Tuesday 30 December 2008

Scotsman Review for Life of a Long-Distance Writer

Richard Bradford's Life of a Long-Distance Writer, the authorised biography of Alan Sillitoe has received a review
in The Scotsman

Thursday 18 December 2008

A Piece on Peter Vansittart

It's that time of year when you mark the passing of those who have left us as well as celebrating and the loss of Peter Vansittart was felt at Peter Owen just as much as that of Yuri D. Our thanks to a former colleague who has written a ’>piece on this formidable writer, one of the great unsung heroes of literary fiction in the last forty years or so. This is a fine bit of writing on him and Secret Protocols in particular, written for the ReadySteadyBook literary blog.

Yuri Druzhnikov - In Memoriam

Many thanks to Davis University in California who have sent us this tribute to Yuri Druzhnikov, author of Pushkin's Second Wife and Madonna From Russia who died in May this year. The end of the year

Monday 15 December 2008

Spectator Books of the Year

Richard Bradford's acclaimed biography of Alan Sillitoe,
The Life of a Long Distance Writer' for 2009! , has been mentioned in the Spectator's
Books of the Year for 2009..

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Review for Silence

Thanks to Peter Costello at the Irish Catholic for his review of

Enormity of the Tragedy Longlisted

Our acclaimed Catalan translation, Enormity of the Tragedy has been nominated by our friends at Three Per Cent. See below for details
Best Translated Book of 2008: Fiction Longlist

December 4, 2008‹Announced today on the Three Percent website (rochester.edu/threepercent), the 2008 Best Translated Book of the Year Fiction Longlist reflects the vibrancy and high quality of the books in translation being published in the United States. Featuring authors from all over the world, including Nobel Prize winners and first-time novelists, and published by presses of all sizes, this longlist will be narrowed down to ten finalists on January 27th, with a winner being announced at a reception on February 19th at the Melville House offices in Brooklyn, NY.

³Fans of international literature spend most of the year grumbling about how few books in translation are published here in the States,² said Chad W. Post, one of the judges and curator of Three Percent. ³It¹s nice to spend a couple months celebrating the great books that did make their way into English. And since there¹s an inevitable time-lag in books getting translated, we can create a list that includes established classic authors like Marcel Proust and Halldór Laxness along with newcomers Céline Curiol and Horacio Castellanos Moya. And a host of great translators as well, such as Gregory Rabassa, Charlotte Mandell, and Tim Wilkinson.²

This award, which started last year in reaction to the lack of international titles on ³best of the year² lists, was created to bring attention to the great works of international literature being published in the United States. Criteria used in selecting these titles include the quality of the work itself, along with the quality of the translation. This is the only award in America honoring international literature that is given to the book itself.

The twenty-five longlist titles are:

The Book of Chameleons by José Eduardo Agualusa, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn (Simon & Schuster)

What Can I Do When Everything¹s On Fire? by António Lobo Antunes, translated from the Portuguese by Gregory Rabassa (W. W. Norton)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, translated from the French by Alison Anderson (Europa Editions)

Tranquility by Attila Bartis, translated from the Hungarian by Imre Goldstein (Archipelago)

2666 by Roberto Bolaño, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolaño, translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews (New Directions)

Voice Over by Céline Curiol, translated from the French by Sam Richard (Seven Stories)

The Waitress Was New by Dominique Fabre, translated from the French by Jordan Stump (Archipelago)

The Taker and Other Stories by Rubem Fonseca, translated from the Portuguese by Clifford Landers (Open Letter)

The Darkroom of Damocles by Willem Frederik Hermans, translated from the Dutch by Ina Rilke (Overlook)

Homage to Czerny: Studies in Virtuoso Technique by Gert Jonke, translated from the German by Jean Snook (Dalkey Archive)

Metropole by Ferenc Karinthy, translated from the Hungarian by George Szirtes (Telegram)

Detective Story by Imre Kertesz, translated from the Hungarian by Tim Wilkinson (Knopf)

Yalo by Elias Khoury, translated from the Arabic by Peter Theroux (Archipelago)

The Great Weaver from Kashmir by Halldór Laxness, translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton (Archipelago)

I¹d Like by Amanda Michalopoulou, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich (Dalkey Archive)

The Enormity of the Tragedy by Quim Monzo, translated from the Catalan by Peter Bush (Peter Owen)

Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (New Directions)

The Lemoine Affair by Marcel Proust, translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell (Melville House)

Death with Interruptions by José Saramago, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Unforgiving Years by Victor Serge, translated from the French by Richard Greeman (New York Review Books)

Camera by Jean-Philippe Toussaint, translated from the French by Matthew Smith (Dalkey Archive)

Khirbet Khizeh by S. Yizhar, translated from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange (Ibis Editions)

Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra, translated from the Spanish by Carolina De Robertis (Melville House)

The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig, translated from the German by Joel Rotenberg (New York Review Books)

This year¹s panelists included Monica Carter, bookseller at Skylight Books and editor of Salonica (http://www.salonicaworldlit.com); Steve Dolph, editor of CALQUE(http://calquezine.blogspot.com): Scott Esposito, editor of Conversational Reading (http://www.conversationalreading.com) and The Quarterly Conversation(http://www.quarterlyconversation.com); Brandon Kennedy, bookseller at Spoonbill & Sugartown (http://www.spoonbillbooks.com); Michael Orthofer, editor of the Literary Saloon and Complete Review (http://www.complete-review.com); Chad W. Post, director of Open Letter Books (http://www.openletterbooks.org) and Three Percent (http://www.rochester.edu/threepercent); E.J. Van Lanen, senior editor of Open Letter Books and Three Percent; and Jeff Waxman, bookseller at the Seminary Co-op Bookstores (http://www.semcoop.com) and editor of The Front Table (http://blog.semcoop.com).

Both the fiction finalists and the poetry finalists will be announced on January 27, with winning titles announced on February 19. One-a-day over the next seven weeks, each of the longlist titles will be specially highlighted on the Three Percent website.

Thursday 13 November 2008

Empire of the Sikhs book launch

Following the spectacular launch of Empire of the Sikhs at the V & A last month, we are able to share some photographs from the evening with you...

Monday 3 November 2008

Godfather of the Revolution: The Life of Philippe Égalité, Duc D'Orléans

The Guardian reviewed the biography of Philippe Egalite by Tom Ambrose over the weekend. Read more here: TEXT

The Life of a Long-Distance Writer

Read reviews for Richard Bradford's recent biography of Alan Sillitoe in The Times: TEXT , The New Statesman: TEXT and The Telegraph TEXT

Thursday 9 October 2008

'Brave New Writing' Richard Bradford

Fifty years ago, Alan Sillitoe's first novel, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, changed the history of English fiction. Richard Bradford explains how.

Alan Sillitoe is 80 this year and his debut novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning was published in October 1958, almost exactly half a century ago. The novel evolved from a et of stories written between 1952 and 1958 when he lived in France, Majorca and mainland Spain, but it draws its energy and raw material from his previous experiences in Nottingham: a childhood that would have appalled Orwell and been improved upon by Dickens, followed by semi-skilled work in local factories. It was like nothing written before and it changed the history of the English novel.

Before reaching Jeffrey Simmons, chief commissioning editor of W.H. Allen, the typescript had been rejected by five mainstream publishing houses and some explanation for their displeasure can be found in Sillitoe's dealings with Tom Maschler of MacGibbon & Kee. Maschler was intrigued but at the same time insisted that large parts of the novel be rewritten to provide a more authentic portrait of working-class life. For Sillitoe, this was comparable to being advised by a clairvoyant on the true nature of his existence, and he refused to change the book. Maschler and others were puzzled. unsettled, because the hero Arthur Seaton accorded with no known precedent. Even such recent reprobates as Kingsley Amis's Jim Dixon, John Wain's Charles Lumley, John Osborne's Jimmy Porter and John Braine's Joe Lampton seemed dependable by comparison. Simmons was enthralled; he knew he had found something exceptional and sent the manuscript to his friend Otto Strawson who, in 1955, had 'discovered' Doris Lessing and recommended her to Gollancz. 'Jeffrey' Strawson wrote back the next day, 'this is astonishing: who is he? It is the best novel I've ever come across.'

Arthur Seaton has received little resembling a formal education and he shows no inclination to acquaint himself with culture or improve his social or proffesional status. He is a lathe operator, who treats politics, trades unionism and class solidarity with a mixture of indifference and contempt, he is more interested in drink and sex. Yet he is possessed of an acute, incisive intellect that is unlike anything indulged by literary patrons from Wordsworth onwards. Seaton arrived at the literary jamboree uninvited.

Like all magnetic literary figures Arthur Seaton promts the question of how much of his creator informs him. Few of the episodes of the novelare directly autobiographical but there is something of Seaton's trenchant absolutism that is most certainly a reflection of Sillitoe's temperament. Alan is deeply committed to the ideals of freedom and equitability but at the same time he detests the infringement of systems - however benign and altruistic they might claim to be - upon individualism. As a 14 year old factory apprentice during the war he was informed by the shop steward that union membership was compulsory, that it was for his own good and that fees would be deducted from his wages. Alan returned to his bench after urging the official to 'f*** off and get dive-bombed.' The seeds of Arthur Seaton had been sown long before his author even considered writing stories.

I recall an episode less than a year ago in Belfast International Airport. Alan was returning to London after giving lectures in Northern Ireland and in his hand luggage was a toke of the province's appreciation, a bottle of rare Russian vodka. After being reminded that fluids of any kind were forbidden in the boarding area he politely replied to the official that his only option was to consume the valuable liquid before departure, with the assistance of any any fellow passengers who cared to join him. Quite a number were sufficiently charmed and amused to take up his offer, and it was joyful indeed to witness the expressions on the faces of the security staff, who had clearly not been primed to deal with anything like this: not a tirade or a rant or indeed a breach of regulations, more like something from an Ealing comedy. This companionable mood proved infectious and the official joined in to the extent that he summoned an airline employee from the check-in desk and persuaded her to have this large bottle of 'special medicine' placed in Alan's hold baggage.

Had this been engineered by anyone else one might have commended their performance, but, entertaining as it was, Alan was not performing. There is only one Alan Sillitoe, yet he is neither a predictable nor an intractable figure. Most writers, by the age of 60, become either caricatures, exaggerations or antitheses of their former selves. The anarchic and vituperative aspect of Kingsley is that he had balanced against his more charitable, generous side in his early year roamed free during the last decade of his life. Similarly, John Osborne's raddled nihilism was at first an inspiration for his writing but later it took control of his temperament, and the flickers of optimism that Philip Larkin cautiously allowed into his world during the 1940's had by the 1980's been extinguished by a ceremony of self loathing. Not Alan. Certainly his political afflictions changed during the 1970's, but this was not symptomatic of a more fundamental modification in his character. He had not altered; he had simply had time t think and observe. He encountered events and places at first hand while many others indulged themselves with speculation and blind idealism.

During the 1960's the Soviet Union feted him as the only genuine spokesman for the oppressed working classes of the West. He visited the country frequently but the Communist authorities were in for a surprise. When asked to address a Congress of the Soviet Writers' Union, with Brezhnev present, he denounced the abhorrent abuses of human rights that they had carelessly allowed him to observe and record. Thereafter he campaigned tirelessly, and secretly, on behalf of political prisoners in the Eastern bloc and turned his public scorn against what he discerned as the hypocrisies and complacencies of the British left-wing intelligensia. He was convinced that pro-Palestinianism was anti-semitism by the back door and the 1970's he had been shunned by many of those who had once, usually with a hint of condescension, regarded him as D.H. Lawrence born with Marxist credentials.

As a man who has witnessed the dehumanising consequences of totalitarianism, both in its shambolic Spanish manifestation - he was once arrested by Franco's secret police in Barcelona during the 1950's - and as Communism in action, he perceives the present Labour regime with a mixture of horror and disbelief. 'They are,' he tells me, 'leading an apathetic population into state of torpid subservience.' He refers, of course, to the suffocation of individuality via greater powers of intrusion and surveillence and, worst of all, through the introduction of ID cards.

'They (the government) offer risible justifications for what will if enforced be an obligatory licence to exist and breathe. Stalin's tomb must be quaking from his laughter.'

Alan Sillitoe is still routinely perceived and presented as a member of the kitchen-sink branch of the Angry Generation. Such characterisations are lazy and inaccurate, obscuring the breadth and originality of his writing. Among his 52 volumes - including novels, short stories, children's fiction, poetry, travel books, drama, memoirs and criticism - there are works that defy classification. Travels in Nihilon (1971), inspired by his experiences in the USSR, invokes the tradition of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four and Huxley's Brave New World, but supersedes both in its manner. It is as though Finnegans Wake has been unselfishly rewritten, with coherent sentences and a story, and if offer a magnificent evocation of totalitarianism, inhumanity and farce. They storyteller (1979) is one of the best ever novels about the pitiless, unforgiving nature of writing, and The General (1960) is the fictional precursor to Wladyslaw Szpilman's The Pianist, later filmed by Roman Polanski. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1959), the volume which followed Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, introduced Alan as the most accomplished short-story writer in English since Joyce. Read his work, marvel and enjoy.

Peter Vansittart (1920-2008)

We were saddened to hear of the death of Peter Vansittart over the weekend. One of our most distinguished authors and master of the historical novel, he will be a great loss to those who knew him and will remain an irreplaceable figure in the literary world.

The Independent: TEXT
and TEXT

The Guardian: TEXT

The Times: TEXT

The Telegraph: TEXT

The New York Times: TEXT

Camden New Journal: TEXT

DDLands Magazine: TEXT

Wednesday 30 July 2008

3am review for The Grid

Jeremy Reed's The Grid has received a lengthy review on the 3am website and a further review from the Independent: TEXT

Monday 7 July 2008

Another review for Kemal's The Idle Years

We had another review for the this one, this time in the Financial Times, in a more-interesting-than-usual take on the summer reading generic pieces that you get the in the papers round this time of year. Full list is here

Wednesday 2 July 2008

Idle Years reviewed in The Times

We have just published Orhan Kemal's The Idle Years . Kemal is one of the greatest artists in Turkey's history and we have been proud to be the first publishers of his work in English. The first of q a few upcoming pieces on Kemal has appeared in The Times in their 'Classics' column. Written by Margaret Reynolds, it conveys the deceptive simplicity of Kemal's style and gives a nice precis of his legendary status. If you would like to know more about Orhan Kemal (and he is well worth discovering), look up the Orhan Kemal Museum in Istanbul

Monday 31 March 2008

Two Peter Owen titles on Three Percent

We were pleased to see that Three Percent, the US web literary journal, mentioned two of our current titles this month. Apart from some criticism of the titles' US prices, both Monzo's The Enormity of the Tragedy and Druzhnikov's Pushkin's Second Wife and Other Micronovels appear to have been well received.

Friday 14 March 2008

Coverage in the Standard & The Guardian

The Embassy/Guinness party also drew these two witty asides in the press one from
The Guardian and the other from the
Evening Standard

Irish Embassy Launch Party

We were delighted to be able to have a launch party for Arthur's Round at the Irish Embassy in Grosvenor Place, London. A much more glamorous event than we are used to hosting if the truth be told, with a contingent of fashion correspondents and even models (!) rubbing shoulders with the usual publishing types - Patrick is pictured with his daughter Jasmine and Jade Parfitt. Witty speeches from the Ambassador and Patrick Guinness himself - plus a fair share of the black stuff - rounded off a great evening very nicely...