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Nothing Ever Just Disappears

Seven Hidden Histories

Diarmuid Hester author


Publisher:Penguin Books Ltd

Published:6th Jun '24

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Nothing Ever Just Disappears cover

'With originality and subtlety, Diarmuid Hester examines how the gay imagination deals with place and with displacement, allowing for mystery and a kind of magic' Colm Toibin

'Hester is a fizzingly brilliant writer' Robert Macfarlane

'Haunted and haunting - totally riveting' Chris Kraus

At the turn of the century, in the shade of Cambridge's cloisters, a young E. M. Forster conceals his passion for other men, even as he daydreams about the sun-warmed bodies of ancient Greece. Under the dazzling lights of interwar Paris, Josephine Baker dances her way to fame and fortune and discovers sexual freedom backstage at the Folies Bergère. And on Jersey, in the darkest days of Nazi occupation, the transgressive surrealist Claude Cahun mounts an extraordinary resistance to save the island she loves, scattering hundreds of dissident artworks along its streets and shorelines.

Nothing Ever Just Disappears brings to life the stories of seven remarkable figures and illuminates the connections between where they lived, who they loved, and the art they created. It shows that a queer sense of place is central to the history of the twentieth century, and powerfully evokes how much is lost when queer spaces are forgotten. From the lesbian London of the suffragettes to James Baldwin's home in Provence, to Jack Smith's New York, Kevin Killian's San Francisco and the Dungeness cottage of Derek Jarman, this is a thrilling new history and a celebration of freedom, survival and the hidden places of the imagination.

Nothing Ever Just Disappears is about what happens to a house or a room, or a whole town or city, when it is transformed by a powerful sensibility. With originality and subtlety, Diarmuid Hester examines how the gay imagination deals with place and with displacement, allowing for mystery and a kind of magic -- Colm Toibin
Fascinating journeys into LGBTQ+ courage… Hester is attentive to atmosphere, as influenced by both culture and community, and how it acts on individual lives, sometimes expanding horizons and sometimes restricting them… Throughout, Nothing Ever Just Disappears celebrates the courage it took for these queer people merely to exist, and exist honestly, in a hostile world -- Sarah Watling * Observer *
Remarkable and expansive… Intrinsic to the power and beauty of this book are Hester’s own voice, story and powers of imagination… tremendously absorbing… The great gift of this book is to offer access to optimism, in these late and shadowed days. It provides a glimpse, a possibility for transformation, and an escape from the closed and shuttered spaces of late capitalism; and it suggests that we may be able to save ourselves by rethinking our lives and imaginations, our societies and systems – by queering our world -- Neil Hegarty * The Irish Times *
A revelatory look at queer culture… imaginative and engrossing… fresh, spry… a resolutely unpretentious prose style – sometimes animatedly conversational, sometimes wonderfully camp – goes hand in hand with scholarliness -- Michael Donkor * i News *
Intriguing and idiosyncratic… a very lively and readable book that shows the ways in which outsiders have created interfaces, of variable permeability, with the society in which they lived -- Peter Parker * Spectator *
Diarmuid Hester has written a book I have always wanted to read. An exploration, celebration and reclamation of queer lives within their spaces and landscapes, it roams from the cloisters and locked gates of Cambridge to the hilly streets of San Francisco, the apartments of New York City and the nuclear desert of Dungeness's shingle-shore, where Derek Jarman created a world on the margins and of the margins. Hester is a fizzingly brilliant writer, and with its fusion of personal testimony, reportage, cultural history and literary criticism, this book will surely find a wide readership -- Robert Macfarlane
A moving, erudite book. Writing against the tide of erasure, Hester takes us on a journey through time, over land and sea, and casts an empathetic and sharply humorous eye on this pantheon of queer figures. A hymn to the importance of community and place, this is a vital public history of queer life that is both intimate and wondrously radical -- Seán Hewitt, author of All Down Darkness Wide
Diarmuid Hester's beautifully written psycho-biography explores obscure corners of places as sites of hidden queer histories. His portraits of writers and activists from E.M. Forster to Josephine Baker, London's queer suffragettes and Kevin Killian are haunted and haunting - totally riveting -- Chris Kraus
A charming, playfully challenging companion on a dreamy quest through lost landscapes of defiance, imagination and desire -- Jeremy Atherton Lin
Hester's book takes the reader on a beguiling journey from country to country. Full of extraordinary details, it delves deep into queer creative minds from the past, offering up a refreshingly original perspective on the human connection to sense of place -- Luke Edward Hall
From Dungeness to San Francisco, the motley wildness of these gay pioneers is told with fitting zest by Hester. I loved it -- Martin Latham
Hester's book is insightful, delightful, and enlightening: an essential entrant into the queer canon -- Isabel Waidner
Lightly, yet seriously, Hester's immersive prose takes us on a journey that colourfully loops together the transgressive with the political. Heady descriptions of varied queer lives are rooted in the materiality of vividly conjured places. A ‘flummox of friends’ comes to life as their stories mix, mingle and collide. Stirring, thoughtful and gorgeously fun to read -- Kiare Ladner
Nothing Ever Just Disappears is a book I have longed for without knowing I was missing, much like the vanished or vanishing queer spaces Hester evokes so vividly in its pages. Deftly, beautifully, it performs an enchanting queering of literary tourism and artists' house studies, from failures of epiphany we all experience in places that we expect to move us, to awkwardness about how best to honour our creative forebears in all their human complexity. It is both a much needed and engaging history of queer creative lives and their places, complicating notions of sites of production and dwelling as ’secular shrines’, and a moving memoir of Hester’s own creative geographies: the places and people that matter to him and have informed his own thinking. This book, as Hester writes, ‘is ritual’ - both pilgrimage in its writing and its reading. Once you have gazed into the convex mirror, you can’t unsee the resplendent queer world you encounter there -- Polly Atkin

ISBN: 9780141998060

Dimensions: 198mm x 130mm x 20mm

Weight: 268g

368 pages