‘I remember when I first read One Hundred Years of t ; Solitude.‘ Pears says. ‘People had been saying to me,

this is great, it‘s so exotic, so extreme. so unlike our

' northern grey world. My response, though. wasn't

a that it was exotic. but that l recogmsed something.

i There’s a scene with the grandmother. where after

. she‘s married and moved into her husband‘s house,

7 she goes around shooing out all the ghosts of his

v' Q family. because she's the boss now ~ that was

I (something my grandmother did. I‘d always seen that

' ' kind of thing as eccentric. or quaint. but reading

authors like Marquez gave it a a kind of credence,

: liberated me to take it seriously and write about it.‘

Alison can be seen as hovering between an older,

disappearing world of ‘uneasy, rnistrustful. respectful

;partnership with nature’. emblematised in particular

:' lby her grandmother. and the future. signified in part

by the poisonous residues which run off the land

when the rain finally comes. the 80s ugliness

(confrontations between miners and police. the Battle

,of the Beanlield) echoing in the background; but

(partly also by her friendship with the local priest,

7"“ 793's: " W3"le ‘0 make sure that the 3‘07! 9'88"" i who communicates to her the urgent hunger of his set so far back as to seem rose-tinted.’ set so far back as to seem rose—tinted.‘

Through the eyes of thirteen-year old Alison. kicking her heels in the impossibly hot summer of 1984 when the schools are on strike and crops are failing. we learn gradually of her farming family - grandparents wise with a lifetime's accumulated

knowledge. overburdened mother. father who‘s drunk

himself into amnesia. worldly elder sister and two

hard-working elder brothers. We learn, through

Pears‘s marvellous. understated characterisation and

7 his tnesmerising. magic-realist prose. of the rhythms. routines and lore of agrarian life and work. of a world

Country . matters

Sue Wilson talks to Tim Pears

about his debut novel. a stunning exploration of a rural community in . the modern world.

In our city-centric age. fiction about the countryside occupies decidedly delicate ground. given the extent of modern alienation from rural rhythms and the post-industrial popular appetite for mythical lost golden ages. All the more credit. then. to first—time novelist Tim Pears. whose In the Place of Fallen Leaves creates a portrait of pastoral living in which affectionate. sometimes elegiac. wonder at its profound difference from urban existence is fused with a shrewd. pointed contemporaneity.

Pears readily admits that the small Devon village in his novel is an adult‘s. part-imagined version of the place where he grew up. albeit moved forward in time. ‘lt’s really to do with the atmosphere -— when i started to write this i knew what things smelled like. knew the sound of a mother calling her children in for tea across a field and that gave it a kind of physical reality; I could feel it. rather than the

iscarch for truth. And in fact Alison‘s grandmother is iresponsible for her leaving, stating in her will that ,she should be sent away to school ‘so that I’d be the first in our family to take our wasted intelligence into g the outside world.‘

‘There‘s a line right at the end where she tells the ; priest she has to leave. and he says that maybe it’s for l the best, because her family can't give her what she 5 needs.’ Pears says. ‘l wanted that paradox to be at the 3 heart of the book it‘s a description of a way of life. . which hopefully is enjoyable to read. but it‘s also ' about the syndrome of somebody growing too big for é a small town ultimately there's something missing

description being 3" intellccwal PmCC-‘S- Bl" I didn‘t where children and old people still believe matter-of— i there

Want it ‘0 be “(lsuflgics WhiCh i5 Partly Why I Updated factly in ghosts and mischievous ‘piskies‘. where .

‘1 [0 the 805 * I was “dually thc WWW)“ age in i ancient farming wisdom clashes with scientific . In the Place of Fallen Leaves is published bv Hamish 1969 bl“ I “milled ‘0 make Sure thin the 5“er Wasn“ methodologies and 80s greed. Hamilton on 25 Mare/t at £74.99. I

still generating the same amount of to pay authors more.’

revenue. And Tibor’s being on the A certain amount of comment has Granta list is already having an impact arisen recently from the fact that

sales have gone up, the paperback Seeker & Warburg, one of several big

_ l.tttlcc(i.illtt\\.t\ ' l Multr-faceted - ~

; rights were picked up by Penguin publishers to move into the paperback Conventional wisdom has it that with ; straight away, for quite a lot of original format and the house to have the book trade, like everyone else, i money.’ snapped up many Polygon-discovered pulling in its horns and playing safe, l The bane of a small publisher’s Scottish authors (notably Kelman, new and/or radical writing, and the existence, of course, is the fact that Kennedy and Galloway), has started small publishers who produce a large as soon as authors start getting i producing books which, in design proportion of such material, are t anywhere, most move on to bigger, ? terms, look remarkably like Polygon’s suffering in the recession. There’s a , . . . better-paying houses. Okay, so writers ? distinctive house style. 900d deal 0' "WI in that. but l Tht‘ l “C k l\ m have a living to make like anyone else, ‘A lot of people have thought they nevertheless POIVGOH. a 'aFGBIV' } Keep 15m] [h i n” ' but for the system to work some kind were ours - when The Herald reviewed autonomous imprint of Edinburgh 3 b t of cost/benefit balance must be i A.L. Kennedy’s novel, they put us down University Press publishing (mainly ' maintained on both sides. ' as the publisher,’ says Sinclair. ‘Vle new) fiction, poetry, politics 1 ‘The theory’s fine - we benefit from , wrote to Secker & Warburg and made (concentrating on Scottish affairs and E the prestige oi having published ; it known we weren’t very happy, but alternative approaches) and Scottish . ) somebody successful first but it’s % their response was that they couldn’t studies, is in a heartenineg healthy 5 l “I .‘ 3"" . often not exactly heavily touted by T see any real resemblance, which state. Deservedly enloylng the i amnta's top twenty young British publishers or authors,’ says Sinclair. seemed a bit disingenuous. They’re a accumu'aied respect “filled "0'" i novelists, as was Kennedy, now with ' ‘Some people argue that authors complete rip-off, basically. But I’d having been first to publish such t seeker a. Warburg, moving on free slots on the list for hate to get into any litigation and sue luminaries as James Kelman, Liz 5 we're on a nu of a roll at the new people, but you don’t them, because that’s not our style. I I Lochhead, Agnes Owens, Tom Leonard, i moment,‘ says editorial director , automatically find someone who can think we’ve lust left it to other people ,' Janice Galloway and A.L Kennedy, Marlon Sinclair, touch wood. we’re replace an A.l.. Kennedy, for instance. to point it out.’ After all, imitation is 90M” recall!“ a "teem further publishing about half as many titles as 1 If your writers don’t stay and share . supposedly the sincerest form of

5008! When “b0! Fischer. Whose first we were two years ago, it’s between their success with you, then you can flattery. (Sue Wilson) 1 novel Under The Frog they published sixteen and twenty a year now, which ', never grow, can never become a big Polygon, 22 George Sqare, Edinburgh l last autumn, was named as one of Is a more sensible number, but we’re 3 publisher yourself and have the money I EH8 EM, 031 650 4689.

The List 12 —25 March l993 57