This week was a wonderful week because my eleven-year-old son went to school five days running. It’s the first time since the beginning of the school year.
He suffers from migraine. Over the last six months the headaches have become much more frequent and far worse. Once a week he has to spend a day in bed, vomiting and crying for hours with pain.
We’ve had him checked out from head to toe. We’ve looked at food patterns, psychology and school routines. I’ve been to specialists, osteopaths, homeopaths. No solution.
Last week it got even worse. While in the Peirene world I received awards and our first book was long-listed for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, at home things felt desperate. My son was off school Tuesday and Friday.
Fast forward: On Monday I went to see Danny Boyle’s adaptation of “Frankenstein” at the National Theatre. The staging and acting impressed my 16-year-old daughter. “Best play I’ve ever seen,” she stated. “Thank you for taking me,” and I even got a kiss on the cheek.
The evening was worth it for the daughterly kiss but I didn’t share her opinion about the play. Why spend so much time and money on a production that gives us – yet again – the same old (mis-) interpretation of the text. In my view Frankenstein is not about the monster, it is not even about the question “Who is the monster: the creator or the creature?” No. Frankenstein is Mary Shelley (note the “stein”, German for “stone” in the name, as in Woll-stone-craft, Mary’s mother who died a few days after giving birth to her) and the text is a brilliant expression of the female struggle with her own creativity. Is a woman allowed to create other than in the biological sense? Is a woman allowed to create in a private and public sphere and if she does, will she be able to take responsibility for her creature? Is there a price to pay?
Women are as creative, as intelligent, as what-ever as men. We know that nowadays. And if you take a creative industry such as publishing, 85% of the work-force consists of women. But most hide behind men.
When I went to the IPG gala event ten days ago, I couldn’t help notice that of this year’s eleven Independent Publishers Awards, nine prizes were received by men. Only two by women. Berg Publishers and Peirene.
As I was sitting the day after the award gala at my son’s bedside, a frightening thought suddenly flickered through my mind: can I have both a healthy family and professional success? What if the price I have to pay for Peirene’s awards is the health of my son? That of course would mean giving up Peirene.
I am pleased to announce, I forbade myself to follow that paranoiac thought any further. But it’s interesting that it came to me in the first place. I asked my husband if he had a similar thought. He looked at me in bewilderment. To link his professional success with his son’s migraines had never crossed his mind.
Peirene, of course, has her own, ancient-Greek-Nymph take on this story: “You’re absolutely right in making the link between the migraine and the award, “ she told me cheerfully. “Only in a positive way. Since the award arrived on the mantle piece, your son hasn’t had a migraine attack. The hearth has always been the centre of the house. If there is a nice stew brewing, everyone is happy.”