Alba Arikha

Here is my speech from last night’s launch party, at Daunt Marylebone, for Alba Arikha’s Major/Minor.

The idea of delivering an impromptu speech these days would certainly make me anxious. Age brings embarrassments of memory, and the more anxious I get the more likely I am to get things mixed up or forget something I meant to say.

So please forgive me for deciding to write it down, but here we go…

To start with, Alba Arikha is a very attractive lady who oozes buckets of charm to seduce the un-seduceable. Not only that, but she is multi-talented and has a strong musical sense and a singing voice to enchant us.

This, of course, is leaving on one side her writing skills, which have already produced a novel and a collection of short stories, and have now brought into being her memoir, Major/Minor, which I am delighted to say is being published by Quartet.

It tells her story of growing up in the Paris and Jerusalem of the 1980s and unfolds against the background of her family’s dramatic history.

Here is what she says about it herself:

‘I am aware of the disparity between my father’s memory and my reality. About adapting history to actuality. About keeping one’s balance without falling back into the trap of pain. Because that is, ultimately, what it’s about. The ability to let pain ease into endurance.’

These are moving words, and philosophically they are spot on.

There were various angles of creativity at her cradle. Alba’s father was the artist Avigdor Arikha, her mother the poet Anne Atik, and her godfather none other than Samuel Beckett.

Who in the world could wish to have a better cultural environment in which to battle through adolescence to maturity, spending time in discourse involving family memories of war, exile and the ever-present echoes of the events of the European holocaust in the years before she was born?

Major/Minor is a coming of age account that is vivid, unique and haunting. I read her manuscript over one weekend and immediately decided that Quartet would be the right home for its publication.

And when, later on, I met her for the first time, I was more convinced than ever that she would definitely complement the stable of authors who Quartet have nurtured and promoted as they go on to make their mark in the literary world.

As an independent publisher, we are proud to be publishing Alba’s book, which will be a gem for her friends to treasure and a discovery for others who do not yet know her work. I am confident it will be a great success. Within days of this year’s Frankfurt book fair ending, German and Italian rights were snapped up, with other foreign rights under negotiation.

Referring to our own edition, here is what distinguished American novelist Paul Auster has to say about it:

‘An unusually affecting book about the rage and rebellion of a stormy adolescence. Written in terse, pointillistic sentences – as if each sentence were a dab of paint – the accumulation of these tiny strokes creates a rich, fully realised portrait of a young woman’s inner life. I read it straight through at a single sitting – unable to stop.’

So you have it, not just from me, that it is an excellent, memorable read.

However, to be on the safe side and as a prelude to the book’s triumph, I urge you all to buy copies, not only in single denominations but in quantities, so as to be able to give them to relations and friends over the Christmas festivities, confident that it will make a gift of lasting quality.

Being such a nice and engaging audience, I certainly don’t expect you to let me down!

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