Beauty Not Brexit!
My new campaign slogan is #BeautyNotBrexit, in an attempt to counter the ugliness of our times. Personally and professionally I’m trying to balance the daily doses of bad news with intakes of positive nutrition – and it works! The new Dior show at the Victoria and Albert Museum was a five course meal of beauty (those red dresses!), as was my trip to my home county Cornwall; Live Streaming in cinemas of theatre and opera are a joy, and, on 31st January the Night of Ideas at the French Institute delivered a mega dose of beauty – debate, wisdom and new perspectives on the topic of Europe Beyond Walls. The first speaker was the philosopher AC Grayling, who put Brexit in the context of ‘Civilisation’:
[Brexit} is a futile waste of time. When historians look back in 100 years, this will be seen as a blip … Politicians have a very shallow sense of historical reality. As far as civilisation goes, AC Grayling was positive: What we see now is a galvanization of debate of local activism, young people, culture and ideas … There are silver linings. It has given us the impetus for reform of the EU and of our own faulty constitution … What is the alternative to optimism?
On that positive note: It’s ten years since I left the BBC staff to go solo as an arts journalist – fearless, idealistic and believing in the transformative powers of culture and literature. I’ve had a ball. It’s also ten years since I set up a one-woman operation called the European Literature Network. The rest, as AC Grayling might say, is history. It’s been a struggle (money, time) but I’m proud of our events, website, reviews, Riveter magazines, workshops and media output and so grateful to Arts Council England, Creative Europe and other cultural institutes for their life-giving injections of funds. Grateful also to all of you beautiful people and, Valentine’s Day red roses and chocolates to my beautiful ELNet team, Anna Blasiak, Max Easterman and West Camel, for their passion and professionalism. I may not be able to create growth and stability for Europe but that’s my goal this year for the European Literature Network.
More Beautiful Things: The Swiss Riveter, launched in December, is flying off the shelves, all over social media and is now free to upload as a PDF here on our website. In 2019 we will bring you The Queer Riveter and The Romanian Riveter. A reminder too from our reviews editor, West Camel, that the deadline for this month’s Riveting Reviews is February 11th. We’ll also be running reviews in March – so get riveting! Looking forward to seeing you all at London Book Fair in March – I’ll be chairing events and hanging out at the Swiss Books stand so do drop by – and see you at our next EL Networking Meeting on 20th March.
As Chair of the Judges, I’ve also spent several beautiful weeks reading the submissions for the 2019 EBRD Literature Prize. My fellow judges and I, Ted Hodgkinson, Samantha Schnee and Gabriel Gbadamosi, selected a Longlist of ten novels. Ted, Sam, Gabriel and I have each written short reviews of all ten novels, so up until the Shortlist announcement on February 18th , we are posting all the reviews here on our website, starting with my Ten A Day.This is a great opportunity for you to read these exceptionally good novels and translations (and our riveting reviews!) from across the world. Winners to be announced on March 7th at EBRD HQ in London– you are all invited but must register. Visit the EBRD website for details.
We’ll be talking about Prizes and Translation at the Caravanserail Bookshop on 12th Feb, and, ditch the traditional love poetry to come and hear the Swiss-German poet and performer Nora Gomringer on the 14th Feb at the British Library. Details of all February events on our calendar. The video of December’s magnificent Swiss Cabaret at the British Library is also available this month on our website. Thank you, as always, to London Video Stories.
Finally, farewell to Eileen Battersby, literary reviewer, animal lover, racontrice and human being extraordinaire. Eileen’s death in a car crash just before Christmas was incredibly shocking and sad. We will miss her and her reviews. She was an outstanding champion of literature in translation. The most beautiful tribute to Eileen was written for the LA Review of Books by her friend, the publisher of Istros Books, Susan Curtis. As our own ELNet tribute, over the next few months, I’d like to share and post links to our favourite Eileen Battersby reviews. Would you like to join in? Use the hashtag #BestofBattersby @eurolitnet on social media. If you feel inspired to write more about Eileen and her work then we’d gladly publish your comments on our website. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a beautiful February!
Rosie the Riveter