‘It’s terrible what’s happening with the refugees,’ Peirene is in tears. ‘I don’t want to belong to a country that hides behind barbed wire and turns a blind eye to the suffering on its own doorsteps.’
‘But you and I are part of this country,’ I reply in matter-of-fact tone.
‘Then we have to do something!’
‘We are donating 50pence of each sold book to the Maya Centre, a charity that helps refugee women,’ I point out.
‘That might be enough to calm your personal guilt!,’ Peirene snaps at me. ‘But it isn’t enough to save lives’ she exclaims, wiping away her tears. ‘We need to change society.’ She pushes up her sleeves and begins to stride through the office, brows furrowed in deep thought. Suddenly she stops, looking me straight into the eye.
‘I’ve got it! It’s time we expand what we publish. We will commission a writer to go to the Calais refugee camp to collect stories and impressions in order to create a work of fiction about escape, hope and aspiration. On another level, however, this story will also take seriously the fears of people in this country who don’t want to open their borders. It’s that dialogue that isn’t happening in real life. A work of art can help to bridge the gap.’
‘Wow!’ I stare at my Nymph in admiration. ‘And where do we find such writer?’
This conversation took place at the beginning of August. We sent out news of the project to see if anyone at all might be interested. The response was wonderful. We quickly narrowed down on four writers and asked them each for a proposal. I’m now in the process of signing the contract.
The book will come out next August. The Nymph is beside herself with excitement. For the last few days she’s been wondering aloud how many press conferences to give over the next ten months. And if she should participate by herself or with the writer too? And if she and the writer should wear matching outfits? And if those outfits should be colour-coordinated with the book cover to leave longer-lasting impressions in the mind of the audience and have a bigger impact?
I have to admit Peirene’s dream of press conferences might be fanciful. But over the next months we will certainly keep you up-to-date with the progress of the book on this blog and our twitter and facebook. And I, like the Nymph, am looking forward to our new journey.
By Meike Ziervogel
This blog was originally published as part of Peirene Press‘s series Things Syntactical. The Pain and Passion of a Small Publisher on 7 September 2015.