independent publishing

Sketches of Spain

£10 / AUS $27.95


> about the author

> yes please,
    I'd like to buy a copy



> e-book available

 

Federico García Lorca Sketches of Spain
Impressions and Landscapes
Translated by Peter Bush
Illustrations by Julian Bell

Lorca's first book, published when he was just nineteen, is collection of meditations on Spanish art, landscapes and history. With the passion and excitement of a young writer finding his voice, he travels around Spain in pursuit of its essential spirit: sunsets in Granada, the Gothic magnificence of Burgos Cathedral, the 'savage splendour' of Castile's mountains and plains. While Lorca celebrated Spanish culture - romantic gardens, medieval sculpture, Gregorian plainchant and 'the bite of flamenco' - he was also fearlessly critical when, for example, the harshness and celibacy of monks' lives or poverty and injustice aroused his rage.

Serif's is the first UK edition of this formative work by one of the twentieth century's greatest writers, and is embellished by Julian Bell's evocative illustrations, which take the reader straight to the heart of Lorca's Spain. With its rich, poetic prose, Sketches of Spain is a missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle of a creative life cut tragically short by the author's assassination at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

'He was the first poet that ever touched me'
Leonard Cohen

'If they had launched a careful search into every corner of Spain . . . they could not have found anyone better than Lorca to represent the popular soul.'
Pablo Neruda

'Lorca's words sing off the page ... These essays show more than a great writer in the making. They show Spain as we have never seen it before.'
The Observer

'To render into readable English Lorca's early prose, deeply in debt to the vocabulary and tics of modernismo, is a daunting task, and it seems to me that Peter Bush has risen splendidly to this almost impossible challenge.'
Ian Gibson

'Both the terms 'sketches' and 'impressions,' capture absolutely the style and form of the book. Its significance lies in the way that it's possible to see and, most importantly in the case of Lorca, hear him finding his extraordinary voice … Peter Bush's translation is brilliantly fluid and inhabits Lorca's poetic spirit beautifully. Julian Bell's drawings have something of the same impressionistic, hazy, tentative quality as the prose, and make the perfect travel companion.'
Michael Langan, Polari

'Much to cherish ... particularly memorable.'
The Guardian

The Face of Spain

£10 / US $18 / AUS $29.95


> about the author

> read an extract

> yes please,
    I'd like to buy a copy



> e-book available

 

Gerald Brenan The Face of Spain
Afterword by Michael Jacobs

Gerald Brenan returned to Spain in 1949 for the first time since the Civil War. He was determined to see what had become of the country he loved, to speak to ordinary people and to experience life in small towns unvisited by foreigners. He had earlier lived in a remote village in the Sierra Nevada – now he returned to a land in the grip of famine where guerrilleros roamed the mountains and thousands of people were reduced to living in caves.

Whether searching for his friend Lorca's unmarked grave, musing on the history of the great mosque in Córdoba and ancient synagogues in Toledo or chatting to provincial shopkeepers, Brenan was unfailingly perceptive. Although shadowed by police informers and harangued by Francoist priests, he was undeterred, and this witty and humane account of his visit illuminates a chapter of Spanish history that remains almost unknown. Franco's regime has now vanished, but its ghosts continue to haunt Spain. When they were alive, no one described the ogres and their victims more vividly than Gerald Brenan.

'The ideal travel book ... miraculous'
The Observer

'A descriptive writer of great gifts'
The Age (Melbourne)

'Knowledge, discernment and a most vivid pen ... compelling'
Times Literary Supplement

> more reviews

'Fascinating'
New Statesman

'A brilliant interpreter of Spain to the rest of the world'
The Times

'Britain's greatest Hispanist travels through Franco's bleak Spain. His account is unforgettable.'
Ian Gibson

'A book of great balance and beauty ... most illuminating'
Rose Macaulay, Spectator

'Brenan's extraordinary erudition, knack of observation, his profound knowledge of Spain and fluent style are all present in this book.'
Michael Eaude, Catalonia Today

> book description

The Aran Islands

£10 / US $15 / AUS $24.95


> about the author

> read an extract

> yes please,
    I'd like to buy a copy

 

J. M. Synge The Aran Islands
Foreword by Julian Bell
Illustrations by Jack B. Yeats

'Go to the Aran Islands. Live there as if you were one of the people themselves, express a life that has never found expression.' J.M. Synge did exactly as W.B. Yeats suggested and, revisiting these harsh yet beautiful specks of land off Ireland's west coast over a period of five years, created a literary masterpiece.

Synge immersed himself in the islanders' lives as they steered their curaghs through Atlantic waves, mourned their dead, celebrated weddings and suffered the horrors of eviction. The Aran Islands weaves their stories with Synge's own and the result, as Colm Tóibí­n has observed, is that 'Unlike most travel books of 100 years ago, it has not dated at all.'

This is the first paperback edition in which Jack B. Yeats's unforgettable drawings, commissioned for the first Dublin edition, have appeared alongside Synge's haunting prose. Samuel Beckett was a lifelong admirer of Yeats's 'extraordinary craftsmanship' before which, he believed, 'one can simply bow, wonder-struck'.

'This is travel writing of a special kind'
Bruce Arnold, Irish Independent

'Captivating... profoundly attuned to the spirit of the place'
Times Literary Supplement

'Travel writing of the highest order'
Time Out

Travels in Wicklow, West Kerry and Connemara

£9.99 / AUS $24.95


> about the author

> read an extract

> yes please,
    I'd like to buy a copy

 

J. M. Synge Travels in Wicklow, West Kerry and Connemara
Foreword by Paddy Woodworth
Illustrations by Jack B. Yeats

J.M. Synge was a tireless traveller who, while celebrating the beauties of the Irish landscape, never flinched from describing the harsh, unromantic reality of rural life. Jack B. Yeats's evocative drawings were intended to accompany these accounts of Synge's travels, and they are now published together again for the first time in 100 years.

Capturing the embers of a dying culture, the great playwright walks, drinks and talks with a rich assortment of country people, offering unforgettable descriptions of the Puck Fair at Killorglin and horse-racing on the strand near Dingle, of remote cottages and isolated fishing villages.

Seamus Heaney wrote of Synge in 'Glanmore Eclogue' that he

Was never happier than when he was on the road
With people on their uppers. Loneliness
Was his passport through the world. Midge-angels
On the face of water, the first drop before thunder ...
His spirit lives for me in things like that.

Synge's wandering spirit, as well as the farmers and tinkers, weavers and boat-builders he befriended, live on in these pages, which cannot fail to delight anyone who loves Ireland and her literature.

This new edition now also includes a commemorative essay by Synge's friend and travelling companion, Jack B. Yeats.

'Synge's travel writings are particularly fascinating'
The Irish Times

'Synge's Ireland will always strike an echo'
Times Literary Supplement

Ninety-Two Days: Travels in Guiana and Brazil

£9.99 / AUS $27.95


> about the author

> yes please,
    I'd like to buy a copy

 

Evelyn Waugh Ninety-Two Days: Travels in Guiana and Brazil
Afterword by Pauline Melville

In 1932 Evelyn Waugh left the salons of Mayfair for the savannah and rainforest of what was then British Guiana. The result: classic travel-writing.

Even Waugh's comic imagination could not have invented the characters he met in South America, but only he could have described them so perfectly. A cattle-rancher who claimed to be a close friend of the Virgin Mary, a Jesuit missionary with a pet toad that ate burning cigarette ends, a gold-prospector who believed he was guided through the jungle by speaking parrots and many others live on in Waugh's mordant prose, as do his descriptions of Guyana's extraordinary landscapes. The author's journey – on foot, horseback and by boat – was extremely arduous, but he remained an unfailingly astute observer, offering a fascinating picture of the Amerindian peoples through whose lands he travelled.

In the Afterword, award-winning novelist Pauline Melville explores the connections between Waugh's experiences in the region of Guyana from which her own family hails and A Handful of Dust, one of Waugh's greatest novels, giving a fascinating insight into the creative process and the mind of the man himself.

'Exquisitely miserable'
Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

'Predictably brilliant'
The Evening Standard

'Intriguing'
Time Out

'He will be admired as long as there are people who can read'
The Daily Telegraph

Angola: Promises and Lies

£12 / US $17.95 / AUS $27.95


> about the author

> read an extract

> yes please,
    I'd like to buy a copy



> e-book available

 

Karl Maier Angola: Promises and Lies

Angola's civil war was the longest in Africa. Once the battleground for a proxy war between the Cold War superpowers, the country was supposed to become a model for a smooth transition from armed conflict to democracy. The government, earlier backed by the Soviet Union and Cuba, and the UNITA rebels, supported by the Americans and South Africans, would exchange bullets for ballots – but it all went wrong – UNITA's Jonas Savimbi rejected his defeat in the elections and plunged Angola back into war. The United Nations could only wring its hands, eventually negotiating a fragile new peace agreement. For most Angolans, however, the effects of a quarter of a century of violence have proved to be more enduring than the taste of peace.

Karl Maier was the Angola correspondent for The Independent and Washington Post for 10 years, and provides a fascinating analysis of the realities behind the conflict as well as a vivid eye-witness account of the devastation it brought. Whether speaking to soldiers, nurses, black-market traders or aid workers, he views Angola's strife with a rare sympathy for the ordinary people caught in the crossfire. Sceptical of both sides' promises and lies, his is a classic account of one of the civil wars that continue to plague Africa.

This updated new edition covers the massive corruption and other problems that have arisen since the ending of the war with Savimbi's death. Armed conflict has been replaced by an oil boom that has benefited only the country's elite – as Maier observes, the vast majority of Angolans now face 'a war of neglect by their rulers'.

'An accessible, balanced account'
Sousa Jamba, Times Literary Supplement

'A rare, unsentimental book – compelling'
Weekly Mail (Johannesburg)

'Maier's narrative is energetic ... his portrayals of Angola, its people and its political players are vivid and immediate.'
The Scotsman

> more reviews

'A vivid eye-witness account of the devastation caused by war in Angola. Maier travelled widely in Angola in this period and was one of the very few journalists to write objective copy about what was happening. Through this book, Maier has become the natural successor of Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski ... His sympathy is with the person in the street trying to survive despite all the promises and lies of Angola's elite. This could never have been captured so eloquently through dry academic analysis.'
Alex Vines, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism

'The most distinguished reporter and storyteller to cover wars in both Angola and Mozambique. Maier's book is a luminously accurate gem. He's wary of all the politicians and tender with ordinary people helpless against the guns of both sides.'
Peta Thornycroft, Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg)

'It makes a rivetting read and deserves to reach a wide public. With passionate eloquence Maier depicts the horrendous sufferings of ordinary Angolans, who have known nothing but war for over thirty years - enduring constant bombardments from one side or the other, families divided and uprooted, many thousands mutilated for live by anti-personnel mines, many thousands more, mainly women, children and old people, dying of hunger and malnutrition. The author's moving account of his encounters with individual Angolans of all ethnic and political persuasions brings out the indomitable tenacity and courage of ordinary Angolans, especially the women, as well as the senseless stupidity of the conflict. Maier describes it as a 'civil war fought primarily against innocent civilians, the povo (people), by armies of conscripted youngster on behalf of power-mad politicians ... Both Karl Maier and I know how hard it is to persuade anyone to publish a book about Angola. The argument is that there is no public interest - and apparently no desire to awaken it either. This book is therefore all the more welcome, and Serif are to be congratulated for making it possible.'
Margaret Anstee, International Relations


'No other book has attempted to explain the Angolan civil war as dispassionately as this one. Few journalists have got so near the long-suffering people on the roadside. Few have been able to observe the machinations of the politicians and their puppet-masters at such close quarters. The author knows Angola intimately and loves its people, but his book, subtitled "promises and lies", brooks no deviation from the truth as he perceives it. The result is elegant, compelling, tragic. It is a tour de force ...'
David Birmingham, Journal of Southern African Studies

'An energetic partisan for the povo, Karl Maier infuses his fast-moving account of the war and peace process in Angola with a large dose of humanity and a reporter's eye for telling detail. The last five years of war in Angola have killed more than 500,000 people and blown off more limbs than any other since the Second World War; it should have generated several books and dozens of television documentaries. It hasn't. Maier's account is one of the few and certainly the best. His book takes in ten years of reporting the war,getting to know the leaders, the combatants, and many of the ten million caught in the crossfire.'
Patrick Smith, International Affairs

'Angola: Promises and Lies is not about political analysis, it is about people and the unlimited endurance of the human spirit. The precision and detail of his interviews and observations, his compassion and insights combine to create a sense of truth.'
Sunday Times (Johannesburg)

'The author's compassion and sympathy are reserved for the victims on both sides of the conflict, who make up the overwhelming majority of the Angolan people.'
Publico (Lisbon)

> book description

The Slaves of the Cool Mountains

£9.99 / US $17.95 / AUS $27.95


> about the author

> view bookmark

> read an extract

> yes please,
    I'd like to buy a copy

 

Alan Winnington The Slaves of the Cool Mountains
Travels Among Head-Hunters and Slave-Owners in South-West China

Beijing, 1956: foreign correspondent Alan Winnington heard reports of slaves being freed in the mountains of south-west China. The following year he travelled to Yunnan province and spent several months with the head-hunting Wa and the slave-owning Norsu and Jingpaw. From that journey was born The Slaves of the Cool Mountains, which Neal Ascherson has hailed 'one of the classics of modern English travel writing'.

The first European to enter and leave these areas alive, Winnington met a slave-owner who assessed his value at five silver ingots ('Your age is against you, but as a curiosity you would fetch a decent price'), a head-hunter who a fortnight earlier killed a man in order to improve his own rice harvest, and a sorcerer struggling against the modern medicines sapping his authority and livelihood. Meeting recently released slaves was a scoop of which most journalists can only dream – 'Nobody will ever again be able to see them as I saw them' – and Winnington's account of their struggle to come to terms with new-found freedom is unforgettable.

'Fascinating'
New Statesman

'A clear, striking account'
Time Out

'One of Britain's greatest foreign correspondents - curious, witty and adventurous' Jonathan Mirsky, The Observer

'A fascinating study of a little known pocket of humanity'
The Age (Melbourne)

Shebeen Tales: Messages from Harare

£6.99 / US $12.99 / AUS $19.95


> about the author

> read an extract

> yes please,
    I'd like to buy a copy



> e-book available

 

Chenjerai Hove Shebeen Tales: Messages from Harare

Throughout southern Africa, shebeens are where jokes are born, news is embellished and exchanged. They are unique vantage points where men go after a day's work, both to escape from the troubled world around them and to observe and comment on it.

In Shebeen Tales, Zimbabwe's leading author offers a view of his country not from the privileged and insulated perspective of a well-heeled visitor, but that of the ordinary person who, with the help of dry wit and illegal beer, pokes fun at the rich and mighty. Struggling against madcap motorists, pompous bureaucrats and the other woes of life in the city, the man in the shebeen sees modern Africa as it really is, not as press releases or tourist brochures would have us believe.

Hove looks straight in the eye of a society suffering from AIDS, drought and economic hardship, but does not succumb to despair. With a wry sense of humour, he celebrates a people who live life to the full, laugh and sing, tell tall tales – whatever is thrown at them. In new pieces written for this edition, he discusses the vexed issue of homosexuality in Zimbabwe and also casts an amused eye at President Mugabe's wedding.

'Beautifully written – a glimpse into a rarely seen African reality'
Weekly Journal

'An intimate – occasionally painful – look at his own land ... his observations about women and their place in Zimbabwean culture are particularly incisive'
Publishers Weekly

'Raw, direct and gutsy: a refreshingly honest account of life in modern Africa'
Margaret Busby

> more reviews

'The whole is always the sum of its parts, which this slim book strives to capture with a sense of awareness, understanding, love and sadness. What emerges is a book that will provoke, make laugh and sadden in equal measure, those who are wise enough to read it.'
Africa World Review

'... it is lightness of touch which carries his points about the unfulfilled promises of independence far more powerfully than rage or the dour functionality of political language ever can.'
Weekly Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg)

'He has certainly rejected the tug toward political précis and the temptation to write blandly.'
World Literature Today

> book description