The past few weeks have been non-stop. Since our Edinburgh Festival weekend at the end of August, we’ve been at festivals in four other countries. I’ve posted about our trip in September to Avilés in Spain already. From 29th September to 2nd October we were in the sunny Serbian capital of Belgrade as guests at Salon Stripa. Our main event there was an on-stage interview, with Žika, our Serbian publisher (on the left in the photo below) and Alex, festival organiser (on the right), taking turns with questions and translation. Here’s some coverage on the Modesty Comics blog.
It was our first time in the Balkans and we were unsure what to expect, though we knew we wanted to visit Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Museum.
As well as going to the museum (which turned out to be very close to our hotel) and doing some sightseeing around the Belgrade Fortress, we were pleased to be taken on a Food & Culture Tour of the city, which included some potted history of the region. Belgrade, it seems, has always been poised between East and West. The Fortress sits above the confluence of the Sava and the Danube. You can read a little about its turbulent history here.
We did quite a few media interviews, for TV and the press. Here‘s a write-up of one of them (it is, of course, in Serbian).
Two nights at home, then we were off again. This time to Paris, to promote the French edition of Red Virgin: Louise Michel, La Vierge Rouge. The book’s reception has been excellent. We have some hugely enthusiastic reviews, on Sceneario, BoDoï and the radio station Europe 1, among others, though the review on the radio seems to be most excited about the Jules Verne/Nautilus connection in one of the book’s endnotes. We did a signing in a great BD shop in Bastille and met some lovely people. It isn’t a toy and tuck shop, as you might think from the photo below (and, no, we didn’t touch any of that junk food on the table).
While we were in Paris we also had a couple of interesting informal meetings with journalists. One, Florence Bellet, works for the anarchist radio station Radio Libertaire and gave us a copy of a book she’s written about her great-grandfather, who was a teenager in Paris during the shortlived Commune of 1871. Another, Yücel Göktürk, was a Turkish Kurd with an impressive knowledge of literature in English who was amazed, he said, at the Samuel Beckett epigram in Red Virgin. Apparently it has huge resonance in Turkey right now. ‘FAIL AGAIN, FAIL BETTER’ is a current Turkish catchphrase, borne aloft on banners. Also, he wondered, did I have a particular model for utopia in mind? Was it by any chance Kurdistan? It’s well worth being reminded that readers will always bring their own context to books and, in doing so, enrich them beyond measure.
Still in Paris, we had time for a visit to the Grand Palais for the Hergé exhibition that’s on.
Next, off by train to Blois for an event at a history festival, Les rendez-vous de l’histoire. This is a long-running festival in Blois that’s now in its 19th year. Louise Michel la Vierge Rouge is published by La Librairie Vuibert, a history imprint, not a BD publisher as such. They’d arranged a dual on-stage interview with Nicolas Carreau, a national newspaper reporter, and emeritus professor Michelle Perrot, who is not only a highly esteemed pioneering feminist historian in France but also extremely knowledgeable about Louise Michel and the Paris Commune. They are both, fortunately, also delightful people and hugely positive about our book. In fact, we learned at lunch later that Michelle Perrot had searched out Sally Heathcote Suffragette and loved that too.
The event itself went extremely well, with simultaneous translation through headphones for the audience (just like United Nations!). We found the questions from onstage and the audience clear enough to respond to without having to wait for translation, I’m pleased to say, which kept it moving. Usually translation slows things down a lot.
That’s all for now. Next post: back home in England for the 4th Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Back soon!