Review: Europa28 Writing by Women on the Future of Europe. Edited by Sophie Hughes and Sarah Cleave.

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Hello Book Lover,

“A lake is the opposite of a boarder. When you look at a barbed fence, you think of death. When you look at a lake, you remember that we come from water, return to water and without water, we shrivel up – and then you think of eternity and want to make amends before it’s too late.” Kapka Kassabova, Two Lakes.

Europa28 featured on my 2020 list, it is an anthology of 28 stories, essays and plays written by women of Europe, women who are writers, artists, scientists and entrepreneurs. Offering their perspectives on the future of Europe and what it means to be European. I was keen to read this one, so I approached Zoe at Comma Press who very kindly sent me a digital copy.

There are certain dates which are etched in memory, June 24th 2016 is one which I won’t forget. We touched down at Manchester airport to the pilot announcing the outcome of the referendum, Britain had voted to leave the EU, the man sat behind me cheered like he had won the world cup, I remember feeling bereft. I spoke to friends, colleagues, people on social media we all shared the same feeling but that’s the false sense of security which an echo chamber brings, that you all share the same views, thoughts and values, it’s not until you step outside that reality smacks you in the face.

This book really made me think, about my place within Europe, I have always thought of myself as European, grateful for the freedom of movement and the exposure to different countries, cultures and experiences. The referendum served as a startling reminder that not everyone thinks the same. Elements of this anthology I could really associate with, some of the pieces made me hopeful for the future while at the same time others made me fearful for my child, how would the Europe differ to the one I grew up in.

As with any anthology, collection of essays or short stories, there will be those which you gravitate to more than others, there will be those which speak to you more than others. In Europa28, I enjoyed the majority of the pieces which were included, however I have chosen to talk about the ones which made their mark, those I revisited, and those I continue to think about.

The 28 countries which are represented within Europa28 include, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia,  Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom. I am a huge fan of translated fiction and reading writing from different countries. I have Googled many of the contributors to garner information and ascertain if there are any other works which I can get my hands on.

‘The Bulls Bride’ by Nora Ikstena, Lativa. I am currently reading ‘Soviet Milk’ by Nora which is absolutely amazing, I really love her writing style. In this story, Europa is a young girl who live with her father, who is disappointed in his daughter and strict in his ways. Europa sought distance from her father and would run off at any opportunity, one day a suitor came to visit the family to ask for Europa’s hand. A large party ensued, Europa is visited by a bull who has previously haunted her dreams, he fled with her on his back, her father ripping the key from her hand. The bull showed Europa the realities of the world, corruption, poverty, greed, wealth and she made a promise to return and get the key back from her father. I loved the symbolism in this piece and the descriptions of the world in which Europa inhabited.

‘Europe Must be for the 99 Per Cent’ written by Apolen Rychilková, Czech Republic. This started by talking about how the birth of a child resulted in questions about the future world they will grow up in, something which I can relate to, in the current political climate.

‘The Illusion of Europe’ by Caroline Muscat, Malta. This piece is non fiction and discusses the horrific death of journalist and political activist Daphne Carauna Galiza, with whom I was familiar with due to the international coverage of her death. Caroline Muscat talks about the continued silence of those who seek to expose corruption, inequality and injustices within our world. How Europe was meant to support the moving forward but has only enabled those in power to become more powerful and controlling-  “The Europe I believed in looked nothing like these crippled institutions struggling to create justice for Daphne’s murder. Bit this is the Europe we live in right now.” 

‘My Dream for Europe’ by Janne Teller, this hit me hard. The European utopia described in the form of a harmonious house, where all our equal and understood. Words are incredibly things and Janne Teller wields her pen with almighty power in this short story.

‘Remote Control’ by Carine Krecke, Luxembourg chose the medium of a play script for her piece. I found this style really interesting, for me it worked really well as a piece. ‘In Human Form’ by Asja Bakic, Croatia. Utilises the concept of science fiction to contextualize leaving the EU and the impact that this had. ‘Staging Europe’ by Annelies Beck, Belgium starting with a a discussion in the back of a taxi with Umberto Echo in 2011, which looked st his ideal Europe in 30 years time. ‘Staging Europe’ is a look at the fragmentation of Europe, the survival of the next generation, it’s stories past and those which have yet to be written.

My favourite by far was ‘Two Lakes’  the quote at the top of the review is taken from the ending of this piece. For some reason that final sentence has really resonated with me, I am not sure why this was the piece which I took the most from, maybe it was the stunning writing which really evoked the landscape and utilised this as a metaphor for Europe, it’s past and it’s future. I loved the names for the lakes and that final sentence, has had a profound impact on me, it’s sentiment, it’s language and it’s symbolism.

I highly recommend this collection, it provided me with so much food for thought and comfort in that I am not alone when it comes to some of my thoughts and fears. If you are interested in exceptional women writers, immersive, thought provoking writing, for hope and inspiration, then do pick Europa28 up.

Europa28 is published today by Comma Press, thank you so much to Zoe for sending me a digital copy of this amazing anthology.

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