• The news!  I always neglect the news.  Thursday 7th October - Birmingham Books Festival 19.00 Birmingham Conservatoire Tickets (5 pounds) and more information available here: Richard Beard in conversation with John Boyne and Janette Jenkins I haven't seen John  and Janette together for fifteen years, since we were at UEA together.  When Malcom Bradbury died I wrote 24 Hours with Malcolm Bradbury for the Paris Review, but otherwise haven't been a great revisitor of that time.  However, I'm looking forward to playing David Dimbleby to Janette's Bolton Joanna Lumley and John's John Boyne.  The last time I saw John he generously stood in at a Dublin reading when I came down with chicken pox hours before the event. Wednesday 25th November - SHOUT Festival

    Sep 25,
  • If Heaven is one place ( and it surely is, because the people who go there won't mind sharing) then it has many quarreling embassies on earth.  Most of these will make you feel welcome, because on the whole, with some obvious exceptions, religious people try to be nice, especially if you're new. Just keep the moonlighting a secret. Spiritual double-dating is one of the underappreciated pleasures of the post-enlightenment.  The Greeks one Sunday, and the Russians the next.  In Paris there's an excellent basement filled with guitar-playing South Americans. Nothing quite so exotic here in the English countryside, but enough god-in-buildings to keep a recent arrival interested.  The Anglican vicar in the church above the river lives in fear of central directives.  She points

    Sep 21,
  • In the local library, which I visit once a week, they have  a Mystery Book on the Issues counter.  It is hidden inside a plain white A4 envelope.  On four consecutive Saturdays, I have been able to resist. This week I cracked.  I had to have it. They wouldn't let me have the Mystery Book on the counter.  Underneath the desk, there is a pile of plain white envelopes.  I get the one on the top, and leave the library without opening it. I'm expecting a middle-brow novel.  It would be great to have a handbook on gyro-copter mechanics, or a guide to the sacrificial customs of Ancient Mesopatamia.  However, I can't quite believe a library will let its

    Sep 15,
  • I was reminded about this because I was thinking about the translator Marie Rennard, who came up with the title Le Rugbyman Nomade. In French, ‘le rugbyman’ is a commonly used term for those lucky souls with a passion for the sport of rugby. However, it means more than that, just as ‘le cricketman’ would be someone with more than a casual interest in cricket. ‘Le rugbyman’ is a rugby nutter. He’s mental about rugby. This is because the ‘man’ in ‘le rugbyman’ comes from the wide-eyed man in maniac. I’ve always liked this false-friend aspect of ‘Le Rugbyman’, as if everyone who plays rugby is indeed a superhero, with a big R in a shield across the front

    Sep 09,
  • For some time I've been gearing up to translate a short and little-known book by Henry Miller called I'm no More of an Idiot than Anybody Else.  Maybe.  Despite the fact that Henry Miller is American, and wrote in English, he made an exception for Je Ne Suis Pas Plus Con Qu'un Autre. There in the title lies the first dilemma.  'Con' is perhaps the most common French curse word.  Certainly, it is a word that most Anglophones will hear at some stage on any visit to France, often prefaced with 'espece de'.  However, your French antagonist may be calling you something more or less rude than you think - the exact equivalent in English is unclear.  Strictly speaking, a

    Sep 05,