Yesterday I sent the draft text of Bread and Salt to the artists whose experiences of coming to Europe form its living heart. It’s always a scary moment. My meetings with people over the last 18 months have been memorable and moving. Doing justice to the stories that I have been trusted with is one of the great challenges of this process. Doing that in an artistically and intellectually coherent form, with the right kind of rigour and tested subjectivity, is the core of what each Regular Marvel aims for.
Now, there are a few days in which to wait for people’s responses. One person has already replied, commenting on the strangeness of reading one’s own stories recounted by another. Somebody else asks why I haven’t included something that I’d written and already put on the site and which they liked. But mostly, I’m just waiting to hear.
It’s an essential discipline, with two contrasting tests. The first is whether the people who are most concerned by what I have written recognize themselves and are content with the result. It is always possible, at this stage for people to tell me that I’ve misunderstood or misinterpreted what they’ve said; they can opt out altogether if they wish.
The second test is the readers who have no connection with this process—half a dozen people I have trusted to look at the draft as if they pad picked it up in a library or found it online. They have to advise me on whether the book works as a book, whether it is capable of reaching out to a reader with no knowledge or existing interest in its subject.