Thursday 8 September 2011

Event: The Tomb of Ugo Foscolo

We’re delighted to hear that the Tomb of Ugo Foscolo has now been restored to its former glory. To celebrate the completion of its restoration there will be a ceremony at the graveyard of St Nicholas’s Church in Chiswick, London W4 2PJ (please see the enclosed map for directions), hosted by His Excellency the Italian Ambassador on Saturday 10th September at 11 o’clock.

The monument was created by Carlo Marochetti, a sculptor from Turin, on commission by Hudson Gurney who, knowing how dear the illusion of a sepulchre was to the Venetian poet – a symbol of civilization and eternal care – made sure that Foscolo’s earthly remains were not just interred in a common mound of earth.

Marochetti created a granite structure harking back to a Roman altar, with the coat of arms of Foscolo’s family tied by a ribbon with the ensign’s Latin motto “accingar zona fortitudinis”.

After lying in a state of disrepair for decades, the tomb has been restored thanks to the dedicated work of a charity set up for the purpose of recovering this important monument – not just to Ugo Foscolo but to Italian poetry and to all the politically persecuted exiles in the world.

I hope you will be able to come along and, if you interested in finding out more about Ugo Foscolo and some of his major poetical works, why not pick up a copy of our edition of his Sepolcri (Selpuchres), with a selection of his poems.

Monday 5 September 2011

I Write Like

During a lovely dinner with one of our authors I was made aware of the existence of I Write Like (incidentally, I love its egotistical web suffix ".me") a website that purports to tell you which writer you are most akin to in terms of style. Our author tried a few paragraphs from her novel and her writing was flatteringly compared to a number of major authors, including Leo Tolstoy – because that's the trick, she told me: you are only ever compared to some of the greatest authors in the world of literature, so there's no chance your ego can get beaten.

Sure as hell that night, before going to bed I put my prose through the acid test of the I Write Like website. I didn't dare try any bits from BESTSELLER, but picked three paragraphs from the first two pages of my new novel.

The results were as follow:

First paragraph: Arthur Clarke. Here my heart sunk – do they mean "Arthur C. Clarke", the science-fiction writer? But I don't think I've ever read anything by him – I've only watched a few times the film 2001, A Space Odyssey, which I don't think it counts as an influence. Or do they mean some other unknown Arthur Clarke, the author of out-of-print erotica? Not a good start.

Second paragraph: Vladimir Nabokov. Oh my God – not a name I wanted to see cropping up! You may remember I said once that I wasn't all that impressed by his prose – at least the prose of his short stories . . .

Third paragraph (brace yourself): Dan Brown! I will add no comments to this – I just hope to be able to make a hundredth of the money he did with his pot-boiler.

Conclusions: either my new novel is going to be a Lolita meets The Da Vinci Code with a sprinkling of 2001: A Space Odyssey kind of novel, or I Write Like is total bullshit.

I tend to favour the second possibility.


PS: What would happen if one were to try with a piece of real Tolstoy?

Friday 2 September 2011

Exotic Lands

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for reviews, with two each for Kapka Kassabova’s Villa Pacifica and Stephen Parkin’s new translation of Edmondo de Amicis’s Constantinople.

The Scotsman praised Kassabova’s handling of the dreamlike, fantastical elements of her new novel, set in an idiosyncratic animal sanctuary on the coast of South America, and went on to describe it as “intelligent, psychologically compelling… a truly mesmerising read.” Kevin Rushby, writing for the Guardian, compared Kassabova to Joseph Conrad, particularly in her “accuracy and economy”, adding: “Kassabova unleashes a smart turn of literary speed with a deliciously unexpected ending.”

Time Out recommended Constantinople for its “lavish detail and curiosities of Istanbul”, noting that de Amicis’s two-volume travelogue is “as quintessentially Victorian as Edward Gibbon’s The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire and Sir Leslie Stephen’s Dictionary of National Biography.” Over at the TLS, Roderick Conway Morris called Stephen Parkin’s translation in for particular praise, describing it as “assured and lively, catching well the spirit of the original”. On the original itself, he was no less complimentary: “Edmondo de Amicis’s book conjures up the eternal harem of Western imaginings, of alluring Oriental deshabille and sensual decadence behind closed doors.”

He also points out that there's a view of Cairo on the cover, not of Istanbul – well, the image was clearly labelled on Getty Images and it was an intentional licence by our designer – totally lost on our exacting critic of course. . .