Tragedy, Farce and the Future: the Red Circle Minis

Reviewed by Karen Langley As I’ve explained in my Bookbuzz feature, the Red Circle Minis are three slim volumes of original writing published by Red Circle Authors. Each book is by a writer who’s either Japanese or living in Japan, but the works are being issued in English initially as an attempt to widen the…

Selfies by Sylvie Weil

Translated by Ros Schwartz Reviewed by Karen Langley The selfie might seem to be a very modern phenomenon; the sight of people constantly stretching their arms out and craning to get a snap of themselves in a special location or with a famous person has become commonplace. We live in a modern age characterised by…

Lisbon Tales, edited by Helen Constantine

Translated by Amanda Hopkinson Reviewed by Karen Langley If you’re an armchair traveller like I am, the “City Tales” collection of books from Oxford University Press will be a real treat and perfect reading for you. To date there have been eleven titles collecting together stories from places like Moscow, Berlin, Amsterdam, Vienna and Rome…

Barcelona Tales, edited by Helen Constantine

Translated by Peter Bush Reviewed by Karen Langley If you’re an armchair traveller like I am, the “City Tales” collection of books from Oxford University Press will be a real treat and perfect reading for you. To date there have been eleven titles collecting together stories from places like Moscow, Berlin, Amsterdam, Vienna and Rome…

Little Boy by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Reviewed by Karen Langley American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti is perhaps more regularly acknowledged nowadays for his pivotal role in pioneering the Beat Generation; from founding the famous City Lights bookshop in San Francisco, to championing writers like Kerouac and Ginsberg, he was a crucial element in the success of the Beat authors. Yet he’s also…

What Not by Rose Macaulay

Introduced by Sarah Lonsdale with notes by Kate Macdonald Reviewed by Karen Langley The name of Rose Macaulay is not one that will necessarily be well known to the casual reader nowadays. Prolific and extremely popular during her day, she’s one of those women writers of the twentieth century who’ve perhaps become marginalized; there are…

The Adventures of Owen Hatherley in the Post-Soviet Space by Owen Hatherley

Reviewed by Karen Langley Author Owen Hatherley has carved out a niche for himself as one of the UK’s foremost commentators on matters architectural and political; his work exists at the point where these intersect with aesthetics; and his latest chunky tome, a fascinating volume from Repeater Books, tackles all three in a work that…

The Race to Save the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport

Reviewed by Karen Langley The fate of the last of the Romanov Tsars and his family has exerted a fascination over the public during the century since their violent death in a basement in Ekaterinburg. Over the decades since there have been books and documentaries; investigations and conspiracy theories; and perhaps most famously a whole…

The Lady and the Little Fox Fur by Violette Leduc

Translated by Derek Coltman Reviewed by Karen Langley There’s been a buzz recently about Penguin’s (re?) launch of their European Writers series, with the first two books by Mercè Rodoreda and Cesare Pavese garnering much online attention. The series has been described as an initiative to promote European literature to British readers; radical, perhaps, in…

Death of the Vazir-Mukhtar by Yuri Tynianov

Translated by Susan Causey Translation editor Vera Tsareva-Brauner Reviewed by Karen Langley Recent years have seen a large number of works by Russian authors newly translated into the English language; many of these had disappeared under Soviet rule or while the authors were living abroad as émigrés, or simply because fashions in reading change. I’ve…

Banned Books Week: The Russians

By Karen Langley “The important task of literature is to free man, not to censor him.” (Anais Nin) The banning of books is an emotive topic; so much of the process seems to be arbitrary, subjective and liable to change as times change. However, it’s such a phenomenon that there is actually now a week…

City of Light by Rupert Christiansen

Reviewed by Karen Langley The city of Paris exerts an eternal fascination; chic and glamorous, the haunt of revolutionaries and intellectuals, and stuffed with romance, it can be many things to many people. There are claims that it’s known as the City of Light because of its leading role during the Age of Enlightenment, or…

Sentimental Tales by Mikhail Zoshchenko

Translated by Boris Dralyuk Review by Karen Langley Russian satirical writing has a rich heritage, stretching all the way back to  the  time of Catherine the Great and continuing into the current day. It’s a way of writing that has served the country’s people well during any number of repressive regimes, and was particularly vital…

The Aviator by Eugene Vodolazkin

Translated by Lisa Hayden Reviewed by Karen Langley You awake in a hospital bed. You have no memory of who you are or how you came to be there, apart from a name – Innokenty Petrovich Platonov. Gradually your memory begins to come back in random fragments here and there so that you (and the…

A Dead Rose by Aurora Cáceres

Translation, Foreword & Notes by Laura Kanost Reviewed by Karen Langley The female form is often idealised in art and media, from classical sculptures through paintings and in more modern times with fashion photography and the general objectification of women. It takes a brave woman to take on those stereotypes and play with them, which…

Blood on the Tracks: Railway Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards

Reviewed by Karen Langley Golden Age crime, which has had such a revival recently, is renowned for particular tropes and settings; the country house location or the locked room mystery are often featured, but another very popular backdrop is trains. So many famous mysteries are set on trains, Murder on the Orient Express being the…

From the Archives: Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky

One of a series of reviews republished from the Shiny Archive of Issue 1 to celebrate our 4th birthday Translated by Joanne Turnbull Reviewed by Karen Langley Soviet Russia’s Best-Kept Literary Secret Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky could accurately be described as the lost writer of Russia’s Soviet era. Born in the Ukraine in 1887, after attending Kiev…

Rex V. Edith Thompson: A Tale of Two Murders by Laura Thompson

Reviewed by Karen Langley The Thompson-Bywaters murder case (also known as “The Ilford Murder”) is notorious, but I think most of my previous knowledge of it comes from two sources: F. Tennyson Jesse’s magisterial fictional reworking of the story in A Pin to see the Peepshow; and reading about his journalistic dealings with the case…

How Shostakovich Changed My Mind by Stephen Johnson

Reviewed by Karen Langley Readers of Shiny New Books will know of my love for Notting Hill Editions books; I’ve reviewed their Beautiful and Impossible Things and The Russian Soul volumes, and so the promise of a new book covering the impact of Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich’s music on author Stephen Johnson was impossible to resist.…

The Golovlevs by M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin

Translated by I.P. Foote Reviewed by Karen Langley Back in SNB #13 I reviewed The History of a Town by Saltykov-Shchedrin, one of the great Russian satirists of the 19th century. That book is regarded as a major work of the era; and now the Apollo imprint of House of Zeus (who issued History…) has followed…

British Library Science Fiction Classics edited by Mike Ashley

Moonrise: The Golden Age of Lunar Adventures Lost Mars: The Golden Age of the Red Planet   Reviewed by Karen Langley There can’t be many readers of Shiny New Books who aren’t aware of the lovely British Library Crime Classics series: long out-of-print and forgotten novels and short stories from the golden age of crime…

The Lion and the Unicorn by George Orwell

Reviewed by Karen Langley Although George Orwell’s name resonates most strongly with us nowadays because of his great novels – in particular Nineteen Eighty Four, which seems to become more relevant every day – it shouldn’t be forgotten that he was a superb essayist. There is even a prize in his name for political writing,…

Interview with Rosamund Bartlett about Dostoyevsky and “The Russian Soul”

Interview by Karen Langley Karen: Rosamund, thank you for agreeing to an interview with Shiny New Books! You have a distinguished career as a translator, and also as the author of a number of works focusing on Russian authors and literature. You contributed a very thoughtful piece on Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina to issue 3 of Shiny…

The Russian Soul: Selections from A Writer’s Diary by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Introduced by Rosamund Bartlett Translated by Kenneth Lantz / Olga Shartse Reviewed by Karen Langley Notting Hill Editions will probably need no introduction to readers of Shiny New Books. The publisher specialises in producing beautiful little cloth covered volumes of essays, with hardback covers, thick quality paper and bookmarks – and the contents are always…

Ice by Anna Kavan

 Reviewed by Karen Langley Ice has come a long way since its first publication by its champion, Peter Owen, in 1968. My initial encounter with it was in a striking Picador edition from 1973, which I picked up in the early 1980s and still have on my shelves, although the pages are now browning and fragile.…