Banned Books Week Appearance

This Thursday I’m speaking at the British Library as part of Banned Books Week. Among other things I’ll be talking about the ‘banning’ of my own book Unknown Soldiers back in 2007, something I’ve never done before. I shall also be discussing a range of free speech-related issues with the children’s author Melvyn Burgess and Jo Glanville from English PEN. It promises to be an interesting evening. For anyone who wants to come here are the details:

 [stextbox id=”alert”]

Banned Books Week: Censorship and the Author

Upcoming Event

An evening of discussions on the current threat of censorship to literary works and the issues surrounding free speech.

While we might wish to consign book burning to the pages of history, the censorship of books remains a present and pressing concern. In particular, the challenging of books aimed at young adults that deal with teenage issues in an open and direct manner, such as Paper Towns by John Green and Junk by Melvin Burgess, which have become almost commonplace in recent years.

As part of Banned Books Week (25 September to 1 October), join us for an evening with Melvin Burgess and guests. Winner of the prestigious Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and the LA young adult book of the year award, Burgess is the author of a series of acclaimed but controversial novels for young adults (Junk, Lady: My Life as a Bitch, Doing It) dealing with subjects such as heroin addiction and teenage sex.

Click here to view our book list for Banned Books Week.

This event is taking place at the British Library.
Click here to book tickets.

Banned Books Week was initiated by theAmerican Library Association (ALA) in 1982 in response to an increasing number of challenges in the US to books in schools, bookstores and libraries, and in particular, books aimed at children or young adults.

Islington Library and Heritage Services, along with the British Library and Free Word, are celebrating Banned Books Week and drawing attention to censorship and free speech working alongside the American Library Association.

Speakers

Melvin Burgess is the winner of the prestigious Carnegie Medal, the GuardianChildren’s Fiction Prize and the LA young adult book of the year award. He is the author of a series of acclaimed but controversial novels for young adults that deal with subjects such as drug addiction, homelessness, teenage sex and cosmetic surgery.

His first book, The Cry of the Wolf was published in 1990, but it was not until the publication of Junk, a novel dealing with homelessness and teenage heroin addiction, that he achieved mainstream success.

Further award-winning novels include the fantasy Bloodtide (1999) and the controversial Doing it which dealt with teenage sex. His most recent novelHunger was published in 2014.

Matthew Carr is a writer and journalist who has written for a range of publications including Esquire, the New York Times, History Today, the Observer, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. He is the author of  five non-fiction books and his first novel, The Devils of Cardona, was published in June 2016 by Penguin Random House in the US.

Matthew blogs about politics, books, history, cinema, music and other things on his website: www.infernalmachine.co.uk. He is on Twitter @MattCarr55.

Jo Glanville (chair) has been the Director of English PEN since 2012, having come from Index on Censorship where she worked as an award-winning editor since 2006. She was a BBC current affairs producer for eight years and appears regularly in the media as a commentator on culture and freedom of expression, including in the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and the London Review of Books.

[/stextbox]

 

 

The Devils of Cardona: Publication Day

Today is the official publication date in the US for my first novel The Devils of Cardona, and it’s a date that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.  The novel comes out of my earlier history of the expulsion of the Moriscos Blood and Faith: the Purging of Muslim Spain, and its premise was partly inspired by a vicious outbreak of violence that took place between 1585-1588 in the Crown of Aragon, in the señorio (demesne) of Ribagorza in the Aragonese Pyrenees.

The violence began as the result of perennial tensions between ‘Old Christian’ shepherds or montañeses and Moriscos (Muslims forcibly converted to Catholicism) who cultivated the estates of the count of Ribagoza.  Every summer – as is still the case throughout the Pyrenees today – shepherds took their animals up into the  high pasturelands, and then brought them back down for the winter.

This annual transhumance often caused the kind of problems you might expect, as shepherds led their animals through cultivated lands and sometimes damaged crops. On occasion there were fights, quarrels and occasional murders.    In Ribagoza however,  the fact that most of the montañeses were ‘Old Christians’ who hated the Moriscos meant that these tensions soon acquired a religious dimension.

Moriscos in Aragon were often resented by the Old Christian population, partly because they were believed to be collectively engaging in crypto-Islamic worship – a view shared by the Inquisition and the Spanish Crown – and partly because they were regarded as privileged vassals of their Christian lords, who supposedly protected them from the Inquisition in order to exploit them more effectively.

In 1585 an Old Christian shepherd was murdered by Moriscos in the village of Codo.  This incident ignited an eruption of violence that spread across Ribagorza and beyond, as the shepherds transformed themselves in a ravaging bandit army that massacred entire Morisco villages and threatened to ignite an ethnic civil war-cum-crusade across Aragon.

The montañeses were led by an enigmatic and mysterious character called Lupercio Latrás, whose motives have never been made clear, and this is where  the plot thickens, because the señorio of Ribagorza was also the subject of a jurisdictional dispute between the Crown of Castile and the count of Ribagorza.  Some historians believe that Latrás may have been acting as an agent of the Crown, and deliberately inflaming violence in order to destabilise Ribagorza – the better to take it over.   Then there was the fact that relations between Castile and Aragon were already tense, and would ultimately oblige Philip II to invade Aragon during the alteraciones of 1593

The truth has never been revealed and probably never will be, and from a fictional point of view, that’s what makes it interesting.    My novel wasn’t intended to fill in the historical gaps, and it is only very loosely based on this particular episode.  It  also references other characters from the Morisco tragedy.     I named my main character Mendoza as a tribute to the Mendoza family, some of whose members were far more tolerant of the Moriscos than many of their countrymen, and whose proposals might have resulted in a different outcome to the brutal expulsion of 1609-14.

Cardona is a town in Catalonia, not Aragon, and has nothing to do with Ribagorza.  The character of the Countess of Cardona is a tribute to the Duchess of Cardona, who wrote a moving and impassioned humane appeal to Philip III in 1610 to protest the expulsion of Moriscos from her estates.

Those were some of the building blocks that I used for The Devils of Cardona.   It’s a novel about religion, greed, and politics, which uses the past as a basis for reflection about our present predicament.   When I first started writing it more than two years ago I wasn’t sure if i would even finish it, let alone whether it would be published.  Today it officially enters the world.   To those who are interested, I’ve done an interview for the Signature e-zine about writing fiction and non-fiction and other matters:

 [stextbox id=”alert”]

Matthew Carr’s debut novel, the 16th century comes bounding back to life in a thrilling tale that centers on a string of mysterious murders in a small Spanish town. Investigator Bernardo de Mendoza is sent by the King to smoke out the killer, only to realize he’s surrounded by a hostile community of Moriscos, Muslims forcibly converted to Catholicism and now bitterly living under the watchful eye of Spanish inquisitors.

The Devils of Cardona dances wonderfully on nails of suspense, and is richly informed by the research of Carr, a journalist and historian, whose 2009 book Blood and Faith uncovers the real-life expulsion of Muslims from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition. For Signature, Carr discusses his writing and reading habits, the necessities of patience in writing (“because producing good writing is sometimes nothing more than a struggle against one’s own stupidity and inadequacy”), and he channels his favorite English teacher in offering some sound writing advice: “the only way to write [is] to abandon oneself to it completely.”

[/stextbox]

You can read the rest of the interview here:

Genocide Memorial Day

If you’re in London this Sunday, and anywhere near University College London, I’m one of the speakers at an event organized by the Islamic Human Rights Commission to commemorate Genocide Memorial Day.  I’ll be talking about the expulsion of the Moriscos from seventeenth century Spain.

Here are the details:

[stextbox id=”alert”]

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO RSVP AND REGISTER YOUR ATTENDANCE

Six years ago, IHRC decided it was imperative to set aside a day to remember the genocides, genocidal acts and genocidal policies of the modern era. Coinciding with the anniversary of the end of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Genocide Memorial Day was born

WATCH ONLINE AT IHRC.TV – tweet questions and comments to @IHRC using the hashtag #GMD2015 or post on our Facebook

This year will see this event being synchronised with partner Genocide Memorial Day events in Paris, Amsterdam (click here), Brussels (click here) and Jerusalem.

Please click here to watch the trailer for Genocide Memorial Day 2015

Confirmed Speakers:

Xain Storey – Journalist and historian. Speaking on First Nations of North America
Maria-Jose Lera – Professor at Seville University.Speaking on genocide of Jews and Muslims in Andalucia
Matt Carr – Author and journalist speaking on genocide of Moriscos (Muslim converts to Christianity) in Andalucia

WHEN: Sunday, 18 January from 12pm – 4pm

WHERE: University College London, Cruciform Lecture Theatre, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

Nearest stations: Euston Square (Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith and City Line), Euston (Northern, Victoria, London Overground Line), Warren Street (Northern, Victoria Line) and Goodge Street (Northern Line)

Entry is FREE. Refreshments will be provided. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO RSVP and register your attendance

GMD rejects the notion that there is a hierarchy of victims depending on their background. It seeks to hold people accountable by highlighting those people and power structures responsible for perpetrating genocidal acts and by remembering the victims.

The theme of Genocide Memorial Day 2015 is STEPS LEADING TO GENOCIDE. It intends to bring to attention the political, social and economic processes that precede all genocides and which provide an indicator of looming crisis.

[/stextbox]

 

For further information, here’s the website

My Father’s House: Official Re-Launch!

After more than a decade out of print, my 1998 memoir My Father’s House: In Search of a Lost Past officially comes into existence today as a self-published e-book.   It’s available at Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and other outlets at £3.99 ($6.99).    My Father’s House is my most personal book, and a book that I’ve always been particularly proud of, so I’m really pleased that 21st century has given me the opportunity to re-introduce it to a new generation of readers.

Here is the book description:

[stextbox id=”alert”]

In 1995 Matthew Carr returned to Guyana in the Caribbean, where his parents’ marriage had broken up nearly thirty years before, in order to investigate the mysterious death of his father Bill Carr in 1991. A popular and charismatic English lecturer, a lover of DH Lawrence, Shakespeare and Matthew Arnold, and a left-wing political activist with a strong public presence in West Indian politics, Bill Carr was also a violent alcoholic who beat his wife and children, and whose alcohol-induced mayhem forced his family to return to England without him in 1967.

In the ensuing decades little was known of the life he led in a country whose single claim to international fame in all that period was the ‘Jonestown massacre.’ Apart from a single visit to England a few years before his death, Bill Carr had, it seemed, cut himself off from his family and his country and chosen to live a life of exile with a new family in his adopted country. His son’s decision to return to Guyana for the first time since 1967 was partly prompted by the confused circumstances that preceded his father’s death, in which he seemed to express a wish to return to his native land.

What began as an exploration of a lost West Indies childhood in Jamaica and Guyana and an investigation of his father’s chaotic and contradictory personality, became a compelling and extraordinary journey into the racial politics and history of the Caribbean, and Guyana in particular. Why did so many people remember Bill Carr so well when his family remembered him so badly? Why had his father cut himself off from his family so completely and so brutally? Why had he wanted to return? What caused his death?

Alternating between meetings with his father’s friends, colleagues, enemies and family members, Carr sets out to answer these questions and reconcile their memories with those of his family. The result is a striking combination of family history, travelogue, and colonial history that recalls Malcolm Lowry, Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad, in which the story of Bill Carr’s steep descent into masochistic self-destruction mirrors the collapse of Guyana under the post-colonial dictatorship of Forbes Burnham.

[/stextbox]

And here are some reviews that it received at the time:

[stextbox id=”alert”]

‘ Bill Carr embodied all the idealism and sickness of the colonial mind and his son’s narrative is a monumental exploration of the paradoxes of Empire. It is written as if from the pen of a novelist, superbly plotted with a marvellous sense of the intricacies of character and a panoramic view of British and colonial history. Matthew Carr has made astonishing art of his father’s wreckage.’ David Dabydeen, The Times

‘Matthew Carr embarks, literally, on a journey in search of his father. His book combines the skills of a gifted travel writer, a novelist and a biographer. The result is a high-class creation that unfolds with the excitement of a detective story.’
Richard Gott, The Independent

‘ …almost impossible to categorize. A personal biography, it reads at times as a socio-political history and at others as a gripping novel.’ The Times

‘ …an honest and decently written memoir, and Carr junior’s motive in writing it is exemplary.’
The Mail on Sunday

[/stextbox]

And here is a review that the e-book has just been posted on Amazon:

[stextbox id=”alert”]My Father’s House is a deeply affecting, fluent and insightful meditation on memory, family, and personal identity. It reminded me a great deal of John Irving’s wonderfully melancholic novel about childhood memory, Until I Find You. In both books, the main character goes on a journey to try and discover the truth of childhood memory, and make sense of the contradictions and gaps in their personal history. Along the way, they are forced to contront the flawed humanity of their loved ones, and the positive and negative ways in which their parents continue to shape their sense of identity. As such, My Father’s House unfolds as part travel log, part mystery, part philosophical meditation, part auto-ethnography. Either way, it is brutally honest, beautifully written, and deeply engaging. I was genuinely moved by its eloquence, its tenderness and its profound insight into the fragilities of human relationships. The final chapter provided a particularly satisfying end to a wonderful narrative that will have universal appeal. It’s one of the best books I have read in recent times. Buy it. Read it, and prepare to be moved.[/stextbox]