Nicholas Lezard’s Guardian review of the dark fiction Beside The Sea by Veronique Olmi about infanticide originally published to great acclaim in France and Germany in 2001 ends with the words “When you think of the rather more unadventurous stuff that does well over here and compare it with Beside the Sea, you despair.”
Shorelines, the worlds first literature festival of the sea (15th – 17th July) began with Beside the Sea performed by actor and friend Lisa Dwan at The Salon in Chalkwell Hall. Dwan’s spellbinding rendition reduced and elevated the packed audience to tears of empathy, shock and awful recognition. Shorelines is a small powerful intelligent and thought provoking festival celebrating some of the great writing across the ages that has the sea as its central theme.
The festival was still reeling from the performance the following morning when I arrived after travelling through the night on the sleeper train from Devon. Later on I performed The Rime of the Ancient Mariner with musicians and singers and storyteller Jan Blake. After the reading a woman approached me much like the Ancient mariner.
“There was a funeral” she held me with her glittering eye “…last week in Leigh On Sea.” Leigh On Sea is just minutes from Southend where the festival is. She passed me the order of ceremony with the picture of the deceased smiling above the dates that charted her life.. “ Look at the back” she said “the back. There's no such thing as coincidence”. I slowly turned over the stapled pamphlet and there it was.
(by Lemn Sissay)
You remind me
If you died