This year’s book was Harvest by Jim Crace and the author came to the Sallis Benney on 21 October. He gave a reading from Harvest and was interviewed by Kate Aughterson. Finally there was a question and answer session.
Harvest is set in an unnamed English village, as wholesome as the title suggests. Feudal and medieval, it is on the cusp of great change: subsistence agriculture giving way to the production of wool.
In ruminative prose reminiscent of another, prelapsarian era, Crace sets up a powerful allegory for our times – the bounty of the modern world being subsumed by the data-driven realities of the information age. It takes time to appreciate the chilling resolution: that in our new commercially driven world, it's every man for himself.
(Sophia Martelli, review in The Observer 16 February 2014)
The themes of isolation and self-sufficiency versus remotely owned pasturage, interlopers seeking to overturn a traditional way of life reliant on the seasons to replace it with large-scale production in the name of progress are familiar issues in the modern world and we hope that the book will inspire debate about use of land and agricultural techniques and their cultural, ethical and ecological implications.
A dinner in honour of Jim Crace was held at brand new pioneering zero waste restaurant Silo. Here is a short report from our competition winner Jordan de Costa:
The whole thing began with an email from Dr. Leila Dawney advising all student of her BA Geography module; landscape geographies, to come to her office and collect a copy of Jim Crace’s novel, Harvest’, as it will be helpful for our second semester of our final year. A few days after booking my place for the talk I received an email congratulating me on having won a place to an honorary meal that was being given after that talk for Jim, great I thought to myself, a free dinner!
The day of the talk and the dinner came, Jim read around 4 pages from the novel, which focused around the description of the key female lead in the novel. Hearing an author read their own work is always more fascinating, as they know how the prose should flow and you become immersed in what they are saying.
After Jim had read the floor was open to questions, many of which went over my head due to their literary nature, as many of the attendees were from the school of arts and humanities unlike my friends and I, who are from the school of environment and technology. However Jim’s candid answers were at times very amusing, especially when he divulged that he had never been adulterous during his marriage and so he couldn’t write autobiographical works as in his own words ‘his life was boring’.
After the talk Jim generously signed copies of the novel and had time for conversation with everyone he met, although the man is a literary celebrity there is no heir of celebrity surrounding him. Once all the books had been signed we decamped to the newly opened Silo Restaurant in Upper Gardner Street. When we arrived we were given welcome glasses (they were actually jam jars) of home brewed fruit cider, which were delicious. I sat at a table with two extremely fascinating ladies which had come to the event without having read the novel by Jim but after the talk were going to go out the next day to buy a copy each!
Once we were all seated in the restaurant Douglas McMaster, head chef at Silo, gave a small speech outlining the concept behind the restaurant of a ‘pre industrial food system’ essentially everything on the menu is either home grown, home made, ethically caught or from sustainable resources with as little environmental impact as possible. This was of great interest to me as part of my degree waste is a key topic and sustainability too so to here someone passionately talk outside of the world of a lecture hall was very interesting and inspirational.
Gourmet would describe the food just as much as pre-industrial so if you’re wondering where to eat when you’re in Brighton don’t forget Silo!
So all in all the experience not only was helpful for my degree I also met some lovely people and had a great meal all paid for by the university. So if any of you students have an opportunity to go to something like this I would highly recommend it and who knows you might win the free meal next time!
There was also a symposium led by The Centre for Research in Twenty-first century Writing earlier in the day.
For further details contact: Isobel Creed
Tel: 01273 64 3052
Mob: 07596 875369
Some suggestive reviews of the novel can be read at:
· The Guardian (16 February 2013)
· The Independent (15 February 2013)
· The Telegraph (27 February 2013)
· The New York Times (8 February 2013)