Others

A couple looking into each others' eyes
Via Max Pixel.

Others is a crowdfunded anthology from Unbound, which aims to bring together a diverse group of writers to celebrate how books and writing can help us to see the world as others see it. Three contributors will be appearing at Durham Book Festival. Meanwhile, find out more about this proposed collection, edited by Charles Fernyhough, which will only come to fruition with your support.

Across the world, intolerance of otherness is growing: in Donald Trump’s America, in Brexit Britain and in a Europe seared by nationalistic resentment. Prejudice and hatred thrive in minds unwilling to entertain other points of view.

The craft of writing arguably depends on representing the experience of others. Poets and novelists make an art of giving voice to the voiceless, and of putting consciousness in places where we didn’t expect to find it. On literature’s springboard, we can all know the exhilarating leap into another worldview.

Others celebrates how words can take us out of the selves we inhabit and show us the world as others see it. Fiction writers and poets will make us look out through other pairs of eyes; essayists will probe the mental blocks that can make it hard to see the realities beyond the media bubbles. The contributors to Others will do nothing they don’t already do – make the homely strange and the exotic familiar – but they’ll do it with an unflinching eye on today’s social inequalities and the thirst for political change.

What can you expect from the book? Sometimes the theme will be the brutal consequences of intolerance and hatred, as in one shattering story of a racist hate crime. Other pieces will explore the quieter forms of otherness that go with deafness, disability, and mental distress. Our failure to stand in other pairs of shoes is most catastrophic when it goes with imbalances of power. But great writing can also illuminate ordinary kinds of otherness, by taking us into points of view we might not otherwise have been able to enter: those moments when, thanks to the magic of words, people are less strange to each other, or we glimpse something of the strangeness of our own selves.

It’s common to hear that now, of all times, literature matters. We hear less about why it matters, how books and reading can relieve minds that have come to despair at the world. Others will be much more than a worthy call for empathy. The greatest literature challenges us to recognise our own otherness; not just to understand how people out there are different to us, but how we are alien to them.

Others may not change the world, although it will be shaped by passions that could. At the very least, it might serve as a pocket device for keeping track of our humanity through what could be some rough years. Net profits from the book will be donated to the charities Refugee Action and Stop Hate UK.

If Others sounds worthwhile to you, you can bring the book to life through the crowdfunding platform Unbound. Come along to Durham Book Festival on 7th October at 13.00, Palace Green Library to hear Charles Fernyhough, Gillian Allnutt and Will Storr celebrate the power of words to show us the world as others see it. Audience members will receive a discount on a pledge to support the book.

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