It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of vast public events, especially if we didn’t support them, as the majority of the UK population (‘remain’ voters + abstainers) did not. My question is one that I’ve been asked several times since Friday: what can writing do in the face of this situation?
Writing is powerful. Part of the danger of Brexit is its rhetoric. Defining the UK as a country that wants to ‘control’ immigration has legitimised the sentiments of National Front banners seen in Newcastle at the weekend; of the hateful postcards put through the doors of the Polish community in Huntingdon. On Saturday Daniel Trilling, editor of The New Humanist, tweeted that ”fascists try to speak on behalf of wider groups of people so it’s important a) not to let them and b) to challenge the claims they repeat.”
For the last few days I have been talking with people a lot–via writing: emails, dms, I even got a letter, typed, on old-skool paper. I haven’t been working: there is no writing I have wanted to do other than writing that communicates directly with other people, people I’m close to. I have been sending out feelers of language, wanting them to meet something in someone else. I have never felt this so urgently. It is almost physical. If this situation prompts one thing in me, it seems to be communication. But private communication (and even fleeting tweets) only go so far.
I have invited publishers, writers, translators–people keeping our cultural borders open–to contribute a single sentence in reaction to what’s happening right now. Anger, despair, protest, sorrow love: I’m still collecting more. If you’d like to contribute, please get in touch: you know where to find me on Twitter.
Joanna Walsh, Fiction Editor, 3:AM Magazine
Brexit is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake. Ali Smith, author of How To Be Both, and Artful
This is a disaster for Britain and almost everyone living here – we won’t forget the duplicity and dog-whistle racism which was used to dupe a gullible and fearful electorate – Johnson, Gove and their hench-pygmies are headed straight to the dustbin of history. Will Self, writer and proud European of Anglo-Jewish heritage
I want my continent back. Sam Jordison, journalist, author, publisher at Galley Beggar Press
I haven’t laughed so much since the 1974 UK political crisis instigated by striking miners; a choice between fortress Europe and fortress England is no choice at all – ABOLISH ALL BORDERS NOW! Stewart Home, author of 69 Things To Do With A Dead Princess
Brexit is the result of a pincer movement of the disingenuous cruelties of austerity politics and decades of opportunistic misinformation on the EU – we should be fucking rioting. Katherine Angel, author of Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell
Join a union – join a campaign group – fight against what’s coming next. Thom Cuell, editor at Dodo Ink
I was in the US when the referendum results came in, and over and over again have found myself greeted by shocked American strangers who have said: “I’m just so sorry, so sorry – you must all be so sad”, as if we’d suffered a terrible and sudden bereavement – which we have. Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent
Smaller, meaner, frailer, poorer, but strutting about our own bunker. George Szirtes, poet, Author Reel, The Burning of the Books and Bad Machine, winner of T S Eliot Prize 2004
For 12 years I lived in constant fear of losing my visa and being forced to leave my home; in one day, 16 million Britons have been made to feel they’ve been deported without so much as changing their address. Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse: Women Walk the City
This result is a clear message of revolt: there’s a huge number of people who maybe can’t properly articulate what they want, except to say ‘not this’ – and this feeling is just as potent in the US. Sarah Davis-Goff, Co-publisher at Tramp Press
I wonder what this will mean for the thousands of Irish women forced to use the UK healthcare system every year (because of Ireland’s antiquated abortion laws). Lisa Cohen, Co-publisher at Tramp Press
To think and decide justly requires truthful materials and trustworthy information, so it seems as if no just and democratic decision can be reached outside Utopia—not so long as politicians and newspapers continue to fudge, bribe, lie and cajole for their own short-term gain, and turn their backs on human community. Ian Patterson, author of Guernica and Total War, Time Dust, translator of Proust, etc.
With heartsickness & uncertainity it’s now farewell, with love, Scotland. Helen McClory, author of On the Edges of Vision, winner of the Saltire First Book of the Year Award 2015
I would say come to Ireland, except we violate women’s human rights. Susan Tomaselli, Publisher, gorse journal
Bloke on BBC London says Brexit is the ‘best thing ever’. But he’s never been off his tits at the rave when Hype drops Valley of the Shadows. Kit Caless, publisher at Influx Press
Oh fuck everything. Roman Muradov, award-winning illustrator and cartoonist,author of Jacob Bladders and the State of the Art
We’ve been drifting towards Fascism in Britain (and especially England) for the last fifteen years, and with this vote to leave the European Union, I fear we’ve started our final descent. Juliet Jacques, author of Trans: A Memoir.
I keep thinking about that first time on the ferry, salt water whipping through my hair, Channel bumping while I travel between here and there, back in the part of the world that my parents had to flee; I keep thinking about how it all breaks. Linda Mannheim, author of Above Sugar Hill
We won’t ever be able to know precisely how much talent and creative joy we’ve effectively just told to fuck off, but I know that the essential richness of being forced to translate ourselves, and receive others’ translations in turn, is being lost from our future. Stephanie Boland, The New Statesman
Enslav’d the daughters of Albion weep. William Blake, via Denise Riley, author of Am I That Name?
I can’t even find a pond small enough
to drown in without being ostentatious
you are ruining your awful country – and me
it is not new to do this it is terribly
democratic and ordinary and tired
Frank O’Hara, Lunch Poems 60, via Denise Riley, author of Am I That Name?
If it wasn’t such a national and international political disaster, with the potential to set back an already faltering economy ten years, and create and spread division, hatred and even bloodshed as yet unimagined, the UK’s decision to vote itself out of the EU would almost be funny, if it wasn’t such a national and international political disaster, with the potential to set back an already faltering economy ten years, and create and spread division, hatred and even bloodshed as yet unimagined. Jonathan Gibbs, author of Randall
To use the language of the Leave campaign, I want the country I thought I lived in back: a country that is part of Europe, that looked outward, that was part of a bigger project. Sian Norris, @read_women
My mother said, “be safe, there are people out there who don’t like us.” Chimene Suleyman, journalist, and author of Outside Looking On.
What a dick. UK outside EU would be the wrong side of the capo, its fingers voicing chords no-one hears. James Attlee, author of Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey, and Nocturne
The result feels so utterly regressive, as if many based their vote on an antiquated idea of Empire and the 19th century policy of “Splendid Isolation”: cruelly, this will change everything for the younger generation who voted to remain. Sinéad Gleeson, editor of The Long Gaze Back, and The Glass Shore
The referendum has made clear what Peirene and I have always suspected: this country needs to learn to listen to other people’s stories, only then it will change for the better. Meike Ziervogel, publisher at Peirene Press
What do we want? The past! When do we want it? Tomorrow! Matthew De Abaitua, author of IF THEN, and The Destructives
At approximately 5am on the 24th of June reality broke, the nation collapsed and I lost all faith in my country. We are falling and when we finally hit the ground the pain will be felt for generations… James Miller, author of Lost Boys, Sunshine State, and UnAmerican Activities
Delors make me pure but not yet! Andrew Stevens, Editor 3:AM Magazine
One great tragedy of this result – and there may be many – is the narrative that the English and Welsh working class have left only political options of disaffection, which can only be rewritten by a reformed grassroots politics and media that exist to truly serve, not commodify them, as well as practical activism in the form of protecting human and workers rights and the resistance of privatisation, with love, from Scotland. Laura Waddell, writer, publicist at Freight Books/freelance
I have visions of an EU anxiety mountain; a stockpile of emotion that must now be put to the best possible use. Dickon Edwards, London diarist
I’m no Rosa on economics but isn’t it smarter to leave someone when you OWE them money? EG Massive bailout, Slán abhaile. Anakana Schofield, author of Martin John, and Malarky
The last time I felt this so completely in my head & my heart, I was living in a country with civil war. Lara Pawson, author of In the Name of the People: Angola’s Forgotten Massacre
Deeply ashamed and unsettled that the fear of immigrants (ie of so many friends and half of my family!) has won out. More determined than ever to work for love, friendship and real communication across mental and physical borders. Stefan Tobler, publisher at And Other Stories and translator
There should be a word for the psychological injury caused by finding your country is no longer a fit for your beliefs and values – for me, a mixture of bleak, horrified, ashamed and unhoused… still, airport rules on booze ’til someone’s back in charge. Melissa Harrison, author of At Hawthorn Time and Rain.
Fascism begins not with militias and deportations, but with the false prospectus of restored pride. Will Eaves, author of The Absent Therapist, Sound Houses and The Inevitable Gift Shop
In the early hours of the results evening, when we knew it was bad news, I tweeted something about our social media echo chambers, and how the Leave campaign was run by demons, to which someone replied, threatening to set my greasy ass on fire, which I thought was an apt description of what was happening: we were burning everything to the ground. Nikesh Shukla, editor of The Good Immigrant, author of Meatspace
The old, gnarled turkeys have voted for Xmas. Lee Rourke, author of Vulgar Things, The Canal, and Varroa Destructor.
We need magic and love and the hope of a better world. And imagining that is my only useful skill. So I’m going to use it. Kirsty Logan, author of The Gracekeepers.
The result was less a vote on Europe than a vote to damage an out of touch government which only seemed to be serving a narrow sector of the electorate. Vanessa Gebbie, author of The Coward’s Tale, Memorandum,and Short Circuit, winner: Troubadour International Poetry Prize
I feel so betrayed that England has retired, semi-detached from reality, when I’ve got decades left in me. Mr & Mrs Henningham, Henningham Family Press
Despite voting REMAIN I feel ashamed, embarrassed at the insult to our dear European neighbours — why would they even want us now? Frances White, author of Becoming Iris Murdoch
16,141,241 of us are strangers in an estranging land. Ka Bradley, editor at Granta Books
#brexshit… little fascists with their little fascist visions wringing their hands … And so, here we have it: welcome back to a chunky portion of reality … served cold. Susana Medina, author of Philosophical Toys, Red Tales and Souvenirs del Accidente
How ashamed I am of the fascist loneliness and horror we are moving our country towards, and how afraid. Harriet Moore, Literary Agent at David Higham Associates
When they do eventually burn the bridge, there will be no loss of access to the mainland and no actual fire, and it’s perfectly normal for sunlit uplands to be underwater. Paraic O’Donnell, author of The Maker of Swans
It’s the ‘Us and Them’ mentality that got us into this – and every single conflict ever – and it’s fiction and poetry that can heal this false rupture by slipping us under the skin, into the mind, of The Other, and reminding that there is only Us. Tania Hershman, author of My Mother was an Upright Piano, The White Road, and Nothing Here Is Wild, Everything Is Open
With the outbreak of racial targeting of abuse hurled at people in the immediate wake of the referendum result, I am even more convinced we need greater integration not a return to the isolation, nationalism and island mentality which bring out the worst aspects of human nature. Marc Nash, author of Long Short Stories, and 52FF
And I thought Belfast in the 1980s was bad… Maria Fusco, author of Master Rock, editor of The Happy Hypocrite
My 13 year old son asked me, ‘Why are the adults letting hate win? Why are they destroying our future? I thought you were supposed to know better.’ How do I answer that? Heidi James, author of Wounding and The Mesmerist’s Daughter
Not all Brexiters are racists but all racists are emboldened by Brexit: our task now is to counter the #PostRefRacism & xenophobia unleashed. Mandy Vere, radical bookseller at News from Nowhere
I have never felt so unwelcome than now. It pains me for this is a country I have always admired and believed in. Jennifer Wong, author On Goldfish
As leader of the European Literature Network in the UK I hereby pledge to REMAIN. I will continue to work for the greater good of European literature and translation. We will REMAIN because we believe in the unifying power of European culture, European literature will REMAIN in the UK! Rosie Goldsmith, journalist & director of the European Literature Network
Jak na pogrzebie. As if at a funeral. Maria Jastrzębska, poet, editor and translator, co-founder of Queer Writing South
I feel bereft and deeply saddened at the divides this has highlighted and heightened, but also galvanised to do all I can and to join with others to work for liberty, justice and peace. Ann Morgan, author of Reading the World and Beside Myself
Every morning I wake with a fresh wave of nausea to the realisation of where we are now – ashamed and desperately worried, heartbroken, grieving, frightened by the widespread bigotry that the referendum has unleashed and validated, and all this for someone else’s unnecessary gamble with our collective futures, an Eton boy’s rivalry, a vote based on lies, bigotry and a jingoistic nostalgia for an idea of a nation that never even existed. Jane Commane, poet and editor, Nine Arches Press
Went to sleep with a pizza and quiet assurance; woke up to Farage’s face roaring victory, and a jolt of extreme dread. Laura Guthrie, poet, writer, songwriter, Creative Writing PhD Candidate, University of Glasgow
MY SON, MY SON, WHAT HAVE YE DONE? Rob Doyle, Tyrant of the Many Realms
World! Overcome greed, scary nationalism and lethal borders. Preserve nature, languages, peoples’ music and literature. That’d be all. Magda Kapa, author of All the Words
This isn’t just shocking, it’s sinister: a vote based on resentment and on ”anti-”’ will never build anything, but has instead released a pernicious virus into the heart of UK society, into the soul of Europe. James Hopkin, author of Winter Under Water and Even the Crows say Krakow
In the run up to this weekend we joked with Literary Friction about how we would form a literary commune in exile. It was a little bit of fun, but it held within it a reassurance that, in the face of something difficult, there is something that we can do – even if we have to form it ourselves. Nathan Connolly, Editor, Dead Ink
Catapulted into heartbreak, I in-migrate. Agata Maslowska, Hawthornden Writing Fellow 2016, work in Edinburgh Review, New Writing Scotland, and Scottish PEN’s New Writing.
As an American in London, the correspondences I see with Brexit and conservative America are terrifying: the fatalist championing of public opinion engorged on sensationalist media as a compass for political progress, the rejection of white supremacy and a vociferous denial of racism as a motivating factor (untrue), + an inability to accept responsibility, embrace leadership, and move beyond finger-pointing in the wake of this devastating blow. Carleigh Morgan, PhD Candidate, KCL
I cannot believe how much of a pandora’s box of hate has been opened up by this result, these racists are cowards and poor tinpot fascists, they must not cow us into silence. Vincent S. Coster, author of Eat Not My Brother
I came over because I thought England was a safe country. I call it a regular fraud if they are going to introduce any considerable changes; there’ll be a large number disappointed in that case. Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady, via K Thomas Kahn, editor at 3:AM
Positivity in the face of uselessness: dry tears, join/support progressive blocs, call out racists, create art, travel. How’s your morning? Niven Govinden, author of Black Bread White Beer, and All the Days and Nights
Brexit is Breaking Bad without the great acting or the moral story; the scriptwriters of the pilot never expected it to get picked up; it’s not funny, it’s not credible, and yet I can’t stop watching in case there’s an accidental moment of redemption in the last scene. Susie Maguire, author of The Short Hello and Furthermore
Let’s put these words in our bodies, put these bodies in our streets; public space – the original virtual community, tweet in footsteps, solidaire. Yelena Moskovich, author of The Natashas
You see, England, this is why you can’t have nice things. Adam Biles, author of Grey Cats, and Feeding Time
I recognise my country very well, but I can no longer tolerate it. Will Wiles, author of Care of Wooden Floors and The Way Inn
The EU vote was a piece of political theatre where someone picked up a real knife instead of the prop one, and now there’s blood everywhere. Michael Hughes, author of Countenance Divine
When the dust finally settles England & Wales, like Pompeii & Herculaneum, may be forever cast as nothing more than a warning. Kevin Sommerville, author of The Living Hinge
Why do people think walls solve everything? Carlotta Eden, co-founder, Synaesthesia Magazine
How upset we are since Friday. How angry we are. How upset and angry they must have been for decades. Sean Preston, Open Pen Magazine
I am very angry – feel dislocated – at our European identity being wrenched from us. Nasim Marie Jafry, author of The State of Me
Alternately amused and appalled by the badly acted & poorly conceived comedy of horrors being staged. no ice cream during interval. Victoria Anderson, School of Journalism, Cardiff University
Intensified xenophobia and blatant racism due to irrational fear in the wake of Brexit is one giant leap backwards, further hindering the transcending of borders for the unity of humanity. Justin Lau: writer/co-founder of @TransectMag
Nothing could make me sadder than seeing our country lurch towards isolationism, intolerance and xenophobia. Now we have to turn our sadness into action, and all do our bit to help those most hurt by this catastrophe. Paul M.M. Cooper, author of River of Ink
All changed, changed utterly. A terrible fuck-up is born. The Dodo, Chief Executive Officer, Dodo Ink
A predicament therapy full of escapologists, crack-open the musk and time-keeper smoothies; the single market is a phrase, we need access to that arcade. Paul Hawkins, author of Place Waste Dissent, co-author of Servant Drone with Bruno Neiva
Our heads are ringing in an echo chamber, from a clang that broke the bell. Thomas McMullan, Best British Short Stories 2016
A week on and the aftershocks still punctuate my day. Making a sandwich is fine until I slice it in two and think. Did we really do that? All of us, together? Did we do this and realise that there was no going back? It won’t leave, that feeling. That is one thing that won’t leave. Stuart Evers, author of Your Father Sends His Love, If This is Home and Ten Stories About Smoking
The choice? Move or stay still.
Action won out over inertia.
Wrong question plus wrong time equals wrong answer.
Rachel Genn – author of The Cure, creator of The National Facility for the Regulation of Regret
Brexit is being spoken about like a natural disaster, something beyond human control, irresistible. Poppy O’Neill, NFFD and A Room of Our Own anthologies
Whoever comes to rule, fear now reigns in Britain. Fear will reign. Calum Neill, author of Without Ground and Ethics & Psychology