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Friday 06 August 2010
It is not two years since the offices of Martin Rynja were firebombed by fanatics who objected to his firm, Gibson Square, publishing Sherry Jones's The Jewel of Medina. Although three men were convicted of the attack, the novel, about the Prophet Muhammad's wife Aisha, has still not troubled the presses of this country.
Thursday 25 February 2010
Sunday 07 February 2010
When Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989, he didn't want only the author of The Satanic Verses killed – he pronounced that: "All those involved in its publication who were aware of its contents are sentenced to death." Even this wasn't cause enough for the then Conservative government to denounce the fatwa. Instead, from Geoffrey Howe to William Waldegrave to Margaret Thatcher herself, statements of sympathy were proffered towards those who may have felt that their religious sensibilities had been offended.
Friday 05 February 2010
Anyone picking up this collection of essays might reasonably expect extensive reflection on the events that pushed Rushdie into the headlines. Instead, much of the contents seem fusty and oddly irrelevant.
Saturday 17 October 2009
Sunday 11 October 2009
You may not have heard of him, since his reputation has for various reasons not been as great as is deserved, but Machado de Assis was a master of the short-story form. Slavery still existed for the first 49 years of his life, but although he was born into poverty, he went on to become the most distinguished of Brazilian writers, garnering praise from Salman Rushdie, Woody Allen and Susan Sontag, among others. This is an excellent translation from the Portuguese by John Gledson, who also provides an incisive introduction that muses on reasons why Machado's reputation might have fallen behind – including his bleak vision.
Wednesday 09 September 2009
The Man Booker competition used routinely to trigger snide insiders' comments that went something like this: "There was this Irishman, a Scotsman, two Indians, an Australian and a Canadian. And that's this year's shortlist!" Kneejerk sarcasm aside, the prize had made a permanent mark as the most conspicuous arena in which "English" fiction opened its arms to embrace every – non-United States – variety of the literary language. Already underway when Salman Rushdie won with Midnight's Children in 1981, this branding of the Booker as an annual festival of "global English" or even "post-colonial fiction" gathered pace year by year, right up to Aravind Adiga's success with The White Tiger in 2008.
Sunday 02 August 2009
Thursday 23 July 2009
It lives on the page but it dies on the stage. That, alas, is the story of Hanif Kureishi's second brilliant novel, The Black Album, which in 1995 picked up on the Salman Rushdie fatwah and the rising cultural phenomenon of British Muslim fundamentalism while cracking open the whole issue of what should form the basis of a liberal, multicultural education programme.
Tuesday 21 July 2009
Sunday 15 February 2009
Friday 13 February 2009
Friday 06 February 2009
We know that Rushdie will never pick up a full deck of positive reviews for anything he writes, but the predictable divisions that greeted this spectacular fantasia should not mask its sheer panache and pace.
Wednesday 28 January 2009
Sunday 18 January 2009
Lewis Buzbee has spent a life in books, as bookseller, book sales rep and writer. This is a loving memoir of all the bookstores he's worked, shopped or dallied away the hours in, and a history of bookselling going back as far as the great library at Alexandria, taking in the Chinese inventions of paper and block printing, Guttenberg's movable type and the influence of the 18th-century London coffee shop on reading habits. It is full of curious lore, such as that the word book comes from buch, the German word for the beech that book covers used to be made of; and that the original Shakespeare & Co in Paris closed down in 1941 rather than sell a copy of Finnegans Wake to a high-ranking German officer.
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