Archive | Introductions

Ukemi Audiobooks May 2020

Ukemi Audiobooks May 2020

May is becoming quite a bumper month for Ukemi Audiobooks, with a plethora of very different releases with one thing in common: each title is on this list as a direct response to requests from regular Ukemi listeners. Just to be clear, of course, the Ukemi publishing list is not the audiobook version of Listeners Requests! However, I am very pleased to say that I receive, very regularly, emails asking for such and such a classic; or ‘Have you ever thought of recording XYZ?’ Or – ‘There is only a terrible version of A-B-C: I tried it and couldn’t go on after 20 mins…but there really should be a good recording of this great work.’

And always, I am fascinated – by the sheer variety of interest out there, by the elevated nature of your requests: Fiction, non-fiction, obscure, ancient and from all corners of the world. I find it stimulating, so keep the ideas coming!

Now, a little revelation. You will have noticed that there is a central corps of Ukemi readers, names and voices that appear again and again because I know I can give them the toughest concepts of existentialism, the texts containing names and places from 25 or 30 different countries, the scripts with totally outlandish syntax or in-depth economics or mathematical formulae. I know they settle down with pen and paper (actually, no, with their iPad) and research, unpick, delve and build – and out comes a performance that enables us to understand, sometime for the first time, the challenges of that particular classic.

BUT virtually every one of these readers (when recovering after some impossible and impossibly long script has been overcome) has come to me at some point and quietly (if that is possible on an email or in a studio) asked for an Agatha Christie, or some sub-genre SAS or Jack Reacherish thriller. SHORT SENTENCES! NO LONG WORDS. Characters that grunt. ‘The AK7 shot out of his hands, rolled down the cliff and he was left facing the gargantuan snarling gorilla – with just his bare hands.’

I’m sorry, I have to say every time. ‘It’s not what we do.’ And I really mean it.

‘Why not??’ they ask despairingly.

I know I can’t hold out forever. One day I may have to launch a sub-label featuring pulp fiction of the lowest kind – Trigger MortisLady, That’s My SkullThe Case of the Dancing Sandwiches – so that I can later entice them back to the Ukemi fold with more Heidegger, or Spinoza, or Montesquieu.

HOWEVER, the in the meantime…in May 2020, Ukemi continues as normal.

Sagar Arya continues his survey of the major Indian Sanskrit classics with The Rig Veda. This was a challenge from the start. The late 19th century translation by T H Griffith remains the only acceptable verse version, but like so many of his time he felt he should honour the antiquity of the original by using antiquated English. An uphill business for most  21st century listeners (though apologies to supportive Morris, my inveterate correspondent in the West country, who, with friends, gather together once a month to read Sanskrit texts in the original, and enjoys original Griffith!)  The Ukemi team revised the innumerable ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ and words which needed an 1890s dictionary; and with additional help from Sanskritist Anwesha Arya in translating those (risqué) sections omitted by Griffith, gave Sagar Arya a text to read which, we hope, will prove more accessible for 21st century listeners.

Something similar was done with Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, the founding work of the bildungsroman genre. Though with extra respect. For the translator was none other than Thomas Carlyle, the distinguished historian and essayist. He admired Goethe and Wilhelm Meister hugely, and that is reflected in this translation. It just needed small adjustments here and there – for example reverting the Anglicised Mariana to the original Mariane: small but important differences especially when read by German scholar Leighton Pugh.

After the release of Heidegger’s Being and Time, it was clear that we should go to one of Heidegger’s initial inspirations – Ideas, by the founder of phenomology, Edmund Husserl. Leighton Pugh again takes on the challenge of presenting it clearly; and we all benefit, certainly, from the Introduction by Taylor Carman, who performed the same service on Being and Time. Both were commissioned by Ukemi Audiobooks.

These three titles are available on Audible as I write. However, there are more in the pipeline. Epicurus of Samos, His Philosophy and Life contains not only all the principal source texts (from Diogenes Laertius etc) but very pertinent and stimulating introductions to the man himself, his views, effect on succeeding centuries, including his influence on  Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). The final chapter, The Legacy is fascinating – incorporating comments from Cicero to Thomas Jefferson who declared, ‘I am an Epicurean’! By the way, this title is an Ukemi commission…I noted that while Plato, the Stoics and so on were well-served on audio, there was very little on Epicurus…Hiram Crespo, founder of the Society of Epicurus, who compiled the representative texts and introduced, is a persuasive guide.

And now for something completely different. Rosa Luxemburg, the Polish/Russian post Marxist economist was a strong and original voice in her field. She was murdered by right-wing thugs when at the height of her powers, and her bold survey of economics, The Accumulation of Capital, written in 1913, remains a testing document. It is confidently read by Louise Barrett.

AND – there is more…Thomas Mann fans, watch this space….

Nicolas Soames 5 May 2020

Ukemi Audiobooks March 2020

Ukemi Audiobooks March 2020

The world premiere recording of Virginia Woolf’s Between The Acts on Ukemi Audiobooks

It came as quite a surprise, when preparing Virginia Woolf’s two collections of essays – The Common Reader Volume 1 (out already) and Volume 2 (coming in May) – that her last novel, Between The Acts, had never been recorded. What! The final work of one of England’s greatest literary figures! Yes – so it seemed. To be honest ­– though I have recorded most of her works, not only had I not read it, I didn’t even know about it.

Well, it turns out to be quite a gem – rich and vintage Woolf in some parts, actually very funny in others, and, er, rather odd also. She finished it in 1941, sent it off to her publishers, Hogarth, and then had second thoughts and sent a note asking for a delay on publication so that she could revise it. But shortly afterwards, she took her own life.

The lively and responsive Georgina Sutton, a familiar voice on Ukemi Audiobooks, came into the studio and we were not quite sure how it would turn out. But now we can say without hesitation – don’t hesitate. The story concerns an amateur dramatic performance in the gardens of an English country house in 1939, during the ‘phoney war’. The local village, with all its varied characters, turn out for their annual thespian event hosted by the presiding Oliver family. Visitors from London appear to add a bit of social spice. Woolf’s eyes ranges over the interplay between drama and reality, between social classes, between needs and desires of individuals; and then there is the play itself: three separate scenes dipping into the age of Shakespeare, the Restoration (a romp!) and the Victorian times. I can assure you, this is a real find, with some vintage Woolf gems.

There can be no greater contrast in English literature than Robert Burton’s 17th century marvel, The Anatomy of Melancholy (which Woolf knew well, lamentably). In his huge (56 + hours) survey of melancholia in all its forms, the immensely learned Burton drew on the classics, on science, on contemporary drama to explore every angle of the state of mind that afflicts so many. Human beings in the 21st century are no different. All the numerous Latin, Greek etc quotations he peppers his text with are translated. Peter Wickham has done a stupendous job in bringing this on to audio.

Copyright issues prevent the release of two important early texts by Carl Gustav Jung in the UK and Commonwealth (the standard publishing territorial division). But Modern Man in Search of a Soul and Collected Papers on Analytical Psychology are available on audible in the US and Canada…read so clearly by Martyn Swain.

Nicolas Soames

March 2019

Welcome to Ukemi Audiobooks 2020

Welcome to Ukemi Audiobooks 2020

We have started with three very different titles which, by happenstance, rather reflects the Ukemi character: one 20th century philosophical classic, one great but often neglected 19th Russian novel, and perhaps the first anthropological study ever published.

There are few more challenging texts than Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time – one of the pillars of existentialism. However, listeners are given a helping hand with a very clear introduction to the work by one of the leading Heidegger experts. Professor Taylor Carman of Barnard College, Columbia University explains in his concise opening remarks how Heidegger sits in between Kierkegaard and Sartre; and proceeds to present an overview and guide to the clear, steady recording by the indefatigable Martyn Swain.

Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov may exist slightly in the shadows of the big Tolstoys and Dostoyevskys, but for those coming to it for the first time I can assure you it will be an endearing discovery. Oblomov is most comfortable living a life of ease – in his bed even – made possible by the luxury of living off the fruits of his family estate. But is such a life really beneficial? His friends demur.

The Golden Bough, Sir James George Frazer’s enormous 19th century study in magic and religion was the first work to look in observational, non-judgemental mode at habits of societies, ancient and existing, from across the globe. Originally published in in 1890, and regularly revised in succeeding years, It opened the way to the scientific study of anthropology. It covered many volumes, containing a vast amount of knowledge. In 1922, Frazer made his own reduction, covering most of the major points – though at 44 hours it is still not a quick survey!!!

Finally (on its way as I write – due to be released on Audible on 10 February) is The Common Reader Volume 1 by Virginia Woolf. Her great novels – To the LighthouseMrs Dalloway and others – can obscure the fact that she was a fascinating essayist, with acute observations to make on literature and other topics. Volume 1 contains 26 essays varying from her remarks on Chaucer, Jane Eyre, the modern novel and Elizabethan drama to Montaigne and the Greek classics.

Nicolas Soames

January 2020



As 2019 ends six new titles appear on the Ukemi website…and again, what a rich range! Freud’s ‘Autobiographical Study’ sits with the Jacobean essays of Sir Francis Bacon – ‘Counsels, Civil and Moral’; and the great ancient Indian epic ‘The Rāmāyana’ is there, with Friedrich Engels’ remarkable (for a 24 year old) account of ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844’, which virtually served as his calling card when he met Karl Marx in Paris shortly after its publication. The breadth of human enterprise and human learning never fails to stimulate me, frankly, as I cast my eye over what to record next. Continue Reading →



The Lay of the Nibelungs

It is challenging to define Ukemi recordings – even for me, and I choose them. There is the overarching terminology of ‘Classics, non-fiction and fiction’ but as these four new releases show, the spread is so wide as to be almost unhelpful! So, I will take them one by one, and hope that you are intrigued and even delighted with them – as I have been over the past three or four months of the preparation and recording behind the scenes. Continue Reading →