Using such a word as hoe in the same line as Fitzcarraldo seems to go against the sleek and uniformed french flaps that make Fitzcarraldo iconic (are they iconic yet?), but hoe I am, and it rhymes, so call me hoe (thot!), and be done with it.
Fitzcarraldo Editions, the house that publishes everything in blue (fiction) or white (non-fiction), is just so damn instagrammable. An almost perfect colour scheme if the white covers weren’t so easily ready for the mess of my daily life and so, while the blue remain perfectly blue, the white winds up dusty and a varied shade of white. A noticeable marker of a well-read book I suppose.
My first Fitzcarraldo was actually two, one blue and one white. Pond was a mesmerising collection—short stories that were not quite separate. A women in solitude, a coastal town, a feeling of reading an essay collection written by a fictional character. And The Hatred of Poetry, an essay of impossible thought to the impossible question: what is poetry? I ask my students this question and the class swing from definition to definition trying to pin it down—
whatever you want they say.
what about *I love watermelon*? is that a poem?
well not that, that’s stupid (although watermelon is great)
basically miss, they say, basically a poem has to rhyme.
the poems we read in class don’t rhyme… most of the time (ha!)
well then miss, basically, what does the dictionary say?
the dictionary is always wrong, it’s a moving, living thing, you won’t—
A POEM IS a piece of writing in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by particular attention to diction (haha DICKshin), rhythm, and imagery.
do you think that’s correct?
so, what is a poem?
After The Hatred of Poetry came the The Nocilla Trilogy, a riotous joke through literature and experimentation, then Pretentiousness, The Years, Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants, Essayism, Arkady, Limbo, and This Little Art. I read This Little Art in one day of sunshine and pillows and dirty hands making marks on the white cover. But oh! What a book! To read a voice that articulates what’s been waiting in the back of my brain, twisted and unable to be unraveled. It’s a book on reading, and the vessels of time books themselves are—as indicators of time spent writing, but also time spent reading. Physical time, and the memories made in the act of reading. And isn’t that what we are doing here online, on instagram, on twitter, on blogs? Documenting our time spent reading, and striving to communicate said time? We layer these texts with texts of our own—writ here for the pawing of thumbs to tell us it’s good, or for strangers to scroll past, or for a fellow reader that will pick up the source text and to add another layer of thought, of memory, of time.
But This Little Art is actually about translation, and translation is what Fitzcarraldo does best. Flights by Olga Tokarczuk won the Booker International and I was half-way through reading it when my lung collapsed. I haven’t picked it up since, for the fragments of fragile connection and the title itself were too much for one who was forbidden to fly. But maybe that’s okay for now, as Surrender is a reckoning with the world as it crumbles around us (I like to think I don’t fly because I’m hyperaware of its impact on climate change, but it’s really because my lungs are shit). The book is ecopolitics and belonging and being. I wanted all the answers from Surrender. I didn’t find them. but I did find solace in the sense of someone else having the same uneasiness that comes with opening of each tab.
And finally, Gina Apostol’s Insurrecto—a hopscotch of narratives that layer as you read them. It’s a Filipino novel that questions who writes history and the complexities (and necessity!) of undoing a colonial narrative. But also questions art and authorship and the limits of storytelling. And these limits are set by gatekeepers—agents and editors and publishers. A publishing house is a gatekeeper, but Fitzcarraldo seems to be holding the gate open for voices that are too risky, too much, and too interesting for the mainstream. Next on my list is Vivian, Ash Before Oak, and maybe, as I’ve had surgery since, I’ll be able to finish Flights.
Fitzcarraldo Editions kindly sent me Vivian, Insurrecto, Surrender, and Ash Before Oak—the rest, I acquired myself!