A letter from Marianne Brooker, author of INTERVALS

Dear reader, 

Intervals opens with a gift, a wish, a promise. Beginning where I least expected to begin, writing drew me back to a council flat in the early nineties and to my mum’s easy initiation into my rag-tag circle of imaginary friends. From there, we carved out a shared space: an anything-goes, us-against-the-world, never-say-never island of mutual belief. Over the years, that imaginative space expanded, just as our material world contracted. Play revealed itself as a kind of power, not so much a retreat as a refusal. But it could only get us so far.

My mum was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis in 2009, and died from stopping eating and drinking in 2019. Intervals is an attempt at reckoning with personal, ethical and political questions of choice: what does it mean to defend one’s autonomy in a world choked by austerity, or to speak of dignity without denying the realities of dependency and doubt? The questions are not individualizing – did she jump or was she pushed? – but collective: was there even ground beneath her feet? What kind of world have we built for one another?

So much of this narrative is particular – her habits, gestures and eccentricities; the varied particulars of love and living together. But these personal aspects emerge from overlapping and common (sometimes contradictory) conditions. I wanted to write a book that captured it all: the singular and the common; the middle space between the two. 

The notion of the interval arrived early, and has been a generative space to write from. Intervals are temporary places of rupture and of rest; they are liminal, partial and in-between. Writing at intervals, outside of the day to day run of expectation and obligation, I make a deal with you, the reader. I invite you to bear loose witness – to sit with me, as close to the pain as I can get – on the condition that the story doesn’t end here, that there is yet a world to win. 

Marianne Brooker, 2024

Publishing assistant – deadline 4 March

Fitzcarraldo Editions is seeking a Publishing Assistant to support our growing team in Deptford, south-east London, and ensure the smooth day-to-day running of the publishing house.

The Publishing Assistant’s responsibilities will include providing general administrative support to the Publisher and the rest of the team; managing the info@fitzcarraldoeditions email address; submissions to literary prizes; sending author mailings and finished copies; occasional proofreading and copy-checking; supporting editorial, publicity, marketing, sales, rights and production when required; assisting with author care; assisting in the management of ecommerce and subscriptions.  

The position will suit someone able to work as part of a small team but also willing to use their initiative, with good communication and organization skills, an ability to work well under pressure, and excellent attention to detail. The ideal candidate will be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the Fitzcarraldo Editions catalogue, and contemporary literature in general. Experience in publishing is a plus, but not essential.

This is a full-time position paid at £26,000 per annum with a three-month probationary period, starting as soon as possible. This role requires minimum three days a week in the office in Deptford, and will require some attendance at evening events throughout the year. Benefits include:

– 28 days paid holiday (including bank holidays), on top of Christmas office closure;
– pension scheme;
– summer working hours.

Please send a CV and cover letter to jobs@fitzcarraldoeditions.com by 4 March.

Balsam Karam’s books to read alongside THE SINGULARITY

Balsam Karam, author of The Singularity, published 17 January 2024 shares some books to read alongside her novel. To read an extract and order the book, please visit our website.

Sitt Marie Rose by Etel Adnan (Post Apollo Press, 1999)
Some books and authors never cease to bewilder you. I return to this amazing book
whenever I wonder whether it’s possible to write about horrors of war, hatred and the brutal
legacy of colonialism. But I also return to it to know more about love and resilience, and
the importance of literature.

Playing in the Dark by Toni Morrison (Vintage, 1993)
No book or author has been as important to me as the great Toni Morrison. I came
across Playing in the Dark in my mid-twenties and ever since it’s been like a compass. It
keeps me rooted and on the right track.

Writing Beyond Race by bell hooks (Routledge, 2012)
Another compass of mine are the works of the one and only bell hooks. It’s hard to put
into words the importance her book Writing Beyond Race has had on how I position
myself as an author. To do that, I believe I must write a book myself. Soon enough!

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney (Verso, 2018)
An absolutely essential book on how the division of the world as we know it came to be.
It offers context and history, as well as answers to the possibility – and necessity – of
making a shift to balance.

The Book of Questions by Edmond Jabès (Wesleyan UP, 1993)
Even though I love writing prose, I mostly tend to read poetry (true story). The Book of
Questions
is perhaps the most intriguing and devastating book of poetry I’ve read. I
return to it whenever I doubt the power and beauty of words, but also to remind myself
that books can be wild, fragmented and absolutely true to themselves.

Blue Eyes, Black Hair by Marguerite Duras (Harper Collins, 1988)
To read Marguerite Duras is to have the intensity of poetry with the density of prose. On
top of that, one has love affairs, a lot of drinking and a piercing political framework. I
truly love all Duras’ works and Blue Eyes, Black Hair is an amazing, queer novel on
love, loss and desire. And of course a bit of drinking.

COMPLICITÉ’S DRIVE YOUR PLOW OVER THE BONES OF THE DEAD ON DEMAND

Between Monday 12 and Sunday 18 June, experience Complicité’s new five-star hit production wherever you are in the world, and at a time that suits you.

Enthralling audiences and critics alike since it opened, Bristol Old Vic On Screen brings you Simon McBurney’s incredible staging of Olga Tokarczuk’s acclaimed novel in HD, brilliantly filmed live at The Lowry, Salford in front of a capacity audience.

Tokarczuk’s controversial, violent, genre defying novel – part thriller, part comedy, and part blistering poetic manifesto for the rights of animals and the environment – caused an uproar in its native Poland upon publication.

In the depths of winter in a small community on a remote Polish mountainside near the Czech-Polish border, men from the local hunting club are dying in mysterious circumstances and Janina Duszejko – an eccentric older local woman, ex-engineer, environmentalist, devoted astrologer and enthusiastic translator of William Blake – has her suspicions. She has been watching the animals with whom the community share their isolated, rural home, and she believes they are acting strangely…

This exclusive on demand film features the production’s original cast including Kathryn Hunter as Janina.

To book your tickets, please use the following link: https://bristololdvic.ticketco.events/uk/en/e/drive_your_plow_over_the_bones_of_the_dead__on_demand/fitzcarraldoeditions

Kate Briggs’ Bookshelf Recommendations

Kate Briggs, author of The Long Form, published on 12 April, shares a few of her favourite reads from the past few months. To read an extract and buy the book, please visit our website.

Keeping / the window open: Interviews, statements, alarms, excursions by Rosmarie and Keith Waldrop, edited by Ben Lerner (Wave Books, 2019)

I bought this as a present to myself for my birthday a month or so ago. I wanted to learn more about the Waldrop’s publishing project: how they co-founded Burning Deck in 1961, a flexible structure for experimental poetry and prose, then kept it alive – publishing pamphlets for the next fifty-six years. Keeping / the window open is fascinating and instructive on small-scale editing and publishing. But it’s also a vital archive of work on translating, critical writing, poetry, prose, prose poetry, the line, the novel, and the inter-relations between all the above. I am nowhere near reading through all of it. But there is one line I’ve already copied out and pasted above my desk: something Keith says in an interview. I read it and found in it a new kind of permission: ‘…you don’t have to decide whether you’re going to “think” or “feel”’. It was amazing to read that stated so directly and so simply. He goes on, completing the thought: “‘…you don’t have to decide whether you’re going to “think” or “feel”, to use high diction or low diction, or whatever. I mean you can combine these things – any things – if you can do it (it’s a problem of form).’

The Italian Girl by Iris Murdoch (Penguin, 1964)

I recently bought this second-hand, hence the sun-faded spine: one of the few remaining Murdoch novels I hadn’t read. As is in all her books, in The Italian Girl, there’s a collection of characters placed in their starting positions, each one located and to some extent defined by the power they seem to hold or don’t hold over the others. Edmund, the novel’s focus, is returning home for his mother’s funeral (the book has this amazing sub-title: ‘A Dazzling Tale of Love For Mother.’ ) At first slowly, then more dramatically, new alliances form and break down, characters are contrasted then bound together, and everyone starts to move. By the end, what’s taken place is this totally unforeseen, transformative rearrangement. I love many things about Murdoch’s novels, among them how all her characters think. About how to live among other people, how to exist as their own complicated selves, how to see others clearly: as complex, thinking-feeling people in their own right. For Murdoch, these big ethical and political questions are never the reserve of the educated or the leisured classes: as in real-life, they concern everyone, animals included. But even if I weren’t into this aspect of her work, I’d recommend The Italian Girl for its description of Otto – Edmund’s physically huge elder brother — eating great fistfuls of ‘herbage’ grabbed in from the garden, mint and marjoram mixed with grass and groundsel. Like a cow, or an elephant. 

The Cemetery in Barnes by Gabriel Josipovici (Carcanet, 2018)

The Cemetery in Barnes was shortlisted for The Goldsmiths’ Prize the year it was published. Josipovici is among the living writers whose innovations in prose I think about most. I kept this short novel, along with the earlier, sparer, Everything Passes (2006), and the even earlier Contre-Jour (1998) within reach over the past few years. What fascinates me about these books is how they treat the novel spatially — as a composition which of course must run forward in time, but can also open sideways, forming parallel tracks. The Cemetery in Barnes seems almost to fold back onto itself or into itself through its use of refrain. We listen to very different kinds of music – the three of voices of the novel repeat the structure of an opera by Monteverdi. In contrast, the writing of The Long Form was informed by Whitney Houston’s ‘My Love is Your Love’, which may or not may not sound unlikely, depending on your tastes. But is nevertheless true: I listened to the track endlessly. Not for the sentiment of the song, exactly, but for the bounce and carry of the bass. For the way the lyrics get handed back and forth over the top of it. Venturing something. Then passing it back, only now with a slight modification, a small shift in emphasis. This for me is Josipovici territory, and possibly what grounds his long-term interest in translation — The Cemetery in Barnes is about a translator who moves from to London to Paris and then to Wales. The characters like the narration keep falling back into repetition – but every re-saying of what has already been said the novel releases something new. 

At Tremendous Dam: Some Poems 2014-2021 by Stefan Lorenzutti (Bored Wolves, 2021)

Bored Wolves is a great, contrary name for a wholly unbored and unboring small press. This collection is by its co-founder, Stefan Lorenzutti, who runs the press with his partner Joanna Osiewicz-Lorenzutti, out of ‘Kraków and the Polish Highlands.’ I discovered their work thanks to two former students who recently published their own first collections with Bored Wolves (Sweaty Leaves by Petter Dahlstrom Persson and Bundle by Linus Bonduelle with drawings by Pommelien Koolen). The books are always visually interesting – a feature part explained by the fact that they tend to publish poets with their own parallel image-making practices, as well as new collaborations with artists. Lorenzutti’s poems share the some of the qualities I’ve come to associate with his lively, unpredictable list: an attentiveness to the intense colours, atmospheric conditions, textures and materials of everyday life; strange new precisions that give way to humour then unexpected sites of vulnerability. These are poems that make life feel weird, abundant; basically unfathomable but definitely worth living.   

ti amo by Hanne Ørstavik, translated by Martin Aitken (And Other Stories, 2022)

I received this slim book as part of my subscription to The Republic of Consciousness – from whom I receive a new book by a different small press (in the UK and Ireland) each month. Ørstavik’s ti amo arrived at the start of the year. I read the backcover and immediately put it away on the shelf. Thinking: a novel about someone else’s loss, or rather preparation for loss, and for grief, is truly the opposite of what I want to read right now. But then a close friend read it, and she found it extraordinary. She gently suggested that I might find something in it, too. She was right: from the very first page, the first sentence, there’s this honesty of voice. A voice weighted with dread and waiting but also shaky with love and wonder. The novel is described on the back as ‘very hard and very beautiful.’ It is very hard. But, somehow, without this being in any way tritely or easily achieved, it is also very beautiful. A magnificent translation of a life-companion of a book.  

Fitz Carraldo Editions