Robin Lloyd Jones had the idea for the Autumn Voices anthology
– to interview writers over 70, about creativity in later life. As well as these interviews the anthology also includes extracts from their work, as well as the winner and runner up of a competition by writers over 60.
The launch of the anthology was at Blackwell's Bookshop in Edinburgh with some of the writers – Larry Butler, Jenni Calder, Stuart Conn, Lee Gershuny, Diana Hendry and Pauline Prior-Pitt giving short readings from their work. Pauline’s poem was in response to the Russian government’s recent decriminalisation of domestic violence – a topic I too felt both sad and angry about, when I heard of it.
I’ve just finished reading Masha Gessen’s book about Russia – The Future is History:How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to understand what is happening in that country today. She presents the story of the country and selects a few individuals born during the era of glasnost and perestroika (one of them is the daughter of Boris Nemtsov) and tells their stories too. You begin to see it as a stage drama being enacted, directed by those who want to shape the country’s story on their terms, and played both by those who accept and believe the given narrative, and those who see through the manipulation and try to change things – entrenched habits and reactions as well as laws. She recounts the frustration of so many Russian citizens where to demonstrate can mean assault, arrest, heavy fines and imprisonment.
It’s written with intelligence and insight, as well as personal experience, as Gessen is Russian-American. (This book won the National Book Award for non-fiction, 2017). You begin to understand that for so many Russians, criticism of the government is incompatible with remaining in the country, if you don’t want to be fined or imprisoned and you want to stay alive.
The writers in the Autumn Voices anthology also tell their stories, all different – about their writing yes, but other activities too – music, drama, hill-walking, painting, gardening, bookselling, Tai-Chi – their thoughts on the creative process and the currents of their lives.
So far I’ve only read a few of these stories and extracts from their work, but here’s a couple of quotes:
Always you liked views that spoke of beyond -
those seascapes stretching out that didn’t stop at sky but went on…
(From Beyond by Diana Hendry)
And David Donnison quoted from the Spanish poet Antonio Machado:
Traveller there is no path. Paths are made by walking.
|The old Salt Route, Alpes-Maritime, France|
After leaving Blackwell’s – so good to catch up with people I had not seen for a long time – on the way to the bus station I came across this Pipe Band playing in George Street. Backdrop of Georgian and modern architecture, an unexpected finale to a great evening.