How to Make Headline News

Peirene is sitting on the floor, Saturday and Sunday newspapers scattered all around her. She is frantically leafing through them.Kheel Center, Cornell University

‘What are you looking for?’ I enquire, curiously.

Instead of an answer, she mumbles, ‘I can’t believe it, I just can’t believe it.’ She shakes her head, turning page after page. I wonder if she has heard me. ‘I’m reading the news.’ she eventually says.

‘I couldn’t have guessed that.’ I chuckle.

‘You are just as bad as any of them.’  With a wide, angry movement of her hand she points at the papers around her. ‘I have just made history… and not a word. The world ignores me.’

The penny suddenly drops. I know what she is talking about.

On Friday the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP) 2014 longlist was announced. This is the most prestigious foreign fiction prize in the Anglo-Saxon world. Peirene No 10, The Mussel Feast is on it. That means that since we started, a Peirene book has been longlisted. Four consecutive years. Moreover, the IFFP is notorious for male domination. The prize was set up in 1990 and not a single woman author has won it. This year – once again  – there are only five women on the 15-title strong longlist. One of them is our author Birgit Vanderbeke. AND from Peirene’s four longlisted authors over the last four years, three are women.

‘Show me another indy publisher who has pulled this off.’ The Nymph aims her index finger at me as if I had told the newspapers to ignore this story. ‘I – we – should make headlines.’ Her finger stabs me into the chest. I tumble over backwards, laughing.

‘I totally agree. And I am so proud of you. But unfortunately this isn’t headline material.’

Peirene looks at me in silence for a moment. Then a slightly mischievous grin appears on her lips. ‘So let’s open a bottle of champagne right away. This might be our only opportunity to celebrate. After all, statistically we  have little chance of making the shortlist. And who knows, a drunken Ancient Greek Nymph misbehaving in the workplace might make the headline material that will interest the editors.’

Image by  Kheel Center, Cornell University.

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