Eileen Battersby 1958-2018
Eileen Battersby, the author and literary critic, died in a road accident just before Christmas. Throughout her career she stood up dauntlessly for the undiminished importance of the book in general and the novel in particular.
For many years the chief reviewer for the Irish Times, she was a champion especially of the overlooked and the undervalued; eastern European writers were a particular favourite, and she was among the first to spot the significance of WG Sebald and to reaffirm the greatness of the long-neglected Joseph Roth.
And she was fearless. No grand reputation intimidated her, no towering ego could put her in its shadow. She stuck to her guns, and had unwavering aim: in her purview, talent was honoured and mediocrity deplored.
For all the fierceness of her opinions, she was wonderfully inclusive. She could write on any subject, from archaeology to music – Bach was a special love – to running and horsemanship. Her regard for animals was one of her most endearing traits: no stray was safe from being swept up into Eileen’s allembracing care.
She was a shining light, and what used to be called the world of letters is darkened by her going. John Banville
Eileen Battersby’s final review for the Guardian, of Chigozie Obioma’s An Orchestra of Minorities, is on page 24. Have you begun the new year surrounded by piles of useless garbage and with overflowing wardrobes of fastfashion garments you will never wear again? It’s the perfect time for a spot of “decluttering”, perhaps guided by the Japanese superstar Marie Kondo in her Netflix series
“Clutter” originally comes from “clotter”, the formation of clots, and then came to mean a confusing mess. (In 1666 one scholar accused another of trafficking in “a clutter of Citations”:
Meanwhile, the concept of “decluttering” itself is already more than half a century old. It is telling that the idea arose with the plasticsfuelled 20th-century boom in unnecessary possessions: in 1950, Vogue magazine was already advising readers on how to “De-clutter your living room”.
Kondo annoyed some oversensitive literary types recently by suggesting that you might discard books that don’t “spark joy”, as if she were recommending bonfires of gloomy novels. She is of course a countercultural humanist heroine whose quest is to persuade people to turn their gaze from a consumerist superaccumulation of objects back to one another. “Decluttering” is really an act of spiritual resistance.
plus ça change.)