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Saviano Awarded PEN/Pinter Prize

Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah, and Beauty and the Inferno, has been awarded the third annual PEN/Pinter Prize, to be shared with Sir David Hare. The award is shared each year by a British writer and a writer from abroad who has been persecuted for sharing their words.

At the award ceremony at the British Library on Monday night, which Saviano was unable to attend due to security concerns, Sir David said that his hope in sharing the prize with the Italian was that “that a measure of recognition from PEN may, in however small a way, make his life easier.” And in the conclusion of his speech, Unflinching, Unswerving, he paid further tribute to Saviano’s courage:

Those of you who have read his novel of five years ago, Gomorrah, or seen the film made from it, may know something of the character of a man willing to expose and thereby stand up to the Neapolitan Mafia. But you may not know the price he has paid – never, for instance, to be able to sleep in the same bed for more than two nights running. Of Saviano, as much as of any contemporary writer, we may ask the question, ‘Would it matter if he had not lived?’ in the certainty of receiving the emphatic answer: ‘Yes.’

I have called this short talk Unflinching, Unswerving since those are the words chose by the judges to describe the gaze of the winner. But Saviano’s own explanation of why his enemies care enough to put a lone writer under a death sentence is instructive. By combining imagination with reporting, he says, ‘Literature speaks directly to the reader. It invades his space.’ As someone whose writing life has been a far less dangerous attempt to effect that same combination, I identify strongly, as I do with Saviano’s determination, in his words again, to ‘allow no polemics, sentimentality or simplifications.’


Super June: A Bumper Month For MacLehose Press

June 2011 is a momentous month in the history of MacLehose Press. In the same month, we are publishing four genuine titans of international literature, from Norway, Lebanon, The Netherlands and Italy. Each is amongst the most well-regarded authors in their respective countries and beyond, and each of these works is represents a milestone in the development of the MacLehose list.

 

Roy Jacobsen was born in Oslo in 1954. Growing up at a time when the German  occupation in the Second World War had consigned Norway to desperate poverty, Jacobsen began as a writer by rewriting happy endings to his favourite novels (more on this in our interview). He published a book of short stories in 1982, and this has been followed by a further eighteen novels or volumes of stories, of which Child Wonder is the most recent. He is winner of the prestigious Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature and two of his novels have been nominated for the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize.

 

Elias Khoury, born in Beruit in 1948, is a towering presence in the world of Arabic letters. Fittingly, As Though She Were Sleeping won the inaugural Prix du Roman Arabe in 2008. It is Khoury’s eleventh novel; two of Humphrey Davies’ translations of Khoury’s work have won the Banipal Prize for Arabic Translation: The Gate of the Sun and Yalo. Khoury has taught at a number of universities worldwide and has edited the cultural sections of Lebanon’s most significant newspapers. Khoury, along with  other intellectuals and political activists, was involved in forming the Lebanese Political Party Democratic Left Movement.

 

Earlier this year Cees Nooteboom was the honoured guest and sole subject of the Dedica Festival, established to recognize and explore though various art forms the work of one significant cultural figure each year. Nooteboom published his first novel at the age of twenty-two, winning the Anne Frank Prize. The Following Story, a winner of the Aristeion Prize is perhaps his best-known work in English. Nooteboom was recently named as one of the fifteen best travel writers of the last hundred years by Newsweek.

 

Roberto Saviano shot to international prominence with his bestselling exposure of the Neopolitan mafia, Gomorrah. But fame has come at price: he is in constant danger from mafia hit-men and requires a permanent guard of carabinieri. Beauty and the Inferno, his second book, was the winner of the 201o European Book Prize. In the last two years, Saviano has defied those who would silence him by presenting the Italian television show Vieni via con me, which continues to draw huge audiences and receives exception critical reviews. We will soon publish his short fiction.


Saviano Reception and Update

Last night at the Free Word Centre, in association with English PEN, we held a reception to celebrate the launch of Beauty and the Inferno, collected essays by Roberto Saviano, the author of the bestselling Gomorrah.

Sadly, Saviano was not able to attend his own launch, as the logistics of providing him with the round the clock security he needs to shield him from the mafia he campaigns so tirelessly against proved insurmountable. However, we were joined by mafia expert Misha Glenny, author of McMafia, who commented in his speech that speaking on the sames podium as Saviano in Italy was akin to supporting the Rolling Stones in concert, Oonagh Stranksy, the translator of Beauty and the Inferno, and Elisa Mantin, whose documentary Roberto Saviano: Walking in the Shadow of Death will be screened at the London International Documentary Festival.

Our wonderful friends at PEN have put some photos from the launch up on their Flickr page.

Roberto Saviano: Walking in the Shadow of Death

Once again, the details of the LIDF screenings:

Tickets for the 2 screenings for Roberto Saviano: In The Shadow of Death at the London International Documentary Festival on the 19th & 20th can now be bought through the LIDF website:

The screenings include a post-screening discussion with some of the leading names in the investigation and research into organized crime within Italy and Europe, including:

Thursday 19th May

  • Misha Glenny – British journalist who specializes in southeastern Europe and global organized crime
  • John Dickie – Professor in Italian Studies at UCL
  • Federico Varese – Professor of Criminology at the University of Oxford
  • Elisa Mantin – Director of the documentary who spent a month with Roberto Saviano
  • Chaired by: Annalisa Piras -  Writer, broadcaster, freelance commentator on EU and Italian Current Affairs, TV producer with 20 years experience in International Journalism, print and broadcast. Dateline Panel at BBC + Contributor/Presenter at BBC Radio 4 + 6 years as Board Member and President of the Foreign Press Association in London

Friday 20th May

  • John Foot – Professor of Modern Italian History in the Department of Italian, UCL.
  • Federico Ippoliti – Expert on organized crime from Circolo Radio Londra of the London group of the Italian party Sinistra Ecologia e Libertà (Left Ecology and Freedom, SEL).
  • Christopher Duggan – Professor of Italian History, University of Reading. Director of Centre for Modern Italian History.
  • Gaia Servadio – Vice-President Foreign Press Association, London, and author
  • Elisa Mantin – Director of the documentary who spent a month with Roberto Saviano
  • Chaired by: Annalisa Piras

 

And to get you further in the mood, an interview with Saviano on the BBC’s Culture Show:

 

MacLehose Press Publicity: 16/5/11

Considering that copies of Beauty and the Inferno only went out on Thursday morning, it is especially gratifying to see the Sunday Times review of it in this weekend’s paper:

“Saviano has come in to a lot of violent criticism over the years, so before offering an opinion on this collection of his work, I should state that I yield to nobody in my admiration for his courage. In writing about the Neapolitan mafia he has put his life on the line and deserves recognition for immense bravery . . .  the essays, interviews and reviews in Beauty and the Inferno reflect many of his preoccupations, and share a common theme – the underdog fighting back against the bad guys . . .

 

What strikes you as you read these pieces is how astonishingly solipsistic Saviano has become during his enforced isolation . . . Saviano constantly  says that it’s the writing that keeps him alive, and that’s the only thing he has left . . . His prose is succinct, he never pulls his punches, his message is incredibly important, and the facts he includes are like bombshells . . . he wants us to see that Italy is in abject denial about the seriousness of its current situation. Because of fear or laziness, most Italians, he reports, look the other way, preferring not to acknowledge that the country has been overrun by cement, cocaine, cartels and dismal, dismal television. Only a few priests, campaigning journalists and brave investigators seem to care and, more to the point, even fewer see the connections between those things. That is why Saviano is so angry.”

Tickets for the 2 screenings for Roberto Saviano: In The Shadow of Death at the London International Documentary Festival on the 19th & 20th can now be bought through the LIDF website:

The screenings include a post-screening discussion with some of the leading names in the investigation and research into organized crime within Italy and Europe, including:

Thursday 19th May

  • Misha Glenny – British journalist who specializes in southeastern Europe and global organized crime
  • John Dickie – Professor in Italian Studies at UCL
  • Federico Varese – Professor of Criminology at the University of Oxford
  • Elisa Mantin – Director of the documentary who spent a month with Roberto Saviano
  • Chaired by: Annalisa Piras -  Writer, broadcaster, freelance commentator on EU and Italian Current Affairs, TV producer with 20 years experience in International Journalism, print and broadcast. Dateline Panel at BBC + Contributor/Presenter at BBC Radio 4 + 6 years as Board Member and President of the Foreign Press Association in London

 

Friday 20th May

  • John Foot – Professor of Modern Italian History in the Department of Italian, UCL.
  • Federico Ippoliti – Expert on organized crime from Circolo Radio Londra of the London group of the Italian party Sinistra Ecologia e Libertà (Left Ecology and Freedom, SEL).
  • Christopher Duggan – Professor of Italian History, University of Reading. Director of Centre for Modern Italian History.
  • Gaia Servadio – Vice-President Foreign Press Association, London, and author
  • Elisa Mantin – Director of the documentary who spent a month with Roberto Saviano
  • Chaired by: Annalisa Piras

 

John Self’s review of The Sickness for his extremely popular blog site, The Asylum (think Ready Steady Books at its height three years ago) is perfection itself – and very timely given the IFFP awards ceremony coming up on the 26th May:

“Here is something which felt like a very great treat. Admittedly it scratched several of my itches before I even opened it – translated fiction, slim volume, the MacLehose  imprimatur – but I was still delighted when I started it and felt myself to be in the presence of something like real literature. The Sickness (La Enfermedad, tr. Margaret Jull Costa) is a small and piercing volume, a literary stiletto; quiet, intense and directed. It exerts an ambiguous pull on the reader’s inner hypochondriac, tickling delicately those intimations of mortality that we cannot look at directly but cannot bear to pull ourselves away from … the richness of the book (it packs a lot in to its 150 pages) is enhanced by Tyszka’s introduction of passages from other authors, from Charles Baudelaire to William Carlos Williams, on the subjects around sickness. It seems to be an acknowledgement that this is a meditation on a subject, disguised as a novel. But for all its provocations, it gets pretty deep into the heart with the central story, which spares the reader nothing.

One of Dr Miranda’s colleagues regularly wonders, ‘Why do we find it so hard to accept that life is pure chance?’ . . . The Sickness helps explain why we find it so hard to understand: because to do so is to accept that life is not a story with a moral, but is chaos which ends randomly. In working this knowledge into a story which takes on an understood form, and splices in a couple of seductive plots, Tyszka is either having his cake and eating it, or subversively spiking the drink.”

The Folded Earth continues to garner global reviews with this one from Belletrista – the website which celebrates female writers around the world:

“rich evocative novel … Roy’s book is gorgeously written. The graceful prose is strewn with insights into the Indian psyche and landscape, and is laced with subtle humour and vibrant characters that together captivate from beginning to end. She tells a simple story set in a little village but, as the poetic title suggests, the earth folds in on itself so that, even in this microcosm, people cannot escape the machinery at work in the greater world: antagonism and hatred between different cultures and religious peoples, and bribery and corruption in political circles, are as ever-present here as they are in the wider sphere. The Folded Earth is an accomplished and enjoyable book. It made me want to rush out to find Roy’s debut novel, An Atlas of Impossible Longing, which was published in 2008 and has been translated already into fifteen languages.”

And this review in the Deccan Herald, which is a newspaper with a circulation of 100,000+:

The Folded Earth has a poetic quality to it that brings home the wind, the fragrances and the sounds of her tale … Taken as a whole, The Folded Earth is a brilliant read. The slightly slow pace of the story is well balanced by entertaining and engaging narratives that contribute to the story in a real way … In some ways, The Folded Earth makes you believe in re-starting your life, whether there is a need to, or not. Thought-provoking stories are not to be found by the dozen, and The Folded Earth is that much more valuable for the flair with which it has been written.”

PLUS, I can now announce that Cees Nooteboom will be in conversation with A.S. Byatt during the LRB World Literature Weekend on the 17th June. They’ll be in the Stevenson Room at the British Museum at 4.30pm


Tickets: £9 / £6 conc contact 0207 269 9030
Website: www.lrbshop.co.uk/wlw2011
Nearest Tube: Holborn

Cees Nooteboom is one of the Netherlands’ most distinguished living authors, whose latest book The Foxes Come At Night, is a series of linked stories set in the islands of the Mediterranean. Nooteboom will be discussing his life, work and travels with the Booker Prize-winning novelist and critic A.S. Byatt.

Hope to see you there