‘So, for the first press conference I’ve put out your blue dress with the grey kitten heel and the little teardrop earrings – nicely understated. For the second press conference your grey pencil skirt and your purple jumper, the brown heels and the little purple sparkling earrings. And then for your event in the evening, I suggest the green dress with your black heels and earrings.’
Peirene has called me away from my desk, ushering me into the bedroom, where she is now proudly pointing to the outfits she has laid out for me on the bed. A suitcase is standing open on the floor, ready to be packed.
‘Peirene, I’m not going for another three weeks,’ I point out.
My novel ‘Magda’ was published in Polish translation at the beginning of the year. At the beginning of February it had shot up to No 6 on the Polish bestseller list and my Polish publisher decided to invite me to Warsaw.
‘I know, I know,’ the Nymph is folding the clothes. Her face is flushed, her aura is one of busy happiness. ‘But you’re an international star now and you have to be ready to board a plane at any moment’s notice.’ She’s in her element, and I know that she is seeing us both in her mind’s eye already walking down the red carpet. Suddenly she interrupts her movements and looks up at me with a critical glance. ‘And please, do me a favour. Book an appointment with a hairdresser before you go. Your hair is a mess.’
That was two weeks ago. Then came bad news. An email from my Polish publisher. They had canceled my reading, canceled the press interviews in fact canceled the entire trip. For the evening event I was supposed to be interviewed by an important Polish cultural figure. But the important Polish cultural figure, having read the book, decided to withdraw. He then persuaded the venue to withdraw. And finally the publisher withdrew – nervous – perhaps justifiably – at all the raging controversy.
‘Oh, what a pity,’ the Nymph pulls a face. ‘I’m sure you would have dazzled the audience in your green dress… and your eloquent arguments,’ she adds quickly.
‘Yes,’ I nod. ‘And I had wanted to buy myself a new lipstick at the airport which would have gone beautifully with the dress.’
For a moment we both contemplate silently this missed opportunity of a new lipstick.
‘But,’ Peirene then says, ‘you should be proud: Your novel clearly has hit a raw nerve. And huge compliment to the Polish translator who must have done an excellent job.’
Image by 1950s Unlimited.