Address Unknown at the Soho Theatre: What the Papers Say

If you are a regular reader of our Take Home a Souvenir blog, no doubt you will have seen last month’s blog post about Address Unknown, the book by Katherine Kressmann Taylor, now taken to the stage at the Soho Theatre. With performances in French and English (though the French performances have now finished their run), this fascinating play is garnering rave reviews from all sections of the press.

Take a look at the round up of reviews for Address Unknown at the Soho Theatre:

“Address Unknown is a poignant story of broken friendship that deals in high tragedy while refusing to slip into melodrama. … Steve Marmion’s production effectively emphasises the frustrating sense of helplessness that comes from the distance between the characters, with snippets of broadcasts and radio static adding to the mounting tension.” – Evening Standard, 4 stars.

“A shockingly potent story that is well worth hearing, and one that reminds how easily politics, prejudice and circumstance destroy lives.” – The Guardian, 3 stars.

“An absorbing hour that offers a vivid depiction of how a sense of betrayal can lead to desperate measures.” – The Times, 3 stars.

“A must see.” – One Stop Arts, 4 stars.

“A stunning play … It’s a powerful piece, well staged and well acted … Essential viewing for our modern times.” – The Gay UK, 4 stars.

“Normally a home primarily to new writing, the theatre has taken a gamble on staging a 75-year-old play. And that gamble has paid off. … a provocative and devastating hour of friendship and betrayal.” – A Younger Theatre.

Address Unknown is showing at the Soho Theatre until 27th July. You can book tickets now, and be sure to pick up a copy of the book before you see the play!

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Knut Hamsun and Edvard Munch

In 2009 to mark the 150th anniversary of Knut Hamsun’s birth, Souvenir Press  republished eight books and commissioned a new translation of a ninth by Hamsun, one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

The 150th anniversary of Hamsun’s birth was celebrated in Norway by schools, universities, theatres and libraries, including the inauguration of a Knut Hamsun Centre in the town of Hamaroy (where Hamsun grew up), and was an extraordinary national celebration of a writer whose work was for some time overshadowed by the scandal of his support for the Nazis in World War Two. Recently, though, there has been a revival of interest in Hamsun’s work, including Growth of the Soil, his novel that was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920.

All nine Knut Hamsun books were published in beautiful  uniform editions all featuring cover art work by another famous Norwegian, Edvard Munch. This year the National Museum in Norway, together with the Munch Museum, are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Munch’s birth with an exhibition of his work that will also be shown in cinemas across the world. But if you can’t get to the exhibition or any of the screenings, and you don’t have a spare $120m (which is how much Munch’s iconic painting The Scream sold for last year), then this is your chance to take home some Munch artwork and discover one of Norway’s greatest writers.

“The most outstanding Norwegian writer since Ibsen.” – Times Literary Supplement

“The whole modern school of fiction in the twentieth century stems from Hamsun” – Isaac Bashevis Singer

“Thanks to Souvenir, readers can now reclaim extraordinary works such as the eerie Mysteries and the epic Growth of the Soil… an unsettling master of modern fiction.” – The Independent

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This #translationthurs why don’t you add some Knut Hamsun to your reading list?

Address Unknown at the Soho Theatre

Kressmann Taylor’s Address Unknown has an extraordinary history for an international bestseller, and now it will be further enhanced as it takes to the stage.

Originally published in the USA in 1938, Katherine Kressmann Taylor’s Address Unknown became an immediate bestseller. The subject of the book being inappropriate for a woman to be writing about at the time, her publishers dropped her first name and the book was published under her masculine sounding family name, Kressmann Taylor. Unsurprisingly the book was banned in Germany, and Taylor found herself on Hitler’s death list for daring to write such a book.

With the onset of war European publishing was a lost opportunity, and it wasn’t until recently that the book was rediscovered for the classic that it is. In 1995 it was reissued in the USA for the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps, garnering rave reviews again:

[b]etter just to call it a masterpiece … remarkable power and economy … a reminder that important messages come in small envelopes.”  – TIME Magazine

“[t]his modern story is perfection itself.  It is the most effective indictment of Nazism to appear in fiction.” – The New York Times Book Review

[a] tale already known and profoundly appreciated by members of my generation.  It is to our part in World War II what ‘Uncle Toms Cabin’s’ was to the Civil War.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Here in the UK we at Souvenir Press rediscovered it in 2002 and have already reprinted it thirteen times to an equally enthusiastic press:

[t]his simple but profound work reminds us just how cowardly other story writers have been … ‘Address Unknown’ remains one of the most significant, innovative and genuinely engaged fictions about the Nazi era.” – The New Statesman

spend three-quarters of an hour with it and you’ll be jabbing all comers with the injunction: “Read!”” – The Guardian

“celebrate[s] the power of words to name, accuse and condemn human evil.  Taylor’s book is a rare example of fiction that has made a political difference.” – The Times

Previously it has been broadcast by the BBC as an Afternoon Play with Henry Goodman and Patrick Malahide and also at festivals including one in London starring Andrew Sachs and Henry Goodman. Now the pioneering Soho Theatre in the West End of London is simultaneously staging (in early/mid-June) the French adaptation, bringing over its film star participants Christian Clavier (Les Visiteurs, Astérix & Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre), and Thierry Lhermitte (An American Werewolf in Paris, Les Papas du dimanche, Le noir (te) vous va si bien; and an English version with Jonathan Cullen and Simon Kunz, both directed by Steve Marmion, Soho Theatre’s Artistic Director.

This timeless tale of friendship and betrayal” will run from 13th June to 27th July, with the French performances running between 13th June and 22nd June.

Want to book tickets? Check out the Soho Theatre website for more information, ticket pricing and booking.

Want to read the book before you see the play? Find out more on the Souvenir Press website, or order a copy in hardback or e-book.

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Author Corner: Discovering Classical Myths by Lorna Robinson

Lorna Robinson is the author of Telling Tales in Latin, a new Latin course and storybook for children. With Ovid as the narrator, this book is an ideal first introduction to Latin, and features some of the most famous classical myths including stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. These stories are vital for capturing children’s imaginations, and colour illustrations throughout by Soham De help bring these magical stories to life. Telling Tales in Latin features all the grammar and vocabulary needed for the OCR entry level Latin qualification.

Lorna Robinson tells us how she discovered the magic of the myths of ancient Greece, stories that sparked her imagination and which she believes are the way to engage children with studying the classics. Here she shares some of her favourite classical myths.

Like many people, I learned about the myths of the Greeks and Romans as a young child, long before I learned any Latin. When I did first learn Latin, it was alongside descriptions of slaves and masters in country villas, remote and staid characters far removed from the weird, dark, colourful, alive stories that had long fascinated me.

My very first encounter was through the “Usbourne Book of Greek myths and Legends”, which had a picture of the Minotaur on the cover – I can still remember the huge curling horns and the terrible, but oddly human, face. Inside its pages, tales spilled out, precious and mysterious and frightening all at once, in a way my other childhood books were not. All these years later, I still carry those stories with me, and they’ve shaped my world and fuelled my imagination.

Here are two of my favourites!

Orpheus and Eurydice

This is my all-time favourite myth, and appears at the end of my book Telling Tales in Latin, a new Latin course and storybook for children, for that very reason.

The story of a man with the unearthly talent of moving all living things with his song. He lost his wife, and then dared to enter the underworld to ask for her back. Orpheus sings a song of grief so beautiful that even the ghosts weep and Hades is moved. Hades agrees to return Eurydice to life, but on one condition: Orpheus must not turn around before they reach the earth’s surface. They make the gloomy, eerie, lonely ascent, Orpheus first, Eurydice behind. Just as they are getting close, his fear overcomes him and he turns to see if she’s actually there. She instantly slips back into the underworld forever.

There are many things about this story which have haunted me. The fact that this man with his superhuman gift has such a human flaw, and lets his fears overwhelm him is very moving. There’s the image of this one man singing his heart out in that dark, foreboding land, and the ghosts being spellbound as his song enchants the underworld. And finally, there is the unanswerable question of why Hades set this rule at all – is it because he knew Orpheus would fail? Why did there have to be a condition? And why did Orpheus give in, so close to the end?

Persephone and Demeter

This is the story of how we came to have seasons. The tale goes that Persephone, daughter of Demeter, the goddess of fertility and plants, was picking flowers in a field, when Hades saw her and seized her away to the underworld to be his wife. Demeter searched high and low but couldn’t find her daughter. She grieved and mourned, and while she did this, the plants and crops all withered and died as she neglected to care for them. Eventually, she discovered that Hades had her daughter and she went to get her back. While Persephone had been in the underworld, she had eaten six pomegranate seeds and so she had to spend six months of every year with Hades, but for the remaining six months, she could return to earth to be with her mother. And so it was forever more, that for the six months that she is in the underworld each year, Demeter grieves and all the crops and plants and trees die – this is our autumn and winter. But when she returns, everything flourishes again and we have our spring and summer.

As with the Orpheus story, part of the fascination for me with this story is the strange and unwritten rule. Why does eating in the underworld invoke this rule – what does it represent about life and death and beliefs surrounding these things? Also, there is the human element within this goddess who is so powerful, that she grieves desperately for her daughter. And finally, for me there is something wonderful about explaining the seasons in such human, emotional terms.

So these are my favourites. What are yours?

Telling Tales in LatinTelling Tales in Latin by Lorna Robinson, illustrated by Soham De, is published May 2013 by Souvenir Press.

This week’s review round-up

With more wonderful reviews coming in this week for a whole variety of different Souvenir Press titles, this is your chance to read extracts of them all in one place. As always, we’ve got a great mix of titles in here – just another reminder of the eclectic mix we publish here at Souvenir Press.

Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? – Jena Pincott

“A fun take on the traditional pregnancy book… with lots of unusual information… A great read… It really gives you an understanding about what’s happening to you, both physically and psychologically.” – Book of the Month, Pregnancy & Birth magazine (review not online at present)

The Book – Alan Watts

“Watts’ views are therefore now more relevant than ever … this last great taboo – the question of who or what we are – could never be more pressing.” – Philosophyonline.co.uk

Modesty Blaise – Peter O’Donnell

“A rollicking adventure that outpaces James Bond at his most lethal.” – Daily Mail

Terribly English – Rupert Besley

“What’s funny about the English? … Quite a lot… A guide book with a difference… a gem.” – Let’s Talk (review not available online)

Are you a blogger interested in reviewing any of the titles from Souvenir Press? Take a look at our blog post, ‘Calling All Bloggers’ for information on how to get in touch. I’ll be happy to send you a copy of our latest catalogue to peruse – just give me a shout.

Have you seen a review that we’ve missed? Let me know!

Rediscover: John Masters

Thirty years after his death, two novels by John Masters have been republished as ebooks by Souvenir Press, introducing Masters’ historical novels to a new generation of readers.

Nightrunners of Bengal, first published in 1951, and Bhowani Junction, first published in 1954, are two of his seven novels which followed several generations of the Savage family serving in the British Army in India. Notable for their treatment of the British Empire in India, these are recognised as classic historical novels which brought India to life in a way which no other writer did at that time.

One Indian novelist, Khushwant Singh, remarked that as E.M. Forster understood India, so Masters understood the Indian people. Drawing on Masters’ own experiences in India (he served in the British Army in India from 1934-1948), the novels explore crucial moments in the history of the British Empire in India.

Nightrunners of Bengal focuses on the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The central character, Captain Rodney Savage, is an officer in a Bengal Native Infantry regiment, based in the fictional city of Bhowani. When rebellion breaks out, the British community in Bengal is shattered. Savage’s empathy for the Indians is shaken, as the British try to discover who is loyal to them and who is not. This was the first novel that Masters wrote in the series, and is one of his best-known works.

Bhowani Junction is set in the wake of the partition of India, as the British prepare to withdraw from the newly independent country. Evoking the tensions and conflicts that accompanied the birth of modern India, the characters struggle to find their place in the new India that is emerging. Bhowani Junction is Masters’ most famous novel, and was made into a film in 1956.

Two of the great novels of India, Nightrunners of Bengal and Bhowani Junction combine John Master’s mastery of story-telling with an intuitive sense of history. Must-reads for anyone with an interest in the history of the British Empire, the British Army, or the British in India.

Author Corner: Arthur Plotnik with some timely help for Valentine’s Day

Arthur Plotnik is the author of BETTER THAN GREAT, a unique thesaurus of praise and acclaim. Why settle for “great” when you can say “mind-marmalizing” or “pinnacular”? And in this season of romance, will anything short of superlatives be worthy of expressing your love for that special someone in your life? If you’re lost for words, struggling for the right way to tell them that you care, fear not, for help is at hand. Arthur Plotnik has some timely pointers for you this Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Season Special: Worthier Words for Your Loved One

“You’re adorable,” “You’re so fabulous and brilliant,” “My sweet,” “You send me.”

Many are the ways to express admiration of our loved ones, but most of the year we can get away with stock phrases over a red table wine. During Valentine’s season, however, the expectations and stakes go up. Fondue by candlelight. Chocolate truffles. Long-stem roses. An extra allowance of this, a bit more of that.

The season also calls for worthier words in praise of the love object—special words to make your soulmate feel more special than your newest shoes or digital toy.

We are talking about words called “superlatives”: terms that indicate high or utmost degree. Superlatives are the currency of praise; so when it comes to your heart’s desire, why parcel out cheapies like “great” or “amazing”? Especially around V-Day, you’ll want to peel off some big denominations in praise of your darling. I’ll be acclaiming my own true love, for example, as “ensorcelling,” “refulgent,” “enrapturing”; “a tintinnabulation of joy.”

But maybe in these tough times you’re feeling as pinched for words as for everything else. Allow me, then–as the author of a book of 6,000 fresh superlatives—to be of some assistance.

“Beautiful,” “Joy-Giving,” and “Sublime” are among the fifteen categories of acclaim in BETTER THAN GREAT: A Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives, newly and lovingly published by Souvenir Press. Borrowing from terms in these and other categories, I offer a few dozen examples to inspire your own, upgraded love cries. Use them in cards and texts or over champagne or pillows, but with honorable intentions only—at least when Cupid is watching.

For him:
My love, you are:

fatally handsome
my flambeau of joy
balsamaceous (having healing or restorative properties)
beyond dashing
one big loving cup
a Clydesdale (good-looking stud)
gaupísimo [Spanish: extremely hot-looking]
an artisanal masterwork
boombastic (sexy, hot)
a regalement [banquet] for the heart
my yin and my yang
heapin’ hot
a Michelangelian stud-muffin
a heart-impounding heir to Adonis
my anam cara [soul-friend]
George Clooney [Clive Owen? Theo Wolcott? Daniel Craig?] 2.0

For her:
Dearest, you are:

amaranthine (unfadingly beautiful)
an attar [perfume] of allure
rejoicement, a
concupiscible (worthy of amorous desire)
mythopoetically [myth-makingly] beautiful
caressably gracile ( slender, willowy)
enrapturing
enshrinable
fallen from the heavenly clouds
lovely to the outrance (French: ” utmost extremity”)
Botticellian
one fine gabwanaha (good-looking woman)
gaga-makingly gorgeous
gazelline (gazelle-like)
moony-making
an objet d’art
a cascade of happiness
a conjugation of beauty and grace
Kate Middleton [Kiera Knightley? Kate Winslet? Myleen Class?] 2.0

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______________________________
Arthur Plotnik studied writing under Philip Roth in the Iowa Graduate Writers Workshop where, like one of Roth’s characters, he aspired to be “linguistically large.” In addition to his distinguished career as editorial director for the American Library Association, he is the author of nine books, including two U.S. Book-of-the-Month-Club selections. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins praised Better Than Great “as “Amen-Astonishing!”