Thanks and warm wishes to all the Cologne secondary students and teachers who came to my Blood & Ink reading at the Altes Pfandhaus yesterday. Schools are sometimes nervous about frank discussion of radicalisation, but not so yesterday. Your questions and comments were intelligent and thought-provoking. I hope Blood & Ink does well in Germany and that it helps to promote empathy and peace at a time when both are sorely needed.
Just back from Hamburg, where I spent a couple of days at the kind invitation of the Harbour Front Literary Festival. Two readings, one at Aladin (who this summer published Blood & Ink in German) the other at a youth event laid on by the festival. What a wonderful city Hamburg is. Can’t wait to visit again.
I’m delighted to announce that Blood & Ink has found a publishing home in Germany. On 28 July this year (my fortieth birthday, as it happens) Aladin Verlag will publish a hardback version translated from the English by Katharina Diestelmeier and titled Blood & Ink: Die Bücher von Timbuktu. The book is beautifully designed and printed, and contains on the inside covers this striking, almost luminous, map of the Timbuktu area (click to enlarge).
Aladin’s founder Klaus Humann used to run Carlsen Verlag, a Hamburg based publishing house. Carlsen were not a big publisher when Humann started there, but that was before they bought the rights to Harry Potter and Twilight. As you would expect, these two series did them a bit of good.
After fifteen years at Carlsen, Humann got tired of running a big company, so in 2012 he founded Aladin Verlag – an independent children’s publishing house. His five-member team publish just 28 books a year, but they have complete creative freedom to seek and acquire ‘unique and special’ books.
What I particularly love about Aladin is the ethical value that they attach to children’s publishing, summed up by this quotation from Klaus Humann himself:
The good thing is you’re doing something worthwhile for society, because if you bring the best stories to children then it’s going to be a better world — at least this is what I hope. There’s still hope that with good stories, there are better children, better people, and better human beings.
Is this too idealistic? Too much weight on the shoulders of us frail children’s authors? I hope not. Humann’s bright-eyed positivity reminds me of something similar which Amanda Craig wrote last year:
It is children’s authors who are what Shelley called “the unacknowledged legislators of the world”. From them, as much as from parents, a child receives an idea of how the world could or should be.
Though a tense and at times violent read, Blood & Ink is a well-intentioned story, and I am thrilled that Humann has judged it unique and worthwhile enough to publish. It is about radical Islamism, a subject of global relevance and concern, but it is also about radical courage and radical compassion, and I hope it is received in that spirit.
I shall be visiting Germany this autumn and speaking about Die Bücher von Timbuktu at the Harbour Front Literaturfestival in Hamburg on 21 September. The event will include a dramatized reading by German actress Verena Wolfien, which I am really looking forward to. More about that another time.
This wonderfully titled book The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts is written by renowned travel writer and journalist Joshua Hammer. It tells the true story of Abdel Kader Haidara, the mild-mannered librarian who spearheaded the smuggling of Timbuktu’s priceless manuscripts out of the city in 2012, when they were under threat of destruction by Islamist extremists.
My own novel BLOOD & INK recounts the same story from the point of view of Timbuktu’s teenagers. Whereas my book is YA historical fiction, Hammer focusses on the adults and sticks to the facts. He recounts these facts in truly dramatic fashion, though – the story has been called ‘a heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven’. Reviewer Jeffrey Brown comments that ‘the stories of Haidara’s colorful and sometimes perilous journeys to gather manuscripts make for some of the book’s most exciting passages’.
I look forward very much to reading it myself.
THE BAD-ASS LIBRARIANS OF TIMBUKTU comes out tomorrow, published by Simon and Schuster.
BLOOD & INK is already available in the UK, published by Andersen Press. It comes out in the US later this year, published by Charlesbridge, and in Germany, published by Aladin Verlag.
Interesting story from Zak Ebrahim, the son of a terrorist, about his rejection of violence and his determination not to be his father’s son. Resonates closely with the character development of Ali in BLOOD & INK.
Particularly poignant was Zak’s mother’s reaction to his change of heart:
She looked at me with the weary eyes of someone who had experienced enough dogmatism to last a lifetime, and said, ‘I’m tired of hating people.’ In that instant I realized how much negative energy it takes to hold that hatred inside of you.
I’m really excited about my new book, BLOOD & INK, which is coming out on 4 June 2015 and is already available for preorder. It might be the best thing I’ve ever written. It is certainly the riskiest. At the heart of the novel is the 2012 invasion of Timbuktu and the foundation there of an Islamic Caliphate. It’s part thriller, part love story. All of the characters in the novel call themselves Muslim.
I finished writing BLOOD & INK long before the emergence of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, but the novel is scarily relevant to current events there. I in no way intend to glorify the horrifying actions of Islamic State and similar groups. If anything, I hope that this novel will contribute to an understanding of that historical situation, and the many faces of Islam.
The final cover was unveiled today. It was designed by the ubertalented artist Joe Cruz. And here is the back cover blurb.
The town is Timbuktu.
The year is 2012.
Ali, 16, is a mujahid, a holy warrior. His battalion is massing in the Sahara Desert, preparing to invade Timbuktu.
Kadija, 15, is a daughter of Timbuktu on the verge of becoming a Guardian, a keeper of the town’s mysterious ancient manuscripts.
The two of them are now set on a collison course. Ali hates Kadija’s spirit and her outlawed passion for music. Kadija scorns Ali’s confident, ruthless fanaticism. So when they find themselves falling for each other, they try desperately – and hopelessly – to resist.
BLOOD AND INK is an unflinching glimpse into the heart of jihad.