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Hay Post Preview

My intention for today’s post was to detail happenings here and to post lots of photographs, however something that can’t be banked on is internet connection – I’m typing this in a valley area where the wifi is poor. So here are a few photographs, made small; I’ll post in detail once I’m back.

A photograph of Helen Fielding talking to a fan at the Hay Festival

A photograph of Samanta Schweblin and Hari Kunzru

A photograph of a banner in Hay town that says, books are a uniquely portable magic, the Kindle is dead, long live the book!

A photograph of a tent on a green

A photograph of Madeleine Thien signing a book

A Book Launch, A Multi-Author Event, And A Visit To Southampton Old Cemetery

A photograph of Meike Ziervogel reading from her latest book

It’s been a very literary weekend.

Friday evening saw the launch of Meike Ziervogel’s fourth book, The Photographer, at Waterstones Piccadilly. Longer than her others, Meike is calling it a novel rather than a novella. The book was inspired by her grandparents, one set in particular, and their lives during the Second World War. It’s about the people of Germany – Meike was aware that she was of a generation that could write about that time; those prior could not.

There were a couple of readings and a general discussion with chair Rosie Goldsmith, and Stephanie Bird of University College London: thoughts on German documentaries and films regarding the War; literary fiction and the way that plot is important to Meike because actions speak louder than words; how the four of the books are connected, having written one to get to the next and so forth. I picked up a copy of the book – it’s only a tentative plan, but I’m hoping to review it soon. And I got it signed, which in regards to Meike’s work was a first for me.

A photograph of Choc Lit authors Evonne Wareham, Jan Brigden, Liv Thomas, and Laura E James

I spent Saturday afternoon attending the Southampton stop of publisher Choc Lit’s author tour. Choc Lit are visiting a few different cities and the authors at the events are those nearby; this time it was Evonne Wareham, Jan Brigden, Liv Thomas (one half of the writing duo published under the name Isabella Connor), and Laura E James, in the order they are sitting in the photograph. There were a number of us and the afternoon consisted of a good introduction and discussion by and between the authors, lots of time to talk to everyone there, and a quiz to finish. And a fair amount of chocolate, cake, and books. During the latter section there was an opportunity for the writers amongst us – those other than the four mentioned – to pitch their work.

A photograph of a tombstone and a monkey puzzle tree at Southampton Old Cemetery

Sunday was a free day. I read – little surprise there, I think – and decided to get out and enjoy the sunshine visiting the old cemetery we have in Southampton, an activity a lot more peaceful and positive than it might sound. Situated in the middle of Southampton Common, the cemetery was opened in 1846; nowadays the only burials are those added to existing plots, a few a year. Very tall statues abound and there’s even a small mausoleum. Most of the stones have corroded to the point of illegibility and some areas are so old and overgrown they look empty, but in the context of a historical space, there is a lot of beauty to be found in it… and there’s also a monkey puzzle tree, as you can see above. Here are more photographs:

A photograph of tombstones at Southampton Old Cemetery A photograph of tombstones at Southampton Old Cemetery A photograph of tombstones at Southampton Old Cemetery A photograph of tombstones at Southampton Old Cemetery A photograph of tombstones at Southampton Old Cemetery

How was your weekend and what was the last event, literary or otherwise, you attended?

My Event Report: In Conversation With Elizabeth Fremantle

A photograph of Charlie Place and Elizabeth Fremantle

© Photo:Gerry Walden/ 2016

It’s a weird feeling shifting from the role of press to the role of host for an evening. I spent a very good few hours at our latest event but coming home without photos and notes is a strange thing. I’m glad for our photographer and the writer from Southampton University who came to cover the event for us.

Our evening with Elizabeth Fremantle last Thursday was a roaring success. We commandeered the comfy chairs. The majority of seats were taken and more people turned up than we knew were coming; a wonderful surprise.

Elizabeth told us of her journey to publication, her background in fashion writing; her research methods – visit Hardwick Hall! – and all four books which we ended up discussing in reverse chronological order because we got talking about her latest book and it seemed to make more sense to me in that moment than jumping from subject to subject (the books all stand alone but there are links).

This time we recorded it. Fathers who own camcorders are very useful when you discover that your plan to use your DSLR isn’t going to work. You’ll find the video at the end of this post.

A photograph of Charlie Place and Elizabeth Fremantle

© Photo:Gerry Walden/ 2016

Many, many thanks to Elizabeth and her friend, Glyn, who also joined us; Rachael from The Edge and Wessex Scene – read her pre-event piece here; and our photographer, Gerry Walden. Having finished it I’m feeling rather odd without promotion to do; I’ve started the planning for January.

Here’s the video, complete with my silly bumbling. I’ve cut the introduction a bit due to microphone issues.

My Event Report: In Conversation With Dan Richards

A photograph of Dan Richards

© Photo:Gerry Walden/ 2016

Thursday saw the first In Conversation event here in Southampton, hosted at The Notes Cafe. Dan Richards came down from Bath via Norwich – a very busy day that resulted in a likely miffed cat – and spoke to us about Climbing Days and The Beechwood Airship Interviews: how it was to be a female mountaineer in the early 20th century; the problems with climbing then as opposed to now; being greeted as the great-great-nephew of a climbing legend; interviewing popular artists about their work within their creative spaces.

With me on stage too, this post was never going to be like my other event write ups. It would have looked a little odd for me to have a notebook and pen, not least to be jumping off the stage to gets photographs… of one person and an empty chair, so I mollified myself with the occasional glance to check my live tweeter was indeed tweeting (he was but as we discovered later, he didn’t know about mentions/replies – this is why I was posting tweets the next morning) and rested assured that there was a professional photographer in the house.

A photograph of me and Dan Richards

© Photo:Gerry Walden/ 2016

Faber sent us some letterpressed prints of Stanley Donwood’s book cover art, signed by both artist and Dan, and we had all three books on sale. It was lovely to see those I’d met before and those I’d met on Twitter; April Munday joined us (we met at last year’s RNA conference) as well as Paul Cheney who I now know, through Dan, and who travelled a fair distance all considered.

It was a lovely evening and we look forward to a second – on Thursday 24th November, Elizabeth Fremantle will be joining us, Facebook event page here. Do come if you can!

What’s the most recent literary event you’ve attended?

Some Notes From Babel Literature Festival And YALC

A photograph of Xiaolu Guo and Ma Jian

Having attended various events over the summer months, I didn’t want to post about every one and risk making this blog a blog of quotations. Looking back over my notes and photographs, however, I saw the value in writing some of it up and sharing and creating one post for a few events seemed the way to go. Included here are notes from the Babel Literature Festival (a festival normally held on the continent but this year a special one off for London), and YALC – Malorie Blackman’s creation, in its second year, part of the London Film And Comic Convention.

Part of the reason I didn’t post separately should be obvious – there wasn’t enough content, especially once incidental notes had been removed, to make a whole post, but hopefully the notes I’ve included here have been interesting. My photographs? Forget it – apart from the one above, my shots were shocking.

Babel Literature Festival
Xiaolu Guo and Ma Jian

Ma Jian does not speak English – all quotations attributed to him were translated from his Chinese into English by Xiaolu Guo.

  • Xiaolu Guo considers Ma Jian the only Chinese writer from her father’s generation she can read, because of the subjects Ma Jian includes. She sees herself and her fellow writer as united in trying to get away from the culture they came from.
  • Having left China, she wrote in English because for her there was no feeling that she had to censor herself in that language.
  • It was during political conflict, at the time she was confused and feeling nihilistic towards discussion, that she started reading western literature. “I swam in and I lost myself.”
  • She wrote her film projects as books to preserve the copyrights.
  • She didn’t like the UK at first and had no plans to stay; but she was writing her first story. It was in going to France and feeling isolated, linguistically, because she’d already written in English, that she saw she had to stay. “Forget it. I lost my country, my language – I have to find some comfort in this second language, this adopted country.”
  • “I try to communicate with western writers otherwise I have no one.”
  • When Ma Jian left his Beijing for Hong Kong, he stopped painting. When he began to write, it was the continuation of his painting.
  • He closes off to everything in the UK when he writes so that there’s just his language. (He hasn’t learned English; someone in the audience asked ‘wouldn’t learning English give you the ability to reflect on China compared to England?’ to which Ma Jian replied, “I close the door, but the window is open.”)
  • “Only half of a person is kept in translation.”
  • “Language is a reflection of a particular time in history.” Language is passive – it’s a record of the history.
  • Ma Jian said that in China, before 1949, there was poetic language. Then Mao language was adopted. Then plain language. We have to translate a Chinese book into the modern Chinese, translating Chinese into Chinese. In this way, modern Chinese translations are only half of the text. (On this, Guo said that writing in 1988, it felt the wrong language because she was so used to 1930s books, feudal Chinese.)
Philippe Rahmy talking to Vanni Bianconi
  • Philippe Rahmy, who has brittle bones, has used his disease as a tool. He might have been a writer anyway, but…
  • He calls himself ‘Ray-Me’ in London as he doesn’t know how his name is pronounced in different places.
  • He thinks in German and writes in French.
Chloe Aridjis and Franca Cavagnoli
  • Chloe Aridjis: As a translator and author, I have a responsibility to try not to get in congflict with another’s language. There may be a clash between the imaginations; there’s a risk in translation.
  • Franca Cavagnoli feels England to be home. When asked, she says she’s Mexican, but being in Mexico feels foreign to her. She speaks English with her father and Spanish with her mother. “My analytical mind works in English.”
Alexander Hemon talking to Maurizia Balmelli
  • Alexander Hemon uses Bosnian jokes in English despite knowing it may not work. It won’t have the full impact, he said, but it’ll become a story, acquire a narrative quality. That, to him, was interesting, and he wanted to go into that process of joke to story.
  • “I’m greatly interested in translation as a process, a human project.” In translation you lose some and gain some. If everything was translated it’d be the exact same text. To say translation is a loss is to lose the value of experience.
Malorie Blackman, James Smythe, Eugene Lambert On Sci-Fi
  • Blackman: Sci-fi books are books of the scientifically probable and possible. (She loves the idea of possible other realities.
  • Smythe: Fantasy is the point where things aren’t possible, that’s the difference. There’s a huge amount of scope for what it could be and what it actually is.
  • Lambert: How do you tell stories? You begin by exaggerating.
  • Blackman: We talk of social mobility but we’re dismantling the very things that provide it – libraries, for example. To enjoy things costs money.
  • Blackman: As a woman I found sci-fi very frustrating, growing up, because the female characters didn’t have much to do.

What’s the best talk you’ve attended, literary or otherwise?


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