Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Driving down to Galilee

Those of you who know about me, know that Nancy and I are also The Thimble Press, which since 1969 has produced various kinds of publication to do with books for children and young people. Developments in digital publishing - Print on Demand - made it essential that we familiarise ourselves with it, an ideal form of inexpensively producing print for very small publishing houses.

Neither of us is competent with the latest electronic technicalities. So Nancy had to learn the processes. To do this she needed a straightforward text that didn't involve an author who might be upset if the attempt didn't succeed.

She remembered a diary I'd kept for her of my first visit to the 'secular' kibbutzim in the north of Israel in 1984. I'd produced 10 copies of it, using my first PC and a photocopier, and gave them to friends. Some of those who read it suggested it should be published. But I was too busy working on Now I Know at the time and didn't take their advice.

Now it seemed the ideal text for our first Print on Demand publication. And after all these years it appears as Driving down to Galilee under the Line by Line UK imprint of Thimble Press. 130 pages, full colour cover (which the ever patient Chris Robertson of Softlink Computers, who looks after our systems, helped me design and also provided the cover image - he's a very good photographer), 203 x 126 mm, cream paper. £10 post and package included. If you want to buy a copy go to the Thimble Press website where there is a stock list and order form. http://www.thimblepress.co.uk/

Things have changed in Israel since my visit in 1984. Here and there in the diary the fears of people I met are expressed about what would happen to the country if Sharon got into power. Their worst fears have come true. I returned twice more in the 80s, but not after the intifada. I wonder how different my impressions would be now?

What the diary records that will still be true is the character and nature of that extraordinary land, and of the people who established the kibbutzim. As for the kibbutzim themselves, even when I was there the break-up of the ideal they were built on, and the arrangements by which they were organised, was in train. They are now, I gather, very different places. So in a sense, the diary is a snapshot of a changeful moment in the history of the country.

I hope some of you who like my novels might find this different kind of narrative of interest. I love diaries, and collect them. I like them so much because they are written at the time the events are happening, without any attempt to shape or structure the story. They are novels of the instant. They hold the present in words so that it is always the present and never the past. No nostalgia. No retrospective reconsideration.

As my friend, the poet Alan Tucker, says in his Foreword: 'Form withstands and survives all temporary doubts and hesitations. It allows the equal inclusion of truth and error, it accepts and holds together both accurate depiction and opinionated ignorance.' (p 6) There are plenty of doubts and hesitations in Galilee, and accurate depiction and opinionated ignorance. But I wouldn't have published it if I had any reservations about it as a literary piece of writing.

And if this seems a bit like blowing my own trumpet as well as something of an advert, then so be it!