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A Leading African Publisher Is Coming To The UK

The logo of Cassava Republic Press

I feel I should note here that this isn’t a sponsored post.

A couple of weeks ago I received a request to review books for a publisher I hadn’t heard of before. (This sentence has confirmed for me that the American way of dropping the ‘of’ between ‘couple’ and ‘weeks’ is something I can get behind.) I read the press release, found myself interested and, as is usual in these situations, went looking for more information. I have always been the person who takes hours to finish a computer game due to the need to explore the city in its entirety first.

I liked what I saw of the publisher and thought you might be interested yourselves. Around since 2006, the reason I and whoever else in Britain got a review request is that they’re about to launch in the UK.

Cassava Republic’s mission is to change the way the world thinks about African writing; they deem it time. The founder, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, has said, “[We’re] establishing a base in the UK after nearly ten years in Africa rather than the reverse. This is the birthing of African publishing onto the world stage”.

Easy Motion Tourist

The hope that the Press will showcase the diversity of work by African writers – in this case mainly Nigerians – is bolstered by the variety of genres they publish: literary fiction, YA, and romance all feature in their catalogue.

As for the authors themselves, whilst all share Nigerian heritage by birth or law, not all live in Africa. Some, like Sarah Ladipo Manyika, whose book I’ll be reviewing, live elsewhere. Regardless of nationality, all the authors are celebrated writers, and that’s surely one of the most exciting aspects of this expansion.

Born On A Tuesday

One of them, Leye Adenle, has an extra claim to fame – his grandfather was a king. Adenle’s book, Easy Motion Tourist is a thriller, a story in which a British tourist comes across a body outside a club and is noted as a potential suspect. The story studies his time in custody and his subsequent release, looking at the darker aspects of the city of Lagos. Released the same day, Elnathan’s John’s Born On A Tuesday is about love, friendship, and politics in the midst of the most unstable period in recent Northern Nigerian history.

Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream To The Sun

I chose the Manyika because I liked the sound of the main character – Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream To The Sun is set in San Francisco, where the author teaches literature, and is about a 70-something Nigerian woman who, finding her independence dwindling, has to rely on the help of friends and strangers. Part of the story studies her sexuality, the feelings of an older woman. My thought when I read the description was that it sounded like Elizabeth Is Missing, just perhaps without the memory loss. I loved that book and it’s helped me to know how to proceed with family members and friends in a similar position. The thought of reading another book that tackles age-related issues is compelling. Fortunately there are many books on the later years at the moment, it’s a much needed trend, and I look forward to reading Manyika’s spin on it, the difference in culture compared to most others making it stand out in the pool of possibilities.

If you’re wondering, Cassava Republic is indeed one of houses to have published Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen, so whilst the UK launch is yet to commence, they’ve multi-award-nominated writing behind them already.

What are you favourite books set in Africa, Nigeria if you have one?

Back On Monday

Ahh, bots. They steal your bandwidth and cause no end of problems. Things should be back to normal on Monday and I will be posting my January round-up then. Have a good weekend.

Merry Christmas 2015

A photograph of a floral Christmas decoration

The Worm Hole will be on a break for Christmas and New Year. I’ll be posting my December reading round up and all the What’s In A Name category posts on the 1st January, and will be back fully on the 4th. I’ll likely be on Twitter and plan to spend more time commenting on other blogs in the next few days.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a happy new year to you all!

Pushkin Press And The Next Six Months

I like Pushkin Press a lot. They’re the people who published the awesome and bizarre story of writers bouncing around a grocery store due to the extremely compelling power of literature. They’re the people behind the Frenchman who pulls you into his epic Dumas-like adventure. They’re the people who translated the tale of elderly women busting out of their nursing home and engaging in a Battle Royale fight to the death. And they’re the people who gave us Man Booker short-listed Chigozie Obloma’s The Fishermen.

I’ve got the catalogue for next year, from January to June, and thought I’d share some of the books that have caught my eye. I should also mention that the publisher now has a couple of imprints – Vertigo, a thriller imprint, and One which publishes one exceptional work a year. If you wanted to start a collection you’ve certainly lots of time.

Book cover

The first new title listed is Stefan Zweig’s Messages From A Lost World. I’ve seen the cover before, possibly on the site, or maybe another blog; it struck me as a good one to choose. Pushkin publish a lot of Zweig’s words. Truth be told I know nothing about him beyond what I’ve read in the catalogue – I’m still making up for the lack-lustre literary classes I attended at school – but he sounds worth the read. This particular book is a collection of essays and speeches from the 1930s and 1940s, ‘a defence of European unity against terror and brutality… a powerful statement of one man’s belief in the creative imagination and the potential of humanity’. These essays would have been written during twelve years – in 1942 Zweig and his wife were found dead. It was likely suicide.

I’m going to bypass the new Ayelet Gundar-Goshen. I could write a post the length of this one on how much and for how long I’ve had One Night, Markovitch on my to-be-read list. Sometimes, when my interest in a book is mostly down to the cover (it happens to the best of us), a cover change is enough to make me delete it from the list. Annoyingly, considering how many books I want to read, Pushkin’s change hasn’t altered my intrigue. Waterstones likes to use it as bait to get me to walk into their stores. They’ll win eventually.

Book cover

Memories: From Moscow To The Black Sea is by Teffi. Teffi, an author of the early 20th Century, travelled around Russia on a reading tour whilst her fellow Russians fled the country. She eventually left, not knowing she wouldn’t be allowed to come back. She writes of her last months in Russia, an epic journey of two thousand miles. Pushkin have thought ahead – they’re publishing a collection of Teffi’s pointedly political writings, too.

Book cover

Soft In the Head – I couldn’t not mark this one. Unsurprisingly ‘sunny’ but also ‘moving’, according to Marie-Sabine Roger’s fellow Frenchmen or women at La Marseillaise, this book is a tale of a wood-whittling graffiti-making young man and his friend, an eighty-five year old woman he meets on a bench. [Edit: I got the date wrong – it was written after Forrest Gump.]

So there you have it – a highly subjective, partly based on covers list of the books I believe may be the stand-outs from Pushkin’s future output. I’m loving the number of translation-based small publishers there are, glad we have so many and that they’re doing well.

Which small-press books, whether translated or not, are you looking forward to next year?

Robert Merle’s The Brethren: Giveaway

Book cover

If, like me, your local shop appears to have bypassed the release date of 22nd June you may have already seen this book. Cited as a modern-day Dumas, French author Merle’s saga – acclaimed in its homeland – is being published in English by Pushkin Press.

The Guardian calls it ‘swashbuckling’, which sounds pretty good to me, and BBC History has its eye on best-of lists. First published between 1977-2003, it’s taken a while for it to get here but sounds worth the wait. If you like the English Tudor period and like the idea of crossing the channel to the land of Mary I’s younger husband, it might be for you.

Which is my extensive way of saying, I have 3 copies up for grabs – would you like one? Leave a comment to let me know, first come first serve. I’ll be reviewing the book shortly and am looking forward to it. It’s somewhat ironic that I’m reading around Dumas yet haven’t read the man himself but if this is good preparation for the lengthy classics that can only be a good thing.

Two questions today, then: would you like a copy of this book? And have you ever read books inspired by/akin to another but taken a while to read the original?


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