Archives: September 2018

Fitzcarraldo Editions: Events in October 2018

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Saturday 22 September: Fitzcarraldo Editions at Foyles Charing Cross Road

Fitzcarraldo Editions will be installed at the Foyles CXR info desk. Come along to browse a selection of our list and meet FE founder and publisher Jacques Testard, who will be on hand to answer questions about the press.

11am – 3pm. Foyles, 107 Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0DT. 

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Tuesday 2 October: Launch party for Limbo by Dan Fox

Please join Fitzcarraldo Editions for the launch of Limbo by Dan Fox at Tenderbooks.

6 – 8pm. Tenderbooks, 6 Cecil Ct, London WC2N 4HE.

The launch is free and open to all. Please RSVP to info@fitzcarraldoeditions.com

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Wednesday 3 October: Christina Hesselholdt at the American University of Paris

Christina Hesselholdt will be presenting her novel Companions at the AUP.

6:30pm. Room 103 of 6 rue Colonel Combes (75007). Free and open to all but please notify AUP at <cwt@aup.edu> at least 24 hours before the event and bring a photo ID.

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Thursday 4 October: Annie Ernaux at Shakespeare and Co.

Annie Ernaux will be reading from and discussing The Years at Shakespeare and Co.

7pm. 37 rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France. Free and open to all. 

More information can be found on the Shakespeare and Co. website.

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Tuesday 16 October: Screening of Spoor and q&a with Olga Tokarzuk at Curzon Bloomsbury

We host an exclusive UK screening of Spoor (Pokot) – directed by Agnieszka Holland and based on Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk – in partnership with the Curzon Bloomsbury. There will be a q&a with Olga Tokarczuk after the screening. 

6:00pm – 9:30pm. Curzon Bloomsbury, The Brunswick Centre, London WC1N 1AW.

Tickets are £16 and available to book on Curzon’s website.

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Wednesday 17 October: Olga Tokarczuk at Cambridge Literary Festival

Olga Tokarczuk will be in conversation with Kasia Boddy at an event hosted by the Cambridge Literary Festival at Heffers Bookshop Cambridge.

6:30pm. Heffers, 20 Trinity St, Cambridge CB2 1TY.

Tickets are £10 and available to book here.

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Thursday 18 October: Olga Tokarczuk and Antonia Lloyd-Jones at London Literature Festival

Olga Tokarczuk and Antonia Lloyd-Jones will be discussing Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead at London Literature Festival, hosted by the Southbank Centre.

7:45pm. Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX. 

Tickets £15 (£3 booking fee) and available to book here.

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Sunday 28 October: Mathias Énard at the Festival of Italian Literature in London

Mathias Énard will be in conversation with Nicola Lagioia (chaired by Catherine Taylor), discussing the role of the European novel in the face of political turmoil. The event is part of the Festival of Italian Literature in London, and will take place at Print Room at the Coronet.

4:45pm. Print Room at the Coronet, 103 Notting Hill Gate, Kensington, London W11 3LB. 

Tickets are £5 and available to book here.

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Monday 29 October: Mathias Énard at the London Review Bookshop

Mathias Énard will be reading from and discussing his novella Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants (tr. Charlotte Mandell, published 1 November 2018) with Elif Shafak at the London Review Bookshop.

7pm. 14-16 Bury Pl, Bloomsbury, London WC1A 2JL.

Tickets are £10 and available to buy on the LRB’s website.

 

 

An excerpt: Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead

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An excerpt from the first chapter of Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, published by us today in Antonia Lloyd-Jones’s translation:

I. NOW PAY ATTENTION

Once meek, and in a perilous path,
The just man kept his course along
The vale of death.

I am already at an age and additionally in a state where I must always wash my feet thoroughly before bed, in the event of having to be removed by an ambulance in the Night.

Had I examined the Ephemerides that evening to see what was happening in the sky, I wouldn’t have gone to bed at all. Meanwhile I had fallen very fast asleep; I had helped myself with an infusion of hops, and I also took two valerian pills. So when I was woken in the middle of the Night by hammering on the door – violent, immoderate and thus ill-omened – I was unable to come round. I sprang up and stood by the bed, unsteadily, because my sleepy, shaky body couldn’t make the leap from the innocence of sleep into wakefulness. I felt weak and began to reel, as if about to lose consciousness. Unfortunately this has been happening to me lately, and has to do with my Ailments. I had to sit down and tell myself several times: I’m at home, it’s Night, someone’s banging on the door; only then did I manage to control my nerves. As I searched for my slippers in the dark, I could hear that whoever had been banging was now walking around the house, muttering. Downstairs, in the cubbyhole for the electrical meters, I keep the pepper spray Dizzy gave me because of the poachers, and that was what now came to mind. In the darkness I managed to seek out the familiar, cold aerosol shape, and thus armed, I switched on the outside light, then looked at the porch through a small side window. There was a crunch of snow, and into my field of vision came my neighbour, whom I call Oddball. He was wrapping himself in the tails of the old sheepskin coat I’d sometimes seen him wearing as he worked outside the house. Below the coat I could see his striped pyjamas and heavy hiking boots.

‘Open up,’ he said.

With undisguised astonishment he cast a glance at my linen suit (I sleep in something the Professor and his wife wanted to throw away last summer, which reminds me of a fashion from the past and the days of my youth – thus I combine the Practical and the Sentimental) and without a by-your-leave he came inside.

‘Please get dressed. Big Foot is dead.’

For a while I was speechless with shock; without a word I put on my tall snow boots and the first fleece to hand from the coat rack. Outside, in the pool of light falling from the porch lamp, the snow was changing into a slow, sleepy shower. Oddball stood next to me in silence, tall, thin and bony like a figure sketched in a few pencil strokes. Every time he moved, snow fell from him like icing sugar from pastry ribbons.

‘What do you mean, dead?’ I finally asked, my throat tightening, as I opened the door, but Oddball didn’t answer.

He generally doesn’t say much. He must have Mercury in a reticent sign, I reckon it’s in Capricorn or on the cusp, in square or maybe in opposition to Saturn. It could also be Mercury in retrograde – that produces reserve. We left the house and were instantly engulfed by the familiar cold, wet air that reminds us every winter that the world was not created for Mankind, and for at least half the year it shows us how very hostile it is to us. The frost brutally assailed our cheeks, and clouds of white steam came streaming from our mouths. The porch light went out automatically and we walked across the crunching snow in total darkness, except for Oddball’s headlamp, which pierced the pitch dark in one shifting spot, just in front of him, as I tripped along in the Murk behind him.

‘Don’t you have a torch?’ he asked.

Of course I had one, but I wouldn’t be able to tell where it was until morning, in the daylight. It’s a feature of torches that they’re only visible in the daytime.

Big Foot’s cottage stood slightly out of the way, higher up than the other houses. It was one of three inhabited all year round. Only he, Oddball and I lived here without fear of the winter; all the other inhabitants had sealed their houses shut in October, drained the water from the pipes and gone back to the city.

Now we turned off the partly cleared road that runs across our hamlet and splits into paths leading to each of the houses. A path trodden in deep snow led to Big Foot’s house, so narrow that you had to set one foot behind the other while trying to keep your balance.

‘It won’t be a pretty sight,’ warned Oddball, turning to face me, and briefly blinding me with his headlamp.

I wasn’t expecting anything else. For a while he was silent, and then, as if to explain himself, he said: ‘I was alarmed by the light in his kitchen and the dog barking so plaintively. Didn’t you hear it?’

No, I didn’t. I was asleep, numbed by hops and valerian.

‘Where is she now, the Dog?’

‘I took her away from here – she’s at my place, I fed her and she seemed to calm down.’

Another moment of silence.

‘He always put out the light and went to bed early to save money, but this time it continued to burn. A bright streak against the snow. Visible from my bedroom window. So I went over there, thinking he might have got drunk or was doing the dog harm, for it to be howling like that.’

We passed a tumbledown barn and moments later Oddball’s torch fetched out of the darkness two pairs of shining eyes, pale green and fluorescent.

‘Look, Deer,’ I said in a raised whisper, grabbing him by the coat sleeve. ‘They’ve come so close to the house. Aren’t they afraid?’

The Deer were standing in the snow almost up to their bellies. They gazed at us calmly, as if we had caught them in the middle of performing a ritual whose meaning we couldn’t fathom. It was dark, so I couldn’t tell if they were the same Young Ladies who had come here from the Czech Republic in the autumn, or some new ones. And in fact why only two? That time there had been at least four of them.

‘Go home,’ I said to the Deer, and started waving my arms. They twitched, but didn’t move. They calmly stared after us, all the way to the front door. A shiver ran through me.

Meanwhile Oddball was stamping his feet to shake the snow off his boots outside the neglected cottage. The small windows were sealed with plastic and cardboard, and the wooden door was covered with black tar paper.

(…)

Report: Seven Thousand Songs

Victoria Adukwei Bulley for The Poetry Review
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Victoria Adukwei Bulley on the making of her intergenerational poetry, translation and film project, MOTHER TONGUES, for The Poetry Review

On a normal evening in January, a year and a half ago, I lay beside my mother on her bed. Although the television was on across the room, probably tuned to the news, we were on YouTube watching music videos by a singer named Anbuley. Anbuley, a stunning, lithe-limbed Ghanaian singer, has hair long enough for her to look like an African rendering of Eve. But this was not the reason for our watching. Rather, I had brought her to my mother for translation. She sings each of her songs in vibrant, forceful Ga, the language of my parents. Even now, she is the only contemporary artist I know of who does this and, since I don’t understand a word, my mother began to interpret for me.

My inability to speak or comprehend Ga is both surprising and unremarkable. Surprising, because my parents share this ethnic group, and have spoken the language to each other all my life. Surprising, also, because while I don’t understand it at all, I know its signature intimately. I’ve overheard it spoken between strangers on the street and guessed – with their confirmation – that what they were speaking was Ga. What, then, could be unremarkable about this? Nothing other than the fact that it is a very common experience. Wade Davis, Canadian anthropologist and writer, uses a daunting comparison to make this clear. “No biologist,” he warns in his essay collection The Wayfinders (2009), “would suggest that 50 percent of all species are moribund. Yet this, the most apocalyptic scenario in the realm of biological diversity, scarcely approaches what we know to be the most optimistic scenario in the realm of cultural diversity.” Davis goes on to summarise in more frank terms: “Of the 7,000 languages spoken today, fully half are not being taught to children. Effectively, unless something changes, they will disappear within our lifetimes.”

When I let these words sink in, I hear a forest full of birds. An orchestra of seven thousand songs that combine and sometimes clash to form a living, organic, polyrhythmic heartbeat of life. For whatever reason, some of the songs rise over the others. Forget, for this moment, about history; about colonialism or conquest. These louder songs carry the overall melody – perhaps they are the strings section. Other songs, in the meantime, are audible only rarely, and mostly not at all. They are the triangle that dings subtle-bright in the background, easily missed. As time goes by, these quieter songs disappear, or join the winning tune. The overall melody becomes homogenous and weighted, too heavy for itself to carry that sense of lightness that great music can invoke. It grows boring, first, then unbearable, then oppressive. It is without joy, or surprise, and is all that can be heard.

As I lay beside my mum in conversation that evening, a thought came to me. If, as had long been happening, I could approach my mother to translate Ga songs into English for me, why, then, couldn’t I ask her to translate my own work into Ga? If, as a poet who performs regularly, I knew my own work deeply, surely the access to Ga translations would enable me to become more familiar with the language as a step towards learning it. Then, another thought, or rather, a remembering: my situation is unremarkable. I don’t have enough fingers – and possibly not even enough toes – to count the individuals I know who do not speak the language of their parents. Knowing that a number of them are poets too, it occurred to me to think bigger about this small idea. Even where the language had survived the generational distance, was there not still something of value in the act of sharing and translation alone? That night, back in my own room, I scribbled everything down in a new notebook. I named each of my motivations and fears, then noted the names of the poets I had in mind. I wrote continuously for about five pages, and headed it all with the title MOTHER TONGUES.

A year and a half on, at the time of my writing this, MOTHER TONGUES is an intergenerational poetry, translation, and film project that sees four celebrated young, female poets in collaboration with their mother-figures. Each poet invites her mother to translate a poem into her native language. Later, the poet and mother visit a studio where the mother is filmed reciting her translation, followed by the poet reciting the original. A conversation is then captured between the two, prompted by questions (from myself) that aren’t heard in the final cut. Each ten-minute film features one poet-daughter and her mother, the poets being Belinda Zhawi, Theresa Lola, Tania Nwachukwu, and myself. The films debuted at Rivington Place Gallery in Shoreditch, London on Wednesday 26 July; tickets sold out within 48 hours.

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