The 16th Arras Book Fair: Colères du Présent on 1st May

We’ve recently returned from a unique French book fair that takes place on the 1st of May every year in Pas de Calais’ capital, Arras. It’s the second time we’ve been invited, this time on the strength of the French edition of The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia; Louise Michel La Vierge Rouge. We were signing copies for several hours in one of the publishers’ marquees in the Grand’Place, one of the two large cobbled squares in the city centre. The other, the Place des Héros, is overlooked by their fine city hall, its distinctive belfry housing a carillon that rings out prettily every half an hour.

Another BD guest who was kept busy in there was Julie Minoh. She’s the creator of the award-winning Le bleu est une couleur chaude (the English title is Blue is the warmest colour, presumably after the film, though it first appeared as Blue Angel).

She’s delightful.







In the adjacent Grand’Place there were lots of stalls like these:

A couple of days previously, we’d been signing at the Librairie les lisières, an independent bookshop in nearby Roubaix. We we were also interviewed there about Louise Michel La Vierge Rouge. Afterwards we were taken to see a column close by with a likeness of Louise Michel on it. She’s represented mourning the passing of Louise Auguste Blanqui, the French socialist, revolutionary theorist and activist, who was a major influence on her. Below is an illustration from a 1881 newspaper, possibly American, purporting to show her delivering an oration at his funeral. She may well have done so. The only other mention of it that I’ve been able to find is a similar illustration from Le Monde Illustré, located in the Musée de l’histoire vivante in Montreuil, Paris (thanks to my cousin Martin Crookston for directing me to it).

Francospheres of Resistance and Revolution – podcasts

On Monday (3rd April 2017) Bryan and I had the pleasure of participating in this academic conference at the University of London’s Institute of Modern Languages Research. The conference as a whole explored articulations of resistance and revolution in a range of French contexts. We shared a plenary session in the afternoon with Paul Mason, which addressed the life of women in the aftermath of the Paris Commune of 1871and their deportation to New Caledonia. Through the specific case study of Louise Michel, the plenary explored how such revolutionary moments emancipate and politicise women even though the endgame is one of failure.

Paul outlined his new play, Divine Chaos of Starry Things, about Louise Michel’s time in the French penal colony in New Caledonia, finishing with a sample read-though with two of the principal actors. The play opens on 30th April at White Bear Theatre in London and runs until 9th May. We followed, in conversation with Charles Forsdick about The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia. Both talks are available as podcasts at the Backdoor Broadcasting Company here.

We shared a broadcast with Paul last year, on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking, which is still available to listen here.

September-October update

salonstripa-guestThe 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.nikola-tesla-museuminside-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).

dedicaces2-copyTwo 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 radio-libertaireabout 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. with-michelleperrotThey’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.

With Grégory from La Librairie Vuibert

With Grégory from La Librairie Vuibert

In the courtyard of the chateau in Blois

In the courtyard of the chateau in Blois

Blois rooftops

Blois rooftops

That’s all for now. Next post: back home in England for the 4th Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Back soon!

York Literature Festival coming up!

York litfest logoThe Talbots will be in York in mid March!

On the 12th March 2016 we will be signing at Travelling Man, 54 Goodramgate, York, YO1 7LF from 2-3pm.

This will be followed by an appearance at York St John Con (part of York Literary Festival), where we will be will be discussing our work, including our forthcoming graphic novel The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia. There’s a festival programme available for download here.

RV postcard4 – 6pm 12th March: Temple Hall, York St John University, Lord Mayor’s Walk, York YO31 7EX
“Illustrator and writer Bryan Talbot, and writer and academic Mary Talbot, have been described by Bleeding Cool as ‘true powerhouses of the British graphic novel scene.’ Among many other prizes and plaudits, their collaboration, Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, won the Costa Award for Biography in 2012. In this feature event, Bryan will discuss his Hugo-nominated Grandville series and the anthropomorphic tradition; and Mary will discuss the much-anticipated Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia, due out May 2016.”

This will be followed by a signing.

Red Virgin appears in ‘must-read’ lists for 2016

RV postcardThe Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia in the 2016 Literary Calendar

The Literary Calendar is The Guardian‘s annual listing of essential reading. Our next book is the only graphic novel to be included. Unfortunately it’s in the wrong month (June, not May) and is erroneously listed as fiction!

Books in 2016: A Literary Calendar

It’s also listed in The Irish Times as one of the “Books to look out for in 2016” – and they did get the category and month right! Again, it’s the only graphic novel that’s featured. Arminta Wallace says:

Husband-and-wife graphic novelists Bryan and Mary Talbot follow their Costa-winning study of Lucia Joyce (Dotter of her Father’s Eyes) with the equally offbeat The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia (Jonathan Cape, May). The subject is Louise Michel, an anarchist-feminist who fought on the barricades in 1871.

Books to watch out for in 2016

Wishing you all a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year!