Eva Figes (1932-2012)

September 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

I just found out about the death of Eva Figes. I know she was active in the more experimental end of the British literary community of the 1960s, doing readings with B.S. Johnson and Alan Burns and co., translating for John Calder, and then of course being a major figure in 1970s feminism.

Personally, I know her work in most depth for her 1972 novel B.. It fits nicely alongside B.S. Johnson and Ann Quin’s writings of the time, charting disintegration as it does. What struck me about it the first time I read it is that the subtle way Figes suddenly makes you aware of the space of the page: it seems for a good period of the novel that the page is a neutral thing, and suddenly, with a jolt, the material aspect is there, paragraphs start falling off, starting at odd spaces across the line, gaps appear, the arrangement into chapters disappears. It’s brilliantly done, and all part of a novel of sinister, quiet repetitions, contradictory reports, lies, misinformation, all coming from the pen of an author-protagonist who is trying to tell a story about a fellow author ‘B’ (who at one point near the end becomes ‘G’), but whose attempts descend and deteriorate as his life does. I hope a few people might revisit it at this time. Though it doesn’t have the world-historical weight on it, and eloquent testimonial to trauma that, for example, Winter Journey (1967) does, it’s a thrilling and maybe under-represented example of a time in British literature when experiment seemed a viable proposition again. I saw a signed copy of it once at a second-hand book fair, and I hope someone with £20 more than I had in my wallet that day picked it up and can wax lyrical about it better than I have here.

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