We enjoyed an evening of fascinating insights into the European landscape for LGBT+ writers and writing, and for the queer European community as a whole, from our three guest authors, who were all contributors to The Queer Riveter.
Paul Burston, British author of a long list of novels, former LGBT+ Editor for Time Out and founder of both Polari Literary Salon and the Polari literary prizes, is our Guest Editor for the magazine. At the event he offered some interesting distinctions between what makes literature ‘gay’ – he suggested writing about LGBT+ experiences – and what makes it ‘queer’: he thought queer writing is more political.
Poet, novelist and translator, Jacek Dehnel, eloquently described the situation for queer people and writers in his native Poland – to nods and grunts of recognition from the Polish members of our audience. He also demonstrated how received wisdom about Europe’s ‘liberal’ west and ‘intolerant’ east can be inaccurate: in 1965 a gay man could be charged with ‘buggery’ in the UK – but not in Poland.
It was clear from crime writer Lilja Sigurðardóttir’s comments that queer writers’ experiences in her native Iceland are coloured by the small size of its population; she told us that when one of her books was described by an academic as an important queer Icelandic work, she tempered her pleasure with the knowledge that there were perhaps only ten such pieces of writing.
All our guests read from their work, Paul Burston from his new psychological thriller, The Closer I Get, in which his protagonist, a gay writer, is stalked by an obsessive fan. I think the audience were stunned to discover that the novel is based on Paul’s real-life experiences.
Jacek Dehnel’s ‘Timepiece’, a long poem addressed to his husband’s mother-in-law, can be read in full in The Queer Riveter – but given time constraints, Jacek decided to read a selection or pieces from Aperture – a collection of his poetry translated into English. He delighted us by also reading one of them in Polish.
Lilja Sigurðardóttir read a little Icelandic for us, before treating us with the opening of her most recent novel, Trap, (available in The Queer Riveter) part of her Reykjavík Noir Trilogy, in which she investigates LGBT+ lives against the backdrop of the Icelandic financial crash, and international drugs smuggling.
We rounded off the evening with some very personal readings from our little Riveting team: I read the extract from my debut novel Attend that appears in The Queer Riveter, and our Production Editor and ELNet’s Literature Coordinator, Anna Blasiak – a poet and translator – closed proceedings with Polish and English readings of the three brief and exquisite poems she contributed to the magazine.
Thanks to Tim O’Dell and the rest of the team at Brixton’s Tate Library for offering us such a warm welcome, selling wine and books and helping to make the evening such a success.
By West Camel
The Queer Riveter is available at certain libraries and bookshops, and at Lambeth Libraries queer events. A pdf of the magazine is available to download here, and we’ll be posting the content online over the next few weeks.
Photos from the launch event (by Lisa Kalloo and Rosie Goldsmith) are available here.