"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
For more information about the books of Nicholas Murray
click HERE and access his website
Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Small Presses Rule OK?

Making Books for Love and Money: On the Value of Small Presses

Thursday 15 November at 7.00 p.m. 
London Review Bookshop, Bury Place, London WC1
with Charles Boyle, David Lea, Nicholas Lezard, Patrick McGuiness and Nicholas Murray

As the book world undergoes some of the biggest changes in its history, we ask what the value will be of small presses in the new literary landscape – and what those values are that they hold that make them so important for the future of the book. Discussing the question will be a panel made up of publisher, author, critic and bookseller, with Nicholas Murray, biographer and publisher of Rack Press, Charles Boyle of CB Editions, critic Nicholas Lezard, whose column in the Saturday Guardian has championed countless gems from small presses, Patrick McGuinness, poet and author of The Last Hundred Days (Seren), longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2011, and our own David Lea, bookseller at the London Review Bookshop.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Kafka Papers Latest

In "A Week in Books" in the Guardian Review of 20 October 2012 I wrote:

Anyone who has ever worked in the great literary archives like the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center in Austin, Texas knows that Yukon moment when, late in the afternoon, after another interminable box has been opened, the grey sand swishes to one side and a fragment of gold glitters in the pan.

So much of the greatness of Kafka resides in riddling fragments that it is inconceivable that the archive ordered by an Israeli court to be released to the Israeli National Library in Jerusalem will not contain something of vital interest, but anyone expecting the manuscript of another Trial is not advised to hold their breath.

Ever since this story first broke a few years ago there has been copious speculation about what the archive, owned by the implacable daughters of Esther Hoffe, former secretary and mistress of Kafka’s friend and biographer, Max Brod, might contain.  It is worth recalling, however, that Brod was the man who countermanded Kafka’s request that his unpublished work be destroyed (a bonfire that would have included all the major novels) and the idea that he would have allowed major work by Kafka to have languished for years in a bottom drawer is ludicrous.

But the simple fact is that no one knows what is about to be liberated by decree of the court from safe-deposit boxes in Tel Aviv and Zurich.  “We don’t know what’s in there exactly,” said David Blumberg, chairman of the Israeli National Library, in a welcome moment of candour this week.  The best guess is that it will contain Brod’s manuscript diaries, which must certainly have material about his close friend, as well as Kafka’s Hebrew notebooks.  And somewhere in all that heap of paper we must hope there will be at least one gleaming fragment.

The archive began its journey to Israel when Brod fled the Nazis in 1939 bearing a suitcase stuffed with manuscripts.  His 1948 will stated that it should go to “the library of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem or the Tel Aviv municipal library” but there was an ambivalent coda “or that of any other public institution in Israel or abroad”.  Up to now that has allowed others, like the German Literature Archive at Marbach, to stake a claim to the papers, Kafka being, after all, one of the great masters of modern German prose, born an Austrian citizen in Prague in the last years of the Habsburg Empire.  Marbach has already shelled out $2 million to the Hoffe sisters for the manuscript of The Trial – back in 1988 when the pair had begun to flog off bits of the archive to the highest bidder.  

The ruling of the Tel Aviv District Family Court on 11 October by Judge Talia Pardo Kupelman was that the papers were not a gift to the plaintiffs but intended by Brod’s will for a national collection.  The surviving daughter, Eva Hoffe, intends to appeal.

Behind this court drama is the insistent fact of Kafka’s Jewishness, vitally important to him, though critics continue to fight over its significance for his art. Fortunately for us, the latter is the private property of no one.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Brave New World: Huxley Revisited

The Institute of English Studies at London University is the location this week of a significant day conference on Aldous Huxley's Brave New World which is 80 years old this year.

There will be a range of academic speakers and I will be giving a paper on Fordism in Brave New World.

It takes place at Senate House in the University of London on this Friday 12 October and there are still places if you are interested.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Bloomsbury Festival Marches On

This attractively leafy scene is in fact in the centre of London in Russell Square and from here at 12.30 on Sunday 21st October I will be leading an hour-long literary walk around Bloomsbury as part of the Bloomsbury Festival.  The running gag is that it is called "Bloomsbury Without Woolf", not because I have any animus against Virginia but because I wanted to point out the connections with some other writers, including less well-known ones associated with Bloomsbury, most of whom figure in my book about the area, Real Bloomsbury (Seren).  The walk is free and signed copies of my book will be on sale.