MacLehose Press

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

Parfums Week! Day 3: Suntan Lotion

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 kiss and a trip to the barber; today is the turn of a childhood visit to an outdoor swimming pool, and the inimitable scent of suntan lotion.


My mother mistrusts the sun as though it were a hostile enemy that never lowers its guard.

I’ve been brought up in this constant fear that a body, if overheated, runs the risk of agonising pain if it is brusquely plunged into cold water. A fear of burns, too, of injuries to the skin that risk damaging it irreversibly.

I have to wait until mid-afternoon before going to join my friends at the swimming pool. Actually, it’s a simple bathing area with fresh, peaty-brown, running water – rather slow-running, in fact – that is none other than that of the River Meurthe. A few decades earlier, on one of its tributaries, upstream from the weir, some concrete partitions were put in place to create pools. On the bank, there is a row of solid-looking cabins in which you can get changed. There is a till where you buy your ticket, some lifeguards, and also perhaps – I am no longer certain – a refreshment bar. Large trees, poplars and ashes, the tops of which rustle as they stroke the sky, shade the entire area.

I am itching to go since it’s already late. My mother has forced me to have an unbearable siesta during which I didn’t sleep a wink. Outside, it’s mid-July, there’s a hum of grasshoppers and crickets, and the holidays stretch on endlessly. I’ve slipped on my swimming costume, which she has pulled up to my navel and which accentuates my thinness. I’ve put on my plastic sandals.

From an orange aerosol canister, she squirts out a large white dollop that has the consistency of shaving foam. She sprays this dollop onto my skin. It’s smooth. She rubs it in and it soon becomes invisible, miraculously dissolving all over my body. I read the label on the bottle. Ambre solaire. It sounds like the title of one of those poems I learn every week, written by Emile Verhaeren, Maurice Fombeure, José-Maria de Heredia, Paul-Jean Toulet. I close my eyes. I breathe in.

A rather greasy substance, faintly musky, a scent of Turkish gynoecium. Like an extension of the heat of the day, the warmth of intimacy, a caressing arm. Later on, I shall discover the elderly Ingres’ Turkish bathers. I shall associate this smell with them.

I am ready at last. I get on my bike. I set off. I sniff the wind. I’m ten years old. The present is a wonderful gift.

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

Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | MacLehose Press

Parfums Week! Day 2: Barber

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.

After yesterday’s charming opening installment – a first kiss – we have another wonderfully recollected memory: a trip to the barber.



Père Hens’ salon is on the corner of rue Jeanne d’Arc and chemin des Prisonniers. To get there, I simply have to take rue Saint Don and follow it as far as the crossroads. I go on my own and, as soon as I arrive, I give the barber the warm five-franc coin that I have been clasping tightly in the palm of my hand for fear that I should lose it on the way.

I sit down on one of the four chairs, awaiting my turn. Père Hens smokes and prances about as he trims. He’s an ageless man, dressed in a grey nylon smock, small, slim, with brushed-back silvery hair that he frequently combs, his eyes constantly creased by the smoke of the Gauloise that never leaves the right-hand corner of his lips. He circles around his customer, bouncing about with the gracefulness of a boxer whose strong point is his footwork. He talks a great deal, to men of course. That’s all there are. Old men mostly.

He doesn’t seem to see me until it’s my go: “Your turn, lad!” He makes me sit down on the revolving chair, raises it to its maximum height by activating it with his foot, as though he were blowing up an inflatable mattress with a hydraulic pump. With the flamboyant action of a toreador or a magician, he swirls a flimsy cape around me and, apart from my head and my neck, I disappear under it. Putting a finishing touch to the preparations, he pulls from a large roll on the dressing-table a length of white crêpe paper edged with pink and wraps this elastic collar, which is both soft yet rough and tickles my chin pleasantly, around my neck.

For half an hour, I am left to the mercy of his scissors, which he likes to make chatter and sing as he snips the air here and there as though, at the same time as me, he were cutting the transparent locks of tousle-haired ghosts. The smoke from the hand-rolled and ready-made cigarettes of the customers, thick and acrid, forms a moving ceiling that shifts as he hops around. I like being left to his mercy, just as nowadays I still like being left in the hands of often wonderfully talkative female hairdressers, masseuses, osteopaths, chiropodists and physiotherapists. As my light brown hair falls around me, my bird-like skull is revealed.

The best moment is still to come. The haircut over, Père Hens tears off the crêpe paper that has disguised me as one of Charles IX’s courtiers, rubs it between his hands, tosses it into the dustbin and picks up a bulbous metal flask, with a long slender spout, at the other end of which hangs a large pear of slightly cracked red rubber. Then, still very lively, he skips around me as he squeezes the pear and sprays a cloud of cold water that smells of roses and brilliantine and also, a little, of his old dog. This microscopic rain deposits its refreshing shower in tiny droplets over my close-cropped hair, my eyebrows, my forehead, my closed mouth and my neck. A secular monthly baptism.

You smell nice. You look lovely, my mother says to me when I get back home. I believe her. It’s an age when we always believe what our mothers tell us.


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

Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | MacLehose Press

Parfums Week! Day 1: Girlfriends

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.

First up, a particularly charming extract – the unforgettable sensory experience of a first kiss.


So what is this fragrance our petites amoureuses, our first girlfriends, have, when our lips initially find theirs for the first time, and then, awkwardly, don’t really know what to do?

I am twelve years old. Girls don’t look at me and boys tease me for being skinny. My over-eager heart beats madly whenever dark-haired Natalie or blonde Valérie walk past me. I write poems that I slip into their hands at eight o’clock in the morning when I arrive at the Collège Julienne Farenc. Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Athene, Aphrodite, Diana, Nefertiti: I recycle the history and mythology syllabus. And, shamelessly, I plunder the authors in our French textbook: Valérie, sous le Pont des Voleurs coule le Sânon, Et mes amours, Faut-il qu’il m’en souvienne or else Demain dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne, je partirai à l’école Nathalie, je sais que tu m’attends, je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps. But Nathalie does not wait for me.

As though to prove the intensity of my passion, I invent, in honour of Valérie, the verb radadorer, the repetitive superlative of “to adore”. Valérie, je te radadore! All I am allowed in return is a shrug and a disdainful pout. My poems end up as scrunched-up balls of paper in the gutter. They’re thrown there right in front of me. To be sprayed on by dogs and cats. Playing the role of the sentry, that’s all I’m good at, warning François, who is kissing Nathalie, or Denis, who is doing the same with Valérie, whenever an adult approaches and they risk being caught in the act in the narrow alleyways that connect rue Jules Ferry to rue Jeanne d’Arc. I’m the willing little sucker cuckold, keeping watch over the love affairs that others are having with my girlfriends. I ask them afterwards what they taste like and smell of, these kisses mimicking those that can be seen every Sunday on the screen of the Georges cinema, film kisses that are as ardent as they are motionless, and which could pass as advertisements for superglue. They call them patins. But the only patins I know are the slippers we wear at home to polish the floors. They’re old, with a tartan design, and they stink.

A few months later, I learn how it’s done: it won’t be with either Nathalie or Valérie, but with Christine Frenzi. Fat Frenzi. A birthday tea party at the Waguette twins. We eat cake. We drink Sic orangeade and Sic lemonade with psychedelic colours. Someone puts on some music; it’s slow, easy-listening stuff, as syrupy as the drinks. Couples team up. They shuffle around as best they can. Many of the dancers are in shorts. There are only two people still sitting down, her and me. She comes to fetch me, she takes me by the hand. I dare not refuse, and here I am pressed up against her. My arms can barely reach round her body. I feel slightly ashamed. What will Nathalie and Valérie think, both draped over my friends, so near, yet so far away? I close my eyes.

It is she, too, who puts her face against mine, who seeks out my lips, finds them, kisses them. Silky hair washed in the same Dop shampoo as mine, but smelling of something else too – something vegetable and sugary, candied, a whiff of confectionery, of home-made cakes, of plant stems and open fields – that I can’t identify, but which takes hold of me and which I breathe in happily, on her neck, on her lips, those lips that I kiss again, and this time I’m the one who wants it. Nathalie is forgotten, Valérie is forgotten. Their loss. And when, after the dance, Fat Frenzi does what the other girls have done with the boys and comes to sit on my lap, and the pain crushes my bare thighs and the few muscles I have on my bones, I say nothing. I grit my teeth. I inhale her neck, her cheeks, her mouth. We kiss again and for years afterwards these kisses, which are scented with the green smell of angelica – at last I’ve succeeded in naming it – impel me to go and open the jar of crystallised fruit which my mother uses to make cakes and decorate rum babas and which she keeps in the bottom of the kitchen cupboard. I grab a handful of sticks of this sweet and sticky candied umbellifer, pass them under my nose, close my eyes, and munch them as I sit on the linoleum floor, thinking of Fat Frenzi and her kisses – but also of Michèle Mercier, whose delicately erotic adventures are shown on television each summer – while at the same time humming the sickly sweet tune that brought us together: On ira, où tu voudras quand tu voudras, et l’on s’aimera encore, lorsque l’amour sera mort.

Thanks be to Joe Dassin for having helped me far more than Apollinaire and Hugo combined ever did.


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