Book fair report

I spent about a week in California this month, to attend the 2013 Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair, do a bit of research at UC Berkeley, see friends and plot some publishing projects. It will probably be a few more weeks before I entirely process the experience, which was, shall we say, fraught in a variety of ways, even by anarchist standards. The change of venue from one owned by the government to one owned by a porn company created a new set of conflicts, and also fed fuel to the conflicts which always surround the event, where communism and commerce always seem to be as entangled in practice as they are presumably opposed in theory. This year, a series of alternative events around the venue spread the mayhem, drew new lines—though these seemed, in many cases, as confused and confusing as the usual lines—and separated “camps” in such a way that the conflicts seem to have got a much less restrained airing. Some of that is doubtless very good, and some is almost certainly not, and who knows, at this point, what 2014 will bring. It’s my reactions to all that stuff I’m still sorting out in my head, and will come back to at some point here.

For now, here’s the less complicated news:

For a book fair in the process of exploding or imploding, with the usual suspects unusually scattered, it wasn’t a bad couple of days for the Corvus Editions project. I compressed my usual prep period a bit, trying to be diligent pursuing the essay on Proudhon and the state, which has been exciting and challenging and, alas, consequently past deadlines, so I brought a selection of pamphlets, with the new ANARCHISMS series and Black and Red Feminism/La Frondeuse featured prominently. I constructed covers from pretty much whatever was attractive and on hand, with a stack of floral scrapbook paper I had picked up cheap a key ingredient, and once again it is clear that whether or not people actually read what I publish, they like it when I make the material pretty.

I bought less than I usually do, in part because some of the vendors I frequent were set up elsewhere. My friends at Black Cat have published a translation of Carlo Cafiero’s Revolution, which is an important bit of early anarchist-communist theory. The second issue of Modern Slavery is out, and ditto, apparently, for Wolfi Landstreicher’s translation of Stirner’s Critics, although getting them required accessing some alternative venues and/or channels. (Get yours from Little Black Cart, and check out LBC’s other new releases.)

Library research went very well. I scanned some material published at Icaria-Speranza by Jules Leroux, discovered that Louise Michel’s play “The Strike” was entirely translated in The Commonweal, and, in the process, discovered some translations relating to Ravachol of which I had been unaware. I should be able to complete the transcription of “The Strike” sometime soon, and check it against the French text. I already know that it contains a few additions and a few deletions which need to be indicated.

In terms of publishing projects, I had a chance to spend a little time with my translating collaborator and the publisher interested in Joseph Déjacque’s works, starting with The Humanisphere and some related writings, and expect to be back at work seriously on that within the week. We also discussed a collection of material related to Ravachol, which is taking shape fairly rapidly, although there’s still a lot of archive-scouring and translation to be done. None of this was unexpected. What was unexpected was an enthusiastic offer—out of the blue on Sunday morning—to publish a collection from the ANARCHISMS series, by a publisher with the distribution to make carving a more representative anthology out of the growing stack of manifestos and introductions an attractive prospect. So it looks like that book will actually happen, and things on my end may happen fairly quickly. My goal is still to assemble a much larger collection of introductory pieces—and I’ll probably be issuing some sort of call for assistance in assembling that soon, as well as some thoughts about the organization and potential uses of the archive—but I’ve already assembled enough material to facilitate some very difficult choices in weeding things down to the size proposed for the book. I’ve been able to talk up the Two-Gun Mutualism: Rearmed book, and it’s follow-up, Dancing with St. Ravachol, but still don’t have any sense if there’s a logical publisher for the pair. Perhaps that will all look more interesting as it comes together—or perhaps a Corvus Edition will be the right size for the volumes. We’ll see…

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2609 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.