I am currently copy editing an English language, Turkish History magazine. This is proving to be an interesting experience and is particularly relevant at a time when Turkey is going to the polls and Turkish politics are incredibly polarized (pro or anti Erdogan).
Several interesting projects came my way this summer, including editing an edition of a Turkish history magazine – link to follow when it is live.
Among other commissions, I have written the catalogue essay for a thought-provoking exhibition of epic photographic triptychs by Ben Gibson-Cowan.
I am about to start some translations from the French, for a British university’s academic journal.
I am also working on my own creative writing… and developing some London walks tracking literary landmarks in the ‘Outlaw Borough’, Southwark.
Always looking for more interesting assigments though!
RIP HEATHCOTE WILLIAMS 1941 – 2017
It was with great sadness that I attended the funeral of Heathcote Williams, who died on the 1st July. Heathcote had been ill, and in hospital, but he was still so full of life, ideas, and plans…
But how wonderful to see the beautiful church of St Barnabas in Oxford filled with hundreds of people who had come to mark his life and his legacy. When we arrived, Heathcote’s voice, a recorded reading of ‘Whale Nation’, inhabited the space entirely, echoing from the vaulted ceilling and swirling round us as if we were, indeed, in the deep seas or, perhaps, tiptoeing into eternity. Grey Gowrie’s wonderful eulogy, placing Heathcote in the pantheon of the great rebel writers which includes Shelley and William S. Burroughs.
There were portents, too, both grand and comedic – just as Heathcote would have ordained it:
First, as the mourners walked along the canal towpath towards the church, a huge hawk circled over us the whole way (H for Hawk, for Heathcote too, perhaps). Intimations of freedom? Michael Horovitz sang ‘Stairway to Heaven’…
Later, sitting outside a pub opposite the church, after the wicker coffin woven with flowers had begun its final journey, and as the murmuring congregation flowed along the street… a fly buzzed through my hair, making me jump out of my seat with surprise. It landed, legs in the air, stone dead on the table in front of me. It was exactly the image that Heathcote had used to illustrate his poem from the ‘American Porn’ collection, ‘The White House Fly’. Why me? Because when we were working on the book, we had some lengthy and energetic discussions about dramatically cutting ‘The White House Fly’… I thought the brilliance of the conceit was obscured by the original length of the poem. Heathcote, graciously, conceded, but I couldn’t help thinking he would have loved to have given me this last scare… and a laugh. The fly was solemnly placed in a plastic sandwich box by Tymon Dogg and thereafter accompanied us for the rest of an extraordinarily peripatetic wake.
Heathcote was a one-off; the foremost leftfield/underground bard of our times. His environmental (Whale Nation, Autogeddon etc) and political (Brexit Boris, American Porn) polemics offer a no-holds-barred critique of everything that is wrong with our world today – from the wilful destruction of the planet and its animals to the infamous branding of all Moslems as terrorists and the inevitability of Donald Trump’s election to lead a nation of ‘pornographers and warmongers’.
Eton and Oxford educated, few would have anticipated his life-long devotion to anti-establishment causes, including running the infamous Rough Tough Cream Puff squatting ‘estate agency’ in Notting Hill (providing break-in housing tips for members of The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Slits among others) in the 1970s.
He was a modest man and a joy to work with editorially.
RIP Heathcote…may your words live forever.
Susan de Muth
I am working on three fascinating short stories by the great French writer, Louis Aragon, which were lost for many years, having been published cladestinely during the war under the pseudonym Saint Romain Arnaud. I found this little book in a junk shop in Paris (picture below).
The stories are about life under Nazi occupation: a bickering elderly couple are visited by a Gestapo search team; a bored country priest becomes the unwitting accomplice to a resistance bomb plot; a sports journalist charts his own political journey via a decade of cycling events.
Witty and chilling at the same time, with an almost journalistic approach to narration, these stories are very unlike his surrealist writings.
Watch this space for availability via Thin Man Press and Kindle.
The ongoing exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, which ends 29 May 2017, places Claude Cahun – whose most important literary work, ‘Disavowals’ I translated from French for Tate Publishing – alongside contemporary British artist, Gillian Wearing.
Both artists, born seventy years apart, deal with universal themes of identity, gender and notions of self-disclosure often via self-portraiture and masquerade.
It took me three years to translate Cahun’s complex and utterly unique work. I was commissioned by Professor Dawn Ades, who gave a very interesting talk about the exhibition (for which she wrote the catalogue introduction) at the NPG last week. I was in the audience, and in the course of the event, she frequently referenced my book and even waved it around so that the audience could see it!
I have to say that I am rather baffled that nobody from the NPG saw fit to invite me to participate in any of the events associated with the show; when Professor Ades talked about self-portraiture and the ambiguity surrounding the attribution of Cahun’s photographs (taken by her companion, Susanne Malherbe) I wanted to jump up and down and spout my theory about this which comes straight from the pages of the book. Ha!
Not wishing to appear bitter and twisted (B&T) allow me to recommend the show to you!
And the book!
I have to say that Heathcote Williams is an absolute joy to work with. We rushed out his book ‘American Porn’ to co-oncide with Donald Trump’s inauguration and he accepted all my editorial suggestions – even some quite radical ones – with incredible calm, charm and absence of ego.
Last month, Blackwell bookshop in Oxford, hosted an event to celebrate ‘Brexit Boris’ and ‘American Porn’. Williams, recovering from a serious bout of illness, gamely attended and the evening was a great success..
If you are interested in finding out more about the book, just click on the cover!
I very much enjoyed supervising the translation by talented Parisian poet/singer-songwriter, Thomas Baigneres, of Peter Doherty’s latest scribblings to be published by Le Castor Astrale in February 2017… somehow it’s even more intriguing, imaginative and pokey in French!!!
Congratulations to the team at Le Castor Astrale who have done a fantastic job and worked so hard to make this happen.
Click on the cover for more info: