DOWN MEMORY LANE ELEVEN

Following on from my last trip down memory lane, I thought I’d mention Quartet’s list for Autumn 1992. As my memoir said, we had finished the year well:

Quartet also ended 1992 on a high note. We had published an amazing number of books that year, which makes it extremely difficult to select for mention any in preference over others. Under the direction of Stephen Pickles, our literary output was phenomenal, though not always profitable. Nevertheless he managed to give Quartet an intellectual edge rarely found in commercial publishing. Here are a few examples:

All the World’s Mornings by Pascal Quignard had been translated from the French by James Kirkup. It was a novel based on the romantic and tragic story of the real-life Sainte Colombe, a composer of genius and player of the bass viol in the France of Louis XIV. Disquiet was introduced into his life and those of his two daughters through his gifted, ambitious young protégé Marin Marais. In the same year the book became a notable film, Tout les matins du monde, starring Gérard Depardieu.
Richard Wagner’s Visit to Rossini and An Evening at Rossini’s in Beau-Sejour by Edmond Michotte were a pair of short memoirs translated by Herbert Weinstock and reprinted together to mark the bicentenary of Rossini’s birth. Michotte had effected and been present at a meeting between Wagner and Rossini in Paris. He made notes on this, as well as on a later evening with Rossini when the composer expounded his views on singers and bel canto.

Maria Callas by Jürgen Kesting was translated by John Hunt. It was a major biography that took the focus away from the drama of Callas’s life to concentrate on her art. As the Luzerner Tagesblatt had written, Kesting was primarily interested in ‘her place in the tradition of operatic singing’ and her ability ‘to transform suffering, love, hate, in short the entire gamut of human emotions, into sound and vocal shape’.

Saracen Chronicles: A Selection of Literary Essays by Juan Goytisolo, translated by Helen Lane, joined the two volumes of memoirs by this important Spanish writer of the anti-Franco intelligentsia that were already in the Quartet list, Forbidden Territory and Realms of Strife. It consisted of twelve essays that linked Goytisolo’s own thought in a masterly sweep with the themes that ran through Spanish and Latin American literature as revealed in the work of such writers as Octavio Paz, Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes.

Living with Beelzebub by Gael Elton Mayo was the second volume of memoirs by this author to be published by Quartet, the first being The Mad Mosaic, which we had kept in print since 1983. Both were books of a very special character. ‘What a life! But above all . . . what courage!’ David Niven had declared spontaneously of Living with Beelzebub, just before his own battle with motor neuron disease made it impossible for him to read any more. Alastair Forbes defined its quality in his review in the Spectator on 24 October, saying that Gael Mayo had ‘well named her carcinoma-wielding spook Beelzebub’.

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