Dedalus News & Blog

Christmas Reading from Peter Owen Publishers

Panorama by Dušan Šarotar, translated by Rawley Grau

Dušan Šarotar takes the reader on a deeply reflective yet kaleidoscopic journey from northern to southern Europe. In a manner that invokes the writings of W.G. Sebald, Šarotar supplements the narrative with photographs, which help to blur the lines between fiction and journalism. The writer’s experience of landscape is bound up in a personal yet elusive search for self-discovery, as he and a diverse group of international fellow travellers relate in their individual and distinctive voices their unique stories and their common quest for somewhere they might call home.

‘The hydraulic ebb and flow of Panorama’s sentence waves subsumes the role of narration … Giving oneself to these meditative rhythms represents the true depth and joy of this novel – and it is a spiritual joy.’ – Andrew Singer, World Literature Today

‘This is not a novel in which anything happens; it has all happened already, catastrophically, and the condition of exile is the only place from which one can achieve peace or perspective. This is what I think this marvellous book is telling us.’ – Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

‘Some literature defies simple description. Case in point, Panorama, by Slovenian poet and writer Dušan Šarotar. One might be inclined to define it as a meditation within a travelogue within a novel. Or perhaps you would prefer to rearrange those terms, it probably wouldn’t matter, because in spite of its subtitle, A Narrative about the Course of Events, Panorama stands at a curious angle to space and time. It is a novel of remembering, of telling and retelling, narratives within narratives, bound together by a coarse thread of repeating themes that are at once timeless and timely.’ – Joseph Schreiber, Numéro Cinq

The House of Remembering and Forgetting by Filip David, translated by Christina Pribićević-Zorić

Young Albert Weiss was spared the horrors of Auschwitz when his parents threw him and his brother from the transport train. Years later, with the help of other survivors of the holocaust, he explores the myriad ways of confronting not just the evil that robbed him of his childhood, but the guilt he feels for having lost his brother on that wintry night.

‘While warning us of the consequences of the choice between what to remember and what to forget, David suggests a new dialogue between memory and forgetfulness, a need for a new language for understanding evil.’ – World Literature Today

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Andrew Crumey reflects on getting a degree and on writing

This week at Northumbria University it was graduation day, or congregation as we like to call it. Our chancellor, paralympian champion Tanni Grey-Thompson, was handing out the symbolic scrolls, with an honorary one going to historian David Olusoga. Both gave eloquent and uplifting speeches, much like ones heard at similar ceremonies around the world. Easy in fact to be cynical about wise words from the great and good if you happen to be a young graduate fidgeting in fancy dress, eager to get out and throw your mortarboard in the air, less certain what will happen after that. For the parents in the audience, as I know from experience, the encomiums sound different; fitting tribute to one’s offspring and a welcome signal that they’re now on their way to, well, something less expensive. My presence on this occasion, though, was for a different reason; not as graduate or guest, but as creative writing PhD supervisor. Beside me in the front row was novelist John Schoneboom, whom I was to accompany onstage as he was awarded his degree. It was a truly happy and proud moment.
John initially came to Northumbria as an MA student in creative writing. He was working on a novel – surreal, off-beat, hilarious – from which it was immediately apparent that here was a very special voice and distinctive talent. I suggested that when he completed the novel he should send it to Dedalus; he did and in 2014 Fontoon was published. Like most works of literary fiction it did little to shake the dogmatic slumber of mass consciousness or – to put it another way – make either John or Dedalus rich. That’s not why we do what we do. John had stuck his first flag into the great pimply backside of posterity, and now he’d better try and come up with another.
This was what he worked on as a PhD student at Northumbria. His thesis was to consist of a 70,000-word novel and 30,000-word critical commentary, written under the mentorship of myself and co-supervisor Michael Cawood Green. Think of it like Andy Murray coached by Ivan Lendl; Italo Svevo and James Joyce; Steve Brookstein and Simon Cowell – heck, do I need to go on?
What I’m saying – a lot less well than Baroness Tanni or Dr David – is how genuinely satisfying it is to see the achievement of people to whom you’ve given a little help, occasionally a little push, hopefully some encouragement and maybe even, who knows, a morsel of inspiration. Having in the last quarter of a century made my own pinpricks on the bum of history – The Great Chain of Unbeing is the latest – I draw hope from those still in the antemeridian of their career. To John I say well done, and to all my students I say – keep writing!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

One poet reflects on another poet’s work

Jenna Clake was born in Staffordshire in 1992. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham, where her research focused on the Feminine and Feminist Absurd in twenty-first century British and American poetry. Jenna’s poetry has appeared in Poems in Which, The Bohemyth, Oxford Poetry, and more. Fortune Cooke is her debut collection. She has this to say on the poetry of Gaia Holmes, whose third collection of poetry is called Where the Road Runs Out.

‘Gaia Holmes’s poems are meditations on evening fires, familial duty, where someone is ‘definitely dying’, where the outside comes in, the land and the natural world become an integral part of self, community and understanding grief. These poems made me light a candle, find another blanket, crave fresh bread, and send thoughts to my loved ones many miles away.’

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sophie Hughes discusses what drew her to Alia Trabucco Zerán’s The Remainder

Sophie Hughes discusses what drew her to Alia Trabucco Zerán’s The Remainder

The Remainder was recommended to me by the writer Carlos Fonseca, who urged me to read ‘one of his favourite books of 2016,’ saying: ‘I really think you’re going like this.’ He was right. Every now and then a book makes my fingers itch to translate it from the very first pages. Thomas Bernhard, Vladimir Nabokov, and Natalia Ginsburg have this effect (alas, they are already expertly translated … what’s more, from languages I don’t speak …). Other just as brilliant writers don’t. Probably, it boils down to how clearly you hear their characters’ or narrators’ voices, and I suppose translator–author chemistry is as unpredictable as that between two strangers across a crowded bar.

To me as a translator, Alia Trabucco Zerán’s novel presents several wonderful challenges, but none more irresistible than the voice presented in this excerpt: that of Felipe. Felipe and Iquela (who narrates other chapters) are twentysomething-year-old friends living in modern-day Santiago and plagued by the shadows that Chile’s military dictatorship has cast over their lives. The neurotic Felipe aspires to a perfect number, a sum that might give him closure after his father’s ‘disappearance,’ helping him to answer a pivotal question prompted by Pinochet’s infamous torture mechanism: ‘How do we square the number of dead with the number of graves?’ Felipe sets himself the task of achieving that number, that perfect zero, convinced that his particular brand of morbid math will close the book on his grief. Prowling the streets of Santiago in this extract, this disturbed young man begins an alternative death toll to the official count.

Trabucco Zerán’s language and imaginative technique are at times virtuosic. The musicality and idiosyncrasies in the original Castilian are not arbitrary, but rather are symptoms of her characters’ struggles to find their voices, and they present the translator with brilliant linguistic problems. Beyond the aesthetic impulses that led me to want to translate The Remainder, I am interested in literature that interrogates the suitability of the novel form to recount traumatic national pasts in Latin America.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One Lange leads to another: on finding and translating Norah Lange’s People in the Room Charlotte Whittle

When I was doing graduate work in Hispanic Studies, I met and became friends with a writer whose name was Nora Lange. Nora Lange had just moved into an apartment with some upstairs neighbors from Argentina, who were delighted to be living above someone called Nora Lange, and asked her if she was familiar with the work of the Argentinean writer, Norah Lange. When Nora Lange asked me about Norah Lange, I had never heard of her, but I was intrigued, since as a student of literature in Spanish, I was all too aware of how male dominated the Hispanic literary canon can often seem. I was even more intrigued when I began to learn of Norah Lange’s background: she had been closely associated with a number of major male writers, including Borges and Girondo, both of whom I’d read, without ever coming across the woman who was allegedly at the heart of their rivalry. I remember asking my advisor at the time – a scholar of Latin American literature – about her, and his reply that she had been “totally forgotten.” This was soon after Edwin Williamson’s biography of Borges had been published, in which Norah is described as a flame-haired Scandinavian beauty who tormented the young Borges and went on to “inspire” some of his most essential writings. But there was no exploration of Norah’s work. Indeed, everywhere I looked I found her referred to as the “Muse of the Avant Garde,” rather than as a significant writer. Nora Lange and I began to co-translate some of Norah’s early poems, written in the Ultraísta mode championed and later abandoned by Borges, who wrote a patronizing prologue to Norah’s first book. But it was on a trip to Buenos Aires a few years ago that I was able, with some difficulty, to find Norah Lange’s complete works (put out in 2005-6), and began to be seduced by her unique authorial gaze and her eccentric prose. I came to realize that in Argentine literary mythology, Lange is a figure familiar to many, but read by few, and I was truly surprised she hadn’t been translated. Personas en la sala/People in the Room is the first novel I tackled (and the first one finished!); I began translating the first few chapters in my spare time while I was teaching Spanish, and, as an early subscriber and fan of And Other Stories, it occurred to me that And Other Stories might be interested in Lange’s writing, so I pitched it, and here we are.

One of the biggest challenges has been teasing out the subtle meanings from long, labyrinthine sentences, and resisting the temptation to break them into sections to make them more “manageable.” I think the endless layering of clauses and the twists and turns of a sentence that goes on for many lines really are part of Lange’s style, even though, in general, sentences can be longer in Spanish and are often shortened in English. The challenge has been to preserve some of the eccentricities of the prose, without sacrificing clarity. When Lange writes something like, “on the verge/at the edge of night time,” or “on the verge of lightning,” (al borde le la noche, etc.), it’s tempting to think that, since we wouldn’t say that in English, we should find another solution. But such usages are unusual and unexpected in Spanish, so to respect the uniqueness of her style I often felt I was treading a thin line between readability and respect for eccentricity. But the difficulty of this book has also been what has made it pleasurable and rewarding.

People in the Room is a profoundly visual novel. Often while translating I tried to put myself in the place of the voyeur, to see what she was seeing, while also trying to see her as she is watching. As Carola Moreno writes, there are two visual layers at work: “Lange manages to transform the reader into a spy of the voyeur.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bluemoose Christmas Reading

Raising Sparks is a magical-realist story set in Modern Israel. It reveals the hidden worlds, shared histories and unknown stories of the modern Middle East.
The story emanated from the tragedy of Ariel’s two close friends being killed in a bus explosion in the first intifada in Jerusalem where Ariel was studying.
Ariel started the first Arab-Israeli book club. The book club was re-launched on 26th September at Daunts Hampstead.
As Leone Ross says. ‘At the heart of this story is female rebellion: a young woman running towards her future, making her own rules.’
Malka Sabbatto is a young woman who flees the confines of her traditional family in Jerusalem, followed by Moshe, a Russian immigrant and her father’s top student. After falling in with a sinister cult in Safed she escapes to Jaffa where she starts to build a new life under the wing of an Arab chef. When she feels she has finally found contentment, a family tragedy forces her to return to Jerusalem.
Debut novelist, Ariel Kahn is a prize-winning writer and academic. He initially trained to be a rabbi in Israel, Ariel has won the Bloomsbury New Voices competition, the London Writing Competition.
He currently lives in North London with his partner and two children.

THE GALLOWS POLE by Benjamin Myers
An England divided. From his remote moorland home, David Hartley assembles a gang of weavers and land-workers to embark upon a criminal enterprise that will capsize the economy and become the biggest fraud in British history. They are the Cragg Vale Coiners and their business is ‘clipping’ – the forging of coins, a treasonous offence punishable by death. A charismatic leader, Hartley cares for the poor and uses violence and intimidation against his opponents. He is also prone to self-delusion and strange visions of mythical creatures. When excise officer William Deighton vows to bring down the Coiners and one of their own becomes turncoat, Hartley’s empire begins to crumble. With the industrial age set to change the face of England forever, the fate of his empire is under threat. Forensically assembled from historical accounts and legal documents, The Gallows Pole is a true story of resistance that combines poetry, landscape, crime and historical fiction, whose themes continue to resonate. Here is a rarely-told alternative history of the North.
“Powerful, visceral writing, historical fiction at its best. Benjamin Myers is one to watch.”
– Pat Barker;
“A phenomenal and highly energised novel.’ Sebastian Barry;
“From the half-forgotten history of northern working men on the brink of the Industrial Revolution, Myers has unearthed a powerful story which he tells with great vigour.” – The Sunday Times;

“This powerful novel is as darkly lovely as Emily Bronte’s work” – Joanne Harris;
“A brilliant, extraordinary book.” – Mary Anne Hobbs, 6 Music;
“A roaring furnace of a novel. In telling a big story about a small place, Benjamin Myers portrays social upheavals which have a sharp contemporary echo, as well as bringing to light a little-known and fascinating fragment of rural English history…he meets the challenge for every author of historical fiction – bringing alive the past and speaking forcefully to the readers of today” – Judges – WALTER SCOTT Prize 2018.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Christmas Reading from Bitter Lemon

The Cold Summer by Gianrico Carofiglio, translated by Howard Curtis.
Do we need another mafia story? There are plenty of them, in fiction, film, and TV, portraying mafia families in the United States and Italy, and in other countries infected by organised crime. But Gianrico Carofiglio offers an unusually detailed and fascinating portrait, far beyond the clichés of crime families and godfathers, in his new The Cold Summer, along with a contrasting portrait of how the criminal organisation and the police define and control reality. The complex structure of Carofiglio’s narrative, with multiple structural and social parallels at the local and national level, contrasting criminal and civil worlds, and personal events in the lives of the characters, serves to reinforce the emphasis of the novel on the crucial role of structure in human life. But it is ultimately the ethical and sometimes contemplative Fenoglio who holds the whole novel together. His humanity holds out hope for some respite from the violence and corruption that lie behind all the story’s events. As he himself says of his role, what he does (and who he is) “gives meaning to chaos.”

The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and other stories by Teresa Solana, translated by Peter Bush.
Our best title ever? Solana’s love of surrealism and black humour shines through in her novels, but these short stories show her true strengths. In the title story, a prehistoric detective is asked to investigate a triple-murder which is threatening to disrupt cave life. He becomes not only the world’s first detective, but also the first religious charlatan. He might even consider inventing psychoanalysis – after all, it’s not like he has anything better to do. The second collection in this volume contains stories representing a mosaic of Barcelona as a city of contrasts, hustlers and low level criminals, bending the law not just to survive, but to live large and keep boredom at bay.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dedalus Christmas Reading, The Mussolini Canal by Antonio Pennacchi, translated by Judith Landry

Why is The Mussolini Canal by Antonio Pennacchi such a great book and should be on everyone’s must read list?
First, it is a riveting story telling 100 years of Italian history by following the lives of a family of northern peasants transplanted to the recently drained Pontine marshes to fulfil a grandiose scheme by Mussolini.
Secondly, the characters and the family dynamic are engrossing. We soon care about them and the minutiae of their lives. Mussolini is a major character in the novel and for the most part is sympathetically treated although his flaws and the disastrous effect he had on Italy is there for all to see. Contemporary events flash through the book and the hardship and misery of earlier periods are also seen against the background of modern prosperity. The heroes and heroines of this novel come from the extended Peruzzi family.
Thirdly and above all, the reader feels he is eavesdropping a private Italian conversation and in doing so learning what it is to be an Italian and getting to the heart of this nation. The narrative voice isn’t lost in the English translation, Judith Landry’s translation is pitch perfect, so much so it reads as if the book was written in English.
The great Italian novels for me are I Malavoglia(The House by the Medlar Tree) by Verga, The Leopard by Lampedusa and The Mussolini Canal by Pennacchi. These are the three narratives which use the family to tell Italy’s story and document the state of the nation during periods of great social change. They are novels which engage both the mind and the heart and in doing so stay forever in the reader’s mind.
The Mussolini Canal sold more than 400,000 copies in Italy and has been widely translated. In the UK it has received universal praise and I will end with Margaret Drabble’s appraisal in the Times Literary Supplement.
‘The Mussolini Canal by Antonio Pennacchi is an epic account of the rise of Fascism. It’s the story of the (fictitious) Peruzzi clan of sharecroppers, moved from their native north to the malaria-ridden Pontine Marshes for the building of the canal and the New Town of Littoria. It mingles family legend and up-to-date political commentary with personal appearances from Edmondo Rossoni and Mussolini, and takes us through Italy’s Imperium and the campaign in Ethiopia to the Anzio landings. The complex chronology and the demotic and combative narrative voice (of a young Peruzzi descendant) are imaginatively handled by the translator, Judith Landry, and the novel presents us with a whole new landscape, complete with the kiwi fruits and eucalyptus that thrived in the reclaimed land. Better than any guidebook, it explains how and at what cost Mussolini succeeded where Romans, popes and emperors failed. A challenging but very illuminating read.
Margaret Drabble in Books of the Year in the Times Literary Supplement

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Guest Blog by Zoe Turner The Book of Birmingham by Kavita Bhanot

The Book of Birmingham

I had lived in Birmingham for a year before moving to work with Comma in Manchester, and ‘The Book of Birmingham’ was the first title that I began to publicize. The relationship that I had built with the city of Birmingham the year before was a confusing one. I had spent a lot of time there wondering why everything felt so disconnected; why, as numerous and driven as they were, its creative organisations seemed so scattered and hidden, and why, as ethnically and culturally diverse as the population was, these various communities often still felt separated from one another. Moving around the city could be like hopping from one island to another, as though one side of the street was almost invisible to its opposite neighbor. I was in Birmingham to study Film Production and, alongside these emotional observations, I was learning from those I worked with that the city was largely neglected by the film and television sector. I started to piece older ideas together with these new ones, things picked up as a person growing up in the Midlands; that the Brummie accent was a horrible thing to hear, that you ought to keep your wits about you in Birmingham, that there really wasn’t much to be there for other than to shop in the Bullring. When I spoke to other people in Birmingham about this sensation of a disjointed and misconstrued place, there was large agreement, but we could never quite put a finger on the conception or reason.

When I read Kavita’s introduction to this collection, things began to click into place, loudly and firmly. Her explanation of the ‘ring of complex, conflicting and often neglected neighbourhoods’ comprised of varying immigrated communities from across origins and generations, and a mistreated and misinformed white working class, which circles the city centre, ‘a never-ending work-in-progress, constantly in flux, endlessly undergoing ‘development’.’ Kavita seemed to be sketching the Birmingham in my mind’s eye onto the pages when she continued to describe this gentrification of the centre, which was like watching money being pumped into money as if to try and compensate for its less than appealing reputation ‘like a done-up front room for guests, hoping all this expensive new furniture will finally enable Birmingham to live up to its ‘second city’ status.’ Instead, this airbrushing and overfeeding of the centre has served to muscle out the city’s long-standing settlers with less money than is needed to afford this new housing, dining, entertainment and people seem to move around each other in a contrasting bustle of much separated selves.

The stories Kavita Bhanot has compiled in ‘The Book of Birmingham’ then, are a way of knocking down the illusions which surround the city and make the truth of it inaccessible to people from the outside. Instead, these stories invite passing visitors (or readers) into local experiences, opening doors to very specific pockets of time and place within the city’s recent history that they otherwise would not see for all the demonising headlines and glaring canal side apartments. Bound together as they are, these stories of interracial coupling in 1960s Smethwick, social affluence between generations of immigrants, rumours, tensions, desires and surrealism, complete a jigsaw of Birmingham that tells real versions of real people from a long made-up location. After reading this collection, the next time you walk through Birmingham it will be softer; you’ll live the moment of realisation as with a new friend when you both find that you’re comfortable in sharing the depths of your lives. And you’ll hear no bad word said about them; rather, you’ll urge the understanding that everybody carries a history, some more complicated than others.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Timothy Lane’s blog on Waves by Eduard von Keyserling

Much to my shame prior to proofreading this novel I had not heard of Eduard von Keyserling. It is easy to arrogantly get to the point where you feel you have read the major novels of a particular time and place, only to discover a forgotten classic and wonder how this one came to be forgotten. It is all the more surprising when a writer from a language and culture of prominence is neglected. If a minor classic work in Serbo-Croat were to be neglected one would be saddened but not surprised, but an equivalent neglect of a German or French classic should be a lesson in how capricious literary status can be. And there is much to be said for the world touched upon in Waves (German title: Wellen).

Eduard von Keyserling (1855-1918) was from a Baltic German noble family, born in what is today Latvia. The community of Baltic Germans he belonged to and whose minor aristocrats populate his novels, is now vanished. To put this disappearance into perspective in 1881 the population of Baltic Germans was estimated at 180,000, roughly 5% of Estonia’s and 6% of Latvia’s population. Today there are no more than 5,000 people of German descent, the two wars and their consequences having radically reshaped demographics.

The events of Waves take place over one long hot summer spent on the coast. The real life coastline location is thought to be the Curonian Spit, a sixty mile sand dune spit separating the Curonian lagoon from the Baltic Sea, a beautiful location popular with affluent sojourners and famous for inspiring expressionist painters from the art school in nearby Konigsberg. It is therefore fitting that one of Waves’ main characters is a painter.

The painter in question, Hans Grill, has eloped with a Countess who’s portrait he was commissioned to paint, by her much older husband. The beginning of the novel finds the painter and the Countess Köhne-Jasky, Doralice, one year after their elopement, holidaying for the summer in the home of a fisherman. Free spirited and ambitious, Hans has plans over the summer to make a detailed study of the sea, and then to establish a study in Munich where he will no longer be reliant on Doralice’s money. There is clear evidence that already Hans’ plans that involve a certain level of dull tethered domesticity for Doralice do not sit well with her listless and enigmatic spirit.

Also holidaying close by are the Buttlär family and the Generalin von Palikow. Baroness von Buttlär is particularly troubled by the proximity of such a disgraced woman, not least because of her husband’s incorrigible philandering, but because of her presumption that such an unhealthy example close by will be bad for her daughters, Lolo and Nini. Older, less neurotic and less disposed to such stern society judgements, her mother-in-law the Generalin remonstrates with her objections and insists that the family must at the least show a decent modicum of civility. An uneasy familiarity between the conventional family and the social pariahs is established, in part due to the adoration of the Countess by the young bride to be Lolo. Entranced by her beauty, gracefulness and wit, her sensitive nature romanticises the Countess.

Into this company comes not just the long expected Baron, but Lolo’s fiance, Baron Hilmar von dem Hamm, a dashing and passionate German Army Officer. Quickly and completely infatuated with the Countess, he makes no attempt to conceal his courtship, despite the presence of his own fiance and Doralice’s husband. One might expect the novel’s progress from this point to follow a rather typical pattern of an adultery repeated, a tragic clash of male pride and the further falling from grace of the Countess. But the novel never becomes a drawing room soap opera and avoids the besetting sin of many fin de siecle novels where affluent people with too much time and too little purpose saunter from one languid but cultured dejection to another.

Alongside the little dramas of Lolo and her Officer, Doralice and Hans, and the endless gossiping of the Buttlär’s there is the constant presence of the sea, beautiful, formidable, capricious: a perilous livelihood for the fisherman, a challenge for Hans to paint. Keyserling with his painterly prose and his eye for the contrasts and parallels between nature and humanity, effortlessly accompanies his story of romance and tragedy with rich evocations of the sea, the way a drama is dignified by the addition of apt music.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment