The first time I stumbled across Desperate Literature, I was greeted with a warm smile, a glass of red wine and a whole world of unknown whisperings and wanderings. As you push back the wooden door, a bell swings from side to side, as if announcing your arrival to whoever just so happens to be inhabiting its minuscule space. All you can see are books, crammed into every corner and crevice of this magical portal that seems as if it hangs suspended in time, waiting to transport you to one of a thousand different lives that are bound between spines and covers. You press on, drawn in by curiosity, with a feeling of having discovered something wholly unknown and at the same time comfortingly familiar.
Part bookshop, part home, Desperate Literature is a tiny little treasure trove of discovery and encounter. With books in multiple languages for every type of mood, it feels like an understanding ear for whatever kind of state you might find yourself in. As the owners kindly explain, “There are books for when you’re bored. Plenty of them. There are books for when you’re calm. The best kind, in my opinion. There are also books for when you’re sad. And there are books for when you’re happy. There are books for when you’re thirsty for knowledge. And there are books for when you’re desperate”. And we have all felt that feeling of desperation at some point.
Much has been said about the power of books. They let us live a thousand lives; they help us develop empathy and shape our identity; through books, we can read ourselves into being. We have written before on (science) fiction as a vehicle through which to experiment with different ways of thinking, which you can read here. And just as important as these imagined worlds are in expanding our imagination and advancing cultural thought, it is also necessary to have physical spaces in which to congregate and share ideas that maybe diverge from the dominant cultural script of the time.
If you look at some of the youth movements that have shaped electronic music, they were all driven by people looking to rewrite the narrative and shape their own way of viewing the world. Whether that be the Brits that congregated in fields during the UK acid house movement, or the Spaniards flocking from all across the country to meet in the car parks on the Ruta de Bacalao; the electronic music scene has always provided an alternative and a vehicle through which to forge new identities and world views.
Desperate Literature strives to be a vehicle for dynamic cultural, linguistic and social exchange between Madrileños, extranjeros and travellers from around the world. It’s magic doesn’t just lie in the fact that it facilitates our access to other stories but also that it gives us the chance to be part of the narrative itself. Its community of thinkers is built entirely on collaboration and exchange; even a bed is exchanged for a few hours work in the shop. That jangly wooden door is pretty much always open, with a whole host of activities from chess showdowns to poetry readings that spill far out onto the street and long into the night. Its four owners count amongst them Atlantis Books in Santorini, Greece, and Book Thug Nation and Human Relations in Brooklyn, US; nestling Desperate Literature amongst a wider network of people and ideas.
It is this shared philosophy that has inspired the thinking behind #ITHAKALITIES. This is a competition we are running for our newspaper of alternative news, which will be handed out during ITHAKA Series#01 2019 from the 6th to the 8th of September. In a present world so deeply characterised by fake news, which generate hate and polarising thought, we want to spread new ideas and harness the power of the imagination with alternative news. Much like the literary tenets of science fiction and magic realism, these articles will be rooted in the truth but with key elements changed which enable us to explore new ideas and alternative realities to the one that we are presently living. We are asking for your creative contributions of up to 350 words, and winners will receive free tickets to the festival, plus their work published in print and online. This is a bilingual paper so we’ll be accepting submissions in English (more information here) and Spanish ( more information here). If you have an idea you would like to experiment with then we’d love to hear it. The deadline for submissions is the 25th of August and we’ll be announcing the winners in a special event at Desperate Literature on Sunday 1st of September. Keep your eyes peeled and happy dreaming.
Words: Amy Colville