Hannah Van Hove

Hannah Van Hove is a writer and researcher based in Brussels. She completed a PhD on the fiction of Anna Kavan, Alexander Trocchi and Ann Quin at the University of Glasgow in 2017 and is currently conducting a postdoctoral research project on the work of British post-war experimental women writers at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels. She is Chair of the Anna Kavan Society, co-sits on the editorial board of the Journal for Literary and Intermedial Crossings and is a member of the artistic research group Deep Histories Fragile Memories. She is co-editor of British Experimental Women’s Fiction, 1945-1975: Slipping through the Labels (Palgrave, 2021) and has published articles and reviews on British avant-garde fiction as well as translations of Flemish modernist Paul van Ostaijen’s poetry. Her creative writing has appeared in places including Adjacent Pineapple, GutterForum+ and MAP magazine. At the moment, she is working on a creative-critical project which combines a reflection on the experiences of doing archival research with memoir. At the heart of this project is the question of how to take care in representing the lived experiences of the people she’s working on.

I can no longer go to the office and spend most of the day in my daughter’s room while she’s at crèche, at a desk at the window. The desk is overspilling with documents I must sort out, books continue to be stapled on top of things. My daughter’s playpen is right behind me; a big orange plastic playbox sits to my right. I absentmindedly press the music button on her Twinkle Twinkle Little Star boardbook; the battery needs replaced and the sounds it emits seems to suggest it’s in full mechanical breakdown. Across the road, what we assume are artists’ studios get a lot of footfall; mostly individuals on bikes, sometimes groups of two or three young people. Occasionally someone comes out to have a cigarette on the street. A lot of deliveries arrive.

I’m trying to organise my thoughts and am struggling with the question of how to take care in representing the lived experiences of the people I’m writing about. Most of the authors I work on had so-called “difficult lives” and challenging health circumstances. I am wrestling with the issue of how to combine portrayals and experiences of illness and/or mental distress accessed through the archive with an aesthetics of care in a way that is not reductive or simplistic but allows for the manifold complexities and nuances of living in “the realm of sickness”, to put it in Dodie Bellamy’s terms.

Across the road, a van from the Netherlands carrying the slogan “we are behind every masterpiece” arrives. An elderly man unloads big canvasses, carries them in through the narrow doorway, following the directions of an elegant woman with a shaved head. I can see someone on the second floor, standing on a ladder near the window, painting the walls. I enjoy observing the comings and goings in and out of the graffiti’d garage doors.