense of humour by being very funny indeed.

Massive congratulations to everyone on the IFFP long-list, and if anyone is stuck for something to read this week, you could do a lot worse than taking inspiration from this assortment of the very best of translated fiction.





Society of Authors’ Translation Prizes

With award season in full swing for most other art forms, translated fiction proved to be no exception as last night saw the Society of Authors’ Translation Prizes at Europe House. There were no wardrobe malfunctions, or red carpet tantrums – that we noticed – and everyone stayed impressively upright throughout, (Madonna take note), but we are very pleased to announce that the John Florio Prize was posthumously awarded to Patrick Creagh for his translation of Memory of the Abyss, by Marcello Fois, and Nick Caistor was awarded the Premio Valle Inclán for his translation of An Englishman in Madrid, by Eduardo Mendoza. In further exciting news, Cristini Viti was commended for the John Florio Prize for her translation of A Life Apart by Mariapia Veladiano.

Marcello Fois’ Memory of the Abyss covers twenty-five years of Italian history and is the fictionalised life story of Sardinian bandit Samuele Stochino. It is a stirring fusion of myth, history and fiction; a daring re-imagining of a true story, and a deft excavation of Sardinian cultural roots by one of Italy’s most gifted and celebrated writers. Memory_Abyss_HB

Memory of the Abyss is notable for the stylistic variety of its narration and the judges of the John Florio Prize were particularly impressed by Patrick Creagh’s ability to retain this complexity in his translation, whilst producing a fluid narrative in English.

In commending Cristina Viti’s translation of Mariapia Veladiano’s A Life Apart, the judges noted that the novel “renders eloquently the poetic style and subtle variations of register of Veladiano’s fable about a child whose musical talent allows her to overcome the trauma of having been rejected by her mother because of her physical ugliness. This psychological novel demanded a translation capable of reproducing the subtle explorations and associations of the original text whilst maintaining the rhythm of the prose style – Cristina Viti gives us a narrative in English which is as sophisticated and versatile as its Italian antecedent.”

Nick Caistor’s translation of An Englishman in Madrid was pronounced “splendid” by the judges of The Premio Valle Inclán, who said that “Mendoza’s comic novel presents an English art historian all at sea politically and personally in Spain on the eve of the Civil War. Nick Caistor’s splendid translation captures every nuance of this vibrant work. The novel’s tone is strangely light, well-controlled and surprisingly farcical. It’s actually original to take an event like the Spanish Civil War and not treat it seriously. This excellent and exact translation conveys the essence of this novel.” Our next Christmas pick - the multi-award winning Spanish bestseller

We are delighted that a number of our other translators were also recognised. Jamie Bulloch, whose MacLehose Press titles include Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes and Forever Yours by Daniel Glattauer, was awarded the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for his translation of The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke (Peirene Press), with the judges noting that the translation “displays real inventiveness, especially in its use of idiom, precisely and impressively capturing the tone of this sly, subtle and unnerving text.”

Anthea Bell, who has previously won the Schlegel-Tieck Prize four times, and translated Norbert Gstrein’s Winters in the South for MacLehose Press in 2012, was commended for her translation of In Times of Fading Light by Eugen Ruge (Faber & Faber). The judges stated that “her efforts turn the book into a wonderful and heart-rending reading experience.”

Finally, Margaret Jull Costa, whose MacLehose Press translations include The Spies by Luís Fernando Veríssimo and The Sickness by Alberto Barrera Tyszka, was commended for the Premio Valle Inclán for her translation of The Infatuations by Javier Marías (Penguin). In awarding her commendation, the judges observed that “the elegant translation meets all the demands of a novel that offers an absorbing plot mapped out in complex and challenging literary form.”

A hearty congratulations to all winners and runners-up – a full list of whom may be found here – and many thanks to The Society of Authors for all their efforts in organising the awards.


Karim Miské Comes to London

Arab Jazz

Documentary film-maker turned crime writer arrives in London today to promote his first novel in English (also his first in French), Arab Jazz, riding a wave of most unwelcome publicity. Late last month he told the Independent: “When I heard about the attack on Charlie Hebdo, I was deeply disturbed like most people. Then I heard how the killers crashed their car at Place du Colonel Fabien and that they had hijacked another car and driven down the Rue Petit – all places which appear in Arab Jazz –  I thought what is happening?  Why have these people invaded my book?”

Arab Jazz, set in Paris’ cosmopolitan 19th arrondissement, is suffused with the religious and ethnic tensions that contributed to the Charlie Hebdo shootings. As John Lichfield observed in the Independent Interview, “Although its own lurid plot-line follows a different trajectory, Arab Jazz breathes the same fetid air; it grows in the same tortured urban soil which nurtured Saïd and Chérif Kouachi”.

Robin Yassin-Kassab in the Guardian thought it “a brilliant debut”. Arab Jazz, he commented, “is a genre novel in the same way that Pulp Fiction is a genre film – superseding the form even as it pays homage”.

Karim Miské

Miské’s visit is supported by English PEN, who gave his novel an English PEN Award, and will take in London and Oxford, with events at the French Institute, Waterstones Piccadilly and Blackwell’s Broad Street, Oxford.

Karim Blackwells

Karim Institute

Karim Waterstones

Major prizes for upcoming titles

GoncourtLydie Salvayre’s Pas Pleurer was today awarded the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary award. The book, which we’ll be publishing in 2016, is the third winner in a row to be published by MacLehose Press, and is our fourth winner of the most recent six.

The novel is based closely on the life of the author’s mother, and relates the story of the family’s loves and losses during the Spanish Civil War, managing to combine epic scope with intricate linguistic vibrancy.

It follows in the footsteps of Pierre Lemaitre‘s Au-revoir là-haut, which won the prize last year, which is publishing in Autumn 2015. The previous year Jérôme Ferrari’s The Sermon on the Fall of Rome won the prize, which we recently published in Geoffrey Strachan’s impeccable translation. The 2009 winner, Three Strong Women by Marie Ndiaye, was published back in 2012, translated by John Fletcher.

This follows on from the news last week that Kjell Westö has won the 2014 Nordic Council Literature Prize, a prestigious award for all Scandinavian literature. His novel, Mirage 38, which we’re publishing next year, is set in the Finnish War of 1938.

To celebrate, we’re hosting a giveaway over on Twitter. To enter simply retweet the message at this link, and you’ll be in with a chance of winning the following four books.

Three Strong Women by Marie Ndiaye
The Sermon on the Fall of Rome by Jérôme Ferrari
Alex by Pierre Lemaitre
Irène by Pierre Lemaitre

Exciting new acquisitions – including three books from Patrick Modiano

(C) PelakeavalMacLehose Press has made three significant acquisitions: the two most recent novels and a significant memoir by this year’s Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano, two novels from one of Sweden’s foremost contemporary writers, Sara Stridsberg, and one from German novelist Steven Uhly.

MacLehose Press will publish next summer the most recent novel by Patrick Modiano, Pour Que Tu Ne Te Perdes Pas Dans Le Quartier alongside his 2005 memoir Un Pedigree, and in 2016 will publish L’Herbe De Nuit, a novel first published in France in 2012.

Modiano won the Nobel Prize last month, the official citation praising his investigation of “the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation”, and naming him “a Marcel Proust of our time”.

MacLehose Press has also acquired — from the Hedlund Agency in Stockholm — two novels by Sara Stridsberg: The Faculty of Dreams (which won the Nordic Council Prize) and The Gravity of Love, which is shortlisted for the August Prize. The novel has been compared by some Swedish critics to Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain.

Steven Uhly’s Königreich der Dämmerung (“The Kingdom of Twilight”) was acquired by Katharina Bielenberg from Secession Verlag (Berlin), a gripping tale of epic, cinematic proportions that spans an arc from Germany in the final months of WWII to Israel in the 1970s. It has been described by Deutschlandradio as “one of the most important and powerful novels of contemporary German literature”.


(Photo credit: Pelakeaval)

Parfums Week! Day 5: Prison

ParfumsEvery day this week the MacLehose Blog will feature an extract from Parfums, Philippe Claudel’s brilliant “catalogue of remembered smells”, a unique memoir which re-creates the author’s childhood through recollections of the scents he inhaled.

So far we’ve had a first kissa trip to the barber, suntan lotion on a summer’s day and a Sunday morning in church. Our final entry is both melancholy and sublime – the smell of imprisonment.


Prison is an enclosed cauldron in which bodies, souls, dreams, remorse and anger all stew. Weeks, months and years of detention. People eat there. They sleep there. They learn there. They forget there. They brood there. They do away with themselves there. They come to grief there. They recover there. They defecate there. They masturbate there. Sometimes they sodomise each other there. They try to kill time there.

But, for all that, prison is not a vile place. We have created it. It is built in our image. It is to mankind, in short, what quintessence is to fragrance: a concentrated absolute.

For almost twelve years, I used to visit a prison several times a week to give lessons. Up until 2000. Ever since, it has dwelled within the depths of my being, my awareness, and my judgement as well, and it won’t leave them. I don’t have any intention of trying to get rid of it either.

Prison is one of those places that possesses its own odour: the hospital – something slightly refrigerated; the old people’s home – clear soup and inert bodies; the gym – perspiring feet, sweat, the rubbery foam of floor mats. Prison is just such a place. To be witty, an idiot might say that it smells of mould. He would not be entirely wrong. Let us say, instead, it smells of confinement, of being shut away. That state that is totally inimical with the human species, which by definition is nomadic, explorative, itinerant and free. Prison life – and the very principle of imprisonment – produces behaviour that is specific to it, pathologies that you encounter nowhere else, and distinct odours. Everything there is lacklustre, subdued, paralysed and things which, in the outside world, can be indulged in freely stagnate within the thick walls, beneath the high glass roofs, and in the wretched exercise area behind bars.

Restrained, reduced, diluted, the fragrances of life are an octave lower in prison. They fade away and are unable to resonate as they should. Scarcely have they come in, than they decompose and dissolve. They take on the patina of old walls, the grime of floors that are nevertheless constantly washed, the weary sadness of paint that is reapplied in vain every spring. Like the people who live alongside them, the smells no longer make any effort to show off or dress themselves. They surrender their distinctive features, resign themselves and become uniform. And that is probably what most characterises the stench of this place, which is at once a part of our world while at the same time not part of it: the smells refuse to be what they are and to stand out from one another. They let themselves slip into a state of neglect. They give up. The smell of prison is one of surrender.

Enjoy this? You can purchase the book now from the following outlets, and all good bookshops!

Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | MacLehose Press

Parfums Week! Day 4: Church

ParfumsEvery day this week the MacLehose Blog will feature an extract from Parfums, Philippe Claudel’s brilliant “catalogue of remembered smells”, a unique memoir which re-creates the author’s childhood through recollections of the scents he inhaled.

So far we’ve had a first kissa trip to the barber, and suntan lotion on a summer’s day. Our penultimate entry is a meditation on the scent of a childhood Sunday in church, and the intangible “odour of unshakeable belief”.


We always try to create keys even when there are no locks.

I have always loved churches. I used to visit them a great deal, when I believed in God, and I still do today, when I no longer believe. I like the curious etiquette of their silence. Their withdrawal from the world too, even in the heart of the noisiest cities. Their walls take you out of yourself, out of time, away from the madness of objects and human beings.

I’m a child again, a choirboy, stirred by the beauty of the “theatre of the Mass”, as Jean Giono described it, inhaling the warm wax that falls in slow tears down the sides of the large candles in the silver branches of the candelabra, and the fumes of incense, acrid, thick, spiralling upwards as they escape from the thurible like the visible soul of some sacrificed Satan, but becalmed later when they rise in a timorous haze to defy the impassivity of the stained-glass windows. Albs, cassocks, stoles, scapulars, lacework, belts made of satin or rough cord. The starched vestments are stored in a tall cupboard in the sacristy, shining with polish and smelling of eau de cologne and lavender. The fabrics are impregnated with the fragrance. We put them on in silence beneath the pious gaze of a thin-lipped, churchy woman who is our sergeant-major: Mother Julia.

Candle, polish, incense, demure materials woven by devoted hands, stone tiles washed in plenty of water by women on their knees, between two “Our Fathers”, the priest’s winey breath after the Eucharist and, above all, the faith of millions of human beings over the centuries who exude that very particular smell that is one of dogged, profound and enduring piety. The odour of unshakeable belief in a marvellous illusion that has lasted for two thousand years, and which has sustained many, and killed many others.

Enjoy this? You can purchase the book now from the following outlets, and all good bookshops!

Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | MacLehose Press

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