Autumn is here, meaning – hopefully – more time for reading as the evenings draw in (something my overflowing bookshelves would definitely welcome). It’s also the perfect time to indulge in some more armchair travel, with books that will be taking me on journeys through England, Uruguay, Trinidad and beyond.
Happily, and quite by chance, the books I’ve chosen to read this month are also all published by independents. One of them – my non-fiction pick – is due to be released in a couple of weeks, while the others are recent publications I’m very excited about. Amanda Smyth’s Fortune comes courtesy of my quarterly subscription to the book club run by the Republic of Consciousness Prize, a brilliant celebration of the UK’s innovative and hard-working small presses. The subscription is a total delight, well worth exploring either as a treat for yourself or a gift for someone you know who loves to read.
Before I get round to these books, however, I’m capitalising on the inspiration provided by yesterday’s International Translation Day to review a spate of recent fiction translations: stay tuned for a graphic novel from V&Q Books, a moving exploration of conflict and trauma by Syrian novelist Samar Yazbek, and a creative work of magical-realism-meets-political-satire by celebrated Angolan author Ondjaki.
Following those, my reading list for October will be:
Fortune by Amanda Smyth (Peepal Tree Press)
What the publisher says: ‘Fortune, based on true events, catches Trinidad at a moment of historical change whose consequences reverberate down to present concerns with climate change and environmental destruction. As a story of love and ambition, its focus is on individuals so enmeshed in their desires that they blindly enter the territory of classic Greek tragedy where actions always have consequences.’
Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit (Granta)
What the publisher says: ‘“Outside my work the thing I care most about is gardening” wrote George Orwell in 1940. Inspired by her encounter with the surviving roses that Orwell planted in his cottage in Hertfordshire, Rebecca Solnit explores how his involvement with plants, particularly flowers, illuminates his other commitments as a writer and antifascist, and the intertwined politics of nature and power. [. . .] A fresh reading of a towering figure of the 20th century which finds solace and solutions for the political and environmental challenges we face today, Orwell’s Roses is a remarkable reflection on pleasure, beauty and joy as acts of resistance.’
The Luminous Novel by Mario Levrero, translated from the Spanish by Annie McDermott (And Other Stories)
What the publisher says: ‘A writer attempts to complete the novel for which he has been awarded a big fat Guggenheim grant, though for a long time he succeeds mainly in procrastinating – getting an electrician to rewire his living room so he can reposition his computer, buying an armchair, or rather, two: “In one, you can’t possibly read: it’s uncomfortable and your back ends up crooked and sore. In the other, you can’t possibly relax: the hard backrest means you have to sit up straight and pay attention, which makes it ideal if you want to read.” Insomniacs, romantics and anyone who’s ever written (or failed to write) will fall in love with this compelling masterpiece told by a true original, with all his infuriating faults, charming wit and intriguing musings.’
English Magic by Uschi Gatward (Galley Beggar Press)
What the publisher says: ‘In her debut collection of short stories, Uschi Gatward takes us on a tour of an England simultaneously domestic and wild, familiar and strange, real and imagined. Coupling the past and the present, merging the surreal and the mundane, English Magic is a collection full of humour and warmth, subversion and intoxication. It announces the arrival of a shining new talent.’