Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Signs of an acceleration"?

I mean quite simply that I have begun to crack all over like an old jug – that my poor body, singular, unlovely, buffeted by too much history, subjected to drainage above and drainage below, mutilated by doors, brained by spittoons, has started coming apart at the seams. In short, I am literally disintegrating, slowly for the moment, although there are signs of an acceleration.

No, I'm not that bad. This was written by Salman Rushdie in his 1980's Booker Prize-winning Midnight's Children.

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After arriving in London we immediately left for the biggest store belonging to the Waterstone's chain, but didn't take the quickest route. Walked from the Oxford Circus tube station instead. That gave us both an excuse and opportunity for some window-shopping on Regent Street. (And not just "window", sorry.)

There we bought some books – we are not supposed to buy any. Especially not me. But I just did not have anything to read, like I often tell Mr HP.

And then we admired some stationery. Sounds strange? Oh, business is business is business.

Mr HP noticed soon there is another book shop we should visit. "Kind of a small one". Hatchard's.

Founded in 1797. An official supplier of the Royal Family. Yeah right.

How the books were piled in very central positions, and they were signed, this made a great impression. Big names like Donna Leon, Jeffrey Archer... Not necessarily my cup of tea, but hey: signed.

I saw there was someone signing in the back and told Mr HP we must go and see an author in action. Besides me, no other audience around, by the way. Absolutely no-one around besides an agent, a PR woman, the shopkeeper, or some rep of very high level, and seemingly, a grandchild of the author.

After taking two steps towards the author's direction I came back, took a book, ran back and kindly asked Mr Salman Rushdie to sign one for me as well. So he did. As a result of this encounter I bought his newest, The Enchantress of Florence.

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Now I regret I left my camera at work, so I can't download the photos I took. But the rest in brief:

I had breakfast with Tony Wood who works at the New Left Review. Invited him to Helsinki. I hope he'll come.

At the fair I saw friends and/or business acquaintances from Nigeria, Norway, France, Sweden, England, Scotland, Estonia, Turkey, USA, Canada and – well, Finland. Including some Finns who live in the UK now.

EDIT: At the fair Mr HP and I did some real work. Involving book trade and industry. Arts and crafts. Rights and agreements. But I won't bore you with the details now.

In the evening we visited the Finnish embassy, or actually, the Ambassador's residence and attended the reception for the literary community from the Nordic countries. The Residence is in Kensington Palace gardens. Nice neighbourhood, I dare to admit.

Afterwards I needed to catch up with a friend who works for Söderstöm's, a Finnish company publishing in Swedish.

I managed to listen to some discussions organised by the English PEN. There was even a "PEN Literary Cafe" for discussions on Freedom of Speech. Always full but with some luck and patience there was room.

That's enough for a three-day visit.

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