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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs: "Mark Thwaite ... has a maverick, independent mind"

Blog entries on '23 May 2007'

Wednesday 23 May 2007

Kurp on Appelfeld

Patrick Kurp on Aharon Appelfeld over at Anecdotal Evidence:

The Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld was born in 1932 in Romania. Eight years later the Nazis seized Czernowitz, his home town, killed his mother and deported Appelfeld and his father to a concentration camp in the Ukraine. He escaped and remained a fugitive for three years before joining the Red Army. Read some of the details the details in The Story of a Life, his emblematic chronicle of 20th-century horrors narrated by a voice as quiet and oblique as the voices in his novels. Where Piotr Rawicz, another Holocaust survivor, narrates scenes of unbearable cruelty in Blood from the Sky, Appelfeld’s aesthetic remains rooted in indirection. Even when his narrative is dry and fatual, a mist clings to his words. I can’t think of another novel in which so much is left so eloquently unsaid as Badenheim 1939.

I met Appelfeld 20 years ago at a holocaust conference I was covering as a reporter. He was soft-spoken, laconic, avuncular. I introduced myself and we talked. I no longer have my notes but I remember how disarming his affability seemed. Did this explain his aesthetic, his reliance on absence as presence? How could a boy who lived by his wits from age 8 turn into so gracious a man?

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 23 May 2007

Recent reads

Nice, old Faber cover (via

I note I've not really said, of late, what I've been reading. Well, lots of things, of course, but the books that stick in the mind include William Golding's Pincher Martin (a lovely old Faber paperback I picked up in a local charity shop; the latest incarnation, you'll note, has a truly awful cover design), Dan Hind's The Threat to Reason (Verso; Dan's book is a wonderful antidote to the idiocies of Euston Manifesto-type pillocks and I'll be doing a lot to recommend in the coming weeks), and Roberto Bolaño's Amulet (New Directions; and one of my Books of the Week you'll have noted). The Bolaño oddly reminded me of Richard Brautigan; something both casual and heart-wrenching about the writing.

Update: Actually, I've just posted a tiny, capsule review of Pincher Martin over on The Book Depository which reads:

Whenever William Golding's name is invoked, we recall his dystopian, best-selling classic Lord of the Flies. That novel, first published in 1954, has sold millions of copies worldwide, including more than 25 million in English alone. But Golding's skill as a truly modern writer is better showcased in his most perfectly realised work, his masterful third novel Pincher Martin. The story of a shipwrecked sailor, set at the time of World War Two, it is also an existential quest into our anti-hero Christopher Martin's sense of himself, of his past actions (including violently forcing himself on a female friend) and his gathering awareness of what is really happening to him as he tries to survive on an outcrop in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, drinking from rock pools, eating whatever he can find, and fighting for his life and his sanity.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 23 May 2007

Publishing gossip

I've been wandering the country meeting publishers again: last week I was down in Big London (seeing Hesperus, Faber, Random House, Dalkey and Penguin -- and running into friends who work for Peter Owen and Verso); yesterday I was in Oxford (OUP, of course!)

Mostly, I've been meeting folk with my Book Depository hat on, talking about business stuff, but, as you'd expect, there has been much chatter about blogging too (the excellent American-based OUPblog is well worth checking out if you don't know it). And whenever book people get together there is, inevitably, blather about books as well: Dalkey keep telling me wonderful things about Aidan Higgins; Peter Owen are excited about Anna Kavan's Guilty (some great photographs of Kavan over on the Peter Owen blog, btw).

Interesting gossip garnered (well, nothing very juicy I'm afraid): Hesperus are finding their feet with their new blog (which I wrote about over on Editor's Corner earlier today); OUP's American-based blog is soon to add British voices to the mix; Faber are working on an improved website as we speak; and Random House are just about to launch ("the official book shop for The Random House Group").

Posted by Mark Thwaite

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Memorial Tablet

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’... that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west...
What greater glory could a man desire?

-- Siegfried Sassoon
Collected Poems (Faber and Faber)

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Word of the Day

The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or two

Pre-order Anu Garg's new book: The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-So-Common Words (ISBN 9780452288614), published by Penguin more …

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October's Books of the Month

The New Spirit of Capitalism The New Spirit of Capitalism
Luc Boltanski; Eve Chiapello
Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM
Steve Lake, Paul Griffiths

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