Friday 28 January 2022

CBe in 2022

As I come out of hibernation, CBe in 2022 is beginning to take shape.

First, a second poetry collection by Paul Bailey, who began publishing his distinguished fiction in 1967, has been Booker-Prize shortlisted twice, and has a new lease of life in poetry. Ali Smith on his first collection, Inheritance, from CBe in 2019: ‘Unsentimental, funny, affectionate, deeply moving, the poems read almost off-the-cuff but work at levels of exactness, kindness and observation that throw open a whole closed century of English class-shift and time-shift … A slim, calm volume whose resonance is huge.’ Joie de vivre, the new book, is here.

To follow … Stretto, a radical and audacious debut novel, as the blurbspeak has it, by the poet David Wheatley. It ‘takes its title from a musical term describing the effect when a fugue subject begins to duplicate and accompany itself before it has finished, causing a complex pile-up’. Later, essays by the polymath (poet, novelist, memoirist, critic, editor, translator) Patrick McGuinness. And maybe Andrew Elliott will resurface. And maybe the start of a new series of short A-format books (which I’d like to call ‘smalls’ but won’t).

And not least, a reissue of Agota Kristof’s trilogy: The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie. The English translations were first published in 1986 and the early 1990s; CBe reissued them in 2014 and 2015; CBe’s license to publish lapsed but is now back in place. Possibly accompanied by a reissue of Kristof’s brief memoir The Illiterate, if only I can persuade the rights-holders that CBe can sell a serious number of copies.

Kristof was born Csikv√°nd, a village in Hungary, in 1935. ‘My father is the only schoolteacher in the village. He teaches all the grades, from the first to the sixth, in the same classroom …’ The above photo is how I imagine that classroom; for no apparent narrative reason, a falcon makes a brief appearance in The Proof. In 1956, aged 21, Kristof fled the Soviet repression of the Hungarian Uprising with her husband and infant daughter and became a refugee in Switzerland. She wrote in French, a language ‘imposed on me by fate, by chance, by circumstance’, a language that ‘is killing my mother tongue’; her books are acts of resistance and their renewed presence on the CBe list is, to me, important.

For an interview with Kristof, see here. There’s a half-hour documentary on Kristof made in Switzerland in 2011 which I’d like to see but the app through which I need to pay to watch is unavailable in the UK. Any helpful suggestions will be welcome.

Parish notes: a gentle reminder that the Season Ticket available on the home page of the website – 10 books over 10 weeks for £70, post-free in the UK – has made all the difference over the Covid period. (Just 19 books were sold through the distributor this month. Neither paper costs nor heating costs are going down.)