'A place is made from stories as much as it is from rocks, bricks and organic matter. To express the nature of a place, you need to tell those stories. The job of fiction is to tell the truth by telling lies.'
Have a read here.
'The demands of success – mass-market editions and the budgets needed to create and sell them – are tough on small presses, and yet their willingness to commit their often scant resources to writers whose work they believe deserves an audience is having a significant impact on today’s literary ecology. (To name a few such examples: Eley Williams’s short story collection, Attrib., published by Influx Press – the winner of this year’s Republic of Consciousness Prize; the comic idiosyncrasy of Paul Ewen, the man behind Francis Plug’s How To Be a Public Author, from Galley Beggar Press; the intellectual dash of the Fitzcarraldo Editions catalogue.)'
Happy to Influx, and Eley Williams (Attrib.) are mentioned in the TLS this week. Alongside our allies and literary beef friends Galley Beggar, Fitzcarraldo and And Other Stories.
So if you haven't heard, Attrib and Other Stories won the 2018 Republic of Consciousness Prize!
Crack open the Lambrini, we're celebrating!
It was a total surprise and we're delighted to have been recognised amongst our small press peers. Eley is one of the finest writers around and Attrib is such a great book. You can buy it here.
Details on the prize and the winning can be read in the Bookseller here, but we'll give you the quote that Kit gave them:
“We are delighted to win the RoC Prize. This is changing the landscape of literary prizes, for the very reason that the press and the author are awarded. We are really proud of Eley Williams and her book. We wouldn’t have been in this position without her, and she wouldn’t be in this position without us. And that kind of relationship is really important for small publishers. It’s much more of a collaborative effort. When you work with an author on our level, really hands on, really close - for the two parties to be awarded is an exceptional thing for literary prizes. But mainly congratulations to everyone else.”
Massive shout outs to Galley Beggar and Preti Tanjea whose We That Are Young is an extraordinary novel, and big ups to all the other shortlisted presses, Little Island, Charco, Dostoevsky Wannabe and Les Fugitives. All worthy winners in our eyes.
Thank you to everyone who has bought the book and supported our adventure, we owe this to you!
It's back. The Influx Literary Heroes blog has returned for 2017.
Rather than write about our favourite books of the year as every newspaper in the land does, we prefer to write about the people in the publishing industry who we think were absolute heroes during this year.
These are the people we couldn't do without, the people the literary world needs and should cherish, the best of the best.
So we present, in no particular order, 10 Influx Press Literary Heroes of 2017Read More
We have heard news that one of the great Saharawi poets, Beyibouh has passed away in the Tindouf camps. Beyibouh features heavily in our publication, Settled Wanders (by Sam Berkson and Mohammed Sulaiman).Read More
Knowing Sam and Mark had spent some time together and exchanged ideas in the past, news of Mark Fisher's death caused us to ask Sam to write a personal piece about Fisher and his work. Below is Sam's response.
In 2011, I had a poem selected for Acquired for Development By, an anthology of writing about the London borough of Hackney, published by the newly-established Influx Press. That they put out these alternative, insider-narratives just as the outsider-media story was starting of a regenerating, newly trendy place-to-be (i.e. to buy property) shows that they had a sharp instinct for the zeitgeist. In making my book, Life in Transit, their second publication, they also showed that they were not solely concerned with commercial success.
The book, a collection gleaned from a decade of notebook scraps and new writing set on or about travel and transport, was sent for review. After it was published, Ambit, once an avant-garde literary magazine, found the genre-crossing blend of poetry, short-fiction and reportage too wacky for them. Their reviewer was pleased that a ‘modern performance poet’ had put down his oral poetry in printed form but (rightly) found it in places “a bit preachy maybe”.
Before it was published, however, Kit sent a PDF to Mark Fisher, who was genuinely excited about it. In his review, he compared it to Burial and Laura Oldfield Ford. He said it was “attuned to the peculiar loneliness of life in neoliberal Britain”. Kit arranged for me to meet Mark and for Tim Burroughs, whose story in Acquired For… about the (redeveloped) Four Aces club in Dalston I had loved, to write up the conversation for Dazed and Confused magazine.
I had no more heard of Mark Fisher than I had of Burial or Oldfield Ford, although I knew that the latter’s artwork was on Acquired For…’s front cover. I had not realised that I was writing about loneliness or of hauntological relics of public space and lost futures in early-Austerity Britain. In fact I did not know what hauntology meant until I read Mark’s Ghosts of My Life in 2014. This does not mean that he was wrong, though.
We met in Shoreditch, found a bland bar that has, like so many others, turned into another bland bar, and we talked excitedly about a number of topics. For reasons I have never really understood, the transcript of that meeting did not see the light of day until The Quietus published it last week, a week after Mark took his own life.
Mark was an incredibly generous and kind person. Reading again, with some trepidation, Tim’s transcript of our first meeting five years ago, I remembered how quickly we had connected. I felt able to speak freely with him, despite his nervousness and manic energy. His thought was much more advanced than mine. His analysis is prescient, prophetic almost. He calls Boris Johnson, who was at the time lurking ominously as a very plausible and pathetically popular ‘next Prime Minister’, “the person who mocks the place of power while occupying it”. Comparing him to Franco Beradi’s description of Silvio Berlusconi, he says Johnson is “weirdly popular around young people in a depressing way because he doesn’t take politics seriously or doesn’t seem to. Of course, what he does take extremely seriously is that of advancing his own position and own class. This form of faux bonhomie and cynical dismissal is an extremely dangerous problem by which class power naturalises itself.” In the intervening years, politicians such as these have proliferated almost as rapidly as the rise in Hackney property prices.
I was still confused in my political views, particularly as regards the role of the state. Like many on the left, I was neurotic about anything resembling Stalinist state control while at the same time complaining about privatisation and the dismantling of public space. Generously, he still considered what I was doing worth engaging with. After the Tories won again in 2015, I wrote a blog article disgusted at Labour’s cowardly tactics. He wrote to me, approving of my analysis, but told me that it was too early to give up on Labour, saying that he thought that change within the party was possible. He had said the same when I first met him. “If a few of us went in with a strong agenda,” he suggested, “you could drive it in a certain direction.” Of course he was right about that too.
His point was that there are many terrains on which to engage. Before the Olympics came to town, the organisation of which Mark saw as a massive (and unsustainable) effort in crushing social protest and opposition, we had the student protests, Occupy and the riots. But Occupy, as Mark pointed out, though global and democratic, fetishised horizontality and anti-parliamentarianism. We could not ignore the mainstream terrains of traditional media and parliamentary politics because if we did, and spoke to each other only through the corporate-mediated social platforms and in our closed little activist circles, the Right would happily seize those spaces from which we had withdrawn.
Capitalist Realism changed the game for many of us. Just as I met Mark and immediately felt like a friend, as the cliché goes, when I read his book, I found that it said the things I had been feeling but not able to articulate. It outlined a certain totalitarian strain in current discourse that denies there is such a thing as an alternative. Instead of trying to defend the system (“Leaders of the free world” would fool few people now), the state seems to be in the business of making the famous Winston Churchill quip, “that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”, a hardened truth. Capitalism may be a bad system, the ‘realist’ logic goes, but as there is no other way of organising society, we are compelled to carry on. Mark’s book, he told me, came out of his experiences “deep in capitalist realism” at Further Education college. The book, he explained was about Blairism, whose party “secured the hegemonic victory of neoliberalism.” It attempts to answer Slavoj Žižek’s question: ‘why is it easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism?’
Mark thought, with Gilles Deleuze, that we have moved beyond Michel Foucault’s ‘discipline society’ based around the factory, school, prison and hospital, which all resemble each other, and into a ‘control society’ where capital has captured and manipulates our desires. The resultant descriptions were caricatures but disturbingly attuned to something real: 6th form students slumped over desks, snacking and talking continuously, addicted to video games and mobile phones, surrounded by constant stimulation, locked in “systems of perpetual consumption”, living a state of “depressive hedonia”, “too wired to concentrate.” The disturbing insight of his work was that capitalism is not just an economic system in which we take part, but something that is part of us: “As production and distribution are restructured, so are nervous systems.” We are the ‘nerves’ of the ‘system’. Thus, much of the source for our anxieties, depression and our maladjusted functioning can be found in the structures around us:
“capitalism is itself fundamentally and irreducibly bi-polar, periodically lurching between hyped-up mania (the irrational exuberance of 'bubble thinking') and depressive come-down. (The term 'economic depression' is no accident, of course). To a degree unprecedented in any other social system, capitalism both feeds on and reproduces the moods of populations. Without delirium and confidence, capital could not function.”
But amidst this terrifying picture, what he offered us, was long-term, strategic thinking. Don’t neglect the mainstream; engage on all terrains, including parliamentary politics; expose the contradictions inherent in the current mode of exploitation; reject Soviet-style acquiescence to obvious official dissimulations, however comforting they may seem: “This strategy - of accepting the incommensurable and the senseless without question - has always been the exemplary technique of sanity as such, but it has a special role to play in late capitalism”.
He articulated for us how, with its endemic increase of bureaucracy, rise in mental illness and destruction of the environment, Capitalist ‘democracy’ was not the best that intelligent human beings could do, and he gave us means to deconstruct their arguments.
I felt like it was one of only two books I had heard of that seriously explained the current moment. The only other one my friend Michael told me about: a huge, expensive hardback book, brilliantly using radical anthropology to dismantle the whole discipline of economics, and I waited an age for it to come out in cheaper paperback. It became a deserved best seller; its author, also a Goldsmiths academic, like a striker from a lower-league team who scores a FA cup hat-trick against a big Premiership side, was picked up and signed by LSE. He and Fisher were, in a certain world (strange as this may seem to outsiders and contradictory to our own professed morality) celebrities. They moved among us at protests, bookfairs, meetings and parties, but only one of them became a friend and comrade. I once heard the other one, in rock-star’s leather jacket say in loud, sniggering tones, “the amazing thing about writing a popular book is that people outside of academia actually read all of it cover-to-cover, even the footnotes.” This was exactly what I had done and I felt a little ashamed. I thought that was how you were supposed to read books.
Fisher on the other hand, open about his family and private life, would sit with whoever and talk with them, eager to hear what you knew from your experience, rapidly analysing how it fitted into the current time. Capitalist Realism was a devastating critique of our contemporary culture, so uncompromisingly negative that we felt a new wind blowing away the inanities and sweeping in something revolutionary. Sadly, when he took this approach to a critique of Twitter culture, the gale blew back in his face. Mark suffered from anxiety and depression. His persona was fast-paced, stuttering, nervous energy. What he said in ‘Exiting the Vampire’s Castle’ was that criticism should happen within a spirit of comradeship and solidarity and that criticism of working-class ‘celebrities’ like Russell Brand, often amounted to moralising class condescension. He complained that people could be excoriated on the basis of an ill-judged remark by "vampire-priests of the castle of identitarian politics".
The tone was ill-advised, however, given the sensitivities of the subject. Part of the liberatory experience of reading Capitalist Realism was that we felt just enough chastised personally for our part in the system while in complete accord with Mark’s rage at its functioning, that we wanted to change it, and change ourselves. The Vampire’s Castle article, although in my opinion more subtle than his critics realised, was read as another racist, sexist, heteronormative, tiresome socialist “it’s all about class and not about race” rant. He fell victim to some of his own logic. The very isolating networks of social media – the echo chamber – meant that we (outside of academia) did not really know who exactly his target was, and it felt to many people, (even myself as a white, male friend), too much aimed at us. By not naming or quoting the kind of tweeters he was criticizing and hiding the identity of his opponents in the metaphor of ‘vampires’, perhaps he avoided also indulging in personal abuse, but it left interpretation open to the winds. Sadly of course, those winds blew as he said they would, and the vampires (or whoever felt they had been labelled as such) flew at him in the same vicious way his article predicted. Perhaps he was mistaken but I guess those who posted comments wishing him dead may reflect on that again.
Generally, though, Mark was brilliant. How we need his strategic thinking now! I went to his lectures, which he made open to the public and were often rammed out in stifling theatres, and I heard words like “affect”, “libidinal”, “oneiric”. He talked about Fredric Jameson, Wendy Brown and Stuart Hall, who at the time I thought was the paedophile Radio 5 football commentator from It’s A Knockout. So I learned things. An auto-didact himself, he repeatedly wrote about the anxieties of being unmasked as a (working) class fraud. Like Hall (the Jamaican-born, British cultural theorist), Mark wanted to use his position and his education to popularise learning. He analysed popular culture as serious works deserving of study. He advised myself, Zena Edwards and Mark Gwynne Jones on our attempts to write poetry around mental illness; frank and honest about his own struggles with depression and history of abuse.
Suicide, he wrote, talking of Ian Curtis and Joy Division, “has the power to transfigure life, with all its quotidian mess, its conflicts, its ambivalences, its disappointments, its unfinished business, its ‘wastes and fever and heat” into a cold myth, as solid, seamless and permanent as the ‘marble and stone’.” I am thankful that I do not fully understand those words. However, when he writes of how “the depressive experiences himself as walled off from the lifeworld, so that his own frozen inner life – or inner death – overwhelms everything”, I’m sure that description resonates painfully with many of us. We know, all too well, how, “for the depressive, the habits of the former lifeworld now seem to be … a series of pantomime gestures … which they are no longer capable of performing and which they no longer wish to perform”.
We are encouraged to think of suicides as failures. When George Smith spoke against systematic sexual abuse in Prince Charles’s household, the media were told he was a "sad, sick man with a series of alcohol and stress-related health problems.” The establishment uses mental ill-health as proof of their critics’ delusion. Smith’s premature death confirmed their hypothesis. Mark tried to show that mental ill-health was part of the functioning of capitalism, not just the malfunctioning of individuals.
Mark’s suicide is proof of nothing, but we know that we failed him. We failed to build a world in which Mark could be Mark and be comfortable in himself. He loved teaching but he found work to be mired in Kafka-esque bureaucracy. He was depressed by a generation of digital addicts who suffer from “twitchy, agitated interpassivity, an inability to concentrate or focus”, yet he was striving for a way out of a control society that “registers as something other than dejected apathy”
On a personal level he did much for me. He reviewed my book in glowing terms, he came on my radio show, introduced me personally to people he wrote about, like Oldfield Ford, he set my thinking straight on a lot of things, and was a friend. He was also, like me, part of Plan C. Justin has written of how we learned a way of being that “is not about making life liveable under unliveable conditions, [but] about figuring out how to produce genuinely liveable conditions at any cost”. Mark sent a message to us a while back, apologising that depression had kept him away from our meetings. We all said we would go and visit him in Suffolk. We never did. The times he and I spent together were too often snatched moments after a talk, lunchtimes at conferences, meetings with purposes. There were projects we talked about doing together which never materialised. As is true of so many of my relationships, we rarely found that truly radical time of just being friends, without ulterior (business) motives.
If only we had found a way to keep Mark with us. I know no one else in Britain who could explain the way out of the “control programme” as he did. Mark, your ghost is with me in these words. You left us with a means of analysis and a way to approach the contradictions of this time. How sad that the only ‘way out’ you found for yourself was the one you did.
 Capitalist Realism; p30.
Rather than write about our favourite books of the year from other publishers as we have done for a few years, we thought we'd write about the people in the publishing industry who we think were absolute heroes during this year.
So without further ado, we present the Influx Press Literary Heroes of 2016Read More
All of our titles available in digital format are on SALE for December.
This means you can buy all of the following for a mere £1.99 each, for ePub and Kindle:
Imaginary Cities by Darran Anderson
Marshland by Gareth E. Rees
Above Sugar Hill by Linda Mannheim
Total Shambles by George F.
Life in Transit by Sam Berkson
The far right-wing activist, Milo Yiannopoulos, is in the news again, concerning his invitation to speak at the Simon Langton Grammar School For Boys in Canterbury, Kent – like ourselves, he is a former pupil at the school. We remember Yiannopoulos as a young man and have seen his public profile grow as adults. We share educational roots, but finally have felt compelled to make a statement on the subject.
Milo Yiannopoulos is not the “alt-right”; he is a twisted new incarnation of the far-right. His harassment and bullying of women, particularly black women, online is well documented, resulting in him being permanently banned from Twitter for his actions. His invective is hate speech. A man who states 'feminism is cancer' is not interested in debate or nuance.Read More
It's been 5 months since An Unreliable Guide to London was released. Since it contains so many great writers that you might be interested in reading further, we thought we'd get an update from most of them to make it easy for you track their movements. Literary movements, obviously. We've not weirdos.Read More
At our launch of Cristian Aliaga's The Foreign Passion (trans Ben Bollig), Catherine Boyle, Professor of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at King’s College London gave a great talk on the importance of translation and the book.
Here is a transcript of that talk.
Translation is about travelling. And in many ways translation is no different now from it was in the middle ages. It passes through the body of the translator, of the traveller. Translators are on the look-out for new stories. Our constant question is: what are the stories that you have that that we could borrow and tell again; tell to ourselves; tell to each other? And as we translate we do not colonise the language – although that has been known – we inhabit it. We travel with it and we make it live again in another place, another time, with new eyes and ears. And we hope that in that new space and time what we have translated can find its voice, can find an audience, new listeners, new interpreters. Maybe, even, that the translation can have an impact on the language and time it has come it inhabit anew. Just as we are worlds of migrants, nomads, incomers, newcomers, intruders, we are worlds of invention and re-invention.
Translators are also advocates. As we travel the world physically and linguistically we are alert to those stories that will travel and when we find some we respond to what Peter Brook calls ‘the formless hunch’, as I have said and written so many times before: the intuition that what we have found needs to be translated, brought to the new place to speak again because it has something urgent to say to us, now, and here.
What Ben Bollig has done here in The Foreign Passion is a form of advocacy. He has found in La pasión extranjera a poetry that speaks to him, and knowing that he can only be of his time, he intuits that it will speak to other people. We are introduced to themes that are crushing in on us, of the political construction of the spaces we inhabit, of global capital and its / our impact on our earth, of migration, immigration movement, of belonging, and of the strangeness of being other, or of moving into spaces in which we are rendered as other. Profound memories are lost and commodified, and are located in museums where people go ‘to beg for a memory’ / ‘para mendigar un recuerdo’ (‘Belleza ajena’), pathetically pleased with, for example, the postcard that is the most abject trace of what we think we want to remember, or own again, or belong to again.
These poems and their translations remind us that all translation is an exploration. There can be no translation without the journeying through words and meaning. The creation of excess – of many drafts, many possibilities, many suggestions – allows to wander through the poetry. We need this space to allow a submersion, from which we will emerge clutching the right word, the word that does the job. For this time, for this moment, for now. It may not be the same next year, but the submersion has allowed the creation of a parallel poetics and by the time the words come to rest on the page – for this particular version printed – there is a sense of coherence, of rhythm, of a new poetics that can deliver meaning in the new space. ‘Come to rest’ suggests an end, a dead place. But I don’t mean that at all, because the page will always provoke the new life of reading and listening.
The M62 [as featured in the poem ‘Natural Life’]. I know it. I know that house. I’ve passed it two or three times a year between London and the west coast of Scotland for about twenty-five years. I know the story of the house. I have another story of this house, different from Aliaga’s. His poem makes me want to tell that story, to respond to his story. My rhythms of telling it would be different and the shade would be inflected by dark winter nights with Chris Rea singing ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ or long summer nights with the promise of even longer nights ahead. And that’s the point of the travelling of poetry: it provokes other stories to be told, maybe borrowing- knowingly or unknowingly-from the new account.
These poems destabilise the centre. That sounds like academic speak. It is, but we academics too want to and can provoke ideas and meaning. Ben talks in his introduction to the book about some of the ways in which Cristian Aliaga brings his own language and the language of others with and through him to write and unwrite history and lived experience. Well, I know the places of The Foreign Passion. Some of my own history is written there, in Scotland, Ireland, England, in reading, in histories, and poetry I’ve read. So when I say that Aliaga destabilises the centre, I mean that he makes me very well aware that I have a ‘centre’, that that centre is European, no matter how much and how openly I have travelled and that the our centre, our home is visible to, analysed by, sought after, loved and hated by others, by those whose centre is somewhere else. Of Peckham Rye station [in the poem ‘Un-chewed Life’].
So, thank you, Ben for doing the work of the translator: for travelling, seeing, recognising and bringing back ‘home’ these stories. It doesn’t matter that they were written here, because they really weren’t. The beauty of translation is to find the place that the poems were written, and rewrite it so that we can be destabilised and made to look at our world with different eyes. With words we recognise, but in their foreign passion, we have to work that bit harder to find, to harvest and bring to a new home.
Catherine Boyle is Professor of Latin American Cultural Studies at King’s College, London. http://www.kcl.ac.uk/artshums/depts/splas/people/staff/academic/boyle/index.aspx
Britain is in the grip of a profound crisis; economic, political, cultural. The far right is emboldened more than we’ve seen in decades, enabled by an austerity-led government and a currently weakened opposition. So far, British politics has failed to adequately challenge xenophobia, racism and intolerance. We are exiting the European Union, which for all its faults has been a wonderful facilitator for cultural exchange with our brothers and sisters on the continent.
Regardless of how you think our political parties should progress, we are sure we can all agree that the most pressing issue we face as writers, publishers and cultural producers is protecting and fighting for the cosmopolitan, heterogeneous and inclusive future of the UK. We must fight for the margins, with the unheard, and alongside those who want the same fundamentally plural society we have managed to create in large parts if this country. We must continue to forge cultural relationships with Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia. We must challenge cultural fascism at every turn.
Influx Press promises to do this not only by publishing the voices of those who are under threat from racist violence and xenophobia, but by amplifying others who publish these voices too. This is not the time for competition, but for solidarity.Read More
I seem to have always had an interest in the slave trade. I find the subject mind-bogglingly vast, involving so many people from so many countries for so many centuries, that to have an expert understanding is probably beyond a lifetime’s work. Perhaps because of the author in me, my interest over the last few years has evolved into a passion for first-hand accounts of slavery, a desire to understand something of the experience of being a slave on an emotional and psychological level, to read authentic and realistic accounts of what a slave’s life was truly like.Read More
Lots of Johnsons and Willies, both Big and Blind.
Canon. What a silly idea and in so many ways. Such a backward-looking reactionary way to approach art. Swathes of kids each generation lost to the faith of words because they are taught to think a book has to look like something dead white guys made in mahogany lined libraries between attacks of gout. Two centuries of posh folk with emotional constipation is plenty. Silly also because ‘Canon’ smacks of someone telling you a book is important rather than giving a person the tools and time to figure it out for themselves.Read More
The Argentine novelist and critic Carlos Gamerro once wrote that the ‘whodunit’ is doomed to struggle in his country. There is a simple reason for this. In Argentina, if there is an unsolved murder, everyone assumes, or maybe knows, that the police or the military did it. In his novel An Open Secret he explores the role of the police during the Proceso, the dictatorship of the late 1970s. Police forces carried out disappearances, torture and repression far from the big cities, where there was no significant military presence and, it’s worth mentioning, there were very few of the alleged ‘subversives’ whom the junta claimed they were targeting.Read More
Beyond a Boundary is a book about those things that James was trying to put aside so that he could concentrate on literature. It is about politics (“West Indian self-government”), cricket and I. It is full of subtle jokes and lines that are slightly, but very deliberately, awry.Read More