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The Bookbag posted this good review of SNUG online, on 10/10/2014:

Snug by Matthew Tree

 

Snug by Matthew Tree
Buy Snug from Amazon.co.uk Buy Snug from Amazon.com
Genre: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee

Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A deceptively simple story, with unsuspected layers, which leaves you thinking about our colonial history in a way you might not have done before. Highly recommended. Matthew Tree popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 454 Date: March 2013
Publisher: AK Digital
External links: Author’s website
ISBN: 978-8461631148
 

The Boy – we never do know his name – fancied Lucy something rotten, despite the fact that she was two years older than him – and that’s quite a gap when you’re only twelve. He was absolutely delighted when Lucy’s parents wanted to take Lucy and three other kids on holiday to the Isle of Wight with them, along with Lucy’s brother Simon, a teenager who was in the army. They’d rented a house in Coldwater Bay, a tiny village on the southern coast of the island. All went well, if even a little boringly, for a few days until Mrs Whitebone set off to take the children to the Needles and found the road blocked by tree trunks which had obviously been sawn for the purpose. Then it seemed that the telephone lines had been cut.

Before long it’s obvious that there is something very strange going on. The village has been invaded and the residents are prevented from leaving. Much of this part of the story is told by Dr Whitebone, JP and you probably know all that you need about him when you see the title of those chapters which he narrates: I’m Not A. He’s racist, homophobic, anti-semitic and completely full of himself. Back in the early seventies, when the main part of the story is set, it wasn’t unusual to hear such statements as Whitebone makes, but the difference here is that when the village is cut off he also has the power to back his prejudices, because, you see, the people who invade the village are black. Whitebone knows that there must be an inside man who has given information to the invaders and he really doesn’t care what he has to do to get a confession from those he suspects.

At first you laugh at the casual racism, the way it’s assumed that that is how decent people will think. You hoped that the aftermath of the war might have got people past being anti-Semitic, but then you realise that it’s a position to which some people easily revert as for instance when the actions of Israel are regularly accredited to Jews everywhere. And, yes, calling someone ‘a poofter’ is an easy insult for a certain type of person. But there comes a point in the book when you realise that the invasion of the village is the negative image of what we did in colonial times: the understanding of the reactions on both sides came as a shock to me.

It’s half a century since I read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, but Snug brought the book back to me on many occasions, with the way that power is used then abused, sadistic tendencies are given a loose rein and the easy target is taken first. There is horror and sexual content but neither are gratuitous or outside the context of the plot. Characters are excellent and complex – I really felt for the Boy who was still suffering because of that holiday more than a decade later and it was difficult to say that any of the people involved in what happened that week emerged unscathed.

On the surface it appears to be a simple story but it has more layers than an onion and leaves you with plenty to think about afterwards. I had to find out what happened and it was after three o’clock this morning when I tuned the final page but a good hour before I could sleep as I mulled over what we had done to other countries and the trauma of doing what is right, even brave but having your actions cause death. It’s a book that will stay with me and one which I’m sure I’ll reread.

I’d like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

It’s difficult to recommend further reading after a book like his: I’m tempted to direct you to books about our colonial past but if you’re looking for fiction then you might enjoy Acts of Omission by Terry Stiastny, another story where doing the right thing causes problems.

You can find our more about Matthew Tree here.

Bookinterviews.jpg Matthew Tree was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

Buy Snug by Matthew Tree at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Snug by Matthew Tree at Amazon.

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And a good, brief but intense interview with The Bookbag was posted on 14/10/2014, right here
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Here is the first in a series of nine very brief interview clips, about how and why SNUG was written. More will be posted soon…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypQgCdFDJM8&feature=youtube_gdata_player
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This (good) interview appeared in The Omnivore, a UK literary magazine, on 7/11/13:
Author PitchAuthor Pitch: Snug by Matthew Tree | The Omnivore

Published on October 29th, 2013

 

Author Pitch: Snug by Matthew Tree

Matthew Tree is a well known author in his adopted homeland of Catalonia. Snug — a provocative and darkly funny indictment of racism in contemporary Britain — is his first published work in English. Already popular with book groups in Catalonia, Snug has been praised by journalist and fellow honorary Catalan, Matthew Parris.

Tell us a bit about yourself…
I was born in London at the tail end of 1958. After having tried to give up writing in my late teens, I realised at 20 that I would have to keep on doing it, even though I kept coming across stumbling blocks with my mother tongue – British English – that made it difficult to find my written voice. Circumstances led to me teaching myself Catalan at age 19, and several years later, when I had moved to Barcelona, I got a chance to publish a text written in Catalan. Finding that I had no stumbling blocks with that language, I went on to write two novels, a collection of stories, an autobiography, a road book and several non-fiction books, all in Catalan and all published. Ideas started coming back to me in English around about 2003, and six years later finally gelled in a new English-language novel, called Snug. When working on it, I discovered that my old stumbling blocks with English had finally been hurdled.

What’s Snug about?
A tiny village on the south coast of the Isle of Wight finds itself besieged by Africans who have gone there for that very purpose. The events are related by a 12 year old boy, a 14 year old girl, her racist father and the Africans’ infiltrator in the village. As for the ‘subject’, the book is about teenage love, racism, colonialism and how the complacency and self-satisfaction of many white British people can easily turn into (violent) arrogance.

Can you tell us more about the title?
The villagers in Snug think and behave as if everything was safe, cosily British and more or less untouchable and unchangeable. When things start to change radically, their village stops being so very snug, and becomes quite the opposite.

Where did you get the idea for “Snug”?
Some of it is based on a short story I wrote when I was twenty, in which I imagined that Africans from the colonised nations had finally had enough of not being in control of their own destinies, and decided to descend on England in every kind of vessel available, kalashnikovs strapped to their backs. Another source would be John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 and a few other siege films. Yet another would be the images seen over the years of Africans risking their lives to arrive, barely alive, on European shores. Many of them, of course, don’t make it. There are photographs taken in the early 2000s of tourists in southern Spain and southern Italy, sitting happily on the beach within spitting distance of washed up African corpses: an early scene in Snug is based on such pictures.

Imagine your ideal reader: which authors do they enjoy?
The same ones I do, without that implying that I resemble them in any way: Henry Miller, William Burroughs, Bohumil Hrabal, Thomas Bernhard, James Ellroy, Alasdair Gray and a fantastic Catalan language writer called Quim Monzó (available in English). And there are many more, it goes without saying. What do all these authors have in common? They all do something different, they are all naturally original. I write for everybody over fourteen – or that’s the readership I visualise, at least – but find that the readers who really take to SNUG (and other books) tend to be people who like something out of the ordinary.

If you had to sum up your book in a “Hollywood pitch”, how would you describe it?
Moonrise Kingdom meets Assault on Precinct 13. Or, if we want to keep it literary: Lord of the Flies meets just about any title by Ngugi Wa Thiong’O.

Visit the official website for Snug

Buy Snug on Amazon (paperback and ebook)

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This review was published in the Kirkus Review on 20/10/2013:

Kirkus Book Reviews

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LATEST ISSUE OF
Kirkus Reviews
SNUG by Matthew Tree

SNUG

A Novel
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Mysterious visitors to an isolated British seaside resort bring on a backlash of violence.

Tree (Barcelona, Catalonia: A View from the Inside, 2011, etc.) has created a witty, frightening book lancing British arrogance, racism and smugness. Told in the voices of several characters, including the racist, anti-Semitic Dr. Whitebone; his 14-year-old daughter, Lucy; and her horny 12-year-old friend, whom she calls the Boy Who Shall Be Nameless, or BWSBN, the novel recounts a series of strange events and the muddled, misguided and violent reactions they precipitate. On vacation in Coldwater Bay on the Isle of Wight, Dr. Whitebone, his family and young guests soon find entrance to and egress from the village blocked and the phone lines cut. The doctor enlists the help of a local police officer and singles out the village’s lone black resident and a family of rich Arabs for secret torture. Eventually, a group of Africans emerges from the village’s sea caves to explain how and why they’ve sealed off Coldwater Bay. They’re a kind of expeditionary force responding to centuries of European colonization and brutalization of their continent. They’ve come in peace and make the village a kind of Club Med. Trying to be a hero to Lucy, however, the BWSBN escapes and alerts the authorities, then rides along in a helicopter as British jet fighters secretly bomb the Africans as they’re peacefully leaving for France in a trawler. Years later, more sordid details emerge. BWSBN, now 21, alcoholic and impotent, runs into Lucy in London and gets the full scoop: the torture and death of the black man, the beating death of the rich Arab patriarch—both innocent—and the trial and acquittal of Dr. Whitebone for the black man’s death. BWSBN is horrified, but the one-time love of his life has smugly decided, like her compatriots in a broader context, that it’s all for the best: “They’re different from us….They had no business being here.” Though Tree moved from England to Spain and began writing in Catalan after suffering from writer’s block in his native tongue, this novel proves his facility with English. His prose sparkles with razor’s-edge wit reminiscent of the great British satirists, though in a gentler way and with a core of disillusion and dismay.

A finely written, disturbingly pointed indictment of British colonialism and racism and that fester in an insular smugness “where life is indeed an island…bristling with complacency.”

 

Pub Date:March 22nd, 2013
ISBN:978-8461631148
Page count:454pp

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The latest comment on SNUG to appear in the UK is this recommendation by Matthew Parris in The Spectator magazine.

Summer reading

What our regular columnists will be taking on holiday
summer-books

Matthew Parris

I’m only a few pages into Snug, by Matthew Tree (AK Digital, £12.62) and I know already I shall sail through it. Tree somehow thinks like me: writer and reader fit. It’s a first novel and I can tell it’s going to be ambitious in its resolve to be both serious and funny. And I’m intrigued by an author venturing at last into his own mother tongue: living in Barcelona — where he’s widely known and published — Tree has written only in Catalan for the past two decades.

 

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The following interview appeared recently in the June, 2013 issue of English-language monthly magazine Catalonia Today, published in Barcelona. The interviewer was the Australian writer and journalist Brett Hetherington. Click on the pages to read.

CTinterviewSNUGp.1ed3

CTinterviewSNUGp.2ed4

 

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The Catalan language online cultural magazine Núvol – which has in just a few months become a major cultural reference in all the Catalan speaking areas – has just published ( 17/9/13) an interview about SNUG. A link to a Catalan translation is also included. The interview is followed by a review of the novel (in Catalan).

Barcelona, 17 de Setembre 2013

Matthew Tree: “Snug is a a one-word summary of English complacency”

/ 16.09.2013

Matthew Tree is a writer based in Barcelona. He has built a solid literary career writing in Catalan, both fiction and nonfiction. Tree writes regularly for the Catalan press. He has spent the last six years writing a novel that has attracted positive attention from both critics and colleagues. Snug has been published by AK Digital and is available on Amazon as an ebook and a paperback. Still this novel should be published in England and sent to bookstores. Jordi Puntí, Màrius Serra and Bernat Puigtobella have a chat with him. See Catalan version.

 

Matthew Tree | © Pere Virgili

 

BERNAT PUIGTOBELLA: You are a well known writer, with a dozen books already published in Catalan. You have written novels, memoirs, essays, collected articles, etc. You have built your literary career in Catalan, a language you learnt when you were already in your twenties. And now you have come up with a surprising work, a novel written in English. What decided you to go back to English this time?

MATTHEW TREE: Well, I’d started writing in English, of course (I was 16 at the time and Catalonia was, for me, a meaningless word that formed part of a title of a book by George Orwell), and I knew, both then and through all the years I went on writing only in English, that I was writing badly. ‘Badly’ means here, simply, that I hadn’t found my written voice: that stylistic hallmark that all writers have. Even worse, I hadn’t discovered what I really needed to write about. Style and content, then, those essential ingredients of just about any text you care to name, seemed beyond my reach. The rejection slips came flooding in (I blu-tacked them to my door and almost filled it up before leaving England for good). Having moved to Barcelona, I went on writing in English. I tried different types of story, different ways of writing. All of it ended up in the rubbish bag for the binmen to collect and (hopefully) crush into pulp. Then, in a chance meeting, the publisher of a small press, the poet Antoni Clapés, suggested I write something for him in Catalan (a language I had immersed myself in – or rather, been immersed in – at age 18/19). No sooner had I put finger to typewriter key that I knew I had, at last, found my written voice, albeit in a ‘foreign’ language. I stayed more or less exclusively with Catalan for the next ten years, during which time I realised, gradually, what my problem with my native language, British English, had been: a perceived class imprint indelibly stamped on the language itself: unlike American authors, it seems to me, English authors immediately and often unwittingly give away their social class – or that of their narrating voices – because the British class structure is built into British English. The vocabulary, the syntax, all betray the social origins of whoever is writing. And I wanted, on thre contrary, a free, pliable, malleable tool of a language, and Catalan has provided that for many years. Then, in 2000, I got an idea for a novel in English. I wrote it in English and discovered that after the disicipline of so many years of writing in Catalan, I’d finally found my written voice in my native tongue. However, the failure to actually publish the novel in English (it did come out in Catalan – my version – and Spanish – translated by someone else from the English original) threw me – to the extent that I had to be put on different medication – and I went back to writing in Catalan. Then – and I’m finally getting to the end of this apparently endless answer – in 2004, a whole series of ideas I’d been keeping on the back burner for a long time (some of them were 30 years old) all came together and formed the core of the novel which would eventually become SNUG. Over the following six years, I put every scrap of wood I had on the fire, I wanted this it be a kind of final blaze. I thought: this is going to be the best thing I’ve written so far and so if this doesn’t get published, nothing I do in English is going to get published. Ever!

BERNAT PUIGTOBELLA: Snug is a novel that has drawn you back to the ‘Seventies, at a time when you were a young teenager, not much older than the kids that appear in your book. These children are the key to your attempt to create the right distance. We see through them the fear and the racism of adults towards the black people who ‘occupy’ the island. They are innocent bystanders who are confused by the events unfolding in front of them. They allow us to assess an evil they themselves cannot comprehend.

MATTHEW TREE: The story is set in the ‘Seventies for three reasons: one, the plot – which involves an informal siege of the village – would not be credible at a later time, with the Internet, Twitter, and what have you; two, I was a teenager in the ‘Seventies and still remember the language spoken then like it was yesterday; three, racism was far more prevalent and largely taken for granted among white English people at the time: even when they were ‘anti-racist’ they would sometimes say and do stuff that today would be unacceptable. There is no attempt, however, to recreate a ‘Seventies atmosphere: it’s not a historical novel.

BERNAT PUIGTOBELLA: The racism you portray is so outrageous that it seems grotesque to us today, almost unbelievable. Here is just one example: “Roger put in his ha’penny’s worth: it’s a fact that coloured people already spend plenty of time in the sun; so what would they want a holiday for?’

MATTHEW TREE: Most of the things that the kids say in the novel, are more or less verbatim quotes from real life. In the ‘Seventies and early ‘Eighties I had a long string of different jobs in which I ran into lots of very different people, and some of the racist comments I heard or overheard were said in the most shameless manner imaginable. For example, when I was working in the booking centre of a coach company in London, two of the inspectors came up to have a chat with us. One of them cracked a ‘joke’: ‘Why do pakis smell so bad? So blind people can hate them as well’. He and plenty of the other people in the room had a good laugh. The other inspector, standing next to the white one, was Pakistani.

 

Matthew Tree, author of ‘Snug’ | © Pere Virgili

 

BERNAT PUIGTOBELLA: However,  you place the story in an English seaside resort, on the Isle of Wight. It is a provincial island, so to speak, but when it comes down to racism, the England of the 70′s was also provincial. You are deferring the action to the Isle of Wight in order to make the plot viable, but in fact you are talking about the whole of England, aren’t you?

MATTHEW TREE: Oh Jesus, yes. The Isle of Wight, and, especially, the fictitious village of Coldwater Bay, is an apparently cheerful, friendly little England stripped bare of its politeness (and complacency) and found wanting.

BERNAT PUIGTOBELLA: One of your main concerns throughout your work has been racism. You have also studied consistently the Holocaust and the devastating effects of racism in Africa. Racism is so embedded in a given language, that it is hard sometimes to imagine this story written in any language other than English. In Snug, there is a hilarious local newspaper, The Coldwater Bay Parish Press, which comes in handy throughout the story when it comes to showing the racist rhetoric of the time. I bet you enjoyed writing those pieces…

 

MATTHEW TREE: Yes, both the language used in the Parish Press, published by a spineless middle-aged drunk – who is unconsciously racist – and also the hard-core racist talk that the Dr Whitebone character wallows in. I had a good time – if that’s the right expression, which it probably isn’t – with both. Unconscious racism is – to some extent – funny (like when the far right historian David Irving claimed that ‘Hitler was the best friend the Jews had in Germany’). But the core hatred that lies behind all racism – and which knows no limits if none are present – is, of course, stunningly ugly, and is talked about far less often.

JORDI PUNTÍ: In the portrayal of everyday life in Coldwater Bay I also see a moral, day-to-day portrait of British society at that time, sometimes with a critical perspective. To what extent did racism (either overt or latent) form part of that day-to-day portrayal? And the second question: do you think that today cultural advancement (leading to more tolerance) is more the result of social acceptance – the immigration from the ex-colonies is now in its third or fourth generation – or of greater social equality?

MATTHEW TREE: The title of the novel is intended as a one-word summary of the complacency, the self-satisfaction – cultural, linguistic, national – that for me has always been one of the defining characteristics of England, specially southern England. The place is so damn cosy, it can get hard to breathe with ease. No wonder London became the seat of Empire: they were so self-assured that they felt all they had to do was turn everything into an extension of England, because they identified England with fairness, justice, and the right and proper way of doing things in general. Of course, such smugness is shored up, often, by darker beliefs: the idea that non-English people are wrong, unfair, unjust, incompetent, smelly, stupid… The recent colonial history of the British Empire, as a result, is full of racism: Kenyans tortured like they were experimental rabbits, Egyptians in Cairo run over by army trucks and left for dead… all of this in the ‘Fifties and ‘Sixties. And in England itself, right up until the 1980s, black and Asian people suffered from all kinds of discrimination: constant police searches, insults on the street, children spat on in bus queues (to name examples I know of personally). What has happened since then? Well, maybe there has been a gradual tendency to recognise that English people who don’t have European phenotypes are not only as English as anyone else but that they are an essential part of English culture (as long as they express themselves in English; and especially if they’re middle-class). Without a doubt, England is culturally a far more interesting and dynamic place then it was half a century ago, thanks largely to the influx of black and Asian people. But casual racism is still widespread: you still have less possibilities of getting a job if you’re black, for example. And, once again, visibly racist movements are appearing, such as the English Defence League. We had Moseley in the ‘Thirties, the National Front in the ‘Seventies, and now we’ve got the EDL in 2013… These thugs seem to gestate in pods over long periods of time, like the Body Snatchers, and wham, before you know it, ‘multi-cultural’ Britain is full of racist hoodlums (and their intellectual allies), yet again.

 

Matthew Tree | © Pere Virgili

 

JORDI PUNTÍ: The novel is constructed on the basis of three alternating narrative threads (‘Log of Progess’, ‘I’m Not A’ and ‘I Was Twelve’) which sometimes contradict each other, and also include different kinds of narrative material, such as newspaper articles. So the starting point is Postmodernist, working with multiple significates and requiring the active participation of the reader. Two questions: one, were you thinking about readers’ reactions, when you wrote? Two, to what extent has the use of different registers been useful as reagrds experimenting with the story, with the overall development of everything that will happen later…

MATTHEW TREE: I tend to think of the reader’s reaction when I myself become the reader: during the rewriting. When I write, I write exactly what I want to write given that if I don’t, it’s not interesting for me, it’s not exciting, it’s not even real for me; and if it’s not exciting and real for me, it’s certainly not going to be so for anyone else. Later on, you see things which aren’t clear, which need clarifying, unwanted repetitions, and so on, which obviously have to be cleared up, both for readers in general and the reader you yourself have become when you rewrite. This includes structural issues. Some readers find the first 30 pages of the novel difficult, because they have to sort out who’s speaking in the three different narrative voices. Other readers dive into the book at once. Personally, I felt that most readers could take a sudden dip into three narrative voices on the chin. It’s not as if I’m using cut-up and fold-in… After Joyce, Dos Passos, and Burroughs – and many other ‘experimental’ writers – three narrative voices ought to be a pushover. As for the use of different registers, I knew from the start that if there had been only one register – the voice of the 12 year old boy, for example – then not only would the reader not get enough credible information about the story, he or she would get bored very quickly, and I would, too. The register changes are there to keep everyone on their toes: the reader, the author, and the characters themselves, for that matter. You mention Postmodernism. Mmm… Perhaps in the combination of different voices and elements there’s a certain Postmodernistic aspect to the book, but what seems to me the defining feature of Postmodernism – its inevitable reduction of everything to a kind of permanent relativism – is absent from the book. All the characters are sincere in what they do and say and are meant to be accepted on their own terms. To be believed in.

MÀRIUS SERRA: In Snug, there’s a newspaper which appears in bilingual format, in English and in an African language. What role does language play in racist conflict?

MATTHEW TREE: The African besiegers use the resources of the village’s (very) local paper to publish their communiqués. These are printed prominently in Swahili, and next to the Swahili, as a kind of afterthought, comes the English translation. This is intended as a comment, by me, and above all, by the Africans, on the tendency, still prevalent in England, to think of English as the only real language. Both in the colonial era and now, there is this general idea that if something isn’t in English, it doesn’t really count. A small example would be a recent feature film set in Uganda, ‘The Last King of Scotland’. If you watch it with subtitles for the hard of hearing, you will see that everything is clearly subtitled, until the Idi Amin character, played by Forrest Whitaker, starts speaking Swahili. Suddenly the subtitles indicate: ‘Speaks African language’. Whittaker spent months learning Swahili, but the people doing the subtitling didn’t feel the need to identify the language. Imagine if a film was subtitled and someone started speaking English or French, and the subtitles read: ‘Speaks European language’… So the use of Swahili in the book is a comment on this kind of unconscious linguistic arrogance, and hopefully will make the (English-language) reader feel a little like Africans must have felt when the English started appropriating their territory and speaking in what was, for them, an incomprehensible tongue.

 

Matthew Tree | @Pere Virgili

 

MÀRIUS SERRA: In the Catalan literary canon there’s a novel,Paraules d’Opoton el Vell by Avel·lí Artís-Gener, Tísner, which stands the discovery of America on its head, by making the Precolumbian Indians the ones who discover Europe. Did you intend to perfom a similar kind of operation with the group of Africans that arrives on the Isle of Wight. 

MATTHEW TREE: I’ve just finished reading ‘Opòton’, in which the Aztecs discover the Spanish first rather than the other way round, but it’s really a completely different kettle of fish: their Aztec narrator is confused and befuddled by what he finds in Spain, and comes over as a bit simple-minded. The Aztecs have also gone there on a wild goose chase, thinking they will find Quetzlcoatl in person. The Africans in SNUG, on the other hand, are technologically savvy and know exactly what they’re doing and why. The one thing ‘Opòton’ shares with SNUG – and vice versa – is the deliberate use of a foreign language: the Nahuatl in Artís-Gener’s novel is partly employed to give the reader a sense of the strangeness – by comparison – that the Aztecs must have felt when they heard Spanish for the first time.

BERNAT PUIGTOBELLA: You are a well-known and respected writer in Barcelona. Your works are automatically published here, but now that you have decided to write in English, it is not easy to find a publisher. Your agent is in Spain and Snug has been published in a digital edition by AK Digital. Still, this novel should be published in paper in England and sent to bookstores. Have you had any reactions from English publishers?

MATTHEW TREE: The truth is that very few of the fifteen or so publishers my agent has sent the book to have replied at all (an increasingly common practice, I’m told). To be honest, I never expected a hero’s welcome after having cut myself out of the English loop for so many years. Added to which is the fact that the English-language market is heavily over-subscribed. The rejections I have had (about four) have been friendly ones, if any rejection can be described as such. One publisher found SNUG ‘delightfully eccentric’ and another – Granta – praised the style and thought the Dr Whitebone character was as fascinating and convincing as Patrick Batemen in Bret Easton Ellis’s ‘American Psycho’ – but hey, they finally opted not to publish it. UK readers’ reactions – including those of, say, Hispanic literature professor Alan Yates or Times journalist Matthew Parris – have been extremely positive. I accept that UK publishers and agents receive more material than they can easily handle and need something to make them prick up their ears. To which end, a website only for SNUG will be launched in September, with reviews, comments, extracts, etc. And a launch will be held in London, probably in October, with actors, music, live readings, and so on.

BERNAT PUIGTOBELLA: Good luck!

 

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There follows a review of SNUG (translated from the Catalan; the original text is posted at the end), in the same cultural magazine, Núvol.

‘Snug’

/ 16.09.2013

Snug is the title of the latest book by Matthew Tree, and his first to appear in English: his mother tongue. Oddly enough, all this author’s work so far has been published in Catalan and occasionally Spanish, but the reversion to his native language is especially appropriate for this current work, Snug, a word which encapsulates the entire meaning of the novel, which will not leave any of its readers indifferent.

Matthew Tree | © Pere Virgili

 

The story begins with the arrival of a group of Africans who take the  inhabitants of the host village, Coldwater Bay (a quiet little place on the Isle of Wight) by surprise in the 1970s; these inhabitants find themselves obliged to interact with their visitors, to express their opinions, to react to some very unusual circumstances and eventually to develop a crude cultural and racial response.

This is a book which reflects and helps reflect on the feelings of people of all ages, on the effects of colonisation, cultural shock, and communication between different languages, all of this peppered with a fine, intelligent sense of humour, and a sarcastic and corrosive irony which could only come from an English author.

Snug has a clearly defined structure which tells the readers exactly what is going on and from whose point of view. The characters are thoroughly ’round’ and stereotypes tend to be avoided, although the author also highlights the typical prejudices of our Western society, and in particular of English society in the year 1974.

It is worth mentioning Matthew Tree’s wide knowledge of African culture, its ethnic and linguistic variety, revealing the tremendous differences between African peoples.

One of the more remarkable aspects of the book is the press release which announces the departure of the African visitors from Coldwater Bay and which is published in the local paper, in both Swahili and English, so that everyone can read it. This text is a forceful declaration of intentions regarding the harm done to Africa during the period of colonialisation, and which demands the just reorganisation of the continent by its own inhabitants, ending with a veiled threat to return to England in larger numbers if these  demands are not met.

Snug is an intense, unremittingly honest book, with an appealing soul of its own; it is also unputdownable.

 

This is the original Catalan version of the review…

 

‘Snug’

/ 16.09.2013

Snug és el títol de l´últim llibre d’en Matthew Tree, i el primer que es publica en anglès- la seva llengua materna. Curiosament, tota la líteratura de l’autor fins al dia d’avui s´havia publicat en català i castellà, però aquest canvi de llengua en l’expressió del seu món literari és especialment adient en aquesta obra, Snug, una mot que segons el diccionari Collins tant pot significar ‘ajustat’ com ‘abrigat’ i que conglomera en una sola paraula el sentit total d’aquesta obra que no deixa indiferent a ningú.

 

Matthew Tree | © Pere Virgili

 

La trama arrenca amb l´arribada d´un grup d’africans que sobta als veïns de Coldwater Bay (un poble tranquil d’una illa d’Anglaterra) als anys 70 i que els fa interectuar entre ells, expressar les seves opinions, reaccionar sobre un fet inesperat, i gestar un cru efecte racial i cultural.

És una obra per reflexionar sobre els sentiments humans de totes les edats, els efectes de la colonització, el xoc cultural, la comunicació entre llengües diferents, i tot això ben amanit amb un sentit de l´humor fi i intel·ligent, i una ironia sarcàstica i corrosiva al més pur estil anglès.

Snug té una estructura ben definida que indica al lector exactament quan passen les coses i des de quin punt de vista. Els personatges són molt rodons i tendeixen a fugir dels estereotips, tot i que l´autor també deixa palesos els típics prejudicis més tòpics de la nostra societat occidental, i en concret de la icònica societat anglesa de l´any 1974.

També cal destacar el gran coneixement que Matthew Tree té de la cultura africana, de la seva varietat ètnica i lingüística, que permet adonar-nos de les grans diferències que existeixen entre els pobles africans.

L’obra pren tota la seva rellevància i la seva duresa d´honestedat continguda durant massa anys en la nota de premsa que notifica la marxa dels visitants de Coldwater Bay i que publica el Parish Press. Una nota publicada tant en swahili com en anglès, per a la màxima comprensió dels lectors de la vila. És una contundent declaració d´intencions per reparar el mal inflingit durant la colonització d´Àfrica i que reclama la justa organització del continent pels propis habitants, amb l´amenaça determinant que si no s´escolten les seves raons, els africans poden tornar, i en major nombre.

Snug és un llibre intens, d´una honestitat inapel·lable, i amb una ànima pròpia totalment recomanable, i que no pots deixar de llegir.