Category: Fitzcarraldo Editions

An Extract: Essayism

From Brian Dillon's new book Essayism about the genre, its history and its contemporary possibilities
Essayism

An extract from Brian Dillon’s new book Essayism published today:

¶ On essays and essayists. On the death of a moth, humil­iation, the Hoover dam and how to write; an inventory of objects on the author’s desk, and an account of wear­ing spectacles, which he does not; what another learned about himself the day he fell unconscious from his horse; of noses, of cannibals, of method; diverse mean­ings of the word ‘lumber’; many vignettes, published over decades, in which the writer, or her elegant stand-in, described her condition of dislocation in the city, and did it so blithely that no one guessed it was all true; a dissertation on roast pig; a heap of language; a tour of the monuments; a magazine article that in tone and structure so nearly resembles its object, or conceals it, that flummoxed readers depart in droves; a sentence you could whisper in the ear of a dying man; an essay upon essays; on the author’s brief and oblique friendship with the great jazz singer; a treatise on melancholy, also on everything else; a species of drift or dissolve, at the lev­els of logic and language, that time and again requires the reader to page back in wonder – how did we get from there to here? – before the writer’s skill (or perhaps his inattention); a sermon on death, preached in the poet’s final days on earth, before a picture of his own shrouded person; the metaphoric power of same: the womb a grave, the grave a whirlpool, Death’s hand stretched to save us; a long read; a short history of decay; a diary’s prompt towards self-improvement: ‘To sew on my buttons (and button my lip)’; on a dancer arrayed like an insect or a ray of light; love, alphabetized; life, alphabetized; every second of a silent clown’s appearance on screen, dissect­ed: ‘We commit a cruelty against existence if we do not interpret it to death’; on the cows outside the window: their movement and mass, their possible emotions; what happened next will amaze you; upon a time a dutiful thing, set and judged by teachers, proof because proof needed – of what? Compliance, competence and com­prehension, proper meanness of ambition; but later, discovered in the library and under the bedclothes: sparks or scintillations, stabs at bewilderment, some effort or energy flung at the void; and style too, scurri­lous entertainments, a writing that’s all surface, torsion and poise, something so artful it can hardly be told from disarray; an art among others of the sidelong glance, obliquities and digressions; an addiction to arduous learning; a study of punctuation marks, their meaning and morality; seven Dada manifestos, forty-one false starts, the writer’s technique in thirteen theses; an ac­count of what passed through the author’s mind in the seconds before a stagecoach crash, somewhere on the road between Manchester and Glasgow, ‘in the second or third summer after Waterloo’. The writing of the di­saster. Confessions, cool memories, a collection of sand. Curiosities. The philosophy of furniture. An account of the late eclipse. What was it like to fly high above the capital, through silver mist and hail, when flying was yet new? The answer: ‘Innumerable arrows shot at us, down the august avenue of our approach.’

Imagine a type of writing so hard to define its very name should be something like: an effort, an attempt, a trial. Surmise or hazard, followed likely by failure. Imagine what it might rescue from disaster and achieve at the levels of form, style, texture and therefore (though some might cavil at ‘therefore’) at the level of thought. Not to mention feeling. Picture if you can its profile on the page: from a solid spate of argument or narrative to isolated promontories of text, these composing in their sum the archipelago of a work, or a body of work. The page an estuary, dotted at intervals with typographical buoys or markers. And all the currents or sediments in between: sermons, dialogues, lists and surveys, small eddies of print or whole books construed as single essays. A shoal or school made of these. Listen for the possible cadences this thing might create: orotund and authoritative; ardent and fizzing; slow and exacting to the point of pain or pleasure; halting, vulnerable, tenta­tive; brutal and peremptory; a shuffling or amalgam of all such actions or qualities. An uncharted tract or plain. And yet certain ancient routes allow us to pilot our way through to the source, then out again, adventuring.

I dream of essays and essayists: real and unreal authors, achieved and impossible examples of a genre (it’s not the word, not at all) that would – what, exactly? Perform a combination of exactitude and evasion that seems to me to define what writing ought to be. A form that would instruct, seduce and mystify in equal mea­sure. (Michael Hamburger: ‘but the essay is not a form, has no form; it is a game that creates its own rules.’) Does that sound like what one might want from art or literature in general, not from essays only? Perhaps one category stands for everything, defines what I want from all art forms. The boundaries of this thing, this en­tity or inclination I admire – these I’ll have to determine later. For now it’s enough, I hope, to acknowledge that what I desire in essays – all those essays named or al­luded to in the list above, almost all of which are real – is this simultaneity of the acute and the susceptible. To be at once the wound and a piercing act of precision: that makes it sound as though all I care for is style, that old-fashioned thing. It might well be true. But isn’t style exactly a contention with the void, an attitude or alignment plucked from chaos and nullity? Style as the prize, not a rule of the game. Style as sport in another sense too: botanical anomaly or innovation,avant-garde mutant. But don’t sports get assimilated in the end? Aberrations accommodated, rogues, freaks and rarities corralled and tamed? Curiosities neatly la­belled, safely immured in vitrines and cabinets.

I may have imagined all of this – I might be describ­ing a form that doesn’t (yet) exist. I have no clue how to write about the essay as a stable entity or established class, how to trace its history diligently from uncertain origins through successive phases of literary dominance and abeyance, to its present status as modest publishing revenant: the genre (please do not call it ‘creative non­fiction’) on which many writers’ and readers’ hopes are hung, many print and online columns filled with reflec­tions on whether non-fiction is the new fiction, the essay the new novel, confession the new invention. Or rather, I know too well how that particular essay on essays gets written, what are its touchstones, where its arguments directed, how circular the sense that the writer is ex­plaining a form to which he or she hopes to yoke the present text. I like circles and lines and symmetry too, more than is good for me as writer and as human, but in this case I cannot give myself to an elegant tale about the essay, neither to a pointed defence, rhetorical apology, psyched manifesto. (I find myself allergic to polemics, and so in the pages that follow some partisans of political essaying, or boisterous critical opinion, may find that their exemplars are absent. It’s not that I dislike a certain violence in the essay, but I can’t believe in a writing that is forcefully only itself – I want obliquity, essays that ap­proach their targets, for there must be targets, slantwise, or with a hail of conflicted attitudes. This too may be political, even radical. It will often look like something else: what used to be called formalism, or dismissed as aestheticism.) I will have to write, can only write, in fits and starts, in passages that aspire to something like an argument, but others too that will seem to come from the very confusion the first class exists to cure. There are many passages in the works of the great essayists, and perhaps also the less-than-great, that will sanction a failure or refusal to cohere. Here is the poet William Carlos Williams, in the essay that yielded an epigraph for this book:

Each essay rings the changes of its range, the breadth, the penetration moving inward about the fashionable brick of all styles, unity. Unity is the shallowest, the cheapest deception of all composition. In nothing is the banality of the intelligence more clearly mani-fested. There is no less significant matter for the attention. Every piece of writing, it matters not what it is, has unity. Inexpert or bad writing most terribly so. But ability in an essay is multiplicity, infinite fracture, the intercrossing of opposed forces establishing any number of opposed centres of stillness.

(…)

Fitzcarraldo Editions: May/June 2017 Events

Wednesday 10 May: Clemens Meyer participates in the European Literature Night 2017 alongside A. L. Kennedy and Francesca Melandri at the British Library, London. 7 – 8:30pm. Tickets here.

Thursday 11 May: Clemens Meyer and Katy Derbyshire participate in the Encounters Series hosted by the Institute of Modern Languages at the University of London. 6:30pm. Further details here.

Saturday 13 May: Beyond Words Festival French Literature Festival hosts readings of the Man Booker International longlisted titles including Compass by Mathias Énard, at the Institute Français, London. 6:30 – 7:30pm. Tickets here.

Thursday 25 May: Claire-Louise Bennet participates in a night of words and music at the International Literature Festival Dublin. 6pm. Tickets here.

Monday 29 May: Olga Tokarczuk in conversation with Claire Armitstead at Hay-on-Wye Festival. 11:30am. Tickets here.

Tuesday 30 May: Charlie Fox discusses This Young Monster at Spike Island, Bristol. 6:30pm. Tickets here.

Tuesday 30 May: Olga Tokarczuk in conversation with Kaye Mitchell at Deansgate Waterstones, Manchester. 7pm. Tickets here.

Wednesday 31 May: Claire-Louise Bennett in conversation with Karl Ove Knausgård at Lillehammer Bibliotek, Norway. 6pm. Tickets here.

Wednesday 31 May: launch event for Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights (tr. Jennifer Croft) at Calvert 22. There will be a Q&A with James Woodall, and drinks. Details here.

Wednesday 21 June: London launch party for Brian Dillon’s Essayism at Camden Arts Centre. Details tbc.

Thursday 22 June: Essayism: Brian Dillon and Max Porter at the London Review Bookshop. 7pm. Tickets here.

Highlights of 2016

Charlotte Mandell, Dan Fox, Shaun Whiteside and Jen Calleja on their highlights of the year.
Fitz-mark

As 2016 finally teeters on its last legs, we decided to take a look back over a few of the year’s highlights for us. This year we were proud to publish excellent essays by Dan Fox, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Svetlana Alexievich, and Ben Lerner; as well as works of fiction by John Keene, Ed Atkins, Clemens Meyer, and Agustín Fernández Mallo with the second installment of his brilliant Nocilla triology.

For this blog post we asked a few of our translators, and an author, to reminisce over some of their own cultural highlights of 2016: Charlotte Mandell, Shaun Whiteside, Jen Calleja, and Dan Fox tell us about their most memorable experiences of the year in literature, music, and the arts.

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Charlotte:

For the past year I’ve been working on my translation of Mathias Énard’s long novel Boussole (Compass), so much of my reading has been connected in some way to that: Edward FitzGerald’s elegant translations of Omar Khayyam; Germain Nouveau’s poetry, in the Pléiade edition that Sarah (one of the main characters) bemoans no longer features him; Xavier de Maistre’s very funny Journey Around My Room.  There are so many books mentioned in Compass that it would take years to read them all, but I’d certainly like to try, starting with Leg Over Leg by Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, a book that Sarah claims is one of the best novels of the nineteenth century in any language, not just in Arabic.  

I suppose the cultural highlight of the year for me was a gorgeous production of the seldom-performed opera Iris by Mascagni, conducted by Leon Botstein, at the Bard Music Festival last July.  It was beautifully sung by the soprano Talise Trevigne; the beginning of the third act, with its mysterious, Wagnerian overture, was one of the most haunting things I’ve ever seen in a live performance:  Iris is shown falling in slow-motion, while tendrils of smoke rise up from the trash heap below.  A screen between her and the audience made it look even more other-worldly and ethereal. 

There’s an exciting new publishing collective, an offshoot of Lunar Chandelier Press, called the Lunar Chandelier Collective, which published several innovative poetry books this past year, each one very different from the other:  Heart Thread by my husband, Robert Kelly; Uncreated Mirror by a powerful young poet named Tamas Panitz; Waters Of by a lyrical and sensuous poet named Billie Chernicoff; and Porcelain Pillow, a poem that combines memoir and essay, by Thomas Meyer.  Robert actually had four books published this year: The Hexagon, a long poem published by Commonwealth Books; Opening the Seals, a meditation on proto-language, published by Autonomedia Press; Heart Thread; and The Secret Name of Now, a selection of shorter, lyrical poems, from Dr. Cicero Press.  

One of my favorite novels of the year, The Night Ocean, isn’t actually out yet — we received an advance copy of it from its author, Paul La Farge.  Its cast of characters includes H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Barlow, and William S. Burroughs, and the narration is so beautiful and intricately wrought that any summary would do it an injustice.  

Finally, I’ve been caught up lately in Nocilla Dream by Agustín Fernández Mallo, from Fitzcarraldo Editions — another difficult-to-summarize novel, having to do with the interconnectedness of things and the illusory nature of reality.  It’s elegantly and convincingly translated by Thomas Bunstead.  I’m looking forward to the next installment, Nocilla Experience.  I’m also very excited about Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems, just out from New Directions:  there’s a fascinating article about it by Dan Chiasson in the recent New Yorker, here, with this memorable sentence:  “Her idiosyncratic punctuation sometimes feels like triage for the emergency conditions of her muse.”

Charlotte Mandell has translated fiction, poetry, and philosophy from the French, including works by Proust, Flaubert, Genet, Maupassant, Blanchot, and many other distinguished authors. She translated Street of Thieves by Mathias Enard for Fitzcarraldo Editions, and has received many accolades and awards for her translations, including a Literature Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for Zone, also by Mathias Enard.

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Dan:

At the start of BS Johnsons pitch-black comic novel Christy Malrys Own Double-Entry (1973), the books anti-hero, Christy, begins his adventure by taking an accountancy course. Here he learns the principle of double-entry bookkeeping: for every debit, there must be a corresponding credit. Christy is a miserable young man who rationalizes his dreary lot with the belief that the world has conspired against him. Deciding that the metaphysical books need to be balanced, he begins to apply the double-entry system to his life. Christy draws up a two-column ledger: one for Aggravations, the other for Recompense.Each time life aggravates or debitshim he awards himself recompense, usually an act of minor vandalism. When for instance, he is forced to take a detour on his way to work, his compensation is to scratch the expensive stonework of a nearby building. As his sense of aggravation grows larger, the credit he demands becomes more gruesome.

What, I wonder, would the accounts look like for the calendrical crock of cowshit that called itself 2016?

AGGRAVATIONS                                                                                  RECOMPENSE

Donald Trump and related misery 

Neo-fascism

Aleppo

Brexit

Zika

Post-truth politics

Standing Rock

Climate change

22% of Great Barrier Reef coral dead

Record decline in Arctic sea ice

Pulse nightclub shooting, Orlando

Murder of Jo Cox

Death of David Bowie

Death of Prince

Death of Pauline Oliveros

Death of Sonia Rykiel

Death of Leonard Cohen

Death of Leonard of Mayfair

Death of Malick Sidibe

Death of Alan Vega

Death of Doris Lamar-McLemore (last speaker of the Wichita language)

Death of William Christenberry

Death of Jenny Diski

Death of Victoria Wood

Death of Harper Lee

Death of William Trevor

Death of Sharon Jones

Death of Kenny Baker

Death of David Mancuso

Death of Raoul Coutard

Death of Elaine Lustig Cohen

Death of David Antin

Death of Dario Fo

Death of Prince Buster

Death of Don Buchla

Death of Edward Albee
Death of Elie Wiesel

Death of Caroline Ahearne

Death of Abbas Kiarostami

Death of Billy Name

Death of Tunga

Death of Peter Shaffer

Death of Bernie Worrell

Death of Tony Feher

Death of Alvin Toffler

Death of Carla Lane

Death of Tony Conrad

Death of Ken Adam

Death of Merle Haggard

Death of Umberto Eco

Death of Pierre Boulez

Death of Alan Rickman

Death of Terry Wogan

Death of Jacques Rivette

Death of Zsa Zsa Gabor

Death of Scooter, the oldest cat in the USA

This myopically Western-centric and mostly arts-fixated list could go on. I am stumped for Recompense line items that could truly balance the bereavement, fear, heartbreak and anger that the past year has brought. Nothing on my roll-call of admiration and pleasure is going to stop climate denial or bring down Donald Trump. But these talismans of open-minded thought, empathy and action serve as a reminder for me to keep going. 

Exhibitions:

Denzil Forrester, White Columns, New York, and Tramps, London

Mark Leckey, Containers and Their Drivers, MoMA PS1, New York

Marc Camille Chaimowicz, The Serpentine Gallery, London

Paulina Olowska, Metro Pictures, New York

Bruce Conner, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Jessi Reeves, Bridget Donahue Gallery, New York

Danny Lyon, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Kerry James Marshall, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

Diane Simpson, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

Nicole Eisenman, New Museum and Anton Kern Gallery, New York

Lukas Duwenhogger, Artists Space, New York

Books:

The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissimby Kristin Dombek

Respectable: The Experience of Classby Lynsey Hanley

The Complete Madame Realism and Other Storiesby Lynne Tillman

Here is Information. Mobilize.by Ian White

Film:

Arrival

Embrace of the Serpent

A Bigger Splash

Moonlight

Television:

Stranger Things

Black Mirror

Atlanta

Camping

‘Captain Fantastic’

Music:

Lodestar, Shirley Collins

‘Last Signs of Speed’, Eli Keszler

Juarezand Lubbock (on everything), Terry Allen

We Got It from HereThank You 4 Your Service, A Tribe Called Quest

Borealis Festival, Bergen. (At this small, yet brilliant music festival, I discovered the stunningly strange father and daughter improvised pop duo Yeah You; a blistering footwork set from Jlin, the hypnotic Egyptian Females Experimental Music Session, and the premiere of Object Collections new opera Its All True’ – based on the complete archive of recorded gigs by the post-hardcore band Fugazi.)

The two works that made the biggest impression on me bookended the year. In January, it was a song: I Cant Give Everything Away, the final cut on David Bowies final curtain album, Blackstar, released days before his death. Opening with warm string synths in respirating refrain, as if struggling for breath, and a plaintive harmonica line that directly echoes Bowies 1977 track A New Career in a New Town(what better description could there be for an afterlife?), the song begins with an admission with anxiety about the future; I know somethings very wrong…’ Over skittering drums, and an increasingly frenetic saxophone, the words I cant give everything awayare a line being drawn between the personal and private, or a defiant assertion of personal sovereignty. Ive given you all the love I can, it seems to say, but now I must take care of myself or I will be reduced to nothing. 

In December I saw Arthur Jafas seven-and-a-half minute video Love is the Message, The Message is Deathat Gavin Browns Enterprise, New York. Cut to Kanye Wests song Ultralight Beam, Jafas video pulls together reportage footage, cellphone video, and archival film of police shootings, civil rights marches, block parties, iconic performances by black musicians, and the burning surface of the sun. Wests sparse, roboticized gospel track problematised by the singers recent support of Donald Trump wrings pathos from the multiple video textures on screen, from the high-res to the low-grade and pixellated. Jafas film has the quality of a trailer for a documentary, a tantalising promise of a longer cinematic survey of African American social history, but its compressed expression of the complexities, contradictions, tragedies and triumphs of the black experience in the USA is gut-wrenching. I dont know what could possibly balance the books.

Dan Fox is a writer, musician, and co-editor of frieze magazine, Europe’s foremost magazine of art and culture. He is based in New York, and has published Pretentiousness: Why it Matters this year with Fitzcarraldo Editions.

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Shaun:

What a year. Book-ended (more or less) by two black-edged farewells: Blackstar and You Want it Darker, just in case the message of 2016 hadn’t got through. Both rare much more than coded farewells, and have seldom been off the stereo in our house. Goodbye, Bowie and Len. 

In literature, the great event for me was Sam Garrett’s translation of the Dutch classic The Evenings by Gerard Reve, first published in 1946 and never before translated into English. It’s a dark, existential sitcom, very unsettling and in places very funny indeed. As a Dutch commentator described it: “Nothing happens, and it seems to have been written by a psychopath.” Well done, Pushkin Press, and worth the 70-year wait. 

The exhibition has to be Bosch in ‘sHertogenbosch: the weirdness of the late medieval imagination laid bare in a comprehensive show bringing together works from all over the world, except the ones in the Prado, which it eventually joined when the show moved there. Wonderful. 

In film, my favourite was the touching, subtle and ultimately conciliatory divorce drama After Love by Joachim Lafosse. He coaxes extraordinary performances from his actors, not least from the children. 

But the most heart-stopping experience of all, on every level, was Akram Khan’s Giselle at Sadler’s Wells, to a semi-industrial score by Vincenzo Lamagna. This borrowed not only from classical ballet and Martha Graham, but from Bollywood and, most dramatically, Japanese horror movies. It was quite stunning, with dancers constantly transformed from objects into people and back into objects again. The scary second half in particular was a real treat, and Alina Cojocaru was of course amazing. Would almost restore your faith in humanity.

Shaun Whiteside is a translator from French, German, Italian and Dutch. His translations from French include novels by Amélie Nothomb, Patrick Rambaud, Michèle Desbordes, Georges-Marc Benamou, and Georges Simenon, as well as works of non-fiction by Pierre Bourdieu and Anne Sinclair. He translated Football by Jean-Philippe Toussaint for Fitzcarraldo Editions, and lives in London.

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Jen:

Exhibition – Helen Marten, Tate Britain/Serpentine Gallery

I went to see the Turner Prize with a very good friend of mine and we both experienced a kind of epiphany when we saw Marten’s work. Afterwards we bought her book Parrot Problems, and while flicking through saw that she was due to have a solo exhibition at the Serpentine. We headed straight there and spent what felt like hours taking in her poetic reflection of contemporary life, it’s almost as if it’s everything in existence refracted through dreams back into materiality and image. I couldn’t be happier for her win (the last time I fell in awe with a Turner Prize winner was Richard Wright, I think) and I especially commend and celebrate her sharing of her prize money with the other artists shortlisted (for the second time in as many months) against the winner/loser hierarchy.

Fiction Michelle Steinbeck, Mein Vater war ein Mann an Land und im Wasser ein Walfisch (My Father was a Man on Land and a Whale in the Water) & Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers

I’m currently in Zurich working on my first novel and I’ve been savouring this short book by Swiss writer Steinbeck. It’s a dark contemporary fairy tale where anything can happen, and opens with a woman accidently killing a child with an iron, stuffing it in a suitcase and being told by a wise woman to track down her father to give the suitcase to him. One critic said that she had to be sick in the head to write something like this but to write this kind of thing you have to be absolutely attuned to the structures of reality and your own consciousness. This book isn’t translated into English yet, sorry. But you can read a review in English in the latest issue of New Books in German

I read Max’s GITTWF – that just won its one hundredth award this week – on a flight to Italy. Well actually, I read it within the first hour or so and didn’t have anything else to read for the rest of the flight. In that short time I laughed, cheered, was left breathless, and then left devastated. For a writer also writing a novel in juxtaposing fragments it’s got a reassuringly small word count and a massive impact that still wakes me in the middle of the night or interrupts my thoughts while waiting in queues.

Poetry – Jack Underwood, Happiness

Jack’s poetry has spoken to me for years and he definitely made me feel that there was a place in poetry for my kind of writing and the kinds of things I wanted to write about. I’ve returned to this book may times this year, soothed by the melancholic hesitancy, depiction of personal embarrassment and unstoppable worrying.

Non-Fiction – Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts & Chris Kraus, I Love Dick.

These have been two life- and game-changing books for many people. I did that whole ‘resist the hype’ thing I always do and then bought Nelson based on a recommendation from a friend who then bought me Kraus because she was moving to Australia. Just the quality of writing, the integrally experimental forms, and the unsurpassable honesty of both books have changed autobiographical, essay and feminist writing forever. Rebecca May Johnson and I are making loose plans to start a reading group next year and these will be the first two books for sure.

Record – Anxiety, Anxiety 

Glasgow’s Anxiety made the perfect punk record. It’s not just the record though, they break out the best unhinged, be-gloved live show I’ve seen since getting to watch Vexx many times around the UK last year. After listening to this record constantly, you should listen to frontman Michael Kasparis’ solo project Apostille, which sounds pleasant on record, but live is like watching a mean and sarcastic wailing goblin addicted to dancing sweating profusely over various electronics, and bassist Helena Celle’s new synth record is subterranean and distorted, absorbingly submerged like it’s bubbling up out of water. 

Jen Calleja is a writer and literary translator from German. She translated Nicotine by Gregor Hens for Fitzcarraldo Editions and her debut collection of poetry Serious Justice is published by Test Centre. She is currently translating Kerstin Hensel for Peirene Press and Wim Wenders for Faber & Faber. Throughout December and January she is index writer in residence working on her first novel.

Matthew McNaught wins the 2016 Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize

We are delighted to announce that Matthew McNaught has won the inaugural Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize, an annual competition for British and Irish writers yet to have secured a publishing deal, rewarding the best proposal for a book-length essay. McNaught was awarded the prize for Immanuel, an essay about faith, doubt and radical religion, inspired in part by his experiences growing up in an evangelical Christian community in the south of England. He lives in Southampton, where he works in mental health, and has written for n+1.

McNaught will receive £3,000 in the form of an advance against publication with Fitzcarraldo Editions, and will have the opportunity to spend up to three months in residency at the Mahler & LeWitt Studios in Spoleto, Italy, during the summer of 2016, to work on Immanuel, which will then be published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in 2017.His winning proposal was one of seventy entries, and one of five to be shortlisted. The other four shortlisted entries were:

– Corona by Felix Bazalgette, an essay inspired by the crash of Corona satellite #1005 in Venezuela in 1964, the history of aerial photography, the use of vision as metaphor, and the lies that sustain militaries.

– Bad For You by Alice Hattrick, an essay about perfume and all its associations blending life writing with criticism, and drawing on personal experiences of death, gendered and psychosomatic illness and emotional attachments, as well as art and its history.

– Growing up Modern by Jennifer Kabat, a collection of essays exploring art, war and the landscape, examining modernism’s legacy, and what might be scavenged from it.

– Double-Tracking by Rosanna Mclaughlin. Inspired by Tom Wolfe’s notion of duplicitous identities, Double-Tracking looks at the cultural phenomenon of ‘being both’ – whether establishment and bohemian, butcher and aesthete, or an ingenue and initiate of high-culture – tracing the history of duplicity through mythology and literature, philosophy, fashion, the art market, politics, photography and camp. .

The prize, which was judged by Joanna Biggs, Brian Dillon, Paul Keegan, Ali Smith and Jacques Testard, was set up to find the best emerging essay writers and aims to reward essays that explore and expand the possibilities of the form. Made possible by an Arts Council Grant in 2015, it provides the winning author with their first experiences of publishing a book, from the planning, research and writing of it through to the editing, production and publicity stages.

For any PR enquiries, please email info@fitzcarraldoeditions.com.

EDITORIAL COMMITTEE

Joanna Biggs is a writer and editor at the London Review of Books. Her book about the way we work, All Day Long, is published by Serpent’s Tail.

Brian Dillon is a writer and critic. His books include The Great Explosion (Penguin, 2015), Objects in This Mirror: Essays (Sternberg Press, 2014), Sanctuary (Sternberg Press, 2011), Tormented Hope (Penguin, 2009) and In the Dark Room (Penguin, 2005). He is UK editor of Cabinet magazine, and teaches critical writing at the Royal College of Art.

Paul Keegan has been editor of the Penguin Classics and Faber poetry editor; he co-founded Notting Hill Editions, has edited the Collected Poems of Ted Hughes and The Penguin Book of English Verse.

Ali Smith was born in Inverness and lives in Cambridge. Her latest novel is How to be both (2014 Hamish Hamilton / Penguin) and her latest collection of stories is Public library and other stories (2015, Hamish Hamilton).

Jacques Testard is the publisher of Fitzcarraldo Editions, and a founding editor of The White Review.

THE MAHLER & LEWITT STUDIOS

The Mahler & LeWitt Studios are established around the former studios of Anna Mahler and Sol LeWitt in Spoleto, Italy. The residency programme provides a focussed and stimulating environment for artists, curators and writers to develop new ways of working in dialogue with peers and the unique cultural heritage of the region. For more information please visit mahler-lewitt.org. 

Medicine and its Metaphors

An extract from Eula Biss's On Immunity
On Immunity

An extract from Eula Biss’s On Immunity: An Inoculation, forthcoming from Fitzcarraldo Editions in February 2015, appears in Guernica this month:

Whenever I complained of a sore throat as a child, my father would press his fingers gently behind my jawbone, checking for swollen lymph nodes. “I think you’re going to be okay,” he would say upon completing his examination. This was his verdict, too, when I called him from college, miserably ill with what he identified as “probably influenza.” I asked him if there was anything I could do and he suggested, to my disappointment, drinking plenty of fluids. Then he recommended his grandmother’s prescription for a bad cold—buttered toast dipped in warm milk. He described the way the butter floated on the surface of the milk and how comforting he found his grandmother’s care. I wanted to know if there was some sort of medicine I could take, but what I needed, my father understood, was comfort. As an adult, I still never cease to feel a little surprise when a doctor reaches behind my jawbone to check for swollen nodes. I associate the tenderness of that gesture with my father’s care.

Paternalism has fallen out of favor in medicine, just as the approach to fathering that depends on absolute authority no longer dominates parenting. But how we should care for other people remains a question. In his discussion of efforts to control childhood obesity, the philosopher Michael Merry defines paternalism as “interference with the liberty of another for the purposes of promoting some good or preventing some harm.” This type of paternalism, he notes, is reflected in traffic laws, gun control, and environmental regulations. These are limits to liberty, even if they are benevolent. Interfering with the parenting of obese children, he argues, is not necessarily benevolent. There is risk in assigning risk. Children who are already stigmatized for their body type are further targeted. And families who are identified as “at risk” for obesity become at risk to discriminatory oversight. The prevention of risk, Merry observes, is often used to justify a coercive use of power.

 

Fitz Carraldo Editions