Reading Independent Publishers Month has given me the perfect excuse for a good rummage around my bookshelves.
I have more books from small presses than it’s physically possible for me to read within a month so I’ve just pulled out those that are appealing to me most right now. Some are from Salt Publishing, others from Peirene and Deep Vellum with more than one from Welsh publishers.
I’ve yet to be disappointed by any of the titles from Peirene Press. They don’t publish large numbers of titles each year but what they lack in quantity they more than make up for in terms of quality. Everything they issue seems to be carefully selected; often (though not exclusively) first time English translations of contemporary novellas from European authors.
For the purposes of #ReadIndies month I’ve pulled out Breach by Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes, a collection of stories and testimonies from people living in The Jungle, the refugee camp at Calais, France. I thought this could be a good companion read to Maybe This Time , a short story collection by the Austrian author Alois Hotschnig on the theme of loss of identity in the modern world.
My other regular source of translated fiction is the subscription I have to the Asympote Book Club. I haven’t enjoyed everything I’ve received but there have certainly been some gems like Love by Hanne Orstavik and The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga .
The two books I’ve picked couldn’t be more different. One is the January book choice: a EuropaBooks edition of My Grandmother’s Braid by the German author Alina Bronsk. It’s described as “funny, maddening, and surprisingly sentimental and compassionate.”. I also have the very curiously named At the Lucky Hand aka the Sixty-nine drawers (yes that really is the title) by Goran Petrović, a best-selling author in his native Serbia. This book, which comes via the publishers Deep Vellum is a story within a story of a student commissioned to revise an out of print book. He and the instructing clients have the ability to transport into the world of books and meet other readers within the text. Not sure how I’ll get on with this since I’m not usually a fan of magical realism but I’m certainly intrigued by this idea.
I couldn’t possible take part in #ReadIndies month ignore some of the independent presses that are based in Wales having sung their praises in a recent post.
I’m already reading one from the Welsh women’s press Honno. The Heart Stone by Judith Barrow, a historical fiction novel set in a Lancashire community World War 1 is published this week. Look out for my review next week as part of the book tour.
It’s also high time I read Nia by Robert Minhinnik which is published by Seren Books . This latest novel from a past winner of the Wales Book of The Year, features the lives of the Vine family and those around them in a fictitious Welsh coastal town. Seren is also the publisher of a book that’s been on my shelves for far too long: The Women of Versailles by Kate Brown, a fictional biography of Adélaïde the daughter of Louis XV of France. It covers the years from 1745 when she was a young girl to 1789 when the women of Paris marched on Versailles.
I know there is no way I’m going to read all of these, I’ll be doing well if I just read a couple but half the fun is looking through the shelves to discover what’s been lurking there.