International Jazz Day

This Sunday is International Jazz Day, the culmination of Jazz Appreciation Month, which draws public attention to jazz and its extraordinary heritage throughout April.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially designated April 30 as International Jazz Day to highlight jazz’s role in uniting people in all corners of the globe. On April 30 jazz is recognised for promoting peace, dialogue among cultures and diversity. Jazz has played a part in opposing discrimination, promoting freedom of expression and encouraging social change for a century.

Jazz’s role as a social catalyst is, really, the story of Really the Blues.

Mezz Mezzrow was a white Jewish boy who learnt how to play saxophone while he was in reformatory school. He was one of the first white musicians to dedicate himself to jazz (as a saxophonist, a manager for Louis Armstrong, owning his own record label and he was also one of jazz’s most famous drug dealers) and crossed the racial divide in 1920s America to make himself part of black culture. Really the Blues captures the underworld of 1920s and 30s America, from New York to Chicago and New Orleans; evoking the atmosphere of the brothels, bars and honky-tonks, as well as the oversized personalities of those musicians he played wit: from Bessie Smith and Sidney Bechet to Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong.

It is also written in the slang of the jazz underground, Mezzrow introduced the world to words such as “hipster”, “groovy” and “high”, those words that would become part of the international vocabulary of young people around the world decades later.

It is one of the great music autobiographies (and its influence has been felt for decades, Tom Waits still credits it as a major influence on his own life and work). Mezz Mezzrow was a literary pioneer for the Beats, hippies and every writer since who has written about the music that has moved their generation to rebellion or joy.

“Its hard-boiled poetry, its tales of woe and wonder, told in the racy vernacular of a hipster’s tongue. Imagine Dylan’s Chronicles, written by Damon Runyon, and you’ll get an idea of this book’s conversational intimacy… More than anything, though, this book is an extended celebration of the redemptive power of the jazz that inspired it.” Uncut

“Mind-blowing… To say that he lived in colourful times (no pun intended) is an understatement, and, written as it is in jazz slang… it bustles along with an energy that makes it hard to put down… For a slice of alternative US pre-war culture, it’s hard to beat.” fRoots

“One of the key autobiographies in popular music… A first hand account of the jazz/blues world of the day the street life, blues roadhouses, brothels, bars and the honky tonks as well as his own view of some of the great musical personalities of the day… An eye witness account of the birth of jazz/blues.” Shades of Blue

To find out more about International Jazz Day click here:

Find Really the Blues by Mezz Mezzrow here:



The Beats

It is a big year for the Beats, On the Road was published 60 years ago. To celebrate we thought we would draw your attention to The Beats: A Graphic History.

In The Beats: A Graphic History the story of the Beats is explored through the graphic art of artists as diverse as Harvey Pekar (who created American Splendor, his graphic autobiography), while Peter Kuper draws for Mad magazine and Jeffrey Lewis is the singer-songwriter behind ‘Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror’.

Beginning with a group of friends in 1940’s New York, the Beats became a diverse and geographically scattered group (from the USA to Paris, Mexico and Tangiers) and The Beats records the lives of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, as well as the San Francisco poets, including Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, plus many of the artists and the musicians who were inspired by them.

This is the history of a generation that resisted conformity and conservatism in favour of creativity and experimentation. The unique form of comic art enhances the book’s countercultural history and vividly captures the spirit of the original Beats. It is an essential introduction to the makers of On the Road, Howl and Naked Lunch.

“A book of two halves. The first half is a straight-forward triple biography of the three best-known Beat writers, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S Burroughs… It’s in the second half of the book, entitled ‘Perspectives’, that the real juice is to be found… Short biographies of other (less famous) people on the Beat scene… (makes) for fresher reading, this part is lighter and more entertaining.”

‘Irish Times’


“Eagerly awaited… editor Paul Buhle was looking to broaden the scope of what constitutes a ‘Beat’ writer. Hence some intriguing inclusions… The idea of illustrating the lives of the Beats is a refreshing one that will, hopefully, introduce them to a new generation.”

‘Beat Scene’


“The Beat generation challenged mainstream culture in 1950s America, so it’s appropriate that a history of its writers should take an experimental form… An affectionate snapshot of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and the rest.”                                                                                                                                                   ‘Bizarre’


The Beats: A Graphic History is available here:

The Beats cover

Aspertools publication day!

When Dr Harold Reitman’s daughter, Rebecca, was diagnosed with Asperger’s in her twenties she explained it to her father by saying: “Brains are like snowflakes – no two are alike.” Dr Reitman realised, for the first time, why he had been unable to understand the landscape of Rebecca’s mind and feelings while she was growing up and resolved to write Aspertools, the book he wishes had been available to him when Rebecca was a child, to help other parents understand their autistic child.

Aspertools by Dr. Harold Reitman is published today. Aspertools is a moving account of a parent coming to fully understand his child, and beginning to see the world through his child’s eyes and voice for the first time. It provides everything needed to understand a child, partner, pupil, whose brain is “a little different”.

Aspertools offers advice from three perspectives: as well as Dr Reitman’s perspective as a parent and a doctor, there is the insight of a special needs education teacher, Pati Fizzano, as well as inspirational stories from Dr Reitman’s daughter, Rebecca, about her own experiences for understanding and managing life as an Aspie, offering practical tools and strategies from her personal experience.

Dr Harold Reitman is a former professional box, who is now an orthopaedic surgeon. He wrote and produced The Square Root of 2, a film also inspired by his daughter, and he is the founder of the neurodiversity community site,

Find the book here:


Pablo Larrain’s Neruda

Following the huge success of Jackie, Pablo Larraín’s next project is Neruda. The film is set in Santiago in 1948, at the outset of the cold war. Already renowned for his Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, Neruda stood up in the senate (where he represented the Communist Party) and condemned Chile’s then-president, Gabriel González Videla, for turning against the party that had helped bring him to power and for behaving as thuggishly as Franco in Spain.

Then began what Neruda called “a year of blind rats”. For his courageous outspokenness, Neruda was deprived of his parliamentary immunity and forced into hiding, rushed from one safe house to another, sometimes in the middle of the night, to avoid being captured. Had he been, he might well have been taken to the concentration camp at Pisagua, in the northern Atacama desert (where the commandant was a certain Augusto Pinochet – 25 years before he led the military coup against president Salvador Allende). Neruda eventually escaped across the Andes on horseback into Argentina and made his way to Europe using the passport of his fellow writer, the Guatemalan novelist, Miguel Ángel Asturias. All this is also related in Neruda’s Memoirs, which we publish.

Not only was Pablo Neruda one of the twentieth century’s greatest poets but his life was an integral part of the history of the century. Pablo Neruda was born the son of a railway-worker and Memoirs opens with a lyrical evocation of his childhood in Chile, in what was still a frontier wilderness.

Neruda describes his bohemian youth in Santiago and his career as Chilean consul in Burma and Ceylon before the agony of his life during the Spanish Civil War. After the murder of his friend, Garcia Lorca, Neruda became a communist and a poet “for the people”. On his return to Chile he became a Senator before being forced into exile and he escaped from Chile, on horseback over the Andes, in 1949.

“His many books are the vast adventure story of his life, wars, travels, politics, and of course loves… The reader who knows no Spanish can be confident that, in reading Alastair Reid’s fine translations, he is reading Neruda… the memoirs are a delight; a ‘rattling good yarn’.”

‘London Magazine’

Memoirs cover

Souvenir Press has a long history with Pablo Neruda and have published his work since 1976, in 2004 we published new editions of several of his books to celebrate the centenary of his birth. Among Neruda’s work we publish Fully Empowered, one of Neruda’s own favourite collections of his poetry. The thirty-six poems vary from short, intense lyrics, characteristic Neruda odes, whimsical addresses to friends, and his magnificent mediations on the role of the poet. Within Fully Empowered are many poems among the best of Neruda’s work, including ‘The People’, his most celebrated later poem, where he stakes his claim to be the greatest voice of the common man in twentieth-century poetry.

“A passion to connect poetry to everything… There are those still who want to keep poetry esoteric and elitist and away from the quotidian. Like it or not, though, the opposite to this was Neruda’s self-appointed project, and it has a lot to do with the fact that his poetry is so enduringly popular.”

Matthew Sweeney, ‘Poetry London’

Fully Empowered contains much of Neruda’s greatest work… Neruda specifically asked his finest translator, Alastair Reid, to translate this volume into English.”

Poetry Book Society Bulletin

You can find Fully Empowered here:

Fully Empowered cover

We also publish Isla Negra, Neruda’s poetic autobiography centred round his home. Neruda considered Isla Negra, a small village on the Pacific coast of Chile, as the centre of his world. The poems move from childhood impressions and awakenings through his early loves, travels and the dawning of his political awareness to self-scrutiny and self-definition. Among their variety Neruda embraces the apparent contradictions of his life. Through-out the poems present and past interact, and this collection becomes the most revealing of Neruda’s long career. The poems of Isla Negra display the astonishing abundance of the human imagination when mingled with memory.

“Pablo Neruda moves fast, and Reid follows alertly, ingeniously; his translations in this book are superb.”

Robert Bly, ‘New York Times’

“From these humble beginnings he went on to become possibly his country’s most famous son… as well as creator of some of the century’s most memorable and beautiful poetry.”

‘Financial Times’

You can find Isla Negra here:

Isla Negra cover

Residence on Earth is Neruda’s first great work and the expression of his mature voice, political, engaged and committed where Neruda speaks not only for the victims of repression such as his friend and fellow poet, Frederico Garcia Lorca, but for entire continents.

“Pablo Neruda was easily the most prolific and popular of all twentieth-century poets… At his best, he is among the small group of last century’s great poets.”

                                                                                                            Mark Strand


The spontaneity and directness of Neruda’s voice finds its great subject in Residence on Earth, as he became “the people’s poet” addressing the reader with poems that are realistic and refer to the ordinary, exalting the basic things of existence while speaking for a politically committed vision of a reformed world.

“If I could weep with fear in a solitary house,

if I could take out my eyes and eat them,

I would do it for your black-draped orange-tree voice

And for your poetry that comes forth shouting.”

‘Ode To Frederico Garcia Lorca’

You can read more about it here:

Residence on Earth