Eileen Bat­tersby 1958-2018

The Guardian - Review - - Forewords -

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.

Tidy­ing Up.

plus ça change.)

Jus­tine Jor­dan

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.