It’s hard, but we can do it. We can counter the dark forces of Covid, Brexit and everything else (the list is currently very long) with fun, fiction, focused fury, food, fashion (obviously, anything beginning with F) and by channelling your inner European – which I do regularly, usually after I’ve had a good weep and rant. I miss all of you, live events, friends, family, my Mum. But I have my medicine (home-made margaritas) and my mantras: for every negative a positive; for every political screwup, read a poem; for every asshole, phone a friend; for every cancelled live event, a Zoom; for every ugly headline, turn to beauty, to art or fiction.
Having all of you “out there” helps. We are a network, we are a community, we are struggling against the odds to remain buoyant. I am staggered by how creative and productive you are, how resilient so many of you in actual European organisations and projects continue to be, as you channel your specific European credentials, refusing to be silenced by either Brexit or Covid. Check out, for example, the inspirational work of Jeremy O’Sullivan, EC cultural attaché formerly of Europe House, who continues to support great European art and literature (https://www.hubertbutleressayprize.com), and Andrew Singer, director of Trafika Europe. Check out also the work of our colleagues at EUNIC; at ELIT in Austria, the European Literature House festival, usually my main November gig, but this year online; the indefatigable EUPL, and, last but not least, the EBRD Literature Prize, which, after three years as chair of the judges, I have now handed over to the estimable Toby Lichtig of TLS. Get your submissions in. You too could become another Hamid Ismailov or Burhan Sönmez or Grigory Kanovich – I’m so proud of our 2018-2020 prize-winners.
Thank you to all of the above for helping to nurture my inner European. Although – you may have noticed – it’s my inner Romanian I’ve been channelling recently, wearing the blouses, meeting the writers, watching the films. A love affair with Romania which began in 1990 when I started working for the BBC. 30 years later, we’ve launched the first-ever magazine dedicated to Romanian literature in English, The Romanian Riveter, free and fabulous, in print and online. We are also posting every single poem, essay and piece of prose individually, every single day, on our website, to give each piece the exposure it deserves. And we’re currently half way through the first-ever festival of Romanian-British literature, Romania Rocks, in collaboration with the Romanian Cultural Institute in London, the RCI. You name the writer, they’re in the festival programme: David Mitchell, Ben Okri, Elif Shafak, Fiona Sampson, Ian Rankin, Deborah Levy, Axel Scheffler, Andrei Codrescu, Matéi Vişniec, Magda Cârneci, Norman Manea, Ana Blandiana – to name but a few: all great Europeans who understand that great conversation and literature make the world go round. You can access the whole festival programme via both the ELNet and RCI websites (it’s all online). If you are unable to watch all the events go out LIVE (on RCI and ELNet FB pages), then visit our YouTube channel at any time.
However, in spite of this wealth of outstanding Romanian material, we are returning to our pan-European roots this month with the return of our monthly #RivetingReviews. If you’d like to submit a review, please contact our Editor, West Camel, at email@example.com. Deadline for November is the 9th, and we’ll be publishing reviews on the 13th. West Camel is currently overseeing our next riveting magazine, The Dutch Riveter which we will publish in spring 2021, with funding from the Dutch Literature Foundation.
For the past few years, as you know, I’ve been running Literally Swiss for the Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia, to promote Swiss literature in the UK. That project is coming to an end in December but we plan a very stylish Swiss swansong, a one-day Swiss-UK Publishing Day on Monday December 7th. It will be run like a mini-book fair, with panels and networking and rights discussions. Some very famous Swiss authors and translators will be popping in too. Yes, it will be online, yes it will be filmed, so you’ll have access to the discussions later on our Literally Swiss project page on this very website. There will be a Press Release on November 9thtelling you everything. To whet your appetites and to celebrate the launch of the “new 12 Swiss Books” digital magazine – henceforth known as Translate Swiss Books – I’ve written an article about Publishing in the Pandemic, which you can read here.
Don’t forget also to check in every month to read our superb ELNet columns, The Italianist by Katherine Gregor and Poetry Travels with Anna Blasiak and Lisa Kalloo.
Finally, I’d like to say “thank you” to Christopher Maclehose, as he steps down from MacLehose Press, handing over to Katharina Bielenberg. When I left the BBC over 10 years ago, Christopher was one of my early inspirations, a champion of international literature, a generous, wise man and a perceptive publisher, a Great European. Farewell King Christopher, Long Live Queen Katharina!
I hope we’ve given you some inspiration to channel your own inner European. I’m planning a mass Zoom European Literature Network meeting before Christmas for everyone – date tbc soon. Do hope you’ll join us! Do get in touch with news of your events (physical and virtual), ideas, blogs, requests and photos by emailing us firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rosie the Riveter