During the summer I must have read about 15 books – maybe more. Many of them I read in preparation for events and festivals this book-crazy autumn, at least two-thirds of them are in English translation. Thankfully I love reading. I also love writing, reviewing and talking about books. And this summer it struck me afresh that there simply aren’t enough traditional media outlets for professional book reviews and, considering how integral books and reading are to our lives, there aren’t enough book programmes, least of all when we come to discuss international literature. So in the summer I joined calls with author Robert Harris and others for more book programmes on the BBC (my alma mater) and in other media.
Alongside my 20 years’ foreign affairs broadcasting, I used to present BBC Radio 4’s ‘Front Row’, and even ‘Open Book’ briefly – some of the happiest times of my career. So via this, our new website (with support from Arts Council England and ELit Literature House Europe), I am developing various multi-media ways to cover literature. You may have seen our videos, photo galleries and artist’s author drawings, or heard our podcasts and read our online blogs. I also believe that social media are great friends to the book industry so we @eurolitnet are very active on Facebook and Twitter.
This September we launched a Reviews section on this website – not just to feed my own greed to review books and read reviews – but to feed yours. Everything we do at ‘European Literature Network’, and on our website www.eurolitnetwork.com, is to help all of you ‘in the trade’ to promote this neglected genre. It’s a one-stop networking hub for European literature in English to share your PRs, blogs, photos, events, podcasts, videos and festival news. It’s free so why not use it and participate? Surely you want more readers, buyers, publicity? Now we want your reviews too – not from publishers and PRs of course (although they should please feel free to send me press releases and books) but from reviewers, writers, readers and translators.
So here’s my idea: on the 15th of each month we publish a major professional review (anything up to 1000, even 1500 words) of a new and significant translated book of fiction, literary essays or poetry, which I commission and pay for. Additionally I invite you – or you approach me – to write shorter (unpaid – sorry) reviews of other topical translated books. This can be a review of approx. 500-700 words, or to keep it short and sweet, it can be a Twitter-length or Facebook-style Review. This might also be an opportunity for literature students wanting to try their hand.
I aim to make our Review section #RivetingReviews @eurolitnet simply that: riveting! Our reviews should be professional and independent, as in the best newspaper or magazine, in order to guarantee quality and integrity. No PR puffs please but I definitely favour strong views and honest critique. Initially the ‘big reviews’ of ‘big names in foreign literature’ will be aimed at drawing attention to the site as somewhere ‘different’. ‘Different’ here means genuinely and freely critical; negative, if that’s how you feel. I believe reviews are becoming too formulaic, impersonal and often dry. So more reviews please on the ‘Nick Lezard opinion-lines’! I started with Elena Ferrante in September and this month (October) we will dissect the latest ‘Stieg Larson’.
As a reminder here’s our first review – my appraisal of Elena Ferrante’s new novel.
To make our Review section even more riveting I’d also like to include a visual element. You can contribute ‘something creative’ with your review, maybe your own photo/illustration/graphic design, but I would definitely like all reviewers please to submit a photograph taken of them reading the book they are reviewing. If you are modest or shy it can even be stylized – see our photos online from the summer. Another guarantee from us, with each review we publish from you, is that it will be promoted via social media – and with links to other websites, even re-publication on your own website with credits. We will share our reviews with our Partners (see out list here online), any media organisation keen to collaborate and other like-minded organisations (such as ELIT Austria www.literaturhauseuropa.eu).
We will publish reviews on the 15th of each month. Deadline 5 days before, on the 10th. As I am editing this section alone and ‘in my free time’, although with the invaluable support of my colleague Anna Blasiak, I am asking everyone to please submit valid, quality reviews that should not need much editing. Please submit via this website or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
As editor I have the final word. All reviews must be accompanied with full and correct title, translation and publication details and dates. If any organisation ‘out there’ would like to support us, or collaborate, please contact us via the website. I really believe #RivetingReviews can contribute to filling the review gap in English and to raising the profile of international literature in the UK.